New regs for Friday: Dehumidifiers, nuclear power plant computers, climate change

Friday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for dehumidifiers, nuclear power plant computers and a study about climate change. 

Here's what is happening:

Dehumidifiers: The Department of Energy will require manufacturers to test dehumidifiers to see whether they meet existing energy conservation standards. 

The agency is issuing the rule to make sure manufacturers of dehumidifiers that use energy during standby mode or off mode are complying with energy conservation standards.

The rule goes into effect in one month.

Nuclear: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) might consider adopting "logic computers" at nuclear power plants to protect against malware attacks from hackers. 

The NRC is reviewing a petition from an engineer who says his company has developed hacker-blocking technology that would protect the nation's critical infrastructure. The "new-design programmable logic computers" are resistant to hackers who would want to control a nuclear facility. The petition was filed on March 14, 2013, and could lead to new business for the petitioner, Alan Morris, if the commission agrees.

Malware, also known as malicious software, could be used to gain access to private computer systems or gather sensitive information.

Hackers could use malware attacks to take over a computer system, but Morris says logic computers would have "non-rewriteable memories" to prevent hackers from rewriting the codes. He suggests it be installed in the control systems of nuclear power plants to prevent such attacks.

Morris also asked the commission to require that the staffs at nuclear power plants be trained to handle the technology.

The NRC said Thursday it is reviewing the petition.

Climate change: The Obama administration plans to conduct an interagency special report about how climate change impacts human health in the United States. 

This comes as part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan. The Interagency Crosscutting Group on Climate Change and Human Health and the Interagency National Climate Assessment Working Group have initiated the study. They will be joined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency. These groups have asked the public to comments and scientific information during March to inform the study.

The study will look at thermal extremes of heat and cold waves, air quality impacts, waterborne and foodborne diseases, food safety, and extreme weather and climate events, among other things.

Gun imports: The Bureau and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is changing a rule to make it easier to import guns and ammunition. The agency plans to extend the standard length of time for import permits to two years, from the current one year.

These permits are for law-abiding companies that import weapons to the United States for sale, not permits for gun owners. 

The ATF says extending the length of permits to these companies would give them "sufficient time" to import guns and ammunition. In some cases, under the current rules, companies have to reapply for permits for the same guns they had already been approved to import, because they didn't have enough time to complete the process.

The ATF says this new rule would save money for gun importers and the agency, and would not cause any "discernible" danger to the public, because these importers have already been deemed safe by the agency.

"The additional time will allow importers sufficient time to complete the importation of the authorized commodity," the agency wrote. "In addition, it will eliminate the need for the importer to submit a new import application, ATF Form 6, where the importation was not completed within the 1-year period."

The rule goes into effect in two months.