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Design problems delay development of Russia’s High-Tech Nuclear Submarine

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May 25, 2019 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The escalating danger and unpredictability of nuclear weapons

Nuclear Weapons Are Getting Less Predictable, and More Dangerous  Defense One,  MAY 16, 2019   Facing steerable ICBMs and smaller warheads, the Pentagon seeks better tracking as the White House pursues an unlikely arms-control treaty.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, to discuss, among many things, the prospect of a new, comprehensive nuclear-weapons treaty with Russia and China. At the same time, the Pentagon is developing a new generation of nuclear weapons to keep up with cutting-edge missiles and warheads coming out of Moscow. If the administration fails in its ambitious renegotiation, the world is headed toward a new era of heightened nuclear tension not seen in decades.

That’s because these new weapons are eroding the idea of nuclear predictability.

Since the dawn of the nuclear era, the concept of the nuclear triad — bombers, submarines, and intercontinental ballistic missiles — created a shared set of expectations around what the start of a nuclear war would look like. If you were in NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado and you saw ICBMs headed toward the United States, you knew that a nuclear first strike was underway. The Soviets had a similar set of expectations, and this shared understanding created the delicate balance of deterrence — a balance that is becoming unsettled.

Start with Russia’s plans for new, more-maneuverable ICBMs. Such weapons have loosely been dubbed “hypersonic weapons” — something of a misnomer because all intercontinental ballistic missiles travel at hypersonic speeds of five or more times the speed of sound — and they create new problems for America’s defenders. …….

The United States is starting to build a new generation of smaller nukes of its own. The reasoning was laid out in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, and the weapons have been rolling off the assembly line since January……

But Selva also noted that low-yield weapons present the same sort of ambiguity as hypersonic weapons.

“We don’t know what they launched at us until it explodes,” he said.

The U.S. military has responded to Russian weapons development with several other key moves: building a next-generation air-launched cruise missile, hiring Northrop Grumman to build a new penetrating bomber, lowering the nuclear yield on some sub-launched ballistic missiles, and exploring bringing back a sea-launched cruise missile, or SLCM, that could have a nuclear tip……

Lynn Rusten, vice president of the Global Nuclear Policy Program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, said that the ambiguity problem would apply to the SLCMs effort as well. “We use conventional SLCMs a lot in our normal warfare. If you start having nuclear SLCMs deployed as well, there will be a real discrimination in terms of when one of those things is launched, what is that thing coming at you? Where is it going?”……..

Many arms control experts say the first and most important step that the U.S. could take in navigating this far more unpredictable future is to extend New START. Even Selva, who declined to offer a public recommendation about such an extension, said that the United States benefits in multiple ways from the treaty’s mechanisms for keeping track of the parties’ strategic arsenals. ……

A collapse of New START might also cause China to embrace a more aggressive nuclear stance to hedge against rising unpredictability…….

As uncertainty increases, misperceptions become more dangerous. And there is reason to believe the United States is already looking at the situation through various imperfect lenses. One is the belief that China has any interest in trilateral arms control. Another is “escalate to de-escalate.” Some Russia experts, such as Olga Oliker, the Europe and Central Asia director at the International Crisis Group, call it a fiction dreamed up in the West after a misreading of a Russia’s 2017 Naval Doctrine.

“Moscow continues to believe, and Russian generals in private conversations emphasize, that any conventional conflict with NATO risks rapid escalation without ‘de-escalation’ — into all-destroying nuclear war. It must therefore be avoided at all costs,” she wrote in February.

“If anything, U.S. emphasis on new lower-yield capabilities — effectively an ‘escalate to de-escalate’ strategy of the sort many attribute to Russia — would undermine the deterrent balance, potentially triggering the very sorts of crises low-yield proponents hope to avert.”

Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, says the “escalate to de-escalate” debate obscures a more fundamental truth about Russian strategic doctrine. “Russia has never accepted the proposition that a war with the United States could be conventional only. Hence, Russian nuclear strategy has a firm place for scalable employment of nuclear weapons, for demonstration, escalation management, warfighting, and war termination if need be,” he told Defense One. “The gist of the problem is that the Pentagon believes that nuclear weapons are some kind of gimmick that can be deterred in conventional war, but actually the prospect for conventional-only war with Russia is somewhat limited from the outset.”

Bottom line: the U.S., Russia, and China, may be entering into a high-stakes discussion on nuclear arms with each suffering from severe misconceptions about the others’ intent. The price of failure of the new negotiation effort, if New START is not re-affirmed, would be a new period of heightened nuclear tensions and less predictability.

Rusten believes the arms race has already begun.

“We don’t want to be where that trajectory will take us five years from now,” she said.https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/05/everyones-nuclear-weapons-are-getting-less-predictable-and-more-dangerous/157052/

May 18, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Russia’s upgraded nuclear-powered missile cruisers to get advanced torpedo defense systems

Tass, May 13 2019  Both Project 22350 new frigates and Project 20380 corvettes under construction and Project 11442 cruisers undergoing upgrade will be furnished with the Paket-NK system.  MOSCOW, May 13. /TASS/. The advanced Paket-NK torpedo defense system developed by the Research and Production Enterprise ‘Region’ (part of Tactical Missiles Corporation) will be mounted on Project 11442 cruisers during their upgrade, Enterprise CEO Igor Krylov told TASS on Monday……..

As a result of their upgrade, the Project 11442 cruisers will get new Oniks and Kalibr missiles and Tsirkon hypersonic weapons (instead of Granit missiles currently in service). Advanced surface-to-air missile systems, communications, navigation, life support and other systems are due to be mounted on these warships.
The Project 11442 heavy missile cruisers are among the Russian Navy’s largest warships: they are 250 meters long and displace over 26,000 tonnes. The warships have 20 launchers of Granit anti-ship supersonic missiles as their basic armament. The warships have an unlimited operating range due to their nuclear propulsion unit. Russia and the United States are the sole countries that operate warships of this class. http://tass.com/defense/1057894

 

May 14, 2019 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Rosatom keenly pursuing international nuclear sales, especially nuclear-weapons related

Rosatom expects foreign business income to double by 2024, WNN,10 May 2019  Rosatom expects to double revenue from its overseas business, from USD6.6 billion last year to USD15 billion by 2024, its director general, Alexey Likhachov, has told Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. In their meeting, on 6 May, Likhachov said foreign projects were the “key theme” of the state nuclear corporation’s future growth.

According to a transcript of their conversation published by Medvedev’s office, Likhachov also said the “open part” of Rosatom’s revenue had for the first time exceeded RUB1 trillion and that investment was also at a record level of one-quarter of a trillion rubles ….
It is also making progress with its new businesses. “It is important to emphasise here that more than 50% of the revenue from new businesses is provided by enterprises of the nuclear weapons complex, defence companies. …….. http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Rosatom-sees-income-from-foreign-business-doubling

May 11, 2019 Posted by | marketing, Russia | Leave a comment

Russia using nuclear power loans and sales to have political influence – nuclear colonialism

Russia’s Nuclear Power Exports are Booming, Moscow Times, 10 May 19, 

Rosatom has been using nuclear power plants as a way of cementing ties with its fellow emerging markets.Russia’s state-owned agency Rosatom is on a tear. The company operates 35 nuclear power stations in Russia that produce 28 gigawatts (GW) of power, and it is actively exporting its nuclear technology to countries around the world.

Russia has been using nuclear power plants as a way of cementing ties with its fellow emerging markets with no nuclear power tradition and the BRICS countries, a group that started as a marketing tool for Goldman Sachs to sell equity but has increasingly turned into a real geopolitical alliance amongst the leading emerging market governments.

In recent years Rosatom has completed the construction of six nuclear power reactors in India, Iran and China and it has another nine reactors under construction in Turkey, Belarus, India, Bangladesh and China. Rosatom confirmed to bne IntelliNews that it has a total of 19 more “firmly planned” projects and an additional 14 “proposed” projects, almost all in emerging markets around the world.

Rosatom has become the world’s largest nuclear reactor builder as the financial problems of the two big Western firms Westinghouse Areva have crimped their ability to develop nuclear plants abroad . as the financial problems of the two big Western firms Westinghouse Areva have crimped their ability to develop nuclear plants abroad. Westinghouse and Areva, now owned by EDF, have for years negotiated deals to build reactors in India but have made little progress, partly because Indian nuclear liability legislation gives reactor manufacturers less protection against claims for damages in case of accidents.

The sales drive was organised by former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko, who presided over Russia during the 1998 financial crisis but was given the job of running Rosatom after leaving office and tasked with selling 40 nuclear power plants internationally.

… Part of Rosatom’s appeal is not only Russia’s lower prices and state-of-the-art technology, but the fact that company usually provides most of the financing for the typically $10 billion price tag.

Last year the Russian firm said it had an order book worth $134 billion and contracts to build 22 nuclear reactors in nine countries over the next decade, including Belarus, Bangladesh, China, India, Turkey, Finland, Hungary, Egypt and Iran. The size of the order book puts nuclear power station exports on a par with Russia’s booming arms export business.

But underpinning the business is politics. Russia has long used energy as the sweetener when offering a package of trade deal to its international partners. Like gas pipelines, nuclear power stations are a way of binding countries to Russia, as nuclear power stations come with 60-year long maintenance deals and uranium supply contracts.

…. Iran Bushehr

One of the most controversial nuclear power stations built by Moscow was Iran’s Bushehr that was completed in 2013 over strong U.S. objections.

….Russia has been producing new parts for the second nuclear power plant to be built at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf and now Russia is preparing to push ahead with the construction of the second unit. ……

India Kudankulam…..

Hungary Paks……

Belarus Grodno……

Turkey Akkuyu……

Egypt El Dabaa…… https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/05/09/russias-nuclear-power-exports-are-booming-a65533

May 11, 2019 Posted by | marketing, politics international, Russia | Leave a comment

Discussion on nuclear weapons, between Trump and Putin

May 4, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA | Leave a comment

Russia Wants Serious Talks on New Nuclear Deals With US

April 30, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Russia | Leave a comment

Russia wants to know details of Trump’s nuclear arms-control initiative

April 29, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA | Leave a comment

Russia seeks a new nuclear weapons treaty with the United States and China.

Russia ready to discuss nuclear treaty with China, US, https://nypost.com/2019/04/26/russia-ready-to-discuss-nuclear-treaty-with-china-us/  By Associated Press, April 26, 2019 , MOSCOW — A top Russian diplomat says Russia is willing to negotiate a new nuclear weapons treaty with the United States and China.Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters on Friday Moscow is closely following reports in the United States that the U.S. would like to reach a nuclear weapons deal with both Russia and China, and is “willing” to negotiate.

The story was reported by CNN earlier Friday.

Ryabkov also said that Russia “would like to convince” the U.S. to adopt a joint statement that would condemn any use of nuclear weapons.

Ryabkov’s comments come just months after the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a cornerstone of the post-Cold War security, and Russia followed suit.

Each claims breaches by the other.

April 27, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Russia | Leave a comment

Russia’s President Putin supports North Korea, seeks multilateral talks on decnuclearising the Korean Peninsula

After Meeting Kim Jong-un, Putin Supports North Korea on Nuclear Disarmament, NYT, By Andrew E. Kramer and Choe Sang-Hun, April 25, 2019, MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia made a public show of support for North Korea on nuclear disarmament, seeming to undermine President Trump’s approach to nuclear diplomacy, as Mr. Putin and Kim Jong-un on Thursday wrapped up their first summit meeting.

Russian officials have long insisted they wanted to support Mr. Trump’s efforts at one-on-one nuclear negotiations with Mr. Kim, the North Korean leader. But speaking to reporters after the meeting in Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific Ocean coast, Mr. Putin said that North Korea needs security guarantees from more nations than just the United States before abandoning its nuclear arsenal.

Mr. Putin also reiterated Russian backing for a gradual process of trading disarmament for sanctions relief. “If we take one step forward and two backward, then we would fail to achieve the desired result,” Mr. Putin said. “But it will eventually be possible to achieve this goal, if we move forward gradually and if we respect each other’s interests.”

At talks in February in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, Mr. Trump had proposed a “big deal” to lift punishing economic sanctions in return for a quick and complete elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Mr. Kim offered, instead, only a partial dismantling of nuclear facilities — while keeping his arsenal of nuclear warheads and missiles — in exchange for relief from the most harmful sanctions.

With each side calling the other’s plan unacceptable the talks collapsed — in sharp contrast to the rosy picture both leaders painted of their first meeting in Singapore in June.

After the breakdown in talks in Hanoi, North Korea vented its frustration with a weapons test and accusations that Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, and secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, were sabotaging negotiations.

In his first trip abroad since the talks in Vietnam, Mr. Kim sought to stress his friendly relations with the Kremlin as a counterweight to the hard-line tactics of the Trump administration.

….. Mr. Putin suggested Russia might welcome a revival of multilateral talks on North Korea, known as the six-party negotiations, which have been dormant for a decade and were previously derided by Mr. Trump

…….. The most important thing, as we have discussed today during the talks, is to restore the rule of international law and revert to the position where global developments were regulated by international law instead of the rule of the fist,” Mr. Putin said. “If this happens, this would be the first and critical step toward resolving challenging situations such as the one on the Korean Peninsula.”

….. Before they collapsed in 2009, the six-party talks among China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, the United States and Russia had produced agreements to halt North Korea’s nuclear program, but the North later abrogated them.

Any Russian attempt to revive them now is bad news for Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly cited them as the prime example of the failed tactics of previous administrations. He has claimed that his own leader-to-leader diplomacy with Mr. Kim stood a far better chance of bringing about the North’s denuclearization.

Russian foreign policy has a different starting point. “In Moscow’s thinking, Kim Jong-un has learned from the fates of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi that for an authoritarian regime, the only safeguard against U.S. military intervention is the possession of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the American mainland,” Aleksandr Gabuev, a fellow at the Moscow Carnegie Center, wrote……… https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/world/europe/summit-kim-putin-trump-nuclear-north-korea.html

 

April 27, 2019 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, Russia | Leave a comment

Russia urges for six-part talks as the practical way to deal with North Korea

April 25, 2019 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, Russia | Leave a comment

Russia’s attitude to North Korea’s nuclear weapons

What Russia thinks about North Korea’s nuclear weapons, Bulletin of the Atomic ScientistsBy Anastasia Barannikova, April 24, 2019, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia today for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin…..  Despite Russia’s past vote in favor of sanctions on Kim’s regime, Moscow has many reasons not to lean too hard on Kim over nuclear disarmament…………

Russia wants a stable North more than a non-nuclear North. Although, Russia continues to officially oppose North Korea’s nuclear status on the basis of its strict interpretation of the NPT, experts already speak about “nuclear emancipation” for the North, meaning recognition of its status as a lesser nuclear state. These ideas coincide with an idea some Chinese scholars have developed whereby North Korea would reduce its nuclear arsenal but keep some weapons as a deterrent. From Russia’s perspective, nuclear weapons now guarantee the security of the North Korean regime. The weapons can prevent attempts at violent regime change by external force. Through them, North Korean leadership has the independence to make changes within its borders. That’s good for Russia.

Many Russian analysts consider North Korea’s nuclear program to be defensive. Looking at the North’s nuclear doctrine, it seems likely the country wouldn’t use its nuclear weapons against a country that isn’t planning an attack. While little is known about Russia’s military planning beyond its publicly available doctrines, the specifics of the bilateral relations it holds with the North may guarantee that Russia has no plans to attack its neighbor.

……….The security of Kim’s regime, in turn, guarantees stability near Russia’s eastern borders. For Russia, a stable North Korean regime guarantees the absence of refugees flows, a normal feature of conflict zones, but also prevents US troops from deploying in a potentially disintegrating North. And with its nuclear weapons as diplomatic leverage, North Korea can maintain some independence from China. Thus, Moscow views Kim’s stability as providing something of a buffer between Russia and China.

Do North Korean nuclear weapons pose a threat to Russia? From Moscow’s perspective, the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia are relatively stable and don’t pose any immediate threats to security. Relations between Russia and North Korea are neutral, if not friendly. North Korean leadership appreciates Russia’s cautious, slow approach to the relationship, in contrast to China’s activist take on issues on the Korean Peninsula. Russia’s emphasis on the need to respect state sovereignty as a fundamental principle of international relations further lubricates the bilateral relationship: Russia avoids any attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of the North, so Pyongyang does not consider Russia as an external threat.

Many Russian analysts consider North Korea’s nuclear program to be defensive. Looking at the North’s nuclear doctrine, it seems likely the country wouldn’t use its nuclear weapons against a country that isn’t planning an attack. While little is known about Russia’s military planning beyond its publicly available doctrines, the specifics of the bilateral relations it holds with the North may guarantee that Russia has no plans to attack its neighbor.

But there is one scenario whereby North Korea’s nuclear weapons could threaten Russia. If Kim launches missiles against the United States, experts say they’ll fly over Russian territory. A US anti-missile response could, thus, risk a war between Russia and the United States. But Russian experts don’t believe that North Korea would ever attack the United States; they consider Kim Jong Un too rational for that. ………https://thebulletin.org/2019/04/what-russia-thinks-about-north-koreas-nuclear-weapons/

April 25, 2019 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, Russia | Leave a comment

Putin’s new super-dooper longest submarine packed with nuclear torpedoes

Putin reveals world’s longest submarine packed with nuclear torpedoes capable of destroying an entire city  The super sub’s weapons can dodge Nato’s underwater defences to hit cities, naval bases or aircraft carriers anywhere in Europe or on America’s eastern coast The Irish Sun,  By Patrick Knox  21st April 2019,  A GIANT Russian submarine which measures a staggering 604ft is due to be moved out of its secret construction shed as it nears completion.

The 14,700-ton Belgorod, which is twice the size of the Royal Navy’s Astute-class attack submarines, bristles with nuclear-tipped underwater drone torpedoes which are guided by artificial intelligence.

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has boasted these “Poseidon” drones can completely destroy coastal targets 6,000 miles away.

They are specifically designed to thwart Nato underwater defences as it heads to targets in cities, naval bases or aircraft carriers anywhere in Europe or on America’s eastern coast.

The Belgorod has been built at a secretive shipyard in the city of Severodvinsk, which is in Russia’s far north west and foreigners are forbidden from entering.

The sub is also fitted with an underwater dock.

This allows it to launch a 180ft mini-sub and intelligence gathering drones…….  https://www.thesun.ie/news/4009866/putin-reveals-worlds-longest-submarine-packed-with-nuclear-torpedoes-capable-of-destroying-an-entire-city/

April 22, 2019 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

More countries headed to go into nuclear debt to Russia

Rosatom forges more links with nuclear newcomers, 17 April 2019 Rosatom and its subsidiaries have this week signed a number of agreements with countries planning to introduce nuclear power to their energy mix, including Azerbaijan, Congo, Cuba, Ethiopia, Serbia and Uzbekistan. The documents were signed during the XI International Forum Atomexpo 2019 that the Russian state nuclear corporation is holding in Sochi. It also signed an agreement with established nuclear power country China. ………http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Rosatom-forges-more-links-with-nuclear-newcomers

April 18, 2019 Posted by | marketing, Russia | Leave a comment

We should be alarmed about the ongoing consequences of nuclear leaks and the risk of new nuclear disasters

The Chernobyl SyndromeThe New York Review of Books  Sophie PinkhamAPRIL4, 2019

Manual for Survival: A Chernobyluie to the Futur

by Kate Brown
Norton, 420 pp., $27.95

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster

by Adam Higginbotham
Simon and Schuster, 538 pp., $29.95

Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe

by Serhii Plokhy
Basic Books, 404 pp., $32.00
“……….. General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev was informed that there had been an explosion and fire at the plant but that the reactor itself had not been seriously damaged. No one wanted to be the bearer of catastrophic news. When the occasional official raised the question of whether to warn civilians and evacuate the city of Pripyat, which had been built to house workers from the Chernobyl plant, he was admonished to wait for higher-ups to make a decision and for a committee to be formed. Panic and embarrassment were of greater concern than public safety. The KGB cut Pripyat’s intercity telephone lines and prevented residents from leaving, as part of the effort to keep news of the disaster from spreading. Some locals were savvy enough to try to leave on their own. But with no public warning, many didn’t take even the minimal precaution of staying indoors with the windows shut. One man was happily sunbathing the next morning, pleased by the speed with which he was tanning. He was soon in the hospital.

Moscow officials eventually realized that the reactor had exploded, and that there was an imminent risk of another, much larger explosion. More than thirty-six hours after the initial meltdown, Pripyat was evacuated. Columns of Kiev city buses had been sent to wait for evacuees on the outskirts of the city, absorbing radiation while plans were debated. These radioactive buses deposited their radioactive passengers in villages chosen to house the refugees, then returned to their regular routes in Kiev. Over the next two weeks, another 75,000 people were resettled from the thirty-kilometer area around Pripyat, which was to become known as the “Exclusion Zone,” and which remains almost uninhabited to this day.

The Soviet system began to marshal its vast human resources to “liquidate” the disaster. Many efforts to stop the fire in the reactor only made matters worse by triggering new reactions or creating toxic smoke, but doing nothing was not an option. Pilots, soldiers, firefighters, and scientists volunteered, exposing themselves to huge doses of radiation. (Many others fled from the scene.) They were rewarded with cash bonuses, cars, and apartments, and some were made “Hero of the Soviet Union” or “Hero of Ukraine,” but many became invalids or didn’t live to see their new homes. The radiation levels were so high that they made the electronics in robots fail, so “biorobots”—people in makeshift lead protective gear—did the work of clearing the area.

On April 28, a radioactive cloud reached Scandinavia. After attempts at denial, the Soviet government conceded that there had been an accident. Western journalists soon began reporting alarming estimates of Chernobyl casualties. To maintain the illusion that the accident was already under control, Moscow ordered Ukrainians to continue with the planned May Day parade in Kiev, about eighty miles away, thus exposing huge numbers of people—including many children—to radioactive fallout.

Thanks to word of mouth and to their well-honed skill at reading between the lines of official declarations, however, Kiev residents were already fleeing. By early May, the exodus had grown so large that it became almost impossible to buy a plane, train, or bus ticket out of the city. Tens of thousands of residents left even before the official order to evacuate children was issued, far too late, on May 15. Thousands of people were treated for radiation exposure in Soviet hospitals by the end of the summer of 1986, but the Soviet press was allowed to report only on the hospitalizations of the Chernobyl firemen and plant operators.

A few decades later, it seemed to many that the world’s worst nuclear disaster had caused surprisingly little long-term damage. The official toll is now between thirty-one and fifty-four deaths from acute radiation poisoning (among plant workers and firefighters), doubled leukemia rates among those exposed to exceptionally high radiation levels during the disaster response, and several thousand cases of thyroid cancer—highly treatable, very rarely fatal—among children. Pripyat became a spooky tourist site. In the Exclusion Zone, one could soon see wolves, elk, lynx, brown bears, and birds of prey that had almost disappeared from the area before Chernobyl; some visitors described it as a kind of radioactive Eden, proof of nature’s resiliency. But striking differences in new books about Chernobyl by Kate Brown, Adam Higginbotham, and Serhii Plokhy show that there are still many ways to tell this story, and that the lessons of Chernobyl remain unresolved.

Both Plokhy and Higginbotham devote their first sections to dramatic reconstructions of the disaster at the plant.  Sketches of loving family life or youthful ambition introduce the central figures, making us queasy with dread. The two authors’ minute-by-minute descriptions of the reactor meltdown and its aftermath are as gripping as any thriller and employ similar techniques: the moments of horrified realization, the heroic races against time. The prescient 1979 film The China Syndrome, about a barely averted disaster at a nuclear plant and its cover-up, is mentioned in both books. The movie’s title comes from a former Manhattan Project scientist’s hypothetical discussion of a reactor meltdown in North America causing fuel to burn its way through the globe to China. Though that specific scenario was clearly impossible, “China syndrome” became shorthand for anxieties about nuclear material burning through the foundations of the Chernobyl plant and entering the water table, the Dnieper River Basin, and then the Black Sea.

Plokhy, a historian of Ukraine, provides a masterful account of how the USSR’s bureaucratic dysfunction, censorship, and impossible economic targets produced the disaster and hindered the response to it.  Though the Soviets held a show trial to pin responsibility on three plant employees, Plokhy makes plain the absurdity of holding individuals accountable for what was clearly a systemic failure…….

For Plokhy, the greatest lesson of Chernobyl is the danger of authoritarianism. The secretive Soviet Union’s need to look invincible led it to conceal the many nuclear accidents that preceded Chernobyl, instead of using studies of them to improve safety.  …. Once the reactor exploded, Soviet censorship kept citizens in the dark about the disaster, preventing them from taking measures to protect themselves.

But cover-ups and bureaucratic buck-passing don’t happen only in authoritarian governments. ………

we should be alarmed about the ongoing consequences of nuclear leaks and the risk of new nuclear disasters. Higginbotham points out that the United States now operates a hundred nuclear power reactors, including the one at Three Mile Island that suffered a serious accident in 1979, just twelve days after the release of The China Syndrome. France generates 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants, and China operates thirty-nine nuclear power plants and is building twenty more. Some people see nuclear power plants, which do not emit any carbon dioxide, as the most feasible way of limiting climate change, and new reactor models promise to be safer, more efficient, and less poisonous. But what if something goes wrong?

And what about nuclear waste? There are hundreds of nuclear waste sites in the US alone. In February the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the excavation of a landfill near St. Louis containing nuclear waste, dumped illegally, that dated back to the Manhattan Project. For years, an underground fire has been burning a few thousand feet from the dump. It took the federal government twenty-seven years to reach a decision about how to deal with this nuclear waste dump near a major metropolitan area, yet we fault the Soviet government for its inadequate response to a nuclear meltdown that unfolded in a matter of minutes. US failure to adequately address longstanding hazards—not to mention the slow-motion catastrophe of climate change—is yet another indication that poor disaster response is hardly unique to authoritarian regimes.

Then there is the renewed threat of nuclear war. One of Gorbachev’s biggest achievements was the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated US and Soviet land-based intermediate nuclear weapon systems. This February the US withdrew from the treaty, with President Trump citing Russian noncompliance. His administration recently called for the expansion of the US “low-yield” nuclear force, which includes weapons the size of those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Analysts have pointed out that a greater diversity of nuclear weapons makes it harder for a target to know whether it is facing a limited or existential threat—and therefore  raises the risk that the target will overreact…………https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2019/04/04/chernobyl-syndrome/?fbclid=IwAR3t_0OOHrEx58i85ELla1otEQ8_vIOTpxhDaI0Lw7iWIpfP-4mT5aVLKtU

April 11, 2019 Posted by | Russia, safety | Leave a comment