3rd Nuclear Plant in Japan Loses Cooling Capability

3rd Nuclear Plant in Japan Faces Problems after Earthquake, Tsunami

A third nuclear power plant in Janan – Tokai No.2 – is facing technical issues in the wake of Friday’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami.

The cooling system pump has stopped at the Tokai No.2 nuclear power plant inJapan‘s Ibaraki prefecture, Kyodo news reported. The plant, located about 120 km (75 miles) north of Tokyo, had a nuclear accident in 1999.

On Sunday, a state of emergency was declared at the Japanese nuclear facility atOnagawa after excessive radiation levels were recorded there following the majorearthquake, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced.

Onagawa was the second nuclear power plant in Japan to have been affected by the consequences of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that hit the country on Friday followed by a horrific tsunami. The town of Onagawa itself was devastated by the tsunami.

The news about the emergency at Onagawa came as the country was already battling a feared meltdown of two reactors at the ageing Fukushima atomic plant.

Japan has moved to evacuate some 200 000 people living in the areas around the nuclear power plants affected by the consequences of the natural disaster.


Nuclear Cover-up: Censorship in the USA?

Nuclear Cover-up: Censorship in the USA?

by Lorna Salzman

The question of world energy needs and of the role of nuclear power in filling those needs is complex, but in the United States two basic views on the subject can be identified.

Nuclear advocates say that the world must continue to increase energy consumption and production to maintain economic stability and progress and that we are depleting rapidly our known, usable fossil fuel reserves. They call for widespread development of nuclear reactors as the safest, least polluting and most economical way to provide more energy and to forestall the eventual and complete depletion of fossil fuel supplies.

Nuclear opponents argue that economic growth can continue while the world reduces energy use through easily-tolerated conservation methods, that nuclear power is neither safe, non-polluting, nor economical, and that safer, cheaper alternative energy sources (wind, sun, water, geothermal, etc.) can and should be developed.

A major area of conflict is over safety, but even many advocates acknowledge that certain hazards are inherent in atomic power. Catastrophes are to be feared from various quarters: terrorists could obtain plutonium, a radioactive, poisonous explosive which is a by-product of the atomic energy process and from which atomic bombs can be made. Human or mechanical accidents, earthquakes, fires or floods could take place at refining facilities, reactors, waste disposal sites, or in the transport of nuclear fuel and wastes. Any event like this would release dangerous quantities of radioactive poisons near population centres. Other fears are that men cannot devise a permanent, fail-safe method of storing the waste products of nuclear power (plutonium, for example, has been called ‘fiendishly toxic’ by one of its discoverers, and it remains lethal for 250,000 years), and that proliferation of nuclear power will cause a concomitant rise in birth defects and cancer due to the increase in low-level ‘background radiation’ from nuclear plants. Concerned advocates call for more stringent safety measures; opponents, for an end to nuclear power altogether.

Despite the significance of these issues, the American press has paid so little attention to them over the years that a nationwide media research study recently put the nuclear safety story on a list of ‘ten best censored stories’. Commenting on the study, columnist and former presidential press secretary Jerry ter Horst cited ‘media dereliction, neglect and lack of perception’. But this article will show that the major responsibility for keeping the public poorly informed lies with the nuclear power industry and, more disturbingly, with the agencies of the United States government which have been charged with regulating the nuclear industry.

Albert Einstein said that the question of nuclear power would eventually be decided in the village square. Apparently, industry and government fear the villagers’ decision, for while they ask for public acceptance of the nuclear power programme, and while they repeatedly state that the public is in no danger, they have contrived to keep the public ignorant of key safety studies, technical data, unresolved problems, even of internal dissent on these subjects among government-hired experts themselves. Some of this valuable information is now reaching the village square where the decisions must be taken, mostly as a result of Freedom of Information requests and threat of lawsuits by citizen-action groups.

But so far the larger problem of absolute control over nuclear information exerted by Federal agencies under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (the law setting out the general regulatory process, as well as control over reactor licensing procedures and radiation exposure standards) has been immune to public challenge. This becomes more and more of a scandal as the government proves itself to have been and still to be, not an impartial watchdog, but an all-out supporter of the nuclear industry.

The following examples are not the only instances of suppression of nuclear information to have been exposed as a result of citizen investigation. And what has been exposed is only the tip of the iceberg. It is becoming clear whocensored this ‘best censored story’ of the past two decades, and we should also ask ourselves why.

Accident Studies – One Denied

In the mid-1950s, at the start of the commercial nuclear power programme, and as a result of Congressional hearings on the thorny problem of nuclear accident liability, Brookhaven National Laboratories were asked to study the theoretical consequences of a nuclear accident at a 500 megawatt reactor within thirty miles of a populated area. Their study, published in 1957, showed that–with a 50 percent release of the radioactive contents of the reactor–several thousand people would die immediately, tens of thousands would be irradiated, and property damages could amount to $7 billion. The report caused serious concern in government and in the insurance industry, which up till then had refused to provide more than $110 million in liability for a single accident. The government, faced with threats from the nuclear industry that they could not expand without sufficient liability insurance, agreed to provide an additional $450 million and simultaneously absolved utilities and reactor manufacturers from any damages or responsibility over the total of $560 million. This limited liability law was passed in the form of the Price-Anderson Act for a period of ten years.

A decade later, when the law was close to expiration, Brookhaven was quietly asked by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to update the study. No public acknowledgment of the new study (called ‘the up-dated WASH 740 Report’) was made. In fact the government heatedly denied its existence for six years until 1972. The Friends of the Earth, Ralph Nader and a citizens’ group called ‘Business and Professional People in the Public Interest’ threatened a Freedom of Information lawsuit and obtained a look at the internal memoranda and working papers of the study. The update, which dealt with reactors much larger than those originally considered, stated that a similar accident could kill 45,000 people, irradiate another 100,000, cause property damage worth over $17 billion, and contaminate an area of 150,000 square miles with radioactivity, rendering it uninhabitable for centuries.

Several members of the Brookhaven task force had originally urged suppression of the update, but it was turned over to the AEC where it was kept confidential for over six years. Interestingly, the study director, Dr. Clifford Beck, stated in a memo to the AEC commissioners that…’there is no objective, quantitative means of assuring that all possible paths leading to catastrophe have been recognized and safeguarded…here is encountered the most baffling and insoluble enigma existing in our technology: it is in principle easy and straightforward to calculate potential damages that might be realized under such postulated accident conditions; there is not even in principle an objective and quantitative method of calculating probability or improbability of accidents or the likelihood that potential hazards will or will not be realized’ (emphasis added). At a committee meeting Dr. Beck later stated about accident probability: ‘We feel that we cannot predict if, or when, it might happen’. Beck’s conclusions are significant in the light of the findings of other government-sponsored studies.

Hearings on Reactor Safety

Accidents such as those studied by Brookhaven can only occur under certain circumstances. When uranium atoms are split, energy is produced to heat water circulating through the reactor. The resultant steam powers a turbine which then generates electricity. If a pipe carrying water to the fuel breaks, emergency cooling water must reach the fuel within 60 seconds to prevent overheating, melting and release of radiation from the fuel core of the reactor. If the emergency core cooling system (ECCS), designed to prevent such an accident, fails to work effectively, the reactor core would overheat and a major release of radioactive matter in gaseous form could be blown across land and water and to nearby cities.

Obviously the ECCS is an extremely important safety feature, and only if its design and operation are properly carried out can there be any assurance that meltdowns can be prevented or mitigated. Although some citizens have been concerned about the hazards of nuclear power for years, the public had been given little evidence that all was not well with reactors until 1972-3, when the independent Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) forced the AEC into holding extended technical hearings on the ECCS and other safety features. The hearings revealed not only that the ECCS had never been tested under realistic accident conditions, but that the government-sponsored-and-funded studies relied upon computer codes that AEC engineers themselves said were incomplete and inadequate as a basis for reactor licensing.

During the hearings the government repeatedly denied requests by the Union of Concerned Scientists for access to expert witnesses and internal documents, but some documents were leaked to them anyway. Internal studies brought out as a result of the hearings indicated that nuclear engineers working on the Emergency Core Cooling System and on its computer programme had grave doubts the safety feature would work at all. Small-scale tests of it had failed completely, and full-scale tests had been postponed, with the government farming out paper tests to the manufacturers of the system, rather than to independent evaluators.

Moreover a special internal task force, which had been set up after the small-scale tests had failed, questioned the efficacy of the ECCS as well as the computer simulations upon which claims of its safety were based. One report stated that it was beyond the present capability of engineering science to predict how well the system would perform. While some task force members were optimistic, others strongly disagreed. Dr. Morris Rosen, an AEC official in charge of ECCS analysis wrote, in an internal memo of 1 June 1971, that ‘…the system performance cannot be defined with sufficient assurance to provide a clear basis for licensing’. Dissenting reports like this, however, were disregarded by the task force when it prepared interim criteria for the ECCS. Another report by the Idaho Reactor Testing Station listed 28 areas where information on the ECCS was ‘missing’, ‘inadequate’ or ‘unverified’. This report was withheld by the AEC division of Reactor Development and Technology, even from its own AEC colleagues who were responsible for licensing.

At the ECCS hearing the AEC tried to prevent Rosen and another official, Robert Colmar, from testifying; and the Commission further distributed to all government witnesses a memo that warned: ‘Never disagree with established policy.’ Soon after the hearings, Rosen was removed from his position as head of the Systems Performance Branch of the AEC Division of Reactor Standards and given a purely advisory job. He later left the AEC and Colmar asked for a transfer.

At the conclusion of the hearings the AEC adopted its old position on the adequacy of the ECCS, with some minor changes that Dr. Henry Kendall of the UCS termed ‘purely cosmetic’. The government continues to license reactors with the same untested emergency system, and even now no actual testing of the system is planned.

The Rasmussen Reactor Safety Study (RSS)

For years the government and industry had been defending themselves against charges that nuclear power is rife with inherent dangers as well as external risks from errors and sabotage. The response had been to claim that ‘redundant safety features’, ‘safety-in-depth’, and ‘quality assurance-quality control’ essentially preclude serious accidents, and that in any case the consequences of an accident would not be unacceptably severe. But the uncovering and publication of the updated WASH-740 report–indicating large numbers of deaths, radiation injuries and widespread radioactive contamination–belied the latter claim. The facts uncovered during the ECCS hearings proved that the major features (and perhaps others) on which the former claim rested had never been tested. The only alternative left to the government was to demonstrate that catastrophic accidents were extremely unlikely to occur.

To this end they commissioned WASH-1400, the Rasmussen (after the study’s director) Reactor Safety Study or RSS. At a cost of $4 million and after three years of research, a report that allegedly attempted to assess the probability and consequences of serious nuclear accidents was released in October 1975. Although many technical consultants were employed on the study, two features stand out. First, the computer data on reactor components’ behavior and failure rates (and analysis of them) were provided by the nuclear industry itself without any independent evaluation; the accident consequences appendix was actually prepared by a Westinghouse employee. (Westinghouse is a major manufacturer of nuclear reactors and related equipment.) Second, the study was conducted by in-house AEC staff at their headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland.

USA: A Terminal Case

Research indicating low levels of radioactivity in the environment may cause cancer has been terminated early by its Federal government sponsors. Dr. Thomas Mancuso (of the Public Health School, University of Pittsburgh, USA) was working on a study with Dr. Alice Stewart (a cancer epidemiologist at Birmingham University, England) and George Kneale (a British statistician). It was funded by the US government Department of Energy and was meant to focus on the long-term health of workers at a Federal nuclear facility in Hanford, Washington State.

In 1974, when another study by Dr. Samuel Milham for the Washington State Department of Health indicated a positive correlation between radiation exposure and cancer deaths, the Atomic Energy Commission tried to persuade Dr. Mancuso to release his preliminary findings in order to rebut the other research. Dr. Mancuso, who had been working on his study since 1964 using a 30-year database, refused to do so, stating it would be premature. In fact his interim findings (published later) also showed a positive correlation between low levels of radiation exposure–far below present permissible limits–and excess cancers.

Last year Dr. Mancuso was informed that funding for his study would be terminated as of July 1978. The reason given was that, being aged 65, he should retire, although the actual retirement age at the University of Pittsburgh is 70. Simultaneously the government asked him to turn over his data to Oak Ridge-Associated Universities, a government laboratory in a major centre of nuclear research, development and manufacture at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

A final report was submitted in July 1977 and later published. During this period the DOE had prepared and was circulating internal critiques of the study, but refused to make them available to Drs. Mancuso and Stewart. They obtained copies only after filing a Freedom of Information request.

The director, Dr. Norman Rasmussen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), had no training or expertise in reactor safety, statistical methods, risk assessment or any field relevant to accident probability. Furthermore he had, and still has, firm ties with the atomic energy industry, as a consultant to the Nuclear Energy Property Liability Association, to two prominent nuclear engineering companies and to Reddy Communications, a nuclear public relations firm, and as a founding board member of American for Energy Independence–a lobbying group for nuclear power funded by Westinghouse.

Clearly the RSS had built-in inadequacies. Furthermore, it dealt only with intrinsic failures of components and systems, not with external causes of accidents by human error or sabotage. As noted above, it was based on industry computer models, data and analyses not verified independently by the RSS task force. It concerned itself with reactor accidents only, not accidents in other parts of the nuclear fuel cycle. It analyzed only two representative reactors of 800 megawatts in size or less, although much bigger 1100 megawatt reactors were already being constructed.

But the defects of the final report were far greater. As a result of the Freedom of Information request filed by UCS, 50,000 pages of internal studies, memos and comments pertaining to or used in the RSS were released by the government. These proved what many had suspected all along: the findings for safety were pre-determined by the study group, and the report was envisioned from the start as one that would be ‘of significant benefit for the nuclear industry’. Data and technical examples had been selected so as to prove a priori assumptions that accidents were extremely unlikely and that if they did occur the consequences would be essentially negligible.

The AEC was keenly aware of the public scrutiny that the report would receive. Memoranda of the period note that ‘the sensitive nature of these studies will require careful control of all official information releases’, and ‘the report to be useful must have reasonable acceptance by people in the industry’. The internal documents show a sharp disparity between the claims of the agency that the study was a ‘full, objective and scientific analysis of the risks’, and the truth about its finding and also its methodology, as the following example shows.

I have already referred to ‘quality assurance quality control’ (QA-QC). These are the standards by which components and procedures are designed to operate to guarantee safety , and they were especially relevant to the RSS because findings on the unlikelihood of accidents rests in part on how well QA-QC is implemented. The working papers for the RSS, however, betray a concern that, if a truly comprehensive QA-QC review were conducted at the two plants being studied (Surrey in Virginia and Peach Bottom in Pennsylvania), numerous deficiencies might become known which would cast doubt on a basic element of nuclear safety. Two approaches were suggested: the first would select information to support a ‘pre-determined finding’ of safety and reliability; the second would not pre-determine finding but, as compensation, would discuss only those major deficiencies already found and resolved in the field by the AEC, thus inspiring public confidence in QA-QC procedures. The first approach, of course, left the door open to public awareness of possibly poor QA-QC programmes that the AEC feared could ‘undermine public confidence in the reliability of plant safety systems’ (E. Gilbert memo, 10/23/73). The second could be recognized as incomplete and could cast a negative cloud over the whole programme, leading to fears that ‘the whole story (may be) much worse…’ After much deliberation, the argument was settled–by eliminating the entire subject of QA-QC from the study.

Internal Dissent Stifled

Before the publication of a first draft of the report in August 1974, internal comments were made on a working draft. Twelve persons, mostly AEC officials and some outside consultants, made comments, but these were not compared or correlated. However, looking at the now-released internal documents, one can see recurring criticism in two areas: common mode failures, and the problem of identifying all possible causes of component or system failure. A common mode failure involves two or more failures stemming from a common cause. Such a failure has wide implications for nuclear safety since it could undermine the concept of ‘redundant safety features’. An expert in common mode failure had alerted the RSS study group to the problem as early as 1973, and task force comments on the first draft were critical along the same lines, calling some of the examples cited, ‘a disaster’ that might ‘invalidate’ much of the study results. The RSS study group, according to the experts, had overlooked some obvious types of common mode failures as well as near-misses, all of which had been omitted from the draft. For example, one AEC staff member pointed out that the RSS paid practically no attention to earthquakes as an accident-initiating factor, even though this was considered a prime cause of potential common mode failures.

The other criticism amounted to no more than commonsense: the inability of any analysis to ensure that it has included all potential sources of accidents, to which Dr. Beck referred in the updated WASH-740 study. Clearly accident probability calculation, especially for complex nuclear power plants, cannot be estimated without identifying all possible causes of failures. Darrell Eisenhut, a member of the AEC regulatory staff and its internal review group, commented on this and added that the omission of sabotage was proof that the study did not include all significant effects. Richard De Young, another member of the AEC regulatory staff, stated that ‘The absolute assurance given in the report that “all” accidents have been considered renders the conclusions vulnerable if it can be shown that even one sequence of significance has been overlooked…’ He added: ‘A risk assessment that does not address the sabotage issue cannot be considered other than incomplete’, and he urged more work, saying that release of the report without such revision would be ‘inadvisable and a disservice to the study group’. De Young goes even further: ‘The report contains deficiencies and inconsistencies to such an extent that to correct them would likely be a major task requiring many more months of effort.’

Despite these internal comments the draft was released on 20 August 1974 without mention of the substantive internal criticisms of the study or of the fact that the review group’s recommendations had been ignored. At this time major independent reviews were also conducted by the UCS together with the Sierra Club, by Intermountain Technologies Inc. on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and by the American Physical Society Study Group on Light Water Reactor Safety. Again no substantive criticisms were allowed by the AEC to be aired publicly, nor did these groups receive any response from the RSS study group.

The AEC simply set up another review body to consider all comments within sixty days. This second group picked out many safety issues they claimed had not been fully addressed, including earthquakes and also fires. Seven months later, in March 1975, a major fire began in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s nuclear plant at Brown’s Ferry, Alabama, which had been in operation for only seven months. Starting in the cable spreading room, the fire destroyed all the ‘redundant’ electrically wired safety systems and brought the plant perilously close to a meltdown. A cable tray fire like this had not been considered by the RSS as a possible initiating event for an accident.

As the regulatory agency, now called the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) prepared to issue the final RSS draft, the chief of the government’s Accident Analysis Branch stated: ‘The final RSS cannot therefore be accepted uncritically and without further review.’ He too was ignored and the report was published on 30 October 1975.

Congress and the RSS

The Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy (now abolished) was considering another extension of the Price-Anderson Act at the time. It held oversight hearings on the final RSS, but was given the impression that expert critics had already commented on the final version and had taken no strong exception. In fact, internal criticism had been brushed aside and no independent groups had an opportunity to comment on the final study at all. In answer to a query from Congressman Mike McCormack on 26 November 1975 on the existence of any substantial dissent, Dr. Rasmussen stated that there was ‘None that I’m aware of’. This of course was deceptive, if only because at the time of the hearings, as of 20 November, interested parties like the UCS had not even received copies of the final version and could not have been expected to compare it with the earlier draft.

The study continues to be used by government and industry–despite expert criticism from impartial sources–as proof that nuclear power plant accidents are extremely unlikely. That many of the RSS staff themselves disagree is a fact that remains largely unknown.

One can only conclude that the government and the nuclear industry cannot tolerate dissent, that is to say, any information which casts a negative light on nuclear power or calls into question the judgement of those ‘experts’. For a supposedly open, democratic society, the campaign of suppression and deception that has accompanied the nuclear power debate is unprecedented. Nonetheless, against powerful odds and well-funded adversaries, citizens and public interest groups have managed to ferret out information and use it in such a way that the opposition to nuclear power development continues to grow. The question remains: if nuclear power is as benign and beneficent as its proponents say, why do they go to such lengths to stifle dissent? And, more to the point, if nuclear power sparks such deception and requires such manipulation, is it not inherently incompatible with democracy?

Source: Index on Censorship. Volume 7, Number 5, September-October 1978, pgs. 37-42.

Explanation of Fukushima Reactor Condition By Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)

Update on Fukushima Reactor

Update at 11pm EST Saturday 3/12/11:

On Saturday March 12 at 3:36 pm local time (1:36 am EST) an explosion occurred in the Unit 1 reactor building at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. (Original reports suggested that the explosion took place in an adjacent turbine building, but we no longer believe this is the case.)

The explosion was very likely a hydrogen explosion. Hydrogen apparently collected somewhere in the reactor building outside of the primary containment (see diagram below). The primary containment consists of the drywell and the wetwell. The top section of the reactor building, known as the refueling bay, has walls of sheet metal, in contrast to the concrete walls of the lower part of the building. The pressure caused by a large enough explosion anywhere in the reactor building would have caused the sides of the refueling bay to blow out since that is the weakest part of the structure and is not designed to withstand high pressures.

Figure adapted from BWR Systems

The hydrogen was likely produced by the hot fuel. All signs are consistent with the fact that some fuel damage has occurred at Fukushima Unit 1. Last night (U.S. time) the plant owner, TEPCO, reported that the water level had dropped below the top of the fuel by nearly six feet. This means that roughly half of each fuel rod was exposed. The fuel rods are clad in zirconium, and a few minutes after the water level dropped below the top of the fuel, the zirconium would have become hot enough to react with the surrounding steam and produce hydrogen.

The reactor core is in the reactor vessel, or pressure vessel, which is surrounded by a steel containment vessel. The steel containment vessel is surrounded by a reinforced concrete shell. The explosion took place outside of this shell. It is not clear whether the concrete shell was damaged in the explosion, but the steel containment vessel was reportedly not damaged.

The control room and many of the control and power cables for the emergency equipment used to cool the reactor core are located outside the primary containment, and the extent to which the explosion impaired these vital functions is not known at this time.

Radioactive releases and iodine tablets

Once the water level in the reactor core drops to the point where the fuel is exposed, the zirconium cladding would begin to erode and after about an hour, this would release some radioactive material—primarily noble gases, iodine-131 and cesium-137. (During normal operation, this material accumulates in the gap between the fuel and the cladding.) Some of this material could have been released by the controlled venting, which could explain the cesium detected at the plant boundary.

In addition, the primary containment in this type of reactor typically has a leak rate of about 1% of its volume per day. The secondary containment (the walls of the reactor building) is important since it keeps any leaked radioactive gas from escaping into the environment. The secondary containment is kept at a negative pressure with respect to the outside so that air inside does not leak out. The air in the building is then sent through filters to remove the radiation before it is released through the stack. With the walls blown off the top of the reactor building, this radioactive gas would instead be released directly into the air.

Thus, contrary to some news reports, the detection of cesium outside the reactor does not necessarily indicate that the primary containment has been breached.

Iodine-131 is one of the most radioactive isotopes released in a nuclear accident. It has a half-life of 8 days, meaning half of it will have decayed after 8 days, and half of that in another 8 days, etc. Therefore, it is of greatest concern in the days and weeks following an accident. It is also volatile so will spread easily. In the human body, iodine is taken up by the thyroid, and becomes concentrated there, where it can lead to thyroid cancer in later life. Children who are exposed to iodine-131 are more likely than adults to get cancer later in life. To guard against the absorption of iodione-131, people can proactively take potassium iodine pills so the thyroid becomes saturated with non-radioactive iodine and is not able to absorb any iodine-131

Cesium-137 is another radioactive isotope that has been released. It has a half-life of about 30 years, so will take more than a century to decay by a significant amount. Living organisms treat cesium-137 as if it was potassium, and it becomes part of the fluid electrolytes and is eventually excreted. Cesium-137 is passed up the food chain. It can cause many different types of cancer

What next?

The cooling systems for the Unit 1 reactor have not been operating and, as the core heats up, the water surrounding the fuel has evaporated to the point where the fuel becomes exposed to the air. Unless there is a way to replace the water the fuel will continue to heat up.

To attempt to cool the reactor, TEPCO has been pumping sea water into the reactor vessel. Since this is very corrosive and will seriously damage the reactor, this is an option of last resort and indicates that they do not expect to get the cooling systems back online.

Reports note that boric acid is being added with the sea water. Boric acid is a soluable form of boron, which is very good at absorbing neutrons. By adding this to the water around the fuel rods, it would capture neutrons that could otherwise cause additional atoms to fission. This is being added to the reactor to make sure it does not become critical again, which might happen in two ways: (1) fuel rod damage that results in fuel rod segments dropping to the bottom of the reactor vessel, where they could form a critical mass, or (2) withdrawals of the control rods caused by malfunctions of the hydraulic control units that move the control rods in and out of the core.

Recent reports state TEPCO has succeeded in filling the reactor vessel with water, which would mean the fuel rods are no longer exposed to air. But some form of cooling will still be required.

Containment at Fukushima

Update at 6pm EST Friday 3/11/11:

The Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency is now saying the containment pressure at Unit 1—not Unit 2, whose core cooling was said to have failed—has risen to about double its normal value.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has announced it will “implement measures to reduce the pressure of the reactor containment vessel for those units that cannot confirm certain level of water injection by the Reactor Core Isolation Cooling System, in order to fully secure safety.” It is not clear if this refers just to Unit 1, or to the other two affected units as well.

The increase in containment pressure resulted from the loss of alternating-current (AC) power to the reactors, which stopped the containment cooling system. There are large water-cooled air conditioning units inside containment. Motor-driven pumps send cool water to the units. Motor-driven fans blow air inside the containment across the metal tubes containing the cool water. But without AC power, the pumps and fans don’t work and can’t provide cooling. The heat radiating off the hot reactor vessel (over 500F) and the hot piping heats up the air in the containment building very rapidly, which causes an increase in pressure.

The rising pressure reduces the ability of the containment to absorb the energy released from a pipe rupture, should one occur. The volume of air in the containment building and its wall thickness are designed to contain a specified level of energy being dumped into containment. If the pressure gets too high, then an energy release like a broken pipe, should it occur, could over-pressurize the containment and cause it to fail. So emergency procedures call for venting air from the containment to reduce the pressure if it gets too high.

If the containment structure was weakened by the earthquake, then what pressure it could withstand is not known.

The reactors have a containment ventilation system that can be used to vent air from the containment building. In this situation, the vented air would be routed through a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, charcoal beds, and another HEPA filter to remove as much radioactivity as possible before being released from a very tall stack to dilute the flow as much as possible.

If there has been no appreciable reactor core damage, the air vented from containment will contain minute but detectable amounts of radiation. The filtration systems are designed to lower that radioactivity release by nearly a factor of 100.

The latest news is that evacuation around the plants is being expanded from a 3 km to a 10 km radius, which suggests the crisis isn’t over yet.

For the next update, click here.

Nuclear Crisis at Fukushima

As of 2:30 pm EST Friday 3/11/11:

The massive earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan has caused a potentially catastrophic situation at one of Japan’s nuclear power plants. The situation is still evolving, but here is a preliminary assessment based on the facts as we currently understand them.

The plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), reported that at 2:46 p.m. local time (12:46 a.m. EST) “turbines and reactors of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Unit 1 … and Units 2 and 3 … automatically shut down due to the Miyagiken-oki Earthquake.”

These reactors are 3 of the 6 operating reactors at the Fukushima I nuclear facility. All are boiling water reactors. Unit 1 has a rated output of 460 megawatts, and Units 2 and 3 each have a rated output of 784 megawatts.

TEPCO went on to state the shutdowns were caused by the loss of off-site power “due to malfunction of one out of two off-site power systems.” This loss of power triggered emergency diesel generators, which automatically started to provide backup power to the reactors.

However, at 3:41 p.m. local time (1:46 a.m. EST), the emergency diesel generators shut down “due to malfunction, resulting in the complete loss of alternating current for all three units,” according to TEPCO. The failure of the diesel generators was most likely due to the arrival of the tsunami, which caused flooding in the area. The earthquake was centered 240 kilometers from Japan, and it would have taken the tsunami approximately an hour to reach the Japanese islands.

This power failure resulted in one of the most serious conditions that can affect a nuclear plant—a “station blackout”—during which off-site power and on-site emergency alternating current (AC) power is lost. Nuclear plants generally need AC power to operate the motors, valves and instruments that control the systems that provide cooling water to the radioactive core. If all AC power is lost, the options to cool the core are limited.

The boiling water reactors at Fukushima are protected by a Reactor Core Isolation Cooling (RCIC) system, which can operate without AC power because it is steam-driven and therefore does not require electric pumps. However, it does require DC power from batteries for its valves and controls to function.

If battery power is depleted before AC power is restored, however, the RCIC will stop supplying water to the core and the water level in the reactor core could drop. If it drops far enough, the core would overheat and the fuel would become damaged. Ultimately, a “meltdown” could occur: The core could become so hot that it forms a molten mass that melts through the steel reactor vessel. This would release a large amount of radioactivity from the vessel into the containment building that surrounds the vessel.

The containment building’s purpose is to keep radioactivity from being released into the environment. A meltdown would build up pressure in the containment building. At this point we do not know if the earthquake damaged the containment building enough to undermine its ability to contain the pressure and allow radioactivity to leak out.

According to technical documents translated by Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action in Japan, if the coolant level dropped to the top of the active fuel rods in the core, damage to the core would begin about 40 minutes later, and damage to the reactor vessel would occur 90 minutes after that.

Concern about a serious accident is high enough that while TEPCO is trying to restore cooling the government has evacuated a 3-km (2-mile) radius area around the reactor.

Bloomberg News reported that the battery life for the RCIC system is eight hours. This means that the batteries would have been depleted before 10 a.m. EST today. It is unclear if this report is accurate, since it suggests that several hours have elapsed without any core cooling. Bloomberg also reported that Japan had secured six backup batteries and planned to transport them to the site, possibly by military helicopter. It is unclear how long this operation would take.

There also have been news reports that Fukushima Unit 2 has lost its core cooling, suggesting its RCIC stopped working, but that the situation “has been stabilized,” although it is not publicly known what the situation is. TEPCO reportedly plans to release steam from the reactor to reduce the pressure, which had risen 50% higher than normal. This venting will release some radioactivity.

More information about the cooling issue is available in this New York Timesstory.

We will post updates as more information becomes available.

Colombia’s Demobilization Complicated By Drug-Runners and Gangs


Exparas como ‘HH’ , ‘el Alemán’ y ‘el Tuso’ Sierra aseguraron en diferentes audiencias que en desmovilizaciones como las del Bloque Pacífico, el Cacique Nutibara y el Héroes de Tolová se inflaron las cifras y se reclutó gente únicamente para desmovilizar.
Exparas as ‘HH’, ‘the German’ and ‘Tuso’ Sierra secured at different audiences in demobilization and the Pacific Bloc, the Cacique Nutibara and Tolová Heroes figures were inflated and were recruited only to demobilize people.

CONFLICT The statements of several former heads paramilitaries and drug traffickers have revived the debate over how ‘inflated’ was the collective demobilization of the paramilitaries, but should not jeopardize the process of reintegration of 32,000 ex-combatants.

Saturday March 12, 2011

In a snowball has become exparamilitares versions and cast on suspected drug dealers and lying on the demobilization of the paramilitaries. Officials have put the government of Alvaro Uribe, as the former Minister of the Interior Sabas Pretelt and excomisionado Luis Carlos Restrepo, to explain to the authorities.

The excomisionado had no respite since the prosecutor was quoted on Friday, March 11, to explain the alleged inconsistencies in the demobilization of the hitherto unknown company Cacica The Gaitana FARC in 2006. Several paramilitary leaders have prisoners have complained how “inflated” the number of members of AUC units at the time of demobilization agreed with the government of Alvaro Uribe. This was the subject of much debate at the time, but now revived by the mouth of the players.

Freddy Rendón, alias ‘the German’ he said at a hearing in Bogota that the demobilization of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara, Diego Murillo, alias Don Berna, in December 2003, “was staged to give political benefits managers the Office of Envigado and lower rates of violence in Medellin. ” Another paramilitary prisoner Éver Veloza, alias ‘HH’, said how they could ‘inflated’ blocks as the Pacific, he said, a group of about twenty members, and the Cacique Nutibara, ‘Don Berna’. Juan Carlos ‘the Tuso’ Sierra also said: “In the demobilization of the Bloque Héroes de Tolová was presented as paramilitaries to mototaxistas of Valencia, Córdoba, and even domestic servants.”

To this was added to The Spectator published an WikiLeaks cable with a report from the U.S. Embassy in Colombia from June 28, 2006, whereby the director of the Mission of the OAS, Sergio Caramagna, said “the minister Pretelt Restrepo blamed for having put a 12,000 paramilitary require more than the government estimated, and Restrepo Pretelt blamed for promising to stop things the government could not meet. ”

All this has revived a few years ago doubts about how ‘inflated’ was the demobilization of the AUC.This sheltered some 36,000 men from a force estimated at 20,000, many of which middle managers were passed to the ‘gangs’, which grew from 2007.

However, should not forget that many of those demobilized combatants were now undergoing the process of reintegration into civilian life is critical to preserve, beyond the trouble collective demobilization. Exparamilitares addition, there are 16,000 former combatants, most of the FARC and the ELN, who demobilized individually. In this type of process, known as DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration), are common problems in the initial stages, but the decisive is the latest. Of reintegration depends on young people whose only profession that have been the weapons back to their old ways.

In this he is emphatic in charge of that program, Alejandro Eder, senior adviser for Reintegration, who feared that the alleged irregularities endanger a program that, according to him, is working to 4,800 demobilized, 10,000 and 300 receiving technology training in college. While accepting that there may be ‘cast’, Eder says: “All persons who are now in reintegration were duly certified and during demobilization had to go through a rigorous process that looked at very closely, involving state agencies with the mission Support the Peace Process of the OAS. ”

Reintegration is a difficult process. It is estimated that it takes five years to finish it. This year, the department shall certify to the first 1,000 demobilized ‘graduate’ to civilian life. Each costs the state 7.5 million pesos. Despite a long experience in demobilization, Colombia has faced quite a few messes. The program was initially implemented by the Ministry of Interior, but problems of all kinds was decided to establish the High Council for Reintegration, Frank Pearl, who led between 2007 and 2010.

Of the 52,000 demobilized certificates that the program has received to date, nearly 23,000 are missing. In 2007, nearly 11,000 who came from the Interior Ministry’s program never entered the new program. And from that year, another 12,000 have left the High Council. Slightly more than 1,700 were killed and 6,400 were captured for various crimes, while others stopped attending the activities.Today the Ministry is responsible for 32,000 demobilized more than 1,500 or 2,000 who annually abandon the ranks of the guerrillas, the military said.

Eder asked not relate to all demobilized with ‘gangs’, as only 11 percent of those arrested for belonging to them are veterans (but more than half of the 63 heads of captured BACRIM comes from the paramilitaries) . In some regions of demobilized talks take their allowance of 450,000 pesos once a month, but continue to commit crimes. Eder argues that the recidivism rate of ex-combatants of the program is much lower than that of prisoners of INPEC.

Concerned about the stigma that these debates generated: “This is a state policy that is helping to build peace. The demobilized are young and will be with us for at least the next fifty years. Continue to engage with the BACRIM is to great damage to the reintegration process. And do not forget that thousands are to be demobilized. ”

You’re right. One thing is that justice-research-and penalizes any irregularities committed during the demobilization of the AUC (and, if necessary, to debug any ‘cast’ in rehabilitation) and one is public pillory as a reintegration program importance to the future is evident.

Colombia’s Uribe and His Cult of Personality

[Colombia’s complicated history servicing American needs and desires in S. America

Angel or devil?

Para un Álvaro uribe que alcanzó a acariciar la posibilidad de un tercer periodo, la realidad de que ‘a rey muerto, rey puesto’ debe ser un infierno
Alvaro Uribe for reaching to caress the possibility of a third term, the reality that ‘the king died, King put’ must be hell 


POLICY A cascade of court decisions, scandals and revelations is cracking Uribe’s legacy. However, his popularity remains intact.Why?

While the Colombians began the period of Lent, president Alvaro Uribe is anticipated the days of passion. The last two weeks have been the worst of his public career. His cousin, former senator Mario Uribe was sentenced for parapolitics. His former Minister Sabas Pretelt de la Vega, after being dismissed by yidispolítica, has just been brought to trial for parapolitics. The high commissioner for peace Luis Carlos Restrepo also being investigated for irregularities in the demobilization.The former Minister Andrés Felipe Arias has been arrested over the scandal of Agro Ingreso Seguro and 22 officials from the Ministry of Agriculture is about to be linked to criminal prosecution. Two officers from the DAS, Jorge Fernando Tabares and Lagos, were sentenced to eight years for the ‘pikes’. And as if this were not enough, the prosecutor was examined by Viviane Morales Uribe himself back against the Accusations Committee of the House, which is the body that investigates presidents.

To all this the fact that Uribe cohesion has broken down and there is a pitched battle over who is guilty of what among former officials of the government of democratic security. In the past month, WikiLeaks cords revealed that the police chief Oscar Naranjo, and the former director of DAS Andrés Peñate blame Jose Obdulio Gaviria of the ‘pikes’. For his part, Juan Carlos Restrepo said in an interview with Maria Jimena Duzán: “Until I distanced myself, I was the party of President Uribe (…) and say something that the country does not know: my presence prevented the government from deviating “. And in another cable appeared Pretelt Luis Carlos Restrepo saying he had put in 12,000 paramilitary demobilization false.

The actions of justice and the fissures of his team were not the only ones who have anticipated the passion of former weeks. Some members of the government of Juan Manuel Santos have found irregularities in their offices, Uribe inherited from the era, and have been released. The reversed Incoder delivery of 38,000 hectares to friends and figureheads of the former congressman Merheg Habib. In the National Narcotics Directorate has encountered problems in the delivery of goods seized from the former government friendly politicians, almost all of the Conservative Party, and the prosecution was sent to the Supreme Court of Justice, on Wednesday, a list of 13 MPs to examine their responsibilities. The cascade of bad news for Uribe seems endless.

The euphoria that antiuribistas are merciless with the Uribe-devil contrasts with the image of the Uribe-angel that still has the vast majority of Colombians. If the news of recent days have caused the exmandatario more than one sleepless night, his detractors have ulcer that has not changed the position of Uribe in the polls. At the last recorded Invamer-Gallup, 74 percent of positive, 2 points ahead of Juan Manuel Santos. In a country where presidents always compete for the championship of the unpopular, Uribe remains a phenomenon of public opinion. Everything indicates that the famous Teflon protected him during his years at the Narino Palace covers so far as the ‘ex’.

This has two explanations. The first is that nothing has occurred affecting the reality and the perception of the military victories of his government as a result of its policy of democratic security.Uribe was a country and delivered another. In 2002, the state seemed unable to resolve by force or by negotiation, the guerrilla problem. In 2010, the country had regained confidence, the FARC were cornered in the military and politics, and the country was ready for a government posturibista with a more diverse agenda. To a large sector of public opinion, the ‘pikes’, the yidispolítica and Agro Ingreso Seguro are minor episodes when compared to this reality.

The other explanation Uribe’s popularity has to do with his personality. The ordinary Colombians still in love with him because I feel close to and responsive to their problems. I still see as a patriotic leader, genuine, up front and hard working. And although it seems clear that during his government of corruption were not insignificant and even their children were subject to different charges, his personal honesty has been questioned. A Uribe can motivate him the glory and power, but not silver.Given this perception, antiuribista tsunami is recorded as a guardian angel unjust demonization of Colombians.

What explains the contradiction between the two characters-the angel and the demon living in the same bones in the same Carnita? Uribe, as ‘ex’, have a particular situation: people want more than the elites. He mistakenly always felt that when he was in power and hence its many derogatory remarks to what he called cocktails Bogota. But until he retired from power in these cocktails he was an idol. On 7 August, he was adored by the masses as the social clubs. Now, indeed, has lost the respect of the latter: that of the many entrepreneurs, intellectuals, the international community.

The phenomenon that uncovered the clay feet of Uribe was re-elected. Specifically, the fact that reformed the Constitution to get her own name. The funny thing is that this impact has been retroactively. When Uribe was in full swing, its continuation in power had little opposition and was almost a national aspiration. However, since left the Presidential Palace, his first re-election and the attempt of the second are seen within the country’s institutional context and messianic despotic acts, a product of personal vanity and attachment to power. Alvaro Uribe definitely never calibrated the cost would have on his re-election his historical legacy, particularly his second attempt to re-amend the Constitution. .

The historical importance of his first term is almost indisputable, but the conviction that the latter did not have this level is already widespread. Changing the “short article” for asserting their tenure in 2006 opened the first cracks between the purists who defend the stability of the rules as an indispensable pillar of democracy. But it was the failed attempt to seek a third term, with the complexity of the referendum, the process forced the Congress and the achievement irregular signatures that aligned against many of the president Uribe’s establishment.

Then came the desert of the president. There has experienced the ingratitude, disloyalty and opportunism. For reaching to caress Uribe a third term, pure and simple reality of the ‘king died, because King’ should be almost a hell. The budget and the bureaucracy are in the hands of the government of Juan Manuel Santos. And politics has always been a golden rule with gratitude is not one who favors him, but with whom they can do in the future.

And if, as President Uribe broke the story to mean that in practice a style of government that worked, as ‘ex’ is also innovating habits and customs, but without good results, at least so far. Violated the unwritten principle of waiting a reasonable time, until the new government to consolidate, to return to the public arena. Never before has a president had spent the Palacio de Nariño political struggle without a scale, usually abroad. The pause was, at the same time, a need to handle the transition to the new situation and an attitude of respect for the successor.

But Uribe has not done it, and many of its outlets were not only unnecessary but wrong. Twitter abuse, for example, which initially had traces of modernity, they actually have the connotation of frustration and obsession. Today they have become an attack on his own image. The trills are replicated in other media, and that gives presence, but they are often referred to derisively. One hundred forty characters, which is the range of text that allows these systems are very limited space for someone who aspires to acquire the dimension of a historic leader. Editorials against Carlos Lleras in New Frontier or Alberto Lleras in El Tiempo, the chirping of Uribe gave the impression of a loss of majesty and height. Will have to see how historians recorded these unique messages.

Which of the two Uribe endure? It is shown that the perception of the rulers among citizens not only depends on power management, but the way embody the following years. A bad president like Jimmy Carter, today enjoys a reputation for what he has done for world peace from his retirement from the White House. Cesar Gaviria was very well evaluated a representative who lost points as Liberal Party leader and opponent of Uribe. The position of Uribe in history will depend, of how to move in the long life that remains as president. And although the first steps have been false, you have time to change course.

Still Waiting On the Capital Steps To regain Their Rights In Wisconsin

Wisconsin labor rally attracts most yet

Published: March 13. 2011 4:00AM PST

MADISON, Wis. — The largest crowd yet descended on Wisconsin’s Capitol on Saturday to protest cuts to public worker collective bargaining rights a day after Gov. Scott Walker signed the measure into law.

Protests have rocked the Capitol almost every day since Walker unveiled his proposal. But Madison Police estimate Saturday’s crowd as the largest, at 85,000 to 100,000 by late afternoon. Demonstrators say they’re undeterred after lawmakers passed the legislation this week and Walker to put his signature on it Friday.

The 14 Democratic state senators who fled Wisconsin last month to try to derail the legislation returned to the state Saturday and joined the raucous protesters.

Throngs of protesters gathered Saturday outside a convention center where 13 of the senators made their first public appearance in Madison since ending their self-imposed exile, yelling “Fab 14, our heroes!”

Before marching around the Capitol with demonstrators, Senator Spencer Coggs of Milwaukee said Walker had forced Republicans into “walking the plank” by passing the law. He and the others said they also planned to shift their energies toward recall efforts already under way against eight GOP colleagues. Some of the Democrats also are facing recall efforts.

Big stakes in Saudi Arabia protests

Big stakes in Saudi Arabia protests

by Ash Pemberton

Editor’s note: Here is a selection of recent articles on the uprising for human rights and democracy in Saudi Arabia. Pakistanis will keep ignoring it because of their Shia phobia and Wahhabi philia. The West (US) will keep ignoring it because of their ‘Oil over Democracy’ strategy.


The pro-democracy protests in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring Bahrain have the potential to have a huge impact on world politics. The stakes are very high.

In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia’s tiny island neighbour, protesters have mobilised in their hundreds of thousands for weeks to demand the Khalifah royal family be removed from power. Bahrain is of great strategic importance for the West. It hosts the US Navy’s fifth fleet and a US airbase. This helps ensure US control of the oil-rich Persian Gulf region and the ability to maintain a constant threat against Iran.

The protests in Bahrain are worrying the Islamic fundamentalist monarchy that governs Saudi Arabia, the US’s most important ally in the Arab world.

The Saudis are concerned that success by Bahraini protesters could inspire a similar revolt in Saudi Arabia — especially in the oil-rich eastern areas.

Saudi authorities announced a ban on public protests after several rallies across the country, the British Guardian said on March 6.

The Australian said on March 11 that police fired on demonstrators the previous day.

A number of small gatherings occurred in late January outside government buildings, “protesting their deteriorating living conditions, rising unemployment (in one of the strongest economies in the world), and increasingly corrupt and stagnant bureaucracy”, Jadaliyya.com said on January 29.

A small protest occurred in the eastern city of Qatif on February 24, demanding the release of prisoners held for long periods without trial, Reuters said on February 26.

On March 4, there were protests in the eastern region and a smaller protest in the capital Riyadh, the March 8 Guardian said.

The protests in the eastern region primarily called for the release from prison of Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer, who was freed on March 6. He had been arrested after giving a sermon calling for a constitutional monarchy.

A group of young Saudi men and women released a statement on March 5 listing a series of demands for progressive reform of Saudi society.

The list included: giving women full rights; addressing unemployment, poverty and cost of living issues; fighting corruption, nepotism and religious discrimination; ending enforcement of religious rules by the state; improving the education system and expanding cultural life.

Saudi Arabia is ruled by an absolute monarchy that has enjoyed extremely close relations with the US for 75 years. The government, led by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, enforces its own version of strict Islamic law, which includes gender segregation, suppression of religious minorities and no freedom of speech.

Jeffrey Rudolph said in an article posted at JuanCole.com on February 28: “This relationship highlights the gross hypocrisy of US foreign policy: fundamentalism and dictatorship in the Arab world is only condemned when it comes garbed in anti-Americanism.

“The US and Saudi governments have had a clear long-term agreement. The Saudis agree to supply oil in accordance with US needs and to reinvest the resulting revenue in US assets and arms.

“In return, the US provides protection to the Royal family regardless of its internal repression and extremist ideology.”

However, the relationship is about more than simply supply of oil. US author and political analyst Noam Chomsky said in a June 2007 Monthly Review article: “What has been central to [US] planning [concerning Middle East energy resources] is control, not access, an important distinction … Such control gives the United States ‘veto power’ over its industrial rivals.”

The Saudi regime has been largely stable, but the revolt in Bahrain is causing panic. The Saudi government said it would use “all its capabilities” to support Bahrain’s rulers, Associated Press said on February 22.

Source: Green Left


Protests hit eastern Saudi Arabia, calm in capital
HASSAN AMMAR, Associated Press
March 13, 2011

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Several hundred people protested in heavily Shiite eastern Saudi Arabia Friday but hundreds of police prevented protests in the capital calling for democratic reforms inspired by the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world.
Police blocked roads and set up random checkpoints in Riyadh, searching residents and vehicles around a central mosque as large numbers of people gathered for Friday prayers. Witnesses said groups of policemen manned street corners and intersections and a helicopter flew over the city.
By midday, no protesters had showed up in the capital and the police presence significantly decreased.
In the eastern city of Qatif and nearby areas where the country’s minority Shiites live, several hundred people staged protests, shouting slogans calling for reforms and equality between Shiites and Sunnis. In Qatif, the protesters were surrounded by armored personnel carriers and dozens of riot police in full gear.
On Thursday, violence broke out at another protest in Qatif, when Saudi police opened fire to disperse demonstrators. At least three protesters and one police officer were wounded. Friday’s protest was largely peaceful.
Although protests have so far been confined to small rallies in the east, activists have been emboldened by other uprisings in the region that have toppled longtime rulers of Tunisia and Egypt. The Saudi activists have set up online groups calling for protests in Riyadh on Friday.
Any violence at Friday’s planned protests could reverberate through the world’s markets because of the importance of Saudi oil exports.
Security officials on Friday said security measures around state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco and its oil facilities in the east were beefed up protectively, in case of any violence. The company is based in Dhahran district on the kingdom’s eastern coast.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said the new measures were “considered normal under the current circumstances,” referring to the online call for protests in the area.

Investors are sensitive to any sign of upheaval in Saudi Arabia because the OPEC leader has been using its spare capacity to make up for output lost amid the violent uprising against Libya’s government. When news broke that Saudi Arabian police fired shots to break up the protest Thursday, prices soared $3 in just 12 minutes.

Discord is common between Saudi authorities and the country’s Shiites, who make up 10 percent of the kingdom’s 23 million citizens. The Shiites have long complained of discrimination, saying they are barred from key positions in the military and government and are not given an equal share of the country’s wealth.

The pro-Western monarchy is concerned protests could open footholds for Shiite powerhouse Iran and has accused foreigners of stoking the protests, which are officially forbidden.

In Riyadh, the Interior Ministry organized a tour for a few journalists who were escorted by police around the city Friday. At one point in front of a government building, the journalists encountered a man, Khaled al-Juhni, standing outside a government building, shouting calls for more freedoms.

Police and journalists watched as the man criticized the regime as a “police state” and “a big prison” before he got in his car and left.
Despite the ban on demonstrations and a warning that security forces will act against them, protesters demanding the release of political prisoners took to the streets Thursday for a second day in the eastern city of Qatif. Several hundred protesters, some wearing masks to avoid being identified, marched after dark asking for “Freedom for prisoners.”
Police, who were lined up opposite the protesters, fired percussion bombs followed by gunfire, causing the crowd to scatter, a witness said. Other witnesses said the protesters threw Molotov cocktails and stones from rooftops on the security troops.

Mainly Sunni Saudi Arabia has struggled to stay ahead of the unrest that has led to the ouster of the Egyptian and Tunisian leaders in recent weeks.

Last month, the ultraconservative Saudi government announced an unprecedented economic package worth an estimated $36 billion that will give Saudis interest-free home loans, unemployment assistance and debt forgiveness.

At the same time, it reiterated that demonstrations are forbidden in the kingdom because they contradict Islamic laws and society’s values and said security forces were authorized to act against anyone violating the ban.

So far the demonstrations have been small, concentrated in the east among Shiites demanding the release of detainees. But activists have been emboldened by other uprisings have set up Facebook groups calling for protests in the capital, Riyadh, on Friday to demand democratic reforms.

One such group garnered more than 30,000 supporters. The group called the “Honein Revolution March 11″ has listed a number of mosques in 17 Saudi cities for protesters to rally.

The group says it strives to have elected officials in Saudi Arabia, including the ruler.

Source: http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Protests-hit-eastern-Saudi-Arabia-calm-in-capital-1061777.php