Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Nuclear

SLAC's LCLS is the world's most powerful X-ray laser (Photo: University of Oxford/Sam Vink...

To say things are really heating up at the US Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory isn't just a bad pun, it's one hell (sorry) of an understatement. An Oxford-led team used the Stanford-based facility that houses the world's most powerful X-ray laser to create and probe a 2-million-degree Celsius (or about 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit) piece of matter. The experiment allowed the scientists the closest look yet at what conditions might be like in the heart of the Sun, other stars and planets.  Read More

MT Tempera, one of the new class of double acting reversible ships, going backwards to act...

The Arctic North end of Russia is believed to hold as much as a quarter of all the world's oil deposits - an utterly monstrous economic prize, hidden in one of the toughest and least hospitable environments on the planet. Getting to this prize, and then transporting it back to refineries, is a monolithic task that requires one of the most awe-inspiring pieces of machinery man has ever built - the nuclear icebreaker. Purpose-built to the point of being almost unseaworthy on the open waves, these goliaths smash their way through 10-foot thick ice crusts to create viable pathways for other vessels - but fascinating new technologies could mean the days of the dedicated icebreaker are numbered.  Read More

Professor Huai-Yong Zhu from QUT Chemistry with the titanate nanofiber that can remove rad...

Nuclear power plants are located close to sources of water, which is used as a coolant to handle the waste heat discharged by the plants. This means that water contaminated with radioactive material is often one of the problems to arise after a nuclear disaster. Researchers at Australia's Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have now developed what they say is a world-first intelligent absorbent that is capable of removing radioactive material from large amounts of contaminated water, resulting in clean water and concentrated waste that can be stored more efficiently.  Read More

Husqvarna Construction has announced that two of its remote-controlled demolition robots a...

Sweden's Husqvarna Construction has announced that two of its remote-controlled demolition robots are to help with the massive clean-up operation at the site of the failed fourth reactor at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The recently-featured DXR-140 and its bigger brother - the DXR-310 - will be used in heavy demolition work such as tearing down concrete constructions and dealing with contaminated materials.  Read More

Scientists at Northwestern University have published details of a new method for detection...

Scientists at Northwestern University, Illinois, have outlined a new method for detecting electromagnetic radiation at the high energy end of the spectrum. The work could lead to the development of a small, hand held device able to detect this "hard radiation" and has implications for the detection of radioactive materials which could potentially be employed in terrorist weapons, such as nuclear bombs or radiological dispersion devices, as well as materials employed in clandestine nuclear programs.  Read More

The amusement park features over 40 rides and attractions (image from Wunderland Kalkar)

The Wunderland Kalkar amusement park in Germany has been converted from a disused nuclear power station, following the government's decision to abandon all nuclear energy plants. The site was sold in 1991 to a Dutch investor who, leaving the reactor building in place, created Wunderland Kalkar. The proportions of the park are enormous, positioned on over 55 hectares (80 football fields) and features over 40 amusement attractions.  Read More

Researchers are developing small, round swimming robots that could check pipes in nuclear ...

According to the Associated Press, a recent study has revealed that three quarters of America's nuclear reactors have leaked radioactive tritium from buried pipes that transport water for the cooling of reactor vessels. This tritium could in turn find its way into the groundwater. While industry officials do reportedly check these pipes for leaks, they can only do so in either indirect or costly, labor-intensive manners. Now, however, researchers from MIT are developing tiny, spherical swimming robots that could check on the pipes directly, relaying their findings in real time.  Read More

Adam Hutter, Director of NUSTL, presents Cecilia Murtagh (center) and Gladys Klemic with p...

Personal radiation dosimeter badges are the things that you may have seen people wearing in nuclear power plants, that measure how much radiation is in the immediate environment. Unfortunately, the devices don’t provide real-time feedback – instead, they must be sent off to a processing lab, which determines the wearer’s radiation exposure after the fact. Now, however, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is working on a wallet-sized card that would serve the same purpose, but that could also be read on the spot using a handheld reading device. Called the Citizen's Dosimeter, it could be used to detect the presence of ionizing radiation caused by nuclear accidents or dirty bombs.  Read More

Are 'suitcase nukes' a genuine concern?

On the 7th September 1997, 60 Minutes broadcast an alarming news item featuring the allegations of former Russian National Security Advisor, General Aleksander Lebed. Lebed claimed that the former Soviet Union had not only manufactured but had lost track of perhaps 100 of a very frightening weapon: a nuclear bomb in a casing which made it appear to be a small suitcase. The claim was hotly denied and none of these weapons have never surfaced, but that hasn't stopped the idea of "suitcase nukes" gaining a grip on the public imagination through popular fiction and TV shows. So is it even possible to fabricate a nuclear weapon so small? If so, is it likely that such devices exist and are even missing?  Read More

Thorium could provide a cleaner and more abundant alternative to uranium (Photo: Three Mil...

The world's growing need for energy, the limits of our supply of fossil fuels and concern about the effects of carbon emissions on the environment have all prompted interest in the increased use of nuclear power. Yet the very word "nuclear" carries with it an association of fear. People are concerned about the waste produced by reactors, the possibility of catastrophic accidents as highlighted by recent events in Japan and the link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Yet what if there existed a means of nuclear power generation with which these risks were drastically reduced?  Read More

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