The San Onofre nuclear plant is a ‘Fukushima waiting to happen’

The San Onofre nuclear plant is a ‘Fukushima waiting to happen’

SOURCE: Los Angeles Times DATE: August 15, 2018 SNIP: Southern California Edison is keeping 3.6 million pounds of lethal radioactive waste at the shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant in San Clemente. The waste poses a significant threat to the health, safety and economic vitality of the region’s more than 8 million residents. But Edison’s plan for storing it is unnerving at best. The idea is to bury the spent fuel on site, about 100 feet from the ocean and just a few feet above the water table. Edison has already begun transferring the waste from cooling pools into specially designed steel canisters. The containers are prone to corrosion and cracking, and cannot be monitored or repaired. But flawed storage containers are just one of many worrisome aspects of the scheme. San Onofre sits on an active earthquake fault, in an area where there is a record of past tsunamis. It is close to Interstate 5, the railroad line that Amtrak runs on, and the Marines’ Camp Pendleton. The ocean is expected to keep rising over the next few decades, bringing seawater closer to the canisters. If hairline cracks or pinholes in the containers were to let in even a little bit of air, it could make the waste explosive. And although San Onofre is in a no-fly zone, it is not being guarded with radar and surface-to-air-missiles, as nuclear aircraft carriers are. It is protected by a handful of guards carrying pistols. This leaves the site susceptible to terrorist attacks. San Juan Capistrano Councilwoman Pam Patterson warned President Trump of this vulnerability at a roundtable meeting in May. She...
As waters rise, coastal megacities like Mumbai face catastrophe

As waters rise, coastal megacities like Mumbai face catastrophe

SOURCE: Science News DATE: August 15, 2018 SNIP: Even if humankind manages to limit the release of carbon dioxide enough to keep global warming to an average 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels — which is highly unlikely — seas will still rise by a global average of about 20 centimeters by 2050, if not more. That’s enough to more than double the frequency of flooding in the tropics, where Mumbai is located, according to a 2017 paper in Scientific Reports. Global losses from coastal flooding may surpass $1 trillion annually by 2050 unless coastal cities prepare, Hallegatte’s team says. That projection is actually conservative, because it doesn’t include damage from other climate-related flood risks such as heavier rains and stronger storms. “For an individual, it doesn’t matter if the water is coming from sea rise or a storm surge or the clouds, a flood is a flood,” Hallegatte says. “Cities should be looking … at one-meter sea level rise, at least. Because the cost of failure is so big, you need to have a plan for the worst-case scenario.” “This is a battle that we are currently losing,” says Princeton University climatologist Michael Oppenheimer, a coordinating lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on oceans, cryosphere and climate change, due out in September 2019. “Sea level rise and the flood heights are only going to increase …for the foreseeable future.” The annual monsoon, the seasonal shift in winds that brings flooding rains to Mumbai, adds an extra layer of uncertainty to projecting how much flooding will accompany sea rise, he says. The future of...
How rising seas could cause your next internet outage

How rising seas could cause your next internet outage

SOURCE: Grist DATE: July 16, 2018 SNIP: The internet seems magical and intangible sometimes. But the reality is, you rely on physical, concrete objects — like giant data centers and miles of underground cables — to stay connected. All that infrastructure is at risk of being submerged. In just 15 years, roughly 4,000 miles of fiber-optic cables in U.S. coastal cities could go underwater, potentially causing internet outages. That’s the big finding from a new, peer-reviewed study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Oregon. To figure out how rising seas could affect the internet’s physical structures, researchers compared a map of internet infrastructure to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s predictions for sea-level rise near U.S. coasts. In New York City, about 20 percent of fibers distributed throughout the city are predicted to flood within 15 years–along with 32 percent of the fibers that connect the metropolis to other cities and 43 data centers. The research suggests that Seattle and Miami are especially vulnerable, along with many coastal areas. On top of that, much of the internet’s physical infrastructure is aging. Paul Barford says a lot of it was designed to last only a few decades and is now nearing the end of its lifespan. That is, if the floods don’t get to it first. While 15 years may seem shockingly soon, we’re already seeing more high tide...
Most atolls will be uninhabitable by the mid-21st century because of sea-level rise exacerbating wave-driven flooding

Most atolls will be uninhabitable by the mid-21st century because of sea-level rise exacerbating wave-driven flooding

SOURCE: Science Advances DATE: April 25, 2018 SNIP: Sea levels are rising, with the highest rates in the tropics, where thousands of low-lying coral atoll islands are located. Most studies on the resilience of these islands to sea-level rise have projected that they will experience minimal inundation impacts until at least the end of the 21st century. However, these have not taken into account the additional hazard of wave-driven overwash or its impact on freshwater availability. We project the impact of sea-level rise and wave-driven flooding on atoll infrastructure and freshwater availability under a variety of climate change scenarios. We show that, on the basis of current greenhouse gas emission rates, the nonlinear interactions between sea-level rise and wave dynamics over reefs will lead to the annual wave-driven overwash of most atoll islands by the mid-21st century. This annual flooding will result in the islands becoming uninhabitable because of frequent damage to infrastructure and the inability of their freshwater aquifers to recover between overwash events. This study provides critical information for understanding the timing and magnitude of climate change impacts on atoll islands that will result in significant, unavoidable geopolitical issues if it becomes necessary to abandon and relocate low-lying island...
Sea levels could be rising faster than predicted due to new source of Antarctic ice melting

Sea levels could be rising faster than predicted due to new source of Antarctic ice melting

SOURCE: The Independent and Science Daily DATE: April 18, 2018 SNIP: Sea level rise could be happening at a faster rate than previously thought, as scientists have identified a new source of melting ice in Antarctica. Melting glaciers can create a positive feedback loop in which the more they melt, the more they drive further melting, according to the Australian team. They predict that the processes they identified could be playing a role in accelerating both sea level rise and climate change. As glaciers melt, they produce fresh water. When this meltwater enters the ocean surrounding the glacier it makes the surface layer less salty and therefore more buoyant. This leads to a layer of water floating on the surface, and prevents the natural mixing of the ocean. The lack of mixing becomes a problem during winter, as it prevents warm water at greater depths from mixing with cooler water above. With a pool of warm water underneath them, the melting of the bottom side of the glaciers...