FAS Roundup: March 19, 2012

Preparing for the aftermath of a nuclear terrorist attack, uncertain future of nuclear power, examination of efforts to secure radioactive materials and much more.


From the Blogs

  • Admin May Appeal Order to Release Classified Document: Two weeks ago, Judge Richard W. Roberts issued an extraordinary ruling that a secret government document was not properly classified and must therefore be released under the Freedom of Information Act. Steven Aftergood writes that question is whether the government will accept the ruling and abide by it, or challenge it.
  • In 1976, NSA was Tasked to Help Secure Private Communications: Going back as far as the Ford Administration, the National Security Agency was directed to help secure non-governmental communications networks against intrusion and interception by foreign — or domestic — entities, according to a recently declassified presidential directive released in September 2011. The directive prefigures an ongoing controversy over the proper role, and the actual extent, of National Security Agency involvement in securing public communications.
  • Solar Flares: Last week, Earth was hit by one of the biggest solar storms in decades. Dr. Y investigates what exactly happens during a solar storm, and the effects it can have on the Earth and its inhabitants on the ScienceWonk blog.
  • “Leak”- A New Look at Watergate’s Deep Throat: Steven Aftergood writes about a new book by Max Holland, “Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat,” which investigates the nature of Deep Throat’s agenda. What drove FBI official Mark Felt to disclose sensitive investigative information about the Watergate burglary and the ensuing coverup to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post?  What were his motivations and what was he hoping to accomplish?
  • Preparing for the Aftermath of Nuclear Terrorism: What would happen if a 10 kiloton nuclear explosive were detonated in downtown Washington, DC at the intersection of 16th and K Streets NW? That question is posed by a recent study obtained by Secrecy News which was performed for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  It assesses the impact of a nuclear terrorism incident in the nation’s capital and seeks to derive the appropriate lessons for emergency response planning purposes.
  • Make Nuclear Power More Efficient and Cost Competitive with Natural Gas: In a post on The Burn Blog (curated by the University of Texas at Austin), FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson responds to Dr. Dale Klein’s recent blog post in which he argues that new nuclear facilities will not be built while natural gas is cheap and plentiful. Dr. Ferguson responds that we need to make nuclear power plants more efficient in order to compete with natural gas plants. One way to do this is for the government to continue to fund research and developments of new technologies in the nuclear industry.
  • Author of Unauthorized CIA Book Gave Proceeds to Charity: After former CIA officer Ishmael Jones wrote a book about the CIA without gaining prior approval from the Agency, the government sought and won a judicial ruling that Jones had acted in violation of his CIA secrecy agreement, and that he could be held liable for the breach. Steven Aftergood writes that the governments efforts to seize control of the financial profits from the book have been curbed, as the author has donated the proceeds to charity.
  • What’s the Risk Associated with Citizen Scientists?: The Virtual Biosecurity Center, a project spear-headed by FAS, published an editorial by Dr. Todd Kuiken who argues that the risk of the amateur do-it-yourself (DIY) or citizen science movement is little to none when it comes to biosecurity or the risk of taking a federally funded project involving H5N1 and turning it into a bio-weapon.
  • Scientist Nozette Called Brilliant, Greedy Traitor: Scientist Stewart Nozette, who pleaded guilty to attempted espionage after offering to sell classified information to an undercover FBI agent who posed as an Israeli intelligence officer, will be sentenced this month to a likely term of 156 months incarceration.



  • Nuclear Power’s Uncertain Future: In an article published in The National Interest, FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson writes that if nuclear power cannot compete economically with natural gas, and with an aging fleet of reactors, the United States is likely to have very few operating nuclear power plants by mid- century.

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