Business

  • Airports say TSA makes privatizing security screening a challenge

    Airport officials described their challenges getting the Transportation Security Administration(TSA) to approve contractors, as part of the agency’s push to privatize more aviation security. The TSA was created to standardize and improve security after 9/11, but the agency’s Screening Partnership Programfor airports allows for private contractors, as long as security levels meet standards set by the TSA.

  • Scientists urge making critical infrastructure more resilient to solar storms

    Scientists predict the probability of a massive solar storm striking the Earth in the next decade to be 12 percent. The 23 July 2012 solar storm was pointed away from Earth and blasted safely into space, but had it been directed towards Earth, it would have produced the worst geomagnetic storm in more than four centuries, causing extensive electricity problems that could take years to resolve. Scientists are debating the amount of damage the grid would suffer during a massive solar storm. The U.S. National Academy of Sciencesestimated in 2008 that the damage and disruption could reach up to $2 trillion with a full recovery time between four and ten years.

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  • Continued funding for S.C. mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) plant – at least until fall

    Federal legislators have secured the funds to keep the mixed-oxide fuelplant (MOX) at the Savannah River Sitein South Carolina moving forward at least into fall, according to South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and members of the state’s congressional delegation. The 310-square mile site once produced components for nuclear weapons, but since the agreement with Russia to turn nuclear weapons into reactor fuel, the site has focused on repurposing and cleanup.

  • Border surveillance towers deployment on hold as GAO seeks reevaluation

    DHS’s plan to deploy fifty surveillance towers across southern Arizona is temporarily on hold, following a protest by Raytheonthat the agency improperly awarded the work to rival EFW. In a decisionreleased last Thursday by the Government Accountability Office(GAO), DHS has been asked to reevaluate the competitors’ proposals, saying that it is possible Raytheon was “prejudiced by the agency’s errors” during an evaluation of proposals.

  • Hopes for quicker, cheaper ways to build nuclear power plants dim

    Promises of building a more cost effective U.S. nuclear industry continue to face setbacks as alternative energy sources like natural gas become cheaper for utilities, while new models for nuclear plants face cost overruns.Nuclear reactor developers sought to build new plants using prefabricated Lego-like blocks to save time and reduce labor costs, butanalysts consider the designs for the new nuclear reactors to be difficult or impossible to build.

  • Extensive corrosion found at chemical tanks of W.Va. site which contaminated region

    Investigators by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) have reported that they detected significant corrosion in MCHM chemical storage tanks at the Freedom Industries site responsible for a 9 January contamination of the Elk River which has impacted over 300,000 residents of the area.

  • Fire shuts down nuclear repository, but DOE still recognizes operator for “excellent” performance

    Five days after an underground truck fire closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the Energy Department (DOE) awarded Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the operating contractor of the nuclear repository, $1.9 million for “excellent” performance during the past year.Shortly after the truck fire, WIPP was shut down because of radiation leak, Still, “No federal or contractor official has lost their job, been transferred, been moved off the WIPP contract or otherwise held accountable. No leadership has changed at the federal level. No company has lost a contract,” noted an industry observer.

  • DHS urged to investigate use of DHS grants for Motorola emergency comm. devices

    Three senior House Democrats have requested DHS’s Office of Inspector Generalto investigate allegations claiming Motorola’s contracting tactics have led state and local governments unnecessarily to spend millions of dollars on the company’s proprietary devices, including its two-way emergency radio systems.

  • As TRIA is set to expire in December, reauthorization by Congress is not a sure thing

    After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. insurance industry sustained an estimated $32.5 billion in total losses. In 2002, to encourage insurance companies to continue covering terrorism as part of commercial policies after many dropped the coverage for fear of more financial loss should another terror attack occur, Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act(TRIA).There has yet to be a TRIA payout due to the absence of a large-scale terrorist attack since the law went into effect. With TRIA expected to expire on 17 December 2014, businesses and some members of Congress are advocating the extension of the legislation, but two pending proposals in Congress have yet to gather the needed support to reauthorize TRIA.

  • Demand for cyberattack insurance grows, but challenges remain

    The surge in cyberattacks against the private sector and critical infrastructure has led to a growth in demand for cyber insurance; yet most insurers are unable properly to assess their clients’ cyber risk, let alone issue the appropriate pricing for their cyber coverage.Insurers which traditionally handle risks like weather disasters and fires, are now rushing to gain expertise in cyber technology.On average, a $1 million cyber coverage could cost $20,000 to $25,000.

  • Tennessee man pleads guilty to attempting to extort a nuclear contractor

    Adam Winters, 26, of Robbins, Tennessee, has pleaded guilty in a $2.5 million extortion case involving Babcock and Wilcox, a managing contractor at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. According to Oak Ridge Today, Winters sent the contractors an e-mail on 8 May, threatening to injure their reputation by publishing roughly 1,200 slides containing evidence from nuclear testing, including the amount of radiation used on animals.

  • High-tech industry-backed immigration reform advocacy group mulls strategy

    FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group launched by Facebookfounder Mark Zuckerberg, has spent millions of dollars on advertising and events to persuade members of Congress to revamp the country’s immigration policy, but despite having the capital, connections, and star power, the tech industry-based group is now forced to reorganize its strategies in the midst of a polarizing immigration debate.

  • The price tag of the 2° climate target

    Addressing climate change will require substantial new investment in low-carbon energy and energy efficiency — but no more than what is currently spent on today’s fossil-dominated energy system. To limit climate change to 2° Celsius, low-carbon energy options will need additional investments of about $800 billion a year globally from now to mid-century, according to a new study, but much of that capital, however, could come from shifting subsidies and investments away from fossil fuels and associated technologies. Worldwide, fossil subsidies currently amount to around $500 billion per year.

  • Syrian Electronic Army’s attack on Reuters makes a mockery of cyber-security (again)

    One big security issue that has arisen lately concerns control of news media. National boundaries have become blurred on the Internet, and the control any nation can have over information dissemination has been eroded — on news Web sites but especially on open platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. One lesson from all the attacks on open platforms is that a focus of any attempted hack will be a spear phishing e-mail. Tricking users into entering their details may be simple, but it can be very serious. For example the Reuters site, which was attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a pro-Assad group of “hacktivists,” integrates more than thirty third-party/advertising network agencies into its content. A breach on any of these could compromise the agency’s whole infrastructure.

  • Foreign investment in agriculture increases productivity of subsistence farming

    The improved infrastructure brought about by foreign investment could increase the productivity of subsistence farmlands in countries such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and could mean these lands can feed at least 300 million people around the world. This is compared to about 190 million people that could be fed if the land was left tended to by the local population. The most targeted countries for land grabs are Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and the former Sudan. Altogether, these nations account for around 82 percent of the total food calories that can be produced by acquired croplands worldwide.