Yet another follow-up to start out today’s blog post – something that mainstream media sources have ceased covering even though the situation seems to get worse by the day. It is the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. While the country’s economy has returned to a reasonable amount of normalcy, the danger is not gone.
Before getting into the latest news I just want to highlight the fact that there was a massive cover-up (or massive incompetence) on the part of TEPCO from the beginning of the nuclear (meltdown). I have heard that it is a cultural tendency in Japan to not over-exaggerate, to remain reserved in a time of crisis and not cause panic. Perhaps this is why there was so little credible information released about the nuclear meltdown. I had always thought of Japan as a place where honesty and integrity would reign above all else, but this nuclear situation has made me re-consider.
The news is that there have been some scary aftershocks in some areas where other nuke plants oerate AND that a much higher level of LETHAL radiation is still spewing from the Fukushima meltdown area and that the contamination has spread into more soil, cows, and water, than originally reported. I haven’t heard any reports of the current actions being taken by TEPCO but I can’t believe the resolution to this disaster isn’t further along. At least one physicist – Michio Kaku – said from the beginning that they should just start dumping cement on the nuclear site (like Cherynobl) and create a sarcophagus. That was probably the best solution all along.
In related news, as I highlighted last month, Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power completely is going to cost them. Here is another look at the challenges and cost of going nuke-free.
In Japan, in order to replace the lost energy from the nuke plants, they are exploring the feasibility of recovering methane hydrates from the ocean floor. Environmentalists will complain that this energy source is not “green” or low carbon, but in a world of slowly declining amounts of cheap oil, countries will try to bridge the gap by any means possible, all the while working on better renewable sources.
Even though many government bureaucrats have soured on nuclear power, there are still some companies working on better designs that could help solve our energy problems while also being more safe. Terrapower is one such company working on a travelling wave reactor design it hopes to have producing energy at commercial scale by 2016. It will be quite costly to build but if it is substantially more safe, then it might find a home somewhere on the planet.
In weather news, the latest ENSO diagnostic discussion is out and the trend is still neutral for the next couple of months. Surface temperatures in the central Pacific ocean over the past month have remained close to normal however, the sub-surface temperatures have been trending a little toward La Nina. The computer model projections are still indecisive with 50% of them indicating more-or-less neutral conditions through the upcoming winter and the other half indicating a weak La Nina could form. Something interesting (that I have highlighted in previous ENSO blog posts) in the computer models is that the COLA CCSM3 model is still almost all by itself forecasting El Nino conditions for the winter. There seems to be a warm bias in this model as it has forecast El Nino to develop for 3 months running.
If La Nina does develop again, even if it is a weak one, we will probably hear a big groan coming from the southern U.S. because this could prolong the massive drought. The latest U.S. drought monitor shows only very very slight improvement in the drought over Texas, due to tropical storm Don, which dropped some rain in the far south of Texas. Three other states are completely covered in at least some category of drought. Those would be Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana. In Wisconsin, the abnormally dry regions shrunk about 2 percent in the past week. I doubt it will get any worse over the next week but we might not see too much improvement either. We have two chance of rain – once Saturday night into Sunday morning and another Monday night into Tuesday. Neither of these storm systems looks to be huge rainmakers.
Have a nice weekend! Meteorologist Justin Loew.