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Industrial and medical accidents have resulted in about 3,000 cases of acute radiation syndrome with over 100 deaths over the past 60 years. Far larger numbers are possible in the future from major reactor accidents or the use of dirty bombs. In the aftermath of a major incident, the radiation dosages of victims must be sorted out quickly, so that suitable treatment can begin as soon as possible. Medical researchers at the US Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have now developed a simple blood test to determine the exposure of a patient to ionizing radiation, that can be carried out in the field with a hand-held analyzer. Read More
Psychiatrists involved with the early days of NASA’s space program were concerned astronauts might succumb to “space madness” as a result of experiencing prolonged periods of microgravity and claustrophobic isolation. While their fears turned out to be unfounded, a new study has found cause for concern for the mental faculties of astronauts on planned future deep space missions. The study shows that the levels of radiation an astronaut would be exposed to on a mission to Mars could cause cognitive problems and accelerate the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Read More

Bread may be the staff of life, but it doesn't keep very well. Left to its own devices, a loaf will start to go moldy in a week – a fact that costs consumers and the food industry millions of dollars each year. Now, according to the BBC, a Texas-based company have developed a process that kills spores so that a loaf of bread can stay mold-free for up to 60 days. Read More

Toshiba has unveiled a four-legged inspection robot, which will carry out work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where people cannot go. The newly developed robot – simply called a Quadruped walking robot – comes equipped with a smaller wheeled robot that can be deployed to navigate hard-to-reach areas. The legged robot can negotiate stairs, uneven terrain, and is able to avoid low-lying obstacles. Read More
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now sending back weather reports and radiation measurements. Using the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) instrument built by Spain’s Centro de Astrobiologia (CAB), the nuclear-powered robot has been taking measurements of atmospheric pressure, temperature, wind speed and other factors to better understand the Martian environment in hopes of finding out whether life could still exist on the Red Planet. Read More
With astronauts venturing beyond the protection of Earth’s magnetic field exposed to high levels of cosmic radiation, the European Space Agency (ESA) has teamed with Germany’s GSI (Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung) particle accelerator in the search for materials to shield future astronauts going to the Moon, the asteroids and Mars, or manning a space station beyond the Moon. Amongst the candidates being assessed are Moon and Mars soil. Read More
NASA’s twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) took a musical interlude and listened to the Earth singing to itself. This “Earthsong,” as NASA calls it, was recorded by the two spacecraft as they orbited inside the highly radioactive Van Allen Belts that surround the Earth. The “song” is in the form of radio waves generated by the belts and the study of it may provide a clue toward answering the question of how to protect satellites and astronauts from deadly radiation storms. Read More
Neutron generators provide materials analysis and non-destructive testing tools to many industries, including oilfield operations, heavy mechanical construction, art conservancy, detective work, and medicine. Many of these applications have been limited by the rather large size of current industrial and medical neutron sources. Now Sandia National Laboratories, the lab that develops and supports the non-nuclear parts (including neutron generators) of nuclear weapons, has developed a new approach toward building tiny neutron generators. Read More
So you’re unlucky enough to be hit with the real C-word: cancer. That sucks. But what can be worse is that many current medical scanning techniques come with large levels of radiation. The current practice of combining PET (Positron emission tomography) and CT (computerized tomography) scans produces good images, but the cost is high: a dose of radiation ten times the background amount the average human gets in a year. And that’s just one scan. Many cancer patients have to endure multiple scans. A new PET scanner from physicists at the University of Oslo (UiO) cuts the radiation dose in half and is also small enough to fit inside an MR scanner. Although it was developed for animals, the researchers say it could be easily adapted for human clinical examinations. Read More
When installing micro-electronic devices in locations that are expensive or hard to reach, or just downright dangerous, you don't want to have to keep returning to swap out a battery cell. City Labs has announced the commercial launch of its NanoTritium betavoltaic power source, a thumb-sized battery that draws on the energy released from its radioactive element to provide continuous nanoWatt power for over 20 years. Read More