Saturday, 31 May 2014

WIPP update

5/30 Money Money Money….Money! 

Recovery teams at a New Mexico nuclear waste facilit during a trip into the underground storage halls in April to assess damage from what later turned out to be a ruptured drum.

Lessons from living close to Hanford for as long as I have taught me to follow the money, not the talk. When accidents occur, one can almost be assured it was due to a rush job of some sort in order to meet a deadline. Deadlines in the nuclear industry were created not actually to get a job done on time, but to get the bonus that comes with getting the job done, no matter it seems, how the job gets done. This is the part where we recognize and reiterate to new readers that there is absolutely zero oversight anywhere in the nuclear industry. The NRC is supposed to oversee the contractors at the job level. The NSFSB is supposed to oversee the NRC thought they have less power of enforcement than the NRC and the IAEA is supposed to create rules to follow for safety in the industry, but the IAEA is made up of people from the boards of the nuclear power companies, so you can see how they are useless in creating a safety net for citizens, while terrific in clearing lots of benefits and huge salaries for themselves.

Why is this important? Because nuclear accidents should NEVER happen. And yet they do.
One of the things WIPP said yesterday is that it is not their responsibility as to how Los Alamos creates its containers or Hanford or whomever else gives them waste. It is absolutely their responsibility. How can they turn a blind eye to the protocols of the companies who send them waste to store, when that waste is capable of exploding, which of course did happen on Feb 14, 2014?
After the opening of WIPP there were regulations that mandated checking each lid  on each drum to be sure the head-space was at the correct level. A few years later, that regulation was softened as checking each drum was really time consuming and expensive as it took man hours to the job. And once more, it was softened again so that instead of checking just a few drums from each shipment instead of all, now they could check one if they chose to. Again, lessons from Hanford showed me that the culture in the nuke industry, once regs went soft, were forgotten and trouble was just over the horizon.
In the case of the explosion at WIPP this part of the problem. But the other part of the problem  was that LANL wasn’t in compliance either with their own regulations. Compliance is not easy to do in the world of nuclear power. Cutting corners is. Who is checking whom? Is there anybody out there?
But there’s more. I told you that I did not believe from the start that kitty litter was the issue here. I asked that you be patient and wait to see what surfaces. Something always does!
Don Hancock who has become the spokesperson to the community regarding what may have happened, has not confirmed the kitty litter theory. Once you start look at hard data, you can figure out the appropriate questions to ask. Due to the radionuclides that blew out of the drum into the air at WIPP, we know a few things; from my friend Bobby1′sBlog, we see discrepancies in the data if it were coming from LANL. Could it have come from a different source? Idaho National Labs for instance?
The top of the following graphic shows the isotope measurements for the WIPP release, measured at Station A. The bottom shows the average isotope concentrations for the LA-MIN02-V.001 waste stream from Los Alamos, which has been identified to be the source to the plutonium and americium release.

The WIPP measurements show there was 2 times as much Americium-241 released as Plutonium 239+240. The waste stream analysis shows that there was 92 times as much Plutonium-239+240 in the waste as Americium-241.
That is a huge difference in the isotopic ratios. There is 184 times as much americium as would have been expected from the average amounts in the waste stream.

While there are individual differences in the drums, and since we don’t know how much Plutonium-241 was released from WIPP, it is possible that the WIPP release came from this waste stream, though it really seems unlikely, and the container had to have been an “outlier” that did not reflect the average proportions of isotopes in the waste. If it turns out that more than one container contributed to the WIPP release, this becomes wildly improbable.
I had said from the start that I believed it would be possible for something more devastating than TRU waste to have arrived at WIPP due to either negligence on the part of let’s say Hanford workers or pressure from Hanford Contractors to get the High Level Waste over there to WIPP in small doses since the license to upgrade to HLW has not yet gone through but has been requested by WIPP. We still don’t know where it came from. We still don’t have the initial measurements of how high the readings were on day one. Or each day since. We have nothing but a pile of kitty litter that is slowly dissolving into what I hope is the truth.

----Mimi German

Nuclear-waste facility on high alert over risk of new explosions

US repository scrambles to seal off barrels containing cat-litter buffer thought to be responsible for February accident.

An explosive chemical reaction inside this drum, photographed on 22 May, was probably what caused it to become unsealed and to release radioactivity.

27 May, 2014

Time bombs may be ticking at the United States’ only deep geological repository for nuclear waste. US authorities concluded last week that at least 368 drums of waste at the site could be susceptible to the chemical reaction suspected to have caused a drum to rupture there in February. That accident caused radioactive material to spill into the repository and leak into the environment above ground.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico, is mined out of a salt bed 655 metres underground, and stores low- and medium-level military nuclear waste, containing long-lived, man-made radioactive elements such as plutonium and americium. The suspect drums contain nitrates and cellulose, which are thought to have reacted to cause the explosion in February, and are located in two of the repository’s eight vast storage rooms — 313 in panel 6, which has already been filled, and 55 in the partly filled panel 7, where the February accident occurred.

To mitigate the threat of further exploding drums, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) in Santa Fe issued an order on 20 May giving the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear Waste Partnership — the contractor that operates the WIPP site — until 30 May to come up with a plan to “expedite” the sealing of panel 6 and part of panel 7. It is not yet clear when the panels will be sealed, as that will depend on how long it takes to ensure that the sealing is done safely, says Jim Winchester, a spokesman for the NMED.

The order was issued after an inspection team found evidence on 16 May of heat and physical damage to a waste drum in panel 7. The drum was one of a batch from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico that contained a mix of nitrate salts — generated, for example, in the recovery of plutonium from metal and other scrap during waste processing — and cellulose in the form of a wheat-based commercial cat litter used to absorb liquid waste.

The DOE believes a reaction between the nitrates and cellulose blew the lid off of the container. But this explanation has yet to be proven, Winchester cautions. “It is not yet known how, or if, the reaction created the rupture in the drum(s),” he says.

The LANL last year switched the processing of some of its waste to the wheat-based litter from an inorganic, clay-based absorbent. Winchester says that such changes need to first be assessed for safety, but the NMED was not informed of the change and so did not approve it. The WIPP has come under fire since the accident for progressively watering down safety standards and allowing a lax security culture to develop (see 'Call for better oversight of nuclear-waste storage').

In addition to the drums at the WIPP, another 57 containing the suspect mix are still in temporary storage at the LANL. On 19 May, the NMED told the DOE and the LANL that they had two days to present a plan to secure the drums. In their response on 21 May, the LANL and the DOE said that the drums were being transferred to a tent fitted with fire-control and high-efficiency particulate air filtration to contain any radioactive particles in the event of an accident. They added that air radiation levels and the temperature of the drums were being monitored, and that the drums were being inspected hourly for signs of rupture.

The WIPP has been closed since the February accident and will reopen only “when it is safe to do so”, according to a 22 May statement from the DOE. The accident is still under investigation, and parts of the underground repository are still contaminated with radioactivity. The DOE added that current assumptions and precautions about the hazards of operating the WIPP are being “evaluated and revised”.

Ukraine update

Events in Donetsk

If we are to believe the Twitter feed things don't seem to be going so well in Donetsk. Things should be clearer in a few hours when we get RT coverage

Note: I think both these "tweeters' are on the side of the Ukrainian government.

Short message from "Juan"

"Another long night. As of this time, 06:14 local time, the Grad system has not fired. Bombardment of civilian areas stopped at 03:00 31.05.14 and resumed at 06:00 this morning."

Dan Peleschuk @dpeleschuk May 29
Vostok Battalion gunmen seal off #Donetsk rebel

In central : truckloads of former barricades driven away after apparent seizure of rebel HQ by Vostok Bat.

: the 2nd biggest city in Ukraine is in total chaos, scenes of looting at local store

NZ politics

SIS found to have acted unlawfully
A report from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has found the SIS acted unlawfully when officers issued  a verbal warning to a person of interest two years ago.

31 May, 2014

The incident in July 2012 happened when the SIS searched a suspect's house, seizing a laptop and computer.

The report was carried out by former Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Andrew McGechan who said the SIS officers had the appropriate search and seizure warrant.

However, he said the verbal warnings they gave to the occupants were not warranted.

The exact warning has been blanked-out in the report but relates to conveying 'a message from the New Zealand Government', about an unspecified plot.

Mr McGechan said the law allowed the SIS to collect intelligence - but not issue warnings. He said the officers didn't believe the warning was unlawful.

Prime Minister John Key said on Friday he thinks SIS officers should be allowed to issue verbal warnings and they should be appropriate.

"An SIS officer saying, 'I am from the SIS and you really should stop doing that' is appropriate, now the outgoing Inspector General has raised a question about whether that is lawful, and so we've actually ceased giving warnings at the moment."

Mr Key said he was seeking Crown Law's advice on the matter.

Key `crossing the line' on case – Laila Harre

The Internet Party leader, Laila Harre is accusing the Prime Minister of crossing the line over his repeated comments that Kim Dotcom is only supporting the party to escape extradition.

From left, Hone Harawira, Laila Harre, Kim Dotcom and Vikram Kumar.
Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker-Wilson

31 May, 2014

The internet entrepeneur has so far funded the Internet Party to the tune of about $4 million.

John Key is suggesting Mr Dotcom is only doing that so, if the party is included in the next government, he can influence a potential future Justice Minister to stop his extradition.

Ms Harre says the extradition hearing has not been held yet, and Mr Key should stay out of such a sensitive legal issue.

She says Mr Key's comments are also inappropriate because he could be perceived as trying to influence the judiciary.


Ms Harre, a long-time unionist and former Alliance Party politician, told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Friday that it was refreshing to see a wealthy donor backing a progressive party rather than supporting the status quo.

"I feel very lucky to be in a position where resources are available to take on the establishment rather than the conventional approach, which has been for big money to support the status quo and to shut down change, particularly for young people," she says.

Ms Harre says Mr Dotcom's funding of her party was not an example of money corrupting politics.

Mr Key said the only people who would vote for the Internet-Mana Party would be those from the far left of politics.

He said Ms Harre and Mr Harawira were extreme left-wing politicians, so from National's point of view it was of no great relevance.

"But if you're Metiria Turei and Russel Norman and maybe David Cunliffe, you might be just a little bit more worried."

An internet and technology commentator says Ms Harre's appointment as leader was a further move away from the party's original intent.

Ben Gracewood says he was completely baffled by the move.

"It started off, the Internet Party, as a single issue, quite clearly articulated. And since then merging with Mana and Laila Harre joining, I literally am quite confused."

Mr Gracewood says the appointment of Ms Harre has firmly planted the Internet Party on the left wing.

House Science Committee decress IPCC report not science!

Is there anyone out there that still thinks that there's still something that can be expected from the political masters (except insanity and lies) or that Obama is on your side?!

I'm critical of the IPCC, but.....

The House Science Committee Declares The IPCC Report Is Not Science

30 May, 2014

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned that more intense droughts and heat waves will cause famine and water shortages. But, don't worry! Yesterday, the GOP held a hearing to tell us the IPCC is, in fact, a global conspiracy to control our lives and "redistribute wealth among nations."

The hearing, titled "Examining the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Process," was convened by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology—the same folks who recently demonstrated their inability to grasp the idea that the world's climate varies across different regions and who informed us that warmer weather didn't bother the dinosaurs, so what's all the fuss about?

I've seen some surreal moments in our nation's capitol, but few can compare to watching…

In principle, there's nothing wrong with assessing the methodology of such an important and influential report. But, in one of those quintessential moments of Washington double-think, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX)—who accuses the IPCC of creating data to serve a predetermined political agenda—summarized the hearing's conclusions a day before it even began. "The IPCC does not perform science itself and doesn't monitor the climate," Smith told a reporter, "but only reviews carefully selected scientific literature."
So, small wonder that Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the ranking Democrat on the committee, offered the opinion:
While the topic of today's hearing is a legitimate one, namely, how the IPCC process can be improved, I am concerned that the real objective of this hearing is to try to undercut the IPCC and to cast doubt on the validity of climate change research.
We aren't going to get very far if we spend our time continually revisiting a scientific debate that has already been settled. Nor will we get far if we continue a recent practice on this Committee of seeming to question the trustworthiness and integrity of this nation's scientific researchers.

Fair and Balanced
Another source of Johnson's skepticism might have been that three of the four expert witnesses testifying at the hearing either deny that humans are responsible for global warming or believe that the potential impact of climate change is grossly overstated
The witnesses for the prosecution were:
(1) Roger Pielke,Sr.
Who is he?
Senior Research Scientist, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, and Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University
What's he known for?
Pielke says that carbon dioxide is responsible, at most, for about 28% of human-caused warming up to the present and he is among the most vocal skeptics of reports that the polar ice caps are melting and that sea levels are rising.
What did he say at the hearing?
The IPCC is "giving decision makers who face decisions at the regional and local level a false sense of certainty about the unfolding climate future."
(2) Richard Tol
Who is he?
A professor of economics at the University of Sussex
What's he known for?
He resigned his position with the IPCC team producing the working group's Summary for Policymakers, which he classified as "alarmist." Global warming creates benefits as well as harms, he believes, and in the short term, the benefits are especially pronounced. He's also expressed doubt that climate change will play any role in exacerbating conflicts.
Tol has been criticized by other scientists who have raised questions about his methodology and who have noted that he has a history of making contradictory statements. For instance, in a widely cited 2009 paper, he wrote of "considerable uncertainty about the economic impact of climate change … negative surprises are more likely than positive ones. … The policy implication is that reduction of greenhouse gas emissions should err on the ambitious side."
What did he say at the hearing?
"Academics who research climate change out of curiosity but find less than alarming things are ignored, unless they rise to prominence in which case they are harassed and smeared….The IPCC should therefore investigate the attitudes of its authors and their academic performance and make sure that, in the future, they are more representative of their peers."
(3) Daniel Botkin
Who is he?
Professor Emeritus, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara.
What's he known for?
He has long argued that life has had to deal with environmental change, especially climate change, since the beginning of its existence on Earth—and that we underestimate the ability of species, including humans, to find ways to adapt to the problem.
Botkin wrote a controversial editorial for the Wall Street Journal (Oct 17, 2007) arguing that global warming will not have much impact on life on Earth, and noted that: "the reality is that almost none of the millions of species have disappeared during the past 2.5 million years — with all of its various warming and cooling periods."
The editorial prompted several responses from within the scientific community, including this:
For the past 2.5 million years the climate has oscillated between interglacials which were (at most) a little warmer than today and glacials which were considerably colder than today. There is no precedent in the past 2.5 million years for so much warming so fast. The ecosystem has had 2.5 million years to adapt to glacial-interglacial swings, but we are asking it to adapt to a completely new climate in just a few centuries. The past is not a very good analog for the future in this case. And anyway, the human species can suffer quite a bit before we start talking extinction.
What did he say at the hearing?
"I want to state up front that we have been living through a warming trend driven by a variety of influences. However, it is my view that this is not unusual, and contrary to the characterizations by the IPCC….these environmental changes are not apocalyptic nor irreversible…..Yes, we have been living through a warming trend, no doubt about that. The rate of change we are experiencing is also not unprecedented, and the "mystery" of the warming "plateau" simply indicates the inherent complexity of our global biosphere. Change is normal, life on Earth is inherently risky; it always has been."
The Q & A
The lone witness for the defense was Michael Oppenheimer, the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton University. He was selected by the Democrats, "because he's one of the foremost experts in the world and has been involved with the IPCC," a spokesperson for the Democratic contingent of the committee told Motherboard reporter Jason Koebler.
Koebler describes how things went down at the hearing after the experts presented their statements:
For two hours, climate change deniers interrupted, berated, and cut off Oppenheimer, while the other three other witnesses fielded softball questions from conservative lawmakers and dodged tougher ones from Democratic ones.
In fact, at one point, Rep. Larry Buchson (R-Ind.), who, seconds before had interrupted Oppenheimer and said he wasn't interested in hearing his views, wanted to "apologize on behalf of Congress" to Pielke for the aforementioned "juvenile and insulting questions trying to disparage the credibility" of witnesses who didn't take climate change seriously…..
Dana Rohrabacher [R-CA] pulled out the air quotes when he said "global warming," and took offense to Oppenheimer not being able to "capsulize" all the reasons why he believes that climate change is a big deal in 10 seconds. Smith suggested that the "only thing we know about [climate change models] is that they will be wrong" and suggested that "even if the US was completely eliminated, it's not going to have any discernible impact on global temperatures in the near or far future."
Paul Broun [R-GA] and Buchson noted their belief in the "scientific process" and suggested that they knew more about it because they are doctors (Broun is a dentist; Buchson is a surgeon).

So predictable, and such a waste of time. As I noted earlier, in principle, there is nothing wrong with assessing the methodology of such an important and influential report. But there are far better ways to do it than this.
The most noteworthy aspect of the IPCC is that it has worked far better than anyone anticipated. As Spencer Weart, the former director of the Center for History of Physics has written:
The IPCC's constitution should have been (and perhaps was intended to be) a recipe for paralysis. Instead, the panel turned its procedural restraints into a virtue: whatever it did manage to say would have unimpeachable authority.
Experts contributed their time as volunteers, writing working papers that drew on the latest studies. These were debated at length in correspondence and workshops. The IPCC scientists, initially 170 of them in a dozen workshops, worked hard and long to craft statements that nobody could fault on scientific grounds. The draft reports next went through a process of peer review, gathering comments from virtually every climate expert in the world. It was much like the process of reviewing articles submitted to a scientific journal, although with far more reviewers. All this followed the long-established practices, norms and traditions of science. The scientists found it easier than they had expected to reach a consensus. This undertaking was the first of its kind in terms of breadth, and the exhaustive level of review and revision.

If Congress only worked half as well.

Monsoon disrupted in India

Monsoon Disrupted By El Nino + Climate Change as India Suffers Deaths, Crop Losses from Extreme Heat.


30 May, 2014

May is the month when the massive rainstorm that is the Asian Monsoon begins to gather and advance. This year, as in many other years, the monsoon gradually formed along the coast of Myanmar early in the month. It sprang forward with gusto reaching the Bay of Bengal by last week.

And there it has stalled ever since.
On May 25-27, an outburst of moisture from this stalled monsoonal flow splashed over the coasts of India. But by the 29th and 30th, these coastal storms and even the ones gathering over the Bengali waters had all been snuffed out. The most prominent feature in the MODIS shot of India today isn’t the rainfall that should be now arriving along the southeast coast, but the thick and steely-gray pallor of coal-ash smog trapped under a persistent and oppressive dome of intense heat.
Monsoon Disrupted
(MODIS shot of India on May 30th. See the open stretch of blue water in the lower right frame? That’s the Bay of Bengal which borders coastal India. During a normal year at this time, that entire ocean zone should be filled with the storm clouds of a building monsoon that is already encroaching on coastal India. Today, there is nothing but a smattering of small and dispersed cloud through a mostly clear sky. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

Monsoon Described as Feeble

Official forecasts had already announced as of May 27th that the annual monsoon was likely to be delayed by at least a week for southeast regions of India. Meanwhile, expected monsoonal rainfall for western and northern sections of India for 2014 fell increasingly into doubt.
The monsoon is likely to be delayed by 10 days, according to scientists at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) here. The IITM’s third experimental real-time forecast says that a feeble monsoon will reach central India after June 20 as against the usual June 15. Last year, the monsoon had covered the entire country by June 15.
The annual monsoon is key to India’s agriculture. The substantial rains nurture crops even as they tamp down a powerful heating that typically builds throughout the sub-continent into early summer. Without these rains, both heat and drought tend to run rampant, bringing down crop yields and resulting in severe human losses due to excessive heat.
But, this year, heat and drought are already at extreme levels.
Major Heatwave Already Results in Loss of Life for 2014
As early as late March, the heatwave began to build over the Indian subcontinent. The heat surged throughout the state, setting off fires, resulting in a growing list of heat casualties, shutting down the power grid and spurring unrest. Meanwhile, impacts to India’s agriculture were already growing as the Lychee fruit crop was reported to have suffered a 40% loss.
By late May, temperatures across a broad region had surged above 105 degrees shattering records as the oppressive and deadly heat continued to tighten its grip.
In a country surrounded on three sides by oceans, it is a combination of heat, humidity and persistently high night-time temperatures that can be a killer. Wet bulb temperatures surge into a high-risk range for human mortality during the day even as night-time provides little respite for already stressed human bodies. Such extreme and long-duration heat doesn’t come without a sad toll. As of today, early reports indicated a loss of more than 56 lives due to heat stroke (In 2012 and 2013, total Indian heat deaths were near 1,000 each year). That said, final figures on heat losses are still pending awaiting complete reports from all of India’s provinces.
Climatologically, we know that heatwaves are increasing in frequency and the number of days exceeding 45ÂșC temperatures is increasing. The frequency will increase further with global warming, hence this is a good example of a situation where science and disaster management can come together and avert damage,” a spokesman for India’s National Disaster Management Authority noted on Friday.

Hot Dust
(Hot Dust. A dust storm rolls through New Delhi on Friday amidst furnace-like 113 degree heat snarling traffic and resulting in the tragic loss of 9 more lives. Image source: Gaurav Karoliwal/YouTube Screenshot.)

Today the heatwave continued to gain ground, with Kota and Rajasthan reaching an all-time record of 116 degree F (46.5 C) as New Delhi’s mercury hit 113 degrees F in the midst of a drought-induced dust storm. Dust shrouding the city spurred traffic chaos and in the heat, darkness, and confusion nine more souls were lost.

After two months of growing disruption due to heat and drought, the lands and peoples of India cry out for a Monsoon that is running later and later with each new weather report.
Climate Change + El Nino: Adding Heat and Beating Back the Monsoon
As systems approach tipping points, they are more likely to tilt toward the extremes.
For India this year, its seasonally warmest period from April to May found severe heat amplification from a number of global factors. First, climate change seeded the ground for the current Indian heatwave by adding general heat and evaporation to already hot conditions. With global average heating of +0.8 C above 1880s levels amplifying in the hot zones, early moisture loss due to higher-than-normal temperatures produces a kind of snowball effect for still more warming. Essentially, the cooling effect of water evaporation is baked out early allowing for heat to hit harder just as typical seasonal maximums are reached.
Equatorial Pacific Ocean Temperatures May 30
(Equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures warmed to +0.63 C positive anomaly on May 30th, extending further into El Nino Range. Image source: University of Maine.)

In addition, this year saw rapid progress toward an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean with sea surface temperatures warming into the El Nino range by mid-May and continuing to ramp higher. By today, Equatorial Pacific anomalies had hit +0.63 C according to GFS analysis, extending a run into El Nino conditions.

El Nino events typically allow for the formation of hot, drier air over India. These air masses tend to engender extreme heatwaves like the one we are seeing now even as they delay the onset of cooling monsoonal rains. In essence, the monsoon is confronted with a heavy and entrenched wall of hot air that doggedly resists being shoved aside. And this is the very situation we observe now over India — a sputtering monsoon to the east getting bullied by a brutally hot and thick air mass that just won’t give ground. Climate change only exaggerates the problem by increasing the intensity and inertia of the hot air mass.
Major monsoonal disruptions typically occur during years following an El Nino’s peak heating impact. For example, in 1998, during a period following an extreme El Nino in the Pacific Ocean, India suffered one of its most severe droughts and monsoonal delays on record. But during recent years preceding El Nino, such as 2009, India also saw severe heat, drying, and crop damage due to a weakening of the annual summer rains. So an early monsoonal enfeeblement and coincident strong heatwaves and droughts over India with El Nino still forming is cause for some concern and bears further monitoring.
Currently, temperatures over India are surging to between 5 and 12 degrees Celsius above already hot averages. With heat and drought firmly in place, forecasts are calling for a 1 to 2 week delay in the cooling and moisture-bringing monsoon as India continues to swelter.
(Hat Tip to Colorado Bob RE Tipping Points)
(Hat Tip to Mark from New England for Excellent Clarifying Questions)