Public Safety

  • Black Hawks downed: Bird threat to U.S. military helicopters

    Many types of aircraft are vulnerable to bird strikes, estimated to cost the aviation industry $1.2 billion worldwide per year. A new study of strikes to military rotary-wing aircraft found that there were 2,511 strikes to U.S. military aircraft. Each strike costs the military between $12,184 and $337,281. While strikes were recorded in almost all states, Florida, New Mexico, and Georgia had the highest number of incidents.

  • Employees exposed to radiation at nuclear waste disposal site

    Thirteen employees at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant(WIPP),a nuclear waste burial site in New Mexico, have been exposed to  radioactive radiation after a leak in one of WIPP’s underground tunnels. Energy Department officials say it is too soon to determine the scope of health risks the employees will deal with. The employees inhaled plutonium and americium, both of which can irradiate the body’s internal organs with subatomic particles for a lifetime.

  • Islanders’ radiation worries 60 years after Bikini Atoll atomic test

    Sixty years ago, On 1 March 1954 the United States tested a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb – a thousand times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hsroshima —- at Bikini Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands. The explosion vaporized one island, and exposed inhabitants on neighboring islands to radioactive fallout. The United States relocated many of the islanders and spent years – and more than $45 million – to clean up and decontaminate the islands, before allowing the relocated inhabitants to return. Many were forced to leave again, however, after they were found to be exposed to residual radiation. From 30 June 1946 to 18 August 1958, the United States conducted 67 atmospheric nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands.

  • USAF improves, streamlines personnel reliability program

    Changes are coming to the U.S. Air Force’s program used to ensure personnel who perform nuclear-related duties are of sound mind and body on the job. The decades-old Personnel Reliability Program, or PRP, is used by all branches of service with duties tied to nuclear weapons to ensure personnel are reliable to perform nuclear-related responsibilities, and its standards apply on and off duty. The USAF says the time has come to streamline it to ease management and implementation.

  • DHS drops plans for national license-plate database

    DHS has recalled its solicitation for bids by private companies to help the department create a national license-plate database which would allow unlimited access to information obtained from commercial and law enforcement license plate readers (LPRs). DHS wanted to use the database to track fugitive undocumented immigrants and others sought by law enforcement, but the database, which could have contained more than one billion records, raised privacy concerns and questions about the safeguards which would be used to protect innocent citizens.

  • Operator of Hanford nuclear disposal site fires scientists who voice safety concerns

    The Hanford project in Washington State is the Department of Energy’s (DoE) largest nuclear cleanup project. DoE plans to transform fifty-six million gallons of radioactive sludge, currently stored in underground tanks, into solid glass. Scientists and engineers who work at Hanford have questioned the effectiveness of the required technology, and have voiced serious concerns about safety issues. Two of those who were the most persistent in voicing their concerns about safety have been fired, and a third one has left his job voluntarily.

  • Faster anthrax detection could speed bioterror response

    The fall 2011 anthrax attacks cost $3.2 million in cleanup and decontamination. At the time, no testing system was in place that officials could use to screen the letters. Currently, first responders have tests that can provide a screen for dangerous materials in about 24-48 hours. Now, researchers have developed a new method for anthrax detection that can identify anthrax in only a few hours.

  • How dogs detect explosives: New training recommendations

    Researchers have helped determine the science behind how canines locate explosives such as Composition C-4 (a plastic explosive used by the U.S. military). The study found the dogs react best to the actual explosive, calling into question the use of products designed to mimic the odor of C-4 for training purposes.

  • Hezbollah acknowledges Israel’s Monday air strike

    Hezbollah, after initially denying that any of its forces were attacks Monday night, earlier today (Wednesday) admitted that Israel carried out an airstrike targeting the militia’s positions in Lebanon near the border with Syria. Hezbollah’s statement said the air strike caused damage but no casualties. A senior Israeli security official told reporters that the missiles destroyed in the attack could carry warheads heavier and more dangerous than almost all of the tens of thousands of missiles and rockets Hezbollah now has in its arsenal.

  • Countering counterfeit electronic components

    Used and non-authentic counterfeit electronic components are widespread throughout the defense supply chain; over the past two years alone, more than one million suspect parts have been associated with known supply chain compromises. In the military, a malfunction of a single part could lead to system failures that can put soldier lives and missions at risk. A new DARPA program seeks tool that authenticates electronic components at any step of the supply chain.

  • Exposure to IED blasts increases risk of long-term health consequences

    Blasts are the leading cause of death and injury on the battlefield, accounting for about 75 percent of all combat-related injuries in U.S. military personnel. U.S. soldiers exposed to blasts while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have an increased risk of developing adverse health outcomes over the long term, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, in certain cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI), growth hormone deficiency, and persistent post-concussive symptoms including headaches, says a new report.

  • Israeli jets attack Syrian weapons convoys in Hezbollah-held area in Lebanon

    For the second time this year. Israeli jets attacked targets on the border between Lebanon and Syria on Monday night as part of an ongoing campaign to prevent the transfer of advanced weapon systems from the Syrian military to Hezbollah. In 2013, the Israel Air Force (IAF) attacked military bases and arms depots inside Syria on six occasions — 30 January, 3 May, 5 May, 5 July, 18 October, and 30 October. The first attack in 2014 took place on 26 January. The previous seven air strikes were on targets inside Syria, but last Sunday attack was on Syrian military convoys just inside Lebanon, in Hezbollah-controlled areas near the Lebanon-Syria border.

  • Cost of plutonium disposal facility skyrockets

    The Mixed Oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel factory at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, being built to help dispose of cold war-era weapon-grade plutonium, would cost up to $30 billion in addition to the $4 billion spent on construction so far. The staggering cost overruns have led many to call for a new, less expensive solution. Matthew Bunn, a former Clinton White House official who helped develop the plutonium disposal program, agrees that the cost of the MOX factory is excessive. “The things we’re trying to accomplish aren’t worth that amount of money,” he said.

  • After failing 5 February deadline, Syria wants 100-day extension to remove chemicals

    After missing the 5 February deadline to have all its chemical weapons removed from its territory, Syria has submitted a new 100-day plan for their removal. The international group monitoring the operation says the completion of the removal can be accomplished in less time than that. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) executive committee met on Friday in The Hague to discuss the joint OPCW and UN mission at a time when there is a growing international frustration with Syria over its failure to live up to its commitments.

  • Aircraft used in Vietnam source of postwar Agent Orange contamination in U.S.

    During the Vietnam War, in an operation called Operation Ranch Hand, approximately twenty million gallons of herbicides, including around 10.5 million gallons of dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange, were sprayed by about thirty-four C-123 aircraft. These aircraft were subsequently returned to the United States and were used by Air Force reserve units between 1971 and 1982 for transport operations. Air Force reservists who flew these planes were exposed greater levels of dioxin than previously acknowledged.