Congressional auditors said a planned safety component for processing highly enriched uranium failed in recent trials, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.
The still-unbuilt Uranium Processing Facility, or “UPF” for short, was expected to use an insulating material in casting operations. However, project participants are now looking to find either an alternative insulator or another means of meeting the associated safety requirement, according to a Government Accountability Office report published on Friday.
“According to UPF contractor representatives, this risk is now the project’s most significant technological risk,” GAO officials said of the component, which was intended for use at a site tentatively slated for construction at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee.
The report airs separate concerns about a microwave uranium-casting system it says has not been adequately tested. It also says budgeting choices resulted in seven out of 19 key technology projects being unfunded in fiscal 2014.
The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration is responding to three of the assessment’s five concerns, and forthcoming actions might address the remaining issues, according to the document.
GAO auditors said the technology concerns could remain important even if policymakers decide to pursue another project in the uranium site’s place. Officials began examining other options for meeting the Y-12 facility’s uranium needs after UPF preparations hit numerous schedule and cost overruns.
Officials at the semi-autonomous nuclear agency are “reevaluating the UPF project and may decide to construct a facility that is smaller and contains only select enriched uranium-processing capabilities,” the congressional watchdog organization wrote.
“Whether NNSA continues with the UPF project or chooses to undertake a smaller project, the facility will likely cost billions of dollars, and its ability to meet critical national security needs will depend on successful development and deployment of new technologies,” the GAO report states.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."