Hoaxsters frustrated: Alert called off at Nebraska nuclear power plant

July 15, 2011

Sometimes time and events just catch up to the hoaxsters.

In Nebraska, on Wednesday July 14, the Cooper nuclear generating station of the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) ended it’s “notification of unusual event” as floodwaters of the Missouri River retreated from the site.

Walkways for flood at Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, 2011

Publicity photo from Omaha Public Power District

According to the Associate Press report, the alert for the nuclear power plant at Fort Calhoun remains in effect.  Fort Calhoun is upriver from Cooper, and lower in elevation in relation to the Missouri River.  Fort Calhoun also was offline and in cold shutdown when the alert was posted, because it had been in a refueling operation.  Fort Calhoun is operated by Omaha Public Power district (OPPD).

NRC Chairman tours Fort Calhoun Nuclear Generating Station

Publicity photo from OPPD

No damage was done to the reactor at either site.  Operations continued at Cooper.

Rumors of a serious incident aroused conspiracy nuts when a hoax report out of Pakistan claimed the Russian nuclear agency had said the Fort Calhoun plant was in meltdown.

NRC chair tours Fort Calhoun NGS in Nebraska, 2011

No meltdown. Photo from OPPD

How with the hoaxsters spin it now?

More, resources:

Earlier at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:


Hoaxed Nebraska nuclear plant crisis update

June 24, 2011

Help me out, Dear Reader:  Here is the English language site of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (FAEE), the press site.  Can you find any statement at this site relating to the power plants in Nebraska along the flooding Missouri River?

Fires in Japan after tsunami -- not a nuclear power station

What some reports appear to paint as the Nebraska nuclear generating stations (However, please note: In this photo, no nuclear power plants appear)

Cooper nuclear generation station in 1993 floods

What you really see: Cooper Nuclear Generating Station in Nebraska -- still there (from a 1993 photo)

I have found no mention of any U.S. incident.   This suggests the Pakistani news report of a Russian agency report of disaster is hoax, too.

Claims of a crisis in Nebraska are hoaxes,  I think.  The Russian agency from which the report is claimed to have come, does not show such a report.

This is more evidence that the whole flap is a hoax.

True to form, several birther and other conspiracy paranoiac sites claim that these plants in Nebraska are gone, in flames, or leaking water that nearly glows.

Can’t Sarah Palin point her bus to Nebraska and let her press entourage get the real story?


Nuclear power plant incident in Nebraska?

June 19, 2011

A Pakistani newspaper, The Nation, should not be confused with the U.S. magazine of the same name, as I originally did.

Late Friday The Nation questioned an alleged news blackout around an incident at the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant outside of Omaha, Nebraska:

A shocking report prepared by Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency (FAAE) on information provided to them by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) states that the Obama regime has ordered a “total and complete” news blackout relating to any information regarding the near catastrophic meltdown of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant located in Nebraska.

According to this report, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant suffered a “catastrophic loss of cooling” to one of its idle spent fuel rod pools on 7 June after this plant was deluged with water caused by the historic flooding of the Missouri River which resulted in a fire causing the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to issue a “no-fly ban” over the area.

Located about 20 minutes outside downtown Omaha, the largest city in Nebraska, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant is owned by Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) who on their website denies their plant is at a “Level 4” emergency by stating: “This terminology is not accurate, and is not how emergencies at nuclear power plants are classified.”

So, we have some questions to deal with:

  1. Is there a serious incident at the Fort Calhoun facility?
  2. Has anyone ordered a news blackout, and if so, why?
  3. Is it likely that a Pakistani newspaper relying on Russian sources can better report on a nuclear power plant in Nebraska than, say, the local Omaha newspaper?

As much as we might like to give The Nation a chance at being accurate, how likely is it that a U.S. president could order a complete revocation of emergency safety plans for a nuclear facility, when, by law and regulation, those plans are designed to protect the public?  The story smells bad from the start, just on government processes in the U.S.

The Nation, Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, nuclear power plant

This is the photograph used by The Nation to illustrate its online article claiming a meltdown at the Fort Calhoun nuclear power station in Nebraska. It shows a flooded nuclear power station, Fort Calhoun we might assume. Is it? Does the photograph show any problem besides the flooding?

The Russian report is too strong, probably.  First, there’s no news blackout, as evidenced by local reporting.  Second, our American “be-too-conservative-by-a-factor-of-ten” safety standards make piffles sound like major problems.  The story’s being filtered through a Pakistani newspaper should give us further pause in taking things at face value.

According to the local Nebraska newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald, the Fort Calhoun facility powered down on April 9 for refueling.  Because of the pending floods, it was not yet refired up.  A powered-down reactor is unlikely to melt down.

O W-H, Nebraska’s largest and most venerated newspaper, reports on a second problem at a second nuclear plant.  Reports on the second “incident” give a clear view into just how careful U.S. plants are usually operated:

Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville, Neb., declared a “Notification of Unusual Event” about 4 a.m. Sunday when the Missouri River there reached a height of 42.5 feet.

The declaration, which has been anticipated by the power plant’s operators, was made as part of safety and emergency preparedness plan the station follows when flooding conditions are in effect.

The plan’s procedures dictate when the Missouri River’s water level reaches 42.5 feet, or greater than 899 feet above sea level, a notification of unusual event is declared. If the river’s level increases to 45.5 feet or 902 feet above sea level, plant operators are instructed take the station offline as a safety measure.

An earlier story at the O W-H dealt specifically with issues at Fort Calhoun, and the flooding — again suggesting there is little danger from that facility.

FORT CALHOUN, Neb. — Despite the stunning sight of the Fort Calhoun nuclear reactor surrounded by water and the weeks of flooding that lie ahead, the plant is in a safe cold shutdown and can remain so indefinitely, the reactor’s owners and federal regulators say.

“We think they’ve taken adequate steps to protect the plant and to assure continued safety,” Victor Dricks, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said Thursday.

Tim Burke, vice president at Omaha Public Power District, said the plant’s flood barriers are being built to a level that will protect against rain and the release of record amounts of water from upstream dams on the Missouri River.

“We don’t see any concerns around the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station,” Burke said at a briefing in Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle’s office.

The nuclear plant, 20 miles north of Omaha, was shut down April 9 for refueling. It has not been restarted because of the imminent flooding.

Who do we believe, a Russian report issued more than 6,000 miles from Nebraska, reported in a newspaper in Pakistan, or the local reporters on the beat?

Fort Calhoun nuclear generating plant, flooded by the Missouri River, on June 17, 2011 - Photo by Matt Miller, Omaha  World-Herald

Photo caption from the Omaha World-Herald: "The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station from the air Thursday. OPPD was putting the finishing touches on federally ordered flood-defense improvements before flooding began. MATT MILLER/THE WORLD-HERALD"

More, other resources:

UPDATE, June 20, 2011:  Let’s call it a hoax

I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb to call the claims of a serious accident, emergency and potential disaster at the Fort Calhoun site, a hoax.  The Russian report — if it exists — may not have been intended as a hoax, but coupled with filtering through the credulous and gullible foreign press (we’re looking at you, Pakistan’s The Nation), it has risen to hoax level, to be debunked.  Sure, you should be concerned about safety and security at Fort Calhoun and Cooper — but you should be concerned about safety and security at every nuclear power plant around the world, all the time.  This may be a good time for you to reread John McPhee’s brilliant Curve of Binding Energy.  It’s dated — Ted Taylor died October 28, 2004  (was his autobiography ever published?) — but still accurate and informative, plus, any excuse to read any work of McPhee is a great one.


What’s the radiation level right now?

March 19, 2011

Concerned about radiation from Japan?

It’s highly improbable that dangerous levels of radiation would drift more than a few miles from the damaged nuclear power plants in Japan, but maybe seeing some actual readings might convince people there’s not much to worry about — other than our sympathy for Japan, the Japanese people and especially those workers who have stayed on the site of the power plant to work to secure the reactors so they do not become hazards to the population at large.  Those workers may be exposed to significant, harmful radiation, and they deserve all the thanks you can give them.

Below is a map of the contiguous 48 states of the U.S., showing live readings from about a dozen sampling sites across the nation.  The map should update about every minute (if it doesn’t, and  you want to see updates, click through to the Radiation Network site).

Normal background levels are about 25 to 75; a low-level warning might be given if readings are sustained at 100.  These numbers are Counts Per Minute (CPM), a very crude measure from a Geiger counter showing how many radioactive particles or rays hit the sensor in a minute.  It does not distinguish alpha, beta or gamma, and it may be dependent on the design of the Geiger counter, especially the size of the sensor — differently designed machines give different readings even right next to each other.

So it’s a crude count, but it’s a map of counts.

Radiation Network map of radiation in the U.S.  Read legend, use with caution

Radiation Network map of radiation in the U.S. Read legend, use with caution. Click map to go to Radiation Network site.

Here is legend information for the map:

Legend for Radiation Network map

Sampling station symbols, Radiation Network

Nuclear site, calculated by the Radiation Network

At left is a symbol used on the map to mark “nuclear sites” by the Radiation Network.  Note that a nuclear “site” is not necessarily a nuclear power station.  For example, there are nuclear sites designated near Moab, Utah; there are a couple of ore refining facilities or tailing ponds there, but no nuclear power station.  The map shows a nuclear site in the Texas Panhandle.  There is no nuclear power station there.

Instructions on how to read the map, from RadNet:

How to Read the Map:

Referring to the Map Legend at the bottom left corner of the map, locate Monitoring Stations around the country that are contributing radiation data to this map as you read this, and watch the numbers on those monitoring stations update as frequently as every minute (your browser will automatically refresh).  The numbers represent radiation Counts per Minute, abbreviated CPM, and under normal conditions, quantify the level of background radiation, i.e. environmental radiation from outer space as well as from the earth’s crust and air.  Depending on your location within the US, your elevation or altitude, and your model of Geiger counter, this background radiation level might average anywhere from 5 to 60 CPM, and while background radiation levels are random, it would be unusual for those levels to exceed 100 CPM.  Thus, the “Alert Level” for the National Radiation Map is 100 CPM, so if you see any Monitoring Stations with CPM value above 100, further indicated by an Alert symbol over those stations, it probably means that some radioactive source above and beyond background radiation is responsible.

Notice the Time and Date Stamp at the bottom center of the Map.  That is Arizona Time, from where we service the Network, and your indication of how recently the Radiation Levels have been updated to the Map.

(Please note: Any White circles on the map represent Monitoring Stations that are running Simulations, instead of using a real Geiger counter, so any Alert levels that may occur over those stations are to be ignored since they represent only momentary testing.)

Remember, “alert level” is sustained count above 100. But again, be alert that this is only counts per minute, and may be difficult to translate to an accurate radiation reading.

The Radiation Network is an all volunteer operation, no government funding or other involvement.  In fact, the network is seeking volunteers to get a Geiger counter and hook it up to the internet to provide even more real-time readings.  See “How to Participate in the Nationwide Radiation Network.”

If you’re a denier of global warming/climate change, you should use your usual denial tool, claiming that because radiation at background levels is “normal,” no level of radiation can be harmful.  In fact, if you’d make that claim and volunteer to go staff the crews trying to cool the reactors, the entire world would salute you.

Should you be concerned? MIT’s Technology Review explains that the levels of radiation at the plant site itself are quite low, though higher than normal (article by Courtney Humphries).  The article also explains that radiation levels rapidly drop the farther from the plant one is; while we may be able to detect increases in radiation attributable to the radiation from Fukushima site, it is highly unlikely that radiation will exceed safety standards:

In terms of potential health dangers from radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, “the people who are in the most immediate danger from acute and severe radiation doses are those people who are on site at the moment and who are desperately trying to keep the reactors under control,” says Jacqueline Williams, a radiation oncologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Moving away from the immediate vicinity of the plant, radiation levels drop very rapidly. James Thrall, radiologist-in-chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that radiation levels are inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source: The level at two miles from the source are one-quarter what they are at one mile, and “at 10 miles away, it’s almost an infinitesimal fraction,” he says. Individual exposure also varies widely depending on whether a person is outside or indoors, or shielded with protective clothing. Japanese authorities have evacuated the population living within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant, and have warned those living within 30 kilometers to stay indoors. Some experts say that people living beyond this range have no cause for concern at this time. “This has nothing to do with the general population,” McBride says.

The trickier question is whether lower doses of radiation—well below the threshold of acute illness—could lead to long-term health consequences for those in that area. Thrall says that epidemiological studies on survivors of nuclear attacks on Japan have found that those receiving 50 millisieverts or more had a slightly elevated cancer risk—about 5 percent higher than expected—and that risk seemed to rise with higher exposures. But scientists still vigorously debate whether that risk can be extrapolated down to even lower exposures.

After the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, the population experienced a surge in thyroid cancers in children. However, scientists found that the culprit was not radiation in the air but radioactive contamination of the ground, which eventually found its way into cow’s milk. Thrall points out that in Japan, this is highly unlikely because the authorities are carefully monitoring the water and food supplies and keeping the public informed, which did not happen at Chernobyl.

More, resources:


Moab’s uranium tailings, still “going to be moved”

June 8, 2009

Has this news story changed at all in the last 30 years?

You may remember last March when last the Bathtub visited the issue of uranium tailings near Moab, Utah — “soon” to be moved in a multi-million dollar project.

Still pending — but with more money! At this rate, by 2050, this project will have enough money to buy Utah and force all the residents out.  Then the tailings may not need so urgently to be moved.

(Actually, if you read the article at Planetsave, it says the tailings are being moved.  Good news.)

Cool picture, though:

Caption from Planetsave:  Desert spreads endlessly beyond the horizon, where crystalline azure meets rusted bronze. This is red rock country. Moab, Utah is known for its breathtaking scenery. Red rock arches, labyrinth-like canyons, the clever Colorado River. This paradise permeates the soul and the soil.  But something else sleeps in the soil: uranium tailings.

Caption from Planetsave: Desert spreads endlessly beyond the horizon, where crystalline azure meets rusted bronze. This is red rock country. Moab, Utah is known for its breathtaking scenery. Red rock arches, labyrinth-like canyons, the clever Colorado River. This paradise permeates the soul and the soil. But something else sleeps in the soil: uranium tailings.


Cuba treats Chernobyl victims

April 7, 2009

Here’s a very odd news item.  It’s odd because, first, the disaster at Chernobyl is widely dismissed, and certainly out of the news, so it’s unusual to see any news item that suggests it remains a big problem, or that hints at what a big problem it was (especially from a nominally communist view); and second, who would have predicted Cuba would play a role at all?

I found this at a blog dedicated to news from and about Cuba, Nacho’s Blog/El Blog de Nacho.  I’m guessing “acn” is a Cuban news agency:

(acn) - Havana – Over 20,000 children suffering from different diseases have been seen in Cuba as part of the Cuban Medical Program for Children of Chernobyl, marking last Wednesday the 19th anniversary of its creation. The plan began in 1990, when children and their relatives began to arrive en masse from Russia, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Moldavia and Armenia to the former Pioneer Children’s Camp in Tarará, east of this city. Dr. Julio Medina, coordinator of the Program, explained that from 700 to 800 children arrive in Cuba annually to be treated by multidisciplinary teams of Cuban specialists. So far, patients with blood diseases have been treated, especially with different variants of leukemia; bone marrow and kidney transplants have been done, as well as cardiovascular surgery due to congenital malformations.

Ukrainian Dr. Nadiezhda Guerazimenko, coordinator of the Program in that country, highlighted the professionalism of Cuban doctors. She added that the best example of this statement lies in the high figure of patients who have returned to their respective countries cured of their ailments. The Program has a significant impact in the health and recovery of children and their families. In its almost two decades of existence, it has treated more than 16,000 Ukrainians, almost 3,000 Russians, and 671 Byelorussians. Some 40,000 people died immediately and millions were contaminated as a result of the nuclear disaster on April 26, 1986, which at first hit the Ukraine, and then extended to Russia, Belarus and different parts of Europe and Asia. The event caused several types of diseases, like leukemia, tumors, heart malformations, kidney problems, psoriasis, vitiligo and alopecia. Many of the children and youngsters seen today in Cuba weren’t even born when the disaster occurred. However, their parents were affected by the radiation.

______________

Yes, it turns out “acn” is the Cuban News Agency.


Olla podrida, end of spring break 2009

March 23, 2009

A lot of stuff to catch up on, and no time to do it.


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