Friday, November 21, 2008

Tsunami could cripple nuclear reactors, NRC says

Tsunami could cripple nuclear reactors, NRC says

Doesn’t that teeny weeny nuclear power plant on the bluff look like our very own San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station?!

This illustration, from a recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission report soberly titled “Tsunami Hazard Assessment at Nuclear Power Plant Sites in the United States of America,” says that those rogue waves most often caused by big earthquakes “can result in a severe hazard to safety-related cooling-water systems as well as other structures, systems and components important to safety of a nuclear power plant.”

“The primary effect of the tsunami waves on a plant site is flooding … and loss of cooling water (due to dry intakes during drawdown caused by receding tsunami waves).”

“However, there are also several other effects, mainly from hydrodynamic forces that can cause severe damage to structures and the foundations of these structures.”

The NRC last updated its construction guidelines for this type of thing more than 30 years ago - in 1977.


OK, so, the economy is crumbling beneath our feet and must we ponder a tsunami hitting the local nuclear power plant and sucking away cooling water and producing radioactive chaos?

“In the wake of the December 26, 2004, Sumatra earthquake and its accompanying tsunami that resulted in widespread loss of life and property in the Indian Ocean region, hazards posed by tsunamis have emerged as some of the most severe caused by natural phenomena,” the NRC’s report says. ”One operating nuclear power reactor was shut down during this tsunami, and, therefore, international nuclear power plant operators and reviewers felt the need to review the approach towards tsunami-hazard assessment for existing and proposed sites.”

Since dozens of new nuclear plants are in the pipeline to be built, the NRC is reworking regulations to be more confident plants can weather such rare but crippling crises. Like, specifically, making sure cooling water intake pipes are far enough off shore - and in deep enough water - that they won’t be left high and dry if water recedes.


There’s not much to worry about here, says Gil Alexander, the very good-natured spokesman for Southern California Edison, which runs San Onofre.

“San Onofre was engineered to meet the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s stringent safety design standards plus provide a large margin of safety beyond those standards,” Alexander said in an email (on his day off, after reading through the report and contacting company mucky-mucks). “The plant’s two operating units are designed to safely shutdown during natural disasters including major earthquakes and tsunamis.”

The NRC is accepting comments on its draft report through Dec. 5, and new regulations are expected to emerge some time after that.


'It's a tornado' cry terrified Suffolk residents

Powerful winds and a cold front in southern Britain created ideal tornado conditions

The 200 residents of a usually hushed East Suffolk village were left terrified and bewildered when a “twister” roared into Pettistree, near Woodbridge.

Trees and electricity lines were ripped out and homes and schools damaged as the freak weather system barrelled towards the East Anglian coast.

The Met Office and storm experts confirmed today that extreme weather fronts in South-East England yesterday afternoon created the perfect conditions for tornadoes.

“It was horrendous,” said Maureen Stollery, 67, who watched open-mouthed from her home in the village at about 2pm. “Everything was going round and round. It was spinning the top of a 35ft tree in our garden until it was ripped off. It was actually pulled clean off and the top spun round in the air.“The sound of the wind and the rain was like an apache helicopter. It went very dark and it was raining so much – it was lashing the house. It was much worse than the 1987 storm.”

Fellow villagers Dom and Cherry White agreed that it was the sound that warned them of the approaching storm.

“It was as if the walls were going to fall in,” Mrs White told the East Anglian Daily Times. “It was like a twister coming through the garden. We could see it and it was quite extraordinary. We heard the noise first.”

About 20 miles nearer the coast, the town of Leiston felt the same powerful force a few minutes later as the storm system swept across Suffolk. Paul Knightley, a severe weather expert from Torro, which monitors the British climate, said: “It’s almost certainly a tornado, there aren’t really any other phenomena that would have left such a narrow path of damage.”

Mr Knightley explained that tornadoes can form when a cold front is moving with a narrow ribbon of rain along its leading edge forcing warm air upwards very quickly. Dramatic air turbulence forming tornadoes can be created by wind shear, which sees wind speed and direction changing with altitude.

In the aftermath of a tornado, rotational damage can usually be observed - most often through signs of twisting in trees.

At Leiston High School by the Suffolk coast, a window was blown out, smashing to the ground in a courtyard between classrooms. Ian Flintoff, the headmaster, said: “The tornado came across the front of the school. I was talking to another teacher and it took my breath away. It stopped what we were doing - it was very eerie inside.”

He told the East Anglian Daily Times: “Very suddenly there was a major gust of wind in an extreme way I have not experienced before. Trees were moving around quite violently and the building shook.

“It caused damage to the roof, ripping off a sky light, and lifted bins off the ground. It was a very short lived but violent episode.

“It happened when school was in session so luckily there were no students about. It was really disturbing and lasted for about 30 seconds - no more than that. As a geographer I have seen it on the television but I have never experienced weather like it before.”

Weather fronts in the rest of southern Britain yesterday left two dead as roads were flooded and one powerful gust knocked over a crane in Essex, killing a man.

Strong winds have continued today, particularly in northwest Scotland. The worst of the weather is then expected to ease with sunny spells predicted for tomorrow and Thursday

Australia opens national tsunami warning center

CANBERRA, Australia – Australia became an integral link in a network of tsunami warning hubs across the Indian and Pacific oceans with the official opening of a national monitoring center Friday.

The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center that opened in the southern city of Melbourne joins India as a "tsunami watch provider" for 29 countries on the Indian Ocean rim that are prone to the killer waves, said Ray Canterford, head of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's disaster mitigation office.

Work on the 69 million Australian dollar ($46 million) center developed by the government was launched six months after the catastrophic 2004 tsunami.

It will provide essential sea level and seismic data to the Pacific warning network to Southwest Pacific island nations. This data is critical to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii and the Japanese Meteorological Agency in Tokyo, Canterford said.

Eventually, there will be a network of several countries on the Indian Ocean rim with their own tsunami warning centers sharing scientific data, he said.

"We're actually enhancing the capabilities of other countries in the Pacific and in the Indian Ocean," he said.

The center relies on high-tech deep sea buoys, five of which are located northwest of Australia below Indonesia, one in northeast of Australia in the Coral Sea and two in the Tasman Sea off the southeast coast.

Indonesia, which bore the brunt of the 2004 tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people, is expected to have its own national warning center fully operational by the end of the year, Canterford said.


Report on Napoli Beaching Incident

On Nov. 6, The Maritime and Coastguard Agency delivered its in-depth 103 page Report to the Chairman of Devons local Inquiry into the circumstances leading to the beaching of the MSC Napoli off the East Devon coastline.

The Report summarises the Agencys activities from the moment the incident broke on the18th January 2007, when the MSC Napoli was on passage in the English Channel, loaded with 2,318 containers and bound for South Africa and when she suffered a catastrophic hull failure and got into severe difficulties.

A number of possible locations were assessed by both the French and British authorities for a place of refuge on both sides of the Channel; however, the south coast of England provided better options for a place of refuge. The conclusion was that the least environmentally risky option was to tow the vessel to a place of refuge in UK waters.

Working with the French authorities, the Secretary of States Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SOSREP) decided that the ship was in danger of breaking up and polluting the English Channel and should be towed to Portland Harbor.

The SOSREP consulted with local authorities and environmental bodies to the fullest extent possible within the time available. With the condition of the ship deteriorating rapidly, it was necessary for the salvors and the SOSREP to make a fast decision in order to avert a potential environmental catastrophe.

During towing, the weather deteriorated and the salvors and the SOSREP decided to beach the ship in Lyme Bay to minimize the pollution threat.

The MSC Napoli was beached in Lyme Bay on 20 January 2007. Over the next six months the 3,500 tonnes of fuel oil and the containers were systematically removed. The final container was removed on 17 May 2007. Explosives were used to split the MSC NAPOLI into two sections. On 20 July, the ship was successfully split into two pieces and the bow section was towed a short distance away.

The bow section of MSC NAPOLI was removed from Lyme Bay and taken to Harland and Wolffs dismantling facility in Belfast in mid-August 2007. The remaining stern section was left in situ in Lyme Bay, to be cut up and taken away to a recycling facility.

Toby Stone, Head of the Agencys Counter Pollution Unit said, “The successful way in which the MSC NAPOLI was handled demonstrates the effectiveness of the UKs arrangements for handling incidents at sea and the professionalism of all of those involved.”

“We also hope that our submission to the Inquiry will set the record straight on several issues, including of course, the overriding practical reasons for beaching the vessel at Branscombe, and the function of a Shoreline Response Centre. In this case there was no need for such a Centre to co-ordinate the shoreline clean-up operation because the third party insurers retained the services of contractors to do the necessary clean-up work.”

The finalized report will not only be published for general consumption but is intended also to form the Governments contribution to Devon County Councils MSC Napoli Public Inquiry, for which public hearings started on 3 November 2008 and will finish on 7 November 2008.

The report is a factual account of the response to the incident, with conclusions, lessons learned and recommendations. In addition to the response by the MCA, it includes coverage of the actions of other relevant authorities.

(Source: The Maritime & Coastguard Agency Press Office)

SCI Announces the Christmas at Sea Gala & Auction 2008

Event Opens 175th Anniversary Celebration

October 9, 2008. The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) announces its annual holiday party, the Christmas at Sea Gala & Auction on Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at the New York Yacht Club in midtown Manhattan. A party aimed at fundraising for the Institute, this event evokes a very warm sentiment. During the cold month of December, SCI celebrates the Christmas at Sea knitting program, the volunteer knitting program of SCI. It has, for 110 years, been collecting and distributing warmth in the form of scarves and hats to mariners working at Christmastime. This year’s event also marks an important year milestone in the history of the entire organization. The party jump-starts the Institute’s celebration of its 175th Anniversary in 2009.

Jennifer Koenig, Director of Special Events and Donor Relations at SCI, has been planning this event for months. “What I really like about this annual event is that the holiday spirit of goodwill and peace harmonizes with the mission of the Institute.” Koenig points out that SCI’s history of serving the maritime industry is a history filled with generous gifts in support of SCI’s mission to mariners. “People who come to this event are a part of spreading holiday cheer, and it means that we can continue the Institute’s various service programs to mariners.”

In addition to peace and goodwill, there is another aspect of the holiday which features prominently in the evening’s festivities, says Koenig—presents. The Christmas at Sea Gala & Auction includes, as its name suggests, an auction of various donated items. All of the proceeds go to the Seamen’s Church Institute. Auction items in the past have included tropical cruises, ski vacations, and historic maritime memorabilia. Koenig says of this year’s auction, “We will have some great items up for bid this year, and because the holiday is an atmosphere for fun surprises, we will have some of those too.”

Invitations for the Gala & Auction will go out next week. If you would like to receive an invitation, email Special Events Associate Carrie Brennan at Koenig hopes that the event will be well attended. She says, “As with all parties, the more the merrier. In the case of the Christmas at Sea Gala & Auction, with more people attending, we will be able to make merrier the Christmases of many mariners.”

NY Yacht Club Model Room CAS Gala

The Model Room at the New York Yacht Club, host to the 2008 Christmas at Sea Gala and Auction.


Messing About In Ships Podcast

Have a really great weekend..Snow and all!