Summarizing the concepts needed to transform to a more robust and faster recovering (from disaster) society.
1. Pre-sort and have system for quickly resolving the politics of rebuild
2. Bring infrastructure up to a fast maintainable or fast fixable state. (R&D needed)
3. Strategic reserve of building and infrastructure
4. Defense beyond defense against war. to include civilization hardening and fast reconstruction and recovery
The US Strategic Petroleum Reserve holds about $65 billion worth of oil for an emergency supply that can replace all of the oil used in the USA for 36 days. The United States started the petroleum reserve in 1975 after oil supplies were cut off during the 1973-74 oil embargo, to mitigate future temporary supply disruptions. The EIA shows that the United States imports a net 10 million barrels (9 million barrels per day of crude) of oil a day (MMbd), so the SPR holds about a 70-day supply. However, the maximum total withdrawal capability from the SPR is only 4.4 million barrels (700,000 m3) per day, making it a 160 + day supply.
I propose that all countries should have strategic building and infrastructure reserves and/or participate in regional or global strategic building and infrastructure reserves. I also propose that the concept of defense be expanded to consider more than defense against war and to expand national guards with engineering and rebuilding guard. I propose that the engineering, new super-heavy equipment for fast rebuilding and replacement and rebuilding guard should have 15-50% of the defense budget. The vast majority of the work and issues associated with the idea of fast and streamlined rebuilding is to have an effective system of pre-sorting all of the political issues and clearing away enough of the legacy incompatibilities with infrastructure that was put in piecemeal over one hundred years or more. There has to be work and money spent to bring everything up to an easily maintainable baseline. This is similar to the issues with keeping and retiring software and hardware in large data centers and companies. When something is no longer easily maintained then it has to be replaced and retired. Old infrastructure that is no longer maintainable or easily replaceable but still functional is left in place for decades. The data center concepts of “hot swapping” when something is broken needs to be designed into infrastructure and cities.
There have been multiple situations the Katrina hurricane, Japan’s Tsunami, Indonesia’s tsunami, flooding and earthquakes in China where about million people up to five million get displaced and lose their homes.
China’s Broad Group has developed factory mass production of skyscrapers. They have assembled a 15 story skyscraper in 6 days and a 30 story building in 30 days. They will soon assemble a 220 story building in 90 days. The technology can also build shorter buildings quickly. 6 story buildings or less in one day.
A strategic building and infrastructure reserve the size of the strategic oil reserve could provide housing, offices, hospitals, infrastructure, schools and stores for 1 million people and could be fully built in about 2 months.
Warehouses full of pre-built buildings and infrastructure could be positioned at areas that are not vulnerable to tsunamis, flooding, earthquakes but near cities with those vulnerabilities.
There should be highly detailed rebuild plans that are able to be updated in real time or near real time. A full scale set of sim-cities for all of cities in the world. There would be alternative sites for where rebuilding should be done based upon what was damaged and what cause the damage. All of the surveying of geology and water should be done in advance. All of the decisions of when to rebuild in the same spot or shift to new spots should be sorted out in advance.
For example – multiple plans for Los Angeles depending upon which of the earthquake faults has an earthquake and how much damage occurs.
People have been anticipating massive earthquakes to hit Tokyo, Los Angeles, San Francisco for decades. The expectation is that the seismic refits will eventually be overwhelmed and there will be massive damage.
The damage and disruption will be more than the oil shock of 1973-74.
The building materials to very comfortably and permanent housing, offices and stores for 20,000 people for $1 billion or less is possible.
There also needs to be systems for replacing or rebuilding key energy, communication and water infrastructure.
The difficulty and time consuming part will be to develop and maintain framework plans for dealing with large levels of damage and reconstruction. However, the general principles and the arguments should be sorted out before disasters.
There should be not years and decades of delay deciding how to rebuild the world trade center or how to redo the Bay Bridge or whether to rebuild New Orleans on the flood plain.
Defense for more than War
War is not the only disaster that can hit a country. Earthquakes, tsunami, flooding are more common.
The US will have about 12 aircraft carrier groups, but there is not a dedicated and special purpose mobile power generation ships.
Russia is developing seven floating nuclear power stations. Ships, inventories and airlift should be developed and held in reserve to provide more rapid and robust disaster response and also to enable rebuild that can last. The Broad Group mass produced buildings can even have fast rebuild that is stronger than over 99% of the existing building stock.
The US electric grid depends on about 2,100 major high-voltage transformers spread throughout the country. There are about 200,000 smaller transformers but there are 2106 major ones. Replacing transformers is not technically difficult, it is a logistical and time-consuming nightmare that can take up to two years.
Ordinary transformers are often too big and heavy to travel by road, and they require special rail cars. But because the transformers typically last 50 years, only a few dozen are shipped each year, so even the appropriate rail cars are in short supply. Ratcheting up the degree of difficulty, many of the places where a replacement transformer might have to go are no longer served by rail.
So the research institute tried a different approach, substituting three smaller, more mobile transformers for one conventional one, and specifying a size that would fit on a modified truck trailer. (A standard transformer costs roughly $5 to $7 million; buying and combining the three singles is slightly more expensive.)
Using a different transformer for each phase allowed shrinking the weight of the transformer from about 400,000 pounds for a single one to roughly 125,000 pounds for each of the three-phase units. In operation, the transformers are oil-filled, but in this case, the oil was shipped in tanker trucks in the convoy, to decrease weight.
With three transformers, three crews can work simultaneously to set them up, and setting up a small transformer is faster than setting up a big one.
In addition, installing a transformer usually requires pouring a concrete foundation, but one of these transformers was mounted on skids, eliminating that need.
Even with all these shortcuts, there were speed bumps. One is that utility executives think a stockpile is a good idea, but nobody is quite sure what to stockpile, or where.
The industry rule of thumb is that for every 13 transformers in the field, there are 10 designs. And the initial model that they will stockpile will only work as a replacement for about 500 of the 2,100 transformers in the system.
The next step will be a transformer unlike almost any in the field, that can be configured to work between more than two different voltages — say, operating not just between 138 kilovolts and 345 kilovolts, but also between 115 kilovolts and 345 kilovolts. That would cover a few hundred more.
So there is a lot of work to move to standardized systems, research on designing and proving out fast replacement and stockpiling standard units that are adaptible enough to use everywhere that is needed.
There also needs to be research on hardening existing infrastructure to prevent or mitigate cascading damage or any damage in the first place.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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