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Posts tagged ‘Nuclear’

5 Russian nuclear engineers buried after rocket explosion

August 12, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — Thousands of Russians attended the funerals Monday of five Russian nuclear engineers killed by an explosion as they tested a new rocket engine, a tragedy that fueled radiation fears and raised new questions about a secretive weapons program.

The engineers, who died Thursday, were laid to rest Monday in Sarov, which hosts Russia’s main nuclear weapons research center, where they worked. Flags flew at half-staff in the city, located 370 kilometers (230 miles) east of Moscow, which has served as a base for Russia’s nuclear weapons program since the late 1940s. The coffins were displayed at Sarov’s main square before being driven to a cemetery.

The Defense Ministry initially reported that the explosion at the navy’s testing range near the village of Nyonoksa in the northwestern Arkhangelsk region killed two people and injured six others. The state-controlled Rosatom nuclear corporation then said over the weekend that the blast also killed five of its workers and injured three others. It’s not clear what the final toll is.

The company said the victims were on a sea platform testing a rocket engine and were thrown into the sea by explosion. Rosatom director Alexei Likhachev praised the victims as “true heroes” and “pride of our country.”

“Our further work on new weapons that we will certainly complete will be the best tribute to them,” Likhachev said during the funeral, according to Rosatom. “We will fulfill the Motherland’s orders and fully protect its security.”

Rosatom said the explosion occurred while the engineers were testing a “nuclear isotope power source” for a rocket engine. Local authorities in nearby Severodvinsk, a city of 183,000, reported a brief spike in radiation levels after the explosion, but said it didn’t pose any health hazards.

Still, the statement from Severodvinsk’s administration came just as the Defense Ministry insisted that no radiation had been released, a claim that drew comparisons to Soviet-era attempts to cover up catastrophes. Spooked residents rushed to buy iodide, which can help limit the damage from exposure to radiation.

Following the explosion, Russian authorities also closed part of Dvina Bay on the White Sea to shipping for a month, in what could be an attempt to prevent outsiders from seeing an operation to recover the missile debris.

The Severodvinsk city administration said the radiation level rose to 2 microsieverts per hour for about 30 minutes on Thursday before returning to the area’s natural level of 0.1 microsieverts per hour. Emergency officials issued a warning to all workers to stay indoors and close the windows.

The radiation level of 2 microsieverts per hour is only slightly higher than the natural background radiation, which could vary between 0.1 and 0.4 microsieverts per hour. It’s lower than the cosmic radiation that plane passengers are exposed to on longer haul flights.

Regional authorities haven’t reported any radiation increases after Thursday’s spike. Russian environmental groups have urged the government to release details of the radioactive leak, but officials offered no further details.

Neither the Defense Ministry nor Rosatom mentioned the type of rocket that exploded during the test, saying only that it had liquid propellant. But Rosatom’s mention of a “nuclear isotope power source” led some Russian media to conclude it was the Burevestnik (Petrel), a nuclear-powered cruise missile first revealed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2018 during his state-of-the nation address along with other doomsday weapons.

The U.S. and the Soviet Union pondered nuclear-powered missiles in the 1960s, but they abandoned those projects as too unstable and dangerous. While presenting the new missile, Putin claimed it will have an unlimited range, allowing it to circle the globe unnoticed, bypassing the enemy’s missile defense assets to strike undetected. The president claimed the missile had successfully undergone the first tests, but observers were skeptical, arguing that such a weapon could be very difficult to handle and harmful to the environment.

Some reports suggested that previous tests of the Burevestnik missile had been conducted on the barren Arctic archipelago of Novaya Zemlya and the Kapustin Yar testing range in southern Russia before they were moved to Nyonoksa. Moving the tests from unpopulated areas to a range close to a big city may be a reflection of the military’s increased confidence in the new weapon.

The Sarov nuclear center director, Valentin Kostyukov, said that the victims tried but failed to prevent the explosion. “We saw that they were trying to regain control over the situation,” he said. Sergei Kirienko, Putin’s deputy chief of staff who previously led Rosatom, said at the funeral that the victims were aware of the danger, but “took the risk, realizing that no one else would do the job better than them.” He said they would be posthumously awarded with top medals.

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Iran threatens more enrichment if no new nuclear deal

May 08, 2019

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran threatened Wednesday to resume higher enrichment of uranium in 60 days if world powers fail to negotiate new terms for its 2015 nuclear deal a year after President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord, raising tensions as a U.S. aircraft carrier and a bomber wing deploy to confront unspecified threats from Tehran.

In a televised address, President Hassan Rouhani also said that Iran would stop exporting excess uranium and heavy water from its nuclear program, two requirements of the deal. He did not elaborate on the degree to which Iran was prepared to enrich uranium, which at high levels of enrichment can be used in nuclear weapons.

Rouhani said Iran wanted to negotiate new terms with remaining partners in the deal, but acknowledged that the situation was dire. “We felt that the nuclear deal needs a surgery and the painkiller pills of the last year have been ineffective,” Rouhani said. “This surgery is for saving the deal, not destroying it.”

Iran notified Britain, Russia, China, the European Union, France and Germany of its decision earlier Wednesday. All were signatories to the nuclear deal and continue to support it. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was to meet Wednesday in Moscow with his Russian counterpart.

“If the five countries join negotiations and help Iran to reach its benefits in the field of oil and banking, Iran will return to its commitments according to the nuclear deal,” Rouhani said. However, Rouhani warned of a “strong reaction” if European leaders instead sought to impose more sanctions on Iran via the U.N. Security Council. He did not elaborate.

Rouhani also said Wednesday that if the 60 days pass without action, Iran will halt a Chinese-led effort to redesign its Arak heavy water nuclear reactor. Such reactors produce plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons.

Zarif separately issued his own warning from Moscow. “After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that (the) US has made impossible to continue,” he tweeted. World powers have “a narrowing window to reverse this.”

Reaction came swiftly from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a staunch critic of Iran and the nuclear deal. “I heard that Iran intends to continue its nuclear program. We will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue to fight those who seek to take our lives, and we will thrust our roots even deeper into the soil of our homeland.”

There was no immediate response from the U.S. However, the White House said Sunday it would dispatch the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf over what it described as a new threat from Iran.

Apparently responding to that, the general staff of Iran’s armed forces issued a statement Wednesday applauding Rouhani’s decision and warning its enemies. “Any possible movement by them will face a regrettable response by the Iranian nation and its armed forces,” the statement said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

The 2015 deal lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. Iran reached the deal after years of negotiations, including secret talks between Iran and President Barack Obama’s administration in Oman. Western governments had long feared Iran’s atomic program could allow it to build nuclear weapons. Iran has always maintained its program is for peaceful purposes.

The U.S. withdrew from the deal after Trump campaigned on a pledge to tear up the document. His administration contends the deal should have included limits to Iran’s ballistic missile program and what it describes as Tehran’s malign regional influence.

However, the U.N.’s atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, repeatedly has verified Iran stuck to terms of the deal. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment. After the U.S. withdrew from the accord it restored crippling sanctions on Iran, exacerbating a severe economic crisis. The Iranian rial, which traded at 32,000 to $1 at the time of the accord, traded Wednesday at 153,500.

That Iran chose to keep its excess uranium and heavy water first, rather than abandon the accord in its entirety, indicates it still hopes to secure a deal. In years of negotiations over its nuclear program, Iran had similarly gone step-by-step in ramping up its activities while holding talks. The latest move also protects Rouhani, a relative moderate within Iran’s Shiite theocracy, from criticism from hard-liners who have long maintained that Iran gave up too much in the nuclear deal.

Under the 2015 deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium and 130 tons of heavy water, a coolant used in nuclear reactors. That’s compared to the 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium it once had.

The U.S. last week ended deals allowing Iran to exchange its enriched uranium for unrefined yellowcake uranium with Russia, and to sell its heavy water, which is used as a coolant in nuclear reactors, to Oman. The U.S. also has ended waivers for nations buying Iranian crude oil, a key source of revenue for Iran’s government.

Currently, the accord limits Iran to enriching uranium to 3.67%, which can fuel a commercial nuclear power plant. Weapons-grade uranium needs to be enriched to around 90%. However, once a country enriches uranium to around 20%, scientists say the time needed to reach 90% is halved. Iran has previously enriched to 20%.

“Whenever our demands are met, we will resume the same amount of suspended commitments, but otherwise, the Islamic Republic of Iran will suspend the implementation of other obligations step by step,” a statement from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said Wednesday.

It added: “The window that is now open to diplomacy will not remain open for a long time.”

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed.

Russian lawmakers ask Kremlin to review nuclear doctrine

November 21, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — A group of Russian lawmakers asked the Kremlin Wednesday to review the nation’s rules for the use of nuclear weapons, amid tensions with the West. Participants in the hearings organized by the upper house’s defense committee suggested that the presidential Security Council should draft a new version of the nuclear doctrine.

The lawmakers said in their proposals cited by Russian news agencies that the revised doctrine should in particular spell out a response to an attack on Russia with hypersonic and other strategic non-nuclear weapons.

The current Russian military doctrine states that Russia can use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack on it or its allies or an aggression involving conventional weapons that threatens “the very existence of the state.”

The state RIA Novosti news agency quoted an upper house member, Franz Klintsevich, as saying that the proposal to review the nuclear doctrine had been driven by the deployment of NATO forces closer to Russia’s borders. “All that is aimed at threatening Russia,” he said.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting with military officials to discuss a response to the planned U.S. withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Jordan gives up idea of large nuclear power plant

June 29, 2018

The chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. Khaled Toukan, announced today that his country has abandoned the idea of establishing a nuclear power plant, which was planned to be built with Russian technology with a capacity of 2,000 megawatt.

Dr. Toukan told a news conference that the commission has abandoned the construction of a large plant and will consider building small reactors. The chairman added that small reactors need less funding and are more likely to be sponsored internationally than large stations.

The official explained that the small reactors began to appear world wide after Fukushima nuclear disaster and the scientific developments that followed this incident.

He added that the Commission signed two memorandums of understanding with China National Nuclear Corporation to conduct economic feasibility studies of Chinese technology this year.

He clarified also that the Commission is currently negotiating with China to build the same reactor that China is currently constructing, indicating that no contract will be signed before the actual activation of the Chinese reactor and linking it to the network for two years at least.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180629-jordan-gives-up-idea-of-large-nuclear-power-plant/.

Nagasaki marks 73 years since A-bombing as UN chief attends

August 09, 2018

TOKYO (AP) — Nagasaki marked the anniversary of the world’s second atomic bombing Thursday with the United Nations’ chief and the city’s mayor urging global leaders to take concrete steps toward world nuclear disarmament.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the first United Nations chief to visit Nagasaki, said fears of nuclear war are still present 73 years after the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings and that they should never be repeated. He raised concerns about the slowing effort to denuclearize, saying existing nuclear states are modernizing their arsenals.

“Disarmament processes have slowed and even come to a halt,” Guterres told the audience at the Nagasaki peace park. “Here in Nagasaki, I call on all countries to commit to nuclear disarmament and to start making visible progress as a matter of urgency.” Then he added: “Let us all commit to making Nagasaki the last place on earth to suffer nuclear devastation.”

The peace and nuclear disarmament movement, started by survivors of the atomic bombings, has spread around the world but frustration over the slow progress led to last year’s adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Japan, despite being the only country in the world to have suffered nuclear attacks, has not signed the treaty, because of its sensitive position as an U.S. ally protected by its nuclear umbrella. Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue urged Japan’s government to do more to lead nuclear disarmament, especially in the region to help advance the efforts to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. He said citizens of the atomic-bombed cities are hoping to see North Korea denuclearized.

Taue said he hoped Japan’s government would take the opportunity to realize a nuclear-free Northeast Asia, including Japan and the Korean Peninsula. Taue urged Tokyo to sign the treaty and “fulfill its moral obligation to lead the world towards denuclearization.” He said more than 300 local assemblies have adopted resolutions calling on Japan to sign and ratify the treaty.

Japan seeks to close the gaps between nuclear and non-nuclear states to eventually achieve a nuclear-free world, said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, repeating almost the same phrase he used in his speech three days ago in Hiroshima.

The bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, was the second U.S. nuclear attack on Japan, killing 70,000 people, three days after the bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed 140,000. They were followed by Japan’s surrender, ending World War II.

Hiroshima marks 73rd anniversary of atomic bombing

August 06, 2018

TOKYO (AP) — Hiroshima marked the anniversary of the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of the city with a somber ceremony Monday to remember those killed and injured and a call to eliminate nuclear weapons amid hopes of denuclearizing North Korea.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui opened his speech by describing the hellish scene of the blast that morning 73 years ago and the agony of the victims, telling the audience to listen “as if you and your loved ones were there.” Then he raised concerns about the global rise of egocentrism and tensions, and urged Japan’s government to take more leadership toward achieving a truly nuclear-free world.

“Certain countries are blatantly proclaiming self-centered nationalism and modernizing their nuclear arsenals, rekindling tensions that had eased with the end of the Cold War,” Matsui said, without identifying the nations. Nuclear deterrence and nuclear umbrellas are “inherently unstable and extremely dangerous” approaches that seek to maintain international order by only generating fear in rival countries, he said, urging world leaders to negotiate in good faith to eliminate nuclear arsenals instead.

The U.S. attack on Hiroshima killed 140,000 people, and the bombing of Nagasaki killed more than 70,000 three days later, leading to Japan’s surrender and ending World War II. Matsui said in his speech that Japan’s government should do more to achieve a nuclear-free world by helping the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons take effect. Japan, which hosts U.S. troops and is covered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella protecting it from attack, has not signed the treaty.

Japan should live up to the spirit of its pacifist constitution to lead the international community “toward dialogue and cooperation for a world without nuclear weapons,” Matsui said. About 50,000 people, including Hiroshima residents and representatives from 58 countries, including U.S. Ambassador William Hagerty, attended this year’s ceremony.

Survivors, their relatives and other participants marked the 8:15 a.m. blast with a minute of silence. The anniversary comes amid hopes to denuclearize North Korea after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made vague aspirational statements of denuclearizing the peninsula when they met in Singapore in June. “We in civil society fervently hope that the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula will proceed through peaceable dialogue,” Matsui said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also was at the ceremony, said differences between the nuclear and non-nuclear states are widening. But he pledged to do more to bridge their gap. In order to gain cooperation from both sides, it is important for everyone to understand “the reality of the tragedy of nuclear attacks,” he said, reiterating Japan’s pledge to maintain its pacifist and non-nuclear principles.

Iran president arrives in Switzerland, nuclear deal in mind

July 02, 2018

ZURICH (AP) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has arrived in Switzerland for talks expected to focus on salvaging progress from the Iran nuclear deal after the Trump administration’s walkout. Rouhani on Monday began a two-day visit to the neutral Alpine nation, starting in Zurich before heading to Bern, the capital, for deal-signings, talks and a news conference on Tuesday.

Since 1980, shortly after Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Switzerland has held the “protecting power mandate” on behalf of the United States in Iran. It recently became an intermediary between Iran and regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani is leaving Iran just as protests have erupted in the country’s south, and Trump said he got Saudi Arabia to agree to increasing oil production — which could lower the price of oil, possibly impacting Iran’s economy.

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