Radiological threats

  • 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.

  • Radiation risksINL training military for response to radiological hazards

    Military branches from across the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) sent candidates for an intensive Radiological Hazards and Operators Training and Field Exercise course (RHOT) conducted by the U.S. Army Medical Center and School. These students were brought to the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site where they begin training to use radiological monitoring equipment, perform radiological calculations, and implement protective measures. Two weeks of intense training have transformed these responders into a cohesive unit able to work together to take decisive actions to secure and survey an area for radiological hazards.

  • Nuclear risksMore proof needed that PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is safe from earthquakes: NRC

    Despite repeated assertions by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. that the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is safe from earthquakes, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has ordered PG&E to provide more proof. Critics of the plant’s continuing operation say the order confirms concerns that faults surrounding Diablo Canyon are capable of more ground motion than the reactors were built to withstand and that the plant is in violation of its operating license and should be closed immediately.

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  • Radiation yNew blood test quickly determines severity of radiation injur

    A novel blood test could greatly improve triage of victims of radiation accidents by rapidly predicting who will survive, who will die, and who should receive immediate medical countermeasures. In pre-clinical trials, the test was able to reveal within twenty-four hours whether survivable doses of radiation or doses that caused severe injury to the bone marrow and other organs would eventually prove fatal. Use of such a test, the researchers said, could “facilitate timely medical intervention and improve overall survival of exposed individuals.”

  • Nuclear forensicsNuclear forensics science helps thwart terrorist use of nuclear materials

    A nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists is the stuff of nightmares, especially for U.S. agencies charged with preventing a devastating attack. When security or law enforcement agents confiscate nuclear or radiological weapons or their ingredients being smuggled domestically or internationally, they must quickly trace them back to their source. This is where the science of nuclear forensics comes in. With funding from DHS, Oregon State University has launched a new graduate emphasis in nuclear forensics in OSU’s Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics.

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  • Nuclear powerFrance’s flagship nuclear power reactor hobbled by mishaps, delays

    France’s position as a leader in the nuclear energy industry is being undermined by the country’s pending flagship nuclear reactor, which may be delayed by another year following a series of setbacks. The third-generation European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), built by Areva and EDF, was meant to be in operation by 2012 and its designers claimed it would be one of the safest — built to resist the impact of a commercial airliner crash — and the most energy efficient reactors in the world. EPR was to represent France’s nuclear renaissance, a vision to replace the country’s aging nuclear plants over time. The renaissance, however, has faced several setbacks, mishaps, and delays.

  • Nuclear risksU.S. says South Africa’s weapon-grade uranium not sufficiently secure

    In the early 1990s South Africa’s former apartheid government dismantled the country’s six nuclear bombs and its nuclear weapons-making infrastructure as it began planning the transformation of the country into a democracy. The nuclear fuel, extracted from the country’s nuclear weapons, has over time been used to make medical isotopes, but roughly 485 pounds remain. A November 2007 breach at the Pelindaba nuclear research center, where the nuclear fuel is stored in a former silver vault, alarmed U.S. officials, who had reason to believe the culprits were after the center’s fuel inventory. Incentives from the Obama administration for South Africa to convert its nuclear-weapons fuel, have been rejected by South Africa.

  • Nuclear terrorismDrug cartels, terrorists may cooperate in smuggling materials for a nuclear device into U.S.

    Detonating a nuclear device or dirty bomb in the United States has long been goal of terrorists groups including al-Qaeda. Doing so, however, would require access to nuclear materials and a way to smuggle them into the country. Experts note the nexus between drug organizations, crime groups, and violent extremists and the trafficking of radiological and nuclear materials. A new report points out that al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Colombia’s FARC are the three organizations with the motivation and capability to obtain a radiological or nuclear device.

  • Nuclear risksIn South Africa, bomber of apartheid era nuclear power plant is a hero, not a terrorist

    In December 1982, Rodney Wilkinson planted four bombs that caused $519 million in damages at the Koeberg nuclear power plant north of Cape Town, South Africa. The attack, which many believe to be the most ambitious and successful terror attack against a nuclear facility, remains a symbol of African National Congress (ANC) war against South Africa’s then-apartheid government. The 1982 Koeberg assault, however, and a 2007 raidby two yet-to-be-identified armed groups on South Africa’s Pelindaba nuclear research site, are at the root of U.S. concerns about the safety of South Africa’s roughly 485 pounds stockpile of highly enriched uranium.

  • Nuclear risksCritics: PG&E downplays quake risk to Diablo Canyon nuclear plant

    Since the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California was opened by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) in 1985, geologists have discovered three fault lines nearby, which could threaten the plant. The three faults are capable of quakes even stronger than the one which ravaged the Napa Valley last year, and critics of PG&E say the company has been minimizing the risks the three faults pose. The company rejects the criticism. The critics are now suing to company to force it to reapply for an operating license – with the information about the three faults included in the application.

  • Nuclear wasteScientists develop deep borehole disposal (DBD) method to deal with nuclear waste

    Technologies which will enable nuclear waste to be sealed five kilometers below the Earth’s surface could provide a safer, cheaper and more viable alternative for disposing of the U.K.’s high level nuclear waste. Scientists calculate that all of the U.K.’s high level nuclear waste from spent fuel reprocessing could be disposed of in just six boreholes five kilometers deep, fitting within a site no larger than a football pitch. The concept — called deep borehole disposal — has been developed primarily in the United Kingdom, but is likely to see its first field trials in the United States next year.

  • Nuclear forensicsImproving plutonium identification

    Researchers have developed a new kind of sensor that can be used to investigate the telltale isotopic composition of plutonium samples — a critical measurement for nuclear non-proliferation efforts and related forensics, as well as environmental monitoring, medical assays, and industrial safety. The novel device, based on “transition edge” sensor technology developed at NIST, is capable of ten times better resolution than all but the most expensive and time-consuming of current methods, and reduces the time needed for sample analysis from several days to one day.

  • African securitySouth Africa refuses to give up cache of weapon-grade uranium

    In the 1980s, White minority-ruled South Africa built six nuclear bombs. In 1990s the F. W. de Klerk government began planning the transformation of the country into a democracy. As part of the transition, the country’s nuclear weapons, and nuclear weapons-making infrastructure, were dismantled under IAEA supervision. TheWhite-minority regime and, since 1994, the democratically elected South African government, have both held to, and refused to give up, the 485 pounds of weapon-grade nuclear fuel – some of it extracted from the dismantled weapons and some of it already produced but not yet put in warheads. Despite pressure by successive U.S. administrations, South Africa says it is determined to keep its weapon-grade nuclear fuel.

  • ForensicsFrench experts rule out foul play in 2004 death of Yasser Arafat

    A French prosecutor yesterday announced that French medical and forensic experts have ruled out poisoning as the cause of the 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The prosecutor of the western Paris suburb of Nanterre said the experts, following a thorough examination, found there was no foul play in Arafat’s death. The findings by the French experts are identical to findings by a different French team and to the findings of Russian experts. A Swiss team, however, initially said that their test results of personal affects left behind by Arafat led them to conclude that radioactive poisoning was “more consistent” as an explanation of Arafat’s death.