Should Malaysia go nuclear to meet its future energy demands? That question has been the focus of heated political debate in Malaysia for the past eight years. Mahathir Mohamad, who served as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, was firmly committed to a non-nuclear Malaysia. But since his departure, his successors have made some moves toward nuclear energy production. In December 2010, for example, Peter Chin, the country’s energy minister, announced plans to build two 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants by 2022.
Month: May 2011
A year ago the Obama administration released its congressionally mandated Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) on the role of nuclear weapons in defending the United States and its allies and partners. Defense planners and national security specialists around the globe eagerly awaited the report to see how it would embody the president’s commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons in US strategy, and how it would differ from the strategy prepared by the Bush administration in 2001.
If one listened closely to the discussions around the recent meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the upcoming review of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), one might have heard a distant rumble of concern. These worries stem from the widespread recognition that advances in the life sciences are progressing at a rate faster than the treaty seems able to keep pace with.
Osama bin Laden’s death may represent a significant turning point in the US effort to defeat Al Qaeda, but the threat of nuclear terrorism will not lessen in the wake of his demise. Such threats, however, are preventable, and the United States must now take care to sustain the nonproliferation and threat reduction programs that will help stop terrorists from obtaining nuclear materials.
How vulnerable are US nuclear reactors to the kind of disaster that is occurring at Fukushima Daiichi? Considering that one in three Americans lives within 50 miles of a nuclear plant, the public deserves access to all information that can shed light on this question. Yet a straight answer has been difficult to obtain from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the nuclear industry.
The Seventh Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) will be held this December in Geneva, with member states convening to assess the bioweapons nonproliferation regime and discuss ways to improve it. But is it worth trying to strengthen the BWC? Since its inception, the treaty has been plagued with well-recognized deficiencies: It lacks an implementing body, a verification protocol, an ability to investigate alleged violations, universality (it has only 163 member states), and industry support.
The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been an ongoing disaster since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. According to an estimate by the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, by April 27 approximately 55 percent of the fuel in reactor unit 1 had melted, along with 35 percent of the fuel in unit 2, and 30 percent of the fuel in unit 3; and overheated spent fuels in the storage pools of units 3 and 4 probably were also damaged.
When Albert Einstein developed his theory of relativity, he made extensive use of “thought experiments” — hypothetical exercises that, while impossible to carry out in real life, are useful for testing complex theories. In one well-known case, he compared the passage of time on a train traveling at close to the speed of light with that of a stationary observer in order to elucidate a concept known as the “relativity of simultaneity.”