Tagged: storage

U.S. protocol for tracking hazardous chemicals is flawed


Fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas

A 27-year-old U.S. program intended to warn the public of the presence of hazardous chemicals is flawed in many states due to scant oversight and lax reporting by plant owners, a Reuters examination finds.

Under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, private and public facilities must issue an inventory listing potentially hazardous chemicals stored on their properties. The inventory, known as a Tier II report, is filed with state, county and local emergency-management officials. The information is then supposed to be made publicly available, to help first responders and nearby residents plan for emergencies.

But facilities across the country often misidentify these chemicals or their location, and sometimes fail to report the existence of the substances altogether.

And except for a handful of states, neither federal nor local authorities are auditing the reports for errors.

Reuters identified dozens of errors in Tier II reports in recent years and found several facilities that failed to report altogether.

Two states – Illinois and Wisconsin – introduced errors into the public databases through which they disclose information from Tier II reports. The reports document the presence of hazardous chemicals, such as ammonium nitrate, lead, sulfuric acid and diesel fuel…

In June, homes and businesses in Seward, Illinois, were evacuated for a day after a fire and explosion at Nova-Kem LLC injured one employee and released a plume of smoke containing caustic and toxic chemicals, including chlorine gas. The company, which makes compounds used in high-tech applications, did not report storing hazardous chemicals, according to Dennis Lolli, coordinator of the Winnebago County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency.

No firefighters were injured. But for emergency teams, knowing what chemicals they are facing is critical, Lolli said. “I don’t know why they didn’t” file the reports, he said. “It certainly takes away an advantage.”

Representatives of Nova-Kem didn’t respond to requests for comment.

There are hundreds of thousands of sites nationwide required to report hazardous chemical inventories under the Tier II system. Some 500,000 chemicals are subject to the requirement…

…Errors and omissions can go unnoticed for years because the federal regulator that oversees the Tier II system—the EPA—and most state agencies make no effort to verify the data.

RTFA for lots of anecdotal case histories, event after event of wrong information, no information, endangering first responders and the communities concerned.

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Toyota recycles old hybrid batteries into energy-storage systems


Cripes. The sexy lines of the Prius Gen 1.

How’s this for a “willing buyer”? Toyota is going to recycle nickel-metal hydride batteries from old hybrids into energy management systems and will then sell those systems to Toyota dealerships in Japan.

Starting in April, the company’s Toyota Turbine and Systems will sell an Electricity Management system to dealers as part of its effort to get those dealers to cut energy consumption costs. Toyota is also getting its distributors to move towards solar power, LED lighting and other tree-hugging energy policies.

The recycled-battery systems can story up to 10 kilowatt hours (kWh) of power…The systems can be used for backup power and can cut costs by, for instance, being deployed as a primary energy source during peak usage and pricing hours of energy consumption.

By the way, those systems weigh about 2,100 pounds each (not all that much lighter than the early Prius models, actually), and are small enough that about six of them can fit into a typical parking space.

I love easy-as-pie solutions for repurposing items like used batteries from hybrids. We still bump into ivory tower undergraduate analysis from folks who believe solutions to recycling problems stop with production of the original product. No one is ever going to support a new remedy – it’s all wasted investment.

Really?

New Jersey railway warned about superstorm Sandy – parked their trains in a known flood zone – WTF?

New Jersey Transit’s struggle to recover from Superstorm Sandy is being compounded by a pre-storm decision to park much of its equipment in two rail yards that forecasters predicted would flood, a move that resulted in damage to one-third of its locomotives and a quarter of its passenger cars.

That damage is likely to cost tens of millions of dollars and take many months to repair, a Reuters examination has found.

The Garden State’s commuter railway parked critical equipment – including much of its newest and most expensive stock – at its low-lying main rail yard in Kearny just before the hurricane. It did so even though forecasters had released maps showing the wetland-surrounded area likely would be under water when Sandy’s expected record storm surge hit. Other equipment was parked at its Hoboken terminal and rail yard, where flooding also was predicted and which has flooded before.

Among the damaged equipment: nine dual-powered locomotive engines and 84 multi-level rail cars purchased over the past six years at a cost of about $385 million.

“If there’s a predicted 13-foot or 10-foot storm surge, you don’t leave your equipment in a low-lying area,” said David Schanoes, a railroad consultant and former deputy chief of field operations for Metro North Railroad, a sister railway serving New York State. “It’s just basic railroading. You don’t leave your equipment where it can be damaged.”

RTFA. It’s long, detailed, some of it would be funny except that it all ends up with taxpayers funding the grants and loans that will be need to restore this commuter railway to capacity.

Like any public/political entity,there will be hearings and investigations, fingerpointing and rationales. Maybe someone will thrown under the bus. Maybe not. But, it’s going to take a great of money and time to get back to business – and I’d suggest damned few of current management should be allowed to screw around with either the repairs or the functioning railway.

Hitachi develops incorruptible quartz glass-based data storage

Back when compact discs were first coming out, they were touted as being able to store data “forever.” As it turns out, given no more than a decade or so, they can and do degrade.,,Hitachi has unveiled a system that really may allow data to last forever – or at least, for several hundred million years. It involves forming microscopic dots within a piece of quartz glass, those dots serving as binary code.

The idea is that eons after the dots are applied to the glass, a person (or whatever’s around then) should be able to easily read them using nothing more than an optical microscope – no medium-specific device, such as a CD player, will be necessary. Hopefully, the concept of binary code will still be understood.

The current prototype measures two centimeters (0.8 inches) square by two millimeters thick, and incorporates four layers of dots. It currently has a memory capacity of 40 megabytes per square inch, which is roughly equivalent to that of a music CD. The researchers believe, however, that adding more layers to boost its capacity should be doable.

The glass square has withstood exposure to high-temperature flames along with various harsh chemicals, and survived being heated to 1,000º C for two hours. Not surprisingly, it is also unaffected by radio waves or immersion in water. Of course, glass is breakable, although quartz is known for being particularly hard…

Human beings aren’t especially good at long-term conceptualizing. Wall Street types think it’s a big deal to understand the value of information beyond 3 months. Most politicians think in terms of a year or two. The spookier types who prattle about Methuselah and Noah walk around with all their knowledge stuck into a paper volume assembled by a committee only 7 centuries ago – and first editions are stuck in museums.

Having original and basic knowledge recorded and accessible for millenia makes all the sense in the world. Aiding future historians with insight into the dimness of our earlier visions, records.

New material claimed to store more energy and cost less money than batteries

Researchers from the National University of Singapore’s Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative (NUSNNI) have created what they claim is the world’s first energy-storage membrane. Not only is the material soft and foldable, but it doesn’t incorporate liquid electrolytes that can spill out if it’s damaged, it’s more cost-effective than capacitors or traditional batteries, and it’s reportedly capable of storing more energy.

The membrane is made from a polystyrene-based polymer, which is sandwiched between two metal plates. When charged by those plates, it can store the energy at a rate of 2 farads per square centimeter – standard capacitors, by contrast, can typically only manage an upper limit of 1 microfarad per square centimeter.

Due in part to the membrane’s low fabrication costs, the cost of storing energy in it reportedly works out to 72 cents per farad. According to the researchers, the cost for standard liquid electrolyte-based batteries is more like $7 per farad. This in turn translates to an energy cost of 2.5 watt-hours per dollar for lithium-ion batteries, whereas the membrane comes in at 10-20 watt-hours per dollar.

No details, yet. But, the quest fits into the range of energy and cost saving topics near and dear to us all – so, I’m posting this brief note from the UK.

Keep your eyes open for more on this from Dr. Xie Xian Ning in Singapore. He calls this a supercapacitor.

US wants to store your international travel data for 15 years

The personal data of millions of passengers who fly between the US and Europe, including credit card details, phone numbers and home addresses, may be stored by the US department of homeland security for 15 years, according to a draft agreement between Washington and Brussels leaked to the Guardian.

The “restricted” draft, which emerged from negotiations between the US and EU, opens the way for passenger data provided to airlines on check-in to be analysed by US automated data-mining and profiling programmes in the name of fighting terrorism, crime and illegal migration. The Americans want to require airlines to supply passenger lists as near complete as possible 96 hours before takeoff, so names can be checked against terrorist and immigration watchlists.

The agreement acknowledges that there will be occasions when people are delayed or prevented from flying because they are wrongly identified as a threat, and gives them the right to petition for judicial review in the US federal court. Well, isn’t that special?

The 15-year retention period is likely to prove highly controversial as it is three times the five years allowed for in the EU’s PNR (passenger name record) regime to cover flights into, out of and within Europe. A period of five and a half years has just been negotiated in a similar agreement with Australia. Germany and France raised concerns this week about the agreement and the unproven necessity for the measure.

Britain has already announced its intention to opt in to the European PNR plan, in which the home secretary, Theresa May, played a key role, and is expected to join the US agreement this summer…

The US Senate passed a resolution last week saying it “simply could not accept” any watering down by European ministers of data-sharing, describing it as “an important part of our layered defences against terrorism”. Senators said it was an important tool in the security agencies’ “identifying possible threats before they arrive in our country”.

But the European parliament, which would have to approve it, has demanded proof that such a PNR agreement is necessary, and said it should in no circumstances be used for data-mining or profiling…

This draft agreement appears to give the Americans all they have asked for

The data to be collected includes 19 separate items relating to each airline passenger, including their billing details, contact numbers, the names of those they are travelling with and how much baggage they have, as well their itinerary.

Well, we certainly are assured our government cares enough about our safety and security that they are willing to keep an eye on us for years and years. I feel safer, now. Don’t you?

Tokyo Electric Power company admits missing safety checks

The power plant at the centre of the biggest civilian nuclear crisis in Japan’s history contained far more spent fuel rods than it was designed to store, while its technicians repeatedly failed to carry out mandatory safety checks, according to documents from the reactor’s operator…

According to documents from Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the company repeatedly missed safety checks over a 10-year period up to two weeks before the 11 March disaster, and allowed uranium fuel rods to pile up inside the 40-year-old facility…

The revelations will add to pressure on Tepco to explain why, under its cost-cutting chief executive Masataka Shimizu, it opted to save money by storing the spent fuel on site rather than invest in safer storage options.

The firm already faces scrutiny over why it waited so long to pump seawater into the stricken reactors and, according to a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper last week, turned down US offers of help to cool the reactors shortly after the disaster.

Critics of Japan’s nuclear power programme say the industry’s patchy safety record and close ties to regulating authorities will have to change if it is to regain public trust…

One month before the tsunami, government regulators approved a Tepco request to prolong the life of one of its six reactors by another decade, despite warnings that its backup power generator contained stress cracks, making them more vulnerable to water damage.

Weeks later, Tepco admitted it had failed to inspect 33 pieces of equipment inside the plant’s cooling systems, including water pumps, according to the nuclear safety agency’s website…

When disaster struck earlier this month, the plant contained almost 4,000 uranium fuel assemblies kept in pools of circulating water – the equivalent of more than three times the amount of radioactive material usually kept in the active cores of the plant’s reactors.

And like the First and second-generation nuclear plants in the United States – those uranium fuel rods could have been recycled. Beancounters in charge? You can almost be guaranteed that cost was more important than efficiency – or safety.

Where do you want your ashes to go?

Want to be cremated, but worry that your ashes will just end up sitting in some boring urn?

Fear not! Have a look at these 10 bizarre places that ashes have gone.

1. Into a comic book

When longtime Marvel Comics editor Mark Gruenwald died in 1996, he left an interesting final wish: he wanted to have his ashes mixed into the ink used in one of Marvel’s titles. The company obliged by reprinting a 1985 collection of the Gruenwald-penned Squadron Supreme with the specially prepared ink in 1997. Gruenwald’s widow, Catherine, wrote in the book’s foreword, “He has truly become one with the story.”

2. Into fireworks

Writer Hunter S. Thompson literally went out with a bang. Thompson’s appropriately gonzo 2005 memorial service featured a fireworks show in which each boom and crack dispersed some of the writer’s ashes. Johnny Depp underwrote the fireworks display at a cost of $2 million.

3. Into a Pringles can

The name Fredric Baur may not ring any bells, but you know his most famous creation. In 1966 Baur invented the Pringles can so Procter & Gamble could ship its new chips without using bags.

Baur was so proud of the achievement that he told his children he wanted to be buried in the iconic can. When he died in 2008 at 89, they honored his wishes by placing his ashes in a Pringles can before burying them…

It’s a great list. Though I probably wouldn’t consider this last one:

10. Up Keith Richards’ nose?

In 2007 music mag NME asked Rolling Stones guitarist to name the strangest thing he’d ever snorted. The reporter was probably expecting an odd answer given Richards’ legendary proclivity for partying, but Richards’ response was a jaw-dropper.

Richards told the magazine, “The strangest thing I’ve tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father. He was cremated and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow.”

Har!

Saving the digital genome

In a secret bunker deep in the Swiss Alps, European researchers have deposited a “digital genome” that will provide the blueprint for future generations to read data stored using defunct technology…

The sealed box containing the key to unpick defunct digital formats will be locked away for the next quarter of a century behind a 3-1/2 tonne door strong enough to resist nuclear attack at the data storage facility, known as the Swiss Fort Knox.

“Einstein’s notebooks you can take down off the shelf and read them today. Roll forward 50 years and most of Stephen Hawking’s notes will likely only be stored digitally and we might not be able to access them all,” said the British Library’s Adam Farquhar, one of two computer scientists and archivists entrusted with transferring the capsule.

The capsule is the culmination of the four-year “Planets” project, which draws on the expertise of 16 European libraries, archives and research institutions, to preserve the world’s digital assets as hardware and software is superseded at a blistering pace…

Studies suggest common data storage formats like CDs and DVDs only last 20 years, while digital file formats have a life expectancy of just five to seven years. Hardware even less…

“If we can nail the next 100 years, we figure we will be able to nail the next 100 years as well,” Farquhar said.

I have one computer in my closet that’s 27 years old. It uses a cassette tape drive for storage. Har!

There are kids around who don’t even know about cassette tapes used for music – much less data.