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The Download: We spoke to a radiation expert in Kyiv about the current nuclear accident risk

Also: what other sanctions can be imposed on Russia?

March 25, 2022

This is today's edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what's going on in the world of technology.

We spoke to a radiation expert in Kyiv about the current nuclear accident risk

Russian troops have been bringing death and destruction to Ukraine since they invaded on February 24. But there’s a risk they could cause a nuclear accident too, according to Vadim Chumak, head of the external exposure dosimetry lab at Ukraine’s National Research Center for Radiation Medicine in the country’s capital, Kyiv.

Since Russia took control of two nuclear power plants inside Ukraine earlier this month, reactors inside those plants have been cut off from their power sources, and radiation-monitoring devices have been disconnected, leading to concerns of a potential nuclear disaster.

One particular worry is that if a nuclear catastrophe strikes, scientists might not be able to monitor it or measure its impacts, says Vadim Chumak, head of the external exposure dosimetry lab at Ukraine’s National Research Center for Radiation Medicine, who played a key role in dose assessment following the Chernobyl disaster. Today, he remains close enough to Kyiv to help should a nuclear disaster result from Russia’s invasion.

From a house in Ukraine’s countryside, just outside the capital, Chumak spoke to MIT Technology Review about his hopes and fears, the risks of radiation leaks from hospitals, and the fact that much of the country’s radiation monitoring equipment is obsolete. Read the full interview.

—Jessica Hamzelou

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 What other sanctions can be imposed on Russia?
Cracking down on crypto, and banning oil and gas are hot topics among leaders. (FT $)
  +  Russia may start accepting bitcoin from China and Turkey for its oil and gas. (CNBC)
  + How the far right fell for Russian misinformation about Ukraine developing biological weapons with the US. (NPR)  
  + Four Russian officials have been charged with hacking the US energy sector. (WP $)

2 New York City’s long-running beef with Uber seems to be over
After years at each other’s throats, Uber is adding New York’s iconic yellow cabs to its ranks. (WSJ $)
  + It’s the end of the road for the company’s ‘brilliant jerks’ era. (The Information $)
  + Over on the west coast, Waymo claims it’ll soon start operating fully-driverless taxis. (Quartz)
  + Bad news for people who game while they drive in the UK. (BBC)

3 Europe has agreed laws to squash Big Tech monopoly abuse
WhatsApp, iMessage and Facebook Messenger will be forced to interoperate with smaller players. (Politico
  + ButGoogle and Apple aren’t planning on making less money on their apps. (FT $)

4 Apple is reportedly considering a hardware subscription plan 📱
In a bid to encourage customers to keep buying increasingly-expensive devices. (Bloomberg $)

5 It’s time to rethink how we treat online game cheats
Working out what motivates players to cheat can make a game significantly better. (Ars Technica)

6 Social media’s response to Ukraine may come back to bite it
Tech giants weren’t prepared for war in Europe, and hasty new policies won’t help prime them for the future. (WP $)
  + TikTok must not fail Ukrainians. (Wired $) 

7 A mysterious ‘Fabergé egg’ space circle sighting has excited radio astronomers
They don’t know yet what caused it. (Nature
An astronaut found water inside his helmet at the end of his first space walk. (CNN

8 Seattle Pride has parted ways with would-be sponsor Amazon 👋
Organizers rejected the opportunity to rename the event ‘Seattle Pride Parade Presented by Amazon.’ (Quartz)
Amazon’s Staten Island employees are preparing to vote on whether to join a union. (NYT $)

9 Another day, another NFT scam
Unfortunate news for fans of colorful ice cream characters. (Protocol $)

10 Would you eat a fish if it could scream in pain?
We’re less adept at empathizing with non-verbal animals. (CNET)

Quote of the day

“Putin was banking on NATO being split. NATO has never, never been more united than it is today.”

—Joe Biden tells a Brussels press conference that the US will provide a further $1 billion in humanitarian aid for Ukraine, while other European nations pledged another $55 million.

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet 'em at me.)

 + A very important lesson in hedgehog anatomy.
  + Don’t mess with Grimes—she claims to be behind a DDoS attack that took down blog Hipster Runoff in 2012. 
  + Would you be charmed or irritated by this copycat robot?
  + Goblins of the world, unite!
  + I’m living in fear of these vulnerable Furbies.
  + The anonymous mastermind behind celeb spotting Instagram account Deux Moi is writing a book—but it’s a novel.
  + Some solid advice on how to pick up a duck.

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