Infrastructure

  • NRC will not require nuclear plants to transfer waste to dry cask storage

    Cooling pools on the grounds of U.S. nuclear plants, where toxic nuclear waste is stored, are near capacity, and in 2010 the plug was pulled on the Yucca Mountain centralized national nuclear waste repository, meaning that for the foreseeable future radioactive will continue to accumulate on site at the more than 100 nuclear power plants. Lawmakers called on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to require nuclear plants to hurry the transfer of spent fuel from the cooling pools to dry cask storage, which scientists consider much safer. The NRC, however, has decided that, at least for now, there is now reason to require nuclear plants to do so.

  • The Pentagon integrates climate change into military planning

    With the release of the National Climate Assessment last month, a clearer picture has emerged of the official policy-related interpretation of climate change data. The debate may still go on amongst civilian branches of government, and between the administration and its critics, the Pentagon, for some time now, has already been integrating climate change-related policies into its daily operations across all branches of the military.

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  • Sea level rise, not Hurricane Sandy impacts, main cause of subsequent East Coast storm flooding

    Flooding in coastal areas bordering Great South Bay, New York, and Barnegat Bay, New Jersey caused by winter storms that occurred following Hurricane Sandy was not influenced by changes Sandy made to barrier islands or other bay features, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. “While the existing barrier island and inlet system shield the mainland to a great extent from the daily tides, most of the storm surge, and all long-term changes in water level, such as those resulting from sea level rise, reach the mainland,” say the study’s authors.

  • Extreme weather events threaten U.S. national landmarks

    Rising seas, floods, and wildfires are threatening the U.S. most cherished historic sites — from Ellis Island to the Everglades, Cape Canaveral to California’s César Chávez National Monument. Scientists say that today these sites face an uncertain future in a world of rising sea levels, more frequent wildfires, increased flooding, and other damaging effects of climate change. At some sites — such as Liberty and Ellis Islands and Cape Hatteras — steps have already been taken to prepare for these growing climate risks. At many other sites, such efforts have not yet begun.

  • Canada is not doing enough to prepare for, cope with natural, man-made disasters

    The 2013 Alberta floods cost more than $6 billion, making it the worst weather disaster in Canada’s history. Before 1990, only three Canadian disasters exceeded $500 million, but in the past ten years alone nine disasters have exceeded that amount. Disaster management experts said that while it may be understandable that corporate and municipal budgets for disaster training and preparations have been reduced during the economic slowdown, corporate and government leaders in Canada must consider how such reductions would impact the ability of communities to build adequately resilience systems against potential natural and manmade disasters.

  • Rising sea levels will be too much, too fast for Florida

    The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published its assessment of sea level rise in 2012 as part of the National Climate Assessment. Including estimates based on limited and maximum melt of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, it anticipated a raise of 4.1 to 6.6ft (1.25 to 2m) by 2100, reaching 2ft (0.6m) by around 2050 and 3ft (0.9m) by around 2075. This means that by the middle of this century most of the barrier islands of south Florida and the world will be abandoned and the people relocated, while low areas such as Sweetwater and Hialeah bordering the Everglades will be frequently flooded and increasingly difficult places to live. Florida will start to lose its freshwater resources, its infrastructure will begin to fail, and the risk of catastrophic storm surges and hurricane flooding will increase. Florida counties should be planning for their future to determine at what point the costs of maintaining functional infrastructure, insurance, and human health and safety becomes economically impossible. Already, there are areas and properties that will become unlivable within a 30-year mortgage cycle.

  • Turning manure into clean water

    Imagine something that can turn cow manure into clean water, extract nutrients from that water to serve as fertilizer, and help solve the ever-present agricultural problem of manure management. Technology is under development and near commercialization that can do all of that. While turning the manure into clean water makes environmental sense, the researchers are also looking into how this can make good financial sense for farmers. In some cases it could have a significant impact on the long-term viability of the farm.

  • Critics: U.K. nuclear watchdog plagued by “indefensible” conflicts of interest

    Britain’s nuclear watchdog, the Office for Nuclear Regulation(ONR), is receiving technical advice from companies it is tasked with monitoring, leading industry insiders to accuse the watchdog of accepting advice tainted with “unbelievable” conflicts of interest. ONR’s chairman, Nick Baldwin, noted that the agency is concerned about possible conflicts of interest, but that there is a “small gene pool” of firms capable of advising ONR inspectors.

  • Guard fired for Y-12 breach says he was made a scapegoat for contractor’s failings

    Kirk Garland, a security guard at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was fired from his job two weeks after three aging peace activists, led by an 82-year old nun, managed, on 28 July 2012, to breach the facility’s supposedly impregnable perimeter security systems, then loiter, unnoticed, on the grounds of the facility, where bomb grade uranium is stored. The activists had enough time to spray-paint peace messages and Bible verses on walls, slosh the walls with human blood, and wrap one of the buildings with crime-scene tape. In an arbitration hearing, Garland argued that he was made a scapegoat for the larger failings of the then-security contractor,Wackenhut Services.

  • Airports resist bolstering perimeter security because of cost

    Last month’s security breach at Mineta San Jose Airport, in which a teenager entered the airfield and hid in the wheel well of a Maui-bound flight, has highlighted concerns about the security of airport perimeters. Perimeter intrusions are common at airports, but airports resist pressures to improve perimeter protection because of the costs involved. Experts note that if we were to string all of the U.S. airport perimeters together, we would approach the length of the U.S. border with Mexico and security expenditures approaching a billion dollars. These experts say that airports are not likely to invest heavily in perimeter security until a serious disaster due to lax perimeter security occurs. “Show me a body count, and we’ll build a fence,” said one airport administrator.

  • U.S., industry grappling with a growing nuclear waste problem

    Thirty years ago congress voted to fund the building of centralized nuclear waste repository at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Four years ago to Obama administration pulled to plug on the project, and nuclear wasted has continued to accumulate on the grounds of nuclear plants – active and shuttered – around the United States. As of May 2013, the U.S. nuclear industry had 69,720 tons of toxic nuclear waste to deal with. The administration strategy calls for a short-term centralized storage facility by 2025, and a permanent national geological repository by 2048.

  • Algae biofuel can help meet world energy demand

    Microalgae-based biofuel not only has the potential to quench a sizable chunk of the world’s energy demands, researchers say. Microalgae produces much higher yields of fuel-producing biomass than other traditional fuel feedstocks and it does not compete with food crops. The researchers say that algae yields about 2,500 gallons of biofuel per acre per year. In contrast, soybeans yield approximately forty-eight gallons; corn about eighteen gallons.

  • Future cyberattacks to cause more trouble than Heartbleed

    Many of the future cyberattacks could take advantage of vulnerabilities similar to Heartbleed, a major Internet security flaw which allows attackers to gain access to encrypted passwords, credit card details, and other data on trusted Web sites including Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, and Pinterest. A new report said that hackers could soon use similar holes in computer security to shut down energy grids, disrupt public services, and steal vast amounts of private data worth billions of dollars, unless institutions take measures today to ready themselves against future Heartbleed-like threats.

  • Port security technologies demonstrated in Gothenburg, Sweden

    FOI, the Swedish Defense Research Agency, conducted a demonstration in Gothenburg of technology designed to improve the security of ports around the world. One of the reasons for the research into countering intrusion is that many ports find that they lack good and affordable tools for seaward surveillance, and so find it difficult to guard against terrorist attack and organized crime such as theft, smuggling, and stowaways. FOI has, therefore, created a system that is capable of detecting divers, swimmers, or small craft which might attempt to approach the quayside or a vessel tied up alongside.

  • Power plant emission detection by satellites verified

    Air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from two coal-fired power plants in the Four Corners area of northwest New Mexico, the largest point source of pollution in America, were measured remotely by a Los Alamos National Laboratory team. The study is the first to show that space-based techniques can successfully verify international regulations on fossil energy emissions.