Russian priests must stop blessing nuclear weapons, says Russian Orthodox Church patriarch

“The blessing of military weapons is not reflected in the tradition of the Orthodox Church and does not correspond to the content of the Rite,” reads a new document on the website of the Moscow patriarchate of the the Russian Orthodox Church.

Russian priests should stop blessing nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction that can inflict indiscriminate loss of life, according to new guidelines being discussed.

It's an unusual display of independence by the church. Read the rest

There's 22 million gallons of nuclear waste under a concrete dome on a Pacific Island, and it's sinking

The Los Angeles Times has a harrowing new story about Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Japanese forces invaded the small Pacific nation and its residents during World War I, and the United States did the same during World War II under that classic guise of "liberation." But the US was hardly acting altruistically, at the time nor since then. The islands' location made it a prime strategic military base in the Pacific. It was also isolated enough to make it a convenient nuclear testing site—if you disregarded the 72,000 people who lived there, of course.

Between 1946 and 1962, US military experiments produced 108 megatons of nuclear yield in the Marshall Islands— about 80% of the country's total radioactive waste output from nuclear testing. That's the equivalent 1.6 atomic bombs dropped every day for 12 years. And after the US decided to gradually cede control of the land back to the Marshallese people, we just kind of … left it all behind.  We were kind enough to pour a bunch of concrete on top of the 22 million gallons of nuclear waste left behind on one specific island, creating the Runit Dome.

But that dome is still there. And the concrete is starting to crack. And sea levels are rising rapidly, particularly in the Pacific, further accelerating that erosion process. Now the Dome—affectionately and appropriately called "The Tomb" by the locals—is threatening to leach all of that nuclear waste into the land and the ocean.

I realize that an island-sized nuclear waste dump called "The Tomb" in the middle of the Pacific Ocean sounds like some straight-up Godzilla sci-fi shit. Read the rest

U.S. Strategic Command tweets nuclear war joke on New Year's Eve

Happy nuke year, everyone! Man, the Trump administration's recklessness really makes people feel like they can just say whatever they want with no consequences. Read the rest

Putin releases horrifying video of his new Russian nuke going straight toward Florida

Trump's buddy President Vladimir Putin has just announced that Russia has new nuclear-capable weapons in the works that "renders defense systems 'useless,'” according to NBC News. To show off his developing nukes, he pairs his announcement with the chilling video above of a nuclear weapon going straight toward Florida.

According to NBC:

"I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country's development ... you have failed to contain Russia," he said.

He accused the West of "ignoring us. Nobody listened to us. Well listen to us now."

He boasted that Russia's new ICBM is “powerful and modern and defense systems will not be able to withstand it,” he said. “Missile defenses will be useless against it.”

Putin said Russia will not be "an aggressor," but, "Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies … any kind of attack … will be regarded as a nuclear attack against Russia, and in response we will take action instantaneously no matter what the consequences are. Nobody should have any doubt about that."

Read NBC's full story here. Read the rest

Nukemap: interactive map of potential nuclear bombing fatalities

In these troubled times, Alex Wellerstein's interactive Nukemap allows users to survey the damage of various kinds of nuclear bombs aimed at major cities worldwide. In this example, a typical Chinese nuke hitting downtown Los Angeles would kill 1.3 million and injure another 3 million. Read the rest

Will malfunction or incompetence start World War Three?

Eric Schlosser's book and film Command and Control look at the terrifying prospects of nuclear friendly fire, where one of America's nukes detonates on US soil. It also looks at what might happen if a false alarm gets relayed to a trigger-happy general or President. He starts this New Yorker piece with a terrifying story from June 3, 1980:

President Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was asleep in Washington, D.C., when the phone rang. His military aide, General William Odom, was calling to inform him that two hundred and twenty missiles launched from Soviet submarines were heading toward the United States. Brzezinski told Odom to get confirmation of the attack. A retaliatory strike would have to be ordered quickly; Washington might be destroyed within minutes. Odom called back and offered a correction: twenty-two hundred Soviet missiles had been launched.

Brzezinski decided not to wake up his wife, preferring that she die in her sleep. As he prepared to call Carter and recommend an American counterattack, the phone rang for a third time. Odom apologized—it was a false alarm. An investigation later found that a defective computer chip in a communications device at norad headquarters had generated the erroneous warning. The chip cost forty-six cents.

Lots more scary info at the Command and Control film website.

World War Three, by mistake (New Yorker)

Image: Maxwell Hamilton Read the rest

Organized crime gangs keep trying to sell radioactive material to terrorists

In the last five years, criminal gangs in Moldova have been stopped four times from selling radioactive materials, including bomb-grade uranium, on the black market. You have to wonder if they have also succeeded one or more times, and we just don't know about it yet.

From AP:

In that operation, wiretaps and interviews with investigators show, a middleman for the gang repeatedly ranted with hatred for America as he focused on smuggling the essential material for an atomic bomb and blueprints for a dirty bomb to a Middle Eastern buyer.

In wiretaps, videotaped arrests, photographs of bomb-grade material, documents and interviews, AP found that smugglers are explicitly targeting buyers who are enemies of the West. The developments represent the fulfillment of a long-feared scenario in which organized crime gangs are trying to link up with groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida — both of which have made clear their ambition to use weapons of mass destruction.

Read the rest

Marshall Islands, site of largest-ever U.S. nuclear weapons test, sues 9 superpowers including USA

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is suing the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China for failure to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

How The Cleveland Press broke the story of Los Alamos a year-and-a-half before Hiroshima

The Manhattan Project was a secret, but it wasn't as secret a secret as you've been lead to believe, writes Rebecca Rosen at The Atlantic. Not only was the construction of an atomic weapon a topic of Washington gossip, but the entire "secret city in the desert" thing got blown open in 1944 when a columnist for a Midwestern newspaper ran across Los Alamos while on vacation. In light of our current debates about state secrets and security, it's probably less interesting that columnist Jack Raper found Los Alamos, and more interesting that he, and his paper, chose to buck the self-enforced system of silence that characterized World War II media. Read the rest

A fantastic long read about activism and nuclear weapons

Last summer, a nun, a drifter, and a house painter broke into the secure compound surrounding the Oak Ridge National Laboratory — the laboratory that made uranium for the Manhattan Project and continues to be a major part of America's nuclear infrastructure. Their goal: To put America on trial. Dan Zak has written an amazing piece for the Washington Post, blending this story with the history of Oak Ridge and and in-depth look at the future of the US nuclear weapons program. Very much worth your time. Read the rest