Geoff Brumfiel | KERA News

Geoff Brumfiel

Geoff Brumfiel works as a senior editor and correspondent on NPR's science desk. His editing duties include climate and environment, while his reporting focuses on the intersection of science and national security.

From April of 2016 to September of 2018, Brumfiel served as an editor overseeing basic research and climate science. Prior to that, he worked for three years as a reporter covering physics and space for the network. Brumfiel has carried his microphone into ghost villages created by the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. He's tracked the journey of highly enriched uranium as it was shipped out of Poland. For a story on how animals drink, he crouched for over an hour and tried to convince his neighbor's cat to lap a bowl of milk.

Before NPR, Brumfiel was based in London as a senior reporter for Nature Magazine from 2007-2013. There, he covered energy, space, climate, and the physical sciences. From 2002 – 2007, Brumfiel was Nature Magazine's Washington Correspondent.

Brumfiel is the 2013 winner of the Association of British Science Writers award for news reporting on the Fukushima nuclear accident.

The Missile Defense Agency says it has conducted another successful test of its ground-based interceptor system.

Monday's test involved a missile carrying a dummy warhead fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean toward the U.S. West Coast. Sensors tracked the missile as it flew, and then two interceptors were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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Commercial satellite imagery of a facility near Pyongyang suggests that North Korea is preparing to launch a missile or space rocket in the near future.

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North Korea's main nuclear reactor for making weapons-grade plutonium may be operating, just days before this week's summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un discuss denuclearization in Hanoi, they are likely to focus on one North Korean nuclear facility in particular. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel introduces us to it.

Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET

Satellite imagery of a space launch center in northern Iran suggests a second attempt to launch a satellite has failed.

The imagery, taken Wednesday by San Francisco-based company Planet and shared with NPR, shows burn scars on a newly painted launchpad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center. The burns appeared after days of activity at the site, which suggested Iran had been preparing for a launch.

At a Russian base on the Baltic Sea, construction is underway to house a new generation of nuclear-capable missiles.

Tentlike structures have popped up to shelter the mobile missile system, known as Iskander, which is capable of firing weapons with both conventional and nuclear warheads. Recent satellite imagery of the territory, known as Kaliningrad, also shows that old buildings on the base are being demolished.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The U.S. has begun production of a new nuclear weapon. Supporters of the weapon say it's needed to counter Russia, but critics worry it's taking America back to a time when nuclear weapons were more likely to be used. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel has more.

The U.S. Department of Energy has started making a new, low-yield nuclear weapon designed to counter Russia.

The National Nuclear Security Administration says production of the weapon, known as the W76-2, has begun at its Pantex Plant in the Texas Panhandle. The fact that the weapon was under production was first shared in an e-mail to the Exchange Monitor, an industry trade magazine, and independently confirmed by NPR.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Earlier this week, Iran attempted to launch a rocket carrying a satellite into space. The Trump administration says their goal is really to develop long-range weapons. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel looks into what Iran is up to.

Updated at 5:47 p.m. ET

President Trump unveiled a sweeping plan Thursday to defend the U.S. and its allies from missile attack.

The plan is the first update to the nation's missile defense strategy in nearly a decade, but in many ways it is reminiscent of President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, a pie-in-the-sky program that was later dubbed "Star Wars."

About once a day, little satellites zip over northern Iran and snap a few pictures of the Imam Khomeini Space Center. The satellites, operated by a company in San Francisco called Planet, haven't recorded much — until recently.

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Big, important scientific breakthroughs are built of small, incremental experiments. And the partial government shutdown is already interfering with some of that research.

Scientists often depend on the government for grant funding, expertise and — in some cases — even regulatory approval. With the shutdown, some researchers are missing those key elements of scientific collaboration. Here's how some scientists say the shutdown is affecting their work.

Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. are on the rise again after several years of decline, and a booming economy is the cause.

That's according to a report out today from the Rhodium Group, an independent research firm that tracks CO2 emissions in the U.S.

Updated at 8:35 p.m. ET

Shoot it down. Jam it. Use a missile or maybe a net.

There's no shortage of ideas about how to stop a drone, but as the past few days at London's Gatwick Airport show, the reality is far more difficult.

From Wednesday night to Friday morning, flights in and out of Gatwick were halted after a small drone, or perhaps multiple drones, were spotted over the airfield. Hundreds of flights were canceled and thousands of passengers saw their holiday travel plans grounded.

For years, the world has imposed strict sanctions on North Korea in an attempt to stop its development of nuclear weapons. Officials from nations across the globe have seized shipments of raw materials, shut down shell companies and interdicted ships smuggling equipment.

But despite these efforts, last year North Korea tested the most powerful weapons known to humanity: a nuclear device far larger than any it had tested before, and an intercontinental ballistic missile that put much of the world, including the U.S., within range.

Updated Dec. 12 at 4:20 p.m. ET

North Korea appears to be expanding a missile base in a remote, mountainous part of the country, according to new commercial satellite imagery studied by independent researchers.

After meeting with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore this past June, President Trump was effusive.

"Our conversation was open, honest, direct and very, very productive," he said. "We produced something that is beautiful."

But after five months of canceled meetings and muted statements of dissatisfaction by both countries, experts say there is no sign of progress toward the Singapore goal of so-called "denuclearization" of the North.

Commercial satellite imagery has revealed the location and layout of a previously undisclosed North Korean missile base, including deep underground tunnels designed to house the weapons.

The Trump administration is imposing major sanctions on Iran, effectively ending America's participation in a nuclear deal it helped forge in 2015.

Effective Nov. 5, Iran will see sweeping sanctions imposed on its banking, shipping and petroleum sectors. The move will "put a vise on Iran's ability to conduct economic activities internationally," says Corey Hinderstein, a vice president at the nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative.

President Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, is in Moscow for a second day Tuesday, to discuss the U.S. intent to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The end of the 31-year old treaty is a sign that world powers may be returning to an arms race mentality.

But it's not the only one.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

President Trump says he's planning to pull out of an international arms control agreement. As NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports, it's a treaty signed by President Reagan designed to reduce the dangers of nuclear war.

Aric Toler isn't exactly sure what to call himself.

"Digital researcher, digital investigator, digital something probably works," Toler says.

Toler, 30, is part of an Internet research organization known as Bellingcat. Formed in 2014, the group first got attention for its meticulous documentation of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Toler used posts to Russia's equivalent of Facebook, VK, to track Russian soldiers as they slipped in and out of eastern Ukraine — where they covertly aided local rebels.

Donna Strickland seemed genuinely surprised to learn that she was only the third woman to ever win the Nobel Prize in physics.

"Is that all, really?" a flummoxed Strickland asked during a press conference announcing the prize. "I thought there might have been more."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's a terrifying weapon: a nuclear-powered cruise missile that can fly anywhere on the planet, possibly spewing radioactivity as it goes. In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his nation had successfully tested just such a machine.

But new satellite imagery of a remote Russian test site suggests that the missile may not be working as well as claimed.

North Korea announced today that it will permanently close a major missile test site. Kim Jong Un, the North's leader, said the site would be dismantled in the presence of international inspectors.

A Swiss laboratory likely involved in analyzing samples from a March chemical attack in Salisbury, England, has reportedly been targeted by Russian agents.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

At the Pentagon today, Vice President Mike Pence laid out plans for a new branch of the military in outer space - a Space Force.

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Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

President Trump Monday announced his intention to create a "space force" that would oversee the military's activities off-world.

"When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space," Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council, which oversees the nation's space policy. "We must have American dominance in space. So important."

Experts have been left scratching their heads over one of the most concrete concessions President Trump says he received from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during Tuesday's summit in Singapore.

At a press conference after their meeting, Trump said Kim had agreed to destroy "a major missile engine testing site."

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