• Vice president, House speaker should be included in nuclear launch decisions: Experts

    The U.S. protocol for ordering a nuclear attack should be revised to require not only an order from the president, but consent by the next two officials in the presidential chain of succession — the vice president and speaker of the House of Representatives, three experts argue in a new paper. “No one person should be able to order a nuclear attack,” said one of the paper’s authors. “There’s no reason to maintain this dangerous policy, since there are viable alternatives that would allow other officials to take part in any decision to use nuclear weapons, whether it’s a first use or a launch responding to a nuclear attack.”

  • Draft U.S. document confirms Russian plans for “Doomsday” weapon

    Some two years ago, Western intelligence and military experts scrambled to make sense of a strange new Russian weapon whose designs were glimpsed briefly in a mysterious report on Russian state TV. The weapon was a nuclear-capable underwater drone that would be launched from a submarine. The description accompanying a picture of the drone said such vehicles or weapons would be pilotless and capable of attacking enemies and creating “zones of extensive radioactive contamination unfit for military, economic or other activity for a long period of time.” Now, for the first time there are public indications that U.S. intelligence have not only confirmed Russian intentions for the weapon, but are also trying to figure out how to respond to it.

  • Thorium reactors could dispose of large amounts of weapons-grade plutonium

    Scientists are developing a technology enabling the construction of high-temperature, gas-cool, low-power reactors with thorium fuel. The scientists propose to burn weapons-grade plutonium in these units, converting it into power and thermal energy. Thermal energy generated at thorium reactors may be used in hydrogen industrial production. The technology also makes it possible to desalinate water. 

  • Balloon-borne infrasound sensor array detects explosions

    Infrasound is sound of very low frequencies, below 20 hertz, which is lower than humans can hear. African elephants produce infrasound for long-distance communication at around 15 hertz. For comparison, a bumblebee’s buzz is typically 150 hertz and humans hear in the range of 20 to 20,000 hertz. Infrasound is important because it’s one of the verification technologies the U.S. and the international community use to monitor explosions, including those caused by nuclear tests. Traditionally, infrasound is detected by ground-based sensor arrays, which don’t cover the open ocean and can be muddled by other noises, such as the wind. Sandia Lab scientists is using sheets of plastic, packing tape, some string, a little charcoal dust, and a white shoebox-size box to build a solar-powered hot air balloon for detecting infrasound.

  • Obama administration ended program targeting Hezbollah drug smuggling to secure nuke deal with Iran

    The Obama administration obstructed a campaign by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to monitor and prosecute Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, in order to solidify the 2015 nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic, according to a news report. The campaign, called Project Cassandra, launched in 2008, was aimed at disrupting Hezbollah’s weapons and drug trafficking practices, which included smuggling cocaine into the United States. Over the years, the Lebanese-based terror organization had morphed from a Middle East-focused military and political group into an international crime syndicate.

  • DHS establishes the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office

    Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen last week announced the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office. DHS says that the CWMD Office will elevate and streamline DHS efforts to prevent terrorists and other national security threat actors from using harmful agents, such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear material and devices to harm Americans and U.S. interests.

  • Middle Eastern countries pushed U.S. to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities: Kerry

    Former Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday said that that he Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia were pushing the United States to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities rather than join other powers in signing the 2015 deal. Speaking at a Washington, D.C. forum, Kerry said he believed that Egypt and Saudi Arabia – and other Middle Eastern countries agitating for a U.S. military strike against Iran – would have publicly criticized the United States if it went ahead and attacked Iran.

  • If Trump wants nuclear war, virtually no one can stop him

    The general in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal, John Hyten, recently said he would resist carrying out an illegal order from the president to use those weapons. His comments echoed the ones made a few days earlier by one of his predecessors, retired Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler. While the generals are no doubt military men of integrity, my four decades of experience as a diplomat and scholar of American foreign policy suggest there is no law that would make a presidential order to launch a preemptive nuclear strike on North Korea illegal. The bottom line is that a nuclear war won’t be prevented by military officers refusing to obey an order they consider illegal. And such a situation won’t be avoided by congressional action. The legislative branch is paralyzed by partisan politics. Using the bomb is up to the discretion of a president who came to office with no experience in the military, government or foreign affairs beyond real estate deals in other countries. And after ten months of on-the-job training, he seems no better prepared for such a responsibility.

  • Why nuclear deterrence could work on North Korea

    The same logic that kept a nuclear war from breaking out between the United States and former Soviet Union is the best strategy to now pursue with North Korea, several scholars said last week at Stanford. The discussion revolved around whether North Korea will have the ability to strike the U.S. with nuclear warheads, and can the U.S. depend on a deterrence strategy like it did during the Cold War? Deterrence theory holds that nuclear weapons are intended to deter other states from attacking with their nuclear weapons, through the promise of retaliation and possibly mutually assured destruction.

  • Nuclear energy programs do not increase likelihood of nuclear weapons proliferation: Study

    Contrary to popular thought, nuclear proliferation is not more likely to occur among countries with nuclear energy programs, according to new research. In a historical analysis of the relationship between nuclear energy programs and proliferation from 1954 to 2000, the study finds that the link between the two has been overstated. “The findings suggest that international efforts to manage the proliferation risks of nuclear energy programs have been quite effective,” says the study’s author. “Even when countries become more technically capable of developing nuclear weapons due to an energy program, they can often be restrained by timely intelligence and the prospect of sanctions.”

  • 200 killed in tunnel collapse at North Korea nuclear test site

    About 200 North Korean laborers and engineers have been killed after a mine shaft being dug at the country’s nuclear test site collapsed in early September. On 3 September, North Korea conducted a nuclear test of a bomb with a yield of about 280 kilotons (the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were in the 12-15 kiloton range). Experts say that the powerful test, conducted in a neighboring tunnel, may have weakened the wall- and ceiling-support scaffolding of the tunnel which collapsed. North Korea has conducted all its nuclear tests in a tunnel network under Mount Mantap. South Korean and Chinese scientists have warned that the mountain may be suffering from “Tired mountain syndrome,” and that more tests may cause the mountain to collapse, releasing large amounts of radioactive fallout.

  • “North Korea crisis could spark a global chain of nuclear strikes”: Luxembourg Forum

    Leading international experts on nuclear non-proliferation and world leaders met Monday in Paris for the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe to express their concern on the escalating crisis in nuclear weapons control. During his opening remarks, Tony Blair warned that “the proliferation of nuclear weapons is the most serious threat today to the fate of humankind.” Blair further said that “Proliferation begets further proliferation leading to risk of additional terrorist capability.”

  • Detecting nuclear materials used in dirty bombs

    Radiological material falling into the wrong hands is a constant security concern for governments around the world. Border agencies must scan incoming vehicles and freight for radioactive material, which is a challenging task, as huge volumes of both move across borders each day. Imperial College London’s physicists have developed two devices for detecting nuclear materials.

  • Will North Korea sell its nuclear technology?

    Earlier this month CIA Director Mike Pompeo suggested “the North Koreans have a long history of being proliferators and sharing their knowledge, their technology, their capacities around the world.” My research has shown that North Korea is more than willing to breach sanctions to earn cash. Over the years North Korea has earned millions of dollars from the export of arms and missiles, and its involvement in other illicit activities such as smuggling drugs, endangered wildlife products and counterfeit goods. Still, there are only a handful of cases that suggest these illicit networks have been turned to export nuclear technology or materials to other states.

  • Breaking nuclear deal could bring hacking onslaught from Iran

    If the Trump administration discarded the nuclear deal with Iran, Tehran could retaliate quickly – and inflict considerable damage – by unleashing its increasingly aggressive Iranian hacker army. Cyber-experts who track Tehran’s hackers warn that the attacks might target U.S. power plants, hospitals, airports, and other components of the country’s critical infrastructure. Iran’s current hacking against Western targets is limited almost entirely to commercial espionage and dissident surveillance, but Teheran could quickly redirect its efforts in the event of a rupture of the nuclear pact.