• Novichok: the deadly story behind the nerve agent

    Earlier this week, in the town of Salisbury, England, two people were poisoned accidentally by traces of the nerve agent Novichok, which Russian intelligence operatives used on 4 March 2018 in an attempt to assassinate former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, along with his daughter Yulia. Alastair Hay’s article was written on 20 March 2018. Why do these lethal chemical agents exist at all?

  • Omitted details from UN report implicate Syria, Iran in use of chemical weapons

    Details implicating Syria and Iran for a series of chemical weapons attacks in January and February were removed from a UN report that had been released last week. A UN commission investigating war crimes during the seven-year-old Syrian civil war uncovered evidence of six chemical weapons attacks perpetrated by the Assad regime between January and 7 April this year.

  • Replacing TNT with less toxic explosive

    Scientists have developed a novel “melt-cast” explosive material that could be a suitable replacement for Trinitrotoluene, more commonly known as TNT. TNT was first prepared in 1863 by German chemist Julius Wilbrand but its full potential as an explosive wasn’t discovered until 1891. TNT has been in use as a munitions explosive since 1902.

  • Enhanced detection of nuclear events thanks to deep learning

    A deep neural network running on an ordinary desktop computer is interpreting highly technical data related to national security as well as — and sometimes better than — today’s best automated methods or even human experts.

  • Drones could be used to detect dangerous “butterfly” landmines

    It is estimated that there are at least 100 million military munitions and explosives of concern devices in the world, of various size, shape and composition. Millions of these are surface plastic landmines with low-pressure triggers, such as the mass-produced Soviet PFM-1 “butterfly” landmine. Drones could be used to detect dangerous “butterfly” landmines in remote regions of post-conflict countries.

  • Detecting the threat of nuclear weapons

    Will the recent U.S. withdrawal from a 2015 accord that put restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program make it easier for Iran to pursue the bomb in secret? Not likely, according to Scott Kemp, an associate professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT. “The most powerful insights into Iran’s nuclear program come from traditional intelligence, not from inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” says Kemp. But covert nuclear-weapon programs, whether in Iran, North Korea, or elsewhere in the world, are a major unsolved problem, according to Kemp.

  • The government’s new contractor to run Los Alamos includes the same manager it effectively fired for safety problems

    The Department of Energy said it would seek new leadership for Los Alamos National Laboratory. But the University of California is still there, even after mismanagement caused it to lose its contract to run the lab — twice.

  • Phasing out nuclear energy could affect safety: Psychologists

    The way in which the phase-out of nuclear power plants in Germany is currently planned could negatively influence the safety of the facilities. Those involved could increasingly favor their own interests as the shutdown date approaches, a new study argues. They base their argument on the possibility of endgame behavior from game theory.

  • New tool to detect deadly chemical weapon agents: Butterflies

    Every spring caterpillars shed their cocoons, emerging as butterflies. This timeless symbol of change is now being applied to enhanced chemical detection for U.S. soldiers. Researchers from the military service academies, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, are using butterflies to detect trace amounts of chemical warfare agents with increased precision and speed.

  • Data science improves lie detection

    Someone is fidgeting in a long line at an airport security gate. Is that person simply nervous about the wait? Or is this a passenger who has something sinister to hide? Even highly trained Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport security officers still have a hard time telling whether someone is lying or telling the truth – despite the billions of dollars and years of study that have been devoted to the subject. Researchers are using data science and an online crowdsourcing framework called ADDR (Automated Dyadic Data Recorder) to further our understanding of deception based on facial and verbal cues.

  • The federal government has long treated Nevada as a dumping ground, and it’s not just Yucca Mountain

    Nevadans can be forgiven for thinking they are in an endless loop of “The Walking Dead” TV series. Their least favorite zombie federal project refuses to die. In 2010, Congress had abandoned plans to turn Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, into the nation’s only federal dump for nuclear waste so radioactive it requires permanent isolation. And the House recently voted by a wide margin to resume these efforts. While teaching and writing about the state’s history for more than 30 years, I have followed the Yucca Mountain fight from the beginning – as well as how Nevadans’ views have evolved on all things nuclear. The project could well go forward, but I believe that it probably won’t as long as there are political benefits to stopping it.

  • Fukushima-Daiichi radioactive particle release was significant: Study

    Scientists say there was a significant release of radioactive particles during the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident. The researchers identified the contamination using a new method and say if the particles are inhaled they could pose long-term health risks to humans.

  • Artificial “nose” helps find people buried by earthquakes, avalanches

    Trained rescue dogs are still the best disaster workers – their sensitive noses help them to track down people buried by earthquakes or avalanches. Like all living creatures, however, dogs need to take breaks every now and again. They are also often not immediately available in disaster areas, and dog teams have to travel from further afield.. Scientists have developed the smallest and cheapest ever equipment for detecting people by smell. It could be used in the search for people buried by an earthquake or avalanche.

  • Scientists successfully vitrify three gallons of radioactive tank waste

    In a first-of-its-kind demonstration, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have vitrified low-activity waste from underground storage tanks at Hanford, immobilizing the radioactive and chemical materials within a durable glass waste form.

  • Mountain collapsed in North Korea after most recent nuclear test

    As North Korea’s president pledges to “denuclearize” the Korean peninsula, scientists published the most detailed view yet of the site of the country’s latest and largest underground nuclear test on 3 September 2017. The new picture of how the explosion altered the mountain above the detonation highlights the importance of using satellite radar imaging, called SAR (synthetic aperture radar), in addition to seismic recordings to more precisely monitor the location and yield of nuclear tests in North Korea and around the world.