• U.S. nuclear facilities vulnerable to terrorist attack: study

    Some U.S. nuclear facilities are inadequately protected against theft of weapons-grade materials and sabotage by terrorists. Terrorist attacks on vulnerable nuclear facilities could trigger a meltdown or lead to a diversion of bomb-grade uranium. The danger is far from hypothetical since the 9/11 hijackers are known to have considered flying a passenger jet into a U.S. nuclear reactor before they settled on the World Trade Center as their main terror target.

  • Nuclear academics, professionals meet for 6th annual ATR NSUF Users Week

    The sixth annual Advanced Test Reactor National Scientific User Facility (ATR NSUF) Users Week was held 10-14 June at University Place, the satellite campus for Idaho State University and University of Idaho in Idaho Falls. This nuclear research-themed week was the user facility’s opportunity to update the user community on nuclear energy issues and tools, conduct a research forum where users can come and present their research, run specialized workshops, and build collaboration among academic, industry and government institutions.

  • Top-secret super-secure vault declassified

    Down a remote canyon near Los Alamos National Laboratory lies a facility known as the Tunnel Vault. Once one of the most secret and secure locations in the United States, it is the original post-Second World War nuclear stockpile storage area. Built between 1948 and 1949, the facility has a formidable security perimeter, a hardened guard tower — complete with gun ports and bulletproof glass — and a series of gates and doors that lead to a 230-foot long concrete tunnel that goes straight into the canyon wall.

  • Specialized gas detection helps prevent nuclear weapons proliferation

    Researchers aim to design a system capable of sensing, from among the loud signals of a lot of gases, the weak signals from specific gases which are signs of nuclear weapons proliferation. The researchers believe their gas correlation technique will prove ideal for a simple, inexpensive sensor to monitor those few illusive gases. This could change how the nation thinks about monitoring the spread of nuclear weapons. Instead of single-point measurements taken with expensive sensors deployed after someone suspects a problem, 24/7 continuous monitoring could find leaks early.

  • Highly portable X-ray imaging system developed

    Los Alamos National Laboratory and Tribogenics have developed the MiniMAX (Miniature, Mobile, Agile, X-ray) camera to provide real-time inspection of sealed containers and facilities.MiniMAX is an alternative to the large, expensive, and fixed facilities presently required for security inspections using X-ray imaging. The complete MiniMAX portable radiography system weighs less than five pounds.

  • Chechen Islamic terrorists threaten February 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia

    Doku Umarov, a leading Chechen Islamic rebel, on Wednesday issued a call to Islamist militants throughout the North Caucasus to begin and plan for attacks to disrupt the February 2014 Winter Olympics which will be held in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Security experts say that securing the games would be a daunting task.

  • U.K. nuclear disaster exercise reveals worrisome lapses in emergency response

    Up to six times a year, U.K. nuclear weapons are transported in heavily guarded convoys between production facilities in Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, where the nuclear bombs are manufactured, and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport on Loch Long in Argyll. The trips are required because scientists must regularly examine the 200 Trident missile warheads in order to make sure they are operationally reliable and properly maintained. Every three years, the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) conducts a drill aiming to test how various agencies respond to an accident involving the convoy carrying the nuclear warheads. An internal report on the last drill notes many problems in the response to the simulated accident, including five-hour wait for weapons experts, confusion over radiation monitoring, and ambulance crews refusing to take contamination victims to hospitals.

  • Laser-driven neutrons to detect nuclear smuggling

    Researchers have successfully demonstrated for the first time that laser-generated neutrons can be enlisted as a useful tool in the war on terror, as Los Alamos shows first nuclear material detection by single short-pulse-laser-driven neutron source.

  • Health impact of Chernobyl accident overestimated: study

    The impact of the Chernobyl nuclear accident has been seriously overestimated, while unfounded statements presented as scientific facts have been used to strangle the nuclear industry, according to Russian researchers.

  • Reducing the volume of nuclear waste

    The nuclear industry seeks to minimize the volume of nuclear waste by extracting the radioactive elements from spent fuel.This relies on exploiting differences in the chemical bonding of uranium. Scientists have found that in some circumstances the bonding may be surprisingly similar, an important discovery which is going to be important in the amelioration of nuclear waste clean-up and devising new atom-efficient catalytic cycles.

  • U.S. policy may lead to growing global shortage of helium

    Helium is an essential resource in technologies such as medical imaging, rocket engines, and surveillance devices. In response to the element’s scarcity, the United States has been stockpiling helium since the 1960s in a National Helium Reserve called the Bush Dome, a deep underground reservoir outside of Amarillo, Texas. In 1996 the Helium Privatization Act mandated that the Department of the Interior sell off all the stockpiled helium by 2015. Scientists say that this action discourages the active exploration of helium since companies can buy it from the United States at a cheap price and sell it at a premium. The result will be a growing shortage of helium.

  • Energy Department to invest in used nuclear fuel storage research

    As part of its efforts to develop an effective strategy for the safe and secure storage and management of used nuclear fuel, the Energy Department the other day announced a new dry storage research and development project. In the Energy Department’s budget request presented last week, the department requested $60 million for nuclear waste research and development.

  • Former NRC chairman: all 104 U.S. nuclear reactors suffer from “irreparable” safety issues

    According to former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) chairman Gregory Jaczko, all 104 nuclear reactors in the United States currently have irreparable safety issues and should be shut down and replaced. Jaczko was the NRC chairman from 2009 through 2012.

  • Critics: Fukushima-influenced U.S. nuclear accident response procedures are flawed

    The U.S. government is using the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan two years ago as a model for rewriting its plans on how to respond to radiation contamination — emphasizing long-term cleanup and return of residents to affected areas instead of emergency response. Critics say this is a mistake.

  • Ohio’s Perry nuclear power plant was vulnerable to sabotage

    A report issued last week said that operators at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio found a vulnerability in the security of the plant last year, and that that vulnerability could have put the public in harm’s way. The utility operating the nuclear plant reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that the plant’s security program for monitoring underground pathways and other unattended openings were insufficient to detect and prevent unauthorized access to the protected area.