• “Nightmare scenario”: Nuclear power plants vulnerable to hacking by terrorists

    Security experts fear Fukushima-like disaster as terrorists use new technology to attempt attacks. The frequency and scope of cyberattacks on nuclear plants have increased dramatically, and experts say that a successful hack is now all but inevitable. They say that nuclear plant operators should focus more on preparing to contain and limit the damage when it does occur.

  • Safer, long-life nuclear reactors: Metal design may raise radiation resistance by 100 times

    The big problem faced by metals bombarded with radiation at high temperatures—such as the metals that make up nuclear fuel cladding—is that they have a tendency to swell up significantly. They can even double in size. In findings that could change the way industries like nuclear energy and aerospace look for materials that can stand up to radiation exposure, researchers have discovered that metal alloys with three or more elements in equal concentrations can be remarkably resistant to radiation-induced swelling.

  • Future of nuclear energy unclear

    Despite a turbulent history, the allure of nuclear energy — electricity production on a massive scale with minimal emissions — remains attractive. Its low emission rate is why the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change recommends doubling the world’s nuclear capacity by 2050. Yet the bulk of the 100 nuclear reactors currently operating in the U.S., which continue to produce about 20 percent of the nation’s energy, are reaching retirement age, and energy market forces don’t always favor nuclear.

  • Japan lifts Tsunami advisories

    The Japanese authorities have lifted tsunami advisories issued after a powerful earthquake struck the northeast of the country early Tuesday, injuring twenty people. The magnitude 7.4 earthquake occurred at 5:59 a.m., local time, off the coast of Fukushima prefecture. There were no deaths or major damage, but transportation was disrupted and residents of low-lying areas were instructed to leave their homes for higher ground. The quake was felt in Tokyo, about 150 miles away. Nearly 16,000 people were killed and more than 2,500 remain missing from the magnitude 9.1 earthquake that struck Japan’s northeastern regions on 11 March 2011.

  • Feds sue to block acquisition of Dallas radioactive waste company

    The U.S. Justice Department is suing to block a Salt Lake City-based company’s acquisition of Waste Control Specialists, the Dallas-based company that wants to expand the nuclear waste dump it operates in West Texas. If the $367 million merger with proposed buyer EnergySolutions goes through, it would “combine the two most significant competitors for the disposal of low level radioactive waste (LLRW) available to commercial customers in thirty-six states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico,” the Justice Department said.

  • Meeting global energy demands with nuclear power

    An international team of scientists suggests that we must ramp up energy production by nuclear power if we are to succeed in warding off the worst effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change. The team suggests that beginning in 2020 we could achieve an annual electricity output of 20 terawatts without needing to develop carbon dioxide trapping and storage technology for the tens of billions of tons of emissions that would otherwise drive global warming to catastrophic levels.

  • Immobilizing radioactive waste in glass for millions of years

    How do you handle nuclear waste that will be radioactive for millions of years, keeping it from harming people and the environment? It is not easy, but researchers have discovered ways to immobilize such waste – the offshoot of decades of nuclear weapons production – in glass and ceramics.

  • Nanomaterials help solve the problem of nuclear waste

    In the last decades, nanomaterials have gained broad scientific and technological interest due to their unusual properties compared to micrometer-sized materials. Nuclear fuels production, structural materials, separation techniques, and waste management may all benefit from more knowledge in the nano-nuclear technology.

  • Bacteria can help make underground nuclear waste repositories safer

    It takes about two hundred thousand years for the radioactivity of spent nuclear fuel to revert to the levels of naturally occurring uranium. As a result, most research into the long-term safety of nuclear waste disposal focuses on processes that tick to a slow geological clock: the mechanics of the rock layers that make up the storage site or the robustness of the protective barriers in place that are engineered to contain the radiation. However, all these studies neglect one key factor: biology. Naturally occurring bacteria could consume pent-up hydrogen gas in nuclear waste repositories to prevent radioactive leaks.

  • Surprise finding could improve future handling of nuclear waste

    A researcher at the University of Manchester has made a surprise finding after observing variations of a chemical bond with a radioactive metal called thorium — and this newly revealed relationship could one day contribute to improving nuclear fuel management.

  • Risk of another Chernobyl- or Fukushima-type accident worryingly plausible

    The biggest-ever statistical analysis of historical nuclear accidents suggests that nuclear power is an underappreciated extreme risk and that major changes will be needed to prevent future disasters. The researchers’worrying conclusion is that, while nuclear accidents have substantially decreased in frequency, this has been accomplished by the suppression of moderate-to-large events. They estimate that Fukushima- and Chernobyl-scale disasters are still more likely than not once or twice per century, and that accidents on the scale of the 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island (a damage cost of about $10 billion) are more likely than not to occur every 10-20 years.

  • Nuclear forensics summer program trains students for a future in nuclear security

    A sure sign of summer is the return of interns to the Lawrence Livermore campus. Students interact with premier researchers and access equipment and facilities not available anywhere else, while scientists lay groundwork for advancing their fields. LLNL runs an eight-week summer internship for students interested in nuclear science and its range of specialties — nuclear forensics, environmental radiochemistry, nuclear physics, and beyond. Together, these disciplines support the laboratory’s nuclear security mission through analysis of nuclear processes and properties.

  • Pro-nuclear countries slowest to make progress on climate targets

    A strong national commitment to nuclear energy goes hand in hand with weak performance on climate change targets, researchers found. A new study of European countries shows that the most progress toward reducing carbon emissions and increasing renewable energy sources has been made by nations without nuclear energy or with plans to reduce it. Conversely, pro-nuclear countries have been slower to implement wind, solar, and hydropower technologies and to tackle emissions.

  • Reactor safety experts from Sandia help industry learn from Fukushima accident

    Reactor safety experts from Sandia National Laboratories and elsewhere are sharing lessons learned in Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident and other severe accidents that pushed nuclear power plants past their limits. The safety experts seek to demystify what happens during an accident, to help engineers/operators learn what decisions they might need to make in the event of an accident at their plants, and to provide insights into the non-intuitive nature of accidents.

  • Belarus’s lax approach to nuclear safety raises fear of another Chernobyl

    Thirty years after Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear accident, a series of mishaps at a nuclear facility in Astravets, in Belarus, has raised concerns over nuclear safety, especially in neighboring Lithuania. Vilnius, the country’s capital, is located less than thirty-one miles from Astravets. Lithuania, accusing Belrus of Soviet era-like lack of transparency, says it would work with the international community to block the Astravets plant coming online.