Electrical systems company Thales, state-owned electric utility EDF and oil major Total were among the eight French signatories of a manifesto for an artificial intelligence (AI) industry launched on July 3 at the Ministry of the Economy and Finance. The manifesto was intended to promote research and development resources to make AI a source of growth and jobs across industrial sectors within an ethical framework. With that commitment in mind, the fossil fuel companies and Thales have announced the opening of an AI industrial research laboratory. The work to be carried out at the EDF Lab Paris-Saclay research and training center will focus on "AI technologies adapted to the needs of critical industrial systems", namely, vulnerable systems where malfunctions could have serious consequences. Among such systems, EDF cited aeronautical applications and energy production facilities.
Most people only think about the systems that power their cities when something goes wrong. Unfortunately, many people in the San Francisco Bay Area had a lot to think about recently when their utility company began scheduled power outages in an attempt to prevent wildfires. The decision came after devastating fires last year were found to be the result of faulty equipment, including transformers. Transformers are the links between power plants, power transmission lines, and distribution networks. If something goes wrong with a transformer, entire power plants can go dark.
China's best known AI companies are Sensetime, Megvii, Cloudwalk, Yitu, ByteDance, and the BAT companies -- China's first generation of internet giant: Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. But there's another giant of artificial intelligence that is rarely discussed in the same breath as the companies mentioned above. The state-owned electric utility monopoly State Grid Corporation of China (hereafter State Grid) is the largest utility company in the world, ranking second on the 2018 Fortune Global 500 List. Less celebrated is that State Grid was the only Chinese company ranked in the top 20 in artificial intelligence (AI) patent applicants, per the World Intellectual Property Organization. In an article (in Chinese) published last year titled "State Grid Corporation of China: A hidden giant in AI," Lǐ Shāng 李熵 gives a portrait of a company whose AI initiatives could change the world.
After Hurricane Irma tore through South Florida in 2017 and cut power to more than six million people, it took 10 days for Florida Power & Light --the state's largest electrical utility--to get the lights back on. That was a big improvement from 2005, when recovery from Hurricane Wilma took 18 days. Investments in technology paid off. Now, FPL is looking to reduce recovery time further, by harnessing artificial intelligence, sensors and drones to better pinpoint outages and decide how best to fix them. "After a storm, we want data," says Michael Putt, the company's smart grid and innovation director.
Japanese authorities are introducing a variety of measures to prevent the wrongful use of drones, which has been increasing due to many people being unfamiliar with regulations, especially tourists from abroad. Under the civil aeronautics law, a drone of 200 grams or more cannot be operated in airspace around airports or residential areas without permission from the government. In addition, the law regulating the use of drones bans flights in airspace near designated important places such as the Prime Minister's Office, the Imperial Palace and nuclear power plants. Foreign tourists and others unfamiliar with the laws continue to violate them. In 2019, 14 foreign nationals had their cases sent to prosecutors, as of Nov. 20.
A plan to remove fuel debris from the primary containment vessel of a reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is expected to be further pushed back after it became apparent that Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Ltd. will not be able to conduct an internal probe -- a key step to start removing the fuel debris -- by the end of March as planned. The internal probe would involve using remote-controlled robots to collect fuel debris inside the No. 1 reactor so Tepco can examine its composition and form. Tepco's plan is to open three holes in both the outer and inner doors of the primary containment vessel using pressurized water mixed with a polishing agent. After it succeeded in opening three holes in the outer door, Tepco started drilling a hole in the inner door in June 2019. But that procedure caused the concentration of radioactive dust to increase temporarily, prompting staff to suspend work.
The drone attack claimed by Yemeni rebels on key Saudi Arabian oil refineries that took place on September 14, 2019 has brought the powerful technology back into the news. Unfortunately, the strikes that disrupted roughly 5% of the world's oil supply has also contributed more ammunition to the overarching negative connotations the word "drone" conjures. "Drone" is a very broad term. Colloquially, drones are usually thought of as remote-piloted flying devices used by militaries for surveillance and offensive tactics or by civilians for recreational or business purposes. Merriam-Webster defines it as "an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control or onboard computers."
Wildlife is flourishing in the exclusion zone around the disabled Fukushima Daichii nuclear reactor in Japan, images from remotely-operated cameras have revealed. Researchers spotted more than 20 species in areas around the reactor, including wild boar, macaques and fox-like raccoon dogs. The findings help reveal how wildlife populations respond in the wake of catastrophic nuclear disaster like those that occurred at Fukushima and Chernobyl. Humans were evacuated from certain zones around the the Fukushima reactor following radiation leaks caused by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Wildlife ecologist James Beasley of the University of Georgia, in the US, and colleagues used a network of 106 remote cameras to capture images of the wildlife in the area around the Fukushima Daiichi power plant over a four-month period.
It had already been an eventful day in Iran: The country had just launched missiles at United States forces based in Iraq and an airliner carrying at least 176 people crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran on Wednesday, killing everyone on board. Then just before dawn, a 4.5-magnitude earthquake struck southern Iran at a depth of about six miles, the United States Geological Survey reported, in the same region as the troubled Bushehr nuclear power plant. It struck just as Iranian leaders were trumpeting their strike on two Iraqi bases housing United States forces, in retaliation for last week's American drone strike that killed Maj. No casualties were immediately reported, but rescue teams were working at the site, Jahangir Dehqani, managing director of the Bushehr crisis management agency, told the state-run IRNA news agency. The quake was reported about 30 miles from the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant.