Earthquake in Japan

Postby Plasman » Sun Mar 13, 2011 10:12 am

Eeesh.

Okay, who wants to start over this year? A show of hands please. :(

Seriously, though, those poor Japanese. Also, nuclear power plant collapsing = not good. Let's just hope they can stop it from going into a full meltdown.

Those of you who have friends or family in the affected area, I wish you good luck.
If this last post seems ridiculous, please disregard it. Thank you. ;)
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Mon Mar 14, 2011 7:34 pm

The nuclear catastrophe in Japan will be remembered as the worst nuclear power related mess in history, despite the calming, soothing propaganda we are hearing now, and here is why.

The type of reactor complexes used at Fukushima and the various other locations all follow the same pattern; the reactor building, containing the pool that houses the nuclear fuel rods, has, on the roof, a large secondary pool in which is stored spent fuel rods. That upper pool must be kept cool lest the spent fuel combust, melt into a puddle, crack available water into hydrogen and oxygen, which would then explode, the direct equivalent of a 'dirty bomb'.

In the case of the reactor buildings that have already exploded, the issue of these waste products is far more serious than the direct exposure of the currently active fuel rods in their neat casings below, and it is the one issue you are not hearing about, because it is the one thing no one wants to speak of; it would cause a mass panic, and rightly so.

The exploded buildings do not exist; they were vaporized, turned entirely into dust, the awesome power of contained hydrogen and oxygen reacting under terrible heat. Why? the fuel in the lower pool was exposed to air and likely shaken from containment, it must have heated up, cracked the remaining moisture, and provided the heat for combustion.

This means the upper waste pools were annihilated in the explosion below, which is what they mean when the reports say the 'roof was blown off'. It was not just the roof, the entirety of the buildings has ceased to exist.

The large amounts of intensely radioactive spent fuel is now spread all over the area; some was likely vaporized, some doubtless dropped back to the ground in fragments. These chunks will grow hotter and hotter; if any fell together, or were fused, the problem is increased, and the result is that whatever happens to the active fuel rods in the lower chamber, the damage is done, and Japan now has poisoned land, likely at deadly levels, for centuries to come.

This does not mean they will not try to downplay this, cover it over, scoop it all up and dump it in the sea or somesuch at a later time; that too has awful consequences.

In the end, I expect at least five major reactor breaches, each potentially worse than Chernobyl, which makes the constant barrage of claims that 'this is not another Chernobyl' quite funny to me; technically they are right - Chernobyl was, after all, only one isolated incident, not three, four, or even six (worst case) all happening at the same time.

Few will die immediately, of course, the poison that is nuclear power kills slowly and inexorably; just like Europe after Chernobyl, the slaughter will take decades, and will be noted not as what it is -the direct result - but as a 'curious and mysterious increase' in cancer of all manner of body parts. This is how politics spins nuclear power problems.

For us on the west coast of America, of course, our time is coming. Unless there is a true stratospheric explosion caused by a pooling of molten fuel exploding into the sky, the 36-hour jet stream issue is not the concern, rather it is the seven to ten day wind factor slowly blowing poison to our shores across the sea that is the problem. It is coming, make no mistake, but it will take time, and it will be stealthy. It is unlikely that you will hear of any massive increase in background radiation; rather the food and water will be subtly contaminated with Cesium and possibly worse, and it is not in anyone's interest to inform you, and it is greatly valuable to not inform you. But it is coming, and like the USS Ronald Reagan, we will get our dose, in time, over time.

Nuclear energy! Clean, cheap, and efficient!

No. It is not cheap: without government subsidies taken from our taxes, nobody could afford nuclear power, it is a dreadfully expensive means of energy production, when every step of the process is accounted for.

Clean, it is not; the fuel is death, and the waste is death, concentrated death, which is, for all practical purposes eternal. We have no realistic means of disposal, just containment, and that death is contagious, it spreads, whatever it touches also becomes death. The best anyone has thought of is hiding it in a mountain and putting up scary sculptures to frighten our great-great-great-great X10^10 descendants from looking there - all based on the notion that what we find scary will still mean anything to them in the far, far future. The pile of waste, worldwide, just keeps getting larger.

Efficient. What a laugh - as I have pointed out many times in my life, a nuclear reactor is nothing more than crappy Steampunk. It is nothing more than a steam engine driven not by coal, but by the ultimate poison of radioactive lumps. The lumps are allowed to get close to each other, which excites them, they grow hot which boils water, the water becomes radioactive steam, which in turn drives a turbine that generates electricity. Eventually the water breaks down alchemically to the point that it becomes a dark, thick goo of half-created elements, a sludge of highly radioactive crud, this, in addition to spent (still deadly) fuel, is nuclear waste. It is stored in barrels, like oil, or vitrified in solid blocks of plastic. Then they pile is somewhere, or keep it in a constantly cooled pool if it is too nasty for words. Forever. It just sits there. Hopefully not leaking.

Steam engines are not overly efficient as machines go. They are so very early 19th century. But that is all a reactor is. A steam engine that uses radioactive decay for heat instead of coal.

Good luck.
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Tychomonger » Mon Mar 14, 2011 8:28 pm

A steam engine is not quite the same thing as a steam turbine, which power plants use.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_turbine

Dismissing something as "just" using the basic principles of energy transformation is an easy jab, and not intellectually honest. Airplanes are just powered kites, and computers are nothing but switches that can turn other switches on and off!
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Mon Mar 14, 2011 9:56 pm

How fucked is Fukushima?

Seven Reactors, built in the world's most active subduction zone, all de-powered, all critically damaged, all with dysfunctional backup systems, broken diesel pumps and failed cooling systems.

Current score:

3 exploded, 1 on fire, 3 to go!

Japan must have loved Hiroshima, because they went and paid to do it to themselves...
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:12 pm

Tychomonger wrote:A steam engine is not quite the same thing as a steam turbine, which power plants use.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_turbine

Dismissing something as "just" using the basic principles of energy transformation is an easy jab, and not intellectually honest. Airplanes are just powered kites, and computers are nothing but switches that can turn other switches on and off!


Airplanes ARE powered kites, ultimately. Computers ARE arrangements of switches.

The point is that atomic power has been sold as being futuristic, as being, in the eyes of most folks, something pure and good, where matter itself is disintegrated DIRECTLY into clean, pure power, and this is a lie. But it is what most people think. I would bet a goodly number of people right here on this board think something not unlike that. It is the common spin.

Nuclear reactors are not what they have been sold to the public to be, they are not what they are shown to be on television, nor in the propaganda of the nuclear industry. They are, the fancy seeming complexity of a turbine notwithstanding, simply heat turning a rod that rotates to make electricity, and that system is the same whatever fuel you use: gasoline, diesel, coal, natural gas, or lumps of radioactive matter bouncing neutrons off each other. The bottom line is that the basic mechanism is no more futuristic than a steam locomotive; it is just using heat to boil water. That is it. No direct conversion of matter, no fusion, no Seaview submarine, no Star Trek reactor, no sci-fi coolness at all.

But nuclear power is not sold to anyone as being a big teakettle, and it should be, because that is the bottom line truth, and all tea kettles must be warmed by fuel, and fuel means waste, and burning, and exhaust, and inefficiency of the most ancient, non-sci-fi sort.

Worse, unlike coal, or oil, or gas, it must be watched, carefully, and controlled, constantly, because one slip-up for even so little a time as thirty seconds (in the wrong circumstance) is deadly, fatal and horrible, not just in the present, such as in an explosion, but forever. They never tell people that point when they sell them on reactors. A gas explosion, bad. Here comes the firetruck. A meltdown - you can't use that land again in human memory, and your great-grandkids are going to enjoy thyroid cancer and leukemia.

All just to... boil water. Nothing better. Just boil water. Heat. Just heat. All that risk, eternal waste, eternal, spreading poison... just to make heat.

I stand on my statement.
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Tychomonger » Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:32 pm

Yes, presenting nuclear power as magical would be misleading spin. Presenting it as a boiling teakettle is also spin, and just about as misleading. Fusion power, the holy grail of energy production, would also be a teakettle.
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:31 am

Tychomonger wrote:Yes, presenting nuclear power as magical would be misleading spin. Presenting it as a boiling teakettle is also spin, and just about as misleading.


How on earth is saying that a steam-powered electrical source is, in fact, powered by steam, in any way whatsoever misleading, or in any way 'spin'?

It is a teakettle. It is a boiler. Nuclear fuel is used for the sole and lone purpose of boiling water in an oversized kettle. A 'water containment vessel' is a kettle. It has a fancy name, yes, but it is functionally a kettle, and the steam it produces lifts not a lid nor makes a whistle, but instead is applied to rotate a turbine, which is to say a fancy shaft that is connected to the wheel of an electrical generator. This is what it is. This is factual wording, stripped of all pretension and jargon. It is an un-magical, dis-en-awed view of what a nuclear plant is, and does.

Spin is lies. Spin is non-fact, or, sometimes, a mix of lies and some fact to stabilize it and make the lies convincing.

When I state that the machine essence of a nuclear plant is that of a steam engine to generate electricity, fueled by heat, I am stating absolute fact. When I say that this is reducible to a kettle that makes steam when put on to boil, I am stating such obvious fact that it is the primary method of introducing children to the concept of the stream locomotive as well as to the basic concept of pressure and 'work' in physics.

I do not grasp your statement. It truly appears utterly meaningless to me.

A nuclear plant is a big teakettle, heated by radioactivity, and it is built only for the function of providing steam, which can then be used however is desired... such as to generate power. It could be used to heat old-fashioned steam heaters in apartment buildings, or to press clothes... it is steam. Radioactive steam, but steam, nothing more and nothing less.
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Idiot Glee » Tue Mar 15, 2011 3:17 am

With fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal, etc) the release of deadly chemicals is part of normal operations. Seriously, you'd be surprised how many threshold of reporting events happen at oil refineries, spewing stuff you don't think about as much as radiation but which is as deadly-if not more so in cases-as what is happening in Japan. And even when they're not playing close to the legal razor for profits, the oil companies, especially, kick up a lot of pollutants like carbon dioxide which has other problems.

With nuclear boilers (hey steam power is as old as Hero of Alexandria, but we're MUCH better at pulling energy out efficiently) the externalities are nasty when they happen, but they're not constantly happening. Accidents happen rarely in nuclear power (by industrial standards that is, if nuclear plants were run like normal industrial facilities there'd be three eyed fish on every plate) because people wouldn't stand that.

Nuclear plants are as safe as anything else out there, look at the corroded refineries running 100 year old process units and tell me they (nuclear plants) are not safer, but when they go up, people notice more than when hydrocarbons go up.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer_alley
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_City_Disaster
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_City ... _explosion

Industrial society kicks up quite a lot of dust, but we don't like the alternatives. The current forms of nuclear power do have catastrophic risks, but each reactor design is better than the last, the newer designs have fail safes that would prevent this disaster (the back up pumps failed after the tsunami knocked them out, the new designs don't need them for safe shut down, and hardening the pumphouses will prevent this on currently built designs).

As to government subsidies? Nothing huge gets built without them, and nuke plants are huge. The railways of the world, road systems, bridges, anything bigger than a couple percent of a massive corporations profits for a year, all need subsidies. Coal plants need them, and even cars need them now.

Cars get a government subsidy (no this isn't a conspiracy theory either, hear me out), since every time you drive you use petrol, petrol which is traded on the open market and subject to price variation from said market, petrol which is affected by stability in Saudi Arabia (even if, like on the western US coast, it's mostly Alaskan crude), Saudi Arabia who's stability is insured by US aid and subsidy.

If the house of Saud fell tomorrow, you couldn't afford to drive.

Now mind you, I'm not inclined to use nuclear power, not because the waste is the worst thing ever. (coal plant sludge pits are massive expanses that sometimes FLOOD whole towns, there is ROCKET FUEL in LA's aquifers)

I don't like nuke the same way I don't like oil. We'll run out eventually. Our needs and wants only grow to fit our capacity to produce, the material we produce from only shrinks. From this, it is clear that we should go with non-exhaustible resources: Sun, Wind, Tides, Rivers, Animal Waste, Non-Food Ethanol, the first three are very passive on the environment (though they have effects, birds in turbines for example), the last three less so, but still useful (Hoover Dam is going strong fueling neon in ugly Las Vegas).

As to the particular disaster in Japan, who know's how bad it will be, it's only 5 days in, there will be some harm for sure, but it's too soon to say to what, to who, and how bad. We on the West Coast US are likely pretty safe, the Pacific is what scientists call "huge", and most of Chernobyl fell on nearby "small" Europe. Japan will certainly suffer, likely have immediate deaths (some people do have rad-poisoning, but they were at the plant), and a cancer cluster. But Japan will survive! (it's Japan after all...)

Not every thing is OK, but it's too soon to call in the trumpeters and wheel out the wine press of God's wrath just yet...
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Anna » Tue Mar 15, 2011 5:24 am

May I join in for a moment?

Well, even in a german discussion I would go down, sink to the ground or so.
But however...

Just have a look to Lost and Found, there are links to card models for nuke plants. (and other models)

I don't think that nuclear power is cheap.
How many facts are around a nuclear plant?
The fuel elements are always radioactive, they have to handle with care, transportation to the powerstation and away from it, every time handle with care. It's a logistic masterpiece. That must cost a lot.
And an ultimate disposal for the nuclear waste, you can search worldwide. There is none!
No one has any clue where to store it finally.
There is a dangerous technology, used around the world, and we have no place where to store it for the rest of the planets lifetime for thousands of years, hundred thousands of years?
And we would need more than one place.

To much ado about that stuff.
Coal, oil, gas don't have this kind of problems.
Other problems, oh yes, but not that dangerous.
And if it goes broken, the following costs of a nuclear meltdown &Co. are much higher as it would happen to a coal power station for example.

The future:
A fusion reactor would produce very less radioactivity, but I don't believe that ever one will work.
So we have only the choice to use other energy options.
Only isn't the right word, there are many options.
I would prefere, except using the wind, the heat of the earth itself. (this heat ends when the solar system is going to blow up)
But these idiots just pumping water into the ground and creating earth quakes. There must be some other solutions for this.

But we germans were always sceptical against nuclear power, sadly not our politicians.
I just saw a graphic with nuke plants placed in Germany, two places are in the former GDR/East Germany.
The other 15 are build on the former west german territory...
What does this tell...
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Coda » Tue Mar 15, 2011 12:21 pm

Several points to be made:

All puns aside (since turbines spin), "spin" has nothing to do with truth or falsehood and everything to do with the PRESENTATION of a piece of information with the intent to encourage a particular viewpoint. That information can be completely true, completely false, or a mix thereof; the spin is the WAY YOU SAY IT to make your point. Calling a nuclear reactor the equivalent of a teakettle is factually true but it's a spin intending to trivialize the process. Calling a nuclear reactor a marvel of science tapping into the power of the atom is ALSO factually true and it's ALSO a spin, this one intending to glamorize it.

Yes, the spin is necessary to avoid public panic, because it IS highly likely that a panic would cause more problems than the reactor troubles themselves will. But it's also highly likely that the worst-case scenario ISN'T going to happen. In terms of nuclear incidents, this one is evolving remarkably slowly, which is giving scientists and workers more time to figure out how to deal with it. The fact is, the redundant safeties have done their job, even if they haven't completely eliminated the problems, and the scope of the disaster is quite a bit less than it could have been.

Yes, nuclear fuel is technically a limited, nonrenewable resource, but you don't need nearly as much OF it and there's MORE of it on the planet. It's going to last longer and it is, under normal non-catastrophic cases, considerably cleaner than hydrocarbon-based power generation.

The damage of radiation exposure is actually quite a bit less significant than people are going to spin it up. Out of everyone affected by the atomic bombs in Japan, only around 4000 developed cancer due to radiation. That's a tragedy, yes, but consider how many people develop lung cancer from smog. Even the workers at the plant aren't expected to die from this directly; I read somewhere that their life expectancies have been reduced by around 15 years but it's not going to kill them outright.

By the way, the steam generated by a nuclear power plant under normal operation IS NOT radioactive. The heat exchangers are a closed-loop design used to heat CLEAN, ISOLATED water into steam to drive the turbines. That water does not get exposed to the radioactive material directly, and at worst receives some ionization from being struck by radiation -- radiation alone does not bestow radioactivity; you actually have to get particles of the radioactive substance dissolved in or scattered upon something to make it "contagious." And sure, ionized oxygen can do some damage, but it's not that big of a deal; every bolt of lightning generates a bunch of it. The only radioactive steam involved in the process is supposed to be contained within the reactor, such that only catastrophic physical failure of the reactor housing will allow it to escape.
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Coda » Tue Mar 15, 2011 12:36 pm

On a positive note, one of my websites (http://trisphee.com/) is doing a fundraiser drive.
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Tychomonger » Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:00 pm

Thanks Coda, you expressed what I was trying to say quite nicely.
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Wed Mar 16, 2011 6:54 am

With regard to nuclear waste there is only one real point: we have no way to dispose of it.

This is not the case with all other forms of waste. No matter what the waste, from nerve gas to mercury, there is a way to entrap, bind, seal, combust, alter or bury it that will not kill people for centuries and centuries onward. Whether we bother to actually pay to do such things is not the point; the fact remains that with enough effort something is actually possible.

This is not the case with nuclear waste. We have NO answers. None.

Yet it piles up, ton after ton, year after year, no end in sight.

The only solution the entire world uses is to stack it up in piles on-site, next to the reactor, and just leave it there.

Yucca Mountain? So? Ten thousand years from now, who will know what anything we might build to mark it means? In they will dig, because something is there, something mysterious, and innocents will die. Providing some natural event does not expose everything over the centuries, of course.

We have no technology to build any container that will not leak over timescales like that. We cannot build anything that would even last a handful of centuries - much less hundreds of centuries.

Nuclear power makes deadly waste we have no solution for. Period.

To a rational species, this should be the end of the issue; it would be insane to do what we have done. It cannot be defended. It cannot be answered. It cannot be allowed. Yet, it is. Hell, nuclear power is growing in use every year. The eternal waste just piles up faster and faster.

Teakettle or marvel of science - to hell either way. So what? Call the reactor what you want, the issue is that this is the only technology that creates waste that there is no valid way to dispose of, store, or deal with, and that waste is death incarnate. This is beyond crazy. It is beyond madness.

Mankind is insane. It is too stupid to live. The longer I live, the more I learn and see, the more convinced I become of this simple fact.
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby mwchase » Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:03 am

It seems people are working on means of disposal: like so.

Not really my area of expertise, but the general idea is something like... by simplifying the steps required to perform the nuclear level of the process, it's possible to boost efficiency by a lot, in a way that uses current "waste" as nuclear intermediates to substances with a half-life of years instead of centuries. In addition, using different fuels to begin with should start the fuels along a completely different reaction pathway, that doesn't produce that kind of waste to begin with.

Also, they're supposed to work at low pressures, so, you know, harder to spontaneously explode.

(Also, it probably says something about me that my initial response was "Inefficient? Heck, just slap a Stirling engine on there!")

But yeah, it's true that changing nothing is a sure recipe for possibly-gradual suicide. Which is why people are working to change things!
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Alfador » Wed Mar 16, 2011 12:39 pm

mwchase wrote:But yeah, it's true that changing nothing is a sure recipe for possibly-gradual suicide. Which is why people are working to change things!


And if I may interject, the reason so many of these old, less safe reactor designs are still around is because we need the power, so we can't shut them down, and we can't replace them with newer, safer designs because so many anti-nuclear people cockblock the processes. Then when ancient reactors do fail, they point and say "SEE?! SEE?! I told you nukular power is unsafe!!!"
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Monocheres » Thu Mar 17, 2011 9:14 pm

Ah, whatever happened to the ambient-electrostatico-kinetic motor? Who is John Galt?
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Idiot Glee » Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:00 am

Monocheres wrote:Ah, whatever happened to the ambient-electrostatico-kinetic motor? Who is John Galt?


The ambient-electrostatico-kinetic motor was found to infringe on an obscure patent owned by a law firm for "any and all forms of energy derived from sources as yet unknown", and so John Galt snapped and punched the conman who screwed him out of his invention in open court, at his assault trial he represented himself, but his defense was found by the judge to be unrelated to his charges, and the jury convicted him and sentenced him to 5 years.

So John Galt is an inmate of the federal prison system.

Yay patent law!
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby Coda » Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:56 am

charges

Electrostatic ones?
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby RaharuAharu » Fri Mar 18, 2011 1:43 pm

Thorium is the Answer btw, Thorium and Pebble Bed Reactors.

Im going to cover Thorium with some links first.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium

http://www.thorium.tv/en/thorium_reactor/thorium_reactor_1.php

Please watch this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWUeBSoEnRk
This is a cut down versions with links to the longer versions in the beginning.
Only 16 mins long, and I think it is worth your time.

I like thorium, its far cleaner, cant melt down, is more available, and one of the best things, you can not make it in to a weapon, and it wont make weapons, like all CURRENT US Nuclear plants currently do.

While it does make waste, it makes significantly less waste, which is also only dangerous for about 300 years, not tens of thousands.


The Reason humans went with Uranium, it makes weapons, and Money. Pure and Simple.
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Re: Earthquake in Japan

Postby mwchase » Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:23 pm

The other thing, for the moment, is to build reactors that work differently enough from current designs that they can break down nuclear waste from uranium. Break down the waste, and you get a lot of power instead of long-lived waste.

Apparently, the trick there is to design reactors that don't need to slow down the neutrons to work, just use fully energetic ones. Now, this isn't my area, like I said before, but that's what I got from my link up there.
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Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 10:27 pm

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