Friday, 29 May 98 Washington, DC
1. GOD AND THE BOMB: WITH CHINA'S HELP, PAKISTAN EVENS THE SCORE.
"We have taken the path shown by Allah," Prime Minister Sharif
explained, "we have jumped through these flames without thinking
through our minds and calculating, but going into a decision made
by our heart, the decision of courage....We are very proud of our
neighbor China for all its help." The most remarkable aspect of
the tests was how closely they mimicked India's
(WN 22 May 98).
Like India, Pakistan claimed five tests. Like India, monitors
could detect only one explosion, and not a very large one at that.
Pakistan claims it can mount its weapons on the Ghauri missiles it
obtained from North Korea last year. Analysts are not so sure;
exaggeration is standard fare in this conflict. The world can only
hope that before "jumping through the flames" of nuclear war, both
sides will experiment with using their brains.
2. SPACE STATION: FIRST LAUNCH NOW SET FOR NOVEMBER -- WANNA BET?
The International Space Station partners agreed to delay the start
to 20 Nov 98 because of Russian failure to complete a key module.
But now comes word that Russia may have to abandon the accident-prone
Mir this fall because of a cash shortage that also threatens
commitments to the ISS. The shuttle is scheduled to make its last
trip to Mir next Tuesday to retrieve an astronaut. Meanwhile, the
former chief of astronaut safety says his warnings about Mir safety a
year ago were ignored by NASA.
3. TRITIUM: RALPH NADER CALLS FOR A HALT IN PRODUCTION BY TVA.
An amendment passed by the House last week would bar the use of
civilian reactors to produce tritium for weapons. Its sponsors
had argued it would violate the traditional separation between
civilian and military nuclear programs. If passed by the Senate
and signed into law, it would block a DOE plan to produce tritium
at TVA's commercial power reactors. Alas, the federal government
no longer has a tritium production facility. The two suppliers of
tritium on the world market are Russia and Canada, but Russia is a
sensitive place for the U.S. to buy its tritium and Canada refuses
to sell tritium for weapons uses. At a Tuesday press conference,
Nader joined nuclear safety activists in objecting to tritium production
by TVA. Nader described the plan as a scheme to force a taxpayer
bailout of TVA. Opponents of nuclear power said it would create
safety concerns. No one mentioned the huge civilian market for
tritium, which is used for emergency airport runway lights and exit
signs in public buildings. Nader declined to comment on civilian
uses. It gets more complicated. One of the drafters of the
amendment that would bar civilian production of weapons tritium
was Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). He's got more than non-proliferation
on his mind. His district includes the Savannah River Site -- the
preferred location for a $2.7B linear accelerator, which happens to
be DOE's only alternative plan to the light water power reactors for
the production of tritium.