• CybersecurityNSF awards $74.5 million to 257 interdisciplinary cybersecurity research projects

    The NSF the other day announced the awarding $74.5 million in research grants through the NSF Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program. In total, the SaTC investments include a portfolio of 257 new projects to researchers in thirty-seven states. The largest, multi-institutional awards include research better to understand and offer reliability to new forms of digital currency known as cryptocurrencies, which use encryption for security; invent new technology to broadly scan large swaths of the Internet and automate the detection and patching of vulnerabilities; and establish the “science of censorship resistance” by developing accurate models of the capabilities of censors.

  • Nuclear powerCyber vulnerability of civil nuclear facilities underestimated

    The risk of a serious cyberattack on civil nuclear infrastructure is growing, as facilities become ever more reliant on digital systems and make increasing use of commercial off-the-shelf software, according to a new report. The report finds that the trend to digitization, when combined with a lack of executive-level awareness of the risks involved, means that nuclear plant personnel may not realize the full extent of their cyber vulnerability and are thus inadequately prepared to deal with potential attacks.

  • MonsoonsUnderstanding monsoons for better predictions of Indian weather

    Summer, or southwest, monsoons are moisture-soaked seasonal winds that bring critical rainfall to the Indian subcontinent during the June-September wet season. An abundant season provides sustaining rainfall that replenishes water reservoirs and reaps bountiful crop harvests. By contrast, a weak season could lead to drought, soaring food prices and a battered economy. Better to understand global weather patterns and increase scientific collaboration between the United States and India, researchers have completed a month-long cruise studying summer monsoon conditions in the Bay of Bengal.

  • Water securityWater security test bed to focus on bolstering municipal water security

    Water is the foundation for life. People use water every single day to meet their domestic, industrial, agricultural, medical, and recreational needs. After the September 2001 terrorist attacks, water system security became a higher priority in the United States. The Water Security Test Bed (WSTB) at Idaho national Laboratory can be used for research related to detecting and decontaminating chemical, biological, or radiological agents following an intentional or natural disaster. The WSTB will focus on improving America’s ability to safeguard the nation’s water systems, and respond to contamination incidents and to natural disasters.

  • Coastal resilienceClimate change will soon make atolls in the Pacific, Indian oceans uninhabitable

    More than half a million people live on atolls throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans. A new study shows that the combined effect of storm-induced wave-driven flooding and sea level rise on island atolls may be more severe and happen sooner than previous estimates of inundation predicted by passive “bathtub” modeling for low-lying atoll islands, and especially at higher sea levels forecasted for the future due to climate change.

  • EnergyFusion energy is economically viable: Study

    Fusion energy offers the tantalizing possibility of clean, sustainable, and almost limitless energy.  But can it be an economically viable option? A team of researchers have calculated the cost of building, running, and decommissioning a fusion power station and how this compares to current fission nuclear power plants. They concluded that a fusion power plant could generate electricity at a similar price to a fission plant.

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  • Radiation risksAnimals have returned to Chernobyl

    In 1986, after a fire and explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant released radioactive particles into the air, thousands of people left the area, never to return. Now, researchers have found that the Chernobyl site looks less like a disaster zone and more like a nature preserve, teeming with elk, roe deer, red deer, wild boar, and wolves. The findings are a reminder of the resilience of wildlife.

  • FloodsEight dead, thousands stranded as South Carolina hit by “once in a millennium” floods

    In what Governor Nikki Haley described as a “once-in-a-millennium” flood, a downpour has inundated large parts of South Carolina, causing at least eight deaths. By early Sunday, the storm had dumped more than eighteen inches of rain in parts of central South Carolina, and the state climatologist forecast another 2 to 6 inches through Monday as the rainfall began to weaken. After state police and emergency crews had to rescue hundreds of motorists and passengers from vehicles which stalled in high water, Haley announced all interstate highways in and around Columbia would be closed, and ordered to deployment of 600 national guardsmen to help with rescues and evacuations.

  • EnergyPrice of solar energy in U.S. has fallen to 5¢/kWh on average

    Solar energy pricing is at an all-time low, according to a new report. Driven by lower installed costs, improved project performance, and a race to build projects ahead of a reduction in a key federal incentive, utility-scale solar project developers have been negotiating power sales agreements with utilities at prices averaging just 5¢/kWh. These prices reflect receipt of the 30 percent federal investment tax credit, which is scheduled to decline to 10 percent after 2016, and would be higher if not for that incentive. By comparison, average wholesale electricity prices across the United States ranged from 3 to 6 cents/kWh in 2014, depending on the region.

  • EnergyU.S. has fallen behind on offshore wind power

    Experts say that the United States has fallen behind in offshore wind power. Their research shows that while offshore wind turbines have been successfully deployed in Europe since 1991, the United States is further from commercial-scale offshore wind deployment today than it was in 2005. “As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005, it is disheartening to see that while land-based wind and solar have reached new heights, U.S. offshore wind has remained a missed opportunity,” says one of the experts.

  • WaterStorms after wildfire degrade water quality

    About half of the water supply in the southwestern United States is supplied by water conveyed from forests, which generally yield higher quality water than any other land use. However, forests are vulnerable to wildfire; more than twelve million acres of land, including important forested water-supply watersheds, have burned in the southwestern United States in the past thirty years. Wildfires increase susceptibility of watersheds to both flooding and erosion, and thus can impair water supplies.

  • WaterU.S. fracking uses less than 1 percent of total industrial water use nationwide

    Energy companies used nearly 250 billion gallons of water to extract unconventional shale gas and oil from hydraulically fractured wells in the United States between 2005 and 2014, a new study finds. During the same period, the fracked wells generated about 210 billion gallons of wastewater. Large though those numbers seem, the study calculates that the water used in fracking makes up less than 1 percent of total industrial water use nationwide.

  • Coastal resilienceFlood risk for New York City, New Jersey coast rising

    Flood risk for New York City and the New Jersey coast has increased significantly during the last 1,000 years due to hurricanes and accompanying storm surges. For the first time, researchers compared both sea-level rise rates and storm surge heights in prehistoric and modern eras and found that the combined increases of each have raised the likelihood of a devastating 500-year flood occurring as often as every twenty-five years. “A storm that occurred once in seven generations is now occurring twice in a generation,” says one of the researchers. What does that mean for residents along the New York/New Jersey coast? “An extra 100,000 people flooded in the region during Hurricane Sandy who would not have flooded if sea level had not been rising,” the researcher says of the 2012 storm.

  • ResiliencePartnering to build climate change resiliency

    South Florida ranks as the world’s most vulnerable urban region because of the large number of assets exposed to the effects of sea level rise. To build climate change resiliency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) partnered with Florida International University (FIU) to provide local community leaders with the knowledge and tools to assess and improve their capabilities to prevent, mitigate, respond to, and recover from climate impacts, including sea level rise, drought and wildfires, heatwaves, floods, powerful storms, and other hazards.

  • EnergySmall-scale nuclear fusion may be a new energy source

    Nuclear fusion is a process whereby atomic nuclei melt together and release energy. Because of the low binding energy of the tiny atomic nuclei, energy can be released by combining two small nuclei with a heavier one. Fusion energy may soon be used in small-scale power stations. This means producing environmentally friendly heating and electricity at a low cost from fuel found in water. Both heating generators and generators for electricity could be developed within a few years, according to researchers.