• Nuclear risksSystem automatically detects cracks in steel components of nuclear power plants

    The United States operates 99 commercial nuclear power plants, which account for about 20 percent of total U.S. electricity generation. Aging can result in cracking, fatigue, embrittlement of metal components, wear, erosion, corrosion and oxidation. Researchers have developed a new automated system which detects cracks in the steel components of nuclear power plants and has been shown to be more accurate than other automated systems.

  • Chemical weaponsKim Jong-nam killed by VX nerve agent: Malaysian police

    Malaysian police have said the substance used in the killing of Kim Jong-nam was a VX nerve agent. North Korea, which is not a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is in possession of a large stockpiles of chemical weapons — between 2,500 and 5,000 metric tons, with Sarin and VX making up the bulk of the arsenal. Experts say that the public nature of the killing, and the assailants’ disregard for the safety of bystanders, is comparable to the assassination in London of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko, who became a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin, was killed on Putin’s orders by two agents of the FSB in London in November 2006. The agents placed small quantities of radioactive poison, polonium-210, in his tea.

  • Nuclear wasteFinding new clues for nuclear waste cleanup

    Technetium-99 is a byproduct of plutonium weapons production and is considered a major U.S. challenge for environmental cleanup. At the Hanford Site nuclear complex in Washington state, there are about 2,000 pounds of the element dispersed within approximately 56 million gallons of nuclear waste in 177 storage tanks. The U.S. Department of Energy is in the process of building a waste treatment plant at Hanford to immobilize hazardous nuclear waste in glass. But researchers have been stymied because not all the technetium-99 is incorporated into the glass and volatilized gas must be recycled back into the melter system.

  • Nuclear wasteIdentifying the right sites for storing radioactive waste

    In 2008, a Swiss government agency identified six regions in Switzerland, approved by the Federal Council, which could be used to store radioactive waste. An EPFL research project has developed a detailed profile of the sites selected to store radioactive waste from Swiss nuclear power plants. The project helped identify the two sites that meet both safety and feasibility requirements.

  • ZikaDevice rapidly, accurately, inexpensively detects Zika virus at airports, other sites

    About the size of a tablet, a portable device that could be used in a host of environments like a busy airport or even a remote location in South America, may hold the key to detecting the dreaded Zika virus accurately, rapidly and inexpensively using just a saliva sample. While scientists across the world are scrambling to find some sort of immunization, researchers are working to develop a diagnostic tool to reduce the impact of the outbreak until a vaccine is identified.

  • Radiation risksU.K. nuclear safety regulations place too low a value on human life

    New research has shown that the benchmark used by the U.K. Office for Nuclear Regulation for judging how much should be spent on nuclear safety has no basis in evidence and places insufficient value on human life. The review suggests it may need to be ten times higher — between £16 million and £22 million per life saved.

  • Gas leaksLow-cost imaging system detects natural gas leaks in real time

    Researchers have developed an infrared imaging system that could one day offer low-cost, real-time detection of methane gas leaks in pipelines and at oil and gas facilities. Leaks of methane, the primary component of natural gas, can be costly and dangerous while also contributing to climate change as a greenhouse gas. Infrared device enables reliable monitoring under a range of environmental conditions.

  • First respondersA new kind of responder brings special expertise to disasters

    An emergency response incident commander should be well-versed on how to respond to all hazards, including the intricacies of radiological and nuclear incidents. Because the hazards associated with radiological or nuclear (rad/nuc) incidents are uniquely challenging to convey accurately to first responders, DHS S&T has developed a solution in the form of the Radiological Operations Support Specialist (ROSS) Program.

  • Nuclear powerNew technique could lead to more efficient, safer uranium extraction

    The separation of uranium, a key part of the nuclear fuel cycle, could potentially be done more safely and efficiently through a new technique developed by chemistry researchers at Oregon State University. The technique uses soap-like chemicals known as surfactants to extract uranium from an aqueous solution into a kerosene solution in the form of hollow clusters. Aside from fuel preparation, it may also find value in legacy waste treatment and for the cleanup of environmental contamination.

  • Radiation risksNY’s Indian Point nuclear plant to close after many “safety events”

    New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant will close by April 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. “For fifteen years, I have been deeply concerned by the continuing safety violations at Indian Point, especially given its location in the largest and most densely populated metropolitan region in the country,” Cuomo said. “I am proud to have secured this agreement with Entergy [the plant’s operator] to responsibly close the facility fourteen years ahead of schedule, to protect the safety of all New Yorkers.”

  • Chemical weaponsIsrael’s coming chemical weapons crisis

    By Neri Zilber

    One of the more iconic and sobering elements of Israeli reality were the gas masks distributed on the street or at post offices to every citizen after Saddam Hussein fired SCUD missiles at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. They continued to be distributed until early 2014, when the Israeli government decided to end the practice in the wake of an international deal to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons stockpiles. Now, nearly three years later, the issue has resurfaced as a direct result of the Syrian civil war—in particular, the threat from both Hezbollah and the Islamic State.

  • Nuclear wasteChemistry research breakthrough could improve nuclear waste recycling technologies

    Researchers have taken a major step forward by describing the quantitative modelling of the electronic structure of a family of uranium nitride compounds – a process that could in the future help with nuclear waste recycling technologies. “In this nuclear age, there is a pressing need for improved extraction agents for nuclear waste separations and recycling technologies,” explained one of the researchers.

  • Biological emergenciesBiological emergences: Incremental progress not enough

    While acknowledging some positive efforts over the past year by the White House and Congress, the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense says the incremental progress is not enough to defend against biological emergencies, let alone catastrophic events. The report, Biodefense Indicators – One Year Later, Events Outpacing Federal Efforts to Defend the Nation, states that while the biological threat is real and continues to grow, our nation remains woefully under-prepared for dangerous biological incidents.

  • Chemical weaponsSyrian opposition: Israeli airstrike hit chemical weapons intended for Hezbollah

    An Israeli air raid on a depot controlled by the Syrian regime two weeks ago hit a supply of chemical weapons being transferred to the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, a spokesperson for a Syrian opposition group said Sunday. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman obliquely suggested last week that Israel was responsible for the strike and that the target had been Hezbollah-bound chemical weapons; other Israeli leaders have made it clear in public statements and conversations with foreign leaders that they will act to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring “game-changing” weapons or strengthening its positions on Israel’s borders.

  • Chemical weaponsIsraeli defense minister suggests Hezbollah was smuggling chemical weapons

    Israel is working hard to keep chemical weapons out of the hands of the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told a Knesset committee Thursday. His comments to the Knesset seemed to suggest that at least one of the strikes Israel carried out the same day at the Mazzeh military airport near Damascus was in order to stop Hezbollah from acquiring chemical weapons.