• Safe, Fast Radionuclide Detection

    In the event of a radiological release, such as from an improvised nuclear device, immediately assessing the threat to public safety would be critical. Rapid detection of radioactive materials can save lives, reduce the environmental impact of such an event and save taxpayer dollars. Current hand-held detection methods, however, are unreliable at detecting very low levels of alpha radiation from actinides, such as uranium, due to environmental influences.

  • Smaller Detection Device for Nuclear Treaty Verification, Archaeology Digs

    Most nuclear data measurements are performed at accelerators large enough to occupy a geologic formation a kilometer wide, like the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center located on a mesa in the desert. But a portable device that can reveal the composition of materials quickly on-site would greatly benefit cases such as in archaeology and nuclear arms treaty verification.

  • Dealing with the Soviet Nuclear Legacy

    On 29 August 1949, the Soviet Union conducted their first nuclear test. Over a 40-year period, they conducted 456 nuclear explosions at Semipalatinsk, in eastern Kazakhstan — 116 aboveground and 340 underground. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many of the scientists and military personnel abandoned the site and fled the country, leaving behind large quantities of nuclear materials, completely unsecured. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has been quietly helping Kazakhstan deal with the Soviet nuclear legacy.

  • Iran’s Nuclear Weapons “Breakout” Time Getting Shorter: Experts

    The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, and the administration’s “maximum pressure” policy, are failing to yield the desired results, as Iran, pursuing a methodical “creep-out” strategy, is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. In 2015, Iran’s “breakout” time, that is, the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon, was three months. The 2015 agreement, by imposing serve technical restrictions and intrusive monitoring, increased Iran’s breakout time to about twelve months. Experts now say that since the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty, Iran’s breakout time has been reduced to 6-10 months. “The breakout time will decrease further as Iran increases its stock of enriched uranium and installs more centrifuges,” the experts say.

  • Helping Nuclear Forensics Investigations by Going Small

    Until recently, the analysis and identification of nuclear fuel pellets in nuclear forensics investigations have been mainly focused on macroscopic characteristics, such as fuel pellet dimensions, uranium enrichment and other reactor-specific features. But scientists are going a step further by going down to the microscale to study the diverse characteristics of nuclear fuel pellets that could improve nuclear forensic analysis by determining more effectively where the material came from and how it was made.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • U.S. should reject partial North Korean “concessions”: Experts

    The failure to reach an agreement at last week’s Hanoi meeting between President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi is but the latest indication that the differences between the United States and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear weapons capability are deep and complex.

  • Weapons experts: Satellite images confirm Netanyahu’s claims about Iran’s nuclear warehouse

    Satellite images obtained over the summer confirm charges made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September that Iran had a secret nuclear warehouse in Tehran, a team of weapons inspectors wrote in a paper.

  • Responders provide technical expertise in case of nuclear weapons accidents

    Decades ago, technical experts from the national labs responded in an ad hoc manner to accidents involving nuclear weapons, called “broken arrows.” Thirty-two such accidents have occurred since the 1950s, so the Accident Response Group at Sandia Lab was created about five decades ago to provide technical expertise in assessing and safely resolving nuclear weapons accidents.

  • Iran planned to build five 10-Kt bombs by 2003: Nuclear experts

    The Institute for Science and International Security published a paper Tuesday containing new details about Iran’s nuclear weapons program and demanding that the International Atomic Energy Agency ensure that Iran’s nuclear weapons program is “ended in an irretrievable permanent manner.” According to the report, Iranian documents show that Iran had specific plans to build five 10-kiloton nuclear devices by 2003. The plans from the archive show that Iran’s planning for these weapons was very detailed, including expected costs and a timetable.

  • Levitating particles could lift nuclear detective work

    Laser-based ‘optical tweezers’ could levitate uranium and plutonium particles, thus allowing the measurement of nuclear recoil during radioactive decay. This technique, proposed by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, provides a new method for conducting the radioactive particle analysis essential to nuclear forensics.

  • Better decisions during a radiological emergency

    Whether a catastrophe is natural or man-made, emergency managers need to respond quickly with the optimal solution. Making decisions on the fly can be difficult, which is why significant planning must go into a disaster response strategy. Many conversations need to happen, and they need to cover a range of possible scenarios. The Radiation Decontamination tool Rad Decon was developed to facilitate those very discussions during a radiological emergency.

  • Scavenger hunt for simulated nuclear materials

    Competing in a fictitious high-stakes scenario, a group of scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) bested two dozen other teams in a months-long, data-driven scavenger hunt for simulated radioactive materials in a virtual urban environment. The competition platform was also built and managed by Lab researchers.

  • Preparing for quick radiation diagnostic test in case of a nuclear disaster

    Researchers are attempting to create a better diagnostic test for radiation exposure that potentially could save thousands of lives. A new study compiled a list of genes reported to be affected by external ionizing radiation (IR), and assessed their performance as possible biomarkers that could be used to calculate the amount of radiation absorbed by the human body.