Public Safety

  • Scotland demands U.K. govt. apology over radiation leak at MoD nuke facility

    In 2012 the U.K. Ministry of Defense decided to refuel the nuclear reactor on board Britain’s oldest nuclear submarine, HMS Vanguard, after a test reactor operating at the Naval Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay, Caithness, in Scotland was found to have a small internal leak of radiation. The test reactor had been shut down after the fault was detected, and both the independent Defense Nuclear Safety Regulator and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) had been informed. It now appears that SEPA did not share the information with the Scottish cabinet, or with Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland. Salmond, in a scathing letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, has demanded an apology from Camron for “disrespecting” the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland and for treating both in an “underhanded” manner by not sharing the information about the radiation leaks.

  • Examining fire safety concerns raised by green buildings

    In 2012, the “Fire Safety Challenges of Green Buildings” report assembled a list of seventy-eight green building features and construction elements that could have implications for fire safety. The authors then derived a list of potential hazards associated with the features and elements, including greater flammability, faster burn rate, and increased hindrance to firefighters, as compared with conventional construction. A 3-year project, funded with a $1 million grant from DHS, will enable the further exploration of some of the potential risks and hazards identified in the 2012 report.

  • Predicting sliding mountain slopes

    If entire mountain slopes start to slide, danger threatens. It is not always easy to predict and monitor these mass movements. In an international project, scientists combined numerical models with microwave radar systems in Northern Tyrol — with promising results. The Steinlehnen slope in Northern Tyrol (Austria) started to move in 2003. Rockfalls threatened people, streets, and buildings. Meanwhile, peace has returned; although the slope is merely “creeping,” Steinlehnen has become an interesting research object for scientists in recent years.

  • Nuclear waste kept in parking area as N.M. repository remains closed

    The federal government’s only underground nuclear waste dump, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, remains closed and state environmental officials have set deadlines for the Department of Energy and its contractor-operator of the site to deal with radioactive waste left above ground at the repository. Dozens of drums and containers which have been shipped from federal facilities around the country are being stored in a parking area at the plant, and inside the plant’s waste- handling building.

  • Gangbangin' in Syria: Two L.A. gang members in Syria to defend Assad regime

    About a hundred Americans have gone to Syria to take part in the war, all of them — with the apparent exception of two L.A. gang members named “Creeper” and “Wino” — to fight on the side of the Sunni rebels against the Alawite Assad regime. In a video recently posted on YouTube, the two are shown brandishing AK-47s and firing at an unseen enemy. Their tattoos identify one of them as a member of Sureños-13, which is affiliated with the Mexican mafia, and the other as a member of Westside Armenian Power gang. They tell the camera they are “in Syria, gangbangin’.”

  • NIST report on iris aging flawed: researchers

    In July last year, NIST released a report, titled “IREX VI: Temporal Stability of Iris Recognition Accuracy,” which concluded that its “best estimate of iris recognition aging” is so small that there should be no concern about the possibility of iris recognition accuracy degrading over time. University of Notre Dame biometrics researchers Kevin Bowyer and Estefan Ortiz have release a paper which points to errors in the NIST report on how iris aging affects the accuracy of iris recognition. They describe specific methodological errors in the NIST report, and present a list of suggestions to be addressed in a revised version of the report.

  • Pentagon to fund new “kill vehicle” for missile defense

    The Pentagon’s fiscal 2015 budget includes $8.5 billion in funding for missile defense programs. About $300 million will be used on a new kill vehicle and it support systems. A Pentagon official said that a new kill vehicle was needed because the current system suffered from “bad engineering” and has failed several tests.

  • App helps save people trapped by avalanche

    For the person buried under the weight of an avalanche, each minute is precious. A person saved from the snow mass within fifteen minutes has a 90 percent chance of survival. After forty-five minutes that chance has diminished considerably. Researchers develop an app that makes it possible for skiers with smartphones to find people buried in the snow.

  • U.S. Army releases first field manual for war in the electromagnetic spectrum

    Sergei Gorshkov, former Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union, once remarked that “the next war will be won by the side that best exploits the electromagnetic spectrum.” The U.S. Army agrees, releasing its first field manualfor Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA). The Pentagon defines cyber electromagnetic activities as activities leveraged to seize, retain, and exploit an advantage over adversaries and enemies in both cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, while simultaneously denying and degrading adversary and enemy the use of such capabilities, and protecting the mission command system.

  • Israel intercepts ship carrying Syrian missiles from Iran to Gaza

    In its most daring – and logistically demanding –military operation in about a year, Israeli naval commandos earlier yesterday (Wednesday) intercepted an Iranian arms ship in the Red Sea, more than 900 miles from Israeli shores. The ship was carrying dozens of Syria-manufactured M-302 medium-range missiles from Iran to Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. The M-302 missile would have dramatically increased the capabilities of militant organizations in Gaza. It carries a warhead of 150 kg and has a range of about 300km.

  • Radiation problems on San Francisco’s Treasure Island persist

    The Army Corps of Engineers created San Francisco’s Treasure Island for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, with plans to turn the island into a civilian airport after the exposition. When the United States entered the Second World War in 1941, the Navy used the island for the Treasure Island Naval Station, where nuclear war training exercises were conducted. The Naval Station was decommissioned in 1993, and parts of the island were transferred to SF for civilian use. Radiation levels on the island are still high, however, and critics charge that the Navy did not do enough to clean the island while downplaying the risks of radiation that still remain.

  • Virtual lab for nuclear waste repository research

    A nuclear waste repository must seal in radioactive waste safely for one million years. Researchers currently have to study repositories and their processes in real underground laboratories, but a virtual underground laboratory will soon simplify their work.

  • Libyan Islamists tried to ship mustard gas to Syrian rebels

    Libyan officials report that they have recently apprehended several members of a Libyan Muslim extremist militia planning to ship chemical weapons to anti-Assad rebels in Syria. Colonel Mansour al-Mazini of the Libya army said that the Islamists had been caught with a container of mustard gas. The gas was confiscated by Libyan soldiers.

  • Energy Department suspends work on controversial plutonium reprocessing project

    The Obama administration has decided to put on hold its plans to complete construction on a South Carolina reprocessing facility which would convert nuclear weapon-grade plutonium into reactor fuel. The suspension of work on the project is part of the fiscal 2015 budget plan the administration unveiled Tuesday. The project has been hobbled by delays and massive cost-overruns, and experts says security and safety concerns have not been adequately addressed.

  • Proposed 2015 budget cuts funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs

    The Obama administration 2015 budget proposal shows that the administration will spend less on nuclear nonproliferation initiatives in 2015 than it would in 2014. The budget of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the agency responsible for various nuclear weapons and nuclear nonproliferation programs, will be cut by 20 percent, from the $1.9 billon Congress approved for fiscal 2014 — which in turn was a $289 million cut from fiscal 2013 levels — to $1.6 billion in 2015.