Common Sense on China from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

As President Obama embarks on another trip to East Asia, it is hard to find a constructive media assessment of current developments in the region. Most of the commentary is focused on the potential for conflict with China and whether the United States is adequately prepared for it. Read More

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Top NRC Sanctions

 Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #28

On October 27, 1979, the NRC announced it was fining the owner of the Three Mile Island Unit 2 reactor $155,000 for violations of federal regulations that factored into the March 28, 1979, partial meltdown. The NRC also revised its regulations to enable it to levy harsher sanctions—that amount was widely viewed as scant penalty for a billion dollar accident. Read More

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Blown Away at Callaway

Fission Stories #160

At 11:19 pm July 26, 2013, the Callaway nuclear plant in Missouri operated at 100 percent power when workers took isophase bus cooling fan TVMA04 out of service, replacing it with fan TVMA03. Workers swap these fans every month to equalize wear and tear on them. Read More

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When It Comes to Fissile Material, More Is Not Better

The March/April issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has an article (unfortunately behind a paywall) about the enormous stockpiles of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) the United States still retains for weapons purposes, co-authored by GSP Program Director Lisbeth Gronlund and myself. Read More

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The NRC and Natural Hazards to Nuclear Plants

Today the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists posted my op-ed about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approach to re-evaluating the hazards to nuclear plants from natural catastrophes like earthquakes and floods in light of what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

I make the point that many U.S. Read More

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Missile Defense Oversight: Pulling the Punches

At the March 25 House Armed Services Committee hearing on missile defense, Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH) took a dig at what he seems to think is an unwarranted criticism of the proposed East Coast missile defense site. (He’s a strong proponent of building a new site.) He asked Vice Admiral Syring, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, what the “banter” that there is “no validated military requirement” for the East Coast site means. Read More

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Who Pays for the NRC?

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #27

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has at least two inspectors assigned full-time to each operating nuclear plant in the United States. The efforts by these resident inspectors are supplemented by inspectors from the agency’s regional and headquarters offices. Read More

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Five Kinds of Things the UCS Satellite Database Can Tell You

We’ve been getting a good number of questions about the UCS Satellite Database and have been happy to see it be useful as context in recent discussions about satellite imaging and the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Read More

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Three Wet (Nuclear) Pigs

Fission Stories #159

The fable about the big bad wolf and three little piggies was one of my favorite fables. In some ways, flooding plays the big bad wolf for nuclear power plants. Read More

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Reconsidering Chinese Views on Military Space Strategy

Many U.S. observers believe anti-satellite (ASAT) missile attacks are central to Chinese military strategy. They argue China intends to exploit the U.S. military’s reliance on satellites by launching a surprise assault on these valuable but vulnerable space assets, which the U.S.

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The Nuclear Security Summit Communiqué Statement on Separated Plutonium Is a Step Backward

The communiqués issued at the previous two Nuclear Security Summits said almost nothing about the dangers of separated plutonium. That was a problem. The 2014 Nuclear Security Summit communiqué does say something about plutonium—but the world would have been better off if it had remained silent on the issue. Read More

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Post-installation and Post-maintenance Testing

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #26

NEAT #25 described regulatory requirements that seek to ensure that nuclear safety levels are not diminished by modifications to the plants or by revisions to procedures used by plant workers. This post covers complementary requirements that modifications and maintenance achieve proper outcomes. Read More

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Fixing the NNSA: Expect Delays

On March 26, the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to have a hearing to receive words of wisdom from a Congressionally-mandated “Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise,” which is government-speak for trying to fix the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Read More

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The NRC’s Security Inspections at Nuclear Power Plants are Again under Attack

As President Obama is preparing to attend the third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague next week, the United States is playing the “do as I say, not as I do” game concerning protection of commercial nuclear facilities against terrorist attacks.  Read More

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Accident Canceled Due to Inclement Weather

Fission Stories #158

The owner of the Columbia Generating Station in Washington reported to the NRC on October 24, 2013, about a design problem affecting containment. Read More

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New Quarterly Update to the UCS Satellite Database

A new version of the UCS Satellite Database, which includes launches through January 31, 2014, has been posted at

There are currently 1167 active satellites in the database. Read More

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Disaggregation: Satellite Navigation More Resilient Than You Think

The Pentagon voiced its concern this week that the U.S. GPS navigation capabilities could be held at risk by increasingly capable Chinese anti-satellite capabilities. But it is worth noting that while individual satellites might be threatened, disabling the system and knocking out navigation services is much harder.  Read More

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How High Did China’s May 2013 Launch Go?

On May 13, 2013, China launched a rocket on a suborbital trajectory to high altitude. China announced that the launch was part of a project to study space weather and that the probe carried out an experiment at high altitude. A report in China News (translation) stated that the launch reached an altitude of about 10,000 km. Read More

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Nuclear Goldilocks: Combatting the Cumulative Effects of Non-Regulation

The U.S. nuclear power industry has been raising concerns about what is being called “the cumulative effects of regulation.” The industry sees NRC regulatory demands as an ever growing burden that it doesn’t believe adds significantly to public safety. Read More

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Nuclear Disaster American Style

Imagine that a large earthquake occurred March 11, 2011, on the Hosgri or Shoreline fault off the coast of California instead of offshore from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Studies have shown that such an earthquake could shake the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant more than it is designed to withstand. Read More

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