Leading the News
House Subcommittee Advances Bill To Expedite Yucca Mountain Licensing.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal (6/15, Martin) reports legislation that would “expedite the licensing and development of Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in Nevada” was approved by the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on environment Thursday, “clearing the first hurdle for legislation expected to be taken up in the House this year.” The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act was approved on a “voice vote” and “the bill now goes to the full committee for approval.” The Hill (6/15, Henry) reports Rep. John Shimkus said, “Nuclear waste management policy is not a partisan issue and there is an urgent need for Congress to address this challenge as taxpayer liability continues to skyrocket due to the federal government’s unfulfilled obligations.”
Platts (6/15) reports Democrats on the subcommittee “opposed provisions” in the bill that linked “interim storage of utility spent fuel to the US Department of Energy’s repository program and that eliminate Nevada’s authority over water rights for that disposal facility,” but “vowed to work with Chairman John Shimkus, Republican-Illinois, on compromise language.” Three California Democrats “offered amendments, which had strong support among the panel’s Democrats, that they later withdrew on grounds that they would continue to work with Shimkus on compromise language that could be incorporated into the bill before the full committee considers it.”
KSNV-TV Las Vegas (6/15, Fiegener, Clemons) reported on its website that “several Nevada lawmakers issued statements about their disdain for the move to restart talks about Yucca Mountain.” Nevada Rep. Dina Titus, who isn’t on the committee, “went as far as to pass out maps of the 329 districts that nuclear waste would travel through to get to Yucca Mountain in an effort to secure future votes against the nuclear repository.” According to KSNV, Shimkus and Energy Secretary Rick Perry “are the major drivers for Republicans pushing for the restart the federal licensing process for Yucca.” The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (6/15, Adragna) previewed the bill yesterday morning.
Education Trust Report Describes College Barriers Facing Men Of Color.
Politico Morning Education (6/15) reports education Trust has released a new report describing “the social and economic disadvantages facing young men of color that make them more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to go on to and graduate from college.” The report attributes these obstacles to “institutionalized racism,” saying “that only 76 percent of Latino teens and 67 percent of black teens graduate from high school.”
California Budget Addresses College Affordability But Lacks “Debt-Free” College.
The Los Angeles Times (6/15) reports that despite having earlier this year touted “a bold ‘debt-free college’ plan that sought to eliminate the need for nearly 400,000 students to take out loans to finance their UC and Cal State degrees,” Democrats in the California state legislature are “poised to approve a budget that includes more modest efforts to chip away at the spiraling costs of attending college.” Democrats in the state Assembly “had proposed new scholarships – which would supplement existing aid programs – that would offset the cost of room and board, textbooks and other living expenses that tend to be bigger drivers of college costs than tuition,” but the budget plan “doesn’t put any money toward such grants.”
Research and Development
NASA Holds Technology Day Event On Capitol Hill.
The Hill (6/15, Piro) reports that officials with NASA “came to Capitol Hill on Thursday to highlight work to lawmakers and staffers as the space agency faces the threat of budget cuts and questions about its mission.” NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate public outreach manager Derek Wang said that the program, in its sixth year, “started off small, with private companies presenting technologies they developed using NASA research. The event has gradually grown to include broad areas from aeronautics to human exploration.”
Maryland Plant Produces “Nation’s Most High-Tech Batteries.”
The Baltimore Sun (6/8, Cohn) reports that “while many Americans may not think about how their television or radio programs make it to their home or car, this is the daily burden of engineers and technicians at Saft America, a battery manufacturing and research facility in Cockeysville.” The Sun writes, “Workers there develop some of the nation’s most high-tech batteries for use in satellites, weather balloons, rocket ships, military Humvees, fighter jets and even Formula One race cars.” The article quotes University of Maryland Energy Research Center Director Eric D. Wachsman saying, “They are an amazing company that people in Maryland don’t know about.”
Johns Hopkins Engineers Lead Research Into Slowing Metastasis.
The Baltimore Sun (6/15, Wells) reports a team of researchers led by Hasini Jayatilaka, who earned her doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering this spring from Johns Hopkins, recently “discovered the biochemical mechanism that tells cancer cells to break off from the primary tumor and spread throughout the body, a process called metastasis,” as well as two FDA-approved treatments that can “significantly” slow metastasis. The study, published May 26 in Nature Communications, found that when tumors reach a certain density, they release proteins Interleukin 6 and Interleukin 8 to signal cancer cells to spread throughout the body. The team used “Tocilizumab, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and Reparixin, which is being evaluated for cancer treatment,” to “block the signals from the Interleukin proteins that told the cancer cells to break off and spread, slowing — though not completely stopping — metastasis.”
Energy Department Invests Millions Into Exascale Supercomputing Development.
The Wall Street Journal (6/15, King, Subscription Publication) reports that the Energy Department announced awards worth $258 million to six tech companies as part of a plan to develop new supercomputers ahead of China, the nearest technological competitor. The companies will use the funding to further research into “exascale” systems, which perform on quintillion calculations per second by 2021. The Verge (6/15, Liao) reports that the funding went to HPE, Cray, AMD, Intel, IBM, and Nvidia.
Researchers Reproduce Retinal Disease On A Chip.
EurekAlert (6/14) spotlights work by a joint research team from the Graduate Schools of Engineering and Medicine at Jjapan’s Tohoku University that has “recapitulated a pathological condition of retinal diseases on a chip.” The researchers believe the developed organ-on-a-chip “could be used for disease modeling and drug screening as an alternative to animal models.”
Chinese Satellite Beams Photons From Space To Earth.
The Wall Street Journal (6/15, Chin, Subscription Publication) reports a team of Chinese scientists published an account of an experiment in the journal Science, describing their success in sending specially linked photons from a satellite to establish an instantaneous connection between two stations on Earth more than 1,200 kilometers apart. Experts say this achievement gives the country an advantage in using quantum technology to construct an “unhackable” global communications network. The Journal says the findings represent a significant breakthrough that makes China a pioneer in its efforts to use the enigmatic properties of matter and energy at the subatomic level. The Pentagon, in an annual report last week, called China’s quantum satellite launch in August a “notable advance in cryptography research.” According to the Journal, while the US has focused on quantum computing, Europe and China have focused on quantum encryption, but Chinese researchers are better equipped with government funds. The Los Angeles Times (6/15, Netburn) provides a Q&A-style explanation of entangled photons, the process by which a satellite emitted them, and the implications of the experiment.
GM Expands Fleet Of Autonomous Bolts.
Bloomberg News (6/13, Naughton, Welch) reported General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced Tuesday that the company is expanding its autonomous vehicle fleet of Chevrolet Bolts to 180 vehicles, having assembled 130 of the cars with autonomous sensors and software to complement the 50 autonomous Bolts already being tested in three parts of the country: San Francisco, Detroit, and Scottsdale, Arizona. Speaking from the company’s Orion Township, Michigan assembly plant, Barra said, “We intend for GM to be the leader and not only in development, but the leader in deployment.”
GM is “among the first automakers to mass produce self-driving vehicles,” the AP (6/13) reported, saying that GM plans to eventually “place self-driving Bolts in ride-hailing fleets in major U.S. cities,” though Barra has given no target date for when this might occur.
The Detroit Free Press (6/13) reported Barra said “The level of integration in these vehicles is on par with any of our production vehicles, and that is a great advantage,” because “no other company today has the unique and necessary combination of technology, engineering and manufacturing ability to build autonomous vehicles at scale.”
Digital Trends (6/13, Edelstein) reported “this production run gives GM one of the largest fleets of autonomous cars on the road.” In comparison, Ford “expects to have 90 test cars in service by the end of this year,” and Chrysler is working on “delivering 100 Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo to be outfitted with autonomous tech.”
Engineering and Public Policy
DOE Releases Funding For ARPA-E Projects.
E&E Daily (6/15, Subscription Publication) reports that the Energy Department unfroze fiscal 2016 funds for the ARPA-E program, including $25 million “for nine projects to double data center efficiency.” Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) praised the decision, saying, “I hope that this decision represents a turning point in the Administration’s understanding of the critically important role that ARPA-E plays in our nation’s energy innovation ecosystem.”
The Dallas Morning News (6/15, Benning) reports that the suspension of funding for ARPA-E projects by the Energy Department for the past few months “jammed up at least two Texas projects, including one at Perry’s alma mater, Texas A&M University.” While ARPA-E has had strong support from Congress, Perry’s role as Energy Secretary offers a new “window into the debate” over the program, which the White House’s proposed budget slated for elimination. Forbes (6/15, Tilley) reports that companies receiving funding will “make up at least 40% of the overall project cost, which is expected to reach at least $430 million.”
Electric Vehicles Could Help Cities Reduce Carbon Emissions.
Rice University Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering Daniel Cohan writes for the Houston Chronicle (6/15, Cohan) that Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s departure from President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate agreement reaffirms that the federal government “is no longer leading American efforts to shrink our carbon footprint.” However, Houston is “just one of many local and state governments…aiming to help fill this policy void.” Cohan says electric vehicles is one way cities “can bring about clear-cut reductions in carbon emissions.” Cohan adds that 30 cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston, “are seeking bulk-rate deals on electric vehicles” and have “asked manufacturers to submit bids to supply up to 114,000 electric vehicles, ranging from police cruisers to trash haulers, at a total cost of roughly $10 billion.”
Sandoval Reinstates Key Solar Energy Policy In Nevada.
Reuters (6/15) reports Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval yesterday “signed a bill to reinstate a key rooftop solar policy” bringing “national residential installers Tesla Inc’s solar division and Sunrun Inc back to the state after an 18-month absence.” State legislators last week passed a bill “which requires utilities to purchase excess power generated from rooftop solar panels at near the full retail rate.” Both Sunrun and Tesla “said they would resume sales in Nevada if Sandoval signed the bill.” Sandoval “did so on Thursday during a ceremony held at a Tesla facility in Las Vegas.”
The AP (6/15) reports the state’s “solar industry entered a tailspin in 2015 when state utility regulators began decreasing those credits,” prompting “some generator manufacturing and installation companies to make layoffs and leave the state.” Bloomberg News (6/15, Chediak) reports that in a statement Sandoval said, “This bill restores the rooftop solar industry in Nevada by making sure rooftop solar owners are fairly credited for the clean energy they produce.” The Las Vegas Sun (6/15) also provides coverage of this story.
Tennessee Wind Farm Suspended After State Passes Moratorium.
ClimateWire (6/15, Cusick, Subscription Publication) reports that Apex Clean Energy Inc. suspended the construction of its $100 million Crab Orchard Wind farm in Tennessee due to “economic and market conditions.” The suspension comes several months after the Tennessee General Assembly passed a moratorium on all new wind farm permitting in the state. State officials said the moratorium is only in place so that “experts could study how the industry is regulated in other states.”
Consultant Offers Tips For Teaching Coding In The Classroom.
Educational Consultant Matthew Lynch writes at Education Week (6/15) to offer “teachers some practical suggestions on how to teach coding in a classroom.” His tips include: “do your research”; “your students can handle it”; “you don’t need a 1:1 classroom.”; “don’t be the Lone Ranger”; “learning to code should be fun and engaging”; “don’t just talk it, do it”; “once you take the training wheels off, leave them off”; “remember, kids, learn at different rates”; and “don’t position yourself as an expert.”
Purdue University Offers Cyber Security In Camp.
The AP (6/15) reports “Purdue University Northwest kicked off a program for high school students and teachers Monday on cybersecurity.” The AP says “the program, called GenCyber, is designed to help educators develop curriculum for students to understand correct and safe online behavior, increase diversity and interest in cybersecurity and increase awareness about careers in the cybersecurity workforce.” Instructor Ge Jin, who is a PNW associate professor of computer information technology and graphics, “said many cyber threats affect students and teachers.” He said, “If someone is fishing or sending you an email from something that you don’t recognize, don’t open it. … Today, we play a lot of computer games. It’s important to be careful about cyber attacks. It’s important to have a proper defense mechanism for different cyber attacks. We will be creating five or six different types of attacks as a game and teaching students how to develop defense mechanisms against them.”
Colorado Robotics Team To Compete For World Championship.
The Denver Post (6/15, Whaley) reports on local robotics Team #6929 Data Force, which will be “competing in the upcoming Festival of Champions scheduled [on] July 28 and 29 in New Hampshire.” The Post says that “there, the teens and the Falcon will meet Team Redneck Robotics, made up of students from Fairfield, Great Falls and Sun River Valley in Montana.” The report explains that “about 15,000 K-12 students from 33 countries face off in the annual FIRST robotics championships” where “students design, build and program robots in a matter of weeks to compete in specific challenges.” The Post says “Data Force won the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship in St. Louis in April” while “Rednecks Robotics won the FIRST Tech Challenge in Houston in April.” Meanwhile, “FIRST organizers hope to crown an ultimate world champion when the teams meet at the New Hampshire competition.”
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Interior Department Delaying Compliance Date For Methane Emissions Regulations.
• DeVos Suspends Obama-Era Rules On For-Profit Colleges.
• Clemson Professor Gets NSF Grant To Create Operating System To Defend Against Cyber Attacks.
• Study: Female-Founded Tech Start-Ups Hire More Women.
• Airbnb Executive Discusses Impact Of AI Technology In Home-Sharing.
• Judge Orders Army Corps To Redo Part Of Dakota Access Pipeline Analysis.
• Gubernatorial Candidate Argues Maryland Needs Coding Classes.