What does science have to say about the Apocalypse | Science

The end of the world is always personal, sometimes social, and only once literal. However, the irrefutable experience that everything is born to decay is usually transferred to the cosmic order and the idea of ​​the Apocalypse is omnipresent in human societies. The universe is usually found between a creation where everything was good and an end, often close, that will come because with our clumsiness and wickedness we corrupted the gifts that were given to us. Don Quixote recalls before a group of goatherds the vision of classical Greece when he speaks of some happy centuries “whom the ancients called the golden ones”, a communist utopia in which “those who lived in it ignored these two words of yours and Own”. Now, after several degradations, we are in the Iron Age and the situation is going to get worse. Something similar tells the Hindus, for those of us who live in the Kaliyuga period, an era of strife and hypocrisy that is also the last before some kind of cataclysm purifies the planet.

The same tendency of humans to make analogies that confuse the cycle of life and that of the world can make you despise the fear of a disaster of planetary dimensions. If so many ancient peoples believed the end was near and erred miserably, it is easy to dismiss the heralds of the Apocalypse without regard. That is what should be done, for example, with the scientists of the Atomic Scientists Bulletin, that last week they advanced their metaphorical clock of the end of the world and left it just one hundred seconds from the end of the world. However, situations are not always comparable and in recent centuries humanity has increased its ability to cause planetary disasters and also to predict them.

The Spanish flu, one of the largest known pandemics, wiped out only about 6% of the world’s population

The end of the world clock was created, fundamentally, to warn of the risks of annihilation of human civilization if the Cold War, which for decades faced the United States and the Soviet Union, turned into an atomic conflict. Today, however, many more risks are being assessed, such as uncontrolled artificial intelligence or biotechnology and, as physicist Lawrence Krauss, a member of the doomsday clock council of scientists, has written, “This multiplication of threats has raised the feeling of alarm ”. “The doomsday clock is closer to midnight today than during the Cuban missile crisis (there it was seven minutes compared to 100 seconds today), when the world was really on the brink of a nuclear holocaust,” he added in an article published in The Wall Street Journal where he doubted the validity of the instrument.

Not all threats are the same, nor are cataclysms the same dimensions. As Krauss himself commented, climate change associated with industrial activity, one of the supposed great threats to the continuity of civilization, will probably have “devastating effects”, but these will be felt in the long term and will not be the same at all the world. María José Sanz, director of the Basque Center for Climate Change, affirms that an increase of more than two degrees in the average temperature of the planet “can cause very important damage to human societies, which will have difficulties to adapt to a frequency of climatic phenomena extremes never seen before ”. But that does not mean that the Earth is going to become a hostile planet for life like Mars or that a species like humans, which already has more than 8,000 million individuals and an overwhelming technological capacity, is going to see its continuity.

Sanz points out, however, some dangers difficult to foresee. “Beyond the progressive increase in temperature, the climate system has certain turning points,” he explains. The amount of ice from the poles, the tropical monsoon system or the north-south current, which makes New York much colder than Madrid being at the same latitude and has to do with the amount of fresh water that is poured into the oceans and in turn is related to the ice of the poles, are mechanisms that regulate the planetary climate and can change suddenly. “If those points are exceeded, there can be very abrupt changes and that is what cannot be predicted. We know that they are there, that the path to these turning points is accelerating, but we do not know what will happen if they are overcome or what consequences there will be ”, he adds.

As the success of the zombie genre makes clear, infectious diseases are also a source of apocalyptic terror. And in this case, fear is not supported only by possible future suffering but by millions of deaths. For much of history, when it was not known what caused infectious diseases, some microbes could decimate the population they infected. The historian Eric Hobsbawm estimates that only 6 to 7% of the English sailors killed between 1793 and 1815, during the wars against Napoleon, were killed by the French. “80% was due to illness or accident,” he writes. Dirt, faulty medical facilities, or poor hygiene were far more fearsome enemies than the guns of their enemies.

During the Napoleonic wars, 80% of the dead died from illness and accidents and not from enemy weapons

It is estimated that the Black Death, caused by bacteria, wiped out a third of Europe’s population. The Spanish flu killed up to 20% of those infected and wiped out 6% of the world’s population. Although it did not completely exterminate them, for many of the inhabitants of pre-Columbian America, viruses caused a kind of doomsday. “In the colonization of America, the main soldier was viruses,” says Víctor Briones, professor at the Complutense University of Madrid.

“For an infection to endanger the continuity of a species is very difficult, although there have been cases in which it has almost happened with sometimes trivial diseases, such as scabies in the Pyrenean chamois. And rinderpest created such a death toll in Europe that it led to the founding of veterinary faculties ”, continues the expert in Animal Health from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Madrid university. In humans, the Spanish flu of 1918 “depopulated the rural areas” and the plague of Justinian in the 7th century may have had an influence on the end of the Roman Empire. “It reduced the population in such a way that there were no arms to cultivate the land and no people to defend the border. The social order was altered ”, says Briones, who concludes that although he does see the possibility that a disease causes a great death, he sees the extinction of humanity in this way as very difficult.

Even if there is no extinction, some diseases that fail to attract public attention in developed countries kill hundreds of thousands of people. HIV, tuberculosis and malaria alone kill around two and a half million people each year, the majority in poor countries. “In cities like Jakarta, Dar es Salaam or Cairo, where most of the population does not live in buildings made of glass and steel but made of sheet metal and tin, where there is massive immigration, poor waste management and little access health resources, there are diseases that cause great mortality, “says Briones. The hecatomb there is not a diffuse fear in the future but everyday life.

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Re-freezing – Newspaper Kommersant No. 193 (6914) dated 21.10.2020

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday that surprised arms control experts in both Russia and the United States. The ministry unexpectedly announced that Moscow is ready to extend the Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty (START) for one year and, at the same time, is not opposed, together with Washington, to undertake a political commitment to “freeze” the number of nuclear warheads held by the parties for this period. Earlier, Russian officials called the demand to freeze the entire nuclear arsenal “unacceptable.” As Kommersant found out, the decision to soften the position was taken in the Kremlin. Experts interviewed by Kommersant doubt that Russia will benefit from this. And the American ones – that the United States will accept the announced proposal.

Freeze ready

A couple of days ago, it seemed that the talks between Russia and the current US administration on the extension of the START Treaty expiring in February could be put to an end. After Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 16 proposed to extend the agreement for one year without any preconditions, and the adviser to the head of the White House, Robert O’Brien, Twitter answered that this idea is “doomed to failure”, most experts believed that further events will develop in one of two ways. If Donald Trump wins the November 3 elections, START will soon cease to exist, and with it the arms control regime in its present form will remain in history. If Democrat Joe Biden becomes president, who promised in advance to extend START for five years, the treaty will continue to operate, which will give the parties enough time to negotiate a subsequent bilateral or multilateral agreement.

But the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry nullified all forecasts. It begins with the words that Russia would still like to receive an official response to Vladimir Putin’s proposal of October 16, which was put on paper on the same day and sent to the American side in the form of a diplomatic note. The Russian side does not consider “separate comments of American officials in social networks” for the answer, as follows from the message of the Foreign Ministry. “Given the contradictory reaction to the current situation, we want to clarify,” the statement said. This is followed by a phrase that produces exactly the opposite effect.

«Russia proposes to extend the START Treaty for one year, and at the same time is ready, together with the United States, to take on a political commitment to “freeze” the number of nuclear warheads held by the parties for this period, ”the statement says.

The willingness to extend the START Treaty for a year instead of the five permitted by the treaty itself is a concession to the Donald Trump administration. The current US authorities made it clear long ago that they do not want to extend the treaty for five years, since they consider it more beneficial for Russia than for themselves. Russian officials about a year ago began publicly permitting a renewal of the contract for less than five years, although they emphasized that it would be better to talk about an extension for a full term. Vladimir Putin’s proposal of October 16, thus, has already become a demonstration of readiness to meet the United States halfway.

But Washington’s demand to “freeze” all nuclear arsenals (that is, not only strategic, but also tactical, not falling under the current treaty) as a condition for extending the START Treaty was previously called “unacceptable” in Moscow. The head of the Russian delegation at the talks with the United States, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergei Ryabkov spoke about this many times. A few days ago, he tightly linked the possibility of not building up nuclear warheads with regard to Russia’s concerns in other areas affecting strategic stability, such as missile defense, space militarization and new conventional weapons. In addition, Russian officials previously insisted that in addition to warheads, carriers and launchers must certainly be taken into account.

The readiness to “freeze” the number of nuclear warheads available to the sides for a year is thus a significant concession to the American side.

According to two informed sources of Kommersant, the decision to adjust the position was made in the Kremlin. The Foreign Ministry only announced it. Kommersant’s interlocutors insist that we are not talking about a radical revision of the position. “We only expressed our readiness to freeze the arsenals for a year, that is, for the period of the START extension and the development of new agreements. If during this time our concerns on other aspects are not properly addressed, this commitment will not be renewed, ”one of them explained.

Another interlocutor drew attention to the fact that, while expressing its readiness to “freeze” the arsenals, the Russian side “clearly indicated where its borders are.” The Foreign Ministry’s statement on this matter says that the freezing of warheads “will not be accompanied by any additional demands from the United States.” This means that Russia is still not ready to tighten and expand verification measures (including external control over the production of nuclear weapons), which the United States has been pushing for in recent months.

Another ‘red line’ is drawn in the penultimate phrase of the statement: “If this approach suits Washington, then the time gained as a result of the START extension can be used to conduct comprehensive bilateral negotiations on the future control of nuclear missile weapons with the obligatory consideration of all factors affecting on strategic stability ”. The emphasis on the fact that the negotiations should be precisely bilateral contradicts the US demand that China should certainly be involved in this process in the near future.

Gift to Donald Trump

But even with all the reservations, Russian experts saw many pitfalls in the change in position. “If we ignore the context, the Russian proposal looks like an interesting compromise – a political statement about not building up arsenals without verification does not bind Russia to anything and avoids the START expiration in February 2021. The Cold War saw many examples of such temporary political “freezes”, in particular with regard to nuclear tests, “Andrei Baklitsky, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Studies of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, told Kommersant.” But whatever motivates Moscow in this case, in Washington it is will be unambiguously read as the success of the American diplomatic campaign, leading to further demands and new pressures. “

According to the expert’s forecast, the US administration will insist that the freezing of arsenals is impossible without declaring the number of Russian warheads, including tactical warheads (and this has been a taboo for Moscow for thirty years), and strict verification, which the Russian leadership had previously sharply criticized. “And if Donald Trump had agreed to an agreement without verification, Moscow would have been accused of violation the very next day without the opportunity to justify itself. All this makes the prospects for such an agreement dubious, ”the source of Kommersant believes. At the same time, Andrei Baklitsky warned that now, even if Joe Biden wins the presidential election, the next Russian-American negotiations “will begin with the conviction of the Americans that Moscow already agrees to freeze arsenals, just a little pressure is enough.”

“The rather unexpected statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about its readiness to extend the START Treaty by just one year and to carry out a mutual freeze of nuclear arsenals contradicts almost all the main Russian approaches in the field of arms control of recent times,” a researcher at the Center for International Security of the IMEMO RAS, co-founder of the Vatfor project told Kommersant. “Dmitry Stefanovich. – Of course, traditionally, the need for bilateral (but not multilateral) negotiations on the entire spectrum of” factors affecting strategic stability “was mentioned, but on the whole it looks like a concession to American pressure on two points in the context of” strategic departments “(the first was agreement to extend the START Treaty for a period of less than five years) ”.

Mr. Stefanovich also predicts that in the near future the issue of toughening and expanding verification measures, which worries the United States, cannot but arise, while issues of concern to Russia (missile defense, space, and so on) threaten to be left out of brackets. “What is the reason for such compliance is still difficult to understand,” the expert told Kommersant. “Perhaps there is a desire to further strengthen the country’s image as responsibly approaching strategic stability, ready to show flexibility in order to preserve those elements of the arms control architecture that are still can be saved. ” Moreover, according to Dmitry Stefanovich, it is possible that the United States will not accept Russia’s proposal and put forward additional conditions, “which will further highlight the constructive approach of the Russian side.”

However, the US responded to the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry with great enthusiasm.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the US “appreciates that Russia is ready to try to make progress on arms control.”

The American negotiators, she said, are ready to “immediately” meet with their Russian counterparts to “finalize the verifiable agreement.” “We expect Russia to authorize its diplomats to do the same,” added Morgan Ortagus.

The word “verified” here is clearly not accidental and means that the United States is not ready to abandon the requirement to tighten and expand mechanisms for verifying compliance with agreements. This means that negotiations on the fate of the START Treaty with the current administration may still follow a negative scenario.

Hans Christensen, director of information projects related to the nuclear sphere at the Federation of American Scientists, in an interview with Kommersant, did not undertake to predict whether the White House would accept the Kremlin’s new proposal. According to him, for this, the Donald Trump administration would have to abandon a number of its earlier requirements: from amending the START itself to introducing new tough verification measures and connecting China. “The fact that Russia has accepted the idea of ​​a nuclear warhead freeze as such is important, even if it is only a political commitment for a year. Thus, Russia is showing readiness to discuss the key concerns of the United States, concerned about the buildup of its arsenals, ”the expert said. At the same time, the interlocutor of Kommersant noted that, judging by the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Russia is not ready to accompany the freeze with additional verification measures. “If the Donald Trump administration agrees to this, that is, if it accepts the idea of ​​an“ unverifiable freeze, ”then it will become, albeit politically important, but a little strange victory for him. After all, Donald Trump’s main complaint against START was that the United States had no confidence that Russia was fulfilling this treaty in good faith, ”Hans Christensen recalled. Meanwhile, he did not rule out that the White House would accept this “gift” from the Kremlin, since any foreign policy victories are now important for Donald Trump.

Elena Chernenko


Japan to dump contaminated water from Fukushima power plant into the sea


ENVIRONMENT – Since the 2011 tsunami, the reactors at the Fukushima plant have been cooled with water. Japan is preparing to discharge into the sea contaminated water, stored in more than a thousand tanks.

New ecological disaster in sight. Despite strong local opposition, Japan will soon formalize its decision to throw into the sea the contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was damaged in 2011, reports the Japanese press on Friday, October 16. “The government has not decided what plan to follow or when“to announce it, reacted the spokesman of the executive Katsunobu Kato. But”we cannot postpone a decision (on this contaminated water, editor’s note), in order to prevent the dismantling work of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from being delayed“.

The government should act on the solution of a discharge at sea by the end of October, while the operation itself should not start before 2022 at the earliest. About 1.23 million tonnes of contaminated water are currently stored in more than a thousand tanks near the nuclear power plant ravaged by the terrible tsunami of March 11, 2011.

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Dangerous tritium in very high doses

This water comes from rain, groundwater or injections necessary to cool the cores of nuclear reactors that melted after the tsunami. She has been filtered several times to get rid of most

of its radioactive substances (radionuclides), but not of tritium, which cannot be eliminated with current techniques. This product is only dangerous for human health in very high doses, according to experts.

At the very beginning of 2020, experts commissioned by the Japanese government recommended dumping at sea, a practice that already exists in the Japanese archipelago and abroad on active nuclear installations. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also pleads for the option of dilution at sea. Asked by AFP, a spokesperson for the operator Tepco did not comment on the information reported either. by local media.

On video

Nine years later, an exceptional visit inside the Fukushima nuclear power plant

This preferred option to the detriment of other scenarios, such as evaporation in the air or sustainable storage, is highly contested by the fishermen and farmers of Fukushima, fearing that this will further deteriorate the image of their products with consumers. . Neighboring South Korea, which still bans the importation of seafood from the region, has also already expressed concerns about the environmental impact of discharging contaminated water into the sea.

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EDF puts its nuclear power back into working order

History will perhaps remember that an automotive manufacturer, after thirty years at PSA, is re-teaching the entire French nuclear industry how to build reactors without additional costs and on time. This is the mission entrusted to Alain Tranzer, a 53-year-old X-mine, who joined EDF in April as general delegate for industrial quality and nuclear skills, to implement the Excell plan.

The Flamanville EPR fiasco

The objective of this plan, drawn up at the request of the government, is that the fiasco of the construction site (still in progress) of the Flamanville EPR, which started in 2006, and whose final cost could be multiplied, does not happen again. by four compared to the initial estimate of 3.3 billion euros.

Time is running out for EDF, recognizes its chairman Jean-Bernard Lévy. The group is due to present to the government in mid-2021 ” a complete file to allow the decision on the possible construction of six new generation EPR reactors. The Excell plan is at the heart of this work ”, he recalled, Thursday, October 15, by presenting a first assessment of the actions undertaken.

Several hundred engineers are currently working on the development of an EPR2, presented as simpler.

Import best practices from other industries

To hear Alain Tranzer present at his side, it is a real energization of the industrial apparatus of EDF and of the nuclear sector as a whole which is being set up. ” The objective is to divide by at least ten the number of manufacturing resumes and studies for the construction of new plants compared to what happened in Flamanville “, Explains the new quality boss, speaking of” cultural change within the EDF house ».

To achieve this, Alain Tranzer says he wants to import the practices used in other industries, such as Airbus, Boeing, PSA, or even Alstom for trains and Naval Group for submarines.

Standardize as much as possible

Alain Tranzer willingly uses shocking formulas, “ as the change is fast or it is not », « the goal is to manufacture and build right the first time ” or ” the best is the enemy of the sure “. His main idea is to apply the principle of standardization to French nuclear power, so, he says, “ to control quality and safety through repetition “. This implies a small revolution for EDF engineers, but also for subcontractors, who can now receive a bonus if they deliver on time with the desired quality, on the basis of ” simpler, more explicit contractss ».

Fewer part references

Alain Tranzer takes the example of the 13,309 valve references for the Flamanville EPR, which accounted for 40% of construction rework on the site. For the next reactors, the objective is to retain a catalog of only 300 models. Likewise, EDF intends to halve the number of welds carried out on site and to favor workshop work.

According to Alain Tranzer, standardization makes it possible to reduce costs and lead times by 30%. He quotes in particular what the Russian Rosatom and the Chinese CGN are doing. The next EPRs should also be built in pairs, which, according to EDF, is another source of savings.

Improve skills

Training is the other key point of the Excell plan, while the sector must hire 21,000 people between 2019 and 2022, including 9,000 in shortage jobs. Many employees who had the skills to lead construction sites are in the process of retiring, and it is precisely the loss of skills observed at EDF which is largely at the origin of the setbacks of its EPR.

Three training schools are being set up – two in France and one in Great Britain – and a nuclear trades university should be created in 2021.


Stalin’s big mistake that almost ended in a nuclear war between the US and China

Cesar CerveraCesar Cervera



World War II left many fronts open for Cold War food. A good example of these was Korea, where the parallel plans of the US and the USSR to evict the Japanese from the peninsula gave rise to two opposing states: in the north a xenophobic and communist dictatorship was imposed under Stalin’s protectionwhile in the south it was done by an equally xenophobic dictatorship protected by the US.

Sooner or later both ways of understanding the world were doomed to collide. What almost nobody expected is that it would be so soon … In June 1950, the armies of North Korea they fell on the southern border destroying the weak army of Syngman Rhee. Only communist violence convinced the South Korean people that it was worth holding out a little longer. Wait for help from the West.

MacArthur’s art

Joseph Stalin had interpreted from President Truman’s words that the US was not going to lift a finger to save South Korea. He soon discovered his huge mistake. In a swift American move, Truman enlisted the support of the United Nations to intervene in Korea, where General Douglas MacArthur sent troops quartered from Japan.

The US intervention, however, did not achieve the desired effect in the contest. As pointed out Geoffrey Parker In his book “History of War,” recently reissued by Akal, the US “poorly trained and ill-prepared” troops “subsequently suffered a series of humiliating defeats” that forced the South Koreans to take refuge in a small perimeter in around the port of Pusan. American firepower made it possible to stabilize the battle line, but only that, a pause. It took a masterstroke to change the color of the conflict.

MacArthur pulled out of his sleeve a counterattack as brilliant as it is risky. Defying the tides in the area, he managed to land a second force at Inchon, near Seoul, just off the coast opposite Pusan. Few in the U.S. General Staff had gambled on the success of the operation, hence MacArthur’s glee when not only fell with ease Inchon and SeoulRather, the entire North Korean front sank as it perceived the enemy behind it. The communist rout ended with thousands of prisoners and a territorial conquest that was to mark the current separation between the two Koreas.

South Korean soldiers held out against a poorly equipped Chinese army, but accustomed to extreme deprivation and disastrous logistics after years of fighting with the Japanese.

Grown by his success, MacArthur called on Truman to arm the Chinese nationalists and extend the contest to China as well. The president denied the major, convinced that this must be a limited war, but agreed to allow the general to continue advancing to the border with China. In the late 1950s, Chinese troops jumped into action to mark their terrain. In the western column, the Americans collapsed and had to flee in a pitiful march; However, in the east, South Korean marines and soldiers epically held out against a poorly equipped but accustomed Chinese army. extreme deprivation after years of fighting with the Japanese.

The bomb goes on stage

When the chinese army stood in Seoul, MacArthur yelled that of Caesar, or nothing! Either the United Nations withdrew completely from the peninsula or the US dropped a nuclear bomb on China… In his opinion there was no other solution to avoid the American disaster, whose troops were increasingly outnumbered by the numerous Chinese ranks. Fortunately, Truman and his advisers they had an understanding of life based on shades of gray, unlike MacArthur.

A pair of M40 GMCs giving fire support to the 25th Infantry Division of the United States Army.
A pair of M40 GMCs giving fire support to the 25th Infantry Division of the United States Army.

The option of a nuclear war with China was not viable or, as he put it Omar Bradley, Chairman of the Board of the General Staff, this would be an “inappropriate war, in the wrong place and at the wrong time against the wrong enemy.” Time showed that there were other options to gain ground. In the first months of 1951, the united nations army increased its firepower to punish the Chinese supply lines. That maneuver had a devastating effect on the roaring guts of the Communists, whose main weapon was the massive attacks of a revolutionary army with more troops than firearms.

With Seoul back in American hands and the Communists suffering unsustainable casualties, Beijing called for a resumption of peace talks to seek a middle ground. The United States then committed what, according to Geoffrey Parker, was one of his most serious mistakes in the Cold War when stopping its advance and starting negotiations. “There was, of course, nothing wrong with starting the talks, but the arrest of the United Nations troops allowed the enemy to regroup, thus ending their need for an armistice,” says the British historian.

Truman’s doom

MacArthur thought just that, that the truce would only benefit China, so he got ahead of Truman and issued an ultimatum against the Asian giant. MacArthur’s public statement it jeopardized the negotiations and put a strain on Truman’s patience, who suspected that the general was planning his next political landing on the basis of exaggerated self-talk. In April MacArthur was removed from command and the war continued to idle to a denouement that did not please either party.

The unexpected death of Stalin, who had gotten into a war that had only shown the shortcomings of the USSR, accelerated the negotiations to restore the status quo

For Truman, the only president who has ever pushed the red button, korean war it was his political downfall. The prolonged duration of the conflict and the low returns that such a remote contest showed for the United States made him a very unpopular president. In November 1952, he was chosen to take his place the White House the republican Dwight D. Eisenhower under the promise that it would end the Korean War.

The unexpected death of Stalin, who had gotten into a war that had only shown the shortcomings of the USSR, accelerated the negotiations to restore the status quo. Neither side achieved anything but attrition and death. Since then, Dwight D. Eisenhower He turned his country’s military resources into Europe, where, in his opinion, the real fight against the USSR was brewing. Only Vietnam would change the orientation of the compass again.

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The nuclear cannon that could have destroyed the world: the 1953 tests in a restored video in 4K

The M65 was the only piece of artillery designed specifically for firing nuclear shells – by EB /CorriereTv

It was May 25, 1953. In Nevada, United States, the American M65 atomic cannon fired a 280 mm, 50 kg nuclear projectile 11 kilometers away, where it exploded 150 meters above the ground, developing a power of 15 kilotons, that is a power equivalent to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. A team of enthusiasts has restored the film (now in 4K and 48fps) used to film the test of the M65, the only atomic cannon ever tested, also known as the Atomic Annie. After successfully passing the tests, the M65 was adopted by the US military in 1956, but remained in service only a few years, as other more practical and flexible solutions were preferred. In total, 20 units of these weapons were produced. Today only eight remain, of which only one is complete – on display at the Aberdeen Test Range museum in Maryland, the oldest military facility in the United States. (YouTube / Neural Networks and Deep Learning)


the United States is putting pressure on the Europeans

The standoff between the United States and the three European countries that signed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal intensifies as Sunday October 18 approaches, the date scheduled for the automatic lifting of the arms embargo conventional to Iran. In a column published, Monday, September 14, in the daily Le Figaro, the head of the American diplomacy Mike Pompeo denounces the “ appeasement strategy Of Europeans and puts pressure on Emmanuel Macron by criticizing France’s refusal to extend the arms embargo and to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Disallowance in the Security Council

Last week in London, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom reiterated their opposition to the United States’ attempt to restore multilateral sanctions against Iran. The American administration had suffered, Tuesday, August 25, a disavowal to the Security Council of the United Nations, of which thirteen members out of fifteen (without the United States and the Dominican Republic) had rejected the validity of the American request. According to these countries, Washington, no longer part of the agreement concluded in 2015 with Tehran since 2018, has no legal basis for triggering a return of international sanctions at the UN.

“Mike Pompeo throws a stone in the pond by asserting that the UN sanctions against Iran, suspended by the agreement, will be in force soon and by implying that the United States will use its whole arsenal of extraterritorial sanctions to block arms sales to Iran, estimates François Nicoullaud, analyst and former French ambassador to Iran. This gesture of spite will not change much to the position of the Europeans who give priority to the preservation of the agreement. A reinstatement of UN sanctions could lead Iran to withdraw from the agreement, or even from the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT). The main thing today is to buy time while waiting for the American presidential election. »

For his part, former Vice President Joe Biden explains that, if he is elected to the White House, the United States will return to the 2015 agreement, if Tehran returns to the strict application of its commitments. “With our allies, we will work to strengthen and expand the provisions of the agreement, while addressing other areas of concern.”, affirms the Democratic candidate in a column published on the CNN site, a position very close to that defended by Paris and other European capitals.

Tehran accelerates its disengagement

In response to the unilateral withdrawal and the “ maximum pressure »From Washington, Tehran is stepping up its policy of disengagement on several points of the agreement: its stock of enriched uranium, the level of enrichment, the number of its centrifuges and their development.

→ READ. The Iran nuclear deal was signed five years ago

1,044 centrifuges are in operation at the Fordo underground plant, said Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (OIEA), on September 13. Iran has also launched a factory project of ” advanced centrifuges’ in Natanz, the site affected in early July by an explosion described by Tehran as « sabotage ».


Franco and the fear of establishing nuclear power plants in Spain with the recent Hiroshima bomb

Israel Viana




ABC, May 23, 1957. “The Spanish Government will undertake the establishment of nuclear power plants without hesitation,” the headline announced. The news explained that “the idea of ​​obtaining electricity by taking advantage of the heat developed in the reactors is a logical consequence of the start-up of large pluitonium-producing reactors and, also, of propulsion studies using nuclear reactors,” according to the words of the Francoist Minister of Industry, Joaquín Planell.

The project to establish nuclear power plants in Spain had specifically started from the scientist José María Otero de Navascués, who in 1948 presented a report to the Higher Center for Scientific Research (CSIC) advising that research on nuclear energy be initiated. In a conference he gave nine years later, collected by this newspaper, he pointed out: “The Spanish Government is going to undertake, without hesitation, the establishment of nuclear power plants to gradually complete the conventional hydraulic and thermal power plants.”

Franco decided to implement the Navascués plan without yet having knowledge of the first serious nuclear accident in history, that of the Soviet Mayak power plant, in the Urals, which would occur four months later, in September 1957, but also the The USSR kept it a secret until the mid-70s, when the Caudillo had already died. A tragedy that occurred when an underground storage tank full of plutonium residues exploded at this plant near the town of Kyshtym, currently considered the third worst nuclear disaster in history, after Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011).

The memory of Hiroshima

It is worth wondering Franco and his government would have changed their opinion regarding our nuclear development if the catastrophe that caused a huge radioactive cloud that spread hundreds of kilometers, affected more than 250,000 people and caused large-scale evacuations of the population, had transpired. .

It was also a delicate moment in the eyes of public opinion, since this type of energy was still associated with the atomic bombs that the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which in August 1945 killed more 220,000 people and had dramatic consequences later. “Six and a half square kilometers, or 60% of the area of ​​Hiroshima, has been reduced to nothing, as a result of the atomic bomb. The cloud of smoke that rose over the target after the explosion was in the shape of a mushroom and reached up to one and a half times the height of Mount Everest, extending completely for more than twelve hours over a vast region ”, Franco would have read in this diary just a decade earlier.

It is probable that everything had run its course as it did, because already in 1952 another accident had occurred at the plant of Chalk River, in Ottawa (Canada), after partially melting the core, but on that occasion there was no personal injury. As proof, suffice it to mention that a young Jimmy Carter participated in cleaning this up and lived for decades to become the president of the United States in 1977.

The first nuclear power plants

As the bad news (or the good news) regarding nuclear energy was not yet known, in February 1957, three months before Planell’s announcement, Franco created the General Directorate of Nuclear Energy under the Ministry of Industry. «During 1958 enough experience will have been acquired to decide, with certainty, the type of reactors that are most suitable for Spain. And it is very probable that in 1959 the contracts for the construction of the first power plants will be signed, which will come into service in 1962 ”, this newspaper also reported.

This idea had been forging in the Franco regime for a decade before. The objective was to solve the energy problems that Spain had suffered for a long time, especially after the ravages that the country had suffered during the Civil War and, later, to face the supply it needed due to the growth of the population after the post-war period. . A trend that was in line with that of the world’s main powers, which after the Second World War launched themselves in search of the use of nuclear energy and inaugurated the first power plants: Obnoxious, in the USSR (1954), Calder Hall, in Great Britain (1956), and Shippingport, in the United States (1957). The foundation stone for the latter was laid by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Far away were still the terrible accidents of Three Mile Island (Pennsylvania, United States), in 1979 and Chernobyl. As Navascués himself recalled years later in the daily “Arriba”, Franco had “the foresight to understand the enormous potential of the peaceful use of nuclear energy and what this could represent in solving the energy problems of our country.”


In 1948 a Study Commission was created. It was the first seed for the construction of nuclear power plants in Spain, which would begin in 1965 with the Zorita plant (in service since 1968), in Guadalajara. Then he continued with nine others, of which only seven currently work: Garona (in service since 1971), Almaraz I (1981), Ascó I (1983), Almaraz II (1983), Chests (1984), Ascó II (1985), Valdellós (1987) and Trillo (1988). The same whose safety was questioned as a result of the radioactive leak from Fukushima, in 2011, after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan: «The debate is always current in the case of the use of nuclear energy and now it is more necessary ”, declared the then Minister of Economy, Elena Salgado.

The road was not easy. Spain took two decades from when Navascues presented his idea until Zorita was put into operation. In the memory of the Spaniards there was the destruction that the nuclear bomb had caused in Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the weapons programs of the main world powers. That was their original sin and curse, and in El Pardo they were not willing to awaken the ghosts of war again, if only because of the damage that atomic energy could cause, as they had seen in Japan during the world war. .

Franco waited until 1951 to also create the Nuclear Energy Board (JEN), which would be in charge of investigating and advising the Government on everything related to this controversial field. And, in addition, she became the person in charge of safety, radiation protection and the training of the personnel who would work in the future plants.

“Dreadful Atomic Dilemma”

The key date in this process was undoubtedly December 8, 1953. That was the day Eisenhower delivered his historic Atoms for Peace speech, in which he defended the use of atomic energy for peaceful and not military. “The purpose would be to help solve the dreadful atomic dilemma, to dedicate oneself body and soul to find the way by which the miraculous human inventiveness is not dedicated to death, but to consecrate life,” said the US president.

As a gesture of goodwill, the White House shortly after declassified much of the scientific and technological information collected by the United States. Until then it had been used solely for military purposes. And in 1955 he signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Spain, according to which Franco would receive his first reactor, the same one that would be part of the Zorita power plant, and a good quantity of enriched uranium essential for the operation of the plant.

For Spain, nuclear development became at that time a real possibility. So much so that, in 1958, we managed to disintegrate an atom for the first time. “We have done it a few meters from Puerta del Sol: in the Moncloa experimental atomic reactor,” ABC said, describing the achievement as “the culmination of the close collaboration between the Nuclear Energy Board and the General Electric Company with the program ‘Atoms for Peace’ ».

José Cabrera’s central

Spain inaugurated the Zorita plant, called José Cabrera, at the height of Franco’s developmentalism. It began operating 14 years after the Obninsk plant did. “This opens the door to a new era of continued and growing energy supply […]. It is in full conditions of efficiency and safety […]. The technicians and employees live with their relatives, in a comfortable town and a beautiful residence, a few hundred meters away, “said this newspaper on the day of its commissioning, December 13, 1968. An act in which the then Minister of Industry, Gregorio López Bravo, and Franco also reported on the advanced state of construction of two other plants: Vandellós (Tarragona) and Santa Maria de la Garoña (Burgos).

The dictator soon had to intersperse the inauguration of all these nuclear power plants for a time with the commissioning of other dams and thermal power plants. The regime was gradually solving the growing demand for electricity. In 1975, Spain was already the seventh nuclear power in the world, only behind the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Federal Germany, the Soviet Union and France. A year in which the first protests of the antinuclear movements also began, under the argument that this energy was very dangerous, polluting and expensive.

“Are nuclear power plants a danger, as is sometimes asserted, or is it a state of collective psychosis due to lack of adequate information?” Asked the newspaper “Informaciones”, on June 20, 1975. And is that the The debate became more and more accentuated, especially after the Chernobyl accident and, in October 1989, that of the Vandellós plant in Tarragona, after a fire that caused major malfunctions in the reactor’s cooling systems and led to many residents of nearby towns to abandon their homes.

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