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.
The United States is trying to develop a nuclear cooperation agreement (123 agreement) with Saudi Arabia. The stories (another) focus on whether such an agreement would limit Saudi Arabia’s access to uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing, two technologies that can produce materials for nuclear weapons.
Let’s look at two other factors. 1) Although Saudi Arabia has had big ambitions for nuclear power, starting from sixteen reactors and now down to two, it is not clear that they can afford those reactors and have no administrative support for them. 2) Westinghouse, the company being pushed by the United States, is in no position to build those reactors. Read More
Stuff that just doesn’t make sense or doesn’t fit together always catches a scientist’s eye. Today’s Michael Flynn story has caught my eye. There is a fairly straightforward story on the surface: Flynn had a business deal involving Russians. He is reported, by one whistleblower, to have texted a business associate during the inauguration to say that the sanctions on Russia would be coming off soon, so they would be able to make a gazillion dollars. The New York Times and NBC broke the story this morning, and Politico, McClatchy, and Reuters have followed.
If that is what Michael Flynn discussed with the Russians, it is at least dishonest, and probably illegal. Read More
The folks at Middlebury Institute for International Studies, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, are good at figuring out rocket launches. An inside look.
Two South Carolina utilities are abandoning two unfinished nuclear reactors, half of the new reactors being built in the United States today. A decision on the other two will be made later this month. The South Carolina project is far behind schedule and far over projected costs, the recurring story of civilian nuclear reactor projects in the United States. China and Russia seem to be doing better with reactor-building, but their state-run companies can cook the books in ways that private companies can’t. Read More
I am continuing to go light on the latest about Donald Trump’s relationship to Russia, in the service of finishing up a major post on the subject. In the meanwhile, here is a selection beyond the New York Times and Washington Post headlines.
Fidel Castro, who ruled through eleven American presidencies, is dead. The Miami Herald has the definitive (long) obituary. I think it’s a fair assessment; I recall Castro depicted in the United States as a freedom fighter against the landed overlords, and then his turn to Communism and the Soviet Union. As the obit says, we’ll never know if he was a communist all along. All that is vivid to me because my high school hosted a talk on Castro’s 1956 victory, one of my first understandings of international events. Read More
Attention Donald Trump: Strategic reasons for publicizing military offensives.
Estonia trains citizens for insurgency operations in case Russia decides to invade. The tactics recall those of the Forest Brothers who resisted both the Nazis and the Soviets. Photo from this article; I love seeing Estonia’s forests and countryside, hate seeing the idea of war there. Read More
Denmark has picked up 500 tons of Libyan chemical warfare materials, apparently mostly precursors, and is transporting them to Germany for destruction. (Top photo from here) Read More
Today is Earth Day. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than ever. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is bleaching because of warmer ocean temperatures. We really have to do something. And it’s hard to see how we can succeed without nuclear power as part of the replacement for coal. But not everyone agrees. Read More