• 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

  • The problems with major disasters

    There are three problems with major disasters: small miscalculations of probabilities can have large effects on outcomes when dealing with large events; our reward structures do not encourage spending the time or the money to deal with low-probability disasters; the very complexity of modern life — including our transportation and communication systems, our economy and our social interactions — is directly implicated in the severity of catastrophes; in more complex systems, even small changes or perturbations can have disproportionate and unpredictable effects

  • Risk-analysis models could not predict Arab world upheavals

    Political instability is influenced by everything from the weather to local economic conditions and infant mortality rates; these factors interact in complex ways, and data quality can be low; together, this makes for a daunting forecasting challenge; says one expert: “All of our models are bad, some are less bad than others”

  • Haiti's quake damage yields better building codes

    In the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook Haiti last year and killed more than 300,000 people, University of Arizona researchers descended upon the country’s capital to study buildings that survived the quake; researchers documented damaged buildings to develop a sophisticated three dimensional model; they are working to develop stricter building codes to ensure that buildings can withstand earthquakes in the future; their focus is on designing low-cost easy to implement localized solutions; buildings that were not built to withstand earthquakes were the primary cause of death in the disaster

  • Who is the culprit in the Queensland floods: man or nature?

    Climate change may contribute to the intensification of natural disasters, but the major drivers of the rapidly rising costs of natural disasters — in Australia and around the world — are societal changes such as increases in population, wealth, and inflation, not climate change; the only way to reduce the scale of future disasters in Australia are risk-informed land planning policies with risks appropriately priced by an active insurance market; in simple terms, for flood and bushfire, this means an end to unmanaged development of flood plains or within bushlands

  • California prepares for major seismic event

    Scientists are growing more wary about the potential for a major seismic event in California; earthquake trends show that intervals between such events have been as short as 45 years to as long as 145 years; considering that it has been 154 years since the last major quake, the San Francisco Bay Area, Delta Region, and Central Valley prepare for the worst

  • Plan for Massachusetts LNG site faces growing opposition

    The Weaver’s Cove energy project will see up to seventy liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers a year travel up Narragansett Bay to berth in Mt. Hope Bay; from there, a sub-sea pipe would carry the liquefied gas more than four miles up the Taunton River to a storage facility at a former oil terminal; Massachusetts and Rhode Island politicians work to block the Fall River storage facility, saying a terrorist attack or accident would place thousands of people in peril in the densely populated city and harm fish habitat and tourism

  • Debate over extending operation of aging NY reactor

    The Indian Point Energy Center is located on the banks of the Hudson River just twenty-four miles north of Manhattan; its reactors are aging: the first reactor at the center began operating in 1962 and shut down in 1974; two new reactors were built in 1974 and 1976; the plant operator seeks permission from the U.S. government to extend operations at the plant; many locals oppose the extension, citing what they say are inadequate emergency evacuation plans in the event of a disaster, and the damage the plant cooling system inflicts on aquatic life

  • DHS seeks comments on small business preparedness plan

    DHS seeks public comments on a private sector readiness certification program specifically tailored to the needs of small businesses; this first-of-its-kind program will tailor voluntary private sector preparedness certification standards to specifically meet the needs and capabilities of U.S. small businesses

  • Asteroids: Earth will be hit by a shotgun blast instead of a single cannonball

    Scientists find that many asteroids are not solid rocks, but a collection of small gravel-sized rocks, held together by gravity; instead of a solid mountain colliding with Earth’s surface, the planet would be pelted with the innumerable pebbles and rocks of which it is composed, like a shotgun blast instead of a single cannonball; this knowledge could guide the defensive tactics to be taken if an asteroid were on track to collide with the Earth

  • New method predicts communication-disrupting solar activity

    Major solar eruptions (coronal mass ejections) normally take several days to reach the Earth, but the largest recorded in 1859 took just eighteen hours; solar flares — which can also cause significant disruption to communications systems — take just a few minutes; U.K. researchers develop a method of predicting solar storms that could help to avoid widespread power and communications blackouts

  • Scientist offers better ways to engineer Earth's climate to blunt global warming

    A Canadian scientist suggests two novel geoengineering approaches to limit the effects of climate change on Earth: “levitating:” engineered nano-particles, and the airborne release of sulphuric acid; both ideas are more refined than, and have advantages over, another geoengineering concept developed by geoengineers: mimicking volcanic eruptions by injecting massive amounts of sulphur dioxide gas into the upper atmosphere

  • DHS drill offers rare look at disaster preparedness

    Anniston, Alabama, Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) offered another glimpse into disaster preparedness, this time focuses on disaster health care; a disaster drill observed by the media saw health care workers from throughout the United States acting out an explosion at a battery acid factory

  • Keeping trains on track

    Tel Aviv University helps develop early-warning hazard system for the world’s railways; researchers are collecting high-tech sensing data from satellites, airplanes, magnetic and soil sensors, and unmanned aircraft to devise a solution that will provide a reliable early-warning system for train operators; the solution will help keep trains on track during natural disasters and acts of terrorism

  • 25,000 new asteroids -- 95 in near Earth orbit -- found by NASA's sky mapping

    NASA’s newest space telescopes has spotted 25,000 never-before-seen asteroids in just six months; 95 of those are considered near Earth objects — which means, in the language of astronomy, that they are within thirty million miles of Earth; the telescope also sighted fifteen new comets and confirmed the existence of twenty brown dwarfs — stellar objects that are bigger than a planet but much smaller than a star; the full celestial catalog of what is out there will not be released to the public until next year after NASA has had time to process the images and flag false alarms