• Nuclear detectionScavenger hunt for simulated nuclear materials

    Competing in a fictitious high-stakes scenario, a group of scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) bested two dozen other teams in a months-long, data-driven scavenger hunt for simulated radioactive materials in a virtual urban environment. The competition platform was also built and managed by Lab researchers.

  • Nuclear detectionEnhanced detection of nuclear events thanks to deep learning

    A deep neural network running on an ordinary desktop computer is interpreting highly technical data related to national security as well as — and sometimes better than — today’s best automated methods or even human experts.

  • Nuclear weapons detectionDetecting the threat of nuclear weapons

    By Meg Murphy

    Will the recent U.S. withdrawal from a 2015 accord that put restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program make it easier for Iran to pursue the bomb in secret? Not likely, according to Scott Kemp, an associate professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT. “The most powerful insights into Iran’s nuclear program come from traditional intelligence, not from inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” says Kemp. But covert nuclear-weapon programs, whether in Iran, North Korea, or elsewhere in the world, are a major unsolved problem, according to Kemp.

  • Nuclear detectionRadiation detection device to help in detecting nuclear weapons, materials

    Researchers have developed a next-generation material for nuclear radiation detection that could provide a significantly less expensive alternative to the detectors now in commercial use. Specifically, the high-performance material is used in a device that can detect gamma rays, weak signals given off by nuclear materials, and can easily identify individual radioactive isotopes. Potential uses for the new device include more widespread detectors — including handheld — for nuclear weapons and materials as well as applications in biomedical imaging, astronomy and spectroscopy.

  • Nuclear decommissioningPipe-crawling robot to help decommission nuclear facility

    A pair of autonomous robots will soon drive 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. Shuttered since 2000, the plant began operations in 1954 and produced enriched uranium, including weapons-grade uranium. With 10.6 million square feet of floor space, it is DOE’s largest facility under roof — the size of 158 football fields, with 75 miles of process pipe.

  • Nuclear detection Remotely monitoring nuclear reactorsRemotely monitoring nuclear reactors

    A new U.S. Department of Energy project to develop the first detector able to remotely monitor nuclear reactors will also help physicists test the next generation of neutrino observatories. Nuclear reactions produce telltale antineutrinos – the antimatter counterpart of neutrinos. The new detectors will be designed to measure the energy of such antineutrinos and the direction from which they come, allowing monitoring of reactors from a distance of 25 kilometers to verify nonproliferation agreements.

  • Nuclear fuelEfficient 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.

  • Nuclear safetySandia 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.

  • Nuclear safetyPipe-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.

  • DetectionExpanding real-time radiological threat detection to include other dangers

    Advanced commercially available technologies—such as additive manufacturing (3-D printing), small-scale chemical reactors for pharmaceuticals, and CRISPR gene-manipulation tools—have opened wide access to scientific exploration and discovery. In the hands of terrorists and rogue nation states, however, these capabilities could be misused to concoct chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in small quantities and in form factors that are hard to detect. DARPA’s SIGMA+ program aims to create additional sensors and networks to detect biological, chemical, and explosives threats.

  • DetectionDTRA awards British university $1.1 million for improved radiation detectors

    The University of Surrey has been awarded $1.1 million by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to research new types of nanomaterials that produce high efficiency radiation detectors for use in nuclear security. The project will develop materials that are used as highly sensitive radiation detectors.

  • Nuclear risksNew evidence of nuclear fuel releases discovered at Fukushima

    Uranium and other radioactive materials, such as cesium and technetium, have been found in tiny particles released from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors. This could mean the environmental impact from the fallout may last much longer than previously expected according to a new study by a team of international researchers. The team says that, for the first time, the fallout of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor fuel debris into the surrounding environment has been “explicitly revealed” by the study.

  • Dirty bombsQuicker response to airborne radiological threats

    Researchers have developed a new technique that uses existing technologies to detect potential airborne radiological materials in hours instead of days. at present, emergency responders who are characterizing potential radiological risk need to take an air sample and ship it to a radiochemistry lab after preliminary screening analysis. The process means it can take days or weeks to get quality results that authorities can use to make informed decisions.

  • Cuban mysteryThe sound and the fury: Inside the mystery of the Havana embassy

    By Tim Golden and Sebastian Rotella

    More than a year after American diplomats began to suffer strange, concussion-like symptoms in Cuba, a U.S. investigation is no closer to determining how they were hurt or by whom, and the FBI and CIA are at odds over the case. A ProPublica investigation reveals the many layers to the mystery — and the political maneuvering that is reshaping U.S.-Cuba relations.

  • The Russia connectionThe man who knew too much

    In November 2006, on orders of Vladimir Putin, Russian operatives used radioactive material to poison and kill Alexandr Litvinenko, a former KGB colleague who had turned a fierce critic of the Russian leader, and who was living with his family in London. Yesterday, the British government froze the assets of the two Russian agents – one of them has been awarded a medal by Putin, and is now a leading member of United Russia, Putin’s political party, in the Russian parliament. Ten years later, in November 2016, a leading British nuclear forensic scientist – who was part of the 2006 investigation and who was instrumental in tying the nuclear material used in the killing to the two Russian agents — was found dead in his home, after returning from an academic research trip to Russia. It was the 14th Russia-related killing on British soil since 2006. The number of individuals with inside knowledge of the Putin regime and its practices — and who have met an untimely end in mysterious circumstances — is growing, and British lawmakers urge the government to show more resolve in investigating this string of killings.