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Nuclear news – week to 16 November

As in last week. the media continues to be preoccupied with the American presidential situation, and after all, that IS pretty important.  The really big global stories are the global coronavirus and climate change.

Still, nuclear issues continue – simmering tensions in nuclear weapons states, and the remarkably co-ordinated promotion of Small Nuclear Reactors to governments around the world, in both rich and developing countries.  The  site will now have to stick to just NUCLEAR news.

 Some bits of good news –          Vaccine Alliance Raises $2 Billion to Buy COVID Shots for Poor Nations. Renewable Energy Defies COVID-19 Downturn To Hit Record Growth in 2020.

Hibakusha renew their push for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Julian Assange ‘targeted as a political opponent of Trump administration and threatened with the death penalty’.

Topics in today’s “Nuclear” headlines on Google News.

JAPAN.   TEPCO claims it is running out of space to store radioactive water and simply must discharge it into the Pacific.  Over one million tons of radioactive water will be discharged into the sea from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Disposal plan all at sea? apan’s nuclear regulator maintains view on Fukushima reactor 3 blastsRadioactive Isotopes Measured at Olympic and Paralympic Venues in Fukushima Prefecture and Tokyo, Japan.

Governor of Miyagi Prefecture approves plan to restart Onagawa nuclear reactor. Japanese govt rules out new nuclear reactors for 10 years.



MIDDLE EAST.  Financial problems, proliferation concerns put the brakes on nuclear development in the Middle East.

EUROPE.  U.S and Russia battling it out to market new nuclear reactors to Eastern Europe countries.
Source: UxC Research.  New European Court of Auditors report has concerns about the EU’s nuclear fusion project.

BELARUS.  Belarus shuts down its newly inaugurated nuclear power plant to replace equipment.

IRAN. Iran’s president calls on Biden to return to nuclear deal.  Iran moderates hail Biden win, but any nuclear talks expected to be fraught.

SOUTH AFRICA. NuScam pushing to sell its ”small” nuclear reactors to South Africa.

INDIA. Nuclear lobby gets its tentacles into education in India

RUSSIA. Putin and officials discuss huge new underground bunker almost completed.   Russia shuts down West Russian nuclear reactor.

CANADA.  Canada’s Greens call on federal government to abandon nuclear and invest in renewables.

AUSTRALIASenate dumps on the Australian government’s radioactive waste plan.


November 16, 2020 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

Topics in today’s “Nuclear” headlines on Google News

There were 81 headlines about nuclear issues (plus a few about other topics, but using the word ”nuclear in the articles’ heading).

The majority  (38)  of the 55 articles about “peaceful ” nuclear reactors, were supporting nuclear power.   The top topics by far were favouring the development of nuclear reactors, and –  (surprise surprise) of Small Nuclear Reactors.  The top reason given – that nuclear power is essential to combat climate change.   In not one of the articles was that assumption challenged or questioned in any way.  Lesser arguments – nuclear power for space exploration, some comforting stories about solving the wastes, fusion, hydrogen, and safety.

There were 9 ‘neutral’articles , mainly on developing nuclear power, with some on Fukshima and wastes, carefully factual only.

8 articles basically opposed nuclear power, mainly against the development of Small Nuclear Reactors, a couple discussed safety and radiation hazards.

26 articles concerned nuclear weapons, mostly dealing with policies. These are generally written in an informative and neutral style. There was only one that seemed in favour of weapons, strongly opposing the UN  Nuclear Ban Treaty.   Despite that general neutral style, there is often a subtle undertone that the weapons of Western countries are OK, but those of Russia, China, North Korea  are not acceptable.

In the 10 articles deploring nuclear weapons, there was much feeling, individual stories, and a consideration of the human consequences for weapons workers,  ”downwinders”, and victims of nuclear bombing.

November 16, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, media | Leave a comment

Relentless lobbying by Small Nuclear Reactor companies still doesn’t make them economic or safe

Telegraph 14th Nov 2020  ”………Rolls-Royce, via a relentless lobbying campaign over the past few years, seems to have convinced the Government that its “mini-nukes” project is a runner. It claims billions are needed from taxpayers to underpin investment in a new production line that will reduce the costs and risks compared with bespoke new reactors such as the £22bn monster at Hinkley Point C.

There are plenty of reasons to be sceptical that even with its nuclear submarine experience, Rolls and its partners can pull it off. The technology is unproven anywhere and – as anti-nuclear campaigners argue – more reactors inevitably mean more potential points of failure. Nuclear power has a poor record of delivering its budgets too…….”

November 16, 2020 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | Leave a comment

American universities in the US nuclear weapons complex

US universities should reject, not invest in, nuclear weapons  Schools of mass destruction

American universities in the US nuclear weapons complex

An ICAN report

Universities across the United States are identified in this report for activities ranging from directly managing laboratories that design nuclear weapons to recruiting and training the next generation of nuclear weapons scientists. Much of universities’ nuclear weapons work is kept secret from students and faculty by classified research policies and undisclosed contracts with the Defense Department and the Energy Department.  The following is the executive summary from ICAN’s report: Schools of Mass Destruction, with some changes made for timeliness.   Posted on November 15, 2020 by beyondnuclearinternational

Over the next ten years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates U.S. taxpayers will pay nearly $500 billion to maintain and modernize their country’s nuclear weapons arsenal, or almost $100,000 per minute. A separate estimate brings the total over the next 30 years to an estimated $1.7 trillion. In a July 2019 report, National Nuclear Security Administrator Lisa Gordon-Haggerty wrote, “The nuclear security enterprise is at its busiest since the demands of the Cold War era.”

In addition to large amounts of funding, enacting these upgrades requires significant amounts of scientific, technical and human capital. To a large extent, the U.S. government and its contractors have turned to the nation’s universities to provide this capital.

At the same time, the United States is shirking its previous commitments to nuclear arms control and reducing nuclear risks despite its obligation under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to pursue good-faith measures towards nuclear disarmament.

In August 2019, the United States officially withdrew from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, testing a treaty-prohibited missile shortly thereafter. The Trump Administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review expanded the circumstances under which the United States would consider the first use of nuclear weapons and called for the development of two new sea-based low-yield nuclear weapon systems.

Internationally, many member states of the United Nations have recognized the devastating humanitarian and environmental impacts of nuclear weapons: debating, adopting, signing and now ratifying the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Despite these debates, U.S. universities have continued to build connections to the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. Although students and faculty have opposed university participation in nuclear weapons research and development at various points in the last 70 years, such participation continues.

Universities involve themselves in the nuclear weapons complex through the four channels listed below. In return for this engagement, universities receive funding, access to research facilities, and specific career opportunities for students.

1) Direct Management

A handful of universities directly manage nuclear weapons related activities on behalf of the federal government, retaining contracts worth billions of dollars per year collectively. These include the University of California, Texas A&M University, Johns Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Rochester.

2) Institutional Partnerships

Many of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) sites advertise collaborative agreements with local and national universities. These formal agreements allow the institutions to cooperate on research and share personnel and expertise. They can also provide university researchers access to funding and advanced facilities in the NNSA laboratories. The report highlights more than 30 such agreements with schools in 18 states.

3) Research Programs and Partnerships

In addition to formal institutional partnerships, numerous connections exist between universities and the nuclear weapons complex at the research project level. In a report delivered to Congress in July 2019, the NNSA highlights that more than $65 million in grants were delivered to academic institutions in the last year to support stockpile stewardship. When including grants and subcontracts from the NNSA labs as well, the total amount of funding to universities for research may be higher than $150 million per year.

4) Workforce Development Programs

Former Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry has written that finding “the next generation workforce of world-class scientists, engineers and technicians is a major priority.” Through university partnerships, vocational training programs and research fellowships, the NNSA creates employment pipelines for the development of its future workforce.

A primary goal of this report is to facilitate a shared understanding of university connections to nuclear weapons research and development. A common factual basis will help communities of university faculty, students and administrations engage in robust internal debates and take action. Universities would not willingly participate today in the production of chemical and biological weapons; for the same humanitarian reasons, no university should seek an association with the other category of weapons of mass destruction: nuclear weapons.

While American universities have played a key role in the development and continuation of nuclear weapons, they can now join U.S. cities and states that have rejected U.S. nuclear weapons and called on the federal government to support nuclear reductions and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In light of the research presented,  this report offers the following recommendations to universities:


• Provide greater transparency into connections with the nuclear weapons complex;

• Stop directly managing nuclear weapons production sites and dissolve research contracts solely related to nuclear weapons production;

• For contracts with dual-purpose research applications, demand greater transparency and create specific processes for ethical review of this research;

• Advocate for reinvestment of weapons activities funding to non-proliferation and environmental remediation efforts; and

• Join cities and state legislatures in urging the federal government to support the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and reverse course on nuclear arms control backsliding.

See the full list of universities.

The above is the Executive Summary of ICAN’s report on US Universities. Read the full report. Beyond Nuclear is a member of ICAN.

November 16, 2020 Posted by | Education, USA | Leave a comment

The human impact of ”Trinity” and a thousand other nuuclear bomb tests on American soil

November 16, 2020 Posted by | health, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The nuclear perils of Trump’s last days

Caligula Goes Covid: Nuclear Perils of Trump’s Last Days,   Modern Diplomacy  November 15, 2020, By Prof. Louis René Beres

“The air tonight is as heavy as the sum of human sorrows.”-Albert Camus, Caligula

It is no longer just hyperbole. Still armed with nuclear weapons, a conspicuously deranged American president may be willing to do anything to cling to power. And if that willingness should appear futile, Donald J. Trump could conceivably prefer apocalypse to “surrender.”[1]

Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers. “I believe because it is absurd.” In these presumptively final days of the Trump presidency, an impaired or irrational nuclear command decision remains possible. Though nothing can  be determined about the true mathematical probability of any such once unimaginable scenario,[2] there are increasingly compelling reasons for concern. One of these reasons is Mr. Trump’s bizarre eleventh-hour shakeup at the Department of Defense.

 Americans have let these urgent matters drift too long. Nonetheless, despite evident lateness of the hour, a summarizing query must finally be raised: Should this visibly impaired president still be allowed to decide when and where to launch American nuclear weapons? This is not a silly or trivial question.

In the early days of the Nuclear Age, when strategic weapon-survivability was still uncertain, granting presidential authority for immediate firing command was necessary to ensure credible nuclear deterrence. Today, however, when there no longer exists any reasonable  basis to doubt America’s durable second-strike nuclear capability (sometimes also called an “assured destruction” or undiminished retaliatory capability), there remains no good argument for continuing to grant the  president (any president) such potentially problematic decisional authority.

More general questions should now also be raised.

In our expansively imperiled democracy, ought any American president be permitted to hold such precarious life or death power over the entire country?

Inter alia, could such an allowance still be consistent with a Constitutional  “separation of powers?”

Can anyone reasonably believe that such existential power could ever have been favored by America’s Founding Fathers?

The correct answers are apparent, obvious and starkly uncomplicated.

We can readily extrapolate from Articles I and II of the Constitution that the Founders had  profound concern about Presidential power long before the advent of nuclear weapons. This concern predates even any imagination of apocalyptic warfare possibilities.[3]  So what next?…………………..

At this grievous point in America’s Trump-created declension, anything seems possible.

History deserves pride of place. Soon, any such disregard for plausible national harms could prove unconscionable. In the chaotic 1st century CE, long before political democracy could ever seem sustainable[12] and long before nuclear weapons, Roman Emperor Caligula revealed the overwhelmingly lethal costs of barbarous governance.

Today, a democratically defeated American president, clinging wrongfully to political power and expressing this egregious dereliction during a period of “plague,” could produce even less bearable costs.  At that nation-destroying point, the “air would be as heavy as the sum of human sorrows.”

History may not repeat itself, observed Mark Twain, “but it often rhymes.” Donald J. Trump may not be quite as decadent or depraved as Caligula,  but he may not be that far removed either. Credo quia absurdum, warned the ancient Romans. “I believe because it is absurd.”

Donald J. Trump is not Caligula, but he is a sinister stain upon the integrity and survival of the United States.

November 16, 2020 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

We should require a second voice when it comes to ordering first use of nuclear arms

A Nuclear Strike Should Require More than One Person’s Order.   We should require a second voice when it comes to ordering first use of nuclear arms. Defense One,        BY STEVEN PIFER    FELLOW, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, NOVEMBER 12, 2020.    Donald Trump has proven to be volatile, erratic, vengeful and prone to angry outbursts. Last week, as the vote count pushed his reelection bid out of sight, he reportedly fell into a dark mood. At the time, Mr. Trump had—and now has—sole authority to order the launch of U.S. nuclear weapons, just as he had in October, when his medications for COVID had side effects including mania, euphoria and a sense of invulnerability.

Do we want Mr. Trump, or any president, alone making the most consequential decision that an American president likely would ever make?
As a Foreign Service officer working on arms control, I had the opportunity to get close to nuclear weapons on three occasions. One involved viewing, through a thick, shatter-proof window, two technicians working on a warhead for a Trident ballistic missile. Our escort noted that, should one leave the room, the other would also have to leave. A “two-man” rule applied around nuclear weapons.

Another time, on a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, our group saw a nuclear-armed cruise missile in its canister with an attached cable. Ship’s officers explained that, if the canister moved slightly, alarms would sound and other sailors would quickly arrive, some with weapons. A “two- (or more) man” rule applied.

The third time, on board an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine at sea, I was offered the chance to climb into a Trident missile (yes, that is possible, and yes, I did). When the hatch to the missile was open, standard protocol provided for the presence of two armed sailors. Again, the “two-man” rule.

As a Foreign Service officer working on arms control, I had the opportunity to get close to nuclear weapons on three occasions. One involved viewing, through a thick, shatter-proof window, two technicians working on a warhead for a Trident ballistic missile. Our escort noted that, should one leave the room, the other would also have to leave. A “two-man” rule applied around nuclear weapons.

Another time, on a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, our group saw a nuclear-armed cruise missile in its canister with an attached cable. Ship’s officers explained that, if the canister moved slightly, alarms would sound and other sailors would quickly arrive, some with weapons. A “two- (or more) man” rule applied.

The third time, on board an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine at sea, I was offered the chance to climb into a Trident missile (yes, that is possible, and yes, I did). When the hatch to the missile was open, standard protocol provided for the presence of two armed sailors. Again, the “two-man” rule.

At only one level does the “two-man” rule not apply: the president, as commander-in-chief, has sole authority to order the use of U.S. nuclear arms. There is not even a requirement that the president consult someone. The always nearby “football” carries the briefing materials, codes and communications allowing the president to launch nuclear weapons. Were the president give the order, the system would rapidly transmit it. Intercontinental ballistic missiles could blast out of their silos within minutes.

If nuclear weapons are used first against America or its allies, it makes sense to allow the president sole authority to order a nuclear response. However, current U.S. policy envisages the possibility that the United States would use nuclear weapons first, perhaps in a conventional conflict that goes badly or in response to a non-nuclear strategic attack. (Whether U.S. first use makes sense is a separate question.)

When President-elect Biden takes office, we can breathe easier. Nothing guarantees, however, that a future president might not have something more like Mr. Trump’s temperament—and he reportedly is mulling a 2024 run.

We should require a second voice when it comes to ordering first use of nuclear arms………..

November 16, 2020 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Quite a lot of hurdles for NuScam’s Utah project, and only 27 of UAMPS members signed up

November 16, 2020 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Putin and officials discuss huge new underground bunker almost completed


Putin Reveals Existence Of New Nuclear Command Bunker
Russia already has two very large bunker complexes built underneath mountains, including one housing a key nuclear doomsday command system. The Drive,  BYJOSEPH TREVITHICK NOVEMBER 11, 2020,   T
he Kremlin has released an unusual transcript of a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and senior defense and other government officials, as well as representatives of Russia’s defense industries, regarding the modernization of the country’s nuclear command and control infrastructure. In it, among other things, Putin disclosed that work on a new hardened strategic command post, possibly a deeply buried underground bunker, is nearing completion.

Putin held the meeting in Sochi on Nov. 11, 2020. Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu and Russian Army General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the country’s military, were also in attendance, among others. The day before, the Russian President had held another meeting, which touched on the country’s general nuclear deterrence policy, where he indicated that he would only authorize a nuclear strike in response to one against Russia. This apparent declaration of a so-called “no first use” policy would seem to conflict with previous official statements in recent years.

“It is absolutely clear that the combat capability of the nuclear triad, and the capability of the army and navy on the whole to adequately and quickly respond to potential military challenges directly depend on the stability, effectiveness and reliability of these systems under any circumstances,” Putin said at the Nov. 11 gathering. “I would like to point out that a great deal has been done during the past few years to maintain all the command elements of our strategic nuclear forces at the highest possible level.”……..

It’s not completely clear from these comments whether Putin was talking about an entirely new facility or the refurbishment, improvement, and/or expansion of an existing one. His remarks about the need to protect the overall command and control infrastructure against any threats, including a nuclear attack, strongly point to the site he’s talking about being deeply buried underground bunker of some kind. Russia already understood to have two sites that would match this general description, one at Kosvinsky Kamen in the Northern Ural Mountains and another under Mount Yamantau in the Southern Ural Mountains.

The construction of both sites reportedly began in the late 1970s. It’s worth noting that no facility on earth is totally survivable in the face of strikes by modern nuclear weapons, but deeply buried sites offer probably the best possible defense. As such, the Soviets and the United States both, among others, invested heavily in such bunker complexes during the Cold War, ………

Kosvinsky Kamen, at least some portions of which are believed to be buried under around 1,000 feet of solid granite, is probably the better known of the two, due to its connection to a semi-automated nuclear command and control system first developed under the Soviet Union called Perimeter. This system was long described as a “dead hand” doomsday machine akin to the fictional one in Stanley Kubrick’s famous Cold War black comedy film Dr. Strangelove that could carry out an entirely automatic retaliatory launch of Russian nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) after an attack.

More recent reporting has indicated that actual humans, who could be pre-authorized in a crisis to launch nuclear strikes if certain conditions were met, were still very much involved in the operation of Perimeter and operated its central components from within the Kosvinsky Kamen complex. That being said, reports still indicate that this main Perimeter bunker was like something you’d find in a villain’s lair in a James Bond movie………

Less is known about the facility at Mount Yamantau, which reportedly lies, at least in part, under some 3,000 feet of rock, primarily made up of quartz, and has been said to be absolutely massive, encompassing an area “as big as the Washington area inside the Beltway,” or around 400 square miles. The complex is situated within Mezhgorye, which is what is known in Russia as a closed town, where only authorized individuals are allowed to live and work………

President Donald Trump’s Administration also announced in 2018 that it had decided to maintain an operational stockpile of B83-1 nuclear gravity bombs, which have very large yields, reported to be around 1.2 megatons, as an alternative nuclear means of striking at especially hardened facilities. These weapons had previously been slated for retirement……..

It is worth noting that there are understood to be at least two underground bunker complexes in Moscow, one under the Kremlin and another nearby, similar to ones in Washington, D.C., plus to more nearby in the Russian capital’s suburbs, but these are nowhere near as deeply buried as the ones at Kosvinsky Kamen and Mount Yamantau. In 2016, there was also a report that Russia was building “dozens” of new bunkers under the Kremlin and elsewhere to support its nuclear command and control infrastructure……

November 16, 2020 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

International leading experts opt for 100 per cent renewables and reject nuclear power 

Leading experts opt for 100 per cent renewables and reject nuclear power

The undersigned believe that a future based on 100 per cent renewable energy underpinned by traditional and advanced energy efficiency and storage techniques is not only practicable, affordable, but immensely preferable to one that involves nuclear power. Renewable energy offers us a rapid path to net zero carbon transition that, unlike nuclear power, does not involve the need for decommissioning of radioactive plant, nuclear waste or concerns about safety or security threats. With this in mind we regard the prospect of the Government effectively offering unlimited sources of funding to EDF to build Sizewell C nuclear power plant with dismay and urge people to send in their objections to their MPs at this prospect.

  • Dr David Toke, Director, 100percentrenewableuk,

also Reader in Energy Politics, University of Aberdeen.

  • Jonathon Porritt,

Founder, Director and Trustee, Forum for the Future
Co-Director of the Prince of Wales’s Business & Sustainability Programme

  • Professor Tom Burke
  • Founding Director of E3G
    • Professor Peter Strachan

    The Robert Gordon University
    Aberdeen Business School

    • Dr Paul Dorfman

    Founder and Chair Nuclear Consulting Group
    Honorary Senior Research Associate UCL Energy Institute

    • Professor Bryan Wynne,
    • Professor of Science Studies and Research Director of the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change
      • Professor Andrew Stirling,

      Professor of Science and Technology Policy,

      University of Sussex

      • Professor David Elliott,

      Technology Policy Group

    • The Open University
      • Professor Stephen Thomas,

      Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU)

      University of Greenwich

      • Professor Mark Jacobson,

      Director of Atmosphere/Energy Program,

    • Stanford University (USA)
      • Professor Christian Breyer,

      Lappeenranta University of Technology (Finland)

      • Shaun Burnie

      Independent Nuclear Consultant

      • Dr Ian Fairlie,
      • Vice President CND
        • Pete Wilkinson

        Chairman, Together Against Sizewell C (TASC)

        • Dr Philip Johnstone

        Research Fellow
        Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU)

November 16, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Julian Assange ‘targeted as a political opponent of Trump administration and threatened with the death penalty’

Julian Assange ‘targeted as a political opponent of Trump administration and threatened with the death penalty’ Evening Standard. By Tristan Kirk. @kirkkorner

09 September 2020,   Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been targeted as a “political opponent” of President Trump’s administration and threatened with the death penalty, the Old Bailey heard today.

Professor Paul Rogers, a lecturer in peace studies at Bradford University and specialist on the ‘War on Terror’, said Assange’s opinions put him “in the crosshairs” of Trump’s top team.

Giving evidence to Assange’s extradition hearing this morning, he said he believes the prosecution case is part of a drive in the United States to target “dissenters”.

“In my opinion Mr Assange’s expressed views, opinions and activities demonstrate very clearly ‘political opinions’”, he told the court.

“The clash of those opinions with those of successive US administrations, but in particular the present administration which has moved to prosecute him for publications made almost a decade ago, suggest that he is regarded primarily as a political opponent who must experience the full wrath of government, even with suggestions of punishment by death made by senior officials including the current President.”………

Professor Rogers, in his witness statement, said Assange’s work involved exposing secrets that the US government wanted to keep hidden, he had been in conflict with the Obama administration, but there was “no question” that Assange had been targeted as a political opponent by Trump’s officials.

“The opinions and views of Mr Assange, demonstrated in his words and actions with the organisation WikiLeaks over many years, can be seen as very clearly placing him in the crosshairs of dispute with the philosophy of the Trump administration”, he said.

Assange’s legal team argue that a decision was taken under President Obama not to prosecute the Wikileaks activist, but that move was overturned under Trump.

November 16, 2020 Posted by | civil liberties, Legal, politics, USA | Leave a comment

The USA devised an apocalyptic nuclear weapon – the Supersonic Low Altitude Missile or SLAM

PROJECT PLUTO: THE CRAZIEST NUCLEAR WEAPON IN HISTORY  SOFREP, by Sandboxx  15 Nov 20,  “…………. Although the destructive force of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been so monstrous that they changed the geopolitical landscape of the world forever, both the U.S. and Soviet Union immediately set about developing newer, even more powerful thermonuclear weapons. Other programs sought new and dynamic delivery methods for these powerful nukes, ranging from ballistic missiles to unguided bombs.Project Pluto and the SLAM Missile

One such effort under the supervision of the U.S. Air Force was a weapon dubbed the Supersonic Low Altitude Missile or SLAM (not to be mistaken for the later AGM-84E Standoff Land Attack Missile). The SLAM missile program was to utilize a ramjet nuclear propulsion system being developed under the name Project Pluto. Today, Russia is developing the 9M730 Burevestnik, or Skyfall missile, to leverage the same nuclear propulsion concept.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin recently pointed out, nuclear propulsion offers practically endless range, and estimates at the time suggested the American SLAM Missile would likely fly for 113,000 miles or more before its fuel was expended. Based on those figures, the missile could fly around the entire globe at the equator at least four and a half times without breaking a sweat.

The unshielded nuclear reactor powering the missile would practically rain radiation onto the ground as it flew, offering the first of at least three separate means of destruction the SLAM missile provided. In order to more effectively leverage the unending range of the nuclear ramjet, the SLAM missile was designed to literally drop hydrogen bombs on targets as it flew. Finally, with its bevy of bombs expended, the SLAM missile would fly itself into one final target, detonating its own thermonuclear warhead as it did. That final strike could feasibly be days or even weeks after the missile was first launched.

Over time, the SLAM missile came to be known as Pluto to many who worked on it, due to the missile’s development through the project with the same name.

The onboard nuclear reactor produced more than 500-megawatts of power and operated at a scorching 2,500 degrees — hot enough to compromise the structural integrity of metal alloys designed specifically to withstand high amounts of heat. Ultimately, the decision was made to forgo metal internal parts in favor of specially developed ceramics sourced from the Coors Porcelain Company, based in Colorado.

The downside to ramjet propulsion is that it can only function when traveling at high speeds. In order to reach those speeds, the SLAM would be carried aloft and accelerated by rocket boosters until the missile was moving fast enough for the nuclear ramjet to engage. Once the nuclear ramjet system was operating, the missile could remain aloft practically indefinitely, which would allow it to engage multiple targets and even avoid intercept.

The nuclear-powered ramjet was so loud that the missile’s designers theorized that the shock wave of the missile flying overhead on its own would likely kill anyone in its path, and if not, the gamma and neutron radiation from the unshielded reactor sputtering fission fragments out the back probably would. While this effectively made the missile’s engine a weapon in its own right, it also made flying the SLAM over friendly territory impossible.

While the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction has since made the launch of just one nuclear weapon the start of a cascade that could feasibly end life on Earth as we know it, Project Pluto’s SLAM Missile was practically apocalyptic in its own right. The nuclear powerplant that would grant the missile effectively unlimited range would also potentially kill anyone it passed over, but the real destructive power of the SLAM missile came from its payload.

Unlike most cruise missiles, which are designed with a propulsion system meant to carry a warhead to its target, Project Pluto’s SLAM carried not only a nuclear warhead, but 16 additional hydrogen bombs that it could drop along its path to the final target. Some even suggested flying the missile in a zig-zagging course across the Soviet Union, irradiating massive swaths of territory and delivering it’s 16 hydrogen bombs to different targets around the country.

Doing so would not only offer the ability to engage multiple targets, but would almost certainly also leave the Soviet populace in a state of terror. A low-flying missile spewing radiation as it passed over towns, shattering windows and deafening bystanders as it delivered nuclear hellfire to targets spanning the massive Soviet Union, would likely have far-reaching effects on morale.

How Do You Test an Apocalyptic Weapon?

Project Pluto’s nuclear propulsion system made testing the platform a difficult enterprise. Once the nuclear reactor onboard was engaged, it would continue to function until it hit its target or expended all of its fuel. Any territory the weapon passed over during flight would be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, limiting the ways and the places in which the weapon’s engine could even be tested.

On May 14, 1961, engineers powered up the Project Pluto propulsion system on a train car for just a few seconds, and a week later a second test saw the system run for a full five minutes. The engine produced 513 megawatts of power, which equated to around 35,000 pounds of thrust — 6,000 pounds more than an F-16’s Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 afterburning turbofan engine with its afterburner engaged.

However, those engine tests were the only large scale tests Project Pluto would ultimately see, in part, because a fully assembled SLAM missile would irradiate so much territory that it was difficult to imagine any safe way of actually testing it.

A weapon That’s Too Destructive to Use

Ultimately, Project Pluto and its SLAM missile were canceled before ever leaving the ground. The cancellation came for a litany of reasons, including the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and the introduction of global strike heavy payload bombers like the B-52 Stratofortress. There were, however, some other considerations that led to the program’s downfall.

Because the SLAM would irradiate, destroy, or deafen anyone and anything it flew over, the missile could not be launched from U.S. soil or be allowed to fly over any territory other than its target nation. That meant the missile could really only be used from just over the Soviet border, whereas ICBMs could be launched from the American midwest and reach their targets in the Soviet Union without trouble.

There was also a pressing concern that developing such a terrible weapon would likely motivate the Soviet Union to respond in kind. Each time the United States unveiled a new weapon or strategic capability, the Soviet Union saw to it that they could match and deter that development. As a result, it stood to reason that America’s nuclear-spewing apocalypse missile would prompt the Soviets to build their own if one entered into service.

Project Pluto and its SLAM missile program were canceled on July 1, 1964

November 16, 2020 Posted by | history, Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Iran moderates hail Biden win, but any nuclear talks expected to be fraught

November 16, 2020 Posted by | Iran, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Federal utility fined $900K for nuclear violations, coverup

Federal utility fined $900K for nuclear violations, coverup, Star Tribune, By TRAVIS LOLLER Associated Press, NOVEMBER 13, 2020
Federal regulators have fined the nation’s largest public utility more than $900,000 for violating procedures during the startup of a Tennessee nuclear reactor and subsequently misleading investigators. Two managers and a plant operator who worked at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Barr Nuclear Plant in Spring City were also issued violations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Howard Hall, director of the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Nuclear Security, said the notice of violation to TVA points to “a systemic problem in management.”

“As someone who has worked in this field essentially my entire life, I would have been appalled to receive such a letter,” Hall said.

In a notice dated Nov. 6, regulators noted a “substantial safety culture issue” at Watts Bar at the time of the incident. They also found that “TVA senior management and staff failed to communicate with candor, clarity, and integrity during several interactions with the NRC during the course of the inspection and investigation.”

According to NRC documents, on Nov. 11, 2015, a shift manager at Watts Bar directed the control room to begin heating up a reactor even though the plant’s usual pressurizer system, which keeps the reactor water from turning to steam, was out of service. When trying to heat up with an alternate system, the pressurizer rapidly began to fill with water. Staff then had to “take actions outside of proper operating procedures” to bring the water level down.

The incident wasn’t recorded in the plant’s logbook and managers later misled NRC investigators about what had happened. ………

November 16, 2020 Posted by | incidents, Legal, USA | Leave a comment