• Metal-eating microbes are cost-effective for recycling rare earth elements

    Today’s high-tech devices usually contain components made of rare earth elements (REEs), a class of metallic elements including neodymium and dysprosium. Despite this demand, and despite the fact that REEs are relatively common in the earth’s crust, REEs are difficult to obtain, and the U.S. currently does not produce a domestic supply. This scarcity of domestic REEs leaves manufacturers of everything from cellphones and computers to wind turbines and telescope lenses vulnerable to supply disruptions. have developed an economical way to recycle REEs using a bacterium called Gluconobacter oxydans.

  • Low-cost arsenic sensor could save lives

    Worldwide, 140 million people drink water containing unsafe levels of arsenic, according to the World Health Organization. Short-term exposure causes skin lesions, skin cancer and damage to the cognitive development of children, while long-term exposure leads to fatal internal cancers. A new low-cost, easy-to-use sensor which can test drinking water for arsenic in just one minute.

  • Sea level rise requires new forms of decision making

    U.S, cities facing sea level rise need to look beyond traditional strategies for managing issues such as critical erosion and coastal squeeze, according to new research. Civil society initiatives must now play a crucial role in adapting society to climate change, and decision makers must seriously consider the tradeoff among three options: sea wall; beach-nourishment; and relocating coastal infrastructure.

  • Russia used social media extensively to influence U.S. energy markets: Congressional panel

    The U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee last week released a staff report uncovering Russia’s extensive efforts to influence U.S. energy markets through divisive and inflammatory posts on social media platforms. The report details Russia’s motives in interfering with U.S. energy markets and influencing domestic energy policy and its manipulation of Americans via social media propaganda. The report includes examples of Russian-propagated social media posts.

  • Extreme weather tests U.K. gas security to the limit

    The National Grid, which manages the U.K.’s energy network, warned that it might not have enough gas to meet demand on March 1, due to plummeting temperatures and issues with supply. It has since withdrawn the warning, saying the market response has boosted supplies. But Britain’s lack of flexible energy supply is a serious issue. This isn’t the first time such a warning has been issued and it probably won’t be the last.

  • Kremlin hackers infiltrated the most secure German government communication network

    The German government yesterday (Wednesday) confirmed that it had suffered a large cyberattack which infiltrated federal computer networks in search of sensitive information. Anonymous German law enforcement sources said that the Russia hacking group APT28, aka Fancy Bear, had placed malware in a government network and infiltrated both the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry. Fancy Bear, which is one of the hacking groups operated by the GRU (Russia’s military intelligence branch), conducted the 2016 hacking campaign of the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign. The Russian government hackers managed to infiltrate the German government’s “Informationsverbund Berlin-Bonn” (IVBB) network, a communication network which was specially designed as a secure communications platform.

  • New evidence of nuclear fuel releases discovered at Fukushima

    Uranium and other radioactive materials, such as cesium and technetium, have been found in tiny particles released from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors. This could mean the environmental impact from the fallout may last much longer than previously expected according to a new study by a team of international researchers. The team says that, for the first time, the fallout of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor fuel debris into the surrounding environment has been “explicitly revealed” by the study.

  • Flood risk for Americans is greatly underestimated

    A new study has found that forty-one million Americans are at risk from flooding rivers, which is more than three times the current estimate—based on regulatory flood maps—of thirteen million people. The study is based on a new high-resolution model that maps flood risk across the entire continental United States, whereas the existing regulatory flood maps produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cover about 60 percent of the continental United States. Avoiding future losses is particularly important as average flood losses in the United States have increased steadily to nearly $10 billion annually.

  • Hacker-resistant power plant software in a successful Hawaii tryout

    Johns Hopkins computer security experts recently traveled to Hawaii to see how well their hacker-resistant software would operate within a working but currently offline Honolulu power plant. The successful resilience testing, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, was triggered in part by growing concerns about the vulnerability of electric power grids after two high-profile cyber-attacks by Russian government hackers turned out the lights in parts of Ukraine during the past two years. Neither outage in Kiev was long or extensive enough to cause serious harm or panic. Yet the attacks served as a wake-up call, putting a spotlight on power grid security in the United States and elsewhere.

  • Drawing industry attention to ensuring grid reliability

    Grid reliability depends on controlling the power system frequency so that it remains within pre-established, safe operating bounds. Reliability is threatened when a large electric generator or generators experiences a problem and automatically disconnects from the power system; the loss of generation causes an immediate decline in power system frequency. If the remaining, still-connected generators do not respond to rapidly arrest the decline in frequency, power system frequency may decline below established, safe operating bounds and trigger automatic, emergency load shedding to avoid a cascading blackout. A report for FERC details six recommendations to reduce likelihood of blackouts.

  • It pays to build to withstand disasters

    For every dollar the government spends to make existing buildings more resistant to wildfires, earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, $6 is saved in property losses, business interruption and health problems, according to a new study. The study also found that for every $1 spent to exceed building codes and make structures more hazard-resistant in the future, $4 would be saved. In all, over the next 75 years, these measures could prevent 600 deaths, 1 million injuries and 4,000 cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, the report concludes.

  • Sea levels rising more than previously expected

    Studying twenty-five years’ worth of satellite data, scientists paint a grim picture of global warming. Sea levels are going up at a faster rate each year, and even sooner than projected. The calculate that at the current pace, the total sea level rise could be twice as high as previous projections by 2100.

  • Before the U.S. approves new uranium mining, consider its toxic legacy

    Uranium – the raw material for nuclear power and nuclear weapons – is having a moment in the spotlight. Companies such as Energy Fuels, Inc. have played well-publicized roles in lobbying the Trump administration to reduce federal protection for public lands with uranium deposits. The Defense Department’s Nuclear Posture Review calls for new weapons production to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which could spur new domestic uranium mining. And the Interior Department is advocating more domestic uranium production, along with other materials identified as “critical minerals.” I have studied the legacies of past uranium mining and milling in Western states for over a decade. My book examines dilemmas faced by uranium communities caught between harmful legacies of previous mining booms and the potential promise of new economic development. These people and places are invisible to most Americans, but they helped make the United States an economic and military superpower. In my view, we owe it to them to learn from past mistakes and make more informed and sustainable decisions about possibly renewing uranium production than our nation made in the past.

  • Helping Georgia companies prepare for natural disasters

    The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) is seeking eligible manufacturers to participate in a disaster assistance program designed to help companies that are located in the state’s coastal areas assess their preparedness and develop operational solutions to minimize the impact of future hurricanes and other natural disasters.

  • U.S. seeks to boost domestic production of 35 critical minerals

    The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) last week announced it was seeking public comment by 19 March 2018 on a draft list of minerals considered critical to the economic and national security of the United States. The draft list of minerals that DOI published last week as critical to the United States includes thirty-five mineral commodities. A “critical mineral” is a mineral identified to be a non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the United States, the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption, and that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economy or national security.