War on Terrorism

Friday, July 09, 2010

CBR Weapons & WMD Terrorism News, July 9, 2010

UGA [University of Georgia] studies diseases in lab plagued by snags
"Four years after the University of Georgia opened its high-tech Animal Health Research Center on South Campus, UGA researchers still can't use a critical part of the building. The university will have to address more than a dozen issues before scientists can start using a high-biosecurity area designed to allow them to work safely with cows and other large animals as they tease out the secrets of some of the world's deadliest diseases. [...] Fallout from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is a big reason UGA scientists still aren't using the large-animal research lab part of the building, [Sheila Allen, dean of the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine] said. After the terrorist attacks - and after someone mailed deadly anthrax spores to media outlets and two Democratic U.S. senators one week later - U.S. officials began an overhaul of safety and security regulations for labs where scientists work with dangerous diseases or biological toxins. The new regulations finally came out in 2007, the year after UGA researchers began using the building. Some of the upcoming changes are 'enhancements,' Allen said, changes identified by UGA researchers or biosafety workers that will strengthen the building's safety features. 'Everything we do, we're going to have two ways to do it,' Allen said - not just backups, but in some cases backups to the backup systems. Only a handful of universities or government agencies have built labs where scientists can work with dangerous diseases and big animals at the same time, so there's no cookie-cutter model for the research center labs, Freden said." (Athens Banner-Herald; 04Jul10; Lee Shearer)

Texas A&M Institute for Genomic Medicine awarded $12.25 million Defense Department contract to combat agents of biological terror[ism]
"The Texas A&M Institute for Genomic Medicine (TIGM), a leading global source for genetic discoveries, has been selected by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to identify and develop new drug targets for certain toxins, viruses and bacterial pathogens. By discovering and ultimately developing strategies to eliminate the ways in which toxins and microbes hijack cells, this research has the potential to discover new vaccines and therapies to counteract the most dangerous bio-threats faced by both military personnel and civilians. The DTRA award will be used to develop first-in-class high-throughput screening procedures for mouse stem cells involving state-of-the-art robotic equipment and pioneering screening procedures. TIGM investigators will screen more than 3,500 different genes to identify those that enable toxins and microbes to injure cells and tissues. Once candidate genes are identified, TIGM researchers will develop therapies to be tested both in tissues and pre-clinical models." (Texas A&M News & Information Services; 07Jul10)

Executive order on securing biotoxins
"Late last week President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order mandating fundamental changes to the way Biological Select Agents and Toxins (BSAT)in the United States are secured against misuse. The order, titled Optimizing the Security of Biological Select Agents and Toxins in the United States, directed Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) with key support from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to institute a number of substantive changes to their implementation of the Select Agent Program (SAP) and regulations. Specifically, the Executive Order calls for tiering and potential reduction of the Select Agent List based upon the risk posed by the pathogen or toxin in enabling a mass casualty incident through deliberate misuse. For those pathogens and toxins in the highest risk tier, HHS and USDA will evaluate options for the targeted application of physical security and personnel reliability measures in a manner commensurate to risk. In addition it calls for revision of select agent regulations to communicate the specific physical security and personnel reliability practices that registrants will apply in accordance with the tiered Select Agent List." (Homeland Security Today; 06Jul10; Phil Leggiere)

Anthrax hoax [sic] cases pile up across the U.S., arrests lag
"Mailing a white powdery substance to scare people can land you in prison - even if the enclosed substance is non-toxic. [...] Police and the FBI have responded to at least a dozen 'white powder' cases in Boise since 2003, with the most recent occurring at the U.S. attorney's office June 14. Similar letters were also sent to federal buildings in Washington and Utah. [...] The real seeds of fear, though, were planted when letters laced with real anthrax [spores] were sent in the U.S. mail in 2001. Five people were killed and 17 were sickened. That's when bioterrorism by mail - or the threat of it - became fashionable for those with axes to grind. [...] In 2002, the FBI responded to 2,500 reports of the use or threatened use of anthrax [sic]. Reports nationwide tapered off significantly after 2002 and have been dropping every month - until the past few months, Allen said. There were about 500 reports in 2008, Bertram said. Allen said investigators have found there is a flurry of these cases after 'key events,' such as the blackout in the Northeast, the Enron scandal and Hurricane Katrina. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could be another key event, Allen said. [...] Since 2007, regional hazardous materials teams in Idaho have investigated 24 biohazard incidents - the vast majority suspicious powder, according to the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security. The total cost to the state from those incidents is calculated to be $35,000 to $40,000; that doesn't include the cost to local agencies." (Idaho Statesman; 05Jul10; Katy Moeller)

Global campaign to destroy chemical weapons passes 60 percent mark
"The destruction of chemical weapons that have been declared to the OPCW by States Parties under the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) has surpassed 60 percent of global stockpiles, according to data reported today by the OPCW Technical Secretariat in The Hague. The Technical Secretariat has now verified the destruction of approximately 41,692 metric tonnes, or 60.05 percent, of all Category 1 chemical weapons that have been declared by seven possessor States since the Convention's entry into force on 29 April 1997. [...] Three of the possessor States - Albania, India, and a State Party that requests anonymity - have already completed destruction of their chemical weapons. The two countries with the largest stockpiles, the Russian Federation and United States of America, have met their intermediate destruction deadlines set by the Convention and are accelerating their activities. The Russian Federation has destroyed nearly 48 percent of its stockpiles to date and the United States just over 75 percent; however, both countries have confirmed that they will not complete destruction of their weapons before the 29 April 2012 deadline. The two most recently declared possessor States – Iraq, which joined the Convention in 2009, and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, which joined in 2004 -- have yet to begin destruction activities." (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; 08Jul10)

New Russian CW disposal site to open later this year [Bryansk]
"A new chemical warfare material disposal plant is slated to open later this year in central Russia's Bryansk Region, with full operations expected by early 2011, Interfax reported. 'The launch and commission of the plant in an operational environment will begin in the fourth quarter of this year, and the plant will reach its planned capacity in early 2011,' said Valery Kapashin, who leads the Federal Directorate for Safe Storage and Destruction of Chemical Weapons. 'During the destruction of toxic material [VX nerve agent] the very latest equipment will be used which has no equivalent throughout the world,' Kapashin said. Roughly 19 percent of the chemical warfare agents left over from the Soviet Union are stored at the Pochep weapons depot. Russia acknowledged last month that it would not be able to meet the Chemical Weapons Convention's April 2012 deadline for complete destruction of its 40,000 metric tons of chemical warfare agents. The new anticipated disposal completion date is 2015 (Interfax, July 5)." (Global Security Newswire; 08Jul10)

Army Chemical Materials Agency destroys 75 percent of U.S. chemical weapons
"The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency, or CMA, announced that on July 1, 2010, it achieved the destruction of 75 percent of its chemical agent stockpile as defined under international treaty obligations. 'This accomplishment marks another extraordinary team effort between our storage and destruction staffs consisting of both government and contractor personnel,' said CMA Director Conrad Whyne. This accomplishment represents destruction efforts since Entry-Into-Force, when the United States ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) treaty in April of 1997. Also, 75 percent represents 22,958 tons of agent and more than 2.1 million munitions. CMA reached the 50 percent milestone in December of 2007 and the 60 percent destruction mark in April of 2009. While not an official treaty-mandated achievement, 75 percent represents the ongoing progress the United States, under CMA's leadership, is making in fulfilling its international obligations to destroy the aging and obsolete chemical weapons stockpile. CMA is on pace to meet the April 2012 deadline by destroying the 90 percent of the stockpile under its purview. The U.S. Army Element Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program is responsible for destroying the remaining 10 percent under treaty." (Defence Professionals; 08Jul10; Gregory Mahall)

Tanker crashes in Sharon, spills chemical [OH]
"A tanker truck carrying 6,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia crashed at about noon July 5 on Beach Road in Sharon Township, resulting in the death of the driver and spilling a small amount of the chemical fertilizer. The driver, Phillip Linden, 75, co-owner and founder of Linden Propane Inc. in LaGrange Township, drove off the side of the road, causing the truck to flip over and catch fire, according to Trooper Byron Foxx, of the Ohio State Highway Patrol's Medina Post. There were no reports of any other injuries. The cause of the accident is under investigation, according to Foxx. Twenty homes were evacuated as a precaution and Beach Road was closed to traffic, he added. The Medina County Sheriff's Office also responded to the incident. [...] Sharon Fire Chief Rob Haas said five fire departments -- Sharon, Bath, Granger, Medina and Wadsworth -- responded to the incident. 'The spill was caused from a plumbing valve failure and not from damage to the tank,' he said. 'There was never a significant release of anhydrous ammonia.' Haas added fire department crews have known about the chemical since the 1960s and train every year on how to deal with it. 'We sprayed water to suppress the vapors,' said Haas. 'Residents can find solace in the fact that we know how to handle it and our plan worked.'" (Akron Ohio News; 08Jul10)

Air Force aims to launch 'spy pigeon' microdrone by 2015
"In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, U.S. officials often had to rely on grainy satellite photos to decide whether facilities on the ground were intended for producing weapons of mass destruction. Now imagine that instead of overhead satellite imagery -- or even high-flying unmanned aircraft -- they could send in a flock of microdrones that could actually fly right over, or even inside, such facilities. Even better, these drones -- equipped with chemical sensors that could pick up possible weapons work with near certainty -- would resemble typical birds, like pigeons, making them nearly impossible to spot. This high-tech spy vision is precisely what Air Force researchers are trying to build, and they believe such a microdrone is not only possible, but could be ready to fly in just five years. 'Ideally, it'll be a bird-sized UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle], with the current goal being a pigeon,' Dr. Leslie Perkins, the lead for micro air vehicles at the Air Force Research Laboratory, told AOL News. The 'birdlike' UAV would also be able to operate with minimal pilot intervention for up to a week at a time, she said." (AOL News; 08Jul10; Sharon Weinberger)

Napolitano cites private-gov't cooperation [for chemical security]
"U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday federal-private collaboration is needed to secure the nation's chemical plants. Speaking at the 2010 Chemical Sector Security Summit in Washington, Napolitano outlined her department's ongoing efforts to beef up security at high-risk chemical facilities under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program. 'Securing our nation's chemical sector requires extensive collaboration with our private sector partners,' Napolitano said. 'Flexible, practical and collaborative programs such as DHS's National Infrastructure Protection Plan, the Chemical Sector Coordinating Council and CFATS play a key role in enhancing the security and resiliency of our nation's chemical facilities and other critical infrastructure.' [...] She also cited the need for a coordinated effort among multiple agencies and missions within the department. She noted the Coast Guard has significant regulatory authority over chemical facilities along ports and waterways as part of the Maritime Transportation Security Act, and the Transportation Security Administration works with industry partners to protect hazardous chemicals transported by rail and pipelines." (United Press International; 07Jul10)

Weapons destruction: a two-step process [Pueblo Chemical Depot, CO]
"Destruction of chemical weapons basically is a two-step process, but made up of very complicated and potentially dangerous steps. The 780,000 artillery shells and mortar rounds are stored in igloos in a portion of the Pueblo Chemical Depot referred to as G Block. The estimated 100 igloos are in the most secure area on the base, surrounded by a buffer between it and other igloos leased to private tenants by the depot's redevelopment authority. When the destruction program gets under way, the weapons will be moved from the storage igloos in specially designed trucks equipped with sensors that will detect any leaking weapons. About 500 leakers already have been identified and based on past experience, officials expect to come across that many more. Leaking weapons won't be allowed to go through the water neutralization process and will have to be destroyed, probably using an explosive technology. After leaving the igloos, the weapons will be stored in three munitions service magazines, new igloos just recently completed. They'll be moved only during daylight hours and in good weather. Because the remainder of the plant will be on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week schedule, as many weapons as possible will be moved during the day. The new magazines are located next door to the Enhanced Reconfiguration Building where the first major step in the process will take place." (Pueblo Chieftain ; 06Jul10; John Norton)

HC [High Court] asks Centre to declare mechanism to monitor radioactivity
"The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought a reply from the Centre as to what mechanism was being used to monitor the city's scrap markets to prevent radio active material from making their way in. [...] The Bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) seeking a direction for installation of gamma radiation scanners in all scrap markets here following the Mayapuri radiation exposure incident. The direction came on a PIL filed by advocate Pritika Kumar who sought a direction from the bench to the city government to seal the Mayapuri scrap market, where exposure to radioactive material Cobalt-60 in April had claimed one life while 11 other were taken ill, until the area was decontaminated. The lawyer sought a direction to the government to put up sign boards in the market cautioning the area as dangerous for the people. Seeking a direction to Centre, the petitioner said a survey should be conducted in all scrap markets in Delhi and gamma radiation scanners be installed to detect the presence of any radiation source." (India Today; 07Jul10)

Radiation meters to cleanse dirty bombs
"On April 9, when radioactive material Cobalt 60 was found in a scrapyard at Mayapuri in west Delhi, the police were caught unawares. It took them more than three days to realise that they were dealing with a material that could cause a major disaster. In a bid to tackle such eventuality in a better way during the Commonwealth Games, the Delhi Police have bought 80 'radiation meters' that will help them identify any object with nuclear agents. The Mayapuri incident had led to the death of one person and grievously injured six others. The policemen were lucky. The police said their personnel posted at the Games venues and stadia were being trained to hand[le] these meters. 'These meters weigh a little less than 1.5 kilograms. They are handy and will help our men to identify any nuclear agent hidden in any object. They will be used during the Games and even after that ' said Karnal Singh, joint commissioner of police (northern range). [...] 'If someone tries to sneak in radioactive materials concealed in food boxes during the Commonwealth Games, we will be able to detect them immediately with the help of these meters,' said the officer. Police said the equipment would come in handy during bomb blasts. 'If radioactive substances are used in a bomb blast, these meters will help and necessary action can be taken immediately,' said the officer." (Hindustan Times; 05Jul10; Vijaita Singh)

Columbia [University] scientists prepare for a dirty bomb
"During World War II, scientists from the Center for Radiological Research in Manhattan toiled on the Manhattan Project, working feverishly to develop an atomic bomb before Nazi Germany did. Some 70 years later, physicists from the center, now part of Columbia University Medical Center, are once again racing against time. But their work today centers on containing the damage from a much smaller and less sophisticated weapon: the dirty bomb, a crude explosive rigged to spray radioactive material. In a cramped room off Broadway on West 120th Street, in Columbia's mechanical engineering department, sits a prototype of a large robotic apparatus that could, after a dirty bomb detonated, test tens of thousands of New Yorkers a day for radiation exposure using a simple finger prick. Currently, such tests must be done manually, with blood removed from the arm and the sample shipped to a laboratory. 'In the best of circumstances, you could do only a few hundred people a day, even with many labs involved,' said David J. Brenner, the center's director and a professor of radiation biophysics, who has been collaborating on the project with mechanical engineers and biologists from Columbia. [...] The development of a fully automated testing system, with the potential to process up to 30,000 blood samples in a single day, is important because the type of treatment for radiation sickness depends on the dose received. And there is another reason government officials and scientists are pushing to bring the device to market: allaying fears after a bombing." (New York Times; 08Jul10; Lisa W. Foderaro)

Williamsburg residents want radioactive-waste firm Radiac Corp. out of area, away from school [NY]
"Parents and activists hope a radioactive-waste station near a public school in Williamsburg will soon be history. Radiac Corp. processes and stores radioactive and hazardous waste in a three-building complex on Kent Ave., about a block from the S. First St. site of Public School 84. Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn) has written legislation that would force the facility to move elsewhere. Lentol's bill would make it illegal to bring radioactive materials within 1,500 feet of a school. It passed both houses last week and Gov. Paterson now has about a month to sign it into law. 'This is something the community has been fighting for,' said Jaime Estades, a Williamsburg-based lawyer whose daughter is going into second grade at PS 84. 'No one wants that kind of radioactive material near a school.' Radiac has been in business at the site since 1969. The company has 22 full-time employees and is the only facility in the city that's licensed to handle radioactive waste. Radiac usually keeps about 100 55-gallon drums filled with radioactive and hazardous waste onsite, said Tom West, a company attorney. Most of the waste comes from local hospitals and labs, he said. 'We've been through countless environmental reviews, and everybody's come to the conclusion that we're totally safe,' West said. 'We've never had an environmental incident.'" (New York Daily News; 07Jul10; Ben Chapman)

NNSA [National Nuclear Security Administration] works with New York City to counter radiological threats
"The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that it has successfully completed the pick-up of a high-activity cesium-137 device that had been in secure storage at a hospital in New York City. The recovery of the cesium source is part of a comprehensive effort that NNSA initiated in New York City in September of 2009. [...] NNSA recovered the cesium device from now-closed St. Vincent's hospital in Lower Manhattan. Such devices are subject to enhanced federal and state regulatory security requirements and the St. Vincent's blood irradiator was securely stored until it could be picked up by NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). The GTRI routinely collects radioactive sources no longer being used from companies licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) or a state, upon request. St. Vincent's hospital partnered with NNSA to safely and securely remove the device once it was no longer needed for hospital operations. Prior to decommissioning the device, St. Vincent's was part of a pilot project volunteer for several NNSA source security enhancement efforts in New York City. St. Vincent's was one of the first sites in the U.S. to voluntarily enhance the security of their cesium device through an in-device delay project now run by NNSA in cooperation with several major irradiator manufacturers. [...] In partnership with the NYPD, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Office of Homeland Security, and 9 partner sites in NYC, NNSA has begun security enhancements at 28 buildings with over 85,000 Curies (Ci) of radioactive material. NNSA has also conducted 2 Alarm Response Training courses for more than 80 NYC security personnel and conducted a counterterrorism table top exercise for local first responders and the FBI New York City Field Office." (National Nuclear Security Administration; 06Jul10)

U.S. holds workshop on nuclear security in Tbilisi
"The working regional meeting has been held in the hotel 'Ambassador' within the project of the Georgian Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission 'Improving the regulatory oversight of the sources of ionizing radiation'. The program is connected with security of radiation sources, head of nuclear and radiation safety service Zaal Lomtadze told media. 'The world global security depends on the implementation of certain measures by individual countries,' he said. Representatives of regulatory bodies of nuclear and radiation activities from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Latvia, Moldova, Armenia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia participate in the meeting. Cooperation between the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Georgian Ministry of Environment began in 2003. The conference will end July 9." (Trend News: Azerbaijan; 07Jul10)

Beware of terrorists with chemical weapons
"'Terrorism continues to develop in terms of strategies, tactics, technical matters, and infrastructures; including the use of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons. Therefore, we must have same understanding about the dangers of terrorism, in order to prevent it (from spreading into the country),' said Jakarta Capital City Vice Governor Prijanto during a workshop on Anticipation to the Dangers of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Compounds and the Relations to Terrorist Threat, at City Hall, Jakarta, Wednesday (7/7). [...] The Secretary of Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Hotmangaradja Panjaitan, explained, the Ministry now has a special task in coordinating all activities related to terrorism eradication efforts; one of which is this workshop. 'Through this activity we want to socialize the dangers if such chemical materials fall into the hands of terrorists, particularly in Indonesia,' he explained; adding that this workshop is expected to build same perception and find concrete steps to combat terrorism." (Berita Jakarta; 07Jul10)

New mobile information center to help county spread the news [Highlands County, FL]
"County Public Information Officer Gloria Rybinski informed the county commission Tuesday that a new trailer has been equipped to help with distributing information to the media and the public during emergencies. 'The equipment includes a portable podium with a backdrop which can used for press releases,' Rybinski said. 'In case of a fire or a hurricane, we have the tools to get the information out.' The communications trailer includes the ability to operate on generator power. Three work stations and air conditioning, according to Rybinski, were included in the trailer. Sheriff Susan Benton said that the trailer was a good idea. 'During the anthrax scare last year, the county's PIOs got pushed out of our command trailer. They ended up trying to work out of our hostage negotiations bus. This is something that the county needs, and Gloria has done a good job of putting this together,' Benton said. The trailer is 8 feet by 16 feet and contains stations for three laptops and has four TVs installed. It cost $11,554, of which $7,877 came from grants, according to Rybinski." (News Sun: Sebring, FL; 07Jul10; Ed Baldridge)

HHS [Health and Human Services] provides $390.5 million to improve hospital preparedness and emergency response
"States, territories, and large metropolitan areas will receive grants totaling $390.5 million this month to help hospitals and other health care organizations strengthen the medical surge capability across the nation. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response will provide the funds through the Hospital Preparedness Program. The grants enhance community resilience by increasing the ability of hospitals and healthcare facilities to respond to the public health and medical impacts of any emergency, such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks, or acts of terrorism. All states, territories and the metro areas of New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles County and Washington, D.C., will receive the 2010 Hospital Preparedness grants. The funds will be used by state and local governments to boost the readiness of hospitals and other healthcare facilities in their jurisdictions by finalizing development or improving: interoperable communication systems, systems to track available hospital beds, advance registration of volunteer health professionals, processes for hospital evacuations or sheltering-in-place, processes for fatality management, strengthening health care partnerships at the community level, strengthen hospital participation in statewide and regional exercise programs." (Business Wire; 07Jul10)

CNS ChemBio-WMD Terrorism News is prepared by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in order to bring timely and focused information to researchers and policymakers interested in the fields of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons nonproliferation and WMD terrorism.

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