Infrastructure

  • A first: Engineers build giant dome to contain Golf oil spill

    Engineers have began to construct a giant dome over a large oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; the dome would capture or gather the oil and allow it to be pumped out of that dome structure; the dome would be similar to welded steel containment structures called cofferdams used in oil rig construction, but it would be an original design never fabricated or tested before

  • Coast guard my use controlled burn for Gulf oil spill

    A large oil spill from a rig in the Gulf of Mexico is threatening vital ecological areas along the Louisiana shore; DHS and the Coast Guard are considering a controlled burn of the menacing oil spill; controlled burns have been done and tested before

  • DOE removes from its Web site a guide on nuclear plant air attacks

    Since 2008 the Department of Energy’s Web site offered the public a virtual how-to manual for attacking a nuclear plant with an airplane; The document showed the areas that a plane could hit at a reactor with maximum effect, and it cited buildings or targets that a plane could strike and cause radioactive release; the document has now been removed

  • Indonesia to tap volcano power

    Indonesia is a country of 17,000 islands; the archipelago contains 265 volcanoes, estimated to hold around 40 percent of the world’s geothermal energy potential; investors, the World Bank, and the Indonesian government embark on an ambitious plan to add 4,000 megawatts of geothermal capacity — up from the existing 1,189 megawatts — by 2014, and 9,500 megawatts by 2025, by tapping the volcanoes

  • Debate over chemical plant security heats up -- again, II

    Some lawmakers want to toughen up the chemical plant safety legislation, due for renewal before it expires this fall; the chemical industry prefers the continuation of the current measure, which was passed in 2007; the key debate is over whether or not DHS should be in a position to impose the use of safer and less volatile chemical on those plants closest to large urban centers; the industry points out that many plants have already made the switch voluntarily

  • Debate over chemical plant security heats up -- again, I

    The current chemical plant security law was passed in 2006 and expires in October; some lawmakers want to strengthen it, while the chemical industry want the law renewed without changes, saying chemical plants have taken steps to prevent accidental or terrorist-induced releases of dangerous compounds

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  • Risks of laser-based uranium enrichment outweigh rewards

    Researchers argue that laser-based uranium enrichment is not the way to bolster nuclear power: the technique, which involves the separation of isotopes by lasers, would save U.S. households no more than about $2 per month in energy costs, while increasing dramatically the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation

  • NORAD general warns wind turbines pose national security threat

    There is a new homeland security issue: wind turbines; turbines create a shadow that makes airplanes disappear from radar screens; the turbines also clutter the screens with the turbines’ “signature,” which changes as blades accelerate and slow with the wind; the U.S. military says that decision on wind farm locations should be carefully vetted to make sure home defense is not compromised

  • U.S. military warns of massive oil shortages by 2015

    A new study by the U.S. military warns of serious oil shortages by 2015: surplus oil production will disappear by 2012, and as early as 2015 the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day; the Joint Operating Environment report paints a bleak picture of what can happen on occasions when there is serious economic upheaval: “One should not forget that the Great Depression spawned a number of totalitarian regimes that sought economic prosperity for their nations by ruthless conquest,” it warns darkly

  • Flooding risks along the Mississippi River underestimated by Army Corps of Engineers

    Scientists argue that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in an effort to correct old data on water flows in the Mississippi, may have led to underestimates of the current risk of flooding on the Mississippi between the Ohio and Missouri Rivers, and to inadequate preparations by government agencies

  • Laptops to serve as roaming earthquake detectors

    Newer models of laptops contain accelerometers — motion sensors meant to detect whether the computer has been dropped; if the computer falls, the hard drive will automatically switch off to protect the user’s data; researchers say this motion sensing ability allows laptop to serve as roaming earthquake detectors — even though laptop accelerometers are not as sensitive as professional-grade seismometers, so they can only pick up tremors of about magnitude 4.0 and above

  • Cybersecurity incidents in industrial control systems on the rise

    The good news is that only about 10 percent of U.S. industrial control systems are actually connected to the Internet; the bad news is that even with minimal Internet access, malware and breaches are increasingly occurring in utility, process control systems; cybersecurity incidents in petroleum and petrochemical control systems have declined significantly over the past five years — down more than 80 percent — but water and wastewater have increased 300 percent, and power/utilities by 30 percent

  • Calls grow for federalizing government building security

    DHS’s Federal Protective Service (FPS) has a budget of about $1 billion, and employs 1,225 full-time workers and 15,000 contract security guards at more than 2,300 federal facilities nationwide; in fiscal 2009 the service obligated $659 million for guards, the single largest item in its budget; a GAO reports criticizes the work of many of the guards and the contracts which employ them, and lawmakers debate whether to federalize federal buildings security responsibilities

  • Critical surge barrier on New Orleans's eastern flank completed ahead of schedule

    A 7,490 ft.-long storm-surge protection wall that is the central part of a roughly two-mile long surge barrier in New Orleans is being completed several months ahead of schedule; the placement of a significant portion of the barrier, well ahead of the start of the 2010 hurricane season, adds a welcome level of defense on the city’s eastern flank

  • Louisiana officials to visit the Netherlands to learn Dutch flood protection methods

    The Dutch are widely hailed as having the best investment in flood protection in the world; much of the country’s densely populated areas are below sea level, and after a storm struck in 1953 and flooded 80 percent of the Netherlands, the Dutch became even more serious about flood protection