• Helping Nuclear Forensics Investigations by Going Small

    Until recently, the analysis and identification of nuclear fuel pellets in nuclear forensics investigations have been mainly focused on macroscopic characteristics, such as fuel pellet dimensions, uranium enrichment and other reactor-specific features. But scientists are going a step further by going down to the microscale to study the diverse characteristics of nuclear fuel pellets that could improve nuclear forensic analysis by determining more effectively where the material came from and how it was made.

  • Hackers Could Have Breached U.S. Bioterrorism Defenses for Years, Records Show. We’ll Never Know Whether They Did

    The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation’s bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade, according to government documents reviewed by the Los Angeles Times. The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack.

  • Data May Point to Second Blast at Russian Test Site

    Researchers at a Norwegian institute believe that there may have been two explosions, not one, at the Russian naval test site on the White Sea earlier this month, an incident that killed at least five people and raised new questions about Russia’s weapons research.

  • Russian Nuclear-Monitoring Stations’ Silence Fuel Fears over Extent of Deadly Blast

    Officials at the Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) say that two nuclear monitoring stations in Russia have resumed operations after mysteriously halting the transmission of data. The CTBTO did not comment on August 20 on the other two stations which it previously said had gone silent in the aftermath of an explosion at a Russian naval test site that killed at least five people and caused a temporary spike in radiation levels.

  • Key Takeaways from the Fukushima Disaster

    In March and April of 2011 the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster resulted in what was the largest ever accidental release of radioactive material into the ocean. “Even though the levels of radiation in the area and in the marine organisms were elevated, they were actually not a threat to the ecosystem or to human consumers in most cases,” says an expert.

  • New Model Agrees with Old: Nuclear War Between U.S. and Russia Would Result in Nuclear Winter

    Most people who lived through the nuclear age have heard of nuclear winter, in which global cooling would result from a major nuclear war. Early fears of such an outcome have been bolstered by sophisticated computer models that showed what would happen if a large number of nuclear bombs were detonated in large urban areas. The planet would grow colder due to the huge amount of smoke generated by fires ignited by the atomic blasts—the smoke would cover the entire planet for years, blocking the sun.

  • Lawmakers Seek Probe of Controversial Bioweapons Defense System

    The Trump administration’s attempt to deploy a scientifically disputed system for detecting airborne anthrax or other infectious agents in terrorist attacks is facing increased scrutiny from a bipartisan group of House members. in a three-page letter, four Democrats and Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct an in-depth scientific evaluation of the new system, called BioDetection 21. Officials from the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, signaled that they plan to open the inquiry.

  • Can Nuclear Power Be Saved?

    Whither nuclear power? That question has become more important as energy policies evolve to emphasize emissions-free “green” energy and an increased electrification of the U.S. economy. Some environmentalists consider nuclear power to be crucial to reducing carbon emissions; others continue to vehemently oppose nuclear power and believe that our energy must come solely from renewable sources.  The public, encouraged into hysteria by dramatizations of nuclear-plant accidents such as the film The China Syndrome and HBO’s Chernobyl, is split. Meanwhile, the nuclear-power industry itself is in a parlous state for a variety of tangled reasons.

  • Tackling Cargo Shipping Security

    Each day, thousands of containers travel the globe. Security agencies need to ensure the cargo that originally was shipped in them is what is in them when they reach their destination. Harmful or illegal content, added after the cargo was cleared for transport, must be detected and intercepted. Securing the global supply chain, while ensuring its smooth functioning, is essential to U.S. national security.

  • Remotely Monitoring Nuclear Reactors with Antineutrino Detection

    Technology to measure the flow of subatomic particles known as antineutrinos from nuclear reactors could allow continuous remote monitoring designed to detect fueling changes that might indicate the diversion of nuclear materials. The monitoring could be done from outside the reactor vessel, and the technology may be sensitive enough to detect substitution of a single fuel assembly.

  • Russia's Nclear Propulsion Experiment a Cause for Worry

    An explosion last Tuesday at a Russian military test site caused a spike in radiation levels, forcing the evacuation of a small town. Experts say the incident occurred during the test of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile. Both superpowers experimented with nuclear propulsion of rockets during the cold war, but without success. Experts worry if a nuclear-powered cruise missile carries a conventional warhead to its target, an accident occurring with this missiles may turn what was meant to be a non-nuclear attack into a nuclear one, even if the explosion and radiation dispersion would be smaller relative to a “real” nuclear attack.

  • Differentiating Earthquake from Underground Explosion

    Sandia National Laboratories researchers, as part of a group of National Nuclear Security Administration scientists, have wrapped up years of field experiments to improve the United States’ ability to differentiate earthquakes from underground explosions, key knowledge needed to advance the nation’s monitoring and verification capabilities for detecting underground nuclear explosions.

  • Nuclear Power Offers an Abundant Supply of Low-Carbon Energy. But What to Do With the Deadly Radioactive Waste?

    The dilemma of how to manage nuclear waste — radioactive materials routinely produced in large quantities at every stage of nuclear power production, from uranium mining and enrichment to reactor operation and the reprocessing of spent fuel — has taxed the industry, academics and governments for decades. Along with accidents, it has been a major reason for continuing public opposition to the industry’s further expansion despite substantial interest in nuclear power’s status as a low-carbon power source that can help mitigate climate change. The race is on to develop new strategies for permanently storing some of the most dangerous materials on the planet.

  • Improving Security of Nuclear Materials Transportation

    Nuclear power plants can withstand most inclement weather and do not emit harmful greenhouse gases. However, trafficking of the nuclear materials to furnish them with fuel remains a serious issue as security technology continues to be developed. Physicists conducted research to enhance global nuclear security by improving radiation detectors. According to them, improving radiation detectors requires the identification of better sensor materials and the development of smarter algorithms to process detector signals.

  • 460,000 Premature Deaths: The Horror That Was Nuclear Weapons Testing

    In March 1954, over the Bikini Atoll, the United States detonated a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb —one thousand times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. It was the largest explosion ever set off by Americans, and also the dirtiest. Researchers have now found that, more than sixty years after the nuclear tests the United States conducted in the area, the levels of radiation in several Marshall Island atolls, exceed that found at Chernobyl or Fukushima. The United States also detonated hundreds of atomic bombs in Nevada, and a 2017 study suggested that fallout from the Nevada nuclear testing could have led to between 340,000 and 460,000 premature deaths, mostly Americans and mainly through cancer.