Radiological threats

  • Nuclear powerDebate over closing NY’s Indian Point nuclear power plant intensifies

    Indian Pointnuclear power plant, just thirty miles from New York City, has presented a conundrum for environmentalists who advocate clean-air initiatives, caps on carbon emissions, and increasing investment in non-polluting renewable energy sources — but at the same time argue that nuclear power poses a safety hazard to the surrounding area and demand that Indian Point cease operations. Closing the plant would require a long-term energy strategy to replace the 2,000 megawatts the plant currently produces.

  • Nuclear weaponNew consortium dedicated to developing nuclear arms control verification technologies

    A consortium of thirteen universities and eight national laboratories, led by the University of Michigan and including the Los Alamos National Laboratory as a partner, has been awarded a $25 million grant by the NNSA. The consortium is dedicated to the research and development (R&D) of nuclear arms control verification technologies, including nuclear safeguards effectiveness.

  • Plutonium processingAlternative strategy for uranium processing at Oak Ridge

    A group of twenty-five experts referred to as the Red Team, assigned to review alternatives to the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have reached a “strong consensus” on what could be an alternative strategy, but will spend the next two weeks polishing their work before presenting it to National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Red Team was instructed to design a way to move uranium processing from Building 9212, Y-12’s Second World War-era center for processing highly enriched uranium, by 2025 and at under $6.5 billion.

  • Plutonium processingNew group formed to monitor Savannah River Site, nuclear waste issues in SE U.S.

    Savannah River Site Watch (SRS Watch), a new public-interest watchdog group, was launched last week in what it said was a response to the need for increased monitoring of the nuclear projects carried out by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The group says it has been formed to focus on an array of nuclear projects now underway at Savannah River Site (SRS), the sprawling 310-square mile complex located near Aiken, South Carolina.

  • Nuclear wasteLos Alamos National Lab resumes transuranic waste shipments

    The waste was received at Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas, where it will be temporarily staged until it can be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico for final disposal. WIPP has been closed since mid-February as a result of radiation leaks in underground storage tunnels. The shipments keep LANL on track to complete 3,706 Campaign on schedule. The campaign aims to remove 3,706 cubic meters of nuclear waste from LANL by 30 June 2014.

  • Nuclear safeguardsNew center will work to improve methods to detect, prevent the spread of nuclear weapons

    The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has awarded the University of Michigan $25 million to establish the Center for Verification Technology. A team from thirteen universities will work with eight national labs to analyze nuclear nonproliferation efforts, improve technologies for monitoring weapons-grade materials and detecting secret weapon tests, and train the next generation of nonproliferation experts.

  • Dirty bombPossibility of “dirty bombs” a major terrorism threat

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has warned that there were 140 cases of missing or unauthorized nuclear and radioactive material in 2013 — a pressing reminder that the possibility of possession of nuclear materials by terrorist organizations is both real and current.

  • Nuclear hazardsNew drone-based system improves safety of dealing with nuclear hazards

    Hazardous nuclear events have the potential to cause widespread damage to individuals and the environment. Getting close enough to these incidents to accurately assess the problem can be extremely dangerous. Following the incident at the Fukushima power plant in Japan in 2011, for example, helicopter pilots assessing the site were exposed to significant amounts of radiation. Researchers have developed a new system for remote and accurate assessment of dangerous nuclear accident sites.

  • Nuclear wasteObscure element shows promise for nuclear waste storage

    One of the least known elements of the periodic table, californium, may hold the key to the safe and effective long-term storage of nuclear waste, according to new research. The researchers have demonstrated that californium (Cf) has an “amazing” ability to bond and separate other materials, as well as being extremely resistant to radiation damage.

  • Radiation detection New infrared technique remotely to detect dangerous materials

    Researchers say that infrared technology holds the potential to spot from afar whether a site is being used to make nuclear weapons. They developed a model which precisely characterizes the material in each pixel of an image taken from a long-wave infrared camera. The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) funded the project. The government’s long-term goal for infrared technology is remotely to detect the exact materials, chemicals and gases coming and going from factories or other sites suspected of illegal nuclear production.

  • Radiation risksRadiation damage to Chernobyl’s ecosystems helps spread radioactivity

    Radiological damage to microbes near the site of the Chernobyl disaster has slowed the decomposition of fallen leaves and other plant matter in the area, according to a new study. The resulting buildup of dry, loose detritus is a wildfire hazard that poses the threat of spreading radioactivity from the Chernobyl area.

  • Plutonium processingS.C. sues DOE over Savanah River MOX facility

    South Carolina decided to go to court to prevent the Obama administration from cutting off funding for a troubled multi-billion dollar Savanah River plant in which weapons-grade plutonium would be processed and turned into suitable fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. The initial budget for the MOX project, when it was launched a decade ago, was just under $4 billion. Since then, construction costs have reached $8 billion, and DOE officials now say the plant will cost about $30 billion over the years it is in use.

  • Nuclear wasteDOE: Contrary to rumor, there are no evacuation plans for southeastern New Mexico

    The Department of Energy (DOE) said the other day that an Internet rumor which has been fueling concerns earlier this week about the need to be prepared to evacuate southeastern New Mexico because of recent events at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is “absolutely” without basis. DOE notes that monitoring conducted by Nuclear Waste Partnership of air, soil, water, and vegetation are showing no radiation releases that would approach levels causing health concerns.

  • Nuclear wasteShale may offer long-term home for nuclear waste

    About 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel currently sit in temporary above-ground storage facilities, and it will remain dangerous for tens or hundreds of thousands of years or longer. Experts say that since the U.S. government abandoned plans to develop a long-term nuclear-waste storage site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada in 2009, finding new long-term storage sites must be a priority. Shale deep under the Earth’s surface could be a solution. France, Switzerland, and Belgium already have plans to use shale repositories to store nuclear waste long-term.

  • Nuclear proliferationBudget proposal cuts funds for nuclear nonproliferation programs

    The White House’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal includes more than $220 million in cuts for nuclear security initiatives such as the International Material Protection and Cooperationprogram, which aims to secure and eliminate vulnerable nuclear weapons and materials, and the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which supports the Energy Department’s efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear and radiological materials that could be used in weapons of mass destruction. The administration says that 54 percent of the reduction in the administration’s nonproliferation budget request can be accounted for by the decision to halt the South Carolina Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility(MOX), which would have convert weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel, because the project proved to be too costly.