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.


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.


Atomic history, nuclear future

October 19, 2008

We’re going to see more nuclear power plants in the U.S., it’s a safe bet.  Both presidential candidates support developing alternatives to oil and coal.  Nuclear power is one of the alternatives.

John McCain kept repeating his comfort words, that ‘storage of wastes is not a problem.’ There is not a lot of evidence to support his claims.  With turmoil in financial markets, however, the nuclear power issue has gotten very little serious attention or scrutiny.  From the push to get compensation for radiation victims of atomic weapons and development in the U.S., I learned that the issue is not really whether wastes and other materials can be safely used and wastes stored. The issues are entirely issues of will.

Advantage to Obama, I think.  He’s not claiming that the storage problems are all solved.  A clear recognition of reality is good to have in a president.

Son Kenny sent a link to a history site, Damn Interesting, and it tells the story of the Techa River in the old Soviet Union — a place condemned for generations by the nuclear excesses of the past.

To make the story briefer, in their rush to produce nuclear weapons, the Soviets did nothing to protect Russia from radioactive waste products until it was much too late.  Efforts to reduce radioactive emissions, by storing them in huge underwater containers, resulted in massive explosions that released more radiation than Chernobyl (What?  You hadn’t heard of that, either?).

It’s a reminder that safety and security with peaceful uses of nuclear power depend on humans doing their part, and thinking through the problems before they arise.

Can we deal with radioactive wastes?  We probably have the technology.  Do we have the will? Ask yourself:  How many years has the U.S. studied Yuccan Mountain to make a case to convince Nevadans to handle the waste?  How many more decades will it take?

How is our history of dealing with nuclear contamination issues?  Not good.

Last spring SMU’s history department sponsored a colloquium on a power generation in the southwest, specifically with regard to coal and uranium mining on the Navajo Reservation.   We’ve been there before.

One of the photos used in one of the lectures, by Colleen O’Neill of Utah State, showed two Navajo miners outside a uranium mine during a previous uranium boom.  Neither one had a lick of protective equipment.  Underground uranium mining exposes miners to heave concentrations of radon gas, and if a miner is unprotected by breathing filters at least, there is a nearly 100% chance the miner will get fatal lung cancers.

Of the 150 Navajo uranium miners who worked at the uranium mine in Shiprock, New Mexico until 1970, 133 died of lung cancer or various forms of fibrosis by 1980 ([Ali, 2003] ).

Our Senate hearings on radiation compensation, in the 1970s, produced dozens of pages of testimony that Atomic Energy Commission officials understood the dangers, but did nothing to protect Navajo miners (or other miners, either).  It is unlikely that anyone depicted in those photos is alive today.

AP Photo  (borrowed from ehponline.org)

"Mine memory - Navajo miners work the Kerr-McGee uranium mine, 7 May 1953. Today, uranium from unremediated abandoned mines contaminates nearby water supplies. image: AP Photo" (borrowed from ehponline.org) This photo is very close to the one used by Prof. O'Neill. It may have been taken at nearly the same time. If you know of any survivors from this photo, please advise.

At a refining facility on the Navajo Reservation, highly radioactive wastewater was stored behind an inadequate earthen dam.  The dam broke, and the wastes flowed through a town and into local rivers.  Contamination was extensive.

Attempts to collect for the injuries to Navajo miners and their families were thrown out of court in 1980, on the grounds that the injuries were covered under workers compensation rules (where injury compensation was also denied, generally).

Navajos organized to protest the power plant. One wonders whether they can win it.

Sen. McCain seems cock sure that radioactive wastes won’t kill thousands of Americans in the future as they have in the past.  The uranium mining and uranium tailings issues occurred in Arizona, the state McCain represents.  Does he know?

We regard ourselves in the U.S. as generally morally superior to “those godless communists.”  Can we demonstrate moral superiority with regard to development of peacetime nuclear power, taking rational steps to protect citizens and others, and rationally, quickly and fairly compensating anyone who is injured?

That hasn’t happened yet.

When [uranium] mining [on the Navajo Reservation] ceased in the late 1970’s, mining companies walked away from the mines without sealing the tunnel openings, filling the gaping pits, sometimes hundreds of feet deep, or removing the piles of radioactive uranium ore and mine waste. Over 1,000 of these unsealed tunnels, unsealed pits and radioactive waste piles still remain on the Navajo reservation today, with Navajo families living within a hundred feet of the mine sites. The Navajo graze their livestock here, and have used radioactive mine tailings to build their homes. Navajo children play in the mines, and uranium mine tailings have turned up in school playgrounds (103rd Congress, 1994 ).

Think of the story of Techa River as a warning.

Resources:


Bending science to keep religion rigid

December 17, 2007

Texas A&M University will be home to an institute to train students for careers in nuclear power. This is a logical and welcome extension for one of Texas’s, and one of the nation’s premiere engineering schools. Nuclear power offers opportunities for the nation made more urgent by continuing, inherent problems with carbon-based fossil fuels.

Radioactivity symbol

Texas is the nation’s second largest state. The institute will provide another source for Texas kids to get career training.

The Nuclear Power Institute will help train staff needed to operate new reactors and generating plants. It will also revamp curriculum for junior high, high school and college students who are interested in pursuing careers in the field, according to officials with Texas A&M Engineering.

The institute was established in a joint effort by the Dwight Look College of Engineering and the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). The Look College is one of the largest engineering colleges in the nation, with nearly 9,000 students and 12 departments.

“The Texas A&M University System is uniquely configured with the ideal combination of education, research and service agencies and universities to lead this effort,” Vice Chancellor and Dean of Engineering Kem Bennett said in a statement released last week. “The institute will make a significant impact upon the work force and economy of the state and nation.”

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents signed off on the formal creation of the Nuclear Power Institute earlier this month.

There is a high degree of irony in this announcement at this time. While Texas A&M looks to the future with nuclear power, the state weighs whether to allow a Dallas religious school to train teachers that management of nuclear power is based on flawed theory. A&M will train people to manage nuclear power; the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) wants to train high school teachers to teach Texas’s high school kids that nuclear power is mysterious and cannot work.

Does Texas contradict itself? Walt Whitman might have asked. Texas is large. It contains multitudes.

But should it contain a school that teaches much of basic science is just wrong?

It might be nice if a higher percentage of the multitudes had the reasoning power to see what’s wrong with this picture, and why the question is important.

This may be too subtle for people unfamiliar with atomic theory to realize the full impact. Zeno at Halfway There explains the wacky part of ICR’s misunderstanding, or wishful thinking about atomic theory. Simply put, ICR claims to have discovered that God interferes with nuclear reactions, making it difficult to predict that a nuclear reactor won’t suddenly increase its output by ten times, cooking the nuclear power plant and a couple of nearby towns in the doing.

Texas A&M is working to prepare people to live in the late 21st and 22nd centuries. ICR is fighting to take us back to the 16th or 17th century.

If ICR is successful, from what pool will A&M draw its candidates for nuclear engineering and nuclear power management? Against its will, Texas A&M could become one of the largest graduate institutions for all of India and China.

Please see the update, December 18, here:  Texas’s face should be creationism red.


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