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06 Jul 2011 15:21


U.S.: Incredible footage of the climatic Phoenix dust storm

  • Adventures in time-lapse: Here we have some videos (credit to Mike Olbinski and Blaine Coury) of the colossal dust storms that touched down in Phoenix, Arizona on July 5th. As always, safety is crucial during extreme natural events. We’ll admit, though, it’s hard to watch this footage without feeling wonderment and stark awe towards the natural world. source

30 Jun 2011 17:27


World: Nicolas Sarkozy grabbed during public appearance

  • The dangers of the rope-line: French President Nicolas Sarkozy was grabbed and pulled by a man while walking past a rope-line at a public event today. What we find most interesting about this: “Sarkozy says he will take no action against the man.” Now, we’d be shocked if this guy isn’t in a world of legal trouble right now, but for Sarkozy to openly state he’ll take no action against him sort of surprised us. If this happened to President Obama, we bet there would be a lot more emphasis and on this, both from the administration and the media. source

23 Jun 2011 18:47


U.S.: Rising flood waters force evacuations from Minot, ND

  • The waters are rising: The scene in Minot is looking pretty bad at this stage, and the forecast is not heartening — flooding unprecedented for the region is prompting the government to issue evacuation notices, as officials will deliberately release more waters from the Lake Darling Dam to mitigate the crisis (the dam is near Minot as well as other towns). The expected drainage will be three times what Minot could handle, all but assuring the damage and destruction of countless homes. Our thoughts are with these victims, and we hope people will prioritize their own safety. source

19 May 2011 17:35


Politics: “A failure of basic coal mine safety procedures” at Upper Big Branch

  • I don’t know how you could have assembled a worse record than the record they have assembled in the last few years. It does not appear the culture has changed at Massey. That is most unfortunate.
  • Davitt McAteer, chair of the West Virginia Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel • Speaking on his examination and report about the deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine, under the ownership of Massey Energy.  The full report, available here, is pretty damning — the subtitle of the report is, simply, “a failure of basic coal mine safety practices.” Said Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia: “This report tragically reinforces that the disaster that took the lives of 29 men at Upper Big Branch last year was absolutely preventable. That will always be one of the most painful facts about this explosion.” source

03 Apr 2011 13:45


Politics: National Transportation Safety Board weighs in on Flight 812

  • Was the aircraft well maintained and should it have been maintained better? That is exactly why we are here, to look at why this problem occurred… We did find evidence of widespread cracking across this entire fracture surface.
  • NTSB member Robert Sumwalt • Speaking at a press conference regarding the nearly calamitous defect on Southwest Airlines Flight 812 last Friday, which tore open a piece of the overhead fuselage. Some 300 flights have been canceled to free up the Southwest 737s now subject to inspection, “aircraft skin fatigue” being what inspectors consider the most likely culprit (thanks to producermatthew for his great work on this). source

31 Mar 2011 15:53


World: France may not wait for IAEA on nuclear safety

  • France may preempt IAEA summit: President Nicolas Sarkozy wants G20 nuclear industry officials to come to Paris in May to discuss safety issues. This might rankle the United Nations, as such an event would preempt the IAEA’s summit in Vienna, planned for June. The IAEA lacks the power to force action on its recommendations, which is why nations like France may not want to wait for the U.N. body. “I suspect that this will not be appreciated on the 28th floor,” said a diplomat, referring to the office of IAEA Director General Yukiyo Amano. source

28 Mar 2011 15:58


World: IAEA chief calls for safety review in Vienna

  • YES the IAEA chief has called a nuclear safety summit source
  • » Clarifying the lessons learned? Yukiyo Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has called a nuclear safety summit in Vienna. He wants all hands on deck for this, with ministers from all 151 member states in attendance. It’s an obvious move, and frankly it would be hard for the IAEA to have claimed much credibility if they had failed to do something like this. That said, this is a worthwhile reminder that safety reviews are always better early than late.

24 Mar 2011 13:59


U.S.: NRC findings on nuclear regulation is stomach churning

  • 28% of nuclear plants don’t report equipment defect source
  • » Loopholes in all the wrong places: So, here’s the deal. A report by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission landed on that rather startling percentage you see above. The reason, it seems, is that the law relating to nuclear regulation states both that they need to report defects that can cause a loss of safety function, and that they need only to report actual losses of safety function. The NRC didn’t downplay the implications of this, saying “a substantial safety hazard” could arise as a result of these failures in disclosure. As it seems to bear mentioning, we’ll reiterate a humble plea: quit skimping on nuclear safety, and yes, regulation. The industry’s great job in recent years polishing up their image is being betrayed by what we’re now learning about some of the rot that lies beneath.

21 Mar 2011 13:47


U.S.: Diablo Canyon nuclear plant called a “near-miss”

  • 18 months until staff found a safety flaw in a CA nuclear plant source
  • » So, here’s the deal: The Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor in California is situated in what’s widely known as a rather earthquake prone area (as we illustrated a few days ago — Diablo Canyon is the reactor closest to the edge of the Pacific Ocean). Which is why it comes as such an unwelcome surprise that their emergency valves, designed to automatically pump water into the reactor core if systems fail, were flawed and would have done no such thing in such a crisis. This deficiency went undetected for eighteen months before being discovered, a lapse in the plant’s emergency response capabilities that, we imagine, the people of the surrounding area are none too pleased with.

17 Mar 2011 16:32


World: Britain follows U.S. on Fukushima evacuation advisement

  • A bit of a contradiction: “We advise British nationals to follow all relevant advice from the Japanese authorities, and as an additional precautionary measure, not to go within eighty kilometers of the site.” It seems that the British have assessed the situation in Fukushima, and have come to the same conclusion the Americans have. While it’s impossible to say at this juncture what is and isn’t the proper advice, this much seems clear; that both the U.S. and Britain would publicly refute Japan’s own evacuation plan, however politely, makes the Japanese look pretty bad, and implies some degree of turmoil in diplomatic communication and coordination. source