• Lawmakers Seek Probe of Controversial Bioweapons Defense System

    The Trump administration’s attempt to deploy a scientifically disputed system for detecting airborne anthrax or other infectious agents in terrorist attacks is facing increased scrutiny from a bipartisan group of House members. in a three-page letter, four Democrats and Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct an in-depth scientific evaluation of the new system, called BioDetection 21. Officials from the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, signaled that they plan to open the inquiry.

  • Can Nuclear Power Be Saved?

    Whither nuclear power? That question has become more important as energy policies evolve to emphasize emissions-free “green” energy and an increased electrification of the U.S. economy. Some environmentalists consider nuclear power to be crucial to reducing carbon emissions; others continue to vehemently oppose nuclear power and believe that our energy must come solely from renewable sources.  The public, encouraged into hysteria by dramatizations of nuclear-plant accidents such as the film The China Syndrome and HBO’s Chernobyl, is split. Meanwhile, the nuclear-power industry itself is in a parlous state for a variety of tangled reasons.

  • Tackling Cargo Shipping Security

    Each day, thousands of containers travel the globe. Security agencies need to ensure the cargo that originally was shipped in them is what is in them when they reach their destination. Harmful or illegal content, added after the cargo was cleared for transport, must be detected and intercepted. Securing the global supply chain, while ensuring its smooth functioning, is essential to U.S. national security.

  • Remotely Monitoring Nuclear Reactors with Antineutrino Detection

    Technology to measure the flow of subatomic particles known as antineutrinos from nuclear reactors could allow continuous remote monitoring designed to detect fueling changes that might indicate the diversion of nuclear materials. The monitoring could be done from outside the reactor vessel, and the technology may be sensitive enough to detect substitution of a single fuel assembly.

  • Russia's Nclear Propulsion Experiment a Cause for Worry

    An explosion last Tuesday at a Russian military test site caused a spike in radiation levels, forcing the evacuation of a small town. Experts say the incident occurred during the test of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile. Both superpowers experimented with nuclear propulsion of rockets during the cold war, but without success. Experts worry if a nuclear-powered cruise missile carries a conventional warhead to its target, an accident occurring with this missiles may turn what was meant to be a non-nuclear attack into a nuclear one, even if the explosion and radiation dispersion would be smaller relative to a “real” nuclear attack.

  • Differentiating Earthquake from Underground Explosion

    Sandia National Laboratories researchers, as part of a group of National Nuclear Security Administration scientists, have wrapped up years of field experiments to improve the United States’ ability to differentiate earthquakes from underground explosions, key knowledge needed to advance the nation’s monitoring and verification capabilities for detecting underground nuclear explosions.

  • Nuclear Power Offers an Abundant Supply of Low-Carbon Energy. But What to Do With the Deadly Radioactive Waste?

    The dilemma of how to manage nuclear waste — radioactive materials routinely produced in large quantities at every stage of nuclear power production, from uranium mining and enrichment to reactor operation and the reprocessing of spent fuel — has taxed the industry, academics and governments for decades. Along with accidents, it has been a major reason for continuing public opposition to the industry’s further expansion despite substantial interest in nuclear power’s status as a low-carbon power source that can help mitigate climate change. The race is on to develop new strategies for permanently storing some of the most dangerous materials on the planet.

  • Improving Security of Nuclear Materials Transportation

    Nuclear power plants can withstand most inclement weather and do not emit harmful greenhouse gases. However, trafficking of the nuclear materials to furnish them with fuel remains a serious issue as security technology continues to be developed. Physicists conducted research to enhance global nuclear security by improving radiation detectors. According to them, improving radiation detectors requires the identification of better sensor materials and the development of smarter algorithms to process detector signals.

  • 460,000 Premature Deaths: The Horror That Was Nuclear Weapons Testing

    In March 1954, over the Bikini Atoll, the United States detonated a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb —one thousand times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. It was the largest explosion ever set off by Americans, and also the dirtiest. Researchers have now found that, more than sixty years after the nuclear tests the United States conducted in the area, the levels of radiation in several Marshall Island atolls, exceed that found at Chernobyl or Fukushima. The United States also detonated hundreds of atomic bombs in Nevada, and a 2017 study suggested that fallout from the Nevada nuclear testing could have led to between 340,000 and 460,000 premature deaths, mostly Americans and mainly through cancer.

  • Truth and Fearmongering: Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository

    Is it a good idea to store 77,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste in a repository in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain? Many Nevada politicians say it is a bad idea, but scientists argue that the facts do not support the fears these politicians stoke. These scientists say that Colorado, whose surface rock contains about a billion tons of uranium, should have much more to worry about than Nevada. One scientist says: “If the Yucca Mountain facility were at full capacity and all the waste leaked out of its glass containment immediately and managed to reach groundwater, the danger would still be 20 times less than that currently posed by natural uranium leaching into the Colorado River.”

  • Epigenetic Tool for Detecting Exposure to WMD

    With a $38.8 million award from DARPA, researchers are working on developing a field-deployable, point-of-care device that will determine in 30 minutes or less whether a person has been exposed to weapons of mass destruction or their precursors. The device will be capable of detecting the health effects of a number of substances associated with weapons of mass destruction, including biological agents, radiation, chemicals and explosives. The detection devices will scan potential exposure victims for epigenetic changes, that is, chemical modifications that affect genes, altering their expression while leaving the genetic code intact.

  • Trump Administration Has Gutted Programs Aimed at Detecting Weapons of Mass Destruction

    The Trump administration has quietly dismantled or cut back multiple programs that were created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to help detect and prevent terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction, a Times investigation has found. The retreat has taken place over the last two years at the Department of Homeland Security, which has primary domestic responsibility for helping authorities identify and block potential chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. A Los Angeles Times investigation found that the changes, not previously reported, were made without rigorous review of potential security vulnerabilities, the Times found, undermining government-wide efforts aimed at countering terrorist attacks involving unconventional weapons, known as weapons of mass destruction.

  • Assessing Handheld Explosives Trace Detectors

    Individuals who carry explosives or have been involved in bomb making are likely to be contaminated with trace explosives, microscopic particles invisible to the naked eye. Without the right equipment, detecting trace explosives can be challenging for responders and security personnel. Handheld explosives trace detectors (ETDs) can be used to complement bomb-sniffing canines, which are still the gold standard in trace explosives detection. These detectors can be used to find trace explosives on individuals, hopefully preventing a dangerous incident.

  • Helping first responders deal with dirty bombs

    If a radiological dispersal device (RDD), or “dirty bomb,” ever explodes in the United States, emergency crews may be better prepared because researchers have developed a new simulator, which show first responders what an optimal response to an RDD would look like.

  • Bill Expands Compensation for Victims of Radiation Exposure

    Tens of thousands of individuals, including miners, transporters, and other employees who worked directly in uranium mines, along with communities located near test sites for nuclear weapons, were exposed during the mid-1900s to dangerous radiation that has left communities struggling from cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses.