Infrastructure

  • New 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.

  • Coast 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.

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  • Ukraine 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.

  • Texas 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.

  • Energy 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.”

  • Antarctica 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.

  • Purifying 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.

  • Financial 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.

  • All-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.

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

    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.

  • Program 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.

  • Ingredients 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.

  • Utilities increasingly aware of grid vulnerability

    An analysis by the federal government shows that if only nine of the country’s 55,000 electrical substations were shut down due to mechanical failure or malicious attack, the nation would experience coast-to-coast blackout. Another report finds cybersecurity as one of the top five concerns for U.S. electric utilities in 2014. The report also found that 32 percent of the surveyed electric utilities had deployed security systems with the “proper segmentation, monitoring and redundancies” needed for adequate cyber protection.

  • Solar super-storms “inevitable”: Scientists

    Solar storms are caused by violent eruptions on the surface of the Sun and are accompanied by coronal mass ejections (CME). The largest ever solar super-storm on record occurred in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event: This massive CME released about 1,022 kJ of energy — the equivalent to ten billion Hiroshima bombs exploding at the same time — and hurled around a trillion kilograms of charged particles towards the Earth at speeds of up to 3,000 km/s. These types of events are not just a threat, but inevitable. NASA scientists have predicted that the Earth is in the path of a Carrington-level event every 150 years on average — which means that we are currently five years overdue — and that the likelihood of one occurring in the next decade is as high as 12 percent.

  • Cold-formed steel construction withstands seismic challenges better than expected

    Engineering researchers have provided the building blocks necessary for enabling performance-based design for cold-formed steel buildings, structures that have shown in shake-test experiments at the State University of New York at Buffalo to withstand seismic loading much better than previously expected. Light, strong, and easy to construct cold-formed steel (CFS) buildings are repetitively framed with light steel members and conform to well-defined seismic design codes. Until this latest research, however, engineers and builders significantly underestimated the seismic strength of cold-formed steel structures.