Business

  • Businesses looking to bolster cybersecurity

    Since the recent data breaches at retailers Target and Neiman Marcus, in which hackers stole millions of customers’ credit and debit card information, consumers have been urging card providers to offer better secure payment processors. Legislators have introduced the Data Security Act of 2014 to establish uniform requirements for businesses to protect and secure consumers’ electronic data. The bill will replace the many different, and often conflicting, state laws that govern data security and notification standards in the event of a data breach.

  • PathSensors introduces portable pathogen identifier system

    Baltimore, Maryland-based PathSensors, Inc. has introduced the portable Zephyr Pathogen Identifier system. The company says it delivers rapid, reliable detection of bacteria, virus, and toxins in powder and liquid samples in minutes. The Zephyr Identifier uses CANARY (Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields) technology, which is licensed from the MIT-Lincoln Laboratory.

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  • Avoiding water wars between fracking industry and residents

    The shale gas boom has transformed the energy landscape in the United States, but in some drier locations, it could cause conflict among the energy industry, residents, and agricultural interests over already-scarce water resources, say researchers. They add that degraded water quality is a potential risk unless there are adequate safeguards.

  • Boston bombing spurred small, midsize businesses to buy terrorism insurance

    After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, terrorism insurance, designed for large businesses, became a necessary business expense for many midsize and small firms. Some 160 companies near the Boston explosion submitted insurance claims for property damage or business losses and only 14 percent had coverage for terrorism. “The Marathon attack changed the calculus,” an insurance industry insider says. “It taught us terrorism is a risk to businesses of every scale and size.”

  • Adoption of battlefield surveillance system in urban settings raises privacy concerns

    More cities are adopting an aerial surveillance system first developed for the military. The surveillance cameras, fitted on a small plane, can record a 25-square-mile area for up to six hours, and cost less than the price of a police helicopter. The system also has the capability of watching 10,000 times the area that a police helicopter could watch. Privacy advocates are concerned. “There are an infinite number of surveillance technologies that would help solve crimes, but there are reasons that we don’t do those things, or shouldn’t be doing those things,” said one of them.

  • S.C. fights to keep costly plutonium processing project alive

    The United States and Russia have agreed to dispose of thirty-four tons of weapon-grade plutonium each, an amount equal to 17,000 nuclear warheads. The United States budgeted $4 billion for a mixed-oxide fuel project, known as MOX, at the Savannah River Site, S.C., to process the plutonium, but construction costs have now reached $8 billion, and officials estimate the facility will cost about $30 billion over its operating years. DOE has suspended the MOX project and is looking for alternative plutonium processing methods. South Carolina has sued the federal government, arguing that since Congress has authorized the funds for MOX, the administration must spend the money.

  • Some see small modular reactors as offering a better future for the nuclear industry

    A full-size reactor costs up to $8 billion, takes years to build, and decades to achieve a return on investment. Some experts say the future of the nuclear industry should be based on small underground reactors, which are cheaper and quicker to build. Other experts say that smaller reactors mean needing many more of them to produce the same amount of power as traditional reactors, and having more reactors means increasing security concerns.

  • Climate benefit of biofuels from corn residue questioned

    Using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and generates more greenhouse gases than gasoline, according to a new study. The findings cast doubt on whether corn residue can be used to meet federal mandates to ramp up ethanol production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Court to decide a Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” case

    Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” law is the center of a case set for trial later this week, in which developers of CapX2020, the region’s power grid improvement project, will contest a lawsuit by Cedar Summit Farm. The state law requires utilities building high-voltage power lines to buy out farms along the path of the power line if the affected landowners demand it. CapX2020 argues the farm does not meet the buyout criteria set in the law.

  • Debate over Ontario, Canada underground nuclear waste facility intensifies

    Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) proposal to construct an underground nuclear waste disposal facility near the company’s Bruce Nuclear plantand on the edge of the Great Lakes is facing growing opposition from local municipalities and environmentalists. The facility would store low and intermediate nuclear waste from OPG’s Bruce, Pickering, and Darlington nuclear facilities. Environmentalists are concerned that a leak in the underground facility would be devastating for communities which depend on water from the Great Lakes.

  • Amid controversy, Boston City council debates banning Level 4 Biolab

    Boston has long been seen as “America’s Medical Capital,” but that may soon change if the city passes a measure to ban Level 4 Biolab disease research at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory – research which includes deadly and untreatable strains that could decimate an exposed urban population in the event of an accident or terrorist activity.

  • Congress urged to renew the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act

    The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) is set to expire at the end of 2014 and members of Congress are urging its reinstatement before it is too late. The bill was enacted in 2002 in response to 9/11, and requires private insurers to offer terrorism coverage to individuals, with government assistance should the total payout from an event exceeds $100 million.

  • Red Team’s concepts, approach gain support

    Headed by Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Red Team aims to modernize the uranium processing procedure on a budget of $4.2 billion to $6.5 billion. Even before Red Teamdelivered its report on alternatives to the expensive Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant by the 15 April 2014 deadline, the group of experts, who come from different disciplines, had already gained support among energy officials and some members of Congress.

  • Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

    By David L. Chandler

    When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects — specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores, due to a shutdown of all power at the station — that caused most of the harm. A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms, modeled after those used for offshore oil drilling, could help avoid such consequences in the future. Such floating plants would be designed to be automatically cooled by the surrounding seawater in a worst-case scenario, which would indefinitely prevent any melting of fuel rods, or escape of radioactive material.

  • Silent-capable hybrid-electric military motorcycle

    Fairfax, Virginia-based Logos Technologies has received a small business innovation research (SBIR) grant from DARPA to develop a military-use hybrid-electric motorcycle with near-silent capability. The company says that when fully matured, the technology will allow small, dispersed military teams to move long distances quickly and stealthily across harsh enemy terrain.