• Middle East nukesIsrael admits destroying Syrian reactor in move seen aimed at Iran

    The Israeli military has formally acknowledged for the first time its destruction of a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, saying the air strike removed a major threat to Israel and was a “message” to others. Israel’s announcement on 21 March about Operation Out of the Box is widely seen as a veiled warning to arch-enemy Iran as it builds up its military presence in Syria. Syria, with North Korean help, secretly built the reactor in the desert near Deir al-Zor in north-east Syria, in violation of the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). North Korea planned to use the facility for separating weapon-grade plutonium from spent uranium, a nuclear-weapon related activity prohibited by the 1994 U.S.-North Korea nuclear Framework Agreement.

  • DetectionDTRA awards British university $1.1 million for improved radiation detectors

    The University of Surrey has been awarded $1.1 million by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to research new types of nanomaterials that produce high efficiency radiation detectors for use in nuclear security. The project will develop materials that are used as highly sensitive radiation detectors.

  • Uranium miningBefore the U.S. approves new uranium mining, consider its toxic legacy

    By Stephanie Malin

    Uranium – the raw material for nuclear power and nuclear weapons – is having a moment in the spotlight. Companies such as Energy Fuels, Inc. have played well-publicized roles in lobbying the Trump administration to reduce federal protection for public lands with uranium deposits. The Defense Department’s Nuclear Posture Review calls for new weapons production to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which could spur new domestic uranium mining. And the Interior Department is advocating more domestic uranium production, along with other materials identified as “critical minerals.” I have studied the legacies of past uranium mining and milling in Western states for over a decade. My book examines dilemmas faced by uranium communities caught between harmful legacies of previous mining booms and the potential promise of new economic development. These people and places are invisible to most Americans, but they helped make the United States an economic and military superpower. In my view, we owe it to them to learn from past mistakes and make more informed and sustainable decisions about possibly renewing uranium production than our nation made in the past.

  • Dirty bombsQuicker response to airborne radiological threats

    Researchers have developed a new technique that uses existing technologies to detect potential airborne radiological materials in hours instead of days. at present, emergency responders who are characterizing potential radiological risk need to take an air sample and ship it to a radiochemistry lab after preliminary screening analysis. The process means it can take days or weeks to get quality results that authorities can use to make informed decisions.

  • Nuclear weaponsQuestioning the need for forward-deployed U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe

    NTI has just released “Building a Safe, Secure, and Credible NATO Nuclear Posture,” a report addressing the security risks, credibility, and financial and political costs of maintaining NATO’s current nuclear posture, including forward-deployed U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. The report urges U.S. and NATO leaders to re-evaluate whether storing nuclear weapons at multiple sites across multiple countries makes sense in light of today’s threats and escalating costs—and, importantly, whether the weapons are still required elements of NATO defense policy.

  • Spy lizardsKhamenei military adviser: West uses lizards to spy on Iran’s nuclear program

    Saying that their skins absorb “atomic waves,” a top military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei charged that Western countries use “lizards, chameleons” to spy on Iran’s nuclear program. Hassan Firuzabadi, a former chief-of-staff for Iran’s army, said that the spy lizards were released in various places in Iran to find out where inside the Islamic republic of Iran we have uranium mines and where we are engaged in atomic activities.”

  • Radiation detectionNew radiation detectors developed at Sandia used for New START inspections

    Sandia National Laboratories designed, tested, and delivered new radiation detection equipment for monitoring under the New START Treaty. Defense Threat Reduction Agency inspectors recently used this equipment for the first time in Russia for a New START inspection. New START, or the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, is a treaty between the United States and Russia that, among other limits, reduces the deployed nuclear warheads on both sides to 1,550 by 5 February. These limits will be maintained for as long as the treaty remains in force. The treaty includes regular on-site inspections of warheads and delivery systems.

  • Nuclear launchVice president, House speaker should be included in nuclear launch decisions: Experts

    The U.S. protocol for ordering a nuclear attack should be revised to require not only an order from the president, but consent by the next two officials in the presidential chain of succession — the vice president and speaker of the House of Representatives, three experts argue in a new paper. “No one person should be able to order a nuclear attack,” said one of the paper’s authors. “There’s no reason to maintain this dangerous policy, since there are viable alternatives that would allow other officials to take part in any decision to use nuclear weapons, whether it’s a first use or a launch responding to a nuclear attack.”

  • Doomsday machineDraft U.S. document confirms Russian plans for “Doomsday” weapon

    Some two years ago, Western intelligence and military experts scrambled to make sense of a strange new Russian weapon whose designs were glimpsed briefly in a mysterious report on Russian state TV. The weapon was a nuclear-capable underwater drone that would be launched from a submarine. The description accompanying a picture of the drone said such vehicles or weapons would be pilotless and capable of attacking enemies and creating “zones of extensive radioactive contamination unfit for military, economic or other activity for a long period of time.” Now, for the first time there are public indications that U.S. intelligence have not only confirmed Russian intentions for the weapon, but are also trying to figure out how to respond to it.

  • Nuclear reactorsThorium reactors could dispose of large amounts of weapons-grade plutonium

    Scientists are developing a technology enabling the construction of high-temperature, gas-cool, low-power reactors with thorium fuel. The scientists propose to burn weapons-grade plutonium in these units, converting it into power and thermal energy. Thermal energy generated at thorium reactors may be used in hydrogen industrial production. The technology also makes it possible to desalinate water. 

  • Explosion detectionBalloon-borne infrasound sensor array detects explosions

    Infrasound is sound of very low frequencies, below 20 hertz, which is lower than humans can hear. African elephants produce infrasound for long-distance communication at around 15 hertz. For comparison, a bumblebee’s buzz is typically 150 hertz and humans hear in the range of 20 to 20,000 hertz. Infrasound is important because it’s one of the verification technologies the U.S. and the international community use to monitor explosions, including those caused by nuclear tests. Traditionally, infrasound is detected by ground-based sensor arrays, which don’t cover the open ocean and can be muddled by other noises, such as the wind. Sandia Lab scientists is using sheets of plastic, packing tape, some string, a little charcoal dust, and a white shoebox-size box to build a solar-powered hot air balloon for detecting infrasound.

  • No-drone zonesFAA declares seven nuclear research facilities no-drone zones

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted a request from the Department of Energy (DOE) to declare seven DOE’s nuclear research facilities no-drone zones. Starting 29 December, drone operators would not be allowed to fly their UAVs within 400 feet of these facilities: The FAA said it is currently considering more “no-drone zone” requests from federal agencies.

  • Nuclear weaponsComputer modeling aids solder reliability in nuclear weapons

    Solder isn’t the first thing that comes to mind as essential to a nuclear weapon. But since weapons contain hundreds of thousands of solder joints, each potentially a point of failure, Sandia National Laboratories has developed and refined computer models to predict their performance and reliability.

  • Iran nuke dealObama administration ended program targeting Hezbollah drug smuggling to secure nuke deal with Iran

    The Obama administration obstructed a campaign by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to monitor and prosecute Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, in order to solidify the 2015 nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic, according to a news report. The campaign, called Project Cassandra, launched in 2008, was aimed at disrupting Hezbollah’s weapons and drug trafficking practices, which included smuggling cocaine into the United States. Over the years, the Lebanese-based terror organization had morphed from a Middle East-focused military and political group into an international crime syndicate.

  • Nuclear testsNewly declassified videos of nuclear tests

    Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) released sixty-two newly declassified videos today of atmospheric nuclear tests films that have never before been seen by the public. The videos are the second batch of scientific test films to be published on the LLNL YouTube channel this year, and the team plans to publish the remaining videos of tests conducted by LLNL as they are scanned and approved for public release.