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Electricity for Americans from Russia’s Old Nuclear Weapons

What’s powering your home appliances?

For about 10 percent of electricity in the United States, it’s fuel from dismantled nuclear bombs, including Russian ones.

“It’s a great, easy source” of fuel, said Marina V. Alekseyenkova, an analyst at Renaissance Bank and an expert in the Russian nuclear industry that has profited from the arrangement since the end of the Cold War.

But if more diluted weapons-grade uranium isn’t secured soon, the pipeline could run dry, with ramifications for consumers, as well as some American utilities and their Russian suppliers.

Already nervous about a supply gap, utilities operating America’s 104 nuclear reactors are monitoring President Barack Obama’s efforts to conclude a new arms treaty. In the last two decades, nuclear disarmament has become an integral part of the electricity industry. Salvaged bomb material generates about 10 percent of electricity in the United States — by comparison, hydropower generates about 6 percent and solar, biomass, wind and geothermal together account for 3 percent.

Setting Sail into Space,
Propelled by Sunshine

About a year from now, if all goes well, a box about the size of a loaf of bread will pop out of a rocket some 500 miles above the Earth. There in the vacuum it will unfurl four triangular sails.

LightSail-1, as it is dubbed, will at best sail a few hours and gain a few miles in altitude. But those hours will mark a milestone for a dream that is almost as old as the rocket age itself, and as romantic: to navigate the cosmos on winds of starlight.

Louis Friedman, director of the Planetary Society, announced on Monday that the society, with help from an anonymous donor, would build and fly a series of solar-sail spacecraft dubbed LightSails, first in orbit around the Earth and eventually into deeper space.

The voyages, planned to occur during the next three years, are an outgrowth of a long collaboration between the society and Cosmos Studios of Ithaca, N.Y., headed by Ann Druyan, a film producer and widow of the late astronomer and author Carl Sagan.

In a First, Women Ascend
To Iraq’s Elite Police Corps

As one, the stony faces broke into a free-for-all of kisses, hugs and tears as the 50 women who called themselves the Lioness group became the first female graduates of Iraq’s police officer training academy. On a vast parade ground, the women joined 1,050 male classmates on Monday in what American military officers, who advised on the training, called a step forward for the country and its women.

“Some people have a view of Iraqi females that for them to join the police academy is a shame,” said Alla Nozad Falih, 22, wearing a star on her epaulet that marked her as a first lieutenant.

Like about half of the group, Falih wore her hair uncovered except by a uniform blue beret, and like 26 of her female classmates, she had joined the academy after finishing law school.

Officers in the national police force hold one of the highest-paying jobs available in Iraq, but also one of the most dangerous, with officers and trainees being a favorite target of insurgents.

Women have long worked in the lower police ranks here, directing traffic or searching other women at checkpoints, but until now they were ineligible for the elite officers’ corps.