A Different Time

After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the directors of the nuclear weapons laboratories on both sides quickly got together in early 1992 to work on securing nuclear weapons and the materials they are made from. They were supported by their governments. NATO helped. The cooperation was a marvelous thing to see and to experience. I had a small part in dealing with leftover Soviet nuclear problems.

In 1998, I traveled to Estonia to help deal with a former Soviet uranium-processing plant. I’ve written up my experience. Siegfried Hecker, the director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a primary mover in the lab-to-lab cooperation, has collected the experiences of many participants in a two-volume set, Doomed to Cooperate. He has also set up a website for more information, which is where my story appears.

Check it out. Here are before and after photos of one part of the site.

 

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

53 replies
  1. 1

    […] Cross-posted to Balloon Juice. […]

  2. 2
    Ghost of Fitzmas past says:

    Who the fuck cares. We are all going to die.

  3. 3
    Aleta says:

    That before picture is stunning. The two together are pretty cool as proof that things can get better if science and people are allowed to find ways to work together.

  4. 4
    Felonius Monk says:

    Slightly OT, Cheryl — Did you get your book signed last night. Also, wondering if you have read Richard Rhodes accounts on the Manhattan Project and the H-bomb development and, if so, what did you think of them?

  5. 5
    Geeno says:

    @Ghost of Fitzmas past: Who pissed in your wheaties?

  6. 6
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Felonius Monk: Yes, I got the book signed. Ray Monk is an excellent lecturer – if you ever get a chance to hear him, take it!

    All of Richard Rhodes’s books on nuclear weapons are excellent. The earlier two, on the atomic bomb and H-bomb, are kind of heavily technical, but worth reading.

  7. 7
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Geeno:

    It’s a troll. Ignore.

  8. 8
    hovercraft says:

    The progress is a ray of hope, with the will, determination and science we can undo some of the damage that we do. Now if only we can convince the flat Earthers that God didn’t give us the earth for us to shit all over it until he comes back to pick his chosen ones up, it’s our home and we are it’s stewards.

  9. 9
    Mnemosyne says:

    Listening to old white guys talking in our lobby: “Even Nixon was better than Trump.”

    I love living in Southern California, where even the old white guys hate Trump.

  10. 10
  11. 11
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    Nah. He sounds suspiciously like our old buddy Unlimited Corporate Cash! The one who got banhammered for his racist and transphobic posts.

  12. 12
    mai naem mobile says:

    @Geeno: Dolt 45 or his hookers. Sorry, Cheryl, I know we’re supposed to ignore the trolls.

  13. 13
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Mnemosyne: Well, he *is* correct. We are all going to die.

  14. 14
    Mnemosyne says:

    @hovercraft:

    Now if only we can convince the flat Earthers that God didn’t give us the earth for us to shit all over it until he comes back to pick his chosen ones up …

    I’ve honestly never understood that belief. It’s the belief of a spoiled child. Really, they think they can completely wreck God’s creation and God will just indulgently pat them on the head like they’re rich kids who just wrapped daddy’s Maserati around a tree?

  15. 15

    @Gin & Tonic: speak for yourself, I’m gonna be a robot when I grow up.

    @Mnemosyne: well, a new incarnation at least.

  16. 16
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Eventually, yes. I still like poet/mortician Thomas Lynch’s quote:

    The mortality rate for the human race is holding steady at 100 percent.

  17. 17

    @Mnemosyne:

    I’ve honestly never understood that belief. It’s the belief of a spoiled child.

    Sounds like you understand it perfectly. They’re spoiled, entitled brats.

  18. 18
    WereBear says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I have read all of them and loved them. Good to see you have one out, too :)

  19. 19
    hovercraft says:

    @Major Major Major Major:
    Yes now say thank you.
    It’s been deceived that you will be our representative. Now En garde!

    /// Do not engage, it causes the loss of IQ points.

    ETA: “I’m gonna be a robot when I grow up”

    Peter Thiel is that you?

  20. 20
    Felonius Monk says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    All of Richard Rhodes’s books on nuclear weapons are excellent.

    I have Rhodes two earlier books and I agree they are good. I also have a book he wrote called “How to Write” which I found quite interesting. Until I started looking the other day I was unaware that he has written several other books on nuclear weapons. I’ll have to look into them.

  21. 21
    Immanentize says:

    Cheryl, Those pictures are great and that work was soooo important. Thank you.

    Were you involved in securing Ukraine’s nuclear arsenal? That is one of my favorite stories of the Soviet Union dissolution.

  22. 22
    Felonius Monk says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I love living in Southern California, where even the old white guys hate Trump.

    I know lots of old white guys that hate Trump and none of them live in California. In fact, I’m an old white guy that hates Trump. :)

  23. 23
    TenguPhule says:

    They were supported by their governments. NATO helped. The cooperation was a marvelous thing to see and to experience.

    Yes and we are never going to see that level of cooperation again in our lifetimes.

    It’s going to take lifetimes of work just to get back to where we were in 2016.

    Trust is slowly won and easily broken.

    For that, if nothing else, all Republicans should be damned to the worst afterlife imaginable.

    And their Earthly stay shouldn’t be much better.

  24. 24
    Jacel says:

    Obama’s efforts in the Senate to advance that cooperation in nuclear containment impressed me during his brief career there.

  25. 25

    @Mnemosyne: True in my neck of the woods too, unfortunately, we have a significant number of BS purity pony types.

  26. 26
    TenguPhule says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Well, he *is* correct. We are all going to die.

    Being able to choose when and how you go is important, though.

  27. 27

    @hovercraft: Does Thiel plan on growing up sometime? And I thought he was more of the vampirism type.

  28. 28
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Immanentize: No, I was not involved in securing Ukraine’s nuclear arsenal. There were so many things happening in the 1990s. Sig Hecker has estimated that 500 people were involved in Lab-to-Lab projects. Those projects were largely funded by the Nunn-Lugar act. We had congresscritters backing us.

    It was a very different time. I think it’s worth recalling that we can be a whole lot better than the tearers-down have made us.

  29. 29
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @TenguPhule:

    It’s going to take lifetimes of work just to get back to where we were in 2016.

    Trust is slowly won and easily broken.

    Maybe not. Cooperation between the Soviet and American nuclear weapons labs began in the late 1980s. It was valuable to have that level of trust when the Soviet Union came apart in 1991. The trust and cooperation improved from there. We need to get the haters out of power.

  30. 30
    J R in WV says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    @Mnemosyne: Well, he *is* correct. We are all going to die.

    True, I’ve been aware of that for, 60 or so years.

    You begin to realize its grasp on you when you get into your upper 60s, and realize that your turn can be at any minute now.

    No reason to stop fighting to improve the world we leave behind, though. Just because I won’t get to benefit personally; I still make phone calls and contribute to groups and candidates who work for progressive causes.

  31. 31
    The Moar You Know says:

    Who the fuck cares. We are all going to die.

    @Ghost of Fitzmas past: You are correct, which is why we need to cram in as much drugs and buttsechs into our miserable lives as we can, as quickly as we can. BRB

  32. 32
    The Moar You Know says:

    You begin to realize its grasp on you when you get into your upper 60s, and realize that your turn can be at any minute now.

    @J R in WV: I was in a collapsed building in the Loma Prieta quake back in 1989. I was 21. I was unscratched, four people within a hundred feet of me died. I learned that lesson real early. All time is borrowed.

  33. 33
    Roger Moore says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    We are all going to die.

    In the long run, we are all dead, but that doesn’t give us an excuse to ignore life in the interim.

  34. 34
    hovercraft says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    Of course not, “growing up” requires self awareness, he is as you say just concerned about drinking the blood of innocents and eventually transferring his brain, essence to a computer. I’m assuming that he doesn’t just want to be stuck in a computer somewhere, he wants to be out and about so robot, no?

  35. 35
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @J R in WV:

    No reason to stop fighting to improve the world we leave behind, though.

    Never said there was. I was only agreeing with troll’s second sentence.

  36. 36
    The Thin Black Duke says:

    @Ghost of Fitzmas past: You first, cupcake.

  37. 37
    JCJ says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    You are correct, which is why we need to cram in as much drugs and buttsechs into our miserable lives as we can, as quickly as we can. BRB

    Good plan, although I question your use of the word “cram” in this sentence.

  38. 38
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    The trust and cooperation improved from there. We need to get the haters out of power.

    Trump just unzipped his pant and pissed on Article 5. In public. In front of the heads of NATO.

  39. 39
    bemused senior says:

    Hopefully not too off topic: GOP consultant collaborated with Guccifer

  40. 40
    Shalimar says:

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/d.....ult-charge

    I don’t generally believe in violence or have any interest in ever hurting anyone, but I would be happy to keep a list of all the Republicans who think it would be hilarious if they got beaten up.

  41. 41
    TenguPhule says:

    I would like to return this carton of “I can’t believe its not Trump”, please. Can I get a refund postdated to 1/20/17?

    “We never talk about subs!” three officials told BuzzFeed News, referring to the military’s belief that keeping submarines’ movements secret is key to their mission.

    While the US military will frequently announce the deployment of aircraft carriers, it is far more careful when discussing the movement of nuclear submarines. Carriers are hard to miss, and that, in part, is a reason the US military deploys them. They are a physical show of force. Submarines are, at times, a furtive complement to the carriers, a hard-to-detect means of strategic deterrence.

  42. 42
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @TenguPhule: Your characterization is too severe. He’s playing the same game there that he is playing on everything relating to Russia, which he didn’t mention in his speech. Whether this is “pissing on” or mere stupidity, fellow traveler or useful idiot, we still don’t know. Secretary of State Tillerson said that the US supports Article 5, and Trump waved at those who supported the US after 9/11.

    That does indeed damage trust with our European allies. As does pushing the Macedonian PM out of the way so that Trump can hog the camera. As does excoriating NATO heads of state for not coming up to their 2% defense spending while obviously misunderstanding what is is they’re supposed to be doing with that money.

    The US is too important for other countries to turn their relationship with us on a dime, though. Will their governments be thinking about alternatives? You bet. But until they start building alternative alliances, massive armies, and nuclear weapons programs, we’re not so far down that road that the trust can’t be resumed. A new president and congress with different attitudes would make a big difference.

    Trump’s unwillingness to support NATO or criticize Russia must be dug into, and the reasons for it exposed.

  43. 43
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Minor point, but isn’t that the PM of Montenegro? Macedonia is not yet a NATO member.

  44. 44
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Your characterization is too severe. He’s playing the same game there that he is playing on everything relating to Russia, which he didn’t mention in his speech. Whether this is “pissing on” or mere stupidity, fellow traveler or useful idiot, we still don’t know.

    Whenever there’s a choice of options concerning Trump, always bet on the worst one as the correct one.

  45. 45
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Minor point, but isn’t that the PM of Montenegro? Macedonia is not yet a NATO member.

    You are correct.

  46. 46
    patroclus says:

    The 4th Circuit just upheld the stay on the Muslim Ban!!

  47. 47
    trollhattan says:

    @TenguPhule:
    Speaking of NATO, Charlie Pierce shares a GIF of our asshole-in-chief making a new friend in Brussels.

  48. 48
    Calouste says:

    @Gin & Tonic: I will only belief that if (not when) Keith Richards dies.

  49. 49
    TenguPhule says:

    @Calouste:

    I will only belief that if (not when) Keith Richards dies.

    And even then you better wait a couple of days in case he rises again.

  50. 50
    Inventor says:

    @TenguPhule:

    And even then you better wait a couple of days in case he rises again.

    Three minimum.

  51. 51
    Raoul says:

    @Geeno: Probably pissing in thier own. Sad troll is sad and gross.

  52. 52
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    I’m not quite as sanguine about Trump and Article 5 as Kevin Drum, but almost.

  53. 53
    J R in WV says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Trump’s unwillingness to support NATO or criticize Russia must be dug into, and the reasons for it exposed.

    Because there isn’t enough money in NATO support for Trump to care about it?

    Just guesswork, there. Same for being critical of Russia : Doesn’t pay well enough for him to care about it. So, in a very odd sense, we could repair everything, just by giving Trump a pay raise when he does correct things, and a pay cut when he messes up, like by pushing another head of state out of his way… or maybe not……

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