Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and even in the fictional world of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” look to subatomic particles called neutrinos to answer the big questions about the universe.
Now, a group of scientists led by a physics professor at Virginia Tech are asking whether the neutrino could provide the world with clues about nuclear proliferation in Iran and other political hotspots. Neutrinos are produced by the decay of radioactive elements, and nuclear reactors produce large amounts of neutrinos that cannot be shielded or disguised, which could help regulatory agencies monitor plutonium production.
Probing Fukushima with Cosmic Rays May Speed Cleanup
Probing Fukushima with Cosmic Rays May Speed Cleanup Los Alamos National Laboratory has announced an impending partnership with Toshiba Corporation to use a Los Alamos National Laboratory technique called muon tomography to safely peer inside the cores of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors and create high-resolution images of the damaged nuclear material inside without ever breaching the cores themselves. The initiative could reduce the time required to clean up the disabled complex by at least a decade and greatly reduce radiation exposure to personnel working at the plant.
Moly 99 Reactor May Create Disease-tracking Isotope
An Albuquerque startup company has licensed a Sandia National Laboratories technology that offers a way to make molybdenum-99, a key radioactive isotope needed for diagnostic imaging in nuclear medicine in the U.S. Known as moly 99, it is made in aging nuclear reactors outside the country, and concerns about future shortages have been in the news for years.
Eden Radioisotopes LLC was founded last year and licensed the Sandia moly 99 reactor conceptual design in November. It hopes to build the first U.S. reactor for making the isotope and become a global supplier.
The Air Force is launching an ambitious campaign to repair flaws in its nuclear missile corps, after recent training failures, security missteps, leadership lapses, morale problems and stunning breakdowns in discipline prompted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to demand action to restore public confidence in the nuclear force.
Air Force leaders are planning to offer bonus pay to missile force members, fill gaps in their ranks, offer a nuclear service medal and put more money into modernizing what in some respects has become a decrepit Minuteman 3 missile force that few airmen want to join and even fewer view as a career-enhancing mission.
Something could be missing from your next electric bill: a fee that electric customers have been paying for 31 years to fund a federal nuclear waste site that doesn’t exist.
The Energy Department will stop charging the fee by court order on Friday. The amount is only a small percentage of most customers’ bills, but it adds up to $750 million a year. The fund now holds $37 billion.
Tinkering with a molecular pathway that governs how intestinal cells respond to stress can help mice survive a normally fatal dose of abdominal radiation, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford Univ. School of Medicine.
Because the technique is still partially effective up to 24 hours after exposure, the study suggests a possible treatment for people unintentionally exposed to large amounts of radiation, such as first responders at the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
Investigators, trying to determine what caused a radiation release at the federal government’s underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico, have spotted melted plastic and rubber on some drums and boxes of waste.
They were able to take photographs of the melted material during their most recent trip into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.
A South Carolina lab will lead an independent review of chemical fumes reported by workers at waste storage tanks at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear weapons site, Hanford Nuclear Reservation, in Washington state.
Washington River Protection Solutions, a contractor, asked the Savannah River National Laboratory to provide a broader analysis and recommendations for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation than previous reviews in 2008 and 2010.
New air testing in the nation’s only underground nuclear repository showed no detectable radioactive contamination from a leak last month, the U.S. Department of Energy says.
Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad said in a statement that the results came in as four more employees tested positive for low levels of radiation. The Energy Department earlier reported that 13 other workers were exposed, but they say all 17 aren’t likely to face any serious health effects and that there appears to be no danger aboveground.
If fracking is to be a viable option for energy production, the industry must find a way to deal with the naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) that are released as a byproduct of the process. These radioactive materials and their environmental consequences must be accounted for.
Radioactive substances occur naturally within the shale rocks that contain gas resources. These include uranium and thorium, and their decay products such as radium and radon. While the uranium and thorium are immobile, over millennia the radium has dissolved into the water trapped in the pores of the rocks when they were formed, along with high concentrations of dissolved minerals.
While one of the newer double-walled nuclear waste storage tanks at a Washington state complex has leaked, six others have “significant construction flaws” that could lead to additional leaks, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The 28 double-walled tanks at Hanford nuclear waste complex hold some of the worst radioactive waste at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear weapons site.
One of those giant tanks was found to be leaking in 2012. But subsequent surveys of the other double-walled tanks performed for the U.S. Department of Energy by one of its Hanford contractors found at least six shared defects with the leaking tank that could lead to future leaks, the documents says. Thirteen additional tanks also might be compromised, according to the documents.
For 15 years the trucks have barreled past southeastern New Mexico’s potash mines and seemingly endless fields of oil rigs, hauling decades worth of plutonium-contaminated waste to what is supposed to be a safe and final resting place a half mile underground in the salt beds of the Permian Basin.
But back-to-back accidents and a never-supposed-to-happen above-ground radiation release have shuttered the federal government’s only deep underground nuclear waste dump indefinitely, raising questions about a cornerstone of the Department of Energy’s $5-billion-a-year program for cleaning up legacy waste scattered across the country from decades of nuclear bomb making.
Scientists Keep Doomsday Clock at Five to Midnight
The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has called on the U.S. and Russia to restart negotiations on reducing their nuclear arsenals, to lower alert levels for their nuclear weapons and to scrap their missile defense programs.
The Board also implored world leaders to take immediate action to combat climate change as it announced that the minute hand of the Bulletin’s iconic Doomsday Clock will remain at five minutes to midnight because “the risk of civilization-threatening technological catastrophe remains high.”
A surprising effect created by a 19th century device called a Helmholz coil offers clues about how to achieve controlled nuclear fusion at Sandia National Laboratories’ powerful Z machine.
A Helmholz coil produces a magnetic field when electrified. In recent experiments, two Helmholz coils, installed to provide a secondary magnetic field to Z’s huge one, unexpectedly altered and slowed the growth of the magneto-Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities, an unavoidable, game-ending plasma distortion that usually spins quickly out of control and has sunk past efforts to achieve controlled fusion. “Our experiments dramatically altered the nature of the instability,” says Sandia physicist Tom Awe. “We don’t yet understand all the implications, but it’s become a different beast, which is an exciting physics result.”