Public Safety

  • Lawmakers want DOE to reduce run-away costs of S.C. plutonium processing plant

    Lawmakers have given the Obama administration two weeks to submit a plan for reducing the cost of constructing the mixed-oxide fuel conversion (MOX) facility which would convert bomb-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel. The MOX facility at the Savannah River Site, South Carolina was launched to help the United States meet its nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia, and agreement which called for the two countries to dispose of at least thirty-four metric tons each of weapons-grade plutonium.

  • U.S. military communication satellites vulnerable to cyberattacks

    A new report warns that satellite communication terminals used by U.S. military aircrafts, ships, and land vehicles to share location data, are vulnerable to cyberattacks through digital backdoors. A forensic security review of codes embedded inside the circuit boards and chips of the most widely used SATCOM terminals identified multiple hacker entry points.

  • Sandia offers free classes to high school students at the Lab’s Cyber Technologies Academy

    In the rapidly changing world of cybersecurity, who better to learn from than the professionals who live in that world every day? High school students are getting just that opportunity through Sandia National Laboratories’ Cyber Technologies Academy, free classes for high school students interested in computer science and cybersecurity.

  • Sinn Féin’s president Gerry Adams arrested over 1972 murder

    Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was arrested on Wednesday for questioning about one of the most notorious IRA murders during the Troubles. Detectives in Antrim questioned Adams about the execution of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 who was dragged from her west Belfast home in 1972, tortured, and shot in the back of the head. McConville was one of the “Disappeared” – IRA victims whose bodies were buried so they would never be found — and her body was not discovered until 2003. Adams’s arrest and questioning follows a ruling by a court in the United States which compelled Boston College to hand over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland recorded interviews with veteran IRA members about McConville’s murder.

  • Criminals cannot hide behind prepaid phones

    Cambria County, Pennsylvania police quickly tracked the individual who called to say he had placed a bomb in the county courthouse. The individual called the court to warn of the bomb and allow for an orderly evacuation. The call was a hoax, but the the authorities began to evacuate the building. Even before the court was completely evacuated, the 911 dispatch center, Ebensburg Borough Police Department, and Cambria County Sheriff’s Department all knew that the call came from a prepaid phone purchased at the Richland Township Wal-Mart. With the prompt help of Verizon and Wal-Mart, the suspect was nabbed.

  • U.S. should significantly reduce incarceration rate: study

    There has been an unprecedented and internationally unique rise in U.S. state and federal prison populations, from 200,000 inmates in 1973 to 1.5 million in 2009. This increase occurred because of policy decisions such as mandatory sentencing, long sentences for violent and repeat offenses, and intensified criminalization of drug-related activity. Given the minimal impact of long prison sentences on crime prevention and the negative social consequences and burdensome financial costs of U.S. incarceration rates, which have more than quadrupled in the last four decades, the United States should revise current criminal justice policies to significantly reduce imprisonment rates, says a new report from the National Research Council. The dramatic rise in prison population “not serving the country well,” the report says.

  • Western intelligence: Assad plans to retain residual chemical weapons capability

    Israeli intelligence officials say the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria may be concealing a small amount of the chemical weapons in its possession, while pretending that it is fully cooperating with the process to remove all chemical weapons from Syria. This assessment is similar to conclusions reached by the U.S. and U.K. intelligence communities in the past two weeks. The Israeli view is that the retention of chemicals by the Assad regime has to do with the ongoing fight against the rebels, and is not an indication that the regime is contemplating their use against Israel. A senior intelligence source also said that unlike the consensus in the intelligence community a year or two ago, the Israeli defense establishment no longer considers bringing down the regime in Damascus as necessarily positive for Israel.

  • Harder ceramic for armor windows

    The Department of Defense needs materials for armor windows that provide essential protection for both personnel and equipment while still having a high degree of transparency. To meet that need, scientists have developed a method to fabricate nanocrystalline spinel that is 50 percent harder than the current spinel armor materials used in military vehicles.

  • Access of Russian surveillance craft to U.S. airspace questioned

    Under the Treaty on Open Skies (OS), signed in 1992 and ratified in 2002, thirty-four nations allow the protected passage over their territory of surveillance aircraft from other OS signatory member states, aircraft featuring advanced sensory equipment that allow for the monitoring of arms controls compliance and troop movements. With rising U.S.-Russia tensions over Ukraine, and with information emerging about a new Russian surveillance aircraft model equipped with the most advanced surveillance capabilities, U.S. government officials and lawmakers question whether OS-related Russian surveillance flights over the United States should continue.

  • Violence and corruption by drug cartels hits homeland

    While the American media devotes much time and effort to pinpointing the violence and corruption generated by the drug cartels in Mexico, far less attention is devoted to crimes in this country which are a direct result of these same criminal organizations. The corruption of American law enforcement has become a significant problem along the border. The Mexican drug cartels which control drugs and human smuggling are directly responsible for a spiraling level of violence and crime which instills fear among residents on both sides of the border even as it lowers the quality of life for all who call the U.S.-Mexican borderlands their home.

  • Room-scouting robot to help first responders, soldiers

    Firefighters, police officers, and military personnel are often required to enter rooms with little information about what dangers might lie behind the door. A group of engineering students at Arizona State University is working on a project which would help alleviate that uncertainty. The product they are building consists of a laser sensor attached to a motor that sweeps all the way around a room, taking 700-800 individual scans, each one with about 680 unique data points. This information is transmitted to a computer program that creates a picture of the room and all its contents. Whoever is controlling the sensor remotely can see and analyze the data in real-time, as it is being collected.

  • Public safety officials implement Boston bombing's lessons

    The use of improvised tourniquets to stop bleeding was considered not only old-fashioned, but potentially damaging. Yet, in the minutes following the Boston marathon bombing, people near the finish line used improvised tourniquets to stop the bleeding of dozens of those injured around them while waiting for medical crews to arrive. Security and public safety officials have used lessons learned from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing to prepare for this year’s event, including providing police officers with tourniquets. Organizers of large public events are implementing other lessons from the 2013 attack.

  • Adoption of battlefield surveillance system in urban settings raises privacy concerns

    More cities are adopting an aerial surveillance system first developed for the military. The surveillance cameras, fitted on a small plane, can record a 25-square-mile area for up to six hours, and cost less than the price of a police helicopter. The system also has the capability of watching 10,000 times the area that a police helicopter could watch. Privacy advocates are concerned. “There are an infinite number of surveillance technologies that would help solve crimes, but there are reasons that we don’t do those things, or shouldn’t be doing those things,” said one of them.

  • S.C. fights to keep costly plutonium processing project alive

    The United States and Russia have agreed to dispose of thirty-four tons of weapon-grade plutonium each, an amount equal to 17,000 nuclear warheads. The United States budgeted $4 billion for a mixed-oxide fuel project, known as MOX, at the Savannah River Site, S.C., to process the plutonium, but construction costs have now reached $8 billion, and officials estimate the facility will cost about $30 billion over its operating years. DOE has suspended the MOX project and is looking for alternative plutonium processing methods. South Carolina has sued the federal government, arguing that since Congress has authorized the funds for MOX, the administration must spend the money.

  • Detecting and defeating radiological threats

    Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Radiological Assistance Program (RAP) team works to stay ahead of any radiological threats by using many detection tools that have become increasingly sophisticated and user-friendly. During a deployment, researchers and technicians with backgrounds in various aspects of radiological controls and analysis conduct field monitoring and environmental sampling, assessment, and documentation activities to help decision makers choose appropriate protective actions for the safety of both the public and first responders.