Catastrophic impacts of natural hazards on technological facilities and infrastructure

R. S. Sparks, W. P. Aspinall, N. A. Chapman, B. E. Hill, D. J. Kerridge, J. Pooley, C. A. Taylor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

2 Citations (Scopus)


The term technological facilities is used here to describe facilities that, were their integrity to be seriously compromised by impacts from natural events, would cause either catastrophic loss of vital services to a community or nation, significant environmental pollution, loss of life or disruption of commercial activities and supply chains that lead to economic losses possibly all of these. Such facilities include power stations, energy supply hubs and lines, dams and reservoirs, pipelines carrying hazardous materials, electronic communications (especially the internet), plants and factories containing hazardous materials, offshore facilities such as oil rigs, storage or disposal facilities for hazardous materials, key transport infrastructure such as airports, ports, roads and railway systems, medical facilities such as hospitals, and industrial facilities such as oil refineries and an increasing dependence on space-based infrastructure for a wide variety of services (Figures 13.1-13.4). Specific examples that are discussed in more detail in this chapter are: nuclear power stations, pipelines, electricity distribution grids, hazardous chemical refineries, deep geological repositories for long-lived radioactive wastes and disruption of transport services and communication systems. This chapter includes a survey of examples of the effects of the major natural events on technological facilities. We focus on a number of recent case studies, notably the effects of recent earthquakes on nuclear power plants in Japan and the effects of volcanic ash in closing down airports and European airspace in 2010. These cases illustrate some key generic issues in risk assessment such as the need for probabilistic as well as deterministic hazard and risk assessments, and the issues of identifying and forecasting extreme natural events, and accounting for all relevant uncertainties. We include also in this chapter a discussion of space weather, as this is a natural hazard that has not been considered elsewhere in the book, but poses major threats to communication and electricity supply systems. We note that natural hazards only become a meaningful concept when natural processes interact with and influence human activities.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRisk and Uncertainty Assessment for Natural Hazards
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages36
ISBN (Electronic)9781139047562
ISBN (Print)9781107006195
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


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