4 Russian Nuclear Monitor Stations, Gone Dark

Severodvinsk is a well known Naval Testing Range and Russia is concealing data after the explosions at the missile test site.

Two Russian nuclear monitoring stations—specifically designed to detect radiation— “went silent” in the days following an explosion of what many believe was a nuclear-powered missile earlier this month during tests at a remote base, a nuclear official said in an email Sunday.

Lassina Zerbo, the head of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test  Ban Treaty Organization, told The Wall Street Journal in an email that two days after the explosion that the monitoring stations in Kirov and Dubna suffered “communication and network issues.”
Explosions rock Russian ammunition depot in Siberia – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com

There have been reports that Russia has not been fully transparent about what occurred at a military base in the far northern Arkhangelsk region. The initial report from the country’s nuclear agency said that five workers were killed in a rocket engine explosion. The Guardian reported that radiation levels in Severodvinsk, a nearby city, increased 20 times above normal for about a half hour after the explosion. More here.

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FPRI has more detail in part:

Why would Russia stake its prestige on a weapon system that the United States abandoned in the early 1960s? One reason might be a nuclear-powered cruise missile’s asymmetric deterrence impact, which given unlimited range, could alleviate “some of the difficulties associated with this medium/long range challenge, helping the Russians navigate around pockets of NATO aerospace and sea control to strike at assets supporting NATO and U.S. force projection,”[18] writes Ryan Kuhns, a Program Analyst with the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Defense Programs.

The Severodvinsk incident might have been a Burevestnik prototype test gone wrong. While from an engineering perspective, it is certainly possible with a nuclear thermal reactor based on a solid uranium core, a liquid radioisotope core, or even gaseous uranium to use thermal energy generated from radioactive decay to heat liquid hydrogen fuel, such technologies are unproven with regard to missiles.

On the other hand, the limited facts that exist in the public domain support an alternate, more plausible thesis: if a radioisotopic power system was involved and a liquid-fuel engine exploded, the Severodvinsk incident might well have been a Russia space program test gone wrong, possibly involving a small, uranium-235 based fission reactor. The Severodvinsk venue makes sense: the Russian Navy was involved in the country’s space program in the 1990s and 2000s. There is ample technical precedent as well. In April 1965, the United States successfully flight tested a flight-qualified fission reactor, the SNAP (Space Nuclear Auxiliary Power) 10A. The SNAP 10A converted heat from radioactive decay directly into electricity by means of a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG). The radioactive isotope strontium-90, for example, has been used in both American and Russian RTGs.

If true, it could be suggested the Russian government used a false Burevestnik accident narrative to support a larger, perhaps equally fictitious one regarding Russian missile prowess and the penetrability of Western anti-missile defense. The Office of the Secretary of Defense’s 2019 Missile Defense Review[19] noted that “Russian strategy and doctrine emphasize the coercive and potential military uses of nuclear weapons, particularly including nuclear-armed, offensive missiles”:

Russian leaders also claim that Russia possesses a new class of missile, the hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV), which maneuver and typically travel at velocities greater than Mach 5 in or just above the atmosphere. . . . Russian leaders also claim that Russia possesses a new class of missile, the hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), that enables Russian strategic missiles to penetrate missile defense systems. HGVs challenge missile defense capabilities because they are maneuvering vehicles that typically travel at velocities greater than Mach 5 and spend most of their flight at much lower altitudes than a ballistic missile. [20]

Russia’s hypersonic Nuclear Explosions

It appears there have been at least two explosions.

Several are dead, several are injured and total evacuations of nearby towns are underway due to extreme radiation levels being tested by bordering countries. Our own military and intelligence agencies are participating in countless meetings to review data, intelligence and evidence.

At issue is the work Russia is performing by placing a new nuclear reactor on hypersonic missiles and testing a jet propulsion system.

Remember, Vladimir Putin told the world about this several months ago.

The center of these operations is in Sarov, Russia, hosting a facility that somewhat emulates our own Los Alamos. This is not a new secret city as during the height of the Cold War, it was known to the United States as Arzamas-16. At this location, a nuclear powered cruise missile is being developed and tested called the Burevestnik. NATO refers to it as the SCC-X-Skyfall.

Authorities in northern Russia detected a brief rise in radiation levels following an explosion at a military training ground there, Russian state news agency TASS reported Thursday.
Severodvinsk has a naval base and shipyard and TASS, citing emergency services, initially said the incident began onboard a ship.
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Russian authorities admitted that radiation levels in the city of Severodvinsk were up to 16x the normal rate after a nuclear reactor exploded last week. Five nuclear scientists died in the blast. Iodine was quickly distributed to panicked residents but supplies are now empty.

Russia has several nuclear cities (per NTI) so look for activity in other locations due to these explosions, at least our own intelligence agencies will be doing that.

Sarov (location of VNIIEF-Federal Nuclear Center and Avangard Electromechanical Plant). Formerly known as Arzamas-16.
Snezhinsk (location of VNIITF-Federal Nuclear Center). Formerly known as Chelyabinsk-70.
Zarechnyy (location of Start Production Association). Formerly known as Penza-19.
Novouralsk (location of Ural Electrochemical Combine). Formerly known as Sverdlovsk-44.
Lesnoy (location of Elektrokhimpribor Combine). Formerly know as Sverdlovsk-45.
Ozersk (location of Mayak Production Association). Formerly known as Chelyabinsk-65.
Trekhgornyy (location of Instrument Making Plant). Formerly know as Zlatoust-36.
Seversk (location of Siberian Chemical Combine). Formerly know as Tomsk-7.
Zheleznogorsk (location of Mining and Chemical Combine). Formerly known as Krasnoyarsk-26.
Zelenogorsk (location of Electrochemical Plant). Formerly known as Krasnoyarsk-45.

North Korea Stole $2 billion for its WMD programs

Primer: North Korea has launched 4 rounds of missiles in less than 2 weeks. Talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled. The missiles tested during the recent launches are short range, however can reach South Korea and can travel as far as an estimated 400 miles. These test missiles allegedly are very advanced such they are being advertised as having the abilities to evade missile defense systems. Additionally, each launch took place from a different ground location.

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korea has generated an estimated $2 billion for its weapons of mass destruction programs using “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyber attacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, according to a confidential U.N. report seen by Reuters on Monday.

Pyongyang also “continued to enhance its nuclear and missile programmes although it did not conduct a nuclear test or ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) launch,” said the report to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee by independent experts monitoring compliance over six months.

The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment on the report, which was submitted to the Security Council committee last week.

The experts said North Korea “used cyberspace to launch increasingly sophisticated attacks to steal funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges to generate income.” They also used cyberspace to launder the stolen money, the report said.

“Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cyber actors, many operating under the direction of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, raise money for its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programmes, with total proceeds to date estimated at up to two billion US dollars,” the report said.

North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Reconnaissance General Bureau is a top North Korean military intelligence agency.

The U.N. experts said North Korea’s attacks against cryptocurrency exchanges allowed it “to generate income in ways that are harder to trace and subject to less government oversight and regulation than the traditional banking sector.”

The Security Council has unanimously imposed sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Council has banned exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capped imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

U.S. President Donald Trump has met with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un three times, most recently in June when he became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas.

They agreed to resume stalled talks aimed at getting Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program. The talks have yet to resume and in July and early August, North Korea carried out three short-range missiles tests in eight days.

The U.N. report was completed before last week’s missile launches by North Korea, but noted that “missile launches in May and July enhanced its overall ballistic missile capabilities.”

The U.N. experts said that despite the diplomatic efforts, their “investigations show continued violations” of U.N. sanctions.

“For example, the DPRK continued to violate sanctions through ongoing illicit ship-to-ship transfers and procurement of WMD-related items and luxury goods,” the U.N. report said.

Where is that 8.5 Tons of Uranium from Iran to Russia?

Remember? During the Christmas holiday in 2015, so you easily could have missed the news or just forgotten it due to spiked eggnog.

Washington (AFP) – Iran sent a major shipment of low-enriched uranium materials to Russia on Monday, a key step in Tehran’s implementation of this year’s historic nuclear accord with world powers.

The United States hailed the move, which Secretary of State John Kerry said marked “significant progress” in Tehran’s fulfillment of a deal to stop it developing nuclear weapons.

The Russian foreign ministry confirmed the report after Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told the ISNA news agency: “The fuel exchange process has taken place.”

According to ISNA’s report, Iran had sent 8.5 tons of low-enriched nuclear material to Russia and received “around 140 tons of natural uranium in return.”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner described the cargo as a 25,000-pound “combination of forms of low-enriched uranium materials” including five and 20 percent enriched uranium, scrap metal and unfinished fuel plates. More here.

Kerry said that Iran’s shipment to Russia had already tripled the amount of time it would take to produce enough fuel for a bomb from two or three months up to six or nine.

And he dubbed it “a significant step toward Iran meeting its commitment to have no more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium by Implementation Day.”

Now the question is, where is it now? Was this transaction for real in the first place? Any congressional investigation? Ambassador Stephen Mull before Congress stated the following:

Iran shipped out almost all of its enriched uranium stockpile. Pre-JCPOA, Iran had approximately 12,000 kilograms of enriched uranium. Now, Iran can have no more than 300 kilograms of up to 3.67% enriched uranium for the next 15 years. This, combined with Iran’s dismantlement of two-thirds of its centrifuges, has effectively cut off Iran’s uranium pathway to a nuclear weapon.

Iran removed the core of its Arak reactor and rendered it inoperable by filling it with concrete. This cut off the path by which Iran could have produced significant amounts of weapons grade plutonium. Now, the Arak reactor will be redesigned, in cooperation with a working group established under the JCPOA, ensuring that the reactor is used solely for peaceful purposes going forward. Read more here to see how the Obama administration punked the whole story and then read below. Has anyone asked Norway? They assisted.

The U.S. Has No Clue Where Iran’s 8.5 Tons Of Enriched Uranium Are

At a February 11, 2016 hearing before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Amb. Mull acknowledged that Washington had lost track of the enriched uranium, which, he said, was now “on a Russian ship, in Russian custody, under Russian control” – that is, no longer under IAEA oversight.

Indeed, in response to Rep. Chris Smith’s (R-NJ) question at the hearing, “Do we have any on site accountability? Can we go and verify ourselves, or?” Amb. Mull replied: “We cannot.” Rep. Smith said: “We cannot. Who does?” to which Amb. Mull replied: “…Russia is responsible for maintaining access and controls.”

Rep. Smith then asked, “Where has it been put?” and Amb. Mull answered: “It has not been fully, according to our information it has not yet been decided where exactly Russia will put this.”

To Rep. Smith’s question “But where did it go? I mean it has to be somewhere,” Amb. Mull replied: “…I believe, if it has not arrived yet, it will very soon.”

In reply to Rep. Smith’s comment that “we are then trusting the Russians to say that they have it under their purview, that they are watching it? I mean they are so close to Iran, they have doubledealed us and especially the Middle East, the Syrians, I don’t know why we would trust them. Could you tell us where it is going?” Amb. Mull replied: “That is a Russian Government responsibility to decide where it goes. We do not have concerns about Russian custody of this material. What is important in this deal is will it go back to Iran? And I can guarantee there are sufficient controls in place that if one piece of dust of that material goes back into Iran we are going to be aware of it.”

Rep. Smith then asked, “But again, can the IAEA go to that ship and verify that it is there and follow it as it goes to its final resting place?” To this, Amb. Mull responded: “IAEA has different monitoring arrangements with each, each country in the world.” (As noted, Mull had stated that the uranium was now in “Russian custody, under Russian control” – that is, not under IAEA oversight.)

To Rep. Smith’s statement that “… it is not even in a place, it is not in any city that you say. It is not in any, it is not somewhere in Russia that we could say there it is. We don’t even know where it is,” Amb. Mull replied: “The IAEA verified the loading of all of this material…”

In response to Rep. Smith’s pointing out that “loading and where does it end up is very important,” Amb. Mull said, “That is the Russian Government’s responsibility to decide where it goes.”

Rep. Smith concluded, “That is a flaw, in my opinion.”


Watching that ship, the Mikhail Dudin….

Norwegian participation

Norway played a key role in the agreement by helping ensure that Iran’s enriched uranium was replaced by natural uranium. Oslo paid some $6 million for transporting 60 tons of natural uranium from Kazakhstan to Iran by plane.

Rune Bjåstad with the press office of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs says to the Independent Barents Observer that Norway only had inspectors following the transport of natural uranium to Iran, not the transport of material out.

“Regarding the enriched uranium transported out of Iran, there were no Norwegian representatives present. The control was done by a team of inspectors from the IAEA,” Bjåstad informs.

He says Norwegian representatives were in contact with the inspectors from IAEA who participated in the packing and sealing of the cargo that left Bushehr. The shipment from Iran to St. Petersburg is not paid with Norwegian money.

Voyage route across Scandinavian waters confirmed

Director of Norway’s Radiation Protection Authorities, Ole Harbitz, confirms in an SMS to the Independent Barents Observer that the cargo is en route to St. Petersburg.

It was U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, who in a statement on December 28 confirmed that the shipment takes place on board the vessel “Mikhail Dudin”, The New York Times reported.

Kerry said the cargo includes the uranium that is closest to bomb-grade quality, enriched to 20 percent purity.

The agreement, where Norway played a key role, can in the longer run indirectly open for increased transport of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel along the coast of Norway to the Arctic.

With the deal ensuring no nuclear weapons projects can continue, Iran can again continue to expand its civilian nuclear energy program.

More spent nuclear fuel to sail outside Norway

Simultaneously as Norway in secret assisted with the transportation of natural uranium to Iran, Russia started to construct two more civilian nuclear reactors at existing Russian built Bushehr nuclear power plant. The plant will get uranium fuel from Russia.

That fuel will later have to be shipped back to Russia.

Currently, Murmansk on Russia’s Arctic Barents Sea coast is the port used to take back spent nuclear fuel arriving from other countries. Over the last three years, several shipments of spent nuclear fuel from Soviet built research reactors in Europe have been sailed back to Russia along the coast of Norway to Murmansk. Like in September 2014, when “Mikhail Dudin” secretly transported a load of highly enriched uranium from Poland to the Atomflot base north of Murmansk.

St. Petersburg is the port used when other kinds of radioactive material, like the enriched uranium from Iran, are imported back to Russia.

Back to Russia for reprocessing

Iran is not the only country where Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom will built new nuclear reactors. Deals are signed or under negotiations with China, India and Vietnam. From China, spent nuclear fuel in return to Russia can be sent by railway, but all shipments from Iran, India and Vietnam will have to go by sea.

Rosatom is currently building 19 reactors abroad and has increased its foreign contracts by 60 percent over the last two years to $66,5 billion.

Uranium fuel is normally in the reactors for 3-4 years before being replaced. Then, the fuel will have to be cooled for some years in an on-site pool before it can be transported back to Russia for reprocessing.

The reason why Murmansk is used as import harbor for spent nuclear fuel is because of its suitable infrastructure for loading the special designed containers directly from vessels to railway wagons at Atomflot, the repair base for Russia’s fleet of civilian nuclear icebreakers. From Murmansk, the wagons take the uranium fuel to the Mayak plant north of Chelyabinsk in the South Urals where Russia has its reprocessing plant.

Anyone still trusting all of this years later? Anyone?


Possible Details on Iran for Trump Briefings

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For context, here is the background on the UN Arms Embargo on Iran.

1. The rapidly expiring “sunset provisions” – which will lift existing restrictions on Iran’s military, missiles and nuclear programs – were a key factor in President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May last year. The first of the sunset provisions, the arms embargo under U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, will expire by October 18, 2020.

In its report, JCPOA Sunset Alert, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) details the hazards once UNSCR 2231’s arms transfers provisions expire. Guns, howitzers, mortars, battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships and missiles or missile systems will proliferate throughout the region.

2. The European Union is skirting the Iran sanction architecture by launching INSTEX. Based in Paris, it is managed by Per Fischer a German banker and the UK is heading the supervisory board.

The channel, set up by Germany, France and the UK, is called INSTEX — short for “Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges.”

“We’re making clear that we didn’t just talk about keeping the nuclear deal with Iran alive, but now we’re creating a possibility to conduct business transactions,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters Thursday after a meeting with European counterparts in Bucharest, Romania.

“This is a precondition for us to meet the obligations we entered into in order to demand from Iran that it doesn’t begin military uranium enrichment,” Maas said.

3. Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister has confirmed violations of stockpile limitations as well as uranium enrichment of 300kg. for low-enriched uranium. These two items are violations of the JCPOA and Europe considers this just a distraction.

4. The U.S. has sent an estimated 12 F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to Qatar, based at al Udeid Air Base to bolster defenses Iran threats. There is a B-52 bomber task force in the region. The U.S. has dispatched several army batteries that operate the Patriot Missile launchers. Much of this is due to and in preparation for the asymmetric warfare tactics in use by Iran.

5. Iran is aware they cannot match the United States militarily, so there are two other possibilities and they include attacking Israel and major cyber interruptions.

Speaking at a political conference of ultra-conservatives in Iran’s north, Mashaei said, “If the Zionist regime attacks Iran, the Zionists will have no longer than a week to live.” The semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as saying that the Islamic Republic would destroy Israel “in less than 10 days”. On the cyber front, Iran has the abilities to disrupt networks associated with power systems in the region as well as those connected to oil production and shipping. U.S. Cybercom has the authorization, by way of the NDAA to conduct what is known as TMA, traditional military activities where cyber operations are included. Last month, the NYT’s reported the U.S. did carry out cyberattacks on Iran.

6. Iran has established terror cells in Western allied countries including the United States as noted by this case reported by the FBI just last month. Additionally, Qassem Suleimani has set up terror sites in Africa prepared to strike oil fields, military installations and embassies. These operations are managed by a specialized department of the Quds Force known as Unit 400.