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Argonne National Laboratory Announces New Center to Address Climate Security

399px-Wind_turbine_at_Argonne_National_LaboratoryThe following is a cross-post of the announcement made by Argonne National Laboratory on April 30, 2014.

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory announced today that it is forming a new research center to enhance resiliency for major disruptive events, such as natural disasters and climate change, called the Center for Integrated Resiliency Analyses (CIRA).

Resiliency refers to the ability of a community or region to anticipate, respond to and recover from either natural or man-made events. Resiliency involves linked contributions from all of the aspects that make up a community—physical infrastructure, socioeconomic elements and environmental factors: hence the integrated focus of the center.

The new center will draw together expertise from across the lab to develop planning tools for local and federal decision makers to reduce vulnerabilities in physical and social infrastructures, as well as develop mitigation and recovery plans that can speed recovery times after events.

It will also focus on developing plans to improve the resiliency of energy infrastructures, especially as more officials begin to plan for effects of climate change on their regions.

“America’s national security has been at the heart of Argonne’s mission from the very beginning,” said Argonne Director Peter Littlewood. “Through our efforts to develop clean energy technologies, to advance nuclear energy, to create advanced materials and to understand climate change, we are working to assure our nation’s energy independence and protect our environment. This new center extends those efforts further, bringing together scientific talent from a wide range of disciplines to help communities assess potential threats to people and to infrastructure, and to develop targeted, effective emergency response plans.”

The new center will be led by Argonne researcher John Hummel, a modeling and simulation expert focusing on national security analyses, such as climate and environmental impacts on national security.

“We want CIRA to become a resource for analysis on the longer-term question of how communities, regions and even countries can strengthen themselves to prepare for both sudden disasters and the extended effects of climate change,” Hummel said.

Argonne is particularly known for building computer-based tools to help officials in charge of complex systems—such as cities or power plants—prepare them for emergencies. Many moving parts make it difficult for emergency responders to move quickly. For example, recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy were hampered because of requirements that only U.S.-registered ships could deliver fuel to U.S. ports. Building tools and plans that tease out all of these moving parts ahead of time can help save lives and reduce a community’s recovery time.

Energy is another key aspect of resiliency. In natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, which frequently knock out power to large swaths of countryside, restoring electricity as soon as possible—or even better, reducing blackouts in the first place—is among first priorities for emergency responders.

The new center will work in concert with the lab’s other resources, including the Infrastructure Assurance Center, which works to improve the country’s physical infrastructure, such as power grids, gas lines and phone networks; the lab’s environmental and climate modeling research; and groups that analyze energy grids and markets and how to make them more stable, efficient and sustainable.

The center was announced at the University of Illinois at Chicago during an event hosted by the Chicago Council on Science & Technology and the American Security Project.

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