• InfrastructureOur crumbling infrastructure

    By Christina Pazzanese

    The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the nation’s highways and bridges face an $808.2 billion backlog of investment spending, including $479.1 billion in critically needed repairs. More than two-thirds of the nation’s roads and nearly 143,000 bridges are classified in “dire need” of repair or upgrades. U.S. ports are clogged and need dredging to improve the flow of goods; railroad tracks need modernizing; airport communications technology needs updating and expansion; and urban mass transit is old and inadequate. As president, Trump wants to rebuild America’s core; here are the likely smooth roads and potholes ahead.

  • Water securityAffordable water in the U.S.: A looming crisis

    If water rates continue rising at projected amounts, the number of U.S. households unable to afford water could triple in five years, to nearly 36 percent, a new study finds. A variety of factors, ranging from aging infrastructure to climate change to population decline in urban areas, are making residents’ ability to afford water and wastewater services a burgeoning crisis.

  • Radiation risksNY’s Indian Point nuclear plant to close after many “safety events”

    New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant will close by April 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. “For fifteen years, I have been deeply concerned by the continuing safety violations at Indian Point, especially given its location in the largest and most densely populated metropolitan region in the country,” Cuomo said. “I am proud to have secured this agreement with Entergy [the plant’s operator] to responsibly close the facility fourteen years ahead of schedule, to protect the safety of all New Yorkers.”

  • Water securityChanging rainfall patterns linked to water security in India

    Changing rainfall is the key factor driving changes in groundwater storage in India, according to a new study. The study shows that changing monsoon patterns—which are tied to higher temperatures in the Indian Ocean—are an even greater driver of change in groundwater storage than the pumping of groundwater for agriculture.

  • CybersecurityDHS designate U.S. election infrastructure as a Critical Infrastructure Subsector

    The Department of Homeland Security has added the U.S. election infrastructure to the list of protected critical infrastructure sectors of the economy. The move comes in the wake of the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, which was aimed to help Donald Trump win the election. “I have determined that election infrastructure in this country should be designated as a subsector of the existing Government Facilities critical infrastructure sector. Given the vital role elections play in this country, it is clear that certain systems and assets of election infrastructure meet the definition of critical infrastructure, in fact and in law,” DHS secretary Jae Johnson said Friday:

  • GridOff-grid power in remote areas will require special business model to succeed

    Around the world, more than 1.2 billion people lack access to basic electricity service. The majority of those people are living in developing nations, in rural or isolated areas with high rates of poverty. Steep costs and remote terrain often make it impractical or even impossible to extend the electric grid. Low-cost, off-grid solar energy could provide significant economic benefit to people living in some remote areas, but a new study suggests they generally lack the access to financial resources, commercial institutions and markets needed to bring solar electricity to their communities.

  • ResilienceAssessing climate resiliency of more than 250 U.S. cities

    The University of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) has announced it will assess the climate vulnerability and readiness of every U.S. city with a population over 100,000 — more than 250 in all — in an effort to help inform decisions by city officials on infrastructure, land use, water resources management, transportation and other adaptive strategies. The Urban Adaptation Assessment (UAA) will also integrate a social equity analysis, which will investigate how vulnerable groups are disproportionately harmed by climate hazards, such as extreme heat, flooding and extreme cold.

  • Water securityGroundwater resources around the world could be depleted by 2050s

    Human consumption could deplete groundwater in parts of India, southern Europe, and the United States in the coming decades, according to new research presented at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. New modeling of the world’s groundwater levels finds aquifers — the soil or porous rocks that hold groundwater — in the Upper Ganges Basin area of India, southern Spain, and Italy could be depleted between 2040 and 2060.

  • Nuclear wasteChemistry research breakthrough could improve nuclear waste recycling technologies

    Researchers have taken a major step forward by describing the quantitative modelling of the electronic structure of a family of uranium nitride compounds – a process that could in the future help with nuclear waste recycling technologies. “In this nuclear age, there is a pressing need for improved extraction agents for nuclear waste separations and recycling technologies,” explained one of the researchers.

  • Infrastructure protectionNew approach calculates benefits of building hazard-resistant structures

    By Anne Wilson Yu

    The southeastern United States was hit hard by weather patterns resulting from Hurricane Matthew in October. Georgia has sustained some $90 million in insured losses to date, and total claims are expected to rise. Florida was spared Matthew’s worst effects, but the state is regularly witness to the destructive power of such storms and there’s a lot at stake: The insured value of residential and commercial properties in Florida’s coastal counties now exceeds $13 trillion. Calculation developed by MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub shows that when building in areas prone to natural disasters, it pays to make informed decisions.

  • Infrastructure protectionImproving methods to assess earthquake-caused soil liquefaction

    Several strong earthquakes around the world have resulted in a phenomenon called soil liquefaction, the seismic generation of excess porewater pressures and softening of granular soils, often to the point that they may not be able to support the foundations of buildings and other infrastructure. Effectively engineering infrastructure to protect life and to mitigate the economic, environmental, and social impacts of liquefaction requires the ability to accurately assess the likelihood of liquefaction and its consequences.

  • Coastal resilienceAccelerating sea level rise requires collaborative response: Experts

    Recent estimates suggest that global mean sea level rise could exceed two meters by 2100. The projections pose a challenge for scientists and policymakers alike, requiring far-reaching decisions about coastal policies to be made based on rapidly evolving projections with large, persistent uncertainties. Policymakers and scientists must thus act quickly and collaboratively to help coastal areas better prepare for rising sea levels globally, say climate change experts.

  • Nuclear terrorism“Nightmare scenario”: Nuclear power plants vulnerable to hacking by terrorists

    Security experts fear Fukushima-like disaster as terrorists use new technology to attempt attacks. The frequency and scope of cyberattacks on nuclear plants have increased dramatically, and experts say that a successful hack is now all but inevitable. They say that nuclear plant operators should focus more on preparing to contain and limit the damage when it does occur.

  • Nuclear powerSafer, long-life nuclear reactors: Metal design may raise radiation resistance by 100 times

    The big problem faced by metals bombarded with radiation at high temperatures—such as the metals that make up nuclear fuel cladding—is that they have a tendency to swell up significantly. They can even double in size. In findings that could change the way industries like nuclear energy and aerospace look for materials that can stand up to radiation exposure, researchers have discovered that metal alloys with three or more elements in equal concentrations can be remarkably resistant to radiation-induced swelling.

  • Water securityHow much water do we use? New interactive maps tells us

    Wash. Rinse. Repeat. With every shampoo or load of laundry you may wonder, how much water did I just use? Now multiply that thought across the nation and add other types of ways to use water, from irrigating crops to sustaining thermoelectric power generation. The USGS National Water-Use Science project has documented sixty years of water-use from 1950 to 2010 in an interactive map. You may choose a year and pick a category to see how much water your state uses.