Commenter Archive

AvatarComments by Oscar Gordon*

On “The Democratic Debate: Houston Has Problems, Plans, and Candidates for President

Concur with your #3. I don't even own a military pattern rifle and Beto has lost any hope of my vote.

And what I hear is a lot of conservative gun owners aren't terribly happy with Trump, so there is room for a moderate and reasonable D candidate to gain traction.

On “Thursday Throughput for 9/12/19

Just so everyone remembers exactly how far up 22.5KM is, here is a handy graphic, courtesy of Wikipedia.

22.5km isn't even above the cloud layer, much less close to what one could consider 'orbit'.


Another favorite is talking about instantaneous risk versus cumulative risk, or lifetime risk.

At this point, I assume every news article discussing anything to do with statistics or probabilities is naked fearmongering. Same goes for most blog posts, and a disturbing number of scientific papers.

On “Wednesday Writs for 9/11: Willie Francis is Executed, Twice

Polansky fled the jurisdiction and is headed out system on a long orbit at 0.85c, by the time he returns, the statute of limitations will be up, but he will have only aged a few years!


Interesting, thanks for the legal reference.

I still think it should be a civil matter, but I can see now why it became a criminal matter.

On “Thursday Throughput for 9/12/19

ThTh3: Right up there with reports that X is 42 times more likely to lead to a bad end, without mentioning what the base line risk is.

On “The Worst Day: My Story of Poly Royal, 1990

Been through a couple campus riots, but thankfully never in the thick of it.

Good on you for getting clear without causing major injury.

On “Wednesday Writs for 9/11: Willie Francis is Executed, Twice

Fair point.

My larger point is that the law is structured to the benefit of banks over depositors.

Case in point the practice of banks running all debits against an account BEFORE running the deposits to an account. AFAIK, there is no fundamental reason for this, other than it increases the possibility of a bank being able to leverage overdraft fees, and that is not seen as some kind of theft or fraud on the part of the bank.


Did you and I have an understanding regarding the car, or did a strange car magically show up in your driveway one day, with the keys in it, and no obvious paperwork showing ownership? How long should I wait before I decide to get a salvage title and sell the thing?

How long did the bank take to catch and correct their mistake? Was it a day, a week, a month (article doesn't say)?

All that said, yes, the bank does have a right to get the money back, which is what civil courts are for.

Why is this in criminal court?

On “CNN Climate Emergency Town Hall: Never Let A Crisis Go to Waste

More evidence of my tangent, then. That we've spent so much effort getting everyone into college that we are rapidly losing the industrial skills needed to keep technology humming along.


L3 - Way to go, judge...

L9: Personally, I don't believe a crime was committed. If a bank accidentally puts money in my account, then it's mine. They should be more careful. I mean, if I accidentally write a check for more than the amount in my account, I don't get to a take-backsies to avoid overdraft fees, do I?

On “Call Me Dr….

Am I the only one who read the title and started singing, "Call me Doctor Love!"?

Anyway, congrats!

On “CNN Climate Emergency Town Hall: Never Let A Crisis Go to Waste


There is nothing about building a Nuke plant that is new under the sun. We know how to do every piece of it, and how to assemble large, complex systems when the pieces are built correctly.

And I mean 'We' in the greater sense of the knowledge and skills exist, as does the talent.

I mean, if we can weld a submarine hull so that it can survive at the depths our subs go, we can weld a reactor vessel. Navy contractors seem capable of doing both (sub hulls and reactors), so...

So if the know-how and skills exist, then I think the problem is not that. I think the problem is that Westinghouse is unwilling to pay for the talent and experience needed, which is perhaps how you get your $8B/GWe vs $3.5/GWe.

Extending this out a bit further afield, this issue is not just about systems engineering or project management, it's also a direct result of our societal push towards college over skilled trades[1]. The number of welders in the country is finite, and the number of welders who know have the knowledge[2] and skill to do the kinds of welds required by a reactor vessel are but a tiny fraction of that, and they can thus command a significant amount of money for their time.

Extend that out to the machinists, and pipe fitters, and every other skilled trade where the people who are honestly qualified to do the kind of work needed for a nuclear power plant, and yeah, I can see the cots going up, even if the regulatory burden is less.

[1] Actual skilled trades, not the industry, or plant specific 'skilled trades' that are all the rage these days. e.g. your average Boeing Mechanic or Machinist is not a certified Mechanic or Machinist, they are Boeing trained to work on Boeing aircraft using Boeing systems and techniques. They do not typically have A&P certifications, or the more generalized skills a machinist or mechanic would have, and thus they can not shop their skills around.

[2] Even your average welder has considerable training regarding metallurgy and could be considered a specialized field of physics or chemistry.


I think Dark has a point. Think about the financial crisis, and how quickly the government declined to prosecute, and the firms who were largely at fault for the whole mess were the ones tasked with fixing it (by the government) and permitted to pay out lavish salaries and bonuses in the process.

If the contractors at Vogtle make a mistake, and they the schedule slips, what is the penalty? Do the workers get fired? Does the contractor pay a serious penalty?

Or does the schedule slip while the responsible parties (top to bottom) keep collecting paychecks because no one is (or can be) held accountable?


"What would it take for America to actually be able to build something with reliable welds?"

My quick look at the project says that they hire Union Labor. One would think that the Union would be keeping the quality high.

Unless, of course, the Union has other incentives...


We seem to have a pretty good handle on how to build airports, so it comes back to, why is this so hard?

I mean, assuming the engineering is sound, it sounds like the problem is mostly along the lines of Westinghouse doesn't have a clue how to manage such a project, and/or their pool of available contractors is woefully unprepared for the job.

Which goes back to your point about the know-how not being there since we haven't done this in a generation. Which gives us the chicken and egg issue (if we'd been doing this, it wouldn't be so hard to do it now).


So this really does boil down to the artisan problem.*

I wonder if we'd have similar problems building a large hydroelectric dam these days, given the last one was done in 1985.

*That being if we built commercial airliners the way we built nuclear power plants, those planes would be a much different thing from that amazingly safe things we have today.



I'm thinking you and I have different operating definitions of 'exact'.

For me, 'exact' means everything (from reactor cores to urinals) is precisely where it is supposed to be, and can be confirmed that it is so with a micrometer.

Your working definition seems to be somewhat fuzzier than that. Hence why I asked for a clarification.

Now, Mr. Cain's examples, of vendors sending the wrong materials, or that contractors are making critical* changes on site without engineering or regulatory approval, that's different. That is what I am trying to suss out here. Is the NRC being anal, or merely pragmatic in the face of contractors who are not taking the job seriously?

*Critical being something that affects the safe operation of the reactor. Again, no one should really care that a urinal is placed an inch or two off from the drawing, but if the concrete under the reactor vessel is too thick by an inch, the reactor may not fit properly, and if it is too thin by an inch, it may not be strong enough.

On “Where There Is Vapor There Is Not Always Fire

I often wonder what the overlap is between people who want to decriminalize marijuana and people who just hate nicotine.

I mean, I wonder if it's about the drug, or the commercialization of the drug?

On “CNN Climate Emergency Town Hall: Never Let A Crisis Go to Waste

"the rebar folks deviated significantly from the design"

I am always amazed when I hear things like this. I mean, I can understand how a vendor can make a mistake (you ordered grade 8 steel, took delivery of grade 6...), and that can cause a slide while the vendor gets you the right stuff. But it sounds like you are saying the vendor shipped the wrong thing, then refused to provide the correct item, and/or refused to issue a refund because they could not provide the correct item, and the project just decided to go with what they had.

I would expect that the vendor makes it right or gets sued into oblivion. But it always seems like that never happens, be it a power plant or an aircraft carrier. The people who made the mistake never pay for the mistake, and the project entity, be it Westinghouse or a government, just eats it.

As for the modulars, not finding a state willing to play ball, well that loops back to George's point that no one is really serious about decarbonizing the grid.


No need to be smarmy, that was the kind of information I was curious about.

And yes, an aircraft carrier does have slack in the design, in the places where it's not critical. Even critical features have a certain amount of slack.

But my question was valid. David said the plans had to be EXACT. And no project of that scale is ever built EXACTLY as drawn. So the NRC can't demand EXACT plans, without having those plans allow for reasonable engineering variances.

Now, if the contractors at Vogtle 3 & 4 can't seem to understand that they can not deviate from the stated variances, then I have to wonder why they are still working the site? Is project management that incompetent when it comes to writing contracts, or are those contractors the only game in town and can thus screw up with abandon because no one else is able or willing to take on the work?

PS: Given the claims of the modular reactor folks, why are they not being given green lights to build them?

PPS: Don't feel obligated to write out an explanation if someone else has already done it. A link is fine.


Although, after thinking about it, how EXACT do those plans have to be? Because while the reactor itself, and certain supporting equipment, demand precision that would make your eyes bleed, the entire facility itself does not.

So how much slack is permitted by the NRC/DOE, and where? Because depending on that, I can make it so you couldn't build a dog house.

I mean, we can ask Chip how often and in what ways and extents does the final product of a building deviate from what the architect drew up and submitted for permitting. Realistically, a facility as big as a nuclear power plant is going to need slack in order to get built. If any and every deviation, be it the reactor core or the mens bathroom, requires the NRC to sign off on it, then your reasonable process, isn't very reasonable.


So basically the contractors decided to make field alterations and whoever is overseeing the project keeps letting them do that.

So either the exact plans are not realistic, or the project management is incompetent.


In short, no.

If you want a more detailed explanation, let me know and I'll write it up later.

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