• Nuclear wasteStudying the basic science of nuclear waste

    Approximately 300 million liters of highly radioactive wastes are stored in hundreds of underground tanks at the Hanford Site in Washington and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. These wastes are extremely complicated mixtures of salts and sludges that have been exposed to ionizing radiation for decades. Their chemistry is dominated by interactions at solid-liquid interfaces that are poorly understood. A more thorough understanding of the chemistry of radioactive waste is key to treating this unwanted byproduct of winning the Second World War and the cold war.

  • Iran’s nukesSecret side deal cuts Iran’s breakout time in half in little more than a decade

    Key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will ease in slightly more than a decade, cutting in half the time Iran would need to build a nuclear weapons. The AP had obtained a document from a source inside the IAEA — a document which was the only secret portion to last year’s agreement between Iran and the P5+1 powers. The document said that after a period of between eleven to thirteen years, Iran could replace its 5,060 older, and inefficient, centrifuges with up to 3,500 advanced centrifuges.

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  • Nukes in TurkeyCoup attempt raises fresh questions about safety of U.S. nuclear stockpile in Turkey

    To the extent that news coverage of the coup attempt in Turkey touched on how the coup might affect the U.S. military presence in the country, the focus was on air operations the United States has been conducting against ISIS from the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey. What was not discussed in the media was the fact that the base is home to the largest stockpile of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. The coup was the cause of fresh questions about the safety of these weapons, and the wisdom of storing them in such a vulnerable location.

  • Nuclear proliferationLaser uranium enrichment technology may create new nuclear proliferation risks

    A new laser-based uranium enrichment technology is based on a new uranium separation concept, which relies on the selective laser excitation and condensation repression of uranium-235 in a gas. Experts worry that this new enrichment technology may provide a hard-to-detect pathway to nuclear weapons production.

  • Nuclear historyNew mobile app offers a virtual tour of the Manhattan Project

    A new, free mobile application titled “Los Alamos: The Secret City of the Manhattan Project,” is now available for download from the Apple store. The app allows users from any location around the world to experience the environment in that pivotal time during the Second World War when a group of scientists came to Project Y, the wartime-era code name for Los Alamos, to develop a weapon unlike any other in human history — a weapon to harness the power of the atom.

  • Nuclear weapons“Cold War warriors”: Sandia’s decades in nuclear weapons

    “Cold War Warriors,” a 32-minute historical documentary, traces nuclear weapons testing from the first nuclear detonation in southern New Mexico in 1945 to the final test in September 1992. The story is told largely by forty-four Sandia Lab field testers, the people video producer Myra Buteau calls “game changers in the evolution of nuclear weapons testing.”

  • Dirty bombsWhat is a dirty bomb and how dangerous is it?

    By Robert J Downes

    The worrying news that individuals affiliated with the so-called Islamic State have undertaken hostile surveillance at a Belgian nuclear research facility has created growing speculation about the group’s nuclear ambitions. There are no indications that a terrorist group has obtained any fissile material to date. An easier option for a terrorist group would be to build a dirty bomb or, technically, a radiological dispersal device. This is the reason for sensible concern, rather than hysterical speculation about Islamic State’s recent activities in Belgium and, especially, Iraq and Syria. After all, without an effective government, it is unclear who controls the many radioactive sources in the region.

  • African securityAfrican parliaments lead the continent's fight against weapons of mass destruction

    By Nicolas Kasprzyk

    Jihadist literature has, for a while, called for the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction — encouraging the production of ricin, botulinum, and sarin. The surge in terrorist acts and violent extremism on the continent should underscore, for all African states, the urgent need to actively prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors. It also confirms the relevance of UN Security Council resolution 1540

  • Nuclear terrorismISIS planning to use drones for radioactive attacks on Western cities

    Prime Minister David Cameron warned that ISIS terrorists are planning to use drones to spray nuclear material over Western cities in a lethal “dirty bomb” attack. Security experts are worried about jihadists buying simple drones, which are widely available, and use them to carry radioactive material into the centers of large cities in attacks which would kill thousands and contaminate large sections of cities, making entire areas uninhabitable for years.

  • ISISISIS obtaining nuclear weapons “obviously a concern”: British defense secretary

    British defense secretary Michael Fallon said the prospect of ISIS or another terror group with the “technical know-how” obtaining nuclear weapons is “obviously a concern.” Fallon said it was important to ensure that terror groups could not “get their hands on nuclear weapons” and said the United Kingdom was doing its part by maintaining strict export controls on the necessary technology.

  • Nuclear weaponsHelping inspectors locate and identify underground nuclear tests

    Through experiments and computer models of gas releases, scientists have simulated signatures of gases from underground nuclear explosions (UNEs) that may be carried by winds far from the point of detonation. The work will help international inspectors locate and identify a clandestine UNE site within a 1,000 square kilometer search area during an on-site inspection that could be carried out under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

  • Iran dealIran nuclear deal: how to ensure compliance?

    By Kalman Robertson

    The U.S. and European countries lifted nuclear-related sanctions against Iran on 16 January as part of a deal in which the country agreed to limit its nuclear activities and accept a new system of international inspections. The issue now is how the international community can be confident that Iran is not violating the deal. Iran agreed never to develop nuclear weapons when it signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. There’s no ironclad method to prevent Iran from breaking its promise and developing nuclear weapons, but this new agreement builds in a number of strong protections. In conjunction with U.S. and allied intelligence capabilities, these rules mean even a sophisticated and carefully executed secret plan would carry a high risk of detection.Looking at the deal as a whole, Iran’s best strategy for acquiring nuclear weapons would simply be to wait for restrictions on its declared enrichment program to be lifted. Assuming that the deal does not fall apart sooner, most of those provisions are scheduled to expire in 2030. In the meantime, the deal helps make a nuclear-armed Iran a less immediate prospect.

  • Nuclear proliferationSoftware helps detect nuclear tests

    When North Korea conducted its recent nuclear weapon test, it was not terribly difficult to detect. It was a fairly large blast, it occurred in a place where a test was not surprising, and the North Korean government made no effort to hide it. But clandestine tests of smaller devices, perhaps by terrorist organizations or other nonstate actors, are a different story. It is those difficult-to-detect events that the Vertically Integrated Seismic Analysis (VISA) — a machine learning system — aims to find.

  • Nuclear proliferationSeismologists "hear" the nuclear explosions in North Korea

    International experts are far from convinced that North Korea actually conducted its first H-bomb test, which was reported by the country last week.Seismology alone cannot tell whether it was a hydrogen bomb or not, but seismologists say that what emerges from the existing data is that last week’s seismic events in North Korea were slightly smaller than a similar event in 2013.

  • Nuclear weaponsNorth Korea claims to have tested miniaturized hydrogen bomb

    North Korea has conducted its fourth nuclear test in ten years – the previous tests took place in 2006, 2009 and 2013 – indicating that the country is further along in developing nuclear warheads which could be miniaturized and placed on a missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.