Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Saturday, February 25, 2012
"In an event that has led to several confusing reports in Russian media, an explosion of a non-radioactive substance occurred at the All Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics – known by its acronym VNIIEF) in the closed nuclear city of Sarov, reportedly injuring two – or one – depending on the news source. Charles Digges, 23/02-2012 According to an anonymous source at VNIIEF’s safety center, “the explosion posed no risk to the population of the town,” which has a population of 92,000. The source also said that agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor organization to the KGB, were conducting investigations at the site. Sarov, a tightly guarded nuclear city off limits to foreigners located in the Nizhny Novgorod region, was founded in 1946 as Arzamas-16 – home to Russia’s first atomic and hydrogen bombs. It is a massive complex belonging to Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom, which includes several complexes devoted to theoretical physics, nuclear physics, laser development, high energy physics as well as a construction division. The explosion there, according to a reading of several leading Russian news sources, was either nuclear or non-nuclear. And where some sources reported that the incident occurred yesterday, other sources made no reference to when the accident occurred, while yet another pinned the accident down as occurring on February 20. The explosion also occurred during experimental work and two people or one person received minors skin injuries that were treated onsite. The work was, according to various sources, sanctioned or unsanctioned. “If the official Russian media were trying to calm us down after initial reports appeared early afternoon yesterday,” said Vladimir Slivyak, co-chair of the environmental group Ecodefense, “they didn’t do a very good job – why were there so many conflicting details?” All sources do agree that the blast occurred after 2 grams of a non-radioactive substance exploded, but no one has yet reported what that substance was, or what caused it to ingnite. Nuclear explosion? In what was most certainly a shocking typo, Gazeta.ru, one of Russia’s most popular independent online publications reported that “[…] environmentalists demand that independent experts be allowed to the take radiation measurements of the nuclear explosion” (emphasis by author). Slivyak attributed that gaff in a telephone interview Thursday to the release by his organization sent to Gazata.ru, and the online newspaper’s splicing of official details obtained from the RIA Novosti news wire into Slivyak's release. Slivyak said that his organization’s press release on the incident contained a quote indicating that official information about accidents at Russian nuclear installations – most recently the fire aboard the Yekaterinburg nuclear submarine while in dry dock – were intentionally misleading. In that instance, the Defence Ministry reported that no nuclear missiles had been aboard the vessel during the 20-hour fire that engulfed it during repair works on December 29. In that instance, the Defence Ministry reported that no nuclear missiles had been aboard the vessel during the 20-hour fire that engulfed it during repair works on December 29. Yet on February 14, Russian deputy prime minister in charge of the defense industry, Dmitry Rogozin, indirectly confirmed weapons were on the submarine at the time of the blaze by telling reporters the incident “was a gross violation of existing regulations for the repairs of nuclear submarines specifically with armaments onboard.” Slivyak said in his release that, “even if an explosion affecting nuclear materials had occurred [at Sarov], the authorities and Rosatom would try to convince people that there was no danger.” “Gazeta.ru made a sort of funny mistake,” said Slivyak Thursday. He did, however, insist that independent obsevers be allowed access to the site to measure radiation levels. More contradictions Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, told RIA Novosti that an explosion had indeed occurred, but failed to mention when it had happened. “One person received insignificant skin injuries during planned experimental work as a result of an explosion of two grams of a nonradioactive substance,” said the Rosatom source. “The worker was treated immediately. [VNIIEF] continues normal operations.” That the work had been planned, however, was ripped to pieces by VNIIEP’s head engineer Gennady Komarov in a report released by ITAR-TASS, another state news agency, several hours after the RIA Novosti report. According to ITAR-TASS Komarov said the “unsanctioned explosion” occurred due to “non-observance” of workers conducting an experiment. ITAR-TASS, like RIA Novosti and the semi-official Lifenews.ru online newspaper all reported that VNIIEF was now operating under normal conditions, confirming the Rosatom spokesman. But ITAR-TASS reported that the incident had occurred on February 20, where Lifenews.ru said it had happened yesterday, February 22. The official RIA Novosti news agency, which initially carried the report of the explosion early afternoon yesterday, did not indicate when the explosion had taken place. Lifenews.ru also released the report, citing an anonymous source, that indicated two people, not one, were injured when the explosion took place. Nuclear news continues to mystify Such contradictions and, in some cases, outright lies, are not uncommon relative to Russian nuclear industry accidents, and the practice has been on bold display for the past two months, which have seen more than their share of accidents at nuclear sites. Initial reports emanating from Murmansk newspapers on the Yekaterinburg fire, for instance, indicated that as many as 19 people had been taken to the hospital with smoke inhalation. These reports were based largely on accounts on Facebook and its Russian cousin vKontakte by users who had relatives and friends working in the Severomorsk naval hospital, north of Arkangelsk, where the victims were brought. The Emergency Services Ministry fixed the number at nine injured – seven sailors and two Emergency Services fire fighters. But the Defense Ministry was far more ardent in pushing its story that no weapons had been aboard the sub, even though Bellona investigations revealed that the Yekaterinburg had been transferred from dry dock in Ruslyakovo to the Okolnaya base, which has fixed pier cranes specifically for unloading and loading nuclear missiles. Rogozin’s remarks on the presence of “armaments” aboard the vessel simply confirmed what reporters and NGOs had managed to elucidate weeks prior. Officials in charge of governing information about the Yekaterinburg fire were similarly vague about what, exactly, on the sub burned for 20 hours. Official information said it was the rubber outer hull. But photos released by a blogger and analyzed by Bellona revealed that the fire had been centered in the sub’s so-called hydro-acoustic chamber - a part of the bow's outer hull that houses navigational antennas that contain long burning oils and high pressure air tanks, which fanned the flames. In early February, a fire broke out at the Alikhanov Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics in southwestern Moscow. A similar cloud of misinformation and stonewalling smoldered on after the blaze. Officials said the fire broke out among cables surrounding a collider in the institute’s basement, and Rosatom and the institute led the chorus of denying any radiation dangers were present. But reports from official news agencies issued conflicting reports on whether the fire was indeed extinguished. Interfax cited a police source as saying fire brigades were denied access to the facility for “a long time” before being allowed in. State-run RIA reported earlier that that the fire had already been put out. The institute is home to the Soviet Union’s first heavy water reactor, designed in the late 1940s as part of dictator Josef Stalin’s program to develop nuclear arms, according to the institutes website. But Rosatom and other officials refused to comment on whether the decades-old structure contained any radiological material. The institute itself refused to answer telephone calls. Too old to not to burn Nils Bøhmer, Bellona’s nuclear physicist and general manager said this and similar situations underscored the decrepit condition of most of Russia’s nuclear industry. “This is the kind of thing that should not be happening,” said Bøhmer Sunday. “It just proves that Russia’s aging nuclear infrastructure is prone to fires.”Next stop is Idaho where The Idaho Statesman reports on an incident involving weapons grade plutonium which I had not heard about previously:
"The contamination of 16 workers at the Idaho National Laboratory’s Materials Fuels Complex in November shook the nuclear establishment in eastern Idaho to its core. It appears today that none of the workers are suffering immediate effects from the uncontrolled release of oxidized plutonium from a package of weapons-grade plutonium at the retired zero-power physics reactor. But the breakdown in basic safety measures the accident revealed hit the site like nothing seen since the early 1990s. Now the Department of Energy has released its accident investigation report and the soul-searching continues. The same questions are raised after two miners died in the Silver Valley last year. The Idaho Falls Post Register did an in-depth story on the report that showed the accident was preventable and that INL managers had numerous opportunities to avoid the conditions that led to the contamination. Management at the ZPPR had changed hands since the fuel was removed from the reactor and stored. The board was critical of the contractor, Battelle Energy Alliance, for weakness in the work planning and control process. Battelle didn’t recognize the hazards associated with the plutonium material, the report said: “None of the work planning addressed the radiological and engineered controls necessary for mitigating a potential release of airborne plutonium.”...When our own Kevin Richert reported in the early 1990s about all kinds of violations of safety standards at the INL’s Naval Reactors Facilities, based on leaked documents, many readers in that nuclear-dominated community were critical. They said we journalists were making a big thing out of nothing. But Richert, then a reporter for the Post Register, was leaked the documents because safety officials trained under legendary nuclear pioneer Admiral Hyman Rickover considered the violations the harbinger of worse accidents to come if changes weren’t made. What the industry didn’t like was seeing its dirty laundry aired in public."
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
The Valentines Day rally at the state capitol in Madison is a reminder of the events of the past year in Wisconsin. It also serves to illustrate the fact that the full impact has yet to play out as the state is now engaged in a profound struggle to define its future. In a nutshell it pits those who believe in the greatest good for the greatest number versus those interests which favor the unimpeded commoditization of every aspect of human existence for corporate benefit. It would be a mistake to characterize this soley as a Labor vs. Business struggle although that is obviously a large component, also involved are protection of the environment and natural resources, protection of immigrants and minorities from the tyranny of the majority, and respect for the constitutional concept of separation of church and state. One of the few things Scott Walker and those who control him understand are these wider implications hence the flood of obscene amounts of outside money and proliferation of false front organizations. Whatever comes of this it will never be life as usual in Wisconsin again.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
A satirical Russian video depicting the arrest of Vladimir Putin for theft of state property. Even more satirical would be the executives of Goldman-Sachs, and various other American oligarchs in a similar satire (since we know this would never happen here).
The Guardian goes into greater detail:
"Russian officials said at the time that all nuclear weapons aboard the Yekaterinburg nuclear submarine had been unloaded well before a fire engulfed the 167-metre (550 feet) vessel and there had been no risk of a radiation leak. But the respected Vlast weekly magazine quoted several sources in the Russian navy as saying that throughout the fire on 29 December the submarine was carrying 16 R-29 intercontinental ballistic missiles, each armed with four nuclear warheads. "Russia, for a day, was on the brink of the biggest catastrophe since the time of Chernobyl," Vlast reported. The 1986 disaster in modern-day Ukraine is regarded as the world's worst nuclear accident..... The fire started when welding sparks ignited wooden scaffolding around the 18,200-tonne submarine at the Roslyakovo docks, 1,500 km (900 miles) north of Moscow and one of the main shipyards used by Russia's northern fleet. The rubber covering of the submarine then caught fire, sending flames and black smoke 10 metres (30 feet) above the stricken vessel. Firemen battled the blaze for a day and a night before partially sinking the submarine to douse the flames, according to media reports. Vlast reported that immediately after the fire the Yekaterinburg sailed to the navy's weapons store, an unusual trip for a damaged submarine supposedly carrying no weapons and casting doubt on assurances that it was not armed. "K-84 was in dock with rockets and torpedoes on board," the magazine said, adding that apart from the nuclear weapons the submarine was carrying torpedoes and mines as well as its two nuclear reactors."It's like nuclear powers are asking the world more often than than we might imagine or wish a'la Clint Eastwood, " Do you feel lucky?"
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Saturday, February 04, 2012
Wisconsin State Journal the gubernator has hired a law firm known for high profile criminal cases and representing those facing grand jury investigations:
"In a statement issued through his campaign, Walker also announced that he had hired two high-powered criminal defense attorneys, Mike Steinle and John Gallo, but said he would use no public money to cover the costs.....Walker said his attorneys were hired to assemble additional background information and ensure he's "in the best position possible to continue aiding" the investigation. Steinle is a Milwaukee-based criminal defense attorney with the firm Terschan, Steinle & Ness. He has taken on recent high-profile cases, including one involving a Fox Point teen who killed his grandfather with an ax. Gallo is listed as a partner at Sidley Austin LLP in Chicago, and the firm's website says he specializes in representing criminal defendants and grand-jury targets."I particularly enjoyed this comment:
""I have already said that I would be happy to sit down with the people looking into these issues and answer any additional questions they may have," Walker said."I suspect "happy" is the least of the emotions going through Mr. Walker's mind these days.