U.N. calls for nuclear disarmament

Finally, someone said it out loud and is getting everyone riled up on the idea of a world without nuclear weapons. Here’s the article. This is one of those things that might alleviate a lot of concerns for people in the proliferation policy realm but I think it is ineffective and serves a moot point on giving us a false sense of security that the world is safer, even if all the nukes are disarmed.

Why you ask ? Because we are humans. And unlearning physics that is a simple extension of a much more helpful application, i.e., the generation of power from reactors, is quite hard. In fact to quote from the article,

Chinese President Hu Jintao made clear that Beijing had no plans to scrap its nuclear arsenal.

“We will continue to keep our nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for national security, and make efforts to advance the international disarmament process,” Hu said.

If every country that already has nukes takes a similar stance, and by suggesting arbitrarily that “we will keep our nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for national security”, there is still reason for countries that want to get in to building nukes to get a nuclear status and respect from fear. And yes, I’m talking about North Korea, Iran and may be Brazil specifically.

But we strive, and that is probably a good thing. At least, we are heading in the right direction…

A.Q. Khan on Pakistan’s Nuclear Program

I just came across a very interesting and revealing interview with A.Q. Khan who was on house arrest till early February this year for his involvement in organizing one of history’s worst nuclear scandals. The transcript of the interview is available over here and is worth the time in gaining insight on the dynamics, timelines and even the budget involved for Pakistan’s nuclear program.

[Malik] When did you come to believe that now you had the weapons-grade uranium?

[Khan] In Kahuta, we achieved 60 percent result in our enrichment program; it was a
very difficult task though. We faced a lot of challenges in the ensuing stages but
successfully managed to overcome them, and we had achieved 90 percent result in the
//enrichment// program by the early 1983.

[Malik] So when was the bomb ready?

[Khan] It was ready by 1984. I wrote a letter to Gen Zia on 10 December 1984, telling
him that the weapon was ready and that we could detonate it on a notice of one week.

[Malik] Why did you not decide to test that device as soon as it was ready?

[Khan] We were allying with the United States in the Afghan war. The aid was coming.
We asked Gen Zia and his team to go ahead with the test, but they said they could not
conduct the test as it would have serious repercussions. They argued that, since the
United States had to overlook our nuclear program due to our support in the Afghan
war, it was an opportunity for us to further develop the program. They said the tests
could be conducted any time later.

Even though there is no value in pointing fingers at anybody, it is horrifying that repercussions of the US involvement in the Afghan region is still coming back to bite everyone, US included, in diabolical ways. Read the rest of the transcript to get a better perspective on things.

Link to the transcript in PDF via Secrecy News.

More dirty jobs, in science

I am a big fan of Mike Rowe, from the “Dirty Jobs” fame and have a fascination to really weird jobs that people have to do, every day, while I sit here in front of my computer, complaining about the compiler spewing out unrecognizable error messages, in a nice air-conditioned room, with a cup of hot coffee by my side. Of course, people do these jobs, not because they entirely like it but most times, these jobs are so specialized that the bang for the buck is usually high. This might particularly true for the weird jobs you encounter in scientific fields.

And yes, all that rant does lead to something sensible. I stumbled on to this video with a description by the assistant editor of Popular Science Magazine. He lists a few of these kooky professions and what it takes in a honest day’s work. Watch it below.

And I remembered, during one of my tours of a nuclear power plant, someone mentioned how they had a problem in one of their spent nuclear pools and a nuclear pool diver came to the rescue to set things straight. I was of course, baffled by this whole idea of a human being submerged in such a hostile environment but later realized, this was another one of those “on a need to do” professional occupations. Here’s are couple of sites that gives more information about the the nuclear divers.

1) Life of a Nuclear Diver.
2) Nuclear Divers, A Definite Breed
3) And to end this post, another great video of a dive walk through inside the Phenix nuclear plant, in France. The audio is in French but the video is worth a thousand words.

Very interesting and that is just way too cool for words !

Revisiting Three Mile Island

An enlightening post that revisits some of the mistakes that caused the TMI accident, on the 30th anniversary of the mishap. I have heard some of the details from couple of professors on Nuclear Reactor Safety and they have always claimed it TMI to be an ‘accident gone right’ because there was absolutely minimal radiation exposure to the environment and pales in comparison to Chernobyl where the whole thing was a shitty mess.

I especially like Bob’s extrapolation on the current state of affairs:

The folks at TMI did not really know how to manage the technology of a nuclear power plant, and that led to a huge mess. The same thing has now happened to our economy. Congress changed the banking and mortgage lending rules without regard to their purpose. Many firms bought derivative securities without the slightest thought to the math behind them or the risk they were incurring. Nuclear power plants run on a chain reaction process of atomic decay. Our government and investment community created a chain reaction of economic decay.

Anyway, since it is the 30th anniversary of TMI, I figured that it would be wise to educate the one or two readers following my site. So here, read up.

Three Mile Island Memories.

Also, if you feel like reading more in-depth, check out the TMI fact-sheet at the NRC website TMI Fact sheet

Note to self: Got to watch ‘The China Syndrome’ soon. I keep reading about it over and over to the extent that it is annoying the hell out of me…

China moving forward with AP1000 reactors

This is good news. I know that the NRC in the USA are already working on getting site licenses approved for the AP1000 reactors and this is a welcome move that should spark more interest in this Westinghouse design.

There are also several more designs apparently being planned for construction in China, in the near future. An excerpt from World-Nuclear-News:

The AP1000 is to be one of two designs built en-masse in China. The other is the CPR-1000, itself derived from French reactors imported for the Daya Bay nuclear power plant in the 1980s. China has a range of power reactors including Candu-6s from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd and VVER-1000s from AtomStroyExport. Two Areva EPRs are planned, as are two more VVER-1000s.

China Fires up Construction of the First of Many AP1000 nuclear reactors.

Atomic John

There has been quite a furore about an unknown truck driver delivering a thorough account of the first 2 nuclear bombs ever built on the face of the earth. Intrigued and excited, I searched google to read more about him and stumbled on this gem of an interview/article that brought him to light.

Read David Samuels’s account about the truck driver, John Coster-Mullen, who conducted more than a decade of research to successfully build the first accurate replica of Little-Boy, the master-blaster that annihilated Hiroshima, ending WWII. The article itself is quite interesting and leaves you wanting for more. Here’s an excerpt:

I recently wrote to Coster-Mullen and suggested that we take a trip across the country to visit his Little Boy replica, which is currently housed at Wendover, a decommissioned Air Force base in Utah. After some negotiation, we agreed to ride together on his late-night delivery route between Waukesha and Chicago. We would then drive to Wendover. Along the way, he would explain the inner workings of the first atomic bombs, and I would learn how he got it right and the experts got it wrong.

Atomic John: The New Yorker.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the his book “Atom Bombs: The Top Secret Inside Story of Little Boy and Fat Man”.

Toshiba builds 100x smaller Micro Nuclear Reactor : A hoax

It is interesting enough following through the new developments in the nuclear industry with innovative GEN4 reactors sprouting out concepts little explored before. But then again, there is nothing like a hoax that seems very genuine from one of the biggest heads in the nuclear industry. Here’s an excerpt.

A blog called Next Energy News leaks a story about Toshiba building a “Micro Nuclear Reactor” that would be nothing short of a miracle.

The 200 kilowatt Toshiba designed reactor is engineered to be fail-safe and totally automatic and will not overheat. Unlike traditional nuclear reactors the new micro reactor uses no control rods to initiate the reaction. The new revolutionary technology uses reservoirs of liquid lithium-6, an isotope that is effective at absorbing neutrons. The Lithium-6 reservoirs are connected to a vertical tube that fits into the reactor core. The whole whole process is self sustaining and can last for up to 40 years, producing electricity for only 5 cents per kilowatt hour, about half the cost of grid energy.

via Gadgets-Weblog

Sad that this news was a hoax but in reality, if such a design were to be made in a feasible manner, this could be wonderful in lieu of the growing concerns on global warming and move towards greener energy. Well, it still would create new problems in the nuclear non-proliferation regime but lets deal with this one step at a time.

1

The new Russian bomb

I am sure you’ve heard the news already and seen the video of the explosion a million times. That is unless you are living under a rock. The new bomb is supposed to be completely free of nuclear materials but still delivers the “boom” that would be expected of a nuclear device. Quite interesting and a little scary considering that Putin has been sacking and shuffling his cabinet recently to fit the profile he wants. Is this an attempt by Putin to bring Russia back into a state of global power ? Time will tell.

Anyway, without diverging further, let me give you an excerpt from an article on the new Russian test. From CNN

The Russian military has successfully tested what it described as the world’s most powerful non-nuclear air-delivered bomb, Russia’s state television reported Tuesday.

The bomb’s detonation is shown in this image taken from videotape.

It was the latest show of Russia’s military muscle amid chilly relations with the United States.

Channel One television said the new weapon, nicknamed the “dad of all bombs” is four times more powerful than the U.S. “mother of all bombs.”

“The tests have shown that the new air-delivered ordnance is comparable to a nuclear weapon in its efficiency and capability,” said Col.-Gen. Alexander Rukshin, a deputy chief of the Russian military’s General Staff, said in televised remarks. Video Watch Russian bomb test »

Unlike a nuclear weapon, the bomb doesn’t hurt the environment, he added.

Read more

<sarcasm>YESSS ! It doesn’t hurt the environment ! That should keep the global warming fanatics quiet. You showed them Russia. Way to go.</sarcasm>
Retards.

Btw, also found a nice video of the test, an official release from the Russian government. I should say, the mushroom clouds get me all tingly every time I see it on video. Let’s hope I’ll never have to see that in person during my life !!