Infrastructure

  • Infrastructure protectionNew method for predicting storm damage

    The United Illuminating Company (UI), an electric company based in New Haven, Connecticut, has announced that it will be adopting a technology developed by engineers at the University of Connecticut that can predict storm damage in detail, something which was not possible before the technology was developed.

  • Nuclear powerTesting the shelf-life of nuclear reactors’ components

    The structural components of advanced reactors such as the sodium fast reactor and the traveling wave nuclear reactor must be able to withstand the extreme levels of radioactivity from the fission reaction itself at temperatures well above 400 Celsius. Unfortunately, standard tests of such components are expensive, require increasingly rare test reactors and test periods that are impractical. Researchers have devised a quick way to test the structural materials used to build nuclear reactors by using high-energy beams of charged particles (ions).

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  • EnergyThe power of salt

    By Jennifer Chu

    Where the river meets the sea, there is the potential to harness a significant amount of renewable energy, mechanical engineers say. The researchers evaluated an emerging method of power generation called pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), in which two streams of different salinity are mixed to produce energy. In principle, a PRO system would take in river water and seawater on either side of a semi-permeable membrane. Through osmosis, water from the less-salty stream would cross the membrane to a pre-pressurized saltier side, creating a flow that can be sent through a turbine to recover power.

  • ResilienceNew Jersey launches distributed energy initiative

    More than two million households lost power in New Jersey during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and water and wastewater treatment plants lacked electricity, forcing millions of gallons of raw sewage to be released into the state’s waterways. State officials concluded that relying exclusively on centralized grids for electrical power distribution would continue to be a risk during disasters such as hurricanes. The state recently announced the launch of the nation’s first Energy Resilience Bank(ERB), which will support the development of distributed energy resources at critical facilities throughout New Jersey.

  • ResilienceCoast Guard, National Guard units in N.J. still dealing with Sandy’s damage

    The USCGC Sailfish, an 87-foot patrol boat, is temporarily based out of Bayonne, New York, unable to return to its berth at Sandy Hook, where the storm caused $50 million in damage to Coast Guard facilities. National Guard facilities around New Jersey sustained more than $35 million in storm damage, and further along the Jersey shore, the National Guard is dealing with over $40 million in damage to Army and Air Force facilities.

  • Planetary securityUkraine tensions hobble U.S.-Russia cooperation on planetary asteroid defense

    Last week the United States said it would freeze a U.S.-Russian nuclear agreement, an agreement which would, among other things, allow Russian scientists into the nuclear complex at Los Alamos National Laboratoryand, in return, grant American scientists access to Russian nuclear facilities. The decision to suspend the agreement was taken in response to Russia’s conduct toward Ukraine. Experts say the decision may damage efforts to defend Earth against a common enemy. The option of using a nuclear weapon to destroy an Erath-threatening asteroid has been gaining in popularity among scientists, but its implementation calls for cooperation with Russia’s space agency.

  • Chemical plant safetyTexas chemical plant disaster highlights dangers at similar sites

    Following a deadly 17 April 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas which took fifteen lives, officials from the managing company moved to shutter similar sites, including an urban one in Pennsylvania. Among the plants to be closed was an El Dorado Chemical Company plant in Pittsburgh, located right next to residential area and a school – on the site of which the company stored around thirty tons of ammonium nitrate. The city emergency management department was aware that the plant was to be closed, but they were not informed of the date – or the fact that the company chose to move the volatile and toxic material. City leaders say that using thirty-three trains to carry the toxic materials through the city was even more dangerous than leaving it in storage on site.

  • Cyberattack insuranceEnergy companies slow to buy cyberdamage insurance

    The U.S. oil industry will spend $1.87 billion on cybersecurity defense systems by 2018, but less than 20 percent of U.S. companies overall are covered for cyberdamages. “Imagine what could happen if a large refinery or petrochemical facility’s safety monitoring systems were hijacked near an urban area, or a subsea control module was no longer able to be controlled by the people who should be controlling it,” says one expert. “As we’ve all seen from Deepwater Horizon [the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill] those risks and damages can be astronomical. It requires an immediate response.”

  • Infrastructure protectionAntarctica to become major contributor to sea level rise faster than previously thought

    While Antarctica currently contributes less than 10 percent to global sea level rise and is a minor contributor compared to the thermal expansion of the warming oceans and melting mountain glaciers, it is Greenland and especially the Antarctic ice sheets with their huge volume of ice that are expected to be the major contributors to future long-term sea level rise.

  • WaterPurifying polluted water with a six-foot water and solar-powered lens

    Water may appear to be an abundant resource, but in some parts of the world clean water is hard to come by. That could change through the work of Deshawn Henry, a University at Buffalo sophomore civil engineering major, who researched how to improve a 6-foot-tall, self-sustaining magnifying glass. Properly termed a water lens, the device uses another abundant resource — sunlight — to heat and disinfect polluted water.

  • CybersecurityFinancial firms go beyond NIST's cybersecurity framework

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology(NIST) released its Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurityin February 2014. Utilities, banks, and other critical industries welcomed the guidelines, but many considered the framework to be a baseline for what was needed to continuously protect their networks from cyberattacks. Some financial firms have developed industry-based cyber policies through association such as the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center’s (FS-ISAC) Third Party Software Security Working Group. The group has been reviewing cyber policies since 2012, before the NIST guidelines were finalized.

  • CybersecurityAll-industry cybersecurity association needed: Experts

    A new report is calling for a professional association committed to serving the cybersecurity industry. Theacknowledged the shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals, as well as the difficulty of recruiting, training, and hiring potential candidates.Experts say that a cybersecurity association could help assess the needs of employers seeking cybersecurity professionals, establish ongoing training and development programs, and also help develop cybersecurity standards across all industries.

  • ResilienceResilience on the fly: Christchurch’s SCIRT offers a model for rebuilding after a disaster

    By David Killick, Citiscope

    You do not see it, but you certainly know when it is not there: infrastructure, the miles of underground pipes carrying drinking water, stormwater and wastewater, utilities such as gas and electricity, and fiber-optics and communications cables that spread likes veins and arteries under the streets of a city. That calamity hit Christchurch, New Zealand, in a series of earthquakes that devastated the city in 2010 and 2011. The organization created to manage Christchurch’s infrastructure rebuild – it is called SCIRT, for Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team— has a vital role, and it has become something of a global model for how to put the guts of a city back together again quickly and efficiently after a disaster.

  • CybersecurityProgram aiming to facilitate cyberthreat information sharing is slow to take off

    President Barack Obama’s 2013 executive orderto improve critical infrastructure cybersecurity allows DHS to expand an information-sharing program, once restricted to Pentagoncontractors, to sixteencritical infrastructure industries. The Enhanced Cybersecurity Servicesprogram transmits cyber threat indicators to selected companies so they may prepare their network protection systems to scan for those indicators. A DHS inspector general (IG) reportreleased on Monday has found that just about forty companies from three of the sixteen industries — energy, communications services, and defense — are part of the program. Moreover, only two ISPs are authorized to receive the indicators.

  • FrackingIngredients in “fracking” fluids raise concerns

    As the oil and gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) proliferates, a new study on the contents of the fluids involved in the process raises concerns about several ingredients. The researchers say that out of nearly 200 commonly used compounds, there is very little known about the potential health risks of about one-third, and eight are toxic to mammals.