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.

A major oil storage terminal on Grand Bahama Island was damaged by Hurricane Dorian and has leaked oil into the surrounding environment, raising concern that the oil could damage local reefs and wildlife.

The South Riding Point facility sits on the shore of the island's eastern side and is home to 10 giant storage tanks capable of holding up to 6.75 million barrels of crude, according to Equinor, the company that runs the facility.

The first thing Melissa Hanham did when she saw President Trump's tweet last week was take a screen grab.

"My reaction was to immediately save the image to my phone just in case it got taken down," she says.

The wording on the tweet was cryptic: "The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir [space launch vehicle] Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran," the president said. "I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One."

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A commercial satellite image shows just how much of Grand Bahama Island is underwater following days of torrential rain and massive storm surge from Hurricane Dorian.

Timothy Koeth's office is crammed with radioactive relics — old watches with glowing radium dials, pieces of melted glass from beneath the test of the world's first nuclear weapon.

But there is one artifact that stands apart from the rest: a dense, charcoal-black cube, 2 inches on a side. The cube is made of pure uranium metal. It was forged more than 70 years ago by the Nazis, and it tells the little-known story of Germany's nuclear efforts during World War II.

On Dec. 14, 1972, a capsule carrying Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt lifted off from the lunar surface.

It was the day that humans left the moon.

For a long while, they didn't come back, but that's changing. China, India and even smaller nations like Israel and South Korea are all pursuing robotic moon missions. Their lunar ambitions are being driven both by a desire to flex their technological muscles and by the rise of global nationalism.

Norwegian researchers have completed a survey of a sunken Soviet-era nuclear submarine that went down 30 years ago. The research team found that the sub is leaking a small amount of radiation from its reactors, but that it poses no threat to the surrounding environment.

Updated on Monday at 12:40 p.m. ET

Iran has crossed another line set in the 2015 nuclear deal between it and major world powers.

According to state media, Iran has begun enriching uranium above levels enshrined in the agreement. The move sends a signal that Iran is losing patience with a deal that has not provided the economic relief promised, more than a year after the United States withdrew from the agreement.

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Iran is on the verge of crossing a key line included in the nuclear deal it reached with the U.S. and other powers in 2015. As soon as Thursday, it's expected to announce that its uranium stockpiles have exceeded limits set by the deal.

Victoria Girgis was leading a public outreach session at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., when one of her guests noticed a string of lights moving high overhead.

"Occasionally, you'll see satellites, and they look kind of like shooting stars moving through the sky," Girgis says. "But this was a whole line of them all moving together."

In January, a group of high-level military commanders gathered at an air base in Yemen. It was far from the frontlines of the country's ongoing civil war.

Then, without warning, a small drone appeared out of the sky and exploded, spraying the group with shrapnel. According to news reports, the blast killed several, including the Yemeni government's head of military intelligence.

North Korea's newest missile has a striking resemblance to an advanced Russian design, according to experts analyzing images from a test of the weapon on Saturday morning.

The missile, which North Korea describes as a "tactical guided weapon," appears superficially to be nearly identical to Russia's Iskander missile — a highly accurate short-range weapon capable of striking targets more than 150 miles away.

On the outskirts of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is building what it sees as the future of its energy production.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

A secretive group of scientists who advise the U.S. government on everything from spy satellites to nuclear weapons is scrambling to find a sponsor after the Defense Department abruptly ended its contract late last month.

The group, known as the Jasons, will run out of money at the end of April. The Pentagon says that the group's advice is no longer needed, but independent experts say it has never been more relevant and worry the department is throwing away a valuable resource.

Earlier this year, President Trump laid out an ambitious plan for U.S. missile defenses. "Our goal is simple," Trump said during a speech in January. "To ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States, anywhere, anytime, anyplace."

To reach that goal, the administration's proposed new defense budget calls for hundreds of millions of dollars to study the use of lasers and particle beams in space. "It's new technology," the president said.

Except it isn't.

Early Friday morning, Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft detonated an explosive device over a small asteroid. The goal was to create a fresh crater that will later be studied by the spacecraft.

India says it shot down one of its own satellites, making it only the fourth country to test an anti-satellite weapon.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the successful test on Wednesday in a rare national address and on social media. The test would "have a historic impact on generations to come," Modi said in a tweet.

The announcement comes just weeks before national elections in which Modi's party has tried to paint itself as being hawkish on national security.

Updated at 7:45 p.m. ET

A Spanish court says assailants who broke into North Korea's Embassy in Madrid last month later fled to the U.S.

According to new documents unsealed on Tuesday, the perpetrators of the attack included a U.S. citizen and another resident. The leader of the plot fled via Lisbon to Newark, N.J., and offered stolen material to the FBI in New York.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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