Friday, April 8, 2011

JAPAN - A POWERFUL aftershock that rocked an area of Japan already reeling from last month's earthquake and tsunami disaster killed two people and injured more than 100. The quake was initially measured at magnitude-7.4, though the US Geological Survey later downgraded it to 7.1. Either way, it was the strongest aftershock since several were recorded on March 11 - the day of the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami that killed as many as 25,000 people and touched off a nuclear crisis in March.
New Japanese nuclear plant with trouble - Radiation levels inside the Onagawa nuclear plant in the Miyagi prefecture, north-east of Japan, rose slightly as water spilled out of spent fuel pools after a strong 7.1-magnitude aftershock hit the region on Thursday night. But the company that runs the plant said there was no rise in radiation levels outside the plant. The epicenter of the fresh tremor was just 20 km away from the Onagawa nuclear plant, which has been safely shut down after the quake and tsunami in March.
Tohoku Electric Power, the operator of the plant, said on Friday water leaked out of spent fuel pools of three reactors at the plant after the quake. "We detected a small rise in radiation levels inside the reactor buildings, and are trying to find the locations of the leaks. We see no change in radiation levels outside the reactor buildings."
It had been reported earlier that two out of three power lines to Japan's Onagawa nuclear plant were knocked out by the fresh aftershock. The Fukushima crisis erupted after an off-site power failure led to the disruption of the cooling systems at the plant, leading to partial melt-downs and radioactive leakages.

*You have your way.
I have my way.
As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way,
it does not exist.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -

Yesterday -
4/7/11 -

JAPAN - Officials ordered mass evacuations and workers at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant took shelter after the 7.1 quake triggered a tsunami warning. But the alert was lifted after 90 minutes and no damage was reported at the nuclear plant. Emergency crews said two people died as an indirect result of the quake and about 100 more were injured.
The latest earthquake - at a depth of 49km (32 miles) - struck off Japan's north-east coast, close to the epicentre of the 11 March quake. Thursday's quake struck at 2332 local time (1432 GMT) on Thursday, 118km (78 miles) north of Fukushima, 40km offshore. The quake was strong enough to shake buildings in Tokyo, 265km to the south. "It started off with small shakes, then shook bigger."
Hundreds of aftershocks have shaken north-eastern Japan in the wake of the earlier earthquake, but few have measured higher than 7.0.

Japan eyes new radiation standards that could widen evacuation zone - Japan may set standards for long-term radiation exposure that would effectively extend the evacuation zone around the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Government readings show that people beyond the current restricted zone may be exposed to dangerous long-term doses of radiation even though the readings fall below levels that now require an evacuation. Residents within a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) radius of the Fukushima Daiichi plant were ordered to leave their homes in the days following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which knocked out the plant's power systems. Those living within 20 to 30 kilometers have been told to remain indoors.
But readings released Thursday by the country's science ministry from areas outside that zone indicated that LONG-TERM EXPOSURE COULD TOP the government's one-time STANDARDS for an evacuation WITHIN A FEW MONTHS. Some of those are in towns to the northwest, where prevailing winds have blown radioactive particles released from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The recorded doses are far below those that would cause radiation sickness but could pose a long-term risk of cancer, according to medical experts. The anti-nuclear group Greenpeace and the International Atomic Energy Agency raised alarms about the spread of radioactivity beyond the 30-kilometer zone in late March. Current regulations require an evacuation after radiation levels exceed 50 millisieverts in a short period of time. But cumulative doses in one area near Fukushima Daiichi have already topped 12 millisieverts in the month since the accident, and several readings are roughly double the 3 millisieverts a resident of a typical industrialized country receives in a year.
At the damaged plant, engineers began injecting non-flammable nitrogen into the No. 1 reactor Thursday to counter a buildup of potentially explosive hydrogen. That work continued even after a strong aftershock rattled much of central Japan shortly before midnight. The nine workers in the plant retreated to an earthquake-resistant shelter during the temblor, and the plant never lost power.
Hydrogen buildup is a symptom of overheated fuel rods in the cores of the reactors, which plant workers have been struggling to keep under control since the earthquake and tsunami. The nitrogen injections are aimed at displacing oxygen in the reactor shell, reducing the possibility of an explosion -- a chance Tokyo Electric called "extremely low." A hydrogen explosion blew the roof and upper walls off the No 1. reactor building two days after the quake, and another blast two days later blew apart the No. 3 building. A suspected hydrogen explosion is believed to have damaged the No. 2 reactor on March 15 as well.
Tokyo Electric and Japanese regulators believe No. 2 is the source of the highly contaminated water they are now struggling to contain at Fukushima Daiichi, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo. Plant workers are pouring 8 tons of water (2,100 gallons) into that reactor every hour to keep it cool, and the water that flows out carries extremely high concentrations of radioactive particles.
That highly radioactive fluid is building up in the turbine plant and the service tunnels around the unit, leaving Japanese officials grasping for ways to contain it. Until Wednesday, some of that water had been bleeding out into the Pacific Ocean through a cracked utility shaft behind the plant. On Saturday, the day the leak was discovered, concentrations of the reactor byproduct iodine-131 in seawater next to the shaft were 7.5 MILLION TIMES HIGHER THAN THE LEGAL LIMIT.
Those levels prompted Japanese authorities to start dumping nearly 10,000 tons of less-radioactive water into the Pacific on Monday night, largely to make room in a waste treatment reservoir for the No. 2 reactor coolant. The move enraged the country's fishing industry and drew protests from neighboring South Korea, but Japan's government called it an emergency move to prevent a worse discharge. Japan is currently consulting with Russian authorities on whether a shipborne decontamination plant has the capability to handle the wastewater. But Tokyo has not yet asked for the vessel to be brought into the fight. The ship can process up to 35 tons of radioactive waste a day and store about 800 tons. Japan built the vessel for Russia in the 1990s to help Moscow take aging nuclear submarines out of service.
The now-contained water "may lead to more leakage somewhere else," and the utility said Thursday that the water level in the basement of the unit's turbine plant had gone up about 4 centimeters (0.8 inches) since the leak was plugged. The company says temporary storage tanks that can hold another 15,000 tons of water are expected to arrive late next week, but will need to be connected to pumps and water lines before they can be put to use.

No current tropical storms.


80% of India's Alphonso Mango Crop Destroyed By Extreme Weather - Directly linking this to climate change might be premature, but it's certainly consistent with the sort of weather weirding predicted to occur: 80% of India's Alphonso mango crop for the year has been destroyed as a prolonged winter gave way immediately to scorching summer heat, which killed off the flowers and fruit. The mango needs temperatures in the 30-36°C range for the fruit to mature after the trees flower in November and December. But this year temperatures soared to 41°C (106°F) by the beginning of April. The crop yield is barely 10% of what it normally is in some places, with flowers "burnt crisp." Alphonso mangos are among the world's most prized, retailing for up to nearly $3 each in India. Because of the crop failure farmers will be strapped with debts and little to no crop to repay them.

New warning on Arctic ice melt - Scientists who predicted a few years ago that Arctic summers could be ice-free by 2013 now say summer ice will probably be goneby 2016. The original prediction, made in 2007, gained the team a deal of criticism from some of their peers. Now they are working with a new computer model - compiled partly in response to those criticisms - that produces a "BEST GUESS" DATE OF 2016.
The new model is designed to replicate real-world interactions, or "couplings", between the Arctic ocean, the atmosphere, the ice and rivers carrying freshwater into the sea. "In the past... we were just extrapolating into the future assuming that trends might persist as we've seen in recent times. Now we're trying to be more systematic, and we've developed a regional Arctic climate model that's very similar to the global climate models participating in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments." And one of the projections it comes out with is that the summer melt could lead to ice-free Arctic seas by 2016 - "plus or minus three years".
One of the important ingredients of the new model is data on the thickness of ice floating on the sea. Satellites are increasingly able to detect this, usually by measuring how far the ice sits above the sea surface - which also indicates how far the ice extends beneath. Inclusion of this data into the team's modelling was one of the factors causing them to retrench on the 2013 date. Since the spectacularly pronounced melting of 2007, a greater proportion of the Arctic Ocean has been covered by thin ice that is formed in a single season and is more vulnerable to slight temperature increases than older, thicker ice. Even taking this into account, the projected date range is earlier than other researchers believe likely. "There's been modelling showing that [likely dates are around] 2040/50, and I'd still lean towards that. I'd be very surprised if it's 2013 - I wouldn't be totally surprised if it's 2019."
The drastic melt of 2007 remains the record loss of ice area in the satellite era, although subsequent years have still been below the long-term average. But some researchers believe 2010's melt was equally as notable as 2007's, given weather conditions that were favourable to the durability of ice. And the behaviour of sea ice becomes less predictable as it gets thinner.

RECORD OZONE LOSS AT ARCTIC is due to extreme weather - Severe weather is responsible for record ozone depletion over the North Pole, according to researchers. The scientists' observations indicate that that ozone loss had reached 40 per cent by the end of March. This UNPRECEDENTED reduction was due to a cold and persistent stratospheric winter which uncharacteristically extended into spring.
Destruction of stratospheric ozone occurs when the temperature in Polar Regions falls below -80°C. At such low temperatures chemical reactions take place within clouds of the lower stratosphere, transforming compounds which are harmless to ozone, into active ones. When sunlight returns to the Polar Regions, these processes lead to ozone depletion.
The destruction of the North Pole's stratospheric ozone is usually less pronounced than that of the South. Antarctic winters tend to be colder than those at the North Pole, resulting in the recurrence of this phenomenon. Scientists contend that a severe winter is responsible for this year's record ozone loss at the North Pole.
Since the signing of the 1987 Montreal Protocol ozone levels have been stringently monitored. In addition, the production of halocarbons, chemical compounds that can destroy stratospheric ozone, are regulated because of this treaty. Scientists argue that without the Montreal Protocol the unprecedented ozone depletion would have been even more severe. Although exceptionally cold winters could cause this phenomenon to repeat, experts predict that ozone levels at the North Pole will return to their pre-1980 levels by 2045.


Hospital errors - The number of adverse events in hospitals could be far higher - AS MUCH AS 10 TIMES HIGHER - than was previously estimated. In total, researchers detected 393 adverse events in 2004 data, occurring in ROUGHLY ONE-THIRD of admissions. Hospitals' voluntary reporting systems had detected only four adverse events, or 1% of the total. The study's authors warned that hospitals using voluntary reporting systems alone to assess patient safety “may be seriously misjudging actual performance.”