August 29, 2005

Iran claims new nuclear breakthrough

A report on state television said researchers from Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, after six years of research, had mastered the technique of employing microbes to purify uranium ore in mines prior to mining.

It said "using biotechnology substantially decreases the cost, increases optimisation and prevents environmental contamination" in the process that leads to the production of yellowcake, or concentrated uranium oxide.

The report, quoting a senior researcher, said the microbes were "successfully used in experimental stages" in central Iran's uranium mines.

"This bacteria is very valuable" and makes the production of yellowcake "100 to 200 times cheaper", he said.

Yellowcake is a part of the early stages of the nuclear fuel cycle -- a process that Iran insists it only wants to master so it can generate electricity. [via]

North Korea delays nuclear talks, blames U.S.

North Korea said Monday it would delay by two weeks its return to nuclear talks, blaming the decision on U.S. military exercises and Washington's appointment of a special envoy on human rights.

Delegates to six-nation talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up nuclear development took a recess earlier this month after failing to agree on a statement of basic principles. They agreed to meet again this week. [via]

India's nuclear might

If recent reports are accurate, India's plan to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of carrying multiple warheads could signal the start of a nuclear arms race in South Asia.

"Such a missile would make India a world nuclear power, on par with the more mature members of the nuclear club. Pakistan is not likely to sit idly by, and neither is China," according to analyst and former Bulletin publisher Stephen I. Schwartz.

India's nuclear arsenal currently consists of several short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and according to the Bulletin's latest Nuclear Notebook, there has been continued talk in New Delhi of developing an ICBM. [via Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | Web Log]
August 24, 2005

Khan 'gave Noth Korea centrifuges'

Disgraced Pakistani scientist AQ Khan supplied North Korea with centrifuges and their designs, President Pervez Musharraf has confirmed. Centrifuges enrich uranium which can be used for making nuclear bombs.

It is the first time Pakistan has given details about the type of technology Dr Khan transferred to Pyongyang.

But President Musharraf told Japanese news agency Kyodo that Dr Khan had not provided North Korea with the expertise for constructing a nuclear bomb.

Dr Khan has admitted leaking nuclear secrets to North Korea, Libya and Iran. Pakistan's government has always denied any involvement.[via BBC News]
August 23, 2005

Europeans call off key nuclear talks with Iran

European powers have called off August 31 talks with Iran over its nuclear program, France said on Tuesday, marking a breakdown in two years of negotiations with Tehran to halt its sensitive atomic work.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said talks on a formal European proposal made earlier this month would not now go ahead because Iran had resumed certain nuclear work in breach of a promise to freeze it while talks lasted.[via Yahoo!News]
August 22, 2005

Pakistan experts to meet IAEA on Iran nuclear probe

Pakistani experts are in Vienna to discuss the U.N. nuclear watchdog's findings in an investigation into the origins of weapons-grade uranium found in Iran, Pakistan's foreign ministry said on Monday.

Iran blames traces of bomb-grade uranium found in Iran by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2003 on contaminated centrifuge components acquired from Pakistan. [via Yahoo! News]
August 20, 2005

Review: Before The Fallout

Book CoverThe development of the atomic bomb did not begin atop a plateau in New Mexico. It truly began rather innocently nearly fifty years earlier in a laboratory in Paris, when Marie Curie discovered radium. This seemingly unconnected event triggered a race to unlock the secrets of the atom, and in so doing create the atomic bomb. Diane Preston's Before the Fallout, takes us along this journey of discovery to understand the forces of the atom. Although the story of the development of the atomic bomb has been told by numerous authors, Before the Fallout is one of the truly enjoyable accounts of that saga.

As scientists probed the inner workings of the atom, Albert Einstein's now famous equation, E = mc2, foretold of tremendous energies stored within the heart of the atom. Although some thought that this potential was "moonshine," another female scientist led the discovery of nuclear fission. Lise Mietner, who was forced to flee Nazi Germany, correctly interpreted the results of her former colleagues Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann. One of the themes that Preston addresses is the sexism that female scientists faced at that time. In addition to the difficulties Marie Curie faced, Preston also explores the difficulties that Lise Meitner endured. For example Hahn and Strassmann were both awarded the Nobel Prize for their work on nuclear fission, while she was not.

The book also traces the nature of science from an apolitical, open global community, to one of secrecy, driven by the fears of World War II. Readers will be presented familiar faces like J. Robert Oppeneheimer, General Leslie Groves, Richard Feynman, and Niels Bohr, as well as the story of the race to develop the atomic bomb.

In addition to the American bomb project, Preston does take some time to explore the atomic bomb projects in Russia, Japan and Germany. She provides some interesting insights in that fateful and mysterious meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in Copenhagen in 1942.

Throughout the book, Before the Fallout gives us glimpses into the lives behind the scientific minds who gave birth to the atomic age. One notable example was the fact that Fritz Strassmann helped hide a Jewish musician, Andrea Wolffenstein, from the Nazis. This earned him recognition as a "Righteous Gentile" by Yad Vashem in Israel.

Preston also takes us to Hiroshima before and after the bombing. This gives us a better understanding of the city whose name will forever be a part of history. From the bustling port city to a city that was suffering from the impending defeat of the Japanese in World War II.

The book also poses questions to the reader about various turning points in time. "Whatif" President Roosevelt had lived, would he not have used the bomb? What if Britain had not provided the urging to the United States ? the bomb project, would the bomb had been ready in time?

Overall, this book is a wonderful introduction to the birth of the atomic age. Hopefully, readers will be intrigued to continue deeper into this rich and complex topic.

August 16, 2005

Russia Stops Use of Rail-Based Missiles

Russian Strategic Missile Commander Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov said yesterday that the service's rail-based missile launchers have all been permanently removed from operation.

The last launcher was removed from service Aug. 12. The missiles mounted on the launchers are being destroyed at a storage base in the Perm region, while the launchers are being taken apart at a repair facility in Bryansk. [via Nuclear Threat Initiative]
August 15, 2005

Keeping Secrets

New York Times reporter William L. Laurence witnessed the dropping of the atomic bomb, flying with American troops over Nagasaki while the bomb was dropped. He won the Pulitzer Prize for a series of stories he subsequently published, many of which included details about the development and production of the bomb that he had kept secret until after the first atomic bomb was dropped. It turns out, however, that this wasn't the only secret Laurence was keeping. Bob speaks with author David Goodman about Laurence's allegiances. [via On the Media]
August 11, 2005

IAEA has 'serious concern' over Iran

The International Atomic Energy Agency unanimously approved a resolution on Thursday demanding that Iran suspend all nuclear activities it resumed earlier this week, a diplomat said.

The diplomat from a country on the agency's 35-nation board said the resolution, drafted by France, Britain and Germany, expressed "serious concern" at Iran's resumption on Monday of nuclear work that could be used to make atomic weapons.

But it did not call for Iran's case to be referred to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions. However, European Union diplomats said that if Tehran fails to comply with the resolution they will push for Iran to be referred to the U.N. council for punitive action in September. [via MSNBC]
August 09, 2005

Defiant Iran to proceed with more atomic work

Iran will get access on Wednesday to sealed parts of an uranium conversion plant, allowing Tehran to move closer to resuming production of enriched uranium that Washington and the EU fears may be used to make an atomic bomb.

As Iran readied its uranium processing plant at Isfahan, the European Union's three biggest powers sought the support of all 35 nations on the board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog to unanimously warn Tehran not to restart parts of its nuclear program that could process and refine uranium fuel for bombs. Iran denies accusations that its nuclear program is a front for bomb-making. It says it needs to develop nuclear power as an alternative energy source to meet booming electricity demand and preserve its oil and gas reserves for export.

The IAEA board is holding an emergency meeting this week to decide on how to respond to Iran's resumption of atomic work. [via Yahoo! News]
August 06, 2005

North Korea talks 'to go into recess'

Talks on North Korea's nuclear plans are due to go into recess on Sunday for two weeks, China's Xinhua news agency quotes a Russian official as saying. [BBC NEWS]

Nuclear neighbors reach key deal

India and Pakistan have agreed to give each other advance notice of future nuclear missile tests, the two countries have announced.

The neighbors also said they would set up an emergency nuclear hotline between their foreign ministries.

The statement came after two day of talks aimed at reducing the risk of a nuclear war between the two neighbours. [via BBC NEWS]

Today, we are all Hibakusha

We remember the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Whether the bombs ended World War II will always remain a question of debate. What is not open of debate the large arsenals of nuclear weapons that continue to threat us all.

Chris Griffith

Iran rejects Europe's nuclear deal

Iran on Saturday said it would reject a package of proposals from European negotiators which offered long-term support for Iran's civil nuclear program as long as the country does not develop nuclear weapons.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi told the state news agency IRNA the proposal 'is not acceptable.' [via]
August 04, 2005

Hiroshima's 'Shockwave,' 60 Years Later

From NPR's Talk of the Nation:

In a new book, Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima, BBC producer Stephen Walker focuses on the three weeks that lead up to the attack and on the stories of individuals, policymakers, diplomats, physicists, soldiers, airmen and residents of Hiroshima.

We talk to Walker, as well as two men who were aboard the Enola Gay on Aug. 6, 1945, about that fateful day. The audio should be available after 3:00 p.m. (PDT) [ via NPR]

Review: Toward Nuclear Abolition: A History of the World Disarmament Movement

Book CoverToward Nuclear Abolition: A History of the World Disarmament Movement, 1971 to Present completes Lawrence Wittner's ambitious and valuable trilogy on the history of the world nuclear disarmament movement. The two previous parts of the trilogy are One World or None (1993), which looks at the movement through 1953, and Resisting the Bomb (1997), which covers the period 1954 to 1970. In this volume, Wittner argues that that it was the citizens' movement that helped move the world back from the nuclear brink and ended the Cold War. Although this may seem to be a bold claim to some, his thorough documentation does provide evidence that their influence was greatly underestimated by many.

He chronicles the movement's ebb and flow through the decades, from the heights during the intense build-ups of the Reagan era, to the lows as the Cold War ended, leaving the movement without the same focus it had previously. Wittner explores the pressures from the nuclear disarmament movement on various administrations on both sides of the Cold War.

One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the nuclear saga in the Pacific region, where New Zealanders and Pacific islanders tenaciously and boldly challenged nuclear testing and began establishing nuclear-free zones.

Wittner also chronicles the rise of such groups like Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Union of Concerned Scientists, SANE, and others. This book provides future readers the ability to explore an often forgotten nuclear arms movement, or as Wittner wrote, "is like telling the story of civil rights legislation without referring to the civil rights movement". The story of this movement has had its first telling, in an excellent manner.
Available at

Talks flounder as North Korea delays decision on abandoning nuclear weapons

North Korean nuclear talks floundered on Thursday with the Stalinist state failing to deliver an expected decision on whether it is ready to abandon its atomic weapons programs. [ via Yahoo! News]
August 03, 2005

How Britain helped Israel get the bomb

Documents uncovered by Newsnight in the British National Archives show how, in 1958, Britain agreed to sell Israel 20 tonnes of heavy water, a vital ingredient for the production of plutonium at Israel's top secret Dimona nuclear reactor in the Negev desert.

Michael Crick's report can be seen on Newsnight on Wednesday, 3 August at 10.30pm on BBC2.[via BBC NEWS]
August 02, 2005

In pictures: Hiroshima after the bomb - and today

As the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima approaches, the BBC has put together an image gallery of Hiroshima then and now. View it here

Moscow Conference on Multilateral Approaches for Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Representatives from Russia, the United States, France, and other countries are meeting at a Moscow conference this week to examine multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle from organizational and technical aspects. The conference is organized by the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) with cooperation by the IAEA. [via IAEA]

Statement by the IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei on Iran

"I call on Iran to continue the negotiation process with the E3/EU and not to take any action that might prejudice the process at this critical stage when the E3/EU are expected to deliver a package addressing security and political, economic and nuclear issues."

"I also call on Iran not to take any unilateral action that could undermine the Agency inspection process at a time when the Agency is making steady progress in resolving outstanding issues." [via IAEA ]
August 01, 2005

Iran far from nuclear bomb, U.S. finds

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

The new National Intelligence Estimate includes what the intelligence community views as credible indicators that Iran's military is conducting clandestine work. But the sources said there is no information linking those projects directly to a nuclear weapons program. What is clear is that Iran, mostly through its energy program, is acquiring and mastering technologies that could be diverted to bombmaking. [via /] launched

Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60 years later banner

60 years ago, the first atomic bombs were dropped over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. is a new website bringing together a large collection of information about the only use of atomic weapons in warfare. The website contains original text, along with eyewitness accounts, rare photographs, videos and full color maps.

Iran agrees to delay nuclear restart

Iran threatened to reopen its nuclear processing plant here Monday but later agreed to a two-day delay after receiving a request from the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency. [via]

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