Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Birthday Suzanne Pleshette!

Picture Legend
1. Ms Suzanne Pleshette
2. Young
3. Cheesecake
4. In “The Geisha Boy” with Jerry Lewis
5. With 14 year old Patty Duke in “The Miracle Worker”
6. In “The Birds” with Tippi Hedren
7. Suzanne and Troy Donahue
8. In “The Wild Wild West” with Robert Conrad
9. In “Nevada Smith” with Steve McQueen
10. Alien stripper
11. Suzanne’s spaceship
12. In “Support Your Local Gunfighter” with James Garner
13. Suzanne looking pretty
14. “The Bob Newhart Show” with Bob Newhart, Bill Daily, Marcia Wallace, and Peter Bonerz
15. Suzanne and Bob on the “Newhart” finale, May 21st, 1990
16.  With Bob at The Emmys in 2002
17. Ms Suzanne Pleshette

   It is my great pleasure and honor to give a great big happy birthday shout out today to one of my favorite actresses, Ms Suzanne Pleshette!
   Ms Pleshette would have been 77 years old today if she hadn’t been taken from us on Saturday, January 19th, 2008, of respiratory failure at her Los Angeles home, (just down Wilshire Blvd. from where I’m writing this) twelve days before her 71st birthday.
   Like some of us, Suzanne was born at a very early age as a small female infant, in a little town called Brooklyn Heights, which is an upper middle class residential neighborhood borough (borough, not burro, which is a small donkey) of Brooklyn, which is one of the 5 boroughs which comprises the city of New York, which is in the state of New York... what a strange and amazing coincidence!
   Brooklyn Heights is famous for being the site of the famous Battle of Brooklyn Heights, wherein the British kicked George Washington’s revolutionary ass so bad he had to retreat to Manhattan. It also boosts a concentration of over 600 pre-Civil War houses, and is where the Jehovah's Witnesses (a millenarian (or chiliasm in Greek, is a belief held by some Christian denominations that there will be a Golden Age or Paradise on Earth in which "Christ will reign" for 1000 years prior to the final judgment and future eternal state) restorationist (the belief that Christianity should be restored along the lines of what is known about the apostolic early church, which restorationists see as the search for a more pure and more ancient form of the religion) Christian denomination with nontrinitarian (refers to monotheistic belief systems, primarily within Christianity, which reject the mainstream Christian doctrine of the Trinity, namely, the teaching that God is three distinct hypostases or persons who are co-eternal, co-equal, and indivisibly united in one being or ousia (the Ancient Greek noun formed on the feminine present participle of εἶναι (to be); it is analogous to the English participle being, and the modern philosophy adjectival ontic)) beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity) have their world headquarters, and is, or has been the home of such nice people as the musician Björk, the poet W. H. Auden, the married actors Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany (my arch rival), former devil Gabriel Byrne, “Breakfast at Tiffanys” author Truman Capote, former John Adams Paul Giamatti, “The Executioner's Song” author Norman Mailer, former husband of Marilyn Monroe and author of “The Crucible” Arthur Miller, former wife of Dick Van Dyke... Mary Tyler Moore, former girlfriend of Ferris Bueller Mia Sara, humanist Walt Whitman, author of “Look Homeward, Angel” Thomas Wolfe, more married actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Ferris Bueller, soviet spy Keri Russell, and the wonderful actress Suzanne Pleshette.
   Her parents were Jewish (a nation and ethnoreligious group (an ethnic group of people whose members are also unified by a common religious background) originating from the Israelites (Hebrews) of the Ancient Near East), the children of immigrants from Russia and Austria-Hungary. Her father, Eugene Pleshette, was a stage manager, network executive,  and manager of the Paramount Theater (now the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Athletic Center)  in Brooklyn during the big band era (approximately between 1935 and 1946). Her mother, under the stage name "Geraldine Rivers," was an artist and dancer.
    Suzanne was born on a Sunday, so she started off the week, and the month of February quite nicely. 
   She had stated that she was not a natural actor, but found herself attending the High School of the Performing Arts in Manhattan (a public alternative high school). The famous actors Jennifer Aniston, and Ving Rhames trained there as well. After graduating Suzanne attended Syracuse University (where Joe Biden attended law school so he could be close to his future wife,  Neilia Hunter. Dick Clark, Peter Falk, and Aaron Sorkin also attended) for a semester before returning to Manhattan in order to attend Finch College, an elite finishing school for rich young ladies.
   Suzanne dropped out after her first semester at Finch to take acting lessons from Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in Manhattan. 
   Sanford had worked with many actors before, or taught them, and some of them became well known, like current Academy Award nominee for Best Actress Sandra Bullock, Dylan McDermott, James Caan, Steve McQueen (the bastard), Robert Duvall, Gregory Peck, Bob Fosse, Diane Keaton, Peter Falk (again... perhaps Peter was stalking Suzanne... just saying), Jon Voight, Jeff Goldblum, Grace Kelly, Scotty James Doohan, Tony Randall and Sydney Pollack. 
   Suzanne began her career as an actress in theater, making her Broadway debut in Meyer Levin's 1957 play “Compulsion,” adapted from his novel inspired by the Leopold and Loeb case (two wealthy University of Chicago law students who kidnaped and murdered 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks in 1924 in Chicago), and starring Roddy McDowall and Dean Stockwell. Reviewers described her appearance and demeanor as sardonic and her voice as sultry, which is true, she did have a sardonic demeanor and her voice was sultry... sexy too! She was initially cast as "The Fourth Girl", but eventually took over the ingénue role (defined as an innocent or unsophisticated young woman) during the play's run. She also made her television debut that year on the short lived series, “Harbormaster,” starring Barry Sullivan, in an episode called “Night Rescue,” which aired on December 5th.
   In 1958 Suzanne appeared with Maureen Stapleton and Eli Wallach (who played Calvera, the Mexican bandit and bad guy in 1960‘s “The Magnificent Seven.” The producers had ran out of Mexican actors and hired Eli who was, and still is (98 years old at this time) Polish), in the play “The Cold Wind and the Warm,” at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.  
   She also made her film debut that year with Jerry Lewis (who I once had the pleasure of seeing live at The Greek Theater) in “The Geisha Boy.” Here’s a clip.
   Suzanne found a good deal of work in television, working on shows like “Have Gun - Will Travel” with Richard Boone, “Playhouse 90“ with Mary Aster and Inger Stevens, “One Step Beyond” with Norman Lloyd, and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” with Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Morse, and many, many others.  
   On stage she appeared with Constance Ford and Tom Poston (who she would work with again in the 70‘s “The Bob Newhart Show," and who would become her third and last husband, marrying in 2001, and remaining so until his death, also from respiratory failure, in Los Angeles on April 30, 2007, at the age of 85) in the comedy “Golden Fleecing.”
   She also learned how to be a stripper in preparation for the stage role of Gypsy Rose Lee in the first stage production of the musical “Gypsy,” with Ethel Merman and Jack Klugman, but the part went to another actress (Sandra Church). Our dear friend Natalie Wood starred in the 1962 film version. 
   In 1961 she took over the role of Anne Sullivan Macy from Anne Bancroft, in “The Miracle Worker, with 14 year old Patty Duke as Helen Keller. 
   That year she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her appearance as Julie Lawler on the TV show “Dr. Kildare,” starring Richard Chamberlain.
   Her next film role was in 1962‘s “Rome Adventure,” with Troy Donahue,  Angie Dickinson and Constance Ford again (was Constance stalking Suzanne? I don’t know... just saying)
    That year she also starred with Tony Curtis in the comedy “40 Pounds of Trouble.” So within a period of 4 years Suzanne was now getting regular work and leading roles in films. Not bad, not bad at all.
   Alfred Hitchcock must have remembered Suzanne from his TV show because he gave her the supporting actress role in his 1963 classic, “The Birds,” also starring Tippi Hedren (who Hitch thought of as his personal property according to the 2012 BBC/HBO film “The Girl,” featuring Sienna Miller as Hedren and Toby Jones as Hitchcock) and Time Traveler Rod Taylor.
   This film is probably the movie role Suzanne is most remembered for. When I first saw it I thought it was a simple suspense and horror tale concerning a bunch of birds who were fed up with the way humans were running things and started to do something about it by attacking them (and poor Suzanne in particular). Thank goodness humanities scholar Camille Paglia taught me that “The Birds” is an ode to the many facets of female sexuality and, by extension, nature itself, noting that women play pivotal roles in the film. Mitch, played by Rod, is defined by his relationships with his mother, sister and ex-lover... a careful balance which is disrupted by his attraction to the beautiful Melanie, played by Tippi. 
   It always comes back to female sexuality, doesn’t it?
   Freaking birds.
   Especially those salty ass seagulls, with their beady salty ass eyes.
   Here’s a clip.
   Suzanne was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer for her work in “The Birds.”
   She then went on to star opposite Troy again in 1964‘s “A Distant Trumpet.” They must have liked working together because they got married, which is a form of liking. However, the marriage ended badly after only eight months (Donahue died of a heart attack at the age of 65 on September 2nd, 2001). Her next marriage in 1968 to Texas oilman Tom Gallagher lasted a little longer, until his death from lung cancer on January 21, 2000. 
   That year (1964) she appeared with Glen Ford, Rod Taylor again, Jane Russell, and Wally Cox in the denial film “Fate Is the Hunter.”  
   In 1965, September 17th specifically, Suzanne appeared on the very first episode of one of my favorite television shows of the 1960s, “The Wild Wild West,” starring Robert Conrad (who knew my mom) as Jim West, and heavy breather, and crappy fencer, Ross Martin, as Artemus Gordon. The episode was entitled “The Night of the Inferno,” and I remember seeing it, but have no recollection of Suzanne. 
   My only defense is that I was only 9 years old at the time of airing and beautiful and talented brunette women were not yet a priority for me. 
   That would change soon enough.
   Also in 64 and 65 she appeared on 2 episodes, and 2 different characters (they must have been twins) of one of the greatest TV shows of all time, “The Fugitive,” starring David Janssen as Harrison Ford... uh... Dr Richard Kimble. I don’t remember her in either episode.
   I do remember, and will never forgive Steve McQueen (the actor, not the director of “12 Years a Slave”) for causing Suzanne’s death in 1966‘s “Nevada Smith.” 
   The miserable son of a bitch!
   This was the first film I noticed Ms Pleshette’s work. And she made me sad.
   I would see her again and again in future years. 
   She was the producers' original choice for the role of Catwoman on the 1966 Television series “Batman,” starring Adam West. Negotiations broke down however and the part went to the lovely and talented Julie Newmar.
   She appeared as 2 different characters in 2 different episodes again, of another of my favorite television shows of the 60s, “The Invaders,” starring Roy Thinnes, the true story of aliens invading us here on Earth and giving those who stand in their way cerebral hemorrhages. Suzanne played a mutant alien stripper in the third episode of season one which aired in 1967 (it was hard to keep that girl’s clothes on), and a dissident alien  prone to violent rages in the second to last episode of the show’s second and last season, in 1968. Unfortunately she’s murdered by Grandpa Walton, of the Walton family, in that episode. 
   These were two totally different characters because Suzanne’s mutant alien stripper was killed by her alien buddies in the first season’s show (here’s a clip of her demise), making both performances a testament to her versatility as an actress (not many actresses can come back from the dead... it’s very difficult). 
   She also appeared on “It Takes a Thief,” with Robert Wagner in 1968, a show wherein I used to sneak on the set to watch it being filmed at Universal studios. Everyone on the set assumed I was one of the producer’s sons so they left me alone.  
   By that as it may, in 1969 Suzanne was nominated for a Laurel Award (cinema awards to honor pictures, actors, actresses, directors and composers. The award was created by the Motion Picture Exhibitor magazine, and ran from 1958 to 1968, then 1970 and 1971) for her starring performance in the comedy “If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” with Ian McShane, and a whole bunch of other people. 
   If you happen to enjoy westerns that are also funny then I recommend 1971‘s “Support Your Local Gunfighter,” starring Suzanne, James Garner (who also knew my mother... she certainly got around, didn’t she), Jack Elam, and Henry Morgan.  
   And if you liked “Support Your Local Gunfighter,” then I know you’ll love 1969's “Support Your Local Sheriff!” starring James Garner, Walter Brennan, Joan Hackett (who also starred in my absolute favorite western, “Will Penny” with Charlton Heston), Jack Elam, Bruce Dern, and Henry Morgan. 
   Wonderful, wonderful movies. I’d watch them right now if I wasn’t so busy writing this.
   In 1971 she also guest starred on the episode of “Columbo,” with Eddie Albert of “Green Acres” (one of the most underrated shows in television history), and starring stalker Peter Falk. Here Suzanne discusses working with Peter at this time.
   The very next year Suzanne was chosen to play opposite the comedic recording star, Bob Newhart,  in a television sitcom, that became “The Bob Newhart Show,” which would air on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), on Saturday nights after “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and before “The Carol Burnett Show” (I happen to know this because myself and my friends would always stop whatever it was we were doing (nefarious things more than likely) in order to watch. After October 11th, 1975, our Saturday nights could be rounded off with the addition of “Saturday Night Live”). 
   Some say the shows producers saw her on “The Tonight Show,” in 1971 and noticed a certain chemistry she manifested with another guest, Mr. Newhart. And that’s what got her the part. 
   The show premiered on September 16th, 1972, and ran for 6 seasons, until April 1st, 1978, with a total of 142 episodes. It is considered a television classic. 
   I happened to be familiar with Mr. Newhart’s work, probably from watching him on shows like “The Tonight Show,” so much so that I stole one of his routines involving a veteran visiting an old army buddy who happens to own an overly large aggressive dog who is fond of jelly beans. The comedy kicks in when the implication of running out of jelly beans is realized. I performed this routine for my parents who thought it was hilarious as only parents can.
   Remember that bit Bob?
   "Why yes, Mr. Joyce, I do... and I'd like to take this opportunity..."
   Thanks Bob.
   My dear mother would later enjoy my rendition of a gangster’s moll who received a lemon meringue pie in the face, a skit I did while in the Boy Scouts. I’m a natural performer. 
   Ms Pleshette was nominated for an Emmy Award twice, in 1977 and 1978, for her performances as Emily Hartley.  
      Here’s a clip of the kind of stuff that got Mr. Newhart the gig, from The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour.
   Here’s a clip featuring Suzanne, Bob, Marcia, and her future husband, Tom Poston.
   Here’s what the good folks at the Internet Movie Data Base had to say about her: “Suzanne Pleshette, the actress who achieved television immortality in her role as Bob Newhart's wife in the 1970s classic situation-comedy, The Bob Newhart Show (1972), will be remembered as a gregarious, down-to-earth person who loved to talk and often regaled her co-stars with a naughty story. Newhart and his producers had picked her for the role of "Emily" in "The Bob Newhart Show" after watching her appearances with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962), where she showed herself to be a first-rate raconteuse. Because she could hold her own with Newhart's friend Carson, they thought she would be a perfect foil as Newhart's TV wife.”
   Well said IMDB, well said.
   After “The Bob Newhart Show” ended, Bob went on to star in another sitcom entitled “Newhart,” which was a big success, airing from October 25th, 1982 to May of 1990, for 8 seasons, and 184 episodes. The show was about an author and his wife who owned and operated an inn located in a small, rural Vermont town that was home to many eccentric characters... sort of like “Green Acres” without the pig. The show starred Bob, Mary Frann, as his wife, that Tom Poston guy again as the handyman, and William Sanderson, Tony Papenfuss, and John Voldstad as brothers Larry, Darryl, and Darryl.
   The show’s May 21st finale in 1990 had an unexpected guest. Here’s the clip.
   Suzanne continued working steadily, appearing on shows and movies like: “Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs” starring... Suzanne Pleshette, “Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean” for which she won Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations in 1990, “The Boys are Back” with Hal Linden, “Good Morning, Miami” with Constance Zimmer, the voice of Zira in “The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride,” “8 Simple Rules,” and “Will & Grace” in which she gust starred in 2002 and 2004. The 2004 performance, an episode entitled “Looking for Mr. Good Enough” was her last.
   Here are clips from an appearance on “The tonight Show,” from 1978, after she had finished “The Bob Newhart Show,” and when she was married to Tom Gallagher. Part 1 and Part 2.
   And here she is talking about being cast on the Newhart show, and here about the end of “The Bob Newhart Show.”
   Suzanne was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent chemotherapy in the summer of 2006, and recovered. However, she barely survived a bout of pneumonia in late 2007.  She passed away at home, here in Los Angeles, in early 2008.
   She is buried in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. 
   Suzanne received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television on January 31st, 2008, 12 days after her death. Her star is located at 6755 Hollywood Blvd, just east of Highland Ave, and very close to Fredrick’s of Hollywood, a well known retailer of woman’s sexy lingerie. 
   I think Suzanne may have liked that (the star had been planned before her death).
   Arte Johnson (of “Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In” fame), and Marcia Wallace spoke at the star's unveiling. Tina Sinatra accepted the star on Suzanne’s behalf. Others in attendance included Peter Falk, Dick Van Dyke, and Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren, her co-stars from “The Birds." 
   All of us here at Joyce’s Take will always cherish the precious contribution she has made to our lives, and will always remember her fondly and with much love.
   Happy birthday Suzanne!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Skid Row Diary 21

26 August  2003   Tuesday   Day 45

   At 7:00AM I tuned into “Despierta America” as is my custom, and Giselle was no where to be found. No dress, no pants... no Giselle! Had my lady expended so much energy and effort into yesterday’s show that she required a spell of R & R to continue on? Well, if she had she deserves all the time necessary to recuperate so she may return to us all rosy and fresh, ready to once again brighten our dreary lives with her special presence.
   But wait! About a half hour into the show the beautiful and talented Jackie Guerrido, the show’s beautiful and talented meteorologist, introduced Giselle who was at a remote location.
   That little scamp had taken a boat, or plane, traveling all the way to Puerto Rico from Miami. She was there to host some outdoor event featuring a variety of acts who sang and danced in Spanish (and it’s not easy to dance in Spanish). She looked wonderful, but was still wearing pants. And she kept kissing on some Latin guy. He looked kind of gay to me so I didn’t get too jealous.
   Just before 9:00 I took my collapsible, heavy duty, $14 dolly to the Service Spot... again. Again McCree wasn’t there. I was told he would be there in a few minutes. In the meantime I was offered a cup of coffee which I accepted. I waited in the small, crowded lobby. One gentleman, who was utilizing the free phone that was available there, heard something over the line that he didn’t like, slammed the phone down and walked out. Another gentleman took his place.
   McCree leisurely strolled in about 10 minutes later, entered, didn’t see me at first, then came over and shook my hand.
   “You been waiting long?” he asked.
   “I’ve been waiting since yesterday,” I told him.
   “I know, I know,” he said, then escorted me into the back of the facility where ordinary people dare not pass.
   He introduced me to several of his co-workers who genuinely displayed no interest in meeting me. Ron told them I was his former boss. I assume he once worked for me at some point back in Pasadena although I have little recollection of that period... which is odd. I remember Ron, but not what we did. Sobriety is not all clean and fluent as it’s cracked up to be.       
   He also introduced me to the freaking huge portable television we were to move. 
   Big and black... just the way I like em.
   At least 50 inches across, and 40 high, weighing approximately 5,000 pounds, we hefted it off of it’s stand and onto my dolly. Ron was all ready to let me handle it from there. After all, it was my dolly.
   “If you think I’m going to push this thing then you seriously need therapy,” I told him.
   “Ahh man,” he whined.
   We shared the load, him taking the first half, I the second, to his small apartment on Boyle St., off of San Pedro.
   It’s like stepping through a portal into a whole different world. 
   Entering his apartment building one leaves behind the noisy squalor of the busy shops and mixture of homeless and people looking for bargains, into a clean, uncluttered quiet atmosphere of a modern residential building. It’s actually a little unnerving.
   I’d been there twice before, and was reintroduced to the building’s manager, a nice, slightly plump, black lady.
   “Long time, no see,” she said.
   “Yes,” I wittily replied.
   Fortunately this building had an elevator, and it was relatively easy to get the monster TV up to the 4th floor and Ron’s room. We placed it on his small refrigerator and took his old one to the dumpster downstairs. 
   I told him I wanted to accompany him on his weekly walk through the neighborhood Saturday morning, and that I’d meet him at his place at 7:00.
   We walked out front, and before I left he hit me up for fifteen cents.
   “You still owe me five bucks!” I said.
   “Why you gotta tell everybody?” he exclaimed.
   I looked around. The only one within earshot was the distracted proprietor of a roach coach.
   “You really think he cares about you’re financial situation?” I asked.
   I realize I can be rather abrasive and insensitive at times. I don’t mean to hurt people though. I chastise myself whenever I remember instances of this type of behavior.
   This wasn’t one of those instances. He did owe me five bucks. $5.15 now.
   “You ever think about going back into the Salvation Army,” he asked me right out of the blue.
   “No,” I told him.
   “How come?”
   “Well, if I had to I’d go back I’d go to the Harbor Light. Never back to an ARC.”
   “You don’t have to work at Harbor Light. All you really have to do is attend three meetings a day. The rest is rack time.”
   “But I think an ARC prepares you more...”
   “Maybe,” I said. “For those who need that. You don’t. I don’t. Slave labor is what it is. Income generating slave labor utilized toward self perpetuation. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing... for those who need it. I’m just not going to pretty it up by calling it 'work therapy,” that’s all.”
   I though a moment.
   “Besides I’m banned from the ARCs”
   “What for?”
   It’s very rare that Ron asks questions about people. Usually walking around with him is like listening to an unending loop concerning only things that have happened to Ron.
   “I’ve never told you this before?”
   “I was banned after writing a nasty letter to the administrator of the Carpinteria ARC in responce to being thrown out of there for having sexual relations with one of the psychology interns, and her getting pregnant.”
   “Yeah. Not only did they throw me out, they let her go to, and discredited her.” 
   It’s true. Her name was Julie and she had been my individual counselor. She was a pretty student of psychology doing her intern time at the Carp ARC, and I was a beneficiary... again, working behind the resident desk... again. 
   I had left Pasadena under less than favorable circumstances. Robert Vasquez and I had exchanged Jobs, with me being the resident manager and him my assistant. The powers that be thought that would be a good idea because they thought Robert might retire soon, and they thought I might be easier to work with than Robert... more flexible is how they put it. They were wrong.
   Anyway we got a new administrator in the form of a Capt. Ron Strickland and his lovely wife Pamela. Reuben Smith became a deskman, and worked for me. And we got a new program director, Steve somebody, I don’t remember his last name. Some middle aged white guy from Hawaii. 
   I did a great job, if I don’t say so myself. Robert was so gracious during this change, it was unbelievable. However I kept bugging the administration about having fire drills, and keeping emergency supplies on hand, I guess I was a pain in the ass for them to a degree. And I was perhaps a little too friendly towards Pamela than I should have been. 
   Reuben got resentful of my authority over him, and got all serious all of the time. No more fun loving Reuben. Steve wanted me gone as well for some reason, and they both colluded in busting me smoking cigarettes up in the sample room. Strickland suspended me, at which point I promptly relapsed and wound up leaving the ARC, headed back to the Canoga Park ARC at first, then up north to Carpinteria, where I met Julie.
   We were about the same age. She was married and had two children, an older daughter and a young son. Unbeknownst to me, and maybe her husband, she got tired of playing the stay at home mom, her kids being old enough at the time to pretty much take care of themselves, and she wanted to seek adventure and meaning outside of the home, and I became part of that.
   I had given her a copy of Salvation Diary which she actually read. She seemed to like it a lot, but by her reading it she got to know a lot about me, and I guess felt closer to me because of it. 
   One time during our weekly session she told me she was going to ask to have me transfered to another counselor. I was suitably upset as she was certainly the prettiest counselor currently working at the ARC, and prone to wearing miniskirts.     
   “Why are you going to do that?” I asked her.
   “Because I find you attractive.”
   “Oh, that doen’t matter. I find you attractive as well.”
   I got her to meet me outside of the ARC after the session and we drove to a nearby beach in her car to get to know each other, and an affair ensued. 
   I’m not doubting her sincerity in telling me she found me attractive... many women do. It’s a curse I’ve suffered with all of my life. Still, she pretty much used me to help end her 19 year marriage, and things got quite sticky at times. And like many drug and alcohol interns she was a drama queen, bi-polar maniac with an eating disorder.
   Some of the most depressing times I’ve ever experienced were while I was with her, yet one thing led to another and she became pregnant. By that time I did have a different individual counselor, who I unwisely told the story of Julie and me. You see counselors are bound by law and ethics not to disclose matters of confidence to anybody else, sort of like the relationship a priest, or lawyer have with their clients. 
   I suppose my new counselor didn’t know about that because she blabbed all about it to the program director, who talked to me. Now he was also bound by law and ethics not to divulge anything that he and I talked about, or that my counselor and I had talked about. The next thing I knew he called me into his office and told me, “I told the Captain.”
   “You what?! Why? You said you wouldn’t!”
   “I felt I just had to.”
   He felt he just had to.
   His feeling got me thrown out of the ARC and on to the streets of Carpinteria. His feeling cost Julie her internship, and threatened her future career as a drug and alcohol counselor.
   It was a long and wicked journey for both of us after that. She stayed in the Ventura area, eventually leaving her husband and becoming a drug and alcohol counselor. I wound up living in nearby Camarillo, working for a company called Emergency Road Service, which provided... emergency road service to drivers who needed emergency road service across the nation. I didn’t go out and change people’s tires or anything. It was more of a phone, customer service job, taking requests for emergency road service, verifying what type of coverage these people had, and then dispatching local help to them. It was a good job. I liked it.
   Anyway, I relapsed, lost that job, moved to Bullhead City for a year, becoming a ATM technician with a paper route in the mornings. Then back to L.A. where I eventually took a bus downtown after watching the first “Lord of the Rings” movie, all drunk, and checked into the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light facility on 5th Street and Central. I spent a year there before coming to the Weingart, and the rest, as they say, is history.
   I hadn’t seen Julie for a few years.
   “Man, I thought I knew all about you,” Ron said.
   “You did?”
   “So, did she have the baby?”
   “No. No she did not.”
   I though a moment more.
   “We’re too old for these programs, Ron. We should be able to figure out how to lick any of these problems that come up. Especially you, you old geeze. You’ve got to get some kind of life going on before you hit the boneyard.”
   See what I mean about being insensitive. I’m much nicer to people I don’t know. I don’t know what my problem is. Redirection perhaps. Probably that’s what it is. I take others inventory so I don’t have to take my own.
   Well that’s being human at least, and can be worked on.
   We shook hands and separated. I returned to my room and watched “Heartbreakers,” on my VCR machine. The movie, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sigourney Weaver, can boost Gene Hackman’s worst part ever. Not his worst performance, he’s good in everything, but his least interesting and most contrived role.
   But Jennifer was great!
   I took a little nap and dreamt I was the co-weather person on Despierta America, along with the lovely Jackie Guerrido. The only problem was that I could only speak Gaelic, which was unsuitable for a Spanish language program.
   Fortunately Jackie is half Irish and was able to translate for me.
   When I woke I continued writing while listening to NPR.
   Later in the evening I watched an interesting story concerning the creation of the transistor in 1947, by  John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley, of Bell Laboratories. 
   How exciting!
   I went to sleep soon after and dreamt of driving through the lush green hills west of Atascadero, California, with my beautiful and talented friend Julie, while listening to Moby on her tape deck. We were on our way to see the walruses on the beach just south of San Simeon. We talked about living in Europe.

27  August   Wednesday   Day 46

   At 5:27:13 I felt pulled to the southeast. I lazily assumed this disturbance was caused by the gravitational pull of Mars as it came within 34,646,418 miles of the Earth. At 5:27:14 the red planet began to recede, or rather, continued on it’s orbit furthering the distance between itself and its closest planetary neighbor. At 5:27:35 I experienced enlightenment and went back to sleep and to Julie.
   Many wish to know what it feels like to experience Satori (a Japanese Buddhist term for awakening, "comprehension; understanding." In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to the experience of kenshō, "seeing into one's true nature". Ken means "seeing," shō means "nature" or "essence), or enlightenment, and what happens. Well, it’s difficult to put into words, but other than being open to space and time, with an all encompassing  deep understanding of the universe and beyond, there isn’t much to it.
   I woke up later and turned my TV on to Despierta America. Giselle was busy interviewing a gentleman about the Mars occlusion. I knew this because I am now party to the all encompassing knowledge of the universe... and beyond, so even though they were speaking in Spanish, which I haven’t decided to learn yet, I knew what they were saying. 
   The picture of Mars was a clue as well.
   I needed to go to Trimar today, so I got up, showered, had a tuna sandwich for breakfast, and took off. 
   I stopped at the 99 Cent Store on the way and picked up a nice can of tamales, another can of spaghetti and meatballs, tea and coffee, plastic zipper lock bags, shampoo, 2 blank VCR tapes, and 2 blank audio tapes. And smoked sausage and German bologna. I couldn’t find any  microwave popcorn.  I couldn’t sense any in the store at least.
   The silly movie “Kate and Leopold,” starring Meg Ryan and Wolverine was on when I entered the plasma center. The film is silly because it states that one must jump off of a bridge in New York in order to travel back and forth in time. How absurd. It’s much easier then that. Anybody can travel back and forth in time without going through all of that trouble. 
   I was down to 182 pounds, which is about my ideal weight. I’ve been fluctuating recently due to my erratic eating habits, and the cold I was just getting over.
   My pulse was quite high, 92.
   “Kate and Leopold,” was followed by the equally silly “Men in Black II,” starring the lovely and talented Rosario Dawson. 
   The film is silly because it postulates that extraterrestrials are visiting the Earth all of the time, which is just silly. Aliens don’t visit our planet all of the time. They’ve got more important things to do. 
   Aurica was at work today, but did not have time to stop and chat. 
   I left the plasma center just as the bus arrived across busy Vanowen Street. I ran across the street to try and catch it, but it pulled away as I approached the door. I could see the driver through the rear view mirror chuckling to himself in a haphazard manner. 
   I cursed him vehemently.
   I then felt achy and tired, and wanted to return to the Weingart as quickly as possible.
   I read from King’s book of short stories until the next bus came. "The Road Virus Heads North."   
   You know what I’d do if that road virus bastard was after me? I’d beat the holy shit out of him with a big stick. 
   True to form the 156 bus was just leaving as I arrived at the intersection of Van Nuys and Vanowen. 
   However, the MTA made a mistake, and another 156 came right after the one that had just left, which I jumped on.
   Ha ha on you, MTA.
   I made pretty good time getting back, arriving just as dinner was being served. Dressed turkey.
   I was exhausted by the time I reached my room. Enlightenment must be quite taxing initially. I remembered almost fainting after standing up quickly when getting paid at Trimar. I sat on my bed and relaxed. “Married with Children,” had been preempted again, by some police pursuit of someone driving a van.
   I sure don’t understand the appeal of these televised car chases. Sometimes they last for hours, for a couple of times a week here in L.A. What we have here is basically a helicopter photographing a car driving around. I can look outside of my window and see the same thing. Granted the promise of some drama is involved. Perhaps the pursued vehicle will hit some other cars or pedestrians. And we all feel pretty good that it’s not us the cops are after. Maybe something interesting will transpire at the inevitable conclusion. Usually however, the driver just gets tackled by an overwhelming amount of police thugs... I mean officers.
   I tend to root for the underdog in most situations, so unless the perpetrator has done something heinous,  or hurt someone, I like it when they get away, which rarely happens.    
   All these drivers have to do really is get a little ahead of the police, drive to a mall, jump out and blend in with the crowd. 
   I read that in a Tom Clancy novel somewhere. 
   I had an incredible craving for cigarettes this evening. I don’t know why. The cravings left after I ignored them. 
   I was too tired to do anything other than watching a repeat episode of Charley Rose with the enigmatic Annie Lennox, that I’d seen before. And “The Simpsons,”  a brand new show with Marisa Tomei and James L. Brooks. Marisa wound up getting married to Bob Balaban of all people, second only to Woody Allen as a renowned lover.
   I fell asleep after 9:00, and dreamt I was welcomed to Nirvana upon the slopes of Olympus  Mons on Mars, the largest volcano in the solar system. The Queen of Space, Tori Spelling, welcomed me, along with her consorts,  Alicyn Sterling and Bianca Trump, stars of “Shattered,” and “Maid Service,” respectively. Tori was dressed in her space bikini.
   “Welcome, lonely space wanderer!” she shouted out. “Come with us into the halls of yonder enclave, and we shall greet you with food, drink, and merriment.”
   The girls picked me up and carried me into the mountain, and I was never heard from again.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

An Incident at Fukushima Daiichi, Part 6, Meltdown

Picture Legend
1. Fukushima Daini
2. Fukushima Daini overhead
3. Explosion at Fukushima Daiichi
4. Fukushima Daiichi schematic
5. GE boiling water reactors (BWR) cutaway
6. Satellite view
7. What you’re looking at
8. Another satellite view
9. Reactor 4 building
10. International Nuclear Event Scale
11. Debris field
12. Fuel rods in storage pool at reactor 4
13. Severn

   A call by the Japanese government to evacuate certain areas adjacent to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant went out at 10:00PM on the night of March 11, 2011. 134,000 people were sent out of the area within 2 miles of the plant, which the government designated a “prohibited access area.” 2 miles to 12.5 miles was designated an “on alert area,” and from 12.5 to 19 miles an “evacuation prepared area.” Those residing within the “on alert area” were told to stay indoors.
   The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced that the pressure inside reactor 1 was more than twice normal levels at this time. 
   At Fukushima Daini, 10 miles to the south of the  Daiichi plant, a tsunami generated 30 foot wave had breached it’s protective seawall causing the coolant pumps to fail for the plant’s four reactors (the reactors had shut down automatically after the 9.0 earthquake had struck, yet still required coolant water to dissipate residual heat). Because the earthquake occurred during the working day (2:46PM on a Friday afternoon), 2,000 employees were on site to help stabilize whatever situations arose. As 3 of the 4 reactors began to overheat due to lack of coolant, employees worked to move 650 foot sections of cable, each weighing over a ton, a distance of over 5.5 miles, in order to power emergency cooling systems.   
   An evacuation order was issued to the people living within 2 miles of the plant.   
   One seawater coolant pump remained operational in reactor 3. The residual heat removal system (RHR) was started to cool the suppression pool (the suppression pool is used to remove heat released if an event occurs in which large quantities of steam are released from the reactor or the reactor recirculation system), which made it possible to bring the reactor to a cold shutdown the next day.
   Heat removal was not available for reactors 1, 2, and 4, so their suppression pools began to heat up to over 212 degrees Fahrenheit between 5:30 and 6:10PM. This heat build up removed the ability of the operators to relieve pressure from the affected reactors.
   Back at Fukushima Daiichi the clock ticked past midnight into Saturday, March 12th. Hydrogen gas began to accumulate in reactors 1, 2, and 3 due to overheating causing a reaction between the coolant water and the zircalloy (solid solutions of the element zirconium, used as the outer layer of the fuel rods, standing between the coolant and the nuclear fuel). 
   Emergency battery power for reactor 3‘s  high pressure core-flooder system (a system used  inject water into the core to cool it and reduce reactor pressure) failed. About two hours later, at approximately 4:15AM, the fuel rods in 3 were exposed.
   Due to a build up of pressure in reactor 1, the decision was made to vent off some of the steam despite the possibility of an explosion as the hydrogen gas combined with oxygen in the atmosphere. This was the first radiation leak into the environment. .
   Fresh water was injected into reactor 1, but it did not stop the core from melting completely, and falling to the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel. 
   Radioactive water vapor was released into the atmosphere from reactor 2 due to high pressure.
   Due to accumulated hydrogen gas a large explosion occurred at 3:36PM in the outer structure of reactor 1, causing the collapse of the concrete building housing the reactor. Operators believe the actual reactor however, was not damaged, and seawater was subsequently injected into it. 
   Later that night the evacuation zone around Fukushima I was extended out to 12.5 miles, and 6 miles around Fukushima II. 
   At 5:10AM, March 13th, Fukushima Daiichi’s reactor 1 was declared an INES (International Nuclear Event Scale) Level-4 "accident with local consequences" event.
   At Fukushima Daini the service seawater system pumps were repaired in reactors 1, 2 and 4,  and cooling was switched back to the residual heat removal system. When the suppression pool was cooled to below 212 degrees F, the RHR was switched to the shutdown cooling mode which  brought the reactors to a cold shutdown. The loss of cooling water at reactors 1, 2 and 4 was classified a level 3 on the INES (serious incident) by Japanese authorities on March 18th. 
   By the 15th all four reactors of Fukushima Daini had reached cold shutdown, and were considered   non-threatening
   This was not the case at  Fukushima Daiichi. On March 14th, a similar explosion to reactor 1 occurred in the reactor 3 building, blowing off the roof and injuring eleven people. On the 15th, an explosion in the reactor 2 building damaged it and part of the reactor 4 building.
   Damage to the temporary cooling systems on reactor 2 from the explosion in reactor 3, plus problems with its venting system, meant that water could not be added causing reactor 2 to be in the worst shape of the three reactors at that time. An explosion in the "pressure suppression room" caused some damage to reactor 2’s containment system. A fire broke out at reactor 4. Radiation levels at the plant rose significantly but subsequently fell. Radiation equivalent dose rates of 400 millisieverts per hour (a sievert is a derived metric unit of equivalent radiation dose (a computed average measure of the radiation absorbed by a fixed mass of biological tissue, that attempts to account for the different biological damage potential of different types of ionizing radiation), effective dose (a measure of the cancer risk to a whole organism due to ionizing radiation), and committed dose (a measure of the probabilistic health effect on an individual due to an intake of radioactive material into their body). A milliSievert is one thousandth of a sievert. The average annual radiation dose per person in the U.S. by natural causes is 6.2 millisieverts per year)) were observed at one location in the reactor of unit 3.
   On and on. 
   I’m almost positive, dear readers, why the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi has been considered the most complicated in history. Three reactors meltdown within close proximity of each other (plus a loaded spent fuel pool in reactor building 4), all influencing each other in different and varied disastrous ways. 
   Since March 11th a continuous battle has ensued with plant workers fighting fires and radiation leaks into the atmosphere and Pacific Ocean. Water has been injected into each of the three reactor units more or less continuously. This water becomes contaminated and either boils off, is removed, stored and processed, or leaks into the environment. 
   There was a peak of radioactive release on Tuesday, the 15th, apparently from reactor 2, but the precise source remains uncertain. Venting and hydrogen explosions discharged a goodly amount  of radioactive material into the atmosphere, notably iodine and caesium. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said in June that it estimated that 800-1000 kilograms (1763.7 to 2204.62 pounds) of hydrogen had been produced in each of the units. Nitrogen was injected into the containment vessels of all three reactors to remove concerns about further hydrogen explosions, and in December this was done for the pressure vessels as well. Gas control systems which extract and clean the gas from the primary containment vessel to avoid leakage of caesium were commissioned for all three units.
   On and on.
   On Thursday, March 24th, after radioactive water seeped through their protective clothes, three plant workers were exposed to high levels of radiation which caused two of them to require hospital treatment. The workers were exposed to an estimated equivalent dose of 2 to 6 sieverts to the skin below their ankles. They were not wearing protective boots as their employer’s safety manuals "did not assume a scenario in which its employees would carry out work standing in water at a nuclear power plant."      
   The U.S. Navy sent a barge with 500,000 gallons of fresh water to the affected area. Tap water was reported to be safe for infants in Tokyo and Chiba by Japanese authorities (how about adults?), but still exceeded limits in the cities of Hitachi and Tokaimura. Iodine-131 in the ocean near the plant measured 50,000 becquerels (one becquerel is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second), 1,250 times the normal level.     High radiation levels caused delays for technicians working to restore the water cooling systems for the reactors. The Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission stated that it "assumed" melted fuel rods in reactor 2 had released radioactive substances into the coolant water, which subsequently leaked out through an unknown route to the unit 2 turbine building basement. Accordingly, in order to reduce the amount of leaking water, TEPCO reduced the amount of water pumped into  reactor 2, from 16 tons per hour to 7 tons per hour, which of course would then lead to a higher reactor temperature.
   On and on.
   And on Wednesday, March 30th, TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata announced at a news conference that it was unclear how the problems at the plant would be resolved. He cited an immediate difficulty was the removal of large quantities of radioactive water in the basement buildings, and also mentioned salt build up inside the reactors, there from using seawater for cooling, (hence the fresh water brought by the U.S. Navy) which needed to be removed. Building a concrete enclosure for the reactors as a containment structure, as had been done at Chernobyl, was considered. 
   The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found radioactive iodine in milk in the United States.
   On and on.
   On Saturday, April 2nd, TEPCO observed for the first time that contaminated water from reactor 2 was flowing into the sea. The workers discovered a crack about 8 inches wide in a maintenance pit, which lied between the reactor and the sea. They attempted to plug the leak with cement, but the concrete would not set. TEPCO then attempted to plug up the trench that led to the damaged storage pit with a combination of superabsorbent polymer, sawdust and shredded newspaper. That also failed. Radioactive water continued to leak into the sea.
   Besides the leaks, contaminated water was intentionally dumped into the ocean. TEPCO began dumping water (up to 11,500 tons of it) from storage tanks contaminated with low levels of radioactivity into the sea on April 4th. Officials stated this was needed to make room in a central waste facility to store water with a higher radioactive level. This more highly radioactive water was preventing workers from making progress on restoring the cooling and other systems to the reactors. Samples of seawater near the plant revealed radioactive caesium at 1.1 million times the legal limit.
   On and on and on.
   Wednesday, April 6th, despite protests from South Korea, Russian scientists, and Japanese fishermen, Japanese authorities authorized the release of 12,700 tons of less radioactive water into the ocean to make room for water that was highly contaminated. Iodine-131 levels reach 7.5 million times the legal limit in a seawater sample taken near the plant.  
   On Monday, April 11th, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the region around Fukushima Daiichi causing coolant injection into reactors 1 and 3 to stop for 50 minutes due to a loss of power.
   The next day Japan officially raised Fukushima to INES Level 7, the same as Chernobyl.   Approximately 10 times the amount of radiation was released into the atmosphere at Chernobyl,  as was released from Fukushima I through April 12th, 2011. Fukushima still stores approximately 8 times the amount of radioactive material that was stored at Chernobyl, and the leakage continues.
   Officials now estimate that it could take up to 40 years to clean up and decommission the reactors at Fukushima I.
   On October 12, 2012, TEPCO admitted that it had failed to take stronger measures to prevent disasters for fear of inviting lawsuits or protests against its nuclear operations.
   On March 12th, 2011, radioactive releases first reached a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) monitoring station in Takasaki, Japan, around 124 miles away from Fukushima I. Radioactive isotopes appeared in eastern Russia on March 14th, and the west coast of the United States by the 16th. By the 26th, traces of radioactivity were detectable all across the northern hemisphere. Within one month, radioactive particles were detected by CTBTO stations in the southern hemisphere.

   January 19th, 2014, Petaluma, Northern California. John Bertucci, a film maker by profession, carries a Geiger counter wherever he goes. “I'm still learning how to use the device but it gives me peace of mind to know that I can do something to inform and protect myself.” Mr. Bertucci is one of the founders of  Fukushima Response, a small group of people in the area who collect and distribute information about the incident at Fukushima Daiichi. "Japan is thousands of miles from the California coast but there are indicators that the radiation is reaching California.”
   Health officials in the Canadian province of British Columbia are cautioning residents not to  ingest large doses of potassium iodide in order to offset the effects of radioactive contamination from Fukushima. The thyroid can only absorb so much iodine, and the British Columbians are right in thinking that if they fill up with a benign form of iodine, then deadly radioactive isotopes like iodine-131 have no where to go. Still,  experts say ingesting these pills are unnecessary and could  lead to dangerous overdoses. The Health Physics Society states on their website that potassium iodine “has been erroneously represented as a ‘magic bullet’ of radiation protection.” If taken properly, it only protects against internal radiation from radioiodine taken into the body, it will not protect against external radiation or internal radiation from radionuclides other than radioiodine,” and even then will only affect the thyroid from any radiation-induced effects... yet calls for large quantities of the compound by citizens persist. 
   As of last November an enormous debris field originating from Fukushima the size of Texas is floating 1,700 miles off the Pacific coast, located between Hawaii and Santa Monica, California. It is estimated that this field contains 1.5 million tons of objects ranging from little particles, to intact boats, to entire docks, and everything in-between. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that the trash overall is scattered across an area in the ocean about three times the size of the continental United States.
   Back in Petaluma John Bertucci  and others at Fukushima Response say that they are not convinced that the Environmental Protection Agency, is doing all it can to monitor radiation levels. Additionally no U.S. government agency has monitored radiation levels in the ocean water.
   The EPA monitors radiation levels in air, drinking water, rain, and pasteurized milk, but not ocean water as that is not generally consumable by the public. Still, the “E” in EPA stands for environment, and the ocean is part of the environment.
   Their air monitoring system, called RadNet, consists of 132 stationary monitors spread throughout the U.S. The monitoring stations continuously read radiation levels and report abnormal radiation readings back to the EPA’s scientists. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.
   Radiation monitoring experts and activists says that the RadNet system is inadequate and can't protect the public in case of a major nuclear disaster if something goes wrong at one of the 104 U.S. nuclear reactors or if there are additional explosions at Fukushima I. 
   You would think the Obama administration would want to be on top of this situation. Yet some speculate there may be reasons why the government might want to play down concerns about possible contamination of the United States by the reactors at Fukushima.
   Back in 1972, Stephen H. Hanauer, a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended that the Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) system be discontinued because it presented unacceptable safety risks. Among the concerns he cited were the smaller containment design for the reactor, which made them more susceptible to explosions and ruptures from a buildup of hydrogen gas, a situation that later manifested itself at Fukushima Daiichi. But at that time the reactors had been so accepted by the nuclear power industry that it was virtually impossible to stop their use. Three years later, nuclear engineer Dale Bridenbaugh and two colleagues (later known as the GE 3) were asked to review the Mark 1 BWR. They became convinced that this type of reactor was inherently unsafe and so flawed in its design that it could  fail, with catastrophic consequences, under certain circumstances. They cited two issues. First was the possible failure of the Mark 1 to deal with the huge pressures created if the unit lost cooling power, and secondly, the spent fuel ponds were situated 100 feet in the air near the top of the reactor.
     Five of the six reactors at Fukushima I were General Electric Mark 1 BWRs. The first reactor, unit one, was commissioned in 1971, before the first concerns about the design was raised. The other reactors came on line in 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978 and 1979 respectively. Although all six reactors were the GE Mark 1 design only three were built and supplied by GE, reactors 1, 2 and 6. 3 and 5 were built by the Japanese company Toshiba, and unit 4 by Hitachi (now Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, Ltd., established in June of 2007).
   Under Japanese law GE, Toshiba, and Hitachi cannot be held liable for accidents at nuclear power facilities. 
   Here in the U.S. there are 23 nuclear power plants that use the GE Mark 1 BWR. There are also 23 nuclear power plants in the U.S. where used fuel rods are suspended, in a pond, 100 feet above the ground.
   Jeffery Immelt is the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of General Electric. He is also the head of the United States Economic Advisory Board, invited to that position personally by President Obama in 2009, taking over as head in 2011, just a month before the disaster at Fukushima.
   One possible theory for an apparent indifference to the emergency in Japan is that any admission that radiation from a GE designed reactor has spread across the Pacific Ocean and contaminated American soil is an admission that the original technology was flawed, and that flawed technology is still being used in the United States. So rather than disrupt an entire industry it’s better to maintain that radiation levels are safe, and there’s nothing to worry about. 
   Is this idea cynical in any way? Yes, and delightedly so!
   If the incident at Fukushima Daiichi has been met with relative indifference here in the United States, it is not the case in many other countries. Germany decommissioned its older nuclear  reactors and will phase the rest out by 2022. Italian citizens voted 94 percent against the government’s plan to build new reactors, as did Switzerland and Belgium. A pro-nuclear government in France was disposed by it’s citizens, and replaced by a new government promising to reduce reliance on nuclear power. Plans to go nuclear were abandoned in Malaysia, the Philippines, Kuwait and Bahrain. China has radically slowed it’s nuclear program. Iran has promised it’s nuclear capabilities will only be used to make weapons.   
   Or only for peaceful purposes, I forget which.
   Journalist and advocate for renewable energy, Harvey Wasserman, and others, have called for an international response to the ongoing crisis at Fukushima Daiichi, citing the inability of TEPCO and the Japanese government to deal effectively with the situation, which may get decidedly worse in the future if certain events occur, like another major earthquake. He, and I, are especially worried about the spent fuel rods of reactor 4 which need to be removed. 
   Our lovely friend Severn Cullis-Suzuki, is the daughter of the famous environmental activist David Suzuki who in the clip above postulates that if something were to occur, some accident releasing those fuel rods at reactor 4 into the atmosphere, then we might as well evacuate the west coast of the United States due to radiation contamination. He has since stated that he regrets making that wide conjecture.
   But I don’t like to take chances. I happen to live on the west coast of the United States and don’t want to evacuate. Where would I go? Freaking Arizona? Live with my sister? Well screw that!
   The official line from the Japanese government is that the situation is under control.
   “The government is moving to the forefront and we will completely resolve the matter,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last September, just before Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Summer Olympic games.
   But others aren’t so sure.
   “I think this is an ongoing crisis,” said David McNeill, a journalist who has lived in Japan since 2000 and has been covering the Fukushima disaster from the beginning. “What you’ve had is a series of ad hoc strategies designed to deal with the crisis that’s right in front of you.”
   The incident at  Fukushima Daiichi has global consequences and requires a global response. The situation must be dealt with as seriously as the problem is serious... and the sooner the better.

Radioactive cows and the man who wants to save them

Fukushima update, February 24th 2014 here

Update February 28th 2014, "Stunning New Report on USS Reagon Radiation here.

Update March 1 2014, Japanese government wants to restart dormant nuclear reactors, here.

Update May 23 2014, here.

Update June 22 2014, here.

Update July 13 2014, here.

Addendum: 9-1-14: Waste.
Addendum 10-24-14: Radiation approaching U.S. west coast.
Addendum: 2-17-15: U.S. Sailors seek Justice
Addendum: 2-18-15: Leaks continue into oceanEntire Pacific Ocean Contaminated
Addendum: 2-25-15: Cancer rates sore 6000%
Addendum: 3-17-15: Fallout found in Japanese exported tea
Addendum: 3-26-15: Year 5
Addendum: 3-29-15: 36 years of lies
Addendum: 7-1-17: Japan plans to dump contaminated water into the Pacific

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

An Incident at Fukushima Daiichi, Part 5, The Incident

Picture Legend
1. Chernobyl afterwards
2. Map of the Japanese nuclear plants in the Sendai region
3. Simplified cross-section sketch of a typical BWR Mark I containment as used in reactors 1 though 5.
RPV: reactor pressure vessel.
DW: dry well enclosing reactor pressure vessel.
WW: wet well - torus-shaped all around the base enclosing steam suppression pool. Excess steam from the dry well enters the wet well water pool via downcomer pipes.
SFP: spent fuel pool area.
SCSW: secondary concrete shield wall.

April 26th, 1986    Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic

   The engineers had began the gradual power down procedure the day before. 
   What was going to be tested was the ability to generate enough power to sustain cooling to a reactor after an emergency shut down when normal sources had been made unavailable. As we discovered in the last post, in an initial shut-down state a reactor produces approximately 7 percent of its total heat output and cooling is still required to avoid core damage. Cooling pumps require electricity to pump water through the reactor. What was being tested were ways to make up for a discrepancy  in the amount of time it took for emergency generators to start and the time it took them to get to full speed, or power output, which was about 60 to 75 seconds. 
   The test began with an automatic emergency shutdown. According to test protocol the reactor’s thermal output should have been no lower than 700 megawatts. Accordingly no detrimental effects on the safety of the reactor were anticipated, so the test program was not formally coordinated with either the chief designers of the reactor, or the scientific manager. Instead, it was approved only by the director of the plant (and even this approval was not consistent with established procedures).
   The experiment began at 1:23:04 Moscow Time. The steam to the turbines was shut off, beginning a run-down of the turbine generator. The water flow rate through the reactor decreased, leading to increased formation of steam voids (bubbles) in the core. This formation of steam voids reduced the ability of the liquid water coolant to absorb neutrons, which in turn increased the reactor's power output. This caused yet more water to flash into steam, causing yet a further power increase. Inserting control rods into the core counteracted this energy increase, however the system being used had control of only 12 rods, the rest having already been removed manually. 
   It is believed that at 1:23:40 the EPS-5 button was manually pressed in what was probably a response to the core’s power increase. The pressing of the EPS-5 button (or else the initiation of automatic emergency procedures) caused a SCRAM (“safety cut rope axe man” I know, it’s weird, yet the term is believed to have been coined by physicist Enrico Fermi, the designer and builder of the first nuclear reactor, which happened to be located under the bleachers Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, and a precursor to the first atomic bombs) emergency reactor shut down, which engaged the drive mechanism to fully insert all of the control rods, including the manual rods that had been withdrawn earlier. A few seconds after the start of the SCRAM, the graphite control rod tips entered the core. A massive power spike occurred, and the core overheated, causing some of the fuel rods to fail, blocking the control rod columns and jamming the control rods at one-third insertion, with the graphite tips in the middle of the core. Within three seconds the reactor output rose above 530 megawatts.  The power spike caused an increase in fuel temperature and massive steam buildup. The reactor jumped to approximately 30,000 megawatt thermal, ten times the normal operational output. This caused a steam explosion which destroyed the reactor’s casing,  tearing off and lifting a 2,000-ton upper steel plate, to which the entire reactor assembly was attached, sending it flying through the roof of the reactor building. A second, more powerful explosion occurred about two or three seconds after the first; which dispersed the damaged reactor core, ejecting super heated lumps of the graphite moderator (carbon used as a neutron moderator). The ejected graphite and the demolished channels still in the remains of the reactor vessel caught fire on exposure to air, which heavily contributed to the spread of radioactive fallout and external contamination. 
   The citizens of the nearby city of Pripyat were not informed of the accident.  Within a few hours after the explosion, dozens of people fell ill, suffering headaches, and uncontrollable coughing and vomiting. The general Russian (at the time it was still the Soviet Union) population was not informed of the accident until April 28th, two days after the explosion. They were informed via a 20 second announcement on the evening news. Only after rising radiation levels set off alarms at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden, over 600 miles west of the Chernobyl Plant, did the Soviet Union admit that an accident had occurred.  

   “There has been an accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. One of the nuclear reactors was damaged. The effects of the accident are being remedied. Assistance has been provided for any affected people. An investigative commission has been set up."
—Vremya (the main evening newscast in Russia), 28 April 1986 (9:00PM)

   Four hundred times more radioactive material was ejected from Chernobyl than by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. The accident released a total of one hundredth to one thousandth of the entire amount of radioactivity released by nuclear weapons testing during the 1950s and 1960s. About 38,610 square miles of land were significantly contaminated with fallout, the worst hit regions being in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Slighter levels of contamination were detected   over all of Europe, except for the Iberian Peninsula (a peninsula located in the extreme southwest of Europe that includes the  sovereign states of Spain, Portugal, Andorra, part of France, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar).
    Some 135,000 people were evacuated from the area, including 50,000 from the city of Pripyat.
   After the explosion 237 people suffered from acute radiation sickness (ARS), of whom 31 died within the first three months.  Most of these were fire and rescue workers trying to bring the accident under control, and who were not aware of, or informed of, the latent  exposure to radiation such work would expose them to.  
   Isotopes of iodine (Iodine-131), caesium (Caesium-137) and strontium are responsible for most of the radiation exposure faced by the general population. 
   It was estimated that cancer deaths caused by Chernobyl could reach a total of 4,000 among the 5 million persons residing in the contaminated areas.
   Reactor No. 4  at Chernobyl is now encased in a large concrete sarcophagus, which was built quickly to allow continuing operation of the other reactors at the plant.
   After the explosion the other three reactors continued to operate. In 1991, Reactor No. 2 suffered a major fire, and was subsequently decommissioned. In November of 1996, Reactor No. 1 was shut down, followed by Reactor No. 3 on December 15, in 2000. The entire plant is now closed.
    It is likely that with no further decontamination efforts the gamma ray dosage at the site will return to background levels in about 300 years.
   The explosion at Chernobyl was the first level 7 event (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale, and is considered the worst nuclear accident ever.  
   There’s only been two level 7 events in the history of the nuclear power industry, the other being the ongoing incident at Fukushima Daiichi. Although not considered the worst nuclear accident in history (it  has been considered the second worst), Fukushima Daiichi has been considered the most complicated.
   But please keep in mind... the accident at Fukushima Daiichi is ongoing.

   On the Monday before the accident, March 7th, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) submitted a report to Japanese nuclear safety officials which predicted the possibility of a tsunami reaching up to 34 feet at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in the event of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake similar to the Sanriku earthquake of 1896. TEPCO had actually made the prediction 3 years earlier, but had not felt the need to take immediate action. Considering the seawall surrounding the plant that was designed to protect it from such tsunami’s was only 19 feet high, one has to wonder about the quality of their judgment.
   When the March 11, 2011, 9.0 earthquake struck at 2:46 in the afternoon, reactors 1, 2 and 3 were operating at Fukushima Daiichi, but units 4, 5 and 6 had been shut down for periodic inspection (reactor 4 was defueled in November 2010. All of the fuel rods had been transferred to the spent fuel pool on an upper floor of the reactor building). The operating reactors underwent an automatic SCRAM emergency shutdown, as they were designed to do. When the reactors shut down, the plant stopped generating electricity. One of the two connections to off-site power for reactors 1, 2, and 3 also failed. On-site emergency diesel generators began providing power to continue pumping water to the reactor cores in order to dissipate the residual heat. Plant officials focused their attention on a damaged storage pool for spent nuclear fuel at the No. 2 reactor, the damage prompted the plant’s management to divert much of the attention and pumping capacity to that pool. 
      41 minutes after the mainshock quake the first tsunami hit Fukushima Daiichi. 3 minutes later the emergency condenser designed to cool the steam inside the pressure vessel of the No. 1 reactor failed.
   Approximately an hour after the earthquake a 46 foot tsunami wave flowed over the seawall as if it wasn’t there, inundating the facility and disabling the backup diesels, all of which but one  were housed underground. The resulting loss of electricity prompted failures of  the residual heat removal and low pressure coolant injection system's main pumps. It goes with out saying that the  automatic depressurization systems failed as well. Only the steam-powered pump systems (isolation condenser in reactor 1, high-pressure coolant injection and reactor core isolation cooling system in reactors 2 and 3) remained available. 
   TEPCO then notified authorities (“Tokyo, we’ve got a problem”) of a "first level emergency."
   Switching stations that provided power from the three backup generators located higher on a hillside failed due to not being high enough, when the building that housed them flooded. Power for control systems switched over to batteries that were designed to last about eight hours. A call for additional batteries was put out, but due to poor road conditions and other considerations, were late in arriving. 
   At 4:00 the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency ordered all 55 of Japan’s nuclear reactors shut down for precautionary reasons. At that time there were no reports of radiation being detected outside the borders of any of the nuclear power plants.    
   2 hours later the coolant water level in reactor 1 reached the top of the fuel, exposing it. The core temperature began to climb.
     At 7:03 Japan’s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, declared a nuclear emergency. Officials told the Japanese people all of the proper safety procedures had been initiated, and that no radiation had leaked into the environment.
   By 7:30 the fuel in  Fukushima Daiichi number 1 reactor became fully exposed above the water line. Fuel damage in the central core started soon after
   An hour and a half later the evacuation began.

To be continued.

Addendum: 4-26-15: Chernobyl 29 years later