Beginning in 1951, the United States exploded atomic bombs at the Nevada Test Site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Seen here are snapshots of the tests that, in many cases, illuminated the Los Angeles and Las Vegas skies with a nuclear dawn. More at Amusing Planet.
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Obama is touting his record on reducing nuclear arms, but he's been a dismal failure at reducing the US's stockpile, writes Freedom of the Press Foundation's Trevor Timm at the Guardian today
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New York will investigate high levels of radioactive contamination found in groundwater at Indian Point Energy Center, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
"Radioactive tritium-contaminated water" leaked into groundwater at the nuclear facility, and caused “alarming levels” of radioactivity to be found at three of the 40 monitoring wells at the nuclear facility.
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Just when you'd forgotten about all that leaked radiation.
The secret weapons complex was found near Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Austria (Herwig Prammer/Reuters)
An underground weapons bunker built by Nazis to test nuclear and chemical weapons has been unearthed in Austria.
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The T-249 switch used to arm nuclear bombs on Strategic Air Command bomber aircraft. Photo courtesy of Glenn's Computer Museum.
A recently declassified Sandia National Lab report published by the National Security Archive offers new details about a 1961 nuclear weapons accident in Goldsboro, North Carolina.
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The Castle Bravo nuclear test on Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands. A 15-megaton device equivalent to 1,000 Hiroshima blasts was detonated in 1954. Photograph: US Air Force - digital version
The Marshall Islands is suing the nine known nations with nuclear weapons at the international court of justice at The Hague, over charges they have violated their legal obligation to disarm under the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). From the Guardian:
In the unprecedented legal action, comprising nine separate cases brought before the ICJ on Thursday, the Republic of the Marshall Islands accuses the nuclear weapons states of a "flagrant denial of human justice". It argues it is justified in taking the action because of the harm it suffered as a result of the nuclear arms race. The Pacific chain of islands, including Bikini Atoll and Enewetak, was the site of 67 nuclear tests from 1946 to 1958, including the "Bravo shot", a 15-megaton device equivalent to a thousand Hiroshima blasts, detonated in 1954. The Marshallese islanders say they have been suffering serious health and environmental effects ever since.
Named in the lawsuit are the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel, an undeclared nuclear weapons state. Read the rest
WIPP. Photo: DOE.
Last Friday night, elevated levels of radioactive particles were measured at an underground nuclear waste site near Carlsbad, New Mexico [Map].
Here is the Department of Energy's official statement on the incident [PDF].
Snip: "DOE emphasizes there is no danger to human health or the environment. WIPP’s system of air monitors and protective filtration system continue to function as designed. The source of the airborne radiation is still being investigated." Read the rest
This is a photo of the Chernobyl "Elephant's Foot", a solid mass made of a little melted nuclear fuel mixed with lots and lots of concrete, sand, and core sealing material that the fuel had melted through. The photo was taken in 1996. At that point, the Elephant's Foot had cooled enough that a human being could stand directly in front of it for an hour before receiving a lethal dose of radiation. When the Foot was first discovered, shortly after the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl power plant, it delivered a lethal dose in just five minutes. You can read Kyle Hill's interesting history of the Elephant's Foot at Nautilus. And be sure to check out this 1991 video that shows how people were able to rig up robotic camera systems to safely take photos of the thing (though, as Hill points out, not all the photos of Elephant's Foot were taken safely). Read the rest
Natanz, Iran's primary uranium enrichment facility.
"The real program to sabotage Iran's nuclear facilities was far more sophisticated than anyone realized," writes Ralph Langner in Foreign Policy Magazine
Three years after it was discovered, Stuxnet, the first publicly disclosed cyberweapon, continues to baffle military strategists, computer security experts, political decision-makers, and the general public. A comfortable narrative has formed around the weapon: how it attacked the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz, how it was designed to be undiscoverable, how it escaped from Natanz against its creators' wishes. Major elements of that story are either incorrect or incomplete. That's because Stuxnet is not really one weapon, but two. The vast majority of the attention has been paid to Stuxnet's smaller and simpler attack routine -- the one that changes the speeds of the rotors in a centrifuge, which is used to enrich uranium. But the second and "forgotten" routine is about an order of magnitude more complex and stealthy. Read the rest
The New York Times
has a story that ties together several reports of contaminated, radioactive water leaking
into the ground and the nearby harbor at the site of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan. From the sounds of things, this water has not yet heavily contaminated the open sea. That's the good news. The bad news is that everybody pretty much agrees that TEPCO has no idea what to do when it comes to actually stopping the leaks, and no clue how long they could continue. Read the rest
Via VOA: "A leakage detective unit (C) and its detection punch unit on an underground water storage tank are seen at TEPCO's tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Fukushima, in this undated photograph released by TEPCO on April 6, 2013."
Snip from a report by Voice of America's Steve Herman in Tokyo:
"Fresh revelations about radiation contamination from the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant and a government regulator are prompting new concerns in Japan. What is expected to be a decades-long battle to halt radiation leaks and to clean up contaminated soil and water at the Fukushima-1 nuclear plant is back in the public eye following the release of new information this week."
TEPCO, the plant's operator, says there's a steady increase in the levels of radioactive cesium in the groundwater, and in levels of strontium and tritium offshore. Read the rest
Still from an important 1964 documentary on nuclear one-upsmanship.
Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News writes, "In May 2010, the Department of Defense disclosed that the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal consisted of 5,113 warheads (as of September 30, 2009). This was a disclosure of great significance," and "an unprecedented breakthrough in secrecy reform," being the first time America had disclosed the current size of its nuclear arsenal.
The Obama Administration’s promise to be “the most transparent Administration ever” is often viewed ironically in view of the perceived prevalence of overclassification. But when it comes to nuclear stockpile secrecy (and at least a few other important topics), that promise was fulfilled quite literally.
How so? Today, the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal today is once again classified. Read more: Pentagon Reverts to Nuclear Stockpile Secrecy - Secrecy News
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It's like a mash-up of the games Simon and Global Thermonuclear War.
Over the last couple of days, Japanese electrical company TEPCO has announced that they found leaks in three of the seven underground tanks used to store contaminated water at the site of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant
. They've also admitted that the tanks aren't reliable
. And here's where we get to the fun part: Despite that fact, there aren't many other options. The water is stuff that's been used to cool down fuel rods that melted during the April 2011 disaster. You have to put water on the fuel rods, or they could overheat again. But once you're done with that water, it's not particularly safe, either, so you have to contain it somehow. And until other options can be built these tanks are the only place to put it.
The third, most recent, leak was found when TEPCO tried to move water from the known-to-be-leaky tanks to another they thought was in good shape. This is just a mess. Read the rest
Baker was a 23-kiloton nuclear weapon that was detonated underwater at Bikini Atoll in 1946. The goal was to see what would happen to Navy boats if they were in the region where a nuclear bomb went off. The boats you see in this photo were unmanned, but there were sailors relatively close by, taking these shots. There's evidence that they weren't properly protected against fallout, and later used contaminated water to drink and bathe in. (Also, as a fictional side effect, Bikini Atoll nuclear tests like Baker might have been responsible for the creation of Spongebob Squarepants.)
My Modern Met has compiled several photographs and video that give you an up-close, mind-boggling view of the explosion — including the massive column of water that shot into the mushroom cloud and the 2-mile-high tidal wave that followed. Read the rest