Zachary Cohen called me with not enough information on this reported leak. The odd thing about it was that France had notified the United States, and high-level US meetings were reported. So: secretive country, nuclear leak. Hard for me, even, not to feel resonances with Chernobyl. My early guess from the information we had was that it was a broken fuel element, and that’s what it turned out to be. The reason France contacted the US had to do with sharing nuclear information. When a country gets nuclear technology from the US, restrictions are attached about sharing it.
Justin Ling covers the major claims about a laboratory escape being the route of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into humans and finds them wanting; further, that a natural pathway from animals to humans is more likely. Long article and may have a paywall. This one should become the standard reference for refuting the lab leak bros.
I’ve been asked to do a post on what would make the body of a victim of a radiological accident radioactive.
[Trigger warning: This is an unpleasant subject. Descriptions of seriously damaged bodies follow. I am posting this as a public service for those trying to figure out what happened at Nyonoksa and those writing about it. The link for Louis Slotin is particularly unpleasant.] Read More
Two accounts of caring for the victims of the accident at Nyonoksa on August 8 were published Wednesday, August 21, in Meduza (English version) and Novaya Gazeta. The sources are an emergency responder and two doctors. The emergency responder was not on duty that day and relies on the reports of co-workers. The sources want to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.
I have questions about these accounts and a Washington Post account that seems to refer to another Novaya Gazeta article without linking. But first, let’s see what can reasonably be gleaned from the accounts. Read More
First: We have no more information than when I wrote about the Nyonoksa* accident on Monday. If anything, we may have less because the Russian government has gone back and forth in its announcements, contradicting earlier announcements and sometimes coming back to what was said earlier. So everything they say must be questioned. Because the test that caused the explosion appears to be a military secret, it is unlikely that the Russian government will say anything informative unless something happens to make it necessary for them to speak. The funerals of the scientists killed took place quickly.
What could make it necessary for them to speak is the open source intelligence analysis community’s ability to see and decipher evidence relating to the explosion. The New York Times is even getting in on the act. We can expect to see reports of recovery vessels in the area of the explosion, trying to recover the remnants from the seabed. Read More
On the morning of Thursday, August 8, something exploded at the Nenoksa Naval Base in Russia, not far from the city of Severodvinsk. This article is a good summary of what we knew by Friday. Since then, the Russian government has said that a radioactive source was involved in the explosion, along with liquid rocket fuel. Reports have gone back and forth on whether radiation detectors in Severodvinsk detected anything. Five more people have been reported dead. Sarov/VNIIEF, one of the Russian nuclear weapons laboratories, has released a statement, which some folks are rushing to translate.
Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the reactor explosion at Chernobyl. Here are some of the best articles. The coverage, overall, is surprisingly good, not just the standard “Radiation – Be very afraid!” Read More
How do you find plutonium? Go to nuclear inspector school. All IAEA inspectors are trained at Los Alamos. NPR reporter Geoff Brumfiel went with one group. The plutonium can he mentions was designed by my team back in the 1990s, if it’s the one in this LANL photo. And back when I started at Los Alamos, the orientation included passing around a nickel-plated plutonium hemisphere. It was warm. Read More