Nuclear weapons proliferation

  • U.S. cuts budget for nuclear monitoring at foreign ports

    In 2003 the United States decided to install radiation detection equipment in 100 large ports around the world, and train local personnel in using the equipment, so that ship containers could be scanned for nuclear material before the ship left for the United States; so far, equipment has been deployed in forty-two ports; after GAO criticism of the quality of the scanning equipment and of lack of coordination between two similar container scanning programs, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s 2013 budget will be cut by 85 percent, and further installations will be canceled

  • Israel accused of stealing, revealing IAEA Iran-related documents

    Sources within the IAEA complained that Israel, in its zeal to expose Iran’s nuclear-weapons related activities — and, by implication, its attempt to paint the IAEA as slow and indecisive in its scrutiny of Iran’s nuclear activities – has stolen IAEA secret documents about Iran’s nuclear program and, after editing, gave them to the Associated Press

  • IAEA: Iran finished removing evidence of illicit nuclear work at Parchin

    Iran, implausibly, may explain away its uranium enrichment activities by saying it needs the enriched material for civilian reactors and medical research (although the sheer quantities of uranium it enriches bear no relationship to either need); warhead design is done by a few engineers at secret locations; there is one activity – testing of the triggering mechanism for a nuclear bomb – that cannot be explained away (because these triggers do not have any other use) or hidden (because the testing leaves unmistakable traces); Iran has been conducting tests on a triggering mechanism for nuclear warheads at a military base called Parchin, south of Tehran, and has blocked access of UN inspectors to the site; detailed satellite imagery shows that Iran has been engaged in a frantic effort to scrub all evidence related to nuclear weapons testing activity at the military base by demolishing buildings and removing large quantities of soil that might hold traces of illicit nuclear work; the IAEA says that Iran has succeeded in its clean-up effort

  • Nuclear wonder fuel poses serious weapons proliferation risk

    Thorium is being touted as an ideal fuel for a new generation of nuclear power plants, but new study shows that it may pose a serious weapons proliferation risk; experiments to separate protactinium-233 show that it is feasible that just 1.6 tons of thorium metal would be enough to produce eight kilograms of uranium-233, which is the minimum amount required for a nuclear weapon; a nuclear reactor using thorium for fuel could produce that amount of thorium metal in less than a year

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  • Critics: post-Fukushima nuclear power may be safer, but it is still not cost effective

    The Southern Company wants to show its customers that it has learned from the Fukushima disaster in Japan and has protected its nuclear reactors to make sure the same thing does not happen in the United .States’ critics of nuclear power are not convinced – and also, they say, alternative energy sources, such as natural gas, are much cheaper to produce

  • Powerful debugging program to help U.S. nuclear deterrence

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers have used the Stack Trace Analysis Tool (STAT), a highly scalable, lightweight tool to debug a program running more than one million MPI processes on the IBM Blue Gene/Q (BGQ)-based Sequoia supercomputer; LLNL plans to use Sequoia’s impressive computational capability to advance understanding of fundamental physics and engineering questions that arise in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) program to ensure the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent without testing

  • U.S.-Iran tensions rise as Iran tries to disrupt U.S. reconnaissance flights in Gulf

    Tensions between the United States and Iran increase as news emerged last week of an attempt by four Iranian fighter planes, on 1 November, to shoot down a U.S. Predator drone engaged in a surveillance mission over international water in the Persian Gulf

  • Twenty-year anniversary of U.S. last full-scale nuclear test

    The first U.S. nuclear test, code named Trinity, took place in southern New Mexico forty-seven years earlier, on 16 July 1945; in all, the United States conducted 1,030 nuclear tests – the last one, code-named Divider,  took place twenty years ago, on 23 September 1992

  • Two suspected 2010 North Korea nuclear “tests” probably never happened: study

    It is generally accepted that North Korea has carried out at least two nuclear test explosions, in 2006 and 2009, with the second test — thought to be in the range of about two to four kilotons — was five times more powerful than the first; this spring, a Swedish scientist sparked international concern when he said that radioactive particles detected in 2010 showed North Korea had set off at least two small nuclear blasts that year; now, a new paper says the tests likely never took place — or that if they did, they were too tiny to have any military significance

  • Obama will use tough language on Iran in today’s UN speech, but no “red lines”

    President Barack Obama, in his speech later today to the general assembly of the UN, will use harsher language to denounce Iran for its nuclear weapons program; Obama will also repeat the U.S. commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but will stop short of announcing clear red lines which, if Iran crossed them, would trigger a U.S. military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities

  • Power lines to Iran’s enrichment facilities cut, damaging centrifuges

    Iran said that power lines to two of its uranium enrichment facilities, Fordow and Natanz, have been cut by explosions, disrupting enrichment work and causing damage to centrifuges; the head of Iran’s nuclear program said that the ranks of the IAEA may have been infiltrated by “terrorists and saboteurs,” hinting that IAEA personnel may have been behind the sabotage; in the meantime, news emerged of a late-August series of tests the Syrian military conducted with tank- and aircraft-fired systems designed to deliver chemical agents; the tests were conducted in the presence of officers from Iran Revolutionary Guard

  • Thorium to play limited role in U.K. future power supply

    Worldwide, there has for a long time been a sustained interest in the thorium fuel cycle and presently there are several major research initiatives which are either focused specifically on the thorium fuel cycle or on systems which use thorium as the fertile seed instead of U-238; the U.K. National Nuclear Laboratory examined the topic and concluded that thorium has theoretical advantages but that these benefits are often overstated; as a result, thorium fuel cycle at best has only limited relevance to the United Kingdom as a possible alternative plutonium disposition strategy and as a possible strategic option

  • China’s nuclear strategy too risky: experts

    Beijing’s nuclear missiles exist to deter a nuclear first strike on China, and are only to be used in extremis; at the same time, conventional weapons — including missiles with conventional warheads – located on formerly all-nuclear bases must be ready to strike first and hard; targeted enemies and their allies will not immediately be able to distinguish whether any missiles launched from these bases  are conventional or nuclear

  • Serious limitations make boost-phase missile interception impractical

    One of the central elements of President Reagan’s 1983 “Star Wars” ballistic missile defense initiative was boost-phase defense: boost-phase defense systems are intended to shoot down enemy missiles immediately following launch while the rocket engine is still firing; a new congressionally mandated study by the National Research Council study says that to defend against ballistic missile attacks more effectively, the United States should concentrate on defense systems that intercept enemy missiles in midcourse and stop spending money on boost-phase defense systems of any kind

  • Netanyahu cancels security cabinet meeting on Iran after leaks

    Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, scheduled a 2-day marathon meeting of Israel’s security cabinet for Tuesday and Wednesday, with an 8-hour session planned for each day; the 2-day meeting was called for a thorough and comprehensive – and probably decisive — discussion of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and what should Israel do about it; the speakers on Tuesday included the directors of Israel’s military and civilian intelligence agencies; early Wednesday, Netanyahu abruptly canceled the meeting’s second session because of leaks from Tuesday top-secret meeting session appeared in the Israeli press