• Nuclear powerTurbulent mixing research makes advanced thermal reactors safer

    Researchers are working to make advanced thermal reactors safer by establishing trusted uncertainty guidelines regarding advanced reactor turbulent mixing processes. “The overall goal of this project is the efficient management of heat transfer and being able to predict what’s going to happen in accident scenarios from a thermal hydraulics standpoint,” one researcher said. “A lot of what I’m doing in this research is focused on establishing uncertainty in the predictive tools that we have for measuring those accident scenarios.”

  • Disaster recoveryRepairing earthquake-damaged bridge columns in days, not weeks

    In just thirty seconds, a devastating earthquake like the ones that struck Japan and Ecuador can render a city helpless. With roadways split and bridges severely damaged, residents and emergency personnel could be prevented from moving around to rebuild. Normally, it takes weeks to repair the cracking or spalling of columns on just one bridge damaged in an earthquake. Researchers have developed a new process of fixing columns that takes as little as a few days.

  • Water securityFracking would pose no danger to water supplies: Research

    One of the primary concerns of those who oppose the development of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing is that creation of new fractures in the earth could cause fracking fluids to leak into, and contaminate, underground freshwater aquifers. Potential future fracking activity in the United Kingdom is unlikely to pose a pollution danger to overlying aquifers, new research from a leading academic suggests.

  • ChernobylWhat we learned from Chernobyl about how radiation affects our bodies

    By Ausrele Kesminiene

    The world has never seen a nuclear accident as severe as the one that unfolded when a reactor exploded in Chernobyl on 26 April 1986, sending vast amounts of radiation into the skies around Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. The planet had experienced massive releases like this before, in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. But Chernobyl-related radiation exposure had a more protracted character. It was the first time in history that such a large population, particularly at a very young age, was exposed to radioactive isotopes, namely iodine-131 and cesium-137, not just through direct exposure, but through eating contaminated food as well.

  • Emerging threatsRising seas put Vietnam in the “bull’s eye” of rising seas

    A rising sea level — for a country like Vietnam, with 2,000 miles of coastline — presents a major environmental and food security challenge, especially in the Mekong River Delta region where 22 percent of the population lives and about half of the country’s food is produced.

  • Water securityGroundwater quality changes alongside the expansion of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling

    New research demonstrates that groundwater quality changes alongside the expansion of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing but also suggests that some potentially hazardous effects may dissipate over time. The research is the first to analyze groundwater quality in the Cline Shale region of West Texas before, during, and after the expansion of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

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  • ChernobylMore money for nuclear safety pledged on Chernobyl 30th anniversary

    The EU and other global donors have pledged an additional $99 million to help secure the Chernobyl power plant, as ceremonies in the Ukraine mark thirty years since the disaster. The money will be used to construct a new spent nuclear waste storage facility, adding to the €2 billion already donated to helping clean up and secure the Chernobyl site. A new giant $1.7 billion steel structure will be placed over the nuclear reactor this year to prevent further radioactive leaks. The old concrete structure was put together after the meltdown, but experts say it is not leak-proof and that, in any event, it is beginning to show its age.

  • ChernobylThe legacy of Chernobyl -- 30 years on

    By Awadhesh Jha

    The 26 April 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. For many, especially those born since 1986, it is a word they know without appreciating the full significance of what happened on that day. For others, it was a life changing catastrophe which resulted in largest release of radioactivity in the history of nuclear energy.

  • Nuclear wasteDealing with irradiated nuclear graphite

    Since the beginning of the nuclear power industry, a large number of channel uranium-graphite nuclear power reactors was built across the world. To date, they all are on the output stage of the operation or decommissioning preparation. Approximately 250,000 tons of irradiated graphite are accumulated in the world, including ~ 60,000 tons in Russia. Due to the specificity of irradiated graphite, the treatment of this type of radioactive waste has not been determined yet.

  • Resilience“G-Science” academies call for strengthening global disaster resilience

    In the decade between 2005 and 2014, more than 6,000 natural and technological disasters occurred around the world, killing more than 0.8 million people, displacing millions more, and costing more than $1 trillion. Losses due to disasters are increasing in both developed and developing countries. Human factors that increase exposure and vulnerability, such as poverty, rapid population growth, disorderly urbanization, corruption, conflict and changes in land use, poor infrastructure including non-engineered housing, together with effects of climate change on weather patterns with increased extreme events, aggravate the negative consequences of natural and technological hazards.

  • Emerging threatsA single oil field a key culprit in global ethane gas increase

    A single U.S. shale oil field is responsible for much of the past decade’s increase in global atmospheric levels of ethane, a gas that can damage air quality and impact climate, according to a new study. The researchers found that the Bakken Formation, an oil and gas field in North Dakota and Montana, is emitting roughly 2 percent of the globe’s ethane. This is about 250,000 tons per year.

  • Nuclear accidentsForget Fukushima: Chernobyl still holds record as worst nuclear accident for public health

    By Timothy J. Jorgensen

    The 1986 Chernobyl and 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accidents both share the notorious distinction of attaining the highest accident rating on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) scale of nuclear accidents. No other reactor incident has ever received this Level 7 “major accident” designation in the history of nuclear power. But the IAEA scale isn’t designed to measure public health impact. Chernobyl is by far the worst nuclear power plant accident of all time. It was a totally human-made event which was made worse by incompetent workers who did all the wrong things when attempting to avert a meltdown. Fukushima in contrast, was an unfortunate natural disaster – caused by a tsunami that flooded reactor basements — and the workers acted responsibly to mitigate the damage despite loss of electrical power. In terms of health ramifications, these two nuclear accidents were not even in the same league. While Fukushima involved radioactivity exposures to hundreds of thousands of people, Chernobyl exposed hundreds of millions. And millions of those received substantially more exposure than the people of Fukushima.

  • Coastal resilienceNew Web portal for coastal resilience

    William & Mary Law School and William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) are collaborating on a new Web site which will provide key information to support local, regional, and state efforts to adapt to sea-level rise. Tidal and storm surge flooding risks, FEMA flood zone maps, storm history, and critical infrastructure risk assessments are all topics that are likely to be included on the Web site. Information about conditions of shorelines, wetlands, beaches, and coastal forests will also be in the portal.

  • Radiation risksBelgium turns down Germany’s request to shutter two aging Belgian nuclear plants

    Belgium on Wednesday turned down a request by Germany to shut down two ageing nuclear power near the German-Belgium border. Belgium said the two plants, while old, still meet the strictest safety standards. Both the Doel and Tihange power stations, in operation since 1974, were scheduled to be shut down and decommissioned in 2015.

  • Infrastructure protectionRobot offers safer, more efficient way to inspect power lines

    Currently, line crews have to suit up in protective clothing, employ elaborate safety procedures, and sometimes completely shut off the power before inspecting a power line. It can be difficult, time-consuming, and often dangerous work. Researchers have invented a robot which could change the way power lines are inspected — providing a safer and more cost-effective alternative.