• EbolaIAEA to provide nuclear detection technology to help diagnose Ebola in West Africa

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it would provide specialized diagnostic equipment to help Sierra Leone in its efforts to combat the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak. Later, the support is planned to be extended to Liberia and Guinea. The support is in line with a UN Security Council appeal and responds to a request from Sierra Leone. The IAEA assistance will supplement the country’s ability to diagnose EVD quickly using a diagnostic technology known as Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). RT-PCR is a nuclear-derived technology which allows EVD to be detected within a few hours, while other methods require growing on a cell culture for several days before a diagnosis is determined.

  • DetectionTransparent nanoscintillators for radiation detection in homeland security, medical safety

    Researchers say recently identified radiation detection properties of a light-emitting nanostructure built in their lab could open doors for homeland security and medical advances. The researchers describe a new method to fabricate transparent nanoscintillators by heating nanoparticles composed of lanthanum, yttrium and oxygen until a transparent ceramic is formed. A scintillator refers to a material that glows in response to radiation.

  • DetectionSensor network will track down illegal bomb-making

    Terrorists can manufacture bombs with relative ease, few aids, and easily accessible materials such as synthetic fertilizer. Security forces do not always succeed in preventing the attacks and tracking down illegal workshops in time. Bomb manufacturing, however, leaves its traces. A network of different sensors will detect illicit production of explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Traces on doorknobs, in sewage, or in the air will be detected by the sensors and the data will be fused in a command center.

  • SyriaAssad retains secret caches of chemical weapons: Israeli intelligence

    Despite committing to dismantle and give up its chemical weapons – Syria was in possession of the world’s largest chemical weapons stock — President Bashar al-Assad’s regime still maintains a “residual” chemical weapons capacity, consisting of a few tons of the proscribed materials. Israel’s intelligence community has concluded that the Assad regime has decided to keep this reduced, but still formidable, chemical weapons capability, and has successfully concealed it from the inspectors of the UN chemical weapons watchdog who, a few weeks ago, have declared the chemical disarmament of Syria to be officially complete. Israeli defense officials believe that these sarin gas weapons would likely be deployed if the Assad regime faced an imminent threat to its survival. The Syrian regime is continuing to use chemical weapons which were not covered by the U.S.-Russian chemical weapons disarmament agreement, especially chlorine gas.

  • Bug detectionTurning mobile phones into detectors of disease-spreading insects

    Insects transmit many of the world’s most infectious diseases, but there has been a decline in the expertise needed to recognize species of insects most likely to transmit illness to people. In a new effort to safeguard human populations, a team of scientists, computer programmers, public health officials, and artists is working to enable mobile phones to link up to computers that automatically identify species of disease-carrying insects.

  • Radiation risksA second drum at nuke waste repository poses radiation leak danger

    At a recent meeting of the New Mexico Legislature’s Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee in Carlsbad, officials were informed that a second waste drum containing nuclear materials, could also contain the same mix of ingredients as the waste drum from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) which caused a radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in February.

  • Nuclear labsDeficiencies in U.S. nuclear labs’ emergency preparedness plans: Report

    A recently released study of seventeen U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board(DNFSB), which examined operations at the labs over the last three years, found deficiencies in emergency preparedness plans. Three New Mexico labs — the Los Alamos National Laboratory(LANL), the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant(WIPP) near Carlsbad, and Sandia National Laboratoriesin Albuquerque — exemplify various gaps in disaster preparedness throughout the nation’s nuclear defense system.

  • Nuclear accidentsPreparing the next generation of nuclear emergency responders

    The catastrophic failure of Japan’s Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 was a turning point in how the scientific community viewed nuclear emergencies. Up to then, the emphasis had been on prevention, not response. Virginia Tech’s Sonja Schmid has won a 2014 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Development (CAREER) Award to study the prospects and problems of creating a global nuclear emergency response plan. Key issues to be addressed in her research are how to convince the world that any nuclear accident is everybody’s problem and how to mobilize an effective international response.

  • Protective gearImproved gas mask protects U.S. soldiers against lethal attacks

    Choking. Watering eyes. Blistering skin. Convulsions. These are all symptoms of a chemical weapons attack that can lead to imminent death. The lethality of such attacks, most recently the one in Syria in August 2013, can send tremors across the globe. For U.S. Army soldiers, however, chemical weapons present a real danger on the battlefield, and one that requires the most advanced technology to keep them safe. Scientists and researchers at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) have been working toward better protective equipment, including the iconic gas mask.

  • Nuclear wasteStrengthening the armor for nuclear-waste eating microbes

    A microbe developed to clean up nuclear waste and patented by a Michigan State University researcher has just been improved. Researchers had identified that Geobacter bacteria’s tiny conductive hair-like appendages, or pili, did the yeoman’s share of remediation. By increasing the strength of the pili nanowires, she improved their ability to clean up uranium and other toxic wastes.

  • SyriaUN report indicates Syrian army used chlorine in April attacks on rebel-held villages

    The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that a toxic chemical, probably chlorine, was used as a weapon to attack three Syrian villages in April. The agency investigators did not specify who had launched the chlorine attacks, but the full report, which so far has been shared only with governments, leaves little doubt that the Syrian government was responsible for the attacks.

  • Radiation risksNew device improves radiation detection

    In a move that could have important implications for national security, researchers have created a very sensitive and tiny detector that is capable of detecting radiation from various sources at room temperature. The detector is eight to nine orders of magnitude —100 million to as high as 1 billion — times faster than the existing technology. The researchers sought to utilize the exceptional electronic carrier properties of graphene to create the photo detector device. Graphene is made of carbon atoms that are arranged in a honeycomb-like geometrical structure (the diameter of a human hair is 300,000 times thicker than a two-dimensional sheet of graphene).

  • Radiation risksNo Fukushima radiation found in California’s coastal areas

    Following the 11 March 2011 Fukushima disaster, researches wanted to see whether radioactivity could be found in Bay Area precipitation. They collected weeks’ worth of rainwater around UC Berkeley Campus to find out. The results: low levels of a number of different radioactive nuclei produced by the fission of uranium-235 including, cesium-134, cesium-137, and iodine-131. “The levels we saw were detectable, but low and not a health hazard to anyone,” said UC Berkeley’s nuclear engineering professor Eric Norman.

  • Nuclear proliferationScientists improve accuracy, reliability of nuclear tests inspection

    The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) operates the International Monitoring System (IMS) — 279 sensors-equipped facilities around the world which detect four types of physical phenomena that can provide evidence of a nuclear explosion having taken place: seismic waves, radioactive nuclei, underwater sound waves, and infrasonic waves. The evidence from the IMS is not always enough to convince signatories of the CTBT that a nuclear test has taken place. Scientists are trying to improve the accuracy and reliability of the IMS system.

  • ScanningSecurity flaws found in backscatter X-ray scanners

    A team of researchers has discovered several security vulnerabilities in full-body backscatter X-ray scanners deployed to U.S. airports between 2009 and 2013. Secure 1000 scanners were removed from airports in 2013 due to privacy concerns, and are now being repurposed to jails, courthouses, and other government facilities. “The system’s designers seem to have assumed that attackers would not have access to a Secure 1000 to test and refine their attacks,” said one of the researchers. The researchers, however, were able to purchase a government-surplus machine found on eBay and subject it to laboratory testing.