• Radiation detectionMobile phones can reveal exposure to radiation

    In accidents or terror attacks which are suspected to involve radioactive substances, it can be difficult to determine whether people nearby have been exposed to radiation. But by analyzing mobile phones and other objects which come in close contact with the body, it is possible to retrieve important information on radiation exposure.

  • Bomb squads Bomb squads to compete in annual Robot Rodeo

    Robots are life-saving tools for bomb squads and emergency response teams, providing them a buffer from danger. Sandia National Laboratories is hosting the 11th annual Western National Robot Rodeo, a four-day event where civilian and military bomb squad teams get practice using robots to defuse diverse, dangerous situations.

  • Radiation threatsPocket-size biological solution to radioactive threats

    Yaky Yanay, co-CEO of Pluristem Therapeutics, last week surprised the participants The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York by saying that a small glass vial he pulled out of his pocket offered a solution to Iran’s nuclear threats. “I have the solution in my pocket.” The company has developed an anti-radiation therapy that can be stockpiled for emergencies. The therapy harnesses the power of the human placenta to contain the cascading effect of radiation exposure in the body and allow for the natural healing of cells.

  • Nuclear wasteNew plutonium discovery to help nuclear waste clean-up

    Plutonium has long been part of many countries’ nuclear energy strategies, but scientists are still unlocking the mysteries behind this complicated element and seeing how they can use heavier, nuclear elements to clean up nuclear waste. Now, new research shows that plutonium does not exactly work the way scientists thought it did. The findings will contribute to the effort to develop technologies to clean up nuclear waste.

  • Nuclear accidentsNuclear storage tunnel collapses at Washington State’s Hanford site; employees evacuated

    Hundreds of workers have been forced to “take cover” after a tunnel in a nuclear finishing plant collapsed at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington state. The Department of Energy activated its Emergency Operations Center following the collapse. Nuclear experts have criticized to storage and safety practices at the site, calling it “the most toxic place in America” and saying it was “an underground Chernobyl waiting to happen.”

  • Infrastructure protectionQuickly detecting structural problems in bridges, dams

    Today, there is great interest in using distributed sensors to continually monitor the structural health of large structures such as dams or bridges. With one million sensing points, a newly developed fiber optic distributed sensor could offer significantly faster detection of structural problems than is currently available.

  • Chemical weaponsNew evidence shows pattern of Assad regime’s use of nerve agents

    New evidence supports the conclusion that Syrian government forces have used nerve agents on at least four occasions in recent months: on 4 April 2017, in a chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun that killed at least ninety-two people, and on three other occasions in December 2016 and March 2017, Human Rights Watch said in a report released yesterday. These attacks are part of a broader pattern of Syrian government forces’ use of chemical weapons. The attacks are widespread and systematic, and in some cases have been directed against the civilian population. As part of the evidence showing these attacks have become widespread and systematic, the detailed 48-page report identifies the three different systems being used by the Assad regime to deliver chemical weapons.

  • Nuclear forensicsNew nuclear forensics signature discovery capability to help trace origins of plutonium

    Two weeks ago the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) joined with partners at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to launch the Plutonium Processing Signatures Discovery capability. The new capability, the result of a four-year effort, represents a significant technological advancement in nuclear forensics that will improve our ability to trace the origins of plutonium. Nuclear forensics involves determining where illicit or smuggled radioactive material came from. In the event of a nuclear weapon detonation, knowing where radioactive material came from can help investigators determine who’s responsible.

  • Chemical weaponsFrance: We have proof Assad ordered chemical attack on Khan Sheikhun

    Jean-Marc Ayrault, France’s foreign minister, said Wednesday that France’s intelligence services have evidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack on a Sunni village earlier this month. The Syrian military’s attack on Khan Sheikhun killed eighty-six. British and Turkish scientists, examining injured victims and performing autopsies on those killed, found evidence of both sarin - a nerve gas - and chlorine.

  • Chemical weaponsSyrian defector: Assad still has hundreds of tons of chemical weapons stockpiled

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad circumvented a 2013 deal to dismantle his chemical weapons stockpile by failing to declare the full extent of his arsenal, Syria’s former chemical weapons research chief. Brigadier-General Zaher al-Sakat, who served as the head of chemical warfare in a top Syrian military unit before defecting in 2013, said that Assad had not declared large amounts of sarin and its precursor chemicals.

  • Nuclear safetyHow will the federal government protect nuclear safety in an anti-regulatory climate?

    By William J. Kinsella

    The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have undertaken a wide-ranging effort to shrink the federal government’s regulatory footprint. Much attention has focused on high-profile targets, such as the Environmental Protection Agency. But this trend also has major implications for other agencies. One example is the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which oversees safety across a complex, privately owned network of nuclear power plants, used fuel storage facilities and other sites related to civilian uses of nuclear energy. The NRC and the system it regulates exemplify what some scholars call a “high reliability organization” – one that cannot be allowed to fail, because the consequences would be grave (two examples of failures of external oversight: Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011). A high reliability organization is not automatically a highly reliable organization. Reliability is an ongoing accomplishment involving continuous learning, sustained vigilance and a strong system of checks and balances. Moving forward in an anti-regulatory climate, with so many complex challenges facing the agency, it is essential to ensure independent leadership, public transparency and adequate resources to support the NRC’s mission.

  • Chemical agentsSoil-based scrubber turns deadly chemicals into harmless dirt

    A DARPA program that is developing a field-deployable system for onsite neutralization of bulk stores of chemical warfare agents (CWA) has successfully demonstrated a novel waterless soil-scrubbing technology that safely neutralized toxic chemicals simulating sarin, soman, and mustard agents. The technology demonstrated greater than 99.9999 percent removal of the simulants, without creating any hazardous waste by-products.

  • SyriaWH report: The Assad regime's use of chemical weapons on 4 April 2017

    The White House on Tuesday released a 4-page report, prepared by the National Security Council, which contains declassified U.S. intelligence on the 4 April chemical weapons attack in Syria. The document calls Russia’s claim that the source of the gas was a rebels’ storage facility a “false narrative,” accusing Russia of “shielding” a client state which has used weapons of mass destruction.

  • SyriaBy insisting Assad must go, the West has prolonged the Syrian conflict

    By Jack Holland

    The most enthusiastic Western advocates of removing Assad form a liberal tendency and have been arguing for some form of intervention in Syria ever since the war began in earnest. They are opposed by more realist voices, who exhort them to remember the lessons of Iraq before getting militarily involved. Those on this side point to Syria’s fractured and often radical opposition, the regime’s formidable and battle-hardened forces, and the risks of starting a proxy conflict between the world’s great powers. In combination, these two tendencies have landed United States and United Kingdom foreign policy in an awkward gap between ends and means: Assad must go, but the military means required to remove him are off limits. It feels good to demand that a brutal dictator should no longer be allowed to rule, but insisting on it while failing to back it up with action has helped to prolong unimaginable suffering. Assad is clearly despicable, but the only atrocities worse than those his government has already committed are those yet to come. There are two ways to avert them: either Assad is deposed, probably via U.S.-led military intervention, or some political accord is struck to allow him to stay in exchange for a permanent ceasefire.