Archive by category | Natural disasters

Seismic study loses air over wildlife concerns

Bruce Gibson testifies against PG&E's proposed seismic survey.

A California regulatory board has  denied a key permit on 14 November for a proposed study of undersea faults near the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo County. The plant’s owners, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), had designed the project to aid the state in re-evaluating earthquake risks to California’s two nuclear facilities following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in March 2011.  Read more

New York research facilities feel Sandy’s wrath

It was sometime around 8:00 pm on Monday night when the surging East River, driven by Hurricane Sandy, broke its banks and a deluge of brackish water came pouring into the basement of New York University’s Smilow Research Center at 30th Street. For neurobiologist Gordon Fishell, who was weathering the storm at his home in Larchmont, New York, it was the worst-case scenario for his research.  Read more

Prosecution asks for four-year sentence in Italian seismology trial

Public prosecutors in L’Aquila, Italy, have requested a four-year prison term for the six scientists and one government official charged with manslaughter after a magnitude-6.3 earthquake hit the city and its surroundings on 6 April 2009, killing 309 people (for more background on the case, read the Nature feature article ‘Scientists on trial: At fault?‘).  Read more

Japan’s nuclear sun to set?

Japan's nuclear sun to set?

A week can be a long time in politics, so today’s announcement by the Japanese government that it intends to phase out its 50 remaining nuclear reactors by around the 2030s is perhaps much less of a certainty than it might at first appear. Under the plan, existing reactors would be phased out when they reach 40 years of age so causing a gradual fall in nuclear’s share of electricity generation in Japan, as no new reactors are built to replace them.  Read more

Japanese science ministry takes partial blame for tsunami and meltdown

Japan’s ministry of science and education was supposed to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first annual White Paper on Science and Technology with the 2011 edition. Instead of a long spread of great achievements by Japanese scientists over the past five decades, however, the document, which was approved by the government yesterday, became the latest mea culpa for the poor handling of last March’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. The document puts the spotlight on the responsibility of the countries’ scientists and engineers.  Read more

Fukushima owner is nationalized

Fukushima is now officially everybody's problem.

It was as inevitable as cherry blossoms blooming in springtime: sooner or later, Japan had to nationalize the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the owner of the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Today the government announced a ¥1 trillion (US$12.5 billion) plan to bail out the country’s largest utility, and at least temporarily take control.  Read more

Plutonium spotted far from Fukushima

Plutonium from Fukushima was found tens of kilometres from the plant.

A paper out today in the journal Scientific Reports shows evidence that radioactive plutonium spread tens of kilometres from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The new work could lead people to believe that there is a health risk, but that is not the case.  Read more

New twists in Italian seismology trial

New twists in Italian seismology trial

The courthouse in L’Aquila, Italy, yesterday hosted the most anticipated hearing in the trial of six seismologists and one government official indicted for manslaughter over their reassurances to the public ahead of a deadly earthquake in 2009 (see Scientists face trial over earthquake deaths and Scientists on trial: At fault?). During the hearing, the former head of the Italian Civil Protection turned from a key witness into a defendant, and a seismologist from California criticized Italy’s top earthquake experts.  Read more

Western Himalayan region faces big quake risk

Western Himalayan region faces big quake risk

The Kashmir region in northwestern India could experience a magnitude 9 earthquake — several times larger than previously assumed. The revised risk estimate is worrying, says Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who presented the results on 7 December at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. “There are many cities and megacities in the region. And there are a couple of nuclear power plants there too,” he says. “You have two nuclear powers facing each other, armed to the teeth, facing a huge amount of damage”. Bilham speculates that perhaps 300,000 people might die in such an earthquake, not counting subsequent problems from political turmoil between India and Kashmir, or flooding.  Read more

Fracking caused British quakes

Fracking caused British quakes

A UK energy company has admitted that their hydraulic fracturing project (commonly known as ‘fracking’) probably caused a few surprisingly large earthquakes in Lancashire this spring. But, their report into the events concludes, it should be safe to continue operations in the area. Protesters disagree.  Read more