Weekly Letter to President Obama
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INAUGURATION,   January 20, 2009

Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape

To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.

The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.

Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.

--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
---  Native American proverb
March 11, 2011

Mr. President:  The proponents of nuclear power should take heed from
what is happening in Japan.  The stations went into emergency shutdown;
the control rods dropped down to absorb the neutrons, and the chain
reaction ceased.  This means the breakdown of uranium fuel and the
consequent release of heat stopped.  However, the fuel rods remain
extremely hot and need to be kept cool.  Normally, they are immersed in
water which is replenished by pumps operating with generated electricity all
tied into the electrical grid.  But the grid has failed and in one of the stations,
the backup diesel generators have also been damaged.  The pumps have
been running on batteries with about an eight-hour life.

What happens when the batteries run out and the pumps stop functioning?  
Well, they hope to have power restored by repairing the grid or the diesel
generators, but if not the scenario is a meltdown.  As the remaining water in
the reactor continues to evaporate,  it increases reactor pressure.  If the
stresses in the containment structure look to threaten its integrity, the
operators have no option but to open the pressure valves.  The gas
released is highly radioactive (radioactive iodine and cesium 137) with
exposure leading to thyroid problems and other cancers, including
leukemia.  Children, of course, are the most vulnerable and the affected area
will be much larger than the three kilometer zone being set up.  Let's  hope
the power to the cooling pumps is restored.

All of this and nobody has yet found a good answer to the nuclear waste

Please forgive a personal note but in one of my earlier incarnations, I served
as a Commissioning Engineer at Oldbury Nuclear Power Station in England.  
It was a gas-cooled reactor and while my main  job was making adjustments
to the flow of gas in the nuclear fuel channels to maintain a flat temperature
envelope, I was also responsible for testing the four safety valves high up
on top of the pressure vessel.  A rickety platform several hundred feet off
the ground to access the valves located about six feet away from the main
metal-grid stairway -- all in the open with the winds blowing off the Bristol
Channel -- then, increasing pressure with the test kit and the resounding
crack of the valve opening.  Repeat a few more times, recording pressure
readings to the satisfaction of the Electricity Board (the buyer) engineer,
who maintained a safe distance on the metal-grid landing ...

The wily Mr. Gaddafi continues to hold on, and, who knows, might even win.  
Once demonstrators and protesters start using violence, they lose sympathy
and it becomes a war between two parties.  The Palestinians made that
mistake in their second intifada; the Egyptians did not when Mubarak's
goons were let loose on them.  A no-fly zone will put us in the same
stalemate as with Iraq after the first Gulf war.

Thanks to the Republicans and the tea party, your chances in the next
election look better every day.  This time it's the Governor of Wisconsin and
his sneak attack on public service employees.  Meanwhile, the
personally-challenged Mr. Gingrich is throwing his hat in the ring.  The first
one in, my guess is he will be the first one out.