• U.S. nuclear reactors vulnerable to terrorist attack: study

    More than ten years after the 9/11 hijackers considered flying a fully loaded passenger jet into a Manhattan area nuclear reactor, U.S. commercial and research nuclear facilities remain inadequately protected against two credible terrorist threats — the theft of bomb-grade material to make a nuclear weapon, and sabotage attacks intended to cause a reactor meltdown. A new report finds that none of the 104 commercial nuclear power reactors in the United States is adequately protected — but among the most vulnerable are eleven reactors in California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. One of these reactors, on the grounds of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is among the three research reactors fueled with bomb-grade uranium, and is located in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Gaithersburg, less than twenty-five miles from the White House.

  • Gen. Dempsey: U.S. military options against Iran “better” than last year

    General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who is on an official visit to Israel and Jordan this week, said that in his meeting with Israeli leaders he told them that “since I was here last year [October 2012], [the United States has] better military options than we did a year ago” to deal with Iran’s nuclear weapons program. “That’s because we’ve continued to refine them,” he said. “We’ve continued to develop technology, we’ve continued to train and plan.”

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  • Small modular reactors (SMEs) a “poor bet” to revive U.S. nuclear renaissance: report

    A shift to small modular reactors (SMRs) is unlikely to breathe new life into the troubled U.S. nuclear power industry, since SMRs will likely require tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies or government purchase orders, create new reliability vulnerabilities, as well as concerns in relation to both safety and proliferation, according a report issued last week.

  • Nuclear academics, professionals meet for 6th annual ATR NSUF Users Week

    The sixth annual Advanced Test Reactor National Scientific User Facility (ATR NSUF) Users Week was held 10-14 June at University Place, the satellite campus for Idaho State University and University of Idaho in Idaho Falls. This nuclear research-themed week was the user facility’s opportunity to update the user community on nuclear energy issues and tools, conduct a research forum where users can come and present their research, run specialized workshops, and build collaboration among academic, industry and government institutions.

  • Top-secret super-secure vault declassified

    Down a remote canyon near Los Alamos National Laboratory lies a facility known as the Tunnel Vault. Once one of the most secret and secure locations in the United States, it is the original post-Second World War nuclear stockpile storage area. Built between 1948 and 1949, the facility has a formidable security perimeter, a hardened guard tower — complete with gun ports and bulletproof glass — and a series of gates and doors that lead to a 230-foot long concrete tunnel that goes straight into the canyon wall.

  • Specialized gas detection helps prevent nuclear weapons proliferation

    Researchers aim to design a system capable of sensing, from among the loud signals of a lot of gases, the weak signals from specific gases which are signs of nuclear weapons proliferation. The researchers believe their gas correlation technique will prove ideal for a simple, inexpensive sensor to monitor those few illusive gases. This could change how the nation thinks about monitoring the spread of nuclear weapons. Instead of single-point measurements taken with expensive sensors deployed after someone suspects a problem, 24/7 continuous monitoring could find leaks early.

  • Are nuclear weapons safe from cyber-attacks?

    Research will look into whether today’s nuclear weapons are safe from computer hacking. Specifically, the research seeks to address the question of whether the ability to use and the confidence in nuclear weapons is being eroded by new cyber capabilities being developed by an increasingly large range of actors.

  • Former Pentagon No. 2 suspected of being source of Stuxnet leaks

    The Justice Department has informed Gen. (Ret.) James E. “Hoss” Cartwright that he is the target of an investigation into the leaking of a secret U.S.-Israeli cyber campaign to slow down Iran nuclear weapons program. The four-star Marine Corps general served as deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was part of President Obama’s inner circle on many important national security issues before retiring in 2011.

  • U.K. nuclear disaster exercise reveals worrisome lapses in emergency response

    Up to six times a year, U.K. nuclear weapons are transported in heavily guarded convoys between production facilities in Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, where the nuclear bombs are manufactured, and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport on Loch Long in Argyll. The trips are required because scientists must regularly examine the 200 Trident missile warheads in order to make sure they are operationally reliable and properly maintained. Every three years, the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) conducts a drill aiming to test how various agencies respond to an accident involving the convoy carrying the nuclear warheads. An internal report on the last drill notes many problems in the response to the simulated accident, including five-hour wait for weapons experts, confusion over radiation monitoring, and ambulance crews refusing to take contamination victims to hospitals.

  • Finding the right tools to respond to suspicious powder incidents

    HazMat teams across the United States respond to hundreds of white powder calls each year in large cities where quick decision-making is critical. DHS makes it easier to buy the right technology for bio-threat incidents.

  • Growing U.S. concern over North Korean miscalculation

    U.S. officials are increasingly concerned with the escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the risk of miscalculation. The fear is that North Korea’s young leader, Kin Jong Un, may have launched the harsh rhetorical campaign against South Korea and the United States for domestic reasons – especially the need to establish his leadership credentials in the eyes of the skeptical North Korean military – but that his youth and inexperience may lead him to over-play his hand. “He is 28, 29 years old, and he keeps going further and further out, and I don’t know if he can get himself back in,” Rep. Peter King (R-New York), former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said.

  • U.S. to bolster missile defense to meet North Korean threat

    The United States is bolstering the country’s missile defense after a series of explicit nuclear threats from North Korea. The Pentagon will announce Monday that it is deploying fourteen additional ground-based interceptors at missile silos in Alaska and California.

  • New proposals to Iran aim to slow down Iranian nuclear “breakout”

    In two days of talks with Iranian representatives, the P5+1 powers offered Iran a new set of proposals which show a subtle shift in the powers’ position: rather than making it impossible for Iran to produce weapon-grade uranium – by shutting down the Fodro centrifuge farm and demand that Iran ship the uranium it has already enriched to 20 percent out of the country – the new proposals aim to make it more difficult, and slow, for Iran to develop weapon-grade uranium. The assumption undergirding the latest proposals is that if the process of producing weapon-grade uranium would be slowed down, it would be easier for Western intelligence services to discover it, and for military intervention to stop it, before a bomb is being produced.

  • Iran developing plutonium-based nuke capability

    While the world is focusing on Iran’s enriched-uranium nuclear weapons program, evidence has emerged to show that Iran has embarked on a project to make plutonium-based nuclear weapons. This plutonium weapon project is taking place at a facility from which IAEA inspectors have been barred for eighteen months now. Detailed satellite images show that Iran last month has activated the Arak heavy-water production plant, located 150 miles south-west of Tehran. Satellite images of the area around the Arak facility show that numerous anti-aircraft missile and artillery batteries protect the plant — more such missile batteries than are deployed around any other known nuclear site in Iran.

  • Iran installs faster centrifuges at Natanz

    Iranian officials said Wednesday that Iran has begun installing more sophisticated enrichment centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Speeding up the enrichment process would shorten Iran’s “break out” period: if Iran were to inform the IAEA that it was withdrawing from the nonproliferation treaty (NPT), a step which would allow it to build nuclear bombs without violating the treaty – the time between withdrawal from the treaty and to first nuclear weapons being build will be that much shorter. This will make it that much more difficult for outside powers to intervene to stop the build-up.