• Radiation threat detection system successfully tested in Washington, D.C.

    DARPA’s SIGMA program — whose goal is to prevent attacks involving radiological “dirty bombs” and other nuclear threats — concluded its biggest and longest test deployment of vehicle-mounted radiation detectors in Washington, D.C., in February. For approximately seven months starting in July 2016, the fleet of D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services ambulances was outfitted with DARPA-developed nuclear and radiological detectors, providing the first city-scale, dynamic, real-time map of background radiation levels throughout the Capital as well as identifying any unusual spikes that could indicate a threat.

  • Preventing nuclear waste seepage

    Nuclear waste is a reality, whether remnants of nuclear weapons or the byproducts of nuclear power plants. While we aren’t at risk of an attack from a giant radioactive lizard, nuclear waste can still pose threats to human health. The best way to safely store and contain nuclear waste is by mixing it into a cement grout and storing it in large concrete vaults. Researchers are testing the permeability of these grout mixtures and in turn, the ability for nuclear materials to eventually flow through the solidified grout and into the environment.

  • System automatically detects cracks in steel components of nuclear power plants

    The United States operates 99 commercial nuclear power plants, which account for about 20 percent of total U.S. electricity generation. Aging can result in cracking, fatigue, embrittlement of metal components, wear, erosion, corrosion and oxidation. Researchers have developed a new automated system which detects cracks in the steel components of nuclear power plants and has been shown to be more accurate than other automated systems.

  • Finding new clues for nuclear waste cleanup

    Technetium-99 is a byproduct of plutonium weapons production and is considered a major U.S. challenge for environmental cleanup. At the Hanford Site nuclear complex in Washington state, there are about 2,000 pounds of the element dispersed within approximately 56 million gallons of nuclear waste in 177 storage tanks. The U.S. Department of Energy is in the process of building a waste treatment plant at Hanford to immobilize hazardous nuclear waste in glass. But researchers have been stymied because not all the technetium-99 is incorporated into the glass and volatilized gas must be recycled back into the melter system.

  • Identifying the right sites for storing radioactive waste

    In 2008, a Swiss government agency identified six regions in Switzerland, approved by the Federal Council, which could be used to store radioactive waste. An EPFL research project has developed a detailed profile of the sites selected to store radioactive waste from Swiss nuclear power plants. The project helped identify the two sites that meet both safety and feasibility requirements.

  • U.K. nuclear safety regulations place too low a value on human life

    New research has shown that the benchmark used by the U.K. Office for Nuclear Regulation for judging how much should be spent on nuclear safety has no basis in evidence and places insufficient value on human life. The review suggests it may need to be ten times higher — between £16 million and £22 million per life saved.

  • A new kind of responder brings special expertise to disasters

    An emergency response incident commander should be well-versed on how to respond to all hazards, including the intricacies of radiological and nuclear incidents. Because the hazards associated with radiological or nuclear (rad/nuc) incidents are uniquely challenging to convey accurately to first responders, DHS S&T has developed a solution in the form of the Radiological Operations Support Specialist (ROSS) Program.

  • New technique could lead to more efficient, safer uranium extraction

    The separation of uranium, a key part of the nuclear fuel cycle, could potentially be done more safely and efficiently through a new technique developed by chemistry researchers at Oregon State University. The technique uses soap-like chemicals known as surfactants to extract uranium from an aqueous solution into a kerosene solution in the form of hollow clusters. Aside from fuel preparation, it may also find value in legacy waste treatment and for the cleanup of environmental contamination.

  • NY’s Indian Point nuclear plant to close after many “safety events”

    New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant will close by April 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. “For fifteen years, I have been deeply concerned by the continuing safety violations at Indian Point, especially given its location in the largest and most densely populated metropolitan region in the country,” Cuomo said. “I am proud to have secured this agreement with Entergy [the plant’s operator] to responsibly close the facility fourteen years ahead of schedule, to protect the safety of all New Yorkers.”

  • Chemistry research breakthrough could improve nuclear waste recycling technologies

    Researchers have taken a major step forward by describing the quantitative modelling of the electronic structure of a family of uranium nitride compounds – a process that could in the future help with nuclear waste recycling technologies. “In this nuclear age, there is a pressing need for improved extraction agents for nuclear waste separations and recycling technologies,” explained one of the researchers.

  • Sandia’s radiation security team helps protect the public in large events

    Sandia National Laboratories’ Radiological Assistance Program (RAP) team is one of several Department of Energy (DOE)/National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) teams in nine U.S. regions. The teams provide radiological detection support for large public events in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. They also help with major public events around the United States, such as Super Bowls or visits from the pope.

  • Exercising the U.S. nuclear forensics capabilities

    The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) plays an important role in the field of nuclear forensics. In addition to advancing technical capabilities and supporting expertise development, DNDO coordinates with other partners to exercise the U.S. government’s ability to collect nuclear debris samples in the event of a detonation and transport them to laboratories for analysis.

  • Bathroom air freshener triggers emergency response at nuclear weapons complex

    Late in the afternoon on Wednesday of last week officials at the nuclear weapons complex declared an emergency after finding what they regarded as a suspicious device in a bathroom at the Savannah River National Laboratory in South Carolina. Emergency teams determined that the suspicious device was an air freshener wrapped in paper towels with a flashing light on it.

  • First large-scale, citywide test of advanced radioactive threat detection system

    Field testing of more than 1,000 networked, mobile radiation sensors in Washington, D.C., yields valuable data for implementing enhanced radiation-detection networks in major U.S. cities. By getting volunteers to walk all day looking for clues, the DARPA-sponsored exercise provided the largest test yet of DARPA’s SIGMA program, which is developing networked sensors that can provide dynamic, real-time radiation detection over large urban areas.

  • Immobilizing radioactive waste in glass for millions of years

    How do you handle nuclear waste that will be radioactive for millions of years, keeping it from harming people and the environment? It is not easy, but researchers have discovered ways to immobilize such waste – the offshoot of decades of nuclear weapons production – in glass and ceramics.