CBRNE Particles – CounterACT, Iran Nuclear Deal, and Homeland Security Industries

Topics in this issue include science of the Iran nuclear deal; homeland security industrial base; fundamental research to counter WMD; CounterACT chemical research.

Why the Iran Framework Is Extraordinary

Historically, US intelligence on foreign nuclear weapons programs has not been very good. Out of the 17 major nuclear programs, intelligence agencies provided the president with accurate estimates only twice, in Brazil and Pakistan. In nine cases, they overestimated the program; in five, they underestimated the proliferator’s capabilities. In the case of China, intelligence agencies gave accurate warning of its first test in 1964 but couldn’t tell where the fissile material for the test was coming from. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists >>

The Ticking Rail Car: First Responders Are Preparing for the Worst

Emergency managers have been asked in recent years to do a lot more with fewer resources. That job got even tougher with the advent of oil shipments from the Bakken shale region of North Dakota via rail around the country. Emergency Management >>

CounterACT Research Centers for Chemical Threats

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a renewal of the Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats Research Centers of Excellence cooperative agreement program. The mission of the CounterACT program is to foster and support research and development of new and improved therapeutics for chemical threats, including traditional chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial chemicals, and pesticides. Global Biodefense >>

Why the NPT Needs More Transparency by the Nuclear Weapon States

A growing accountability crisis is likely to be a core concern when the 189 states party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) meet for a Review Conference in New York in April and May.  At the heart of the accountability issue is a simple question: How can the signatories to the NPT, and the world, be confident that there is real progress toward meeting the disarmament goals of the treaty? Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists >>

It’s Always Been About the Death Penalty

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had already admitted to his role in planning and executing the Boston Marathon bombing. A federal jury this week found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, guilty of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Of the 30 separate charges he faced, Tsarnaev was found guilty on every single one. CityLab >>

Researchers Develop Flame and Water Resistant Cotton Coating that is also Self-Cleaning

A small group of researchers with China’s Jilin University has developed a triple-layer coating that protects cotton from water and fire and is easily cleaned. In searching for a way to make fire retardants last longer on materials, they hit upon an idea that also made such materials water resistant. Phys.Org >>

NFPA Updates Hazardous Materials Code, Addresses Texas Chemical Storage Tragedy

Soon after the April 2013 West Texas ammonium nitrate facility disaster, the National Fire Protection Association’s Technical Committee on Hazardous Chemicals, responsible for NFPA 400, Hazardous Materials Code, collaborated with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and other safety organizations to examine requirements for new and existing facilities that handle or store ammonium nitrate. NFPA Today >>

Fundamental Research to Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has issued a new long-term Broad Agency Announcement for Fundamental Research to Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction. Topics include C-WMD Sensing and Recognition; CBRN Protection Science; and Energetic Material for Agent Threat Defeat. Global Biodefense >>

Regulatory Approval for US Nuclear Spinoff

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved the proposed transfer of operating licenses for the two Susquehanna nuclear reactors as parent company PPL Corporation prepares to spin off its competitive generation business. World Nuclear News >>

Robot Enters Primary Containment Vessel of Reactor 1 in Fukushima

It is the first time a robot has entered the primary containment vessel of any of the three stricken reactors at the meltdown-hit plant, and the snake-like contraption might give the utility a better idea of what happened to the pressure vessel and its core in the disaster. Japan Times >>

Oil Spills in Vancouver, British Columbia Harbor

A spill of bunker oil Wednesday evening in Vancouver, B.C., wasn’t reported to Vancouver officials until 12 hours after the Coast Guard was first alerted to the problem, raising concerns about the rate of response in an emergency. Seattle Times >>

California Exploring Ways to Fund ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System

The proposed ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system, developed by Caltech, University of California-Berkeley, and University of Washington, in conjunction with the USGS is similar to systems in Mexico and Japan, which residents have relied on to receive notice about an incoming quake seconds before it arrives. ShakeAlert detects earthquakes by using the California Integrated Seismic Network’s roughly 400 seismometers placed near major faults to identify primary waves (P-waves) as they move through the Earth at almost twice the speed of the earthquakes’ destructive S-waves, which shake the ground. HSNW >>

The Iranian Nuclear Program and its Bureaucrat-In-Chief

In the latest round of negotiations, Iran’s moderates have the upper hand, which suggests that the U.S. has an overarching interest in pushing forward with negotiations intended to reach a final agreement to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. War on the Rocks >>

DHS S&T Strategy Highlights the Homeland Security Industrial Base

The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) at the Department of Homeland Security released a new five-year strategic plan this week, a detailed document that succinctly articulates and aligns the Directorate’s priority areas of research and engagement for the next five years. The report highlights the five visionary goals that S&T announced last fall, and it explains how S&T plans to address management and workforce issues, a very important priority given S&T’s record of low employee morale for the last several years. Security Insights >>

USACBRN School Commandant Conducts Site Visit

The Families and friends of Fort Hood’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear community took time to engage the United States Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School commandant, regimental command sergeants major and regimental warrant officer this week. Fort Hood Sentinel >>

IG: Coast Guard Taking Steps to Reduce Insider Threats, But More Needs to Be Done

Although the Coast Guard has taken steps to reduce insider threats, there’s still more to do, including training Coast Guard employees about insider threat awareness, says a March 27 Homeland Security Department inspector general report. Fierce Homeland Security >>

Plutonium Reprocessing: Poised for Growth, or on Death’s Door?

Some observers believe that plutonium reprocessing is on the verge of an expansion—while others argue that the end of the practice is in sight. The risk of nuclear proliferation has always been the chief objection to reprocessing, but proponents argue that today, with uranium enrichment technology more easily available, reprocessing no longer represents an efficient route toward nuclear weapons. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists >>

Building a Global Emergency Workforce Ready to Go

WHO’s new registration system will enable it to build a global roster of foreign medical response teams ready to deploy for emergencies. The Global Foreign Medical Teams Registry sets minimum standards for international health workers and allows teams to clearly outline their services and skills. This facilitates a more effective response and better coordination between aid providers and recipients. World Health Organization >>

Iran Nuclear Deal Poses Scientific Challenges

Complex calculations that take account of the number of centrifuges, the rate of uranium enrichment, the size of the existing enriched-uranium stockpiles and their level of enrichment are behind the stipulation in the preliminary deal that Iran reduce the number of operating centrifuges from 19,000 to 5,060 and its stockpile of low-enriched uranium from 10,000 kg to 300 kg (the rest of the stockpile must be blended down or sent overseas). This combination of figures means it would take Iran at least a year from breakout to produce enough fissile material for a bomb, leaving time for international intervention. Scientific American >>

New Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence Named By DHS S&T

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was selected by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) to be the lead institution for a new DHS Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (COE), which S&T will fund with an initial $3 million grant for its first operating year. HS Today >>

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