Infrastructure

  • Russia leads, U.S. lags in construction of nuclear power reactors around the world

    Has a new cold war developed between Russian and the United States in the twenty-first century? Many argue that it has — but with a more unconventional front of commercial nuclear energy contracts with developing countries. Russian companies are building 37 percent of new nuclear reactors around the world; U.S. companies build only 7 percent of new nuclear facilities.

  • Delaware launches cyber initiative

    Delaware is joining the number of states that have decided to invest in a statewide cybersecurity workforce to combat the growing threat of cyberattacks directed at both private and public institutions.Delaware hopes its cyber initiative will accelerate current efforts to develop a stronger cyber workforce. The Delaware Cyber Initiative proposes $3 million for a collaborative learning and research network in the form of part research lab, part business park, dedicated to cyber innovation.

  • West Virginia chemical spill degrades air, water quality

    In the more than two months since the 9 January chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River, new findings reveal the nature of the chemicals that were released into the water and then into the air in residents’ houses. The lack of data motivated researchers to take on essential odor-related research that went beyond their National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research grant to better understand the properties of the chemical mixture called crude 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, the major component in the crude mix of the spilled chemicals into the Elk River

  • World record in high altitude wind turbine set to be broken

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    Boston, Massachusetts-based Altaeros Energies, a wind energy company formed out of MIT, said its Alaska demonstration project is set to break the world record for the highest wind turbine ever deployed. The $1.3 million, 18-month project will deploy the Altaeros BAT at a height 1,000 feet above ground. At that height, the BAT commercial-scale pilot project in Alaska will be over 275 feet taller than the current record holder for the highest wind turbine, the Vestas V164-8.0-MW. Investment into the high altitude wind sector has recently gained momentum with several large acquisitions.

  • Quantum mechanics may lead to ultra-secure Internet

    In 1935 Einstein and researchers highlighted a “spooky” theory in quantum mechanics, which is the strange way entangled particles stay connected even when separated by large distances. In the 1990s, scientists realized you can securely transmit a message through encrypting and using a shared key generated by Einstein’s strange entanglement to decode the message from the sender and receiver. Using the quantum key meant the message was completely secure from interception during transmission.

  • Conflicting views hamper N.C. preparation for sea level rise

    Residents of North Carolina’s coastal towns are finding themselves increasingly caught in the cross-fire between local and state government regarding how to define future sea level rise resulting from global warming and the necessary measures needed to prepare for it. Due to a four-year moratorium on any action on the state level, area developers and homeowners have received no official input, and the lack of consensus has negative consequences for the health and prosperity of the region.

  • Making the grid smarter makes it more vulnerable to hackers

    The U.S. electric grid is constantly under attack despite attempts by utilities to boost physical security and cyberdefenses. In 2013 a DHS cyber emergency team responded to more than eighty incidents involving energy companies. “If you’re a utility today, depending on your scale, you’re under attack at this moment,” says Robert Weisenmiller, chairman of the California Energy Commission.

  • New insight into improved wave energy testing

    Scientists have studied how wave energy developers can more accurately measure and predict the wave conditions within wave energy test sites. The researchers deployed wave measurement buoys and used wave modelling to show how variations in wave size and strength could be resolved.

  • Iran becoming serious cyber-warfare threat

    Both government and private cybersecurity experts are increasingly considering Iran as a “top ten” cyberthreat. Iran’s recent activities and its motives have led analysts to rank the country among other cyberspace heavy hitters such as Russia and China.

  • Ground-improvement methods to protect against earthquakes

    Researchers are developing ground-improvement methods to help increase the resilience of homes and low-rise structures built on top of soils prone to liquefaction during strong earthquakes. Findings will help improve the safety of structures in Christchurch and the Canterbury region in New Zealand, which were devastated in 2010 and 2011 by a series of powerful earthquakes.

  • Climate change, population pressures leading to rethink of floating cities

    The concepts have existed for decades, but governments and financiers, responding to the growing threat of rising tides, pollution, and overpopulation to coastal urban centers, are now beginning to take a more serious look at floating cities.

  • Controversial Mississippi power station to cut emissions by more than half

    A new $5 billion state-of-the-art power facility is under construction Kemper County, Mississippi. It places a firm bet on the future of carbon-capture technology, and other technological advancements, including: it utilizes the gasification process with carbon in unique ways; it recycles treated wastewater to generate power; and it makes money from the carbon dioxide it has removed by selling it to oil companies for their own extraction. Critics say that investing so much money in untested technologies is too much of a gamble.

  • Radiation damage to Chernobyl’s ecosystems helps spread radioactivity

    Radiological damage to microbes near the site of the Chernobyl disaster has slowed the decomposition of fallen leaves and other plant matter in the area, according to a new study. The resulting buildup of dry, loose detritus is a wildfire hazard that poses the threat of spreading radioactivity from the Chernobyl area.

  • DOE: Contrary to rumor, there are no evacuation plans for southeastern New Mexico

    The Department of Energy (DOE) said the other day that an Internet rumor which has been fueling concerns earlier this week about the need to be prepared to evacuate southeastern New Mexico because of recent events at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is “absolutely” without basis. DOE notes that monitoring conducted by Nuclear Waste Partnership of air, soil, water, and vegetation are showing no radiation releases that would approach levels causing health concerns.

  • Debate over inherently safer technology (IST) at chemical plants intensifies

    Recent accidents at chemical facilities around the country have prompt environmental groups and workplace safety advocates to highlight the need for implementing inherently safer technology (IST) at facilities using hazardous chemicals. IST is a methodology or an approach which calls for the adoption of a hierarchy of actions: minimize use of hazardous chemicals, substitute or replace hazardous chemicals with safer ones, moderate or shift to less hazardous chemicals or processes at lower temperatures and pressures, and simplify processes and design plants to eliminate unnecessary complexity.The industry argues that IST is a superficially simple concept but that, in reality, it is rather complex. For example, IST calls for facilities to reduce the amount of materials or chemicals they store on-site, which would increase transportation of the materials or chemicals, thus spreading the risk of chemical accidents to different points along the supply chain.