• Nuclear forensicsSpecialized ORNL team uses nuclear forensics to solve mysteries, safeguard materials

    From the Manhattan Project in the 1940s to the High Flux Isotope Reactor’s 50th anniversary and its selection as an American Nuclear Society Nuclear Historic Landmark, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has been the preeminent destination for nuclear R&D. A group of nuclear detectives at ORNL) takes on tough challenges, from detecting illicit uranium using isotopic “fingerprints” to investigating presidential assassination conspiracies.

  • Radiation detectionSymetrica inaugurates Radioactive Threat Verification Solutions Hub

    Southampton, U.K.-based Symetrica has inaugurated the company’s new Radioactive Threat Verification (RTV) Solutions Hub. The company says that the new facility will improve the company’s ability to support the global security community – including the U.K.’s Home Office and Border Force, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and other border protection agencies.

  • Nuclear detectionNew X-ray method could detect nuclear materials

    Inspectors need tools to help find nuclear materials hidden behind thick shielding or smuggled inside any of the 100 million-plus cargo containers shipped around the world each year. Uranium is perhaps the easiest nuclear material to obtain and hide. Physicists have demonstrated that their unconventional laser-based X-ray machine could provide a new defense against nuclear terrorism. The scientists used the laser-driven X-ray source to produce an image of a uranium disk no bigger than a stack of three nickels and hidden between 3-inch steel panels.

  • First responseDemonstrating technologies for disaster response

    Radiological incidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima illustrate the need for effective coordination of federal, state, and local agencies in response efforts. Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demonstrated new technology developments at the Columbus, Ohio, Battelle Memorial Institute facility that will enable more effective radiological decontamination.

  • Nuclear powerInspired by cats’ eyes, new camera can look inside nuclear reactors

    Currently 11 percent of electricity worldwide is generated by nuclear reactors. There are 435 reactors in operation with another 71 under construction. Engineers, drawing inspiration from the eyes of cats, have created a new camera that can see radiation coming from nuclear reactors — boosting safety, efficiency, and helping during nuclear disaster emergencies.

  • Radiation risksSearch in Illinois, Indiana for missing canister holding radioactive materials

    Teams from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) are continuing their search in Illinois and neighboring Indiana for a missing steel canister containing radioactive material. The locked steel canister was last believed to be in a custom oil well logging truck. The nuclear material was used by an Illinois company specializing in surveying oil wells.

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  • Radiation risks$100 million NIAID contract to SRI International to develop radiation exposure treatment

    SRI International has been awarded a resource contract of up to $100 million over five years by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, for the development of products to mitigate or treat acute or delayed effects of radiation exposure.

  • Nuclear materialsFBI helps foil several plots to sell nuclear material in Moldova’s black market

    Over the past five years, four attempts by Russian gangs in Moldova to sell nuclear material have been thwarted by the FBI and Moldovan authorities. The most recent case was in February when a smuggler, who specifically sought a buyer from Islamic State, offered undercover agents a large amount of radioactive caesium. The would-be smuggler wanted €2.5 million for enough radioactive material to contaminate several city streets.

  • Radiation risksAnimals have returned to Chernobyl

    In 1986, after a fire and explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant released radioactive particles into the air, thousands of people left the area, never to return. Now, researchers have found that the Chernobyl site looks less like a disaster zone and more like a nature preserve, teeming with elk, roe deer, red deer, wild boar, and wolves. The findings are a reminder of the resilience of wildlife.

  • Nuclear verificationUpholding disarmament agreements with engineering

    By Julia Sklar

    Arms control agreements face a problem: how to ensure that countries with nuclear weapons abide by disarmament agreements. The linchpin of these agreements is being able to verify that the signers are following the rules — but the trick is for both sides, or a third party, to be able to police weapons in a way that doesn’t give out too much information about them, for example, how these weapons were built. An MIT project, called Zero Knowledge Warhead Verification, tackles this problem with a beam of light, a scrambler, and a detector.

  • Nuclear eventsMighty Saber demonstrates post-nuclear detonation technical forensics capabilities

    In late 2013, a team of more than fifty scientists from across the U.S. laboratory and industrial complex began preparing for Mighty Saber with the goal of demonstrating and evaluating post-detonation technical nuclear forensics capabilities following a simulated detonation of a nuclear device in an urban environment. Mighty Saber, which ran from 27 July to 21 August 2015, successfully met each of its objectives, including demonstrating U.S. government post- detonation nuclear forensics processes; the value of prompt diagnostics data provided by the Discreet Oculus ground-based sensor network; and how prompt diagnostics complements radiochemistry in providing a robust post-detonation nuclear forensics capability.

  • Radiation risksRadioactive contaminants found in coal ash from all three major U.S. coal-producing basins

    A new study has revealed the presence of radioactive contaminants in coal ash from all three major U.S. coal-producing basins. The study found that levels of radioactivity in the ash were up to five times higher than in normal soil, and up to ten times higher than in the parent coal itself because of the way combustion concentrates radioactivity. The finding raises concerns about the environmental and human health risks posed by coal ash, which is currently unregulated and is stored in coal-fired power plants’ holding ponds and landfills nationwide.

  • Dirty bombUkrainian security services stop criminal gang from selling uranium

    The security services of Ukraine say they have seized a small quantity of ore-grade uranium from a criminal gang in the western part of the country. The State Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said the group had been trying to sell the uranium-238 isotope to an unknown client when they were arrested. Ukrainian media has recently reported of speculations about pro-Russian rebels’ ability to develop a “dirty” bomb which would use conventional explosives to scatter lethal radioactive fallout.

  • Radiation risksIsraeli port evacuated after container emitting suspicious radioactive radiation detected

    Israeli authorities on Monday evacuated the Ashdod port in southern Israel after an Israeli shipping container which arrived on a Chinese ship was detected to emit irregular radioactive radiation. By mid-afternoon, the port went back to normal operation. Israeli ports have installed advanced radioactive radiation systems in an effort to detect “dirty bombs” which terrorists may try to smuggle into Israel.

  • Radiation risksNew reference material to help monitor oceans’ radioactive contamination

    NIST is making available a new reference material which will help laboratories accurately measure radioactive contamination in seawater. The new reference material, a mixture of freeze-dried, powdered shellfish, provides a benchmark for scientists analyzing the local ocean environment’s level of contamination — for example, after an accident such as the 2011 nuclear plant disaster in Fukushima, Japan.