Frontrunning: May 4

Tyler Durden's picture
  • Japan has 54 nuclear reactors, but as of Saturday, not one of them will be in operation (Guardian)
  • US Readies Proposal to Clamp Down on Fracking (Reuters)
  • California pension fund (CALSTRS) sues Wal-Mart, alleges bribery (Reuters)
  • New Ripples for Gupta Case: Goldman Share Price, Volume Began Climbing Even Before Rajaratnam Trades (WSJ)
  • China says blind dissident can apply to study abroad (Reuters)
  • China paper calls Chen a U.S. pawn; envoy is a "troublemaker" (Reuters)
  • Samsung’s New Galaxy S Phone Raises Heat on Apple Iphone (Bloomberg)
  • BofA Talks Deal on Ex-Broker Pay (WSJ)
  • Draghi predicts 2012 eurozone recovery  (FT)
  • It's official - Argentina nationalizes oil company YPF (Reuters)
  • Tumbling Home Ownership Marks a Return to Normal (Bloomberg)
  • Zuckerberg Facebook IPO to Make Him Richer Than Ballmer (Bloomberg)
  • SEC probes Chesapeake and its chief (FT)
  • Fat guarantees helped weaken Dewey & LeBoeuf (Reuters)
  • For Job Gauges, Never the Twain Shall Meet (WSJ)
  • Goldman Takes Steps to Protect Bond Turf (WSJ)

Overnight Media Digest


* Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng asked for passage to the U.S. and a meeting with Hillary Clinton, in a dramatic phone call to a U.S. congressional panel after a day of negotiations.

* A quick run-up in Goldman stock that preceded trades by Galleon's Raj Rajaratnam in 2008 could emerge as a key point in the coming insider-trading trial of Rajat Gupta.

* Goldman Sachs is preparing to roll out a lower-cost electronic bond-trading platform, a move that could help retain customers tempted by rival trading venues being set up by BlackRock and others.

* Bank of America Corp has held talks with lawyers for more than 1,000 former Merrill Lynch & Co brokers that could lead to a settlement costing the bank hundreds of millions of dollars, according to people familiar with the matter.

* U.S. bank regulators are turning up the heat on the financial industry to reduce risk in an obscure but massive corner of the credit market known as triparty repos, where many large institutions get funding for their trading businesses.

* About 150 airline pilots, mostly from the United unit of now-merged United Continental Holdings Inc on Thursday protested slow-going negotiations over a new contract by marching to the carrier's downtown Chicago headquarters building.

* Canadians on Friday will bid farewell to their penny-the copper-colored, one-cent coin that looks and feels just like the American version but features Queen Elizabeth II, not Abraham Lincoln.

* Bright Food Group of China agreed to acquire a majority stake in U.K.-based cereal maker Weetabix in a deal that shifts an iconic British breakfast brand to a state-owned Chinese business.



UBS shareholders fired a warning shot to Axel Weber, the incoming chairman, as they voted heavily against proposals by the board and top management on pay and corporate governance.


Several large European banks are weighing the idea of outsourcing a portion of their core small business lending to a new crop of loan funds, in a further sign of the growth of the "shadow banking" industry in Europe.


Facebook said it expected to hit a valuation of up to $95.9 billion when it debuts on Wall Street later this month, as the social networking company moved into the final stages of its hotly anticipated initial public offering.


Bank trading desks face a new threat to their profitability after global regulators unveiled proposals on Thursday to force them to hold more capital against the risk of heavy losses when markets freeze.


Denis O'Brien, Ireland's richest man, has bought a further 5 percent stake in Independent News & Media, pushing his shareholding close to the level at which he would have to make an outright bid for the company.


Royal Bank of Scotland will on Friday announce that it has repaid 75 billion pound ($121.52 billion) of funding that was underwritten by a government credit scheme set up during the 2008 financial crisis.


* After a steady stream of criticism since the financial crisis, Goldman Sachs is trying to burnish its image.

Last week, the company's Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein gave rare back-to-back televised interviews to CNBC and Bloomberg Television, in which he emphasized the company's focus on clients.

* American officials said early Friday that their annual summit meeting on strategic and economic issues with China had resulted in tangible economic concessions, despite the unprecedented diplomatic furor over a Chinese human-rights advocate seeking aid from American officials.

* On Thursday, Facebook set the estimated price for its initial public offering at $28 to $35 a share, according to a revised prospectus. At the midpoint of the range, the social networking company is on track to raise $10.6 billion, in a debut that could value the company at $86 billion.

* One of the nation's largest pension plans, California State Teachers' Retirement System, filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing Wal-Mart's leadership of breaching its fiduciary duty in connection with a bribery scandal at the retailer's Mexican subsidiary.



- The Canadian Forces will merge the separate military commands that direct missions overseas and operations at home in a bid to cut headquarters overhead now that the military is refocusing after wars in Afghanistan and Libya.

Reports in the business section:

- Bill Ackman, the activist shareholder pushing for an overhaul of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd now armed with a powerful endorsement, is pushing ever closer to victory in a looming board showdown rarely seen in Canada.

- The interim Chief Executive of SNC Lavalin Group Inc expects police to uncover more improprieties in the engineering giant's construction division, which is already reeling after the discovery of $56-million in payments to agents that has gone missing.

- Alberta is suing the partners of Canada's second-largest oil sands project for $100-million over a dispute tied to royalty payments. The provincial government filed a lawsuit against Syncrude Canada Ltd and its six joint venture partners Monday.


- Rob Ford is not denying Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale's allegations that the Toronto Mayor charged at him with his fist raised during a Wednesday night confrontation on public property behind Ford's home.


- As Research In Motion Ltd struggles to maintain its place in the highly competitive wireless space, investors appear fed up with its delay in getting new BlackBerrys into customers' hands.

European Summary

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CPL's picture

Just think all the nuke plants in Japan are newer than the nuke plants in the US and France and the Japanese are having concerns about the safety of their operation because of the age of the structures.. 

HankPaulson's picture

Japan had the stupidest idea, storing radioactive waste a few storeys up in an earthquake/tsunami zone.

Guess it's difficult to "save face" when your high tech energy solution morphs into an unmanageable smoldering radioactive slag heap (whoddathunk??).

Help the Japanese economy out by buying radioactive food.

Oh! - and deregulation. More deregulation.

Popo's picture

On the Galaxy S3 -- I've seen it / played with it.   It's drop dead beautiful.   Apple needs to hit back hard.    As far as I'm concerned this is now a two horse race.    Apple's Liquid Metal technology had better be the shizzle or they're going to be feeling the flames under their feet...





BubbleBobble's picture

may the 4th be with you

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dizzyfingers's picture

Why Nuclear Scientists Have Missed the Danger of Spent Fuel Pools

Dear friends:

Since the Fukushima nuclear power plants accident in March 2011, there have been two types of contributions by nuclear scientists. One type, who represents the voice of TEPCO, has influenced the decision makers of the solutions to the accident, the government strategy of the evacuation zone, the timing of announcement of the core meltdown and the constant public campaign to give the impression that the situation is improving rapidly. The other type, who has been warning the government of the worsening situation, finds their influence over the decision makers and the media circle limited. However, I find it puzzling that there has been so little warning from the nuclear community about the potential for catastrophic accidents or terrorist attack involving the hundreds of spent fuel pools worldwide. I received a clear explanation from Dr. Gordon Edwards, one of Canada’s best known independent experts on nuclear technology, uranium, and weapons proliferation.

I hope you will better appreciate the serious issues of the spent fuel pools from these comments.





Dear Akio,

You asked me why there has been so little warning from the “nuclear establishment” (TEPCO and the regulatory agency) about the potential for catastrophic accidents involving the spent fuel pool in reactor number 4.

In the field of nuclear safety, the focus of attention has always been on analyzing and preventing catastrophic accidents involving the core of the reactor. In comparison, little attention has been paid over the years to catastrophic accident scenarios involving the spent fuel pool.

Since the very first US Reactor Safety Study, the “Brookhaven Report” in 1957, to the major 12-volume US NRC Reactor Safety Study (the Rasmussen Report) of 1974, and continuing right down to the present day, virtually all of the attention has been directed to extreme conditions that might develop in the core of the reactor — unterminated power excursions, loss of coolant accidents, breach of the reactor vessel, core meltdowns, and so on.

Most nuclear engineers and nuclear regulators have developed a “blind spot” about the catastrophe potential associated with the spent fuel bay because of years of neglect. Such considerations have never played a significant role in their training as nuclear engineers or in their many subsequent years of experience in the field of nuclear safety analysis.

As a result we have backup pumps, backup electrical supply systems, and backup cooling systems for the core of the reactor, but no backup pumps or electrical supply or cooling system for the spent fuel bay. We have extravagant containment systems for the core of the reactor, but no comparable containment systems for the spent fuel pool.

This absence of backup systems for the spent fuel pool is testimony to the lack of effort and lack of forethought that has been devoted to the spent fuel bay. Nevertheless, the radioactive inventory in the spent fuel pool is often much greater than that in the core of the reactor, and a prolonged loss of coolant — or even loss of circulation of coolant — will lead to overheating of the fuel and extensive fuel damage. This will result in significant releases of radioactive fission products into the atmosphere due to the inadequate or even non-existent containment provided for the spent fuel pool.

Moreover, a loss of coolant in the spent fuel pool — whether by leakage, spillage, or boiling off of the cooling water — will lead to intense gamma radiation that would prevent human access for hundreds of metres in all directions around the spent fuel pool, making it very difficult to take corrective actions.

Under adverse circumstances there can even be a fuel meltdown in the spent fuel pool, if the temperature climbs to about 2800 degrees C, which would vastly increase the radioactive releases and spread those releases over a much wider area.

The overheating of the spent fuel in the pool can be exacerbated by the intense exothermic reaction between the zirconium cladding and the steam produced from the overheated water, and can even result (at around 1000 degrees C) in a very intense zirconium fire which can result in tiny particles of intensely radioactive spent fuel being liberated into the atmosphere.

Depending on the diameter of these “hot particles” (sometimes referred to as “nuclear fleas”) they can be transported greater or lesser distances by the wind, possibly affecting populations hundreds of kilometers from the spent fuel pool. Once dispersed into the environment, these hot particles will constitute a source of radiation exposure and environmental contamination for centuries to come.

In addition to the possibility of zirconium fires (which have for a long time been almost completely overlooked by nuclear engineers and regulators) there is another, even more dangerous possibility. An alteration in the geometry of the spent fuel in the pool, by which the separation between the spent fuel rods is slightly but significantly reduced, can lead to re-initiation of the chain reaction in the pool.

This “accidental criticality” will not only drive the temperature up rapidly, but will also replenish the supply of short-lived heat-producing fission products, accelerating the damage to the fuel, magnifying the heat loading, increasing the probability of a fuel pool meltdown, and vastly increasing the atmospheric releases of radioactivity.

It has been a standard practice in the nuclear industry to avoid consideration of all of these possibilities, based on the assumption that there will be “lots of time” to react to any emergency involving the spent fuel pool, as it will normally take days for the spent fuel to reach the melting point and it will be a “simple matter” to refill the pools with water if necessary.

This ignores the fact that major structural damage may make it impossible to approach the spent fuel pool due to the lethal levels of gamma radiation emanating from the spent fuel once the protective shielding of the water is gone.


Gordon Edwards is the president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and is the recipient of the 2006 Nuclear-Free Future Award . For a full biography, click here.





Southwest Against Nuclear says:

Thorium reactors are not the answer to the worlds energy needs go do your nuclear apologising somewhere else, they are not the answer not just because of the corrosion but also because of their fuel cycle (which always requires plutonium to begin a cycle) moreover you cannot convert a uranium reactor to a liquid fluoride reactor either. You only have to take a look through Oak Ridges mettlurgy tests and work on corrosion to see how dangerous liquid fluoride is, you cannot remove human error from the nuclear fuel cycle (nor any other technology).

It only takes someone to make a mistake with the chemistry and you have a huge problem, this has happened in the UK when human error lead to the chemistry in the fuel pool of a Magnox station being got wrong which melted the fuel in the pool – this has led to Hinkley A being the dirtiest clean-up to be faced by the so-called decommissioning process.

Also let’s not forget – none of the reactors being proposed or under construction anywhere in the world right now are Liquid Fluoride reactors. Every single one of them is a uranium reactor (all can be configured to run on MOX also). Talk of Thorium is a distraction from the real urgent work that we have to do. Busniess as usual cannot continue – we cannot continue to have infinite growth on a finite planet. It’s time to start talking about a different Paradigm than what we have now and quickly.



Brent Cole says:

THE SOLUTION TO THE WORLDS NUCLEAR SAFETY AND ENERGY NEEDS. The viability of this technology is known to DOE and IAEA.

Every nuclear facility in the entire world needs to be converted to use this technology.
We need a moratorium on uranium, plutonium, and use of DU.
Then we need to dismantle all nuclear weapons, and clean up the nuclear mess!


Terence Kearns says:

May 4, 2012 at 8:16 am (UTC -4)

“It’s time to start talking about a different Paradigm than what we have now and quickly.”

I certainly hope you are not talking about depopulation.

There are other solutions which may take more effort to unearth, but the possibilities and the solutions exist.



April 29, 2012 at 9:55 pm (UTC -4)

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair



JackieG says:

Nuclear Fuel Behaviour in
Loss-of-coolant Accident
(LOCA) Conditions
State-of-the-art Report




Letter from Spent-Fuel Pools Expert Robert Alvarez


Now available in Japanese.

Dear Akio –

There are several people I know in the nuclear industry who are well aware that spent fuel pools at power reactors pose potentially serious hazards. But, they prefer to keep silent in public about this matter.

While working for the U.S. Department of Energy, as a Senior Advisor to the Secretary, in 1993, I took part in a vulnerability assessment of the agency’s spent reactor fuel. We found that more than 90% of DOE’s spent fuel (~2,300 metric tons) left over from plutonium production for weapons, was stored in two aged reactor water-filled, unlined concrete basins at the Hanford Site in Washington State. The basins were next the Columbia River, a major fresh-water source for the northwestern United States.

It had been neglected for about 25 years. The spent fuel in the one basin was severely degraded, and the basin was cracked and had leaked. Since Hanford sits in an active earthquake zone, we soon realized that drainage of the basins could result in a catastrophic radiological fire. We promptly took action and established a 24 hour-7-days a week capability to provide water to the basins if they were damaged and to seek funds to remove the spent fuel and place it in dry storage at the center of the site, away from the river. It took about 10 years to accomplish this goal.

After the 9/11 attacks I became quite concerned about the vulnerability of spent fuel storage at U.S. commercial power reactors, and wrote an essay in the January/February 2002 issue Bulletin of Atomic Scientists about this matter.

This then served as the basis for our study, which my colleagues and I published in 2003 that I sent earlier.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, I have written a follow-up study and several articles about spent fuel pool hazards, which you may find helpful. (Huffington Post, LA Times, The Nation)

I currently have an article about spent fuel pool hazards soon to be published by Issues in Science and Technology, the official publication of the U.S. National Academy of science.

Best Regards,



Bob Alvarez is a Senior Scholar at IPS, where he is currently focused on nuclear disarmament, environmental, and energy policies. Between 1993 and 1999, Mr. Alvarez served as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment. Alvarez is an award winning author and has published articles in prominent publications such as Science Magazine, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Technology Review and The Washington Post. He has been featured in television programs such as NOVA and 60 Minutes.




Dear Bob:

I thank you very much for your comments on the photo of the Fukushima reactor unit 4.

You and Dr. Gordon Edwards of Canada used the same word, “sobering,” when you saw the photo.

My great concern is what Dr. Hans-Peter Durr, former Director of Astrophysics at the Max Planck Institute in Germany told me ten months ago. Japan had not yet admitted the core had melted down, but Hans-Peter knew that Fukushima was close to bringing us beyond the limits of our scientific knowledge and strongly suggested that Japan’s government should create an independent assessment team to bring the best minds of the nuclear scientists and structural engineers to seek the best solution. In such circumstances, Dr. Edwards accurately said, “It is important to seek the advice of experts who are genuinely independent having no conflict of interest and no need to save face. National pride makes it understandably difficult to seek help from outside, but sometimes it is the best thing to do.”

I have to admit that my country’s strong national pride makes it unrealistic to see an independent assessment team form soon enough, and so I now turn to rely on U.S. leadership to act out of the need for common, global security before a strong earthquake comes in the near future. If the reactor unit 4 building collapses, we will face a global environmental and human catastrophe larger than ever before.


I ask you and your colleagues to help bring this to the attention of U.S. senators and representatives so we may overcome the political hurdles and find a constructive solution.

Yours truly,


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