• U.K. energy firms hacked by Russian government hackers: U.K. spy agency

    A leaked U.K. government memo says that in the wake of the 8 June general election, the U.K. energy industry is “likely to have been compromised” by Russian government hackers. The report, produced by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – the British equivalent of the U.S. NSA — warns that the British intelligence service had spotted connections “from multiple U.K. IP addresses to infrastructure associated with advanced state-sponsored hostile threat actors.”

  • Identifying global hotspots for water conflict

    More than 1,400 new dams or water diversion projects are planned or already under construction and many of them are on rivers flowing through multiple nations, fueling the potential for increased water conflict between some countries. A new analysis uses a comprehensive combination of social, economic, political and environmental factors to identify areas around the world most at-risk for “hydro-political” strife.

  • Climate change to deplete some U.S. water basins, reduce irrigated crop yields

    A new study by MIT climate scientists, economists, and agriculture experts finds that certain hotspots in the country will experience severe reductions in crop yields by 2050, due to climate change’s impact on irrigation. The most adversely affected region, according to the researchers, will be the Southwest. Already a water-stressed part of the country, this region is projected to experience reduced precipitation by midcentury. Less rainfall to the area will mean reduced runoff into water basins that feed irrigated fields.

  • Groundwater pumping drying up Great Plains streams

    Farmers in the Great Plains of Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, and the panhandle of Texas produce about one-sixth of the world’s grain, and water for these crops comes from the High Plains Aquifer — often known as the Ogallala Aquifer — the single greatest source of groundwater in North America. If pumping practices are not modified, scientists warn that these habitats will continue to shrink, and the fish populations along with them.

  • Extreme coastal sea levels more likely

    Extreme sea levels are typically caused by a combination of high tides, storm surges, and in many cases waves, Wahl said. When an extreme event collides with continually rising seas, it takes a less intense storm, such as a Category I hurricane, to inflict as much coastal damage as a Category II or III storm would have had when the seas were lower. Because of the rising sea levels, which research has confirmed has occurred steadily during the past century and is expected to accelerate in the future, extreme events that are now expected to happen, on average, only once every hundred years, could occur every decade or even every year, in many places by 2050, the study said.

  • “Smart” transformers could make reliable smart grid a reality

    The idea of a smart grid that can handle power flows not just from the power company to our homes, but also back from our homes to the power company has been around for years. Among other benefits, such a grid would improve efficient use of renewable energy and storage. But, to date, the smart grid has been mostly conceptual. The new study indicates that it could move from concept to reality in the near future, using technology that already exists. The key technology is solid-state transformers (SST).

  • A floating tunnel could withstand an explosion

    Concrete can tolerate much more force that previously believed, which could open the door to a new kind of road structure: a floating tunnel. The E39 is a nearly 1100-km long coastal road that crosses seven major fjords by use of ferries. Norwegian authorities are working to improve the road by eliminating ferry crossings, which in addition to being costly, mean that drivers have to wait for ferries if they don’t arrive at the crossing at exactly the right time. Norwegian engineers are examining an entirely new type of water crossing: submerged floating tunnels.

  • Earthquake-proofing buildings in earthquake-prone regions

    Across the world, severe earthquakes regularly shake entire regions. More than two billion people live in danger zones – many of them in structures not built to withstand an earthquake. Engineers are developing building materials designed to prevent buildings from collapsing in a natural disaster.

  • Russian hackers likely behind cyberattacks on U.S. nuclear operators: Experts

    Russian government hackers are suspected to be behind a series of cyberattacks on U.S. nuclear operators. The attacks were similar to recent Russian attacks on Ukraine’s power infrastructure. Experts say that rhe attacks in Ukraine and the United States show that Russian hackers appear to be testing increasingly advanced tools to disrupt power supplies. “If you think about a typical war, some of the acts that have been taken against critical infrastructure in Ukraine and even in the U.S., those would be considered crossing red lines,” says one security expert.

  • How to save the U.S. nuclear industry

    From Diablo Canyon on the central California coast to Turkey Point on the southeast tip of Florida, the United States is home to 99 nuclear power reactors at 62 nuclear plants generating roughly 20 percent of the nation’s electrical energy. But in an industry beset by disruptive technologies and intense competitive pressures, the future of nuclear energy in the U.S. is anything but certain. Economic pressures are taking their toll. Five nuclear plants have shut down nationwide since 2013, and 19 reactors are currently undergoing decommissioning.

  • Maintaining the safety of California’s natural gas system

    California has 14 underground storage facilities in 12 fields with a capacity of 385 billion cubic feet of natural gas. There are about 350 active wells at those fields, many of which are used currently for natural gas but were designed for oil and gas production and constructed prior to 1970. The massive natural gas leak at Aliso Canyon shined a light on California’s aging natural gas infrastructure. And five years of extreme drought also exacted its toll on transmission pipelines.

  • Hybrid structures combining concrete and wood increasingly popular

    Houses can be made of wood, as they were in the past – or of concrete, as they are today. To build for tomorrow, the two building methods are being combined: these hybrid structures, which contain both wood and concrete elements, are becoming increasingly popular in contemporary architecture. The building material offers the construction industry new possibilities and is based in large part on renewable resources.

  • Safe water for slum dwellers

    Attempts to deliver safe water to people living in some of the world’s poorest slums are falling at the final hurdle, according to experts. Sewage-contaminated drinking water causes serious illness such as diarrhea and other gastrointestinal and stomach problems – putting millions of lives at considerable risk each year. Globally, there are 1.7 billion cases of diarrhea annually resulting in over 0.5 million deaths of children under five years old. New research has shown that despite good progress, millions of slum dwellers are still exposed to considerable risk because water supplies are being contaminated by human waste just meters from the family home.

  • Could a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire happen in the U.S.?

    The Grenfell Tower fire in London has triggered questions about how the tragedy could have happened, whether it could happen elsewhere, and what might be learned from it to prevent future disasters. The Grenfell Tower fire spread much faster and more intensely than anyone expected. From what we know so far, there are physical, cultural and legal reasons dozens of people died. Addressing each of them will help British authorities, and fire protection and fire prevention professionals around the world, improve their efforts to reduce the chance of future tragedies like the one at Grenfell Tower.

  • New bracing for durable structures in earthquake-prone regions

    Across the world, severe earthquakes regularly shake entire regions. More than two billion people live in danger zones – many of them in structures not built to withstand an earthquake. Together with partners from industry, researchers are developing building materials designed to prevent buildings from collapsing in a natural disaster.