Category Archives: U.S.

Just like the bad old days?

Despite the New START Treaty going into effect in 2011, the Federation of Atomic Scientists (FAS) reports that the United States and Russia have actually increased the number of strategic nuclear weapons deployed since then. Read further and deeper on the topic on their website, and don’t forget to check out their background information:

Guns or butter?

You would be hard-pressed to find common ground between Iran and the United States, but as Robert Kelley writes, both Markazi Province and South Carolina continue to grapple with the construction of government mandated, over budget and overdue fuel reactors:

Iran is facing increasing difficulties completing its IR-40 pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) near the town of Arak. Fortunately, Iran has agreed to suspend most construction work as part of a plan arranged with the EU3+3 negotiators. On the one hand, this means welcome cost savings for the Iranian Government. On the other hand, it could be an emergency for the local population.

Continue reading Guns or butter?

Through the looking glass darkly

The 11th anniversary of the outbreak of the Iraq war was 19 March. The interest of Atomic Reporters readers who are students of the press debacle leading up to it will be piqued by film maker Errol Morris’ account – the first installment in a four part series – of a news conference by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in February 2002.
In the New York Review of Books, Mark Danner also had a four part series on events and players in the war and its consequences. The conclusion:

Crimea, Iran & Kremlinology

“I don’t quite get it. Was that a punch at the U.S. or Iran?”
                                     –Russian President Vladimir Putin, June 12, 2013

Kremlinology Graph

Growing up during the Cold War, young Atomic Reporters were familiar with the word “Kremlinology.” That art of signal reading has steadily declined over time, as demonstrated by Google’s Ngram Viewer, which compiles the number of times authors use words in published literature.

The decline of Kremlinology has contributed to many people wondering whether the Crimean dispute is going to affect negotiations with Iran. While the U.S. insists that the two issues be kept separate and that the Ukraine spat shouldn’t jeopardize the Iran-nuclear negotiation, it’s far from clear whether Moscow sees the issue quite the same.

Enter Vladimir Putin in his RT interview last June. It didn’t receive much coverage among Western news outlets. Those that wrote about the interview did so derisively. That’s too bad, because if a person can get past the high-octane spin, there was some important signaling going on about how Russia interprets U.S. interest in keeping Iran on the hot seat.

Continue reading Crimea, Iran & Kremlinology

Let a hundred polls bloom: Iran nuclear deal and public opinion in the US


Adviser: Things don’t happen just because Prime Ministers are very keen on them. Neville Chamberlain was very keen on peace.
Secretary: He thinks it’s a vote winner
Adviser: Ah, that’s more serious. Sit down. What makes him think that?
Secretary: Well, it seems the party’s had an opinion poll done…

By Vasileios Savvidis, Atomic Reporters analyst

Hey, remember this classic skit on leading questions and commissioned polls from BBC’s old sitcom Yes, Prime Minister?

Not everyone gets what they want from the annual US State of the Union address (full Washington Post transcript). Before US President Barack Obama had even cleared his throat to begin delivery on Tuesday evening to Congress two polls were in circulation that, of course, claim to express what the American public wants.

Their topic was Iran – about which the President made clear in his address:  “if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it.”

Continue reading Let a hundred polls bloom: Iran nuclear deal and public opinion in the US

Orphaned (Re)Source: The Gernot Zippe Files

We’re back after an extended absence with some rare archival material. To make up for our scarce posting, please accept these as Christmas gifts to Atomic Reporters, wherever they may be:

Background to the Zippe Files:

The gas centrifuge has emerged as the most popular and efficient device for enriching uranium in the fissile isotope U235. Uranium-235 is the isotope used for nuclear fission that can generate both electricity and bombs.

Many people have contributed to gas centrifuge development but one name stands out as a major contributor to the technology: Gernot Zippe. Zippe was an Austrian mechanical engineer who was captured by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. He was taken to Russia where he participated in the design of the first generation of uranium enrichment centrifuges based upon subcritical rotors made of high strength aluminum. While the Russians denigrate his efforts, many of his ideas ended up in the Soviet centrifuges that are the basis of Russian uranium enrichment today.

Continue reading Orphaned (Re)Source: The Gernot Zippe Files

Orphaned (Re)source: Super Kukla Operating Experience, 1964-1973

Prompt burst reactors were developed in parallel with the first atomic bombs.  They were casually referred-to as “tickling the tail of the dragon.”  This is because they were made to go super prompt critical and depended on intrinsic heating of the core to shut them off before they exploded.  The operator completes the shutdown with rapid mechanical disassembly but that is only after heating of the core brings it down to barely supercritical.  Super prompt means that the reactor is highly super critical on prompt neutrons alone and the whole burst of neutrons that results is not actually critical on delayed neutrons.  Delayed neutrons come in milliseconds to seconds after fission and that is a very long time compared to the super prompt burst pulse.

Most prompt burst reactors in the US were essentially the same size and enrichment as a “gun-type” nuclear bomb.  So they were excellent for simulating the physics of such a device.  They were also used to make all sorts of basic neutron physics measurements and one was even used to irradiate chimpanzees to study the effects of a nuclear explosion on aircraft pilots.  Super Kukla was the largest such machine that was built.  It consisted of five tons of 20% enriched uranium with enriched control rods that added reactivity to cause the burst, rather than a poison rod such as used in a power reactor.  It was used to simulate the effects of Soviet ABM systems on US military hardware in a large central irradiation cavity.  The power in Super Kukla could double roughly every 100 microseconds which is certainly tickling the tail of the dragon.

All or most prompt burst reactors have been dismantled as the need for their basic physics experiments and damage to military systems missions have grown old.  The few reports on their characteristics are becoming lost or unavailable. This is one of the few now available for the public record:

LINK: Super Kukla Operating Experience