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by Karl Davies
Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2001 at 4:30 AM
Have you heard about that big nuke at San Onofre going down? If not, go to the URL below. What's the old saying about the weakest link in the chain?
Thanks to deregulation, you have parent holding companies sucking profits out of California utilities as hard as they can. Results: The utilities don't have the redundancy they used to have because redundancy isn't profitable, and they don't have the maintenance they used to have because maintenance isn't profitable either. In a word, stress.
Thanks to climate change and air pollution from burning coal and oil, you have huge demands on natural gas reserves. Results: Gas supplies are in decline for electrical power generation by utilities and industry, and sometimes you have rolling blackouts when supplies are too expensive or unavailable. In a word, stress.
Thanks to rolling blackouts, you have unreliable electrical power supplies. Results: All kinds of weird things happen, all sorts of little glitches and snafus, and those problems can have ramifications that spread very fast and very far. In a word, stress.
Thanks to reliance on nukes for electricity generation, you have big problems when those big nukes go down for maintenance. Results: The rest of the electrical power grid has to make up for those losses of nuke power, and there's a scamble to get those nukes back online in a hurry. In a word, stress.
Thanks to the complexity of nukes and all the hurry, some components like circuit breakers don't get checked. Results: They fail, causing very serious damage to key components of the nuke, and the nuke is out of commission for many months, putting even more pressure on the electrical power grid. In a word, mega-stress.
What if it turns out that key components in those circuit breakers were subcontracted out to some sweatshop operation where standards weren't very high? What if it turns out that sweatshop operation belongs to a subsidiary of a subsidiary of one of those utility parent holding companies? Wouldn't it be ironic if the whole system were to crash because of that?
What if it turns out the nuke operators sent an email request to a subcontracting engineer to check those circuit breakers, but the email request got lost during a rolling blackout? That would be ironic too, wouldn't it?
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