Infrastructure

  • U.S. infrastructure vulnerable to “cascading system failures” caused by weather disasters

    Two U.S. government reports released last Thursday warn that U.S. infrastructure is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. One report focuses on energy, the second on infrastructure more generally. The infrastructure-focused report is the first attempt to review climate implications across all sectors and regions. The report analyzes how damage to one infrastructure sector can impact other infrastructure sectors, rather than isolating specific types of infrastructure. The authors warn that climate-fueled weather disasters could cause “cascading system failures” unless changes are adopted to minimize such effects.

  • East Europe’s natural gas networks vulnerable during conflicts and crises

    Gas networks in Eastern European countries, such as Ukraine and Belarus, are less resilient than the U.K. gas networks during conflicts and crises, according to new research. The authors suggest that a decentralized approach to managing congestion on gas pipeline networks could be crucial for energy security during geopolitical conflicts or natural disasters, for example.

  • Radiation from Fukushima to reach West Coast in April

    On the third anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear plant incident, scientists are reporting that low levels of radiation from the Fukushima plant will reach ocean waters along the U.S. West Coast by April 2014. The scientists say that the radiation will be at levels too low to harm humans, but they call for more monitoring, including at the federal level.

  • Innovative nuclear radiation detector reaches the market

    A handheld radiation camera developed by University of Michigan engineering researchers offers nuclear plant operators a faster way to find potentially dangerous hot spots and leaky fuel rods. The new Polaris-H detector lays a gamma-ray map over an image of a room, pinpointing radiation sources with unprecedented precision. At least four U.S. nuclear power plants are using versions of the camera, which is now available commercially through the U-M spinoff company H3D.

  • Iona College to Launch BS, BA, MS concentrations in cybersecurity

    Iona College announced the launch in fall 2014 of undergraduate and graduate programs in computer science with a concentration in cyber security. The concentration will be offered for the Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, and the Master of Science degrees. The programs will provide students with fundamental cyber security skills, theoretical as well as hands-on experience. Students are exposed to new research ideas across many cyber security areas including software security, Web application security, mobile security, networking security, database security, and cryptography.

  • Small biomass power plants could help rural economies, stabilize national power grid

    As energy costs rise, more Americans are turning to bioenergy to provide power to their homes and workplaces. Bioenergy is renewable energy made from organic sources, such as biomass. Technology has advanced enough that biomass power plants small enough to fit on a farm can be built at relatively low costs. Researchers have found that creating a bioenergy grid with these small plants could benefit people in rural areas of the country as well as provide relief to an overworked national power grid.

  • Underground recovery process at WIPP begins

    Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the management and operations contractor at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), said it has initiated the first phase of an underground recovery process which will lead to the resumption of nuclear waste disposal operations at WIPP. Initial results show no airborne radioactive contamination in the underground shafts.

  • Determining long-term effects of West Virginia chemical spill

    A chemical mixture called crude 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) is used during the separation and cleaning of coal products. More than 10,000 gallons of the chemical leaked from a storage tank near Charleston, West Virginia, and entered the river upstream of a water-treatment plant on 9 January. The drinking water of more than 300,000 West Virginians was contaminated. Water restrictions began to be lifted on 13 January, but residents are still detecting the telltale odors of MCHM. Virginia Tech faculty engineers and students are unravelling fundamental chemical and health properties of MCHM.

  • “Encouraged” bacteria cleaning up more effectively after oil spills

    Bioremediation is nature’s way of cleaning up. Plants, bacterial decomposers, or enzymes are used to remove contaminants and restore the balance of nature in the wake of pollution incidents. What is surprising is that given the right kind of encouragement, bacteria can be even more effective. Researchers in Norway have achieved surprising results by exploiting nature’s own ability to clean up after oil spills.

  • New technique allows better monitoring of water quality

    Researchers have developed a new technique that uses existing technology to allow researchers and natural resource managers to collect significantly more information on water quality to better inform policy decisions. In addition to its utility for natural resource managers, the technique will also allow researchers to develop more sophisticated models that address water quality questions.

  • FERC orders development of physical security standards for transmission grid

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday directed the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to develop reliability standards requiring owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to address risks due to physical security threats and vulnerabilities.

  • 2011 Oklahoma human-induced earthquake may have triggered larger quake

    In a new study, scientists observed that a human-induced magnitude 5.0 earthquake near Prague, Oklahoma in November 2011 may have triggered the larger M5.7 earthquake less than a day later. This research suggests that the M5.7 quake was the largest human-caused earthquake associated with wastewater injection.

  • Accelerated urbanization exposes French cities to increased seismic risk

    Old structures, designed before current seismic building codes, abound in France, and there is insufficient information about how they will respond during an earthquake. French researchers have looked into data mining to develop a method for extracting information on the vulnerability of cities in regions of moderate risk, creating a proxy for assessing the probable resilience of buildings and infrastructure despite incomplete seismic inventories of buildings. The research exposes significant vulnerability in regions that have experienced an “explosion of urbanization.”

  • Safeguarding networks when disasters strike

    Disasters both natural and human-caused can damage or destroy data and communications networks. Several presentations at the 2014 OFC Conference and Exposition, being held 9-13 March in San Francisco, will present new information on strategies that can mitigate the impacts of these disasters. Researchers created an algorithm that keeps data safe by moving or copying the data from data centers in peril to more secure locations away from the disaster. The algorithm assesses the risks for damage and users’ demands on the network to determine, in real-time, which locations would provide the safest refuge from a disaster. Other researchers suggest that if fiber-optic cables are down, wireless communication can fill the void and be part of a temporary, emergency network. For such a system to work, however, wireless technology would have to be integrated with the fiber-optic network that transports data around the world.

  • Virtual lab for nuclear waste repository research

    A nuclear waste repository must seal in radioactive waste safely for one million years. Researchers currently have to study repositories and their processes in real underground laboratories, but a virtual underground laboratory will soon simplify their work.