Nuclear weapons

  • Radiation risksU.S. Army seeking to end environmental testing at Indiana nuclear firing range

    The U.S. Army wants to end its Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license at the Jefferson Proving Ground in southern Indiana. The Army’s appeal comes after years of water and soil testing at the site. Currently, an estimated 162,040 pounds of depleted uranium projectiles and shows are still on the firing range. The site was last used in 1995. Uranium munitions, specifically the kind used to penetrate armor during Operation Desert Shield, were used there throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Nuclear weaponsStudying the long-term aging of electronics in nuclear weapons

    Sandia National Laboratories is studying how environments, including radiation which originates from a nuclear weapon itself, could affect the performance of electronics in the W76-1 warhead as they age. Researchers have studied radiation effects since the early days of nuclear weapons, but a 30-year program, which begun in 2006, will provide real-time data for the first time on how electronics age within the weapon. Studies in the past used techniques that artificially accelerated the aging process based on a range of assumptions resulting from experiments and previous research.

  • Nuclear weaponsU.S. nuclear arsenal must be upgraded to maintain effective deterrence: Experts

    Former military officers, academic strategists, scientists, and congressional leaders have recently been calling for the development of new nuclear weapons to replace the nation’s older, outdated stockpiles. Twenty-five years since the cold war ended, the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been significantly reduced to its current level of 4,804 nuclear weapons — from a peak of 31,000 weapons in 1967.As cooperation with Russia deepened in the 1990s, U.S. weapons complexes deteriorated. A recent “60 Minutes” story on the U.S. nuclear forces found that missileers charged with watching over and controlling Minuteman III ICBMs in Wyoming were still using floppy disks to store critical information. One expert arguing for shoring up and upgrading the U.S. nuclear deterrence says that “one of the reasons deterrence is so valuable is that it provides incentives for self-discipline in the behavior of states that otherwise cannot be trusted to behave peaceably.”

  • Nuclear weaponsScientist develops uncrackable security code for nuclear weapons

    Nuclear weapons exist, so control of nuclear weapons is essential. Intrinsic Use Control (IUC) is a concept which is capable of providing improved quantifiable safety and use control within a nuclear weapon. As a basic concept, use control is best accomplished in the weapon itself rather than depending on administrative controls, fences, and guards. Using established technology, IUC uses passive use control to resist any attacks or unauthorized use of a weapon at either the component or the fully assembled levels.

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  • NukesU.S. planning expansion of nuclear production in the face of safety concerns

    Despite the release of a damning report regarding the 14 February nuclear waste accident at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the government is planning ramped-up production of nuclear weapons cores, a move which is raising red flags for those calling for reform of nuclear production and storage procedures.

  • DetectionTransparent nanoscintillators for radiation detection in homeland security, medical safety

    Researchers say recently identified radiation detection properties of a light-emitting nanostructure built in their lab could open doors for homeland security and medical advances. The researchers describe a new method to fabricate transparent nanoscintillators by heating nanoparticles composed of lanthanum, yttrium and oxygen until a transparent ceramic is formed. A scintillator refers to a material that glows in response to radiation.

  • Radiation risksA second drum at nuke waste repository poses radiation leak danger

    At a recent meeting of the New Mexico Legislature’s Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee in Carlsbad, officials were informed that a second waste drum containing nuclear materials, could also contain the same mix of ingredients as the waste drum from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) which caused a radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in February.

  • Nuclear labsDeficiencies in U.S. nuclear labs’ emergency preparedness plans: Report

    A recently released study of seventeen U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board(DNFSB), which examined operations at the labs over the last three years, found deficiencies in emergency preparedness plans. Three New Mexico labs — the Los Alamos National Laboratory(LANL), the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant(WIPP) near Carlsbad, and Sandia National Laboratoriesin Albuquerque — exemplify various gaps in disaster preparedness throughout the nation’s nuclear defense system.

  • Nuclear wasteStrengthening the armor for nuclear-waste eating microbes

    A microbe developed to clean up nuclear waste and patented by a Michigan State University researcher has just been improved. Researchers had identified that Geobacter bacteria’s tiny conductive hair-like appendages, or pili, did the yeoman’s share of remediation. By increasing the strength of the pili nanowires, she improved their ability to clean up uranium and other toxic wastes.

  • Nuclear weaponsLos Alamos conducts hydrodynamic experiment in Nevada

    Los Alamos National Laboratory has successfully fired the latest in a series of hydrodynamic experiments at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). Hydrodynamic experiments involve non-nuclear surrogate materials that mimic many of the properties of nuclear materials. The12 August 2014 integrated experiment, nicknamed “Leda,” provided important surrogate hydrodynamic materials data which support the laboratory’s role as a steward of the U. S. nuclear deterrent.

  • Nuclear weaponsU.S. to spend more money on modernizing its nuclear arsenal, less on nonproliferation programs

    President Barack Obama has made gains in his quest to secure nuclear weapons and materials. In March, at the Nuclear Security Summitin Holland, Obama declared “it is important for us not to relax but rather accelerate our efforts over the next two years.” The Obama administration, however, is allocating more resources toward refurbishing and modernizing current nuclear weapons than advancing nuclear nonproliferation programs. Civilian institutions, including research labs, today hold enough nuclear explosive materials to put together 40,000 atomic bombs, but the administration has missed a self-imposed deadline of April 2013 for ensuring that nuclear materials were safe from terrorist organizations.

  • Nuclear processingContinued funding for S.C. mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) plant – at least until fall

    Federal legislators have secured the funds to keep the mixed-oxide fuelplant (MOX) at the Savannah River Sitein South Carolina moving forward at least into fall, according to South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and members of the state’s congressional delegation. The 310-square mile site once produced components for nuclear weapons, but since the agreement with Russia to turn nuclear weapons into reactor fuel, the site has focused on repurposing and cleanup.

  • Nuclear weaponsSandia makes sure U.S. nuclear weapons deterrent remain effective, credible

    It may sound strange to say that nuclear weapons must survive radiation. Sandia National Laboratories says, however, that as part of its mission of ensuring the nation’s stockpile is safe, secure, and effective as a deterrent, the laboratory must make sure crucial parts can function if they are hit by radiation, especially a type called fast neutrons. Sandia developed a new way to do that after its facility for creating fast neutrons, the Sandia Pulsed Reactor (SPR), was shut down due to increased post-9/11 security concerns about its highly enriched uranium.

  • Radiation risksDOE chief to visit WIPP to discuss funding for recovery efforts

    Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will visit Carlsbad, New Mexico on 12 August to discuss funding for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) recovery efforts.Traces of americium and plutonium were released from a nuclear waste drum on 14 February and were detected in the air almost a half-mile outside WIPP. On 15 May, the DOE confirmed that the damage occurred on a waste drum from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

  • Nuclear wasteFire shuts down nuclear repository, but DOE still recognizes operator for “excellent” performance

    Five days after an underground truck fire closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the Energy Department (DOE) awarded Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the operating contractor of the nuclear repository, $1.9 million for “excellent” performance during the past year.Shortly after the truck fire, WIPP was shut down because of radiation leak, Still, “No federal or contractor official has lost their job, been transferred, been moved off the WIPP contract or otherwise held accountable. No leadership has changed at the federal level. No company has lost a contract,” noted an industry observer.