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United States Power

How the Next US Nuclear Accident Might Happen 128

Lasrick writes: Anthropologist Hugh Gusterson analyzes safety at US nuclear facilities and finds a disaster waiting to happen due to an over-reliance on automated security technology and private contractors cutting corners to increase profits. Gusterson follows on the work of Eric Schlosser, Frank Munger, and Dan Zak in warning us of the serious problems at US nuclear facilities, both in the energy industry and in the nuclear security complex.
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How the Next US Nuclear Accident Might Happen

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  • Antropologist (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Someone unqualified to access the safety of nuclear power plants declares them unsafe.

    • Re:Antropologist (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MtHuurne ( 602934 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @08:01PM (#50029517) Homepage

      Often big accidents are not caused by technology failing unexpectedly, but by not following procedures or bad decision making. So it seems to me that an antropologist might actually have useful things to say about the weakest links: human operators and their managers.

      • Re:Anthropologist (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @09:18PM (#50029883)

        Except he really doesn't do anything. There doesn't appear to be any study, only the subjective (i.e., qualitative) third party claims, which doesn't mean that they are wrong, just that he didn't do anything himself. He does however launch an attack at quantitative methodology, which isn't a surprise, given that his article approach is a defence of his own field, at heart: If you can measure it, it is by default open to quantitative assessment.

        This applies to scales (hello psychometrics) which are almost never measured without error (heh, look: Error in variables and latent measurement models!), open ended responses (latent direlecht allocation models and similar) and multiple measurements from different sources (back to reliability and latent measurement models). He is right in principal, and makes the point in the article that having poor test security and design (where the testees' employers have access to, or even provide the examinations and assessments themselves) is wrong, and that systems that provide too many false positives are ignored.

        The correct approach to the final system would be a layered system, in which sensitivity increases with depth. As for assessments: no shit, don't let people grade themselves. Ever. And impose penalties and randomly conducted tests by third parties. If you want to hire this out: make it so that whoever succeeds get a bonus. Make the two sides compete. This only defines why QA is of vital importance.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Actually, a couple of additional points. If you read his other columns, which I have, you see Gusterson has a theme of dismissing quantitative methods, which are admittedly flawed here. It's interesting, because he decried [thebulletin.org] the fundamental attribution error against Eric Shinseki (correctly in my opinion) but commits the very same error against quantitative methods in both that article and the one linked in the summary. Again, I would argue that he is decrying not a flaw in simple quantitative measurement, b

      • Re:Antropologist (Score:4, Informative)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@worl d 3 . net> on Thursday July 02, 2015 @07:51AM (#50031757) Homepage

        Japanese shinkansen (bullet train) drivers are required to follow written procedures in the event of any kind of anomaly, failure or emergency. They have a book in the cab with all the procedures, and are not allowed to follow them from memory, they have to read each instruction from the book, speak it out loud and follow it.

        So far there have been no fatalities or serious injuries due to accidents on the shinkansen system, which has been operating since 1964 and carried billions of passengers.

        Unfortunately, nuclear plants might be too complex for this sort of thing to work.

      • one rusty pickup truck with a plow mount and a bed full of old crystallized dynamite has a very good chance of taking down any nuclear facility. if they can smash the first chain-link fence, chances are very high they'll git 'r dun.

        a night watchman rattling doors is not going to stop them. even if he's at the video guard desk, he can't.

        and the whole security chain knows this. just saying...

        • one rusty pickup truck with a plow mount and a bed full of old crystallized dynamite has a very good chance of taking down any nuclear facility. if they can smash the first chain-link fence, chances are very high they'll git 'r dun.

          a night watchman rattling doors is not going to stop them. even if he's at the video guard desk, he can't.

          and the whole security chain knows this. just saying...

          That's stretching the definition of "accident" more than somewhat.

    • Re:Antropologist (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @08:11PM (#50029581) Journal

      Someone unqualified to access the safety of nuclear power plants declares them unsafe.

      Did you bother to even skim the article? It was essentially entirely focused on human and organizational risk factors, the sort of thing that anthropologists do actually study, in US nuclear facilities and preferred methods of securing them.

      If the concern is "will the roof resist a hardware-store-improv mortar attack?", sure you don't want an anthropologist on the job. If the concern is "so, will the guards notice, give a damn, and do something about it; or will I just have to walk past a token force optimized for cheating its way to passing grades during perfunctory audits at lowest possible cost?", that's an anthropological question. And the answer appears to tend toward the latter.

      • by quenda ( 644621 )

        The article really has nothing to do with nuclear power plants, despite the opening references.
        He is talking about the poor security at the Oak Ridge facility.
        If private security guards are so bad, maybe they should call in the experts from Homeland Security.

        • I can't imagine that the DoD would be happy with DHS clowns guarding something that they actually cared about. Though, if the alternative is G4S, maybe they'd take it. I'd certainly want to be rid of whoever thought that training with doctored MILES gear was adequate.
        • The article really has nothing to do with nuclear power plants, despite the opening references. He is talking about the poor security at the Oak Ridge facility. If private security guards are so bad, maybe they should call in the experts from Homeland Security.

          He is purposely conflating nuclear power plants with Oak Ridge, which is a trick regularly employed by Union of Concerned Scientists in their anti-nuclear cries. The simple fact they resort to those tactics tells you something about them.

        • The article really has nothing to do with nuclear power plants, despite the opening references. He is talking about the poor security at the Oak Ridge facility. If private security guards are so bad, maybe they should call in the experts from Homeland Security.

          The opening references talk about "nuclear accidents", not specifically power plants.

          And if, after reading the article, you conclude that private security guards may be bad, then I don't understand why you'd still criticise or deride the article or its author -- after all, it seems you've learned something new from it.

          • by Creepy ( 93888 )

            And the article then didn't have a single thing about nuclear accidents. It was about some protesters they broke into an enriched uranium storage facility's grounds. Had these been highly skilled terrorists, they'd need to break into the actual facility, kill or disable the guards, steal the uranium and escape before reinforcements showed up... and then would have to assemble a bomb with it. A dirty bomb with uranium would be a waste of time, as you'd do vastly more damage with conventional explosives - wit

        • by Jawnn ( 445279 )

          The article really has nothing to do with nuclear power plants, despite the opening references. He is talking about the poor security at the Oak Ridge facility. If private security guards are so bad, maybe they should call in the experts from Homeland Security.

          For those who don't get the sarcasm, the notion that "privatization" is a good thing is proving to be a bad idea, yet again. Without careful regulation, something that itself comes with a cost, a profit-driven industry will, by it's very nature, seek to cut corners (cheat) it's customers in order to increase those profits. Pharmaceuticals, or automobile brakes, or guarding nuclear plants, these are not places to let the mythical free market run the show, and yet we continue to allow the Reagan era meme that

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        It was essentially entirely focused on human and organizational risk factors, the sort of thing that anthropologists do actually study,

        News to me.

      • Someone unqualified to access the safety of nuclear power plants declares them unsafe.

        Did you bother to even skim the article? It was essentially entirely focused on human and organizational risk factors, the sort of thing that anthropologists do actually study, in US nuclear facilities and preferred methods of securing them.

        My experience has shown that who humans interact and the operating environment they work in is generally the most significant root cause of an undesirable event. Technology may compound the severity, and in some case there are technological flaws that case or contribute but generally the operational environment setup the conditions for failure. For example, a rigid hierarchy in a cockpit leads to fatal error going uncorrected since a junior person is unwilling to call a superior's judgment into question or

  • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @08:01PM (#50029519)
    He thinks it's just private contractors that cut corners to save money?

    That's adorable.
    • Surely this is the logical place to insert "In the public sector, they cut corners to waste money!" and then talk about military contracting for a while.
      • Oh, no, of course not. In military contracting, we waste money to save money. It's sort of like having to destroy the village in order to save. See any number of "cost saving" measures that ended up costing us all kinds of money (not to mention lives) down the line.
    • "He thinks it's just private contractors that cut corners to save money? "

      While government *may* cut corners to save money, since their percived profit not necessarily is tied to pure monetary profit, private contractors, *must* cut corners to save money, since their profit is pure monetary profit.

      • Snark aside, my general impression from having worked in and with both federal and non federal agencies, as well as power companies, and seeing contracting in general, the problem of budget pressures and cost cutting isn't unique to either private or public sector, contracting or not. Granted, I'm speaking mainly from an IT Security viewpoint, but everything I've seen and heard indicates it's hardly unique to IT in the energy sector. See the 2009 Gulf Spill, or this article about how TEPCO recognized the ri
        • Don't underestimate the institutional and personal corruption factor. When the government outsources to contractors, there is an automatic revolving door between the government insiders and the contracting firms. The government workers put in their time at the relatively lower pay scale, and when they get out they just end up sitting on the other side of the same table at a much higher salary. Everybody knows how it works, and as long as nobody rocks the boat they get to retire with both a government pensio
          • Yep, that's definitely part of how it works. "Cost saving measures" is usually the stated rationale though, going on the theory that it will be cheaper to hire contractors to do some of the work that was once done by the agencies/military, and have different companies place bids for it. Sometimes it's nothing more than a staffing bid, with a major defense contractor serving as a glorified temp agency placing "full time equivalent" workers on the site, providing additional staff that can be hired (and fired)
          • When the government outsources to contractors, there is an automatic revolving door between the government insiders and the contracting firms.

            Indeed. The solution is not to try to mix business and government.

            But instead, the trend is to seed government with more and more contractors. .

  • Profit over safety (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @08:13PM (#50029595)

    I am GM of a nuclear power plan and my bonus is based on the total production of my power plant. My engineering tells me I have to take an outage to fix a pump but if I do that I am going to mix my goal and I am not going to get as big a bonus. That is a fact. The chance that the power plant might melt down that is theoretical. I am not going to take a real loss for a theoretical one no matter how bad the theoretical loss might be. And that is why nuclear power plants can't be run by for profit companies.

    • > I am not going to take a real loss for a theoretical one no matter how bad the theoretical loss might be. And that is why nuclear power plants can't be run by for profit companies.

      Wow, you must hate your job.

      But isn't that true for any large, dangerous machine? And doesn't making government responsible trade one problem (deliberately cutting corners for profit) for another (stifling, inattentive bureaucracy, undermotivated employees)?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Private corporations also generate "stifling, inattentive bureaucracy, under motivated employees", this as a direct result of nepotism and of course under paying and overworking employees that corporations routinely treat as disposable.

        So private corporations exhibit all the worst behaviour of government organisation they just another layer of crap on top being greed and egocentric management and nepotism.

        Seriously Wall street should be gutted and no corporation should ever be allowed to be worth more

        • I'm not sure how to respond to that. You really think that government, which is made up of people, would naturally do a better job managing a dangerous resource than a company, which is also made up of people? Sometimes the SAME people?

          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

            No matter how well run a corporation is, it can be bought by a vulture capitalist and run into the ground in a crazed profit making scheme. Government departments can not be bought as least not legally.

      • And doesn't making government responsible trade one problem (deliberately cutting corners for profit) for another (stifling, inattentive bureaucracy, undermotivated employees)?

        It's precisely the motivation that's the problem. A private company has every incentive to cut staff and whip the remaining ones into working harder, which of course increases the chances of an accident. Safety is not cost-effective except in hindsight, and at that point Joe CEO has already cashed his bonuses. As well as he should, a

    • Right. No business would take a real loss to prevent a larger theoretical loss. That's why the insurance industry doesn't exist.

      • we're talking about nuclear

        nuclear is great until something bad happens. and then the possibilities are so exceedingly horrendous that there's nothing insurance can effectively do to offset the damage. what's the going insurance rate on giving cancer to people for decades and rendering large swaths of land unlivable for generations?

        insurance is only effective when the premiums paid cover the probability of damages possible. but the damages possible with nuclear are so stupefyingly huge that the insurance co

        • what's the going insurance rate on giving cancer to people for decades and rendering large swaths of land unlivable for generations?

          I heard that's rather cheap as with 20+ years between exposition and cancer, you can blame it on anything else.

        • what's the going insurance rate on giving cancer to people for decades and rendering large swaths of land unlivable for generations?

          I thought we were talking about nuclear power, why did you switch the subject to coal?

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        A lot of commercial insurance has to be mandated by law, including insurance for nuclear plants in the US. Otherwise the company wouldn't bother, they would just create subsidiaries that take on all the risk and immediately shut down if they ever become liable for a big pay out, but funnel all the profits to the parent company.

        Also, insurance for nuclear plants is literally priceless - no commercial insurer will offer it, so plants only pay for limited liability insurance and the government insures the rest

    • I am GM of a nuclear power plan and my bonus is based on the total production of my power plant. My engineering tells me I have to take an outage to fix a pump but if I do that I am going to mix my goal and I am not going to get as big a bonus.

      Sounds like a textbook case of negligent manslaughter waiting to happen. Maybe we just need a rule that allows people to take safety seriously and be rewarded for doing so (or fined for not doing so).

      • by BVis ( 267028 )

        Maybe we just need a rule that allows people to take safety seriously and be rewarded for doing so (or fined for not doing so).

        Why do you hate America?

    • You are trading off a shutdown to fix a pump versus a meltdown. The trade-off is a short controlled shutdown, a quick fix, and a fairly quick start-up which is probably measured in days to a week versus an emergency shutdown because your pump failed which means that your reactor is offline for a number of weeks at a minimum. The chance of a meltdown due to a single pump failing is infinitesimally small (though if the other employees are like you then the risk of an incident increases greatly).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @09:34PM (#50029955)

      There is no way you are a GM of a nuclear power "plan". I have 25 years of engineering, operations, and management experience in nuclear power plants in Canada and the United States and am currently a licensed Senior Reactor Operator. If you were a GM you might recognize that no one pump failure would result in a meltdown, and that we don't shut down nuclear plants typically when one pump has an issue - we have Technical Specification Limiting Conditions for Operation that provide a fixed time period for you to fix the equipment before you have to shut down. This is typically 72 hours, seven days, or longer if a risk-informed Technical Specification action time has been licensed by the NRC. How do you manage to cover up a failed periodic surveillance test of the pump that is mandated by your Technical Specifications? In my plant, about 10 people would all have to be complicit with you. Seems pretty unlikely given that they all make a lot more money than they'd make outside the industry, and you are opening yourself up to sanction - up to and including being barred from licensed activities for life.

      By the way - in my experience privately-run US nuclear power plants run far better than publicly-run Canadian nuclear plants, and the regulator is more potent. High production plants typically have much better equipment reliability and corrective action programs. This ensures that the equipment is available when it is called upon in an event. That tends to mean that higher performing plants are in fact safer.

      So yes - I'm calling you a liar.

         

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        I read that in the sense of, "Let's say that I'm in the position of being a general manager", as a hypothetical rather than something to be taken literally.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          And I provided a refutation to his points, regardless of whether he is or not. If he's speaking hypothetically, then his lack of knowledge proves that he doesn't know what he's talking about. It's another old argument that can easily be disproven. Like how "old nuclear plants are less safe", even though the oldest plants in the country today are orders of magnitude safer now than they were when they were built.

          I sure hope he doesn't get on an airplane run by a private company - by his logic only the gover

        • I read that in the sense of, "Let's say that I'm in the position of being a general manager", as a hypothetical rather than something to be taken literally.

          Then take his insight as hypothetical as well.

          • by tomhath ( 637240 )

            He has no insight.

            The premise is that only this year's bonus matters, and that a short and planned outage this year will cost him more than keeping the plant operating efficiently in the long term. That's absurd.

        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

          In other words he has no idea what he is talking about and should be ignored.
          Frankly as should this story.
          Come on an anthropologist says nuclear power unsafe....
          This is click bait of the level of the National Enquire. For SHAME SLASHDOT!

      • Mod parent up...OP is a fuckwit who wears a hockey helmet in public outings who doesn't know shit about nuclear plant operations.He sure-as-hell ain't a GM of a nuclear plant.

        Safety is the life blood of nuclear plant operations as we're keenly aware that public perception is against nuclear power. A GM with the above attitude would be shot by the plant engineers in the parking lot for gross stupidity.

      • by quenda ( 644621 )

        There is no way you are a GM of a nuclear power "plan".

        I'll bet you've written some nasty letters to the Readers' Digest then.

      • by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @01:43AM (#50030791)

        Here in Germany there was a minor scandal because Vattenfall - a private company - kept quiet about a hydrogen explosion and the ensuing cooling water loss in one of their nuclear power plants (INES 1, but still), and continuing to operate the power plant after quickly patching some pipes. This is against every law for operation of nuclear power plants. It were government officials, who found out about the problem and the company tried to talk themselves out of it.

    • I am GM of a nuclear power plan

      And I am Jack's liver.

    • I am not going to take a real loss for a theoretical one no matter how bad the theoretical loss might be.

      You have no sense of risk management and would never be the operator of a major hazard facility. These kinds of things are (fortunately for us) regulated.

      • "These kinds of things are (fortunately for us) regulated."

        That's why, say, an oil spill tied to the need to open a platform ASAP will never happen. Or... a nuclear facility will never suffer a melt down because management prefers to turn a deaf ear to the researchers that say more expense against tsunamis is needed.

        Oh, wait!

        • "These kinds of things are (fortunately for us) regulated."

          That's why, say, an oil spill tied to the need to open a platform ASAP will never happen. Or... a nuclear facility will never suffer a melt down because management prefers to turn a deaf ear to the researchers that say more expense against tsunamis is needed.

          Oh, wait!

          You mean an oil spill which was the result of engineering, judgement and training errors of the operators and had absolutely nothing to do with time pressures, occurring at a time when most of the plant were actually off duty celebrating their safety record?

          Or the nuclear power plant which survived the tsunami just fine, which had been engineered for a 1 in 100 year event just like every major skyscraper in America, and only went under due to the engineering error of putting emergency power in the basement?

          • "You mean an oil spill which was the result of engineering, judgement and training errors of the operators and had absolutely nothing to do with time pressures"

            Uhhh... nope.

            I'm talking about oil spills that even the government comission in charge said that were due to cost-cutting malpractices, i.e. "Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blowout clearly saved those companies significant time (and money)": http://www. [telegraph.co.uk]

            • Thankyou for reading between the lines. But there are plenty of clear cut answers in the CSB investigation and the OSHA reports if you bother to read them.

              There's something called the swiss cheese model which describes barriers to a process safety hazard. There were lots of them, and none were time pressure based. There were engineering cost cutting issues at Hallibruton, and training cost cutting issues at BP/Transocean but no one was under time pressure to drill what wasn't even a production well.

              Now plea

              • "no one was under time pressure to drill what wasn't even a production well."

                Yeah... only the date to finish the works on it was March 8th and any delay past this date was incurring overruning and opportunity costs since the Deepwater Horizon was already assigned to a new project.

                Accident was on April 20th. These 43 days costed around 21M US$ to BP. The very same day of the accident a recommended 9-12 hours and 128,000US$ test of cement status was cancelled.

                "Now please educate yourself beyond the daily te

    • That will right till the low payed guy in 7G takes out the t-437 safety command console and you are to cheap to pay for overnight courier shipping vs say roys ground trucking it may take up to 5 days but it's cheaper then fedex ground.

    • I am GM of a nuclear power plan ....

      You are a liar, that is about all you are. "engineering" doesn't tell a GM to shut the plant down to fix a pump. Operators do that, and its all proceduralized so there is no GM decision to make.

      You can't even describe what pumps you are talking about nor their function.

    • by Tailhook ( 98486 )

      And that is why nuclear power plants can't be run by for profit companies.

      Chernobyl didn't explode and contaminate Northern Ukraine, Belarus and parts of Western Europe because it is a state run enterprise and immune to market forces that cut corners.

      Oh. Wait.

      • No, no wait!

        Chernobyl 'exploded' because the operators ran an unsanctioned experiment. Not because of 'cutting corners'.

        • Nope. Cutting corners it was.
          The reactor was designed by cutting corners - enlarging a military reactor the scientists developed 20 years earlier and without a containment (too expensive and nuclear power were considered safe anyway). It was built by cutting corners - utilizing unqualified and uncaring workers, who were faking weld seams. It was operated by cutting corners - qualified people weren't employed - using former conventional power plant operators instead. The experiment ran by cutting corners - i

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        No, it exploded because an edict to run the test came down from on-high and heads would roll if it was delayed. So, to get things done within the deadline, it was assigned to the poorly trained night operators rather than the better skilled day operators. Then they did every don't in the book to avoid having to report failure after making a mistake. It was that final mistake of withdrawing all of the control rods trying to burn off the xenon poisoning that made it blow.

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      The problem is not profit (which goes to shareholders, in theory) but obscene executive bonuses.
      I rather doubt that a plant manager is on such bonuses.

    • I am GM of a nuclear power plan and my bonus is based on the total production of my power plant. My engineering tells me I have to take an outage to fix a pump but if I do that I am going to mix my goal

      Somehow I have a hard time believing that the GM of a nuclear power plant can't spell "plant" and "miss".

      I also can't think of a nuclear power plant design that has a single pump that requires the plant to shut down to repair. All the ones I know of have backup pumps that allow repairs to offline units with

      • Plan and plant are both legal/valid english words.
        So they are not red underlined by a spelling complainer.
        If you are able to spot such a spelling mistake, consider your self fortunated.
        My brain reads 'plant' even as there is written 'plan' ... because 'plan' would not pass the semantical analysis of the sentence. My brain dors error correction just fine ... I don't know nor do I care if the 't' got losst by the writer, the internet or got eaten by the spaghetti monster.
        Riding on spelling mistakes of othets

    • Sorry, you are an idiot.
      The power 'your' plant is producing is not determined by you in any way. The company owning the plant has a job position called 'Dispatcher'.
      That is the guy who is running the whole fleet of plants of said company.
      Except for unexpected downtime a GM (does that mean 'general manager'?) has no influence at all on power production or sales and hence his salary is in no way related to the power production of 'his' plant.

      However I guess you want to be so ehow ironic :)

      The problem with 'ac

      • by BVis ( 267028 )

        Except for unexpected downtime a GM (does that mean 'general manager'?) has no influence at all on power production or sales and hence his salary is in no way related to the power production of 'his' plant.

        Yes, nobody ever has their bonus determined by things that they have no control over. No company ever deliberately structures their bonus program in a way that minimizes them by making the conditions for a full bonus impossible to achieve. They can still say "up to 10% bonus", because 1% is a valid valu

    • I am GM of a nuclear power plan and my bonus is based on the total production of my power plant. My engineering tells me I have to take an outage to fix a pump but if I do that I am going to mix my goal and I am not going to get as big a bonus. That is a fact. The chance that the power plant might melt down that is theoretical. I am not going to take a real loss for a theoretical one no matter how bad the theoretical loss might be. And that is why nuclear power plants can't be run by for profit companies.

      I see that basic spelling and grammar skills aren't one of the job requirements for being GM of a nuclear power plan [sic].

      That, or maybe you're a lying troll.

      Hmm, now that I've thought about it for 3 seconds I'm going with "lying troll".

  • That explains a lot all by itself.

  • The author has a point about the limited effectiveness of audits and drills, as it's nearly impossible (or at least really expensive and time-consuming) to execute one that's both realistic and safe. He missed the mark on the other two faults (reliance on tech and use of contractors), since people fail more often than tech and contractors are no worse than impossible-to-fire civil servants. The article carries echoes of the "profit is evil and government is good" mantra so popular lately.
    • "The article carries echoes of the "profit is evil and government is good" mantra so popular lately."

      Is it that, or might it be "there are business where it's probably better not to center the whole focus on profits, which is what for-profit companies are forced to do"?

      Of course, your mantra is shorter and more black&white-ish, so it must be true.

    • The article carries echoes of the "profit is evil and government is good" mantra so popular lately.

      that's a false dichotomy that only appeals to a simpleton

      profit taking cannot occur without the stability and security established by government. likewise, government cannot exist without tapping into the profits it makes possible. government without the individual pursuit of capital is hell. and the social darwinistic pursuit of capital be damned the externalities is a simply another flavor of hell

      it's just ignorance to imagine that capitalism and government are enemies. one does not exist without the other

  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @08:51PM (#50029791)

    "The United States loves to use statistical metrics and audit procedures to decide which teachers and principals at public schools should be fired or retained"

    Which "United States" is he talking about, the other one that doesn't have teacher's unions?

    • by BVis ( 267028 )

      You do know that the only difference between firing a non-union worker and a union worker is that the union worker has to be fired for a reason that management can document, right? A non-union worker can be fired on the spot for no reason whatsoever. A union worker has the right to progressive discipline up to and including termination.

      Stop spreading the lie that union workers can't be fired. They can, it's just harder for management to do so, because they have to have an actual valid REASON (shock horro

  • by Iamthecheese ( 1264298 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @09:08PM (#50029839)
    You may have read the report of the USS Srark [wikipedia.org]. This was a US naval ship fired on by an Iraqi F1. The facts of the case are that it was fired on and hit by two missiles and never fired a shot in defense or revenge. The captain was indicted and several officers were drummed out of the Navy. The official inquiry essentially blamed the ships officers. I looked more deeply into the matter a few months ago when I wanted to find out about possible reasons these guys [youtube.com] weren't blown out of the water. Back to that later.

    My research on the Stark indicated that most of the ship's defensive systems including two kinds of fire control radar and the PHALANX CIWS were offline awaiting parts or maintenance that needed to be done by a contractor in port.. The real cause of the ship's poor performance under fire was accounting procedures designed to provide an 80% readiness/50% cost solution. Instead of acknowledging the cause the Navy chose to blame the closest people to the incident and call it done.

    Now the piracy incident. First, one of the comments says the pirates were in the big boat and the rafts were US Navy attacking it. I don't believe this to be true. I looked up comments on several forums found a consensus agreeing with a Youtube comment:

    This happened in 2006, the ship in the video is the USS Cape St George and then video was shot from the USS Gonzalez. They didn't try to attack or board anything, we sent a boarding team to talk to them and they pointed an RPG at us. All of the mounts kept jamming because they had old shitty ammo sitting on them exposed to the weather for months and there are no sights on those weapons (you're supposed to walk fire onto targets, difficult to do when your weapon jams every 3 rounds). Source: I was there

    The consensus was that the ammunition on the firing ship hadn't been properly kept dry, and was old. This causes jams. And they didn't do enough live-fire exercises to be able to reliably prevent this problem. Again, an 80%/50% solution. This isn't to say it's easy to hit small rafts in the dark with a jamming weapon but that's not the point. The Navy has all the latest whizbangery and night vision gear. Those rafts should have been shot up by the third burst.

    A third happenstance, part of the Stark incident IIRC: The ship was carrying old missiles and had to dump them into the sea ASAP. This prevented returning fire on the attacking jet. My conclusion is that the US Navy has a firmly entrenched culture of saving money at the cost of readiness.

    incomplete source: http://www.jag.navy.mil/librar... [navy.mil]

    All that said: Why should we believe that if general military readiness is flagging to save costs in official government programs the government would do any better than these contractors? A choice has to be made and stuck to: budget or safety. The half assing, ass grabbing, and ass covering needs to stop.
  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @09:23PM (#50029897) Homepage Journal

    My vote goes to the next nuclear accident being caused by environmentalists. Not direct sabotage, mind you, but protesting anything that might be done to upgrade or even maintain old plants or replace them with newer ones or safely store nuclear fuel. Then they'll say, "See how dangerous it is -- we told you so."

    • You don't "upgrade or even maintain old plants" without a shitload of money. Safely storing fuel as well. I doesn't matter who supports or doesn't support them, it matters who will fund them. Both sides have problems there.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @12:08AM (#50030493) Homepage Journal

      Every time nuclear power comes up someone blames environmentalists for the industry's problems -- in this case before the problems have manifested. It's an article of faith.

      So far as I can see there's only ever been one plant in the US that's ever been cancelled for environmental concerns is the proposed plant at Bodega Harbor, which as you can see on the map [wikimedia.org] would have been right on top of the San Andreas fault. In every other case projects have been shut down after serious miscalculations in the industry's economic forecasting (e.g. lower energy prices in the 80s than anticipated in the 70s), often exacerbated by poor project management performance. In those cases environmentalists were just a convenient scapegoat for management screw-ups.

      You can see that because after the very largest anti-nuclear protests in history -- against Seabrook in NH and Diablo Canyon -- the plants were built and put into operation anyway. If a company had a plant under construction that it could make money operating, that plant would get built, even if thirty thousand people turned out to protest.

      • by grumling ( 94709 )

        Shoreham Nuclear Power plant built, but never started after massive public protest:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        Much of the protest was organized by various environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society. The tactic they used was to introduce FUD over the lack of a "workable" evacuation plan and convincing the local government to not sign off on the plan proposed by the plant operator.

        Interesting side note: One of the alternatives proposed by the protest group was solar power:

        ht [presscdn.com]

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's true, environmentalists are extremely effective at blocking development. That's why we don't have any coal power plants, no fracking, open pit strip mines, Hummers were banned etc.

  • The FUD industry really is scrambling for the money aren't they.

    Can you imagine, actually getting paid to sit around jerking off to how disasters could happen for no other reason than to enrich yourself selling the fear, has now been turned into an entire industry.

  • Contaminating our Purity Of Essence.

  • It's because they are pissed about everyone dissing their flag.
  • There are valid concerns about nuclear safety, but all too often these issues are spoken of as if they exist in a vacuum. Do you have any idea how many people solar panels and wind turbines kill, to say nothing of coal-fired power plants? More than nuclear, per unit power, even including accidents, and this is in normal operation, not an accident!

    In any case, as with all technology, it gets better. The latest reactors can't have the kind of serious accident seen at Fukushima or Chernobyl, and they solve the

  • Hell any day now http://listverse.com/2014/11/0... [listverse.com]

    Each time it mentions the bombs detonated it was due to conventional explosives that exploding out of sequence tossing or only blowing the core into dust (the explosives must blow up at the same time imploding the Plutonium core).

    This wasn't the article I was looking for as there are many more, When loading a nuclear missile into a sub it was dropped, these are listed in the "Family Almanac" Volume 1

  • by Archtech ( 159117 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @05:26AM (#50031333)

    Whatever your political disposition, it must surely be obvious that - just as in the world of banking and finance - the incentives are dangerously skewed. The arguments in favour of private enterprise focus on efficiency and the profit motive. So far, so good: but how are we to guarantee the quality of work done by private enterprise? It's surprisingly easy to enter the low bid, and then use weasel methods to deliver far less than was required and promised.

    Take the analogy of big banks. They gamble dangerously, so dangerously in fact that they are almost certain to fail after a fairly short time. Because they gamble so riskily, they make big profits. Then, when they step on a mine and get blown up, instead of being allowed to go bankrupt, they are bailed out by government using taxpayers' money. This has been described as "social security for the rich". The obvious solution is to forbid the creation of banks "too big to fail", and then allow nature to take its course. Also, no doubt, to enforce the separation between everyday consumer banking and legalised gambling.

    When it comes to government contracts, especially for potentially very dangerous projects such as nuclear power stations, we need to demand a far greater degree of accountability from the contractors. The Romans are said to have required that, whenever a new bridge or aqueduct was built, the designers and architects should stand underneath it. That gave them a powerful personal interest in safety; and they built in such adequate safety factors that much of their work is still standing (and even usable) today.

    What is the modern day equivalent of making an engineer stand underneath an aqueduct as it fills with water? If an industrial accident of any kind happens, possibly causing great harm, all those responsible should have to answer for their actions. Maybe the death penalty would be excessive, but certainly very long jail sentences would be in order. For a corporation, perhaps a fine equal to twice its annual profits coupled to prison sentences for all executives involved...

    It will be objected that this would raise the cost of such projects excessively. So be it: if there is a serious element of danger, the cost of avoiding that danger must be factored in. If we can't afford the project, again so be it.

    • by grumling ( 94709 )

      Well, thank goodness the people who run banks aren't running nuclear power plants. I wouldn't want one of those idiots programming my iPhone, let alone putting them in charge of anything really important.

      Believe it or not, there are still people who are accountable for their actions, and will take the time to do things correctly the first time. They don't get a lot of attention but without them society would crumble. I've met quite a few technicians in the electricity industry, and they are some of the most

  • So when I want to know about nuclear reactor problems, I immediately turn to an anthropologist.

    Seems like it's time for another Sokal affair.

  • by rasmusbr ( 2186518 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @07:23AM (#50031629)

    The next major US coal disaster is just coal plants operating as designed on July 2.

  • by SlithyMagister ( 822218 ) on Thursday July 02, 2015 @10:45AM (#50032821)
    Although it is prudent to be aware of possible modes of failure, and although it is prudent to examine cultural biases that may affect our safety, this particular article seems more like clickbait.

    So-called "news" has recently become over-populated with "might happen" sorts of stories, when entire pages are given over to what would amount to a paragraph in a larger article surveying all of the possible scenarios along with a relative measure of their likelihood.

    It might also happen (and might not) for several other rather unlikely reasons, none of which this article mentions.
  • Sorry for the flamebait, but the next "accident" really is the complete failure to start building more power plants. The cost we're incurring by sticking w/ fossil fuels, in environmental damage, human health, $$ flowing to the Middle East, far outweighs either the cost of nuc plants or the potential hazards of such plants.

    Not all disasters are active. Some are purely passive but just as destructive.

"The pyramid is opening!" "Which one?" "The one with the ever-widening hole in it!" -- The Firesign Theatre

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