'Nuclear Power's Reliability is Dropping as Extreme Weather Increases'

A comprehensive new analysis published in Nature "calculates that the frequency of climate-related nuclear plant outages is almost eight times higher than it was in the 1990s," reports Ars Technica. "The analysis also estimates that the global nuclear fleet will lose up to 1.4 percent — about 36 TWh — of its energy production in the next 40 years and up to 2.4 percent, or 61 TWh, by 2081-2100." The author analyzed publicly available databases from the International Atomic Energy Agency to identify all climate-linked shutdowns (partial and complete) of the world's 408 operational reactors. Unplanned outages are generally very well documented, and available data made it possible to calculate trends in the frequency of outages that were linked to environmental causes over the past 30 years. The author also used more detailed data from the last decade (2010-2019) to provide one of the first analyses of which types of climate events have had the most impact on nuclear power. While the paper doesn't directly link the reported events to climate change, the findings do show an overall increase in the number of outages due to a range of climate events. The two main categories of climate disruptions broke down into thermal disruptions (heat, drought, and wildfire) and storms (including hurricanes, typhoons, lightning, and flooding). In the case of heat and drought, the main problem is the lack of cool-enough water — or in the case of drought, enough water at all — to cool the reactor. However, there were also a number of outages due to ecological responses to warmer weather; for example, larger than usual jellyfish populations have blocked the intake pipes on some reactors. Storms and wildfires, on the other hand, caused a range of problems, including structural damage, precautionary preemptive shutdowns, reduced operations, and employee evacuations. In the timeframe of 2010 to 2019, the leading causes of outages were hurricanes and typhoons in most parts of the world, although heat was still the leading factor in Western Europe (France in particular). While these represented the most frequent causes, the analysis also showed that droughts were the source of the longest disruptions and thus the largest power losses. The author calculated that the average frequency of climate-linked outages went from 0.2 outages per year in the 1990s to 1.5 outages in the timeframe of 2010 to 2019. A retrospective analysis further showed that, for every 1 degree C rise in temperature (above the average temperature between 1951 and 1980), the energy output of the global fleet fell about 0.5 percent. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2021-07-25 03:45:02 preview's
Church Official Exposed Through America's 'Vast and Largely Unregulated Data-Harvesting'

The New York Times' On Tech newsletter shares a thought-provoking story: This week, a top official in the Roman Catholic Church's American hierarchy resigned after a news site said that it had data from his cellphone that appeared to show the administrator using the L.G.B.T.Q. dating app Grindr and regularly going to gay bars. Journalists had access to data on the movements and digital trails of his mobile phone for parts of three years and were able to retrace where he went. I know that people will have complex feelings about this matter. Some of you may believe that it's acceptable to use any means necessary to determine when a public figure is breaking his promises, including when it's a priest who may have broken his vow of celibacy. To me, though, this isn't about one man. This is about a structural failure that allows real-time data on Americans' movements to exist in the first place and to be used without our knowledge or true consent. This case shows the tangible consequences of practices by America's vast and largely unregulated data-harvesting industries. The reality in the United States is that there are few legal or other restrictions to prevent companies from compiling the precise locations of where we roam and selling that information to anyone. This data is in the hands of companies that we deal with daily, like Facebook and Google, and also with information-for-hire middlemen that we never directly interact with. This data is often packaged in bulk and is anonymous in theory, but it can often be traced back to individuals, as the tale of the Catholic official shows... Losing control of our data was not inevitable. It was a choice — or rather a failure over years by individuals, governments and corporations to think through the consequences of the digital age. We can now choose a different path. "Data brokers are the problem," writes the EFF, arguing that the incident "shows once again how easy it is for anyone to take advantage of data brokers' stores to cause real harm." This is not the first time Grindr has been in the spotlight for sharing user information with third-party data brokers... But Grindr is just one of countless apps engaging in this exact kind of data sharing. The real problem is the many data brokers and ad tech companies that amass and sell this sensitive data without anything resembling real users' consent. Apps and data brokers claim they are only sharing so-called "anonymized" data. But that's simply not possible. Data brokers sell rich profiles with more than enough information to link sensitive data to real people, even if the brokers don't include a legal name. In particular, there's no such thing as "anonymous" location data. Data points like one's home or workplace are identifiers themselves, and a malicious observer can connect movements to these and other destinations. Another piece of the puzzle is the ad ID, another so-called "anonymous" label that identifies a device. Apps share ad IDs with third parties, and an entire industry of "identity resolution" companies can readily link ad IDs to real people at scale. All of this underlines just how harmful a collection of mundane-seeming data points can become in the wrong hands... That's why the U.S. needs comprehensive data privacy regulation more than ever. This kind of abuse is not inevitable, and it must not become the norm. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2021-07-24 18:45:02 preview's
China Compromised More than a Dozen US Pipelines Between 2011 and 2013

"Hackers working for the Chinese government compromised more than a dozen U.S. pipeline operators nearly a decade ago, the Biden administration revealed Tuesday while also issuing first-of-its-kind cybersecurity requirements on the pipeline industry," reports the Wall Street Journal. The disclosure of previously classified information about the aggressive Chinese hacking campaign, though dated, underscored the severity of foreign cyber threats to the nation's infrastructure, current and former officials said. In some cases, the hackers possessed the ability to physically damage or disrupt compromised pipelines, a new cybersecurity alert said, though it doesn't appear they did so. Previously, senior administration officials had warned that China, Russia and others were capable of such cyber intrusions. But rarely has so much information been released about a specific and apparently successful campaign. Chinese state-sponsored hackers between 2011 and 2013 had targeted nearly two dozen U.S. oil and natural gas pipeline operators with the specific goal of "holding U.S. pipeline infrastructure at risk," the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security said in Tuesday's joint alert. Of the known targets, 13 were successfully compromised and an additional eight suffered an "unknown depth of intrusion," which officials couldn't fully assess because the victims lacked complete computer log data, the alert said. Another three targets were described as "near misses" of the Chinese campaign, which relied heavily on spear phishing attacks. Newsweek adds that the same day the U.S. Department of Homeland Security "announced new requirements for U.S. pipeline operators to bolster cybersecurity following a May ransomware attack that disrupted gas delivery across the East Coast." In a statement, DHS said it would require operators of federally designated critical pipelines to implement "specific mitigation measures" to prevent ransomware attacks and other cyber intrusions. Operators must also implement contingency plans and conduct what the department calls a "cybersecurity architecture design review." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2021-07-24 15:45:01 preview's
Repairable, Modular Framework Laptop Begins Shipping

"Are you old enough to remember when laptops had removable batteries?" asks CNET. "Frustrated by mainstream laptops with memory soldered to the motherboard and therefore not upgradable?" "The 13.5-inch Framework Laptop taps into that nostalgia, addressing one of the biggest drawbacks in modern laptops as part of the right-to-repair movement. It was designed from the ground up to be as customizable, upgradable and repairable as technologically possible... and boy does it deliver." It features four expansion card slots, slide-in modules that snap into USB-C connectors, socketed storage and RAM, a replaceable mainboard module with fixed CPU and fan, battery, screen, keyboard and more. It's a design that makes the parts easy to access, all while delivering solid performance at competitive prices and without sacrificing aesthetics. The laptop's in preorder now for the U.S. and Canada, slated to ship in small batches depending upon the configuration. Core i7-based systems are expected to go out in August, while Core i5 systems won't be available until September. Prices for the Framework Laptop start at $999 for the prefab Core i5-1135G7 model with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD, $1,399 for the Core i7-1165G7 Performance model with 16GB RAM and 512GB storage or a vPro Core i7-1185G7 Professional model with 32GB RAM and 1TB storage. Framework expects to expand into new regions by the end of the year; $999 converts to roughly £730 or AU$1,360... The DIY model adds Linux to the list of operating systems you can install, and doesn't restrict Windows Pro to the vPro model... With the Framework, in addition to the ports you can swap out the mainboard, touchpad, keyboard, speakers, battery... anything you can think of. Don't feel like doing it yourself? Framework is publishing all the information necessary for a repair shop or IT department to not just swap parts, but to perform repairs... Nothing is buried under other parts, so everything's easy to get to. Each Framework part has a QR code and short URL to take you to all the info you'll need about it and the labels on the standard parts (memory and SSD) are easy to read. Or, as Engadget puts it, the laptop is "designed, from the get-go, to be modular and repairable by every one of its users." Created by Nirav Patel, formerly of Oculus, the machine aims to demonstrate that there is a better, more sustainable way of doing things. It shouldn't be that, if your tech fails, you either have to buy a new model, or let the manufacturer's in-house repair teams charge $700 for a job that should've cost $50 . After all, if we're going to survive climate change, we need to treat our tech more sustainably and keep as much as possible out of the landfill... The Framework laptop is equipped with a 1080p, 60fps webcam with an 80-degree field of view, and it's one of the best built-in webcams I've seen. PCWorld calls it "the ultimate Right to Repair laptop." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2021-07-24 11:45:02