13 April 2011

Understanding the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Disaster of 2012

Consider for a moment the nature of meaning as a contextual phenomena. Meaning is for the most part not self-evident and self arising.

I feel Marx may have gotten something right when he suggested that our consciousness is defined by the forces of production. This is not consciousness in the sense of consciousness itself. This is consciousness in the sense of the conscious mind, or our awareness. It is consciousness in the sense of a limiting activity that allows us to function. The consciousness, in this sense, of a marketing organization or an asset based organization within the same corporation are very different. The people in those organizations think about time and space very differently. They consider risk and benefit very differently. The culture arising from this, or dynamically conditioning and perpetuating this is very different in either case.

The physical assets associated with the global means of production of the industrial era have a history. As with all histories, these are both written and read contextually. The nature of these assets is that they are both powered by, and constituted of contained explosions. They are manifestations of a process in which the planet is viewed as an object. Breaking the fundamental bonds that give that assumed object its coherence releases energy. This is accomplished through fire, collision, explosion, etc. We then 'harness' that energy, often in order to create the basis for more contained explosions. We use the energy to form other bonds in order to create and maintain an artificial environment for life, based on the assumption that the world is hostile and must be controlled in order to attempt to insure some degree of security, longevity, and happiness. We conflate security, longevity and happiness with consumption. We amplify all of this to be expressed and reinforced as the maximization and consolidation of profit. A lot more can be said about all that, and I have written about it elsewhere and will post some more soon.

What I am interested in today is when the container fails. Almost all industrial disasters can be understood as an expression of the container, associated with an unnecessary and artificially created explosion or associated process, failing. The Challenger space shuttle disaster, Texas City, Deepwater Horizon, Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island and Fukushima can all be considered in this way. I have written elsewhere about the difference between emergence and emergency. These become an emergency because the arising phenomena are at a scale and scope that exceeds the container and all the systems required for that. This is not simply a mechanistic question. The reality of such containers is not merely technical, but also an expression of a human system. Confusion about this can be considered one of the primary contributors to such disasters. Again, a lot can be said about all this and I have written some things I will post later. It is worth considering this from the point of view of the carrying capacity of the planet, or the planet as a naturally occurring container for life and life processes.

For the moment I would like to suggest a practical experiment. The histories of the assets and systems associated with these disasters, become a history and explanation of the disaster after the fact. In such a retrospective process many of the dynamics leading to the failure of the artificially created container are very clear. Case studies regarding the disasters I mentioned above show this. I am not talking about who is to 'blame.' I am talking about how the system functioning perfectly causes the set of phenomena we experience as a disaster.

Below I am going to post links to the 50 year history of Diablo Canyon and the nuclear facility there. It is incomplete. It does not include all the inner workings that must certainly be going on in the maintenance of an artificially produced and contained explosion of this magnitude over the course of decades.

Those dynamics include people on a site recognizing the deterioration of the site over time, the imperfect quality of both the technical and human systems involved and their efforts to effectively cope with that. Typically they might include things like people directly on the site recognizing the true cost of maintaining the site, but perhaps unable to even transparently communicate this in the economic and political climate of their organization. They then might communicate what they feel is acceptable to the organization in an attempt to get something done, while still maintaining the performance objectives of the organization. The dynamics include and are often defined by the consciousness of a corporation defined by a system of profit maximization and consolidation. The structures are built to serve that and the those structures condition human behavior. Such conditioning is not simply deterministic since the system itself is an expression of a larger whole and all the components are dynamically interacting.

One of the contributing factors to the Chernobyl disaster is the power authority from Kiev calling the plant and moving the planned time of the test they were running in order to meet power demands during peak hours. One of the contributing factors to the Challenger disaster was the fact that the technical contractor accountable for approving the launch had a its contract up for re-bid. In other examples senior managers might literally communicate a maintenance budget and degree of risk and degradation with respect to the site that they feel can be accepted, rather than their understanding of the actual cost and magnitude involved. If there is no disaster then we do not see these actions. I am not even including how systems respond to 'whistleblowers' or what happens to people who are intent on acting ethically in a system where that ethic violates the local morality. If there is no disaster we do not see the positive actions taken to prevent (or at least delay) what is almost an inevitable consequence at some point in time with regard to such an unnecessary, artificial process of explosion and containment.

So please read the following links of the (incomplete) history in the following context and see what you come up with. Imagine a headline reading:

"Understanding the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Disaster of 2012: The Advantage of 20/20 Hindsight"



http://mothersforpeace.org (follow the links in the topics area on the left for the appropriate history)

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