Extreme weather and engineering assumptions

Matthew L. Wald and John Schwartz, reporting for the New York Times:

Excessive warmth and dryness are threatening other parts of the grid as well. In the Chicago area, a twin-unit nuclear plant had to get special permission to keep operating this month because the pond it uses for cooling water rose to 102 degrees; its license to operate allows it to go only to 100. According to the Midwest Independent System Operator, the grid operator for the region, a different power plant had had to shut because the body of water from which it draws its cooling water had dropped so low that the intake pipe became high and dry; another had to cut back generation because cooling water was too warm.

So much of our infrastructure assumes certain climatic conditions, many of which are being thrown out the window. And it’s not just high-tech installations like nuclear power plants. Just last summer, I was pulling out of a Target parking lot when it sounded like I had a flat. It wasn’t. It was tar that the summer heat had baked beyond its limits. Instead of remaining stuck to the pavement, it stuck itself to my tire. 

Bottom line? Climate change will to force us to redesign almost everything, from road tar to nuclear power plants.

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