Newsweek published my op-ed on the dangers at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). The more I think about it, the more I become convinced that Russia captured the plant as part of the initial “three-day war” and with the collapse of that objective had to figure out what to do with it. They came up with two possibilities: Frighten Ukrainians and their arms suppliers with the prospect of a radiological accident, and take the power to Russia.
Those two objectives are in conflict, however. A radiological accident would contaminate the plant and at least require a long decontamination before power could be supplied to Russia.
For the past couple of weeks, we have been hearing about military activity around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). Of course, the Russian occupation and stationing of military vehicles within the plant is dangerous. Unfortunately, both Russia and Ukraine are motivated to exaggerate the plant’s dangers. For Ukraine, reporting a desperate situation at the plant may motivate its western supporters to increase their support. For Russia, it is a way to rattle nukes without referring to nuclear weapons. Both take advantage of exaggerated fears about nuclear issues.
Add to that Russian threats against the Ukrainian operators, which make it impossible to get reliable reports of the status of the plant from the people who know. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the international oversight agency for nuclear plants, wants to be able to inspect the plant, but Russia has refused to allow them in.
ZNPP is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, with six VVER (Soviet design) nuclear reactors. Russia took the plant early in its war against Ukraine, probably as part of its attempt at a quick takeover of the country and installation of a puppet regime. They also seized hydroelectric plants and shelled another nuclear plant at Rivne. It makes sense to secure the power plants in regime change.
There’s been a flurry of news this past week about Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
It’s impossible to tell what is going on. Both Ukraine and Russia have raised alarms of various kinds since Russia occupied the plant, and most have not played out. It’s to both sides’ advantage to overplay the dangers.
That said, there are real dangers. I’ve written about them. This article is a good summary. And given Russia’s actions over the past six months, it’s hard to rule out any possibility, although so far their actions have been far less than their warnings.
My feeling about the current uproar is that it’s a Russian propaganda operation to distract from Ukraine’s ability to strike inside Crimea. That bodes ill for Russia – it opens another front while Ukraine is working on Kherson, and the uncertainty of how much Ukraine can do in Crimea has got to be stunning. Reports are that Russia has moved planes and helicopters back from the attacks, some of them to Russia.
So I’m not going to analyze (or even present) some of the tweets and claims that are out there. There’s too much, and it probably won’t all play out. If you want to share stuff in the comments, I’ll try to respond.
A Dutch newspaper has tracked down participation of a Dutch transport company, Mammoet, in a complex scheme involving Michael Flynn and nuclear reactors.
Of all the outrageous stories to come out of the Trump administration, this one is likely to take the prize. When we get past its being the most complex and figure out what was happening.
The story at the link is consistent with what I know, and Chrome translates it pretty well. I’ve been following the story for some time and still don’t know what to make of it – is it a scam, an attempt to privatize the State Department’s Middle East functions, or something else?
A quick overview: Michael Flynn became involved with some folks who thought it would be a good idea to sell 40 Russian nuclear reactors, with a protection corps, to the Middle East. The Middle Eastern countries would pay for it all, they would become developed and industrial, and peace would result. Flynn and Tom Barrack worked hard to sell the program to the government in the early days of the Trump administration. Some remnants of the organization Flynn was involved with continue and hope to sell a downsized (and deRussianized) program, although they no longer have voices in high places.
I have many questions. Why did anyone think this was a good idea? How were a couple dozen general and flag officers who knew nothing about nuclear reactors pulled into this organization? Is it a scam? If so, who is scamming whom? There’s more to the story, too, than what is in the article. I’ve been saving it up until there’s a good news hook to hang it on or until I can make sense of it. It may be a while.
The repercussions of Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia don’t go away. Michael Flynn is a part of that relationship, although it is not clear how much of his interaction with Russian officials was directed by Trump. Trump keeps interactions at arm’s length so that he can claim he is not responsible for his administration’s wrongdoing. Flynn had connections to Russia before he became part of Trump’s machine.
Attorney General William Barr has requested that the case be dropped against Flynn for lying to federal agents, to which Flynn pleaded guilty. Judge Emmet Sullivan plans to open the case to amicus curiae briefs and has appointed a retired federal judge to argue against the government’s case for dismissal.
Acting DNI Richard Grenell has released records of requests for “unmasking” that resulted in the legal action against Flynn and the discovery that Flynn was lying to Vice President Mike Pence, for which he was fired by Trump. Those records raise further questions of what Flynn was doing.
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.
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