• Japan facing a nuclear catastrophe

    Initial estimates say that the Magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami killed about 10,000 people and made hundreds of thousands homeless; Japan is facing another threat: radioactive contamination from four damaged nuclear power plants; the tremor damaged the cooling systems in the reactors, forcing the companies operating the plants to flood the reactors with corrosive sea water and boric acid; one containment vessel was destroyed in an explosion, and in order to prevent more explosion, radioactive-contaminated hydrogen had to be released, increasing the radioactive levels to unsafe levels; more than 200,000 people living in the vicinity of the reactors were evacuated; the government has began distributing iodine pills to citizens (the pills are used to protect the thyroid gland from the effects of radiation); the difficulties at the nuclear power plants mean that rotating power outages will be imposed across Japan as of Monday

  • Sensors detecting nuclear tests detect tsunamis, too

    The Comprehensive Nuclear test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is supported by arrays of sensors at sixty sites across the world that listen for the low boom of atmospheric blasts. They are tuned to infrasound — frequencies under 20 hertz (cycles per second), the lowest humans can hear; these sensors are meant to pick up illicit nuclear tests, but they can also pick up tsunami-producing tremors — and provide timely warning to those likely to be affected

  • New tool to build water infrastructure resiliency

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to roll out its new Community-Based Water Resiliency (CBWR) Electronic Tool this spring; the tool is designed to give organizations in charge of critical water infrastructure a way to assess their community’s ability to continue delivering water in the event of service disruptions and enhance resiliency; a major natural disaster or terrorist attack could leave large portions of a state without access to drinking water for months; Matthew Everett from the EPA will be present at the upcoming Government and Security Expo to discuss the EPA’s new initiative; the conference will be held from 29 March to 31 March in Washington, D.C.

  • Anchorage unprepared for next big quake

    Geologists warn that Alaska’s next big earthquake could be even larger than the Good Friday earthquake of 1964; the massive 9.2 magnitude earthquake is the second largest quake in recorded history and resulted in massive ground failures, tsunamis, and landslides; officials are worried about the Port of Anchorage which lies along an area that is highly susceptible to ground failure; engineers warn that with more than 50 percent of its foundation corroded the port cannot survive another massive quake; large portions of Anchorage are also vulnerable as building codes have not been strictly enforced; the city is built upon a unique soil that is prone to liquefaction in large earthquakes

  • New Orleans debates hurricane protection plans

    The Army Corps of Engineers is currently deciding how best to implement its $2.9 billion Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) restoration plan in New Orleans; the plan is part of several projects designed to protect the Louisiana coast line from hurricane storm surges; residents are clashing over the plan and the public hearing period for the plan has been extended; state legislators are currently debating with the corps, as the $2.9 billion project funds do not include the costs for land acquisition, design, and operation and maintenance; the project is expected to take ten years to complete and construction could begin as early as 2012

  • Army water contracts fraudster appeals

    Last Tuesday, a man convicted of defrauding the U.S military of millions of dollars on water purification contracts requested the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out his 210-month sentence because a key witness was unable to testify; Richard E. Long was convicted of bribery, wire fraud, and money laundering for WATEC, Inc., a Tennessee based firm that provides water purification services to the military; Long accepted $550,000 in bribes in exchange for rewarding contracts worth as much as $66 million to WATEC, Inc.

  • Building smarter infrastructure out of the rubble

    As Australia and New Zealand look to rebuild following the natural disasters in Christchurch and Queensland, experts have found a silver lining: the opportunity to rebuild with smarter infrastructure; architects, risk managers, and other experts say that cities devastated by natural disasters should amend building codes and implement smarter technology in buildings as they are resurrected from the rubble

  • Scientists: water woes ahead

    Within a generation, water demand in many countries is forecast to exceed supply by an estimated 40 percent.
    In other parts of the world prone to flooding, catastrophic floods normally expected once a century could occur every twenty years instead; meanwhile, spending on technologies and services to discover, manage, filter, disinfect, and desalinate water, improve infrastructure and distribution, mitigate flood damage, and reduce water consumption by households, industry, and agriculture is expected to rise to a trillion dollars annually by 2020

  • Mitigation policy could halve climate-related impacts on water scarcity

    Even without the effects of climate change, as much as 40 percent of the world’s population will be living under water scarce conditions by 2020; climate change is expected to influence future water scarcity through regional changes in precipitation and evaporation; most climate models suggest rainfall is likely to decrease in the subtropics and increase in mid-latitudes and some parts of the tropics; in the latter, mitigation efforts could actually reduce the amount of extra water potentially available

  • U.K. gives cyber agency enhanced role in critical infrastructure protection

    The U.K government is set to expand the role of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in protecting the critical national infrastructure (CNI) from cyber attack by giving it greater powers to collaborate with the relevant private sector bodies to monitor and deflect potential threats

  • Canada's water could be answer for anticipated global water shortages

    Global demand for water is projected to exceed supplies by 40 percent in 2030, and Canada may be the answer to minimizing water shortages; it is estimated that in the next twenty years, one third of the world will only have half the water it needs to cover daily needs; to prevent these shortages, researchers are scrambling to develop technologies and practices to reduce water consumption, discover new re-processing techniques, and improve infrastructure; Canada’s water experts are well-suited to assist in this effort as they have gained valuable experience from managing 9 percent of the world’s fresh water supplies

  • New Zealand quake could take ten years and $15 billion to clean up

    David Carter, New Zealand’s acting economic development minister, estimates that it could take ten years to rebuild Christchurch after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake rocked the town last month; the cost of rebuilding is estimated at $15 billion and climbing; nearly a third of the buildings in its business district have been declared unsafe; New Zealand prime minister John Key ruled out an earthquake tax for fear it would hurt the economy, which has been hit hard by the recession; New Zealand is actively soliciting international aid to help with its recovery; Christchurch has a population of roughly 377,000 and makes up about 15 percent of the nation’s economy

  • Britain struggles to contain rampant copper thefts

    Britain is struggling to stop thieves that are stealing large quantities of copper from rail yards; the cost of these thefts to the British government has doubled to roughly $1.25 billion a year; the price of copper has hit all-time highs at just over $10,000 per ton, which has driven organized gangs to conduct dangerous raids on rail way stations; the gangs climb on to the tracks and use power tools to cut down all the copper cables they can including train signaling, electricity, and data cables; thefts are expected to increase as the demand from China is projected to push copper prices even higher

  • Growth of geothermal energy market lags behind wind and solar

    According to a recently released report, the geothermal energy market is expected to grow over the next twenty years, but will still trail far behind wind and solar; currently only twenty-six countries in the world use geothermal energy to generate power, and as of 2010 there was a total global capacity of 10,715 megawatts; in June 2010, total global capacity of wind-powered generators was 175 gigawatts; by 2020 as much as 14.4 gigawatts of new geothermal capacity will be added at a 3 percent annual growth rate; the market value is estimated to be $6.8 billion by 2020; the expansion of geothermal energy still faces several impediments; at least 350 projects currently underway face financing, drilling rig, and skilled labor shortages