Fukushima report urges U.S. plant operators to take heed

first_imgTo avoid the kind of complacency over safety that led to the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan, U.S. nuclear plant operators and regulators must be prepared to take timely action to upgrade plant safety features in line with advances in the understanding of natural hazards, states a report released today.The report, Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants, was written by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences. The panel drew on Japanese and international investigations into the causes of the Fukushima disaster, precipitated by the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Like previous assessments, the academy’s report cites as a key contributing factor to the disaster the “failure of the plant owner [Tokyo Electric Power Co.] and the principal regulator [the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency] to protect critical safety equipment at the plant from flooding in spite of mounting evidence that the plant’s current design basis for tsunamis was inadequate.” The earthquake cut power from the electrical grid and the tsunami swamped the plant’s emergency generators, which were located in basements in the complex. The total loss of power deprived plant operators of reliable data on conditions within the reactors. They could not control key equipment, and therefore could not cool the reactors. Three of the plant’s six reactors suffered core meltdowns, hydrogen explosions damaged the facility, and the release of radioactive plumes led to the evacuation of about 100,000 nearby residents, many of whom remain in temporary housing.The report notes that plant personnel were inadequately trained and lacked sufficient manpower to cope with simultaneous crises at several reactors. The situation was exacerbated by the loss of communication lines between the plant and the headquarters in Tokyo.The report’s authors describe the disaster as a beyond-design-basis event, because several factors were more severe than anticipated by designers—particularly the earthquake and tsunami hazards. “The overarching lesson learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident is that nuclear plant licensees and their regulators must actively seek out and act on new information about hazards that have the potential to affect the safety of nuclear plants,” the report concludes, adding that plant operators “must take timely actions to implement countermeasures when such new information results in substantial changes to risk profiles at nuclear plants.” The report cites a need to strengthen capabilities “for identifying, evaluating, and managing the risks from beyond-design-basis events,” including large earthquakes or floods that occur very infrequently.During a dial-in press conference to discuss the report, committee member B. John Garrick, a consultant in Laguna Beach, California, explained that there is also a need to assess how a severe accident, simultaneously affecting multiple reactors at one site and within a region, can complicate crisis management at a time when electricity, support, and emergency services from off-site could be disrupted, as happened at the Fukushima plant. In such circumstances, plant personnel must be trained to respond in an ad hoc manner to circumstances that are nearly impossible to completely predict, the report states.Among a number of specific lessons, the report identifies the need to ensure a continuing source of power for instrumentation and safety system control and to cool and depressurize reactors; to improve monitoring of radiation levels both on-site and in the surrounding community; and to provide more robust communication links between on-site and off-site support facilities.  Robert Bari, a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, noted that plant operators and regulators in the United States and other countries are already taking steps to upgrade plant systems, operating procedures, and operator training in response to the Fukushima disaster. But “it is too soon to evaluate their comprehensiveness, effectiveness, or status,” he said.  Norman Neureiter, acting director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy of AAAS, which publishes Science and ScienceInsider, chaired the committee of 21 experts.last_img read more

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The Wallbox Copper proves EV chargers can be beautiful too

first_imgThe Spanish charging station company Wallbox is growing quickly and winning awards.The Red Dot Product Design award is given every year to consumer products with exceptional design, from luxury watches to elegant furniture to stunning sports cars. You might not expect an EV charger to share that stage, but among the 2019 Red Dot winners was the Copper, an EV charger designed by Spanish company Wallbox. Where did Wallbox come from, and what makes the Copper so special? Charged spoke with Wallbox co-founder Eduard Castañeda to learn more about the company and its inspired EV charger designs.The founding of WallboxEduard Castañeda and Enric Asunción met on their first day of university at UPC in Catalonia, and they’ve been inseparable ever since. The pair spent their undergraduate years focused on fuel cells, electronics, and renewable energy solutions, at one point designing the propulsion and powertrain of a robot for public spaces to help people move around more easily. They didn’t know it at the time, but the two best friends were priming themselves for the company they would eventually start together: Wallbox.Asunción’s work was gaining recognition in the EV industry, and he was offered a spot working for an EV certification lab. Soon after, Asunción attracted the notice of Tesla, and he moved on to a position as Program Manager for Tesla in the Netherlands. His best friend Castañeda recalled Asunción’s early success: “Enric was the man at that point.” The Copper isn’t just designed to be intelligent – it’s also designed to look good. The Copper is a compact charger, at just 167 x 167 x 54.5 mm. The front face is a glossy black screen that hides the face and gesture recognition camera, while the edges of the device are ringed in sleek copper to reflect the charger’s namesake. Wallbox partnered with the ESNE University School of Design in Madrid to create the Copper’s signature look, a gambit which clearly paid off with the Red Dot Product Design award.Asunción and Castañeda’s vision of a smart, user-friendly and well-designed charger has been validated both by the Red Dot award and the company’s early success. But the two friends won’t rest yet, and plan to bring Wallbox to North America and China later this year. As Castañeda reflected on the company and its growth, he emphasized that a big part of Wallbox’s success lies in the strong bonds between employees.“From a company that started with focusing on user values, nearly four years later we have a company that has more than 120 people,” said Castañeda. “But we still have a very strong relationship with each other, and we still have the same way of working. And I think that makes us very strong.” This article appeared in Charged Issue 43 – May/June 2019 – Subscribe now. The early daysThe founding friends needed to establish a vision for their new company. They knew they wanted to create smarter, more user-friendly charging products, and they codified that desire into a set of three core company values. The first value was user experience: Wallbox chargers should be as easy and friendly to use as a modern smartphone, and not merely electrified versions of a gas pump. The second value was innovation: Wallbox chargers should incorporate novel technology, and not just tread on the heels of pre-existing products. The final value was that design should not be a luxury: all Wallbox products should look and feel as premium as the EVs they’d be designed to charge.“We strongly believe in these, and all our products since then have this DNA inside,” said Castañeda.Soon Wallbox had developed a prototype for its first charger, the Commander, which it launched in March of 2016. By July, the company had launched its second charger, the Pulsar. These first two products were both compact and easy to use, and they started to attract attention. It wasn’t long before a prominent utility company signed a contract with Wallbox to use its EV chargers, all without any marketing on Wallbox’s part. Wallbox had started to find success, but Asunción and Castañeda were just getting started. Though they were proud of their company’s product line, the two friends wanted to make an even bigger splash in the EV market. “The Pulsar and the Commander already had good design, and provided good functionality. But we wanted to push a little bit more,” said Castañeda. “At that point we were looking for a product that could not only be successful in sales, but also put the company in the position of saying, ‘Hey, we’re capable of doing these things.’” With that goal in mind, Wallbox began work on its next charger: the Copper. Source: Electric Vehicles Magazine Meanwhile, Castañeda maintained his own interest in the EV market, with a particular focus on the design and technology of motorsport. He remained close friends with Asunción, and even served as the best man at his wedding. In April 2015, Castañeda was attending a different wedding when he received an unexpected phone call from his best friend.“Do you want to quit your job and start something that can be interesting?” Asunción asked Castañeda.Asunción’s experience working for Tesla had given him insight into the issues of EV charging. He saw customers become frustrated with charging problems like billing, use times, and their EVs failing to charge overnight, leaving them stranded in the morning. Asunción saw an opportunity to create a smarter, better charging solution, and he wanted his best friend along for the ride.“Ok, why not?” Castañeda replied, confident in his friend’s vision. “Why is it not possible to make new things in the market?” A few months later, in July 2015, Asunción and Castañeda had officially established Wallbox, and kicked off their quest to create a better charger. The CopperWallbox wanted its next charger to be something special, and it kicked things off with a novel design feature: a camera. Why put a camera in an EV charger? Wallbox wanted to try out an innovative approach to user authentication: face recognition. Though it’s more widespread today, face recognition was still an emerging technology when Wallbox was developing the Copper. In fact, according to Castañeda, Wallbox’s face recognition technology was ready even before Apple’s FaceID, which launched the same year.As does FaceID, the Copper charger uses face recognition to authenticate users. Users upload pictures of themselves on the myWallbox app, and the Copper checks in with the Wallbox cloud to perform the face recognition. The feature targets users in condominiums or businesses where only authorized users are permitted to charge, eliminating the need for access codes, RFID cards, or other credentials. Just flash a smile at the Copper, and you’re in.But face recognition isn’t the only smart feature of the Copper. The camera also enables gesture recognition, allowing users to interact with the charger with the wave of a hand. The myWallbox app allows users to monitor their charging status remotely, search through their charging history, and program their own charging schedules. The Copper also adapts the amount of power it provides while charging to avoid tripping the supply, up to a maximum of 22 kW.“The Copper has a lot of intelligence inside,” said Castañeda. “It’s a really smart charger.”According to Castañeda, the Copper will only continue to get smarter. Wallbox will soon launch voice controls for the Copper through Google Home and Amazon Alexa. Also on the roadmap is more adaptive AI that can learn and predict a user’s charging needs.“We believe in smart chargers and a smart solution behind them,” Castañeda explained. “With artificial intelligence, the charger can know when you will leave or make a long trip. So it will take care of that – you’ll have the car fully charged when it’s needed. It can also understand your use time, so it can take care to reduce your billing. All of this is what we’re focusing on.”last_img read more

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