• A new map of seismic hazards in Brazil shows that new building code is required

    Researchers are working on a new national map of seismic hazards for Brazil. The survey under way seeks to help ensure earthquake-resistant construction becomes more widespread. Brazil’s seismic-resistant building standard, in force since 2006, was based on an outdated seismic hazard map, and the scientists conducting the new survey say that the Brazilian building code must be updated in order to prevent low-intensity tremors from causing damage.

  • Climate change shifts timing of floods in Europe

    Researchers have identified a link between climate change and floods. A comprehensive study collected and analyzed fifty years of data from over 4,000 hydrometric stations from thirty-eight European countries, finding that the timing of the floods has shifted across much of Europe, dramatically in some areas.

  • Priorities for property buyouts in Florida’s flood-prone areas

    Flooding is the most common and damaging of all natural disasters in the United States. In 2016, 44 of the 46 major disaster declarations were related to storms, with flooding being a significant factor in almost 70 percent of them (30 events). In 2016, severe floods in the United States resulted in more than $17 billion in damages (six times higher than in 2015). Twelve individual weather and climate events caused more than $1 billion in damages each, and at least five severe 1,000-year precipitation events occurred in the United States in 2016. A new study proposes that government-funded buyouts, followed by structure demolition or relocation and the restoration of floodplain habitats, can support social, environmental, and economic objectives simultaneously.

  • Explaining rapid sea level rise along the East Coast

    Sea level rise hot spots — bursts of accelerated sea rise that last three to five years — happen along the U.S. East Coast thanks to a one-two punch from naturally occurring climate variations, according to a new study. The study shows that seas rose in the southeastern U.S. between 2011 and 2015 by more than six times the global average sea level rise that is already happening due to human-induced global warming.

  • Sea-level rise accelerating along U.S. East Coast

    Sea level rise on the East Coast has been much less than 1 millimeter (mm) per year for the entire period 0 AD to 1800 AD, and, since then, it has skyrocketed. In fact, the rate of sea level rise on the East Coast is the highest it has been for at least 2,000 years, and the rate of global sea level rise is above 1.7 mm per year. In New York City, the rate of sea level rise is more than 3 mm per year in an area that currently houses more than $25 billion of infrastructure at less than 1 meter above sea level.

  • U.S. advanced nuclear program unlikely to deliver on its mission

    Despite repeated promises over the past eighteen years, the U.S. Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) is unlikely to deliver on its mission to develop and demonstrate an advanced nuclear reactor by the mid-twenty-first century. That is the conclusion of a new study which used data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act to reconstruct the program’s budget history.

  • Why the withering nuclear power industry threatens U.S. national security

    These are tough times for nuclear power in the United States. Power plants under construction are facing serious delays, halts and cost overruns. Utilities in South Carolina abandoned a project to complete construction of two power plants in August, while the cost of the only nuclear plant now under construction has ballooned to $25 billion. While the environmental and reliability impacts of the closures are well-understood, what many don’t realize is that these closures also pose long-term risks to our national security. As the nuclear power industry declines, it discourages the development of our most important anti-proliferation asset: a bunch of smart nuclear scientists and engineers. There are already strong economic, reliability and environmental reasons to keep nuclear a part of the national fuel mix. Enhancing our national security makes the argument even more compelling.

  • Decommissioning aging nuclear reactors

    Since the dawn of the nuclear era seventy-five years ago, the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) has helped develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Today, commercial nuclear reactors supply nearly 20 percent of U.S. electricity. Now, ANL’s Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) Program is helping in decommissioning aging nuclear facilities.

  • Wind energy: Technology advancements, improved project performance, low prices

    Wind energy pricing for land-based, utility-scale projects remains attractive to utility and commercial purchasers, according to an annual report released by the U.S. Department of Energy. Prices offered by newly built wind projects in the United States are averaging around 2¢/kWh, driven lower by technology advancements and cost reductions.

  • Replacing some old pipes does not resolve problem of lead-contaminated water

    Lead in drinking water is a decades-old problem and still poses serious public health risks today. In response, utilities are replacing segments of old lead pipes that are causing the contamination. Although partial line replacements can decrease lead levels in tap water, concentrations spike right after line replacement and can remain elevated for months afterward.

  • New tool could ease burden on U.S. overworked energy grid

    Home may be where we can make the most difference when it comes to American energy usage — households account for nearly one-third of the country’s overall power consumption according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. A new model may be just the answer to help government and industry leaders alleviate our overworked energy infrastructure.

  • Human-induced and natural earthquakes in central U.S. are “inherently similar”

    Between 1980 and 2000, Oklahoma averaged about two earthquakes greater than or equal to magnitude 2.7 per year. That number jumped to about 2,500 in 2014 and 4,000 in 2015, then dropped to 2,500 in 2016. On Sept. 3, 2016, a magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck Oklahoma, the state’s largest earthquake to date. According to USGS, many earthquakes in Oklahoma and other parts of the central U.S. have been triggered by wastewater fluid injection associated with oil and gas operations.

  • Experimental box to track nuclear activity by rogue nations

    Researchers are carrying out a research project at Dominion Power’s North Anna Nuclear Generating Station in Virginia that could lead to a new turning point in how the United Nations tracks rogue nations that seek nuclear power. The years-long project centers on a high-tech box full of luminescent plastic cubes stacked atop one another that can be placed just outside a nuclear reactor operated by, say, Iran. The box would detect subatomic particles known as neutrinos produced by the reactor, which can be used to track the amount of plutonium produced in the reactor core.

  • Protecting the power grid from low-budget attacks

    Cyberattacks against power grids and other critical infrastructure systems have long been considered a threat limited to nation-states due to the sophistication and resources necessary to mount them. Last week, at the Black Hat USA 2017 conference in Las Vegas, a team of researchers challenged that notion by disclosing vulnerabilities in a component that combined with publicly available information provide sufficient information to model an advanced, persistent threat to the electrical grid.

  • Nuclear power project abandoned as energy landscape changes, costs escalate

    On Monday, after working nine years to expand a nuclear power plant in South Carolina, Santee Cooper and SCE&G announced they were pulling the plug on the $14 billion reactor project in Fairfield County. The companies cited rising costs, falling demand for energy, construction delays, and the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse. SCE&G customers have paid $1.4 billion through higher monthly utility bills – customers saw their rates increase nine different times over the last four years – and consumer groups in the state say they would demand that the money be refunded to consumers.