Radiological threats | Homeland Security Newswire

  • Radioactive material, leaked from a Russian nuclear complex, detected over Europe

    The Russian state meteorological agency Roshydromet today released data which show exceedingly high atmospheric concentration of ruthenium-106 in the area where the Rosatom Mayak nuclear complex, located in the Southern Urals. The late-September leak, initially denied by Roasatom, the operator of the complex, caused the radioactive material to spread over northern Europe, where it was detected by IRSN and BfS, the French and German nuclear safety agencies, respectively.

  • Investigating the effectiveness of nanoscale nuclear waste filter

    Nuclear power accounts for roughly 11 percent of the world’s electricity, and researchers are examining more efficient and less expensive methods of capturing radioactive iodine and other common byproducts from the reactors. Researchers are investigating the effectiveness of a nanoscale “sponge” that could help filter out dangerous radioactive particles from nuclear waste.

  • New theory of the opening moments of Chernobyl disaster

    Researchers, relying on new evidence and analysis, have come up with a new theory of the opening moments during the Chernobyl disaster, the most severe nuclear accident in history. The new theory suggests the first of the two explosions reported by eyewitnesses was a nuclear and not a steam explosion, as is currently widely thought.

  • Detecting nuclear materials used in dirty bombs

    Radiological material falling into the wrong hands is a constant security concern for governments around the world. Border agencies must scan incoming vehicles and freight for radioactive material, which is a challenging task, as huge volumes of both move across borders each day. Imperial College London’s physicists have developed two devices for detecting nuclear materials.

  • World unprepared to deal with the effects of a thermonuclear attack

    The world is not prepared to deal with the devastating effects of a thermonuclear attack, says an University of Georgia’s Cham Dallas. He said that the development of a hydrogen bomb by North Korea is a transformative event, especially from the point of view of the medical and public health response to a thermonuclear detonation.

  • Radiation analysis software from Sandia Lab helps emergency responders

    When law enforcement officers and first responders arrive at an emergency involving radiation, they need a way to swiftly assess the situation to keep the public and environment safe. Having analysis tools that can quickly and reliably make sense of radiation data is of the essence. Sandia National Laboratories developed a tool called InterSpec, available for both mobile and traditional computing devices, can rapidly and accurately analyze gamma radiation data collected at the scene.

  • Detecting carriers of dirty bombs

    The threat of terrorism in Europe has been on the rise in recent years, with experts and politicians particularly worried that terrorists might make use of dirty bombs. Researchers have developed a new system that will be able to detect possible carriers of radioactive substances, even in large crowds of people. This solution is one of the defensive measures being developed as part of the REHSTRAIN project, which is focused on security for TGV and ICE high-speed trains in France and Germany.

  • Why we should start worrying about nuclear fallout

    Since North Korea’s recent missile tests, and Sunday’s underground nuclear test, the possibility of nuclear warfare looms larger than it has in more than five decades. Nearly thirty years after the cold war ended, are we prepared to face such a challenge? How would large-scale nuclear attacks affect the world today? “During the cold war, the United States, the Soviet Union, and several European countries built networks of fallout shelters — but even at their peak, these would not have effectively protected the majority of citizens,” says one expert. Nor is radioactive fallout the only problem, because “the damage from mass fires triggered by nuclear bombs has been radically and persistently underestimated.”

  • Experimental box to track nuclear activity by rogue nations

    Researchers are carrying out a research project at Dominion Power’s North Anna Nuclear Generating Station in Virginia that could lead to a new turning point in how the United Nations tracks rogue nations that seek nuclear power. The years-long project centers on a high-tech box full of luminescent plastic cubes stacked atop one another that can be placed just outside a nuclear reactor operated by, say, Iran. The box would detect subatomic particles known as neutrinos produced by the reactor, which can be used to track the amount of plutonium produced in the reactor core.

  • There were dirty bomb ingredients in ISIS-controlled Mosul

    Two years ago, researchers at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Science and International Security discovered that there were apparently two sources of radioactive cobalt in Mosul which posed a risk of being used in a dirty bomb. Mosul came under DAESH (ISIS) control a year earlier. The Institute, for security reasons, did not publish the results of the research, choosing instead to share it with the U.S. intelligence community. Now that Mosul has been liberated, the Washington Post, on Saturday, ran an exclusive story on the topic. DAESH never used the radioactive materials, and it is not clear whether the Islamist organization was aware of the radioactive sources under their control.

  • Compact, precise photons beam to aid in nuclear security

    A new, compact technique for producing beams of high-energy photons (particles of light) with precisely controlled energy and direction could “see” through thick steel and concrete to more easily detect and identify concealed or smuggled nuclear materials. These photons are similar to X-rays but have even higher photon energy than conventional X-rays, which lets them penetrate thick materials.

  • Lab mistakenly ships radioactive material aboard commercial plane

    Employees at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have been fired and disciplinary action against other personnel was taken after small amounts of radioactive material were mistakenly shipped aboard a commercial cargo plane. Nuclear experts say the mishap could have led to serious consequences. The rapid pressure changes during flights could have damaged the packaging, causing radiation to escape.

  • New technique detects radioactive material even after it is gone

    A new technique allows researchers to characterize nuclear material that was in a location even after the nuclear material has been removed – a finding that has significant implications for nuclear nonproliferation and security applications. The technique could identify and characterize a dirty bomb based on samples taken from a room the bomb was in a year ago. “This is a valuable tool for emergency responders, nuclear nonproliferation authorities and forensics, because it allows us to get a rough snapshot of the size of a radiation source, where it was located, how radioactive it is, and what type of radioactive material it is,” a researcher says.

  • Scintillating discovery at Sandia Labs

    Taking inspiration from an unusual source, a Sandia National Laboratories team has dramatically improved the science of scintillators — objects that detect nuclear threats. According to the team, using organic glass scintillators could soon make it even harder to smuggle nuclear materials through America’s ports and borders. The Sandia Labs team developed a scintillator made of an organic glass which is more effective than the best-known nuclear threat detection material while being much easier and cheaper to produce.

  • Amid Texas nuclear waste site's financial woes, judge blocks merger

    A federal judge has blocked the purchase of the company that runs Texas’ only nuclear waste dump — a setback in its proposal to accept spent nuclear fuel from across the country. Wednesday’s ruling is the latest setback for a project that the company initially suggested it would start constructing by 2019.