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Breaking News: Experts on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami

On Friday, an 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sendai, Japan. One of the most powerful earthquakes of this century and the largest ever to hit Japan, the quake unleashed a tsunami that swept through northern villages and caused warnings along the Pacific Northwest coast and Hawaii—an ocean away.

Lehigh University faculty are involved in a number of projects designed to combat the disastrous effects of these natural forces, including a structural engineer who designs earthquake resistant buildings with the Japanese, a researcher who hopes to improve how we predict tsunami flow, and an economist picked by the military to manage tsunami relief in Thailand.

Communicating nuclear risk issues
A member of several National Academies' committees that have studied nuclear waste and radiation health effects issues, Sharon M. Friedman is director of the Science and Environmental Writing Program at Lehigh. She has published on risk communication and mass media coverage of the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents and was a consultant to the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island. She is editor of Communicating Uncertainty: Media Coverage of New and Controversial Science.

Tsunami relief efforts
Frank Gunter is a Lehigh economist and a retired Marine Reserve Colonel who served as Deputy Director of the Tsunami Coalition Coordination Center in Thailand and Deputy of Coalition Operations in Iraq. He is intimately familiar with Tsunami relief planning between civilian international/ non-government organizations and military contingents.

Engineering earthquake resistant buildings
Richard Sause is a Lehigh structural engineer who specializes in “sustainable infrastructure.” He is currently testing a new, reinforced concrete building system that contains earthquake-resisting technology developed at Lehigh’s Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems Center and conducting experiments on the world’s largest earthquake shake table.

ATLSS technology employs a self-centering system, which consists of reinforced concrete wall panels that are designed to “rock” during an earthquake with post-tensioned steel strands that, like a rubber band, pull the building back to its original position. Tests are conducted at the Hyogo Earthquake Engineering Research Center in Japan, which funds the project.

Testing seismic resistant structures
James J. Ricles is a civil and environmental engineer who conducts experimental and analytical research on innovative seismic-resistant steel structures; composite steel-concrete structures; structural steel connections; advanced simulation methods, including real-time hybrid simulation for dynamic loading; and the rehabilitation and assessment of damaged and deteriorated buildings and offshore structures.

Predicting tsunami impact
Clay Naito, a structural engineer at Lehigh, also investigates earthquake- and blast-resistant buildings, but has recently been funded by the National Science Foundation to research tsunami forces and debris.

The goal is to improve our understanding of, and predictive capabilities for, tsunami-driven debris impact forces on structures. Of special interest are shipping containers, which are virtually everywhere and which will float even when fully loaded. The forces from such debris hitting structures, for example evacuation shelters and critical port facilities such as fuel storage tanks, are currently not known.

Nuclear energy labs
Arnold Kritz is a Lehigh professor of physics who has worked at the Department of Energy Office of Fusion Energy Science and at Princeton's University's Plasma Physics Lab, as well as brief stints with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and nuclear energy labs in Switzerland, Australia, Germany and Denmark.

The chilling effect on the nuclear industry
Herman Nied is a structural engineer who believes the disaster will probably put a halt to the construction of new nuclear power stations in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. This is unfortunate, since the GE Mark I reactor is a circa 1970s design. Newer designs are considered much improved in terms of safety. He considers important issues to be loss of power, loss of coolant, fire resistance and proper storage of spent fuel rods.

Power plant technology in the 21st century
Sudhakar Neti is a professor of mechanical engineering and the ditrector of the Department of Energy-sponsored Industrial Assessment Center at Lehigh. He specializes in laser diagnostics, heat flow and power plant performance. He routinely presents on the topic of building hi-tech for the 21st century.

Controlling a complex nuclear reactor/reaction
Eugenio Schuster is a mechanical engineer and the director of the Laboratory for Control of Complex Physical Systems. The lab applies advanced control techniques to complex physical systems such as fusion reactors, particle accelerators, plasmas, and magnetohydrodynamic flows. His research targets the control of nuclear fission and fusion processes.

Energy needs, the NRC and local power
Ed Levy is the director of Lehigh’s Energy Research Center, a multidisciplinary research group serving as the main energy research contact between the university, industry and government. Faculty from this group work directly with regional nuclear power producers. “Total energy generation worldwide over the next 25 years,” Levy said, “is projected to rise by as much as 44 percent, because of population growth and greater use of electrical devices."

Contact: Jordan Reese, jor310@lehigh.edu or 267-934-9573

Posted on Friday, March 11, 2011

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