Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


NATO to fund study into earthquake risk

It’s a nightmare scenario – a power station built on a major fault line surrounded by toxic waste dumps in an area home to millions of people. Now a project to assess the risk of an earthquake in the region has received €250,000 of NATO funding.

The 700 km long Talas-Fergana fault in Kyrgyzstan is similar to the San-Andreas fault in the USA and geologists believe the area is highly vulnerable to seismic activity.

The fault cuts across the largest hydroelectric power and irrigation scheme in Central Asia. The Toktogul scheme generates 1200 megawatts of electricity annually and incorporates a reservoir containing 20 cubic kilometres of water behind a 230 metre high dam. It provides power and irrigation water to Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Russia so it is vital for the region’s economic, social and agricultural stability.

These countries’ competing demands for power and water mean Toktogul is already the focus of cross-border tensions. Disruption could be catastrophic, putting their fragile economies at risk, provoking civil unrest and providing opportunities for the region’s extremist groups to exploit the resulting disorder.

Radioactive and toxic waste dumps in the area, left by Soviet-era uranium mining, means there is a further threat of contamination to irrigated land in the Fergana Valley that provides food and livelihoods for 10 million people.

Dr Derek Rust, a geologist at the University of Portsmouth, is the Director of the three-year NATO ‘Science for Peace’ project. The research team also includes the University of Milan-Bicocca and the national seismological institutes of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. They will use the grant to analyse potential geo-environmental risks and produce hazard scenarios for the governments of the countries at risk.

He said: “Faults are created by movements in the Earth’s crust linked to plate tectonics, a theory which was dismissed by Soviet geologists when Toktogul was designed and built in the late 60s and early 1970s; consequently the significance of the fault was not appreciated.

“We now know that the Talas-Fergana fault has a long history of activity with the last faulting event occurring recently in geological terms, approximately 400 – 500 years ago. Another event is inevitable; it’s just a question of when.

“Understanding the real threats to the environmental security of this region and finding ways to mitigate against these threats is crucial to avoiding conflicts over water and power supplies and avoiding extensive pollution of vital lands.”

The Talas-Fergana fault results from the Indian tectonic plate ploughing northwards into Eurasia at a rate of around 50 mm per year, the same active plate tectonics that continues to create the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau.

Rust predicts that seismic activity in the area of the Talas-Fergana fault could lead to the breaching of landslide-dammed lakes, causing flooding and contamination downstream by uranium waste.

The Sichuan earthquake in May this year, which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, created around 30 landslide damned lakes. Rust says this earthquake can serve as a model for what may happen during a similar earthquake on the Talas-Fergana fault.

“An earthquake is like a spring being steadily wound until it breaks, releasing the stored energy,” he said. “A major earthquake in mountainous terrain is very likely to produce large landslides.

Rust and his team will spend three years examining existing seismic data and gathering new information from satellite remote sensing imagery, aerial photography, radiocarbon dating of geological features and using several portable seismometers. He said that establishing a pattern of how previous tectonic activity has affected the region is the best guide to what may happen in the future.

But he is clear that the research is not about predicting earthquakes but understanding them to minimise their effects.

“For example we can estimate long term ‘slip rates’ on big faults and their patterns of behaviour – but exact earthquake prediction is the elusive holy grail of earthquake geology.”

The findings will be presented to the governments of the countries at risk when the project is completed in 2011.

Lisa Egan | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>