An Agriculture Department effort to gain a comprehensive view of livestock and poultry health in a bid for better biosurveillance faces challenges including industry resistance, state confidentiality laws and lack of funding, says the Government Accountability Office.
The Kansas legislature is reportedly close to approving $202 million in additional bonds to fund construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan.
A new, independent agency would manage nuclear waste instead of the Energy Department under a bipartisan Senate bill, a draft of which was released April 25. The new agency, dubbed the Nuclear Waste Administration, would create a consent-based process to site nuclear waste facilities.
The National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan., would receive $714 million under the fiscal 2014 budget proposal the Obama administration sent to Congress on April 10. The administration also calls on the state government of Kansas to provide an additional $202 million, which when combined with the fiscal 2014 request should be sufficient to fully fund construction, DHS says in its budget justification .
The risk methodology is largely based on the consequence to human life that the release or theft of a chemical would cause or on the consequence to lives by sabotage, the GAO says. Watchdog officials find multiple faults with the methodology. Consequence assessment should also consider the direct economic effects, for example, auditors say.
Near-misses, where the chance of a core meltdown increases tenfold and the NRC dispatches inspectors to investigate, occurred 14 times in 2012, says the report, released March 7. "So far the United States has been lucky" to not have a major nuclear incident, writes David Lochbaum, the report's author and the director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the UCS.
Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Nicole Stickel said in a Feb. 22 statement that the award, using $40 million in federal appropriations and an additional amount of money from the state of Kansas, is a modification of an existing contract with McCarthy Mortenson, which conducted site preparation activities for the $1.14 billion project, known as the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.
Radiation portal monitor equipment at major U.S. container ports will start reaching obsolesce in 2014 based on initial estimates of a 10 year lifespan, says the Homeland Security Department office of inspector general. Unless service life can be extended or replacements installed, there will be no useful radiation monitors left at seaports by 2021, auditors say in a Jan. 29 report (.pdf).
Auditors warn that security in the Pantex nuclear weapon disassembly plant has aged to the point where it may no longer function as intended. An Energy Department office of inspector general report (.pdf) dated Jan. 29 notes that the Carson County, Texas facility places high-grade radioactive materials from nuclear weapons into two staging areas, Zone 4W and Zone 12. It's security in the former where auditors say they have concerns; the system there dates from the 1990s and had an expected useful lifetime of 20 years.
A long-delayed draft request for proposals for fully autonomous networked biodetection capability--known as BioWatch Gen-3-- released Jan. 25 calls for sensors optimized to detect two threat agents--one spore former and one vegetative cell--and one biological simulant.