• Much of earthquake damage in Japan caused by "liquefaction"

    The massive subduction zone earthquake in Japan caused a significant level of soil “liquefaction” that has surprised researchers with its widespread severity, a new analysis shows; the findings also raise questions about whether existing building codes and engineering technologies are adequately accounting for this phenomenon in other vulnerable locations, which in the United States include Portland, Oregon, parts of the Willamette Valley, and other areas of Oregon, Washington, and California

  • Computerized irrigation system saves money

    The University of Michigan is using a computerized irrigation system for its campus landscaping; the system uses information from a campus weather station that monitors wind speed, rain, temperature, and humidity to adjust irrigation schedules; the system allowed the school to reduce the amount of water used on irrigation by 22 million gallons of water on landscape irrigation each year — or 68 percent relative to the amount of water used before the system was installed — saving an estimated $141,000 a year

  • Robot reports high radiation inside crippled reactors

    A U.S.-made robot traveled inside Unit 1 and Unit 3 of the crippled Fukushima plant, and came back with radioactivity readings of up to 49 millisieverts per hour inside Unit 1 and up to 57 millisieverts per hour inside Unit 3; the legal limit for nuclear workers was more than doubled since the crisis began to 250 millisieverts; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends an evacuation after an incident releases 10 millisieverts of radiation, and workers in the U.S. nuclear industry are allowed an upper limit of 50 millisieverts per year

  • ElBaradei: nuclear still main alternative to oil

    Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that “Today, nuclear power is the only real alternative to fossil fuel as a source of a reliable supply”; he acknowledged that Fukushima represents a potentially significant setback for nuclear power, but said that “Chernobyl and Fukushima should be shown to be aberrations”

  • Strong fabric can be used to protect buildings from explosion

    Carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) is a fabric that can carry 143,000 pounds of force per square inch; University of Missouri researcher collaborates with the U.S. Army to test a method of retrofitting buildings to protect them in the case of a terrorist attack; to protect a building from an extreme event, CFRP can be used to increase the bending capacity of walls or columns

  • Siemens, McAfee team up to defend against critical infrastructure attacks

    McAfee and Siemens will work together to help secure critical infrastructure against cyber attacks that target industrial control processes like the Stuxnet worm which destroyed nuclear centrifuges at an Iranian nuclear enrichment facility; the two companies are targeting Advanced Persistent Threats aimed at the manufacturing and process industry; this new security product could help ease security fears for critical infrastructure operators who rely on industrial control programs for nearly every automated process; McAfee says it’s Application Control system product would have protected Iran’s centrifuges from the Stuxnet virus that caused them to spin out of control

  • Tennessee may spend millions to improve nuclear reactor safety

    The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is considering spending millions of dollars to bolster its six nuclear reactors against earthquakes and floods; TVA is the first American nuclear plant operator to declare safety changes following events in Japan; TVA is currently considering reducing the amount of fuel that it stores in its spent fuel pools instead transferring older fuel rods to passively cooled “dry casks” ; the operator will also add additional back up diesel generators, make improvements to electrical grids to make them more earthquake resistant, add small generators to recharge cell phone batteries and to keep lights on, and reinforce pipes that send cold water to spent fuel pools

  • Google invests $168 million in world’s largest solar tower

    Google recently announced that it will invest $168 million to help fund a massive solar power project in California’s Mojave Desert; when completed the solar tower will be the world’s generating 392 megawatts of energy and powering 140,000 homes; the solar facility will be built by BrightSource Energy and has been dubbed the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System; BrightSource has already raised roughly $1.6 billion dollars including loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy and a $300 million investment from NRG Energy Inc.; the tower is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 400,000 tons per year and is scheduled to be completed in 2013

  • Abandoning nuclear power would cost Germany billions

    Nuclear power is highly unpopular in Germany, and in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan, Germany chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Germany would abandon nuclear power generation (she called it “Atomausstieg,” or “nuclear exit”) and would gradually close its seventeen nuclear power plants; there is a debate in Germany about whether abandoning nuclear power would cost Germany 3 billion Euros a year – or only 2 billion Euros, as the government says it would

  • Experts: new U.S. nuclear reactors unlikely soon

    Experts on a panel at Stanford University say radiation leaks at Japan’s Fukushima plant could impact the future of nuclear energy in the United States and abroad; they said that nuclear safety improved after the historic disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Richter, and that it was improved further after the 9/11 attacks; they expect similar safety reviews by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission following the Fukushima accident

  • House panel extends chemical plant safety act

    In 2006, Congress first authorized DHS to regulate security at high-risk chemical facilities. In response, DHS developed the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS); to date, DHS has reviewed information submitted by more than 39,000 chemical facilities and determined that 4,744 are high-risk and, therefore, covered under CFATS; yesterday, a House panel voted for a 7-year extension of CFATS

  • Shoring up U.K. infrastructure essential to country's welfare

    The United Kingdom suffers from some of the most congested infrastructure in the developed world and a failure to invest in these will have serious impacts upon the country’s long-term economic future; improvements to transport, energy, and ICT infrastructure could increase GDP by an additional 0.7 percent

  • Algae could replace 17% of U.S. oil imports

    Environmental and economic security concerns have triggered interest in using algae-derived oils as an alternative to fossil fuels; growing algae, however — or any other biofuel source — can require a lot of water; researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory the far less water is required if the algae is grown in those regions in the United States that have the sunniest and most humid climates: the Gulf Coast, the Southeastern Seaboard, and the Great Lakes; water-wise algae farming could help meet congressionally mandated renewable fuel targets by replacing 17 percent of the U.S. imported oil for transportation

  • Interest in water technology and business grows

    Some 3,000 foreign visitors and more than 25,000 local participants are expected to attend the November 2011 WATEC, one of the world’s premier water technology events; the emphasis of this year’s conference and exhibition, the be held in Israel 15-17 November, will be on showing how water technology translates into successful projects and enterprises — both for the developed world and those at risk of severe water insecurity; there are about 400 water technology companies in Israel; 200 of them are already exporting their technologies to other countries — exports estimated to be between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion in 2010