• Radiation detectionRadiation Detection System to Protect Major U.S. Metropolitan Region

    An exercise last December at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was the culmination of a five-year effort to develop and deploy an automated, high-performance, networked radiation detection capability for counterterrorism and continuous city-to-region scale radiological and nuclear threat monitoring.

  • Nuclear detectionUltrasensitive Measurements Detect Nuclear Explosions

    Imagine being able to detect the faintest of radionuclide signals from hundreds of miles away. Scientists have developed a system which constantly collects and analyzes air samples for signals that would indicate a nuclear explosion, perhaps conducted secretly underground. The system can detect just a small number of atoms from nuclear activity anywhere on the planet. In terms of sensitivity, the capability – in place for decades – is analogous to the ability to detect coronavirus from a single cough anywhere on Earth.

  • Nuclear threatsNuclear Threats Are Increasing – Here’s How the U.S. Should Prepare for a Nuclear Event

    By Cham Dallas

    On the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some may like to think the threat from nuclear weapons has receded. But there are clear signs of a growing nuclear arms race and that the U.S. is not very well-prepared for nuclear and radiological events. Despite the gloomy prospects of health outcomes of any large-scale nuclear event common in the minds of many, there are a number of concrete steps the U.S. and other countries can take to prepare. It’s our obligation to respond.

  • Nuclear accidentsTracking the Neural Network's Nuclear Clues

    Following the 2011 earthquake in Japan, a tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling in three Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant reactors. The reactors’ cores largely melted in the first 72 hours. The disaster helped inspire PNNL computational scientists looking for clues of future nuclear reactor mishaps by tracking radioactive iodine following a nuclear plant reactor breach.

  • Nuclear wasteReducing Radioactive Waste in Dismantle Nuclear Facilities

    On Monday, France announced it was shutting down the country’s oldest nuclear reactor – and that additional twelve aging reactors will be dismantled by 2035. Scientists have designed a methodology for dismantling nuclear facilities while limiting the amount of toxic nuclear waste generated in the process.

  • Nuclear powerAn Atomic Catch 22: Climate Change and the Decline of America's Nuclear Fleet

    By Eric Scheuch

    Nuclear energy in the United States has become deeply unprofitable in the last decade, driven by a combination of aging infrastructure and other electricity sources like renewables and natural gas simply becoming cheaper to build and operate. While some in the environmental community may cheer nuclear’s decline, others are concerned. Love it or hate it, nuclear plays a unique role in the American electric sector, one for which we currently have no market-ready replacement, and its decline will likely make other environmental issues, particularly climate change, harder to solve.

  • Nuclear detectionCatching Nuclear Smugglers: Fast Algorithm Enable Cost-Effective Detectors at Borders

    Nations need to protect their citizens from the threat of nuclear terrorism. Nuclear security deters and detects the smuggling of special nuclear materials—highly enriched uranium, weapons-grade plutonium or materials that produce a lot of radiation—across national borders. A new algorithm could enable faster, less expensive detection of weapons-grade nuclear materials at borders, quickly differentiating between benign and illicit radiation signatures in the same cargo.

  • Nuclear disastersConsequences Remain Decades After Chernobyl Disaster: UN

    The United Nations says persistent and serious long-term consequences remain more than thirty years after the explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The world body is marking International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day on 26 April, the 34th anniversary of the accident that spread a radioactive cloud over large parts of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. The anniversary is being marked after fires recently burned in the 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the plant, raising concerns about the potential release of radioactive particles into the air.

  • Nuclear safetyMaintaining Nuclear Safety and Security During the COVID-19 Crisis

    By William Tobey, Simon Saradzhyan, and Nickolas Roth

    Every major industry on earth is struggling to adapt in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes nuclear facilities and nuclear-powered vessels, which count among the critical infrastructure of dozens of nations now struggling with the pandemic, representing more than half the world’s population. Meanwhile, ISIS has already announced its intent to exploit the pandemic while a number of other violent extremist organizations are also taking pains to exploit the crisis. Without implementing extraordinary measures to maintain safety and security, nuclear installations risk compounding the crisis with a large-scale radiation release.

  • Nuclear detectionHow Lasers Can Help with Nuclear Nonproliferation Monitoring

    Scientists developed a new method showing that measuring the light produced in plasmas made from a laser can be used to understand uranium oxidation in nuclear fireballs. This capability gives never-before-seen insight into uranium gas-phase oxidation during nuclear explosions. These insights further progress toward a reliable, non-contact method for remote detection of uranium elements and isotopes, with implications for nonproliferation safeguards, explosion monitoring and treaty verification.

  • Nuclear detectionLasers to Detect Weapons-Grade Uranium from Afar

    It’s hard enough to identify nuclear materials when you can directly scan a suspicious suitcase or shipping container. But if you can’t get close? A technique for detecting enriched uranium with lasers could help regulators sniff out illicit nuclear activities from as far as a couple of miles away.

  • First respondersBolstering Realistic Radiation Training

    The Radiation Field Training Simulator (RaFTS) technology provides a first responder training solution that can be used to protect against acts of radiological or nuclear terrorism and to deal with their subsequent aftermath.

  • Radiation detectionSafe, Fast Radionuclide Detection

    In the event of a radiological release, such as from an improvised nuclear device, immediately assessing the threat to public safety would be critical. Rapid detection of radioactive materials can save lives, reduce the environmental impact of such an event and save taxpayer dollars. Current hand-held detection methods, however, are unreliable at detecting very low levels of alpha radiation from actinides, such as uranium, due to environmental influences.

  • Nuclear warNuclear War Could Be Devastating for the U.S., Even If No One Shoots Back

    By Joshua M. Pearce

    The White House’s 2021 budget calls for $28.9 billion for the Pentagon for nuclear weapons and a 20 percent increase to $19.8 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration. Yet the U.S. already has over 3,000 nuclear weapons. The U.S. could only safely use a fraction of them without killing Americans with an unintended adverse series of cascading environmental effects: Soot from the burning of cities following numerous nuclear blasts would cause a significant drop in global temperature, blocking the sunlight from reaching the Earth’s surface. This would cause a drop in precipitation, increased ultraviolet radiation resulting from a badly damaged atmosphere, and a breakdown in supply chains and food production. In short, a nuclear attack using only a few nuclear weapons would be exceedingly damaging for the aggressor nation.

  • Nuclear clean-upNew Materials Could Help Clean-Up Chernobyl and Fukushima

    Engineers have developed materials that could be used to help decommission the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear power stations. The materials, created in collaboration with colleagues in Ukraine, simulate Lava-like Fuel Containing Materials (LFCMs) – hazardous substances left behind by a nuclear meltdown. The development paves the way for the safe analysis of hazardous materials left behind at Chernobyl and Fukushima.