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A small nuclear reactor was definitely the cause of the Russian missile engine explosion

 It can therefore be stated with certainty that the “isotopic source of energy” referred to by Rosatom was a nuclear reactor. 

The Mysterious Explosion of a Russian Nuclear Missile Engine The BESA CENTER. By Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, September 6, 2019 BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,280, September 6, 2019

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The fatal explosion that occurred recently during testing of the Russian Burevestnik nuclear cruise missile raises many questions. Could it have been avoided? Was it a fundamental failure of the ambitious armaments plan declared by President Putin in 2018? Whatever the answers to these questions, the renewed trend toward an unconventional armaments race could deteriorate into a second Cold War.

On August 8, during a test of the nuclear-powered engine of the 9M730 Burevestnik cruise missile (petrel in Russian; nicknamed the SSC-X-9 Skyfall in the West), held on a floating platform in the White Sea near the Nyonoksa missile test site in the far north of Russia, a mysterious explosion occurred that killed eight people. The blast raised questions about the status of a new generation of five advanced weapons introduced by Putin in 2018, of which Burevestnik, described by the Russian president as supersonic and of unlimited range, occupied pride of place.

Five of the eight people killed in the explosion were Rosatom (Russian State Atomiс Energy Corporation) employees, and three more employees were injured. According to the company’s announcement, the disaster occurred while testing an “isotopic energy source for a liquid propulsion system.”

Shortly after the explosion, the weather monitoring agency Roshydromet reported a significant spike in radiation 40 km from the blast site. Also, in the city of Severodvinsk, which is near the explosion site in the Archangelsk district, the radiation level was reported to have jumped to 16 times the normal level. This led the alarmed residents to rush to stock up on iodine, which reduces the effects of radiation exposure.

The initial response of the Russian authorities to the incident was befuddling (if reminiscent of their conduct in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster). Following the blast, residents of the village of Nyonoksa, which is close to the beach and adjacent to the blast site, were told to evacuate immediately – but the order was soon rescinded. Information about the blast was difficult to obtain. …….

According to the DIA (US Army Intelligence), 13 tests of the Burevestnik or its systems have been conducted since 2016, including the August 8 disaster. Only two can be classified as having been relatively successful. In a November 2017 test, a missile was launched from a site in Novaya Zemlya and all missile systems were tested during flight. But the flight lasted only about two minutes, during which the missile went 35 km and then crashed into the Barents Sea. Another test of the missile’s nuclear reactor was carried out in January 2019; according to the Russian news agency TASS, it was a success. …..

The nuclear jet engine sucks air through its nozzle and then compresses and heats it to a very high temperature through the nuclear reactor inside the engine, which is shaped like a hollow cylinder. The air is then emitted sharply outward from the rear, providing the missile with the thrust to move forward.

Rosatom said the failed experiment of August 8 was testing an “isotopic energy source for a rocket engine fueled with liquid fuel.” This negates the possibility that the source of energy applied to the Burevestnik missile is the metallic plutonium-238 isotope, as does the steep jump in the level of radioactivity in the areas near the explosion site. This is because plutonium-238 is not fissionable and therefore cannot be used as fuel for a nuclear reactor. Although this isotope is an alpha radiation emitter, it has very short-range radiation that is stopped after 5 cm of air.

With that said, the isotope’s potent alpha emission renders it usable as a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG). Indeed, it was used by the US space program as an energy source. It can therefore be stated with certainty that the “isotopic source of energy” referred to by Rosatom was a nuclear reactor. The advantage of a nuclear reactor is that it allows a cruise missile to move through the air for a very long time, giving it an essentially unlimited flight range. 

However, the jump in radioactivity in the air near the blast site reduces the likelihood that the nuclear reactor installed in the Burevestnik missile is fueled with enriched uranium, or even highly enriched. It is therefore reasonable to conjecture that the nuclear fuel of the reactor is plutonium-239, which, in addition to being toxic, is radioactive. It is also more suitable for refueling a miniature reactor because its critical mass is five times lower than that of uranium-235, which makes it possible to reduce the reactor’s dimensions.

Moreover, it is possible that the plutonium fuel in the reactor was not metallic but in a saline state, which would further reduce the amount of plutonium needed to fuel it. This hypothesis might explain Rosatom’s reference to “an isotopic source of energy for a liquid-fueled rocket engine.” Rosatom conducts many activities related to the development of molten salt reactors (MSR). These are nuclear fission reactors in which the primary reactor coolant and/or nuclear fuel is a molten salt mixture, and they use plutonium-239 as fuel.

The August 8 rocket engine explosion appears to have been caused by a rapid jump in reactor criticality beyond the permitted level. Nuclear missiles use a liquid-fueled booster rocket to accelerate to a speed that will enable their reactors to operate. There is thus a high probability of failure during the launch phase due to an obstacle hindering synchronization between the rocket’s acceleration and the nuclear reactor system, or – either alternatively or in addition – a failure of the reactor’s criticality control system.

Taking an overall view, it appears we now have a resurgence of an unconventional armaments race between the big powers, at least for purposes of deterrence – a situation that could deteriorate into a second Cold War.

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Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, a BESA Center Research Associate, is an expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology who served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community. https://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/russia-nuclear-missile-engine/

 

September 7, 2019 Posted by | Reference, Russia, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Emigration from Central America is driven by climate change

How climate change is driving emigration from Central America, The Conversation, Miranda Cady Hallett
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Human Rights Center Research Fellow, University of Dayton September 6, 2019
“………. Rising global temperatures, the spread of crop disease and extreme weather events have made coffee harvests unreliable in places like El Salvador. On top of that, market prices are unpredictable.
In the back of the pickup truck that day, we talked about gangs too. There was increasing criminal activity in the town nearby, and some young people in the town were being harassed and recruited. But this was a relatively new issue for the community, layered on top of the persistent problem of the ecological crisis.  …….      situation is reflective of a much broader global phenomenon of people leaving their homes, directly or indirectly due to climate change and the degradation of their local ecosystem. ….

Land and livelihood

Migration from Central America has gotten a lot of attention these days, including the famous migrant caravans. But much of it focuses on the way migrants from this region – especially El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras – are driven out by gang violencecorruption and political upheaval.

These factors are important and require a response from the international community. But displacement driven by climate change is significant too…….

Studies show that displacement often happens indirectly through the impact of climate change on agricultural livelihoods, with some areas pressured more than others. But some are more dramatic: Both Honduras and Nicaragua are among the top 10 countries most impacted by extreme weather events between 1998 and 2017.

Since 2014, a serious drought has decimated crops in Central America’s so-called dry corridor along the Pacific Coast. By impacting smallholder farmers in El SalvadorGuatemala and Honduras, this drought helps to drive higher levels of migration from the region.

Coffee production, a critical support for these countries’ economies, is especially vulnerable and sensitive to weather variations. A recent outbreak of coffee leaf rust in the region was likely exacerbated by climate change.

The fallout from that plague combines with the recent collapse in global coffee prices to spur desperate farmers to give up.

Compounding factor

These trends have led experts at the World Bank to claim that around 2 million people are likely to be displaced from Central America by the year 2050 due to factors related to climate change. Of course, it’s hard to tease out the “push factor” of climate change from all of the other reasons that people need to leave. And unfortunately, these phenomena interact and tend to exacerbate each other……..

For several years now, scholars and legal advocates have been asking how to respond to people displaced by environmental conditions. Do existing models of humanitarian response and resettlement work for this new population? Could such persons be recognized as in need of protection under international law, similar to political refugees?

Among the most complicated political questions is who should step up to deal with the harms of climate change, considering that wealthier countries pollute more but are often shielded from the worst effects. How can responsibility be assigned, and more importantly, what is to be done?
In the absence of coordinated action on the part of the global community to mitigate ecological instability and recognize the plight of displaced people, there’s a risk of what some have called “climate apartheid.” In this scenario – climate change combined with closed borders and few migration pathways – millions of people would be forced to choose between increasingly insecure livelihoods and the perils of unauthorized migration.  https://theconversation.com/how-climate-change-is-driving-emigration-from-central-america-121525?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20September%206%202019%20-%201403413223&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20September%206%202019%20-%201403413223+CID_a3ca619b732b0adcb04969116dc

September 7, 2019 Posted by | climate change, SOUTH AMERICA | 1 Comment

Elizabeth Warren is vowing to wean the country off nuclear power if elected president

Elizabeth Warren Says ‘No’ to Nuclear Power: Campaign Update, Yahoo Finance, Ari Natter September 5, 2019  (Bloomberg) — Elizabeth Warren is vowing to wean the country off nuclear power if elected president, joining a number of candidates who say the risks outweigh the benefit of the carbon free electricity source.

“The problem is it’s got a lot of risks associated with it, particularly the risks associated with the spent fuel rods,” Warren said during a presidential forum on climate change hosted by CNN. “In my administration we are not going to build any new nuclear power plants.”

Warren’s remarks come as Democratic candidates split over their support for the power source, which has drawn opposition from progressives and some environmental groups who have qualms over nuclear waste storage and mining uranium for fuel. Other candidates who either want to phase out the use of the fuel or stop the construction of new plants include Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Pete Buttigieg, and Julian Castro.

Joe Biden, the Democratic race’s front-runner, has called for funding new nuclear technologies.

Sanders says U.S. Shouldn’t Fund Coastal Rebuilds (10:14 p.m.)

It’s “pretty stupid” to keep giving coastal residents federal money to rebuild homes in areas with repeated natural disasters, Senator Bernie Sanders said at a nationally televised climate town hall…… https://finance.yahoo.com/news/harris-sets-10-trillion-climate-100000578.html

September 7, 2019 Posted by | election USA 2020 | Leave a comment

China grapples with problem of its growing nuclear wastes

some analysts and many members of the public remain sceptical about whether it is really safe.

China earmarks site to store nuclear waste deep underground

Researchers will conduct tests at the location in Gansu to see whether it will make a viable facility to store highly radioactive waste safely
Scientists say China has the chance to become a world leader in this field but has to find a way to ensure it does not leak, SCMP, Echo Xie   September 06, 2019  China has chosen a site for an underground laboratory to research the disposal of highly radioactive waste, the country’s nuclear safety watchdog said on Wednesday.

Officials said work would soon begin on building the Beishan Underground Research Laboratory 400 metres (1,312 feet) underground in the northwestern province of Gansu.

Liu Hua, head of the National Nuclear Safety Administration, said work would be carried out to determine whether it was possible to build a repository for high-level nuclear waste deep underground. ……..   [China] needs to find a safe and reliable way of dealing with its growing stockpiles of nuclear waste. …..

Some Chinese scientists said the country had the chance to lead the world in this area of research but others have expressed concerns about safety. ……

Despite broad scientific support for underground disposal, some analysts and many members of the public remain sceptical about whether it is really safe.

Lei Yian, an associate professor at Peking University’s school of physics, said there was no absolute guarantee that the repositories would be safe when they came into operation…….

China is also building more facilities to dispose of low and intermediate-level waste. Officials said new plants were being built in Zhejiang, Fujian and Shandong, three coastal provinces that lack disposal facilities.

At present, two disposal sites for low and intermediate-level waste are in operation in Gansu and Guangdong provinces. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3025903/china-earmarks-site-store-nuclear-waste-deep-underground

 

September 7, 2019 Posted by | China, wastes | Leave a comment

Meet the religious peace activists – ready for 25 years in gaol!

Defying the Nuclear Sword,  National policy, especially for the world’s dominant superpower, is based on the threat of unrelenting force. Common Dreams , by  Robert C. Koehler    6 Sept 19, 

“. . . and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

These lost words — Isaiah 2:4 — are nearly 3,000 years old. Did they ever have political traction? To believe them today, and act on them, is to wind up facing 25 years in prison. This is how far we haven’t come over the course of what is called “civilization.”

Meet the Kings Bay Plowshares 7: Liz McAlister, Steve Kelly, Martha Hennessy, Patrick O’Neill, Clare Grady, Carmen Trotta and Mark Colville. These seven men and women, Catholic peace activists ranging in age from their mid-50s to late 70s, cut open the future, you might say, with a pair of bolt cutters a year and a half ago—actually they cut open a wire fence—and, oh my God, entered the Kings Bay Naval Base, in St. Mary’s, Ga., without permission.

The Kings Bay Naval base, Atlantic home port of the country’s Trident nuclear missile-carrying submarines, is the largest nuclear submarine base in the world.

The seven committed their act of symbolic disarmament on April 4, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Here’s what they did, according to the Plowshares 7 website: “Carrying hammers and baby bottles of their own blood,” they went to three sites on the base—the administration building, a monument to the D5 Trident nuclear missile and the nuclear weapons storage bunkers—cordoned off the bunkers with crime scene tape, poured their blood on the ground and hung banners, one of which contained an MLK quote: “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide.” Another banner read: “The ultimate logic of Trident is omnicide.”

They also spray-painted some slogans (such as “May love disarm us all”), left behind a copy of Daniel Ellsberg’s book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, and, oh yeah, issued an indictment of the U.S. military for violating the 1968 U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed by 190 countries (including the United States).


Article VI
 of the treaty reads: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Then they waited to be arrested.

The plowshares movement has been taking actions like this since 1980. The Kings Bay action was approximately the hundredth.

Three of the seven have been in prison ever since, and the other four, who were able to make bail, have had to wear ankle bracelets, limiting and monitoring their movement. In early August—indeed, between the anniversaries of the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the seven testified at a U.S. District Court hearing in Brunswick, Ga. The charges were not dismissed and their trial date is set for Oct. 21. …… https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/09/05/defying-nuclear-sword

September 7, 2019 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, USA | 1 Comment

County Council rejects plans for transport of Hinkley Point A nuclear wastes through Somerset

Hinkley Point A nuclear waste transport plans refused, BBC, 5 September 2019  Plans to transport nuclear waste through Somerset and store it at Hinkley Point A, have been rejected by the county council.

Magnox, which manages the decommissioned site, applied for permission to bring waste from three UK power stations to the site by road.

But Somerset County Council voted unanimously to refuse the plans.

Magnox said it was disappointed the council had not agreed with the recommendation for approval.

Under current planning conditions, only waste generated on the Hinkley A site – which is currently under construction- can be stored there.

The company had applied to change the rules so it could transport and temporarily store waste from Oldbury in Gloucestershire, Dungeness A in Kent and Sizewell A in Suffolk.

It had wanted to make a total of 46 deliveries of “intermediate waste”, such as used nuclear fuel containers, by road through Bridgwater.

Despite being recommended for approval, the council’s regulation committee voted unanimously to oppose the application.

‘No benefit’

Councillor Simon Coles said approving the plans would send a message that more of the Hinkley A storage facility could become home to waste from other parts of the UK.

Brian Smedley, of Bridgwater Town Council, said the plans would have “no economic, social or environmental benefit” to the town……. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-somerset-49597817

September 7, 2019 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, safety, UK | Leave a comment

Safety and security preparations for remote Prevek as floating nuclear power plant enters East Siberian Sea

As floating nuclear power plant enters East Siberian Sea, emergency services in Pevek make a last check Final preparations in the remote Arctic town that will host the floating nuclear installation. Barents Observer, By  Atle Staalesen, September 06, 2019, 

The «Akademik Lomonosov» on the 6th September passed the Sannikov Strait south of the New Siberian Islands and made it into the East Siberian Sea. The floating installation now has only about 3 days left of its extensive voyage across the Northern Sea Route.

According to the Northern Sea Route Administration, the installation and its accompanying vessels are due to arrive in Pevek on the 9th of September.

The «Akademik Lomonosov» on 23rd August set out of the Kola Bay after more than a year of preparations in Murmansk. Towed by icebreaker «Dikson» and accompanied by support ships «Yasnyy» and «Kapitan Martyshkin», the floating power plant had course for the Barents Sea and subsequently made it through the Kara Sea and Laptev Sea.

The voyage from Murmansk to Pevek is about 4,700 km long.

Is Pevek ready?

The formerly desolate town with a population of about 4,200 has been under preparations for years. Visits by federal officials and inspectors have been numerous…….

According to the ministry, a special fire- and rescue department is under construction on site. When completed, the unit can ultimately serve as base for a bigger Arctic rescue center.

On site are also a big number of representatives of nuclear power company Rosatom that be the ones that run the plant…….

Outsourced security

Also law-enforcement authorities are on site preparing to keep an eye on the new strategic object. It is Rosgvardia, the Russian National Guard, that has been commissioned to protect the power plant and its surroundings.

According to the security service, the formation of guarding units were in late August about to be completed and training was ongoing in cooperation with representatives of Rosatom.

Rosgvardia has decided to outsource the protection of the «Akademik Lomonosov» to what it calls «sub-units of non-governmental security.»  The decision to outsource the job has been taken by Rosgvardia Director Viktor Zolotov, the security service informs.

Big risks

The «Akademik Lomonosov» has two KLT40S reactors and will provide heat and electricity to Pevek for the next 12 years. After that, it will have to be towed back either to Rosatomflot’s base in Murmansk, or to a shipyard like in Severodvinsk for unloading the spent nuclear fuel and carry out other maintenance work.

Environmentalists have criticized the project and warned against possible major risks.

Environmental organization Greenpeace has described the project as a “nuclear Titanic” or a “Chernobyl on ice”.  «We are sure it has been built not to cover the needs of Chukotka, but as a working model for possible foreign customers,» says Rashid Alimov, nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace in Moscow told the Barents Observer.
«We think floating nuclear plants are simply a too risky and too expensive way of producing electricity.» https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic-industry-and-energy/2019/09/floating-nuclear-power-plant-enters-east-siberian-sea-emergency

September 7, 2019 Posted by | ARCTIC, Russia, safety | Leave a comment

Vietnamese trainees sue Fukushima firm over nuclear decontamination work

Vietnamese trainees sue Fukushima firm over decontamination work, September 5, 2019 (Mainichi Japan, TOKYO (Kyodo) — Three Vietnamese men on a foreign trainee program in Japan have sued a construction company for making them conduct radioactive decontamination work related to the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture without prior explanation, supporters of the plaintiffs said Wednesday.

The lawsuit, dated Tuesday and filed with a branch of the Fukushima District Court, demanded that Hiwada Co., based in Koriyama in the northeastern Japan prefecture, pay a total of about 12.3 million yen in damages, according to the supporters.

The case is the latest in a string of inappropriate practices under the Japanese government’s Technical Intern Training Program which has been often criticized as a cover for cheap labor.

According to Zentouitsu Workers Union, a Tokyo-based labor union that supports foreign trainees, Hiwada made the plaintiffs conduct decontamination work in the cities of Koriyama and Motomiya in Fukushima Prefecture between 2016 and 2018……. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190905/p2g/00m/0na/014000c

September 7, 2019 Posted by | Japan, Legal | Leave a comment