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Fukushima I Nuke Plant: May 8th Release of Large Amount of Radioactive Materials?

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Fukushima I Nuke Plant: May 8 Release of Large Amount of Radioactive Materials?

That’s what Taro Kono, Representative of Japan’s Lower House, says on his May 5 blog post. Referring to an email he received from a bureaucrat at Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, he quotes from one of the email attachment – minutes of the general meeting on May 1 of the government-TEPCO consolidated headquarters to deal with Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident.

From his May 5 blog post :

5月1日の政府・東電統合本部全体会合の議事録。

Minutes of the general meeting on May 1 of the government-TEPCO consolidated headquarters [to deal with Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident]

『このままいくと8日にも高濃度の放出が行われる。』

“At the rate things are going, a large amount [of radioactive materials] will be released on May 8.”

『細野補佐官から,本件は熱交換機の設置といった次のステップに進む上で非常に重要である,また,(今後,放射性物質が外に排出され得るという点で,)汚染水排出の際の失敗を繰り返さないよう,関係者は情報共有を密に行い,高い感度を持って取り組んで欲しい,とする発言があった。』

“This [not clear what "this" is, without context] is a very important step to install the heat exchanger, said the PM assistant Hosono. He also said (regarding the possibility of radioactive materials released [outside the reactor building] from now on) that the people involved should share information with each other thoroughly, and be sensitive so as not to repeat the mistakes when the contaminated water was released into the ocean.”

Well, who do you think are the “people involved”?

My guess? The government people – chiefs and deputy chiefs at ministries and agencies, and maybe the governor of Fukushima, and TEPCO. When the contaminated water was dumped into the ocean, the Minister of Agriculture and Fishery was upset not because he thought dumping radioactive water was bad but because no one had told him beforehand.

The “people involved” don’t seem to include the residents of Fukushima or Japan. Maybe not even the plant workers.

Aside from Mr. Kono’s blog post, there is no announcement from any government ministry or agency warning the residents of the potential danger of release of radioactive materials on May 8, when TEPCO is planning to open the double door to the Reactor 1′s reactor building to start the work of installing a cooling system that uses a heat exchanger inside the reactor building.

That TEPCO will start the work on May 8 is in the mainstream news, but no word on a large amount of release of radioactive materials possibly as part of the work. Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says the amount will be very small. (Uh huh.)

There are some who speculates that the cooling of the Reactor 1 by the “water entombment” is not what it seems. This journalist (link is in Japanese) says one of his friends who used to work at Fukushima I Nuke Plant as an engineer thinks the main purpose of filling the Containment Vessel with water is “wet vent”. If the release of radioactive materials in large amount is expected on May 8, the reason why TEPCO is pouring more water into the Containment Vessel is to do the “wet vent” that will reduce the amount of radioactive materials coming out of the Pressure Vessel by having them go through water.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: May 8 Release of Large Amount of Radioactive Materials?

[EX-SKF]

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Photos #8

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Written by testudoetlepus

April 16th, 2011 at 12:54 am

Japan’s Dark Ages

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Japan Copes With 21st Century Dark Age -Seattle Times 

“Tokyo’s iconic electronic billboards have been switched off. Trash is piling-up in many northern cities because garbage trucks don’t have gasoline. Public buildings go unheated. Factories are closed, in large part because of rolling blackouts and because employees can’t drive to work with empty tanks.”

“This is what happens when a 21st-century, technologically sophisticated country runs critically low on energy. The March 11 earthquake and tsunami have thrust much of Japan into an unaccustomed dark age that could drag on for up to a year. “It is dark enough to be a little scary…To my generation, it is unthinkable to have a shortage of electricity,” said Naoki Takano, 25, a pony-tailed salesman at Tower Records in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, normally infused by neon lights. The store has switched-off its elevators and a big screen that used to play music videos late into the night, a situation Takano expects to last until summer.”

“Japan’s energy crisis is taking place on two fronts: The explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear compound and the shutdown of other nuclear plants owned by Tokyo Electric Power have reduced the supply of electricity to the capital by nearly -30% Nine oil refineries also were damaged, including one in Chiba, near Tokyo, which burned spectacularly, creating shortages of gasoline and heating oil. Gasoline lines in the northern part of Honshu, Japan’s main island, extend for miles. About 30% of gas stations in the Tokyo area are closed because they have nothing to sell.”

“Economists say it is difficult to parse out how much is the result of actual scarcity and how much comes from hoarding. We are close to getting back to the gasoline capacity we had before the earthquake, but we are hearing demand has been two-to-threefold the normal volume,” said Takashi Kono of the policy-planning division in the natural-resources and fuel department at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. With that much demand, of course we’re looking at a shortage.”

“Energy analysts expect the gasoline crisis to ease in coming weeks as supply lines reopen and panic buying subsides. The electricity shortage, however, is likely to linger for months and might worsen as the weather warms-up and people try to turn on their air conditioners. Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper, on Tuesday, quoted an unnamed senior official of Tokyo Electric, which serves 28 million customers, as saying rolling blackouts could last a year.”

“Electricity is the talk of the town. Newspaper readers pore over detailed schedules of rolling blackouts. Many movie theaters are closed and companies have switched-off unnecessary lights and advertising, restricted use of elevators and shortened working hours. For now, gasoline shortages are disrupting both daily life and relief efforts. In Akita, 280 miles north of Tokyo, the few gas stations that are open have lines extending as long as a mile and limit purchases to 4 gallons. It would hardly be worth the wait, except that people want gas for emergencies — for example, if they need to flee radiation from the crippled nuclear plant.” http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2014616863_quakenergy28.html

Japan’s Dark Ages

[Trader Rog's Blog]

Written by testudoetlepus

April 13th, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Inside the Fukushima Daiichi Dead Zone

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A couple of Japanese journalists traveled into the heart of the 20km restricted zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. They found stray dogs, grazing cows, and very few cars. All the while their Geiger counters mounted on the car’s dashboard keep clicking faster as they get closer to the nuke plant. Their counters hit a maximum of 112 microSieverts per hour when they got within 1.5 km (.932 mile) of the crippled reactors.

Inside the Fukushima Daiichi Dead Zone

[The Johnsville News]

Written by testudoetlepus

April 7th, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Japanese Seismologist in 2004 on Risk of Nuclear Accident: ‘It’s Like a Kamikaze Terrorist Wrapped in Bombs Just Waiting to Explode’

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In 2004, Leuren Moret warned in the Japan Times of the exact type of nuclear catastrophe that Japan is now experiencing:

Of all the places in all the world where no one in their right mind would build scores of nuclear power plants, Japan would be pretty near the top of the list.

Japan sits on top of four tectonic plates, at the edge of the subduction zone, and is in one of the most tectonically active regions of the world.

Nonetheless, like many countries around the world — where General Electric and Westinghouse designs are used in 85 percent of all commercial reactors — Japan has turned to nuclear power as a major energy source

Many of those reactors have been negligently sited on active faults, particularly in the subduction zone along the Pacific coast, where major earthquakes of magnitude 7-8 or more on the Richter scale occur frequently. The periodicity of major earthquakes in Japan is less than 10 years. There is almost no geologic setting in the world more dangerous for nuclear power than Japan — the third-ranked country in the world for nuclear reactors.

“I think the situation right now is very scary,” says Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist and professor at Kobe University. “It’s like a kamikaze terrorist wrapped in bombs just waiting to explode.”

On July 7 last year, the same day of my visit to Hamaoka, Ishibashi warned of the danger of an earthquake-induced nuclear disaster, not only to Japan but globally, at an International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics conference held in Sapporo. He said: “The seismic designs of nuclear facilities are based on standards that are too old from the viewpoint of modern seismology and are insufficient. The authorities must admit the possibility that an earthquake-nuclear disaster could happen and weigh the risks objectively.”

I realized that Japan has no real nuclear-disaster plan in the event that an earthquake damaged a reactor’s water-cooling system and triggered a reactor meltdown.

Additionally, but not even mentioned by ERC officials, there is an extreme danger of an earthquake causing a loss of water coolant in the pools where spent fuel rods are kept. As reported last year in the journal Science and Global Security, based on a 2001 study by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, if the heat-removing function of those pools is seriously compromised — by, for example, the water in them draining out — and the fuel rods heat up enough to combust, the radiation inside them will then be released into the atmosphere. This may create a nuclear disaster even greater than Chernobyl.

It is not a question of whether or not a nuclear disaster will occur in Japan; it is a question of when it will occur.

As the US Geological Survey notes, Japan has had many earthquakes, including:

Yet:

Japanese engineer Masashi Goto, who helped design the containment vessel for Fukushima’s reactor core, says the design was not enough to withstand earthquakes or tsunamis.

Indeed, Reuters points out today:

Over the past two weeks, Japanese government officials and Tokyo Electric Power executives have repeatedly described the deadly combination of the most powerful quake in Japan’s history and the massive tsunami that followed as “soteigai,” or beyond expectations.

But a review of company and regulatory records shows that Japan and its largest utility repeatedly downplayed dangers and ignored warnings — including a 2007 tsunami study from Tokyo Electric Power Co’s senior safety engineer.

“We still have the possibilities that the tsunami height exceeds the determined design height due to the uncertainties regarding the tsunami phenomenon,” Tokyo Electric researchers said in a report reviewed by Reuters.

The research paper concluded that there was a roughly 10 percent chance that a tsunami could test or overrun the defenses of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant within a 50-year span based on the most conservative assumptions.

But Tokyo Electric did nothing to change its safety planning based on that study, which was presented at a nuclear engineering conference in Miami in July 2007.

Tokyo Electric’s Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, some 150 miles northeast of Tokyo, was a particular concern.

The 40-year-old nuclear complex was built near a quake zone in the Pacific that had produced earthquakes of magnitude 8 or higher four times in the past 400 years — in 1896, 1793, 1677 and then in 1611, Tokyo Electric researchers had come to understand.

Based on that history, Sakai, a senior safety manager at Tokyo Electric, and his research team applied new science to a simple question: What was the chance that an earthquake-generated wave would hit Fukushima? More pressing, what were the odds that it would be larger than the roughly 6-meter (20 feet) wall of water the plant had been designed to handle?

The tsunami that crashed through the Fukushima plant on March 11 was 14 meters high.

Sakai’s team determined the Fukushima plant was dead certain to be hit by a tsunami of one or two meters in a 50-year period. They put the risk of a wave of 6 meters or more at around 10 percent over the same time span.

In other words, Tokyo Electric scientists realized as early as 2007 that it was quite possible a giant wave would overwhelm the sea walls and other defenses at Fukushima by surpassing engineering assumptions behind the plant’s design that date back to the 1960s.

Despite the projection by its own safety engineers that the older assumptions might be mistaken, Tokyo Electric was not breaking any Japanese nuclear safety regulation by its failure to use its new research to fortify Fukushima Dai-ichi, which was built on the rural Pacific coast to give it quick access to sea water and keep it away from population centers.

“There are no legal requirements to re-evaluate site related (safety) features periodically,” the Japanese government said in a response to questions from the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, in 2008.

Not Just Japan

As MSNBC notes, there are 23 virtually-identical reactors in the U.S. to the leaking Fukushima reactors.

As McClatchy notes, American reactors hold much more spent fuel than the Japanese reactors (the amount of radioactive fuel at Fukushima – in turn – dwarfs Chernobyl):

U.S. nuclear plants use the same sort of pools to cool spent nuclear-fuel rods as the ones now in danger of spewing radiation at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, only the U.S. pools hold much more nuclear material.

The Japanese plant’s pools are far from capacity, but still contain an enormous amount of radioactivity, Lyman said. A typical U.S. nuclear plant would have about 10 times as much fuel in its pools, he said.

And yet the nuclear industry and American government are poo-poohing the danger. As McClatchy notes:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission reaffirmed its position that the U.S. pools are operated safely.

The Nation notes:

Aileen Mioko Smith, director of Green Action Kyoto, met Fukushima plant and government officials in August 2010. “At the plant they seemed to dismiss our concerns about spent fuel pools,” said Mioko Smith. “At the prefecture, they were very worried but had no plan for how to deal with it.”Remarkably, that is the norm—both in Japan and in the United States. Spent fuel pools at Fukushima are not equipped with backup water-circulation systems or backup generators for the water-circulation system they do have.

The exact same design flaw is in place at Vermont Yankee, a nuclear plant of the same GE design as the Fukushima reactors. At Fukushima each reactor has between 60 and 83 tons of spent fuel rods stored next to them. Vermont Yankee has a staggering 690 tons of spent fuel rods on site.

Nuclear safety activists in the United States have long known of these problems and have sought repeatedly to have them addressed. At least get backup generators for the pools, they implored. But at every turn the industry has pushed back, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has consistently ruled in favor of plant owners over local communities.

After 9/11 the issue of spent fuel rods again had momentary traction. Numerous citizen groups petitioned and pressured the NRC for enhanced protections of the pools. But the NRC deemed “the possibility of a terrorist attack…speculative and simply too far removed from the natural or expected consequences of agency action.” So nothing was done—not even the provision of backup water-circulation systems or emergency power-generation systems.

Similarly, Pro Publica points out:

Opponents of nuclear power have warned for years that if these pools drain, either by accident or terrorist attack, it could lead to a fire and a catastrophic release of radiation.

The nuclear industry says fears about the storage pools at U.S. plants are overblown because the pools are protected and, even if fuel is exposed to the air, the chance of a fire is incredibly small.

“People should be very concerned because the NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] has acknowledged that spent fuel pools that are not located inside the containment have the potential to cause catastrophic accidents,” said Diane Curran, a lawyer who has represented environmental groups and governments in challenges to fuel storage plans.“These are not high-probability accidents,” Curran said, “but we have seen how low-probability accidents can happen.”

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Congress asked the National Academies to study the vulnerability of spent fuel to a terrorist attack.

The resulting 2005 report, “Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage ,” concluded that “an attack which partially or completely drains a plant’s spent fuel pool might be capable of starting a high-temperature fire that could release large quantities of radioactive material into the environment.”

The report found that the vulnerability of the spent fuel to fire depends on how old it is and how it is stored. As the fuel ages, it cools, so it becomes less susceptible to a fire.

“The industry standard is that fuel that is older than five years can be dry-stored,” said Kevin Crowley, director of the nuclear and radiation board for the National Research Council, part of National Academies.

The report recommended that the nuclear industry take steps to decrease the vulnerability of the storage pools to fire. Some of those steps are classified, Crowley said. But he said others, like making sure there were fire hoses or spray systems above the pools, were pretty simple.

***The nuclear industry disagreed with the national academy about the vulnerability of the spent fuel to a fire.

So a Fukushima-type disaster was inevitable … and will be inevitable in the U.S. as well, unless steps are taken to make the plants safer.

Whistleblowers Ignored

In addition, years before Fukushima engineer Mitsuhiko Tanaka blew the whistle on the fact that Tepco covered up a defective containment vessel, the above-quoted Japan Times article blew the whistle:

Yoichi Kikuchi, a Japanese nuclear engineer who also became a whistle-blower, has told me personally of many safety problems at Japan’s nuclear power plants, such as cracks in pipes in the cooling system from vibrations in the reactor. He said the electric companies are “gambling in a dangerous game to increase profits and decrease government oversight.”

[Kei Sugaoka, a Japanese-American senior field engineer who worked for General Electric in the United States, who previously blew the whistle on Tepco's failure to inform the government of defects at the reactors] agreed, saying, “The scariest thing, on top of all the other problems, is that all nuclear power plants are aging, causing a deterioration of piping and joints which are always exposed to strong radiation and heat.”

Kikuchi and Sugaoka were ignored. Just like American whistle-blowers are being ignored.

Japanese Seismologist in 2004 on Risk of Nuclear Accident: “It’s Like a Kamikaze Terrorist Wrapped in Bombs Just Waiting to Explode”

[The Big Picture]

Chernobyl: A Million Casualties

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A million people have died so far as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant accident, explains Janette Sherman, M.D., toxicologist and contributing editor of the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment. Published by the New York Academy of Sciences, the book, authored by Dr. Alexey Yablokov, Dr. Vassily Nesterenko and Dr. Alexey Nesterenko, examined medical records now available which expose as a lie the claim of the International Atomic Energy Commission that perhaps 4,000 people may die as a result of Chernobyl. Enviro Close-Up # 610 (29 minutes)

| Gramercy Images |

Tokyo Electric To Build US Nuclear Plants: The No-BS Info On Japan’s Disastrous Nuclear Operators

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for Truthout/Buzzflash

by Greg Palast

Texas plants planned by Tokyo Electric. Image:NINA

I need to speak to you, not as a reporter, but in my former capacity as lead investigator in several government nuclear plant fraud and racketeering investigations.

I don’t know the law in Japan, so I can’t tell you if Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) can plead insanity to the homicides about to happen.

But what will Obama plead?  The Administration, just months ago, asked Congress to provide a $4 billion loan guarantee for two new nuclear reactors to be built and operated on the Gulf Coast of Texas — by Tokyo Electric Power and local partners.  As if the Gulf hasn’t suffered enough.

Here are the facts about Tokyo Electric and the industry you haven’t heard on CNN:

The failure of emergency systems at Japan’s nuclear plants comes as no surprise to those of us who have worked in the field.

Nuclear plants the world over must be certified for what is called “SQ” or “Seismic Qualification.”  That is, the owners swear that all components are designed for the maximum conceivable shaking event, be it from an earthquake or an exploding Christmas card from Al Qaeda.

The most inexpensive way to meet your SQ is to lie.  The industry does it all the time. The government team I worked with caught them once, in 1988, at the Shoreham plant in New York.  Correcting the SQ problem at Shoreham would have cost a cool billion, so engineers were told to change the tests from ‘failed’ to ‘passed.’

The company that put in the false safety report?  Stone & Webster, now the nuclear unit of Shaw Construction which will work with Tokyo Electric to build the Texas plant, Lord help us.

There’s more.

Last night I heard CNN reporters repeat the official line that the tsunami disabled the pumps needed to cool the reactors, implying that water unexpectedly got into the diesel generators that run the pumps.

These safety back-up systems are the ‘EDGs’ in nuke-speak: Emergency Diesel Generators.  That they didn’t work in an emergency is like a fire department telling us they couldn’t save a building because “it was on fire.”

What dim bulbs designed this system?  One of the reactors dancing with death at Fukushima Station 1 was built by Toshiba.  Toshiba was also an architect of the emergency diesel system.

Now be afraid. Obama’s $4 billion bail-out-in-the-making is called the South Texas Project.  It’s been sold as a red-white-and-blue way to make power domestically with a reactor from Westinghouse, a great American brand.  However, the reactor will be made substantially in Japan by the company that bought the US brand name, Westinghouse — Toshiba.

I once had a Toshiba computer.  I only had to send it in once for warranty work.  However, it’s kind of hard to mail back a reactor with the warranty slip inside the box if the fuel rods are melted and sinking halfway to the earth’s core.

TEPCO and Toshiba don’t know what my son learned in 8th grade science class: tsunamis follow Pacific Rim earthquakes. So these companies are real stupid, eh?  Maybe.  More likely is that the diesels and related systems wouldn’t have worked on a fine, dry afternoon.

Back in the day, when we checked the emergency back-up diesels in America, a mind-blowing number flunked.  At the New York nuke, for example, the builders swore under oath that their three diesel engines were ready for an emergency. They’d been tested.  The tests were faked, the diesels run for just a short time at low speed.  When the diesels were put through a real test under emergency-like conditions, the crankshaft on the first one snapped in about an hour, then the second and third.  We nicknamed the diesels, “Snap, Crackle and Pop.”

(Note:  Moments after I wrote that sentence, word came that two of three diesels failed at the Tokai Station as well.)

In the US, we supposedly fixed our diesels after much complaining by the industry. But in Japan, no one tells Tokyo Electric to do anything the Emperor of Electricity doesn’t want to do.

I get lots of confidential notes from nuclear industry insiders.  One engineer, a big name in the field, is especially concerned that Obama waved the come-hither check to Toshiba and Tokyo Electric to lure them to America.  The US has a long history of whistleblowers willing to put themselves on the line to save the public. In our racketeering case in New York, the government only found out about the seismic test fraud because two courageous engineers, Gordon Dick and John Daly, gave our team the documentary evidence.

In Japan, it’s simply not done.  The culture does not allow the salary-men, who work all their their lives for one company, to drop the dime.

Not that US law is a wondrous shield:  both engineers in the New York case were fired and blacklisted by the industry.  Nevertheless, the government (local, state, federal) brought civil racketeering charges against the builders. The jury didn’t buy the corporation’s excuses and, in the end, the plant was, thankfully, dismantled.

Am I on some kind of xenophobic anti-Nippon crusade?  No.  In fact, I’m far more frightened by the American operators in the South Texas nuclear project, especially Shaw. Stone & Webster, now the Shaw nuclear division, was also the firm that conspired to fake the EDG tests in New York. (The company’s other exploits have been exposed by their former consultant, John Perkins, in his book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.)
If the planet wants to shiver, consider this:  Toshiba and Shaw have recently signed a deal to become world-wide partners in the construction of nuclear stations.

The other characters involved at the South Texas Plant that Obama is backing should also give you the willies.  But as I’m in the middle of investigating the American partners, I’ll save that for another day.

So, if we turned to America’s own nuclear contractors, would we be safe?  Well, two of the melting Japanese reactors, including the one whose building blew sky high, were built by General Electric of the Good Old US of A.

After Texas, you’re next.  The Obama Administration is planning a total of $56 billion in loans for nuclear reactors all over America.

And now, the homicides:

CNN is only interested in body counts, how many workers burnt by radiation, swept away or lost in the explosion.  These plants are now releasing radioactive steam into the atmosphere. Be skeptical about the statements that the “levels are not dangerous.”  These are the same people who said these meltdowns could never happen.  Over years, not days, there may be a thousand people, two thousand, ten thousand who will suffer from cancers induced by this radiation.

In my New York investigation, I had the unhappy job of totaling up post-meltdown “morbidity” rates for the county government.   It would be irresponsible for me to estimate the number of cancer deaths that will occur from these releases without further information; but it is just plain criminal for the Tokyo Electric shoguns to say that these releases are not dangerous.  Indeed, the fact that residents near the Japanese nuclear plants were not issued iodine pills to keep at the ready shows TEPCO doesn’t care who lives and who dies whether in Japan or the USA. The carcinogenic isotopes that are released at Fukushima are already floating to Seattle with effects we simply cannot measure.

Heaven help us.  Because Obama won’t.

***

Greg Palast is the co-author of Democracy and Regulation, the United Nations ILO guide for public service regulators, with Jerrold Oppenheim and Theo MacGregor. Palast has advised regulators in 26 states and in 12 nations on the regulation of the utility industry.

Palast, whose reports can be seen on BBC Television Newsnight, is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow for investigative reporting.

Subscribe to Palast’s Newsletter and podcasts at GregPalast.com.

Tokyo Electric to Build US Nuclear PlantsThe no-BS info on Japan’s disastrous nuclear operators

[Greg Palast]

Written by testudoetlepus

March 15th, 2011 at 5:59 pm