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THIS JOURNAL WILL "TELL IT LIKE IT IS" REGARDING DIFFERENT FORMS OF ENERGY AND THEIR GLOBAL IMPLICATIONS/PROBLEMS

RICHLAND-“AMERICA’S FUKUSHIMA”, A DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN IN OUR N.E.

30 Nov. 2013

RICHLAND, Wash. On a wind-swept plateau, underground steel tanks that hold the nation’s most deadly radioactive waste are slowly rotting. The soil deep under the desert brush is being fouled with plutonium, cesium and other material so toxic, that it could deliver a lethal dose of radiation to a nearby person in minutes. The aging tanks at the former Hanford nuclear weapons production complex contain 56 million gallons of sludge, the by-product of several decades of nuclear weapons production, and they represent one of the nation’s most treacherous environmental threats.

US DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY(US DOE) OFFICIALS have repeatedly assured the public that they have the advanced technology needed to safely dispose of the waste. However; an industrial city at the Hanford nuclear weapons complex has been under development for 24 years, designed to transform the sludge into solid glass to prepare it for permanent burial. Even so with $13 billion already spent, there are serious doubts that the highly complex technology will even work, or that the current plan can clean up all the waste. Alarmed at warnings raised by outside experts and some of the project’s own engineers, DOE officials last year ordered a halt to construction on the most important parts of the waste treatment plant. One would produce highly radioactivity resistant glass destined for a future geological repository, and the other a lower radioactivity rated glass that could be buried at Hanford. Over the last two (2) years, technical problems on the project have multiplied. Concern has grown that explosive hydrogen gas could build up inside the treatment plant’s pipes and tanks. Some project engineers now say that. lumps of plutonium could form inside the plant’s mixing tanks potentially causing a spontaneous nuclear reaction. A federal oversight board found that employee safety concerns had been disregard, while the DOE’s Inspector General reported an estimate that more than a third of the plant’s nuclear safety reviews required on every pipe, valve and device were never conducted .(BECHTEL- WHERE ART/WERE THOU ?).

PREOCUPIED POLITICIAN Sen. Ron Wyden(D-Ore.), chairman of the “Energy and Natural Resources Committee”. Said about Bechtel: They are missing one important target after another…It feels like we are going around in circles”.

FEDERAL CHIEF-ENGR. AT HANFORD, GARY BRUNSON WANTS BECHTEL GONE. Brunson recommended a year ago that the prime contractor, Bechtel National, be removed as the plant designer, citing 34 instances of serious safety and engineering errors. Two other senior managers have also publicly said the project’s technology is flawed and that safety concerns have been disregarded.

BECHTEL PROJECT MANAGER-NOT WORRIED. Bill Hamel who is managing construction of the waste treatment plant, said: “I am 100% sure that whatever the tests show, the mixing hardware or the chemical processes can be adjusted to allow the treatment plant to fulfill its mission…This entire design is based on safety,”  On a recent tour of the plant, Hamel navigated around walls 6 feet thick designed to protect workers from radiation. Massive stainless steel tanks that can hold up to 375,000 gallons of sludge were lined up in areas that will someday be sealed off from human entry ( HAMEL, DOES YO’ MAMA KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?).

BECHTEL NATIONAL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR AT HANFORD, Russell Daniel said: The probability of an explosion is no greater than 1 in 1 million…even if 20 feet of hydrogen gas accumulated inside a pipe and detonated, it would not cause a rupture or any damage…This is a very large, very complex facility…We continue to make progress”.  US DOE disagrees. Nov 2013 they formally offered a more cautious prognosis.  It notified Washington State officials that it might miss some of the most important project deadlines, promised three years ago under a “consent agreement” reached to address earlier lapses; Now, 14 of 19 key milestones are in jeopardy

ENDLESS DELAYS –NOT ACCEPTABLE – not when a million gallons of sludge from about a third of the 177 underground tanks have leaked into the soil, and some of it has reached aquifers under the plateau. The Columbia River, the West’s biggest waterway, is seven miles downhill from the waste and, under a worst-case scenario, it could be hit by the radioactive plumes in as little as 50 years, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology. Suzanne Dahl, who runs the Ecology Department’s Hanford office said:”It is really disappointing” In late Sep 2013, DOE Secretary Ernest J. Moniz tried to intervene with a vague plan for accelerating the project. He offered options that included the development of a new treatment plant and a change in the chemical process for treating some of the liquid waste. (JUDGING FROM MONIZ’S PAST PRONOUNCEMENTS “VAGUE” IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT).

BECHTEL’S BASIC PLAN is to pump the waste into a “pre-treatment plant”, a factory larger than a football field, and 12 stories tall, that would filter and chemically separate the waste into two streams: One high, another, low-level radioactivity. Then, two (2) other plants would “vitrify,”(mix the waste with molten glass), One would produce highly radioactive glass destined for a future geological repository, and the other a lower radioactive glass that could be buried at Hanford. But Sen. Ron Wyden(D-Ore.), among other critics, dismissed it, calling it “a plan for a plan”. (HMM…!  BECHTEL SURE SOUNDS LIKE JAPAN ‘S CENTRAL GOVT. ABOUT FUKUSHIMA) The questions concern Bechtel’s decision not to use traditional mechanical mixers with paddles driven by electric motors, as have been employed at other nuclear processing plants; Instead, the company chose pulse jet mixers, which function like giant turkey basters powered by vacuum and air pressure, they would suck waste into a cylinder within the tanks and then spit it out under high pressure. Such a system has never been used in such large tanks. The decision was based on the concern that mechanical systems could break down in highly radioactive “black cells,” as the tanks are known, over the 40-year design-life of the plant. Even so, doubts have grown about whether the pulse jet mixers can adequately agitate the waste and prevent the formation of hydrogen gas and clumps of plutonium at the bottom of the tanks and in pipes.

SERIOUS PROBLEMS WERE EXPOSED LAST YEAR by Walter Tamosaitis, one of the scientific chiefs of the project. He disclosed that the innovative technology for mixing the waste in processing tanks could cause dangerous buildups of explosive hydrogen gas and might allow plutonium clumps to form. ” Tamosaitis was fired for telling it like it is, but his candor made him a “whistleblower, and there is now Senatorial action afoot to protect him.

ENTER – THE US DEFENSE NUCLEAR FACILITIES SAFETY BOARD, an independent Federal Agency that oversees nuclear weapons sites, validated Tamosaitis’ concerns about the mixing technology and found that Bechtel’s safety culture at the project was flawed. Construction on the project’s two (2) most important components: The pre-treatment plant, and the high-level vitrification plant, were substantially slowed. The Safety Board has demanded that US DOE conduct a full-scale test of the mixing system, using nonradioactive sludge, before going any further. The test facility is under construction near Hanford, but the test completion date is uncertain.

ACADEMIA WORRIED Some of the nation’s top independent experts say the Bechtel technology is far from proven; Rich Calabrese, a University of Maryland professor (considered one of the world’s top experts in chemical mixing technology) said: “We are all out there at the frontier, trying to assess the technology…I am neutral about whether it will work or not…DOE has to demonstrate that it will do the job…people are working to make sure the right tests are done to answer that question.”

NUCLEAR ENGINEER IS PESSIMISTIC. Donna Busche, a nuclear engineer, and health physicist said: “The pre-treatment plant will not operate as it was originally intended….the facility would never be able to pass a licensing review because so many crucial tests had never been conducted and so many documents are missing…Even if concerns about the mixers are resolved, the very earliest construction could resume on the high-level plant is now set for 2014, and the pre-treatment after that…even if all of the technical doubts are overcome and if the lack of nuclear safety documentation can be resolved, there are serious concerns that the treatment plant will wear out before it can process all of the 56 million gallons of waste.. Busche leads the project’s safety team at “URS Corp” a Bechtel sub-contractor. (OOPS ! – LOOK OUT DONNA – YOUR JOB IS IN JEPARDY)

Many of the problems seem to stem from the decision to launch construction of the plant even before engineers had completed the design. The job of turning nuclear waste as thick as peanut butter into glass is at the leading edge of nuclear chemistry, a job made difficult by the complex mixture (Transuranics) of wastes that were fed into the underground tanks by some of the nation’s largest industrial corporations under a cloak of government secrecy. US DOE officials acknowledge that possibility, and say they will need a second low-level vitrification plant to complete the job. If/When that will happen is unknown -it is a project that Congress has not yet authorized. (SOUNDS LIKE MONIZ’S “PIE IN THE SKY”). And then there are budget constraints to contend with.

Thanks to the L.A.Times for their excellent story 29 Nov 2013

OUR TAKE

Just as in the 1984 movie: “GHOST-BUSTERS”, we (the USA) have been “Slimed”, and now we need to put the EVIL GHOSTS back in the GHOST TRAPs.  The analogy is deeper and more menacing than it looks. It is clear to us that Bechtel National. has taken us for a 24 year, $13 billion ride so far; with no measurable results, and given the passage of time, for plant deterioration which marks Hanford as a clear and present danger, requiring immediate attention at all levels of government, and our Industries.

It should be clear to those Federal employees who authorize the checks, that Bechtel National should be fired ASAP for “Breech of Contract”, and/or “Lack of Due Diligence”; So, why don’t they?- You know…those in authority have received (or will receive) a sizable compensation for favors granted. It could be proven by “following the money”, but that will not happen because that would be scandalous, and might reach “Untouchable” political figures.

IN OUR OPINION, what is needed is an immediate Request for a Proposal(RFP) to Nuclear Waste Remediation segment of Industry to be reviewed by, an independent organization, such as the THE US DEFENSE NUCLEAR FACILITIES SAFETY BOARD. Regrettably, the US DOE seems to be lacking personnel capable of providing such advice. It may be necessary for our President to appoint an Independent “Blue Ribbon Committee” and I mean answerable to no one, but our President. There is a fitting Spanish saying: “A grandes males, grandes remedios”(“great ailments, require great remedies”).

Edward Oliver Gonzalez (gonzedo)


November 30, 2013 at 11:09 PM Comments (0)

UKRAINE-NEIGHBOR TO RUSSIA, ENTERS INTO A CONSORTIUM TO LOOK FOR OIL/GAS

23 Nov 2013

Royal Dutch Shell (Shell), co-signed a $10 billion shale/gas exploration/development deal with the Ukrainian government Jan 2013.  Shell expects to start drilling in the Yuzivska field in 2014  Ukranian  Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky said: “$10 billion would be invested if the geology meets expectations   Ukraine (neighbor to Russia, and a former member of the Soviet Union),Has for many years depended on expensive/unreliable  Russian gas imports to cover more than 60% of its consumption, is now pushing to develop its own reserves, both onshore and offshore, in the Black Sea.

Graham Tiley,  Shell’s country manager in the Ukraine,  in an interview in Kiev, on 6 Nov 2013 said: .Shell will need to drill as many as 15 wells to complete the initial exploration appraisal of the 8,000 square-kilometer (3,100 square-mile) Yuzivska field in the eastern part of the country, ”…If you look across all these different projects, and if you look at interests of not just Shell, but major oil and gas companies, you would say Ukraine has a good chance to boost its output…The sector has been under-invested and I assume over time the domestic production will increase.”Mr. Tiley added: “So far all of Shell’s projects remain in the exploration phase…Until we get out there, drill some wells and test them, we simply won’t know how much of the area is going to be commercially productive…Right now the testing phase will take some months before we have some results, and that will be only from one well…Separately, the consortium has also completed drilling its first well in the Kharkiv region together with Ukranian state company DK Ukrhazvydobuvannya, a unit of NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy, and is preparing to drill two more wells in 2014.

The Ukranian government also signed a production-sharing agreement with Chevron Corp. on 7 Nov.2013 for exploration/extraction of shale gas; and plans to complete its negotiations by the end of 2013 with an “Exxon Mobil Corp-led group”(consortium), which includes Shell, to explore off Ukraine’s western Black Sea coast.

Thanks to Bloomberg for their 8 Nov 2013 story.

 

OUR TAKE

ENTER –“HYDRAULIC FRACTURING” (Fracking)  The relatively new and still controversial  Oil/Nat gas exploration/exploitation technology has produced a shale-gas boom in the USA, such that it has quickly outproduced Rusia as the world’s largest Nat gas producer. It is no wonder many other countries are looking at fracking as a potential solution to their energy problems. Ukraine could hold as much as 42 trillion cubic feet (1.2 trillion cubic meters) of shale gas, the third largest reserve in Europe, according to a 2011 U.S. Energy Information Admin. report.

RUSSIA HAS USED NAT- GAS FOR POLITICAL CONTROL of its former republics..  By forcing Nat gas pipeline-deals, port concessions for Black-Sea access, etc., Putin has successfully used Gazprom, to assert Russia’s political control of its former Republics during the past decade.; However, fracking in many places, and  domestic competition in Russia, is causing Gazprom to lose Nat gas primacy worldwide. We wish Russia would treat its neighbors as themselves, because “what goes around, comes around”, and The Russian people, as most of Eastern Europe, have endured/suffered enough since WWII.  One would hope they would be more politically understanding and helpful. Equal treatment would suffice.> http://energymaters.com/?p=1052

NATURALLY, UKRAINE SEEKS ENERGY INDEPENDENCE Another worry for Gazprom, is the urgent desire of Ukraine to free itself of dependence on Russian imports of Gazprom’s Nat gas. Over the past decade, the two countries have frequently clashed over gas prices/availability at peak-usage times. In the past, that has resulted in disruptions to the Nat gas flow through Ukraine to Europe.  Pres. Putin granted Gazprom a Nat gas export monopoly, and helped secure the “Nord Stream pipeline project” to Europe.  Significantly, Gazprom gained control over Belarus’s pipeline network, and negotiated a Nat gas price deal with Ukraine that extended Russia’s lease of a Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol used as a Russian naval base (KEEP IN MIND RUSSIA HAS NO SEAPORTS IN THE BLACK SEA. In other words, Putin et-al, has made its former Republics “A deal they could not refuse” if they wanted Nat gas.  AS WE SAY IN AMERICA: “WITH FRIENDS LIKE THAT, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES.

ABOUT UKRAINE: A country in Eastern Europe.  Its Capital city is Kiev (pop. about 3 mil.). It borders the Russian Federation to the east and northeast, Belarus to the northwest, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the southwest, and the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively. IT HAS A LAND AREA of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe. It is also home to the now infamous  Soviet Nuclear Power Plant disaster of Chernobyl, near Kiev.  Ukraine last became independent when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.  GRAIN PRODUCER/EXPORTER Throughout its history, Ukraine has been one of the powerhouses of world agriculture due to the fertility of its land.  The country was the world’s third-largest grain exporter( as of 2011).  POLITICALLY: Since the dissolution of the Soviet union(1991),Ukraine is a Republic under a semi-presidential system with separate  Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of government.  POPULATION: The country is home to 46 million people,- 77.8 % of whom are ethnic Ukranians, with sizable minorities of Russians (17%), Belarusians Romanians, and other nationalities  RELIGION The dominant religion in the country is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which has strongly influenced Ukraine’s architecture, literature and music.

UKRANIAN AERONAUTICAL PRODIGY, Oleg Konstantinovich Antonov (1906-1984) was a world renown Soviet cargo aircraft designer, and the first designer/chief of the Antonov world-famous aircraft company in Ukraine, later named in his honour. Antonov was personally responsible for designing a very successful line of Soviet cargo aircraft from the Antonov AN-2 (Anne) single prop, bi-plane (1946), and up to what may well be the world’s best ultra-large cargo plane, the AN 124 ( in many variants ); similar to the USAs C-5A. It has been used by many countries(including the USA) to ferry heavy,oversize cargo, over long distances at very competitive prices.

ABOUT NATURAL GAS. It is a wonderful fossil fuel because it produces about half as many greenhouse gasses as anthracite coal, when used to generate electricity. It is also very versatile as home heating fuel etc. It can also be used as a fertilizer precursor; and as such, we will someday wish we had not “burned-up” so much of it. We must view it as a “transition fuel” perhaps for 50 years; however it is a fossil-fuel, and as such, a non-renewable resource. The world should see Nat gas use as the last chance to prepare renewable (Green-energy). Fortunately, many nations can see far enough ahead to realize that we must ultimately develop/emplace sustainable green energy means, be they whatever best suits each country.

RENEWABLE ENERGY OUTLOOK IN UKRAINE The share of “renewables” within the total energy mix of Ukraine is still very small, but growing fast. In 2011 it stood at 397 megawatts (MW). Also in 2011, several large “solar power stations” were opened in Ukraine, among them Europe’s largest solar park in Perovo, (Crimea). Ukranian “State Agency for Energy Efficiency and Conservation” forecasts that combined installed capacity of wind and solar power plants in Ukraine could increase by another 600 MW in 2012. According to Macquarie Research, by 2016 Ukraine will construct and commission new solar power stations with a total capacity of 1.8 GW, which is almost equivalent to the capacity of two nuclear power plants.

UKRAINE AND OTHER EX-SOVIET REPUBLICS WANT DESPERATELY TO JOIN THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU). > http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/25/world/europe/thousands-of-ukrainians-protest-scrapping-of-trade-pact-with-eu.html?_r=0 Many of them are still clamoring for their governments to leave the Russian sphere of influence; However, Russia’s  Pres. Putin has been able to suppress those longings thus far.  Energy independence from Russia holds the key to do so; Hence, Russia must be looking apprehensively at their efforts to “frack” their way out of subjugation. We wish them all well, and may their efforts be rewarded with good energy exploration/exploitation partners, and energy self-sufficiency. Ukranians are a very diligent, talented, industrious, and tolerant people who deserve no less.

Edward Oliver Gonzalez (gonzedo)

 


November 23, 2013 at 11:35 AM Comments (0)