|Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System
The electric power delivery system that carries electricity from large central generators to customers could be severely damaged by a small number of well-informed attackers. The system is inherently vulnerable because transmission lines may span hundreds of miles, and many key facilities are unguarded. This vulnerability is exacerbated by the fact that the power grid, most of which was originally designed to meet the needs of individual vertically integrated utilities, is being used to move power between regions to support the needs of competitive markets for power generation. Primarily because of ambiguities introduced as a result of recent restricting the of the industry and cost pressures from consumers and regulators, investment to strengthen and upgrade the grid has lagged, with the result that many parts of the bulk high-voltage system are heavily stressed.
Electric systems are not designed to withstand or quickly recover from damage inflicted simultaneously on multiple components. Such an attack could be carried out by knowledgeable attackers with little risk of detection or interdiction. Further well-planned and coordinated attacks by terrorists could leave the electric power system in a large region of the country at least partially disabled for a very long time. Although there are many examples of terrorist and military attacks on power systems elsewhere in the world, at the time of this study international terrorists have shown limited interest in attacking the U.S. power grid. However, that should not be a basis for complacency. Because all parts of the economy, as well as human health and welfare, depend on electricity, the results could be devastating.
Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System focuses on measures that could make the power delivery system less vulnerable to attacks, restore power faster after an attack, and make critical services less vulnerable while the delivery of conventional electric power has been disrupted.
|Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States
Biofuels made from algae are gaining attention as a domestic source of renewable fuel. However, with current technologies, scaling up production of algal biofuels to meet even 5 percent of U.S. transportation fuel needs could create unsustainable demands for energy, water, and nutrient resources. Continued research and development could yield innovations to address these challenges, but determining if algal biofuel is a viable fuel alternative will involve comparing the environmental, economic and social impacts of algal biofuel production and use to those associated with petroleum-based fuels and other fuel sources. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels was produced at the request of the U.S. Department of Energy.
|Optics and PhotonicsEssential Technologies for Our Nation
Optics and photonics technologies are ubiquitous: they are responsible for the displays on smart phones and computing devices, optical fiber that carries the information in the internet, advanced precision manufacturing, enhanced defense capabilities, and a plethora of medical diagnostics tools. The opportunities arising from optics and photonics offer the potential for even greater societal impact in the next few decades, including solar power generation and new efficient lighting that could transform the nation's energy landscape and new optical capabilities that will be essential to support the continued exponential growth of the Internet.
As described in the National Research Council report Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for our Nation, it is critical for the United States to take advantage of these emerging optical technologies for creating new industries and generating job growth. The report assesses the current state of optical science and engineering in the United States and abroad--including market trends, workforce needs, and the impact of photonics on the national economy. It identifies the technological opportunities that have arisen from recent advances in, and applications of, optical science and engineering. The report also calls for improved management of U.S. public and private research and development resources, emphasizing the need for public policy that encourages adoption of a portfolio approach to investing in the wide and diverse opportunities now available within photonics.
Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for our Nation is a useful overview not only for policymakers, such as decision-makers at relevant Federal agencies on the current state of optics and photonics research and applications but also for individuals seeking a broad understanding of the fields of optics and photonics in many arenas.
|Interim Report—Status of the Study "An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy"
The scientific and technological progress in inertial confinement fusion has been substantial during the past decade. However, many of the technologies needed for an integrated inertial fusion energy system are still at an early stage of technological maturity. For all approaches to inertial fusion energy there remain critical scientific and engineering challenges.
In this interim report of the study An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy, the Committee on the Prospects for Inertial Confinement Fusion Energy Systems outlines their preliminary conclusions and recommendations of the feasibility of inertial fusion energy. The committee also describes its anticipated next steps as it prepares its final report.
|Effective Tracking of Building Energy UseImproving the Commercial Buildings and Residential Energy Consumption Surveys
The United States is responsible for nearly one-fifth of the world's energy consumption. Population growth, and the associated growth in housing, commercial floor space, transportation, goods, and services is expected to cause a 0.7 percent annual increase in energy demand for the foreseeable future. The energy used by the commercial and residential sectors represents approximately 40 percent of the nation's total energy consumption, and the share of these two sectors is expected to increase in the future.
The Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) and Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) are two major surveys conducted by the Energy Information Administration. The surveys are the most relevant sources of data available to researchers and policy makers on energy consumption in the commercial and residential sectors. Many of the design decisions and operational procedures for the CBECS and RECS were developed in the 1970s and 1980s, and resource limitations during much of the time since then have prevented EIA from making significant changes to the data collections. Effective Tracking of Building Energy Use makes recommendations for redesigning the surveys based on a review of evolving data user needs and an assessment of new developments in relevant survey methods.
|TRB Special Report 308: The Safety Challenge and Promise of Automotive ElectronicsInsights from Unintended Acceleration
TRB Special Report 308: The Safety Challenge and Promise of Automotive Electronics: Insights from Unintended Acceleration examines how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) regulatory, research, and defect investigation programs can be strengthened to meet the safety assurance and oversight challenges arising from the expanding functionality and use of automotive electronics. The report gives particular attention to NHTSA's response to consumer complaints of vehicles accelerating unintentionally and to concerns that faulty electronic systems may have been to blame.
The committee that produced the report found that the increasingly capable and complex electronics systems being added to automobiles present many opportunities for making driving safer but also present new demands for ensuring their safe performance. These safety assurance demands pertain both to the automotive industry's development and deployment of electronics systems and to NHTSA's safety oversight role. With regard to the latter, the committee recommends that NHTSA give explicit consideration to the oversight challenges arising from automotive electronics and that the agency develop and articulate a long-term strategy for meeting these challenges.