• 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.

  • Forensic seismologyPairing seismic data, radionuclide fluid-flow models to detect underground nuclear tests

    Underground nuclear weapon testing produces radionuclide gases that may seep to the surface, which is affected by many factors. These include fractures in the rock caused by the explosion’s shock waves that create pathways for the gas to escape plus the effect of changes in atmospheric pressure that affect the gases’ movement. Scientists have developed a new, more thorough method for detecting underground nuclear explosions (UNEs) by coupling two fundamental elements — seismic models with gas-flow models — to create a more complete picture of how an explosion’s evidence (radionuclide gases) seep to the surface.

  • Nuclear wasteRock salt serving to store nuclear waste may not be as impermeable as previously thought

    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, stores low-level nuclear waste in salt beds beneath the ground. For decades there has been a proposal to build a permanent central repository under Nevada’s Yucca Mountains. This has renewed interest in rock salt as an alternative permanent storage solution for high-level nuclear waste. Researchers found that rock salt, used not only by the United States, but also by Germany, as a subsurface container for radioactive waste, might not be as impermeable as thought, or as capable of isolating nuclear waste from groundwater in the event that a capsule or storage vessel failed.

  • Radiation risksAt the nanoscale, concrete proves effective for nuclear containment

    By Anne Wilson Yu

    One of the main challenges faced by the nuclear industry is the long-term confinement of nuclear waste. Concrete is one of the barrier materials commonly used to contain radionuclides, both in nuclear reactors and nuclear waste-storing facilities. New research shows concrete is a strong choice for the long-term confinement of nuclear waste.

  • view counter
  • 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 wasteFinnish company to construct final disposal facility of spent nuclear fuel

    The Finnish government has granted a license to Finnish company Posiva for the construction of a final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel. The spent fuel assemblies will be encapsulated and placed in the bedrock at a depth of about 400 meters for permanent disposal. The waste will be stored for around 100,000 years before its level of radioactivity begins to dissipate. “This is the world’s first authorization for the final repository of used nuclear waste,” Finland’s Economy Minister Olli Rehn said.

  • Radiation detectionNew, portable radiological detectors for frontline personnel

    Recently, DHS’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) awarded a multimillion dollar contract which will equip U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) frontline personnel with a new capability to detect and interdict radiological or nuclear threats. The award is for small, wearable radiation detector devices – called Human Portable Tripwire (HPT) — which passively monitor the environment and alert the user when nuclear or other radioactive material is present.

  • 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.

  • Radiation risksResidents of a St. Louis suburb worry about landfill containing nuclear waste

    Residents of a St. Louis suburb are increasingly anxious over a potential nuclear threat buried in the ground. One landfill nearby contains nuclear waste, while in a second landfill, only 1,000 feet away, there is “hot spot” burning underground. There are other problems, though. Over the past weekend, a grass fire reached to within seventy-five yards of the radioactive waste, and the region sits near an earthquake fault line.

  • 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 weaponsU.S. to clean up site of a 1966 nuclear weapons accident in Spain

    On 17 January 1966, a B-52 bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs collided with a KC-135 tanker plane during mid-air refueling off the coast of Almería, Spain, killing seven of the eleven crew members. Two of the bombs were recovered intact from the sea, but the other two leaked radiation into the surrounding countryside when their plutonium-filled detonators went off, strewing 3kg of radioactive plutonium 239 around the town of Palomares. Following the accident, the U.S. military shipped 1,700 tons of contaminated soil to South Carolina, and the whole thing was forgotten. On Monday in Madrid, Secretary of State John Kerry and the Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo, signed an agreement to clean up the site after tests showed that 50,000 cubic meters of soil were still contaminated.

  • Nuclear power safetyDeveloping nuclear cladding to withstand Fukushima-like meltdown conditions

    Like much of the rest of the world, thousands of scientists and engineers watched in March 2011 as Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors exploded. The fuel’s cladding, a zirconium alloy used to contain the fuel and radioactive fission products, reacted with boiling coolant water to form hydrogen gas, which then exploded, resulting in the biggest nuclear power-related disaster since Chernobyl. Challenged by this event, two research teams have made progress in developing fuel claddings that are capable of withstanding the high temperatures resulting from a Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA), like that at Fukushima.