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Nuclear-powered U.S. Aircraft Carrier Roosevelt now carrying Coronavirus

Coronavirus Diverts U.S. Aircraft Carrier From Mission In Western Pacific March 26, 2020 First it was commercial cruise ships that became floating petri dishes for the coronavirus.

Now the U.S. Navy’s nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has been diverted to the U.S. “There were three [crew members who] initial[ly tested positive], there were five more that were flown off the ship or in the process of being flown off the ship, and then there are several others that are in isolation right now,” Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said Thursday at the Pentagon. “But the ship is going to be pulling into Guam, and they’re going to figure out from there who needs to come off, who can stay on, looking at the level of symptoms and things like that. “

Other U.S. officials have said there are now dozens aboard the Roosevelt who have been found to be infected with the coronavirus.

“We are already starting the process of testing 100 percent of the crew to ensure that we’ve got that contained,” said Modly.

There are 5,000 sailors aboard the carrier, and Modly says some are being tested with approximately 800 test kits available and a limited laboratory capacity to process them on board.

With 133 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday morning, the Navy accounts for nearly half of the U.S. military’s 280 reported cases.

“Our forces are all over the world all the time, that may have something to do with it,” Modly said, “and we also have big fleet concentration in areas such as San Diego, Norfolk and other areas where we have a lot of people that are together.”

The acting Navy secretary spoke shortly after Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Reuters that the Pentagon would no longer be disclosing in granular detail where cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. military have been detected.

“What we want to do is give you aggregated numbers,” the wire service quotes Esper as saying. “But we’re not going to disaggregate numbers because it could reveal information about where we may be affected at a higher rate than maybe some other places.”

Modly acknowledged that the Navy had not been disclosing which of its ships had been impacted by the outbreak.

“But obviously the information about the [Roosevelt] came out and we felt it was responsible for us to come out and give you all the straight story about what’s happening there,” he told reporters in the Pentagon briefing room. “We’ll follow the direction of the secretary of defense in terms of this, but from my perspective, being as transparent as possible is probably the best path.”

March 28, 2020 Posted by | health, weapons and war | Leave a comment

With all eyes on pandemic, Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty still needs attention

March 28, 2020 Posted by | politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Coronavirus IS a concern for USA’s nuclear military awareness

For now, Kristensen says, “probably the healthiest people in America are those who are coming back from the longest submarine patrols,” which currently last as long as 78 days.

They’ve been underwater since almost the beginning of the year.


BY WILLIAM M. ARKIN ON 3/23/20   The Defense Department shifted many of its domestic bases to “health protection condition” Charlie on Sunday, the latest in a series of moves to protect military forces, families and bases from coronavirus. HPCON Charlie – also known as “substantial threat of sustained community transmission” – is the fourth highest of five levels.

Though Pentagon officials continue to insist that the coronavirus pandemic has had no impact on operational readiness of the armed forces, behind the scenes military exercises and deployments are being scaled down and canceled, and plans are being put in place to sustain essential operations. That includes the so-called triad of bombers, land-based missiles and submarines that make up the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Last week, the head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Adm. Charles A. “Chas” Richard, said that nuclear readiness was unaffected by coronavirus. The nuclear forces, he said, “remain ready to execute” their war plans despite coronavirus and that the pandemic has had “no impact to our ability” to carry out missions.

Adm. Richard said that his Omaha, Nebraska-based command “had plans in place that we have updated and are executing,” to deal with a pandemic. The nuclear force, he said, was designed to operate isolated for long periods of time.

But an active force that is constantly kept on alert is also one that is more exposed. According to a military tally compiled as of Sunday and reviewed by Newsweek, units feeding STRATCOM have a cumulative 106 uniformed personnel not on duty due to coronavirus, either because of confirmed cases or “protective self-quarantine.” Six bases are listed where bombers, missiles, aerial refueling tankers and supporting command and communications units that support the nuclear force are reporting coronavirus cases, according to the data compiled by the Defense Department.

One positive case of coronavirus was reported Saturday at Whiteman air force base in Johnson County, Missouri, where the B-2 stealth bomber force is deployed. Three of those bombers returned to base over the weekend from a “deterrent” mission deployment to Europe. That mission, observers say, was cut short in comparison with previous bomber deployments.

The United States currently has a total of about 850 nuclear warheads on alert – 400 nuclear-armed land-based intercontinental missiles in three western states, and 450 warheads on five ballistic missile submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. These are the weapons that are ready to instantly respond to presidential commands, according to the Federation of American Scientists. An additional 1,300 warheads can be brought up to alert status quickly on four or five additional submarines and on 60 nuclear-configured B-2 and B-52 bombers at bases, all in a matter of a few days.

Last week, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said that the nuclear deterrent has had no changes in its operations due to coronavirus.

An example of those operations is the deployment of the three B-2 stealth bombers to Europe on March 8, the bombers and their maintainers first landing at Lajes Field in the Azores, an archipelago of nine islands 850 miles off the coast of Portugal. The next day, the bombers flew to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire in the southwest U.K. There, they conducted various practice missions – over the North Sea on March 12, an Icelandic Air Policing mission on March 16 and 17, over the North Sea on March 18, and then over the Arctic Ocean on March 20. The bombers practiced flying with British, Dutch and Norwegian fighter planes, practicing escort and the procedures for the bombing of Russia.

“A credible deterrent for the high North region,” Lt. Gen. Steven Basham said, in describing the operations. “Operating B-2s in the Arctic allow us to shape that environment by demonstrating our resolve to deliver combat power anywhere in the world if called upon.”

“The world expects that NATO and the U.S. continue to execute our mission with decisiveness, regardless of any external challenge,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

Instead, the Department is in a constant cycle of keeping the existing stockpile of bomber and missile warheads healthy. Nuclear weapons expert and observer Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists says that includes “taking apart and surveying existing warheads in the stockpile” at the rate of about a dozen or so warheads per month. This is primarily accomplished at the Pantex plant in Amarillo, Texas, though the two nuclear laboratories –Los Alamos in New Mexico and Livermore in California – also get involved in more complex and problem cases discovered in what are called “surveillance” activities. The current U.S. nuclear stockpile is made up of seven different basic types of warheads, and some sampling of each is shipped from active bases back to Pantex and the laboratories in a complex and secret ongoing process.

Kristensen says that though there have been few signs of how coronavirus is impacting nuclear forces, the B-2 mission in Europe was “dramatically shortened” in comparison with previous years. “Last fall when they deployed the B-2s, they were there [at RAF Fairford] for a month,” he says. Kristensen is been closely following bases where nuclear weapons are deployed, as well as the operations of the force, expecting that there will be significant changes if the virus persists in its growth.

Though U.S. European Command says its readiness remains high “for the foreseeable future,” it admits it is already curtailing numerous military exercises due to coronavirus. In the coming months, Gen. Tod Wolters, overall European commander says, it is likely that between 30 and 65 percent of exercises will be reduced or canceled. Other commands have similarly canceled or postponed Russia-oriented military exercises, including a Red Flag exercise planned for Alaska and a high-profile test of a new all-domain warfighting system planned for next month, one that would have practiced the integration of nuclear, conventional, cyber and space weaponry.

“My organization is designed to be able to operate isolated for long periods of time,” STRATCOM commander Adm. Richard insists.

The 3,000 person headquarters in Omaha has taken steps to institute social distancing, and it has shifted some people and functions to alternate and subordinate commands, improving redundancies and guarding against spread of the virus.

Though alerts, exercises, and the shuffling around of warheads continues, a senior officer at U.S. Strategic Command (who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to public speak on the matter) says that everyone is anticipating that there will be significant changes are coming. “There isn’t a command headquarters, including STRATCOM,” the senior officer says, “where there aren’t people with coronavirus symptoms or in self-quarantine.”

For now, Kristensen says, “probably the healthiest people in America are those who are coming back from the longest submarine patrols,” which currently last as long as 78 days.

They’ve been underwater since almost the beginning of the year.


March 26, 2020 Posted by | health, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The lingering horror of the nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga, South Australia

March 24, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, environment, health, history, indigenous issues, weapons and war | Leave a comment

“Peaceful” and military nuclear reactors always inextricably linked

Anne McMenamin Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch Australia, 19 Mar 20,   . I’m referring to the structural links between the commercial and military uses of nuclear reactors, and, to some extent, the way THEY see it – which doesn’t always line up with the technical realities. History shows that the 2 industries have been inextricably linked from the beginning.

“Great efforts have been and still are made to disguise the close connection between nuclear energy for war and for power stations. Two reasons are suggested for this: political convenience in avoiding additional informed protests against nuclear weapon production and industrial convenience in carrying on without public protest what has become a very profitable industry.”
Sir Kelvin Spencer CBE FCGI LLD (HON)
First issue of Medicine and War, in 1985

Similarly, a document from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in August, 1981, states:
“There is no technical demarcation between the military and civilian reactor and there never was one. What has persisted over the decades is just the misconception that such a linkage does not exist.”
“Some Political Issues Related to Future Special Nuclear Fuels Production,”
LA- 8969-MS, UC-16

In 2013, historian Dr David Palmer said,
“The issue is processing uranium for nuclear power that then can be used for defence. You have to understand this in terms of Adelaide; it’s a military, industrial and intelligence complex.”
Palmer was commenting on the notable push for nuclear energy and nuclear submarines coming from numerous academics and business people in Adelaide. He considered the real motive behind the nuclear push is security in energy supply for the military, and hence the need to solve the problem of waste disposal, which is currently discouraging investment in nuclear power. Major military/weapons corporations such as Raytheon, Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root, Lockheed Martin, Babcock and General Atomics are now a noticeable presence in the SA economy.
Links can be clearly seen, e.g. Heathgate, which owns the Beverley mine, is a wholly owned subsidiary of General Atomics, one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturer/servicer.

March 19, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, spinbuster, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Military use: that is clearly the reason for developing Small Nuclear Reactors

If the testing goes well, a commercially developed, Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensed reactor will be demonstrated on a “permanent domestic military installation.
Pentagon awards contracts to design mobile nuclear reactor Defense News 
By: Aaron Mehta    March 9  WASHINGTON— The Pentagon on Monday issued three contracts to start design work on mobile, small nuclear reactors, as part of a two-step plan towards achieving nuclear power for American forces at home and abroad.

The department awarded contracts to BWX Technologies, Inc. of Virginia, for $13.5 million; Westinghouse Government Services of Washington, D.C. for $11.9 million; and X-energy, LLC of Maryland, for $14.3 million, to begin a two-year engineering design competition for a small nuclear microreactor designed to potentially be forward deployed with forces outside the continental United States.

The combined $39.7 million in contracts are from “Project Pele,” a project run through the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), located within the department’s research and engineering side. The prototype is looking at a 1-5 megawatt (MWe) power range. The Department of Energy has been supporting the project at its Idaho National Laboratory.

Pele “involves the development of a safe, mobile and advanced nuclear microreactor to support a variety of Department of Defense missions such as generating power for remote operating bases,” said Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a department spokesman. “After a two-year design-maturation period, one of the companies funded to begin design work may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype.”…….

A second effort is being run through the office of the undersecretary of acquisition and sustainment. That effort, ordered in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, involves a pilot program aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of a small nuclear reactor, in the 2-10 MWe range, with initial testing at a Department of Energy site in roughly the 2023 timeframe.

If the testing goes well, a commercially developed, Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensed reactor will be demonstrated on a “permanent domestic military installation by 2027,” according to DoD spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews. “If the full demonstration proves to be a cost effective energy resilience alternative, NRC-licensed [reactors] will provide an additional option for generating power provided to DoD through power purchase agreements.”…….

According to Dr. Jonathan Cobb, a spokesman for the World Nuclear Association, small nuclear reactors come in three flavors. The first, small modular reactors, sit in the 20-300 MWe range and are approaching the point they will appear on market.

The second category sits from 10-100 megawatts, and have been used in transports such as icebreakers. According to Cobb, a pair of 32 MWe reactors, based on icebreaker technology, are being used aboard the Akademik Lomonosov, a Russian “floating power plant.”

The third category, covering what the Pentagon appears most interested in, is a category known as microreactors. The challenge, Cobb said, is that this group is the furthest behind technologically, with demonstrations of commercial systems targeted for “the second half of the 2020s,” putting them in the “ballpark” of what DoD is looking for with its A&S effort……

Edwin Lyman, director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, has concerns about the availability of fuel to power a proliferation of small nuclear reactors. He noted, “there are no clear plans for manufacturing the quantity of high-assay low enriched uranium, much less the production of high-quality TRISO [TRi-structural ISOtropic particle] fuel, that would be able to meet timelines this decade.”……

Lord, for her part, would not rule out working with foreign allies on the nuclear program in some way, saying “We always talk with our partners and allies about collaboration. We have many umbrella vehicles, if you will, to do that, particularly with [National Technology and Industrial Base] countries — U.K., Canada, Australia. We have a little bit of an easy button there for working back and forth with technical information.”…


March 19, 2020 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New research on the global climate impacts of a small nuclear war

How a small nuclear war would transform the entire planet  

As geopolitical tensions rise in nuclear-armed states, scientists are modelling the global impact of nuclear war., Nature,     Alexandra Witze,  18 Mar, 20, 

It all starts in 2025, as tensions between India and Pakistan escalate over the contested region of Kashmir. When a terrorist attacks a site in India, that country sends tanks rolling across the border with Pakistan. As a show of force against the invading army, Pakistan decides to detonate several small nuclear bombs.

The next day, India sets off its own atomic explosions and within days, the nations begin bombing dozens of military targets and then hundreds of cities. Tens of millions of people die in the blasts.

That horrifying scenario is just the beginning. Smoke from the incinerated cities rises high into the atmosphere, wrapping the planet in a blanket of soot that blocks the Sun’s rays. The planet plunges into a deep chill. For years, crops wither from California to China. Famine sets in around the globe.

This grim vision of a possible future comes from the latest studies about how nuclear war could alter world climate. They build on long-standing work about a ‘nuclear winter’ — severe global cooling that researchers predict would follow a major nuclear war, such as thousands of bombs flying between the United States and Russia. But much smaller nuclear conflicts, which are more likely to occur, could also have devastating effects around the world.

This week, researchers report that an India–Pakistan nuclear war could lead to crops failing in dozens of countries — devastating food supplies for more than one billion people1. Other research reveals that a nuclear winter would dramatically alter the chemistry of the oceans, and probably decimate coral reefs and other marine ecosystems2. These results spring from the most comprehensive effort yet to understand how a nuclear conflict would affect the entire Earth system, from the oceans to the atmosphere, to creatures on land and in the sea. ……….

Both India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, highlighting growing geopolitical tensions. By the mid-2000s, Toon was exploring a scenario in which the countries set off 100 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs, killing around 21 million people. He also connected with Alan Robock, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, who studies how volcanic eruptions cool the climate in much the same way that a nuclear winter would. Using an advanced NASA climate model, the scientists calculated how soot rising from the incinerated cities would circle the planet. All around the dark, cold globe, agricultural crops would dwindle.

But after a burst of publications on the topic, Robock, Toon and their colleagues struggled to find funding to continue their research. Finally, in 2017, they landed a grant worth nearly US$3-million from the Open Philanthropy Project, a privately funded group in San Francisco that supports research into global catastrophic risks.

The goal was to analyse every step of nuclear winter — from the initial firestorm and the spread of its smoke, to agricultural and economic impacts. “We put all those pieces together for the first time,” says Robock.

The group looked at several scenarios. Those range from a US–Russia war involving much of the world’s nuclear arsenal, which

would loft 150 million tonnes of soot into the atmosphere, down to the 100-warhead India–Pakistan conflict, which would generate 5 million tonnes of soot6. The soot turns out to be a key factor in how bad a nuclear winter would get; three years after the bombs explode, global temperatures would have plummeted by more than 10 °C in the first scenario — more than the cooling during the last ice age — but by a little more than 1 °C in the second.

Toon, Robock and their colleagues have used observations from major wildfires in British Columbia, Canada, in 2017 to estimate how high smoke from burning cities would rise into the atmosphere7. During the wildfires, sunlight heated the smoke and caused it to soar higher, and persist in the atmosphere longer, than scientists might otherwise expect. The same phenomenon might happen after a nuclear war, Robock says.Raymond Jeanloz, a geophysicist and nuclear-weapons policy expert at the University of California, Berkeley, says that incorporating such estimates is a crucial step to understanding what would happen during a nuclear winter. “This is a great way of cross-checking the models,” he says.

Comparisons with giant wildfires could also help in resolving a controversy about the scale of the potential impacts. A team at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico argues that Robock’s group has overestimated how much soot burning cities would produce and how high the smoke would go8.

The Los Alamos group used its own models to simulate the climate impact of India and Pakistan setting off 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs. The scientists found that much less smoke would get into the upper atmosphere than Toon and Robock reported. With less soot to darken the skies, the Los Alamos team calculated a much milder change to the climate — and no nuclear winter.

The difference between the groups boils down to how they simulate the amount of fuel a firestorm consumes and how that fuel is converted into smoke. “After a nuclear weapon goes off, things are extremely complex,” says Jon Reisner, a physicist who leads the Los Alamos team. “We have the ability to model the source and we also understand the combustion process. I think we have a better feel about how much soot can potentially get produced.” Reisner is now also studying the Canadian wildfires, to see how well his models reproduce how much smoke gets into the atmosphere from an incinerating forest.

Robock and his colleagues have fired back in tit-for-tat journal responses9. Among other things, they say the Los Alamos team simulated burning of greener spaces rather than a densely populated city.

Dark seas

While that debate rages, Robock’s group has published results showing a wide variety of impacts from nuclear blasts.

That includes looking at ocean impacts, the first time this has been done, says team member Nicole Lovenduski, an oceanographer at the University of Colorado Boulder. When Toon first approached her to work on the project, she says, “I thought, ‘this sure seems like a bleak topic’.” But she was intrigued by how the research might unfold. She usually studies how oceans change in a gradually warming world, not the rapid cooling in a nuclear winter.

Lovenduski and her colleagues used a leading climate model to test the US–Russia war scenario. “It’s the hammer case, in which you hammer the entire Earth system,” she says. In one to two years after the nuclear war, she found, global cooling would affect the oceans’ ability to absorb carbon, causing their pH to skyrocket. That’s the opposite to what is happening today, as the oceans soak up atmospheric carbon dioxide and waters become more acidic.

She also studied what would happen to aragonite, a mineral in seawater that marine organisms need to build shells around themselves. In two to five years after the nuclear conflict, the cold dark oceans would start to contain less aragonite, putting the organisms at risk, the team has reported2.

In the simulations, some of the biggest changes in aragonite happened in regions that are home to coral reefs, such as the southwestern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. That suggests that coral-reef ecosystems, which are already under stress from warming and acidifying waters, could be particularly hard-hit during a nuclear winter. “These are changes in the ocean system that nobody really considered before,” says Lovenduski.

And those aren’t the only ocean effects. Within a few years of a nuclear war, a “Nuclear Niño” would roil the Pacific Ocean, says Joshua Coupe, a graduate student at Rutgers. This is a turbo-charged version of the phenomenon known as El Niño. In the case of a US–Russia nuclear war, the dark skies would cause the trade winds to reverse direction and water to pool in the eastern Pacific Ocean. As during an El Niño, droughts and heavy rains could plague many parts of the world for as long as seven years, Coupe reported last December at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Beyond the oceans, the research team has found big impacts on land crops and food supplies. Jonas Jägermeyr, a food-security researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, used six leading crop models to assess how agriculture would respond to nuclear winter. Even the relatively small India–Pakistan war would have catastrophic effects on the rest of the world, he and his colleagues report this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1. Over the course of five years, maize (corn) production would drop by 13%, wheat production by 11% and soya-bean production by 17% .

The worst impact would come in the mid-latitudes, including breadbasket areas such as the US Midwest and Ukraine. Grain reserves would be gone in a year or two. Most countries would be unable to import food from other regions because they, too, would be experiencing crop failures, Jägermeyr says. It is the most detailed look ever at how the aftermath of a nuclear war would affect food supplies, he says. The researchers did not explicitly calculate how many people would starve, but say that the ensuing famine would be worse than any in documented history.

Farmers might respond by planting maize, wheat and soya beans in parts of the globe likely to be less affected by a nuclear winter, says Deepak Ray, a food-security researcher at the University of Minnesota in St Paul. Such changes might help to buffer the food shock — but only partly. The bottom line remains that a war involving less than 1% of the world’s nuclear arsenal could shatter the planet’s food supplies.

“The surprising finding”, says Jägermeyr, “is that even a small-war scenario has devastating global repercussions”.

Nature 579, 485-487 (2020)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-00794-y


March 19, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, environment, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Democrats may not support Trump’s new W93 nuclear weapons program

March 19, 2020 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear-powered submarines – fraught with legal and political problems


March 17, 2020 Posted by | Legal, politics international, Reference, USA, weapons and war | 2 Comments

The catastrophic danger to nuclear weapons complexes, of climate change’s extreme weather

March 17, 2020 Posted by | climate change, Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

World food supplies would be severely disrupted by even a “limited” nuclear war

Limited nuclear war could have big impact on world food supplies vs. Pakistan conflict could lead to worst food losses in modern history


Sudden global cooling from a limited nuclear war along with less precipitation and sunlight “could disrupt food production and trade worldwide for about a decade – more than the impact from anthropogenic climate change by late (21st) century,” the study says.

While the impacts of global warming on agricultural productivity have been studied extensively, the implications of sudden cooling for global crop growth are little understood, notes the study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Our results add to the reasons that nuclear weapons must be eliminated because if they exist, they can be used with tragic consequences for the world,” said co-author Alan Robock, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “As horrible as the direct effects of nuclear weapons would be, more people could die outside the target areas due to famine.”

Robock co-authored a recent study in the journal Science Advances estimating that more than 100 million people could die immediately if India and Pakistan wage a nuclear war, followed by global mass starvation. The study focused on a war scenario that could occur between the neighboring nations in 2025, when they could have a combined 400 to 500 nuclear weapons.

For the new study, scientists used a scenario of 5 million tons of black smoke (soot) from massive fires injected into the upper atmosphere that could result from using only 100 nuclear weapons. That would cool the Earth by 1.8 degrees Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit) and lead to 8 percent lower precipitation and less sunlight for at least five years.

Scientists included those climate changes in computer simulations by six different crop models for four major crops that account for 90 percent of global cereal production in terms of calories. The scientists found that corn calorie production would fall by 13 percent, wheat by 11 percent, rice by 3 percent and soybeans by 17 percent over five years. Total first-year losses of 12 percent would be four times larger than any food shortage in history, such as those caused by historic droughts and volcanic eruptions.

Analyses of food trade networks show that domestic reserves and global trade can largely buffer the loss of food production in the first year. But multiyear losses would reduce domestic food availability, especially in food-insecure countries.

By year five, corn and wheat availability would decrease by 13 percent globally and by more than 20 percent in 71 countries with a total of 1.3 billion people. Corn production in the United States and Canada – representing more than 40 percent of global production – would drop by 17.5 percent.

Robock said the scenario with 5 million tons of smoke was developed more than a decade ago. Scientists now think that 16 million tons of smoke could arise from a nuclear war between India and Pakistan since they now have more and bigger weapons and their potential targets are larger. This means the impacts could be three-fold larger.

Next steps include analyzing the impacts of more scenarios, including those generating more smoke. Scientists also want to study the economic impacts in greater detail, including food hoarding by countries and refusals to trade it. They will also look into other impacts of nuclear war, using more models and studying more crops, extreme cold snaps and greater fluctuations in ultraviolet light.

March 17, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, weapons and war | Leave a comment

In southern Nevada, some form of advanced B61-12 testing is underway

F-15E Strike Eagle Spotted Flying With An Inert B61-12 Nuclear Bomb Out Of Nellis AFB
The precision-guided upgrade of the B61 tactical nuclear bomb has had a troubled and very expensive past.  BY TYLER ROGOWAYMARCH 14, 2020,   Exercise Red Flag is underway with the U.S. and some of its tightest allies fighting a mock air war over the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR)

In southern Nevada. Either in conjunction with the exercise or independent of it, there is a lot of testing currently going on over the same area. Case in point, this test F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to Eglin Air Force Base carrying an inert version of America’s newest variant of its long-running B61 series of nuclear bombs, the precision-guided B61-12.

The jet was snapped by aviation photographer Kris Trajano on Tuesday, March 10th, 2020. The F-15E was followed by a pair of F-16s that were landing just before the first Red Flag launch of the day. It isn’t uncommon for various test, training, and tactics development missions to be executed in the space between the two daily Red Flag mass launches and recoveries. Still, it is interesting to see the B61-12 hanging on an F-15E coming into Nellis. Much of the test and evaluation work for the USAF’s nuclear weapons delivery systems occurs on the Tonopah Test Range in the northern reaches of the NTTR. Nearby Tonopah Test Range Airport also supports those activities under certain circumstances.

It isn’t clear why the F-15E is carrying the weapon into Nellis. It appears to be a full-up guided round, but an inert one that lacks a nuclear warhead for testing purposes. The aircraft could be set to run another drop test on the Tonopah Test Range, or it’s possible, but less likely, that deployment of the weapon could be folded into an upcoming Red Flag mission. America’s NATO allies Germany, Italy, and Spain are the only foreign players taking part in this Red Flag, so an operational test of the weapon that will be the lynchpin of the Alliance’s nuclear deterrent in Europe would make some sense, especially this late in its development. It’s not unheard of for B61 deployment tactics development and training to occur out of Nellis, either.

As for the B61-12 program, which is seen as an essential upgrade to the Air Force’s only tactical nuclear gravity bomb, it has been mired in cost overruns and other issues. All said, the bombs will be worth over twice their weight in gold, literally, once they are operational. The F-15E, along with the F-16 and B-2, are the Air Force’s delivery systems for this weapon.

The Air Force’s F-35As will acquire this capability in the future, as well. The 412th Test Wing at Edwards noted that it “advanced strategic capabilities [for the F-35] like Dual-Capable Aircraft” in a round-up of its accomplishments during 2019. “Dual-capable” in this context refers to the ability to carry both conventional and nuclear weapons. In 2017, had reported that the B61-12 might be integrated into the F-35A as early as 2020, but when The War Zone reached out to the 412th Test Wing for an update earlier this year, the unit’s public affairs office said it could not “provide a response at this time due to operational security reasons.”

The updated B61-12’s ability to make precision strikes greatly increases its versatility, regardless of the plane carrying it, and the ways in which it could be employed during an actual nuclear strike. You can read all about the weapon and its developmental state here and here. Once the B61-12 is fully operational, it will be forward-deployed, including to Europe, where some of America’s NATO partners could be tasked with delivering a portion of the weapons during an all-out conflict.

The unit’s public affairs office said it could not “provide a response at this time due to operational security reasons.”

Clearly, some form of advanced B61-12 testing is underway out of Nellis. Hopefully, this will involve ironing out some of the weapon’s kinks so that it can be made operational. Regardless, it’s always interesting seeing a tactical fighter carrying a weapon type that is intended to be far more destructive than anything else in the jet’s air-to-ground arsenal.

It’s fascinating just how much destructive power can be packed inside the B61’s svelte, 700-pound frame. The B61-12 has a so-called “dial-a-yield” warhead with various settings, the highest of which is a 50 kiloton yield. This is a little over twice the power of the Fat Man bomb, a substantially larger weapon overall, which the United States dropped on Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

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

Pentagon’s latest scam for tax-payers’ money; dangerous, costly portable nuclear reactors

Pentagon hands out contracts for PORTABLE nuclear reactors… yet another gold vein for cash-savvy military? 13 Mar, 2020 There’s no shortage of hefty defense deals awarded by the US Department of Defense, but the $40 million contract for micro-reactors definitely stands out, as it hides safety risks and raises doubts over its economic efficiency.

The nuclear device that the DoD strategists want must have the capability to be safely and rapidly transported by road, rail, sea or air (sic!) as well as swiftly set up and shut down. The project split between three companies — BWX Technologies, Westinghouse Government Services and X-energy — calls for a “safe, mobile and advanced nuclear micro-reactor.” 

The safety part sounds particularly soothing, but how would it look on the ground? What if those miniature reactors, when moved by land, become targets of high-profile terrorist attacks? And will it prove to be a real alternative (which means cheaper price, of course) to conventional energy sources?

‘The more reactors — the greater the danger’

“Any nuclear reactor attracts terrorists,” Andrey Ozharovsky, nuclear scientist, program expert at the Russian Social Ecological Union, told RT. “It doesn’t matter if it’s located at a nuclear power plant [or inside a portable device]… if you remember, the terrorists planned directing one of the planes at a nuclear plant during 9/11.”

The logic here is simple, he pointed out: “the more reactors are out there — the greater the danger.” If the US builds hundreds, or even dozens of such devices, it’ll be really hard for them to properly defend them all.

Another vital safety issue is the reliability of the nuclear micro-reactors. Interestingly enough, the US military had already experimented with them back in the 1950s and 1960s — and it ended in a tragedy.

Several portable reactors were built and setup in Greenland and Panama, but one of them blew up in 1961, killing three operators. The Army Nuclear Power Program was shut down shortly after that.

“There were eight US micro-reactors and one of them exploded. That’s how safe they are,” Ozharovsky said, adding that the Pentagon’s idea of bringing them back will “likely create more risks instead of solving any problems.”

‘Micro-reactors yet to prove their economic efficiency’

But even if the portable reactors will be shielded from the perils of the battlefield and operate without failure, what’s the Pentagon’s rationale behind bringing the radioactive fuel to their military bases? For decades, the army had been successfully running on gasoline, diesel and fuel oil; when going off-grid, it would switch to generators and high-power accumulators.

“The main problem has nothing related to safety,” Anton Khlopkov, director of Energy and Security Center and member of Russian Security Council’s Scientific Council argued.

Micro-reactors must prove their viability from the economic point of view, since such plants always have alternatives.

It is yet to be proven that micro-reactors won’t be “many times more” expensive than other conventional sources of energy. Electricity produced by such devices should be at least comparable in cost to the one produced by diesel generators, he said.

‘Some kind of a soap bubble’

If micro-reactors are such a questionable solution, why is the Pentagon pushing for their development? The answer isn’t lying on the surface, but it isn’t buried too deep.

“They work against the trends,” Ozharovsky suggested. And those trends are that the world is giving up on the use of civilian nuclear energy due to being too expensive.

Washington may be trying to “support the US the nuclear industry that’s dying out with the use of the military budget; sponsor their research and development — which is an expensive thing.”

Ozharovsky didn’t rule out the possibility that the whole thing “is some kind of a soap bubble.” The research will be made, some prototypes may even be put together, but no actual mini-reactors will be ordered by the Pentagon, he said.

The DoD’s was never shy to spend the US taxpayer dollars: its F-35 program was worth a whopping $1.4 trillion in procurement and operating costs over its lifetime, while Pentagon also acquired such items of prime necessity as… $640 toilet seats and $7,600 coffee makers. The micro-reactors may well become another entry in this wasteful list.

March 14, 2020 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Steps to nowhere on nuclear disarmament – USA’s “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament” (CEND)

The Virus of Nuclear Proliferation, March 12, 2020, by In Depths News

Rather than addressing the promising path forward provided by the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to finally ban the bomb, the U.S. launched a new initiative, by Alice Slater   

In an avalanche of reporting we are now assaulted with information about how the world is urgently attempting to batten down the hatches to avoid the possibility of deathly consequences from the broadly publicized outbreak of the coronavirus, causing the possibility of postponing or perhaps downsizing the upcoming five year mandatory Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Ironically, it is not nearly so well-reported, that the 50-year old NPT is threatening the world with an even worse illness then the new terrifying coronavirus.

The NPT’s critical requirement that the nuclear armed states, which signed the treaty in 1970, must make “good faith efforts” for nuclear disarmament is virtually moribund as nations are developing new nuclear weapons, some characterized as more “usable” and  destroying treaties that contributed to a more stable environment.

These include the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which the U.S. negotiated with USSR and walked out of in 2002, and its repeated rejections of offers from Russia and China to negotiate a treaty to keep weapons out of space, and from Russia to ban cyberwar, all of which would contribute to “strategic stability” which would enable the fulfillment of the NPT’s nuclear disarmament promise.

Further, this year the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Force agreement it made with Russia in 1987, left the nuclear deal it had negotiated with Iran as well, and just announced it would not meet with Russia to discuss a renewal of the Strategic Arms Control Treaty (START), due to expire this year,  which limits nuclear warheads and missiles.

It also created a whole new branch of its military, the Department of Space, which was formerly housed in the U.S. Airforce.  And in an obvious breach of “good faith” [i] ,this February the US staged a “limited” nuclear battle against Russia in a war game!

It cannot be denied that the NPT contributes to even more burgeoning nuclear proliferation by extending its misbegotten “inalienable right” to “peaceful” nuclear power, currently promoting this lethal technology to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Belarus, Bangladesh and Turkey which are all constructing their first nuclear power plants — expanding the keys to the bomb factory in more and more countries, while almost all of the current nuclear weapons states have new nuclear weapons under development.

The U.S., for example, is planning to spend over a trillion dollars over the next 10 years and is working with the UK to replace Britain’s Trident nuclear warheads.

Rather than addressing the promising path forward provided by the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to finally ban the bomb, the U.S. launched a new initiative, Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND), to develop yet another set of possible new steps to comply with its 50 year old “good faith” promises for nuclear disarmament.

At a recent meeting in Stockholm with fifteen of its allies, new measures were announced for nuclear disarmament now being described as “stepping stones”, having graduated from various commitments over the years for “steps” and “an unequivocal commitment” to those steps, since the NPT was extended in 1970, indefinitely and unconditionally.

These new “stepping stones” bring to mind M.G. Escher’s stunning drawing of a series of steps to nowhere with people endlessly trudging up a staircase, never to reach their destination!

March 14, 2020 Posted by | Reference, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Nuclear modernisation, cyber operations, raise a dilemma for nuclear deterrence

 As the character Dr. Strangelove makes clear in the eponymous classic movie, nobody is frightened of capabilities that are kept secret.

 Nuclear capabilities must be revealed to be useful for deterrence. Nuclear deterrence works because nuclear weapons states can deliberately reveal their nuclear capabilities and thus signal the potential consequences for crossing red lines. By contrast, offensive cyber operations against sensitive targets cannot be revealed if they are to be useful at all. 

Digital Strangelove: The Cyber Dangers of Nuclear Weapons, By Jon Lindsay Thursday, March 12, 2020,  : This post article is part of a series exploring the findings and recommendations of the U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

Cyberspace is the most complex sociotechnical system ever created, while nuclear weapons are the most destructive military tools in history. They are increasingly entangled in ways that we do not fully understand. Partly this is due to a lack of information—cyber operations and nuclear weapons are both highly classified realms. Partly this is due to the increasing complexity of interactions, which are hard to model. Yet the greater challenges, perhaps, are political.
Nuclear command, control and communications (NC3) is the nervous system of the strategic deterrent. NC3 enables critical informational functions such as early warning and situation monitoring, operational planning and assessment, strategic decision-making and tactical force direction. Commanders aim to ensure that weapons are always available for authorized use and never usable without authorization. There is some tension between these requirements, insofar as a highly alert posture to ensure usability increases the risk of accident, and some close calls resulted during the Cold War.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in NC3 and strategic stability among academics and arms controllers. This new wave of concern has been prompted, variously, by revelations about U.S. operations allegedly targeting Iranian enrichment and North Korean missile tests; concerns about interactions with artificial intelligence or social media; and fears of inadvertent escalation due to cyber-nuclear interaction or the entanglement of nuclear and conventional forces.
As the Defense Science Board recommended in 2013, “[I]mmediate action to assess and assure national leadership that the current U.S. nuclear deterrent is also survivable against the full-spectrum cyber … threat.” NC3 modernization also features prominently in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. The U.S. Air Force has, accordingly, designated NC3 as a weapon system (AN/USQ-225), which consists of as many as 160 different systems. Upgrades of NC3 to leverage digital technology have the potential to improve reliability and accountability. It is a truism, however, that complexity is the enemy of cybersecurity. Greater reliance on software components offers convenience and flexibility at the price of new logical failure modes that are difficult to model. The interactive complexity of digital components, sophisticated weapons and demanding deterrent postures could increase the chance of accidents and unintended consequences.
Yet there is another category of problems that is in some ways more insidious. Covert capabilities, like offensive cyber operations, may create strategic incentives for actors to act deliberately in ways that could undermine the stability of deterrence. For example, the U.S. had a covert program of electronic warfare options targeting Soviet NC3 in the Cold War. These options might have helped to limit the damage the Soviet arsenal could inflict in a nuclear war, but they could not be revealed to the Soviets for the sake of deterrence. As the character Dr. Strangelove makes clear in the eponymous classic movie, nobody is frightened of capabilities that are kept secret. Indeed, the Soviets learned about the American program through a well-placed spy in NATO and changed their communications protocols.
This problem is even more acute today. Nuclear capabilities must be revealed to be useful for deterrence. Nuclear deterrence works because nuclear weapons states can deliberately reveal their nuclear capabilities and thus signal the potential consequences for crossing red lines. By contrast, offensive cyber operations against sensitive targets cannot be revealed if they are to be useful at all. Cyber actors deliberately conceal or obfuscate their cyber capabilities and operations because compromise would enable the target to patch or take countermeasures that mitigates the capability. This cyber commitment problem is one reason why cyber is ill suited for coercive bargaining. This is most problematic for offensive cyber operations designed for nuclear damage limitation and counterforce missions, which must be prepared well in advance in strict secrecy.

The crucial strategic conundrum, therefore, is how to manage the interaction of two domains with dangerously opposed strategic characteristics. If opponents do not agree on the balance of power in a crisis bargaining situation, for whatever reason, bargaining is more likely to fail. Offensive cyber operations targeting NC3 create just such an information asymmetry. Cyber capabilities that are needed only in the event that deterrence fails can thus make it more likely that deterrence will fail in the first place. Precisely because cyber conflict takes place below the threshold of armed conflict, the dangerous combination of offensive cyber operations and NC3 can, in effect, lower the nuclear threshold.

What is to be done? The cybersecurity of every segment of the NC3 enterprise must be assessed, to include NC3 interactions with the broader cyberspace environment. It is important not to limit analysis to technical penetrations, as social engineering or blackmail targeting operators, administrators or their families cannot be ruled out. Defense in depth for NC3 systems should include redundant communications, error correction protocols, isolation of critical systems, reduced reliance on complex software where possible, avoidance of software monocultures vulnerable to class exploitations and active network security monitoring with a threat-hunting counterintelligence mindset.

Translating defensive capacity into deterrence requires taking the additional, and politically difficult, step of advertising NC3 redundancy and resilience to potential adversaries, even in a cyber-degraded environment. Perhaps the most important thing to be done is to sensitize operators, nuclear policy makers and allied counterparts throughout the NC3 enterprise to the risks of cyber-nuclear interaction. Human interpretation and intervention will be the key to mitigating many of these scenarios as they emerge. It is thus important for governments to develop and exercise concepts and methods for noticing and evaluating the likelihood of different types of cyber-nuclear risks as they emerge in various scenarios.

The truly difficult policy questions concern the use of offensive cyber operations targeting foreign NC3. Coordination among stakeholders is more difficult because tailored cyber options, and nuclear warfighting plans generally, are highly classified in special access programs. It is precisely this level of security that gives rise to the cyber commitment problem described above. Moreover, it may be completely reasonable, or even desirable, to have just such options for damage-limiting warfighting scenarios or counterforce preemption in the event that deterrence fails. Yet it is critical that policymakers and commanders make a mindful decision about the strategic benefits of cyber options and the risks of deterrence failure they may entail. These are hard policy questions without clear technical fixes.

March 14, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, weapons and war | 1 Comment