Detection

  • New Mexico demands clarifications, reassurances on WIPP radiation leaks

    New Mexico’s environment secretary Ryan Flynn has ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) to explain how it will protect public health and the environment while it investigates a radiation leak at the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The plant has not been in compliance with various permit requirements since the February underground fire and radiation leak, which eventually led to a plant shutdown.

  • Problems continue to plague the Oxide Conversion Facility at Y-12

    Oxide conversion is critical to recycling weapons-grade uranium, making it useful in nuclear warheads or for other purposes. The Oxide Conversion Facility (OCF) at the Y-12National Security Complex has been operating inconsistently in recent years. A report by the staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board(DNFSB) said there was a plan to resume operations the week of 7 April 2014, but that did not happen.

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  • Absorbent used in kitty litter may be cause of radiation leaks in U.S. nuke dump

    A wheat-based absorbent often used in kitty litter may be the likely cause of the radiation leak that led to the closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant(WIPP), the U.S. only underground nuclear waste repository, according to Jim Conca, a former geochemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory(LANL). Conca noted that EnergySolutions, a Salt Lake City-based company hired to  package radioactive waste at LANL into containers for shipment to the WIPP, switched from using a clay-based absorbent in the storage drums to a wheat-based mixture.

  • Lawmakers want safer waste storage at nuclear plants

    Lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a set of bills aimed at improving the safety and security of nuclear power plants’ waste in the event of a natural disaster or terrorism. One of the bills would require nuclear power plant operators to accelerate the transfer of nuclear waste stored in spent fuel pools into dry cask storage units. Current Nuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC) regulations allow spent fuel to remain in spent fuel pools until the reactor completes decommissioning, which can take as long as sixty years. Another bill would stop the NRC from issuing exemptions to its emergency response and security requirements for reactors that have been permanently decommissioned.

  • Leaders of Chinese city delay alerting residents to deadly radiation risk

    Authorities in the East China city of Nanjing delayed,for thirty-six hours, notifying residents about the loss of deadly isotope iridium-192 pellets at a local industrial plant. The pellets disappeared on Wednesday, and plant officials informed government authorities on Thursday – but did not inform city residents until Saturday. The extremely toxic pellets, the size of beans, were found the following Saturday in an open field one kilometer from the plant. The plant management detained four employees at the plant on Sunday for violating radioactive work regulations and storage rules, and they are likely to face criminal charges.The plant is using the isotope to find flaws in metal components.

  • Bolstering shipping security

    During a press conference following the March 2014 Nuclear Secu­rity Summit in the Hague, President Barack Obama noted that his biggest security concern was not Russia — or any other regional superpower — but rather “the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.” Experts say that the most likely way in which a nuclear weapon would potentially come to a major U.S. city is not on the tip of a missile but in the belly of a ship, noting that this view has been openly validated by the intelligence community. In 2007, Congress passed a law requiring all overseas cargo containers to be inspected before they are loaded on a U.S.-bound ship. That law, however, has never been enforced.

  • Validating air sampling techniques to fight bioterrorism

    Air and surface sampling techniques currently used by the U.S. government are effective in fighting bioterrorism and potentially saving lives, a new study says. Air sampling has been readily accepted for similar uses such as measuring for particulate matter, but using it to detect bacteria in biological terrorism was a new concept instituted after the 9/11 attacks. This type of sampling is now part of a sophisticated system used by the DHS and the Department of Defense. In order for the system to work more efficiently, however, experts say that the detection cycle, which currently takes between 12-36 hours, would need to produce results in a shorter time frame.

  • Battelle shows smart technology for biodefense and hazard avoidance

    Battelle last week announced production of the next generation chemical and biological hazard sensor system, which the company says operates at a fraction of the cost of current technologies. The technology, known as the Resource Effective BioIdentification System (REBS), is a battery-powered system capable of autonomous use with operating costs of less than $1 per day per unit (the company notes that current system costs that can range from $500 - $3,000 per day) and assay costs of $0.04 per sample (compared to current systems at over $100 per sample).

  • Using light to detect trace amounts of explosives

    Researchers may help in the fight against terrorism with the creation of a sensor that can detect tiny quantities of explosives with the use of light and special glass fibers. The researchers describe a novel optical fiber sensor which can detect explosives in concentrations as low as 6.3 ppm (parts per million). It requires an analysis time of only a few minutes.

  • South Carolina withdraws MOX lawsuit against DOE, NNSA

    The state of South Carolina said Friday that it would not go ahead with its lawsuit against the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in support of the Savannah River Site’s Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility. The dismissal of the lawsuit follows an announcement last Tuesday by the DOE and NNSA that construction will continue on the MOX facility through the end of the fiscal year. The two agencies made it clear, though, that they still plan to mothball the plant.

  • Lawmakers want DOE to reduce run-away costs of S.C. plutonium processing plant

    Lawmakers have given the Obama administration two weeks to submit a plan for reducing the cost of constructing the mixed-oxide fuel conversion (MOX) facility which would convert bomb-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel. The MOX facility at the Savannah River Site, South Carolina was launched to help the United States meet its nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia, and agreement which called for the two countries to dispose of at least thirty-four metric tons each of weapons-grade plutonium.

  • Lawmakers urge NRC not to exempt shut-down nuclear plants from emergency, security regulations

    Lawmakers are urging the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to halt exemption of recently- shuttered nuclear power plants from emergency-planning and security regulations. The lawmakers are especially concerned about the nuclear waste which will continue to be stored on the grounds of shut-down nuclear plants, saying that the stored radioactive waste continues to be a security threat whether or not the plant itself is still operational.

  • Western intelligence: Assad plans to retain residual chemical weapons capability

    Israeli intelligence officials say the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria may be concealing a small amount of the chemical weapons in its possession, while pretending that it is fully cooperating with the process to remove all chemical weapons from Syria. This assessment is similar to conclusions reached by the U.S. and U.K. intelligence communities in the past two weeks. The Israeli view is that the retention of chemicals by the Assad regime has to do with the ongoing fight against the rebels, and is not an indication that the regime is contemplating their use against Israel. A senior intelligence source also said that unlike the consensus in the intelligence community a year or two ago, the Israeli defense establishment no longer considers bringing down the regime in Damascus as necessarily positive for Israel.

  • DHS cancels acquisition of BioWatch’s Generation 3 technology

    Owing to concerns about BioWatcheffectiveness and high cost, DHS has canceled plans to install an automated technology meant to speed the 24-hour operations of the program, the nation’s system for detecting a biological attack.ASeptember 2012 GAO report estimated that annual costs to operate the Generation 3 technology would be “about four times more” than the existing BioWatch system.

  • New scanning technique may end on-board liquid restrictions

    A new machine which can identify the chemical composition of liquids sealed within non-metallic containers without opening them is one of three candidates announced Monday to be in the running to win the U.K.’s premier engineering prize, the MacRobert Award. Already being deployed in sixty-five airports across Europe, this innovation can protect travelers by screening for liquid explosives and could spell the end of the ban on liquids in hand luggage.