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Concept: Nuclear weapon


The contamination of Japan after the Fukushima accident has been investigated mainly for volatile fission products, but only sparsely for actinides such as plutonium. Only small releases of actinides were estimated in Fukushima. Plutonium is still omnipresent in the environment from previous atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. We investigated soil and plants sampled at different hot spots in Japan, searching for reactor-borne plutonium using its isotopic ratio (240)Pu/(239)Pu. By using accelerator mass spectrometry, we clearly demonstrated the release of Pu from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant: While most samples contained only the radionuclide signature of fallout plutonium, there is at least one vegetation sample whose isotope ratio (0.381 ± 0.046) evidences that the Pu originates from a nuclear reactor ((239+240)Pu activity concentration 0.49 Bq/kg). Plutonium content and isotope ratios differ considerably even for very close sampling locations, e.g. the soil and the plants growing on it. This strong localization indicates a particulate Pu release, which is of high radiological risk if incorporated.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Nuclear fission, Isotope, Nuclear weapon, Nuclear power, Nuclear proliferation, Radioactive contamination, Isotope ratio mass spectrometry


For reliable detection of explosives, a combination of methods integrated within a single measurement platform may increase detection performance. However, the efficient field testing of such measurement platforms requires the use of inexplosive simulants that are detectable by a wide range of methods. Physical parameters such as simulant density, elemental composition and crystalline structure must closely match those of the target explosive. The highly discriminating bulk detection characteristics of nuclear quadrupole resonance (NQR) especially constrain simulant design. This paper describes the development of an inexplosive RDX simulant suited to a wide range of measurement methods, including NQR. Measurements are presented that confirm an RDX NQR response from the simulant. The potential use of the simulant for field testing a prototype handheld NQR-based RDX detector is analyzed. Only modest changes in prototype operation during field testing would be required to account for the use of simulant rather than real explosive.

Concepts: Nuclear magnetic resonance, Plastic explosive, Explosive material, Nuclear quadrupole resonance, Nuclear weapon


World events over the past decade have highlighted the threat of nuclear terrorism as well as an urgent need to develop radiation countermeasures for acute radiation exposures and subsequent bodily injuries. An increased probability of radiological or nuclear incidents due to detonation of nuclear weapons by terrorists, sabotage of nuclear facilities, dispersal and exposure to radioactive materials, and accidents provides the basis for such enhanced radiation exposure risks for civilian populations. Although the search for suitable radiation countermeasures for radiation-associated injuries was initiated more than half a century ago, no safe and effective radiation countermeasure for the most severe of these injuries, namely acute radiation syndrome (ARS), has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The dearth of FDA-approved radiation countermeasures has prompted intensified research for a new generation of radiation countermeasures. In this communication, the authors have listed and reviewed the status of radiation countermeasures that are currently available for use, or those that might be used for exceptional nuclear/radiological contingencies, plus a limited few medicines that show early promise but still remain experimental in nature and unauthorized for human use by the FDA.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Radioactive decay, Radiation, Nuclear weapon, Gamma ray, Radiation poisoning, Nuclear fallout, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents


Tendons are often injured and heal poorly. Whether this is caused by a slow tissue turnover is unknown, since existing data provide diverging estimates of tendon protein half-life that range from 2 mo to 200 yr. With the purpose of determining life-long turnover of human tendon tissue, we used the (14)C bomb-pulse method. This method takes advantage of the dramatic increase in atmospheric levels of (14)C, produced by nuclear bomb tests in 1955-1963, which is reflected in all living organisms. Levels of (14)C were measured in 28 forensic samples of Achilles tendon core and 4 skeletal muscle samples (donor birth years 1945-1983) with accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) and compared to known atmospheric levels to estimate tissue turnover. We found that Achilles tendon tissue retained levels of (14)C corresponding to atmospheric levels several decades before tissue sampling, demonstrating a very limited tissue turnover. The tendon concentrations of (14)C approximately reflected the atmospheric levels present during the first 17 yr of life, indicating that the tendon core is formed during height growth and is essentially not renewed thereafter. In contrast, (14)C levels in muscle indicated continuous turnover. Our observation provides a fundamental premise for understanding tendon function and pathology, and likely explains the poor regenerative capacity of tendon tissue.-Heinemeier, K. M., Schjerling, P., Heinemeier, J., Magnusson, S. P., Kjaer, M. Lack of tissue renewal in human adult Achilles tendon is revealed by nuclear bomb (14)C.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Biology, Tendon, Achilles tendon, Nuclear weapon, Tendons, Carbon-14, Accelerator mass spectrometry


The 2011 Fukushima disaster led to increases in multiple risks (e.g., lifestyle diseases and radiation exposure) and fear among the public. Here, we assessed the additional risks of cancer caused by radiation and diabetes related to the disaster and the cost-effectiveness of countermeasures against these conditions. Our study included residents of the cities of Minamisoma and Soma (10-40 km and 35-50 km north of the Fukushima Daiichi (N° 1) Nuclear Power Station, respectively). We used the loss of life expectancy (LLE) as an indicator to compare risks between radiation exposure and diabetes. We also estimated the cost-effectiveness of radiation-related countermeasures, including restricted food distribution, decontamination, and whole-body counter tests and interventions. Metformin therapy was selected as a representative management for diabetes. The diabetes-related LLEs among residents were 4.1 (95% confidence interval: 1.4-6.8) ×10-2 years for the whole population and 8.0 (2.7-13.2) ×10-2 years for 40s to 70s in a scenario that considered the additional incidence of diabetes during the first 10 years. The cancer-related LLEs caused by lifetime exposure to radiation were 0.69 (2.5-97.5 percentile: 0.61-0.79) ×10-2 years for the whole population and 0.24 (0.20-0.29) ×10-2 years for 40s to 70s. The diabetes-related LLEs among residents in the above-mentioned scenario were 5.9-fold and 33-fold higher than those attributed to average radiation among the whole population and among the 40s to 70s age groups, respectively. The costs per life-years saved of the radiation countermeasures (i.e., restricted food distribution, decontamination, and whole-body counter tests and interventions) were >1 to >4 orders of magnitude higher than those of general heath checkups and conventional management for diabetes. Our findings indicate that countermeasures to mitigate diabetes are warranted. Policy-makers' and individuals' understanding of multiple risks after any disaster will be essential to saving the lives of victims.

Concepts: Cancer, Demography, Chernobyl disaster, Risk, Life expectancy, Hazard, Nuclear weapon, Nuclear power


Weapons-grade uranium and plutonium could be used as nuclear explosives with extreme destructive potential. The problem of their detection, especially in standard cargo containers during transit, has been described as “searching for a needle in a haystack” because of the inherently low rate of spontaneous emission of characteristic penetrating radiation and the ease of its shielding. Currently, the only practical approach for uncovering well-shielded special nuclear materials is by use of active interrogation using an external radiation source. However, the similarity of these materials to shielding and the required radiation doses that may exceed regulatory limits prevent this method from being widely used in practice. We introduce a low-dose active detection technique, referred to as low-energy nuclear reaction imaging, which exploits the physics of interactions of multi-MeV monoenergetic photons and neutrons to simultaneously measure the material’s areal density and effective atomic number, while confirming the presence of fissionable materials by observing the beta-delayed neutron emission. For the first time, we demonstrate identification and imaging of uranium with this novel technique using a simple yet robust source, setting the stage for its wide adoption in security applications.

Concepts: Nuclear physics, Fundamental physics concepts, Atom, Neutron, Nuclear fusion, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Nuclear weapon


An assessment of the external and internal radiation exposure levels, which includes calculation of effective doses from chronic radiation exposure and assessment of long-term radiation-related health risks, has become mandatory for residents living near the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. Data for all primary and secondary children in Minamisoma who participated in both external and internal screening programs were employed to assess the annual additional effective dose acquired due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster. In total, 881 children took part in both internal and external radiation exposure screening programs between 1st April 2012 to 31st March 2013. The level of additional effective doses ranged from 0.025 to 3.49 mSv/year with the median of 0.70 mSv/year. While 99.7% of the children (n = 878) were not detected with internal contamination, 90.3% of the additional effective doses was the result of external radiation exposure. This finding is relatively consistent with the doses estimated by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). The present study showed that the level of annual additional effective doses among children in Minamisoma has been low, even after the inter-individual differences were taken into account. The dose from internal radiation exposure was negligible presumably due to the success of contaminated food control.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Chernobyl disaster, Radiobiology, United Nations, Nuclear weapon, Radiation poisoning, Nuclear safety, Linear no-threshold model


How does one prove a claim about a highly sensitive object such as a nuclear weapon without revealing information about the object? This paradox has challenged nuclear arms control for more than five decades. We present a mechanism in the form of an interactive proof system that can validate the structure and composition of an object, such as a nuclear warhead, to arbitrary precision without revealing either its structure or composition. We introduce a tomographic method that simultaneously resolves both the geometric and isotopic makeup of an object. We also introduce a method of protecting information using a provably secure cryptographic hash that does not rely on electronics or software. These techniques, when combined with a suitable protocol, constitute an interactive proof system that could reject hoax items and clear authentic warheads with excellent sensitivity in reasonably short measurement times.

Concepts: Nuclear weapon, Cryptography, Missile


This is the third analysis of solid cancer incidence among the Life Span Study (LSS) cohort of atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, adding eleven years of follow-up data since the previously reported analysis. For this analysis, several changes and improvements were implemented, including updated dose estimates (DS02R1) and adjustment for smoking. Here, we focus on all solid cancers in aggregate. The eligible cohort included 105,444 subjects who were alive and had no known history of cancer at the start of follow-up. A total of 80,205 subjects had individual dose estimates and 25,239 were not in either city at the time of the bombings. The follow-up period was 1958-2009, providing 3,079,484 person-years of follow-up. Cases were identified by linkage with population-based Hiroshima and Nagasaki Cancer Registries. Poisson regression methods were used to elucidate the nature of the radiation-associated risks per Gy of weighted absorbed colon dose using both excess relative risk (ERR) and excess absolute risk (EAR) models adjusted for smoking. Risk estimates were reported for a person exposed at age 30 years with attained age of 70 years. In this study, 22,538 incident first primary solid cancer cases were identified, of which 992 were associated with radiation exposure. There were 5,918 cases (26%) that occurred in the 11 years (1999-2009) since the previously reported study. For females, the dose response was consistent with linearity with an estimated ERR of 0.64 per Gy (95% CI: 0.52 to 0.77). For males, significant upward curvature over the full dose range as well as restricted dose ranges was observed and therefore, a linear-quadratic model was used, which resulted in an ERR of 0.20 (95% CI: 0.12 to 0.28) at 1 Gy and an ERR of 0.010 (95% CI: -0.0003 to 0.021) at 0.1 Gy. The shape of the ERR dose response was significantly different among males and females (P = 0.02). While there was a significant decrease in the ERR with increasing attained age, this decrease was more rapid in males compared to females. The lowest dose range that showed a statistically significant dose response using the sex-averaged, linear ERR model was 0-100 mGy (P = 0.038). In conclusion, this analysis demonstrates that solid cancer risks remain elevated more than 60 years after exposure. Sex-averaged upward curvature was observed in the dose response independent of adjustment for smoking. Findings from the current analysis regarding the dose-response shape were not fully consistent with those previously reported, raising unresolved questions. At this time, uncertainties in the shape of the dose response preclude definitive conclusions to confidently guide radiation protection policies. Upcoming results from a series of analyses focusing on the radiation risks for specific organs or organ families, as well as continued follow-up are needed to fully understand the nature of radiation-related cancer risk and its public health significance. Data and analysis scripts are available for download at: .

Concepts: Regression analysis, Epidemiology, Cancer, Ionizing radiation, Relative risk, Nuclear weapon, Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hiroshima


Measurement of soil contamination levels has been considered a feasible method for dose estimation of internal radiation exposure following the Chernobyl disaster by means of aggregate transfer factors; however, it is still unclear whether the estimation of internal contamination based on soil contamination levels is universally valid or incident specific.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Radiobiology, Nuclear weapon, Radioactive contamination, Nuclear fallout, Nuclear safety, Three Mile Island accident, Nuclear accidents