Pentagon Seeks High-Tech Nuke Radiation Defenses

A group of workers wearing protective suits and masks stand next to the No. 4 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. A group of workers wearing protective suits and masks stand next to the No. 4 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Issei Kato/AP

The Defense Department this week said it is looking for technologies to protect people against potentially deadly radiation near the site of a nuclear strike or other atomic disaster.

Proposals from government, academic, and private-sector sources could provide fodder for a possible government push to devise new means of "enhancing long-term survival in victims exposed to large doses of ionizing radiation," according to a solicitation issued last month by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The DARPA office said it is looking for both pre-exposure and post-exposure treatments to counter radiation's short-term effects.

Scientists have achieved a degree of progress in delaying death from acute radiation syndrome, but further studying how "the chronic effects of exposure play out within the body” could support development of new technologies to aid radiation victims, said Millie Donlon, a program manager with the DARPA Defense Sciences Office.

"There are many facets to this challenge and DARPA needs input from many fields," but a fruitful research endeavor could eliminate "at least some of [radiation's] destructive power," Donlon said in a press release issued this week.

One independent expert suggested the solicitation was an outgrowth of a prior agency finding that a protein-antibiotic combination could protect rodents exposed to high-level radioactivity.

"If you have radiation exposure and all the [digestive] bacteria in your gut die, then you're probably going to die," said Graham Peaslee, a chemistry and environmental science professor at Hope College in Holland, Mich. "They're basically trying to save your gut with this treatment, and it apparently works."

Any significant findings from related future research would likely be made public, as there is "nothing terribly classified about saving people," he said by telephone on Friday.

The Pentagon research arm indicated it also hopes to combat radiation's longer-term effects, which can include cancer. It welcomed "speculative concepts" to dramatically improve radiation treatments, and noted indications that caffeine and other antioxidants can "suppress lethality" and reduce damage to genetic material from radiation exposure.

"Understanding how these compounds act to reduce morbidity and mortality may pave the way to new, more effective therapies and protocols," the solicitation says.

The released information does not cite a deadline for submitting proposals or for standing up a potential scientific initiative. DARPA officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.