Michael Flynn Has IDEAs!


Michael Flynn is known for thinking outside the box, and we need ideas outside the box to solve some of the world’s problems. It’s also great when an action can address more than one problem. But it also helps to know what you’re doing.

Here’s an IDEA: The United States and Russia work together to supply Middle Eastern countries with civilian nuclear power. Several of those countries have been seeking nuclear power. The United States and Russia have companies that can build the plants. That’s the deal Flynn was seeking in October 2015.

The contracts would presumably specify that spent fuel go back to the supplier country, so that it wouldn’t be available for extracting plutonium for Middle Eastern nuclear weapons. The motivations for uranium enrichment and reprocessing, the technologies that could be used for making weapons, are undercut. The very wealthy Saudis would finance the program and thus have skin in the nonproliferation game. It would also help to bolster the US nuclear industry, which is suffering, among other things, from plant closures due to the currently low price of natural gas.

It seems like a great IDEA until you start considering some specifics: Should Iran be one of those Middle Eastern countries? The Saudis might not be pleased to finance their nuclear development. Why should Russia open those markets to the United States? Reactors and their associated services are a major source of income to Russia, one of their few manufactured exports. They already have been selling reactors in the Middle East, including sixteen to Saudi Arabia announced just after Flynn’s trip. And Iran is (more or less) Russia’s friend.

Given the plethora of Flynn’s IDEAs, it’s not surprising that the article lists additional downsides.

This IDEA looks quite a bit like one of Donald Trump’s old ideas. Back in 1987, Trump wanted to join with the Soviet Union to bully the rest of the world into nonproliferation. Supplying civilian nuclear plants to the Middle East to prevent proliferation is a kinder gentler version of that idea at a smaller scale. Trump mentioned the idea of a Middle Eastern NATO during his trip to the Middle East, which is defense-related rather than civilian nuclear, but more or less the same countries presumably would be included.

A question that might be asked is whether Flynn structured the deal to appeal to Trump, or if Trump was involved in formulating it. The lack of research that Flynn put into the background suggests not a lot of thought, so perhaps this apparent similarity to an earlier Trump idea is by chance only.

Flynn’s trip to the Middle East to broker the deal is another that he did not report on his security questionnaire. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are asking for more information on the trip.


Photo of reactors being constructed in Abu Dhabi by South Korea.


Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.

56 replies
  1. 1
    trollhattan says:

    Lemme try linking this again.

  2. 2
    TenguPhule says:

    Michael Flynn is known for thinking outside the box, and we need ideas outside the box to solve some of the world’s problems.

    You’re trying to DougJ us, aren’t you?

  3. 3

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

  4. 4
    The Dangerman says:

    I wonder if General Flynn ever heard of dirty bombs?

    ETA: No, Michael, NOT “Showgirls”. That was dirty and a bomb but NOT what I mean.

  5. 5
    TenguPhule says:

    And chasing my hobby, Teresa May still unable to get a DUP agreement to guarantee her Queen’s Speech tomorrow will pass. There is a small but now actually possible chance that the UK House of Commons is about to experience a genuine clusterfuck of epic proportions.

    Break out the popcorn and liquor.

  6. 6
    Yutsano says:

    @trollhattan: Wow that ad seems quaint now. And interesting considering how earthquake prone Iran is.

    Wasn’t something like this going to be part of the Iran nuke deal in the first place but Russia pulled out?

  7. 7
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @TenguPhule: I haven’t been following that very much, but didn’t Sinn Fein decide to actually take their seats this time, just to fuck things up for May?

  8. 8
    Chris says:

    Allow me to reiterate what I said several threads down on the topic of this asshole: the fact that Michael Flynn, whose public persona and popularity with Trump’s base is rooted in no small part in Islamophobia, took contracts from an islamist government in Ankara really, really deserves more public attention than it’s gotten. Even by their standards, that’s pretty blatant.

  9. 9
    TenguPhule says:

    @Gin & Tonic: No, They’re still abiding by their refusal to seat themselves. But the DUP deal May claimed she had is a non-deal as of now. Which means if they abstain from voting, she only has a 2 vote majority (assuming every single member of every other party besides SF is there) So she can only afford 2 absentees or defections from her own party or else it all comes crashing down and Labor gets their crack at forming a government. And if Labor is then unable to form a government in the face of Conservative opposition, they have to hold another General Election.

    ETA: Even if it passes, she probably is going to face another general election once the party infighting brings down her government.

  10. 10
    Tom says:

    Given that the US has no central repository for the high level nuclear power plant waste, just where are they planning to put it when we do take it back? Bonus points for suggesting Mar-A-Lago.

  11. 11
    Tom says:

    @TenguPhule: What happens to the Brexit negotiations in that case?

  12. 12
    TenguPhule says:

    @Tom: Hell if I know. Nothing good, I suspect.

  13. 13

    @TenguPhule: so Sinn Fein is foregoing their shot at relevance?

  14. 14
    Tony J says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    I doubt that very much. They’d have to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen in order to sit in Parliament and that’s not something they’d ever do.

    Like to be wrong, though.

  15. 15
    randy khan says:


    Hell if I know. Nothing good, I suspect.

    “Nothing good” may be the best possible outcome.

  16. 16
    Yutsano says:

    @Chris: Money has no allies. It has no allegiances. Money possesses neither loyalty nor fealty. Money has no ideology. They were willing to pay for his services. He agreed to their terms. It’s that simple.

  17. 17

    @trollhattan: @Yutsano: The Bushehr reactor was started in 1975 by German companies. Construction stopped with the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The plant was modified and completed by Russians in 2013.

    It wasn’t a part of the nuclear agreement. It’s a civilian plant, with little potential for weapons production, and the contract specifies that Russia will take back the used fuel.

  18. 18
    Tilda Swintons Bald Cap says:

    When your cat misses the litter box, it is thinking outside the box.

  19. 19
    Jay S says:

    What countries have the ability and willingness to export nuclear power plants? Which of those have the safest designs? Has the US done this in recent years?

  20. 20
    TenguPhule says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    so Sinn Fein is foregoing their shot at relevance?

    You have to give them credit for consistency.

    They think the English are perfectly capable of making a mess of things without needing their help.

  21. 21
    TenguPhule says:

    @Tilda Swintons Bald Cap:

    When your cat misses the litter box, it is thinking outside the box.

    Stealing this.

  22. 22


    There is a small but now actually possible chance that the UK House of Commons is about to experience a genuine clusterfuck of epic proportions.

    I don’t think it would be that epic. If nobody can put together a government, they can always dissolve parliament and hold another election. They might be better off with the queen running everything for a few months anyway.

  23. 23
    raven says:

    It’s fucking pouring here and that will help Ossoff!

  24. 24
    TenguPhule says:

    @Roger Moore:

    I don’t think it would be that epic. If nobody can put together a government, they can always dissolve parliament and hold another election.

    I would consider that rather epic. Especially considering the likely reaction of the public.

  25. 25
    zhena gogolia says:


    It will?

  26. 26
  27. 27
    Miss Bianca says:


    It’s fucking pouring here and that will help Ossoff!


  28. 28
    raven says:

    @zhena gogolia: Yea, he kicked ass in early voting. Her voters are old fuck like me!

  29. 29
    zhena gogolia says:


    Okay, I hope you’re right.

  30. 30

    @Jay S: It is mostly a competition among the United States, Russia, and South Korea. The last two are doing better. Those are South Korean reactors in the top photo being built in Abu Dhabi.

    ETA: France’s AREVA is also in the competition, but their last few jobs haven’t gone so well. Might be some desire and ability in the UK, but I’m not recalling that.

  31. 31
    raven says:

    @Miss Bianca: AJC

    But it could have a peculiar impact in this race. Ossoff’s campaign has long held that it has the edge in voter enthusiasm – a more committed base of voters who will flock to the polls regardless to support him. Handel’s supporters points to a core of backers who have followed her through thick-and-thin as well.

    Still, for Handel’s campaign, this could be a problem. She’s expected to trail Ossoff in the early voting numbers, and hopes for a solid election day turnout to notch a win. But the downpours could dampen voter participation in GOP bastions as well.

  32. 32
    lollipopguild says:

    @TenguPhule: Yes, let’s have another election right after this last one which went so well for the Conservatives.

  33. 33
    raven says:

    @zhena gogolia: Well I was totally wrong in November.

  34. 34
    Another Scott says:

    Thanks for this.

    No matter who proposes it, and Flynn’s mitts on it make it stink to high heaven, it’s a bad idea. There’s been too much progress in renewables to think that reactors for electric power make sense any more. They’re hugely expensive, they require vast amounts of dangerous materials, there’s still the huge problem of what to do with the waste, they don’t last very long – though licenses are being extended there are still issues:

    “Today, virtually every component in a reactor plant has been replaced at one point,” said Tiffany Edwards, a DOE spokeswoman. “The exceptions are the reactor pressure vessel and the concrete [containment] structures. However, even those could be considered.”

    The pressure vessel remains the largest challenge for scientists as they try to determine which types of vessel might not make it to 80 years. If underlying flaws are found, there is the possibility that a metallurgical technique called annealing, employed in the past on nuclear reactors in Russia but never in the United States, could be used.

    Put simply, annealing requires heating the metal of the pressure vessel to remove the damage created by radiation, possibly restoring it close to its original condition. “It’s a very big job and very challenging,” Was said.

    “There are questions of how quick the damage will come back,” he said. “Not all of these questions have been answered, but there’s encouragement that even the pressure vessel could be replaced.”

    Work was done on modeling reactor pressure vessel annealing 20+ years ago. That report says things like a US Army reactor was annealed in 1968, temperatures above 750F are needed, times of 168 hours are mentioned, the annealing recovery behavior depends on the type of steel and the neutron flux it’s been exposed to, etc., etc. It’s clearly not a production-ready process. Saying “yeah, we’ll anneal it and it will be good as new” vastly over-simplifies the problems.


    Compare this to the cost (and benefits) of distributed wind and solar power (especially in areas near the equator that have very reliable sunlight)…

    My $0.02.


  35. 35
    JPL says:

    @raven: Most of East Cobb and Roswell, received little or not rain. The four to five inches of rain, tended to be over the democratic areas of Chamblee and Doraville.

    I might add that those who say turnout was low in those areas, and it was Ossoff’s fault, might ask themselves, if they would wade to the polls. The rain has let up , in those areas as of now.

  36. 36
    chris says:

    @TomatoQueen: Cat’s thinking, “Christ, what an asshole!”

  37. 37

    I’m going with Lord Buckethead: “It will be a shit show.”

  38. 38
    The Moar You Know says:

    What happens to the Brexit negotiations in that case?

    @Tom: Brexit continues until someone in the UK makes an affirmative action to stop it. That is not forthcoming.

    And I’m not sure even if it went to voters again and was repealed that it would matter. The process has been started. The EU may decide it’s not worth having an unreliable partner in the coalition. Were I the EU, I would want guarantees from Britain that this couldn’t happen again.

    Not OT: was listening to BBC radio this AM and heard an interview with a very nice woman from the Netherlands who has been living in Britain for the last 20 years. She is leaving. Her words will ring very familiar to most of you:

    “It’s not Brexit that’s the issue. It’s knowing that I have neighbors and friends who voted for it knowing what it would do to me. I’m out.”

    Which is certainly how I feel about Trump and his voters. He’s not the problem, just the most visible symptom.

  39. 39
  40. 40
    Another Scott says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Toshiba/Westinghouse are going through huge problems now because Westinghouse’s nuclear business took a huge hit went bankrupt:

    Utility owner Southern Co. agreed to take the lead from Toshiba Corp.’s bankrupt Westinghouse Electric Co. unit on building two nuclear reactors at its Vogtle power plant in Georgia as soon as next month.

    The Atlanta-based utility owner also agreed to extend to June 3 an interim contract with Westinghouse while the companies finalize the new service pact, Southern said in a statement late Friday. Toshiba would remain on the hook for about $3.6 billion in guarantees for the project that may be paid over at least three years, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

    Westinghouse’s bankruptcy in March threw into question the fate of four nuclear reactors once seen as ushering in a new wave of nuclear generation in the U.S. — the two at Southern’s Vogtle plant and another two being built at Scana Corp.’s V.C. Summer station in South Carolina. The move signals Southern’s intent to see the project through, and marks a step forward for Toshiba, which has sought to regain access to lines of credit by providing collateral and more certainty regarding its exposure to Westinghouse.


    It’s hard to imagine anyone making money on those types of plants any more, except for the banksters and the business consultants, maybe…


  41. 41
    eclare says:

    @JPL: Crap, four to five inches of rain?

  42. 42
    Jay S says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I vaguely recall articles ages ago about the French exports with a standardized design that made them more cost effective than US models that were highly customized. I didn’t know about the S. Koreans. I thought the US was mostly out of business, both locally and world wide, except for some specialty parts from GE.

  43. 43
    Origuy says:

    The rain is coming from Tropical Story Cindy, which is forming in the Gulf of Mexico. Believe it or not, the next one will be named Don. If it turns into a hurricane, it will be the biggest, most beautiful hurricane you’ve ever seen.

  44. 44
    Miss Bianca says:

    @raven: Ah, thanks for that. We can but hope! .

  45. 45

    @Jay S: AREVA has blown a couple of big deals by coming in way over price and way behind schedule. As @Another Scott mentioned, Toshiba/Westinghouse is declaring bankruptcy. I think GE is still ready to build reactors. There are a bunch of newbies coming up with radically different designs and small modular reactors. They all have a long way to go through the regulators to get their designs approved for the US. I’m not sure of the regulatory requirements in other countries, but I know China has been making favorable noises toward some of them.

  46. 46
    raven says:

    @JPL: I knew you’d throw water on it.

  47. 47
    joel hanes says:


    the next one

    Is very unusual in place and time of formation. The only years in which June tropical storms have formed so far east and south were terrible years for hurricanes. If it’s an omen, it’s a bad one for residents of our southern and eastern coasts.

  48. 48
    KS in MA says:

    @Another Scott: This! Plus, you don’t have to ship your used sunlight back to Russia. And your local insurgents won’t do as much damage when they blow up a solar farm.

  49. 49
    chris says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Haha! Thanks, I have not seen that one.

  50. 50
    Jay S says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Ah GE’s nuclear arm is GE Hitachi now. I see they have a liquid sodium design (PRISM) that may be going into production in the UK and is approved for export by the US.

  51. 51

    @KS in MA:

    And your local insurgents won’t do as much damage when they blow up a solar farm.

    This. Even the worst failure modes for solar and wind power aren’t going to do more than local damage.

  52. 52

    @Jay S:

    I see they have a liquid sodium design

    I really want to know what deranged mind came up with liquid sodium reactors. The chemist in me cringes at the thought of large volumes of liquid sodium flowing through a heat exchanger to generate steam. It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen.

  53. 53
    trollhattan says:

    @Roger Moore:
    I’d be curious myself. Understand it’s a closed loop and all but what piping can stand up to it for decades?

    Molten salt (NaCl) is used in solar thermal power plants, but there’s nothing nearly as dire in case of a failure.

  54. 54

    I understand the physics of why they like liquid sodium as a coolant- it melts at a usefully low temperature, has a nice, wide molten range, and doesn’t want to absorb neutrons- but it seems like it would have catastrophically bad properties in the event of an accident.

  55. 55
    Jay S says:

    @Roger Moore: I am told the physics is just wonderful though. From a nuclear reactor worst case scenario the passive safety factors are a plus.
    ETA I see Roger got to the physics first and more competently. As to safety, I believe the consequences of an accident are far more contained than with a boiling water reactor.

  56. 56
    JR in WV says:

    @Another Scott:

    Put simply, annealing requires heating the metal of the pressure vessel to remove the damage created by radiation, possibly restoring it close to its original condition.

    IIRC, I saw a reactor pressure vessel destined for a USN ship/boat at Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula some 45 years ago. It was in a building sized furnace, the doors were open, it was glowing red with heat, I suppose they were letting it cool down slowly, just by opening the doors.

    We saw it in the evening, at least dusk, as we walked from our ship to the main gate to go home. One of the more amazing things I saw while in the Navy. No one could get close, and if you took pix, the heat would have kept you from getting any details. Glowing with heat, huge. Strange!

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