Infrastructure

  • Funding water projects in times of financial uncertainty

    Currently, water projects in California are partly funded with municipal bonds, some of which must be approved by voters. A new analysis produced by Stanford University’s Water in the West Program provides a blueprint for overhauling the way California funds water infrastructure and innovation projects. The analysis recommends small per-usage fee — known as a public goods charge (PGC) — as appropriate way to pay for proper management of resources.

  • Calls for improving safety of oil-carrying trains grow in wake of this week’s accidents

    Oil trains transporting crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Canada to refineries in the Northeast have suffered several derailments in the past few years. The U.S.Department of Transportation(DOT) has since urged rail companies to adopt new train cars which could better survive derailments, and to retrofit current cars by 2017. Still, railway safety advocates say companies need to do more to ensure the safety of their tracks and cars. Two separate oil train accidents this week support their concerns.

  • NASA scientists issue New York City climate change 2015 report

    A new report by NASA and Columbia University researchers details significant future increases in temperature, precipitation, and sea level in the New York metropolitan area. The report aims to increase current and future resiliency of the communities, citywide systems, and infrastructure in the New York metropolitan region to a range of climate risks. “Climate change research isn’t just something for the future,” said the NASA scientist who chaired the panel which produced the report. “It’s affecting how key policy decisions are being made now.

  • New gear technology makes wave energy more attractive

    Wave energy has been held back in part because of the cost of electricity generation. The amount of steel and concrete needed in order to produce each MWh has simply been too great to make it into a profitable business. In addition, the power of waves presents a problem with reliability, and because waves vary greatly in height and timing, it is difficult to create a conversion system that functions across the full wave spectrum. Swedish researchers have developed a new wave energy system which generates five times more energy per ton of device, at one third of the cost, when compared to competing state-of-the art technologies. Energy output is three to four times higher than traditional wave power systems.

  • Benefits, costs of hydraulic fracturing

    Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have had a transformative, positive effect on the U.S. economy, producing societal gains that likely outweigh negative impacts to the environment and human health from an economic perspective, according to a new paper. Innovations in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the past decade have fueled a boom in the production of natural gas, as well as oil, from geological formations including deep shales in which hydrocarbon production was previously unprofitable.

  • Obama signs cybersecurity executive order, promotes information-sharing hubs

    President Barack Obama, at last week’s White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection, reiterated the need for more companies to collaborate with each other as well as with the federal government to develop cybersecurity solutions that protect consumer privacy while keeping hackers out of network systems.One strategy Obama encouraged in his speech was the creation of information-sharing groups, called hubs, built around vertical industry sectors.

  • Improving security monitoring of energy industry networked control systems

    There are a number of useful products on the market for monitoring enterprise networks for possible security events, but they tend to be imperfect fits for the unusual requirements of control system networks. A network monitoring solution that is tailored to the needs of control systems would reduce security blind spots. The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) is seeking collaborators on an effort to help energy companies improve the security of the networked technologies they rely upon to control the generation, transmission and distribution of power.

  • Removing iron from contaminated water

    High concentrations of dissolved iron from abandoned coal mines in Pennsylvania have been contaminating some of the Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers for many years, potentially affecting aquatic habitats and drinking water for millions of residents. To combat this problem, a team of Penn State researchers has proposed a method to eliminate much of the iron before it reaches the waterways.

  • Earthquake early-warning system to be deployed in Washington, Oregon

    California has been testing ShakeAlert, an earthquake early-warning system. Emergency officials and first responders in Washington and Oregon have been working with their counterparts in California to design a similar system specifically for the Pacific Northwest. The project, estimated to cost roughly $16 million a year, has received $6 million from a private foundation, $5 million from Congress for the coming year, and the White House’s new budget calls for another $5 million.

  • DHS to rely on big data to protect critical infrastructure, networks

    DHS officials responsible for protecting federal civilian networks and critical industries from cyberattacks are going to rely more on big data analytics to predict, detect, and respond to future hacks, according to a White House progress reportreleased on 5 February. The report details how cybersecurity officials are “working across government and the private sector to identify and leverage the opportunities big data analytics presents to strengthen cybersecurity.”

  • Warming pushes Western U.S. toward driest period in 1,000 years

    Study warns of unprecedented risk of drought in twenty-first century. Today, eleven of the past fourteen years have been drought years in much of the American West, including California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona and across the Southern Plains to Texas and Oklahoma. The current drought directly affects more than sixty-four million people in the Southwest and Southern Plains, and many more are indirectly affected because of the impacts on agricultural regions. A new study predicts that during the second half of the twenty-first century, the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions “driven primarily” by human-induced global warming.

  • Geoengineering solutions to climate change not likely to be ready in time

    Governments have been slow to adopt measures to deal with climate change, so it is not surprising that scientists and engineers have been offering different technologies which would help slow down, or even reverse, global warming. These different technologies are called “geoengineering.” Some scientists have now concluded that even if a technological solution is found, it may not be developed and implemented quickly enough to affect the change required.

  • Scientists develop accident-tolerant nuclear fuels

    The summer of 2014 marked an important milestone toward further innovation in the nation’s nuclear plants regarding the development of light water reactor nuclear fuel with enhanced accident tolerant characteristics. For several years, nuclear researchers have designed, fabricated and tested a host of novel nuclear fuels and fuel cladding materials (enclosed tubes that house the fuel in a reactor) in laboratories across the U.S. Now, testing of promising fuels and materials with enhanced accident tolerant characteristics in a U.S. nuclear test reactor is commencing. Scientists and engineers from research labs and industry have prepared advanced concepts for insertion into Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor.

  • Royal commission into nuclear will open a world of possibilities

    Discussion of nuclear energy in Australia has matured in recent years with greater focus on factual arguments, the relativity of risks and the need for robust scientific sourcing of claims. South Australia’s potential to merge prosperity, clean energy and good global citizenship can barely be overstated. Globally, there are around 240,000 metric tons heavy metal (MtHM ) in spent nuclear fuel, much of which was dug from South Australian ores. By 2040 this will be around 700,000 MtHM. Robust dry-cask storage is now a demonstrated, reliable and recognized solution for holding this material. It can be quickly, readily implemented by South Australia. Importantly, such a facility would mean the material is retrievable, to enable the extraction of further value through recycling. A secure, multinational destination for spent fuel, located in a politically and geologically stable country such as Australia, would spur more rapid expansion of current generation reactors. This would displace coal as the fuel of choice in rapidly growing economies.

  • Microcapsules stop greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere

    Current carbon capture technology uses caustic amine-based solvents to separate CO2 from the flue gas escaping a facility’s smokestacks. State-of-the-art processes, however, are expensive, result in a significant reduction in a power plant’s output, and yield toxic byproducts. Scientists have developed a novel class of materials – microcapsules — which enable a safer, cheaper, and more energy-efficient process for removing greenhouse gas from power plant emissions. The microcapsules offer a new approach to carbon capture and storage at power plants.