• Remotely monitoring nuclear reactors

    A new U.S. Department of Energy project to develop the first detector able to remotely monitor nuclear reactors will also help physicists test the next generation of neutrino observatories. Nuclear reactions produce telltale antineutrinos – the antimatter counterpart of neutrinos. The new detectors will be designed to measure the energy of such antineutrinos and the direction from which they come, allowing monitoring of reactors from a distance of 25 kilometers to verify nonproliferation agreements.

  • Efficient extraction may improve management of nuclear fuel

    After used nuclear fuel is removed from a reactor, it emits heat for decades and remains radioactive for thousands of years. The used fuel is a mixture of major actinides (uranium, plutonium), fission products (mainly assorted metals, including lanthanides) and minor actinides (i.e., americium, curium and neptunium). After the cesium-137 and strontium-90 fission products decay in a few hundred years, the minor actinides and plutonium generate the most heat and radioactivity. Removal of the minor actinides, especially americium, can help nuclear power producers reduce and better manage the waste stream.

  • Water crisis spurring protests in Iran

    A lack of water has been spurring protests in Iran against the regime since the beginning of the year, Reuters reported Thursday. The water crisis have taken place mostly in Isfahan, located in central Iran, and, the Khuzestan province in the west, which is largely inhabited by non-Persian Arabs who call the region Ahwaz.

  • Modeling cyber insurance could protect the power grid

    The failure of even parts of the U.S. power grid could cause rolling blackouts that paralyze health care, traffic and business systems. With the advent of “smart” infrastructures that send data to the internet, cybersecurity is becoming a prime concern of public officials. Researchers are aiming to help utility companies prepare for that risk by making it easier for insurance companies to cover it.

  • In field tests, device harvests water from desert air

    It seems like getting something for nothing, but you really can get drinkable water right out of the driest of desert air. Even in the most arid places on Earth, there is some moisture in the air, and a practical way to extract that moisture could be a key to survival in such bone-dry locations. Now, researchers at MIT have proved that such an extraction system can work.

  • Climate-proofing to meet increased frequency, intensity of extreme weather events

    Man-made climate change has been proven to have increased recent extreme rainfall and associated floods; coastal flooding due to sea-level rise; heatwaves in Australia, China, and Europe; and increased risks of wildfires with implications for humans and animals, the environment, and the economy. Climate proofing can help to limit these impacts.

  • Geoengineering polar glaciers to slow sea-level rise

    Targeted geoengineering to preserve continental ice sheets deserves serious research and investment, argues an international team of researchers. Without intervention, by 2100 most large coastal cities will face sea levels that are more than three feet higher than they are currently.

  • We need laws on geoengineering, and soon

    Humans have been accidentally altering the planet’s climate for thousands of years. Soon, it may be possible alter it intentionally. The deliberate, large-scale manipulation of climate is called geoengineering. The term encompasses a variety of proposals, from pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to reflecting sunlight back into space in an attempt to slow the earth’s warming. Global geoengineering tactics haven’t yet been deployed, but as climate change starts to spin out of control, support for some forms of geoengineering seems to be growing.

  • Large swath of West Texas oil patch is heaving and sinking at alarming rates

    Two giant sinkholes near Wink, Texas, may just be the tip of the iceberg, according to a new study that found alarming rates of new ground movement extending far beyond the infamous sinkholes. Analysis indicates decades of oil production activity have destabilized localities in an area of about 4,000 square miles populated by small towns, roadways and a vast network of oil and gas pipelines and storage tanks.

  • The effects of climate change on California watersheds

    California relies on the Sierra Nevada snowpack for a significant portion of its water needs, yet scientists understand very little about how future changes in snowpack volume and timing will influence surface water and groundwater. Now researchers are developing an advanced hydrologic model to study how climate change might affect California watersheds.

  • How do forensic engineers investigate bridge collapses, like the one in Miami?

    On 15 March, a 950-ton partially assembled pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami suddenly collapsed onto the busy highway below, killing six people and seriously injuring nine. Forensic engineers are taking center stage in the ongoing investigation to find out what happened and why – and, crucially, to learn how to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

  • Sandia transport triathlon puts spent nuclear fuel to the test

    Nuclear power supplies almost 20 percent of U.S. electricity and is the leading carbon-neutral power source. However, it produces between 2,200 and 2,600 tons of spent fuel in the United States each year. Fuel rods become brittle and highly radioactive while powering the nuclear reactor, making safe transportation important. Sandia National Laboratories researchers completed an eight-month, 14,500-mile triathlon-like test to gather data on the bumps and jolts spent nuclear fuel experiences during transportation.

  • Pipe-crawling robot to help decommission DOE nuclear facility

    A pair of autonomous robots developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute will soon be driving through miles of pipes at the U.S. Department of Energy’s former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio, to identify uranium deposits on pipe walls. The CMU robot has demonstrated it can measure radiation levels more accurately from inside the pipe than is possible with external techniques.

  • Senate Intel Committee: Initial election security recommendations for 2018 election cycle

    The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hold an open hearing today, Wednesday, 21 March 2018, on the threats to election infrastructure. The hearing will cover Russian attempted attacks on state election infrastructure in 2016, DHS and FBI efforts to improve election security, and the view from the states on their cybersecurity posture. The committee yesterday made available its initial recommendations on election security after investigating Russian attempts to target election infrastructure during the 2016 U.S. elections.

  • Living sensor may prevent environmental disasters from fuel spills

    The Colonial Pipeline, which carries fuel from Texas to New York, ruptured last fall, dumping a quarter-million gallons of gas in rural Alabama. By the time the leak was detected during routine inspection, vapors from released gasoline were so strong they prevented pipeline repair for days. Now, scientists are developing technology that would alert pipeline managers about leaks as soon as failure begins, avoiding the environmental disasters and fuel distribution disruptions resulting from pipeline leaks.