• Nuclear fuelExtrusion technique creates new fuel from depleted uranium

    Advanced nuclear reactors will use new types of fuel. To ensure such systems are safe, experimental fuel samples must be fabricated and tested in safe research environments. Marking an important step toward the advancement of a new type of reactor, Idaho National Laboratory (INL) employees recently completed the first successful test of fabrication equipment in the Experimental Fuels Facility (EFF). Specifically, they finished depleted uranium extrusions — a process of shaping material by forcing it through a die.

  • EnergyWorld economy unlikely to stop relying on fossil fuels: Study

    On the heels of last year’s historic climate agreement in Paris, a new study concludes that fossil fuel consumption is likely to grow without clear and decisive global action to put an adequate price on carbon dioxide emissions and increased clean energy technology.

     

  • FloodsLevees may make flood risk higher, not lower

    People living behind levees on floodplains may not be as immune to flood damage as they think, according to results of a new study. U.S. floodplains are lined by more than 100,000 miles of levees, many of which are in questionable states of repair.

  • Nuclear fuelEnding civilian use of highly enriched, weapon-grade uranium

    Efforts to convert civilian research reactors from weapon-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuels are taking significantly longer than anticipated, says a report from the National Academies of Sciences. The report calls for the federal government to take immediate steps to convert civilian research reactors currently using weapon-grade HEU fuel to a lower-enriched HEU fuel while awaiting the qualification of new LEU fuel.

  • WaterPutting a price on groundwater, other natural capital

    Most people understand that investing in the future is important, and that goes for conserving nature and natural resources, too. But in the case of investing in such “natural” assets as groundwater, forests, and fish populations, it can be challenging to measure the return on that investment. A Yale-led research team has adapted traditional asset valuation approaches to measure the value of such natural capital assets, linking economic measurements of ecosystem services with models of natural dynamics and human behavior.

  • Water securityBattery technology would charge up water desalination

    A new technology, which charges batteries for electronic devices, could provide fresh water from salty seas, says a new study. Electricity running through a salt water-filled battery draws the salt ions out of the water.

     

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  • GRIDHelping to optimize grid

    The nation’s electric power grid is becoming more complex. As the system incorporates more sources of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, utilities need new ways to manage it more efficiently, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory says it is responding to that need.

  • Public healthFBI launches investigation of lead poisoning of Flint’s drinking water

    The FBI has launched an investigation into the contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan, which has left Flint children and other residents poisoned by lead. In a hearings on the Hill yesterday, lawmakers from both parties described what is happening in Flint as a “a man-made public health catastrophe.” Flint’s drinking water became contaminated with lead in April 2014 after a state-appointed emergency manager ordered city officials temporarily to switch the city’s water source from Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to water from the Flint River, treated at the Flint water treatment plant. The order by the state-appointed emergency manager was part of the state’s cost-cutting measures.

  • Public healthIn kids, even low lead levels can cause lasting harm

    By Robert L. Fischer and Elizabeth Anthony

    Until a few years ago, the federal standard for action was 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood, and in 2012 it was lowered by half in recognition of evidence showing a lower threshold of concern. But the truth is there is no known safe level of blood lead for children, and the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said as much. The medical research community has documented negative impacts on children with even lower levels of lead exposure than the current 5 micrograms per deciliters standard. With that view, we might consider every child with a confirmed nonzero lead test as at-risk. Testing lead blood levels in children is simply too late. This is akin to the TSA searching for lethal weapons after the passengers have boarded the flight and the plan has taken off. Once the lead is in the bloodstream, the damage is real and lasting for these children, and the options for response are far fewer and less effective. Children living in low-income neighborhoods, children of color, and children whose families live in rental housing are statistically at the greatest risk of exposure to lead. That means the children most at risk of lead exposure also disproportionately face the effects of poverty, low-resource communities, and trauma.

  • GridRealistic data needed to develop the 21st century power grid

    Say you have a great new theory or technology to improve the nation’s energy backbone — the electric grid. Would it not be great to test it against a model complete with details that would tell you how your ideas would work? But it is a challenge, because existing sets of data are too small or outdated; and you do not have access to real data from the grid because of security and privacy issues. To overcome this problem, is helping to create open-access power grid datasets for researchers and industry.

  • InfrastructureLA, Calif. file criminal charges against SoCalGas over massive methane leak

    Criminal charges were filed on Tuesday against Southern California Gas, the utility company whose blown-out natural gas well forced thousands of people in the Los Angeles area to evacuate their homes. The charges claim that the company failed to report the massive leak to the authorities, as it operating license requires.Papers filed in court yesterday claim that the company allowed the release of 80,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere.

  • ResilienceMaking slums more resilient to climate change

    In our rapidly urbanizing world, access to sanitation, transportation, and other essential services remains a challenge for more than a billion people. In the world’s poorest and most vulnerable urban communities, finding new ways to meet these day-to-day human needs not only leads to sustainable development, it also fortifies them against the effects of climate-induced disasters.

  • Grid protectionBuilding cyber security testbed to help protect the power grid

    It is easy to think of the electrical grid as the power plants, the high voltage lines, the transmission towers, the substations, and all the low-voltage distribution lines that bring power to our homes and businesses. An attack on that grid would involve getting out and cutting lines or dropping towers. But there is another, less visible piece to the grid — all the computers and communication networks that make it work. Attackers can go after the cyber grid, too. They can do it from a desktop. At no real cost. Potentially from anywhere in the world. With few if any clues left behind.

  • Toxic infrastructureFlint Water Study research team to present findings on Thursday

    Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards and his team of research scientists and students will give a presentation on Thursday, 28 January, in Blacksburg to outline their work — done in collaboration with Flint, Michigan, residents — which exposed widespread lead-in-water contamination. The presentation will provide an overview of the Flint Water Study team’s efforts combining ethics engineering, citizen science, laboratory experiments, investigative science, and social media to confirm the high lead levels in Flint’s water.

  • Toxic infrastructurePiping as poison: the Flint water crisis and America’s toxic infrastructure

    By Chris Sellers

    As the crisis over the water in Flint, Michigan, rolls on, we’re learning more and more about the irresponsibility and callousness of officials and politicians in charge. The mix of austerity politics, environmental racism, and sheer ineptitude makes for a shocking brew, yet the physical conditions that have made it literally toxic for Flint residents are neither as exceptional nor as recent as much of the media coverage suggests. An estimated three to six million miles of lead pipes across the United States still carry water, and most all of them are vulnerable to similar dangers, whether at the hands of short-sighted and prejudicial bureaucrats or politicians whose ideology or opportunism leads them to blithely dismiss well-established science. The best solution would be to replace our lead lines systematically and proactively, not just one crisis-beset city at a time. Until we do so, it’s a safe bet that more Flints lie on our horizon.