numb skulls, dead zones

la dead zone

Agribusiness fertilizer runoff and urban wastes rush the Gulf through our creeks, streams, and rivers. There they spawn massive algal blooms that suck the oxygen out of the water creating huge “dead zones” along coasts worldwide.

One of the worst ongoing lifeless stretch has been the result of that fluid – still technically water – spilling out of the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers predict this summer will be one of the worst dead blooms yet.

MSNBC reports:

NEW ORLEANS – Researchers predict a “dead zone” of oxygen-depleted waters off the Louisiana and Texas coasts could grow this summer to 10,084 square miles — making it the largest such expanse on record.

If the preliminary forecast holds, the researchers say, the size of the so-called “dead zone” would be 17-21 percent larger than at anytime since the mapping began in 1985 — and about as large as the state of Massachusetts.

In April, scientists found the dead zone off Texas stretches our entire coastline about 20 miles offshore. May be a good year to take some of these beach safety tips to heart.

(Still remember those far-sighted regulators back in Mississippi who didn’t bother to sample after a shower. They knew they’d find high bacterial loads then. So why sample? “Last one in is, uh, uh … clean! “)

[LATE ADDITION: For global perspective on dead zones, check out this depressing report.]

Meanwhile, as San Antonio’s leaders try to focus on renewables after an increasingly nasty fight over the city utility’s ambition for two new nuke plants, Zogby polling numbers suggest that a majority of Americans want new nuclear power plant construction.

Republicans (85%) and political independents (70%) were more likely than Democrats (49%) to support the construction of new nuclear power plants. A majority of respondents of all ages – with the exception of those age 18 to 24 (47%) – expressed support for building new nuclear power plants, with the greatest overall support among those age 65 and older (78%). Men (82%) are more likely than women (52%) to favor building new nuclear power plants in the U.S.

k state reactor coreWonder where these numbers would be if Kansas State University’s reactor suffered a more frontal hit from this week’s tornadoes?

My newscast missed this little item, too, but a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspector is checking it out.

From the NRC:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent a reactor inspector to Kansas State University Thursday after a tornado damaged the building housing the university’s research reactor. The reactor was not operating at the time, and initial surveys by the licensee showed no radiation leak and no apparent damage to the reactor.

The twister hit the KSU campus, in Manhattan, Kans., shortly after 11 p.m. Central Daylight Time June 11, damaging the siding and roof of the reactor building and cutting power to the building and its security systems. The university posted security guards at the building until power was restored to the building’s security system shortly before 5 a.m. local time.

NRC regulations require research reactor licensees to declare an alert – the highest of two emergency classifications for research and test reactors – whenever a reactor building suffers tornado damage. Once power was restored to the building’s security system, the alert was canceled and security of the facility resumed its normal state.

An NRC resident inspector from the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant near Burlington, Kans., arrived at the KSU campus early Thursday and is conducting an initial inspection of the reactor. He will be joined by two inspectors from NRC headquarters in Rockville, Md.

The KSU research reactor is a 1,250 kilowatt TRIGA reactor. This type of reactor requires no active cooling. The reactor remains in a stable shutdown condition.

Dead zone image is courtesy of NASA. Reactor core, you guessed it, from KSU.

One response to “numb skulls, dead zones

  1. “Wonder where these numbers would be if Kansas State University’s reactor suffered a more frontal hit from this week’s tornadoes?”

    The path of the tornado across town put the building directly in line with the tornado, and the tornado made a DIRECT hit on the reactor building. Oddly. the tornado was not able to “touch” the reactor core, near the bottom of a cylinder of concrete, with concerte 3 feet thick at the top 10 feet and 8-9 thick feet below. The lower, thicker section, by the way, is actually below ground level. As far as I (Kansas native) know, there is just no such thing as a tornado capable of driving through 8-9 feet of concrete 12 feet below ground level.

    The final NRC report (available online at NRC.GOV) was positve.


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