Nuclear weapons proliferation

  • Plutonium processingS.C. fights to keep costly plutonium processing project alive

    The United States and Russia have agreed to dispose of thirty-four tons of weapon-grade plutonium each, an amount equal to 17,000 nuclear warheads. The United States budgeted $4 billion for a mixed-oxide fuel project, known as MOX, at the Savannah River Site, S.C., to process the plutonium, but construction costs have now reached $8 billion, and officials estimate the facility will cost about $30 billion over its operating years. DOE has suspended the MOX project and is looking for alternative plutonium processing methods. South Carolina has sued the federal government, arguing that since Congress has authorized the funds for MOX, the administration must spend the money.

  • Nuclear proliferationNC State awarded $25 million NNSA grant to launch nuclear proliferation detection effort

    North Carolina State University was awarded a 5-year, $25 million grant by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) to develop the next generation of leaders with practical experience in technical fields relevant to nuclear nonproliferation. The new Consortium for Nonproliferation Enabling Capabilities, or CNEC, aims to be the pre-eminent research and education hub dedicated to the development of enabling technologies and technical talent for meeting the challenges of nuclear nonproliferation in the next decade.

  • Nuclear safeguardsNew center will work to improve methods to detect, prevent the spread of nuclear weapons

    The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has awarded the University of Michigan $25 million to establish the Center for Verification Technology. A team from thirteen universities will work with eight national labs to analyze nuclear nonproliferation efforts, improve technologies for monitoring weapons-grade materials and detecting secret weapon tests, and train the next generation of nonproliferation experts.

  • Dirty bombPossibility of “dirty bombs” a major terrorism threat

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has warned that there were 140 cases of missing or unauthorized nuclear and radioactive material in 2013 — a pressing reminder that the possibility of possession of nuclear materials by terrorist organizations is both real and current.

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  • Radiation detection New infrared technique remotely to detect dangerous materials

    Researchers say that infrared technology holds the potential to spot from afar whether a site is being used to make nuclear weapons. They developed a model which precisely characterizes the material in each pixel of an image taken from a long-wave infrared camera. The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) funded the project. The government’s long-term goal for infrared technology is remotely to detect the exact materials, chemicals and gases coming and going from factories or other sites suspected of illegal nuclear production.

  • IranIDF ordered to continue preparations for striking Iran’s nuclear sites this year

    The negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program continue, with an eye to replacing, by June, the current temporary agreement with a permanent one, but Israel let it be known that it is continuing to its preparations for a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have instructed the IDF to continue its preparations for carrying out such a strike, at a cost estimated to be at least ten billion shekels ($2.89 billion) this year.

  • Nuclear proliferationBudget proposal cuts funds for nuclear nonproliferation programs

    The White House’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal includes more than $220 million in cuts for nuclear security initiatives such as the International Material Protection and Cooperationprogram, which aims to secure and eliminate vulnerable nuclear weapons and materials, and the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which supports the Energy Department’s efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear and radiological materials that could be used in weapons of mass destruction. The administration says that 54 percent of the reduction in the administration’s nonproliferation budget request can be accounted for by the decision to halt the South Carolina Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility(MOX), which would have convert weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel, because the project proved to be too costly.

  • Plutonium processingS.C. politicians want decision to halt work on Savannah River plutonium plant reversed

    Three Republican lawmakers from South Carolina — Senator Lindsey Graham and Representatives Tim Scott and Joe Wilson have – have asked South Carolina governor Nikki Haley to “explore any legal avenues” to prevent the mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) project at the Savannah River Sitefrom shutting down. The administration has decided to put the project on hold after repeated delays and cost overruns averaging 60 percent over the original estimates.

  • Plutonium reprocessing Energy Department suspends work on controversial plutonium reprocessing project

    The Obama administration has decided to put on hold its plans to complete construction on a South Carolina reprocessing facility which would convert nuclear weapon-grade plutonium into reactor fuel. The suspension of work on the project is part of the fiscal 2015 budget plan the administration unveiled Tuesday. The project has been hobbled by delays and massive cost-overruns, and experts says security and safety concerns have not been adequately addressed.

  • Nuclear nonproliferationProposed 2015 budget cuts funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs

    The Obama administration 2015 budget proposal shows that the administration will spend less on nuclear nonproliferation initiatives in 2015 than it would in 2014. The budget of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the agency responsible for various nuclear weapons and nuclear nonproliferation programs, will be cut by 20 percent, from the $1.9 billon Congress approved for fiscal 2014 — which in turn was a $289 million cut from fiscal 2013 levels — to $1.6 billion in 2015.

  • Plutonium disposalCost of plutonium disposal facility skyrockets

    The Mixed Oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel factory at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, being built to help dispose of cold war-era weapon-grade plutonium, would cost up to $30 billion in addition to the $4 billion spent on construction so far. The staggering cost overruns have led many to call for a new, less expensive solution. Matthew Bunn, a former Clinton White House official who helped develop the plutonium disposal program, agrees that the cost of the MOX factory is excessive. “The things we’re trying to accomplish aren’t worth that amount of money,” he said.

  • IranIAEA: Iran's stockpile of 20% enriched uranium shrunk under interim nuclear agreement

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports in its quarterly inspections assessment that the quantity of 20 percent enriched uranium in Iran’s hands has been reduced since last November, when the world’s six powers (P5+1) and Iran have reached an interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear activities. Iran now has 354 pounds of the material — or about one-fifth less than what it had in November. With the right type of centrifuges, it is quicker to enrich uranium from 20 percent to weapon-grade 90 percent than it is to enrich uranium from 1 or 2 percent to 20 percent, so that the smaller the amount of 20 percent uranium a country has, the longer the “breakout” time — the time it would take a country to assemble a nuclear bomb once a decision to do so has been made.

  • IranIran-Russia oil deal threatens nuclear negotiations

    Iran said that in exchange for Iranian oil, Russia could build a second reactor at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant. Russia could also provide Iran with trucks, railroad tracks, mini-refineries, grain, and other goods for Iranian oil. In a deal worth $1.5 billion a month, Iran would export 500,000 barrels of oil per day to Russia. The deal would increase Iran’s oil exports, which have been reduced to about one million barrels a day by American and European sanctions aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

  • Threat reductionSandia Lab leading multidisciplinary effort to counter WMD

    Threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction do not seem as imminent today as they did after the 9/11 attacks, but Jill Hruby, vice president of International, Homeland, and Nuclear Security at Sandia Labs, says that scientists, industry, and universities working on technological solutions to national security challenges must anticipate what could come next. Speaking at AAAS annual meeting, Hruby said that in an environment of lower public interest — due, in part, to the success of early efforts to combat terrorism that resulted in fewer major incidents in recent years — continued collaboration between national security laboratories, academia, and industry is needed.

  • Dirty bombsSecurity of dirty bomb materials in U.S. inadequate: experts

    There are more than 5,000 medical and research devices in the United States containing high-activity radiation sources, including 700 with category-1 sources. Category-1 radiation material could be used by terrorists in dirty bombs. The security measures developed by the industry were written with accident prevention in mind, not in order to thwart a deliberate, forcible effort by terrorists or criminals to gain control of the toxic material. In addition, radioactive materials were considered to be “self-protecting,” because it was assumed that the powerful radiation would deter anyone thinking of tampering with these devices. Terrorist bomb-makers, however, showed themselves to be more technologically-savvy than earlier thought, and, in any event, suicide bombers would not be deterred by the risk of radiation poisoning.