Archive | Nuclear

Texas Commission OKs Nuclear Waste Dump Policy

A Texas commission has approved a plan that will allow 36 states to dump low-level radioactive waste along the Texas-New Mexico border.

Despite concerns raised by environmentalists regarding the possibility of groundwater pollution, the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Commission voted 5-2 to pass the measure, which will permit a number of additional states to export nuclear waste to an Andrews County dump owned by Waste Control Specialists. The site previously only accepted waste from Texas, Vermont and the federal government.

The commission also guaranteed Vermont preferred space of 20 percent capacity. Vermont has only one nuclear facility, which it plans to phase out in the next 30 or 40 years.

President Barack Obama has extolled nuclear energy as a clean alternative to oil, but opponents object to the radioactive waste associated with the process.

The proposal drew more than 5,000 public comments, The Associated Press reported.

Posted in Nuclear, Pollution & Toxins, Radiation, Toxic Substances, Waste Disposal0 Comments

China Develops Nuclear Fuel Technology

China says it has developed the technology to reprocess nuclear fuel and use the recycled material to radically raise its power supply.

A report on China’s state television, CCTV, said Monday that the country currently has enough uranium to last 70 years. The scientific breakthrough could make that supply last up to 3,000 years.

The technology to recover fissile and fertile materials to generate new fuel will allow China to break away from its dependence on coal and diversify its energy sources, UPI reported Monday.

China currently has 13 operating reactors, but the new process will require an ambitious program of building a number of additional industrial power stations.

France, Britain and India already have their own reprocessing operations, UPI said.

Posted in Air Pollution Prevention, Coal, Nuclear0 Comments

Cyberwarfare Worries on Ethical Grounds

BUFFALO, N.Y., Oct. 14 (UPI) — Cyberwarfare is here, researchers warn, and there are no Geneva Convention-type limitations or ethical constraints on the new kinds of virtual attack.

Cyber attacks have been around for decades, researchers at the New State University at Buffalo, N.Y., say, and the most serious escalation has seen countries launch attacks on other nations, like the Stuxnet nuclear plant-disrupting computer worm the Iranians have blamed on Israel and the United States.

University military ethicist Randall R. Diper says this is worrisome because cyber attacks are almost entirely unaddressed by traditional morality and laws of war.

“The urge to destroy databases, communications systems and power grids, rob banking systems, darken cities, knock manufacturing and health-care infrastructure off line and other calamitous outcomes are bad enough,” Dipert says. “But unlike conventional warfare, there is nothing remotely close to the Geneva Conventions for cyberwar. There are no boundaries in place and no protocols that set the standards in international law for how such wars can and cannot be waged.

“For instance, traditional rules of warfare address inflicting injury or death on human targets or the destruction of physical structures,” he says. “But there are no rules or restrictions on ‘soft-’ or ‘cyber-’ damage, damage that might not destroy human beings or physical structures as objects.

“But intentional destruction or corruption of data and/or algorithms and denial-of-service attacks could cause tremendous harm … that could make entirely civilian systems that are necessary for the well being of the population inoperable for long periods of time.

“I would predict that what we face today is a long Cyber Cold War,” Dipert says, “marked by limited but frequent damage to information systems, while nations, corporations and other agents test these weapons and feel their way toward some sort of equilibrium.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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New Form of Uranium Created

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Oct. 11 (UPI) — Scientists say a newly created form of uranium could lead to nuclear power plants small enough to power the family automobile.

Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have created a configuration of uranium nitride that one day could provide cheaper and safer nuclear fuel, ABC News reported Monday.

In the new molecule, the nitrogen atom is bonded to only one uranium atom, versus prior forms where the nitrogen atom has always been bonded to two or more uranium atoms.

Smaller, cheaper and even portable nuclear power plants could come out of the discovery, researchers say, using this form of uranium nitride as a next generation nuclear fuel.

“Actinide nitrides are candidate nuclear fuels of the future,” Jaqueline Kiplinger, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory who led the team of researchers, said.

While uranium’s radiation can be deadly, the new molecule contains only depleted uranium.

This makes is relatively harmless from a radiological standpoint and means it could be used in chemical and industrial applications, scientists say.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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New Form of Uranium Discovered

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Oct. 11 (UPI) — Scientists say a newly discovered form of uranium could lead to nuclear power plants small enough to power the family automobile.

Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have created uranium nitride, a long-sought molecule that could provide cheaper and safer nuclear fuel, ABC News reported Monday.

Smaller, cheaper and even portable nuclear power plants could come out of the discovery, researchers say, using uranium nitride as a next generation nuclear fuel.

“Actinide nitrides are candidate nuclear fuels of the future,” Jaqueline Kiplinger, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory who led the team of researchers, said.

While uranium’s radiation can be deadly, the new molecule contains only depleted uranium.

This makes is relatively harmless from a radiological standpoint and means it could be used in chemical and industrial applications, scientists say.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Nuclear, Other, Radiation0 Comments

Particle Physics Pioneer Charpak Dies

PARIS, Oct. 1 (UPI) — Nobel Prize-winning physicist Georges Charpak, who revolutionized the study of high-energy particle physics, has died in Paris, officials said.

Charpak, inventor of a particle detector that improved the way scientists conducted high-energy particle physics experiments, was 86.

No cause of death was given, The Washington Post reported.

Charpak was born to Jewish parents in Poland. His family moved to France when he was 7. When the Germans invaded in 1940, Charpak was a French resistance fighter but was arrested by Vichy officials in 1943. Transferred to German custody in 1944 he spent a year in the Dachau concentration camp until it was liberated by Allied forces.

After the war, Charpak received a doctorate in nuclear physics from the College de France in Paris.

In 1968, Charpak was a physicist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, where he developed the multiwire proportional chamber, a particle detector that used computers to collect data 1,000 times faster than previous devices.

Charpak called it “a little thing which propagated in a couple of years like a fire in the experiments of my colleagues.”

“My very modest contribution to physics has been in the art of weaving in space thin wires detecting the whisper of nearby flying charged particles produced in high-energy nuclear collisions,” Charpak said at his Nobel Prize ceremony.

“It is easy for computers to transform these whispers into a symphony understandable to physicists.”

Almost every experiment in the study of subatomic particles today uses detectors based on Charpak’s design.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Shortage of Medical Isotopes a Concern

BOSTON, Sept. 8 (UPI) — A global shortage of radioactive isotopes used in medical scans and treatments could jeopardize patient care and drive up healthcare costs, scientists say.

The warning was delivered in a symposium at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston, a society release said.

“Although the public may not be fully aware, we are in the midst of a global shortage of medical and other isotopes,” Robert Atcher, director of the National Isotope Development Center at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said in an interview.

“If we don’t have access to the best isotopes for medical imaging, doctors may be forced to resort to tests that are less accurate, involve higher radiation doses, are more invasive, and more expensive.”

Medical isotopes are minute amounts of radioactive substances used to diagnose and treat a variety of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and gallbladder, kidney and brain disorders.

More than 50,000 patients a day in the United States receive diagnostic and therapeutic procedures using medical isotopes, scientists say.

Eight out of every 10 procedures require one specific isotope, technetium-99m, which has a “half-life” of only 6 hours.

Half-life is the time it takes for 50 percent of a given quantity of a radioactive substance to “decay” and disappear. Like other radioactive isotopes, technetium-99m can’t be stockpiled. It must be constantly made fresh, and distributed quickly to medical facilities, scientists say.

U.S. supplies of technetium have been low for the past 15 months, ever since its main supplier, a Canadian nuclear reactor, shut down temporarily.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Nuclear, Other, Radiation0 Comments

Study Says Sheltering Better Nuclear Plan

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (UPI) — A U.S. study says that in a nuclear detonation people in large cities would be better off sheltering in place rather than trying to evacuate immediately.

Researchers at Stanford University say that unless a lengthy warning period is provided, clogged exit roads would pose more significant risks by exposing evacuees to radiation than if people were to remain in place at the center of large buildings or in basements, a release from the Society for Risk Analysis says.

The Stanford research uses sophisticated mathematical models to investigate the impact of various response strategies.

“The logistical challenge of an evacuation appears to be beyond current response capabilities,” study author Lawrence M. Wein of Stanford said.

The Stanford researchers cite previous studies saying first responders are unlikely to be able to establish evacuation stations until 12-48 hours after an attack, no significant federal response would be likely for 24 hours, and a full federal response is not likely to be achieved for 72 hours.

“Unlike a bioterror or chemical attack, it may not be possible for the government to provide timely advice to the populace after such an event,” the study said.

The research was published in the journal Risk Analysis.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Buildings, Nuclear, Other, Radiation0 Comments

Receding Ice Could Unlock Arctic Trove

HELSINKI, Finland, Aug. 26 (UPI) — Receding arctic ice from global warming may open new avenues for tourism and trade and could reveal vast new natural resource reserves, researchers say.

The northern ice cover is becoming smaller and thinner, and scientists predict the Arctic Ocean could lose its icecap completely during summertime by the end of the century at the latest, and possibly as early as the 2030s, Finland’s Helsingen Sonomat reported.

Twenty years from now it may be possible to travel to the North Pole by ship, they say. Russia has already organized luxury cruises to the North Pole in its nuclear-powered icebreakers, but the next generation may be able to reach the top of the world in their pleasure boats, they say.

More important would be what the opening of the sea channels could mean for world trade. The Northeast Passage along Russia’s north coast and the Northwest Passage through Canada’s Arctic archipelago would shorten the sea journey from Asia to Europe and to the east coast of North America by as much as a third.

The receding ice could also allow access to rich natural resources.

More than a quarter of the world’s catches of fish currently come from Arctic waters.

And an estimated 20- to 30 percent of the world’s untapped natural gas resources and 5- to 13 percent of its oil resources are in the Arctic region, researchers say.

All this new opportunity would require the cooperation of the world’s countries, politicians in Arctic states say.

In April the World Wide Fund for Nature published a report on questions concerning the administration of the Arctic Ocean.

“Arctic states must remember that the Arctic Ocean is not their backyard,” report author Professor Timo Koivurova of the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland said. “International maritime law already guarantees the commercial fleets and fishing fleets of all countries in the world access to the area. It would be sensible to get them to commit to a treaty concerning the Arctic region.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Fish, Natural Gas, Nuclear, Other0 Comments

Scientist: World's Helium Being Squandered

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 (UPI) — The world is running out of helium, a resource that cannot be renewed, and supplies could run out in 25 to 30 years, a U.S. researcher says.

Nobel-prize winning physicist Robert Richardson warns that the inert gas is being sold off far too cheaply — so cheaply there is no incentive to recycle it — and world supplies of the gas, a vital component of medical MRI scanners, spacecraft and rockets, could be gone in just decades, Britain’s The Telegraph reported Monday.

About 80 per cent of the world’s reserves are in the U.S. Southwest at the U.S. National Helium Reserve in Amarillo, Texas, but a recently passed law has ruled the reserve must be sold off by 2015 regardless of market price, Britain’s Independent said.

“As a result of that act, helium is far too cheap and is not treated as a precious resource,” Richardson says. “It’s being squandered.”

Helium is created by the radioactive decay of terrestrial rock and most of the world’s reserves have been collected as a byproduct from the extraction of natural gas.

Liquid helium is critical for cooling infrared detectors and nuclear reactors. The space industry uses it in sensitive satellite equipment and spacecraft, and NASA uses helium in huge quantities to purge the potentially explosive fuel from its rockets.

Despite the critical role the gas has in modern technology, it is being depleted as an unprecedented rate and reserves could dwindle to virtually nothing within a generation, Richardson says.

“The Earth is 4.7 billion years old and it has taken that long to accumulate helium reserves, which we will dissipate in about 100 years,” he says. “One generation does not have the right to determine availability for ever.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Natural Gas, Nuclear, Other0 Comments

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