• Dozens killed in Syrian army chemical-weapons attack on rebel-held town

    More than seventy civilians have been killed and more than 500 injured by a poisonous gas attack launched by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against the rebel-held town of Douma. Syrian army helicopters had dropped several barrel bombs filled with chemicals on Douma, in eastern Ghouta, the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria. The Syrian army used both chlorine and nerve agents in the attack.

  • Nuclear waste may soon be a thing of the past

    During the Cold War, the U.S. Department of Energy produced tons of nuclear material for the development of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. Today, the United States is awash in radioactive material from weapons production and some from nuclear power plants that could take 100,000 years to go away. A recent FIU chemistry graduate might help researchers unlock the secrets to make nuclear waste safer.

  • Funding restored to National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures lab

    The Fort Detrick, Maryland-based National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) is no longer facing an immediate jeopardy. The federal omnibus spending bill,  released last Wednesday evening, provided full funding for the biohazard laboratory – funding which the original administration’s budget proposal eliminated.

  • Remotely monitoring nuclear reactors

    A new U.S. Department of Energy project to develop the first detector able to remotely monitor nuclear reactors will also help physicists test the next generation of neutrino observatories. Nuclear reactions produce telltale antineutrinos – the antimatter counterpart of neutrinos. The new detectors will be designed to measure the energy of such antineutrinos and the direction from which they come, allowing monitoring of reactors from a distance of 25 kilometers to verify nonproliferation agreements.

  • Efficient extraction may improve management of nuclear fuel

    After used nuclear fuel is removed from a reactor, it emits heat for decades and remains radioactive for thousands of years. The used fuel is a mixture of major actinides (uranium, plutonium), fission products (mainly assorted metals, including lanthanides) and minor actinides (i.e., americium, curium and neptunium). After the cesium-137 and strontium-90 fission products decay in a few hundred years, the minor actinides and plutonium generate the most heat and radioactivity. Removal of the minor actinides, especially americium, can help nuclear power producers reduce and better manage the waste stream.

  • Deny and distort: A timeline of Russia's changing story on Skripal poisoning

    Since the poisoning of the Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter on 4 March in England, Russian officials have been consistent about one thing: Moscow didn’t do it. Otherwise, they have offered a hodgepodge of theories, evasions, and refutations to parry British accusations that a Soviet-era nerve agent was likely used to poison Skripal and his daughter. British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said on 19 March that Moscow was “not fooling anyone” with its “increasingly absurd” denials of culpability for use of the nerve agent on British soil. Vladimir Putin was trying to “conceal the needle of truth in a haystack of lies and obfuscation,” Johnson said.

  • Sandia transport triathlon puts spent nuclear fuel to the test

    Nuclear power supplies almost 20 percent of U.S. electricity and is the leading carbon-neutral power source. However, it produces between 2,200 and 2,600 tons of spent fuel in the United States each year. Fuel rods become brittle and highly radioactive while powering the nuclear reactor, making safe transportation important. Sandia National Laboratories researchers completed an eight-month, 14,500-mile triathlon-like test to gather data on the bumps and jolts spent nuclear fuel experiences during transportation.

  • Pipe-crawling robot to help decommission DOE nuclear facility

    A pair of autonomous robots developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute will soon be driving through miles of pipes at the U.S. Department of Energy’s former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio, to identify uranium deposits on pipe walls. The CMU robot has demonstrated it can measure radiation levels more accurately from inside the pipe than is possible with external techniques.

  • Expelled Russian diplomats head home as U.K. mulls further poisoning response

    Twenty-three Russian diplomats who were ordered out of Britain in response to the poisoning of a former spy with a deadly nerve agent are leaving the Britain. In addition to expelling the Russian diplomats, Britain has suspended high-level bilateral contacts with Moscow and announced that British ministers and the royal family will not attend the soccer World Cup in Russia this summer.

  • Living sensor may prevent environmental disasters from fuel spills

    The Colonial Pipeline, which carries fuel from Texas to New York, ruptured last fall, dumping a quarter-million gallons of gas in rural Alabama. By the time the leak was detected during routine inspection, vapors from released gasoline were so strong they prevented pipeline repair for days. Now, scientists are developing technology that would alert pipeline managers about leaks as soon as failure begins, avoiding the environmental disasters and fuel distribution disruptions resulting from pipeline leaks.

  • Nerve agent was placed in former spy’s BMW ventilation system: U.S. intel

    The former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, may have been exposed to a deadly nerve agent through his car’s ventilation system, ABC News reports. The two remain in critical condition in hospital after being exposed to the nerve agent novichok in Salisbury, in the U.K., two weeks ago. ABC News reported that intelligence officials had said the “dusty” substance used was likely placed in the ventilation system of the BMW Skripal was driving.

  • U.K.'s Johnson says Putin probably behind ex-spy attack; Kremlin lashes out

    British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said it is “overwhelmingly likely” that Russian President Vladimir Putin made the decision to use a highly toxic chemical against a former double agent in England. “We have nothing against the Russians themselves. There is to be no Russophobia as a result of what is happening,” Johnson said on 16 March6, nearly two weeks after former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were exposed to what British authorities say was a potent nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union. “Our quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin, and with his decision — and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision — to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the U.K., on the streets of Europe for the first time since the Second World War,” Johnson said.

  • French expert says novichok toxin is “clearly a direct link to Russia”

    Novichok, the toxic nerve agent that British authorities believe was used in the near-fatal poisoning of former spy and retired Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, is a powerful substance that is exceedingly difficult to manufacture. This is why a growing number of chemical weapons experts say it is highly likely that only a government could have the technology and infrastructure to make it. And given that the Soviet Union, in the 1980s, was the only state known to have produced it, that has led many experts to conclude that Russian intelligence was behind Skripal’s poisoning.

  • Expanding real-time radiological threat detection to include other dangers

    Advanced commercially available technologies—such as additive manufacturing (3-D printing), small-scale chemical reactors for pharmaceuticals, and CRISPR gene-manipulation tools—have opened wide access to scientific exploration and discovery. In the hands of terrorists and rogue nation states, however, these capabilities could be misused to concoct chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in small quantities and in form factors that are hard to detect. DARPA’s SIGMA+ program aims to create additional sensors and networks to detect biological, chemical, and explosives threats.

  • DTRA awards British university $1.1 million for improved radiation detectors

    The University of Surrey has been awarded $1.1 million by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to research new types of nanomaterials that produce high efficiency radiation detectors for use in nuclear security. The project will develop materials that are used as highly sensitive radiation detectors.