Thursday, April 19, 2012

A little more nuclear, alas

Hi folks; I'm actually away from the farm at the moment; doing "meetings" stuff; making things more hectic.

So- not very thoughtful material here; but by way of keeping the news channels open re: Fukushima; two bits from NHK, in toto:

"Why containment vessels must be examined

"An examination of the reactor containment vessels is essential for decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

"The biggest challenge in the decommissioning process is finding a way to remove the melted nuclear fuel inside the reactors and on the floor of the containment vessels.

"Melted nuclear fuel is too radioactive even for robots to handle. So workers are considering filling the containment vessels with water, which shuts in the radiation.

"But highly radioactive wastewater continues to leak out of the No.1 to No.3 reactor containment vessels.

"Wednesday's examination aimed to pinpoint damages to the No 2. vessel for repair.
The No.2 unit was the first to be inspected because its reactor building is less damaged compared to that of the No.1 and No.3 units, and workers have been able to open the door leading to the suppression chamber at the bottom of the containment vessel.

"That door on the No.3 unit had been damaged by an explosion. Inspection at the No.1 unit is being hampered by high levels of radioactive wastewater.

"Wednesday, April 18, 2012 21:41 +0900 (JST)"
We had earlier bits indicating how incredibly radioactive #2 is; and here they tell is- it's the least damaged of them. Oy.
"PM names lawyer Tokyo Electric's new chairman

"The chairmanship of the troubled Tokyo Electric Power Company will be taken over by a lawyer brought in from outside the utility. Kazuhiko Shimokobe will formulate a plan to rescue the utility, which has been limping since last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

"Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda asked Shimokobe to take the job. The government had been struggling to fill the post for months.

"Shimokobe, who currently chairs the steering committee of a state-backed nuclear compensation fund, said he will do all he can to lead the company with its employees.

"A former vice president of the federation of bar associations, Shimokobe is an expert in corporate compliance issues. In 2006, he helped investigate a high-profile window dressing case involving Internet firm Livedoor.

"He later headed a third-party panel vetting TEPCO's management and finance after the nuclear accident.

"The new chairman will play a crucial role in drawing up TEPCO's business turnaround plan by mid-May. The plan comes with an injection of 12 billion dollars in public funds.

"After the nomination, Shimokobe said he will first replace TEPCO's president to give the company a fresh start.

"Thursday, April 19, 2012 20:11 +0900 (JST)"

The not quite obvious bits: TEPCO was unable to find anyone who would take the job of chairman. They'd been trying for months; no one would take it. So- the Prime Minister of Japan has appointed one; along with putting in $12,000,000,000 in public funds- to pay off the public fines and compensations... um, how's that? "We're fining you a billion dollars! Here; use this billion, that'll work."

TEPCO, as a private corporation, is toast; which ought to be a warning of sorts to other companies wanting to get into nuclear power- but- the real accountability thing is mostly being bypassed, again.

Monday, April 9, 2012

In case you were worried...

You can now relax.

We have some mildly amusing, and wholly bemusing evidence today that there's nothing all that urgent, and the world has such an incredible abundance of resources we can, and should, just fritter them. I'll present two examples.

In Japan, which, as we know has a problem or two, really on the serious side; one of their most prominent corporations, Panasonic, announced today that it is in the final stages of commercializing a new robot, and is going to start selling it. Since this is NKH feed, I'll include some of the text:
"Japanese electronics maker Panasonic will start testing a shampooing robot with the aim of putting it on the market within a year. Panasonic announced on Monday that it will start the tests this week at a barber shop in Nishinomiya, western Japan.

"Sensors in the robot's hands scan the shape of a customer's head. The robot then wets and washes the hair with 24 'robo-fingers,' which Panasonic says recreates the feel of human fingers.

"Panasonic official Yukio Honda says the robot will help improve the quality of life for people receiving nursing care or those with disabilities. He adds that the company intends to install the robot in hair salons across Japan and put it on the nursing care market as soon as possible."

I confess, my mind boggles a bit. Japan is struggling with huge youth unemployment, is trying to import health care workers from the Philippines and Malaysia- so... yeah, this seems like a great idea. Chop human contact further for the aging and disabled, and just run them through the new car-wash machine. I suppose it's possibly that it could actually take 3 people to run and maintain the machine now; instead of the one shampoo-girl it used to... that would improve the jobs situation, right?

The second example is from the good ol' USA college community.

"A team of engineers at Purdue University has set the world record for "Largest functional Rube Goldberg machine" with a mind-boggling contraption that takes 300 steps to inflate and pop a balloon. In doing so, they bested themselves, as they had the previous record, with 244 steps. "

But wait; it gets better. "14 members worked on this project over a span of six months -- for a total of 5,000 hours."

Ok, so call me a cranky-pants. I realize, engineers just want to have fun; but really- couldn't they have had 5,000 hours worth of creative fun working on something that actually had a chance of being useful, somewhere, somehow? It seems a bit excessive to work so hard on something where the entire point of the work- is that it is useless.

Or, go to YouTube if Blogger is cranky.

Grump grump. Oh, look; I like Rube-Goldberg gimmicks too. Yes, their uselessness and pointlessness is useful and educational. But. Maybe it can be overdone? I mean- they could have built a robot that can trim toenails in assisted living homes. The Japanese are way, way, ahead of us.

And, they might have asked for a little help from some student with experience in video making...