Infrastructure

  • Cyberattacks2008 Turkish oil pipeline explosion may have been Stuxnet precursor

    The August 2008 Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline explosion in Refahiye, eastern Turkey, was ruled at the time to be an accident resulting from a mechanical failure, which itself was a result of an oversight by Turkish government’s supervisors. Western intelligence services concluded that the explosion was the result of a cyberattack. According to people familiar with an investigation of the incident, hackers had infiltrate the pipeline’s surveillance systems and valve stations, and super-pressurized the crude oil in the pipeline, causing the explosion.

  • Flood protectionBetter defense barriers and technologies for better protection against floods

    Hurricanes are devastating. Aside from the high, sustained wind speeds, they usually bring with them heavy rain, which can quickly lead to the breaching of flood defenses in susceptible areas. Now, U.S. and U.K. researchers have reviewed hurricane flood defense barriers and technologies with a view to helping engineers find improved designs.

  • Flood protectionCoastal defenses could contribute to flooding with sea-level rise

    A combination of coastal defenses and rising sea levels could change typical U.K. tidal ranges, potentially leading to a higher risk of flooding, say scientists. The researchers wanted to find out how tides around the United Kingdom might respond to changes in sea level over the next century depending on the level of coastal defenses in place. Their study shows for the first time that local coastal defenses, such as sea walls, could cause tides to change dramatically. It suggests flood defenses need to be reassessed on an international scale as they may lead to an increased risk of flooding.

  • Nuclear powerNuclear power should play “substantial role” in mitigating climate change: Environmental scientists

    Leading conservation scientists from around the world have called for a substantial role for nuclear power in future energy-generating scenarios in order to mitigate climate change and protect biodiversity. In an open letter to environmentalists with more than sixty signatories, the scientists ask the environmental community to “weigh up the pros and cons of different energy sources using objective evidence and pragmatic trade-offs, rather than simply relying on idealistic perceptions of what is ‘green’.”

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  • CybersecurityFBI moves cyberthreats to top of law-enforcement agenda

    FBI director James Comey said combatting cybercrime and other cyber threats are now top FBI priority. “It (the Internet) is transforming human relationships in ways we’ve never seen in human history before,” Comey said. “I see a whole lot of hacktivists, I see a whole lot of international criminal gangs, very sophisticated thieves,” he added. “I see people hurting kids, tons of pedophiles, an explosion of child pornography.” In October Comey urged Congress to require tech companies to put “backdoors” in apps and operating systems. Such a move would allow law enforcement officials to better to monitor suspected criminals who often escape the law using encryption and anti-surveillance computer software.

  • Earthquake early warningCongressional funding allows partial roll-out of Calif. seismic early warning system

    California officials applauded the U.S. Senate approval of the $1.1-trillion spending package, which allocated $5 million to fund expansion of the state’s earthquake early-warning system dubbed ShakeAlert.In 2015, a select number of schools will receive earthquake alerts to warn students and teachers to drop and cover before shaking begins, fire stations will be alerted to open their garage doors before electricity goes out and prevents doors from opening, and some hospitals will receive notice to suspend surgeries.

  • Sony hackingCyber whodunnit: North Korea prime suspect but there are many potential culprits

    By Alan Woodward

    Many suspect North Korea to be behind the attack on Sony Pictures. North Korea quite possibly has motive, means, and opportunity to carry out this attack on Sony, but as with any successful prosecution, that isn’t enough. We need evidence. We will have to wait for the detailed forensic work to complete before we stand a realistic chance of knowing for certain. That may or may not be forthcoming, but in the meantime we should consider what this event tells us about the balance of power in cyberspace. In a world in which major disruption can be caused with scant resources and little skill, all enemies are a threat. North Korea might be the rogue state that everyone loves to hate but there are plenty of others who could have done it. There is no longer a tiered approach of superpowers fighting proxy wars in smaller, developing nations. Now those developing nations can fight back, and you might not even know it was them.

  • Coastal infrastructurePower grids in coastal U.S. cities increasingly vulnerable as a result of climate change

    Cities such as Miami are all too familiar with hurricane-related power outages. A new analysis finds, however, that climate change will give other major metropolitan areas a lot to worry about in the future. Johns Hopkins University engineers created a computer model to predict the increasing vulnerability of power grids in major coastal cities during hurricanes. By factoring historic hurricane information with plausible scenarios for future storm behavior, the team determined which of twenty-seven cities, from Texas to Maine, will become more susceptible to blackouts from future hurricanes. The team’s analysis could help metropolitan areas better plan for climate change.

  • Chemical facility safetyHouse approves 4-year extension of chemical facility safety legislation

    On 11 December the House approved a 4-year reauthorization of DHS’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standardsprogram (CFATS), meant to protect U.S. chemical facilities from terrorist attacks. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill(H.R. 4007). Implementing the CFATS program will cost roughly $349 million over fiscal years 2015 to 2019. The CFATS, authorized in Section 550 of the 2007 DHS Appropriations Act, requires industrial facilities with certain levels of use or storage of chemicals to submit information about their chemical holdings to DHS, assess their vulnerabilities, and submit plans to address those vulnerabilities and secure their chemical holdings.

  • Infrastructure protectionImpact of solar storm on U.S. infrastructure cannot be predicted with certainty

    Of the many threats to the U.S. electric grid, from cyberattacks to terrorism, industry experts agree that the most catastrophic, yet least likely to occur, threat is a magnetic space storm which could shut down the grid and cause other infrastructure to fail. Previous large scale solar storms include the 1859 Carrington Event — the strongest storm on record — and a March 1989 coronal mass ejection which caused a 9-hour blackout in Quebec.

  • Public healthLink between power lines and ill-health called into question

    Several past studies have suggested that the magnetic fields created by phones, high-voltage power lines, and other electrical equipment are harmful for humans. Research first carried out in the 1970s and again subsequently, found an association between people living near overhead power lines and an increased risk of childhood leukemia, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer has categorized low frequency magnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic.” A mechanism for this association has never been found, and now a research team studying the effects of weak magnetic fields (WMFs) on key human proteins, including those crucial for health, found that they have no detectable impact.

  • Coastal infrastructureN.C. panel to issue sea-level rise forecast to guide coastal, infrastructure development

    Scientists with the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission(CRC) will have their last public meeting today (Monday) before the group issues its projections on sea level rise around the state’s coastal areas. In a 2010 forecast, the science panel concluded that North Carolina’s sea levels would increase by thirty-nine inches by 2100. Climate-change skeptics and coastal developers opposed the report, and in 2012 persuaded the state legislature to bar any state agency from adopting a policy based on any sea level forecast. The legislature modified the CRC’s mandate by limiting its projections to 30-year periods and instructing it to focus on four separate zones and not the entire state projections. The CRC will submit it report to the legislature on 1 March 2016.

  • Nuclear powerUltrasonic robot inspects pipes at nuclear power plant

    See video

    GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) the other day announced that its ultrasonic robot, Surveyor, successfully inspected a section of underground pipe at the South Texas Project Electric Generating Station. The inspection at the site of two Westinghouse-built pressurized water reactors near Bay City, Texas, marks the first deployment of the state-of-the-art robot at a nuclear power plant.

  • Nuclear powerSCE&G places 180,000-pound CA05 module at V.C. Summer Unit 2, S.C.

    South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (SCE&G) and its partners placed on 6 December the CA05 structural module on the V.C. Summer Unit 2 nuclear island. The company says this is one of several milestones achieved this year in the construction of nuclear reactors that are among the first in the U.S. in thirty years.

  • EnergyNew chemical sponge would lessen the carbon footprint of oil industry

    U.K. scientists have discovered a ground-breaking technique with the potential dramatically to reduce the amount of energy used in the refinement of crude oil. The existing industrial process uses huge amounts of energy to separate and purify these gases, so the new technique has the potential to revolutionize the oil industry by significantly reducing carbon emissions and making the process more environmentally friendly.