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Modestly Good Job Numbers, Are They Enough To Stop The Slide?

5:19 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Support Unemployed Nomads

Support Unemployed Nomads by jon|k

Hey what do you know? We actually had a modest gain in jobs this last month. The economy gained 117,000 jobs according the statistics released this morning. That is actually better than the number that analysts were predicting, which was around 85,000.

Unfortunately that is all the good news there is on this. The economy needs 150,000 new jobs a month just to keep up with the rate of population growth, so if you are a glass half empty person, we came up 33,000 jobs short of what we needed to break even.

The unemployment rate fell one tenth of a percent to 9.1% but this was almost certainly due to more people leaving the jobs market, instead of robust jobs growth. The question is, will this be enough to blunt the sell-off that we are seeing on world markets?

The answer is likely to be no. The reasons for the sell-off have more to do with the future jobs and growth outlook than they do with any single month’s report. The picture has not improved.

As long as the Euro Zone is imploding (for reasons that have a lot to do with countries not having their own currency and having Euro Zone constitutional requirements for debt limits), and the Japanese economy is still rebuilding from the tsunami and the resultant nuclear disaster of this spring, and the U.S. looking at austerity instead of jobs programs there are more than enough structural issues which can make investors nervous enough to cash in on the market highs that we enjoyed until just last month.
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Live Blogging The President’s Press Conference On Japan

11:25 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Pres. Obama in the Rose Garden delivers a brief statement on Japan.

Hiya Firedogs!

The president is expected to give a statement on the situation in Japan at 3:30EDT. So I thought I’d give you all the blow by blow color commentary as it is happening.

Of course you can also watch it live at the below, if it is not blocked at work or you have sufficiently fast internet connections.

Anyway we’ll be getting fired up here is a few minutes so pull up a chair!

Well, it seems the President is running a little late but they are now showing the podium.

Here we go!

Opening statement recapping the problems with the earthquake and tsunami.

Peaceful power= nuclear? Really?

All resources to bear to protect Americans citizens. There is a substantial risk to those near by the plant. That why we broke with the Japanese as to distance.

He ordered dependents home and those still there should continue to monitor the situation.

NRC says that radiation will not reach the West Coast. (yeah people are going to buy that)

CDC says that there is no need to take precautions against radiation.

Says that our plants are safe against many problems but he has ordered a review (any one think that will stop the relicensing of Diablo Canyon? )

3:41

Lots of talk about how we are helping. Support from SAR. Help for nuclear plant. Food and medicine and people. If you want to help go to the Red Cross.

The Japanese are pulling together and working to dig out. Tells the story of baby found in the wreckage.

Summary:

Well that was a whole lotta nothing wasn’t if sports fans? The whole point, to my mind, seemed to be to tell us all that we won’t be covered in radioactive particles. And should quit bugging CVS for Iodine.

While I think it is a good thing for the President to keep panic down, the problem is that he (and we) can’t know what will happen in the next few days. We all hope that the cooling will resume at the Daiichi plants for both the reactors and the storage ponds but we don’t know if it will.

If they are successful in getting new power to the plant that is a big step. It would keep allow the adding of water to the storage ponds and maybe the restarting of the pumps in the reactors themselves.

The problem is we (and they) have no idea what kind of damage the partial meltdowns have done to the system of the reactors. And all of this does not completely solve things if the reactor and or the containment vessels are breached.

I know that Presidents have to tamp things down but this situation could come back and bite him in the ass if the fuel rods in the storage ponds melt and cause their own type of meltdown.

It was interesting to hear him talk about the fact that we have a different standard for evacuations. It is a safe bet that the Japanese officials would like to have the wider evacuation zone too, but where would they put those people?

All in all pretty much a non-event to live blog.

The floor is yours.

Japan Nuclear Watch: Monday Noon Update – 3 Reactors In Partial Meltdown

8:25 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

This cutaway diagram shows the central reactor vessel and thick concrete containment in a typical boiling water reactor of the same era as Fukushima Daiichi 1 (image: www.world-nuclear-news.org)

Things continue to develop at the Daiichi and Daini nuclear power stations in Japan today. As you have already heard, a second reactor building exploded at Daiichi, it was the Unit 3 which had been experiencing the same problems as Unit 1, which also exploded.

What is believed to have happened is that hydrogen gas which was released along with the steam to reduce the pressure in the reactor vessel built up in the generation building and then a random spark ignited it. The building is seen to have the same kinds of damage that the Unit 1 building had.

Additionally Unit 2 has been reported to have exposed the rods and is in the process of at least a partial melt down at this time. What does this mean? It is likely that they will be experiencing the same pressure and hydrogen problems that Units 1 and 3 have had, with a similar danger of hydrogen explosion.

There has been a lot of talk that the reactor vessel (the actual structure of the reactor) might have been ruptured by these explosions because of the detection of Cesium (a fission by product). The main reason I find this unlikely at this time is that if the reactor vessel had failed two things would have happened.

The first is that the pressure within the vessel would have fallen to normal atmospheric pressure, this would have flashed most of the water in the vessel to steam by lowering the boiling point of that water. The second is that there would have been a massive increase in the amount of radiation detected.

While there have been reports of radiation detected at long distances (60 miles) we have to remember that venting of radioactive steam has been going on for three days now and that it could have traveled. We also are not being told how high this increase in radioactivity is. That is an important metric as very small increases can be detected.

We are now getting reports through the BBC that fuel rods in all three of these reactors are melting. The issue here is the way that they have been adding sea water to the reactors. It is being done through a system of fire hoses. They are using diesel powered pumps and the New York Times quotes and official as saying:

“The pump ran out of fuel,” Mr. Edano said, “and the process of inserting water took longer than expected, so the fuel rods were likely exposed from the water for a while.”

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Japanese Nuclear Watch Update – One Meltdown, Another Probable, Large Evacuations Ordered

6:54 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

This cutaway diagram shows the central reactor vessel and thick concrete containment in a typical boiling water reactor of the same era as Fukushima Daiichi 1 (image: www.world-nuclear-news.org)

First, thanks much to our great commentors — Masoninblue, earlofhuntingdon, Professor Foland and many others — who continue to provide updates and expert analysis on the Japanese nuclear crisis. And hat tip to commentor “lobster” for finding a better schematic that helps illustrate the conflicting stories about a “meltdown.” [Updated to reflect suggestions for clarity.]

You can find other articles at the these links:

Explosion At Quake Damaged Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

Facts On What A Melt Down Is

Japan Nuclear Watch – Struggling To Prevent Meltdowns

Disaster is not too strong a word for what has happened to Japan in the last three days. The biggest earthquake recorded, the subsequent massive tsunami and now the follow-on of at least two partial meltdowns of nuclear reactors at Fukushima and the critical status of three more there, and others in the nation.

Let’s start with a little vocabulary so things are as clear as they can be in this confusing situation. When I talk about the “Reactor Vessel,” I am talking about the stainless steel bottle where the fuel and control rods are housed. This also includes the entire pressurized system for generation of electricity as it is a closed single loop system.

When I talk about the “Reactor Building,” that is a concrete structure primarily designed to keep the weather off of the reactor and generator equipment. It was not designed to be another sealed radiation containment building like AT some of the plants elsewhere the in the world.

That said, let’s talk about what we do know. Reports vary but between 200,000 and 450,000 people have been ordered evacuated from the area around the Daiichi and Daini power stations. The Daiichi complex is the older of the two with 6 reactors built in the 1970’s and Daini has 4 reactors built in the 1980’s

It is the Daiichi Unit Number 1 that has experienced the explosion (more on that shortly) and has been the focus of an attempt to cool the reactor core with seawater. Reports have come in that Unit Number 3 there has also had a complete failure of the emergency cooling system and rods are exposed to a level of three meters. (more after the jump)
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Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Accident – Some Facts on What a Meltdown Is

7:37 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Boiling Water Reactor

In a time of accident like we are seeing at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Stations facts are a very good thing. So let me provide you with some facts, then we can talk about what is known at this point about the accident there.

Daiichi Nuclear Power Station station has 6 nuclear reactors on site that are all of the type known as Boiling Water Reactors. They are an older design that does not have a containment building but rather a containment vessel which holds the reactor core of rods and water that is used to generate steam. They were all built in the 1970′s. Reactor #1 is the one that is in danger at this station.

There is a second Daiichi NPS which has 4 reactors built in the 1980. These are of the same type and units 1,2 and 3 are in the same kind of danger that Unit 1 at Daiichi One is in, though as of now no explosions have been reported. This issue is that any of these plants could have a failure due to the inability to circulate cooled water around the core. If that happens it is called a meltdown.

A nuclear reactor works by fission, splitting the atom, which causes a lot of heat. The water in a reactor is used two ways. First to keep the nuclei which are generated in fission and cause other atoms to fission from escaping. This makes it a more efficient reaction.

The second purpose of the water is to carry away the heat of the ration. Water is great a conducting heat. It keeps the rods cool and the allows for generation of electricity from the steam.

The problem at Daiichi Unit 1 is that the pumps that circulate the water have shut down initially due to a lack of power. Since the reactor is a “single loop” there the water around the core has continued to heat up. Even with the control rods in, the reactor stays very hot for at least a couple of days.

A reactor works by having sets of fuel rods and control rods interspersed. When you remove the control rods (partially or fully) more and more of the nuclei escape from the uranium, they slam into other atoms of uranium and cause an escalating reaction. The water heats up and then turns to steam at the top of the containment vessel and moved to the generator.

Because the water in the core is turning to steam, there is a need to keep a constant watch on the level of water. If the core is exposed, the heat it generates will jump up very fast and become so hot that the rods, control and fuel, will melt. At this point you have the beginning of a meltdown.

The balance between control rods (which are often made of cadmium because it can catch and capture neutrons without fissioning) is a carefully planned thing. If the fuel rods melt and fall to the floor of the vessel they will no longer be inter-spaced correctly to prevent a run away nuclear reaction.

The fuel will all be in one place and there will be water all around it but nothing to prevent the neutrons from shattering other atoms of uranium. The puddle of super hot and reacting fuel will continue to heat up and in short order will burn through the containment vessel and fall to the floor of the reactor building.

Then things can get really bad. All the water in the containment vessel is going to pour out onto this very hot slag. It will flash into super-heated steam and could cause an explosion which could spread the melted fuel even further.

So far that does not seem to be what happened at Daiichi Unit 1. It appears that there was an explosion in the pumping mechanism from the super-heated and super-pressurized steam that the dormant reactor has been building up since the accident.

It is not good news, as you can see from the diagram the water in this type of reactor is highly radioactive from its contact with the core and the fact that there was a limited amount of water in the reactor to start with. Without being able to replenish this as it escapes or is released, you come closer and closer to uncovering the core.

Right now the Japanese officials are talking about flooding the core with seawater. This is a last ditch effort. The reason they have not done it up untill now is that seawater, especially hot seawater, is very corrosive. It will eat away at all the metal fittings in the system. But if they can pump enough in and keep pumping it in, it will prevent a core exposure and meltdown. It means completely scrapping any reactor they do this to, but it is far far better than a full meltdown.

More on this story as it develops

The floor is yours

Earthquake And Tsunami Hit Japan – Pacific Rim On Tsunami Alert

5:07 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

A 8.9 earthquake has occurred about 80 miles off of the coast of Japan late last night. There are wide spread reports of damage including damage to a nuclear power station which has had its cooling system damaged.

Most of the damage appears to have been from the massive tsunami that struck all along the coast of the island nation. Reports of fires and building collapses at various industrial sites as well as in residential areas.

There are on going after shocks in the 7.0 range (big earthquakes in their own right) and while the tsunami danger is Japan is passing the entire Pacific Rim is under a tsunami alert. Guam has been hit by the wave but it was only a few feet high there.

The Pacific coast of the United States is expecting the wave to arrive around 7:30PST or in about two hours at the time of this post. Some areas are being ordered evacuated as a precaution.

There are unconfirmed reports of waves as high as 11 meters (about 33 feet) hitting the coast of Japan. In any case an enormous amount of water washed ashore. The primary, damage from tsunami not caused by the breaking of the wave (thought that is very damaging) but the weight of the water moving through the coastal areas. Water weighs eight pounds per gallon and the mass of water that a 11 meter wave, stretching for miles, can bring in land is almost unimaginable.

The video above is from Japan and you can see how this water flowing through Tokyo is moving cars like they are toy boats.

This situation is still developing and we will have continued reports and updates through the day. For now, if you have the means or think that you might have the means please be prepared to donate to emergency aid organizations. As soon as we know the areas that are worst hit I will post links to where you might donate directly.

UPDATE 5:37am PST: The first wave has struck Hawaii. It has been rather small, but the first wave is rarely the largest. There are further waves expected and they could be much much bigger. The next two to three hours will tell the tail.


UPDATE 2 5:47am PST:
Reports from Hawaii where the water is has receded out beyond the reef at Diamond Head. This is a bad sign, as the tsunami wave is sucking the water out to sea and then will return in a mass. There will be a much bigger surge of water hitting the shore shortly.
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China Blues – The Next Republican Deficit Meme

3:11 pm in Financial Crisis by Bill Egnor

Looking around the country you would think the easiest thing in the world to get passed would be a jobs bill or another stimulus. The number of unemployed Americans is critically high and the business climate is pretty dismal. The growth we saw in the economy in the last quarter was due to businesses restocking inventory, the cash for clunkers program and the stimulus. Without more help, it will not be repeated.

Yet the Republicans are going to go nuts about the deficit and the debt. It does not matter to them that they were primarily responsible for running it up with two unpaid for wars, taxes cuts to the wealthiest Americans and the prescription drug bill. They are going to scream bloody murder that we are mortgaging our children’s future, even though they and their fat cat buddies are not going to do anything to pay down what they spent.

One of the big scare tactics, which you are going to hear about in the next few weeks, is the amount of money we owe to the Chinese. There was even a Super Bowl commercial from Rick Berman’s Astroturf group the Employment Policies Institute (you have to give it to Conservative Astroturfers they have the Orwellian names down) with cute little kiddies saying a new pledge to China and the Debt. You can see it here.

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