Train Station of Liège, Belgium (PHOTOS)

For something on the town see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liège

For another cool one, see also (March 16, 2015) Antwerp Central Train Station (Photos).

Photos taken in my layover time, switching trains in Liège:

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DSCN2122The biometrics of some strangers were reduced or removed:

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DSCN2117Later on, when it’s getting dark, I dream away, staring into the vague infinite reflections of the train windows…

DSCN2281Liège at night, as seen from the International Space Station:

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

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More Geiger Counter Measurements Confirm: Angle of Pancake Tube Matters, also at Ground Level. (Data)

Herent, Belgium, March 2015 – data.

Random Photo filler:  The nuclear Power Plant of Tihange, Belgium, as seen from the train along the river Meuse / Maas.

Random photo filler: Happened to pass by there:  The nuclear Power Plant of Tihange, Belgium, as seen from the train along the river Meuse / Maas.   Photo by © Michaël Van Broekhoven, All Rights Reserved.

I’ve been doing some extra testing on the side to see if I can arrive at a clearer picture of these factors: Does it matter how I hold my Geiger Counter, vertical versus horizontal?

First some general arrival week data:

  • March 4, 2015:  attic, on table, horizontal: 19630 counts in 8hr12min (492 min. avg.) = 39.9 CPM
  • March 5, late: attic, on table, horizontal, window had been open for 2 hours:  18520 counts in 7hr50min (470 min. avg.) = 39.4 CPM
  • Overnight, attic, on table, horizontal, window remained closed:  12900 counts in 5hr23min (323 min avg.) = 39.9 CPM
  • Friday March 6, 2015 into Saturday, attic, on table, horizontal, window remained closed: 55900 counts in 24hrs0min (1440 min. avg.) = 38.8 CPM
  • March 7, 2015, same:  17560 counts in 7hr24min (444 min avg.) = 39.5 CPM

Background radiation range in this Herent attic is clearly still roughly 38-43 CPM (5 CPM range, although this time I only measured 38.8 to 39.9, so only a 1.1 CPM fluctuation range in the above-shown averages over 3-4 days).  A late June 2014 24-hour average in the attic was: 41.2 CPM.  So, basically, at first impression all appears as normal as can be.  Time for some other tests…

Horizontal versus Vertical & Beta blocking versus non-blocking of Beta

I had never heard anyone point the importance of this out to me before.   I discovered that this is a very significant factor at high altitude during my last trip USA->Belgium in early March 2015.  Turns out, it’s not only the case very high up.  Makes sense, of course, as cosmic rays are a major portion of the natural background radiation everyone is being exposed to.  (The only place totally devoid of cosmic rays is deep underground in sediment layers (like in some clays!) that do not contain radioactive minerals.

In those above 48 hours nearby official Belgian online radiation monitors showed stable baselines.  Attic radiation, measured with the Medcom Inspector Alert Geiger Counter:

  • Standing upright (22hr32min average): 36.6 CPM
  • Laying down on table horizontally (beta window down, 24hr avg.): 40.9 CPM

Official data at nearby monitors of Lubbeek & Zaventem showed neither data gaps, nor differences between the these two recent 24-hour periods.  The graphs plot 5 days of gamma data:

Question now is: is there perhaps a Beta radiation or surface influence factor in the mix of variables playing a role here?  I’ve encountered some skepticism by a few individuals on ENEnews about my recent airplane findings. (Regarding my March 6, 2015 blog post, “Geiger Counter Data from Airplane Flights: Denver -> Atlanta -> Amsterdam.“).    So,  to further check if any other factors than sensor angle could be the cause of this, I did some additional tests.

The area (My home while in Europe, an attic room in Herent, Belgium) had been cleaned and is not particularly dusty at all.  The attic window stayed closed during the testing periods.

Next test, I did on top of a ceramic coffee-cup, to lift the Geiger Counter a bit off the table surface.  I thought a coffee cup would be merely a radiation blocker (just a bit of mass) and be neutral otherwise.  Turned out quickly that this cup isn’t neutral…

  • Horizontal with front of meter resting on cup rim (see photo), Beta window upwards:  21940 counts in 8hr33 min (513 min. avg.) = 42.8 CPM
  • Horizontal, Beta window down over cup:  20,000 counts in 3hr50min (230 min. avg.) =  86.9 CPM

–> Not only was the first strangely higher than all averages this week, the second was so extremely different that I checked the dose rate near the cup and -lo and behold-, at closest range, it added as much as +0.150 µSv/hr to background.   Pretty bad prop for a test, apparently.  ;-/   I wonder if it contains a bit of Radium-226 or Potassium-40.  I don’t know.  Nothing unusual, though, so many things contains encapsulated radiation sources.  In any case, it only slowed me down in my quest to get more details about the effect of the pancake angle to horizontal.  And (note to self…) it’s a good reminder to check more aspects of a testing environment.

Starting over, this time on top of a comic strip book, and I moved the set-up to the attic axis on the far closed side (backdrop a mostly empty non-radioactive particle-board closet):

Geiger Counter on top of just one comic strip book.

Geiger Counter on top of just one comic strip book.  (It’s Part 2 of the Water Cycle in the OKKO series, by the way.)

  • Horizontal, Beta window down on top of book: 1487 counts in 0hr35min  (35 min. avg.) =   42.5 CPM
  • Horizontal, Beta window down on top of book, but with 1 sheet of aluminum foil over book: 1232 counts in 0hr28min (28 min. avg.) =  44.0 CPM    … Please don’t tell me Aluminum foil is radioactive too…   [Yes, a little… See link at end.]
  • Horizontal, Beta window down on top of book with 5 sheets of aluminum foil over book:  19030 counts in 7hr34min (454 min. avg.) =  41.9 CPM
  • Horizontal with front of meter resting on book = Beta window upwards, 5 sheets of aluminum foil over book underneath, and 3 books on top of Beta-window: 21220  counts in 9hr03min (543 min. avg.) =  39.1 CPM   (early March 17, 2015)
  • Horizontal with front of meter resting on book = Beta window upwards (exposed, no books on top), 5 sheets of aluminum foil on top of bottom book:  22070 counts in 9hrs (540 min. avg.) =  40.9 CPM    (double checking the fluctuation range);

DSCN2014

  • Horizontal, Beta window downward, the 5 sheets of aluminum foil wrapped around the Geiger Counter:  42410 counts in 16hr59min (1019 min. avg.) = 41.6  CPM
  • Vertical, the 5 sheets of aluminum foil wrapped completely around the Geiger Counter: 28350 counts in 12hr47min (767 min. avg.) =  37.0 CPM
  • Vertical, no aluminum foil or any blocking: 17960 counts in 7hrs58min   (478 min. avg.) =  37.6 CPM
  • Horizontal, front of meter faces book, no Aluminium foil (removed, back to just 1 comic strip): 13400 counts in 5hr18min (318 min. avg.) =  42.1 CPM
  • Vertical, standing (precariously balanced) on book: 41110  counts in 18hr7min (1087 min. avg.) =  37.8 CPM

Vertical_tableOnly_maart2015

  • Horizontal, simply on the table, nothing else, Beta window downward towards table: 21300 counts in 8hr42min (522 min avg.) = 40.8 CPM
  • Horizontal, on book, nothing else, Beta window downward towards book: 18800 counts in 7hr35min  (455 min avg.) = 41.3 CPM
  • Vertical, standing (precariously balanced) on table (nothing else):  21890 counts in 9hr43min (583 min. avg.) = 37.5 CPM

Overview tables  of CPM averages:

Horizontal_ Vertical_

Comparing the averages, how much ‘Horizontal’ measurements are clearly larger:

*Horizontal (39.9) versus Vertical (37.2) =>   + 2.7 CPM difference, or 6.8%, about 7%
**Horizontal (41.8) versus Vertical (37.4) =>  + 4.4 CPM diff., or 10.5%
***Horizontal (40.9) versus Vertical (37.3) =>  +3.6 CPM diff., or 8.8 %

Not quite as pronounced as at high altitude, but nevertheless I found a significant difference between horizontal and vertical measurements here at ground level as well.

  • The best two measurements for comparing are possibly those where the 5 sheets of aluminum foil were wrapped completely around the Geiger Counter, ’cause whatever radiation came from the foil would be the same for both, and Beta-in-air would be reduced to only the air trapped inside.   The difference for that one, Horizontal (41.6  CPM) versus Vertical (37.0 CPM) was -4.6 CPM or 11.0 %.

Attempts at Beta-blocking didn’t reveal anything because, apparently, books and Aluminum foil add at least +2.2 CPM.   Apparently:

A very significant (solar activity induced) geomagnetic storm happened just after the middle of March. If this had any effect, it did not affect my measurements in the attic near sea-level outside the normal fluctuation range, at least not during those times I was taking measurements.

http://www.solarham.net/planetk.htm

  • Also, cosmic ray counts in Finland:   http://cosmicrays.oulu.fi/ on which you can see that cosmic rays decrease during such a solar storm event (look at the March 17 data):

http://cosmicrays.oulu.fi/

Conclusions / What I learned:

1) The difference between holding the pancake-sensor Geiger Counter horizontal versus vertical is a significant factor, even at ground-level where I found the horizontal position approximately adding some + 7  to +11 % to the CPMs seen in vertical position.

2) I need to include date and time more precisely, every time, just in case there unusual space weather, to better get to know its possible effects.

3) If I attempt Beta Blocking, I need to test the blocking material better in advance, to avoid “blocking” with a Beta emitter…  :-/

!-> In any case, the angle I hold my Geiger Counter needs to be the same if I want comparable data, otherwise the margin of error increases by (at least) another  7%, making comparisons of CPM averages potentially meaningless.

This blog post was an elaboration on my airplane findings shared in (March 6, 2015), “Geiger Counter Data from Airplane Flights: Denver -> Atlanta -> Amsterdam”  Hope this is helpful to other independent radiation monitors.

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DISCLAIMER

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If you are viewing this page on any website other than allegedlyapparent.wordpress.com/ it may be plagiarized.  Please let me know.   All content is copyright © Michaël Van Broekhoven, administrator of the Allegedly Apparent Blog.  Content cited, quoted etc. from other sources is under the respective rights of that content owner.  For more details, see my Disclaimer, Share Policy and Fair Use Notice  If you wish to reproduce any of my content in full or in more than a paragraph or quote, please contact me first to (maybe not) obtain permission.

[Final version.  Last updated: March 23, 2015]

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More PHOTOS from Belgium – (Antwerpen, Leuven, De Haan, Brussels) – March 2015)

Herent, Belgium – Monday March 16, 2015

All photographs by © Michaël Van Broekhoven - All Rights Reserved.

My time in Belgium is flying by…  Below are a selection of a few dozens more photos taken on March 11 & 12th, 2015, going from Antwerp (previous 2 blog posts) in the northwest to Louvain (inland) to De Haan on the coast by the North Sea; and on March 16, when I also snapped a couple photos in central Brussels.

(Some similar and additional regional photos I took during a family visit in Summer 2012 can be found in the Belgium-Photos-10-part series, HERE; and from Summer 2014, HERE.)

My Visit to Belgium’s Nuclear Waste Depository Lab, HADES, 750 feet Underground… was definitely memorable too.  Coincidentally, the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Energy did the same just a couple days later.  For more nuclear blog posts, see my Nuclear Blog Posts Archive.

  • PHOTOS

Starting out in Antwerp:  The Cathedral is so tall I couldn’t fit the whole tower without a bit of an angle: ;-)  Some 40 years ago, I was born  less than a mile from here.

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In the city center of Antwerp.

DSCN1756 DSCN1757–>  Vrede = Peace    Wrede, as the adjective of wreed = cruel or wrathful.   Vrede is pronounced the same as Wrede.  Obviously this is lost in another language, such as in English,  “The W of Peace”…

…De W… also makes me think of Bart De Wever, the current mayor of Antwerp, a seemingly smart guy with very strong oratorical skills, who, very much like Obama in the USA (of similar traits), favors building more nuclear power plants, buys (and strategically plays) into the whole “war on terror” madness, militarizing peaceful cities and all.  About the latter, see ‘Soldiers patrol streets of Antwerp and Brussels‘.  I didn’t see any in Antwerp, though.  In Brussels I saw cops patrolling with machine guns handy.  Reminded me of the late 1980’s, when the Rijkswacht (Gendarmerie, a federal police force that was then tied closer to the military, a WW2 leftover), and that has been dissolved in a unified police force since.) used to have heavily armed checkpoints to stop high school students, like myself then, to make sure their bicycle lights worked, and such.  (Seriously)

Along the river Scheldt (De Schelde, Antwerpen, België):

DSCN1761A frigid breeze…

DSCN1762 DSCN1782–> The text on the flood-protection wall translates roughly to: ” The forests are shaven poodle-naked  For in his art studio   The Nature he intended to paint, however, was lost  But there is no PLANET B …”

A statue across the street holds up a caduceus, with its two snakes and wings, a symbol of medicine, with deep esoteric roots:

DSCN1784(If you do a search for caduceus chakras pineal gland (or something like that), you can find hundreds of sites that delve into its origins in ancient mystery schools, as well as its use in certain occult circles).

It’s a hard habit to break:  I take photos of advertisements and posters in the street quite often.  Just… because.   (I don’t get to do this in the semi-wilderness I roam in, or near, most of the year…)   I might do a blog posts for posters photographed while in Japan (in November 2013)…   These are just a couple random ones, nothing particularly special, just thought I’d include some.

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Yeah… I love you too. ;-)

A variety of versions of Calzedonia ads were everywhere on this visit.  An Italian clothing brand with outlets, so I noticed, in many towns suddenly:  (So, forgive me for this commercial break:

DSCN1801Some event posters in a hallway by a bar’s bathrooms:

DSCN1844-> Top right is Sella Sue, who also grew up near Leuven.  On YouTube: Selah Sue – This World (Official Video), to give an example.  

Seen on the side of the Antwerp Zoo, which is right next to the train station:

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City skies…

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After the train ride from Antwerp, I arrived back in the railway station of Leuven (Louvain, Belgium), which has a nice design as well (imo):

DSCN1818Quiet night atmosphere…

DSCN1820The tunnel to the front.

DSCN1823From there I usually walk home (about 5 miles, or an hour walk, to Herent), unless I feel lazy, then I take the bus.  There’s several direct buses, but I prefer my usual slight detours, favoring beauty over speed, especially late at night:

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I stroll by let-up clothing store windows on the Bondgenotenlaan and Mechelse Straat; this one a detail of a Max Mara store:

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Center of Leuven:

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Children toy store, The Grasshopper:

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Villa Ernesto, a bar on the Vismarkt:

DSCN1888  Crossing the River Dijle:

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Heading up De Keizersberg:

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Going over the freeway:

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The next morning it’s clear that the meadow with some trees I had a view on is truly only a memory now.  The planned subdivision, with as many as 400 new houses, is being built…:

DSCN1693In Oostend, on my way to De Haan on the Belgian Coast:

DSCN1850 DSCN1852 DSCN1854 DSCN1856De Haan, Belgium:

DSCN1870 DSCN1863 DSCN1861 DSCN1860What would have been unthinkable 30 years ago, is now accepted normal, including surveillance cameras on most public busses:

DSCN1873The following photos were taken in Belgium one evening in Brussels, March 16, 2015:

About to enter the tunnels from Northern Brussels:

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Crossed the Grote Markt (Grand Market Square) in the center:DSCN1930

A detail on the nearby Saint Nicholas Church:

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A detail on the front of the old Brussels Stock Exchange building, also depicting the Cadeseus (shown above on a statue in Antwerp):DSCN1936

Brussels City Hall on the Grote Markt (different angle than in photo above), on my way back to the train station to catch the last train back:

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Like the vast wilderness areas of Western North America, in some ways… Belgium will always be home too.  With so many people so closely packed together, and influences from many cultures, political views, art movements, time periods, economic powerhouses and global finance stirring this pot, it can be a quite intense.  It’s not where I feel called to be now, but I have come to very much love where I’m from.

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DISCLAIMER

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If you are viewing this page on any website other than allegedlyapparent.wordpress.com/ it may be plagiarized.  Please let me know.   All content is copyright © Michaël Van Broekhoven, administrator of the Allegedly Apparent Blog.  Content cited, quoted etc. from other sources is under the respective rights of that content owner.  For more details, see my Disclaimer, Share Policy and Fair Use Notice  If you wish to reproduce any of my content in full or in more than a paragraph or quote, please contact me first to (maybe not) obtain permission.
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Belgium Suddenly moves Forward on Nuclear Waste Issue. Government Officials Visit Research Lab. A First step toward Long-Term Management of Belgium’s Most Dangerous Radioactive Waste. Decision Due 2015. (As-is, Actual Storage Still Many Decades Away…); + Some Ideas For Additional Research.

DISCLAIMER – First day of Northern Hemisphere SPRING, 2015

  • Tuesday morning, March 17, I visited the HADES tunnels of EURIDICE at the SCK-CEN Belgian Nuclear Research Centre.  (See Previous blog post)
  • In a feat of slightly amazing timing coincidence, just 3 days after I walked in those laboratory tunnels, Belgium’s Minister of Energy Marie-Christine Marghem and Vice Prime Minister (and Labor Minister) Kris Peeters visited HADES too, for the start of the PRACLAY experiment, in which clay will be heated electrically to 80 degrees Celcius (176 Fahrenheit) for a decade to find out how the radioactive waste’s heat will affect the clay and tunnel strength:
CLICK IMAGE to read (in Dutch) at SOURCE:  http://www.nieuwsblad.be/cnt/dmf20150320_01589843

CLICK IMAGE to read (in Dutch) at SOURCE: http://www.nieuwsblad.be/cnt/dmf20150320_01589843

“[…] Part of my concerns stem not from what is going on at the lab per se, but more so from the Belgian government’s irresponsible delays to tackle key decisions, such as giving the green light and allocate the needed funds to start the search for an actual waste deposit site. Unbelievable:  Although scheduled, thát actually hasn’t even started yet… 

The radioactive waste is simply accumulating in spent fuel pools and bunkers.  No long-term disposal site is even under construction yet.  They have NO IDEA YET where they’ll put it!   HADES, as it is now, is only an underground laboratory.  Belgium has been researching the waste disposal issue longer than most other countries, but is currently (2015) near the end of the line for implementation (2035?).

Yet, also true, since disposal can’t even start until a couple more decades anyhow (during which the spent fuel and other wastes need to cool down more), ongoing research should help with making better decisions when that time has come.  Anyhow… “We’ll see.” is the very attitude of kicking the can onto the next generation… […]”   [read more at original blog post]

(Excerpt Screenshot) http://nuclear-news.net/2015/03/21/what-to-do-with-ever-accumulating-radioactive-waste-belgium-doesnt-know/

Also, not even 5 hours after my blog post, Friday night by 22:59, ‘BELGA’ (a Belgian press agency) sends an article over the wire that gets picked up nationally in print and radio the next day:

“The national agency for radioactive waste and enriched fission materials, NIRAS,  will propose to the government to store highly radioactive and/or long-living radioactive waste in clay.  That has been decided by the board of directors on Friday [March 20, 2015]It is the first step in the management of nuclear waste.  “The federal government will hereby receive all elements in their hands to take a first decision about the long term management of this waste”, it sounds.

SCKCENsignageMol_2015

(Photo: MVB, 2015)

At the request of the European Union, Belgium had to determine its management plan for the storage of nuclear waste for the long term.  For low-level and medium-active short-lived waste (Category A) a project already started, surface-level storage in Dessel.  [Note: Dessel is right next to Mol, the nuclear research and waste facilities are all in the same area.  The storage of A-waste is in a massive super strong bunker.]

For waste of Categories B and C (high-level and/or long-lived waste), the board of directors of Niras has given a mandate to the Director-General to develop a policy, which can be submitted to the government.  “Geological disposal in poorly indurated [still soft] clay has been determined as the long-term solution.  This is all in line with [Belgium’s] Waste Plan 2011, for which alternative management options have been thoroughly examined and in which the public was consulted,” it sounds.   According to Niras, 40 years of research has shown that geological disposal in Boom or Ypres clays are ‘a safe, feasible and appropriate solution‘.

In a second phase, Niras will thoroughly develop the principles of reversibility, retrievability and monitoringA third major decision determines the location. “The time for thát phase has not come yet.he says.

According to Jean-Paul Minon, chief director of the Niras, the choice of a site is dependent on public support. “That takes timeTherefore, we will as soon as possible develop a transparent and participatory decision-making process that involves all stakeholders in every step of the process.””  [Original in Dutch]

  • In the same vein, but including the officials’ visit to Hades, more articles today detailed where the nuclear waste disposal research is at.   So, today, Saturday March 21, 2015,  most newspapers in the region, coincidentally, also ran stories in which both aspects I touched on were found as well:  1) No location site has been selected yet, but 2) experiments to confirm that long-term storage in clay is ‘feasible and can be done safely’ are progressing:

“[…]  On Friday, ESV Euridice, a partnership between the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN) and nuclear waste management authority NIRAS, presented the large-scale experiment PRACLAY.  “For ten years, a 30 meters side-tunnel is being heated with electricity to 80 degrees [176 F], so as to mimic the effects of heat from nuclear waste on the clay,” said Euridice chairman Marc Demarchelier. “What turned out as possible on a small scale, we want to now also test on a realistic scale.  For instance, we want to know whether the tunnel remains stable and intact after ten years.  This is important, because the concept of the waste disposal is that it remains retrievable for a certain period.”

The researchers claim the investigation has now reached a level where the federal government can take a policy decision to realize an underground repository. “Once that decision is made, NIRAS can accurately define further research, organize the various steps of the future management and optimization, and estimate the cost of such a geological disposal,” says NIRAS director Jean-Paul Minon.”   [Full article (in Dutch)]

That one’s paywall-blocked, though  :-/  but the free part [translated below the screenshot] states:

(PHOTO in article screenshot, by © Bart Van der Moeren, is captioned: “In the underground lab in Mol, which is located at a depth of 225 meters, a thirty meters long tunnel will be electrically heated to 80 degrees Celsius ten years to evaluate the effect of the heat of high-level radioactive waste on the clay.”)

Article [rough translation]: 

“[…] Storage in clay layers deep underground:  NIRAS / ONDRAF finds it the best way to store the Belgian nuclear waste.  It is now up to the government to bite the bullet, says CEO Jean-Paul Minon, whether or not the lifetime of the oldest nuclear reactors gets extended.

According Niras, which in our country is responsible for nuclear waste, research into the storage of highly radioactive waste has advanced far enough to make a choice. Preference is given to an underground storage ‘in poorly indurated clay’.

Niras CEO Jean-Paul Minon adds immediately that there still not been clarified exactly where the waste will be stored in our country.  The next few years, storage site location won’t be discussed yet … ”

The three articles in De Standard, which appeared in less than 24 hours, together (by keyword, “kernenergie”, nuclear energy):

Hope passing this along is somehow helpful.

  • Interesting timely development

Although I have nothing to do with that (unless, of course, you venture into non-linear time with comic-strip-style imagination ;-) ), I’m sure you can imagine that when I attempt to bring attention to a topic that gets not even a fraction of the attention I think it deserves, that it was slightly trippy to see it all over the news all of a sudden.  :-)

Does it now mean Belgium knows where they’ll put the waste for the next million years?  Well, “in clay somewhere” it what it sounds like.  But, otherwise, No, the issue of WHERE will be many more years before that key issue will be tackled, the way they’re going about it.  The news is really only this:  The researchers are confident that still-soft clay is a suitable medium for relatively safe véry long-term disposal of high-level nuclear waste.  And the government needs to make the next decision now.

Given the geological time involved, it’s only to be expected that some experiments need to take place over the course of years or decades.  Why they would move along their schedule in such a snail pace sequence for everything else as well, however, is not clear to me.  I see no reasons why a search can not already begin to tackle site selection challenges. 

  • Many Unknowns Left To Be Researched…

Just off the bat, I can imagine that studies that would help identify the best suitable  locations would benefit from more detailed mapping of various geological features.  That could begin right away (perhaps by the National Geological Institute), such as seeking more insight in long-term hydrological and seismic trends and possibilities.  There is always more to learn.  Kicking the can to the next government or even generations is not a responsible choice to move this extremely important project along.

And why are they not talking about expanding so many possible areas of research?   There are so many fields that, at least as far as I know, that are barely looked into deeply.

I think of those white string-like bacteria “of unknown DNA sequence” that showed up mysteriously inside old nuclear fuel assemblies in the US, or the Peak District microorganisms that could “eat” radioactive waste discovered in the UK, for instance.  Could they show up deep down at some point as well?  Could that be helpful?  Or be made helpful?   More research will lead to more discoveries.

Or, just to brainstorm a bit more…  How do electric currents run through various ground layers?  Like low-frequency complex Telluric currents, or those associated with thunderstorms.  How are they affected by what would be akin to “underground radioactive clouds”?   As we know, radioactive clouds in air (such as after Chernobyl and Fukushima) significantly affect the electric conductivity of air… (See Page 24 @ ‘radiation and air electricity’, mentioned in my Jan 15, 2015 blog post, “Gaging Recent Radiation Spikes: How do the Recent Gamma Upticks Compare to those Observed after Chernobyl?“)  How does the clay’s conductivity change when radioisotopes move by diffusion through the clay?   Are there subtle effects of such waste disposal that could eventually even affect the weather somehow?  Or bird migration?   There are so many things we know almost nothing about.

Could changes deep underground affect sensitive animals above-ground?  Could indigenous people (like the Kogi in Colombia, to just mention just one tribe I saw a documentary about the other day), or “urban shamans” be consulted to help with site location, or could they/we play a role in aspects of the long-term stewarding?

If the public is going to be involved in the decision process, -to make a convincing case for a specific long-term management plan- a bit more knowledge than data on heating clay and how fast waste spreads in clay is called for, in my view.  For now, that’s my input as “a member of the public”…

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Other sites (in Dutch) I looked at with some additional perspectives were:

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DISCLAIMER

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If you are viewing this page on any website other than allegedlyapparent.wordpress.com/ it may be plagiarized.  Please let me know.   All content is copyright © Michaël Van Broekhoven, administrator of the Allegedly Apparent Blog.  Content cited, quoted etc. from other sources is under the respective rights of that content owner.  For more details, see my Disclaimer, Share Policy and Fair Use Notice  If you wish to reproduce any of my content in full or in more than a paragraph or quote, please contact me first to (maybe not) obtain permission.

[Some edits were made on March 23.  Final version.  Last edited: March 23, 2015.]

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A Visit to Belgium’s Nuclear Waste Depository Lab, HADES, 750 feet Underground…

 DISCLAIMER March 20, 2015 Belgium★ 

[Soundtrack: Uh-Oh Plutonium!‘, by Anne Waldman (1982)]

225 meters below the surface inside the tunnels of Hades - Euridice @ SCK-CEN

225 meters below the surface inside the tunnels of Hades – Euridice @ SCK-CEN

I spent part of this Tuesday some 750 feet / 225 meters deep underground in the HADES (High-Activity Disposal Experimental Site)’s research tunnels of ESV EURIDICE (European Underground Research Infrastructure for Disposal of Nuclear Waste in Clay Environment) on the grounds of the SCK-CEN, a world-renowned top-notch Belgian Nuclear Research Center.  Another world.   I continue to appreciate the sci-fi elements in the unfolding of my life. ;-)

In this blog post:   Since the above links can tell you all about the lab and its many projects, I’ll only touch on some basics, and present my nuclear facility visit as more of a travel journey, “a day in Belgium” if you will, with my impressions and reflections, with a couple somewhat-related side-tracks as well.

A glimpse into a very different world than where I spent most of my time…  The contrast with walking around Tibetan Stupas in Crestone or camping in a Southern Colorado wilderness could barely be starker:

tunnel

225 meters below the surface inside the tunnels of Hades – Euridice @ SCK-CEN

  • Journey Into The Underworld

I got up early to catch a bus to catch an early train to be well on time for my pick-up to make it to my scheduled visit to the tunnels under the ‘SCK-CEN’, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, a long-time corner stone of this planet’s leading nuclear research labs.

A radioactivity sign in the back of a manga /  Comic strip store near the old Brussels STock Exchange catches my attention the night before...

As I walk by a Manga / Comic strip store near the old Brussels Stock Exchange, art with a large radioactivity sign in the back catches my attention, on Monday, the night before…

Hades… Oh that funny fascination with hell… ;-)  You got to appreciate these folks’ almost morbid sense of humor.  Not only do beers carry names like Duvel, Judas, Satan, Lucifer and Forbidden Fruit, now the High-Activity Disposal Experimental Site, HADES, is named after the ancient Greek god of the underworld and abode of the dead.

According to Greek mythology [borrowing here from Wikipedia], Hades was a fearsome figure to those still living; in no hurry to meet him.  Since precious minerals come from under the earth too (i.e., the “underworld” ruled by Hades), he was considered to have control of these as well, and was referred to as Πλούτων (Plouton, related to the word for “wealth”), Latinized as Pluto, after which the planet/rock Pluto is named, and later the fission material Plutonium.

Hades_cerberus_nuclearHades strictly forbade his subjects, the dead, to leave his domain and would become quite enraged when anyone tried to leave, or if someone tried to steal the souls from his realm.  He’s often depicted with Cerberus, a multi-headed (usually three-headed) dog, or “hellhound” with a serpent’s tail, a mane of snakes, and a lion’s claws. He guards the entrance of the underworld to prevent the dead from escaping and the living from entering.

A strange multi-headed beast… (a type of such unfortunate genetic mutation recently actually happened to a grey whale…), deadly stuff that must remain well-guarded in the depths for ever,…  You can easily see why this name appealed.

In a similar vein, in the 2013 action thriller movie, ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, the Cerberus Code was a fail-safe device which, when activated via three different access codes being entered, would help unleash a nationwide nuclear meltdown.”  In the movie it’s also used to deactivate launched ICBM missiles from reaching their targets.

  • A Visit…

Mol train station, where I got picked up.

Train station @ Mol, Belgium.

Someone in my family works at the research center and, through following the necessary steps, I managed to get a tour on short notice.  Site security is tight, with no photography allowed, so photos from inside the nuclear site itself are not mine.  Most are SCK’s, used with permission.   (Bummer, ’cause I could easily have snapped hundreds of photos, which could have been more artsy or shown more specific details…  Maybe next time I’ll arrange for this specifically.  Staff was very friendly and, certainly for a site of that caliber, quite accommodating, imo.)

Why my interest?  One of the main reasons I arrived at an “anti-nuclear” opinion decades ago has been my impression that there is still no real solution for dealing with the nuclear industry’s long-lived highly radioactive wastes.   Besides just ordinary intrigue, I figured that the least I should do is find out how far they’ve come to find a solution.  Reading websites is one thing, but actually visiting a site always gives impressions and know-how that would otherwise be missed.  Reality always trumps concept in my book.  I wanted to check it out.

PRACLAY_foto_ingang

The facilities and various ongoing experiments and high tech research and development projects are quite interesting, but I also found my visit sobering, not particularly easing my concerns.  More about that further below.

  • Location of the town of Mol, in Western Europe:
Some well-known places are marked in surrounding countries.  In Belgium I only marked Doel, Tihange and Mol.

Some well-known places are marked in surrounding countries. In Belgium I only marked Doel, Tihange and Mol.  The local sediment layers (simplified), below:

HADES in Boomse klei2

The clay deposit that reaches the surface around the town of Boom (hence its name, Boom clay) near Antwerp lies some 200 meters below the town of Mol, where SCK-CEN has its research facilities.

Part of my concerns stem not from what is going on at the lab per se, but more so from the Belgian government’s irresponsible delays to tackle key decisions, such as giving the green light and allocate the needed funds to start the search for an actual waste deposit site. Unbelievable:  Although scheduled, thát actually hasn’t even started yet…

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Nuclear-Fuel-Cycle/Nuclear-Wastes/Radioactive-Waste-Management/

Scheduled, yes, but no funds or political commitment yet.    SOURCE:  http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Nuclear-Fuel-Cycle/Nuclear-Wastes/Radioactive-Waste-Management/

The radioactive waste is simply accumulating in spent fuel pools and bunkers.  No long-term disposal site is even under construction yet.  They have NO IDEA YET where they’ll put it!   HADES, as it is now, is only an underground laboratory.  Belgium has been researching the waste disposal issue longer than most other countries, but is currently (2015) near the end of the line for implementation (2035?).

Yet, also true, since disposal can’t even start until a couple more decades anyhow (during which the spent fuel and other wastes need to cool down more), ongoing research should help with making better decisions when that time has come.  Anyhow… “We’ll see.” is the very attitude of kicking the can onto the next generation…

And then there’s the more hope-inducing prospect of transmuting the most-highly-radioactive longest-living radioactive wastes into short-lived less radioactive isotopes.  This is one of the promising possibilities for the particle-accelerator-driven liquid-metal-cooled MYRRHA (Multi-purpose hYbrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications), currently under construction in Mol as well.

Lead-Bismuth Coolant experiments are ongoing.  /  Click Image to read more about MYRRHA @ http://www.sckcen.be/en/Technology_future/MYRRHA

Lead-Bismuth Coolant experiments are ongoing at SCK-CEN. / Click Image to read more about MYRRHA @ http://www.sckcen.be/en/Technology_future/MYRRHA

Once operational, MYRRHA is said to be able to reduce the length for which nuclear wastes need to be stored safely from hundreds of thousands of years to just thousands of years, or less than 1,000 years.

Though “I’d like to be opposed” to the construction of ANY new nuclear reactors, IF, however, they are 1) incapable of containment breach, even when safety measures fail (Incapable of meltdown & you can walk away from them and they’ll be fine, no matter what.  That’s the level of safety I ultimately want to see. Like a solar panel, basically;) and , 2) they significantly reduce the radioactivity of the current waste piles, and 3) are part of a multi-century timeline of dismantling the toxic legacy, weaponry and infrastructures of the 20th & 21st century nuclear era; and 4) are only allowed to be constructed in the context of a ban on both conventional reactors as well as nuclear weapons, THEN I would be more inclined to compromise on that stance.

The first and last point are unlikely to be reached any time soon.  But, similar to certain Thorium reactors, there is a possibility that innovative reactor designs like MYRRHA could assist in the transition from the extremely irresponsible era of currently used nuclear technologies towards a viable post-nuclear era.  (Problem is that fans of such new technologies seem just Gung ho about continuing the nuclear era, period, usually while downplaying cleaner alternatives, ánd accompanied with spewing nuclear propaganda, including belittling the effects of Chernobyl and Fukushima, as well as current nuclear waste disposal issues, and thus end up ultimately undermining their own credibility… The shameful propaganda-shit-movie, Pandora’s Promise, was such a horrid feat of deception, for example. Many fell for its deceptive nonsense.)  Breakthroughs in much cleaner sustainable energy are already making nuclear obsolete as far as energy production goes.  Nuclear is not even economically interesting anymore, not even remotely if you also incorporate the mining damage mitigation, cancer treatments, and waste disposal challenges (let alone disaster clean-up) in the price tag.  Yet nuclear high-tech is likely to continue to play a significant role in clean-up and hazard containment for at least a millennium.  Breakthroughs in nutrition science and magnetic resonance imaging and such might also make even nuclear medicine obsolete by the 22nd century.

In any case, best-case scenario, I foresee (and, in my personal fantasy land, ambitiously aim for ;-) ) a factual end of the nuclear era by the year 3000 CE at the latest.  (How’s that for striking a balance between unicorn optimism and pragmatic realism?)  But, perhaps an ironic environmental opinion, to accomplish this, nuclear research funding MUST be dramatically increased.   There is a need for an ambitious multidisciplinary global multi-century “Reverse Manhattan Project”, that can maintain continuity of operations regardless of financial, climate or social disruptions.

To get there, I sense that the nuclear crisis (of which the ongoing Fukushima disaster, growing mountains of nuclear wastes, fission material proliferation, the threat of nuclear terrorism/war, and the current worsening cancer epidemic affecting ever younger ages, etc. are but ‘early symptoms’), demands a complete epistemological socio-cultural reconfiguring of the global modern financial system’s underlying semiotic architecture.   The breaking point, which we are already in, DEMANDS a dramatic cultural and perceptual shift.  As things look now, however, my impression is that that has not quite become obvious to the bureaucrats dwelling in the upper echelons of the business world.

politics-nuclear-atomic_bombsMust note: Unlike my visit to Reactor B on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the Pacific Northwest, where Plutonium was manufactured for the atom bomb used on Nagasaki, Japan in 1945, as well as the war heads for thousands more of those heinous weapons of mass destruction, here in Belgium I have actually never encountered someone who glorifies weapons of mass destruction or who takes pride in making the incinerating of innocent people in a nuclear blast possible.  There is a lot more interest in actually manifesting a functioning democracy here in Europe (compared to the States where I spent most of my time).  You can even have a civil debate here, or an exchange of ideas, while holding completely different opinions, ánd remain best of friends.  (Good luck with thát in the US…)   Meanwhile the US gov. is increasing its budget for nuclear weapons again…   Talk about a country that has lost its moral ground… Anyways… .

Although the overlap between civilian and military has always been blurry in the Post-WW2 nuclear industry, the focus at SCK-CEN, is and has been for long, only geared towards peaceful applications, including nuclear medicine & finding solutions to the immense challenges nuclear researchers and engineers created over the past almost-century.

SCKCENsignageMol_2015

This current visit to Belgium is too short and packed, but I would love to take courses here some day to learn more about what is currently known about ‘nuclear waste management’, for instance, or how ‘radiation experts’ are trained to respond to nuclear emergencies.

(I wonder sometimes… Are they actually being trained to tell people about ‘bananas and plane flights’ in the midst of dangerous fallout just to befuddle the public? Or what? Why does that keep happening?  [Here’s a press example from 2014.] Anyhow…  More rebuttal attempts of some commonly spewed ‘top shelve expert nonsense’ can be found in my blog posts, ‘The Dose Deception‘ and Cs-137 vs K-40‘.)

Another side-note:  One can also have samples analyzed here for radioisotope content.   In 2014, I used EMSL on the US East coast for my samples from California  (my data here) and Japan (my data here).  Greenpeace had their Fukushima samples analyzed here at SCK-CEN [See blog post from way back then, May 27, 2011].

  • Heat & Radiation Waste Challenges

At the current state of waste management, it’s a pretty dire picture.  The fact that 20th century-style nuclear fission reactors aren’t banned yet is utter insanity, as far as I’m concerned.   The worst Class C waste remains hot for a millennium, as well as highly radioactive for literally hundreds of thousands of years.  In human terms, ‘forever’.

So here we are now…  Decisions that got us into this mess were made by a handful of people, completely outside any democratic process.  By sociopaths, really, when you think about it.  All this happened on the side-lines of a horrible war and within an economic context that nowadays ultimately looks at ‘quarter earnings’ and short-term profitability for its guidance.  And yet the physical reality of the consequences literally span geologic time, many thousands, even hundreds of thousands, up to millions of years.  No civilization has remained in existence, let alone stable and prosperous, for that long.  (The Egyptian Empire lasted less than 4,000 years, at most.)

Waiting for the heat to cool is the easy part:

Models show the effects of the waste heat begin to disappear in the 31st Century CE.  SOURCE:  http://www.ondraf.be/sites/default/files/Safir2_apercutech_eng.pdf

Models show the effects of the waste heat peaks a half millennium from now, and becomes negligible  after the 31st Century CE.   SOURCE: http://www.ondraf.be/sites/default/files/Safir2_apercutech_eng.pdf

The radioactive particles are a much greater problem.  Experiments revealed the speed at which radionuclides diffuse in clay:  It slows down and decreases with distance and time, which means clay can effectively help contain a leaking nuclear waste container.

DATA of radioisotope dispersion can be found in http://www.ondraf.be/sites/default/files/Safir2_apercutech_eng.pdf as well. Click image for details

DATA of radioisotope dispersion can be found in http://www.ondraf.be/sites/default/files/Safir2_apercutech_eng.pdf as well.   Click image for details

Even with current state-of-the-art technologies, no material or construction can be guaranteed to remain perfectly sealed for tens of thousands of years, and certainly not for these chemically volatile, still-warm and very radioactive wastes.   Although much is done to design special containers to prevent leakage, it is assumed ‘possible’, even ‘likely’ that in as little as a few thousand years, or less, the containers might start leaking.

Early results from experiments in the clay environment suggest it would take 100,000 to 1,000,000 years for health-hazardous radioisotopes to reach the surface.  By that time, their radioactivity would only constitute a small fraction of their current danger.  That’s the calculated guess, and hope.

Thus the idea is considered ‘feasible’ and ‘safe’.

I can be as “anti-nuclear” as I want to be, but the long-term radioactive waste issues are not affected by my opinion.  I’m most interested in being effective.  Failure to adequately respond to these challenges we’re faced with could ruin the quality of life for future generations for thousands of years to come, and that’s putting it lightly.  That’s why I think a pragmatic approach is going to include retrievable geological disposal and new nuclear technologies, and -again- to move this forward, much more targeted funding and education (not deceptive PR campaigns) is what seems called for.

  • Maybe not all it’s made out to be…

More skepticism wouldn’t hurt either, though.

Regardless of scientific feats and research fame, the center’s history includes plenty of darker chapters too, including dumping some of its nuclear waste into the Atlantic Ocean [=> Source in Dutch] in the 1970s and 1980s. Belgium’s total waste dumped that way amounts to 55,324  containers with a total of 23,000 tons of (mainly low-level) wastes, dumped at 6 sites in the NE Atlantic.  Much of came from Doel NPP, but a part of it also came from this research site in Mol.  Many other countries did the same.

If you consider that the few active permanent disposal sites in the world came about somewhat similarly: through a period of various experiments, then modeling, and then convincing people of the merits of the specific underground disposal site, then it’s worth looking at how things are going at these already-operational sites.

WIPP it real good… – We’re only less than a few decades into the intended hundreds of thousands of years, and at already one of three, things are clearly not as predictable and safe as they were made to sound…

WIPP, perhaps not the best example to include in the list of feasible safe waste depositories...  (EURIIDICE exhibit panel; Photographed with permission.  Photo by © Michaël Van Broekhoven, 2015.)

In 2014, at WIPP, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, USA, (included in a presentation panel at EURIDICE in Mol, see above, center), where military “legacy” nuclear waste is stored in a geologically stable salt layer, various mishaps have underscored unknown dangers, some of which can occur BEFORE the waste enters a site, only to show their explosive consequences many years later.  WIPP ended up leaking Americium and Plutonium above-ground already!  “The leak contaminated 22 workers and forced the indefinite closure of the nuclear waste repository. Resuming full operations could take years, at a cost estimated at more than $500 million.”  (See WIPP link above.)  Thát just as one example of things not always working out as rosy as presented.

  • Some more Belgian Nuclear History

By some history, Belgium’s nuclear involvements are also infamous [=> See Panorama’s documentary, “Kernmacht België” (in Dutch)], including well-founded allegations that Pakistan’s nuclear program probably would never have gotten off the ground without shared expertise from Mol.

Scandals abound…  (Click excerpts below for more on Germany’s late 1980s “Transnuklear Affair”, in which Mol was implicated as well.

And if you go back to the middle of the 20th century, not directly related to SCK, just to ‘Belgium':  Belgian industrialist Edgar Sengier inadvertently supplied the Uranium (from Katanda, Congo in what was then still a repressive Belgian colony) used in the Manhattan project of WW2, with which hundreds of nuclear bombs were made, including for the nuclear war crimes committed by the US in Japan in 1945.   (That Mr. Sengier also supplied the Nazis with Uranium ore for theír atom bomb research program is generally not highlighted…)

Closer to the present, the Mox fuel in Reactor 3 at the molten-down Fukushima-Dai-ichi disaster site was ‘Made in Mol, Belgium’, just across the street from the research site, at Belgonucleaire.   (See also Het Nieuwsblad (April 23, 2011), “Splijtstof in Fukushima is Belgisch“)

SCK-CEN immediately offered Japan expert assistance when the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster struck, but the offer was turned down by the Japanese government at the time.  Some exchanges did occur since, though, so I was told.

The image shows several cracks in a Belgian reactor vessel, so close together they need to be regarded as one large crack. CLick for more.

Because Belgium remains on the forefront of new developments in nuclear science, including nuclear safety, it’s also no coincidence that the infamous micro-cracks (which aren’t so “micro” at all) in the reactor vessels of Doel and Tinhange, Belgium were discovered here, as reactor inspection methods are being refined here.

The process of vitrification, where nuclear waste is mixed in glass to isolate it from corrosion processes (for safer long-term storage), was reportedly developed here as well.  For Europe, the industrial application of that is now done at the Areva plant near Le Havre on the Northern France coast.

  • A bit Sad… A bit Skeptical…

T23-small2Part of what just doesn’t feel quite right about these scientific proposals is that they hold the vibration of having arisen from minds that do not understand themselves as being part of Mother Earth.  In the minds of nuclear scientists, or geologists for that matter, the clay layer itself is not even considered part of the biosphere.  They call it “the geosphere” and apparently don’t see an issue in badly polluting it with radioactive wastes.  Never mind that clean ancient clay layers may some day be considered more precious than oil and gas are now, or that they may have functions not yet known.  The common modern attitude undoubtedly comes from a reductionist belief that only biological life is considered ‘alive’.

Bottom line, though, is that there was something about the clay layer itself, a deep peace, a sensing that left me with an indirect impression that adding nuclear waste to it may have subtle-energetic effects on water flows or aspects on the surface that will not be anticipated until science better understands the planet as a living organism.

web-of-lifeAs if digging a hole, throwing everything we don’t want to face in it, covering it over, can somehow help us pretend that no terrible disrespect happened, that no restoration in our relation with the living Cosmos is called for.  As if…

To some degree, this can be framed as essentially an issue of culture clash, a bit like the theme in the movie, “Avatar”, with cultures aligned with an alienated biosphere-objectifying technosphere culture on the one hand, and ‘indigenous’ biosphere-aligned cultures on the other hand…

Meditation retreats and various other approaches that can help people to rediscover who they are, what our place is in the Universe, and to stand in right relation to all our relations, and such, may all be gaining popularity;  globally seen, however, it feels like it all remains a rather marginal phenomenon…

And, of course:  Do I have an alternative proposal?  Got a better idea?  I’ll sit with that.  … For now I must concede that I don’t know and that what they’re working on deserves support.  This is why I insist (right here on my little blog, yes) on increasing the scientific research budgets, especially in the nuclear field.

When I reflect on what I’ve seen, what’s proposed, and what people in politics, science and business are saying about where they envision taking this world… when I center and relax within the experience of being in my body, part of the Earth…

I’m left speechless.

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My concerns not reduced at all, I arrived back in Leuven by train…

DSCN2003

I stopped at a bar in the city center on my walk home, read a newspaper, including an article highlighting how the nuclear regulators and the nuclear power company are too intertwined, the very same situation that eroded the safety standards and safety culture in Japan that lead to the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Disaster…  It’s true.  And it’s extremely serious.   All the ingredients are here for a similar mess to take place here in Belgium… All it takes is some “unanticipated event”.   As far as I know that’s actually the case in EVERY country with nuclear energy.

DSCN2007

I had a Trappist from Westmalle.  The intention to stick to the health-focused  alcohol-free roll I had been on in Colorado broke down quickly here in the land of chocolate and beer

I didn’t feel like walking the rest, so I waited for a bus by the side of the Saint Peter’s Church and headed home…

DSCN2012

Grateful for yet another interesting day…

Ready for bed…

… while the beds are still burning…

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Solar Eclipse from Belgium

Herent, Belgium – March 20, 2015

I could feel it (feels a bit like night-time energy), but it was mostly cloudy.  A bit past its eclipse peak, the cloud cover thinned enough to see it:

SOlarEclipsMarch20_2015_MVB

Last time I watched a solar eclipse was from Boulder, Colorado (May 20, 2012), when I used CD’s to dim the light.

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Antwerp Central Train Station (Photos)

Antwerp, Belgium – March 2015

Photos were taken on March 11, 2015, when I passed through here on my way to the city center, where a small flash mob / skid / demonstration commemorated Fukushima’s 4th anniversary and called for the closure of Belgium’s troubled aging nuclear reactors.

800px-Antwerpen_Centraal_station_12-07-2010_14-04-17Wikipedia tells me that, “The original station building was constructed between 1895 and 1905 as a replacement for the original terminus of the Brussels-Mechelen-Antwerp Railway. The stone clad terminus buildings, with a vast dome above the waiting room hall were designed by Louis Delacenserie and the vast (185 metres long and 44 metres high) iron and glass trainshed by Clement van Bogaert.  The viaduct into the station is also a notable structure designed by local architect Jan Van Asperen. […]”

The reason I looked up when it was built is because I noticed a detail of a decoration under a window on the side of the building:

SwastikaPatternOrnamental_AntwerpCentralTrainStation_

Long pre-dating the 20th centuries’ World Wars, apparently ornamental swastika designs, akin to those found all over Asia, adorn the Antwerp Central train station. Passed through here numerous times and never noticed that detail before.

Some photos from inside the multi-level station:

DSCN1798

AntwTrainSt_2

AntwTrainSt_3

AntwTrainSt_4

AntwTrainSt_5

AntwTrainSt_6

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