Japan will soon have a new emperor and a new dynastic name to mark the traditional Japanese calender: Reiwa (令和). Interminable commentary on the significance of the name is just beginning, but in the end it will be defined not by words but by deeds. Read More
There are Faster, Cheaper, Safer and More Reliable Alternatives to the Energy Department’s Proposed Multibillion Dollar Test Reactor
April 5, 2019 4:07 PM EDT
Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry recently announced the launch of the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project, flagging it as one of the department’s top priorities. The project, which would be the first new DOE test reactor in decades, would differ from the DOE’s operating test reactors because it would be cooled by liquid sodium instead of water, enabling it to produce large numbers of “fast” neutrons. The DOE says that such a facility is needed to develop new reactors that use fast neutrons to generate electricity. US nuclear plants today are light-water reactors, which use slow (“thermal”) neutrons.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) questions the need for a dedicated fast neutron test reactor and, more generally, has serious concerns about fast reactor safety and security, detailed in a critique it released last year. Fast reactors pose nuclear proliferation and terrorism risks in part because they commonly use fuels containing plutonium, a nuclear weapon-usable material. Most fast reactor concepts also involve reprocessing of their spent fuel, which separates plutonium in a form that is vulnerable to theft. Read more >
February 25, 2019 1:27 PM EDT
In April 2018, shortly before last June’s summit with President Trump, North Korea announced it was discontinuing its flight testing of ballistic missiles. For over a year now, it has not conducted any missile tests.
This represents a big change. In the five years 2013 to 2017, North Korea launched more than 80 flight tests of 10 different missiles, or an average of 16 flight tests per year. In 2017 alone, it launched 20 tests of seven types of missiles, including the successful launch of two different long-range missiles. Read more >
February 6, 2019 2:07 PM EDT
The Trump administration recently announced it intends to walk away from an important agreement that reduces the risk of nuclear war—the INF Treaty. US officials said concerns about China were an important factor in deciding to scrap a nuclear arms control pact intended to last in perpetuity. But there is no evidence the Trump administration consulted Chinese leaders about its plans to withdraw or the concerns that supposedly made it necessary. Read more >
February 6, 2019 1:38 PM EDT
On February 1st, the Trump administration announced that the United States will withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia. The next day, Russia responded by doing the same. These withdrawals will take effect in six months, if nothing is done to save the treaty.
This course of events was no surprise, since President Trump has been threatening withdrawal for months, but the lack of surprise makes the decision no more welcome and no less dangerous. Withdrawal from the treaty undermines the security of the United States and its allies, and opens the door to a new era of arms racing, threatening US-Russian nuclear stability. Read more >