Thursday, April 14, 2011

Japan's 'Nuclear Volcano' Erupts - Conditions at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi facility have steadily deteriorated and now the station is intermittently spewing lethal amounts of radiation into the atmosphere and around the world. A French nuclear group has warned that children and pregnant mothers should protect themselves from the fallout. "THE RISKS associated with iodine-131 contamination IN EUROPE ARE NO LONGER 'NEGLIGIBLE'" according to a French research body on radioactivity. The NGO is advising pregnant women and infants against "risky behaviour," such as consuming fresh milk or vegetables with large leaves."
The group's warning underlines the dangers posed by the out-of-control facility which is causing UNPRECEDENTED DAMAGE to earth, sea and sky. Fukushima is the nuclear death machine of which advocates of green technologies have warned for decades. But while the magnitude of the disaster grows larger by the day, the government's only response has been to expand the evacuation zone and try to shape news to avert a panic.
Emergency crews have braved high levels of radiation to bring the plant back under control, but with little success. A number of violent tremors and a second smaller tsunami have made their jobs nearly impossible. Thousands of gallons of radioactive water that was used as coolant has been flushed into the sea threatening marine life and sensitive habitat. The toxic release of radiation now poses an incalculable risk to a battered fishing industry and to fish-stocks around the world. These costs were never factored in when industry executives and politicians decided to exploit an energy source that can cause cancer, pollute the environment for millennia, and bring the world's third largest economy to its knees.
By raising the alert-rating to its highest level (7) regulators are conceding that a “major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects" is taking place. THE SITUATION IS GETTING WORSE BY THE DAY. Japan's government will now insist on the "implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.” In other words, a red alert. The threat to water supplies, food sources, livestock and humans is no longer in doubt. The media's efforts to protect the nuclear industry by downplaying the scale of the catastrophe have been moderately successful, but the truth is gradually beginning to surface as more people look to alternate sources of information. The disaster has been as ruinous to the media's reputation as it has been to the environment.
Japan's economics minister warned on Tuesday that the economic damage from last month's earthquake and tsunami is likely to be worse than initially thought as power shortages will crimp factory output and restrict supply chains. The more sober assessment came as Japan raised the severity of its nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to a level 7 from 5, putting it on par with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. The Bank of Japan governor said the economy was in a "severe state," while central bankers were uncertain when efforts to rebuild the tsunami-ravaged northeast would boost growth.
"Fukushima Daiichi operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. warned Tuesday that since the Fukushima Daiichi plant is still releasing radioactive materials, the total level of radiation released could eventually exceed that of Chernobyl. The new assessment comes as Japan admits that the effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident - which has already caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and spread radiation through groundwater and farms over a broad section of eastern Japan - are likely to be long-lasting and grave. Experts anticipate that the troubles at Fukushima will persist for months if not years. In the meantime, life-threatening levels of toxic radioactive material will be released into the air, water and earth. Small children and the unborn are at greatest risk, but incidents of adult thyroid cancer and other maladies will increase exponentially as well. The future of the nuclear industry has never been more uncertain, and for good reason.
Japan also temporarily issued tsunami warnings for parts of the north-east coast on Monday following another powerful aftershock. That was exactly a month since the magnitude-9 earthquake created huge waves. NHK, the public broadcaster, warned of a tsunami up to 2 metres high on the coast of Ibaraki prefecture after the magnitude-7.1 quake. Although the waves were estimated to be much smaller than those that hit on 11 March, the meteorological agency warned people in Ibaraki to evacuate to higher ground. The warnings were later lifted.

**Money and mansions are not the only wealth.
Hoard the wealth of the Spirit.
Character is wealth; good conduct is wealth;
and spiritual wisdom is wealth.**
Atharva Veda

This morning -

Yesterday -
4/13/11 -
plus a cluster of 21+ moderate quakes in the Virgin Islands

Japan Must Stop Forecasting Big Quake Near Tokyo, Geophysicist Says - The Japanese government should stop trying to forecast when a major quake will hit near Tokyo because models behind the predictions are flawed. Since 1979, a year after Japan introduced a system that aims to predict big earthquakes three days prior to the event, temblors causing 10 or more mortalities have struck in areas assigned a low seismic risk rating. “It is time to tell the public frankly that earthquakes cannot be predicted. We should instead tell the public and the government to ‘prepare for the unexpected’ and do our best to communicate both what we know and what we do not.”
A magnitude-9 quake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11 left about 27,500 dead or missing and caused radiation leaks at a nuclear power plant in the country’s worst crisis since World War II. The quake shook areas where the probability for high seismic intensity forecast by Japan’s model was as low as 0.1 percent, compared with as high as 100 percent in places southwest of Tokyo. The operator of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station should have been better prepared to deal with natural disasters, the Prime Minister said last month. Japan’s nuclear regulator and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the owner of the nuclear plant, dismissed evidence two years ago that a tsunami could overwhelm the plant’s defenses.
Japan has built its earthquake models on the assumption that various zones have “characteristic earthquakes,” allowing scientists to assign quake probabilities to regions. The locations of temblors that caused 10 or more deaths since 1979 are outside the main danger regions and “suggest the hazard maps and methods used to produce it are flawed and should be discarded." The area that Japan monitors extensively and continuously is off the coast of Suruga Bay southwest of Tokyo, identified by the government as the only place in the country where detection of movement in underlying tectonic plates allows earthquakes to be forecast. The possible rupture in the zone has already been named the “Tokai earthquake." “Over the past 30 years or so, government spokesmen have used the term ‘Tokai earthquake’ so often that the public and news media have come to view it as a ‘real earthquake’ rather than merely an arbitrary scenario. This misleads the public into believing that the clock is ticking down inexorably on a magnitude-8 earthquake that is certain to strike the Tokai district in the near future.”

JAPAN - Tokyo Bay Home Demand to Drop as Quake Turned Land to Mud and Shattered Pipes. Developers in Tokyo’s bayside neighborhoods, where apartments were built on reclaimed land, are halting sales after Japan’s earthquake turned some of the landfill into mud, shattered pipes and severed water supplies. While most of Tokyo avoided major damage in the March 11 quake because of stringent building codes, in some parts of Tokyo Bay the magnitude-9 temblor triggered liquefaction, a phenomenon where soil loses its strength after violent shaking. The most affected suburb was Urayasu, one of only three residential areas in greater Tokyo where land prices rose last year, and the home of the Tokyo Disneyland resort.
Neighborhoods around Tokyo Bay, which has about 24,955 hectares (61,665 acres) of reclaimed land, are sought after for their views and their travel time of less than half an hour to central Tokyo in a city where the average commute is 49 minutes.
“The problem is, buyers who bought the high-rise apartments because of the convenience of the bay area’s location and a view of the ocean are now reminded of danger. We will see a rising number of sellers.” Some high-rise seafront residents, who can’t use elevators because of rolling blackouts after nuclear power plants were damaged causing electricity shortages, and bathrooms because of broken pipes, have told real estate agents they’re willing to sell for as little as 50 percent of their purchase price. Half of the households in Urayasu suffered from disruption of water services as pipes snapped. The earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the country’s northeast probably will put an end to last year’s recovery in apartment prices in Japan’s capital,. In the Tokyo Bay area, prices may drop as much as 10 percent in just three to six months. The average price of a three-bedroom apartment in Tokyo rose to 47.2 million yen ($562,000) in February.
Liquefaction, which causes soil to act like quicksand, was found across about 86 percent of Urayasu’s surface land. About 112 kilometers (70 miles) of road in the 17 square-kilometer (7 square-mile) city were damaged. Tokyo Disneyland will reopen tomorrow after closing for more than a month because of disruptions to the power supply from the earthquak. Some buyers scrapped plans to buy apartments after areas surrounding the 550-unit Shin-Urayasu and 379-unit Kemigawahama condominiums were damaged. “The problem is demand in the future. Some people may not choose to live near the harbor in the near term, even as landfill techniques improved in the past decades.”
Reclaimed land in Urayasu, which makes up three-quarters of the area, was built of mud and sand over 15 years through 1980. The area may be reinforced by inserting pipes to extract water, installing steel piles, or pouring in concrete. The last major earthquake to strike Tokyo and its environs directly was in 1923, when more than 140,000 people were killed. Tokyo’s population of about 13 million is adjacent to three major fault lines, including the Nankai Trough, which produces a large quake every 118.8 years on average.
The March 11 quake triggered a tsunami with waves as high as 15 meters (49 feet) that damaged or destroyed more than 200,000 buildings and leveled towns in Japan’s northeast. “If it was just an earthquake, things would probably go back to normal. With the tsunami, it’s a different story. What’s more of a concern is that with seashore properties, there is nowhere to escape.”


Mount Etna Volcano Settles After 2 Active Days - Italian officials said Mount Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, has calmed down after two days of activity. But volcano experts said Monday that Europe's tallest active volcano might have fallen back into a short-lived slumber and another "active phase may just be around the corner." On Sunday, the volcano blasted lava and shards of magma more than 1,200 feet into the air and a plume of black smoke rose more than 2 miles above the crater. The wind carried fragments of the eruption to towns southeast of the large eastern Sicilian city of Catania but flight operations at the city's airport were unaffected.

No current tropical storms.


U.S. - Extreme weather dominates Central Plains. Two distinctly different weather patterns are playing out this spring in the Central Plains states, with flooding to the far north and drought and wild fires in the south. Both conditions provide significant concerns for the coming growing season.
The Red River near Fargo, N.D., is currently at 38.27 feet. That level compares with the 40.81 feet record set in late March of 2009. Flood stage is called 18 feet. In Texas, the concern is drought and the destructive wild fires that often follow. A weekend wild fire in West Texas has been called the state’s worst in history, scorching about 110 square miles of rolling prairie. In the town of Fort Davis, 40 homes were destroyed by the fire. Another fire in Midland County burned 25 square miles over the weekend. On Sunday, FEMA declared a State of Emergency for the Fort Davis area, calling it a “National Priority.”
But drought is not limited to West Texas. The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor released on Thursday shows 98 percent of Texas now in a drought, and more than 86 percent in a severe drought or worse. The National Weather Service say that Del Riuo, Tex., has reported only 0.31 inches of precipitation for the October-March period, the second driest since 1906. Austin reported its 5th driest October-March since 1856 and San Antonio recorded the 12th driest October-March since 1871.
Oklahoma is not faring much better, with 86 percent of the state showing short or very short topsoil moisture conditions. Oklahoma has reported 500 wild fires, and wheat conditions are called poor. Most of the state remains in a severe drought. Other states experiencing drought include New Mexico, Louisiana, and southern Arkansas. The National Weather report projects a dry pattern to develop through the South over the growing season.
With drought on one end of the map and flooding on the other, somewhere in between should be “normal.” That spot may be at the Kansas City International Airport, which has recorded 6.23 inches of moisture so far this year, which compares with an average of 5.84 inches by this date.