Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Published by SAGE Publications
Print ISSN: 0096-3402
Publications
The lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident have focused on preventive measures designed to protect nuclear reactors, and crisis management plans. Although there is still no end in sight to the accident that occurred on March 11, 2011, how engineers have handled the aftermath offers new insight into the capacity of organizations to adapt in situations that far exceed the scope of safety standards based on probabilistic risk assessment and on the comprehensive identification of disaster scenarios. Ongoing crises in which conventional resources are lacking, but societal expectations are high, call for "engineering thinking in emergency situations." This is a new concept that emphasizes adaptability and resilience within organizations-such as the ability to create temporary new organizational structures; to quickly switch from a normal state to an innovative mode; and to integrate a social dimension into engineering activities. In the future, nuclear safety oversight authorities should assess the ability of plant operators to create and implement effective engineering strategies on the fly, and should require that operators demonstrate the capability for resilience in the aftermath of an accident.
 
Recent analyses indicated that solar heating and cooling systems for residential buildings are nearly economically competitive with conventional fossil fuel or electric systems, the former having higher initial cost but a lower operating cost than the latter. The paper examines obstacles to the widespread acceptance and use of solar space conditioning systems and explores some general policies which could help to overcome them. The discussion covers such institutional barriers limiting the adoption of solar technologies as existing building codes, financing constraints, and organizational structure of the building industry. The potential impact of financial incentives is analyzed. It is noted that a tax incentive of 25% could speed the use of solar energy by 7 to 8 years and produce an 8% reduction in fossil fuel use by 1990. A preliminary incentive package which could be helpful in promoting solar energy both at federal and state levels is proposed, and the necessary incentive level is analysed.
 
Lecture to the memory of Alfred Nobel, December 8, 1979
 
“Our national commitment to technological advance seems irresistible, irrevocable, and irreversible. Given, moreover, the tension-filled world in which we live, it is perhaps unthinkable that the United States would not continue its drive for continuing technological superiority. Protective measures must therefore be built into the development and practice of technology” writes Harold P. Green, professor of law at The George Washington University National Law Center and director of the Center's Law, Science, and Technology Program.
 
“It has been my belief that the moon is an ancient object, probably captured by Earth at the beginning of terrestrial history. If this is the case, it must have been made somewhere, independent of the Earth, and would therefore be an independent planet and an exceedingly interesting object.”This article is based on the revision by Professor G. J. F. MacDonald and Professor Urey of “The Origin and History of the Moon,” the chapter by Dr. Urey in “The Physics and Astronomy of the Moon,” edited by Zdenek Kopal. Dr. Urey is Professor-at-large of Chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, Revelle College, La Jolla, California.
 
Near-Earth asteroid fragment explodes over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013 
It has been 20 years since planning began for the 1995 United Nations International Conference on Near-Earth Objects. The conference proceedings established the scientific basis for an international organizational framework to support research and collective actions to mitigate a potential near-Earth object (NEO) threat to the planet. Since that time, researchers have conducted telescope surveys that should, within the coming decade, answer many questions about the size, number, and Earth impact probability of these objects. Space explorations to asteroids and comets have been successfully carried out, including sample recovery. Laboratory experiments and computer simulations at Sandia National Laboratories have analyzed the effects of soft X-ray radiation on meteorites - which might help researchers develop a way to redirect an incoming asteroid by vaporizing a thin layer of its surface. An Action Team on NEOs, established in 2001 in response to recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, identified the primary components of NEO mitigation and emphasized the value of finding potentially hazardous NEOs as soon as possible. Recommendations from the Action Team are meant to ensure that all nations are aware of the NEO danger; and to coordinate mitigation activities among nations that could be affected by an impact, as well as those that might play an active role in any eventual deflection or disruption campaign.
 
Working on the Manhattan Project was a traumatic experience. It is not often given to one to participate in the birth of a new era. For some the effect has endured throughout their lives; I am one of those.
 
We're not lacking for creative solutions in dealing with climate change. Four leading experts–José Goldemberg, Amory B. Lovins, Stephen Schneider, and M. S. Swaminathan–provide proposals on how we can curb carbon dioxide emissions, reduce global temperatures, sustain economic growth, and summon the necessary political leadership.
 
Recent research has revealed new facts about the British nuclear arsenal over a 25-year period starting in 1953. This accounting and the authors’ own research support an estimate that the British produced about 1,250 nuclear warheads between 1953 and 2013. From a peak of about 500 warheads in the period between 1974 and 1981, the UK arsenal has now been reduced to some 225 weapons.
 
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the United States and the Soviet Union walked back from the brink of a nuclear war. In this issue of Nuclear Notebook, the authors analyze the order of battle of nuclear forces that were available to military and civilian officials in both the United States and the Soviet Union in October and November of 1962. This detail, they point out, has remained widely overlooked by authors, experts, and researchers over the past five decades. Once these nuclear forces are defined, the authors write, the true nature of the crisis was even more serious and dangerous than previously thought.
 
Hype about the burgeoning future of nuclear power is rampant, but the facts tell a different story. The nuclear power industry is in a state of global decline–a situation that isn't going to change in the foreseeable future.
 
Although some countries plan to build new nuclear power plants in the near future, in aggregate the data indicates that nuclear power's influence will continue to dwindle across the globe in coming decades.
 
In 2010, there were more nuclear power units under construction worldwide than in any year since 1988. Even before Fukushima, however, status indicators for the international nuclear industry were showing a negative trend. Fewer countries are operating nuclear fission reactors for energy purposes than in previous years, and many countries are now past their nuclear peak. Worldwide nuclear production is generally declining, and many new projects are experiencing construction delays. Even if reactors can be operated for an average of 40 years, 74 new plants would have to come on line by 2015 to maintain the status quo, which is impossible given current constraints on fabricating reactor components. Developments in Asia, particularly in China, do not fundamentally change the global picture. The dramatic post-Fukushima decisions in two of the four largest economies, Japan and Germany, and in several other nuclear countries could accelerate the decline of a rapidly aging industry.
 
As the diplomatic standoff in North Korea enters its fourth year, the crisis atmosphere on the Korean peninsula sparked by Pyongyang’s military actions in 2010 has eased. Pyongyang has agreed to return to the diplomatic table, its hand strengthened by advancing its nuclear program in the interim. Washington and Seoul remain reluctant to engage, having been burned by Pyongyang’s clandestine uranium enrichment program unveiled in 2010. The authors argue that re-engagement, with the immediate objective to stop a third nuclear test and prevent further missile tests, is imperative to contain the nuclear threat for now; preventing the nuclear program’s expansion and preparing the way for the ultimate denuclearization of the peninsula—critical goals—must be left to a second step.
 
If 2010 was the year of successes and landmarks for arms control, 2011 was the year that the momentum of the new era slowed, and hard realities were made apparent. By the end of the year, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty had not been ratified or even seriously discussed, and negotiations on the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty remained stuck in the Conference on Disarmament, with no sign of success in the offing. The author takes a look at five events that unfolded in 2011 and that seem certain to cast a powerful shadow in months and years to come. He writes that both the spread of nuclear technology in the Middle East and Southeast Asia and the revision of the export control regime pose a threat to the long-term structure of the global nuclear order. The crisis with Iran continues to present a serious challenge to the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime while raising the risk of a military response. A conference on a Middle East WMD-free zone requires addressing an ambitious objective in the world’s most intractable diplomatic environment. And the impediments to progress in US–Russian relations stifle hopes that further agreements and deeper cuts can be achieved; a deterioration of this relationship could mean serious consequences in the arms control environment. In 2011, no new breakthroughs occurred, the author writes, adding that 2012 could be a much more difficult year.
 
The market niche that nuclear power once held is disappearing. The key nuclear indicators—including the number of operating reactors, installed capacity, power generation, and share of total electricity generation—all show that the global nuclear industry is in decline. In 2012, nuclear power’s competitors—most notably, wind and solar generation—are rapidly gaining market share as long lead times, construction delays, cost overruns, and safety concerns have combined to make nuclear power a risky investment that the markets are increasingly unwilling to make. To renew the aging world nuclear fleet, nuclear utilities would need to surmount a number of major problems, including a short-term manufacturing bottleneck, a shortage of skilled workers, regulatory uncertainty, a skeptical financial sector, and negative public opinion. The aftermath of the Fukushima disaster and the world economic crisis have only exacerbated these problems. The authors write that a realistic scenario that leads to an increase in nuclear’s share of the world’s electricity is hard to imagine.
 
In this Nuclear Notebook, the authors write about nonstrategic nuclear weapons—starting with the difficulty of finding a universal definition for them. Although the United States and Russia have reduced their nonstrategic stockpiles, significant inventories remain. And other nuclear weapons states appear to have nonstrategic nuclear weapons as well. Today, at least five of the world’s nine nuclear weapons states have, or are developing, what appears to meet the definition of a nonstrategic nuclear weapon: Russia, the United States, France, Pakistan, and China. The authors present information on the weapons at each of these arsenals.
 
In this Nuclear Notebook, guest author Timothy McDonnell reviews the five states that developed nuclear weapons outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and South Africa—and explores the milestones associated with each country’s weapons program. These states tend to have smaller, less technologically sophisticated nuclear arsenals, and have conducted fewer nuclear tests than the five nuclear powers—China, France, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States. But in some cases, the author writes, the line separating the technical differences between the two groups’ nuclear arsenals is starting to blur.
 
As of early 2013, the United States has continued to reduce its nuclear stockpile, and retirement alone has accounted for a dip of over 250 warheads since last year. Of the total stockpile of approximately 4,650 warheads, an estimated 2,150 warheads are deployed. The arsenal is composed of roughly 1,950 strategic warheads deployed with approximately 800 missiles and bombers, as well as nearly 200 nonstrategic warheads deployed in Europe. In this article, the authors scrutinize the US nuclear arsenal.
 
Governments regulate risky industrial systems such as nuclear power plants in hopes of making them less risky, and a variety of formal and informal warning systems can help society avoid catastrophe. Governments, businesses, and citizens respond when disaster occurs. But recent history is rife with major disasters accompanied by failed regulation, ignored warnings, inept disaster response, and commonplace human error. Furthermore, despite the best attempts to forestall them, “normal” accidents will inevitably occur in the complex, tightly coupled systems of modern society, resulting in the kind of unpredictable, cascading disaster seen at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Government and business can always do more to prevent serious accidents through regulation, design, training, and mindfulness. Even so, some complex systems with catastrophic potential are just too dangerous to exist, because they cannot be made safe, regardless of human effort.
 
The potential effect of a digital, or cyber, weapon used against a network is directly proportional to how much a given population relies upon that network. The widespread denial of essential services caused by a network attack, the author writes, could lead indirectly to bodily harm and loss of life, through rioting or other violence. As of now, however, a cyber weapon cannot directly injure or kill human beings as efficiently as guns or bombs, and there is no evidence to support a claim that cyber weapons meet the legal and historical definitions of weapons of mass destruction.
 
The 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Pakistan last October killed 75,000 people and left 3 million homeless. But the deaths would not end there. In May, the Pakistani army managed to force out most remaining foreign relief workers from the still-devastated region of Azad Kashmir, the Pakistan-controlled part of the disputed province. Just days later, 38 people in villages of southern Azad Kashmir had their throats cut or were beheaded. The youngest victim was four months old.
 
Why aren’t more people engaged in actions that would help mitigate climate change? The psychological “dragons of inaction” that impede green behaviors fall into seven “genera,” each with multiple “species” of barriers to pro-environmental behavior. Collectively, they represent a formidable challenge to policy makers, not only because there are so many of these dragons, but also because policy makers will need to learn much more about which dragons impede which sorts of people in order to target policies cost-effectively. Some people, dubbed “mules,” carry heavy loads of responsibility as they take major steps to mitigate climate change. Others are “honeybees” who help the environment, but without intending to do so. Too few people fall into either of these categories to make a real difference for the climate, the author writes, but he identifies five behavioral-science strategies that might help overcome the psychological barriers to climate action.
 
The Lavon Affair, a failed Israeli covert operation directed against Egypt in 1954, triggered a chain of events that have had profound consequences for power relationships in the Middle East; the affair’s effects still reverberate today. Those events included a public trial and conviction of eight Egyptian Jews who carried out the covert operation, two of whom were subsequently executed; a retaliatory military incursion by Israel into Gaza that killed 39 Egyptians; a subsequent Egyptian–Soviet arms deal that angered American and British leaders, who then withdrew previously pledged support for the building of the Aswan Dam; the announced nationalization of the Suez Canal by Nasser in retaliation for the withdrawn support; and the subsequent failed invasion of Egypt by Israel, France, and Britain in an attempt to topple Nasser. In the wake of that failed invasion, France expanded and accelerated its ongoing nuclear cooperation with Israel, which eventually enabled the Jewish state to build nuclear weapons.
 
The idea that ordinary people might contribute to verification of arms control treaties is not new; abstract discussions of the concept date back decades. But powerful and portable electronic devices have spread so widely in recent years that societal verification now seems an imminent reality. Motivated individuals might, for instance, collect treaty-relevant data through onboard sensors that smartphones can carry and then transmit the information to multilateral verification bodies or, as is already happening, share it online with global communities that subject it to crowdsourced analysis. But will societal verification generate enthusiasm in the developed and developing worlds alike? What legal protections must be established for participants? And will information gathered through societal verification ultimately prove useful and trustworthy? Three authors explore these emerging questions: from Burkina Faso and representing the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, Lassina Zerbo (2013); from the United States, research fellow Nima Gerami (2013); and from Malaysia, nuclear engineer Jamal Khaer Ibrahim.
 
The idea that ordinary people might contribute to verification of arms control treaties is not new; abstract discussions of the concept date back decades. But powerful and portable electronic devices have spread so widely in recent years that societal verification now seems an imminent reality. Motivated individuals might, for instance, collect treaty-relevant data through onboard sensors that smartphones can carry and then transmit the information to multilateral verification bodies or, as is already happening, share it online with global communities that subject it to crowdsourced analysis. But will societal verification generate enthusiasm in the developed and developing worlds alike? What legal protections must be established for participants? And will information gathered through societal verification ultimately prove useful and trustworthy? Three authors explore these emerging questions: from Burkina Faso and representing the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, Lassina Zerbo; from the United States, research fellow Nima Gerami (2013); and from Malaysia, nuclear engineer Jamal Khaer Ibrahim (2013).
 
Disposing of U.S. chemical weapons has been a slow, contentious operation.
 
The idea that ordinary people might contribute to verification of arms control treaties is not new; abstract discussions of the concept date back decades. But powerful and portable electronic devices have spread so widely in recent years that societal verification now seems an imminent reality. Motivated individuals might, for instance, collect treaty-relevant data through onboard sensors that smartphones can carry and then transmit the information to multilateral verification bodies or, as is already happening, share it online with global communities that subject it to crowdsourced analysis. But will societal verification generate enthusiasm in the developed and developing worlds alike? What legal protections must be established for participants? And will information gathered through societal verification ultimately prove useful and trustworthy? Three authors explore these emerging questions: from Burkina Faso and representing the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, Lassina Zerbo (2013); from the United States, research fellow Nima Gerami; and from Malaysia, nuclear engineer Jamal Khaer Ibrahim (2013).
 
A spate of newly elected national leaders offers an opportunity to rethink nonproliferation strategies.
 
Typescript. Thesis (Ph. D.)--Georgetown University, 1982. Abstract (reprinted in Dissertation abstracts international) inserted. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 341-377).
 
Currently, all nations with nuclear weapons are modernizing their arsenals, delivery systems, and related infrastructure. These programs have serious implications for nuclear disarmament. By investing in the extension, upgrading, and reinforcement of their arsenals and capacities, the author writes, these governments are investing in the future of nuclear weapons, not in the future of disarmament. Other non-nuclear states have expressed concern with these programs and are using international venues, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conferences, to call on the nuclear-armed states to cease these programs, which undermine the objectives of the treaty in terms of both non-proliferation and disarmament. Ending upgrades and investment in nuclear weapons would help establish the necessary conditions for disarmament. The author writes that non-nuclear weapon states should further advance the conditions for disarmament by negotiating a treaty banning nuclear weapons, highlighting that the world’s governments, themselves, do not need to possess nuclear weapons in order to prohibit them.
 
One of the problems with assessing the emerging threats from advances in biotechnology and the life sciences is that there are two competing narratives for understanding biotechnology development: one based on the notion of a biotech revolution and the other based on biotech evolution. The biotech revolution is a dystopian tale in which scientific advances lead to rapid changes in biotechnology, its applications, and its potential threats. The biotech evolution, however, describes slower and more complex trajectories for biotechnology development and threats. These two narratives are based on different assumptions and analytic methods, which lead to fundamentally different conclusions. The US intelligence and policy communities use the biotech revolution story line to make sense of today’s bioweapons threats, but this approach fails to reflect the complex social, economic, scientific, and technical factors that shape biotechnology and life science developments. The author argues that more critical perspectives on biotechnology are needed in order to improve intelligence assessments of present and future bioweapons threats and policy regarding them.
 
Democracy isn't doing all that well in Central Europe.
 
A nuclear war between Russia and the United States, even after the arsenal reductions planned under New START, could produce a nuclear winter. Hence, an attack by either side could be suicidal, resulting in self-assured destruction. Even a “small” nuclear war between India and Pakistan, with each country detonating 50 Hiroshima-size atom bombs—only about 0.03 percent of the global nuclear arsenal’s explosive power—as air bursts in urban areas, could produce so much smoke that temperatures would fall below those of the Little Ice Age of the fourteenth to nineteenth centuries, shortening the growing season around the world and threatening the global food supply. Furthermore, there would be massive ozone depletion, allowing more ultraviolet radiation to reach Earth’s surface. Recent studies predict that agricultural production in parts of the United States and China would decline by about 20 percent for four years, and by 10 percent for a decade. The environmental threat posed by even a small number of nuclear weapons must be considered in nuclear policy deliberations. Military planners now treat the environmental effects as collateral damage, and treaties currently consider only the number of weapons needed to assure destruction of opposing forces. Instead, treaties must call for further reductions in weapons so that the collateral effects do not threaten the continued survival of the bulk of humanity. Proliferation cannot be treated as a regional problem. A regional conflict has the potential to cause mass starvation worldwide through environmental effects.
 
Did the 50-year-old Atoms for Peace program accelerate nuclweapons proliferation? The juhas been in for some time on this question, and the answer is yes.
 
When industrial control systems are connected to the Internet, they can be vulnerable to cyber attacks. At risk are energy sources and electric grids, water and sewer systems, manufacturing, banks, transportation and communication networks, and other systems that may be targeted by hackers, terrorists, or enemy states seeking to wreak economic havoc. Despite a series of well-publicized cyber attacks in recent years, few companies have taken the steps necessary to isolate industrial control systems and sensitive information, and to limit the damage an attack can inflict. Security is not just a matter of dealing with technical issues, which are fairly straightforward and tactical. The strategic issue is governance: coordinating the efforts of various departments to ensure that information technology works together with physical security, legal counsel, human resources, and operations management.
 
Government-produced films from the era of aboveground nuclear testing continue to shape public understanding about the effects of nuclear weapons–for better and worse.
 
A half-century after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the world still overlooks the role played by U Thant—the quiet, unassuming UN secretary-general from Burma—in helping the superpowers resolve their crisis and avert nuclear war. Thant sent early and important messages to President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. The first requested a moratorium on the conflict at sea. Although many of Kennedy’s advisers looked upon Thant’s initiative with derision, Kennedy asked Thant to send another message requesting a cessation of Soviet shipping. The message gave Khrushchev a way to stop his ships but still save face. This ended the threat of a naval confrontation and enabled the superpowers to focus on the deeper issues of the conflict. Early on, Thant also proposed and pushed the idea that eventually formed the basis of agreement: Soviet missile withdrawal in exchange for guarantees of Cuban security. During moments in the crisis when many were calling for an attack on Cuba, Kennedy and Secretary of State Dean Rusk cited Thant’s initiatives as reasons for restraint. Thant also shuttled to Cuba to mollify Prime Minister Fidel Castro and to confirm that missile dismantlement had begun. He then aided the negotiations between Soviet and American teams at the United Nations to resolve remaining issues, such as how the missile withdrawal was to be verified.
 
How agencies thwart the Freedom of Information Act
 
“Report to the President of the United States,” Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, March 31, 2005, 593 pages.
 
RRW could increase pressure on Beijing to improve and enlarge its nuclear capability.
 
Even with U.S. government help, most former Soviet weapons enterprises have produced commercial flops. A willingness to learn from failure could make a powerful difference.
 
An IAEA-controlled nuclear fuel bank has stalled as developing states refuse to allow the agency to even consider proposals for it. To move forward, these states' justifiable concerns must be addressed.
 
The government wants to save money by loosening radiation exposure standards–how low will it go?
 
How to spread nuclear power without sharing nuclear know-how.
 
The fragility of the world's deltas is not solely a consequence of rising ocean waters. Human fresh water use is a predominant force behind receding coastlines.
 
A Time to Die: The Untold Story of the Kursk Tragedy by Robert Moore, Crown Publishers, 2003, 271 pages; $25.00
 
Proliferators continue to seek dual-use commodities that can be exploited to create weapons of mass destruction, and the private sector has a critical role to play in guarding against this threat. Corporate sustainability, which helps firms and outside stakeholders monitor the impacts of business operations, has emerged as a framework for engagement with industry on its nonproliferation responsibilities. However, the existing literature has not considered how to integrate nonproliferation into the current infrastructure of corporate sustainability, particularly into voluntary reporting standards or socially responsible investment analysis. These tools are essential market mechanisms that incentivize superior behavior on other challenges such as environmentally responsible management, respect for human rights, and fair labor practices. The authors outline the history of corporate sustainability and argue that nonproliferation should be considered a sustainability issue. They propose a nonproliferation pledge and a series of nonproliferation indicators as potential first steps that could build awareness and distinguish between firms based on how successful they are at meeting nonproliferation goals.
 
Three US national laboratories, which were established at the dawn of the Cold War, have long outlived their original mission of engaging in coordinated nuclear weapons research to combat the Soviet threat. But as the nature of the threats has changed, institutional ownership and investments in national security science and technology have failed to keep pace. This overarching misalignment between priorities and investments undercuts the relevance of Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia National Laboratories in the 21st century. Born in the days of the nuclear arms race, these national labs and the governmental infrastructure above them have clung too tightly to their original nuclear weapons mandate and have failed to reconstitute their efforts to reflect the more diffuse challenges, nuclear and otherwise, facing the country today. Though blame for this lapse could be placed at the feet of policy makers, bureaucrats, and program managers alike, the author writes, the prescription for ameliorating the problem is straightforward: devise and fund a more nimble science, technology, and engineering enterprise that builds upon the unique capabilities at these national labs while outfitting the facilities for, and charging them with, meeting the security and technology challenges of today.
 
Top-cited authors
Robert Norris
  • Federation of American Scientists
David Albright
  • Institute fpr Science and International Security
Mycle Schneider
  • International Panel on Fissile Materials, Princeton University
Jaia Syvitski
  • University of Colorado Boulder
Martin Bunzl
  • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey