Saturday, August 15, 2015

Sea trials start for new Royal Navy submarine

The future HMS Artful sets sail for sea trials. BAE Systems photo.
LONDON, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- The Newest Astute-class nuclear submarine for Britain's Royal Navy is undergoing sea trials to test systems capabilities.
BAE Systems, builder of the future HMS Artful, said the trials began Thursday when the vessel set sail from a BAE Systems facility in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.
"Seeing Artful exit from Barrow today is the culmination of a huge amount of hard work from everyone at BAE Systems, our partners and the hundreds of businesses in our supply chain network," said Tony Johns, managing director, BAE Systems Submarines. "BAE Systems in Barrow is a world class facility, designing and building submarines that are some of the most sophisticated engineering projects in the world."
The future HMS Artful is the third of eight Astute-class attack submarines built by BAE Systems. It is 318 feet long and has a submerged speed of as much as 30 knots.
Armaments include Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk land attack missiles.

Nuclear Weapon Declassification Decisions, 2011-2015

This image was selected as a picture of the we...
This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 44th week, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Department of Energy issued twenty “declassification determinations” between April 2011 and March 2015 to remove certain specified categories of nuclear weapons-related information from classification controls.
“The fact that a mass of 52.5 kg of U-235 is sufficient for a gun-assembled weapon” was formally declassified in a written decision dated August 19, 2014.
The “total inventory of thorium at DOE sites for any given time period” was removed from the Restricted Data category on March 20, 2013.
The “existence of unlimited life neutron generators” was declassified on October 24, 2013.
As a result of such determinations, the specified information need no longer be redacted from documents undergoing declassification review, and it can also be incorporated freely in new unclassified documents.
So, for example, the fact that “The total United States Government inventory of plutonium on September 30, 2009 was 95.4 metric tons” was declassified on December 20, 2011.
This decision enabled the release of The United States Plutonium Balance, 1944-2009, a report published in June 2012. (“The aim of this publication is to provide, in a transparent manner, comprehensive and up-to-date data to regulators, public interest organizations, and the general public. Knowledge of the current U.S. plutonium balance and the locations of these materials is needed to understand the Department’s plutonium storage, safety, and security strategies.”)
The Department of Energy’s declassification determinations from 2011-2015 were released by DOE this week under the Freedom of Information Act. They are posted here in reverse chronological order, along with previous DOE declassification decisions.
The DOE declassification actions were performed in compliance with the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, in which Congress mandated a “continuous review of Restricted Data… in order to determine which information may be declassified and removed from the category of Restricted Data without undue risk to the common defense and security.”

Was it WW1, The Great War or First World War?

A renowned author once wrote, “What’s in a name?” And, so, it seems fitting to ask why, more than 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, our society has coined various names to describe this significant time in the world’s history.
In Newmarket alone, there are three names for the 1914 – 1918 war: the memorial pillars at Newmarket High read, “The Great War,” the plaque at the Memorial Park on D’ Arcy Street honours the memory of Newmarket’s “WW1 Veterans,” and the Canadian government (along with this committee) is commemorating the centennial of the “First World War.”
Some might ask if the name really matters, yet we know names bestow meaning and help shape our understanding of what the conflict was all about.
The British began using the name, The Great War, in 1914. The term “great” meant an all-encompassing war, a world conflict between the great powers of the day, and “greatness” in the sense of magnitude and scale. Today, we know it became a most devastating conflict; it brought change to the very concept of war, ended four royal dynasties, caused 10 million causalities and started the decline of the British Empire and the rise of the United States as a major power.
In short, it changed the world. However, the term “great” means different things to different people. Recently, a volunteer on a “Great War Centennial Committee” objected to the committee’s name, arguing the war wasn’t great; it was horrendous.
When the Americans entered the war in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson believed it was going to be the war to end all wars. On Oct. 7, 1919, the U.S. War Department General Order 115 formally declared that the hostilities would be known simply as the “World War.” Needless to say, the “World War” suddenly became “World War One” and “World War Two” in September 1939. As time has moved on, the worldwide prevalence of American culture has caused many to regard the war as “World War One” or just “WW1.” It is, for this reason, that the more recently erected plaque at Newmarket’s Memorial Park reads “WWI,” while the stone pillars at Newmarket High read “The Great War.”
Our Canadian government uses “First World War” for all centennial commemorations. It could be to distinguish ourselves from the Americans, or to reflect the terminology championed by Canadian historians. Or perhaps the name of a war changes as each generation tries to understand their history in a different way. It is our committee’s hope that whichever name you choose to use, you will join us as we commemorate the war’s centenary. If you are interested in this topic, or have any queries for future articles, please let us know.
It is the Mission of the FWWCC to commemorate Newmarket’s First World War veterans and their sacrifice; to educate and engage residents of the Town of Newmarket; and to honour the great patriotism of our small town in the First World War. For more information on our town’s history visit

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Naval history relic emerges from Thames to give insight of life in troubled England

English: Standard of Oliver Cromwell, used fro...
English: Standard of Oliver Cromwell, used from 1653 to 1659. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
LONDON, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- A 350-year-old historic gun carriage was rescued Wednesday from the bed of the Thames estuary in what government conservationists described as a race against time.
The rare and well-preserved wooden gun carriage was recovered off Southend Pier in Essex from the wreck of the British 17th century warship, the London.
The warship was part of a squadron that brought back King Charles II from the Netherlands in 1660 to restore him to the English throne after the death of Civil War victor Oliver Cromwell.
The relic is the only known example of a warship's gun carriage in existence from the period, with historians saying it will provide a key to a greater understanding of Britain's sea-faring past.
Government agency Historic England launched the rescue operation to prevent the treasure from being broken up by sea currents and sea-worms that are increasing in English waters due to climate change.
The ship blew up in March 1665 after gunpowder stored caught fire while the London was on its way to take part in the Second Anglo Dutch War of 1665-7.
The waterlogged wooden gun carriage is estimated to weigh one tonne, about the same weight as a rhinoceros.
A spokesman for Historic England said: "It was discovered by divers in pristine condition in the Thames Estuary late last summer. But over the past eight months parts of the gun carriage have become at risk of breaking up due to strong currents and exposure to sea-worms."
Alison James, Historic England maritime archaeologist, said: "This 350-year-old gun carriage is in near-perfect condition but was a national treasure at risk."
The carriage was lifted from 20 metres below the waves by a 20-tonne crane barge as divers wrapped it in wet blankets to preserve the fragile wood from drying out. It will be taken by road to York where it will be conserved over the next year by the York Archaeological Trust.
John Dillon, project manager at Cotswold Archaeology, said: "The conservation of this gun carriage will give us a great insight into the English Navy during an unsettled time when Britain was emerging as a global power."
"While the hull of the ship will remain on the seabed for the foreseeable future, the recovery and display of vulnerable artefacts such as this will aid our understanding of life on board a warship 350 years ago," said Dillon.

Royal Navy's £10 billion ($15.6) submarine project at risk due to delays and overspending

At risk: The new Royal Navy submarine HMS Astute
The £10billion project to create a fleet of seven Royal Navy submarines is in yet more troubled waters, a watchdog has warned.
Its report on the Astute-class attack boats reveals costs are still rocketing.
The subs have been plagued by a string of technical hitches and delays since the first vessel was ordered 18 years ago.
And the mammoth project was expected to cost another £87.5million more than planned last year - up from £558.1million to £645.6million.
The watchdog, the Major Projects Authority, has issued an amber/red alert, meaning there are major issues in key areas.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Astute
Under-threat: The £10bn Royal Navy submarine HMS Astute

The Authority warned: “The project remains a very technically demanding endeavour and the schedule to deliver the remaining five boats is challenging."
It said while the project remains on time against a revised schedule, “some substantial risks and challenges remain”.
The MPA revealed that forecasted spending on the nuclear-powered subs in 2014/15 is £645.6million – £87.5million more than planned.
Just two of the boats – being built by BAE Systems at Barrow in Cumbria – have been commissioned into the Navy, with a third undergoing sea trials.

PARoyal Navy Astute-class Submarine

Delays and overspending: Royal Navy Astute-class Submarine

There have been years of delays but the MPA said the scheme to replace the ageing Trafalgar-class fleet remains on time against a revised schedule.
The first of the 318ft submarines delivered to the Royal Navy - HMS Astute - ran aground during sea trials off the Isle of Skye in 2010.
Early attempts to shift the sub from a sandbank failed, and damage was caused when a towing vessel slammed into Astute during a later rescue effort.
Other early flaws reportedly included flooding during a routine dive that led to the sub being forced to perform an emergency surfacing, corrosion, the replacement or moving of computer circuit boards because they did not meet safety standards and fears over the instruments monitoring the nuclear reactor because the wrong type of lead was used.

Sea trials: HMS Astute sails up Gareloch on the Firth of Cylde to Faslane

The Ministry of Defence said: “Submarine build programmes are extremely complex and significant steps have been taken to address the issues raised by the MPA.”
It added the third boat, Artful, is due to enter service towards the end of the year.
The MPA blamed the latest overspend on this sub “remaining in Barrow longer than originally scheduled”.
Other factors include: “Early investment in activities to reduce risks in boats four to seven including batch buying of materials, outsourcing a greater quantity of production work, and increasing the volume of work above that originally planned; and investment in improving supply chain capabilities”.

HMS Astute - the facts

  • Top speed: 30 knots (34mph)
  • Displacement: 7,400 tonnes
  • Length: 318ft
  • Crew: 98
  • Diving depth: About 1,000ft
  • Weapons: Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Department of the Navy and City of Chattanooga To Hold Memorial Servicefor Fallen Service Members

Story Number: NNS150811-03Release Date: 8/11/2015 10:26:00 AM
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By U.S. Marine Forces Reserve - U.S. Navy Reserve Public Affairs
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (NNS) -- The Department of the Navy and City of Chattanooga will hold a service Aug. 15 in memory of the Sailor and four Marines killed July 16 in Chattanooga.

Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Governor of Tennessee Bill Haslam, Sen. Bob Corker, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and City of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke are expected to attend.

The Navy and Marine Corps family and the City of Chattanooga will honor the fallen service members, express appreciation to the Chattanooga Police Department and emergency responders and thank the community for its support.

Date: Saturday, Aug. 15.

Time: The service will start at 2 p.m.

Location: McKenzie Arena, 720 E 4th Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Media: Media interested in covering the memorial service should contact Joint Information Center Chattanooga at 423-280-7295 by no later than 4:30 p.m. EST on Thursday Aug. 13 to receive instructions and request security badges for facility access.

All bags will be screened. Availability is limited to 8,500 seats on a first come, first serve basis.

Eric Schlosser exposes our Nuclear Delusions at Festival of DangerousIdeas

IT TOOK 20 years and an estimated $19 billion to build and all but the simplest of typos to shut it down.
A nuclear accident that has crippled a purpose-built waste storage facility serves as a terrifying warning to Australia.
As support for a potential nuclear power plant and waste disposal facility appears to grow in South Australia, where politicians are groping for ideas to stimulate the state’s flagging economy, investigative journalist Eric Schlosser has a cautionary tale that should make us think twice.
The US author of Command and Control has explored America’s nuclear weapons program and discovered how little errors and complacency have led to the US almost blowing itself up on a number of occasions.
An accident also occurred on Valentine’s Day last year at America’s only underground nuclear waste facility, when a radioactive drum burst open.
What’s more frightening is investigators later blamed the incident on someone putting the wrong type of kitty litter in the drum containing radioactive waste.
Despite being a pioneer of nuclear technology, even the US has struggled with how to manage the waste it produces.
The seemingly absurd error has crippled the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico, which was built for an estimated cost of about $19 billion, in an underground salt bed under the Southern New Mexico desert.
“It sounds great (economically) but you’ve got to know what you’re doing,” Schlosser told
“It’s really difficult to store this stuff, it’s really complicated ... good luck with that.”
For 15 years, WIPP was held up as a model facility for its safe design and operation, and one of only three such facilities in the world. It was supposed to house low and medium level radiation waste created as part of the US nuclear weapons program, for at least 10,000 years.
Kitty litter caused waste drum to burst open. Picture: US Department of Energy
Kitty litter caused waste drum to burst open. Picture: US Department of Energy Source: Supplied
Drums of radioactive material were trucked in from around the US, where they were placed in salt caverns that would eventually be collapsed, burying the waste. Some even started advocating for high level waste to be buried there.
But in what seems an unbelievable chain of events, the addition of organic, instead of inorganic (clay) litter to the contents of a drum, created an explosive substance and led to it bursting open. Those investigating how this happened, have blamed it on a possible typo.
Before arriving at WIPP, the drum full of nitrate salts, was packaged at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
Investigators discovered that a revised policy manual in 2012 instructed workers at the laboratory to use organic kitty litter to soak up excess liquid in drums of nitrate salts, instead of the correct inorganic, clay version.
Making matters worse, potential opportunities to discover the error did not pick up on it. Paperwork on the drum was also flawed and did not mention that the drum was unusually acidic and that a neutraliser and organic kitty litter was used to stabilise it, leaving workers at WIPP unaware that they were handling a potentially explosive substance.
After being transported to Panel 7, Room 7 of the underground facility, the drum burst open, its contents spurting out, releasing radiation into the facility. Twenty one workers were exposed to low levels of contamination but luckily no one was in the room at the time the drum burst and the incident was instead picked up by radiation sensors.
It’s believed the litter may also have been used in up to 5000 other containers, meaning they could also be potentially explosive. These containers have had to be buried in rooms that are now being sealed, while others were moved to a reinforced temporary storage site in case they also burst.
There are also concerns heat from the radiation leak could make surrounding barrels unstable.
Robert Alvarez, a nuclear waste expert and a former special assistant to the US energy secretary, told the New York Times that a safety analysis done before the WIPP facility opened, predicted one such incident every 200,000 years, but the facility had been open for just 15 years.
Now Mr Alvarez is not sure the site is safe, saying “I feel like I drank the Kool-Aid”.
View inside the room where a nuclear waste drum burst open. Picture: Courtesy of Departme
View inside the room where a nuclear waste drum burst open. Picture: Courtesy of Department of Energy Source:Supplied
Defusing this potentially deadly situation is a complicated and long process. The facility has been closed since February last year and will likely not be operation again until next year. The US Department of Energy has estimated it will cost about $551 million to get the facility running again and to install a new ventilation system and exhaust shaft.
The accident has been blamed on complacency, declining safety standards and cutting corners.
An editorial for Nature magazine drew parallels between the accident at WIPP and the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, which was also blamed on the gradual decline of safety standards, a poor security culture, overconfidence and lack of independent technical oversight.
The problems at WIPP highlight the difficulty of designing systems to contain highly dangerous materials, which are not susceptible to human error.
In his book, Schlosser, who will be speaking on Nuclear Delusions at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas next month, has explored this in depth and does not believe systems can be made completely foolproof.
Schlosser’s book Command and Control includes the story of one of America’s most serious nuclear accidents, caused by an officer who accidentally dropped a socket wrench during routine maintenance and which resulted in the explosion of the largest intercontinental ballistic missile ever built by the US.
The simple typo that caused chaos
A decommissioned Titan II ballistic missile similar to the one that blew up in Arkansas. Picture: EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo.Source: AAP
The wrench fell and hit a Titan II missile, which was roughly the length of a nine-story building, and caused a fuel leak. Although officials managed to avoid detonating the nuclear weapon, the missile did explode at its launch facility in Arkansas, sending its nuclear warhead into a nearby ditch.
Schlosser’s investigation of the little-reported incident, which could have led to the destruction of an entire US state, uncovered a frightening sequence of events that led him to conclude that humans are “better at creating complicated machines than controlling them”.
The US author questions whether nuclear technology can ever be totally safe, and said machines were also susceptible to bugs, as anyone who has used a computer would have experienced. “A nuclear weapon is a machine and a machine can go wrong,” he told
Schlosser said storing highly dangerous materials for tens of thousands of years was also not something he thought humans were up to as a species.
Even the United Nation’s redesign of the universal radiation symbol in 2007 to ensure future humans, or even aliens, would understand there was potentially deadly material buried, seemed absurd, he said.
The United Nations' new symbol for dangerous radiation was released in 2007.
The United Nations' new symbol for dangerous radiation was released in 2007. Source: Supplied
He also thought it was possible that building a nuclear waste storage facility in Australia, which stockpiled high level waste that could be reprocessed into fuel for nuclear weapons, may make the country a target for terrorists.
“The challenge of storing nuclear waste safely is huge,” Schlosser said, adding nuclear waste could also be used to make a dirty bomb that spread plutonium dust over a few kilometres, not just for nuclear weapons.
“These are real concerns, I just would think ... there are other ways to drive economic activity (in Australia) besides accepting nuclear waste,” he said.
Already anti-nuclear activists have broken into high security facilities in America, proving it could be done.
“I’m glad they believe in peace, love and understanding, rather than killing in the name of God,” Schlosser said.
The first load of radioactive waste arrives at WIPP on March 26, 1999. Picture: AP Photo/
The first load of radioactive waste arrives at WIPP on March 26, 1999. Picture: AP Photo/Thomas Herbert Source: AP
Schlosser believes the world’s biggest nuclear risk currently was from terrorists making a weapon or stealing one, or the possibility of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. He believes the only way to be truly safe would be to reduce the stockpile of weapons to the bare minimum.
Despite the risks, Schlosser said he did not think nuclear destruction was inevitable but people needed to know about the problems to create change.
“What I’m trying to do is get people to open their eyes, to be aware,” he said.

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