Saturday, March 19, 2011

EU Borders

When the Glorious Tunisian Revolution took place in February, the first reaction of many Tunisians to their new world was to get the hell out to Europe. Between five and ten thousand illegal immigrants - "migrants" to the BBC - turned up in boats at the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Before the revolution Tunisian sea patrols intercepted and turned back boats heading for Europe. So did Libyan patrols, after a deal signed by Gaddafi and Berlusconi in 2009.

"Berlusconi promised to provide US$200 million a year over the next 25 years through investments in infrastructure projects in Libya. Italy provided three patrol boats to Libya on May 14, and has promised three more. Italy has also said that it will help construct a radar system to monitor Libya's desert borders, using the Italian security company, Finmeccanica.

Cosimo D'Arrigo, the commander of Italy's Finance Guard, said that the patrol boats would be "used in joint patrols in Libyan territorial water and international waters in conjunction with Italian naval operations," according to the ANSA news agency. So far, the joint patrols have succeeded in curtailing the flow of boat migrants to Italy."

Berlusconi, btw, has not AFAIK joined in the anti-Gaddafi chorus.

Gaddafi interpreted the deal broadly, and wasn't too fussy about the implementation:

"For Kwame Apeah, life as a migrant worker in Libya was good until about two years ago. 'For a while after I arrived, things were great. I had steady work, something I rarely had in Ghana, and I'd made Libyan friends,' he said. 'But then the police started cracking down on black workers in Tripoli. They didn't want to see us, and accused us of trying to reach Italy. Some friends were rounded up and thrown in jail. Another friend was shot in the arm,' he added."

North Africa has a large immigrant worker population. Most are sub-Saharan Africans who moved North hoping to find work either in North Africa or Europe, but there are also a large number of Bangladeshis.

The camp has a majority of single men, mostly labourers from from Bangladesh, Sudan, Somalia and Egypt. Aid agencies and Tunisian officials at the camp estimate the numbers to be 18,000, with 14,000 of them Bangladeshis. From the corner of the eye, you notice a Tunisian National Guard security official official stepping out of the shadows and tailing you. Time for a few questions, but he shoots first. ‘’What you doing here, nationality?’’ in halting English. Introductions done, he relaxes, lights a cigarette and gives you the inside story.

‘’There has been some fighting here between two groups,’’ he begins. You ask his name, he brushes aside the question. ‘’The Africans and Bangladeshis don’t get along, so we had to split them and keep them apart. The longer they stay here, the worse the situation will get.’’

The Africans and Bangladeshis don't get on, and neither do the sub-Saharan Africans and Libyans. Gaddafi's use of black mercenaries against his own people certainly hasn't helped, but the attitudes pre-date the uprising.

“There is a hierarchy of races.”

Blacks are widely referred to as “Abd,” or slaves*. Bangladeshis are viewed as little better, and even Arab Egyptians and Tunisians are considered to have limited rights. Migrant workers tell of the “gangsters” who hold foreigners at knifepoint in the Libyan streets, stealing their money and telephones with impunity. At night, said Francis Appiah, 35, a Ghanaian mason who fled the western Libyan city of Zuwarah, “you weren’t able to go out to buy anything,” for fear of attacks. He added that thieves had once stolen a DVD player, a television and speakers from his home. “I didn’t go to the police, because sometimes they arrest black people for no reason,” he said. His landlord once had Mr. Appiah arrested, he said, because he had requested payment for plastering the interior of the man’s house.

In Libya there are a million and a half illegal immigrants. In the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya I don't think there are benefits or asylum to be had (Google "Libyan benefits system"), Gaddafi seeming to hold to the socialist maxim "if you don't work you die", so they all work.

Sub-Saharan Africans make up a vast majority of the estimated 1.5 million illegal immigrants among Libya’s population of 6.5 million, according to the International Organization for Migration. Many were desperately poor people made even more so by investments of up to $1,000 each to pay smugglers to bring them across Libya’s southern border for a chance at better work in its oil economy... They are trapped in part because most lack passports or other documents necessary to board a plane or cross the border. They say they are afraid to leave the airport or try their luck on the roads to the border for fear of assaults by Libyan citizens or at militia checkpoints.

“Qaddafi has brought African soldiers to kill some of them, so if they see black people they beat them,” said Samson Adda, 31, who said residents of Zawiyah, a rebellious city, had beaten him so badly that he could no longer walk.

I keep hearing about the massive unemployment in Egypt, Libya's next door neighbour, and I seem to recall that Gaddafi was once keen on uniting the two countries in an Arab Republic. Why on earth aren't 1.6m Egyptians working in Libya ? I guess illegal immigrants are cheaper and have fewer rights.

I digress. It's possible that, win or lose, there'll be another Camp Of The Saints style boat exodus to Europe. If Gaddafi wins, there's no knowing what he'd do. If he loses due to intervention the current hefty influx may well increase. The EU doesn't seem to be interested.

"More than 3,000 kilometers away, on the 22nd floor of a Warsaw skyscraper is Frontex, the EU agency charged with border security. It has no ships or helicopters of its own, nor any autonomous decision-making power. Contributions are entirely voluntary, meaning those most affected by immigration flows bear the brunt of the costs. On Feb. 20, Frontex launched operation Hermes, named after the winged Greek god, to assist the authorities in Lampedusa. Italy is providing the most equipment: two patrol boats and a plane.

“Frontex does not replace the border-control activities of members states as these are performed by, and remain the primary responsibility of the latter,” said Frontex spokesman Michal Parzyszek. Interior ministers from six EU countries near the Mediterranean Sea called on member states last month to back the creation of a special fund that will help them cope with an “uncontrolled” influx of immigration from Libya. Their appeal has gone nowhere."


23:44:Libyan state television cites a senior security source as saying that Libya has decided to "absolve itself from taking responsibility for stemming illegal immigration to Europe".

Not to mention :

"Libya will be practising its right of self-defence according to clause 51 of the UN Charter. Unfortunately, according to this, civilian and military targets in the air and sea will be liable to serious danger in the Mediterranean. Due to this flagrant military aggression and this irresponsible action, the Mediterranean and North Africa have become an actual theatre of war."

Gaddafi knows that if he loses, he loses big, so he's capable of trying anything. He'll try and take the temple roof with him. On the other hand, that kind of statement - a threat to attack civilian ships and aircraft - makes it easier to justify removing him "with extreme prejudice".

* as in Libya, so in Sudan.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Well Strike A Light

Last week I speculated that Cameronian foreign policy had given us the worst of both worlds, alienating Gaddafi but not injuring him, and had doubts about Aussie blogger and balance-sheet whizz John Hempton's view that the French were determined to protect their oil interests :

"Now he's (Hempton - LT) making me think again. Could it be that Cameron and Sarkozy have a cunning plan ? It would run contrary to Cameron's current performance, but the past is not necessarily a guide to the future and I suppose it's just theoretically possible. I'd like it to be true, but I think I'm entering into the realms of fantasy, as Captain Mainwaring would say."

As Angela Merkel and the EU machinery, led by one Cathy Ashton, led a chorus of disapproval, and the great and good told us that Russia and China would veto the idea anyway, the whole thing seemed unlikely (in any sense) to get off the ground.


"Well, the prime minister went out on a limb with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president. They were so isolated at last week's European Council in Brussels that an adviser to Cathy Ashton, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, said those in favour of military intervention were guilty of "headline grabbing desperation".

A week, as the old Harold Wilson cliché goes, is a long time in politics. And so six days after the German chancellor Angela Merkel blocked any mention of a no-fly zone from the EU summit communiqué, the UN has authorised one."

Well I never. It's a whole new ball game from here on in, with plenty of possibility for chaos and confusion even should Gaddafi now lose. He's capable of owt. The resolution permits "all necessary measures" to impose a no-fly zone, protect civilian areas and impose a ceasefire on Kadhafi's military. I'd have thought that could include strikes on his ground forces.

I don't think we'll be seeing similar action in Bahrain. And here's a handy map of Libya's oil infrastructure.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why There Aren't Many Illegal Immigrants In Japan

Japan has low levels of legal immigration and almost non-existent levels of illegal immigration, despite being, like Britain, a northerly, rainy trading island with global connections and excellent international transport links. It's a lot closer to a large number of poor people than the UK is, too. I bet there are more illegal Chinese immigrants in the UK than just over the water in Japan.

There's an interesting post on Japanese culture by Thomas Lifson at The American Thinker - an answer to Ed West's question "why is there no looting in Japan?" (about 3,400 comments and still rising - must be some sort of record). The author, who has lived in Japan, is not writing a piece about immigration, but this passage struck me :

"There is little urban anonymity. When I first lived in Japan on a work visa and had my own apartment in a residential neighborhood of Tokyo, in 1971, I was paid a friendly visit by a local policeman. It was a completely routine matter: police are required to keep track of every resident of their beats, and they want to know the basics, such as your work, your age, and your living circumstances. In my circumstances, immigration papers were also of concern, but for Japanese, it would be the koseki, a mandatory official family record kept on a household basis, reporting births, acknowledgements of paternity, adoptions, disruptions of adoptions, deaths, marriages and divorces. Every Japanese is not just an individual, he or she is officially is a member of a household (ie), and the state keeps track."
First of all, imagine the police in London, Bradford or Birmingham doing this ? I can't, either. They'd need backup.

Secondly, imagine keeping this kind of household record for the UK underclass, with the serial partners and fathers. Imagine the Copper or Inspector Gadget doing the interview and getting the whole tale of who did what to whom.

Not that I want to live in a society like that, mind. But the beauty of antediluvian Britain was that we didn't need the officer's clipboard to police ourselves. But "the fewer internal controls, the more external control there will be". Britain's internal, unspoken controls aren't what they were.

"Following the gathering of my information, the policeman no doubt returned to his local substation (koban), which are found every few blocks in urban areas, to record the information for his colleagues. To an American it seemed quite extraordinary, a violation of privacy. But in Japan a lack of anonymity is the norm.

Soon after the beat cop's visit to me, local merchants began nodding to me as I walked to and from the train station, as if they knew me and acknowledged me. I was fairly certain the word had gone out via omawari san (literally, the honorable gentleman who walks around, a polite colloquial euphemism for the police) that I was a Japanese-speaking American in Japan on legitimate, respectable grounds. For a year or so, I was a member of the community."
Remember, this is a huge capital city, a financial and industrial hub, not a small town. Another anecdote :

"... most contemporary Japanese have internalized a deep respect for private property, that is manifested in a ritual of modern life for children, one which we might do well to emulate. When a child finds a small item belonging to another person, even a one yen coin, a parent takes the child to the local koban and reports lost property. As chronicled by T.R. Reid in his wonderful book about living in Tokyo, Confucius Lives Next Door, the police do not resent this as a waste of time but rather see it as part of moral education, solemnly filling out the appropriate forms, thanking the child and telling him or her if the owner does not appear to claim the item, it will revert to the finder after a certain period of time."
Again, you could imagine that in the low-crime Golden Age That Never Was. But now ? The police would never have the time and would probably think you were taking the mick.

We had, once, the happy state where internal social controls (conscience, shame, self-esteem - 'we just don't do that') were so strong that external controls were not terribly visible or terribly intrusive. Japan make assurance doubly sure with strong internal AND external controls.

"Perhaps more successfully than any other people of the world, the Japanese have evolved a social system capable of ensuring order and good behaviour."

One Woe Doth Tread Upon Another's Heels ...

... so fast they follow.

Fire has again broken out at the quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northern Japan. The new blaze began at reactor four... on Tuesday morning, a third blast hit the building of reactor two, while a fourth damaged the building of reactor four, where a fire also broke out in the unit's spent fuel storage pond. Reactor four had been shut down before the quake for maintenance, but its spent nuclear fuel rods were still stored on the site.

Officials said the explosions at the first three reactors, and possibly the fourth as well, were caused by a buildup of hydrogen. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said officials were closely watching the remaining two reactors, as they had begun overheating slightly.

He said cooling seawater was being pumped into reactors one and three - which were returning to normal - and into reactor two, which remained unstable.

What ? Number 4's meant to have been closed down before ever the quake and tsunami hit ! And when was the first explosion in #4 (apparently just before the explosion in #2 yesterday)- we were told about a fire in the fuel storage pool, not an explosion ?

This morning it's not looking too good :

A rise in radiation levels at Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant has forced workers to suspend operations, a government spokesman says. He was speaking after smoke was seen billowing from reactor three. Earlier, a blaze struck reactor four for the second time in two days.

Reactor 3 has uranium/plutonium fuel - you really don't want bits of plutonium in the air.

There are a lot of things that don't make a huge amount of sense to ignorant me :

1) how's the hydrogen being created for these explosions ? Is it created by the fuel's cladding reacting with steam or boiling water, which will create hydrogen only, or is it as some are saying thermal decomposition of water, which requires a temperature of 2000C and which will create hydrogen and oxygen (which are likely IMHO to recombine explosively the moment temperature or pressure drops - like when the core is vented) ?

2) where's the hydrogen coming from ? In #1 and #3 we know they were venting the pressure, so that's a source of H2 - although you'd think they'd put a hole in the roof of #3 to let it escape, following the bang at #1. But I'm not sure about #2 - did it ever get vented ? Yet it went pop all the same.

3) what's with 4, 5 and 6 needing more cooling? Presumably the residual heat is the problem.

4) so why are the pumps proving such an issue (other than that they've been subject to frequent explosions) - what's been the problem with getting more pumps and more power supplies on site? I presume they're pretty specialist beasts and you can't buy them at Machine Mart - but there are aircraft to collect them and helicopters to deliver, along with the fuel. Is there not enough of that specialist deionised, ultra-pure cooling water available ? Obviously not.

It would be nice if the reactor company could keep the Japanese people (and the rest of the world) updated, but I guess it's not exactly a priority. In a situation like this, when there's big trouble and it needs to be fixed fast if at all possible, the role of management is to keep everyone off the backs of the people doing the work, so that they don't have to waste time and mental energy on anything but what's in front of them.

UPDATE - if this is true, it's not looking good. Let's hope it isn't.

At the plant, desperate and improvisational measures have become the rule. Japanese Self-Defense Forces helicopters took off from a nearby base Wednesday afternoon carrying giant red buckets on a line used to scoop up seawater to douse the plant's Unit 3 reactor building. Tepco told nuclear safety officials they had no other way of cooling the reactor's fuel rods. Kyodo later reported that the helicopters were unable to drop water due to high levels of radiation.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"there seems to be something wrong with our bloody reactors today"

Reactor 3 carries out uncontrolled venting.

OK, so thanks to the commenters I grasped why the Japanese reactors were still hot despite having control rods. When you shut down, or SCRAM, a Boiling Water Reactor of the sort you find at Fukushima, there's still residual heat - because nuclear reaction products are in the fuel. These typically have short half-lives, which means they give off a lot of heat as they (quickly) decay.

When a nuclear reactor has been shut down, and nuclear fission is not occurring at a large scale, the major source of heat production will be due to the beta decay of these fission fragments. For this reason, at the moment of reactor shutdown, decay heat will be about 7% of the previous core power if the reactor has had a long and steady power history. About 1 hour after shutdown, the decay heat will be about 1.5% of the previous core power. After a day, the decay heat falls to 0.4%, and after a week it will be only 0.2%. The decay heat production rate will continue to slowly decrease over time; the decay curve depends upon the proportions of the various fission products in the core and upon their respective half-lives.
Sounds like they should cool down pretty quickly, I thought. I just hadn't realised how very powerful these beasts are. Fukushima reactor 1 (the one that went bang first) generates 439MW of electricity, and let's say it's 45% efficient (I gather that's on the high side, but it makes the mental arithmetic easier) - in other words only 45% of the heat produced gets turned into electricity, and our reactor is producing 1GW of heat.

"For this reason, at the moment of reactor shutdown, decay heat will be about 7% of the previous core power" - blimey, that's 70 megawatts. You'll burn your hand on that for sure !

"About 1 hour after shutdown, the decay heat will be about 1.5% of the previous core power." - it was I gather about 1 hour after shutdown that the tsunami struck and knocked out the cooling. Power would be 15 megawatts - or the same heat as 150,000 hundred-watt bulbs, or a 15,000-bar electric fire. Still pretty warm - you can see why the cooling would be missed.

"After a day, the decay heat falls to 0.4%" - 4 megawatts, not by any means cool.

"and after a week it will be only 0.2%" - "only" 2 million watts after a week !

Hmm. I don't know how much fuel is in the reactor, but at present, 3 days after shutdown, you've got say 3 megawatts of heat still being produced - and presumably, given the hefty shielding around the core, not being lost easily.

Uranium at 25C has a specific heat capacity of 27.665 J·mol−1·K−1 - in other words, it takes 27 joules of energy to raise the temperature of 1 mole of uranium atoms (say 238 grams) by one degree. Uranium melts at 1132 degrees C.

A watt = 1 joule per second.

OK, given no heat losses and a starting temperature of 132C, how much uranium could you melt in a day with 3 megawatts ?

3000000 x 24 x 60 x 60 = 2.592 x 1011 joules in a day.

27,665 joules approx to raise 238 grams of uranium from 132C to melting point 1132C. Note that this assumes the heat capacity stays the same over that 1,000 degree temperature range. It probably doesn't, but we're just doing some rough approximations.

27665/238 = 116 joules to raise 1 gram of uranium by 1,000 degrees.

1.16 * x 108 joules to raise a (metric) tonne of uranium to melting point.

Hmm. Given no heat losses and only uranium to melt, that looks like more than 2,000 tonnes a day ! I think a reactor has more like 50 tonnes in it. My maths may be awry, but if it ain't it certainly looks as if sans cooling a meltdown is not only possible, but likely.

UPDATE - apparently (thanks dearieme) the fuel is uranium dioxide, which has a higher MP (2865C) and a higher heat capacity of (approx - see above, the capacity varies with temperature) 85 joules per mole per degree. 270 grams per mole, 85*2600/270 to raise 1g from 265C to melting point. That's about 8.18 * x 102 joules to melt a gram, 8.18 * x 108 joules for a metric tonne. One day's heat output at 3 Mw is still enough to melt about 250 tonnes of fuel.

UPDATE - reactor 2 goes pop. That's 1, 2 and 3 all had explosions. Those poor engineers must be sweating. Where's the nuclear Red Adair ?

UPDATE2 - the title is of course from Admiral David Beatty -

"It was at Jutland, after two British battlecruisers had blown up, that Beatty made his famous remark, 'There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today, Chatfield'"