Radiological threats

  • Nuclear radiationNew drug protects against nuclear radiation’s deadly effects 24 hours after exposure

    The threat of a nuclear incident, with the potential to kill or injure thousands of people, has raised global awareness about the need for medical countermeasures that can prevent radiation-induced bodily damage and keep people alive, even if given a day or more after contact with nuclear radiation. An interdisciplinary research team reports a breakthrough in countering the deadly effects of radiation exposure. A single injection of a regenerative peptide was shown significantly to increase survival in mice when given twenty-four hours after nuclear radiation exposure.

  • 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.

  • Radiation risksNNSA repatriates radiological material from Mexico

    Several U.S. government agencies and the United Mexican States have successfully completed the repatriation of three irradiators containing U.S.-origin radioactive sources from Mexico. For thirty years, these irradiators played an important role in the eradication of a devastating livestock parasite, the screwworm. The three irradiators contain more than 50,000 curies of cesium-137, a high-activity radioisotope that could be used in radiological dispersal devices (RDD).

  • Radiation risksSRI International working to develop screening device for radiation exposure

    radiation that may lead to severe health consequences post-exposure. To rapidly triage large numbers of people to determine who needs immediate treatment, a new, simple screening test is needed. Currently, if a person has absorbed a significant dose of ionizing radiation, there is nothing that can be done beyond waiting to see what symptoms develop, which roughly correlate with exposure level. SRI International has been awarded a $12.2 million contract to continue development of a diagnostic test for absorbed doses of radiation following a radiological incident.

  • Radiation risksIs your fear of radiation irrational?

    By Geoff Watts

    Radioactivity stirs primal fears in many people, but that an undue sense of its risks can cause real harm. Invisible threats are always the most unnerving, and radiation is not something you can see. Nor can you control it. The traditional secrecy of the biggest commercial user of radiation, the nuclear power industry, hasn’t helped. A justified fear of high and uncontrolled levels of radiation has thus undermined our willingness to see that the risks it poses at low levels are either acceptable or manageable.

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  • Medical isotopesNew commercial method for producing medical isotope reduces proliferation risks

    The effort to secure a stable, domestic source of a critical medical isotope reached an important milestone last month as the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory demonstrated the production, separation, and purification of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) using a new process. Mo-99 production faces several issues, beginning with its traditional production method using highly enriched uranium (HEU) in research reactors. HEU presents a risk of nuclear weapons proliferation, so the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has focused on the development of other methods for Mo-99 production and conversion of reactors to use low-enriched uranium (LEU). Mo-99 is also not produced in the United States, leaving the country to rely on isotopes from other sources in other countries, including a Canadian research reactor that will cease regular production next year, reducing the global supply.

  • Iran dealMultinational control of enrichment “the only realistic way” to reduce nuclear risks

    Within the next two weeks, or soon after, the United States and five world powers hope to finalize a nuclear deal with Iran to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for a relaxing of international economic and financial sanctions. What, however, happens in ten years when some of the key restrictions being discussed begin to phase out? One of the biggest concerns is Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which uses high-speed centrifuges to produce uranium enriched to a level appropriate for nuclear power reactor fuel. Enrichment plants like this can be quickly reconfigured to produce “weapon-grade” uranium. A new report suggests that “Reducing proliferation risks by ending national control over dangerous civilian nuclear activities is an important idea with a long history,” in the words of one of the report’s authors. “As civilian nuclear technology keeps spreading, multinational control may offer the only realistic way to stop the spread of nuclear weapons capability.”

  • Nuclear terrorismU.S. to ratify two long-stalled nuclear terrorism bills

    Deep in the USA Freedom Actwhich was signed into law by President Barack Obama last week, there is a section which will let the United States complete ratification of two-long stalled treaties aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism. “Today, nearly 2,000 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear materials remain spread across hundreds of sites around the globe — some of it poorly secured,” said former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Georgia), co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative(NTI). “We know that to get the materials needed to build a bomb, terrorists will not necessarily go where there is the most material. They will go where the material is most vulnerable.”

  • Dirty bombsIsrael conducted tests to assess the impact of dirty bombs

    Between 2010 and 2014, Israeli scientists at the Dimona nuclear reactor conducted a series of experiments, under the code name “Green Field,” to examine the consequences of a dirty-bomb explosion in Israel. The purpose of the experiments was defensive – to measure the likely effect of a dirty bomb and evaluate countermeasures. The experiments did not evaluate to offensive potential of a dirty bomb.

  • Nuclear wasteNew reactor design recycles nuclear waste

    One of the major technological hurdles for nuclear energy is developing systems to dispose of the waste produced by typical reactors. It must be sealed away for hundreds of millennia while the radioactivity naturally decreases. An advanced nuclear reactor under development by Hitachi could help solve the nuclear waste problem. Hitachi’s new design would burn off the longest-lived radioactive materials, called transuranics, shortening that isolation period to a few centuries. This would recycle the nuclear waste to produce yet more energy and reduce the amount that must be stowed away.

  • Nuclear warT. K. Jones, Pentagon official who argued U.S. could survive an all-out nuclear war, dies

    Thomas K. Jones (he preferred to be called “T. K.”), the deputy under-secretary of defense for research and engineering, strategic and theater nuclear forces, died at 82. He became famous in 1982, when, in an interview with the LA Times, he argued that if the United States had a more robust civil defense, most Americans would survive an all-out Soviet nuclear attack. “You can make very good sheltering by taking the doors off your house, digging a trench, stacking the doors about two deep over that, covering it with plastic so that rainwater or something doesn’t screw up the glue in the door, then pile dirt over it.” He added: “It’s the dirt that does it.” He concluded the interview by saying:  “Turns out with the Russian approach, if there are enough shovels to go around, everybody’s going to make it.”

  • Nuclear powerNRC ruling raises questions about future of Diablo Canyon reactors

    In a major victory for those who pointed, post-Fukushima, to the risks involved in having a nuclear power reactor operating too close to a seismic fault, as is the case with the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners have ruled – in a decision that could mark the beginning of the end of Diablo Canyon — that an Atomic Safety Licensing Board will decide whether Pacific Gas & Electric Co. was allowed illegally to alter the plant’s license. This alteration was made in an effort to hide the risk from powerful earthquake faults discovered since it was designed and built.

  • Nuclear wasteInventing a stronger radiological waste bag for extra protection

    Researchers at the Savannah River National Laboratory found out that a radiological waste bag was not lasting as long as he would like, so they set about inventing a new one, creating a “double-ply” waste containment bag capable of better containing nuclear waste. Much like a household garbage bag is used to protect waste from leaking into a garbage can, special radiological waste bags are used to keep radiation from leaking into a storage container.