Can Tech Make the Desert Bloom Again? | Epicenter |

Can Tech Make the Desert Bloom Again? | Epicenter |

SDE BOGER, Israel – The archeological remains of Avdat seem like a strange place to study farming.

The site — a camel caravan stop built by the Nabateans over 2,000 years ago in the Negev Desert — sits in the middle of a vast, dry desert. Hard brown loess lightly sprinkled with stunted shrubs and bleak weeds stretches for miles.

The only substantial greenery is clustered at a farm irrigated by desalinated water piped miles away from the coast and a roadside McDonald’s. It looks like Arizona on a bad day.

But Hendrik Bruins, a professor of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research and the Swiss Institute for Dryland Environmental Research, implores observers to take a closer look. Some of those scraggly shrubs grow in straight lines. Notice the random, low wall peeking out of the crust.

Nearly half of the world’s population lives in dry lands, and deserts are expanding. What can be done to reverse the tide?

Soon, it becomes apparent. This isn’t pristine desert. The bush geometry in the region is a remnant of an extensive terraced agricultural system. Growing grapes or wheat in the region requires a minimum of 300 millimeters of water and Avdat only gets 85 millimeters of rain a year. The terraced walls stood 300 millimeters tall, just enough to support the local ancient wineries.

Could the system, or some element of it, be revived?

“This started as experimental archeology, but it has become practical,” Bruins said.

Continued reading …

Learning how to live in a parched environment could become the next export for Israel. Approximately 45 percent of the people in the world live in dry lands, defined as regions that get 600 millimeters or less of rain a year, according to Alon Tal, a professor at Ben-Gurion University, which oversees the Blaustein Institutes.

Deserts, moreover, are on the march. About 15 percent of the world’s lands have been degraded in recent decades though salinity, overexploitation, rapid population growth and soil loss.

“Desertification has been left behind because it is perceived as an African issue, but there is not a challenge that is easier to overcome than desertification,” Tal said. “You aren’t going to plant the same crop in a hyper-arid zone as an arid zone. You can’t plant the same kind of trees [in regions that get] 270 millimeters of rain.”

Climate change further exacerbates the problem. For example, Sde Boqer, a small Negev town where the three Blaustein Institutes are based, usually gets around 40 to 90 millimeters of rain a year. In 2010, only 30 millimeters fell and nearly everyone can tell you the dates (January 15 and December 24) off the top of their heads.

The research spans the gamut of dry: hydroponics, plant breeding, demographics, solar technology. Evyatar Erell, for instance, has a number of projects underway on desert architecture and urban planning. (The urban heat island, he informs me, was actually first identified in England in the early 1800s.)

David Faiman, meanwhile, oversees the National Solar Energy Center, another part of the umbrella. Some of the intellectual property behind concentrator companies like ZenithSolar has come out of here. The Center also lets private companies like HelioFocus test prototypes.

Is desert research an economic opportunity or a tool for diplomacy? Both, actually. Researcher Yair Kaufman at the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research (one of the organizations inside Blaustein) is developing a desalination membrane powered by aquaporins, a protein in human and animal cells that purifies water.

Ideally, aquaporin desalination could cut the amount of energy required for desalination by 50 percent and the ultimate cost by one-third. A Danish company, appropriately called Aquaporin, is racing toward the same goal.

Meanwhile, Professor Zeev Weisman and a team of researchers want to optimize olive strains for food production and fuel. Approximately 5 percent to 7 percent of the total olive mass, however, can be converted to biodiesel. The olive stone can also serve as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol. In other words, two fuels (and food)  from one plant. He’s also working to optimize pomegranates for medicinal use. Either crop could become a money spinner for farmers.

Another idea that could go commercial: a solar thermal hot water heater that helps ensure that warm water will be available early in the morning by manipulating liquid flows and pressure in a novel manner. Professor Dan Blumberg likens it to virtualization for solar hot water.

At the same time, projects and initiatives seem calculated to win friends, too. A few grad students hail from Jordan and Ghana. A prototype system for inland desalination — which relies on brackish swamps rather than seawater — will go live this year in Jordan.

“As [water] stressed as Israel is, Jordan is even more stressed. In Amman, not everyone has water,” said Jack Gilron, the CTO at Rotec, the company commercializing tapered flow, and a professor at the Zuckerberg Institute.

Jordan may also become the locale of a large-scale desal plant that will dump its brine into the Dead Sea via a link billed as the Peace Conduit. Others are examining how to preserve gerbils and other native animal species. Others, meanwhile, are making an argument for water conservation: reliance on desalination could lead to a need for nuclear power in a region already known for fractured politics.

Bruins, who also serves as a consultant to the United Nations and other organizations as a food security specialist, adds that this work — or failure to continue this work — will have global consequences. Droughts and desertification lead to humanitarian crises, which can turn into border conflicts and refugee migrations.

The margin for error, moreover, has become thin.  Back in the ’70s, banks convinced agribusiness conglomerates to cut costs by eliminating silos and storage facilities. Biofuels consume a small portion of harvested crops, but have a disproportionate impact on pricing due to razor-thin supplies.

“Because of that, for the first time ever, there are no food stocks. In a good year, there is barely enough,” he said. If China were to experience a major crop failure, all of the food exports in the world couldn’t make up the difference.

“Soil is very precious,” he said. “You should stop thinking about it as dirt.”

how spring is coming EARLIER thanks to global warming

The seasons shift: how spring is coming EARLIER thanks to global warming | Mail Online.

Spring arrived incredibly early this year, according to a botanist who monitors the blooming patterns of flowers.

Cristol Fleming says she believes the appearance of flowers up to two months early is down to the changes created by global warming.

Experts have started calling the shift in the times that plants bloom “season creep” and using decades of research have charted how much earlier it is happening.

Early bloom: Researchers in Korea are tracking cherry blossom, and finding it is blooming sooner

Early bloom: Researchers in Korea are tracking cherry blossom, and finding it is blooming sooner

The leaves of the English oak are appearing sooner, meaning that winter moths are coming out earlier and, because the birds that eat them are still flying north, they have already turned from caterpillars and into moths.


Coming soon: The eaves of the English oak are appearing sooner

Coming soon: The eaves of the English oak are appearing sooner

Their research is matched by that of researchers in Korea tracking cherry blossom and the U.S., which records its findings at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Herbarium every year.

A 2005 analysis of 100 of the most popular flowers, 90 bloomed up to 44 days sooner than they did 20 years ago, according to the Washington Post.

‘There is always variation from year-to-year in nature.

‘And I don’t want to sound alarmist that spring is coming earlier and earlier,” said Fleming, who is in her 70s. “But, boy, every year, we do feel it.’

Meanwhile Remote Sensing Systems has shown that March 2011 was the coolest March since 1994.

It was 0.026C cooler than average – the first month that has been cooler than average since June 2008.

Ms Fleming worries that plants’ life cycles are speeding up.

Her concern is that their insect pollinators won’t be able to cope with the Earth’s changing habitats.

‘Unlike animals, plants can’t just get up and move.

‘If they end up in a climate that’s too warm, well, they’ll just die.’


Melting Antarctic Ice Causing Penguins to Starve

Melting Antarctic Ice Causing Penguins to Starve – ScienceNOW.


On thin ice. Global populations of chinstrap (left) and Adelie (right) penguins have declined by more than 50% over the past 30 years.

Every year since 1979, marine biologist Wayne Trivelpiece and his wife, Susan, both of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division in San Diego, California, have braved frigid temperatures and wind speeds that average 40 kilometers per hour to track the feeding, breeding, and migrating of chinstrap and Adelie penguins. During this time, populations they studied on the West Antarctic Peninsula and in the nearby Scotia Sea have declined drastically, and a few have gone extinct, victims of a warming planet that deprives them of their sea ice habitat. Now, in a compilation of over 30 years of data collected from numerous bases around Antarctica, the researchers conclude that the penguins are not only running out of room but also starving.

In 1992, the pair published a paper with ecologist William Fraser, now president of the privately owned Polar Ocean Research Group based in Sheridan, Montana, proposing what they deemed the “habitat hypothesis,” the idea that melting sea ice along the Antarctic coast was harming penguins. The average temperature in the region of the Scotia Sea, one of the most rapidly warming places on the planet, has increased by 5?C to 6?C over the past 50 years, drastically reducing the amount of sea ice present and the length of time that the ice exists. The researchers proposed that losing their habitat was what was killing Adelie penguins, which need ice to survive. By contrast, the numbers of chinstrap penguins, which avoid sea ice as much as possible, were booming.

But by incorporating data from land-based stations and tourist ships that moonlight as penguin-counting research vessels, the researchers have expanded their data set and reexamined it. In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Trivelpieces and their colleagues propose that a decrease in krill—shrimplike crustaceans that are a staple food for penguins—is to blame for the decline in Adelie penguins and chinstrap penguins, whose populations are now shrinking by 2.9% and 4.3%, respectively, each year. As it turns out, krill larvae are as dependent on sea ice as Adelie penguins are, feeding on algae that grow on the underside of ice packs; krill numbers have dropped by 80% since 1981. Independent of whether they like ice, Adelie and chinstrap penguins like to eat krill.

Back in the 1980s, Wayne Trivelpiece says, when researchers first started noticing a rapid decline in penguin populations, it was unclear what the reason was. To check their hunch that the cause was a food shortage, they began forcing penguin parents returning from the sea to vomit by inverting them over a bucket and pushing on their stomachs. Chinstrap penguins, they and other researchers found, eat krill exclusively; Adelie penguins are dependent on it as well. Continuing research through the 1990s showed that the size of the krill was uniform, suggesting that only a few krill populations were maturing over the years and were available for penguins to eat. Satellite data showed that krill numbers fell in areas where sea ice dwindled. “As aggravating as it was to see penguins declining, it was rewarding to have finally figured out the correlation,” Wayne Trivelpiece says.

He believes that the shrinking population is due to the deaths of baby penguins. After their parents leave them to fend for themselves, young penguins stand around before venturing into the sea to search for a decreasing number of krill. Without any guidance, their probability of encountering a krill and knowing what to do with it is very low. Some years, only 10% of the young penguins return, down from 50% in the 1970s. By contrast, Gentoo penguins take their young on hunting trips before abandoning them; their numbers haven’t fallen as severely.

Penguins, Fraser says, are a bellwether for how global warming will harm species across the globe. “If what we’ve seen in 35 years is just the precursor to what occurs across the planet, it’s reason to be very concerned,” he says. Although he still believes that sea ice loss is responsible for penguin decline in at least some areas, he calls the new study “one of the best papers I’ve read in quite a while so far as providing a description of the complexity and issues involved” in tracking food webs in the Antarctic.

Fraser calls the data set “formidable” evidence for long-term warming trends, adding that Antarctic research is the longest database in the world of population trends in large animals. “It’s a great piece of work and I’m thankful for scientists like them who make such a commitment,” adds oceanographer Oscar Schofield of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

How to Survive the Next Disaster — some useful resources

Storyboard: How to Survive the Next Disaster | Magazine.


New earthquake shakes Japan

New earthquake shakes Japan | World news |

New earthquake shakes Japan

Tsunami warning issued for wave of up to two metres but later cancelled

  •, Thursday 7 April 2011 18.41 BST
  • Article history
  • Rubble left by Japan tsunami in March

    Rubble left in Ishinomaki in the wake of the tsunami that hit north-eastern Japan last month. Photograph: Dai Kurokawa/EPA

    North-eastern Japan has been shaken by its biggest aftershock since the 11 March earthquake and its immediate aftermath. Authorities warned people to flee some coastal areas as a result of the offshore quake, which was centred in the same area as the original.

    Nearly 12,700 people died and another 14,700 are missing as a result of the 11 March disaster. The latest quake shook buildings hundreds of miles away and authorities issued a warning that waves of up to two metres might hit the coast of Miyagi prefecture. People were told to “evacuate immediately” to a safe place away from the shore.

    Neighbouring provinces were advised coastal areas might experience half-metre waves. The quake was measured at magnitude 7.1 with an epicentre 40 miles off the coast of Sendai and 30 miles under the sea.

    Announcers on Japan’s public broadcaster NHK told coastal residents to run to higher ground and away from the shore. But the Japan Meteorological Agency cancelled its tsunami warnings and advisories within 90 minutes.

    Japan, quake location map from USGS Japan, quake location map from USGS Photograph: Guardian Officials at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said there was no immediate sign of new problems. Japan’s nuclear safety agency said workers there retreated to a quake-resistant shelter in the complex and no one was injured. The plant has been in crisis mode trying to stop reactors melting down after the original quake and tsunami knocked out its cooling systems.

    The latest quake knocked out several power lines at the Onagawa nuclear power plant north of Sendai, which has been shut down since the tsunami. One remaining line was supplying power to the plant and radiation monitoring devices detected no abnormalities. The plant’s spent fuel pools briefly lost cooling but an emergency diesel generator kicked in.

    The quake that preceded last month’s tsunami was of magnitude 9.


    Click to play

    The BBC’s Roland Buerk described how the quake felt in Hanamaki in north-east Japan

    Three people have been killed and scores injured after a powerful aftershock struck north-east Japan.

    Several buildings were destroyed and power was cut to 3.6 million homes.

    It was the most powerful tremor since the 9.0-magnitude quake that triggered a devastating tsunami four weeks ago.

    At the crippled Fukushima nuclear power station workers briefly retreated to a quake-proof shelter. The plant’s operator later said there was no sign problems there were any worse.

    The latest earthquake struck just before midnight on Thursday, at a depth of 49km (32 miles), close to the epicentre of the 11 March quake.

    First reports said it had a magnitude of 7.4 but that was later revised to 7.1, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

    A tsunami warning was lifted after about 90 minutes.

    At the scene

    Up here, close to the epicentre, there was pretty violent shaking, both side-to-side and up and down, enough to have people leaping from their hotel rooms into the corridor and scrambling to get outside.

    The tsunami warning has now been lifted for the north-east coast. Waves of a metre in height were recorded in Miyagi prefecture, next door to where I am now.

    At the moment, this prefecture is still black: the electricity has failed. There are also reports that water pipes have been damaged in some places, and roads have been closed too.

    The aftershock was felt in the capital Tokyo, several hundred kilometres away, and it was felt on the coast in those evacuation centres where tens of thousands are still living after the earthquake.

    It was a real jolt, a reminder of what happened as we approach the [one-month] anniversary of the earthquake of 11 March. There have been many aftershocks since then, but this one was the biggest.

    Last month’s quake struck at 32km deep. More than 12,700 people are known to have died in the disaster and nearly 15,000 people remain unaccounted for. Hundreds of thousands have been made homeless.

    In the latest earthquake, a 63-year-old woman died when the tremor knocked out power in Yamagata prefecture, shutting off her respirator.

    In Miyagi Prefecture, two men, aged 79 and 85, died at a hospital. Fire officials say the quake may have brought on heart attacks.

    Japan’s nuclear safety agency said facilities along the north-east coast were under control. Back-up diesel generators kicked in at several plants after external power was lost.

    Operations have been suspended at all nuclear power plants from Aomori to Ibaraki prefectures since the 11 March quake, but electricity is still crucial to keep the cooling systems operating.

    Workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station were safe, a spokesman for plant operator, Tepco, told a news conference in Tokyo.

    No new irregularities were detected in radiation readings or at the facilities, the firm said.

    Workers are trying to keep the damaged reactors cool to stop further releases of radioactive material.

    Work to discharge low-level radioactive water into the sea from a storage facility would continue on Friday, Tepco said.

    The work is designed to make room for highly radioactive water that leaked into the basement of the turbine building next to the plant’s No 2 reactor and an adjoining tunnel.

    The company said it would also continue work to inject nitrogen into the containment vessel of the No 1 reactor to prevent a possible hydrogen explosion.

    China has urged Japan to observe international law and adopt effective measures to protect the marine environment, amid concern over the discharge of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.

    The foreign ministry also asked Japan for swift, comprehensive and accurate reports on the crisis.

    Fish exports from Japan have been hit by the radiation leaks.

Hawaii may get hit with trash from Japan's tsunami

Researchers: Hawaii may get hit with trash from Japan’s tsunami – CNN.

The Hawaiian islands may get a new and unwelcome addition in coming months — a giant new island of debris floating in from Japan.

Researchers in Hawaii have created a simulation showing exactly how the houses, tires, chemicals and trees washed to sea by the March 11 tsunami will float across the Pacific and eventually hit the U.S. coast.

The team, led by Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner at the International Pacific Research Center of the University of Hawaii at Manoa have spent years preparing computer models by following real world observations of floating buoys, according to a statement.

The first wave should begin washing up on beaches in Hawaii within a year, the simulation shows.

After it passes Hawaii it should begin hitting beaches stretching from Vancouver down through Oregon, Washington and to the tip of Baja California in 2014, before bouncing back toward Hawaii for a second impact.

That second impact five years from now could be even more concentrated and harmful to Hawaii’s beaches and reefs, the researchers found.

The flotsam and trash eventually makes its way into what’s called the North Pacific Garbage Patch, a sort of circulating whirlpool of garbage hundreds of miles in diameter.

There it eventually decomposes and breaks up in collisions over many years.

Climate change threatens global security, warn medical and military leaders

Climate change threatens global security, warn medical and military leaders.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 5, 2011) — Medical and military leaders have come together to warn that climate change not only spells a global health catastrophe, but also threatens global stability and security.

“Climate change poses an immediate and grave threat, driving ill-health and increasing the risk of conflict, such that each feeds upon the other,” they write in an editorial published on the British Medical Journal website. Their views come ahead of an open meeting on these issues to be held at the British Medical Association on 20 June 2011.

The authors point to several reports, highlighting the threat that climate change poses to “collective security and global order.”

For example, the Pentagon’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review to Congress stressed the potential for climate change to contribute to “poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments.”

The UK’s Ministry of Defence also states that “climate change will amplify existing social, political and resource stresses” and will shift “the tipping point at which conflict ignites,” while the UK’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, recently described climate change as “perhaps the 21st century’s biggest foreign policy challenge.”

A recent report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies concurs: “Climate change will increase the risks of resource shortages, mass migration, and civil conflict. These could lead to failed states, which threaten global stability and security.” It stresses the need for “sustained investment in infrastructure and new technologies” of which “a shift to renewable energy sources will be the most visible effect of efforts to mitigate emissions.”

“It might be considered unusual for the medical and military professions to concur,” say the authors. “But on this subject we do.”

They conclude: “Although discussion is good, we can no longer delay implementing tough action that will make a difference, while quibbling over minor uncertainties in climate modelling. Unlike most recent natural disasters, this one is entirely predictable. Doctors, often seen as authoritative, trusted, and independent by their communities, must make their voices heard in calling for such action.”

Such subjects will be discussed at a forthcoming open meeting “Climate change — how to secure our future wellbeing: a health and security perspective” to be held at BMA House on 20 June 2011.

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Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

  1. L. Jarvis, H. Montgomery, N. Morisetti, I. Gilmore. Climate change, ill health, and conflict. BMJ, 2011; 342 (apr05 1): d1819 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d1819

The Dead Sea Is Disappearing, but Could Be Saved [Slide Show]

The Dead Sea Is Disappearing, but Could Be Saved [Slide Show]: Scientific American.

The surface of the Dead Sea, already 424 meters below sea level, is falling by a meter a year. Jordanians to the east, Israelis to the west, and Syrians and Lebanese to the north are pumping so much freshwater from the Jordan River that almost none reaches the sea any more. Israel and Jordan are also siphoning water from the lake to extract valuable minerals, hastening the decline.

Photojournalist Eitan Haddok has traveled from Paris to the Middle East many times to document the sea’s retreat, as scientists try to understand the repercussions. Here are some additional Haddok images and insights to consider.

All photographs by Eitan Haddok

View the slide show

Tepco’s Reactors May Take 30 Years, $12 Billion to Scrap

Tepco’s Reactors May Take 30 Years, $12 Billion to Scrap – Bloomberg.

Tepco’s Damaged Reactors Take 30 Years, $12 Billion Scrap

Damaged reactors at the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant may take three decades to decommission and cost operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. more than 1 trillion yen ($12 billion), engineers and analysts said. Source: Tokyo Electric Power Co. via Bloomberg

March 30 (Bloomberg) — Damaged reactors at the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant in Japan may take three decades to decommission and cost operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. more than 1 trillion yen ($12 billion), engineers and analysts said. Bloomberg’s Sara Eisen reports. (Source: Bloomberg)

Damaged reactors at the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant may take three decades to decommission and cost operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. more than 1 trillion yen ($12 billion), engineers and analysts said.

Four of the plant’s six reactors became useless when sea water was used to cool them after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out generators running its cooling systems. The reactors need to be decommissioned, Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata said today. He couldn’t give a timeframe.

All the reactors, including Units 5 and 6, will be shut down, and the government hasn’t ruled out sealing the plant in concrete, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters today in Tokyo.

The damaged reactors need to be demolished after they have cooled and radioactive materials are removed and stored, said Tomoko Murakami, a nuclear researcher at the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan. The process will take longer than the 12 years needed to decommission the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania following a partial meltdown, said Hironobu Unesaki, a nuclear engineering professor at Kyoto University.

“Lack of public support may force the decommissioning of all six reactors,” said Daniel Aldrich, a political science professor at Purdue University in Indiana. Tepco “will try to salvage two if it can find public support, which may be unlikely.”

The damaged reactors will take more than a few weeks to stabilize, Katsumata, who took charge of Tepco’s response after President Masataka Shimizu was hospitalized, told reporters.

Kan’s Criticism

Prime Minister Naoto Kan yesterday blamed inadequate tsunami defenses at the plant for the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, saying that the safety standards set by Tepco were too low. Efforts to cool fuel rods at the four reactors have been hindered by detection of radiation levels that can prove fatal for a person exposed for several hours.

The utility is focusing on bringing the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant under control and can’t comment on the power station’s future, Naoyuki Matsumoto, a spokesman for Tepco, said by telephone yesterday.

Japan is studying various ways to cool water at the plant’s reactors and fuel-rod ponds, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano said. It will take “considerable time” until the temperature drops and is stable, he said.

Covering the plant with fabric and removing contaminated water to a tanker are among options under consideration for reducing the threat from radiation, Edano said.

‘Considering Possibilities’

“Specialists are considering various possibilities and means to contain the nuclear power plant situation and minimize radiation effects in surrounding areas and harm to health,” he said. “We haven’t reached a conclusion about what means are possible or effective.”

Japanese authorities rated the Fukushima accident a 5 on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 7-step scale for nuclear incidents, under which each extra point represents a 10- fold increase in seriousness.

At Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island in 1979, one reactor partially melted in the worst U.S. accident, earning a 5 rating. Its $973 million repair and cleanup took almost 12 years to complete, according to a report on the World Nuclear Association’s website. More than 1,000 workers were involved in designing and conducting the cleanup operation, the report said.

Chernobyl Sarcophagus

Ukraine is unable to fund alone the cost of a new sarcophagus to cover the burned out reactor at Chernobyl, due to be in place by 2014. The 110 meter-high arched containment structure has a 1.55 billion euro ($2.2 billion) total price tag and the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has so far raised about 65 percent of that.

The Fukushima reactors may take about three decades to decommission, based on Japan’s sole attempt to dismantle a commercial reactor, said Murakami of the Institute of Energy Economics.

Japan Atomic Power Co. began decommissioning a 166-megawatt reactor at Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture near Tokyo in 1998 after the unit had completed 32 years of operations, according to documents posted on the company’s website. The project will be completed by March 2021, or after 23 years of work, and cost 88.5 billion yen, the documents show.

Japan Atomic took three years through June 2001 to stabilize and remove nuclear fuels from the reactor core.

“It looks indisputable that Tepco will go ahead and dismantle the four reactors, and costs may exceed 1 trillion yen,” said Murakami, who worked at Japan Atomic for 13 years and was involved in the decommissioning of the Tokai plant. “Removing damaged fuels from the reactors may take more than two years, and any delays would further increase the cost.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Shigeru Sato in Tokyo at; Yuji Okada in Tokyo at; Tsuyoshi Inajima in Tokyo at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Amit Prakash at; Clyde Russell at

When the Aliens Touch Down, Make for This Missile Base

When the Aliens Touch Down, Make for This Missile Base | Magazine.

 Illustration by: Luke Shumanl

Illustration by: Luke Shuman

Larry Hall believes in preparing for scenarios that the Man would have you believe are fictional—Mayan disaster prophecies, pole shifts, alien invasions, that sort of thing. So the 54-year-old software engineer shelled out $250,000 for a decommissioned Atlas F Missile Base in Kansas. “I thought, wow, I can transform it into an ultrasafe, energy-efficient fortress,” Hall says. Then he figured that other people might also sleep better 200 feet underground within epoxy-hardened concrete walls. And with a custom retrofit featuring GE Monogram stainless-steel appliances and Kohler fixtures, they could also eat (and flush) in style. So Hall announced a “condo suite package”—starting at $900,000—that includes a five-year food supply (think hydroponics and aquaculture) and “simulated view windows” with light levels calibrated to the time of day to keep you from going crazy. Hall says his silo will have a military-grade security system and electricity powered by geothermal energy and wind turbines, as well as a theater, workout area, and pool with a waterfall. Not a bad place to wait out the apocalypse. Hall is still building this dream silo, but he’s already getting applicants. “When they call me up,” he says, “they’re like, you had me at MISSILE BASE!” With three out of seven floors already spoken for, you’d better get your bid in. You’d hate to be stuck in a moving van when the aliens touch down.