• FirefightingNew sensors detect cable fire before it starts burning

    Fires are frequently caused by smoldering cables. New sensors now help detect such smoldering fires at an early stage by analyzing the plastic vapors released by overheated insulating cables. Scientists have developed these hybrid sensors that combine measurement processes with data evaluation. These detect the gases released from the plastic coating due to heating and reliably identify and analyze the gas mixture and its concentration.

  • BioterrorismU.S. bioterrorism detection program unreliable: GAO

    DHS’s BioWatch program aims to provide early indication of an aerosolized biological weapon attack. Until April 2014, DHS pursued a next-generation autonomous detection technology (Gen-3), which aimed to enable collection and analysis of air samples in less than six hours, unlike the current system (Gen-2), which requires manual intervention and can take up to thirty-six hours to detect the presence of biological pathogens. A GAO report found that DHS lacks reliable information about BioWatch Gen-2’s technical capabilities to detect a biological attack, and therefore lacks the basis for informed cost-benefit decisions about upgrades to the system.

  • DetectionSmart sensor detects single molecule in chemical compounds

    Researchers have developed a smart sensor that can detect single molecules in chemical and biological compounds — a highly valued function in medicine, security, and defense. The researcher used a chemical and biochemical sensing technique called surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), which is used to understand more about the make-up of materials.

  • Radiation risksAt the nanoscale, concrete proves effective for nuclear containment

    By Anne Wilson Yu

    One of the main challenges faced by the nuclear industry is the long-term confinement of nuclear waste. Concrete is one of the barrier materials commonly used to contain radionuclides, both in nuclear reactors and nuclear waste-storing facilities. New research shows concrete is a strong choice for the long-term confinement of nuclear waste.

  • First responseDemonstrating technologies for disaster response

    Radiological incidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima illustrate the need for effective coordination of federal, state, and local agencies in response efforts. Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demonstrated new technology developments at the Columbus, Ohio, Battelle Memorial Institute facility that will enable more effective radiological decontamination.

  • BiodefenseSurface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) technology for on-site detection

    Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) technology currently is applied using chemical analysis of materials, such as scanning at airports to identify what materials may be inside of glass vials. Researchers want to expand SERS for use in biological applications that could employ antibodies for purposes such as identifying viruses, water toxins, or pathogens in food samples. The researchers work on developing a small hand-held device that allows users to take a sample, put it in a glass vial and insert into the instrument for rapid identification.

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  • Nuclear wasteFinnish company to construct final disposal facility of spent nuclear fuel

    The Finnish government has granted a license to Finnish company Posiva for the construction of a final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel. The spent fuel assemblies will be encapsulated and placed in the bedrock at a depth of about 400 meters for permanent disposal. The waste will be stored for around 100,000 years before its level of radioactivity begins to dissipate. “This is the world’s first authorization for the final repository of used nuclear waste,” Finland’s Economy Minister Olli Rehn said.

  • Radiation detectionNew, portable radiological detectors for frontline personnel

    Recently, DHS’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) awarded a multimillion dollar contract which will equip U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) frontline personnel with a new capability to detect and interdict radiological or nuclear threats. The award is for small, wearable radiation detector devices – called Human Portable Tripwire (HPT) — which passively monitor the environment and alert the user when nuclear or other radioactive material is present.

  • Nuclear powerInspired by cats’ eyes, new camera can look inside nuclear reactors

    Currently 11 percent of electricity worldwide is generated by nuclear reactors. There are 435 reactors in operation with another 71 under construction. Engineers, drawing inspiration from the eyes of cats, have created a new camera that can see radiation coming from nuclear reactors — boosting safety, efficiency, and helping during nuclear disaster emergencies.

  • Radiation risksSearch in Illinois, Indiana for missing canister holding radioactive materials

    Teams from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) are continuing their search in Illinois and neighboring Indiana for a missing steel canister containing radioactive material. The locked steel canister was last believed to be in a custom oil well logging truck. The nuclear material was used by an Illinois company specializing in surveying oil wells.

  • Radiation risksResidents of a St. Louis suburb worry about landfill containing nuclear waste

    Residents of a St. Louis suburb are increasingly anxious over a potential nuclear threat buried in the ground. One landfill nearby contains nuclear waste, while in a second landfill, only 1,000 feet away, there is “hot spot” burning underground. There are other problems, though. Over the past weekend, a grass fire reached to within seventy-five yards of the radioactive waste, and the region sits near an earthquake fault line.

  • Radiation risks$100 million NIAID contract to SRI International to develop radiation exposure treatment

    SRI International has been awarded a resource contract of up to $100 million over five years by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, for the development of products to mitigate or treat acute or delayed effects of radiation exposure.

  • ForensicsSteam thermography may compete with luminol in solving crimes

    Luminol gets trotted out pretty frequently on TV crime shows, but a new technique might someday compete with the storied forensics tool as a police procedural plot device and, perhaps more importantly, as a means of solving real crimes. Researchers developed what they term “steam thermography,” which has the ability to detect blood spots in all kinds of spots — even in spots where luminol cannot.

  • Nuclear weaponsU.S. to clean up site of a 1966 nuclear weapons accident in Spain

    On 17 January 1966, a B-52 bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs collided with a KC-135 tanker plane during mid-air refueling off the coast of Almería, Spain, killing seven of the eleven crew members. Two of the bombs were recovered intact from the sea, but the other two leaked radiation into the surrounding countryside when their plutonium-filled detonators went off, strewing 3kg of radioactive plutonium 239 around the town of Palomares. Following the accident, the U.S. military shipped 1,700 tons of contaminated soil to South Carolina, and the whole thing was forgotten. On Monday in Madrid, Secretary of State John Kerry and the Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo, signed an agreement to clean up the site after tests showed that 50,000 cubic meters of soil were still contaminated.

  • Nuclear power safetyDeveloping nuclear cladding to withstand Fukushima-like meltdown conditions

    Like much of the rest of the world, thousands of scientists and engineers watched in March 2011 as Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors exploded. The fuel’s cladding, a zirconium alloy used to contain the fuel and radioactive fission products, reacted with boiling coolant water to form hydrogen gas, which then exploded, resulting in the biggest nuclear power-related disaster since Chernobyl. Challenged by this event, two research teams have made progress in developing fuel claddings that are capable of withstanding the high temperatures resulting from a Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA), like that at Fukushima.