Saturday, August 05, 2006

News Not Reported in the U.S.A.: Worst Nuclear "Incident" Since Chernobyl

Here's the story from Spiegel:

An observer has called last week's mishap in Sweden the worst incident to befall a nuclear power plant since the accident at Chernobyl. Nobody was injured, but for 22 minutes, workers had no idea what was happening in the reactor's core. Swedish officials have taken half the country's nuclear power plants offline until it can ensure their safe operation.

Sweden's nuclear energy authority, SKI, has largely completed its reconstruction of events in an accident last week that led to the closure of a nuclear power plant in the city of Forsmark and, ultimately, the shutdown of half the country's nuclear plants as a precautionary measure. In the incident, two of the plant's four backup generators malfunctioned when the plant experienced a major power outage on July 25. According to officials, who described the event as "serious," a short-circuit triggered the accident, which caused a cut in power to the nuclear facility. Plant workers told Swedish media that it came close to a meltdown.

In fact, the only thing that appears to have stopped a catastrophe is the fact that two diesel backup generators kicked in, enabling the Forsmark facility to operate at least part of its emergency cooling system. Still, for 20 minutes, workers were unable to obtain information about the condition of the reactor and they were only able to respond after 21 minutes and 41 seconds, according to a report in Germany's Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper.

Swedish media are reporting that a previously unknown technical problem emerged during the emergency that could also be present in all other Swedish nuclear reactors.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Suburban Sprawl: California destroyed

An impressive web site with photos by Matt Jalbert shows the way that suburban sprawl is gobbling up the paradise know as California, my former home. The picture of San Ramon 2006 is especially striking: McMansions crammed together as far as the eye can see, each one a "dream house." Looking at the photos, I was reminded of a poem by Emily Dickinson:

I LIKE to see it lap the miles,
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks;
And then, prodigious, step
Around a pile of mountains ....

Dickinson was writing about the railroad locomotive, but her words apply just as well to the frantic sprawl the "Golden State."