Tackling waste, and fighting disaster

Jason Ford

News Editor

This week’s Briefing is drawn to events that discuss nuclear waste disposal, pollution from shipping and maintaining communications in a crisis.

Today marks the start of Nuclear Waste: The Challenge of Interim Storage and Long Term Disposal.

Taking place in London and organised by the Arena International Events Group, the event will bring together industry experts to explain and assess technological and strategic developments in new build waste management, packaging options and final disposal solutions.

Delegates from industry might be buoyed by fiscal estimates from the Technology Strategy Board which recently valued the global nuclear market at £600bn for new build and £250bn for decommissioning, waste treatment and disposal.

However, before stakeholders can dip their toes in that revenue stream they will discuss issues surrounding interim storage in a way that is acceptable to regulators and the public.

Similarly, plans for the final disposal of all nuclear waste will be under discussion as new sites will need to show they can deal with waste before they start operating.

In May 2008 The Engineer wrote in depth about how Dounreay is now the location for one of the world’s largest, trickiest, nuclear clean-up jobs. Click here to read more.

Still with pollution and the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) which this week meets to discuss many topics, CO2 control measures being fairly prominent among them.

IMO said in a statement that MEPC is expected to consider the approval of technical and operational measures to reduce CO2 emissions from international shipping – specifically the Energy Efficiency Design Index and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan – as mandatory measures.

They meet a few days after Manchester University issued results from research that suggests CO2 emissions produced by UK shipping alone could be up to six times higher than currently calculated.

According to the Manchester University study, the global shipping industry, despite being traditionally viewed as one of the most energy efficient means of transport, releases increasing amounts of harmful emissions into the atmosphere every year.

The University warns that greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping accounts for around three per cent of total global emissions and could be responsible for almost all of the world’s emissions by 2050 if current rates of growth – fuelled by globalisation – continue.

Earlier this year The Engineer looked at how carbon capture and storage could reduce the environmental impact of shipping. Click here to read more.

Our regular readers will be familiar with the ALADDIN (Autonomous Learning Agents for Decentralised Data and Information Networks) research programme, which has developed systems to improve the way emergency services work together during major disasters.

Engineers from Southampton University will today unveil technologies emanating from ALADDIN at a symposium in Farnborough.

During the five-year research project, the project developed three demonstrators which show how ALADDIN algorithms work in disaster response situations.

They include a situational awareness demonstrator involving weather sensors; a disaster rescue simulation, considering how agents could operate and communicate with one another in a disaster scenario like an earthquake; and a building evacuation simulator, involving the use of autonomous agents in a disaster scenario in a tower block or on a boat.

Other notable events this week include the start of the Paris Motor show on October 2. Running until October 17, the show’s website says: ‘The latest generation of vehicles, with zero or low CO2 emissions and green technologies pioneering future “ecomobility”, will be the headliners of the show.’

Still with travel but this time on rails and news that Network Rail will start accepting bids to run the West Coast Main Line on October 1. The franchise has been contracted to Virgin Trains since 1997, in a deal that expires on 31 March 2012.