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USA jet -with 4 nuclear bombs on board – crashed in Greenland 50 years ago

50 years ago, a US military jet crashed in Greenland – with 4 nuclear bombs on board   The Conversation, Timothy J. Jorgensen
Director of the Health Physics and Radiation Protection Graduate Program and Associate Professor of Radiation Medicine, Georgetown University  January 18, 2018     
Fifty years ago, on Jan. 21, 1968, the Cold War grew significantly colder. It was on this day that an American B-52G Stratofortress bomber, carrying four nuclear bombs, crashed onto the sea ice of Wolstenholme Fjord in the northwest corner of Greenland, one of the coldest places on Earth. Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, and the Danes were not pleased.
The bomber – call sign HOBO 28 – had crashed due to human error……
 The Thule crash revealed that the United States had actually been routinely flying planes carrying nuclear bombs over Greenland, and one of those illicit flights had now resulted in the radioactive contamination of a fjord.

The radioactivity was released because the nuclear warheads had been compromised. The impact from the crash and the subsequent fire had broken open the weapons and released their radioactive contents, but luckily, there was no nuclear detonation.

To be specific, HOBO 28’s nuclear weapons were actually hydrogen bombs. As I explain in my book, “Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation,” a hydrogen bomb (or H-bomb) is a second-generation type of nuclear weapon that is much more powerful than the two atomic bombsdropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two bombs were “fission” bombs – bombs that get their energy from the splitting (fission) of very large atoms (such as uranium and plutonium) into smaller atoms.

In contrast, HOBO 28’s bombs were fusion bombs – bombs that get their energy from the union (fusion) of the very small nuclei of hydrogen atoms. Each of the four Mark 28 F1 hydrogen bombs that HOBO 28 carried were nearly 100 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima (1,400 kilotons versus 15 kilotons).

Fusion bombs release so much more energy than fission bombs that it’s hard to comprehend. For example, if a fission bomb like Hiroshima’s were dropped on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., it’s likely that the White House (about 1.5 miles away) would suffer little direct damage. In contrast, if just one of the Mark 28 F1 hydrogen bombs were dropped on the Capitol building, it would destroy the White House as well as everything else in Washington, D.C. (a destructive radius of about 7.5 miles). It is for this reason that North Korea’s recent claim of achieving hydrogen bomb capabilities is so very worrisome.

Nuclear Explosion Power Comparison

After the crash, the United States and Denmark had very different ideas about how to deal with HOBO 28’s wreckage and radioactivity. The U.S. wanted to just let the bomber wreckage sink into the fjord and remain there, but Denmark wouldn’t allow that. Denmark wanted all the wreckage gathered up immediately and moved, along with all of the radioactively contaminated ice, to the United States. Since the fate of the Thule Air Base hung in the balance, the U.S. agreed to Denmark’s demands……… https://theconversation.com/50-years-ago-a-us-military-jet-crashed-in-greenland-with-4-nuclear-bombs-on-board-87155

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January 19, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, history, incidents, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

North Korean people have good reason to hate the American government

Why Do North Koreans Hate The American Government,    http://www.ronpaullibertyreport.com/archives/why-do-north-koreans-hate-the-american-governmentBy Liberty Report Staff,5 May 2017

Did you stop for a second and ask yourself why the North Koreans hate the American government?
Could it (maybe) be that the North Koreans hate the American government’s foreign policy?

​The Intercept has provided some startling facts about America’s terrible unconstitutional entry into a foreign Civil War on the other side of the globe in 1950:

How many Americans, for example, are aware of the fact that U.S. planes dropped on the Korean peninsula more bombs — 635,000 tons — and napalm — 32,557 tons — than during the entire Pacific campaign against the Japanese during World War II?

How many Americans know that “over a period of three years or so,” to quote Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, “we killed off … 20 percent of the population”?

Twenty. Percent. For a point of comparison, the Nazis exterminated 20 percent of Poland’s pre-World War II population. According to LeMay, “We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea.”

Every. Town. More than 3 million civilians are believed to have been killed in the fighting, the vast majority of them in the north.

How many Americans are familiar with the statements of Secretary of State Dean Rusk or Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas? Rusk, who was a State Department official in charge of Far Eastern affairs during the Korean War, would later admit that the United States bombed “every brick that was standing on top of another, everything that moved.” American pilots, he noted, “were just bombing the heck out of North Korea.”

Douglas visited Korea in the summer of 1952 and was stunned by the “misery, disease, pain and suffering, starvation” that had been “compounded” by air strikes. U.S. warplanes, having run out of military targets, had bombed farms, dams, factories, and hospitals. “I had seen the war-battered cities of Europe,” the Supreme Court justice confessed, “but I had not seen devastation until I had seen Korea.”

How many Americans have ever come across Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s unhinged plan to win the war against North Korea in just 10 days? MacArthur, who led the United Nations Command during the conflict, wanted to drop “between 30 and 50 atomic bombs … strung across the neck of Manchuria” that would have “spread behind us … a belt of radioactive cobalt.”

Oh there’s more…

Read the whole thing at The Intercept.

January 19, 2018 Posted by | history, North Korea, psychology - mental health, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Remembering the radium girls – pioneers in radiation safety awareness

The legacy of the Radium Girls lives on through the ripples that their deaths created in labor law and our scientific understanding of the effects of radioactivity.
“Almost everything we know about radiation inside the human body, we owe to them,”
Radium Girls: The dark times of luminous watches

Jacopo Prisco, CNN  20th December 2017  A century ago, glow-in-the-dark watches were an irresistible novelty. The dials, covered in a special luminous paint, shone all the time and didn’t require charging in sunlight. It looked like magic.
One of the first factories to produce these watches opened in New Jersey in 1916. It hired about 70 women, the first of thousands to be employed in many such factories in the United States. It was a well-paid, glamorous job.
For the delicate task of applying the paint to the tiny dials, the women were instructed to point the brushes with their lips. But the paint made the watches glow because it contained radium, a radioactive element discovered less than 20 years earlier, its properties not yet fully understood. The women were ingesting it with nearly every brushstroke.
They became known as the “Radium Girls.”.

A miracle cure

Radium was discovered by Nobel laureate Marie Curie and her husband Pierre in 1898. It was quickly put to use as a cancer treatment.
Related:

The color purple: How an accidental discovery changed fashion forever

“Because it was successful, it somehow became an all-powerful health tonic, taken in the same way as we take vitamins today — people were fascinated with its power,” said Kate Moore, author of “The Radium Girls,” in a phone interview………

A slow killer

When ingested, radium is particularly dangerous: “Chemically, it behaves very much like calcium,” said Jorgensen. “Since the body uses calcium to make bone, ingested radium is mistaken for calcium and gets incorporated into bone. So the major health risk of ingesting radium is radiation-induced bone necrosis and bone cancers. How soon they develop depends upon the dose, but at the very high doses that the Radium Girls were exposed to, just a few years.”
The luminous paint, which worked by converting the radiation into light through a fluorescent chemical, was one of the most successful radium-based products. By putting the brushes in their mouths, the Radium Girls were especially at risk — so why did they do it? “Because it was the easiest way to get a fine point on the brush, to paint on numbers as small as a single millimeter in width,” said Moore.
But the girls didn’t embrace this technique blindly. “The first thing they asked was (whether) the paint was harmful, but the managers said it was safe, which was the obvious answer for a manager of a company whose very existence depended on radium paint.”

Not all that glitters

When the luminous watches grew fashionable in the early 1920s, the world was already becoming aware of the risks of radioactivity. But radiation poisoning isn’t immediate, so years went by before any of the workers developed symptoms…….

Radium jaw

In the early 1920s, some of the Radium Girls started developing symptoms like fatigue and toothaches. The first death occurred in 1922, when 22-year-old Mollie Maggia died after reportedly enduring a year of pain. Although her death certificate erroneously stated that she died of syphilis, she was actually suffering from a condition called “radium jaw.” Her entire lower jawbone had become so brittle that her doctor removed it by simply lifting it out. “The radium was destroying the bone and literally drilling holes in the women’s jaws while they were still alive,” said Moore.
Yet it would take another two years before the company that owned the factory, the United States Radium Corporation, took any action at all, through an independent investigation commissioned mostly to investigate the declining business rather than the health of the workers.
In 1925 Grace Fryer, one of the workers from the original New Jersey plant, decided to sue, but she would spend two years searching for a lawyer willing to help her. She finally filed her case in 1927 along with four fellow workers, and made front-page news around the world.
The case, settled in the women’s favor in 1928, became a milestone of occupational hazard law. By this time, the dangers of radium were in full view, the lip-pointing technique was discontinued and the workers were being given protective gear. More women sued, and the radium companies appealed several times, but in 1939 the Supreme Court rejected the last appeal.
The survivors received compensation, and death certificates would start reporting the correct cause of death. The year before, the Food and Drug Administration banned the deceptive packaging of radium-based products. Radium paint itself was eventually phased out and has not been used in watches since 1968.

An enduring legacy

Related:

The game-changing design made to go unnoticed

It’s hard to calculate how many women suffered health problems due to the ingestion of radium, but the certainly number in the thousands, according to Moore. Some of the effects would only be felt much later in life through various forms of cancer. With a half-life of 1,600 years, once the radium was inside the women’s bodies, it was there for good.
The legacy of the Radium Girls lives on through the ripples that their deaths created in labor law and our scientific understanding of the effects of radioactivity. “In the 1950s, during the Cold War, many agreed voluntarily to be studied by scientists, even with intrusive examinations because they had been exposed for prolonged periods of time,” said Moore.
“Almost everything we know about radiation inside the human body, we owe to them,” she said. http://edition.cnn.com/style/article/radium-girls-radioactive-paint/index.html

December 20, 2017 Posted by | history, radiation, USA, women | Leave a comment

In the 1960’s a State Department Study Prevented a Pre-emptive Nuclear Strike on China China

Given the possible disastrous consequences of a nuclear-armed PRC for the United States, both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations discussed the option of launching preventive strikes on Chinese nuclear weapon facilities. Amid these deliberations, a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Policy Planning Council, Robert H. Johnson, compiled two studies arguing that a nuclear China will not significantly alter the military balance of power in Asia and that, as a corollary, the United States would not need to take radical steps, including military action, in the foreseeable future. Johnson’s papers helped to broaden the discussion about possible policy options vis-à-vis China and may have contributed to the United States not launching a preventive attack on Chinese nuclear facilities in the early 1960s.

China: The Rogue State of the 1960s……..

The State Department Responds While Kennedy was considering preventive war against China’s nuclear weapons capability, several U.S. State Department officials grew skeptical about the White House’s alarmism and militancy. The then-head of the State Department’s Policy Planning Council (PPC), Walt Rostow, noted in July 1963 that even if Beijing developed nuclear weapons, its “desire to preserve its nuclear force as a credible deterrent might tend to make China even more cautious than it is today in its encounters with American power.” Rostow’s opinion was influenced by the first draft of a study titled “A Chinese Communist Nuclear Detonation and Nuclear Capability,” compiled by PPC staffer Robert H. Johnson in close cooperation with officials from the Pentagon, the CIA, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the U.S. Information Agency.

A 100-page version of the paper was distributed in October 1963 to select officials. It is unclear, however, whether Kennedy ever saw it. Its conclusion was distinctly non-alarmist. Most importantly, the report concluded that “apart from serving as an additional inhibition on some levels of U.S. attack upon the mainland, a Chinese nuclear capability need impose no new military restrictions on the U.S. response to aggression in Asia (…)” Even intercontinental ballistic missiles would not “eliminate this basic asymmetry.” Furthermore: “The basic military problems we will face are likely to be much like those we face now: military probing operations (…) relatively low-level border wars” and “‘revolutionary wars’ supported by the ChiComs [Chinese Communists].”

In short, the study suggested that the United States pursue status-quo policies vis-à-vis China (“present policies require no change”) anchored on nuclear deterrence.

The Impact

According to the scholars William Burr and Jeffrey T. Richelson, the study had an immediate impact……..

Robert H. Johnson’s reports helped accentuate the reasons against preventive war. They offered U.S. policymakers alternatives to more hawkish views on how to deal with a nuclear China. ……..

Considering the current U.S. administration’s disjointed responses to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and the repeated talk of the possible necessity of military action, getting the government to “sing from the same sheet” on a very complex issue is no minor achievement. Indeed, our best hope may be that somewhere in the D.C. bureaucracy a 21st century incarnation of Johnson can get the ear of a senior administration official with access to U.S. President Donald Trump and offer a nuanced perspective on the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula.

Franz-Stefan Gady is an associate editor at The Diplomat. He tweets @hoanssolohttps://thediplomat.com/2017/10/how-a-state-department-study-prevented-nuclear-war-with-china/

October 27, 2017 Posted by | history, politics international, Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Linus Pauling another great critic of nuclear weapons, winner of Nobel Peace Prize 1962

the life of Linus Pauling
QUOTE:
Pauling was one of the founders of molecular biology in the true sense of the term. For these achievements he was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

But Pauling was famous not only in the world of science. In the second half of his life he devoted his time and energy mainly to questions of health and the necessity to eliminate the possibility of war in the nuclear age. His active opposition to nuclear testing brought him political persecution in his own country, but he was finally influential in bringing about the 1963 international treaty banning atmospheric tests. With the award of the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize, Pauling became the first person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes (Marie Curie won one and shared another with her husband).

QUOTE:
In March 1954, following the Bikini Atoll explosion of a “dirty” thermonuclear superbomb, Pauling was in the news again when he began to call attention to the worldwide danger of radioactive fallout in the atmosphere. In the summer his renewed application for a passport was again turned down, but in November, when his Nobel Prize was announced, the State Department found itself in a public relations dilemma.

The fuss created by Pauling’s absence in London in 1952 would be nothing compared with the international outcry that could be imagined if Pauling were refused permission to travel to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony. So Pauling went to Stockholm, where he was a tremendous success, and followed this by visits to Israel, India, Thailand, and Japan. Everywhere—outside his own country—he was welcomed with enthusiasm, not only for his scientific accomplishments but even more for his political stance.

In the United States, too, the public was becoming increasingly concerned about radioactive fallout, not only from American tests but also from ever more powerful Soviet nuclear explosions. Increasing levels of strontium 90 and carbon 14 made newspaper headlines. Pauling claimed that the increased level of radioactive isotopes in the atmosphere was a danger not only to the living but also to future generations.

The spokesmen on the Atomic Energy Commission countered that, although radiation might be harmful, it was not harmful in the doses produced by the tests and that Pauling vastly exaggerated the dangers. In fact, all the estimates were tentative at best, but since the Atomic Energy Commission was responsible both for developing nuclear weapons and for monitoring the associated health hazards, its estimates were probably no more objective that those who demanded a stop to the tests. Andrei Sakharov (1990) estimated that every one-megaton test cost about 10,000 human lives…..

In 1960 the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS) headed by Senator Thomas Dodd issued a subpoena to Pauling to answer questions about Communist infiltration of the campaign against nuclear testing. At Pauling’s request the hearings were open and they soon turned into a public relations fiasco for Dodd and the SISS. This was partly because the members of the SISS had not done their homework and partly because it gave Pauling the excuse to lecture them about elementary civic rights and duties: “The circulation of petitions is an important part of our democratic process. If it is abolished or inhibited, it would be a step towards a police state.”

By this time public opinion was mostly on Pauling’s side, but the whole affair must have been experienced by him as an emotional strain—and a tremendous waste of his time and energy…..The treaty went into effect on October 10 and the following day Pauling was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1962….. ”

http://www.nasonline.org/…/bi…/memoir-pdfs/pauling-linus.pdf1962

October 23, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, history, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Authorities always knew that nuclear fallout shelters would not work

Nuclear Fallout Shelters Were Never Going to Work, History  // OCTOBER 16, 2017 “…….[IN 1961]  the federal government was devising a way for 50 million Americans to survive a nuclear war by scurrying to the nearest basement. The National Fallout Shelter Survey and Marking Program had begun……….

With North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, pointed west and President Trump’s atomic sabre-rattling, fears of nuclear war have crept slowly back into the public consciousness. If the headlines rekindle some of the old unease about air-raid sirens and mushroom clouds, they’re also an occasion to consider a singular relic of the period that, oddly enough, never left us—the fallout-shelter sign.

Dented and faded now, the Kennedy-era signs still cling to the sides of buildings across the country. “They’re an enduring symbol of the Cold War,” says popular-culture historian Bill Geerhart, who since 1999 has maintained CONELRAD.com, a meticulous chronicling of the duck-and-cover era. “They outlasted everything, including the Berlin Wall. They’re tangible artifacts of that era.” And though their original purpose has vanished, the signs still have much to say. They are the products of an ill-conceived program, designed to appease a population with little faith in that program even working.

Kennedy was privately skeptical about the value of a public shelter program……. While fallout shelters would do nothing to safeguard people from an actual bomb, they would, in the words of JFK’s civil-defense chief Steuart L. Pittman, give “our presently unprotected population some form of protection.”……..
In fact, the untenability of the shelters was public knowledge before they had even opened. A November 1961 story on the front page of The Washington Post bemoaned that most of the designated shelters would be little more than “cold, unpleasant cellar space, with bad ventilation and even worse sanitation.”

Conditions were a serious problem, but location was a bigger one. Two-thirds of the fallout shelters in the U.S. were in “risk areas”—neighborhoods so close to strike targets that they’d likely never survive an attack in the first place. In New York, for example, most of the government shelters could be found in Manhattan and Brooklyn—despite the fact that a 20-megaton hydrogen bomb detonated over Midtown would leave a crater 20 stories deep and drive a firestorm all the way to the center of Long Island. Even out there, Life magazine said, occupants of a fallout shelter “might be barbequed.”……..

Anyone who read the newspapers understood not just that an inbound ICBM would leave them only 15 minutes, if that long, to get to a fallout shelter—but also that few structures in the city would survive a strike anyway. …….

Looking back on the civil-defense program in 1976, The New York Times observed: “the only reminders of fallout shelters [now] are the yellow-and-black signs placed outside buildings.”

That’s where thousands remain to this day—eerie reminders of a tense past that, as recent headlines remind us, feels unwantedly familiar. “They couldn’t have come up with a more ominous symbol,” reflected Eric Green, keeper of the Civil Defense Museum website, whose personal collection of fallout-shelter artifacts includes over 140 signs. “That’s the most ominous looking sign—the black and yellow and those triangles. It looked like exactly what it meant: This is the end.” http://www.history.com/news/nuclear-fallout-shelters-were-never-going-to-work

October 18, 2017 Posted by | history, politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Are the remains of an experimental reactor buried on the Niagara Falls storage site?

A wide range of radioactive material was dumped cavalierly on site during the Second World War and the decades that followed: plutonium, uranium, thorium, cesium, polonium, strontium, and other dangerous materials. On site today, buried with that steel ball, is what is assumed to be irradiated graphite and almost 4,000 tons of radioactive radium-226, the largest repository in the western hemisphere, representing a staggering quantity of radiation.

—isotopes of plutonium, uranium, cesium, polonium, and other elements that are produced only inside nuclear reactors and by nuclear explosions—

It was known as the Radiological Warfare, or RW, program, and under its auspices scientists studied what materials could best be weaponized, what health consequences they would have on an enemy,

The Bomb That Fell On Niagara: The Sphere Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v7n39 (09/24/2008), by Geoff Kelly & Louis Ricciuti

Are the remains of an experimental reactor buried on the Niagara Falls storage site?

This is going to seem complicated and take a long way to get where it’s going. So here’s the gist, right upfront: Possibly, in Lewiston, are buried the remnants of an experimental nuclear reactor dating from the 1940s. This reactor would have been part of a secret program to weaponize poisonous materials—a program with roots in the study of poison gases in the First World War and whose culmination is found today in the use of depleted uranium munitions around the world.

Sure, it sounds like a plot inspired by Dr. Strangelove. But read on.

Amid the radioactive slurry and scrap interred in the 10-acre interim containment facility at the Niagara Falls Storage Site in Lewiston is a curiosity: a hollow industrial steel ball, 38 feet in diameter.

You won’t find that house-sized steel ball on any waste materials manifest, at least not on any manifest released to the public by the US Army Corp of Engineers, which is the site’s caretaker, or the US Department of Energy, which owns the site and the hazardous waste buried there.

The ball exists in aerial photographs taken of the site in the mid 1940s, however, and it appears to have been rediscovered in a 2002 electric resistivity underground imaging study performed by defense contracting giant SAIC.

In those aerial photos, the ball sits some distance from the main cluster of buildings; the nearest structure is a concrete silo, which eventually became a receptacle for high-energy radium wastes, a legacy of local industry’s central role in the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission, which produced the first atomic bombs.

The Army Corps say there is no documentary record of the ball having been removed from the site. And the 2002 electric imaging scans suggest that a steel sphere, 38 feet in diameter, just like the one in the photos, is buried about a quarter mile from the ball’s original location, on the developed portion of a vast, former federal reservation called the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works. The LOOW came online officially in 1942, a 7,500-acre facility cobbled together from farm fields by the Department of War. Its initial use, according to the site’s official history, was a TNT factory. That factory closed, however, after nine months, at the height of the Second World War. The factory and all its infrastructure—miles of massive pipes, a water and power grid sufficient to sustain a city of 100,000 people, dozens of industrial buildings—were declared surplus.

The LOOW’s actual uses have been a mystery, whose plots and subplots have been revealed slowly and grudgingly by an unforthcoming federal government. ……..

Various sectors of the vast compound became dumping grounds for toxic radiological and chemical waste produced in Niagara Falls factories, as well as laboratories and reactors nationwide, working first on the atom bomb project and later on other Atomic Energy Commission and defense- and intelligence-related projects. A wide range of radioactive material was dumped cavalierly on site during the Second World War and the decades that followed: plutonium, uranium, thorium, cesium, polonium, strontium, and other dangerous materials. On site today, buried with that steel ball, is what is assumed to be irradiated graphite and almost 4,000 tons of radioactive radium-226, the largest repository in the western hemisphere, representing a staggering quantity of radiation.

Beginning in 1980, these wastes—originally dumped in open pools, seeping out of corroded barrels, or just piled on open ground—were consolidated by the DOE into a temporary containment structure on the 119-acre Niagara Falls Storage Site.

The existence on the LOOW of particularly exotic transuranics (that is, above uranium on the periodic table) and fission materials—isotopes of plutonium, uranium, cesium, polonium, and other elements that are produced only inside nuclear reactors and by nuclear explosions—has begged an explanation for decades. The Army Corps says that these transuranics and fission materials arrived at the LOOW with waste from the Navy’s Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory near Schenectady. But the waste from Knolls doesn’t explain all the transuranics and fission materials found on the LOOW, according to some experts, and it doesn’t explain how widespread and how much.

That steel sphere buried among this collection of radiological waste suggests another, simpler explanation: Could that steel ball—a Hortonsphere, named for the inventor of the process of its fabrication—been a component in an early model of an experimental ball-and-pile reactor? One in which exotic materials were created or irradiated, all in the service of a federal weapons program that sought to find new and lethal applications of the materials created in Niagara Falls for the Manhattan Project and beyond?

“I’d have to say yes,” says Tedd Weyman, of the Uranium Medical Research Centre, based in Toronto.

Occam’s Razor

Weyman is a physicist and his group, UMRC, studies the effects of uranium, transuranium elements, and radionuclides produced by the process of uranium decay and fission. UMRC is especially interested in the health effects of depleted uranium, whether it enters the environment as a result of munitions use or as waste.

Weyman examined the aerial photographs of the ball and silo, the list of transuranics and fission materials found on site, and the electric imaging scan that seemed to show that same ball from the photos buried alongside radioactive waste. He reviewed documents that describe the history of the LOOW site and of Niagara Falls industry over the past 60 or so years: the metals and chemicals and devices created in nearby factories, the experimental programs undertaken by defense and intelligence agencies beginning in the 1940s. He considered the size of the Hortonsphere, which he said is consistent with a ball reactor, and its placement in relation to the silo, which is consistent with the pile in a ball and pile reactor—that is, the source of the reactor’s “fuel” and critical reactions.

Weyman then listened to the explanations the Army Corps offered for the ball and the transuranics and fission products: that the ball was used to store anhydrous ammonia used in making TNT and the transuranics and fission products came from Knolls. He concluded that an on-site reactor was a far simpler explanation.

“They’re fission products,” Weyman says of the residues found on site…..

On the subject of the history of the LOOW site and the environmental dangers it poses, the Army Corps has been less than reliable when discussing the documentary evidence. In 2000, for example, when offered evidence that plutonium-tainted waste from medical experiments conducted at the University of Rochester had been buried on the LOOW site, the Corps denied such evidence existed. Eventually, they allowed both that the evidence existed and that the plutonium-tainted waste had been found on site…….

Occam’s Razor is the principle that the simplest explanation is most often the correct one. There’s that anomaly, exactly the diameter of the ball in question, which is exactly the size and manufacture of a ball reactor vessel. It is interred alongside radioactive waste. It originally sat near a silo, which once stored radioactive waste; a 1944 photo of the site looks like a photo of a ball and pile reactor of that era. And there are transuranics and fission materials buried nearby, as well as irradiated graphite, whose nature, quantity, and location aren’t completely explained by the Knolls hypothesis.

“If it quacks, is it not a duck?” Weyman says. “It’s quacking pretty loud.”……….

It was known as the Radiological Warfare, or RW, program, and under its auspices scientists studied what materials could best be weaponized, what health consequences they would have on an enemy, how best to deliver and disperse radioactive materials to a battle zone, and how much to use. This research was more secretive, but here too the expertise of local industries proved valuable. In a brochure from the postwar era, Bell Aircraft (later Bell Aerospace) bragged of its research in area weapons: that is, devices that disperse materials across a battlefield. Niagara Sprayer (a.k.a. FMC, the Middleport company that manufactured Agent Orange) created specialized compounds and nozzles for spraying agricultural metals, powders, and insecticides.

And over at the LOOW site, there was a mammoth federal reserve on which exotic radioactive wastes were accumulating.

Bob Nichols, the San Francisco-based writer who came to the same conculsion as Weyman about the ball buried on the NFSS, specializes in the history of this second track of research. He draws a straight line that connects the radiological warfare program to American research into poison gases, such as mustard gas and chlorine gas (both of which were produced in Niagara County), during the First World War; that line passes through the Manhattan Project along the way, and continues to the present-day use of depleted uranium munitions, which release a cloud of poisonous ceramicized uranium particles as a form of gas when they vaporize on impact.

Nichols explains that the first track—the building of more and better nuclear weapons—created vast stores of radiological waste materials. “The question back then was what on earth to do with it,” he said………

Whatever took place on the former LOOW site in the first decades of the Cold War may have evolved and—like so many local industries—moved away. But its legacy is in the dirt, air, and water. It’s interred under that clay cap. It’s in the region’s higher-than-expected rates of cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses. History should matter to the Corps as much as it matters to those who live in its aftermath.

For more documents and photographs related to the article, visit AV Daily at Artvoice.com. http://artvoice.com/issues/v7n39/the_sphere.html

October 16, 2017 Posted by | history, radiation, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Urals nuclear disaster 1957

NUCLEAR DISASTER IN THE URALS. KYSHTYM ACCIDENT  https://sherbrooktimes.com/nuclear-disaster-in-the-urals-kyshtym-accident/12112   

On 29 September 1957 at 16 o’clock on the territory of the chemical plant “Mayak”, which was in the closed city of Chelyabinsk-40 (now Ozersk), was the first in the USSR radiation accident — an explosion of capacity to store radioactive waste. The catastrophe was called the Kyshtym accident — the name closest to Chelyabinsk-40 by city.

The blast occurred in containers, of a capacity of 300 m? because of the failure of the cooling system. In the tank contained a total of about 80 m? highly radioactive nuclear waste. At the time of construction in 1950-ies the strength of the structure is not in doubt. She was in the pit, in a concrete shirt thickness meter.

Cover the container weighed 560 tons, over it was laid a two-meter layer of earth. However, even this failed to contain the explosion.

According to another, unofficial version, the accident occurred due to human error of the plant that in the tank-evaporator with hot plutonium nitrate solution by mistake added a solution of plutonium oxalate. The oxidation of oxalate nitrate allocating a large amount of energy, leading to overheating and explosion of the tank.

During the explosion in the atmosphere were about 20 million curies of radioactive substances, some of which rose to a height of up to two miles, and formed an aerosol cloud.

Over the next 11-12 hours of radioactive fallout on the territory with a length of 300-350 km on northeast from the explosion.

In the area of radioactive contamination got 23 thousand km2 with a population of 270 thousand people in 217 settlements of the Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk and Tyumen regions. During the liquidation of consequences of the accident were required to relocate 23 villages with a population of 10-12 thousand a man, all the buildings, property and livestock were destroyed.

Liquidators were hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians

Only in the first ten days the number of deaths from radiation have gone on hundreds, during the works in varying degrees, suffered 250 thousand liquidators.

According to the international scale of nuclear testing accident was estimated at six points. For comparison, the seventh level, the maximum was rated accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima-1.

To avoid scattering of radiation by government decision was established the sanitary-protective zone in which economic activity was banned. In 1968 this territory was formed of the Eastern Ural state reserve.

It is forbidden to visit — the level of radioactivity is still too dangerous for humans.

October 6, 1957 in the newspaper “Chelyabinsk worker” appeared devoted to his note, in which, however, about the accident not a word was said:

On Sunday night… many residents of Chelyabinsk watched the special glow of a starry sky. It’s pretty rare in our latitudes, the glow had all the signs of the Aurora. Intense red, time moves to slightly pink and light blue glow first covered a large part of the South-Western and North-Eastern surface of the firmament. About 11 o’clock it was possible to observe in the North-Western direction… In the sky appeared a relatively large colored area and the quiet lanes that had at the last stage of lights North-South direction. The study of the nature of the Aurora, has begun Lomonosov continues in our days. Modern science has confirmed the basic idea of the University, that the Aurora occurs in the upper layers of the atmosphere by electrical discharges of the Aurora…… can be observed in the future at the latitudes of the southern Urals”.

Kyshtym accident has long been a state secret. For the first time openly about her was said in a shot at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, the film Director and biologist Elena Sakanyan, dedicated to the fate of Soviet genetics and biologist Nikolai Timofeev-Ressovsky.

The films were shown on television only after Sakanyan directly asked about the show to Boris Yeltsin.

But in the foreign press leaked the information in April 1958. For the first time about the accident said one of the Copenhagen Newspapers. Subsequently, information about the accident appeared in the report of the National laboratory, USA, biologist Zhores Medvedev dedicated incident book entitled “Nuclear disaster in the Urals”, published in the US, an analysis of the causes of the accident and its causes held by a group of American scientists from the atomic center at oak ridge.

“About the explosion at the “Mayak” for long periods of time, the public knew almost nothing. Later, for some reason, the accident was replicated in the media as the “Kyshtym accident”.

In Kyshtym on this occasion, even recently, was the obelisk, although the city to this event is irrelevant.

And the East-Ural radioactive trail, formed after 1957, did not affect Cistema and its residents,” — said in an interview in 2009, one of its liquidators.

Only the “Lighthouse” there were more than 30 incidents of radioactive emissions and human victims.

October 4, 2017 Posted by | history, Reference, Russia | Leave a comment

Controversy lives on, 10 years after the death of Edward Teller – the “father of the hydrogen bomb”

Edward Teller: the Real-Life Dr. Strangelove https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/zm3wej/edward-teller-the-real-life-dr-strangelove

In this documentary, Motherboard explores the life and legacy of the father of the hydrogen bomb.  According to North Korea’s Foreign Minister, Kim Jong-un is considering testing its hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean in response to rising tensions with President Trump. But in order to understand the significance of the hydrogen bomb, you need to understand the people who created it.

In a 2013 video documentary, Motherboard explored the life of Edward Teller: the father of the hydrogen bomb, and the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s character Dr. Strangelove.

According to Ralph Moir, Teller’s student and eventual colleague, Teller believed that scientists bear no responsibility for the use of their creations.

“He wanted to make a contribution to mankind, but he’s also very interested in science and anything new,” Moir told Motherboard in 2013. “It was patriotic to have a strong defense. But also, it was fascinating science.”

However, not everyone agreed with Teller. In the 1940s, this gave way to an ethical debate that split the world into two groups: Those who sided with Robert Oppenheimer, creator of the atom bomb, believed that a stronger successor to the atom bomb was dangerous and unnecessary. Those who sided with Teller believed in a benefit to building a weapon so destructive that it exists only in obsolescence.

The scientific community almost entirely sided with Oppenheimer, but President Truman sided with Teller. In 1952, the US successfully detonated the first hydrogen bomb.

Later in his life, Teller would help launch Plowshare, a US experiment for nuclear weapons use in building and construction. Teller also believed the US should invest in geoengineering, nuclear engines for spacecrafts, nuclear testing in space, and nuclear reactors powered by thorium rather than uranium. None of these ideas have yet come to fruition.

It’s been over a decade since his death, but Teller’s name remains controversial.

October 2, 2017 Posted by | history, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

12 year study on children’s teeth led to stopping of atmospheric nuclear bomb tests

The analysis revealed a spike in strontium-90 levels in children born between 1954 and 1955. This coincided with a period of extensive nuclear testing that started in 1953. Among these children, strontium-90 levels were also found to be higher in those who were bottle-fed compared to those who were breastfed.

This observation further emphasized that the children were absorbing the radioactive element from the environment — picture acres of dairy farms showered with rain that has just passed through kilometers of atmosphere containing radioactive dust.

Experiments explained: Baby Tooth Survey  In June 1963, shortly after publishing the first phase of the study, Dr. Eric Reiss, one of the main participating scientists, presented the findings in testimony before the American Senate committee. Two months later, the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) between the United States, the Soviet Union, and Britain was signed. This agreement prevented countries from performing test detonations of nuclear weapons, except for those conducted underground.

During a second phase of the study, a 50 per cent decline in strontium-90 was seen in children born in 1968, thanks in part to the PTBT that Franklin and her team helped bring about.


Ursula Franklin’s contributions to reforming the regulation of nuclear weapons, Varsity,   https://thevarsity.ca/2017/09/25/experiments-explained-baby-tooth-survey/ 
By Farah Badr,

 ZAHRA DANAEI/THE VARSITY, Humanity has been fundamentally transformed by the discovery of nuclear radiation and radioactive chemical elements. Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium in the late 1890s, following Henri Becquerel’s discovery of radioactivity. Since then, World War I has led to the advent of the first X-ray machine, which treated injured soldiers, and World War II has brought upon the development of weapons of mass destruction.

Not long after, scientists began collecting radioactive baby teeth on American land: the unexpected aftermath of harnessing the unprecedented power of nuclear radiation.

One of those scientists was Ursula Franklin, the first female to receive the University Professor distinction at U of T in 1984. Franklin was an academic, an educator, a prolific writer, a highly vocal and active pacifist and feminist, but also held the lesser known titles of metallurgist, archaeometrist, practicing Quaker, and Holocaust survivor.

It is perhaps the result of her impactful social activism and visionary writings on war, globalism, social justice, and technology that some attention has been drawn away from Franklin’s scientific achievements.

One such accomplishment was a high-profile study that started in 1958. In collaboration with a number of scientists, Franklin investigated the impact of ground nuclear weapon testing, which had begun in the early 1940s in prelude to the attack on Japan at the end of World War II. Radioactive elements, one of which was strontium-90, had been released for the first time into the environment due to this nuclear weapon testing. Strontium-90 chemically resembles the important nutritional element calcium, leading to its incorporation along with calcium into the bones and teeth of developing unborn babies, which continues even after their birth.

Over the course of the 12-year study, the team collected more than 300,000 shed baby teeth, mostly from children in St. Louis, Missouri. The researchers incinerated and pulverized the teeth before extracting and analyzing its composite minerals.

The analysis revealed a spike in strontium-90 levels in children born between 1954 and 1955. This coincided with a period of extensive nuclear testing that started in 1953. Among these children, strontium-90 levels were also found to be higher in those who were bottle-fed compared to those who were breastfed.

This observation further emphasized that the children were absorbing the radioactive element from the environment — picture acres of dairy farms showered with rain that has just passed through kilometers of atmosphere containing radioactive dust.

In June 1963, shortly after publishing the first phase of the study, Dr. Eric Reiss, one of the main participating scientists, presented the findings in testimony before the American Senate committee. Two months later, the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) between the United States, the Soviet Union, and Britain was signed. This agreement prevented countries from performing test detonations of nuclear weapons, except for those conducted underground.

During a second phase of the study, a 50 per cent decline in strontium-90 was seen in children born in 1968, thanks in part to the PTBT that Franklin and her team helped bring about.

September 30, 2017 Posted by | children, history, radiation, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nagasaki nuclear bomb survivor warns America and North Korea, calls for negotiation

‘It kills slowly, painfully’: Nagasaki atomic explosion survivor has a message for US, North Korea http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/it-kills-slowly-painfully-nagasaki-atomic-explosion-survivor-has-a-message-for-us-north-korea/story-BB2nANm1xGmNZ4x73Gx32K.html

Nobu Hanaoka was only 8-months-old when the US dropped Fat Man — a Plutonium bomb — on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Sep 25, 2017  HT Correspondent  Hindustan Times, New Delhi 

“Does he have all five fingers?” This was a Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor’s first question to the doctor when his son was born.Nobu Hanaoka, 73, says he was relieved when the doctor replied that his son was in perfect health. “I had hoped that the radiation did not affect the child,” Hanaoka told Al Jazeera.

Hanaoka was only eight months old when the US dropped ‘Fat Man’ — a Plutonium bomb — on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, killing about 74,000 people. Three days before, ‘Little Boy’ — the first-ever atomic bomb, dropped on Hiroshima — had claimed 140,000 lives.

Hanaoka — clad in a simple, grey coat, has a message for the United States and North Korea as tensions escalate between the two countries over the possibility of a nuclear war.

“This is the kind of weapon that doesn’t just kill. It kills indiscriminately. It kills slowly and painfully.”

“And it shouldn’t be allowed on the surface of the Earth,” the survivor says after a pause.

“We were not even in the city of Nagasaki. We were outside. And yet the radiation that came from the bombing went far beyond the city limits,” Hanaoka said, before explaining the three ways an atomic bomb can kill.

Hanaoka’s mother and sister died due to radiation when he was six, he says, adding that he overheard the doctor telling his father the boy wouldn’t live to see his 10th birthday. “So I knew that I was not going to live long,” Hanaoka says in the video.

The atomic bomb survivor says he was always concerned for his health and feared he was dying when he got a simple cold. He also had survivor’s guilt, a mental condition in which a person feels remorse for surviving a traumatic event when others did not. “Why did my sister and mother, who were wonderful people… beautiful and smart and gentle, and they had to die.”

“And yet, I, who am not unworthy, am still alive?”

“I want all nations to come together and start finding a way of eliminating nuclear weapons altogether,” Hanaoka tells Al Jazeera after warning that there will be millions of casualties if either the US or North Korea is attacked with radioactive weapons.

North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho told the United Nations General Assembly last week that targeting the US mainland with its rockets was inevitable after “Mr Evil President” Donald Trump called Pyongyang’s leader a “rocket man” on a suicide mission.

Trump, too, dialled up the rhetoric against North Korea over the weekend, warning Ho that he and its leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer” as Pyongyang staged a major anti-US rally.

The North had threatened to “sink” Japan into the sea and fired two missiles over the northern island of Hokkaido in the space of less than a month. Pyongyang said this month it had carried out an underground test on a hydrogen bomb estimated to be 16 times the size of the US bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. It was its sixth and largest nuclear test.

Survivors of Hiroshima-Nagasaki — the only two nuclear attacks in the history of mankind — warned of the threat of atomic weapons in a photo essay by the Time magazine last month. It quoted another survivor Fujio Torikoshi (86) as saying all he wanted was to forget the bombing. “We cannot continue to sacrifice precious lives to warfare. All I can do is pray – earnestly, relentlessly – for world peace.”

September 30, 2017 Posted by | history, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference | Leave a comment

New find points to Hitler’s project towards a nuclear bomb

Discovery of radioactive metal points to ‘success’ of Nazi atomic bomb programme http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/radioactive-nazi-atom-bomb-bernd-th-lmann-germany-amateur-treasure-hunter-a7963521.html

Oranienburg was reportedly the location of Adolf Hitler’s secret uranium enrichment facility  Fiona Keating An amateur treasure hunter in Germany has stumbled upon what could be radioactive material from a secret research facility dating back to World War II.

64-year-old Bernd Thälmann was exploring the ground in Oranienburg, north-east Germany, with his metal detector when it gave an unusual ‘bleep’.

After bringing the mysterious object home, the pensioner alerted the authorities about his discovery of a shiny lump of metal.

Police discovered the find was radioactive, leading to the evacuation of 15 residents from several houses by emergency services.  Specialists in hazmat suits searched Mr Thälmann’s home and removed the suspicious object in a lead-lined container which was then placed inside a protective suitcase.
Mr Thälmann is now being investigated for being in possession of “unauthorised radioactive substances”, according to the Berlin Courier.

German authorities have revealed that the area of Oranienburg was the location of Adolf Hitler’s secret uranium enrichment facility.

The research centre was tasked with enriching uranium oxide imported from South America, to make weapons-grade plutonium. The ultimate aim was to create a Nazi atomic bomb.

According to police, Mr Thälmann was intent on retracing his steps to find more hard evidence of the mysterious Nazi-era site. The amateur archaeologist was proving uncooperative, according to authorities.

A police statement revealed that “the finder refuses to provide information on the exact location.” An investigation was launched, with the radioactive find part of a criminal investigation, according to AFP.

Britain and the United States have long possessed information regarding the Nazi’s plans to make atomic bombs.

 

September 25, 2017 Posted by | Germany, history | Leave a comment

Remembering an intelligent man who saved the world from WW3

‘I was just doing my job’: Soviet officer who averted nuclear war dies at age 77 https://www.rt.com/news/403625-nuclear-soviet-officer-died/ 

Soviet officer saves world from Armageddon – Cold War unknown facts 

A decision that Soviet lieutenant colonel Stanislav Petrov once took went down in history as one that stopped the Cold War from turning into nuclear Armageddon, largely thanks to Karl Schumacher, a political activist from Germany who helped the news of his heroism first reach a western audience nearly two decades ago.

On September 7, Schumacher, who kept in touch with Petrov in the intervening years, phoned him to wish him a happy birthday, but instead learned from Petrov’s son, Dmitry, that the retired officer had died on May 19 in his home in a small town near Moscow.

On September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov was on duty in charge of an early warning radar system in a bunker near Moscow, when just past midnight he saw the radar screen showing a single missile inbound from the United States and headed toward the Soviet Union.

“When I first saw the alert message, I got up from my chair. All my subordinates were confused, so I started shouting orders at them to avoid panic. I knew my decision would have a lot of consequences,” Petrov recalled of that fateful night in an interview with RT in 2010.

“The siren went off for a second time. Giant blood-red letters appeared on our main screen, saying START. It said that four more missiles had been launched,” he said. From the moment the warheads had taken off, there was only half an hour for the Kremlin to decide on whether to push the red button in retaliation and just 15 minutes for Petrov to determine whether the threat was real and report to his commanders.

“My cozy armchair felt like a red-hot frying pan and my legs went limp. I felt like I couldn’t even stand up. That’s how nervous I was when I was taking this decision,” he told RT.

Taught that in case of a real attack the US would have gone on an all-out offensive, Petrov told his bosses the alarm must have been caused by a system malfunction.
“I’ll admit it, I was scared. I knew the level of responsibility at my fingertips,” he said.

It was later revealed that what the Soviet satellites took for missiles launch was sunlight reflected from clouds. Petrov’s action, however, received no praise, and he was scolded for not filling in a service journal. His superiors were blamed for the system’s flaws. “My superiors were getting the blame and they did not want to recognize that anyone did any good, but instead chose to spread the blame.”

For over 10 years, the incident was kept secret as highly classified. Even Petrov’s wife, Raisa, who died in 1997, didn’t know anything of the role her husband played in averting nuclear war.

That was until 1998, when Petrov’s superintendent, Colonel General Yury Votintsev, spoke out and a report about the officer’s quiet deed appeared in the German tabloid Bild.

“After reading this report, I was as if struck by thunder,” Karl Schumacher wrote in his blog.

“I could not get rid of the idea that I had to do something for the man who prevented an atomic war and thus saved the world,” says Schumacher, for whom “nuclear threat was so real for decades.”

Schumacher flew to Russia to find the man who saved the world, and found him living in a flat in Fryazino, northeast of Moscow. Schumacher invited Petrov to the German town of Oberhausen, so that locals would find out about the episode of when the world was teetering on the edge of nuclear catastrophe.

During his stay in Germany, Petrov appeared on local TV and gave interviews to several daily newspapers. Global recognition followed that trip, with major awards presented to him. In 2006, the Association of World Citizens handed him an award, which reads: “To the man who averted nuclear war,” in the UN headquarters in New York.

In 2012, Petrov was honored with the German Media Prize, also awarded to Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama and Kofi Annan. Next year he received another accolade, the Dresden Peace Prize, with the prize given by a 25-year-old Dresden resident, who “belongs to the generation that would not have survived had it not been for Stanislav Petrov.”

Based on his story, the movie “The man who saved the world”premiered in 2014, featuring actor Kevin Costner. The actor sent Petrov $500 as a “thank you” for making the right decision.

“At first when people started telling me that these TV reports had started calling me a hero, I was surprised. I never thought of myself as one – after all, I was literally just doing my job,” Petrov said.

September 18, 2017 Posted by | history, PERSONAL STORIES, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Remembering America’s nuclear scientists of The Mahattan Project, those who died young because of nuclear radiation

Paul Waldon, fight to stop nuclear waste dump in flinders ranges sa, 15 Sept 17, Today the 15th of September is another red letter day in the nuclear arena, with the 72nd anniversary of the death of Haroutune Krikor “Harry” Daglian, physicist with the Manhattan Project. Harry was NOT the only person working on the project to die from “Acute Radiation Syndrome” but he was the youngest at only 24 years of age. Three members of the big four were to follow Harry to a early grave with cancer deemed to be from the radiation they were subjected to during their time on the Manhattan and other projects. The contaminated materials left over from the development of the bombs are still having a impact on life and the environment, and will continue to do so for generations. However the deaths and contamination on American soil from the development of the bombs, outnumber Japans. RIP Harry. https://www.facebook.com/groups/344452605899556/

September 16, 2017 Posted by | health, history, PERSONAL STORIES, radiation, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The problem of plutonium: justification for its reprocessing is now dead

Forty years later, Japan’s breeder program, the original justification for its reprocessing program, is virtually dead.  

Forty years of impasse: The United States, Japan, and the plutonium problem http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00963402.2017.1364007   Masafumi Takubo &Frank von Hippel23 Aug 2017, Recently, records have been published from the internal discussions in the Carter administration (1977–80) on the feasibility of convincing Japan to halt its plutonium-separation program as the United States was in the process of doing domestically. Japan was deeply committed to its program, however, and President Carter was not willing to escalate to a point where the alliance relationship could be threatened. Forty years later, the economic, environmental, and nonproliferation arguments against Japan’s program have only been strengthened while Japan’s concern about being dependent on imports of uranium appears vastly overblown. Nevertheless, Japan’s example, as the only non-weapon state that still separates plutonium, continues to legitimize the launch of similar programs in other countries, some of which may be interested in obtaining a nuclear weapon option.

In June 2017, the National Security Archive, a nonprofit center in Washington, DC, posted four-decade-old documents from the Carter administration’s internal debate over how to best persuade Japan to defer its ambitious program to obtain separated plutonium by chemical reprocessing of spent power reactor fuel.11. See: http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/nukevault/ebb597-Japanese-Plutonium-Overhang/.View all notes

Foreign civilian plutonium programs had become a high-level political issue in the United States after India used plutonium, nominally separated to provide startup fuel for a breeder reactor program in its first nuclear weapon test in 1974 (Perkovich 1999Perkovich, G. 1999India’s Nuclear BombOakland, CAUniversity of California Press. [Google Scholar]). The United States reversed its policy of encouraging the development of plutonium breeder reactors worldwide to avoid an anticipated shortage of uranium. The breeder reactors would convert abundant non-chain-reacting uranium 238 into chain-reacting plutonium and then use the plutonium as fuel, while conventional reactors are fueled primarily by chain-reacting uranium 235, which makes up only 0.7 percent of natural uranium.

The Ford administration (1974–77) blocked France’s plan to sell spent fuel reprocessing plants to South Korea and Pakistan but did not succeed in persuading Japan to abandon its nearly complete Tokai pilot reprocessing plant. Therefore, when the Carter administration took office in January 1977, it inherited the difficult plutonium discussion with Japan.

The earliest document in the newly released trove is a 19-page memo dated 24 January 1977, in which career State Department official Louis Nosenzo briefs the incoming Carter political appointees on the issue.22. See: http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=3859705-Document-01-Louis-Nozenzo-Bureau-of-Political.View all notes His arguments are strikingly similar to those being made some 40 years later by United States and international nongovernmental organizations such as the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM 2015IPFM. 2015Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. See:http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf. [Google Scholar]) and by US government officials – most recently, members of the Obama administration.33. Japan Times, “U.S. would back a rethink of Japan’s plutonium recycling program: White House,” 21 May 2016.View all notes

These arguments are, in brief, that the separation and use of plutonium as a fuel is not economically competitive with simply storing the spent fuel until its radioactive heat generation has declined and a deep underground repository has been constructed for its final disposal. In this “once-through” fuel cycle, the plutonium remains mixed with the radioactive fission products in the intact spent fuel and therefore is relatively inaccessible for use in weapons.

The earliest document in the newly released trove is a 19-page memo dated 24 January 1977, in which career State Department official Louis Nosenzo briefs the incoming Carter political appointees on the issue.22. See: http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=3859705-Document-01-Louis-Nozenzo-Bureau-of-Political.View all notes His arguments are strikingly similar to those being made some 40 years later by United States and international nongovernmental organizations such as the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM 2015IPFM. 2015Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. See:http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf. [Google Scholar]) and by US government officials – most recently, members of the Obama administration.33. Japan Times, “U.S. would back a rethink of Japan’s plutonium recycling program: White House,” 21 May 2016.View all notes

These arguments are, in brief, that the separation and use of plutonium as a fuel is not economically competitive with simply storing the spent fuel until its radioactive heat generation has declined and a deep underground repository has been constructed for its final disposal. In this “once-through” fuel cycle, the plutonium remains mixed with the radioactive fission products in the intact spent fuel and therefore is relatively inaccessible for use in weapons.

Presumably with tongue in cheek, he opined that “[s]pace limitations are a real problem only for countries like Luxemburg.” (Luxemburg, about equal in area to St. Louis, Missouri, did not and still does not have a nuclear program.) Subsequently, it was pointed out that the volume of an underground repository for highly radioactive waste is determined not by the volume of the waste but by its heat output; the waste has to be spread out to limit the temperature increase of the surrounding buffer clay and rock (IPFM 2015IPFM. 2015Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. See:http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf. [Google Scholar]). Reprocessing waste would contain all the heat-generating fission products in the original spent fuel, and the heat generated by the plutonium in one ton of spent MOX fuel would be about the same as the heat generated by the plutonium in the approximately seven tons of spent low-enriched uranium fuel from which the plutonium used to manufacture the fresh MOX fuel had been recovered.

With regard to the issue of the need for plutonium to provide startup fuel for breeder reactors, Nosenzo noted that “experimental breeders currently utilize uranium [highly enriched in the chain-reacting isotope uranium 235] rather than plutonium for start-up and this will probably also be true of commercial breeder start-up operations.”44. This was not entirely correct. Although the United States, Russian, and Chinese experimental and prototype breeder reactors started up with enriched uranium fuel and all breeder reactors could have been, plutonium fuel was used to start up the prototypes in France, Japan, and the United Kingdom. See International Fuel Cycle Evaluation, Fast Breeders(IAEA 1980IAEA. 1980International Fuel Cycle Evaluation, Fast Breeders. Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency. [Google Scholar]) Table III. M. Ragheb, “Fermi I Fuel Meltdown Incident” (2014). Available at http://mragheb.com/NPRE%20457%20CSE%20462%20Safety%20Analysis%20of%20Nuclear%20Reactor%20Systems/Fermi%20I%20Fuel%20Meltdown%20Incident.pdf.View all notes

“[T]here is a strong need for a US position paper presenting the above rationale with supporting analysis,” Nosenzo wrote. “This would be of value, for example, with other governments in the nuclear suppliers context and more generally … for use by sympathetic foreign ministries attempting to cope effectively with their ministries of energy, of technology and of economics.”

The last point reflected the reality that the promotion of breeder reactors was central to the plans of powerful trade ministries around the world, including Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (now the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry), and that foreign ministries sometimes use independent analyses to push back against positions of other ministries that seem extreme to them. A few years ago, an official of South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, for example, privately described the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, the driving force behind South Korea’s demand for the same “right” to reprocess as Japan, as “our Taliban.”

Japan planned to start operation of its Tokai reprocessing plant later that spring, and it appeared clear to Nosenzo that it would be impossible to prevent the operation of the almost completed plant. Another memo cited Prime Minister Fukuda as publicly calling reprocessing a matter of “life and death” for Japan.55. See: http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=3859730-Document-05-Memorandum-from-Ambassador-at-Large.View all notes Japan’s government had committed itself to achieving what Glenn Seaborg, chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission from 1961–71, had relentlessly promoted as a “plutonium economy,” in which the world would be powered by the element he had codiscovered.

Why would the Fukuda administration have seen the separation and use of plutonium as so critical? We believe that the Prime Minister had been convinced by Japan’s plutonium advocates that the country’s dependence on imported uranium would create an economic vulnerability such as the country had experienced during the 1973 Arab oil embargo, still a recent and painful memory. Indeed, according to a popular view in Japan, further back, in 1941, it was a US embargo on oil exports to Japan that had triggered Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The plutonium advocates argued that breeder reactors would eliminate resource-poor Japan’s vulnerability to a uranium cutoff by turning already imported uranium into a virtually inexhaustible supply of plutonium fuel for its reactors.

During the past 40 years, however, uranium has been abundant, cheap, and available from a variety of countries. Furthermore, as some foreign observers have suggested, if Japan was really concerned about possible disruptions of supply, it could have acquired a 50-year strategic reserve of uranium at a much lower cost than its plutonium program (Leventhal and Dolley 1994Leventhal, P., and S. Dolley1994. “A Japanese Strategic Uranium Reserve: A Safe and Economic Alternative to Plutonium.” Science & Global Security 5: 131. doi:10.1080/08929889408426412.[Taylor & Francis Online][Google Scholar]). Indeed, because of the low cost of uranium, globally, utilities have accumulated an inventory sufficient for about seven years. Although it took several years for Congress to accept the Carter administration’s proposal to end the US reprocessing and breeder reactor development programs, Congress did support the administration’s effort to discourage plutonium programs abroad. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978 required that nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries be renegotiated so that any spent fuel that had either originally been produced in the United States or had been irradiated in a reactor containing components or design information subject to US export controls could not be reprocessed without prior consent from the US government. Internally, however, the administration was divided over whether the United States could force its allies to accept such US control over their nuclear programs.

One of the final memos in the National Security Archives file, written in May 1980, toward the end of the Carter administration by Jerry Oplinger, a staffer on the National Security Council, criticized a proposal by Gerard Smith, President Carter’s ambassador at large for nuclear nonproliferation. Smith proposed that the administration provide blanket advance consent for spent fuel reprocessing in Western Europe and Japan.77. See: http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=3859749-Document-22-Jerry-Oplinger-to-Leon-Billings-and.View all notes Oplinger characterized Smith’s proposal as “surrender” and argued that, even though the danger of further proliferation in Europe or by Japan was low, their examples could be used by other countries as a justification for launching their own plutonium programs.

The Carter administration did not surrender to the Japanese and the West European reprocessing lobbies but, in 1988, in exchange for added requirements for safeguards and physical protection of plutonium, the Reagan administration signed a renegotiated US–Japan agreement on nuclear cooperation with full, advance, programmatic consent to reprocessing by Japan for 30 years. In the original 1968 agreement, the United States had been given the right to review each Japanese shipment of spent fuel to the British and French reprocessing plants on a case-by-case basis and to make a joint determination on reprocessing in Japan. This right had allowed the United States to question whether Japan needed more separated plutonium. As a result of the 1988 agreement, by the time of the 2011 Fukushima accident, Japan had built up a stock of some 44 tons of separated plutonium, an amount sufficient for more than 5000 Nagasaki-type bombs (Japan Atomic Energy Commission 2012Japan Atomic Energy Commission. 2012. “The Current Situation of Plutonium Management in Japan,” September 11. [Google Scholar]), and the largest amount of MOX fuel it had loaded in a single year (2010) contained about one ton of plutonium (IPFM 2015IPFM. 2015Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. See:http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf. [Google Scholar]).

The initial period of the 1988 agreement will expire in 2018, after which either party may terminate it by giving six months written notice. This provides an opportunity for the US government to reraise the issue of reprocessing with Japan.

Unlike the 1968 agreement with Japan, the 1958 US–EURATOM agreement did not have a requirement of prior US consent for reprocessing of European spent fuel in West Europe. The Europeans refused to renegotiate this agreement, and, starting with President Carter, successive US presidents extended the US–EURATOM agreement by executive order year by year (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 1994Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Frans Berkhout and William Walker, “Atlantic Impasse,” September-October 1994. [Google Scholar]). Finally, in 1995, the Clinton administration negotiated language in a new agreement that the European reprocessors accepted as a commitment to noninterference (Behrens and Donnelly 1996Behrens, C. E., and W. H.Donnelly1996. “EURATOM and the United States: Renewing the Agreement for Nuclear Cooperation,” Congressional Research Service, April 26. Available at:https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metacrs312/m1/1/high_res_d/IB96001_1996Apr26.html; andhttp://ec.europa.eu/world/agreements/prepareCreateTreatiesWorkspace/treatiesGeneralData.do?step=0&redirect=true&treatyId=304 [Google Scholar]). By that time, the nonnuclear weapon states in Europe – notably Germany and Italy – had lost interest in breeder reactors and the only reprocessing plants listed in the agreement were those of United Kingdom and France. Reprocessing proponents in Japan often say that Japan is the only non-weapon state trusted by the international community to reprocess. In reality, Japan is the only non-weapon state that has not abandoned reprocessing because of its poor economics.

As Oplinger pointed out, Japan played a central role in sustaining large-scale reprocessing in Europe as well as at home. In addition to planning to build their own large reprocessing plant, Japan’s nuclear utilities provided capital, in the form of prepaid reprocessing contracts, for building large new merchant reprocessing plants in France and the United Kingdom. France also played a leading role in promoting reprocessing and in designing Japan’s reprocessing plant.

Oplinger insisted that the planned reprocessing programs in Europe and Japan would produce huge excesses of separated plutonium beyond the requirements of planned breeder programs: “Any one of these three projected plants would more than swamp the projected plutonium needs of all the breeder R&D programs in the world. Three of them would produce a vast surplus … amounting to several hundred tons by the year 2000.”

He attached a graph projecting that by the year 2000, the three plants would produce a surplus of 370 tons of separated plutonium beyond the requirements of breeder research and development. The actual stock of separated civilian plutonium in Europe and Japan in 2000 was huge – using the IAEA’s metric of 8 kilograms per bomb, enough for 20,000 Nagasaki bombs – but about half the amount projected in Oplinger’s memo (IPFM 2015IPFM. 2015Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. See:http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf. [Google Scholar]). This was due in part to operating problems with the UK reprocessing plant and delays in the operation of Japan’s large reprocessing plant. On the demand side, breeder use was much less than had been projected, but, in an attempt to deal with the surplus stocks, quite a bit of plutonium was fabricated into MOX and irradiated in Europe’s conventional reactors.

Forty years later, Japan’s breeder program, the original justification for its reprocessing program, is virtually dead.  Japan officially abandoned its Monju prototype breeder reactor in 2016 after two decades of failed efforts to restore it to operation after a 1995 leak of its sodium secondary coolant and a resulting fire. Japan’s government now talks of joining France in building a new Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (ASTRID) in France, and France’s nuclear establishment has welcomed the idea of Japan sharing the cost.8

8. See: https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161022/p2a/00m/0na/005000c.View all notes The mission for ASTRID-type fast-neutron reactors would be to fission the plutonium and other long-lived transuranic elements in spent low-enriched uranium fuel and MOX fuel, for which Japan will have to build a new reprocessing plant. According to France’s 2006 radioactive waste law, ASTRID was supposed to be commissioned by the end of 2020.99. See: http://www.andra.fr/download/andra-international-en/document/editions/305va.pdf, Article 3.1.View all notes Its budget has been secured only for the design period extending to 2019, however. In an October 2016 briefing in Tokyo, the manager of the ASTRID program showed the project’s schedule with a “consolidation phase” beginning in 2020 (Devictor 2016Devictor, N.2016. “ASTRID: Expectations to Japanese Entities’ Participation.” Nuclear Energy Division, French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, TokyoOctober 27. Available at:http://www.meti.go.jp/committee/kenkyukai/energy/fr/pdf/002_02_02.pdf [Google Scholar]). The next day, the official in charge of nuclear issues at France’s embassy in Tokyo stated that ASTRID would not start up before 2033 (Félix 2016Félix, S. 2016. Interview with Mainichi Shimbun, October27in Japanese. Available at:http://mainichi.jp/articles/20161027/ddm/008/040/036000c [Google Scholar]). Thus, in 10 years, the schedule had slipped by 13 years. It has been obvious for four decades that breeder reactors and plutonium use as a reactor fuel will be uneconomic. The latest estimate of the total project cost for Japan’s Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, including construction, operation for 40 years, and decommissioning, is now 13.9 trillion yen ($125 billion), with the construction cost alone reaching 2.95 trillion yen ($27 billion), including 0.75 trillion yen for upgrades due to new safety regulations introduced after the Fukushima accident. The total project cost of the MOX fuel fabrication facility, including some 42 years of operation and decommissioning, is now estimated at 2.3 trillion yen ($21 billion) (Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan 2017

Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan, “Concerning the Project Cost of Reprocessing, Etc.” July 2017 (in Japanese). [Google Scholar]). In the United States, after it became clear in 1977 that reprocessing and breeder reactors made no economic sense and could create a proliferation nightmare, it took only about five years for the government and utilities to agree to abandon both programs, despite the fact that industry had spent about $1.3 billion in 2017 dollars on construction of a reprocessing plant in South Carolina (GAO 1984GAO. 1984Status and Commercial Potential of the Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant, US General Accounting Office. Available at:http://www.gao.gov/assets/150/141343.pdf, p. 11. [Google Scholar]), and the government had spent $4.2 billion on the Clinch River Demonstration Breeder Reactor project (Peach How could Japan’s government have allowed reprocessing advocates to drive its electric-power utilities to pursue its hugely costly plutonium program over 40 years?

For context, it must be remembered that the United States, a nuclear superpower, has been much more concerned about nuclear proliferation and terrorism than Japan. Tetsuya Endo, a former diplomat involved in the negotiations of the 1988 agreement, depicted the difference in the attitude of the two governments as follows:

Whereas the criterion of the United States, in particular that of the US government … is security (nuclear proliferation is one aspect of it), that of the Japan side is nuclear energy. … [I]t can be summarized as security vs. energy supply and the direction of interests are rather out of alignment. (Endo 2014Endo, T. 2014Formation Process and Issues from Now on of the 1988 Japan-US Nuclear Agreement (Revised Edition). Tokyo: Japan Institute of International Affairs. In Japanese:http://www2.jiia.or.jp/pdf/resarch/H25_US-JPN_nuclear_agreement/140212_US-JPN_nuclear_energy_agreement.pdf [Google Scholar])As we have seen, in the United States, after India’s 1974 nuclear test, both the Ford and Carter administrations considered the spread of reprocessing a very serious security issue. Indeed, a ship that entered a Japanese port on 16 October 1976 to transport spent fuel to the United Kingdom could not leave for nine days due to the Ford administration’s objections (Ibara 1984

Ibara, T. 1984Twilight of the Nuclear Power KingdomTokyoNihon Hyoron Sha. in Japanese. [Google Scholar]). In Japan, the US concerns about nuclear proliferation and terrorism have been generally considered interference in Japan’s energy policy by a country that possesses one of the worlds’ largest nuclear arsenals. Even the eyes of parliament members opposed to reprocessing, antinuclear weapon activists and the media sometimes got blurred by this nationalistic sentiment.

Nevertheless, reprocessing is enormously costly and the willingness of Japan’s government to force its nuclear utilities to accept the cost requires explanation.

One explanation, offered by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) (Japan Atomic Energy Commission 2005Japan Atomic Energy Commission. 2005Framework for Nuclear Energy PolicyOctober 11. Available at:http://www.aec.go.jp/jicst/NC/tyoki/tyoki_e.htm. [Google Scholar]), involves the political challenge of negotiating arrangements for storing spent fuel indefinitely at reactor sites. The government and utilities had promised the host communities and prefectures that spent fuel would be removed from the sites. The reprocessing policy provided destinations – first Europe and the Tokai pilot plant, and then the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. The JAEC argued that, since it would take years to negotiate indefinite onsite storage of spent fuel, nuclear power plants with no place to put spent fuel in the meantime would be shut down one after another, which would result in an economic loss even greater than the cost of reprocessing.

Japan’s nuclear utilities have had to increase on-site storage of spent fuel in any case due to delays in the startup of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, which was originally to start commercial operations in 1997. Indeed, the utilities have adopted the dangerous US practice of dense-packing their spent-fuel cooling pools with used fuel assemblies. Storing spent fuel in dry casks, onsite or offsite, cooled by natural convection of air would be much safer (von Hippel and Schoeppner 2016von Hippel, F., and M.Schoeppner2016. “Reducing the Danger from Fires in Spent Fuel Pools.” Science & Global Security 24: 141173. Available at:http://scienceandglobalsecurity.org/archive/sgs24vonhippel.pdf. doi:10.1080/08929882.2016.1235382.[Taylor & Francis Online][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]). In the United States, spent fuel is transferred to onsite dry cask storage after the dense-packed pools become completely full. It’s better to make this transfer as soon as the spent fuel gets cool enough. Such a shift to a policy of accelerated dry cask storage would require stronger nuclear safety regulation in both countries (Lyman, Schoeppner, and von Hippel 2017Lyman, E.M. Schoeppner, and F. von Hippel2017. “Nuclear Safety Regulation in the post-Fukushima Era.” Science 356: 808809. doi:10.1126/science.aal4890.[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]

Second, there is the bureaucratic explanation. The bureaucracy has more power over policy in Japan than in the United States. In Japan, when a new prime minister is elected in the Diet, only the ministers change whereas, in the United States with a two-party system, policy making is shared by Congress and the executive branch to a greater extent, and a new president routinely replaces more than 4000 officials at the top of the bureaucracy.1010. See: “Help Wanted: 4,000 Presidential Appointees” (Center for Presidential Transition, 16 March 2016) at: http://presidentialtransition.org/blog/posts/160316_help-wanted-4000-appointees.php.View all notes (This works both for the better and worse as can be observed in the current US administration.) Also, in Japan, unlike the United States, the bureaucracy is closed. There are virtually no mixed careers, with people working both inside and outside the bureaucracy (Tanaka 2009Tanaka, H. 2009. “The Civil Service System and Governance in Japan.” Available at:http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/apcity/unpan039129.pdf. [Google Scholar]).

Third, the provision of electric power has been a heavily regulated regional monopoly in Japan. Utilities therefore have been able to pass the extra costs of reprocessing on to consumers without eroding their own profits. This monopoly structure also has given utilities enormous power both locally and nationally, making it possible for them to influence both election results and the policy-making process. Thus, even if the original reprocessing policy was made by bureaucrats, it is now very difficult to change because of this complicated web of influence.

Japan has been gradually shifting toward deregulation, especially since the Fukushima accident, but a law has been passed to protect reprocessing by requiring the utilities to pay in advance, at the time of irradiation, for reprocessing the spent fuel and fabricating the recovered plutonium into MOX fuel (Suzuki and Takubo 2016Suzuki, T., and M. Takubo2016. “Japan’s New Law on Funding Plutonium Reprocessing,” May 26. Available at:http://fissilematerials.org/blog/2016/05/japans_new_law_on_funding.html. [Google Scholar]). The fact that nuclear utilities didn’t fight openly against this law, which will make them pay extra costs in the deregulated market, suggests that they expect the government to come up with a system of spreading the cost to consumers purchasing electricity generated by nonnuclear power producers, for example with a charge for electricity transmission and distribution, which will continue to be regulated.

Plutonium separation programs also persist in France, India, and Russia. China, too, has had a reprocessing policy for decades, although a small industrial reprocessing plant is only at the site-preparation stage and a site has not yet been found for a proposed large reprocessing plant that is to be bought from France. Central bureaucracies have great power in these countries, as they do in Japan. France’s government-owned utility has made clear that, where it has the choice – as it has had in the United Kingdom, whose nuclear power plants it also operates – it will opt out of reprocessing. This is one of the reasons why reprocessing will end in the United Kingdom over the next few years as the preexisting contracts are fulfilled (IPFM 2015

IPFM. 2015Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. See:http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf. [Google Scholar]).

A final explanation put forward from time to time for the persistence of reprocessing in Japan is that Japan’s security establishment wants to keep open a nuclear weapon option. There already are about 10 tons of separated plutonium in Japan, however (with an additional 37 tons of Japanese plutonium in France and the United Kingdom), and the design capacity of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant to separate eight tons of plutonium, enough to make 1000 nuclear warheads per year, is far greater than Japan could possibly need for a nuclear weapon option. Also, Japan already has a centrifuge enrichment plant much larger than that planned by Iran. Iran’s program precipitated an international crisis because of proliferation concerns. Japan’s plant, like Iran’s, is designed to produce low-enriched uranium for nuclear power plants, but the cascades could be quickly reorganized to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for 10 bombs per year from natural uranium. Japan plans to expand this enrichment capacity more than 10-fold.1111. For Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited’s current and planned enrichment capacities, see: http://www.jnfl.co.jp/en/business/uran/. It takes about 5000 separative work units (SWUs) to produce enough HEU for a first-generation nuclear weapon – defined by the IAEA to be highly enriched uranium (usually assumed to be 90 percent enriched in U-235) containing 25 kilograms of U-235.View all notes It is therefore hard to imagine that the hugely costly Rokkasho reprocessing project is continuing because security officials are secretly pushing for it.

The idea that Japan is maintaining a nuclear weapon option has negative effects for Japan’s security, however, raising suspicions among its neighbors and legitimizing arguments in South Korea that it should acquire its own nuclear weapon option. It also undermines nuclear disarmament. According to the New York Times, when President Obama considered adopting a no-first-use policy before leaving office, Secretary of State John Kerry “argued that Japan would be unnerved by any diminution of the American nuclear umbrella, and perhaps be tempted to obtain their own weapon” (Sanger and Broad 2016Sanger, D., and W. Broad2016. “Obama Unlikely to Vow No First Use of Nuclear Weapons.” New York TimesSeptember 5. Available at:https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/06/science/obama-unlikely-to-vow-no-first-use-of-nuclear-weapons.html [Google Scholar]). It’s about time for both the security officials and antinuclear weapon movements to examine this concern more seriously.

Given the terrible economics of reprocessing, its end in Japan and France should only be a matter of time. As the 40-year-long impasse over Japan’s program demonstrates, however, the inevitable can take a very long time, while the costs and dangers continue to accumulate. The world has been fortunate that the stubborn refusals of Japan and France to abandon their failing reprocessing programs have not resulted in a proliferation of plutonium programs, or the theft and use of their plutonium by terrorists. The South Korean election of President Moon Jae-in – who holds antinuclear-power views – may result in a decrease in pressure from Seoul for the “right” to reprocess.

The combined effects of the “invisible hand” of economics and US policy therefore have thus far been remarkably successful in blocking the spread of reprocessing to non-weapon states other than Japan. China’s growing influence in the international nuclear-energy industry and its planned reprocessing program, including the construction of a large French-designed reprocessing plant, could soon, however, pose a new challenge to this nonproliferation success story. Decisions by France and Japan to take their completely failed reprocessing programs off costly government-provided life support might convince China to rethink its policy.

September 16, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, history, Reference, reprocessing | Leave a comment