Solar storms join floods, terrorism as risks to UK

Mar 18, 2012 By JILL LAWLESS , Associated Press

(AP) -- Britain has added volcanoes and solar storms to floods, flu and terrorism on a list of threats to national security.

The highest-priority risks to Britain are , coastal flooding, terrorist attacks and - a new addition - volcanic eruptions in countries like Iceland, according to the recently published 2012 edition of the government's National Risk Register for Civil Emergencies.

"Severe " poses a threat to communications systems, and power grids, the list said. Solar storms - eruptions of and charged particles - are part of the sun's normal 11-year cycle, which is expected to reach a peak next year.

The storms can't hurt people, but can disturb electric grids, GPS systems and satellites. In 1989, a strong knocked out the power grid in Quebec, cutting electricity to 6 million people. Last week, the strongest solar storm since 2004 passed without major disruptions.

Last month, Parliament's defense committee called on the government to prepare for disruptions to electrical supplies and satellites from - whether caused by the sun or by a nuclear weapon exploded in space.

Space war is not included on the British government's risk register.

"We are becoming more and more reliant on technology, and that technology is becoming more and more delicate," the committee's chairman, Conservative lawmaker James Arbuthnot, told Sunday's edition of The Observer newspaper. "Be afraid, very afraid."

Launched in 2008, the risk register assesses threats that are likely to endanger , the environment or security in Britain. It is the public version of the National Risk Assessment, which is classified.

Volcanic eruptions have been added to the list since the last edition in 2010. Ash from the April 2010 eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano grounded European air travel for days.

But the British government says a more serious risk is posed by an effusive, of gas-rich, eruption. The 1783-84 Laki eruption in Iceland sent out noxious gases that spread as smog across Europe, causing crop failures, famine and thousands of deaths. The government said such an eruption "is now one of the highest-priority risks" Britain faces.

Explore further: Halliburton pays $1.1 bn for Gulf of Mexico BP spill

More information: National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies: http://bit.ly/AqN0uz

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Icelandic volcano flings up ash, shuts airport

May 22, 2011

(AP) -- Iceland closed its main international airport and canceled all domestic flights Sunday as a powerful volcanic eruption sent a plume of ash, smoke and steam 12 miles (20 kilometers) into the air.

Bigger Icelandic eruption, but less airline angst

May 23, 2011

(AP) -- An Icelandic volcano was flinging ash, smoke and steam miles (kilometers) into the air Sunday, dropping a thick layer of gray soot in an eruption far more forceful - but likely far less impactful ...

Recommended for you

Halliburton pays $1.1 bn for Gulf of Mexico BP spill

12 hours ago

Oil services company Halliburton said Tuesday it would pay a $1.1 billion settlement over its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil rig blowout that led to the United States' most disastrous oil spill.

Underwater grass comeback bodes well for Chesapeake Bay

12 hours ago

The Susquehanna Flats, a large bed of underwater grasses near the mouth of the Susquehanna River, virtually disappeared from the upper Chesapeake Bay after Tropical Storm Agnes more than 40 years ago. However, ...

Clean air halves health costs in Chinese city

15 hours ago

Air pollution regulations over the last decade in Taiyuan, China, have substantially improved the health of people living there, accounting for a greater than 50% reduction in costs associated with loss of life and disability ...

User comments : 0