The television drama 24 is currently portraying one of the most frightening and dangerous terrorist scenarios possible–an anti-American terrorist group with radioactive fissile materials intent on detonating a “dirty bomb” in New York City to render it uninhabitable for decades to come. Jack Bauer, the show’s intrepid hero, is trying to track down the terrorists and capture the fissile materials before the terrorists have a chance to blow them up. Although television dramas often engage in hyperbole, the basic theme of this terrorist scenario is very real.
Month: March 2010
Highly enriched uranium (HEU) is usually regarded as the fissile material most desirable to terrorists, given the relative ease with which it could be used to manufacture a simple nuclear explosive device. For similar reasons, it’s also worrisome from a state-level proliferation viewpoint.
There’s a lot of coal in the ground. In 2006, the U.S. Energy Information Agency estimated that global coal reserves (i.e., the total quantity of coal that can be economically produced) stood at roughly 840 gigatonnes. That’s enough to supply the world for more than 130 years.
At long last, the United States and Russia are on the verge of signing a new treaty that reduces the countries’ nuclear arsenals. The treaty, a follow-on to the landmark 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), has been 95 percent complete for months, at least according to many U.S. and Russian officials, but disagreements over missile defense and verification procedures delayed the process. The result of these difficult negotiations will now face what could be equally tortuous consideration by the U.S. Senate.
After missing more than a few deadlines and achieving several so-called significant breakthroughs, the United States and Russia finally have reached an agreement on a new arms control treaty. It will be signed in Prague on April 8, almost a year to the day U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to begin treaty negotiations and Obama announced, also in Prague, his commitment to a nuclear-weapon-free world.
President Barack Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future will have its first meeting this week. The commission, formed after Obama cancelled the Yucca Mountain spent nuclear fuel repository in January, is tasked with rebooting the country’s five-decade-plus effort to manage its high-level radioactive waste.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) February report on Iran, the first under the agency’s new director-general, Yukiya Amano, has created quite a stir.
In recent weeks, several senior diplomats from several different countries have indicated that the Six-Party Talks aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program will resume shortly. That’s the good news. The bad news is that these long-awaited talks will come up short–yet again–unless they undergo a serious reality check.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the need to reassure allies has become, perhaps by default, one of the more important rationales for continuity in U.S. nuclear posture. In fact, a view frequently expressed by current and former U.S. officials holds that Washington still maintains the largest strategic nuclear arsenal in the world precisely to provide these assurances.
Although the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review is supposed to include all aspects of the strategy and doctrine that govern the use of U.S. nuclear weapons, it once again will not consider one crucial question: What would be the long-term consequences to Earth’s environment if the U.S. nuclear arsenal were detonated during a conflict?
What happens when the U.S. military decides that an academic discipline’s professional ethics code is a nuisance?
That is the situation in which anthropology now finds itself.
In interdisciplinary discussions there are usually disagreements over terminology. I noticed this firsthand at a January seminar I attended in Australia that brought together some 40 natural scientists, social scientists, philosophers, ethicists, and policy makers to discuss the role and limits of ethics in regards to the dual-use problem in the life sciences.