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Laure Buquet - 10/03/2016

Using TANDEM to simulate the impact of tsunamis on the coasts of France

As part of TANDEM*, an Investment in the Future Programme, the Cardamom project-team is contributing to “the expansion of scientific knowledge of France to anticipate the impact of a tsunami on France's Atlantic coastlines.” Ten renowned partners have committed to the four-year multidisciplinary project designed to provide improved awareness of risks and corrective actions to take. 

On 11 March 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake off the coast of Fukushima, Japan, followed by a very powerful tsunami, caused the largest nuclear disaster in human history after that of Chernobyl on 26 April 1986. The toll was extremely heavy: 20,000 victims, cities erased from the map and tonnes of radioactive waste washed out in the Pacific Ocean. According to researchers, particles from this pollution will continue to circulate in the world's oceans for decades.

Could the disaster have been avoided?

For Mario Ricchiuto, head of the Cardamom project-team (Inria Bordeaux Southwest), “a part, yes, could have been limited if preventive actions had been put in place.” Preventive actions? “For example, better knowledge of earthquake scenarios for the zone in question, combined with research into deposits of tsunamis in recent centuries would indicate whether violent events have already occurred.  Next, the use of advanced forecasting tools (simulation)--and undertaking systematic campaigns to assess the level of flooding after a tsunami--may help in understanding, quantifying and pinpointing the risks. The objective is thus to make public officials more aware so that safety measures can be taken or improved at the nuclear power plants concerned,” he notes. All of these issues have also contributed to a desire in France, which has the second highest number of nuclear power plants in operation, to expand our scientific knowledge in the field.

At the intersection of the scientific issues raised by TANDEM

Thus TANDEM was born. Coordinated by CEA and funded by ANR for four years, it has ten partners, including the Cardamom project-team, BRGM (Orléans), CEA (Bruyères le Châtel), EDF (Chatou and Aix en Provence), Ifremer (Brest), IRSN (Fontenay aux Roses), Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, Principia (La Ciotat), SHOM (Brest) and Université de Pau. In Tsukuba, Japan, a partnership has also been set up with the Meteorological Research Institute, which provides topographical data.

With expertise in asymptotic analysis (how can the dominant effects in a problem be taken into account?), digital analysis (once the mathematical equation is written, how can it be treated digitally by dynamically adapting number and positioning of unknown variables?) and applications (how can complex effects be integrated and take into account uncertainties concerning the actual physical conditions?), the Cardamom project-team is at the intersection of many of the scientific issues raised by this programme. This is because, as Mario Ricchiuto explains, “We have the freedom to concentrate only on the scientific  aspects, to perform preliminary studies with tools that are not currently in use but innovative... The tools that we are developing are not part of a warning system. Our job is more to try to develop our approaches, test them and offer improved solutions for the future.” At its conclusion, the programme will thus not provide an actual product.

Each person will have more expertise, improved tools, strong synergies with colleagues from the world of academic and industrial research and belong to a more structured network in France, and will have clearer perspectives for a strategy for forecasting tsunami risks.

* Tsunami in the Atlantic and the english chaNel Definition of the Effects trough numerical Modeling

Keywords: Cardamom Tsunamis Mario Ricchiuto Modeling