Infrastructure

  • South Carolina reflects on Hurricane Hugo anniversary

    The state of South Caroline has just eyed the twenty-fifth anniversary of Hurricane Hugo – the Category 4 storm that hit the coast on 21 September 1989 with sustained maximum winds of 138 mph. Many in the state still honor that event, and live with the memory of the severe coastal damage due to drastic storm surges and the forty-nine lives lost during the disaster. The storm also left 60,000 people homeless, with 270,000 temporarily unemployed and 54,000 residents seeking monetary assistance. Extending far beyond that were many others who did not have power for two weeks or longer.

  • A second drum at nuke waste repository poses radiation leak danger

    At a recent meeting of the New Mexico Legislature’s Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee in Carlsbad, officials were informed that a second waste drum containing nuclear materials, could also contain the same mix of ingredients as the waste drum from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) which caused a radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in February.

  • Increased use of natural gas will have little effect on CO2 emissions: Study

    Abundant supplies of natural gas will do little to reduce harmful U.S. emissions causing climate change, according to researchers. They found that inexpensive gas boosts electricity consumption and hinders expansion of cleaner energy sources, such as wind and solar.

  • Protecting the electric grid, communication systems from solar storms

    Considered the strongest solar storm on record, the 1859 Carrington Event disrupted telegraph operators and crippled communications systems. Today, even mild scale eruptions could disrupt communications technology and power grids, as bursts known as coronal mass ejections cause vibrations in the Earth’s magnetic field. According to NASA, those vibrations cause electric currents that can overwhelm circuitry and lead to prolong shutdowns. Solar researchers are working to develop monitors that can predict which solar storms can disrupt electric grids and global communications systems.

  • Reduce river pollution through water-quality trading

    Allowing polluters to buy, sell, or trade water-quality credits could significantly reduce pollution in river basins and estuaries faster and at lower cost than requiring the facilities to meet compliance costs on their own, a new study finds. The scale and type of the trading programs, though critical, may matter less than just getting them started.

  • NSF awards $15 million in second round of coastal sustainability grants

    More than half the world’s human population lived in coastal areas in the year 2000; that number is expected to rise to 75 percent by 2025. If current population trends continue, projections are for the crowded U.S. coast to see its population grow from 123 million people to nearly 134 million people by 2020. In wake of storms such as Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, the NSF awards focus on better management of coastal environments.

  • To stay below 2°C warming, coal’s rapid phase out is essential, but not enough

    A rapid phase out of coal as an electricity source by 2050 would reduce warming by half a degree, according to a new study. The study authors ran a number of scenarios around phasing out fossil fuel emissions from the electricity sector, which produces around 40 percent of global C02 emissions. The electricity sector needs to be decarbonized faster than other sectors, but instead is heading in the opposite direction, increasing carbon intensity and significantly driven by increased coal use, and making it one of the largest sources of recent carbon emission increases.

  • Ten years after Hurricane Ivan, Alabama communities are better prepared

    Since Hurricane Ivan struck Baldwin County, Alabama and neighboring communities ten years ago, building officials have adopted better resilience protocols to protect human life and property from future storms. Ivan, which left an estimated $14.2 billion in damages throughout the Gulf Coast, is considered the worst storm to hit Alabama in twenty-five years, and the seventh most costly hurricane ever to affect the United States.

  • SF posting seismic warning posters on vulnerable buildings in a retrofitting drive

    In an effort to get property owners to retrofit vulnerable buildings, San Francisco is posting large signs — in English, Spanish, and Chinese, with red letters, and a drawing of a collapsed building — on apartment and hotel complexes that have failed to comply with the city’s seismic safety laws.The San Francisco tactic is similar to what city officials in Berkeley implemented in 2005, when building authorities placed small warning signs on at-risk wooden apartment buildings.

  • Simulating the ground motion of the south Napa earthquake

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) seismologists are tapping into LLNL’s supercomputers to simulate the detailed ground motion of last month’s magnitude 6.0 south Napa earthquake. The Napa tremor is the largest to hit the Bay Area since the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta event in 1989. Seismic simulations allow scientists better to understand the distribution of shaking and damage that can accompany earthquakes, including possible future “scenario” earthquakes.

  • Preparing the next generation of nuclear emergency responders

    The catastrophic failure of Japan’s Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 was a turning point in how the scientific community viewed nuclear emergencies. Up to then, the emphasis had been on prevention, not response. Virginia Tech’s Sonja Schmid has won a 2014 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Development (CAREER) Award to study the prospects and problems of creating a global nuclear emergency response plan. Key issues to be addressed in her research are how to convince the world that any nuclear accident is everybody’s problem and how to mobilize an effective international response.

  • Silicon Valley tech startups developing earthquake early warning mobile apps

    Silicon Valley tech startups are developing mobile applications to alert residents about earthquakes, but most lack a direct source to the seismic sensors deployed by the state’s ShakeAlertsystem which sends alerts seconds before the ground begins to shake.Googleis currently the only tech company with an agreement to access ShakeAlert’s data feed, and analysts anticipate that Google will integrate ShakeAlert’s system with its Nestthermostat, a Web-connected thermostat that sends alerts to users’ phone and e-mail with details on home temperature and energy use.

  • Tornadoes occurring earlier in Tornado Alley

    About 1,300 tornadoes hit the United States every year, killing an average of sixty people. Peak tornado activity in the central and southern Great Plains of the United States is occurring up to two weeks earlier than it did half a century ago, according to a new study whose findings could help states in “Tornado Alley” better prepare for these violent storms.

  • Cities seek new ways to cope with sea level rise – and look to the Dutch for advice

    Scientists predict a “tenfold increase” in the frequency of hurricanes and other storms, as well as sea-level rise of eleven to twenty-four inches within a little more than three decades – and planners and managers in U.S. coastal cities are looking at new ways to prepare their cities’ infrastructure for these challenges. In New York and New Orleans, city planners are studying the experience of the Dutch, who have gained a lot of experience – and fame — for their water control methods.

  • Strengthening the armor for nuclear-waste eating microbes

    A microbe developed to clean up nuclear waste and patented by a Michigan State University researcher has just been improved. Researchers had identified that Geobacter bacteria’s tiny conductive hair-like appendages, or pili, did the yeoman’s share of remediation. By increasing the strength of the pili nanowires, she improved their ability to clean up uranium and other toxic wastes.