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Pentagon Changes Its Assessment of Iran’s ICBM Prospects

Inside Defense reports that the Pentagon’s assessment of the Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) threat has changed substantially for the first time since 1999. The new assessment appears in the unclassified executive summary of the Pentagon’s January 2014 Annual Report on Military Power of Iran. Read More

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Latest Posts

Missile Defense: The “Phantom Menace” Remains a Phantom Menace

The history of the debate over missile defense is full of miscalculations about its possible benefits versus its risks and costs.

Probably much of that is due to the fact that strategic missile defense always sounds better after 30 seconds than it does after 30 minutes. Read More

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Single Failures and Nuclear Operator Training

Fission Stories #163

The nuclear reactor safety philosophy in the United States relies heavily on defense-in-depth. Basically, if one widget is needed for safety, at least two are provided. It’s not just a splendid notion—it’s the law. Read More

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Oodles of Nuclear Plant Data

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #30

The NRC’s website includes oodles (or scads, I confuse the two) of information about nuclear power reactor operating performance and events. Read More

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Nuclear Steam Cleaning at Oyster Creek

Fission Stories #162

The control rods in boiling water reactors (BWRs) are withdrawn from the reactor core to initiate the nuclear chain reaction and to raise the reactor’s power level. Conversely, the control rods are inserted into the reactor core to reduce the power level and, when necessary, stop the nuclear chain reaction. Read More

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NRC Pen Pals

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #29

Wikipedia defines pen pals as being people who regularly write each other. It’s wicked easy to become an NRC pen pal. And you can’t beat the price—free. Read More

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Obama in Asia: Words and Deeds

Just before President Obama departed for Asia the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued a report recommending the United States take steps to alter the perception that the current effort to increase U.S. engagement in Asia is “primarily a military strategy.” The Committee recommended the President increase attention to the “civilian components” of U.S. Read More

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Disposing of Excess Weapon Plutonium: The Perils and Promise of WIPP

Today, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released its long-awaited study of alternative options for disposition of excess weapons plutonium. The report confirms what I anticipated in a paper I presented in July 2013: the option of down-blending the plutonium with inert materials and emplacing it in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is feasible, has the least technical risk, and is (by far) the least expensive alternative. Read More

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Indian Point News Rollercoaster

Fission Stories #161

Good News: Workers removed a valve from the piping of a cooling water system at the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York on August 13, 1984, for maintenance. The cooling water system had two redundant loops of pumps, pipes, and heat exchangers. Read More

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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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