July 29, 2004

Co-discover of DNA has died

The man who helped discover the secret of life is dead. Francis Crick, who was 88, died last night in San Diego after a long battle with colon cancer. The search for DNA is one the last century's greatest achievements. The effort won 1962 Nobel Prize for medicine, along with his partner James Watson. They shared the prize with Maurice Wilkins. [via SignOnSanDiego.com]
July 27, 2004

Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security

This draft strategy report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace offers a blueprint for U.S. leadership in rethinking the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. The proposed strategy synthesizes some innovative approaches of the George W. Bush administration, the benefits of the traditional treaty-based regime, and many new elements. It highlights both the necessity for strict enforcement of nonproliferation agreements and for global cooperation to forge those agreements. [via Carnegie Endowment for International Peace]

Lawyers blast nuclear pact as a breach of disarmament treaty

The impending renewal of a pact on nuclear research between the United Kingdom and the United States could breach the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), British lawyers say."

Critics argue that the two countries have long been in violation of the NPT, the cornerstone of international attempts to halt the spread of nuclear arms, both in spirit and in the letter of the law. But this year's pending renewal of the US/UK Mutual Defense Agreement (MDA) prompted advocacy groups to seek a legal opinion on the matter. Armed with this advice, they are hoping to force both countries to take disarmament more seriously. [via Nature.com]

Iran resumes building centrifuges used for uranium enrichment

According to The Associated Press, Iran has resumed building and installing equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons. The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that several weeks ago, Iranian officials broke International Atomic Energy Agency seals on the equipment and restarted the process of assembling and installing centrifuges.

Unlike North Korea's actions two years ago, the IAEA was informed of of Iran's decision to break the seals. These seals, which - unlike in North Korea - "were not a legal requirement" on the part of Tehran.

The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of working on a weapons program. Iran denies the allegation. [via Yahoo! News]
July 26, 2004

North Korea Rejects U.S. Nuclear Proposal

North Korea on Saturday apparently rejected the U.S offer made at the last round of six-party talks for the communist nation to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, the New York Times reported.

North Korea has offered to return to a "freeze" of its nuclear programs, similar to the one in effect under the Agreed Framework from 1994 to late 2002. President George W. Bush has said he would not return to a freeze deal, saying it would allow Pyongyang continue its nuclear work at its discretion.[via Nuclear Threat Initiative[
July 22, 2004

Texas A&M, UT could vie to run nuclear weapons lab

The University of Texas and Texas A&M systems may compete for the contract to operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, the federal nuclear weapons lab in New Mexico. The lab is currently run by the University of California. Both university systems have filed formal statements expressing interest in bidding to operate the lab.

Texas A&M already is pursuing the contract to operate the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in conjunction with three industrial partners.

It's possible that the rival Texas university systems could fashion a joint bid to operate Los Alamos.

"We haven't excluded any possibilities, and we are keen on exploring a partnership with the UT System," said Lee Peddicord, vice chancellor for research and federal relations at the A&M System, the American-Statesman reported in Thursday's editions. "We'd rather it be Longhorns and Aggies."

No talks between the two systems have taken place, but "we have indicated we are interested in holding some discussions with them," Peddicord said. [via News 8 Austin]

Charles Sweeney, pilot who dropped A-bomb on Nagasaki dies

Charles Sweeney, a retired Air Force general who piloted the plane that dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, in the final days of World War II, died at 84.

Sweeney was 25 when he piloted the B-29 bomber that attacked Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and six days before Japan surrendered. About 70,000 people were killed in the explosion of the bomb, dubbed "Fat Man." It was the first bomb Sweeney had ever dropped on an enemy target.

The plane - often called Bock's Car, the name given it by its usual pilot, Captain Fred Bock, but officially described as Bockscar, the name written on its nose - was also forced to fly much further than planned. The original target, the industrial city of Kokura, situated, like Nagasaki, on the island of Kyushu, was obscured by clouds and haze.

Sweeney piloted The Great Artiste in a support role for the Enola Gay during the attack on Hiroshima. For the mission to drop the second atomic bomb on Japan, Sweeney and Bock switched planes. Sweeney flew Bock's Car, and Bock flew The Great Artiste, Sweeney's airplane.

Sweeney also wrote a book, "War's End : An Eyewitness Account of America's Last Atomic Mission ."
July 21, 2004

The Proliferation Challenge of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle in Non-Nuclear Weapon States

From a statement from IAEA's Statements of the Deputy Directors General: Recent findings by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that some non-nuclear-weapon States (NNWSs) party to the "Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons" (NPT) had been able to conceal for two decades procurement, research and development, manufacturing and production activities related to uranium conversion and enrichment have raised new proliferation concerns.

This has underscored the possibility that a NNWS that masters for instance centrifuge enrichment technology and constructs and operates an enrichment facility for peaceful purposes under IAEA full scope safeguards, would be in a position (i) to construct in parallel a similar undeclared facility at a concealed site or, (ii) if one day it so decided, to withdraw from the NPT (by giving the three month notice foreseen under Article X) and rapidly reconfigure the declared enrichment facility to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium.

In response, the IAEA Director General has highlighted these challenges to the international non-proliferation regime and proposed the introduction of measures to meet them, including "limiting the processing of weapon-usable nuclear material in civilian nuclear programmes - as well as the production of new weapon-usable nuclear material through reprocessing and enrichment - by agreeing to restrict these operations exclusively to facilities under multinational control," and considering "multinational approaches to the management and disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste." [via IAEA.org]

IAEA: No evidence for nuclear activity in Syria

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Wednesday denied the existence of any evidence that Syria has been developing banned nuclear weapons.

In a statement to Egyptian TV, General-Director of the IAEA Mohammed el-Baradei said "the Agency has no evidence on Syria's attempts to build any nuclear program that violates the Non-Proliferation Treaty." "Syrian officials are ready to cooperate with the IAEA to prove that an allegation against Syria in this respect is groundless," he added. [via albawaba.com]
July 16, 2004

Savannah River nuclear-waste tanks have cracked, rusted or leaked

Fifteen tanks holding deadly atomic waste at a nuclear weapons complex along the Savannah River have cracked, rusted or leaked, according to federal inspection reports.

Some of the cracks date to the 1950s, when the steel tanks first went into use at the Savannah River site. But inspection reports say some leaks have been found in the past three years.

In 2001, 92 gallons of radioactive waste leaked through a 40-year-old tank into a containment area. Six leak sites were found on the 750,000-gallon, 24-foot high steel tank. [ via Detroit Free Press]
July 15, 2004

Classified work halted at Los Alamos - Jul 15, 2004

The Los Alamos National Laboratory, a key U.S. center for nuclear weapons research, has temporarily ceased all classified work after vital data was reported missing last week from a research area, lab officials said. [via CNN]

North Korea admits its nuclear programs are weapons related

North Korea acknowledged that most of its nuclear programs are weapons related, during the recent six-party talks to resolve the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said." [ via Yahoo! News ]
July 13, 2004

Rumsfeld Directs Missile Defense to Operate Oct. 1

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has quietly ordered elements of a long-range missile defense system to begin operating on Oct. 1.

Rumsfeld's order appears to be a closely held secret. Representatives from the Office of Secretary of Defense, the Missile Defense Agency, and the Strategic Command contacted by Global Security Newswire either insisted that no such order exists, said they were unaware of one, or referred questions to other sections of the Defense Department. [ via NTI: Global Security Newswire]

Nevada Waste Site Plan to Proceed Despite Ruling

The Bush administration will proceed with a plan to build a nuclear waste site in Nevada this year despite a court decision ordering it to prevent radiation leaks for more than 10,000 years, a senior Energy Department official said on Tuesday. [ via Yahoo! News]
July 12, 2004

More Classified Data Goes Missing at Los Alamos

Los Alamos National Laboratory personnel on Wednesday found that two computer-data storage devices containing classified information were missing from the nuclear weapons research facility, the New York Times reported. [ via NTI: Global Security Newswire]

Kerry Proposes New Initiative to Keep Terrorists from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons

Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry outlined his plan to combat the greatest threat now facing our country - the possibility of al Qaeda or other terrorists getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. [via John Kerry for President]

Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum - Special Event - Tibbets

A special event will be held at the United States Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (Home of the B-29 "Bockscar") in Dayton, OH, on Saturday, August 14, 2004.  Featured speakers will include Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets, USAF (Ret), commanding officer of the 509th Composite Group and pilot of the Enola Gay.The event is $30 per person.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum - Special Event
July 08, 2004

Israel open to nuclear-free zone in Mideast

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he is open to discussion about closing the Middle East to nuclear weapons, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said.

The UN nuclear chief said Sharon had told him that "Israel's policy continues to be that, in the context of peace in the Middle East, Israel would be looking favorably to the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone.

"This is not a new policy but affirming that policy at the level of the prime minister," ElBaradei told a press conference after the meeting.

"I find that to be a quite welcome development and a positive development."

Israel had previously said it would not discuss security issues, such as a nuclear-weapons-free zone, until there was a comprehensive peace settlement. [via NTI: Global Security Newswire]

Iraq Confirms U.S. Has Removed Nuclear Material

Iraq''s interim government confirmed Thursday the United States has removed 1.8 tons of enriched uranium from Iraq. In addition, about 1,000 highly radioactive items from the former Iraqi nuclear research facility had been taken to the United States. [ via
Yahoo! News
July 05, 2004

Israel shows nuclear plant images

Israeli authorities have published pictures of Israel's nuclear plant in the Negev desert for the first time.

The images appear on a new website for the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission.

The move came a day before the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog was due in Israel for talks on making the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone. [via BBC News]
July 02, 2004

Powell meets with North Korean Nuclear Talks

Secretary of State Colin Powell met Friday with North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun to discuss the impasse over that country's nuclear weapons program. It was the highest-level talks between the two countries since the crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions erupted two years ago.[via CBS News]
July 01, 2004

Powell says US willing to match North Korea 'deed for deed' on nuclear crisis

The US is willing to match North Korea "deed for deed" if it agrees to dismantle its nuclear weapons and halt their development under a plan laid out last week, US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Powell said Pyongyang would see numerous benefits in the near-term, including security assurances, if it followed the principle of "word-for-word, deed-for-deed" laid out in the US proposal. [via Yahoo! News]

Review: Oppenheimer: Portrait Of An Enigma

Book CoverJeremy Bernstein, a physicist and staff writer for the New Yorker, has written profiles of scientists for nearly 30 years. In his preface, Bernstein is clear about the scope and depth of this work, saying, "I make no pretense of trying to write a 'definitive' biography of Oppenheimer." Oppenheimer: Portrait Of An Enigma is best understood as an extended magazine profile rather than an exhaustive portrait.

This profile covers all the key points in Oppenheimer's life, from his role as the director of Los Alamos during the development of the atomic bomb, to his security hearing with the Atomic Energy Commission. Bernstein spent two years at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, where Oppenheimer was the director after the Manhattan Project. This tenure gave Bernstein the perfect position to blend history with personal observation.

Oppenheimer: Portrait Of An Enigma paints a view of the conflicted genius, happiest when surrounded by formulas on a chalkboard but never comfortable when the theoretical became the political.

Drawing on trial transcripts, Bernstein effectively recaps the Atomic Energy Commission's move to suspend Oppenheimer's clearance in the spring of 1954. He traces this fateful event back to a physicist's naiveté as well as his arrogance. Bernstein focuses on the high drama of the conflict between Oppenheimer and Teller. This is in part to offer a balance to Edward Teller's version in his book Memoirs. Although time and events have softened Oppenheimer's fall from grace, this event is still a sad chapter in a brilliant story.

Some readers may be disappointed that this book does not provide the same depth as the recent works by Gregg Herken or Robert Norris. However, this work does provide a window into the physics community of the 20th century and into the enigma of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

World's Oldest Nuclear Plant Closes

The world's oldest operational nuclear power station was closed Tuesday, ceasing electricity generation after nearly 45 years. The British Nuclear Group said the Chapelcross station near Annan in Scotland was officially switched off Tuesday morning.

Chapelcross began providing electricity for the south of Scotland in 1959. [via CBS News]

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