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ISIL Chemical Weapons Expert, Radiation Sickness MCM, Wearables for Responders

Topics in this issue include capture of an Islamic State chemical weapons expert, a new cell therapy for radiation sickness, debunking nuclear security hype, and next-generation wearable sensors for first responders.

Nuclear Safety & Radioactive Waste

Containing Fukushima’s Radioactive Water May be 9-Year Fight

After battling radioactive water leaks for five years at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, the utility that ran it says it will need another four to finish the job. “We will bring an end to the problem by 2020,” says Yuichi Okamura, who led the Tokyo Electric Power Co. team dealing with water at Fukushima from the early days to last summer. Chem.info >>

Is Fukushima’s Exclusion Zone Doing More Harm Than Radiation?

The exclusion zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant has a strange beauty to it. The small town of Okuma, just two kilometres from the plant, looks unreal to my human eyes – so conditioned to the bustle of urban life. There are houses and shops, cars parked neatly in driveways, a traffic light flashing orange in the distance. But, apart from me, there is not a single human. Wait long enough and you can see a racoon dog scurry across the street; a group of monkeys wanders nonchalantly along a nearby riverbank. BBC News >>

Locals Eating Radioactive Food 30 Years After Chernobyl: Greenpeace Tests

Economic crises convulsing Russia, Ukraine and Belarus mean testing in areas contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster has been cut or restricted, Greenpeace said, and people continue to eat and drink foods with dangerously high radiation levels. According to scientific tests conducted on behalf of the environmental campaigning group, overall contamination from key isotopes such as caesium-137 and strontium-90 has fallen somewhat, but lingers, especially in places such as forests. Reuters >>

Five Years After Fukushima: Making Nuclear Power Safer

It has been five years since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In marking the anniversary this week, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano recognized the progress made in Japan and worldwide in nuclear safety since the accident, but underscored the importance of all countries remaining vigilant in putting safety first. IAEA >>

Court Orders One of Japan’s Two Operating Nuclear Plants to Shut Down

A court in Japan ordered one of only two nuclear power plants operating in the country to shut down on Wednesday, citing insufficient safety measures put in place after meltdowns at a facility in Fukushima five years ago. The plant, Takahama Nuclear Power Plant, had been back online for only two months after an extended freeze on atomic power in Japan in the aftermath of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster. New York Times >>

Chemical & Biological Threats

US Raid Captures IS Chemical Weapons Chief

American special forces have captured the head of an Islamic State group unit that is developing chemical weapons, US and Iraqi officials say. The suspect was held in a raid last month in northern Iraq, according to the unnamed officials. Two Iraqi sources named the man as Sleiman Daoud al-Afari. Sky News >>

Islamic State Captive in Iraq May Provide Intelligence on Chemical Weapons Capability

An Iraqi intelligence official, who also requested anonymity to discuss a covert operation, said the prisoner, Solaiman Dawood al-Afri, had worked in the military industry under former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and was related to another senior deputy to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The official said al-Afri was arrested in an “air drop operation” that included American elite Delta forces. Washington Post >>

FDA Backs State-Level Food Protection Rapid Response Teams

The FDA is backing long-term improvements to national integrated food safety through a cooperative grant program for State-level Food Protection Rapid Response Teams (RRTs). The program aims to strengthen the link among epidemiology, lab and environmental health and regulatory organizations; and improves States’ regulatory and surveillance food and animal feed protection programs. Global Biodefense >>

Rapid Spread of Zika Virus in The Americas – Implications for the 2016 Brazil Olympic Games

The ZIKV outbreak in Brazil, has also been associated with a significant rise in the number of babies born with microcephaly and neurological disorders, and has been declared a ‘Global Emergency by the World Health Organization. This explosive spread of ZIKV in Brazil poses challenges for public health preparedness and surveillance for the Olympics and Paralympics which are due to be held in Rio De Janeiro in August, 2016. International Journal of Infectious Diseases >>

Medical Countermeasures

Israeli Placental Cell Therapy Could Cure Radiation Sickness

Israeli biotech firm Pluristem Therapeutics said it hopes its anti-radiation therapy will protect Fukushima workers decommissioning nuclear reactors and save lives in the future if ever a similar catastrophe occurs. The Haifa-based company said they have developed a placenta-based cell therapy injection that can fully cure patients with multiple organ failure caused by high radiation exposure. Reuters >>

BARDA Seeks Single Dose Anthrax Post-Exposure Vaccine

The anthrax vaccine Biothrax is currently licensed for PEP, however, it requires a three-dose vaccine regimen over 28 days to confer protection. This three-dose requirement enhances the difficulty in delivery and adherence to the regimen amongst a civilian population in the event of a mass exposure. Global Biodefense >>

Nuclear Security

Iran’s Missile Tests and the Nuclear Deal

Iran has infuriated American critics over the past few weeks with missile tests that skeptics say violate a United Nations Security Council resolution and call into question Iran’s commitment to the landmark nuclear agreement that took effect in January. The critics, including members of Congress from both parties and the Republican presidential candidates, say the Obama administration was naïve in asserting that the nuclear deal would lead to a more amicable atmosphere with Iran after more than three decades of enmity. New York Times >>

Making Russia Think Twice About Nuclear Threats

Clearly, Russia sees advantage in ratcheting up a sense of nuclear peril in Europe to advance its regional strategy. Open or thinly veiled nuclear threats, whether by word or action, are a Russian tactic to intimidate individual governments and NATO as a whole. War on the Rocks >>

Debunking Nuclear Security Hype on the Eve of the Nuclear Security Summit

News stories about nuclear security tend to follow a pattern: terrorists, smugglers, highly enriched uranium, loose nukes, mushroom clouds, the end. But have we really been teetering on the brink of nuclear terror since the early 1990s, when the term “nuclear terrorism” first entered the beltway lexicon? Probably not. So is nuclear security just the cause célèbre of fear-mongering, attention-seeking worrywarts? Again, probably not.  Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists >>

Emergency Management

Why CDC Wants to Tap Into Wearables

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control envision a time when a network of sensors can tell first responders what kind of disaster to expect before they reach the scene. Wearable technology, sensors and the Internet of Things are all part of the agency’s futuristic plan for emergency response. Nextgov >>

New San Francisco Plan Aims to Create Efficiency in Regional Disaster Response

A new action plan should help the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) help the region better react to disasters, agency officials announced Tuesday. The agency’s board of directors adopted an update to its Emergency Response Plan (ERP) designed to coordinate Bay Area water transportation operations in the event of a catastrophic event like an earthquake. Emergency Management >>

Hazmat & Facility Incidents

No Gas Leak, Just Smelly Air in Aurora

A pipe at an Xcel station that injects the notorious rotten egg smell into gas broke in Aurora Tuesday morning. In other words, no one is in danger of breathing in harmful gas – you’re just going to have to deal with the smell. “We have an odor issue, no gas leak,” said Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz. The smelly substance, mercaptan, is injected into gas at odorization stations so actual gas leaks are noticeable to the public. 9 News Colorado >>

Massive Blast Rips Seattle’s Greenwood Neighborhood, Gas Leak Suspected

A natural gas leak may have caused a massive explosion early Wednesday in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood — obliterating at least one building, damaging many others and sending nine firefighters to the hospital. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called the blast a “devastating disaster” for the business district. CNN >>

Washington: Hazmat Responds to Suspicious Substance Mailed to Business

A hazmat team responded to an office building in Lynnwood after a worker opened a letter at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and found a suspicious substance inside. Lynnwood Police went to the scene and found out an employee received the threat on Tuesday. Lynnwood Fire was called. Eventually a Snohomish County hazmat team arrived and determined the substance was non-toxic. Lynnwood Today >>

Training & Readiness

Members of ‘Ghost Brigade’ Engaged Worldwide

The 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion is gearing up to go to Fort Polk, La., to the Joint Readiness Training Center in support of the Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Reactionary Force mission. Upon completion of the rotation, Soldiers of the 23rd BE Bn. will be ready to provide support to civil authorities in the event of a CBRNE disaster in the homeland. The rigorous training focuses on all aspects of recovery operations to include saving lives and eliminating potential human suffering. JBLM Northwest Guardian >>

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