• Investigating Materials for Safe, Secure Nuclear Power

    A longstanding interest in radiation’s effects on metals has drawn Michael Short into new areas such as nuclear security and microreactors.

  • The U.S. Army Tried Portable Nuclear Power at Remote Bases 60 Years Ago – It Didn’t Go Well

    The U.S. military’s Camp Century was a series of tunnels built into the Greenland ice sheet and used for both military research and scientific projects. The military boasted that the nuclear reactor there, known as the PM-2A, needed just 44 pounds of uranium to replace a million or more gallons of diesel fuel. Heat from the reactor ran lights and equipment and allowed the 200 or so men at the camp as many hot showers as they wanted in that brutally cold environment. The PM-2A was the third child in a family of eight Army reactors, several of them experiments in portable nuclear power.

  • Improving the Safety of Next-Generation Reactors

    On 11 March 2011, in response to a massive earthquake, the nuclear reactors at Fukushima-Daiichi automatically shut down, as designed. The emergency systems, which would have helped maintain the necessary cooling of the core, were destroyed by the subsequent tsunami. Because the reactor could no longer cool itself, the core overheated, resulting in a severe nuclear meltdown. Since then, reactors have improved exponentially in terms of safety, sustainability and efficiency. Unlike the light-water reactors at Fukushima, which had liquid coolant and uranium fuel, the current generation of reactors has a variety of coolant options, including molten-salt mixtures, supercritical water and even gases like helium.

  • U.S. Should Make Monitoring and Detecting Nuclear Threats a Higher National Priority

    To address current and evolving nuclear threats, the U.S. needs a higher prioritized and more integrated program for monitoring, detecting, and verifying nuclear test explosions, nuclear weapon stockpiles, and the production of fissile material, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences.

  • Iran Says 60 Percent Enrichment “Under Way” at Natanz Site

    Iranian officials say the country has begun enriching uranium up to 60 percent purity, higher than it has ever done before, despite ongoing talks between Tehran and world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran had committed to keep enrichment to 3.67 percent. Recently it has been enriching up to 20 percent, saying the deal was no longer enforceable. Enriching uranium to 60 percent would be the highest level achieved by Iran’s nuclear program, it is still short of the 90 percent purity needed for military use.

  • Strengthening Nuclear Storage Research

    Today, nuclear power utilities store over 80,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel across the nation. Since the fuel will remain in dry storage longer than was expected, scientists are working to better understand exactly how the fuel behaves under extended storage conditions, how the canisters age, and the forces the two would undergo when shipped and stored for long periods.

  • Retaining Knowledge of Nuclear Waste Management

    Sandia National Laboratories have begun their second year of a project to capture important, hard-to-explain nuclear waste management knowledge from retirement-age employees to help new employees get up to speed faster. The project has experts share their experience with and knowledge of storage, transportation, and disposal with next generation scientists.

  • Homeland Security for Radiological and Nuclear Threats

    Radiation exposure events are complicated: there is a variety of radiation sources, and since radiation is invisible, and its effect may not always be immediately apparent, first responders and emergency services must prepare for a “worried well” of people requiring attention: individuals who do not have other physical injuries but are concerned about whether they have received a radiation exposure.

  • The Lessons and Legacy of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

    A decade after a powerful earthquake and tsunami set off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown in Japan, Stanford experts discuss revelations about radiation from the disaster, advances in earthquake science related to the event and how its devastating impact has influenced strategies for tsunami defense and local warning systems.

  • How Fukushima Triggered Germany's Nuclear Phaseout

    The Fukushima disaster shook the belief in safe nuclear power to its core. For Germany, it marked a historic turning point for environmentalism.

  • Fukushima: Ten Years On from the Disaster, Was Japan’s Response Right?

    How should a government react when confronted by clear evidence of radioactive material being released into the environment? We set out to determine how best to respond to a severe nuclear accident using a science-led approach. Could we, by examining the evidence, come up with better policy prescriptions than the emerging playbook deployed in Ukraine and Japan? Together with colleagues, we used research methods from statistics, meteorology, reactor physics, radiation science and economics and arrived at a surprising conclusion.

  • Explainable AI: A Must for Nuclear Nonproliferation, National Security

    As it is with raw human intelligence, so it is with artificial intelligence (AI). We may not know exactly what’s going on inside that elaborate black box built by humans, but its decisions can be so accurate that it earns our trust, if not our comprehension. But the need for understanding escalates when the stakes are higher. For national security concerns, it’s not good enough to know that a system works; scientists demand to know how and why. That’s the foundation for a field of study known as “explainable AI.”

  • The Fukushima Disaster Didn’t Scare the World Off Nuclear Power

    Ten years ago, three nuclear reactors melted down at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan, producing the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.The disaster, caused by an earthquake-triggered tsunami, pushed Japan and a few other countries to rethink their use of nuclear energy. But elsewhere, it didn’t spur major changes. Instead, experts say, climate change could force a major reckoning with how the world uses nuclear power.

  • Radiation Knows No Bounds—but Builds Strong Bonds Between Two Communities

    PNNL’s detection prowess harkens back to early studies at Hanford, a former plutonium production site near the laboratory. This work gave rise to PNNL’s expertise in radiochemistry, nuclear physics, and the ability to sense, measure, and identify radioactivity at increasingly lower levels. PNNL’s scientific studies during Hanford operations also built expertise in predicting how contaminants would move in the environment and in estimating radiation releases and exposures.

  • Ten Years after Fukushima, Safety Is Still Nuclear Power’s Greatest Challenge

    Ten years ago, on March 11, 2011, a tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and released radioactive materials over a large area. The accident triggered widespread evacuations, large economic losses and the eventual shutdown of all nuclear power plants in Japan. A decade later, the nuclear industry has yet to fully address safety concerns that Fukushima exposed. This is worrying, because Fukushima was a man-made accident, triggered by natural hazards, that could and should have been avoided.