• Efficient extraction may improve management of nuclear fuel

    After used nuclear fuel is removed from a reactor, it emits heat for decades and remains radioactive for thousands of years. The used fuel is a mixture of major actinides (uranium, plutonium), fission products (mainly assorted metals, including lanthanides) and minor actinides (i.e., americium, curium and neptunium). After the cesium-137 and strontium-90 fission products decay in a few hundred years, the minor actinides and plutonium generate the most heat and radioactivity. Removal of the minor actinides, especially americium, can help nuclear power producers reduce and better manage the waste stream.

  • A synthesized antibiotic is capable of treating superbugs

    A “game changing” new antibiotic which is capable of killing superbugs has been successfully synthesized and used to treat an infection for the first time—and could lead to the first new class of antibiotic drug in thirty years. The breakthrough is another major step forward on the journey to develop a commercially viable drug version based on teixobactin—a natural antibiotic discovered by U.S. scientists in soil samples in 2015 which has been heralded as a “gamechanger” in the battle against antibiotic resistant pathogens such as MRSA and VRE.

  • Too many hospitalized kids receive preventive antibiotics

    A large new international study indicates that nearly a third of hospitalized children are receiving antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections rather than to treat them, and in many cases are receiving broad-spectrum antibiotics or combinations of antibiotics. This high rate of prophylactic prescribing in pediatric patients and frequent use of broad-spectrum agents suggests a clear overuse of antibiotics in this population and underscores the need for pediatric-specific antibiotic stewardship programs.

  • Antibiotic-resistant infections cost $2 billion a year

    Antibiotic resistance adds nearly $1,400 to the bill for treating a bacterial infection and costs the nation more than $2 billion annually, according to a new study. The study, which is the first national estimate of the incremental costs for treating antibiotic-resistant infections, also found that the share of bacterial infections in the United States that were antibiotic resistant more than doubled over thirteen years, rising from 5.2 percent in 2002 to 11 percent in 2014.

  • Sandia transport triathlon puts spent nuclear fuel to the test

    Nuclear power supplies almost 20 percent of U.S. electricity and is the leading carbon-neutral power source. However, it produces between 2,200 and 2,600 tons of spent fuel in the United States each year. Fuel rods become brittle and highly radioactive while powering the nuclear reactor, making safe transportation important. Sandia National Laboratories researchers completed an eight-month, 14,500-mile triathlon-like test to gather data on the bumps and jolts spent nuclear fuel experiences during transportation.

  • Pipe-crawling robot to help decommission DOE nuclear facility

    A pair of autonomous robots developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute will soon be driving through miles of pipes at the U.S. Department of Energy’s former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio, to identify uranium deposits on pipe walls. The CMU robot has demonstrated it can measure radiation levels more accurately from inside the pipe than is possible with external techniques.

  • Climate change to fuel more extreme heat waves in western U.S. by 2020

    Human-caused climate change will drive more extreme summer heat waves in the western United States, including in California and the Southwest as early as 2020, new research shows. Understanding the driving forces behind the projected increase in occurrence and severity of heat waves is crucial for public health security and necessary for communities to develop extreme heat mitigation strategies, said the authors.

  • Assessing the risks, benefits of horsepox synthesis

    Truly assessing the risks and benefits of the recent horsepox synthesis is not an easy task. Two of the latest articles analyzing the implications of this research have been released in mSphere. They point to the increased attention on DURC [dual use research of concern] and the debate surrounding the benefits of a new vaccine versus the potential for a nefarious actor to misuse the process.

  • Identifying the key drivers of high U.S. healthcare spending

    The major drivers of high healthcare costs in the U.S. appear to be higher prices for nearly everything—from physician and hospital services to diagnostic tests to pharmaceuticals—and administrative complexity. The study confirmed that the U.S. has substantially higher spending, worse population health outcomes, and worse access to care than other wealthy countries.

  • Low level of worrisome resistant bacterium in U.S.

    A new multistate surveillance study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that the incidence of a multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogen capable of causing severe infections and spreading easily is low and mainly confined to healthcare facilities. And CDC officials would like to keep it that way. a team of researchers from the CDC and public health departments across the country report that the overall annual incidence of carbapenem-nonsusceptible Acinetobacter baumannii is 1.2 cases per 100,000 persons, and that nearly all the cases were healthcare-associated.

  • Britain deploys specialist troops in city where ex-Russian spy collapsed

    Britain has deployed specialist troops to remove potentially contaminated objects from the site where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious after a suspected nerve-agent attack. Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, have been in hospital since they were found on a bench outside a shopping center in the southern English city of Salisbury on 4 March.

  • Toxicologist: Lab with “military capability” likely made poison used on Russian ex-spy

    British investigators have announced that a “nerve agent” was used in an attempt to murder Russian former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March. But they have not specified what nerve agent was used in the attack. Alastair Hay, a professor of environmental toxicology and a member of the British government’s advisory group on chemical warfare agents, said about the likely source of the toxic substance: “I think it’s more a case in which we are talking about a military capability. If you are a diligent chemist, you will find procedures for making sarin and tabun and various other chemical agents. But there’s the complexity in making it and how efficient the reaction is. And, of course, there is the risk of exposure in making something, too. So containment to make sure that the laboratory person is not exposed is absolutely crucial. So I think, really, what one is looking at here is probably more a military-type manufacture. But again, we just have to wait and see.”

  • Nerve agents: what are they and how do they work?

    The first nerve agents were invented by accident in the 1930s when researchers were trying to make cheaper and better alternatives to nicotine as insecticides. In their search, German scientists made two organic compounds containing phosphorus that were very effective at killing insect pests. However, they soon discovered that, even in minuscule amounts, the substances caused distressing symptoms in humans exposed to them. The two substances – too toxic to be used as commercial insecticides in agriculture – became known as tabun and sarin. Since then, other nerve agents have been developed, but much less is known about them, although they are thought to work in broadly the same way. Unlike street drugs, nerve agents cannot be made in your kitchen or garden shed, on account of their toxicity, even in tiny amounts. Synthesis of nerve agents requires a specialist laboratory, with fume cupboards. As more details emerge from the case of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, we’ll know more about the precise substance used and how it should be tackled. Either way, nerve agents are horrendously lethal and chemical warfare is an obscene use of chemicals.

  • Engineering crops to conserve water, resist drought

    Agriculture already monopolizes 90 percent of global freshwater—yet production still needs to dramatically increase to feed and fuel this century’s growing population. For the first time, scientists have improved how a crop uses water by 25 percent without compromising yield by altering the expression of one gene that is found in all plants.

  • Name your poison: Exotic toxins fell Kremlin foes

    The sudden illness in Britain of a Russian former spy has drawn comparisons with another poisoning in the United Kingdom – the 2006 assassination by Vladimir Putin’s agents of Russian former-spy-turned-Kremlin-critic Aleksandr Litvinenko. In using various poisons – some of them esoteric — to have his critics and adversaries killed inside Russia and abroad, Putin is continuing a storied KGB tradition. Here is a closer, if brief, look at some of the poisons Russian government agents have used on their lethal missions.