Category Archives: ombudsman

Atomic Reporters to Improve its Game

Atomic Reporters is in business to help journalists bring a little more authority to covering nuclear issues by providing training and encouraging discussion. Among the schools of science, nuclear is a Cinderella yet it is pivotal to global security and safety.

To achieve  its goals Atomic Reporters links journalists with experts as it seeks to broaden understanding, a two way street indeed. It also offers comment on the hazards journalists may face in providing evidence based reporting for their readers and viewers because of the wide range of views being expressed.

Last week we posted an “Ombudsman Column” called “Curveballs, Sliders and the Little Pitches that Start Big Wars.” Because it drew on a wide community of experts and journalists it was bylined ‘ Atomic Reporters.’

This tongue-in-cheek effort seeking to illuminate some of the very real disagreements about matters of fact swirling around the Iran nuclear file was deemed too harsh and caused offence and upset to people named in the report, for which we express regret.

We are a newly minted organization unique in our commitment to supporting journalists covering this challenging file. We try to get it right but don’t always succeed. When style detracts from the serious content we are trying to address clearly we’ve not succeeded and we will strive to do better.

Thanks for your support: Peter Rickwood, Atomic Reporters founder & director

Global Security Newswire: The Medium Is The Message

John Mearsheimer got top billing this week on the Global Security Newswire. Elaine Grossman dug up the University of Chicago professor’s 1993 fringe theory on nuclear proliferation:

“As soon as it declared independence, Ukraine should have been quietly encouraged to fashion its own nuclear deterrent,” the University of Chicago scholar wrote in a 1993 Foreign Policy piece. “A nuclear Ukraine … is imperative to maintain peace between Ukraine and Russia. … Ukraine cannot defend itself against a nuclear-armed Russia with conventional weapons, and no state, including the United States, is going to extend to it a meaningful security guarantee.”

GSN then let Mearsheimer, who is no stranger to controversy, double down on his Strangelovian musing about nuclear weapons in Ukraine:

“I do think they should have kept their nukes,” he said on Sunday via email. “If Ukraine had a real nuclear deterrent, the Russians would not be threatening to invade it.”

The comments may not have raised eyebrows had they appeared in another publication. Yet they were printed under the Nuclear Threat Initiative banner. NTI is of course that vital “nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a mission to strengthen global security by reducing the risk of use and preventing the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.”

Ironically, Soviet nuclear weapons were removed from Ukraine under the auspices of Senator Sam Nunn’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Who is the co-Chairman and CEO of NTI? None other than, Mr. Nunn himself.

Opinion: Safeguards & Public Diplomacy

“We will have access to Fordow, a secret facility in a mountaintop that we’ve never been in.” – John Kerry to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dec. 10, 2013

“They have to allow inspection of the Fordow underground facility and of the Natanz nuclear plant. They didn’t have to do that before.” – John Kerry interview Jake Tapper of CNN, Feb. 5, 2014
IAEA headquarters in Vienna
IAEA headquarters in Vienna

Treaties are verified because people and nations are not necessarily trustworthy, especially when they act in the interests of power and wealth. The verification tool keeping watch over the world’s deadliest potential arsenal is called Safeguards. Just as the seeds of the European Union are found in counting steel that could be used for cannons, IAEA Safeguards keep track of nuclear-bomb material at proliferation risk. The base value of every gram of transmogrified uranium on Earth may be seen as the cost to deploy the people and machines needed to count it.

Continue reading Opinion: Safeguards & Public Diplomacy

Squirrely Facts in “Nuclear Ukraine” Report

The speckled ground squirrel is a native of the east Ukrainian steppes
The speckled ground squirrel is a native of the east Ukrainian steppes

Jeremy Bernstein has a pretty good piece up at the NYRB’s blog. Unfortunately, he nearly lost us half-way through with this assertion:

“…following the 1994 agreement, trains began moving Ukraine’s nuclear stockpile to disarmament facilities in Russia. About five thousand nuclear related devices were moved out on some one hundred trains. The operation was completed in 1996 and Ukraine joined the small club of nuclear states, which now includes Libya and South Africa, that have voluntarily given up their nuclear arsenals. In the 1990s, Belarus and Kazakstan also gave up their weapons. But the vast store of tactical and strategic bombs turned over by Ukraine was by far the largest in this group. In 2012 the last of Ukraine’s supply of highly enriched uranium was turned over to Russia.”

You get that in the middle? Libya had a “nuclear arsenal?” Not according to Atomic Reporters who were in Tripoli and described Qaddafi’s atomic work as a:

“Small unsuccessful enrichment program. No effort to even design a weapon let alone build one, let alone an arsenal.”

If Libya is going to be lumped with South Africa, which did indeed possess nuclear weapons, where should we place Sweden and Switzerland?