Thrust from the Crust
The nation’s nuclear power regulator said last week’s earthquake on the East Coast may have been stronger than a nuclear power station near the epicenter was designed to withstand, The Hill reports. The magnitude-5.8 earthquake caused the North Anna plant in Louisa County, Va. to lose power from the offsite electrical grid. Emergency diesel generators provided back up support to cool the reactors, which automatically shut down. Although there are no reports of structural damage, a team from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is assessing the facility and will prepare a report 30 days after it finishes inspections.
Meanwhile, the NRC is considering a system-wide reevaluation of earthquake safety design standards, according to the Energy Matters blog.
2011: A Bull in a China Shop
The National Climatic Data Center reports that while it will take several months to gauge an accurate figure, there is no doubt Hurricane Irene will result in more than $1 billion in damages. It will be the tenth billion-dollar disaster this year, breaking a record set in 1980. Cumulative damages to date surpass $35 billion.
The entire NCDC site is chock-a-block with tables, charts and maps, but if you want to know what part of the country has taken the most big-dollar hits from natural disasters in the last 30 years, look to Dixie.
Poison the Water
Roundup, the world’s most-used herbicide, is commonly found in the air and water of two agricultural states, according to research from the U.S. Geological Survey. Testing in Mississippi and Iowa showed “significant” and “consistent” levels of Roundup, or glyphosate as it is known chemically, said Paul Capel, one of the lead authors, in an interview with Reuters. Capel, a USGS chemist, also said more tests were needed to determine the health effects on humans and animals.
Colorado River Water Rights
Negotiators for a Navajo Nation water rights case are considering a revised settlement in an attempt to get the deal through Congress, the Associated Press reports. The latest version in the decade-long negotiation still includes 6,400 acre-feet of Colorado River water, rights to unclaimed flows from the Little Colorado River and unlimited withdrawals from the two aquifers beneath the reservation. But owing to tight federal budgets, a $515 million pipeline to deliver water to Navajo communities has been dropped.
Solar Relies on Water
The Department of Energy decided to provide a loan guarantee to a 250-megawatt concentrating solar power plant on the condition that the developer uses dry cooling to reduce consumptive water use. The loan guarantee will decrease the cost of financing the project, planned for federal lands in Southern California’s Mojave Desert.
OMG: High Water!
With records floods occurring this year in many parts of the country, the U.S. Geological Survey wants you to know that you can get flood warnings sent by text message to your phone. Called WaterAlert, the service from the USGS uses real-time data from a network of 7,000 stream gauges. Once registered, your phone will receive a message when river levels in your area approach flood stage.
Speaking of high water, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that Hurricane Irene broke flood records in 26 northeastern rivers.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton