• Perspective: California powerPG&E Warns of Ten Years of Power Shut-Offs. California Officials Don’t Like It

    California residents face up to 10 years of widespread, precautionary forced power shut-offs until Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., the bankrupt utility giant, will be able to prevent its power transmission lines from sparking fires, the company’s top official said. Howard Blume writes for the Los Angeles Times that the sobering projection came from company Chief Executive William D. Johnson at an emergency meeting Friday of the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco.

  • CybersecurityPatching Legacy Software Vulnerabilities Rapidly in Mission-Critical Systems

    There are a vast number of diverse computing devices used to run the critical infrastructure our national security depends on – from transportation systems to electric grids to industrial equipment. While the amount of deployed vulnerable software is growing exponentially, the effective means of addressing known vulnerabilities at scale are limited. DARPA seeks to develop targeted software patches to rapidly repair legacy binaries in mission-critical systems, while assuring system functionality is not affected.

  • FireproofingWhole-House Fire Blanket Protects Buildings from Short Wildfires

    Wrapping a building in a fire-protective blanket is a viable way of protecting it against wildfires, finds the first study to scientifically assesses this method of defense. Existing blanket technology can protect an isolated building from a short wildfire attack, but technological advancements are needed for severe fire situations.

  • FloodsWith Coastal Waters Rising: First-Ever National Assessment of FEMA Buyouts

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been offering voluntary buyout programs to homeowners in flood-prone neighborhoods since the 1980s. And with increasingly powerful storms battering coastlines and flooding becoming more ubiquitous after heavy rains, these programs and the idea of managed coastal retreat have continued to garner more and more attention. A new study is the first to examine nationwide data on FEMA’s buyout program.

  • Critical infrastructureProtecting critical infrastructure

    Energy, water, food, fuel, information, transportation – ensuring a supply of these essential services and commodities is vital for a properly functioning society and economy. So essential, in fact, that we only realize their importance when suddenly they are no longer there. The infrastructure and systems that supply us with these assets are increasingly connected and, for this reason, highly vulnerable to natural disasters, accidents and criminal or terrorist attacks. In response, Fraunhofer is devising solutions and strategies to safeguard our critical infrastructure.

  • Energy securityA First: U.K. Renewables Generate More Electricity than Fossil Fuels

    In the third quarter of 2019, the U.K.’s windfarms, solar panels, biomass and hydro plants generated more electricity than the combined output from power stations fired by coal, oil and gas, a new analysis reveals. During the three months of July, August and September, renewables generated an estimated total of 29.5 terawatt hours (TWh), compared with just 29.1TWh from fossil fuels, the analysis shows. This is the first-ever quarter where renewables outpaced fossil fuels since the U.K.’s first public electricity generating station opened in 1882.

  • Perspective: War crimes12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia.

    The Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria represents the Alawite minority (in 2011, about 75 percent of the Syrian population was Sunni , and about 12 percent were Alawites). Since the civil war in Syria began in 2011, the Assad regime, in the largest ethnic cleansing campaign since the end of the Second World War, has methodically, and successfully, pursued the goal of drastically reducing the number of Sunni Muslims in Syria. So far, the Assad regime has killed more than 500,000 Syrian Sunnis; has driven more than 5.6 million Sunnis out of Syria; and internally displaced more than 6.6 million Sunnis. One of the keys to Assad’s ethnic cleansing campaign has been the systematic destruction of hospitals and medical facilities in Sunni-majority areas and the killing of medical personnel. This strategy increases the number of dead and untreated wounded among the Sunnis, and along with the methodical destruction of water and sewage treatment facilities, makes life even more unbearable in Sunni areas of Syria. Since September 2015, the Russian air force has been doing most of the destruction of medical facilities and other civilian infrastructure in Sunni-majority areas.

  • Coastal challengesSaving Sinking Cities, Bleaching Corals: Dual Approach

    Local conservation can boost the climate resilience of coastal ecosystems, species and cities, and buy precious time in their fight against sea level rise, ocean acidification and warming temperatures, a new study suggests.

  • Coastal challengesSocioeconomic Effects of Coastal Flooding in California

    Researchers are studying the impact of coastal flooding on disadvantaged communities in California. The effort, launched with funding from the National Science Foundation’s Coastlines & People initiative, will employ advanced simulation systems to deepen understanding of increasing flood risks within the state’s two most imperiled areas: Greater Los Angeles and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

  • Coastal perilSupporting Coastal Communities Facing Changing Sea Levels, Coastal Flooding

    Coastal communities and the surrounding ecosystems are threatened by rising seas and coastal flooding that alter shorelines making people, homes and businesses more vulnerable to coastal storms. Rising sea levels can also change how ecosystems work, especially when combined with inundation from tides and storms. With increasing threats to our coasts, enhancing resilience to sea level rise and flooding has become a national priority.

  • Water securityNew $100M Innovation Hub for a Secure Water Future

    The National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI), which is led by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), has been awarded a five-year, $100-million Energy-Water Desalination Hub by DOE (pending appropriations) to address water security issues in the United States.

  • Nuclear accidentsContaining a Nuclear Accident with Ground-up Minerals

    Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are developing a promising new way to prevent the spread of radioactive contamination and contain the hot molten mass that develops within a nuclear reactor during a catastrophic accident. A team of scientists discovered and patented a process for injecting sand-like minerals into the core of a nuclear reactor during an accident to contain and slow down the progression of a meltdown.

  • Perspective: Nuclear terrorismA Meltdown in Nuclear Security

    A commando raid on a nuclear power plant seems the stuff of Hollywood. So why are nuclear security experts so worried? It ranks among the worst-case scenarios for a nuclear power plant: an all-out assault or stealth infiltration by well-trained, heavily armed attackers bent on triggering a nuclear blast, sparking a nuclear meltdown or stealing radioactive material. Under pressure from a cash-strapped nuclear energy industry increasingly eager to slash costs, the commission in a little-noticed vote in October 2018 halved the number of force-on-force exercises conducted at each plant every cycle. Four months later, it announced it would overhaul how the exercises are evaluated to ensure that no plant would ever receive more than the mildest rebuke from regulators – even when the commandos set off a simulated nuclear disaster that, if real, would render vast swaths of the U.S. uninhabitable. Nuclear security experts, consultants, law enforcement veterans and former NRC commissioners are nothing short of alarmed. “You can’t afford to be wrong once,” says one expert.

  • Perspective: Coastal challengeDesigning the Coastal City of the Future

    Boston is situated along the Gulf of Maine, which is warming faster than 99 percent of the ocean due, in part, to changing sea patterns from melting ice in Greenland and the Arctic Ocean. Coupled with increased heat and precipitation, the rising sea level is threatening the low-lying city, much of which was built on landfill over the past 300 years along a 50-square-mile harbor. To save the 685,000-person city, the local government is calling on architects to help implement one of the most ambitious municipal resiliency plans in the United States: Climate Ready Boston. Launched in 2016 by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Climate Ready Boston is an initiative to prepare the city for the long-term impacts of climate change.

  • ResilienceEcosystem Investments Could Minimize Storm Damage

    A new study provides information on how to invest in natural coastal ecosystems that the Bahamian government, community leaders and development banks are applying in post-disaster recovery and future storm preparation in the Bahamas.