• Paris attacks' mastermind had files on German nuclear waste facility

    Salah Abdeslam, the mastermind of the November 2015 terrorist attacks who is now in custody in Belgium, had in his possession documents about a nuclear research center in Germany. The Juelich nuclear center near the Belgium-Germany border is used for the storage of nuclear waste.

  • How to protect nuclear plants from terrorists

    By Allison Macfarlane

    In the wake of terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris, Istanbul, Ankara, and elsewhere, nations are rethinking many aspects of domestic security. Nuclear plants, as experts have long known, are potential targets for terrorists, either for sabotage or efforts to steal nuclear materials. At last month’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., representatives from fifty-two countries pledged to continue improving their nuclear security and adopted action plans to work together and through international agencies. But significant countries like Russia and Pakistan are not participating. And many in Europe are just beginning to consider physical security measures. To prevent an attack at a nuclear site, governments must take security at nuclear sites seriously now, not a year from now. In light of the current terrorist threat and with four Nuclear Security Summits completed, countries with nuclear plants need to up their game with regards to physical security at nuclear power facilities before it’s too late.

  • Digital mapping project tracks the last moments of the victims of Japan’s 2011 tsunami

    Digital archives track the evacuation patterns of 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake victims between the time the earthquake and tsunami struck. The Tokyo Metropolitan University researchers who created the digital archives say they will make use of the archive to analyze evacuation behaviors — encouraging people, for instance, to avoid overestimating evacuation sites and head to higher ground.

  • New way to clean contaminated groundwater

    A team of researchers has helped discover a new chemical method to immobilize uranium in contaminated groundwater, which could lead to more precise and successful water remediation efforts at former nuclear sites. Uranium is present in contaminated groundwater at various sites in the United States as a legacy of Cold War-era processing and waste disposal activities associated with nuclear materials production.

  • What is a dirty bomb and how dangerous is it?

    By Robert J Downes

    The worrying news that individuals affiliated with the so-called Islamic State have undertaken hostile surveillance at a Belgian nuclear research facility has created growing speculation about the group’s nuclear ambitions. There are no indications that a terrorist group has obtained any fissile material to date. An easier option for a terrorist group would be to build a dirty bomb or, technically, a radiological dispersal device. This is the reason for sensible concern, rather than hysterical speculation about Islamic State’s recent activities in Belgium and, especially, Iraq and Syria. After all, without an effective government, it is unclear who controls the many radioactive sources in the region.

  • ISIS planning to use drones for radioactive attacks on Western cities

    Prime Minister David Cameron warned that ISIS terrorists are planning to use drones to spray nuclear material over Western cities in a lethal “dirty bomb” attack. Security experts are worried about jihadists buying simple drones, which are widely available, and use them to carry radioactive material into the centers of large cities in attacks which would kill thousands and contaminate large sections of cities, making entire areas uninhabitable for years.

  • Is Belgium’s nuclear security up to scratch?

    By Robert J. Downes and Daniel Salisbury

    Belgium’s counter-terrorism efforts are once again being called into question following the recent tragedies in Brussels. The attacks were carried out against soft targets – the public check-in area of Brussels Airport and Maelbeek metro station – but a series of unusual and suspicious occurrences were also reported at nuclear facilities in the country. These events highlight the very real threat to nuclear facilities. For Belgium, this recent episode is one item on a long list of security concerns. Based on this history, the Belgian authorities should be primed to take nuclear security especially seriously. But there are serious questions about whether they are.

  • U.K. to ship highly enriched uranium for disposal in U.S.

    The United Kingdom will ship large quantities of enriched uranium for disposal in the United States, and in return will receive nuclear material from the United States for use in the treatment of cancer patients in Europe. About 700kg of radioactive waste, most of which is held at Dounreay in northern Scotland, will be shipped to the United States to be treated in American nuclear disposal plants, which have a greater capacity than British plants to dispose of radioactive materials.

  • Brussels attackers originally planned to attack a nuclear facility: Belgian authorities

    The terrorists who attacked the airport and a metro station on Tuesday had originally considered targeting a Belgian nuclear site, but that such an attack would have required more time and planning. The terrorists abandoned the nuclear facility attack plan after Belgian security services arrested a number of Islamist militants, forcing the terrorists to act more quickly and focus on soft targets instead of a hardened nuclear facility. EU counterterrorism coordinator said that Belgium’s network of nuclear power stations could become the targets of cyberattacks by terrorists in the near future. “And if [ISIS] ever did turn to nuclear weapons,” one experts says, “they have more people, more money and more territory under their control and more ability to recruit experts globally than Al Qaeda at its best ever had.”

  • Sandia Lab helps China launch nuclear security center

    U.S. national labs and their Chinese counterparts have launched the Chinese Center of Excellence (COE) for nuclear security. The center will provide training for security personnel in China’s expanding nuclear power sector. Sandia notes that its experience in physical security grew out of decades of work securing high-consequence facilities against theft and sabotage.

  • Worries in Belgium over ISIS dirty-bomb plot

    Belgian security authorities say that it appears that ISIS-linked terrorists in the country have been planning to build a dirty nuclear bomb for use in a future terrorist attack. Growing concerns over security at nuclear plants have led to the revocation of security passes of eleven workers. A senior Belgian nuclear official was also secretly monitored by individuals linked to the 13 November Paris attacks.

  • Benchmark data set validates global nuclear reactor codes

    Nearly 100 commercial nuclear reactors supply one-fifth of America’s energy. For each fuel rod in a reactor assembly, only 5 percent of its energy is consumed before fission can no longer be sustained efficiently for power production and the fuel assembly must be replaced. Power plants currently store the used fuel on-site. Information on the composition of the used fuel is essential for the design of safe storage, transportation, and final repository facilities and for inspection and verification to safeguard nuclear materials. Improved accuracy in prediction of the spent fuel isotopic composition leads to increased efficiency in the facility designs and higher confidence in the safeguard protocols.

  • New fuel materials to make nuclear reactors safer

    Nuclear power is an important energy source in the United States and around the world and is essential as a clean energy to reduce current carbon emissions from fossil fuels. However, many people feel the risk of nuclear accidents does not outweigh the benefits associated with nuclear energy. Scientists are exploring new materials for nuclear fuel, which could make current light water reactors (LWRs) safer.

  • Researchers crack 50-year-old nuclear waste problem, making waste storage safer

    Researchers have adapted a technology developed for solar energy in order to selectively remove one of the trickiest and most-difficult-to-remove elements in nuclear waste pools across the country, making the storage of nuclear waste safer and nontoxic — and solving a decades-old problem. The scientists figure out how to remove americium from nuclear waste pools, opening the door for expanding the use of one of the cleanest and efficient energy sources on the planet.

  • We still don’t really know the health hazards of a nuclear accident

    By Claire Corkhill

    Five years after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima and thirty years after the Chernobyl accident, scientists are still disagreeing about the impact on human health — such as how many people have got cancer as a result and how dangerous the exclusion zones currently are. The people of Fukushima, except those in the worst contaminated areas, will eventually be encouraged to return to their homes. In the absence of better understanding, scientific and political arguments about how safe the radiation levels are will continue. What is abundantly clear, though, is that we need to understand the comparative health effects of radiation versus relocation. Developing a new approach in our response to nuclear accidents and the decisions that are made in their immediate aftermath is vital so that we can avoid unnecessary panic and evacuation — something virtually all scientists agree on.