S&P 500 5% Pullbacks

Interesting chart from Birinyi Associates:

S&P 500 5% Pullbacks (3/9/09 – 3/16/11)


They add:

“What is perhaps more encouraging is the fact that 5% declines do not usually result in a further 10% decline, and a bear market is even less likely. An initial 5% decline, such as the one beginning on 2/18/11, only results in a correction (10% decline) 33% of the time, and in only 11 of 106 instances has a 5% decline turned out to be a bull market top.”

In other words, in 10% of the times, a 5% correction marks a bull market top . . .

Category: Markets, Technical Analysis

Jeffrey Sachs: The New Robber Barons

The New Robber Barons: All Politicians “In the Hands of the Super Wealthy,” Sachs Says


Jeffrey Sachs: “The American People Are Going to Reach a Breaking Point”


The New Robber Barons: All Politicians “In the Hands of the Super Wealthy,” Sachs Says
Aaron Task
Yahoo Mar 16, 2011

Jeffrey Sachs: “The American People Are Going to Reach a Breaking Point”
Aaron Task
Yahoo Tech Ticker Mar 16, 2011

Category: Video


More John Sherffius: via Sherffius.com

Category: Current Affairs, Humor, Weekend

Stumbling, Imperfectable Creature Like Ourselves

Quote of the day from the piece From Hiroshima to Fukushima. > “The problem is not that another backup generator is needed, or that the safety rules aren’t tight enough, or that the pit for the nuclear waste is in the wrong geological location, or that controls on proliferation are lax. It is that a…Read More

Category: Energy, Philosophy, Psychology

Let’s get facts today, not opinions

Overnight, the Nikkei started to bounce off its lows just 17 minutes into their day (still closed lower by 1.4%) and as it steadily recovered most of its losses, the S&P futures rallied too. The yen continues to rip higher vs the US$ as the repatriation process continues but is 2 yen off its overnight…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Current Status at Fukushima Daiichi

Another good interactive graphic from the WSJ: > click for interactive graphic > If you cannot access this directly, go to the article “A Long, Painful Reckoning” and click on the interactive feature marked “Inside the Reactors.”  (Clicking on the Interactive Tab won’t get you there).

Category: Digital Media, Energy

UN: Radiation to Hit U.S. By Friday

Washington’s Blog strives to provide real-time, well-researched and actionable information.  George – the head writer at Washington’s Blog – is a busy professional and a former adjunct professor. ~~~ The New York Times notes: A United Nations forecast of the possible movement of the radioactive plume coming from crippled Japanese reactors shows it churning across…Read More

Category: Energy, Science, Think Tank

Green on the Screen, Green on the Street

click for updated futures > Futures are appreciably higher today as a the markets try to bounce off of the recent lows. Today is St. Patrick’s day, which means a huge parade — right in front of my office on 5th Avenue — lots of crowds, police and excess drinking. If you need to come…Read More

Category: Markets

Yet Another Japan Reactor Post

The following was written by Plain English Nuclear (originally posted to Facebook at about 12:30am PDT on Wednesday, March 16, 2011).

Subsequent to that post, many people clamored for me to share it publicly.  I have now done so.

From the author: I have a PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. I am currently employed as a nuclear engineer. I do not work on nuclear power plants; I work on other facilities. But I did study this stuff in school, and I am told I am good at explaining things. (I also have lots of friends who are experts in the nuclear field, and I hope they will correct me when I am wrong.)


[Fairly current as of about noonish Pacific time March 15; events since then are sort of haphazardly incorporated.  I'll update as I get the chance, but right now it's bedtime.]

Okay, kids.

This post is open to friends-of-friends.  Feel free to repost if needed, but I don’t really want to open myself up to a wave of comments by strangers alleging this was payback for Pearl Harbor.  (SERIOUSLY WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE.)

If you don’t know me or my background, here you go:  I’m a nuclear engineer.  I don’t do any work with power plants – I work with other facilities.  But I did study this stuff in school, and I can try to explain it.  If you want an expert, you need to be talking to someone who worked on safety systems for BWRs (boiling water reactors).  (I have lots of friends who are experts like that and I hope they will correct me if I am wrong here.)

This post is written for people who don’t know anything about nuclear reactors.  I have sacrificed detail to provide simple explanations! Not everything here is accurate to the last inch, because I wanted you to be able to actually read the thing.  It’s accurate enough for understanding, I think.  I’m happy to hear suggestions for how to make it better.

The post is also long.  Sorry.

For those of you with short attention spans, I’m gonna get the FAQ stuff out up front, and then provide the long meaty detail stuff down below.

1. I live on the West Coast.  Am I in danger?

No.  Absolutely not.

You won’t even notice except that everyone will keep talking about it for ages, and it’ll take us even longer to get off coal and oil and natural gas because people will be afraid of nuclear power again.  Go outside, get some sunshine (or rain, depending), be grateful for the fact that your city isn’t completely destroyed in an earthquake or a tsunami, hug your loved ones, and then find a way to donate to the relief efforts.

You might get cancer years from now, but it won’t be from this.  It’ll be from smoking or sun damage or plastics or those horrible processed foods with the carcinogens you keep eating.

2. But I saw a fallout map on the internet, labeled “Australian Radiation Services” or “U.S. NRC”!

It’s a hoax.  A really, really mean one.  See http://www.blogotariat.com/node/211958 for one of the best summaries I’ve found.

3. Even if the reactor has a meltdown?  The media keeps saying we’re headed for a meltdown.  Isn’t that a very very bad thing?

Not necessarily.  “Meltdown” is a very broad term – it applies to a range of conditions.  “Meltdown” is basically any time that the fuel gets hot enough that the cladding (the metal wrapper that holds the fuel in place) gets holes in it.  But “meltdown” could mean just one teeny spot on one single fuel pin (the cladding starts to fail at about 2200 degrees F) all the way up to the entire reactor core in a liquid pool on the bottom of the pressure vessel (the fuel itself melts at about 5000 degrees F).  The media seems to think it’s that whole-core thing.  But that isn’t going to happen.

So far they’ve had a partial failure of some of the fuel pins in two of the reactor units, and that’s about where it’s expected to stay.  It may turn out that a third reactor unit also had a partial failure of fuel pins.  This is a sad situation – we try not to have fuel failures, because it’s a giant hassle – but it’s not by itself a dangerous one.  It’s very important to remember that these fuel pins are sealed inside a giant steel pressure vessel, which itself is sealed inside a giant concrete containment structure (you may also hear this called the “drywell”).  Even if the core *did* melt all the way down, either one of those two things on its own would keep the radiation from the melted fuel from getting to the public.

4. But Chernobyl released lots of radiation!

This isn’t like Chernobyl.  You can read why here:

Short version:
-         Chernobyl used a different kind of fuel, and its fuel caught on fire and the ash went everywhere in a great cloud that lasted for months in affected areas.  That can’t happen here; for one the fuel can’t catch on fire, so no ash, and for two, any radiation release would be in gaseous form and the cloud would pass over affected areas in hours.
-         Chernobyl didn’t have a containment structure.  These reactors do.

This is more like Three Mile Island, if you insist on picking an accident for comparison.

5. But Three Mile Island was terrible!

Three Mile Island a) didn’t kill anyone, b) didn’t injure anyone, and c) only released a very small amount of radioactive material, mostly gases that went harmlessly into the atmosphere.  (Seriously!  Read about it!)  [1]

During Three Mile Island about half of the core (including fuel) melted and fell to the bottom of the pressure vessel [1].  But it didn’t melt through the steel pressure vessel – in fact it only melted about 5/8 of an inch through the wall.[2]  (A typical pressure vessel is ~6 inches thick.)  And even if it had, it would have had to get through like 6 feet of concrete after that.  (We design it that way.)

Right now our best evidence indicates that yes, a small portion of the cores in Fukishima One Unit 1 and Unit 3 have failed (although we don’t think the fuel has melted, just the cladding), and maybe Unit 2 also.  But it’s thought that the majority of the fuel didn’t melt, and that the cleanup will probably be less difficult than Three Mile Island.

6. But the media says they released radiation, and there’s all these numbers floating about radiation levels, and they evacuated everyone who lives near the reactor.  Can you put this in context?

There were several small, planned releases of slightly radioactive gases.  Each of these radioactivity releases to the environment at Fukushima so far has produced about the level of one dental X-ray if you were standing right over the release and breathing in really hard.  If you weren’t standing right over the release, the particular kind of radioactivity released would have nearly all gone away before the vented gases reached you on the ground.  Even the people on the ship that sailed right into the plume only got a maximum dose about equal to a month of background radiation [6] – that is, the natural radiation you get from living on Earth.

The most recent explosion at Fukushima One Unit 2 and near-simultaneous fire and Fukushima One Unit 4 (about 6 am and 9 am Japan time March 15) did release a one-time gust of radioactive gases that was larger.  Radiation levels at the edge of the nuclear plant briefly spiked to 8217 microSieverts per hour. [10]  How bad is this?  8217 microSieverts is about six times the allowable annual exposure for a member of the public in the U.S.  It would take standing in this kind of radiation for 24 hours before you would be considered to have radiation sickness (with a total dose of 200 milliSievert). [9]  But 8217 microSieverts was the peak of the spike, the total spike lasted less than three hours, and dose rates at the edge of the plant were at 489.8 microSieverts/hr as of 4:30pm Japan time March 15.  (This means you would get your annual dose if you stood there for an hour.  Perspective: This is about the same as smoking 350 packs of cigarettes in a year [12], or living in Denver for a year [15].)

They evacuated people because it was safer that way – just like we evacuate people during tornado and hurricane warnings.  No exposure to the public was expected, but better safe than sorry!

Read More

Category: Energy, Think Tank

Radiation Concerns Increase

Nothing to see here, move along, nothing to worry about: • NHK Live Video Feed (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) • More Workers Join Race to Prevent Meltdown at Nuclear Plant (Bloomberg) More than 300 workers are racing to prevent a meltdown and spread of radiation at the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi power station today, an increase from…Read More

Category: Current Affairs, Energy, Really, really bad calls