• Protecting Japan from tsunamis

    As Japan begins to rebuild after the massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami, engineers are beginning to analyze the destruction to learn how to better prepare for future natural disasters; one expert says that prior to the earthquake, more infrastructures spending, particularly for projects aimed at preventing the approaching tsunami, could have mitigated much of the damage; the tsunami easily overwhelmed one of the tallest and longest seawalls in Japan; officials will have to decide whether to reinvest in costly tsunami infrastructure or to relocate communities further from the ocean to minimize the numbers affected by such events

  • U.S. earthquake resilience needs strengthening: report

    A new National Research Council report presents a 20-year road map for increasing U.S. resilience to earthquakes, including a major earthquake that could strike a highly populated area.; the report was mostly written prior to the 11 March earthquake in Japan, but the committee of experts who authored it noted that the Japanese experience is a reminder of the devastation that can occur even in a country acknowledged as a leader in implementing earthquake-resilience measures

  • Rising seas and coastal risks

    Most scientists believe that melt water from glaciers, the Greenland ice sheet, and possibly the West Antarctic ice sheet, along with thermal expansion from warming oceans, will raise sea levels by one-half to one meter (1.6 to 3.2 feet) over the next century and by one meter to two meters (6.5 feet) over the next 200 years; if sea level rises by a meter, “we will see higher tides, higher tidal velocities and tidal inundation every day,” says one expert; “And we’ll have a different shoreline”

  • U.S. reactors have weaker back-up batteries than Fukushima Daiichi had

    Almost all American nuclear power plants have backup batteries that would last only half as long as those at Japan’s troubled Fukushima Daiichi plant did after a tsunami knocked out power there; just eleven of the U.S. 104 plants had eight-hour batteries, and 93 had four-hour batteries; the batteries are not powerful enough to run pumps that direct cooling water, but they can operate valves and can power instruments that give readings of water levels, flow and temperatures

  • Indiana prepares for major seismic event

    Two of Indiana’s earthquake preparedness drills, the Great Central U.S. Shake Out scheduled for 19 April, and a training program in May for emergency management and response agencies are receiving increased interest following the devastating quake in Japan

  • Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant lost

    The radioactive core in the Unit 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and is now resting on a concrete floor; officials are now struggling with two crucial but contradictory efforts: pumping in water to keep the fuel rods cool and pumping out contaminated water; an investigation found that Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials had dismissed scientific evidence and geological history that indicated that a massive earthquake — and subsequent tsunami — was far more likely than they believed; more than 11,000 bodies have been recovered, but officials say the final death toll is expected to exceed 18,000. Hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless, their homes and livelihoods destroyed. Damage could amount to $310 billion — the most expensive natural disaster on record

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  • Japan begins road to recovery

    Japan’s long road to recovery has already begun; it is estimated that more than 135,000 buildings were destroyed and the Japanese government estimates that the recovery will cost as much as $310 billion; in the Miyagi prefecture, 80 miles from the quake’s epicenter, construction will soon begin on 1,110 temporary homes to shelter the more than 243,000 people who are now homeless; authorities are struggling to provide those living in shelters with enough food, clothing, and sanitary supplies; experts believe that Japan can rebuild quickly; Miyagi plans on building 10,000 temporary homes

  • 2010 record year for economic costs from disasters

    On Tuesday the Swiss insurance giant Swiss Re, released a study that found disasters in 2010 caused more than three times as much economic damage as 2009; last year disasters caused more than $218 billion in economic losses, the most in over thirty years; in 2010, insured losses totaled $48 billion, an increase of 60 percent from 2009; 2011 is on track to surpass 2010 as the costliest year, with massive earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand; the Japanese government estimates that the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami caused as much as $309 billion in damages

  • Lloyds of London's 2010 profit dropped 43 percent as a result of diasasters

    The profits of Lloyd’s of London dropped by 43 percent last year as the insurance market took big losses from earthquakes in Chile and New Zealand and from BP’s oil rig spill in the Gulf of Mexico

  • Japan's disaster draws attention to little-known U.S. nuclear insurance plan

    A little-known insurance pool in the United States that would provide insurance coverage for victims of nuclear reactor accidents occurring in the United States; the pool has been around for decades; Created under the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act of 1957 (Price-Anderson), the pool provides general liability insurance

  • Japan widens evacuation radius

    Japanese officials have enlarged the evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, as workers continue their struggle to repair the damaged nuclear reactors; last Friday a “voluntary evacuation” of people still living within nineteen miles of the plant was issued; residents within nineteen miles have remained indoors unable to leave their homes to purchase basic supplies and companies have refused to deliver; the voluntary evacuation could add an even greater strain to existing temporary shelters; currently 242,881 people are still living in shelters around the country and officials are struggling to provide enough basic supplies like food, water, and sanitary goods

  • "Solarball" promises to deliver clean water to developing countries

    Contaminated drinking water is the world’s leading killer with more than 3.4 million people a year, including two million children, dying from water borne diseases; to help combat these preventable deaths, one Australian university student has designed an affordable solution to provide clean drinking water to people across the world; the device, called the Solarball, can provide up to three liters of clean water a day by harnessing the energy from the sun; the Solarball can be manufactured cheaply, is simple to use, and made of durable materials; it was designed specifically for use by people in hot, wet, tropical climates

  • Fifteen U.S. nuclear reactors are located in an active seismic zone

    There are 104 nuclear plants in the United States, and fifteen of them are located in what is known as the New Madrid Seismic Zone, a region defined by a fault line of the same name; the New Madrid Seismic Zone involves eight states, and it is an active earthquake area in the central United States that follows the Mississippi River between Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Tennessee; while the U.S. earthquake zone is active, scientists say the ingredients do not exist there for a Japan-style nuclear disaster; should a large seismic event strike this part of the country, seismologists offer Christchurch, New Zealand, rather than Japan as an example of what to expect. In February, Christchurch suffered a 6.3 magnitude quake and billions of dollars in losses

  • UN warns of potential food crisis

    A UN Food and Agriculture Organization official warned that countries are not doing enough to increase food production to meet rising demand and that the world could be headed for a global food crisis; global food production must rise by 70 percent in order to meet the estimated demand for food; food prices have already soared in recent months and in 2010 food prices increased by 25 percent; rising prices sparked food riots in Egypt and Tunisia, which contributed to the overthrow of their governments; large disasters and droughts have significantly reduced crop yields across the world; as supply has fallen, demand has spiked due to population growth and increased use of food to manufacture biofuels

  • Indian Point 50-mile evacuation plan unrealistic

    Located only thirty-five miles north of New York City, the most populous area in the United States, is the Indian Point nuclear reactor; safety officials are questioning the wisdom of operating a plant so close to New York City; a fifty mile evacuation radius around the plant would affect nearly twenty million people and some say evacuating that many people on short notice is a “fantasy”; NRC is currently conducting a thorough safety review of U.S. nuclear plants and the Indian Point reactor is one of seventeen under scrutiny; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently called for the plant to be shut down