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Risks and Rewards in the Nuclear Age (Part 1): Can Science Save America’s Nuclear Industry?

Risks and Rewards in the Nuclear Age (Part 1): Can Science Save America’s Nuclear Industry?

It’s the carbon-free fuel that powers steam turbines on the electrical grid and helps doctors detect tumor cells. But technological challenges and national security threats have scientists working overtime to keep nuclear energy safe and reliable. By David Hunt From Diablo Canyon on the central California coast to Turkey Point on the southeast tip of Florida, the United States is home to 99 nuclear power reactors at 62 nuclear plants generating roughly 20 percent of the nation’s electrical energy. But in an industry beset by disruptive technologies and intense competitive pressures, the future of nuclear energy in the U.S. is anything but certain. In a status report published last fall, the Nuclear Energy Institute—the industry’s foremost lobbying organization—painted a grim picture, pointing to a “perfect storm” of economic, regulatory and market forces threatening to swamp nuclear operators under a tide of red ink. Renewables such as wind and solar are gaining market share while a flood of low-cost natural gas extracted from shale is driving down energy prices. At...

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Risks and Rewards in the Nuclear Age (Part 2): Data Detectives Track Down Stray Nukes

Risks and Rewards in the Nuclear Age (Part 2): Data Detectives Track Down Stray Nukes

By Brent Winter First data point: A contractor places an order for lumber, dry wall, wiring, cement, paint — all the materials you would need to build an unremarkable warehouse. Second data point: A thousand miles away, a shipment of magnetic high-speed bearings is stolen from a freight truck. Third data point: An oil-exploration company discovers that one of the radiological sources it uses in sensors that gather geological data from boreholes has gone missing. Fourth data point: Mobile radiation detectors in a midsize city find traces of radiation higher than the normal background radiation would account for. Then a data analyst uses a computer in a secure facility, as well as some highly sophisticated data-analysis techniques, to connect these four dots as signs of illegal nuclear proliferation activities. In short, somebody’s probably trying to build a dirty bomb — but now we’re onto them. That kind of early detection is the goal of the Consortium for Nonproliferation Enabling Capabilities, a partnership funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration...

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Research Revolution Aims to Avert Food Crisis

Research Revolution Aims to Avert Food Crisis

The North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative launches a bold, innovative effort to face down emerging threats to the world’s food security. By Dee Shore To satisfy the needs of a global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, experts predict farmers must produce 70 percent more food and fiber than they do today. Such a jump in production, some say, requires nothing short of a revolution in agricultural sciences. Farmers need new, science-based technology and practices that lead to higher yields on less land, using less water, while safeguarding the environment. The North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative at NC State is quickly positioning itself to be a leader of that revolution. Through the initiative, university researchers, teachers and extension specialists are coming together with farmers and other agribusiness and biosciences professionals to find ways to make North Carolina an international hub for plant sciences innovation. “The initiative is reformulating everything we do at the university that touches plants,” says Steve Lommel, associate dean in the College of Agriculture...

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Strengthening Startups to Ensure Success

Strengthening Startups to Ensure Success

NC State spurs entrepreneurship by helping startups attract funding for ideas with the best commercialization potential. By Brent Winter Launching and running a startup company requires expertise in a dizzying range of areas: marketing, business law, accounting, computer networking, human resources, operations and sales, to name a few. No wonder every entrepreneur hits a seemingly insurmountable wall at some point — usually quite early in the undertaking. It’s to be expected considering the complexity of transforming an innovative idea into a prosperous business enterprise. And if you already have a day job — say you’re a university faculty member with research and classroom responsibilities — then that wall may seem especially high. Breaking down the barriers to business innovation has become a specialty at NC State’s Office of Technology Commercialization and New Ventures, which just completed its most successful year ever. OTCNV collaborated with NC State faculty to launch 12 startup companies, execute 164 commercialization agreements, issue 65 patents and generate $3.8 million in licensing revenue in 2016. How...

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Tracing the Dream

Tracing the Dream

A newly discovered recording of Martin Luther King Jr. puts an NC small town front and center in the civil rights movement.

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From Novelty to Advanced Research

From Novelty to Advanced Research

At Makerspace on the fourth floor of NC State’s Hunt Library, advanced printing, scanning and cutting technologies are readily accessible to any member of the campus community.

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