Mar 31, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi - Update


A minuscule amount of radioactive iodine was detected in milk in Spokane, Wash., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported.  The agency said the level detected—0.8 picocuries per liter—is more than 5,000 times lower than the level that would prompt any action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to pull milk from grocery stores. “These types of findings are to be expected in the coming days and are far below levels of public health concern, including for infants and children,” the EPA said. The EPA has increased its nationwide monitoring of milk, rain water and drinking water.

Fukushima Daiichi

Tokyo Electric Power is increasing its efforts to remove radioactive water that has pooled inside concrete vaults that house pipes near the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Maintaining cooling water flow to the reactors and used nuclear fuel storage pools and containing and removing the contaminated water continue to be priorities for workers at the site.

Contaminated water was found in the basements of the turbine buildings at reactors 1-4 and in the concrete vaults outside the buildings. Workers finished pumping water from the reactor 3 turbine building and are removing water from reactor 1 tunnel into a storage tank. Today, TEPCO has been pumping contaminated water from the reactor 2 turbine building into a storage tank.

Freshwater injection continues to cool reactors 1, 2, and 3. The company also is spraying cooling water into the used nuclear fuel storage pools at reactors 1-4.

The key is to not confuse potential meltdown (very unlikely now, either in containment or spent fuel pools) with radiation due to the activities that have occurred to date to protect from a worse situation.

Science Scene - Beer Belt

Hmmm, a new way to quench your thirst while out for a ride :o)


Mar 24, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi - Update


In a sign of progress, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is working to switch from sea water to borated fresh water to cool uranium fuel at three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

All reactors now have access to offsite power, and work is under way to inspect, repair and connect equipment needed to cool the reactors. Testing by TEPCO indicates that many pumps are inoperable because of flood damage.

Restoring regular cooling to the used fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi remains a high priority. The used fuel pools at reactors 5 and 6 are being cooled using heat removal systems with electric power. Workers continue to spray seawater on the reactor buildings and spent fuel pools at reactors 1, 3 and 4. Additional cooling water to the spent fuel pool is being supplied by a fire hose connection.

Radiation dose rates at the site boundary range from 1 to 3 millirem per hour.

Science Scene - Diverging Diamond Interchange

America likes imports on its highways: both the cars that travel them, as well as the road designs themselves. 

President Eisenhower created the interstate system in the 1950s after being inspired by Germany's autobahns. Roundabouts, long staples of England and Australia, now exist here in the thousands. And the latest roadway innovation, known as the diverging diamond interchange, comes from France.

These flashily named interchanges eliminate traditional left-hand turns — those that have cars cross lanes for oncoming traffic — by briefly shifting drivers to the left side of the road. Traffic lights allow lanes to safely crisscross at an intersection, giving drivers direct access to the left-hand ramp before putting them back on their normal path. 

The concept is confusing, but engineers see it as a simple way to fight congestion. 

The Federal Highway Administration likes the math. It reports that what it calls "double crossover diamonds" can handle about 650 left turns per hour — twice that of a conventional interchange — while overall delays can be cut by up to 60%.  It can also be cheaper. The compact design allows engineers to increase traffic flow by changing the way they use existing space rather than turning to the costly addition of extra lanes.

 "What makes it the next big thing is it's an inexpensive option," says Don Saiko, project manager for the nation's first diverging diamond, which opened in Springfield, Mo., in 2009. The original plan for expanding that intersection was set to cost $10 million, but the diverging diamond ended up costing only $3.2 million.

Only five diverging diamonds have been completed in the U.S. so far. (Missouri is leading the charge with three, Utah completed one in August and another opened in Tennessee last December.) But Saiko says he has fielded calls from interested engineers and consultants in 35 states, and at least 10 states are building or planning to build them.


Mar 22, 2011

Evening Report

Here is a link to the latest information on the nuclear situation in Japan.

Evening Report


The SMART acronym is a great tool for making sure our goals and instructions are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timed. It helps us clarify what we want to accomplish and set deadlines to make sure it produces the results we want in the timeframe we need. The six steps below will help you formulate your goals in the most effective way possible.

Step 1: Consider Your Intentions.  What is the end result I want to achieve?  Why is this important to me and/or the organization?  

Step 2: Make it Specific.  If someone else read this goal, would they be able to execute it without me having to explain it?  Does it provide answers to: Who? What? When? and Where?  Is it short and concise?

Step 3: Make it Measurable.  "What gets measured gets done." How will I know that this goal or milestone has been accomplished and to what standard?  How will I measure it and how frequently will I do so?

Step 4: Make it Attainable.   Can this goal (with some stretching) be accomplished in the timeframe I have indicated? If not, break down the goal into smaller pieces and write a goal statement for the first step.

Step 5: Make it Relevant.  If goals aren't or don't feel relevant we tend to put them on the backburner. How does this goal align with the bigger picture (personally and professionally)? What "pains" would I experience if I didn't get this goal accomplished?

Step 6: Make it Timed.   Most goals fail because we haven't indicated the timeframe in which we want to have them accomplished. Have I established an overall deadline for when this goal must be accomplished? Have I indicated milestones or smaller deadlines for contributing activities?  By when do I want this to be accomplished?

Mar 21, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi - Update

Workers were making progress Monday to bring offsite power to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. External electricity has been connected to reactor 2, and work continued to energize the reactor’s cooling systems. Reactors 5 and 6, and the used fuel pools at those reactors, were switched from backup diesel generators to the offsite power supply. Work also continued to establish electric service to reactors 3 and 4.

Spraying seawater into the spent fuel pools of reactors 3 and 4 and providing additional cooling water to the fuel pool at reactor 2 continue to be a priority for TEPCO’s recovery workers. Water spraying at the Daiichi site’s common used fuel pool began Monday morning, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. continued efforts on Monday to restore power to its reactors at Fukushima Daiichi as well as stabilize cooling in the used fuel pools of some reactors. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 are in stable condition and reactors 5 and 6 are stable and being cooled by systems powered by electricity that was restored over the weekend.

The Tokyo Fire Department sprayed cooling water into the reactor 3 used fuel pool for about 4.5 hours, ending early Monday morning. At reactor 4, Japan’s Self-Defense Force sprayed water into the pool for about two hours. Overall, 13 fire engines have been used in the spraying. Efforts to spray water into the used fuel pools at reactors 3 and 4 reactor buildings and used fuel pools was stopped on Monday while TEPCO assessed the effectiveness of these efforts.

Electricity is expected to be restored to both reactors 3 and 4 by March 23.

Radiation dose rates at monitoring posts are slightly higher than on past days. Rates at the plant site boundary range from 1 to 3 millirem per hour. Radiation dose rates in the area where fire trucks have been located are reported to be 2 to 3 rem per hour, with some isolated areas as high as 30 rem per hour.

Mar 19, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi Update - Good News


Powered by an emergency diesel generator, pumps are circulating cooling water in the spent fuel pools of reactors 5 and 6 at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant, according to reports. The company also added water to the used fuel pool at reactor 3 after elite firefighters from Tokyo spent 13 hours operating a high-pressure spray truck that pumped seawater into the pool.

The company and response workers were planning to spray water into the used fuel pool at reactor 4 on Sunday.
Electric power lines are connected to reactors 1 and 2 and engineers expected to bring power to the remaining reactors on Sunday, according to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum. “We do not know if the water pumps [at Fukushima Daiichi] have been damaged and if they will work when power is restored,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported that holes have been drilled into the ceilings of the buildings that house reactors 5 and 6 to prevent the buildup of hydrogen in the buildings.

Mar 18, 2011

Are you and Engineer or a Manager?

A group of managers are given an assignment to measure the
height of a flagpole. So they go out to the flagpole with
ladders and tape measures, and they're falling off the ladders
and dropping the tape measures. The whole thing is just a mess.

An engineer comes along and sees what they're trying to do,
walks over, pulls the flagpole out of the ground, lays it flat,
measures it from end to end, gives the measurement to one of
the managers and walks away.

After the engineer has gone, one manager turns to another and
laughs: "Isn't that just like an engineer? We're looking for
the height and he gives us the length!"

Mar 16, 2011

U.S. Nuclear Plants: How Safe Are They?

14 Easy Ways to Decrease Your Energy Bill

7 Free Ways: No excuses here!
  1. Keep your thermostat at 68 in winter and 78 in summer.
  2. Set your hot water heater at 120 degrees: each 10 degree reduction saves you up to 5% on your bill.
  3. Avoid using the ‘heated dry’ cycle on the dishwasher – just let them air dry
  4. Conserve water – wash clothes on cold and shorten your shower: this reduces your bill and your impact on a very limited resource.
  5. Line dry your laundry when the weather is nice.
  6. Use a ceiling fan in the summer and wear an extra layer in the winter.
  7. Unplug your electronics when not in use: anything with a LED light glowing (e.g., cell phone charger, computer monitor, etc.) is drawing power even if it is not ‘on.’
7 Cheap Ways: Small Investment, Big Payoff [Less than $500 total]
  1. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent. 
  2. Make sure all your windows and doors are well sealed with caulking or or weatherstripping. 
  3. Make sure your plumbing and wiring penetrations are sealed. 
  4. Get your heating and cooling system serviced annually to maintain and monitor efficiency. 
  5. Insulate your hot water heater 
  6. Insulate your air compressor and hot water piping. 
  7. Change your air filters at least every 3 months. 

Mar 14, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi

I will try and keep this simple, but the bottom line is that the danger you are hearing on the constant news is overblown.

First, the reactors that are considered in danger are all shut down, the control rods are in the core.  The only concern is decay heat, which represents 3% of the operating power, and it is reduced exponentially every day that passes.

Second, reactors have three levels of primary protection:  the fuel cladding (the metal casing that holds the fuel together), the reactor vessel (4-8" thick metal containment vessel), and the primary containment (40-80 inch thick concrete and steel building).  So far, only the fuel cladding has been compromised (some cladding "meltdown" experienced), and that is why there is not a significant release of radiation (clad melts at about 2000 degrees, the fuel itself at 4000 degrees).  The pumping of seawater into the containment reduces the potential for the higher temperatures to be realized.

The hydrogen explosions have been due to the release of pressurized gases from the reactor vessel and primary containment, as developed through emergency operating procedures, into the secondary containment.  The release of the disassociated hydrogen into the atmosphere, through pinch points, results in gaseous explosion, but not damage to the second or third level of containment protection.

Below are news release details:

The hydrogen explosion on March 11 between the primary containment vessel and secondary containment building of the reactor did not damage the primary containment vessel or the reactor core.  To control the pressure of the reactor core, Tokyo Electric Power Co. began to inject seawater and boric acid into the primary containment vessels of Unit 1 on March 12 and Unit 3 on March 13.  There is likely some damage to the fuel rods contained in Units 1 and 3. 

At both Units 1 and 3, seawater and boric acid is being injected into the reactor using fire pumps. On Unit 3, a pressure relief valve in the containment structure failed to open, but was restored by connecting an air pressure to the line driving valve operation.

The water level in the reactor vessel of Unit 2 is steady (update, seawater injection also required for Unit 2).

Personnel from TEPCO are closely monitoring the status of all three reactors.

The highest recorded radiation level at the Fukushima Daiichi site was 155.7 millirem at 1:52 p.m. EDT on March 13. Radiation levels were reduced to 4.4 millirem by the evening of March 13.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s radiation dose limit for the public is 100 millirem per year. 

Japanese government officials acknowledged the potential for partial fuel meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 3 reactors, but there is no danger for core explosion, as occurred at the nuclear power station at Chernobyl in 1986. Control rods have been successfully inserted at all of the reactors, thereby ending the chain reaction. The reactor cores at Fukushima Daiichi and Daini power stations
are surrounded by steel and concrete containment vessels of 40 to 80 inches thick that are designed to contain radioactive materials.

Science Scene - EV Charging in Windy City

The Midwest will now have an electric vehicle hub in Chicago.  The city will be home to 280 charging stations built by utility company Exelon by the end of the year.

The charging stations will be located at shopping malls, both of the city's airports, rest stops along the Illinois Tollway and other various locations, and two will even be solar powered.

Chicago currently ranks in the top ten cities for hybrid owners, so the city is preparing for the roll out of plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles over the next few years.  With 280 charging stations, it's residents will have plenty of places to fill up their batteries.  Until that influx of plug-in cars makes its way into the city though, the fleet of Chicago utility ComEd will use the charging stations.


Mar 12, 2011

Japan Nuclear Update

March 12, 2011 UPDATE 2, 9:30 EST:

The Tokyo Electric Power Company says it has successfully vented the
containment of unit 1 at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in
northern Japan, according to several industry sources.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano, told a news conference that
there was an explosion at Fukushima-Daiichi at 15:36 local time, but he
said it has not affected the reactor’s primary system or its containment,
the news service NucNet reported this morning.

Edano said there was hydrogen explosion in the space between the concrete
containment and the reactor’s primary system, but the explosion did not
damage the containment function or the reactor system, the report said. A
portion of the fuel in the reactor was uncovered and TEPCO is using borated
seawater to cover the fuel. Radiation measurements at the site boundary of
Fukushima Daiichi were measured at 11 millrem per hour, but were reduced to
7 millirem per hour a few hours after the explosion.

TEPCO also is preparing to vent the containment structures at Fukushima
Daiichi 2 and 3, as of Saturday morning.

Edano said, "We've confirmed that the reactor container was not damaged.
The explosion didn't occur inside the reactor container. As such there was
no large amount of radiation leakage outside.,"

The Japanese government expanded the evacuation zone around the facility to
20 kilometers, or about 12 miles.

Backup diesel generators and backup batteries have arrived at the Fukushima
Daiichi reactors.

U.S. support to Japan for the nuclear plant events and earthquake includes
assistance from the industry and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

TEPCO also is working to maintain safe condition of Fukushima Daini units
1, 2 and 3, which have lost reactor pressure suppression function.

The Other White Meat?

After more than two decades of being known as "The Other White Meat," the old pork motto is headed for the proverbial smokehouse. The National Pork Board unveiled a new slogan -- "Pork: Be Inspired" -- and a new $11 million ad campaign that will launch this spring.

The new campaign will launch in March and April with print, TV and social media ads. But no further details were released.


Mar 10, 2011

Science Scene - Wind Bridge

A new bridge concept incorporates wind and solar energy into its design, generating 40 million kilowatt-hours per year — and looking pretty slick to boot.

The Solar Wind concept would use the space between an existing viaduct in southern Italy to install 26 wind turbines, which designers Francesco Colarossi, Giovanna Saracino and Luisa Saracino say could provide 36 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year.

The design team conceived the Solar Wind project for a contest that aims to repurpose some old, unused viaducts near Calabria, a region in the toe of Italy. It would cost about $55 million to demolish the viaducts, so town officials held a contest for proposals that would re-use them in an environmentally friendly way. The wind turbine bridge took second place.

The proposal also includes a solar-paneled roadway to provide another 11.2 million kilowatt hours, Colarossi and colleagues say. It turns the entire viaduct into a park, with spaces to pull over and take in the view off the Italian coast. Travelers could stop and buy fresh produce grown in solar-powered greenhouses located along the bridge. The whole roadway would be covered in a dense grid of solar cells coated in a thin, transparent plastic, the designers say.

All in all, the system would be capable of generating 40 million kWh each year, enough to power 15,000 homes.


Mar 8, 2011

Science Scene - Plastic Bag Fuel

What most of us see as the ubiquitous blight of modern convenience consumerism, i.e., littered plastic shopping bags, Japanese inventor Akinori Ito sees as the “fuel of the future”. Like most sensible inventions, Ito’s began with the simple realization that plastic bags are made from oil. Thus, it should be possible, he theorized, to revert these same items back to their original form.

His invention is actually a non-polluting, fully contained process that heats up the plastic, traps the vapors and channels them through an intricate system of pipes and water chambers. These, in turn, cool the vapors and condense them back into crude oil. This crude oil can be used in generators and even some stoves.  An additional refinement step converts the crude oil into gasoline.

The carbon-negative system — now offered by Ito’s Blest Corporation, founded in early 2010 — is a highly-efficient technology, converting 1 kilogram (about 2 lbs.) of plastic into 1 liter (about a quart) of oil using just 1 kilowatt of power (cost: about .20 cents). However, the current cost of this system is just under 10,000 USD. Ito hopes to bring this price down through ramping up the production process as the word gets out and demand increases.


Mar 4, 2011

Rough Road Ahead!

So, things have been a little rocky lately, so I apologize for my recent lack of visits, and in the future as well.  I normally do not talk about personal things here, but since this could be going on for many months, I felt the need to provide some insight.

My Step-Dad has been having a rough road the last year or so, and was recently diagnosed with Stage III lung cancer.  My folks do not have a local support network, and his son lives out of state.  So we are pretty much it.  My normal routine is to stop and visit on Monday and Friday nights, and I have recently included Wednesdays.

On top of that, I have my normal work activities and project management professional organization activities.  This is not a pity request post, just a shout out to let you know that why I am scarce and sporadic.

On a positive note, spring is around the corner, and summer follows.

Mar 2, 2011

Science Scene - Better Photovoltaics

What if solar cells could soak up even more energy?  Amonix recently unveiled the 7700 Concentrated Photovotaic (CPV), which aims to do just that.  

The technology, originally developed in the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL, our tax dollars at work), puts space-grade solar cells under an earth-bound lens.  The CPV Generator is said to be the least land-intensive form of solar power.

By using gallium-based, triple junction technology, the CPV solar cells are more heat resistant than traditional silicon-based cells.  This is because CPV solar cells have been used in space for their robustness for quite some time now.  Since these new cells are practically unaffected by high temperatures, efficiency is drastically improved because more sunlight can be concentrated on them.  What's more, the price to produce CPV cells is competitive with the natural gas prices.
How does the new technology compare to traditional photovoltaic cells?  A traditional silicon wafer used in photovoltaic panels produces approximately 2.5 watts of electricity.  The same sized wafer use in a CPV cell produces more than 1,500 watts of electricity.   
Although the generator is the size of an IMAX screen, it's much cheaper than comparable generators.  This is in-part due to the higher efficiency of the cells, delivering more "energy per acre" than anything of its kind.  This exciting new technology is probably what won the CPV cells the "2010 Research and Development 100 award" at what is commonly known as the "Oscars of Invention."
Chalk another one up for engineering and science :o)

Mar 1, 2011

Raunchy, Oh My :o)

Nice On One Side, Naughty On The Other: Raunchy Wrapping Paper.  I could not resist when I saw this at

Go to SUCK UK to order yours :o)