Fort Leonard Wood CBRN Course, Sarin Gas Vaccine, Transporting Nuclear Waste

Topics in this issue include boosting disaster response planning, the Chemical Weapons Convention in a shifting global security situation, and the threat of radioactive ‘dirty bombs’.

In This Article

Training & Readiness

CBRN Course at Fort Leonard Wood Provides First-Responder Basics

Three students fully enclosed in blue personal protective suits approach a turned-over rail car. Their detection equipment audibly beeps, indicating a contaminant is in the area. Between heavy breaths on their self-contained breathing apparatus, the team relays the situation to the command center. Rolla Daily News >>

First Responders Learning Hazmat Lessons at Fort Leonard Wood

Students from around the country are learning to imagine, and handle the unimaginable at Fort Leonard Wood. Three students at a time, fully enclosed in blue personal protective suits, approach a turned-over rail car. Their detection equipment beeps to let them know a contaminant is in the area. As they take breaths from self-contained breathing apparatus, the team relays the situation to the command center. KY3 >>

Chemical & Biological Threats

Israel Says Syrian Government Used Chemical Weapons During Truce

Israel said on Tuesday that Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons against civilians since the start of a ceasefire aimed at preparing the way for an end to the five-year civil war. The truce, sponsored by Russia and the United States, began on Saturday and has been dogged by opposition charges of non-compliance by Damascus – something President Bashar al-Assad has denied. It does not apply to missions against jihadist rebels. Reuters >>

A Strategy for the Chemical Weapons Convention

The continued use of chemical weapons by state and non-state actors in the Middle East has weakened the norm against their use and threatens to undermine the utility of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). For the CWC to remain a useful arms control tool, policymakers must find innovative ways to adapt the treaty to the shifting global security situation. Future actions must address President Assad’s continued violations of the CWC, verify the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons program, and deal with chemical threats from non-state actors. New Century GeoStrategist >>

Could a Vaccine for Sarin Gas End Chemical Warfare as We Know It?

Sarin Gas is now part of the landscape of conflicts around the world. In the ongoing Syrian civil war, the Assad regime has used Sarin gas against civilians–with much of the world demanding the ouster of Bashar al-Assad as a result. U.S. troops return from Middle East conflict with ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ – which some believe to be the result of sarin gas exposure. Could a Sarin Gas vaccine change the face of modern chemical warfare? Decoded Science >>

Chemical Companies Named in Report Detailing IS Weapons Supply Chain

A new report has illustrated the trail of chemical and bomb-making components from their manufacturers to the hands of IS terrorists. Conflict Armament Research [CAR], a British organization that investigates weapons in conflict zones, has named 51 companies in 20 countries involved in a supply chain that produced chemical precursors, detonators, electronic components and other equipment necessary to make IEDs. >>

Russian Foreign Minister Calls for New Chemical Weapons Accord

Russia’s foreign minister called on Tuesday for negotiations on a new international treaty to counter the “extremely urgent” threat of chemical warfare by terrorists, as exemplified by attacks by Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq last year. Mr. Lavrov said that the existing Chemical Weapons Convention, which took effect in 1997, did not adequately address the problem of chemical terrorism and that it would be simpler to negotiate a new international instrument. NY Times >>

Should We Fear the Unconventional? Why ISIL’s Chemical Weapons Are Causing the West to Panic

On February 12, 2016, CIA Director John Brennan confirmed that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) used chemical weapons – specifically mustard and chlorine gas – and may use them again, as it has the capacity to produce more. ISIL’s chemical weapons use raises serious concerns about non-state actors’ access to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and reinforces fears of a possible terrorist attack with chemical, biological, radiological, and/or nuclear (CBRN) weapons in the West. Center for Nonproliferation Studies >>

Russian Foreign Minister Calls for New Chemical Weapons Accord

Russia’s foreign minister called on Tuesday for negotiations on a new international treaty to counter the “extremely urgent” threat of chemical warfare by terrorists, as exemplified by attacks by Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq last year. “Chemical terrorism is emerging not as an abstract threat but a grave reality of our time,” the minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, told diplomats attending United Nations-sponsored Conference on Disarmament talks in Geneva. New York Times >>

EPA Proposes New Regulations for Chemical Plants

Chemical companies and refineries would have to consider inherently safer technologies and, in some cases, undergo third-party, independent safety audits under a new Environmental Protection Agency proposal. The U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board’s video explains what led to the fatal 2013 explosion of ammonium nitrate that flattened a swath of West, Texas. C&EN >>

Emergency Preparedness

The US Needs to Whip Its Disaster-Response Plans Into Shape

When the 2010 earthquake in Haiti proved too much for the United Nations’ humanitarian aid workers, the U.S. government took over, mounting a relief operation that was ultimately deemed fairly successful. But six years after that response, the federal government has yet to fully institutionalize the lessons it gleaned, or fund the capabilities that will allow it to handle the next mega disaster. Defense One >>

In Emergencies, Should You Trust a Robot?

In emergencies, people may trust robots too much for their own safety, a new study suggests. In a mock building fire, test subjects followed instructions from an “Emergency Guide Robot” even after the machine had proven itself unreliable – and after some participants were told that robot had broken down. The research was designed to determine whether or not building occupants would trust a robot designed to help them evacuate a high-rise in case of fire or other emergency. Georgia Tech >>

Nuclear Security

Research Demonstrates That Air Data Can Be Used to Reconstruct Radiological Releases

New research from North Carolina State University demonstrates that experts can use data from air sampling technology to not only detect radiological releases, but to accurately quantify the magnitude and source of the release. This has applications for nuclear plant safety, as well as national security and nuclear nonproliferation monitoring. >>

Truck Carrying Toxic Nuclear Materials Stolen in Mexico

Five Mexican states have been placed on a state of alert after a truck carrying a container of dangerous radioactive material was stolen, the Mexican Interior Ministry has said. The material could cause permanent or serious injury to a person who is in contact with it for a short time, and is fatal when exposure lasts for more than a few hours. HSNW >>

The Islamic State’s Plot to Build a Radioactive ‘Dirty Bomb’

A small video camera stashed in a row of bushes silently recorded the comings and goings of the family of a Brussels-area man with an important scientific pedigree last year, producing a detailed chronology of the family’s movements. The Belgian police discovered the secret film on Nov. 30 while searching the Auvelais home of a man with ties to the Islamic State terror group. But they became far more alarmed when they figured out that its target was a senior researcher at a Belgian nuclear center that produces a significant portion of the world’s supply of radioisotopes. Foreign Policy >>

MoD Admits Flying Nuclear Materials Between UK and US

Materials used in nuclear weapons have been flown between the UK and the US 23 times in the last five years, the Ministry of Defence has admitted. Though the MoD does not give details, the flights are believed to have carried tritium, plutonium and enriched uranium, all vital ingredients of Trident warheads. They probably started or ended at the RAF base at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. The Guardian >>

The Islamic State’s Plot to Build a Radioactive ‘Dirty Bomb’

A diagnostic tool used by hospitals and factories around the globe, radioisotopes are also capable of causing radiation poisoning and sickness, making them a potential tool for terrorists seeking to build a so-called “dirty” bomb that could contaminate the downtown area of a major city, sowing panic and causing billions of dollars in financial losses. Foreign Policy >>

 Andy Oppenheimer Looks at Cyber-Attacks on Nuclear Power Plants

Among the most dangerous is a cyber-attack on a nuclear power plant (NPP) or nuclear reprocessing plant such as Sellafield, due to the possible release of radiation from reactors or spent fuel ponds. A cyber-attack by terrorists on NPP systems and back-ups powering reactor cooling systems could trigger a meltdown incident similar to Fukushima Daichi in 2011. According to Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Gen. Yukiya Amano, in August 2015, “reports of actual or attempted cyber-attacks are now virtually a daily occurrence.” CBRNe Portal >>

Nuclear Safety & Radioactive Waste

Flexible Systems and Approaches Boost Safety After Fukushima

“Nuclear power plants around the world now have flexible approaches to dealing with a wide range of accident scenarios,” said William Magwood, director general of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, commenting on five years of international cooperation to improve safety after the Fukushima accident. World Nuclear News >>

 Japan Indicts 3 Former Executives Over Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Japanese prosecutors indicted three former executives of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the owner of the ruined Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, on Monday, charging them with criminal negligence for their role in reactor meltdowns after an earthquake and tsunami five years ago. New York Times >>

 Screening Truffles for Radioactivity 30 Years From Chernobyl

Some forest mushrooms, such as wild porcini, can accumulate dangerous levels of radioactivity from the soils they grow in. But until now it was unclear if the same was true for truffles, fungi that range among the most expensive foods in the world. Swiss and German researchers have analysed Burgundy truffles collected in central Europe and found they contain only negligible amounts of radioactive caesium. >>


US Army Awards Harris Corporation HMS Manpack Radio IDIQ Contract

Harris Corporation was one of three awardees of a multi-award IDIQ contract to supply HMS Manpack radios to the U.S. Army. The IDIQ contract consists of a five-year base and an additional five-year option and has a ceiling of $12.7 billion. The Army expects full rate production to begin in the fourth quarter of Harris’ fiscal 2017 and to acquire approximately 65,000 HMS Manpack radios under the IDIQs. Business Wire >>

Nuclear Weapons

Don’t Fall for Obama’s $3 Billion Arms Buildup at Russia’s Door

Ukraine and Georgia were targeted precisely because they fell outside of U.S. security guarantees, lacked significant strategic importance to the west, and, most importantly from the Russian viewpoint, were making overt moves toward NATO membership. Defense One >>

Rethinking The Apocalypse: Time for Bold Thinking About the Second Nuclear Age

The world is far different today. On the one hand, both the United States and Russia have far smaller nuclear arsenals than they did at the Cold War’s end. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads. At the same time, new nuclear powers have emerged. These developments have introduced a shift from the bipolar Cold War nuclear competition, to an increasingly multipolar competition among nuclear powers and the onset of the Second Nuclear Age. War on the Rocks >>

America’s Nuclear Shield: Time to Modernize?

In describing how little room the Pentagon has to extend the life of its decades-old nuclear forces, the top US nuclear war-fighting commander, Navy Adm. Cecil Haney, says “we’re at the brick wall stage.” Time to begin modernizing the country’s nuclear weapons is running short, he and other Pentagon leaders say. >>

The Role of Nuclear Weapons in the U.S.-Russian Relationship

Moscow evinces serious concern about the survivability of its forces in the face of a determined U.S. attack—one that Russians fear could involve not only nuclear strikes but also conventional and non-kinetic (such as cyber) attacks backstopped by missile defenses designed to “mop up” residual forces that survived such an assault. As evidence of this, Moscow points to Washington’s missile defense architecture (including its advanced sensors on earth and in space), its conventional strike capabilities, and its dauntingly capable and far-reaching command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or C4ISR, networks. Carnegie Endowment >>

Going It Alone? The President and The Risks of a Hair-Trigger Nuclear Button

The president of the United States can, in theory, launch nuclear war by personal decision—without any checks or balances. Whether we really think any of the candidates for president in 2016 would cavalierly start a nuclear war, the bombastic and bizarre character of much of this year’s electoral debate should make us take this question seriously. Brookings >>

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