danalwyn: (Default)
You know, Tokyo used to have the 'crazy uncle' mayor, the guy who would sit down at the table and then suddenly erupt in a racist diatribe involving everything from Nathan Bedford Forrest to the KKK as a public service organization.

Well, Ishihara's not around anymore, but now it looks like (Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault) Osaka is getting into the race. How do we explain this? Is there some hidden article in the Japanese Constitution that requires at least one mayor to be so batshit they can mine him for guano? Is there some sort of crazy hat that they pass around? Is there a mayor's party where people get drunk and make bad bets, of which this is the result? Or more reasonably, is there something in the Japanese political system that requires these people to say outrageous things about subjects they have no control over to get noticed?

Either way, the lesson here is never trust a Japanese mayor. Because you never know when they're going to go around the bend, over the hill, and into the quicksand.
danalwyn: (Default)
ENGRISH FAIL (some profanity involved).

Or should that be ENGRISH FAIR? Or perhaps ENGRISH FLAIL?
danalwyn: (Default)
Since this journal normally looks more like a news and politics blog then anything else, here are some updates from the last month for things I'm watching that could go boom just to prove that if I've been replaced by a doppelganger, he's at least consistent.

The World Keeps Going Faster )
danalwyn: (Default)
Fukushima has largely fallen off the news, but when it re-emerges it tends to be in some sort of panic-laden title that doesn't actually say anything. Nevertheless the crisis continues. At first we were worried about the reactors exploding, then about the Spent Fuel Pool burning to the ground. Now we're down to high-radiation water leaking out into the ocean. We've pretty much run the gamut from super-critical down to merely urgent.

Nevertheless, radiation is still spreading out there, so if you're concerned about friends and family in Japan, here's the word:

Radiation )

In short, the crisis level has decreased significantly, but the long-term worries about radiation leakage remain. Additionally there's still a chance for things to go catastrophically wrong, but with each passing day it might actually be less.
danalwyn: (Default)
Recap of this week's headlines:

Japanese Reactors On Verge Of Meltdown!
Widespread Radiation Fears as Engineers Battle to Control Reactors!
Engineers Locked in Life Or Death Struggle to Control Nuclear Plant!
Foreigners Evacuate as Nuclear Plant Situation Continues to Escalate
Struggle at Nuclear Power Plant Exhausts All Exciting Metaphors
Japanese Nuclear Reactors Stubbornly Refuse to Explode
Oh Screw This, We're Going to Libya

I think you can add bonus points for any mention of a new "last-ditch effort" (there have been at least four), as well as any official statement to the effect of "the situation is grave, but under control". You could make a drinking game out of that, but you might not survive.

Not to say that the situation isn't grave, but it's been grave for several days, and has stubbornly refused to escalate to disastrous. Safety measures have so far been sufficient to contain the incident, and the fuel pools haven't cooked off. So Fukushima slips off the headlines not with a bang, but with a whimper. Let's hope it stays that way.
danalwyn: (Default)
So, this is what I've gleaned regarding Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi. Most of it is boring, but that's a good thing. When things about reactors become exciting, that's when you should start being worried.

I should say, that I'm not a nuclear engineer. I do, however, have the same qualifications it seems as a lot of people writing articles for the media, which is to say a Bachelor's degree and the ability to read Wikipedia. So I wrote this to make myself learn the material, and try to keep my head straight. There are probably factual errors. In fact, I guarantee there are factual errors. You should take the word of real nuclear engineers over me.

Furthermore, this is not in any way up to date. The best place to find updates is probably on Facebook, from the page for the International Atomic Energy Agency, or (if you trust them) from the English press release page for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) (both are slower then normal news, but more accurate).

Reactors Are (Fortunately) Boring )
I'm hoping things get better. So far the past two days seems to have been a long, painful exercise in hanging on by the fingernails. Now it looks like the wetwell on Unit Two was damaged during the explosion that destroyed their containment system. Also, it appears that part of the building for Unit Four is on fire (this is less of a concern, Unit Four was shut down for maintenance at the time of the earthquake, and so there's nothing to cool in the meantime). Unit Two was already having problems - it's hot enough that they have problems pumping the water in. Meanwhile, Kan has moved the evacuation zone now to twenty kilometers, and the stay-at-home to thirty.

I'm going to post this and hope that things get better, and that we keep hanging on. I think they have a fighting chance. I think that even if they do have a breach, that the effects will be mostly minimal when compared to the effects of the rest of the tsunami. But I'm not all that confident anymore. Hopefully optimism will prove to be correct here.
danalwyn: (Default)
Apparently I was too optimistic yesterday about the chances of Japan's nuclear reactors - I thought they would do better then they did. While they are still subcritical, I did not anticipate that they would blow up the containment building on Fukushima One in a cooling accident (although, in retrospect, it should have been an obvious possibility).

So for people looking for a silver lining, here's some relatively good news:

  • The reactors were SCRAMed immediately - they are considered subcritical (i.e., the internal reaction is decelerating, not accelerating)

  • It's been almost a full day since the reactor building exploded, and no further complications have been reported. That can either be scary or good, depending on what you think of their transparency.

  • It's been over twelve hours since they pushed the panic button and started pumping seawater into Unit One. In theory, it should be starting to cool down. They won't know, of course (they're not going to touch it), but the fact that things have not yet escalated may be good.

  • The Unit One reactor vessel itself seems to still be intact.

  • It's possible that there may be a sealable containment vessel still intact around Unit One - I'm unclear on the nature and status of Unit One's Mark I drywell.

Here, of course, is the bad news:

  • The number of people with possible radiation contamination has ballooned to 160.

  • They still have a leak somewhere in the coolant system for Unit One - or it's venting into the air naturally. Without the containment building this could be a rather considerable leak. And that radiation may now be as far away as Tokyo (or not - nobody knows).

  • They tell the Japanese government more then they tell us, and the government keeps widening the evacuation area.

  • They've lost cooling on Unit Three.

  • So far, three layers of safeties they've assured us were intact are now mostly useless - so their claims that "Thing are under control" look increasingly threadbare. TEPCO is earning their bad reputation.

It's not impossible that things could be under control. In fact, under normal conditions I would say that it's more than likely. But this seems to be the week for once in a lifetime occurrences, all at the bad end of the scale. I'm going to go to bed hoping that tomorrow morning looks much like today at the reactors, but I'm no longer as confident as I used to be.
danalwyn: (Default)
Dear America,

Don't be stupid.

The Coast Guard was searching for a man in the Pacific Ocean near the Klamath River in Del Norte County in Northern California. The man was swept away after he and two friends reportedly traveled to the shoreline to take photos of the incoming tsunami waves, Lt. Todd Vorenkamp said. His friends made it back to shore.

Quote from MSNBC.
danalwyn: (Default)
In Japan, in order to be executed apparently, you have to have your execution order signed by the Justice Minister. The new justice minister, Keiko Chiba, has spent twenty years of her life campaigning against the death penalty. Therefore it's unlikely that any execution orders will be signed in the immediate future.

This leaves the US as the only "developed" nation who regularly applies the death penalty to ordinary (read non-treasonous) crimes. Makes you wonder sometimes.

(The chances of this moratorium in Japan sticking may be low. Japan, for reasons I don't understand; apparently has no concept of life imprisonment; which could be a big sticking point in the abolition of the death penalty. But temporary moratoriums happen a lot; especially when the Justice Minister changes.)


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