Space-based missile defense. Again?

The concept of zombies, coopted and corrupted as it has been over time, seems to follow the cultural moment. Apparently, the idea of a creature that persistently gets up after it’s good and knocked down really resonates with Americans. (I agree with the commentators who suggest we have reached “peak zombie.”) Clearly, however, Congress is not on the cultural vanguard, and seems not to have gotten the message that we are all set with the undead. Read More

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Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent

Nuclear power reactor designs feature multiple diverse safety components to prevent a fuel meltdown and the release of radiation should a meltdown occur. Called defense-in-depth, these multiple barriers would all have to fail for radiation to be released. If any individual barrier was 100% reliable, the remaining barriers would not be necessary. Read More

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U.S. and China Talk Civil Space Cooperation

With little fanfare beyond a State Department press release, the United States on Monday began bilateral discussions with China on civil space cooperation.

You would be forgiven for not thinking that’s remarkable, since the United States and China are the two biggest space players. Read More

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Commendable Catch at Calvert Cliffs

Fission Stories #198

The owner of the two reactors at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant near Lusby, Maryland informed the NRC on March 20, 2015, about a maintenance practice that could have prevented emergency systems from fulfilling their safety functions during an accident. Read More

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China in Focus #19: Peaches, Plums and the Challenge of Cross-Cultural Communication,+%E4%B8%8B%E8%87%AA%E6%88%90%E8%B9%8A&newwindow=1&client=safari&rls=en&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAWoVChMIjf27_p-QyAIVxy-ICh1vGgN8&biw=1266&bih=676#imgrc=_

Chinese President Xi Jinping likes to use Chinese idioms in his public remarks. While speaking to a select group of U.S. luminaries in Seattle on the first day of a state visit to the United States, President Xi dropped the following Chinese gem on his non-Chinese speaking audience: 桃李不言, 下自成蹊. Read More

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You Don’t Make Deals Like this with Your Friends: Arms Control and the New U.S.-Russian Tension

In recent days, Congressional opponents of the Iran agreement were unable to stop it from going into effect. This is a big win for the Obama administration, which—after two years of negotiations with European allies, China, Russia and Iran—worked hard for months to convince Senators to support the historic agreement. Read More

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NRC Restores Public Access to Information

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #64

In July 2014, UCS learned that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had for nearly a decade been blanket withholding all documents it received from nuclear plant owners about fire protection and emergency planning.

In November 2014, I wrote the NRC Chairman on behalf of UCS, Beyond Nuclear, Greenpeace, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and requesting that the Commission revisit this policy and revise it to restore the public’s access to non-sensitive information. Read More

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A Dose of Reality: Rising Costs for Nuclear Weapons

In a previous post Stephen Young and I looked at the overall changes in cost estimates for the NNSA’s 3+2 program to replace the entire nuclear weapons stockpile. As we noted, the FY16 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP) shows a significant increase in cost estimates for most life extension programs (LEPs) when compared with the FY15 SSMP, which showed a largely unexplained drop in cost estimates from those in the FY14 report. Read More

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The Saturday Night Live Approach to Nuclear Safety: More Cowbell!

Fission Stories #197

The April 8, 2000, Saturday Night Live broadcast featured a skit with cast members pretending to be the rock group Blue Oyster Cult in the recording studio with a famous music producer, played by actor Christopher Walken. The skit is remembered for Walken’s character stating “I gotta have more cowbell.”

The NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process (ROP) needs more cowbell, too. Read More

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New Update to UCS Satellite Database

An updated version of the UCS Satellite Database has just been posted. This update includes satellites launched through August 31, 2015. Currently, we tally 1305 actively operating satellites. (Reminder: a detailed discussion of what we mean by “active” can be found here.) Read More

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Nuclear Plant Lifetimes

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #63

The original licenses issued by the NRC for nuclear power reactors permit operation for up to 40 years. Owners can, and many have, applied to the NRC for license renewals that permit operation for up to 20 more years. Read More

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Atomic Speedometers

Fission Stories #196

Local, state and federal officials post limits on how fast people can drive their vehicles along roads under normal conditions. The posted speed limits are risk-informed because vary from road to road depending on risk factors such as congestion and access options. Read More

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NNSA’s Roller Coaster Ride on Costs of the 3+2 Plan

Written with Stephen Young

The FY16 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP), released in March, is the latest in a series of these reports published annually by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-independent agency that oversees production and maintenance of U.S. Read More

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Workshop on the Future of the U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

Last September UCS, in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), organized a one-day workshop on the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. We are pleased to release the summary report of the conference, which recaps the day and provides key findings. Read More

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Shh! Secrets of the Cooling Towers

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #62

Go up to almost anyone on Main Street, Anytown, USA and ask them what this picture shows and the most common answer you will hear is “a nuclear plant cooling tower.” Read More

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Browns Ferry Barbeque

Fission Stories #195

Workers restarted the Unit 1 boiling water reactor (BWR) at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant near Athens, Alabama in early November 2014 following a routine refueling outage. Read More

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Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Lessons from the NTSB

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #61

Planes, Trains & Automobiles is a 1987 comedy film starring Steve Martin and the late John Candy. The title also describes several of the travel modes that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates when things go wrong. Read More

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Chillin’ at the NRC: Surprising Survey Results

Fission Stories #194

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has two formal programs for its workers to use when they disagree with the agency’s decisions and positions. (These programs complement informal processes where workers can discuss issues with supervisors and colleagues.) One is called the Non-Concurrence process and the other is the Differing Professional Opinion program. Read More

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Nuclear Safety Chapeaux

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #60

Hard hats are ubiquitous within nuclear power plants and construction sites. They protect the heads of the wears from failing objects and from bumps against low overhead piping and such. Read More

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China in Focus #18: Ground Truth

Thirty years ago this month my first year in China came to an end. What I remember most is that I returned to the United States assured I knew less about China than when I first arrived. It was a year of unlearning. Read More

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