Report Shows U.S. Nuclear Regulators Still Ignoring Lessons of Fukushima Disaster
By Christopher Paine
Three years after Japan’s nuclear disaster, U.S. reactors remain vulnerable to the threat of runaway hydrogen production and leakage in a severe nuclear accident, with little or no capacity to safely reduce or vent potentially explosive concentrations of this gas, or capture its hazardous radioactive constituents before it explodes and contaminates the surrounding region, as occurred at Fukushima in March 2011.
That is the conclusion of a newly released NRDC report, "Preventing Hydrogen Explosions In Severe Nuclear Accidents: Unresolved Safety Issues Involving Hydrogen Generation And Mitigation."
The report musters a multitude of technical evidence showing that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) underestimates the rate, extent and likely impacts of hydrogen production in severe loss-of-coolant accidents, and thus continues to ignore the lessons of Fukushima when it comes to ensuring “defense in depth” against the risks of a hydrogen explosion once a severe accident is in progress.
The report urges the NRC to require more frequent and authentic “leak-rate” tests of reactor containments, and to re-benchmark its computational capability for assessing hydrogen production in severe accidents with data obtained from realistic core damage experiments, as two essential predicates for setting new NRC requirements for U.S. nuclear power stations to minimize hydrogen explosion risk.
The aging fleet of U.S. reactors, which will increasingly operate beyond their initial 40-year term license terms, is now facing severe competitive pressures in wholesale competitive power markets, setting up difficult tradeoffs between low-carbon electricity supply, continued commercial viability, and the new investment required to sustain public safety. Many of the oldest nuclear units are General Electric Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs), with undersized Mark 1 and Mark II primary containments that the NRC has known for decades are especially vulnerable to hydrogen leaks under the elevated pressure conditions expected to occur in severe accidents.
Mark Leyse, the principle author of the report and a technical consultant to NRDC, is critical of the NRC’s apparent willingness to accede to recent licensee requests to further relax and defer requirements for periodic containment pressurization and leak rate testing: He notes that “American BWR Mark I and II containments in particular have performed poorly in leak rate tests, yet the NRC is planning to further extend the permitted intervals between these tests, casting a blind eye toward the hydrogen explosions that occurred in three units of this very design at Fukushima.”
As his report explains in detail, hydrogen is produced in severe loss-of-coolant nuclear accidents when the overheated zirconium alloy tubes that surround the uranium fuel pellets chemically react with steam and undergo rapid oxidation, releasing hydrogen. Above about 1832 deg. F this reaction becomes “autocatalytic,” meaning it becomes self-sustaining by virtue of the heat produced by the chemical reaction alone, while the heat from radioactive decay that is responsible for initially heating up the zirconium fuel cladding continues to make a contribution that declines steadily with time from reactor shut-down. When an overheated core reaches this point, it is said to be in a “thermal runaway” condition, capable of producing thousands of kilograms of combustible hydrogen that can leak out and explode.
Leyse’s investigation found that the NRC’s regulatory passivity is grounded in the computer models it relies on to set safety requirements. These models do not accurately predict the onset of rapid hydrogen production, or the rates of hydrogen production shown in severe fuel damage experiments conducted in the 1980's and 1990's. In short, the NRC seems to be operating with an inadequate technical understanding of the nuclear accident risk it is tasked by statute to minimize.
While most Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs)—those with the large domed reinforced concrete and steel containments familiar to many Americans as the symbol of nuclear power—can withstand higher containment pressures than BWRs, and have larger volumes in which to disperse hydrogen leaks, thereby potentially avoiding detonable concentrations, the report notes that most US reactors “are not equipped to detect and control dangerous concentrations of hydrogen in all the places where it could migrate and explode in a nuclear power plant.” Nor, Leyse points out, has an analysis ever been done on the damage potential of flying objects generated in an explosion of hydrogen inside a containment. Yet we know from the Fukushima Daiichi accident that debris propelled by hydrogen detonations caused extensive damage to backup emergency power supplies and hoses that were intended to inject seawater into overheated reactors. Some of the debris dispersed around the site by explosions was highly radioactive, exposing personnel to higher dose rates and setting back their efforts to control the accident.
As previously noted by nuclear safety expert David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, poorly mitigated hydrogen explosion risk presents a serious threat to the so-called “FLEX” strategy for severe accident response proposed by the nuclear industry’s lobbying arm, the Nuclear Energy Institute, after Fukushima, and adopted almost verbatim by the NRC. The FLEX response strategy is essentially an array of remotely stored portable equipment that is supposed to be moved into place by workers in the immediate aftermath of a greater-than-expected triggering event, such as an earthquake, tornado, or flood, which severely damages the backup safety systems of the plant or leads to a complete loss of electrical power, temporarily disabling these systems. Inadequate hydrogen control during a severe accident could render key elements of the FLEX strategy ineffective at the very moment they are most needed.
The report also explores the little known fact that when confronted with the quantities of hydrogen produced in severe accidents, current token capabilities for hydrogen control are just as likely to trigger a hydrogen detonation as prevent one. For just this reason, NRDC has joined Riverkeeper in calling for the immediate removal of self-actuating “Passive Autocatalytic Recombiners” (PAR) devices from Indian Point nuclear generating station, located 28 miles north of New York City.
However, knowing when to safely operate electrically-powered versions of these devices, which can be turned on and off, requires knowing the concentration of hydrogen in their immediate vicinity. But in 2003, the report notes, the NRC took the odd step of reclassifying such monitors as “non-safety related equipment,” meaning the equipment no longer needed needed to have redundancy, seismic resistance, or an independent train of onsite standby power. Furthermore, NRDC’s investigation found that GE-BWR Mark I and Mark II designs operate with hydrogen monitors installed only in their nitrogen-filled primary containments, not in their reactor buildings. In the Fukushima Daiichi accident, hydrogen from three Mark I units leaked undetected into these buildings and exploded.
The inability of U.S. nuclear operators to monitor hydrogen concentrations in all plant areas where it could migrate during a severe accident is matched by another critical monitoring deficiency: Operators of PWRs lack a sufficient capability to monitor the onset and progression of the nuclear fuel degradation that leads to runaway hydrogen production in an accident. This deficient capability limits operator knowledge of when to transition from emergency operating procedures (EOPs)—intended to prevent fuel damage—to severe accident management guidelines (SAMGs)—intended to stabilize a damaged reactor core with auxiliary ad-hoc cooling measures while preventing significant off-site releases of radionuclide contamination.
Plant operators are supposed to implement SAMGs before the onset of the rapid zirconium-steam reaction, which leads to thermal runaway in the reactor core. Not knowing which regime one is operating in can have severe consequences. For example, PWR operators could end up re-flooding an overheated core simply because they do not know its actual condition. Unintentionally re-flooding an overheated core could generate hydrogen, at a rate as high as 5,000 grams per second, and the containment could be compromised if large quantities of that hydrogen were to detonate, as occurred at Fukushima.
The report explains that in PWRs, so called “core-exit thermocouples”—temperature measuring devices—are the primary equipment that would be used to detect inadequate core-cooling and signal the point at which operators should transition from EOPs to SAMGs. However, data from experiments demonstrate that core-exittemperature measurements are neither an accurate nor a timely indicator of maximum fuel-cladding temperatures in the core, and hence an unreliable indicator of the likelihood of significant hydrogen production. In the most realistic severe accident experiment ever conducted—in which an actual reactor core was heated with [radioactive] decay heat before melting down—core-exit temperatures were measured at approximately 800 degrees when maximum in-core fuel-cladding temperatures exceeded 3300 degrees. Relying on core-exit thermocouple measurements for timely detection of inadequate core cooling or uncovering of the core is neither reliable nor safe.
In the face of the NRC’s inaction on this critical safety matter, the report presents the following six recommendations for actions to reduce the risk of hydrogen explosions in severe nuclear accidents:
The NRC should develop and experimentally validate computer safety models that can conservatively predict rates of hydrogen generation in severe accidents.
The NRC needs to acknowledge that its existing computer safety models under-predict the rates of hydrogen generation that occur in severe accidents. The NRC should conduct a series of experiments with multi-rod bundles of zirconium alloy fuel rod simulators and/or actual fuel rods as well as study the full set of existing experimental data. The NRC’s objective in this effort should be to develop models capable of predicting with greater accuracy the rates of hydrogen generation that occur in severe accidents.
The safety of existing hydrogen recombiners should be assessed, with the use of Passive Autocatalytic Recombiner (PARs) potentially discontinued until technical improvements are developed and certified.
Experimentation and research should be conducted in order to improve the performance of self-actuating PARs so that they will not malfunction and incur ignitions in the elevated hydrogen concentrations that occur in severe accidents. The NRC and European regulators should perform safety analyses to determine if existing PARs should be removed from plant containments—and, if so, whether they should be replaced with electrically powered thermal hydrogen recombiners that have their own independent train of emergency power. The latter course would require operators to have instrumentation capable of providing timely information on the local hydrogen concentrations throughout the containment, so they could deactivate the thermal recombiners when hydrogen concentrations reached the levels at which the recombiners malfunction and incur ignitions.
Existing oxygen and hydrogen monitoring instrumentation should be significantly improved.
In line with the conclusions of the NRC’s own Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), the NRC should reclassify oxygen and hydrogen monitors as safety-related equipment which must undergo full qualification (including seismic qualification), must have redundancy, and must have has its own independent train of emergency electrical power.
The current NRC requirement that hydrogen monitors be functional within 90 minutes of emergency cooling water injection into the reactor vessel is clearly inadequate for protecting public and plant worker safety. The NRC should require that, following the onset of an accident, hydrogen monitors be functional within a timeframe that enables immediate detection of quantities of hydrogen indicative of core damage and a potential threat to containment integrity.
As first urged by our colleagues at the Union of Concerned Scientists, the NRC should also require hydrogen monitoring instrumentation to be installed in:
1) BWR Mark I and Mark II secondary containments;
2) fuel-handling buildings of PWRs and BWR Mark IIIs; and
3) any plant structure where it would be possible for hydrogen to enter.
Current core diagnostic capabilities require upgrading to provide plant operators a better signal for when to transition from emergency operating procedures to severe accident management guidelines.
The NRC should require plants to use thermocouples placed at different elevations and radial positions throughout the reactor core to enable plant operators to accurately measure a wide range of temperatures inside the core under both typical and accident conditions. In the event of a severe accident, in-core thermocouples would provide plant operators with crucial information to help them track the progression of core damage and manage the accident, indicating, in particular, the correct time to transition from EOPs to implementing SAMGs.
The NRC should require all nuclear power plants to control the total quantity of hydrogen that could be generated in a severe accident.
The NRC should require all nuclear power plants to operate with systems for combustible gas control that would effectively and safely control the total quantity of hydrogen that could potentially be generated in different severe accident scenarios; and to have strategies for venting gas from the inerted primary BWR Mark I and Mark II containments without causing significant radiological releases. The NRC should also require nuclear power plants to operate with systems for combustible gas control that are capable of preventing local concentrations of hydrogen in the containment from reaching concentrations that could support explosions powerful enough to breach the containment, or damage other essential accident-mitigating features. Hydrogen explosions are not expected to occur inside the primary BWR Mark I and Mark II containments, which operate with inerted atmospheres, unless somehow oxygen is present.
The NRC should require licensees who operate nuclear power plants with hydrogen igniter systems to perform analyses demonstrating that these systems would effectively and safely mitigate hydrogen in different severe accident scenarios. Licensees unable to do so would be ordered to upgrade their systems to adequate levels of performance.
The NRC should require that data from leak rate tests be used to help predict the hydrogen leak rates of the primary containment of each BWR Mark I and Mark II licensed by the NRC in different severe accident scenarios.
The NRC should require that data from overall leak rate tests and local leak rate tests—already required by Appendix J to Part 50 for determining how much radiation would be released from the containment in a design basis accident—also be used to help predict hydrogen leak rates for a range of severe accident scenarios involving the primary containments of each GE-BWR Mark I and Mark II licensed by the NRC. If data from an individual leak rate test were to indicate that dangerous quantities of explosive hydrogen gas would leak from a primary containment in a severe accident, the plant owner should be required to repair the containment.
The rationale for this requirement is obvious: Hydrogen explosions, or hydrogen concentrations in the reactor building that pose a detonation risk, can severely inhibit emergency response actions essential to containing the accident. Or even worse, emergency response actions themselves, such as hooking up portable power equipment, could actually provide the spark for hydrogen explosions in critical areas of the plant.
The NRC should also end its practice of allowing repairs to be made immediately before leak rate tests are conducted to evaluate potential leakage paths, such as containment welds, valves, fittings, and other components that penetrate containment. This “repair before test” practice obviously defeats the nuclear safety objective of providing an accurate statistical sample of actual pre-existing containment leak rates.
Finally, the NRC should reconsider its plan to extend the intervals of overall and local leak rate tests to once every 15 years and 75 months, respectively. The NRC needs to conduct safety analyses that consider BWR Mark I and Mark II primary containments vulnerable to hydrogen leakage. It also seems probable that as old reactors are kept in service beyond their original licensed lifetimes, the intervals between leak rate tests should be shortened rather than extended.
Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By James Shulmeister
Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.
If you have a question you'd like an expert to answer, please send it to email@example.com
What was the climate and sea level like at times in Earth’s history when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was at 400ppm?<p>The last time global carbon dioxide levels were consistently at or above 400 parts per million (ppm) was around <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14145" target="_blank">four million years ago</a> during a geological period known as the <a href="http://www.geologypage.com/2014/05/pliocene-epoch.html" target="_blank">Pliocene Era</a> (between 5.3 million and 2.6 million years ago). The world was about 3℃ warmer and sea levels were higher than today.</p><p>We know how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere contained in the past by studying ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. As compacted snow gradually changes to ice, it traps air in bubbles that contain <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/annals-of-glaciology/article/enclosure-of-air-during-metamorphosis-of-dry-firn-to-ice/09D9C60A8DA412D16645E6E6ABC1892F" target="_blank">samples of the atmosphere at the time</a>. We can sample ice cores to reconstruct past concentrations of carbon dioxide, but this record only takes us back about a million years.</p><p>Beyond a million years, we don't have any direct measurements of the composition of ancient atmospheres, but we can use several methods to estimate past levels of carbon dioxide. One method uses the relationship between plant pores, known as stomata, that regulate gas exchange in and out of the plant. The density of these stomata is <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/095968369200200109" target="_blank">related to atmospheric carbon dioxide</a>, and fossil plants are a good indicator of concentrations in the past.</p><p>Another technique is to examine sediment cores from the ocean floor. The sediments build up year after year as the bodies and shells of dead plankton and other organisms rain down on the seafloor. We can use isotopes (chemically identical atoms that differ only in atomic weight) of boron taken from the shells of the dead plankton to reconstruct changes in the acidity of seawater. From this we can work out the level of carbon dioxide in the ocean.</p><p>The data from four-million-year-old sediments suggest that <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2010PA002055" target="_blank">carbon dioxide was at 400ppm back then</a>.</p>
Sea Levels and Changes in Antarctica<p>During colder periods in Earth's history, ice caps and glaciers grow and sea levels drop. In the recent geological past, during the most recent ice age about 20,000 years ago, sea levels were at least <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/292/5517/679.abstract" target="_blank">120 meters lower</a> than they are today.</p><p><span></span>Sea-level changes are calculated from changes in isotopes of oxygen in the shells of marine organisms. For the Pliocene Era, <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2004PA001071" target="_blank">research</a> shows the sea-level change between cooler and warmer periods was around 30-40 meters and sea level was higher than today. Also during the Pliocene, we know the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature07867" target="_blank">significantly smaller</a> and global average temperatures were about 3℃ warmer than today. Summer temperatures in high northern latitudes were up to 14℃ warmer.</p><p>This may seem like a lot but modern observations show strong <a href="https://journals.ametsoc.org/jcli/article/23/14/3888/32547" target="_blank">polar amplification</a> of warming: a 1℃ increase at the equator may raise temperatures at the poles by 6-7℃. It is one of the reasons why Arctic sea ice is disappearing.</p>
Impacts in New Zealand and Australia<p>In the Australian region, there was no Great Barrier Reef, but there may have been <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/BF02537376.pdf" target="_blank">smaller reefs along the northeast coast of Australia</a>. For New Zealand, the partial melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is probably the most critical point.</p><p>One of the key features of New Zealand's current climate is that Antarctica is cut off from global circulation during the winter because of the big <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3402/tellusa.v54i5.12161" target="_blank">temperature contrast</a> between Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. When it comes back into circulation in springtime, New Zealand gets strong storms. Stormier winters and significantly warmer summers were likely in the mid-Pliocene because of a weaker polar vortex and a warmer Antarctica.</p><p>It will take more than a few years or decades of carbon dioxide concentrations at 400ppm to trigger a significant shrinking of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. But recent studies show that <a href="http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/521027/" target="_blank">West Antarctica is already melting</a>.</p><p>Sea-level rise from a partial melting of West Antarctica could easily exceed a meter or more by 2100. In fact, if the whole of the West Antarctic melted it could <a href="http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.695.7239&rep=rep1&type=pdf" target="_blank">raise sea levels by about 3.5 meters</a>. Even smaller increases raise the risk of <a href="https://www.pce.parliament.nz/publications/preparing-new-zealand-for-rising-seas-certainty-and-uncertainty" target="_blank">flooding in low-lying cities</a> including Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.</p>
- Scientists Sound the Alarm: CO2 Levels Race Past Point of No Return ›
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By Jo Harper
Investment in U.S. offshore wind projects are set to hit $78 billion (€69 billion) this decade, in contrast with an estimated $82 billion for U.S. offshore oil and gasoline projects, Wood Mackenzie data shows. This would be a remarkable feat only four years after the first offshore wind plant — the 30 megawatt (MW) Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island — started operating in U.S. waters.
Corporates Shift<p>Helping to drive offshore growth, U.S. corporate buyers <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/cities-leading-the-transition-to-renewables/a-42850621" target="_blank">are increasingly relying on wind energy to power their businesses</a>. Walmart and AT&T are the two top corporate wind buyers, while 14 newcomers entered the wind market in 2019, including Estée Lauder and McDonald's.</p><p>"Oil and gas companies have jumped into the U.S. offshore wind market, where they can transfer expertise in offshore fossil fuel development to clean energy investments," says Max Cohen, principal analyst, Americas Power & Renewable research at Wood Mackenzie. Many international oil and gas companies have already recognized this huge potential and entered the US offshore wind market, including Orsted, Equinor and Shell.</p><p>"Given the recent tumult in oil prices, fossil fuel companies may more and more be looking to diversify their portfolios, particularly with assets that are contracted or offer returns uncorrelated with oil and gas," Cohen says. "Offshore wind is an area where they may have a comparative advantage, and they can then leverage the experience with that technology to make the leap to onshore wind, solar, and other renewable technologies," he says.</p>
East Coast leads the way<p>"There is enormous opportunity, especially off the East Coast, for wind. I am very bullish," said former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. "Market excitement is moving towards offshore wind. I haven't seen this kind of enthusiasm from industry since the Bakken shale boom," he said.</p><p>Offshore wind initiatives require excessive upfront spending: a 250 MW venture costs about $1 billion, based on International Energy Agency data, but as costs fall the tipping point after which costs fall faster gets nearer</p><p>"The opportunity has been created by Northeastern states seeing the large price declines for offshore wind in Europe," says Cohen. Onshore wind is historically the lowest cost renewable resource, but is at its most expensive in the Northeast, he adds. "But costs are falling slower than for other technologies," he says.</p>
Jobs and Coastal Revitalization<p>U.S. wind energy now supports 120,000 US jobs and 530 domestic factories. A study by the University of Delaware predicted that the supply chain needed to build offshore turbines to feed power to seven East Coast states by 2030 would generate nearly $70 billion in economic activity and at least 40,000 full-time jobs. An American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA's) March 2020 report estimated that developing 30,000 MW of offshore wind along the East Coast could support up to 83,000 jobs and $25 billion in annual economic output by 2030.</p><p>Having said that, not all of the jobs are American jobs. The offshore wind developers with commercial leases in the US are all foreign companies. There is growing interest from the shipbuilding sector in the Gulf of Mexico in partnering with offshore wind companies to provide services. As a result, some of the US oil trade associations have submitted comments supporting certain aspects of offshore wind. "However, it is unclear to what extent offshore wind developers plan to use US vessels and crew, and the existing projects did not incorporate US vessels or labor at all," Hawkins says.</p>
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- Offshore Wind Power Could Produce More Electricity Than World ... ›
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed both the strengths and limitations of globalization. The crisis has made people aware of how industrialized food production can be, and just how far food can travel to get to the local supermarket. There are many benefits to this system, including low prices for consumers and larger, even global, markets for producers. But there are also costs — to the environment, workers, small farmers and to a region or individual nation's food security.
- UN: Acute Food Shortages Worldwide May Double Due to COVID-19 ›
- The Climate Crisis Is 'a Perfect Storm' Headed for the World's Food ... ›
By Joe Leech
The human body comprises around 60% water.
It's commonly recommended that you drink eight 8-ounce (237-mL) glasses of water per day (the 8×8 rule).
1. Helps Maximize Physical Performance<p>If you don't stay hydrated, your physical performance can suffer.</p><p>This is particularly important during intense exercise or high heat.</p><p>Dehydration can have <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-tell-if-youre-dehydrated" target="_blank">a noticeable effect</a> if you lose as little as 2% of your body's water content. However, it isn't uncommon for athletes to lose as much as 6–10% of their water weight via sweat.</p><p>This can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, and increased fatigue. It can also make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally.</p><p>Optimal hydration has been shown to prevent this from happening, and it may even reduce the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/oxidative-stress" target="_blank">oxidative stress</a> that occurs during high intensity exercise. This isn't surprising when you consider that muscle is about 80% water.<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19344695" target="_blank"><span></span></a></p><p>If you exercise intensely and tend to sweat, staying hydrated can help you perform at your absolute best.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Losing as little as 2% of your body's water content can significantly impair your physical performance.</p>
2. Significantly Affects Energy Levels and Brain Function<p>Your brain is strongly influenced by your hydration status.</p><p>Studies show that even mild dehydration, such as the loss of 1–3% of body weight, can impair many aspects of brain function.</p><p>In a study in young women, researchers found that fluid loss of 1.4% after exercise impaired both mood and concentration. It also increased the frequency of headaches.</p><p>Many members of this same research team conducted a similar study in young men. They found that fluid loss of 1.6% was detrimental to working memory and increased feelings of anxiety and fatigue.<a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/mild-dehydration-impairs-cognitive-performance-and-mood-of-men/3388AB36B8DF73E844C9AD19271A75BF/core-reader" target="_blank"></a></p><p>A fluid loss of 1–3% equals about 1.5–4.5 pounds (0.5–2 kg) of body weight loss for a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kg). This can easily occur through normal daily activities, let alone during exercise or high heat.</p><p>Many other studies, with subjects ranging from <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/signs-of-dehydration-in-toddlers" target="_blank">children</a> to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/symptoms-of-dehydration-in-elderly" target="_blank">older adults</a>, have shown that mild dehydration can impair mood, memory, and brain performance.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Mild dehydration (fluid loss of 1–3%) can impair energy levels, impair mood, and lead to major reductions in memory and brain performance.</p>
3. May Help Prevent and Treat Headaches<p>Dehydration can trigger <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/dehydration-headache" target="_blank">headaches</a> and migraine in some individuals.<span></span></p><p>Research has shown that a headache is one of the most common symptoms of dehydration. For example, a study in 393 people found that 40% of the participants experienced a headache as a result of dehydration.</p><p>What's more, some studies have shown that drinking water can help relieve headaches in those who experience frequent headaches.</p><p>A study in 102 men found that drinking an additional 50.7 ounces (1.5 liters) of water per day resulted in significant improvements on the Migraine-Specific Quality of Life scale, a scoring system for <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/migraine-symptoms" target="_blank">migraine symptoms</a>.<a href="https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/29/4/370/492787" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Plus, 47% of the men who drank more water reported headache improvement, while only 25% of the men in the control group reported this effect.<a href="https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/29/4/370/492787" target="_blank"></a></p><p>However, not all studies agree, and researchers have concluded that because of the lack of high quality studies, more research is needed to confirm how increasing hydration may help improve headache symptoms and decrease headache frequency.<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26200171" target="_blank"></a></p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Drinking water may help reduce headaches and headache symptoms. However, more high quality research is needed to confirm this potential benefit.</p>
4. May Help Relieve Constipation<p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/constipation" target="_blank">Constipation</a> is a common problem that's characterized by infrequent bowel movements and difficulty passing stool.</p><p>Increasing fluid intake is often recommended as a part of the treatment protocol, and there's some evidence to back this up.</p><p>Low water consumption appears to be a risk factor for constipation in both younger and older individuals.</p><p>Increasing hydration may help decrease constipation.</p><p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mineral-water-benefits" target="_blank">Mineral water</a> may be a particularly beneficial beverage for those with constipation.</p><p>Studies have shown that mineral water that's rich in magnesium and sodium improves bowel movement frequency and consistency in people with constipation.<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5334415" target="_blank"></a></p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Drinking plenty of water may help prevent and relieve constipation, especially in people who generally don't drink enough water.</p>
5. May Help Treat Kidney Stones<p>Urinary stones are painful clumps of mineral crystal that form in the urinary system.</p><p>The most common form is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/kidney-stones" target="_blank">kidney stones</a>, which form in the kidneys.</p><p>There's limited evidence that water intake can help prevent recurrence in people who have previously gotten kidney stones.<a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004292.pub3/full" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Higher fluid intake increases the volume of urine passing through the kidneys. This dilutes the concentration of minerals, so they're less likely to crystallize and form clumps.</p><p>Water may also help prevent the initial formation of stones, but studies are required to confirm this.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Increased water intake appears to decrease the risk of kidney stone formation.</p>
6. Helps Prevent Hangovers<p>A hangover refers to the unpleasant symptoms experienced after drinking <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/alcohol-good-or-bad" target="_blank">alcohol</a>.</p><p>Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you lose more water than you take in. This can lead to dehydration.</p><p>Although dehydration isn't the main cause of hangovers, it can cause symptoms like thirst, fatigue, headache, and dry mouth.</p><p>Good ways <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-ways-to-prevent-a-hangover" target="_blank">to reduce hangovers</a> are to drink a glass of water between drinks and have at least one big glass of water before going to bed.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Hangovers are partly caused by dehydration, and drinking water can help reduce some of the main symptoms of hangovers.</p>
7. Can Aid Weight Loss<p>Drinking plenty of water can help you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-lose-weight-as-fast-as-possible/" target="_blank">lose weight</a>.</p><p>This is because water can increase satiety and boost your metabolic rate.</p><p>Some evidence suggests that increasing water intake can promote weight loss by slightly increasing your metabolism, which can increase the number of calories you burn on a daily basis.</p><p>A 2013 study in 50 young women with overweight demonstrated that drinking an additional 16.9 ounces (500 mL) of water 3 times per day before meals for 8 weeks led to significant reductions in body weight and body fat compared with their pre-study measurements.</p><p>The timing is important too. Drinking water half an hour before meals is the most effective. It can make you feel more full so that you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/35-ways-to-cut-calories" target="_blank">eat fewer calories</a>.</p><p>In one study, dieters who drank 16.9 ounces (0.5 liters) of water before meals lost 44% more weight over a period of 12 weeks than dieters who didn't drink water before meals.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Even mild dehydration can affect you mentally and physically.</p><p>Make sure that you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day" target="_blank">get enough water each day</a>, whether your personal goal is 64 ounces (1.9 liters) or a different amount. It's one of the best things you can do for your overall health.</p>
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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