• Chechen Islamic terrorists threaten February 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia

    Doku Umarov, a leading Chechen Islamic rebel, on Wednesday issued a call to Islamist militants throughout the North Caucasus to begin and plan for attacks to disrupt the February 2014 Winter Olympics which will be held in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Security experts say that securing the games would be a daunting task.

  • U.K. nuclear disaster exercise reveals worrisome lapses in emergency response

    Up to six times a year, U.K. nuclear weapons are transported in heavily guarded convoys between production facilities in Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, where the nuclear bombs are manufactured, and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport on Loch Long in Argyll. The trips are required because scientists must regularly examine the 200 Trident missile warheads in order to make sure they are operationally reliable and properly maintained. Every three years, the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) conducts a drill aiming to test how various agencies respond to an accident involving the convoy carrying the nuclear warheads. An internal report on the last drill notes many problems in the response to the simulated accident, including five-hour wait for weapons experts, confusion over radiation monitoring, and ambulance crews refusing to take contamination victims to hospitals.

  • Laser-driven neutrons to detect nuclear smuggling

    Researchers have successfully demonstrated for the first time that laser-generated neutrons can be enlisted as a useful tool in the war on terror, as Los Alamos shows first nuclear material detection by single short-pulse-laser-driven neutron source.

  • Health impact of Chernobyl accident overestimated: study

    The impact of the Chernobyl nuclear accident has been seriously overestimated, while unfounded statements presented as scientific facts have been used to strangle the nuclear industry, according to Russian researchers.

  • Reducing the volume of nuclear waste

    The nuclear industry seeks to minimize the volume of nuclear waste by extracting the radioactive elements from spent fuel.This relies on exploiting differences in the chemical bonding of uranium. Scientists have found that in some circumstances the bonding may be surprisingly similar, an important discovery which is going to be important in the amelioration of nuclear waste clean-up and devising new atom-efficient catalytic cycles.

  • U.S. policy may lead to growing global shortage of helium

    Helium is an essential resource in technologies such as medical imaging, rocket engines, and surveillance devices. In response to the element’s scarcity, the United States has been stockpiling helium since the 1960s in a National Helium Reserve called the Bush Dome, a deep underground reservoir outside of Amarillo, Texas. In 1996 the Helium Privatization Act mandated that the Department of the Interior sell off all the stockpiled helium by 2015. Scientists say that this action discourages the active exploration of helium since companies can buy it from the United States at a cheap price and sell it at a premium. The result will be a growing shortage of helium.

  • Energy Department to invest in used nuclear fuel storage research

    As part of its efforts to develop an effective strategy for the safe and secure storage and management of used nuclear fuel, the Energy Department the other day announced a new dry storage research and development project. In the Energy Department’s budget request presented last week, the department requested $60 million for nuclear waste research and development.

  • Former NRC chairman: all 104 U.S. nuclear reactors suffer from “irreparable” safety issues

    According to former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) chairman Gregory Jaczko, all 104 nuclear reactors in the United States currently have irreparable safety issues and should be shut down and replaced. Jaczko was the NRC chairman from 2009 through 2012.

  • Critics: Fukushima-influenced U.S. nuclear accident response procedures are flawed

    The U.S. government is using the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan two years ago as a model for rewriting its plans on how to respond to radiation contamination — emphasizing long-term cleanup and return of residents to affected areas instead of emergency response. Critics say this is a mistake.

  • Ohio’s Perry nuclear power plant was vulnerable to sabotage

    A report issued last week said that operators at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio found a vulnerability in the security of the plant last year, and that that vulnerability could have put the public in harm’s way. The utility operating the nuclear plant reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that the plant’s security program for monitoring underground pathways and other unattended openings were insufficient to detect and prevent unauthorized access to the protected area.

  • June workshop on approaches to CBRNE incidents

    NIST-organized workshop will explore ways to improve an all-of-government approach that increases resilience to international chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive (CBRNE) incidents.

  • U.S. nuclear industry resists stricter, post-Fukushima safety measures

    Since the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have been debating whether or not to impose even stricter safety measures on the thirty-one U.S. boiling water reactors (BWRs). Utility companies have been fighting any new safety regulations, arguing that the security measures they have are more than enough.

  • Idaho debating nuclear waste storage

    For two decades, the Yucca mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada was viewed as a long-term solution to the growing problem of radioactive waste generated by the 104 active nuclear power generation plants in the United States. One of the Obama administration’s first acts was to “defund” the project, in effect outing an end to it. States such as Texas, New Mexico, and North Carolina have fashioned their own interim solution to the problem of nuclear waste storage, and the governor of Idaho wants his state to follow these states’ example.

  • Part Three: Bechtel and the Y-12 security breach

    With an annual security budget of $150 million, the Y-12 Nuclear Complex at Oakridge, Tennessee, prided itself on its high-tech security system built to protect more than 179 tons of uranium. After Sister Megan Rice, age 82, and two confederates, both senior citizens, too — the three were armed with nothing but wire cutters and flashlights — broke into the Y-12 facility on 28 July 2012, one security guard was fired. Numerous investigations and reports, however, show that last July’s incident was but one in a series of security failures and breaches at nuclear sites under the supervision of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). In May, Sister Rice and her aging collaborators will stand trial. Bechtel, a major contractor sharing responsibility for the documented security lapses at Y-12, has just received a federal nuclear plant security contract worth more than $22 billion.

  • Thorium holds promise of safer, cleaner nuclear power

    Thorium as nuclear fuels has drawbacks, but its main advantage includes generating far less toxic residue. The majority of the mineral is used during the fission process, and it can burn existing stockpiles of plutonium and hazardous waste, saving the need to transport it and bury the waste in concrete. If thorium becomes available as a source of energy in the future, the world will rely less on coal and gas, and wind turbines will become a thing of the past. The risk of a global energy crunch will decrease considerably.