• Barge traffic resumes on Mississippi River

    On a typical day, some 600 barges move back and forth along the Mississippi, with a single vessel carrying as much cargo as 70 tractor-trailers or 17 rail cars; the barges haul coal, timber, iron, steel, and more than half of America’s grain exports; interruptions of barge traffic could thus cost the U.S. economy hundreds of millions of dollars for each day the barges are idled; early Tuesday the Coast Guard halted barge and cargo haulers traffic along a 15-mile stretch of the river near Natchez, Mississippi; the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers were worried that the heavy wake churned by barges and cargo haulers increase the pressure on levees which are already straining to hold back the rising river; on Tuesday night the Coast Guard re-opened the blocked section, and barges were allowed to go through but only one at a time, and at a very low speed

  • Japanese government anticipated tsunami's effects at nuclear plants

    Growing evidence suggests that the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) ignored clear warnings that infrastructure at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant would be damaged in the event of a massive earthquake; Japan’s Mainichi Daily recently obtained government documents that indicate a government research group clearly outlined the effects of tsunamis on nuclear plants; as TEPCO battles to contain the radiation spewing from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, the power company and the government have insisted that the 11 March earthquake and tsunami that knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant was well beyond their expectations

  • Fukushima lessons for U.K.'s nuclear industry

    An interim assessment of the implications of the nuclear crisis in Japan concludes there is no need to curtail the operations of nuclear plants in the United Kingdom but lessons should be learnt; the report identifies twenty-five recommended areas for review — by either industry, the government, or regulators — to determine whether sensible and appropriate measures can further improve safety in the U.K. nuclear industry; these include reviews of the layout of U.K. power plants, emergency response arrangements, dealing with prolonged loss of power supplies, and the risks associated with flooding

  • Saudi Arabia seeks $330 million worth of night vision gear

    Saudi Arabia is looking to buy $330 million worth of night vision and thermal vision equipment from the United States; the U.S. government agency facilitating the deal says the proposed sale would bolster Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats from potential adversaries during operations conducted at night and during low-visibility conditions

  • Cost-effective way to produce solar thermal hydrogen fuel developed

    The U.S. Department of Energy is investigating novel approaches for solar thermochemical water splitting — that is, splitting water into its gaseous components, hydrogen and oxygen — to produce hydrogen, with the eventual goal of commercializing production; DOE’s cost targets set hydrogen production in 2015 at $6 per kilogram and hydrogen delivery in 2025 at $2 to $3 per kilogram.; and innovative technology, using thin-film metal ferrite process, developed by University of Colorado Boulder researchers is projected to meet both benchmarks

  • University of Oklahoma student offers solutions Ethiopia's water problems

    In Ethiopia’s Rift Valley, the high levels of fluoride in the drinking water result in dental and skeletal disease; left untreated, fluorosis causes darkening of the teeth and bone deformities; a University of Oklahoma student has been investigating inexpensive, sustainable and locally available solutions, such as adsorption — a useful technology for fluoride removal from drinking water because it does not require energy input outside of gravity and, depending on the material used, can be very effective at removing fluoride to meet the World Health Organization standard

  • More setbacks at Japan's beleaguered nuclear plant

    Japan’s latest efforts to contain reactor no. 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant hit a major obstacle last Saturday when a worker discovered a large pool of radioactive water in the reactor building; the pool is an estimated 18 feet deep and holds as much as 3,000 tons of water, more volume than an Olympic sized swimming pool; additional measures were being readied to treat and store radioactive water at Fukushima; officials have begun preparing a nearly 450 foot long “Mega-Float” that was previously used as an artificial island for fishing south of Tokyo to store the contaminated water

  • More American civil engineers deployed to Japan to study damage

    Last week the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) deployed two more disaster assessment teams to Japan to study the damage wrought by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami; the two teams, the third and fourth deployed by ASCE, will tour the damaged areas which include the approximately 292 square miles inundated by the tsunami; one team will focus on examining the effects that the tsunami and earthquake had on port structures; the other team will focus their efforts on investigating the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on coastal structures like tsunami walls, breakwaters, and seawalls

  • U.K. lab helps company improve its infrastructure monitoring sensors

    London-based Senceive produces sensors used in long-term infrastructure monitoring; the company’s meshed systems of wireless sensors are used to assess the condition of railway structures, track, bridges, culturally significant buildings, and even historical artifacts; the company needed the help of the U.K. National Physical Laboratory to improve the tilt sensing system it manufactures, and verify its accuracy, precision, and limits

  • Historic, desperate measures to control Mississippi River

    The historic levels of water swelling the Mississippi River required the Army Corps of Engineers to take historic measures to prevent catastrophic flooding of Baton Rough and News Orleans: first, the Morganza control structure, located 186 miles upriver of New Orleans and completed in 1954 as part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ broad flood-protection upgrades in the wake of the Great Flood of 1927, was opened for only the second time to allow water to flow out of the river and into the Atchafalaya basin, a designated flood relief area; the Corps says that Saturday marked the first time in history that all three floodways built by corps after 1927 flood — the Morganza Floodway, the Bonnet Carre Spillway, and the Birds Point floodway in Missouri — have been in operation at the same time; about 25,000 people and 11,000 structures are in harm’s way, as up to 25 feet of flooding is expected in a 3,000 square-mile area of Louisiana

  • How safe are U.S. railroads?

    Following the revelation that al Qaeda had aspired to attack U.S. railways, security experts, the media, and lawmakers have turned their attention to improving security for American trains; in a recent interview with CNN, Brian Michael Jenkins, the director of the Mineta Transportation Institute’s (MTI) National Transportation Security Center of Excellence, discussed the current state of railway security, how realistic creating an airline style screening system for railroads would be, and what measures need to be taken to secure railroads; to realistically improve rail security in a cost effective manner, Jenkins urged passengers to begin taking a more active role; Jenkins also urged the United States “to be more realistic about risk”

  • U.S. mayors want greater input in federal transportation funding decisions

    Last week the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) released the results of a recent survey of mayors in 176 cities on local infrastructure investment; the study revealed that mayors want the federal government to spend more money on infrastructure projects in metropolitan areas rather than highway expansion projects; 96 percent of mayors believed the federal government needed to increase spending on transportation infrastructure to fix rapidly deteriorating public infrastructure; a strong majority supported raising the gas tax to provide additional funds to improve infrastructure

  • Early warning system helped save lives in Japanese quake

    Japan has spent millions of dollars to build a sophisticated early warning system for earthquakes and experts say that it helped save millions of lives and mitigated the damage from the 11 March earthquake and tsunami; while the massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami flattened much of northeastern Japan, the damage would have been far worse had Japan not had its early warning system in place; the system can provide anywhere from ten to thirty seconds of advance notice before an earthquake strikes giving Japan’s residents just enough time to slow down trains so they do not derail, shut off dangerous machinery, and send people to find cover

  • Rebuilding Seattle's viaduct will not result in nightmare commutes

    Debate about how to replace Seattle’s deteriorating waterfront highway has centered on uncertainties in the project’s price tag; drilling a deep-bore tunnel and building an underground highway is estimated to cost around $4 billion, but some worry the final price could be higher, as it was for Boston’s infamous Big Dig; University of Washington statisticians have, for the first time, explored a different subject of uncertainty, namely: how much commuters might benefit from the project