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ONE IN TEN AMERICAN LIGHT BULBS ARE LIT BY THE RUSSIANS: FAKE NEWS?

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Following the end of the Cold War, reports, some fake some genuine, flooded the media with claimed revelations about nuclear weapons. Were there missing Russian nuclear weapons designed to fit a student’s backpack and were there British nuclear weapons kept at the correct temperature by caged chickens within?

Greatly exceeding bait for the tabloids extraordinary achievements resulted from western programmes to assist Russian disarmament and prevent nuclear proliferation. Although collectively these may be counted alongside the Marshall Plan in terms of expenditure, few knew of them, and some that did published fake news in attempts to halt or slow them.

One outstanding programme, initiated and sustained by an American academic, was to lead to 50% of the power generated by United States’ Nuclear Power Stations between 1993 and 2013 being fuelled by uranium from or destined for Soviet Nuclear Weapons. The expression ‘One in ten light bulbs are lit by the Russians’ was coined by a Secretary of Energy to help get over to the public recognition of the success of what is colloquially known as the ‘Megatons to Megawatts’ agreement.

This talk explores accurately some of the successes and failures of the programmes and of their reporting.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2017 series.

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