Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Leaky Reactors, Cyber Terror and Police States

This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
The Hallow Men TS Elliot

A few interesting  news items recently passed without much notice.  Two nuclear reactors located in the Northeast had to be  brought offline due to operational failures.  The Vermont Yankee reactor sprang a leak and had to be shut down.  The other incident occurred at the thirty six year old Indian Point reactor located about twenty miles north of New York City.  The cause of the problem at Indian Point was a transformer fire.  Both reactors  are owned and operated by Entergy and mirror similar problems at the Excelon operated Oyster Creek reactor located in south central New Jersey.

These incidents are endemic to aging nuclear power facilities.  These plants came on line during the the 1970’s and are now approaching the half century mark of service.  When these plants were commissioned it was believed they would have a shelf life of 40 years.   As the expected useful life span of these facilities approach regulators routinely grant extensions to the operators.  Operating these facilities past that point heighten potential risk factors.  As nuclear reactors age, the stress on these complex systems and containment facilities raise risk factors heightening the potential of system failure that lead to catastrophic events.

Leaky plumbing at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant is the culprit in poisoning the Cohansey Aquifer with 180,000 gallons of tritium contaminated water.  Regulators and environmental officials assert that the level of radio active isotopes in the water supply that serves South Jersey and parts of Philadelphia is well within acceptable levels for human consumption.  I guess that all depends on your definition of human; but I and many others remain skeptical on the subject of drinking radioactive laced water.

The aging nuclear infrastructure of the United States is a growing cause for concern.  The nuclear power industry was halted in its tracks in the 1980’s by a strong No Nukes environmental movement.  At the time it was generally understood that the cost of catastrophic risk and the industries inability to solve the long term problem of disposal and management of nuclear waste turned the public against the industry.

The Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania and the disastrous meltdown at Chernobyl in the Russian Caucuses led to a moratorium on new plant construction in the United States leading to the actual abandonment of plant construction in the Washington and New York.  It created a capital market crisis as the fear of defaults on WPPSS  revenue bonds spread to cast long shadows on the entire Muni Bond market.  The state of  New York stepped in to purchase the facilities of Long Island Power in order to make bondholders of the closed facility whole with tax payer money.  It was kind of like socialism for investors.

While most of the world has continued to build nuclear plants to address growing energy needs; the United States has not built a nuclear plant since the 1980’s and has lagged the world in using nuclear power to address energy needs. Sentiment on the desirability of nuclear power is beginning to change.  The Pickens Plan, former VP Dick Cheney’s secret meetings to develop a national energy strategy, the Gulf Oil Spill, the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil and the growing acceptance that the burning of fossil fuels is slowly cooking the planet has placed nuclear power back on the table as a viable component of America’s energy portfolio.

China is committed to building 100 nuclear power plants to wean itself from its crippling dependence on coal.  The United States is charging hard to keep up with its fast growing Asian competitor in a 21st Century nuclear power race.  The aggressive pursuit of nuclear plant development will increase the power and control of corporate entities charged with their construction, management and on going administration.  To accomplish a dramatic build-out in nuclear infrastructure large areas of  land situated near a plentiful water supply will need to be secured.   Environmental impacts, regulatory oversight and public transparency will be sacrificed at the alter of cost efficiency, expedience in implementation and security to protect the vulnerable facilities against the pervasive armies of terrorists that lurk in the shadows near every nuclear plant.

The controversy surrounding the collusion of government and business to exploit the Marcellus Shale natural gas vein is an instructive model of what we can expect from the stakeholders pursuing an aggressive campaign to develop Americas nuclear power infrastructure.  The dismissal of regulatory controls, the eminent domain of corporate interests, the opaque wall that shrouds risks factors and hides the environmental degradation resulting from the practice of fracking and the sacrifice of watersheds and aquifers to the expeditious extraction of natural gas are some of the documented behaviors of  a wanton corporate will imposed on the body politic.  Tragically this near sighted perspective willfully sacrifices the sustainable ecology of communities to the sole purpose of the profitable extraction of resources to serve shareholders of private corporations.   The nature of the nuclear beast will require that its interests be enforced by courts of law guided by extreme prejudice and protected by police battalions, state  guard units and private security groups in the name of national security interests.

The recently discovered Stuxnet computer virus is an indication of how the stakes are being raised in the nuclear power shell game.  The launch of a successful cyber attack on a nuclear facility anywhere in the world is a real game changer.  Self deluded uber patriots act more  like real pinheads if they believe that the destruction of Iran’s nuclear power capability is a harbinger for Middle East peace or enhances the   security of either Israel or the United States.  A nuclear event in Iran or North Korea are real game changers for the course of human history and the well being of  humanity. A clandestine service that can take out Iranian nuclear reactors can also be deployed to take out a reactor that is twenty miles north of New York City.  Or consider the consequences of a summer heat wave ravaging the citizens Philadelphia dying of thirst because the water supply is contaminated with radiation.  The extent of civil unrest would be extreme overwhelming the local law enforcement and judicial capabilities.  If these bleak scenarios come to pass,  Americans will be pining away for the good old days when a quick feel up at the airport by a TSA gendarme is fondly recalled like a high school make out session.  The pernicious yoke of marshal law under the nuclear challenged corporate security state will be incessant in practice and swift, sure and dire in its execution.

You Tube music video: No Nukes Concert 1979: Doobie Brothers Taking it to The Streets

Risk: democracy, energy policy, nuclear power, civil liberties

 

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November 22, 2010 Posted by | community, culture, democracy, disaster planning, ecological, energy, environment, government, military, nuclear, regulatory, risk management | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living Water

holding-a-piece-of-time-2It was an amazing experience to attend the Gay Pride parade in NYC last Sunday. The colorful exuberance of celebratory revelers enthralled in a proclamation of who they are is a refreshing revelation to experience. For so many LGBT people, the prevailing culture still casts aspersions on their lifestyles and persons. Many LGBT people face ridicule, terror, exclusion, violence and death as a daily reality of their lives. It forces them to hide who they are. Many go throughout their entire lives hiding or denying their identity for fear of discovery or from the guilt of self loathing. This is a pernicious condition of a daily life that takes a physical, emotional and psychic toll on victims guilty of nothing more then claiming a sexual identity different from what is perceived as the cultural norm. It is brutally enforced by religious pronouncements, civil law and a pervasive peer pressure that seeks to eradicate anything that diverges from acceptable community standards of sameness and conformity.

For LGBT youth it is particularly damaging. Afraid, alone, uncertain and unaware they are extremely vulnerable and remain at risk to the dangers and condemnation their sexuality exposes them too. So it was wonderful to witness young people at the parade expressing pride in their identity; perhaps for the first time in their lives beyond the eyes of judgment. It is wonderful to witness and participate in an event that allows people to express a self affirmation and experience the joy of true freedom.

So it was with great pleasure that I recognized the Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire offering water to the Gay Pride marchers and celebrants. It was a poignant scene to witness, and it brought to mind the Woman at the Well scripture from the Gospel of John.

At its center, John’s passage speaks about affirming identity. Indeed it is the through the acceptance of one’s identity that allows one to drink from the well of living waters. God calls the faithful to affirm oneself in spirit and truth. I cannot help but to think how this scene captures Bishop Robinson’s personal journey of discovery, self affirmation and coming to terms with the truth of his sexual identity. As he offered water to the thirsty, I realized how the many generations of LGBT celebrants and activists salved the thirst of Bishop Robinson as he came to the well of living waters wanting to live into the spirit of truth about who he was and what God calls him to be. On this day Bishop Robinson was dutifully living into God’s spirit of truth by offering water to marchers and celebrants ever so thirsty to drink from the same life affirming well of living waters. This could not have been possible had there not been someone from a non-distant past  encouraging Gene Robinson to drink from the ladle of living water, dipped in the truth of God’s deep well of unconditional and inclusive love.

Let our hearts not be troubled. Bishop Robinson stands with ladle in hand offering all who thirst a long and cool drink from God’s abundant well.

Thanks be to God.

You Tune Video: Mahalia Jackson, Women at the Well

July 3, 2009 Posted by | Bible, children, Civil Rights, community, faith, gay rights, holiday, LGBT, life, politics, psychology, religion | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Homeless Shelter

bitter winds bite a desperate heart
early darkness unsheathes a slivering moon

the perfect celestial sickle
threatens to thresh exposed digits

wayward trundlers heaving bulky sacks of woe
scutter down the city’s darkest side streets

making haste to the only lighted room
that still welcomes them

cots boast lumpy clots
of errant springs and jagged hooks

grappling the lodger atop a mattress
in bumpy knots of institutional green

coughs and snores, cusses and laughter,
sighs and tears all ceaseless prayers,
some mumbled, some shouted, some thought,
some farted, some sang, some roared

Speaking mutely of the weighty day
resenting new hard memories
hoping for a dreamless sleep

jbm
NYC
12/31/08

You Tube Video:

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Moanin

Risk: moral clarity

December 31, 2008 Posted by | homelessness, poetry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York City Shakedown

NYC Sunset 1932

There are a number of sobering assessments surfacing concerning the economic crisis and its impact on regional economy of New York City and the Tristate area.

One estimate is that the reconfiguration of the banking industry will result in 100,000 high paying job losses in the Tristate area. That includes NYC, Northern New Jersey and Southwestern Connecticut. I originally thought that figure was a bit high but when you consider that a bloated Citibank can lob off 10 to 20 thousand jobs at the drop of a pink slip it might not seem too drastic a prognostication. I’m not sure if this figure includes ancillary businesses that are sustained by relationships with banks and their employees but whatever the composition of the number it will have a major impact on the regional economy of the Tristate area.

Job losses will remove significant buying power from the local economy. It will place added strain on the housing market, erode usage fees of buses, trains and road tolls and will curtail sales and property tax receipts. This will put enormous pressure on state and local governments and public school districts to deliver vital services like education, police, ambulance, road maintenance and other public services.

Another labor market statistic I learned was that the economic crisis will result in the loss of 30,000 construction jobs. This number according to some economists is an optimistic “soft landing” prediction for the industry. The construction industry is a major driver of jobs and economic activity in the Tristate area. As personal income, business revenue and tax receipts abate demand for new housing construction and renovations, commercial buildings and public works construction and infrastructure improvement and maintenance will decelerate.

The financial services industry shepherded America’s economic transformation to a services based economy. This transformation strengthened the banking industry by creating an economy that became increasingly dependent on the manufacturing of collateral such as housing construction and real estate development projects. This development allowed banks to finance more leverage in the credit markets and created the credit marketing frenzy of the last decade. America’s banking system exponentially expanded to accommodate the Titanic growth of the credit marketing industry. But like the Titanic after it hit the unforeseen sub-prime iceberg the industry has way too much capacity and needs to downsize as lending activity sinks into the black depths of recession.

New York City has long been considered the center of the worlds financial system. The downsizing of the banking industry is the equivalent of the shut down of steel mills in Pittsburgh and the closing of car manufacturing plants in Detroit. Citibank and Merrill Lynch are the General Motors and US Steel of NYC.

Music Video: Gene Kelly & Frank Sinatra, New York, New York

Risk: public services, banking, regional recession, cities

October 15, 2008 Posted by | cities, credit crisis, economics, pop, recession, taxation | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment