• FBI’s WMD Directorate marks its first decade

    If you can imagine a disaster involving explosives or the release of nuclear, biological, chemical, or radioactive material, there is a pretty good chance a group of subject-matter experts within the FBI has built an elaborate scenario around it and tested how well emergency responders face up to it. It is the main jobs of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Directorate — to imagine worst-case scenarios and then devise ways to prevent and prepare for them. The Directorate was created ten years ago, on 26 July 2006.

  • Iran received secret exemptions from complying with some facets of nuclear deal

    The nuclear deal between the P5+1 powers and Iran – the official named is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — placed detailed limitations on facets of Iran’s nuclear program that needed to be met by Implementation Day, which took place on 16 January 2016. Most of the conditions were met by Iran, but some nuclear stocks and facilities were not in accordance with JCPOA limits on Implementation Day. In anticipation, the Joint Commission had earlier and secretly exempted them from the JCPOA limits. “Since the JCPOA is public, any rationale for keeping these exemptions secret appears unjustified,” say two experts. “Moreover, the Joint Commission’s secretive decision making process risks advantaging Iran by allowing it to try to systematically weaken the JCPOA. It appears to be succeeding in several key areas.”

  • A new generation of low-cost, networked, nuclear-radiation detectors

    A DARPA program aimed at preventing attacks involving radiological “dirty bombs” and other nuclear threats has successfully developed and demonstrated a network of smartphone-sized mobile devices that can detect the tiniest traces of radioactive materials. Combined with larger detectors along major roadways, bridges, other fixed infrastructure, and in vehicles, the new networked devices promise significantly enhanced awareness of radiation sources and greater advance warning of possible threats.

  • Looking from space for nuclear detonations

    Sandia has been in the business of nuclear detonation detection for more than fifty years, starting with the 1963 launch of the first of twelve U.S. Vela satellites to detect atmospheric nuclear testing and verify compliance with the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 and subsequently the Threshold Test Ban Treaty of 1974. That marked the start of the U.S. Nuclear Detonation Detection System that supports treaty monitoring. The Global Burst Detection (GBD) system launched 5 February from Cape Canaveral aboard the 70th Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite. The GBD looks for nuclear detonations around the world, offering real-time information about potential activity to U.S. policymakers. The launch was the 12th and final of the Block IIF (GPSIIF) series of GPS satellites in medium Earth orbit.

  • Nuclear forensics summer program trains students for a future in nuclear security

    A sure sign of summer is the return of interns to the Lawrence Livermore campus. Students interact with premier researchers and access equipment and facilities not available anywhere else, while scientists lay groundwork for advancing their fields. LLNL runs an eight-week summer internship for students interested in nuclear science and its range of specialties — nuclear forensics, environmental radiochemistry, nuclear physics, and beyond. Together, these disciplines support the laboratory’s nuclear security mission through analysis of nuclear processes and properties.

  • Improving detection of concealed nuclear materials

    Researchers have demonstrated proof of concept for a novel low-energy nuclear reaction imaging technique designed to detect the presence of “special nuclear materials” — weapons-grade uranium and plutonium — in cargo containers arriving at U.S. ports. The method relies on a combination of neutrons and high-energy photons to detect shielded radioactive materials inside the containers.

  • Helping inspectors locate and identify underground nuclear tests

    Through experiments and computer models of gas releases, scientists have simulated signatures of gases from underground nuclear explosions (UNEs) that may be carried by winds far from the point of detonation. The work will help international inspectors locate and identify a clandestine UNE site within a 1,000 square kilometer search area during an on-site inspection that could be carried out under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

  • “Acceptable risk” is a better way to think about radiation exposure in Fukushima

    Five years after the Fukushima disaster, many of these people remain refugees, unable to return home for fear of radiation exposure. As the radioactivity cleanup continues, people are coming to an uncomfortable realization: although cleanup can reduce the level of radioactive contamination, the environmental radiation dose levels within the prefecture will remain elevated for many generations before they finally reach the very low levels that existed prior to the accident. So, when will it be safe for people to return to their homes and to normal life in the Fukushima Prefecture? With regard to radiation exposure, “safe” really means an “acceptable level of risk,” and not everyone agrees on what is acceptable. Providing people with this risk characterization information, at the very least, is within the power of all radiation regulatory agencies, even if achieving complete cleanup of the environment is beyond their reach. This public information void about radiation risks needs to be filled. People can make their own decisions once they’re empowered with credible and intelligible risk information.

  • Remote detection of radioactive materials

    National security experts believe terrorists continue to be interested in such devices for terror plots. Now researchers have proposed a new technique remotely to detect the radioactive materials in dirty bombs or other sources. It is the increased ion density that the researchers aim to detect with their new method. They calculate that a low-power laser aimed near the radioactive material could free electrons from the oxygen ions.

  • Secretive Area 6 used to test aerial radiation detection equipment

    Top-secret Nevada site – even more secret than neighboring Area 51 — is used by Pentagon, DHS to test drones equipped with sensors to detect radioactive material which could be used in dirty bombs. The site, located in Yucca Flat, was once used for nuclear testing.

  • Truck carrying toxic nuclear materials stolen in Mexico

    Five Mexican states have been placed on a state of alert after a truck carrying a container of dangerous radioactive material was stolen, the Mexican Interior Ministry has said. The material could cause permanent or serious injury to a person who is in contact with it for a short time, and is fatal when exposure lasts for more than a few hours.

  • Air data can be used to reconstruct radiological releases

    New research demonstrates that experts can use data from air sampling technology to not only detect radiological releases, but to accurately quantify the magnitude and source of the release. This has applications for nuclear plant safety, as well as national security and nuclear nonproliferation monitoring.

  • U.S. testing radiation therapy developed in Israel

    The United States will likely begin to stock anti-radiation therapy from Pluristem Therapeutics Inc., an Israeli biotech company. The company says that the therapy can also cure nearly all people exposed to the radiation effects of nuclear weapons, “dirty” bombs, or nuclear power plants.

  • Predicting clay swelling for better nuclear waste disposal

    Bentonite clay is planned to be used as a key barrier in the deep geological disposal of high-level nuclear waste. To ensure the safety of disposal, it is crucial to understand and predict the swelling behavior of bentonite clay. The swelling property, however, is regulated by multiple structural and environmental factors. A new model simulates the atomic-level interactions among the components of clay-water system, reproducing the swelling trends and swelling pressures measured by experiments with good accuracy.

  • ISIS may get its hands on “highly dangerous” nuclear material stolen in Iraq

    Iraqi security agencies are searching for “highly dangerous” radioactive material stolen last year.  Experts are worried that the material could fall into the hands of ISIS. The material – Ir-192 — is designated a Category 2 radioactive by the IAEA, and it could be used to build a “dirty bomb,” which combines nuclear material with conventional explosives to contaminate an area with radiation.