Monday, 21 March 2011

Libya. Japan.

Baltic Dry Index. 1533 -02

LIR Gold Target by 2019: $30,000. Revised due to QE.

“We are getting closer to bringing the situation under control,” Tetsuro Fukuyama, the deputy chief cabinet secretary of the Japanese government, said of the entire plant late Sunday.

While America leads another coalition of the willing to try to bring about regime change in Libya, a development well covered in mainstream media, we will stay with the continuing story of Japan. Mixed to better news Sunday from the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, but Japan’s economic woes are now starting to affect the global economy. Below the NY Times covers the latest from Japan. Stay long precious metals. The road in to military adventure is a 4 lane super highway, the road out of military adventure is a single lane track.

Japan Makes Progress at Nuclear Reactors, but Contamination Spreads

By HIROKO TABUCHI and NORIMITSU ONISHI Published: March 20, 2011

TOKYO — Japan appeared to make moderate progress in stabilizing some of the nuclear reactors at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi power plant on Sunday, but at the same time it disclosed new signs of radioactive contamination in agricultural produce and livestock.

The government said it was barring all shipments of milk from Fukushima Prefecture and shipments of spinach from Ibaraki Prefecture, after finding new cases of above-normal levels of radioactive elements in milk and several vegetables.

Relatively high levels were also found in spinach from Tochigi and Gunma Prefectures to the west, canola from Gunma Prefecture and chrysanthemum greens from Chiba Prefecture, south of Ibaraki.

The emergency efforts to mitigate damage at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, meanwhile, brought some notes of relief in the face of persistently dire conditions. The authorities said they had restored water pumps to two damaged reactors, Nos. 5 and 6, that were not of central concern, putting them under control in a state known as “cold shutdown.”

But another reactor that has proved more worrisome, No. 3, continued to bedevil engineers.


Crises in Japan Ripple Across Global Economy

By MICHAEL POWELL Published: March 20, 2011

In the wake of Japan’s cascading disasters, signs of economic loss can be found in many corners of the globe, from Sendai, on the battered Japanese coast, to Paris to Marion, Ark.

Container ships sit in the Pacific or at docks in Japan, wary of unloading tons of pork and steak because of that nation’s fractured electric grid. Any break in the “cold chain” of refrigeration can spoil meat.

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the luxury goods maker based in Paris, shut more than 50 of its stores in Tokyo and northern Japan. And Volvo, the Swedish carmaker, was working with a 10-day supply left of Japanese-built navigation and climate control systems.

“It’s hour-by-hour work to get a grip on the situation,” said Per-Ake Froberg, chief spokesman for Volvo, as it girds for a production halt.

The uncertain economic picture has mirrored the churning developments in Japan as it tries to recover from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck it 10 days ago. On Sunday, even as workers made some progress in stabilizing the situation at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the government said there were new signs of radioactive contamination in some agricultural produce and livestock.

Uncertainty hangs like a cloud over the future of the global and American economy. Only weeks ago, many economists foresaw a quickening of the recovery. Now tsunamis, radioactive plumes, Middle East revolutions, a new round of the European debt crisis and a still weakened United States economy could derail a tenuous bounceback in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Some global ills, like the spike in oil and food prices, can be quantified. But a clearer picture depends on indicators yet to come, like the March unemployment numbers and trade numbers.

“The problem is not Japan alone — it’s that Japan reinforces all the negative repercussions and our own weak recovery,” said Stephen S. Roach, nonexecutive chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and a professor at Yale. “It’s difficult to know the tipping point for the global economy, but there are difficult headwinds now.”


Next, the WSJ suggests Fukushima had a dismal track record of previous trouble, which operator Tokyo Power and Electric Co.’s maintenance policies made worse. Everyone involved seems to have forgotten, “a well made chain is only as strong as its weakest link”.

MARCH 21, 2011

Japan Plant Had Troubled History

The Fukushima Daiichi power plant was already one of the most trouble-prone nuclear facilities in Japan, even before the devastating earthquake and tsunami that knocked out its cooling systems and precipitated the worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, a Wall Street Journal analysis of regulatory documents shows.

In addition, a standard practice at Japanese nuclear plants—to remove fresh fuel from a reactor and park it for weeks or months in a less-protected "spent fuel" pool during maintenance—appears to have been a significant contributor to the crisis, engineers say.

On Sunday, disaster-response teams made progress toward taming the stricken nuclear reactor, restoring electrical power and preparing to restart crucial systems designed to cool the dangerously overheating nuclear material. But the latest analysis of safety and maintenance practices at the plant cast new light on how the situation threatened to spiral out of control.

----A Journal analysis of Japanese regulatory documents shows that the Daiichi plant was already one of Japan's most troubled nuclear facilities, even before it was severely damaged by this month's quake and tsunami. In the five-year period from 2005 to 2009, the latest data available, Daiichi had the highest accident rate of any big Japanese nuclear plant, according to data collected by the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization, a mostly government-funded group that monitors safety and conducts inspections. Daiichi's workers were exposed to more radiation than their peers at most other plants, the data show.

Tepco says that overall it operated the Daiichi plants safely. It says the plant's age accounted for the higher rate of accidents, all of which were relatively minor until March 11.

----In the U.S., reactors shut down for refueling typically retain most of their fuel in the thick steel reactor pressure vessel that provides much more protection against a radioactive release. During refueling outages, when operators swap out depleted fuel for fresh fuel and do other maintenance, these rods are shuffled around in a process somewhat akin to rotating tires on a car to even out the wear.

In the U.S., only the most worn-out rods typically are removed and transferred to a spent-fuel pool for storage, where they can stay for decades. Thus, U.S., pools hold only the oldest spent fuel, which is also the coolest in terms of temperature and radiation.

By contrast, at Tepco and other utilities, it's common to temporarily remove all the fuel rods. The freshest are eventually moved back to the reactor pressure vessel and supplemented with new rods to replace the oldest ones, which are left in the storage pools.

Rods can be left in pools for many years for two reasons. First, they need to cool down. Second, no nation has yet solved the problem of what to do with large stockpiles of used nuclear fuel. As a result, much of it remains in utility holding pens.


We end for today with the Telegraph on China and Thorium? Is thorium the only safe way to go with nuclear power? Probably not. A thorium reactor doesn’t produce any plutonium needed by the military for the latest in nuclear bombs.

Safe nuclear does exist, and China is leading the way with thorium

A few weeks before the tsunami struck Fukushima’s uranium reactors and shattered public faith in nuclear power, China revealed that it was launching a rival technology to build a safer, cleaner, and ultimately cheaper network of reactors based on thorium.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard 9:30PM GMT 20 Mar 2011

This passed unnoticed –except by a small of band of thorium enthusiasts – but it may mark the passage of strategic leadership in energy policy from an inert and status-quo West to a rising technological power willing to break the mould.

If China’s dash for thorium power succeeds, it will vastly alter the global energy landscape and may avert a calamitous conflict over resources as Asia’s industrial revolutions clash head-on with the West’s entrenched consumption.

China’s Academy of Sciences said it had chosen a “thorium-based molten salt reactor system”. The liquid fuel idea was pioneered by US physicists at Oak Ridge National Lab in the 1960s, but the US has long since dropped the ball. Further evidence of Barack `Obama’s “Sputnik moment”, you could say.

Chinese scientists claim that hazardous waste will be a thousand times less than with uranium. The system is inherently less prone to disaster.

“The reactor has an amazing safety feature,” said Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA engineer at Teledyne Brown and a thorium expert.

If it begins to overheat, a little plug melts and the salts drain into a pan. There is no need for computers, or the sort of electrical pumps that were crippled by the tsunami. The reactor saves itself,” he said.

“They operate at atmospheric pressure so you don’t have the sort of hydrogen explosions we’ve seen in Japan. One of these reactors would have come through the tsunami just fine. There would have been no radiation release.”

Thorium is a silvery metal named after the Norse god of thunder. The metal has its own “issues” but no thorium reactor could easily spin out of control in the manner of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, or now Fukushima.

Professor Robert Cywinksi from Huddersfield University said thorium must be bombarded with neutrons to drive the fission process. “There is no chain reaction. Fission dies the moment you switch off the photon beam. There are not enough neutrons for it continue of its own accord,” he said.

Dr Cywinski, who anchors a UK-wide thorium team, said the residual heat left behind in a crisis would be “orders of magnitude less” than in a uranium reactor.

The earth’s crust holds 80 years of uranium at expected usage rates, he said. Thorium is as common as lead. America has buried tons as a by-product of rare earth metals mining. Norway has so much that Oslo is planning a post-oil era where thorium might drive the country’s next great phase of wealth. Even Britain has seams in Wales and in the granite cliffs of Cornwall. Almost all the mineral is usable as fuel, compared to 0.7pc of uranium. There is enough to power civilization for thousands of years.


At the Comex silver depositories Friday, final figures were: Registered 41.55 Moz, Eligible 62.57 Moz, Total 104.12 Moz.


Crooks and Scoundrels Corner.

The bent, the seriously bent, and the totally doubled over.

No crooks today just the NY Times on Japan’s flawed over reliance on seawalls. The massive earthquake generated a tsunami that simply over topped the seawalls that existed.

Seawalls Offered Little Protection Against Tsunami’s Crushing Waves

By NORIMITSU ONISHI Published: March 13, 2011

JAKARTA, Indonesia — At least 40 percent of Japan’s 22,000-mile coastline is lined with concrete seawalls, breakwaters or other structures meant to protect the country against high waves, typhoons or even tsunamis. They are as much a part of Japan’s coastal scenery as beaches or fishing boats, especially in areas where the government estimates the possibility of a major earthquake occurring in the next three decades at more than 90 percent, like the northern stretch that was devastated by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.

----Some critics have long argued that the construction of seawalls was a mistaken, hubristic effort to control nature as well as the kind of wasteful public works project that successive Japanese governments used to reward politically connected companies in flush times and to try to kick-start a stagnant economy. Supporters, though, have said the seawalls increased the odds of survival in a quake-prone country, where a mountainous interior has historically pushed people to live along its coastline.

A fuller picture of how seawalls protected or failed to protect areas beyond the nuclear plants will not emerge for at least a few more days. But reports from affected areas indicate that waves simply washed over seawalls, some of which collapsed. Even in the two cities with seawalls built specifically to withstand tsunamis, Ofunato and Kamaishi, the tsunami crashed over before moving a few miles inland, carrying houses and cars with it.

In Kamaishi, 14-foot waves surmounted the seawall — the world’s largest, erected a few years ago in the city’s harbor at a depth of 209 feet, a length of 1.2 miles and a cost of $1.5 billion — and eventually submerged the city center.

“This is going to force us to rethink our strategy,” said Yoshiaki Kawata, a specialist on disaster management at Kansai University in Osaka and the director of a disaster prevention center in Kobe. “This kind of hardware just isn’t effective.”


"Of all the contrivances for cheating the laboring classes of mankind, none has been more effective than that which deludes them with paper money."

Daniel Webster

The monthly Coppock Indicators finished February:

DJIA: +156 Down 05. NASDAQ: +217 Down 11. SP500: +157 Down 4.

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