Tuesday, December 22, 2015

On the 19th day of Christmas...

[Am 19. Tag der Weihnachtszeit...]
[En el diecinueveavo día de Navidad...]
[Priez pour un hiver doux en Ukraine…]

With all the action in Syria, the Ukraine is no longer a subject for discussion in the West. In Russia, where the Ukraine is still a major problem looming on the horizon, and where some 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees are settling in, with no intentions of going back to what's left of the Ukraine, it is still actively discussed. But for the US, and for the EU, it is now yet another major foreign policy embarrassment, and the less said about it the better.

In the meantime, the Ukraine is in full-blown collapse—all five glorious stages of it—setting the stage for a Ukrainian Nightmare Before Christmas, or shortly after.

Phase 1. Financially, the Ukrainian government is in sovereign default as of a couple of days ago. The IMF was forced to break its own rules in order to keep it on life support even though it is clearly a deadbeat. In the process, the IMF stiffed Russia, which happens to be one of its major shareholders; what gives?

Phase 2. Industry and commerce are approaching a standstill and the country is rapidly deindustrializing. Formerly, most of the trade was with Russia; this is now over. The Ukraine does not make anything that the EU might want, except maybe prostitutes. Recently, the Ukraine has been selling off its dirt. This is illegal, but, given what's been happening there, the term “illegal” has become the stuff of comedy.

Phase 3. Politically, the Ukrainian government is a total farce. Much of it has been turned over to fly-by-night foreigners, such as the former Georgian president Saakashvili, who is a wanted criminal in his own country, which has recently stripped him of his citizenship. The parliament is stocked with criminals who bought their seat to gain immunity from prosecution, and who spend their time brawling with each other. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk was recently hauled off the podium by his crotch; how dignified is that? He seemed unfazed. Where are his testicles? Perhaps Victoria Nuland over at the US State Dept. is keeping them in a jar. This sort of action may be fun to watch on Youtube, but the reality is quite sad: those who “run” the Ukraine (if the term still applies) are only interested in one thing: stealing whatever is left.

Phase 4. Ukrainian society (if the term still applies) has been split into a number of warring factions. This was, to some extent, inevitable. What happens if you take bits of Poland, Hungary, Romania and Russia, and stick them together willy-nilly? Well, results may vary; but if you also spend $5 billion US (as the Americans did) turning the Ukrainians against Russia (and, since they are mostly Russian, against themselves), then you get a complete disaster.

Phase 5. Cultural collapse is quite advanced. The Ukraine once had the same world-class educational system as Russia, but since independence they switched to teaching in Ukrainian (a made-up language) using nonexistent textbooks. The kids have been taught a bogus history hallucinated by rabid Ukrainian nationalists. They've been told that Russia is backward and keeping them back, and that they deserve to be happy in the EU. (Just like the Greeks? Yeah...) But now the population has been reduced to levels of poverty not commonly seen outside of Africa, and young people are fleeing, or turning to gangsterism and prostitution, to merely survive. This doesn't make for a happy cultural narrative. What does it mean to be “a Ukrainian” now? Expletives deleted. Sorry I asked.

Now, here's what it all really means. With so much going wrong, the Ukraine has been unable to secure enough natural gas or coal supplies to provide a supply cushion in case of a cold snap this winter. A few weeks of frosty weather will deplete the supply, and then pipes will freeze, rendering much of the urban areas unlivable from then on (because, recall, there is no longer any money, or any industry to speak of, to repair the damage). That seems bad enough, but we aren't quite there yet.

You see, the Ukraine produces over half of its electricity using nuclear power plants. 19 nuclear reactors are in operation, with 2 more supposedly under construction. And this is in a country whose economy is in free-fall and is set to approach that of Mali or Burundi! The nuclear fuel for these reactors was being supplied by Russia. An effort to replace the Russian supplier with Westinghouse failed because of quality issues leading to an accident. What is a bankrupt Ukraine, which just stiffed Russia on billions of sovereign debt, going to do when the time comes to refuel those 19 reactors? Good question!

But an even better question is, Will they even make it that far? You see, it has become known that these nuclear installations have been skimping on preventive maintenance, due to lack of funds. Now, you are probably already aware of this, but let me spell it out just in case: a nuclear reactor is not one of those things that you run until it breaks, and then call a mechanic once it does. It's not a “if it ain't broke, I can't fix it” sort of scenario. It's more of a “you missed a tune-up so I ain't going near it” scenario. And the way to keep it from breaking is to replace all the bits that are listed on the replacement schedule no later than the dates indicated on that schedule. It's either that or the thing goes “Ka-boom!” and everyone's hair falls out.

How close is Ukraine to a major nuclear accident? Well, it turns out, very close: just recently one was narrowly avoided when some Ukro-Nazis blew up electric transmission lines supplying Crimea, triggering a blackout that lasted many days. The Russians scrambled and ran a transmission line from the Russian mainland, so now Crimea is lit up again. But while that was happening, the Southern Ukrainian, with its 4 energy blocks, lost its connection to the grid, and it was only the very swift, expert actions taken by the staff there that averted a nuclear accident.

I hope that you know this already, but, just in case, let me spell it out again. One of the worst things that can happen to a nuclear reactor is loss of electricity supply. Yes, nuclear power stations make electricity—some of the time—but they must be supplied with electricity all the time to avoid a meltdown. This is what happened at Fukushima Daiichi, which dusted the ground with radionuclides as far as Tokyo and is still leaking radioactive juice into the Pacific.

And so the nightmare scenario for the Ukraine is a simple one. Temperature drops below freezing and stays there for a couple of weeks. Coal and natural gas supplies run down; thermal power plants shut down; the electric grid fails; circulator pumps at the 19 nuclear reactors (which, by the way, probably haven't been overhauled as recently as they should have been) stop pumping; meltdown!

And so, if you want to say a prayer for the Ukraine this holiday season, don't bother because it's well and truly fucked. But do say a prayer for global warming. If this winter stays very, very warm, then the “19 Fukushimas” scenario just may be averted. This is not impossible: we've been seeing one freakishly warm winter after another, and each passing month is setting new records. The future is looking hot—as in very warm. Let us pray that it doesn't also turn out to be hot—as in radioactive.


Cindy Shirar said...

Like we didn't already know...what the U.S. has managed to foment in the Ukraine is beyond sheer terrorism. Now we're looking at more genocide. And, for WHAT? Guy McPherson was indirectly correct when he made mention of what happens when the world's nuclear facilities begin to meltdown. I still just want to lay it all down and surrender...but with little ones...well...we're all going to have to soldier through this nightmare chaos and be witness to what is next. How is Putin managing it all? Every time I hear him speak, I see a leader that could manage almost any crisis... I desperately wish we had a candidate running for the 2016 elections that had a fraction of the manhood/diplomacy Putin has. Thank you, as always, Dmitry, for the straightforward honest post. Some of us are learning to cope better and better with each Coming Tuesday.

--Cindy, Irving, Texas

Stephan said...

And are not all Ukranian nuclear power plants even older than the infamous Chernobyl? That is still there... So or they run out of fuel or something will probably leak or blow out. I really hope you don't become a new Cassandra, Dmitry, and your comments get attention here in Europe.

leonard chevvy said...

yup.....guess most of the world wont see this coming....almost enough to make one wish for the savior aliens to come to the rescue.....as the late george Calin once lamented,(perhaps the world just wants plastic)

Reg dashcam said...

This was very well-written and also quite funny. Thanks for the read Mr. Orlov. Also I thought the way to refer to Ukraine was just "Ukraine" not "the Ukraine"?

- Reg

NowhereMan said...

Amazing! And of course we here in the US will all be hearing soon enough from our presidential pageant contestants how this is all the fault of the "evil-doers" in Moscow. Gullible Americans will for the most part swallow that line of thinking with nary a peep. The drums of war are beating hard these days, as it's the only actual economic activity remaining.

Jim R said...

Remember Fort Calhoun? Nebraska.

It is the same design as Fukushima, and they had a flood in 2011, while Fukushima was in the news. Came close to the same fate, though we don't know how close.

Like the isotopes they hold, these things have a 'half life'. They are destined to pop eventually, if not shut down first. Based on recent experience, that half life may be somewhat short of a century. Maybe a little more, or less. But humans do not have a long enough attention span to operate these things.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Thanks, Dmitry! Uniquely incisive and insightful, as ever. And as Reg D said, quite funny too. Caused my peculiar sense of humour a LOL anyway. As I said before, I should get reborn as a Russian. :)

Alex Berg said...

Hoping for global warming to come to the rescue may be in vain. Paradoxically, one of the effects of global warming is the slowing down of the jet stream, resulting in the long deep freeze winters in North America lately, as explained by climate scientist Paul Beckwith here: Climate Change Deep Freeze (Polar Vortex, Jet Stream and Sea Ice)
If this happens in Europe this winter...

sandykrolick, ph.d., editor FIBP said...

Ever on the alert Sir Orlov. That's why you get the big bucks! LOL Hope the two of you are well this winter. Peace, Sandy

forrest said...

Given the corruption of the Ukrainian government for some very long time, what are the chances that the affected reactors were actually built to spec?
Global climate disruption note: If the Ukraine is currently in a spot (like the eastern US at the moment) where the jet stream has meandered north, blocking the southward course of Arctic storms, then it may well stay safely warm for awhile.

But California, after several years in which we were under such conditions, seems (at least from conditions here in San Diego) to have abruptly moved into the influence of one of those southward meanders of the jet stream, where we do get the (attenuated) Arctic weather -- and that effect can still make an area considerably colder than usual.

Mark Chapman said...

It's worth mentioning here that nobody should be happy about Ukraine's coming to complete ruin, either. Like most people, I seethed at the fascist rubbish broadcast by the government popinjays and at the anti-Russian blabber from the strutting nationalists, not to mention the slick propaganda of the western-produced "I Am A Ukrainian". It is sweet indeed to see them get their comeuppance, because it would have been intolerable to see such a project succeed, and the west rewarded for its perfidy. If anyone remains who has yet to take in the lesson, beware of westerners bearing gifts.

And yet. There remain millions of Ukrainians who just bought the saccharine stories of streets paved with gold filled with happy, laughing, spending Europeans, and prosperity all around. That they did not speak up when their country attacked its own eastern regions using the state military forces - a violation of both the Ukrainian Constitution and international humanitarian law - is something they will have to live with for the years which remain to them. But the vociferous goose-steppers are a minority, and when it all falls apart, many of them will have the wherewithall to simply disappear elsewhere. Millions of bewildered Ukrainians who have lost everything, including their best friend, and earned the hatred of the eastern part of the country for at least a generation, will remain behind, too poor to do anything but dig in and endure.

Spare a moment of pity for them. It wouldn't be the first time someone came to grief from listening to a slick huckster only out for his own interests, and it probably will not be the last.

Robert Konrad said...

We know what has happened at Chernobyl and the environs: Nature has virtually reclaimed it. True, the new wolves are somewhat radioactive and the uncaught fish suspiciously huge, but the place is beginning to look like a much needed oasis of new wilderness in the midst of industrial wasteland.

True also, many innocent people have suffered and are suffering horribly, but innocent people have always suffered horribly, and not many members of the species Homo sapiens have drawn any logical conclusions from this obvious fact: they still haven't realized that that is how things are and that whatever god or gods they all believe in and pray to couldn't care less simply because they don't exist.

So in the long run it doesn't matter how existentially terrifying the experiment in Yankee democracy is going to turn out in Ukraine. Surely it could not be worse compared to the endless horrors that have already happened in the sad course of human "civilization."

Jim R said...

Something I learned from Fukushima is that a fission reactor remains dangerously hot (not just radioactive but hot) for years after it is shut down. Even though it is no longer making electric power, if the cooling pumps stop at any time less than 3-5 years after shutdown, the core will get very hot, likely cause a hydrogen explosion, catch fire, and melt down. Before that, I thought it would cool down in a matter of hours or a few days... these little facts that are swept under the carpet by the nuclear village.

And another thought about the Ukraine -- you've seen what they have done to the Donetsk airport. What if a nuke plant gets caught on a line of conflict like that? It seems likely that maintenance would be neglected in that case, as well. Ugh.

MoonShadow said...

I seem to play the role of arguing against Dmitri's nuclear hyperbole in his own comment section, but this time I have nothing to argue. The issue of the 19 aging and under maintained reactors is true and potentially devastating. There are only two ways that they could possiblely end well. First, is that the operators of all 19 plants also see the risk of a mid-winter loss of power, and have a plan for a rapid shut down; but that likely involves the use of diesel power for at least three days of active cooling. The availability of that much diesel, in a war zone, with working diesel pumps or generators seems rather remote. I wouldn't give those good odds in the US, during a civil war, no matter how well maintained those plants were prior to the war.
The second possibility is that these 19 plants don't have power interupttions for the duration of their current power cycle, and once they are running out of fissionable fuel, the operators don't have a hope of getting more fuel rods, and therefore are forced to put the control rods into the present core, and just leave it there. Once again, after about 3 to 5 days of active cooling, the risks of a meltdown are significantly reduced, even in the event of a power interruption. Perhaps it would be wise to convince these plant operators that it's in the interest of all humanity for them to shut their reactors down properly now, and accept a all expenses, one way trip to a conflict free zone so there is no one left that knows how to turn them back on in the country.

Nick Johnson said...

Maybe the plan all along was to set off 19 dirty bombs on the Russian boarder! They're not incompetent they're long term thinkers.

Jim R said...

I used to think that -- 3-5 days, and the nuke plant is out of the woods. Fukushima proved otherwise.

What I have since learned ... when a reactor that cranks out a gigawatt is shut down, it falls back to about 5% of its fully-operational output. So, fifty megawatts. Still quite a lot of energy in the form of decay heat. Thousands of times as much as the generator on Dmitry's boat. After 3-5 days, it isn't boiling quite so violently, and workers can move the core assemblies out into the spent fuel pool. It's interesting to watch video of that operation. You can see the Cerenkov radiation (why do all the interesting phenomena have Russian names?) coming out of the assemblies as they are moved, always keeping them under water. They are still extremely hot. At this point, if you were to hoist an assembly up out of the water, it would kill everyone within reach of its radiation, and within a few minutes.

But, here's the critical data point: unit 4 at Fukushima was shut down for maintenance at the time of the earthquake. That is important because the reactor was empty. No fissionables in there. Nuke industry apologists were claiming, for several days, that unit 4 was just fine and could not possibly have failed. The web camera made a different statement. Later on, we saw images of unit 4 with its top blown off like units 1 and 3.

When the cooling pumps stopped, the water in the spent fuel pool for unit 4 boiled away, the exposed parts of the fuel assemblies overheated, and the hot metals reacted with remaining water/steam to produce hydrogen, which found a spark and exploded. Metals in the assemblies, now dry and hot and constantly getting hotter, finally caught fire and burned. No longer constrained by the damaged assemblies, loose fuel pellets piled up in the bottom of the pool and remaining fissionables fell into bursts of uncontrolled criticality.

All of that happened to nuclear fuel which had 'cooled off' for various lengths of time from a week or two to decades. After five years in the pool, they say it is safe enough to remove into a 'dry cask' in which it is cooled only by air circulation. Spent nuclear fuel continues to be dangerously radioactive for centuries. In theory it could be reprocessed to recover un-fissioned actinides and separate the uglier byproducts for sequestration and disposal, but very few places on the planet do that kind of work.

Spanish fly said...

That bald Ukrainian puppet in the photo has steel balls! Maybe is a CIA robot...

Rickey Holtsclaw said...

Well, the solution is obvious. Considering logistical, security-safety and geographical concerns, Mother Russia will intercede and assume control over the psychotic, rebellious and deranged Ukraine leadership --- Ukrainians, cold-hungry-bankrupt-dying will willingly submit to the Mother Land and the status-quo will continue in addition to becoming a beacon of "warning" to any others in that region that consider defying the authority of Putin. The United States, considering its impotent and embarrassing Executive Branch, will do nothing proactive or reactive and continue to wallow in a morass of confusion and moral debasement.

The Romanian mafia-mob undergirded the assassination of Ceausescu and his wife in 89 - it was not long after that assassination that the Romanian citizenry noticed that jobs were not as plentiful; their bellies were not as full; the agrarian culture was suffering; the younger Romanians were anxious and unhappy - then, there were subtle comments about how "good" things were when Ceausescu was "running the Country." Human nature is controlled by its appetites and desire for comfort and security. Freedom is iconic, but its importance, to most people, is secondary to the satiation of their base appetites.


william beeby said...

Excellent article which told me a lot about something I didn`t realise . unintended consequences when those idiots closed down the flow of electricity from Ukraine to Crimea could have been immense . Are these people , if you can call them such , being sought out and punished ? If not then why not ?
Thanks again for the info and amusing read.


DeVaul said...

Everyone should listen to what Jim R is saying. I know him from another forum I used to post at, and he has a degree in engineering or is an engineer or something like that, I believe. I have forgotten now.

For him to not know that it takes 3-5 years to safely cool down removed fuel is truly startling. The rest of us (laymen) were led to believe that turning off a reactor and cooling the rods was simply a 24 hour operation at most. Now, as with everything nuclear, it is actually a never ending process which goes on for more than several human lifetimes. How many more nuclear lies will we discover?

As for the nuclear plant on the Missouri River, I could not find anything about it afterwards for years even though it was submerged during the flooding. I saw a photo of it and the water had breached the levy in front of the nuclear plant. All info after that was simple redacted from the news and the Calhoun Nuclear Plant simply faded from memory.

19 nuclear power plants in a war zone has got to be a disaster just begging to happen, and the lack of concern about this from the West just shows how utterly insane our idiot oligarchs are now. This is truly dismal news.

Jim R said...

DeVaul, come on and say Merry Christmas to Elaine.

I only learned most of this stuff in the wake of Fukushima. Arnie Gundersen was a good lecturer. I don't have a degree in it.

According to the Wikipedia article I linked above, the Fort Calhoun nuke plant went back online after some repairs from the flood, but was later shut down again because of some other problem. It's an old rustbucket that needs to be decommissioned but I think it still exists in 'cold shutdown'. Hope they can keep the circulation pumps going.

Наталья Тулинцева said...

Tinfoil over at Zerohedge:

Looking at the map of the spread of fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl explosion, it is evident that the fallout plume did not immediately go East toward Russia, but first went Northwest, then Northeast into Scandinavia, then swirled around to cover most of Western Europe, including Italy, France, Great Britain and Ireland, Germany, and countries in between. Only Spain and Portugal escaped direct exposure. Belarus is reported to have received 70% of the fallout. The animated map shows the movement of the fallout from April 29 to May 9, 1986, I understand.

Chernobyl Fallout map:


In other words, the Western European NATO countries took a huge part of the dump of radiative fallout from Chernobyl, Russia got less, in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. Thus, it is at least as important for the Western European/NATO countries to be prepared to step in and ensure the safe operation or shut-down of Ukraine's remaining (and increasingly risky) nuclear reactors, as it is for Russia to be ready to step in.

The instability and chaos stirred up in Ukraine by the Washington neo-cons was intended to deliver Ukraine into the NATO/Anti-Russian/Western corporate-banker exploitation camp and to expel Russia from its Crimea naval base. Ukraine's economy and political stability (such as they were) have been destroyed, with the Western Ukrainians and the Kiev government used as proxies in war against Russia which poses as a civil war between Kiev and the Eastern Ukraine Donetsk and Lugansk separatists. Russia refuses to permit Kiev to win their civil war, as that would see NATO move right up to the Ukraine/Russia border with missile and anti-missile systems. The EU is now caught up in a campaign of sanctions against Russia, which ironically is their most secure supplier of oil, natural gas, and nuclear fuel, and was the EU's fastest growing trading partner up until the Kiev coup of February 2014.

There appears to be a woeful absence of statesmanship among the leaders of the EU and the EU countries - each seems consumed with his or her petty concerns and with attempts to gain power in turf wars, rather than look to the greater benefit and security of the EU and its members. Many remain captive of the Atlanticist delusion - the idea that the road to lasting peace among the squabbling EU nations and the ultimate destiny of the EU is to remain under the leadership of the great Arsenal of Democracy - the USA - rather than adopting a more independent economic and foreign policy. The European Commission in Brussels maintains the delusion that it is entitled and destined to do God's work by taking control of all European affairs and eliminating independence among EU nations, thus ensuring conformity and peace amongst all the EU nations. Meanwhile, ironically, the US-led NATO heads in Brussels do their very best to stir up World War 3 with Russia.

At least those living in other parts of the World can take some comfort in the notion that the proxy wars that are now going on are mostly confined to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Of course, if a full-on World War 3 nuclear war ensues, everyone everywhere on Earth can enjoy their daily dose of radiation and glow in the dark.

Cheers, and Merry Christmas.

Наталья Тулинцева said...

Comment from Jack Burton over at Zerohedge:

The Junta leaders in Kiev would have long since fell in a counter coup if not for free money being given to them from the USA's unlimited black budget money. CIA and Pentagon are given many tens of billions of dollars for off budget expenses. It is clear that the Ukrainian Army is wholly funded by American cash. Vital government functions are also paid for by American funds. As for the general governing of Ukraine, the IMF is giving loans, even though Ukraine is not credit worthy.

As long as the US funds the Junta, they should be able to hold onto power and persue the war in Donbass, also fully funded by the Washington Neo-Con team.

Ukraine is now the poorest nation in Europe surpassing poverty stricken Moldova for that honor. Ukrainians with jobs make an average pay of 180 Euros a month! Since the victory on the Maidan, around 2.5 million Ukrainian jobs have been lost. Over 1.5 million Ukrainians ran to Russia for safe haven. Another million more work in Russia and send money home. Since the heroes of Maidan, 260,000 Ukrainians have fleed to Poland and applied for Polish passorts. Another 250,000+ have fleed to Hungary, and sought Hungarian Passports. A recent Poll indicates 3,000,000 young people plan to leave Ukraine immediately next year when Visa restrictions to the EU are supposed to be dropped. The collapse of Ukrainian and Russian trade has left many Ukrainian businesses with no customers, and thus forced to close.

The EU agreement hands economic power over to the EU. All that Ukrainians have to cling to is the hope of moving to western Europe as migrants when the borders do finally come down. The trouble is, all the places Ukrainians planned to migrate to now have over 1,000,000 Muslims and Africans jammed into them and all teh social welfare money is spent on them, leaving the new wave of Ukrainian migrants, no jobs, no social welfare and no apartments available to them, the "open borders" to Muslims from across the globe must really rub the Kiev people's noses in shit! To think that Africans can move to London and get an apartment, while border guards arrest any Ukrainian trying to slip into Europe! Ha! Ha! Big joke.

Anselmo said...

I have up loaded a translation of this post to spanish in this direction:

( http://foro-crashoil.2321837.n4.nabble.com/POST-Dimitri-Orlov-En-el-diecinueveavo-dia-de-Navidad-tt26461.html).

John said...

Well I see we now have yet another American initiated & European supported intervention into the governing process of an independent nation that just didn't quite measure up to our standards. And now we can be, thanks to the complacent and biased media along with power hungry military & political figures, something else to be proud of. One more in a seemingly unending long list of foreign policy blunders as we continue to do our best to wreck one nation after another's society and infrastructure.