CBRNE Particles – Chemical Facility Terrorism, Select Agent Regulations, Barrel Bombs

Topics in this issue include terrorism and chemical facilities, chlorine barrel bombs, Select Agent regulations; nuclear deterrence and biological weapons.

DHS Helping Communities Assess, Prepare For Chemical Attacks

The threat of chemical attacks against U.S. communities is different based on an individual community’s risk, a Homeland Security Department official said during a House hearing March 19. “The way we look at risk is we take threat, we take vulnerability, and we look at consequences,” said Dr. Mark Kirk, who heads the chemical defense program within DHS’s health affairs office. Fierce Homeland Security >>

Lebanon Seizes Half a Ton of Radioactive Sanitary Towels

More than 550 kilograms of sanitary towels containing a radioactive substance were confiscated at Beirut international airport, officials said on Friday. The Ministry of Finance said in statement that 30 cartons of confiscated pads will be sent to the Lebanese Atomic Energy Agency for checks before being returned to the exporter. Reuters >>

Congress Takes Another Crack at Reforming Chemical Testing System

The latest effort to overhaul widely unpopular U.S. rules governing industrial chemicals got off to a feisty start in Congress this week, as the Senate began debating a bipartisan compromise bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The law—which hasn’t changed much in 40 years—has drawn persistent criticism from both industry and environmentalists for creating a bureaucratic morass. Science Insider >>

The Fukushima Daiichi Disaster: 4 Years On

4 years after the Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered the world’s worst nuclear accident in a quarter of a century, the clean-up operation is making steady progress. But myriad challenges lie ahead, not least for the tens of thousands of evacuees who are battling to rebuild their shattered lives. The Lancet >>

Grants Available for National Syndromic Surveillance Program

The National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP) promotes the use of high quality syndromic surveillance data for improved nation-wide all-hazard situational awareness for public health decision-making and enhanced responses to hazardous events, and outbreaks. Global Biodefense >>

Dry Cask Storage – The Basics

Pools can only hold so much spent nuclear fuel. As they began filling up, utilities started looking for other ways to manage their fuel. A handful of companies developed dry storage systems. The idea is that after the fuel spends some time cooling in the pool, it can be loaded into a cask that is sealed to keep the radioactive material inside and protected. At its most basic, a dry storage system is a cylinder that is lowered into the pool and filled with spent fuel. When full, the cylinder is raised and dried before it is sealed and placed outdoors. U.S. NRC >>

Danish Warships Could Become Legitimate Nuclear Targets, Warns Russian Ambassador

Danish warships could end up as targets for Russian nuclear missiles if Denmark joins the NATO missile defence shield, according to Mikhail Vanin, the Russian ambassador to Denmark. Copenhagen Post >>

Our Annual “Quick Look” at DOD’s Weapon Programs

The total estimated cost of DOD’s major weapons acquisition programs decreased over the past year, putting it at the lowest level of spending in a decade. Costs for the 78 programs we assessed decreased by $7.6 billion over the past year, partially as a result of DOD ordering fewer Littoral Combat Ships and shrinking a communications program, the Warfighter Information Network—Tactical Increment 3. Although overall costs are down, the 78 programs collectively lost $5.3 billion in buying power, meaning that they must spend more money to buy the same materials and equipment (or less) than originally planned. GAO WatchBlog >>

On Winter-Safe Deterrence and Biological Weapons

Much of the conversation about winter-safe deterrence has focused on a hypothetical decision between deterrence with nuclear weapons and deterrence with non-contagious biological weapons (NCBWs). I regret that the conversation has been framed in this way. Winter-safe deterrence does not require picking one weapon over another. To the contrary, it can be achieved via combinations of weapons, including small nuclear arsenals. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists >>

Photo: The NRC Operations Center

Visitors got a rare glimpse of the NRC’s Operation Center last week when tours were offered as part of the annual Regulatory Information Conference. The Op Center is staffed 24/7 by specially trained Headquarters Operations Officers. U.S. NRC >>

Bioweapons Not an Alternative to Nuclear Weapons

Historically, because of their unpredictability and the uncertainty of their outcomes, biological weapons were never fully integrated in US military doctrine. In the Soviet Union, the military also viewed bioweapons as unreliable, due to the difficulty of controlling their dispersion and the possible risks of infecting Soviet troops. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists >>

Navy’s Next Generational Nuclear Submarine Fund Has No Money

The Navy and Congress have yet to find money for a newly created account designed to pay for the services’ fleet of next-generation nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines slated to begin service in 2031 – the Ohio Replacement Program. The special fund is a product of the concern from lawmakers and admirals that the cost of the Ohio Replacement program would bankrupt the rest of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget. DoD Buzz >>

As Syrian Civil War Rages On, Chemical Weapons Use Persists

Recent days have made clear just how tenuous the dream of eliminating Syria’s stockpile had been all along. Earlier this week, Syrian rights activists reported the Syrian government forces had dropped barrel bombs containing chlorine gas on the city of Sarmin. The Syrian government has — of course — denied responsibility and blamed the attack on rebel groups. Foreign Policy >>

Convicted Domestic Terrorist Allowed to Use TSA PreCheck Lanes, DHS IG Found

A former member of a domestic terrorist group convicted of murder and other crimes involving explosives who served a multiple-year sentence before being released “was permitted to travel with expedited screening through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck process,” according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General. HS Today >>

Not Crossing a Red Line: Chlorine Barrel Bombs in Context

The use of chlorine improvised explosive devices against Syrian civilians, as a weapon of war, seems to be a subject of heated commentary. Although the United States successfully led an effort to destroy Syria’s existing chemical warfare agents and associated production facilities, Assad’s field commanders are now allegedly using chlorine tanks inside of “barrel bombs” to kill and panic the Syrian people. War on the Rocks >>

Scientists Have Found a New Way to Quickly Destroy Chemical Weapons

Chemical weapons like sarin can be devastating. They attack the nervous system by interfering with electric signals in the brain — a change that usually prevents a victim from breathing. To stop their effect, researchers have tried to make synthetic compounds that can break down nerve agents. Now, a lab-made compound appears to be able to do just that, in a matter of minutes. The Verge >>

Public Comment Sought on Impact of Select Agent Regulations

The federal Office of Science and Technology Policy has announced a request for public input on the impact that the Select Agent Regulations have had on science, technology, and national security, and on the benefits, costs, and limitations of these regulations. Global Biodefense >>

Chemical Facilities are Making Themselves Less Attractive Targets for Terrorists

In the past year, more than 700 chemical facilities have been dropped from the government’s antiterrorism program for the sector because they are no longer considered “high risk” targets, new federal data show. A report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicates that 3,471 facilities are currently regulated under its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, down from 4,199 facilities a year ago. Over the longer term, DHS says that more than 3,000 facilities have “voluntarily removed, reduced, or modified their holdings of chemicals of interest” since the program began in 2007 and are no longer regulated under CFATS. C&EN >>

Smiths Detection Inc. Expert to Present at IAFC 2015 Hazmat Conference

SDI hazmat expert Dr. Chris Weber has been selected to give two presentations at the industry’s flagship event, the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Hazardous Materials Response Teams Conference 2015. Dr. Weber’s proposals were accepted out of more than 150 entries submitted to the event, which will be held May 28-31 in Baltimore, MD. Government Security News >>

Sandia’s Explosive Destruction System Starts First Stockpile Project

Sandia National Laboratories’s explosive destruction system (EDS) has started eliminating the stockpile of chemical weapons at the US Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado. More than 1,000 chemical munitions are expected to be processed by two EDSs over the next five years, as part of a large operation to destroy the stockpile of 780,000 munitions containing 2,600t of mustard agent, stored at the depot since the 1950s. >>

DARPA Thinks it has a Solution to Ebola (And All Other Infectious Diseases)

“We’re going to take the genetic code and put it into a format where you go to your drug store or doctor and get a shot in the arm,” Wattendorf told a room full of medical researchers and technologists. “There’s a low-cost of goods, no cold chain, and we would produce the correct antibody in [any] individual directly.” Fusion >>

Information Sharing Vital In Responding to the Threat of Chemical Terrorism

Just a day before the 20th anniversary of the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway which killed 12 and injured more than 5,000 the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications held a hearing to examine the threat of chemical terrorism and the steps that are being taken at all levels of government to address the threat of chemical attacks. HS Today >>

Drones at Nuclear Power Plants: Enemies or Helpers?

Reports of unmanned aerial vehicles flying over more than a dozen nuclear power plants in France within the past year raised concerns about drones doing bad things. At the same time, experts are examining how drones—in the hands of the right people—might be able to increase nuclear plant safety levels. The key is to distinguish good drones from bad ones. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists >>

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