Infrastructure

  • Rockefeller Foundation, USAID launch new Global Resilience Partnership

    The new initiative, funded with $100 million from the Rockefeller Foundation, aims to institute a new model for solving the interrelated challenges of the twenty-first century such as persistent and often extreme poverty, food insecurity, and climate shocks. By better aligning humanitarian and development planning, connecting the private sector with civil society and government, and crowdsourcing innovations and solutions, the Resilience Partnership will enable communities to prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from shocks and stresses in a way that reduces chronic vulnerability and keeps them on the pathway to development.

  • Key U.S. coastal areas bracing for greater sea level rise challenges

    While climate change-related sea level rise is predicted to impact much of the country — whether directly or indirectly — over the next several decades, certain parts of the nation’s coasts are expecting to deal with more unique and intensive challenges.

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  • N.C. science panel begins updating sea level rise report

    North Carolina officials announced last week that the state-appointed science panel supported by the Coastal Resources Commission(CRC) has begun updating a controversial 2010 sea-level rise report. The CRC oversees development in North Carolina’s twenty coastal counties. In May, the CRC votedto narrow the scope of the pending report to reflect the effects of sea-level rise for the next thirty-years, as opposed to the original timeframe of 100 years in the 2010 report. “I think the concept of doing it for 30 years will add credibility to the study,” Frank Gorham, the CRC’s chairman, said last Thursday. “People can think in 30-year timeframes.”

  • Training cyber security specialists for U.S. critical cyber infrastructure

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is joining Bechtel BNI and Los Alamos National Laboratory to train a new class of cyber defense professionals to protect the U.S. critical digital infrastructure. The Bechtel-Lawrence Livermore-Los Alamos Cyber Career Development Program is designed to allow the national labs to recruit and rapidly develop cyber security specialists who can guide research at their respective institutions and create solutions that meet the cyber defense needs of private industry. About 80 percent of the nation’s critical digital infrastructure and assets are owned and operated by private industry.

  • Toledo’s water alarm harbinger of things to come

    This past weekend, officials in Toledo, Ohio urged residents and the several hundred thousand people served by the city’s water utility not to drink tap water after discovering elevated levels of microcystin, a toxin caused by algal blooms, in their water supply. Toledo’s water supply has since returned to normal, but nutrient enrichment and climate change are causing an apparent increase in the toxicity of some algal blooms in freshwater lakes and estuaries around the world, scientists say.

  • U.S. to impose stricter safety rules on crude oil rail shipment

    The U.S. Department of Transportation(DOT) recently announced proposed rulesbetter to secure train cars and pipelines from oil spills that may lead to fire or accidents in communities across the country. The spills are byproducts of the increase in U.S. oil production and shipments coming from Canada or the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. The proposed DOT rules would force railroads to upgrade railroad cars used for transporting crude oil, employ better braking systems, and enforce tighter speed controls.

  • Encouraging innovation for better preparedness, recovery, and resilience tools

    Last week the White House hosted innovators in technology and emergency management to discuss new tools that can improve preparedness, recovery, and resilience in the wake of a disaster. The White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative Demo Dayshowcased innovations from the private sector and government agencies aimed at aiding survivors of large-scale emergencies. The key goal was to “find the most efficient and effective ways to empower survivors to help themselves,” said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park.

  • Kansas, Missouri invest in tornado safe-rooms

    Last year’s tornado season prompted officials in Kansas and Missouri to invest heavily in safe rooms to shelter residents from future severe weather events. Schools tend to be popular choices for safe rooms, but new funding from FEMA is helping cities build safe rooms in other public spaces. The safe rooms are built to withstand tornado winds of up to 250 mph, and can survive being hit by a 67 mph projectile vertically or 100 mph horizontally.

  • New Bay Area hospital is constructed to withstand the most severe earthquake

    The new Stanford Hospital is being constructed to withstand the most severe tremors. The new hospital will be placed on 206 base isolators, enormous parallel steel plates with a sort of ball bearing suspension system between them, providing a buffer between the building and the moving ground. Each plate can move as much as three feet in any direction, allowing the building to shift up to six feet during seismic activity. Reducing horizontal movement during an earthquake minimizes the strain on a building’s vertical load-bearing structures. When completed, in 2017, the building will be one of the most seismically safe hospitals in the country, able to continue operations after an 8.0, or “great,” earthquake.

  • New rules proposed for crude oil shipments

    U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) secretary Anthony Foxx has announced that the department is proposing new rules for shipments of high-hazard crude oil by trains, as well as moving to phase out the use of older tank cars that many see as unsafe. The order follows a deadly year for oil train accidents, including a July 2013 derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec resulting in the deaths of forty-seven people and a 30 April derailment in Lynchburg, Virginia.

  • DHS slow to inspect high-risk chemical plants

    Congress passed the $595 million Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standardsprogram in 2006 to help regulate high-risk chemical facilities, but nearly a year after the massive chemical explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant, a new report found little improvement in securing threats from the U.S. 4,011 high-risk chemical facilities.As of 30 June, DHS has not yet conducted security compliance inspections on 3,972 of the 4,011 high-risk chemical facilities.

  • Scientists urge making critical infrastructure more resilient to solar storms

    Scientists predict the probability of a massive solar storm striking the Earth in the next decade to be 12 percent. The 23 July 2012 solar storm was pointed away from Earth and blasted safely into space, but had it been directed towards Earth, it would have produced the worst geomagnetic storm in more than four centuries, causing extensive electricity problems that could take years to resolve. Scientists are debating the amount of damage the grid would suffer during a massive solar storm. The U.S. National Academy of Sciencesestimated in 2008 that the damage and disruption could reach up to $2 trillion with a full recovery time between four and ten years.

  • Hopes for quicker, cheaper ways to build nuclear power plants dim

    Promises of building a more cost effective U.S. nuclear industry continue to face setbacks as alternative energy sources like natural gas become cheaper for utilities, while new models for nuclear plants face cost overruns.Nuclear reactor developers sought to build new plants using prefabricated Lego-like blocks to save time and reduce labor costs, butanalysts consider the designs for the new nuclear reactors to be difficult or impossible to build.

  • U.S. nuclear plant licensees should seek, act on nuclear plant hazards information

    A new report concludes that the overarching lesson learned from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident is that nuclear plant licensees and their regulators must actively seek out and act on new information about hazards with the potential to affect the safety of nuclear plants. The committee that wrote the report examined the causes of the Japan accident and identified findings and recommendations for improving nuclear plant safety and offsite emergency responses to nuclear plant accidents in the United States.

  • DOE chief to visit WIPP to discuss funding for recovery efforts

    Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will visit Carlsbad, New Mexico on 12 August to discuss funding for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) recovery efforts.Traces of americium and plutonium were released from a nuclear waste drum on 14 February and were detected in the air almost a half-mile outside WIPP. On 15 May, the DOE confirmed that the damage occurred on a waste drum from Los Alamos National Laboratory.