A couple of hundred thousand years ago, an M 7.2 earthquake shook what is now New Hampshire. Just a few thousand years ago, an M 7.5 quake ruptured just off the coast of Massachusetts. And then there’s New York.
Since the first western settlers arrived there, the state has witnessed 200 quakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater, making it the third most seismically active state east of the Mississippi (Tennessee and South Carolina are ranked numbers one and two, respectively). About once a century, New York has also experienced an M 5.0 quake capable of doing real damage.
The most recent one near New York City occurred in August of 1884. Centered off Long Island’s Rockaway Beach, it was felt over 70,000 square miles. It also opened enormous crevices near the Brooklyn reservoir and knocked down chimneys and cracked walls in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Police on the Brooklyn Bridge said it swayed “as if struck by a hurricane” and worried the bridge’s towers would collapse. Meanwhile, residents throughout New York and New Jersey reported sounds that varied from explosions to loud rumblings, sometimes to comic effect. At the funeral of Lewis Ingler, a small group of mourners were watching as the priest began to pray. The quake cracked an enormous mirror behind the casket and knocked off a display of flowers that had been resting on top of it. When it began to shake the casket’s silver handles, the mourners decided the unholy return of Lewis Ingler was more than they could take and began flinging themselves out windows and doors.
Not all stories were so light. Two people died during the quake, both allegedly of fright. Out at sea, the captain of the brig Alice felt a heavy lurch that threw him and his crew, followed by a shaking that lasted nearly a minute. He was certain he had hit a wreck and was taking on water.
A day after the quake, the editors of The New York Times sought to allay readers’ fear. The quake, they said, was an unexpected fluke never to be repeated and not worth anyone’s attention: “History and the researches of scientific men indicate that great seismic disturbances occur only within geographical limits that are now well defined,” they wrote in an editorial. “The northeastern portion of the United States . . . is not within those limits.” The editors then went on to scoff at the histrionics displayed by New York residents when confronted by the quake: “They do not stop to reason or to recall the fact that earthquakes here are harmless phenomena. They only know that the solid earth, to whose immovability they have always turned with confidence when everything else seemed transitory, uncertain, and deceptive, is trembling and in motion, and the tremor ceases long before their disturbed minds become tranquil.”
That’s the kind of thing that drives Columbia’s Heather Savage nuts.
Across town, Charles Merguerian has been studying these faults the old‐fashioned way: by getting down and dirty underground. He’s spent the past forty years sloshing through some of the city’s muckiest places: basements and foundations, sewers and tunnels, sometimes as deep as 750 feet belowground. His tools down there consist primarily of a pair of muck boots, a bright blue hard hat, and a pickax. In public presentations, he claims he is also ably abetted by an assistant hamster named Hammie, who maintains his own website, which includes, among other things, photos of the rodent taking down Godzilla.
That’s just one example why, if you were going to cast a sitcom starring two geophysicists, you’d want Savage and Merguerian to play the leading roles. Merguerian is as eccentric and flamboyant as Savage is earnest and understated. In his press materials, the former promises to arrive at lectures “fully clothed.” Photos of his “lab” depict a dingy porta‐john in an abandoned subway tunnel. He actively maintains an archive of vintage Chinese fireworks labels at least as extensive as his list of publications, and his professional website includes a discography of blues tunes particularly suitable for earthquakes. He calls female science writers “sweetheart” and somehow manages to do so in a way that kind of makes them like it (although they remain nevertheless somewhat embarrassed to admit it).
It’s Merguerian’s boots‐on‐the‐ground approach that has provided much of the information we need to understand just what’s going on underneath Gotham. By his count, Merguerian has walked the entire island of Manhattan: every street, every alley. He’s been in most of the tunnels there, too. His favorite one by far is the newest water tunnel in western Queens. Over the course of 150 days, Merguerian mapped all five miles of it. And that mapping has done much to inform what we know about seismicity in New York.
Most importantly, he says, it provided the first definitive proof of just how many faults really lie below the surface there. And as the city continues to excavate its subterranean limits, Merguerian is committed to following closely behind. It’s a messy business.
Down below the city, Merguerian encounters muck of every flavor and variety. He power‐washes what he can and relies upon a diver’s halogen flashlight and a digital camera with a very, very good flash to make up the difference. And through this process, Merguerian has found thousands of faults, some of which were big enough to alter the course of the Bronx River after the last ice age.
His is a tricky kind of detective work. The center of a fault is primarily pulverized rock. For these New York faults, that gouge was the very first thing to be swept away by passing glaciers. To do his work, then, he’s primarily looking for what geologists call “offsets”—places where the types of rock don’t line up with one another. That kind of irregularity shows signs of movement over time—clear evidence of a fault.
Merguerian has found a lot of them underneath New York City.
Each time that occurred, the land currently known as the Mid‐Atlantic underwent an accordion effect as it was violently folded into itself again and again. The process created immense mountains that have eroded over time and been further scoured by glaciers. What remains is a hodgepodge of geological conditions ranging from solid bedrock to glacial till to brittle rock still bearing the cracks of the collision. And, says Merguerian, any one of them could cause an earthquake.
In our lifetimes, a series of small earthquakes have been recorded on the Manhattanville Fault including, most recently, one on October 27, 2001. Its epicenter was located around 55th and 8th—directly beneath the original Original Soupman restaurant, owned by restaurateur Ali Yeganeh, the inspiration for Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. That fact delighted sitcom fans across the country, though few Manhattanites were in any mood to appreciate it.
The October 2001 quake itself was small—about M 2.6—but the effect on residents there was significant. Just six weeks prior, the city had been rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers. The team at Lamont‐Doherty has maintained a seismic network in the region since the ’70s. They registered the collapse of the first tower at M 2.1. Half an hour later, the second tower crumbled with even more force and registered M 2.3. In a city still shocked by that catastrophe, the early‐morning October quake—several times greater than the collapse of either tower—jolted millions of residents awake with both reminders of the tragedy and fear of yet another attack. 9‐1‐1 calls overwhelmed dispatchers and first responders with reports of shaking buildings and questions about safety in the city. For seismologists, though, that little quake was less about foreign threats to our soil and more about the possibility of larger tremors to come.
“Gee whiz!” He laughs when I pose this question. “That’s the holy grail of seismicity, isn’t it?”
He says all we can do to answer that question is “take the pulse of what’s gone on in recorded history.” To really have an answer, we’d need to have about ten times as much data as we do today. But from what he’s seen, the faults below New York are very much alive.
“These guys are loaded,” he tells me.
He says he is also concerned about new studies of a previously unknown fault zone known as the Ramapo that runs not far from the city. Savage shares his concerns. They both think it’s capable of an M 6.0 quake or even higher—maybe even a 7.0. If and when, though, is really anybody’s guess.
“We literally have no idea what’s happening in our backyard,” says Savage.
Merguerian has been sounding the alarm about earthquake risk in the city since the ’90s. He admits he hasn’t gotten much of a response. He says that when he first proposed the idea of seismic risk in New York City, his fellow scientists “booed and threw vegetables” at him. He volunteered his services to the city’s Office of Emergency Management but says his original offer also fell on deaf ears.
“So I backed away gently and went back to academia.”
Today, he says, the city isn’t much more responsive, but he’s getting a much better response from his peers.
He’s glad for that, he says, but it’s not enough. If anything, the events of 9/11, along with the devastation caused in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy, should tell us just how bad it could be there.
He and Savage agree that what makes the risk most troubling is just how little we know about it. When it comes right down to it, intraplate faults are the least understood. Some scientists think they might be caused by mantle flow deep below the earth’s crust. Others think they might be related to gravitational energy. Still others think quakes occurring there might be caused by the force of the Atlantic ridge as it pushes outward. Then again, it could be because the land is springing back after being compressed thousands of years ago by glaciers (a phenomenon geologists refer to as seismic rebound).
JEDDAH: Iran claimed on Wednesday that it had the ability to enrich fissile uranium to 90 percent purity — the level required to build the core of a nuclear weapon.
“Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization can enrich uranium by 20 percent and 60 percent and if … our reactors need it, it can enrich uranium to 90 percent purity,” President Hassan Rouhani told a Cabinet meeting in Tehran.
The outgoing president, who leaves office next month, also blamed hard-liners in the ruling theocracy for the failure so far to negotiate a revived Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.
“They took away the opportunity to reach an agreement from this government. We deeply regret missing this opportunity,” Rouhani said. “We are very sorry that nearly six months of opportunity has been lost.”
The JCPOA collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out and President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
Tehran responded by incrementally breaching its obligations under the terms of the deal, increasing its stocks of enriched uranium and levels of enrichment, which the agreement caps at 3.67 percent.
Indirect negotiations between Tehran and Washington aimed at reviving the deal have been taking place in Vienna, where the sixth round of talks adjourned on June 20.
No resumption has yet been scheduled, and Iranian and Western officials have said significant gaps remain to be resolved.
Iranian officials said Ebrahim Raisi, the incoming president, planned to adopt “a harder line” in the talks, and the next round of talks might not take place until late September or early October.
Members of Iran’s nuclear team could be replaced with hard-line officials, but top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi would stay “at least for a while,” they said.
One official said Raisi planned to show “less flexibility and demand more concessions” from Washington, such as keeping a chain of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in place and insisting on the removal of US sanctions related to human rights and terrorism.
Two US Air Force C-130J Super Hercules from the 37th Airlift Squadron landed in Israel last week with equipment and troops from US Air Forces in Europe and Air Force Africa Airmen and ended on Tuesday.
Juniper Falcon focused on scenarios that would see the deployment of US forces in Israel under fire during conflict and saw troops train in several locations across the country.
According to a statement released by EUCOM, the drill, “ serves as an opportunity for US military personnel and the IDF to exercise together and learn from one another” and “represents another step in the deliberate and strategic relationship between the US and Israel and contributes to overall regional stability.”
During the drill Lt.-Gen. Steven L. Basham, Deputy Commander of US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa came to Israel and met with senior IDF officials including the head of the Operation’s Division Brig.-Gen. Oded Basiok, the Head of the IAF Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin and the Commander of the Air Defense Division Brig.-Gen. Gilad Biran.According to the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit, the officers discussed the fighting between Israel and Hamas in May and the conclusions the military came to following the fighting “with the aim of learning and deepening Israeli-American cooperation.”
The 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls saw over 4,360 rockets and missiles fired into Israel from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, around 400 munitions daily – almost four times the daily average of rockets fired per day during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge and 2006 Second Lebanon War.
The IDF has said that while they struck dozens of Hamas targets, including weapons manufacturing plants and multi-barrel rocket launchers during the fighting, they were not able to destroy the group’s rocket arsenal.
Juniper Falcon “is in accordance with long-standing bilateral agreements between US European Command and the Israel Defense Forces,” EUCOM said in a statement, adding that it was a “long-planned event” that is “designed to test simulated emergency response procedures, ballistic missile defense and crisis response assistance in the defense of Israel.”
Washington and Israel have signed an agreement which would see the US come to assist Israel with missile defense in times of war and a week before the drill began the IDF released an updated intelligence assessment that said that the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group has an arsenal of between 130,000-150,000 rockets and missiles and could launch some 3,000 projectiles a day for at least a week should fighting break out.
The exercise was a continuation of a virtual air defense drill that took place in February with IDF troops operating in Israel and American troops in Germany where EUCOM is based.
Despite corona affecting the ability to hold in-person training, the IAF took part in close to 20 drills in the past year.
Indian Point Energy CenterNuclear power plant in Buchanan, New YorkIndian Point Energy Center (IPEC) is a three-unit nuclear power plant station located in Buchanan, New York, just south of Peekskill. It sits on the east bank of the Hudson River, about 36 miles (58 km) north of Midtown Manhattan. The plant generates over 2,000 megawatts (MWe) of electrical power. For reference, the record peak energy consumption of New York City and Westchester County (the ConEdison Service Territory) was set during a seven-day heat wave on July 19, 2013, at 13,322 megawatts. Electrical energy consumption varies greatly with time of day and season.Quick Facts: Country, Location …The plant is owned and operated by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation, and includes two operating Westinghouse pressurized water reactors—designated “Indian Point 2” and “Indian Point 3″—which Entergy bought from Consolidated Edison and the New York Power Authority respectively. The facility also contains the permanently shut-down Indian Point Unit 1 reactor. As of 2015, the number of permanent jobs at the Buchanan plant is approximately 1,000.The original 40-year operating licenses for units 2 and 3 expired in September 2013 and December 2015, respectively. Entergy had applied for license extensions and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was moving toward granting a twenty-year extension for each reactor. However, after pressure from local environmental groups and New York governor Andrew Cuomo, it was announced that the plant is scheduled to be shut down by 2021. Local groups had cited increasingly frequent issues with the aging units, ongoing environmental releases, and the proximity of the plant to New York City.ReactorsHistory and designThe reactors are built on land that originally housed the Indian Point Amusement Park, but was acquired by Consolidated Edison (ConEdison) on October 14, 1954. Indian Point 1, built by ConEdison, was a 275-megawatt Babcock & Wilcox supplied  pressurized water reactor that was issued an operating license on March 26, 1962 and began operations on September 16, 1962. The first core used a thorium-based fuel with stainless steel cladding, but this fuel did not live up to expectations for core life. The plant was operated with uranium dioxide fuel for the remainder of its life. The reactor was shut down on October 31, 1974, because the emergency core cooling system did not meet regulatory requirements. All spent fuel was removed from the reactor vessel by January 1976, but the reactor still stands. The licensee, Entergy, plans to decommission Unit 1 when Unit 2 is decommissioned.The two additional reactors, Indian Point 2 and 3, are four-loop Westinghouse pressurized water reactors both of similar design. Units 2 and 3 were completed in 1974 and 1976, respectively. Unit 2 has a generating capacity of 1,032 MW, and Unit 3 has a generating capacity of 1,051 MW. Both reactors use uranium dioxide fuel of no more than 4.8% U-235 enrichment. The reactors at Indian Point are protected by containment domes made of steel-reinforced concrete that is 40 inches thick, with a carbon steel liner.Nuclear capacity in New York stateUnits 2 and 3 are two of six operating nuclear energy sources in New York State. New York is one of the five largest states in terms of nuclear capacity and generation, accounting for approximately 5% of the national totals. Indian Point provides 39% of the state’s nuclear capacity. Nuclear power produces 34.2% of the state’s electricity, higher than the U.S. average of 20.6%. In 2017, Indian Point generated approximately 10% of the state’s electricity needs, and 25% of the electricity used in New York City and Westchester County. Its contract with Consolidated Edison is for just 560 megawatts. The New York Power Authority, which built Unit 3, stopped buying electricity from Indian Point in 2012. NYPA supplies the subways, airports, and public schools and housing in NYC and Westchester County. Entergy sells the rest of Indian Point’s output into the NYISO administered electric wholesale markets and elsewhere in New England. In 2013, New York had the fourth highest average electricity prices in the United States. Half of New York’s power demand is in the New York City region; about two-fifths of generation originates there.RefuelingThe currently operating Units 2 and 3 are each refueled on a two-year cycle. At the end of each fuel cycle, one unit is brought offline for refueling and maintenance activities. On March 2, 2015, Indian Point 3 was taken offline for 23 days to perform its refueling operations. Entergy invested $50 million in the refueling and other related projects for Unit 3, of which $30 million went to employee salaries. The unit was brought back online on March 25, 2015.EffectsEconomic impactA June 2015 report by a lobby group called Nuclear Energy Institute found that the operation of Indian Point generates $1.3 billion of annual economic output in local counties, $1.6 billion statewide, and $2.5 billion across the United States. In 2014, Entergy paid $30 million in state and local property taxes. The total tax revenue (direct and secondary) was nearly $340 million to local, state, and federal governments. According to the Village of Buchanan budget for 2016–2017, a payment in lieu of taxes in the amount of $2.62 million was received in 2015-2016, and was projected to be $2.62 million in 2016–2017 – the majority of which can be assumed to come from the Indian Point Energy Center.Over the last decade, the station has maintained a capacity factor of greater than 93 percent. This is consistently higher than the nuclear industry average and than other forms of generation. The reliability helps offset the severe price volatility of other energy sources (e.g., natural gas) and the indeterminacy of renewable electricity sources (e.g., solar, wind).Indian Point directly employs about 1,000 full-time workers. This employment creates another 2,800 jobs in the five-county region, and 1,600 in other industries in New York, for a total of 5,400 in-state jobs. Additionally, another 5,300 indirect jobs are created out of state, creating a sum total of 10,700 jobs throughout the United States.Environmental concernsEnvironmentalists have expressed concern about increased carbon emissions with the impending shutdown of Indian Point (generating electricity with nuclear energy creates no carbon emissions). A study undertaken by Environmental Progress found that closure of the plant would cause power emissions to jump 29% in New York, equivalent to the emissions from 1.4 million additional cars on New York roads.Some environmental groups have expressed concerns about the operation of Indian Point, including radiation pollution and endangerment of wildlife, but whether Indian Point has ever posed a significant danger to wildlife or the public remains controversial. Though anti-nuclear group Riverkeeper notes “Radioactive leakage from the plant containing several radioactive isotopes, such as strontium-90, cesium-137, cobalt-60, nickel-63 and tritium, a rarely-occurring isotope of hydrogen, has flowed into groundwater that eventually enters the Hudson River in the past, there is no evidence radiation from the plant has ever posed a significant hazard to local residents or wildlife. In the last year[when?], nine tritium leaks have occurred, however, even at their highest levels the leaks have never exceeded one-tenth of one percent of US Nuclear Regulatory Commission limits.In February 2016, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a full investigation by state environment and health officials and is partnering with organizations like Sierra Club, Riverkeepers, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, Scenic Hudson and Physicians for Social Responsibility in seeking the permanent closure of the plant. However, Cuomo’s motivation for closing the plant was called into question after it was revealed two top former aides, under federal prosecution for influence-peddling, had lobbied on behalf of natural gas company Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) to kill Indian Point. In his indictment, US attorney Preet Bharara wrote “the importance of the plant [CPV’s proposed Valley Energy Center, a plant powered by natural gas] to the State depended at least in part, on whether [Indian Point] was going to be shut down.”In April 2016 climate scientist James Hansen took issue with calls to shut the plant down, including those from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “The last few weeks have seen an orchestrated campaign to mislead the people of New York about the essential safety and importance of Indian Point nuclear plant to address climate change,” wrote Hansen, adding “Sanders has offered no evidence that NRC [U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission] has failed to do its job, and he has no expertise in over-riding NRC’s judgement. For the sake of future generations who could be harmed by irreversible climate change, I urge New Yorkers to reject this fear mongering and uphold science against ideology.”Indian Point removes water from the nearby Hudson River. Despite the use of fish screens, the cooling system kills over a billion fish eggs and larvae annually. According to one NRC report from 2010, as few as 38% of alewives survive the screens. On September 14, 2015, a state hearing began in regards to the deaths of fish in the river, and possibly implementing a shutdown period from May to August. An Indian Point spokesman stated that such a period would be unnecessary, as Indian Point “is fully protective of life in the Hudson River and $75 million has been spent over the last 30 years on scientific studies demonstrating that the plant has no harmful impact to adult fish.” The hearings lasted three weeks. Concerns were also raised over the planned building of new cooling towers, which would cut down forest land that is suspected to be used as breeding ground by muskrat and mink. At the time of the report, no minks or muskrats were spotted there.SafetyIndian Point Energy Center has been given an incredible amount of scrutiny from the media and politicians and is regulated more heavily than various other power plants in the state of New York (i.e., by the NRC in addition to FERC, the NYSPSC, the NYISO, the NYSDEC, and the EPA). On a forced outage basis – incidents related to electrical equipment failure that force a plant stoppage – it provides a much more reliable operating history than most other power plants in New York. Beginning at the end of 2015, Governor Cuomo began to ramp up political action against the Indian Point facility, opening an investigation with the state public utility commission, the department of health, and the department of environmental conservation. To put the public service commission investigation in perspective: most electric outage investigations conducted by the commission are in response to outages with a known number of affected retail electric customers. By November 17, 2017, the NYISO accepted Indian Point’s retirement notice.In 1997, Indian Point Unit 3 was removed from the NRC’s list of plants that receive increased attention from the regulator. An engineer for the NRC noted that the plant had been experiencing increasingly fewer problems during inspections. On March 10, 2009 the Indian Point Power Plant was awarded the fifth consecutive top safety rating for annual operations by the Federal regulators. According to the Hudson Valley Journal News, the plant had shown substantial improvement in its safety culture in the previous two years. A 2003 report commissioned by then-Governor George Pataki concluded that the “current radiological response system and capabilities are not adequate to…protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation in the event of a release from Indian Point”. More recently, in December 2012 Entergy commissioned a 400-page report on the estimates of evacuation times. This report, performed by emergency planning company KLD Engineering, concluded that the existing traffic management plans provided by Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties are adequate and require no changes. According to one list that ranks U.S. nuclear power plants by their likelihood of having a major natural disaster related incident, Indian Point is the most likely to be hit by a natural disaster, mainly an earthquake. Despite this, the owners of the plant still say that safety is a selling point for the nuclear power plant.Incidents In 1973, five months after Indian Point 2 opened, the plant was shut down when engineers discovered buckling in the steel liner of the concrete dome in which the nuclear reactor is housed. On October 17, 1980, 100,000 gallons of Hudson River water leaked into the Indian Point 2 containment building from the fan cooling unit, undetected by a safety device designed to detect hot water. The flooding, covering the first nine feet of the reactor vessel, was discovered when technicians entered the building. Two pumps that should have removed the water were found to be inoperative. NRC proposed a $2,100,000 fine for the incident. In February 2000, Unit 2 experienced a Steam Generator Tube Rupture (SGTR), which allowed primary water to leak into the secondary system through one of the steam generators. All four steam generators were subsequently replaced. In 2005, Entergy workers while digging discovered a small leak in a spent fuel pool. Water containing tritium and strontium-90 was leaking through a crack in the pool building and then finding its way into the nearby Hudson River. Workers were able to keep the spent fuel rods safely covered despite the leak. On March 22, 2006 The New York Times also reported finding radioactive nickel-63 and strontium in groundwater on site. In 2007, a transformer at Unit 3 caught fire, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission raised its level of inspections, because the plant had experienced many unplanned shutdowns. According to The New York Times, Indian Point “has a history of transformer problems”. On April 23, 2007, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined the owner of the Indian Point nuclear plant $130,000 for failing to meet a deadline for a new emergency siren plan. The 150 sirens at the plant are meant to alert residents within 10 miles to a plant emergency. On January 7, 2010, NRC inspectors reported that an estimated 600,000 gallons of mildly radioactive steam was intentionally vented to the atmosphere after an automatic shutdown of Unit 2. After the vent, one of the vent valves unintentionally remained slightly open for two days. The levels of tritium in the steam were within the allowable safety limits defined in NRC standards. On November 7, 2010, an explosion occurred in a main transformer for Indian Point 2, spilling oil into the Hudson River. Entergy later agreed to pay a $1.2 million penalty for the transformer explosion. July 2013, a former supervisor, who worked at the Indian Point nuclear power plant for twenty-nine years, was arrested for falsifying the amount of particulate in the diesel fuel for the plant’s backup generators. On May 9, 2015, a transformer failed at Indian Point 3, causing the automated shutdown of reactor 3. A fire that resulted from the failure was extinguished, and the reactor was placed in a safe and stable condition. The failed transformer contained about 24,000 gallons of dielectric fluid, which is used as an insulator and coolant when the transformer is energized. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that about 3,000 gallons of dielectric fluid entered the river following the failure. In June 2015, a mylar balloon floated into a switchyard, causing an electrical problem resulting in the shutdown of Reactor 3. In July 2015, Reactor 3 was shut down after a water pump failure. On December 5, 2015, Indian Point 2 was shut down after several control rods lost power. On February 6, 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo informed the public that radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into the groundwater at the Indian Point Nuclear facility.Spent fuelIndian Point stores used fuel rods in two spent fuel pools at the facility. The spent fuel pools at Indian Point are not stored under a containment dome like the reactor, but rather they are contained within an indoor 40-foot-deep pool and submerged under 27 feet of water. Water is a natural and effective barrier to radiation. The spent fuel pools at Indian Point are set in bedrock and are constructed of concrete walls that are four to six feet wide, with a quarter-inch thick stainless steel inner liner. The pools each have multiple redundant backup cooling systems.Indian Point began dry cask storage of spent fuel rods in 2008, which is a safe and environmentally sound option according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Some rods have already been moved to casks from the spent fuel pools. The pools will be kept nearly full of spent fuel, leaving enough space to allow emptying the reactor completely. Dry cask storage systems are designed to resist floods, tornadoes, projectiles, temperature extremes, and other unusual scenarios. The NRC requires the spent fuel to be cooled and stored in the spent fuel pool for at least five years before being transferred to dry casks.Earthquake riskIn 2008, researchers from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory located a previously unknown active seismic zone running from Stamford, Connecticut, to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, New York—the intersection of the Stamford-Peekskill line with the well-known Ramapo Fault—which passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast, but scientists dispute how active this roughly 200-million-year-old fault really is. Many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. Visible at ground level, the fault line likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.In July 2013, Entergy engineers reassessed the risk of seismic damage to Unit 3 and submitted their findings in a report to the NRC. It was found that risk leading to reactor core damage is 1 in 106,000 reactor years using U.S. Geological Survey data; and 1 in 141,000 reactor years using Electric Power Research Institute data. Unit 3’s previous owner, the New York Power Authority, had conducted a more limited analysis in the 1990s than Unit 2’s previous owner, Con Edison, leading to the impression that Unit 3 had fewer seismic protections than Unit 2. Neither submission of data from the previous owners was incorrect.According to a company spokesman, Indian Point was built to withstand an earthquake of 6.1 on the Richter scale. Entergy executives have also noted “that Indian Point had been designed to withstand an earthquake much stronger than any on record in the region, though not one as powerful as the quake that rocked Japan.”The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Indian Point was Reactor 2: 1 in 30,303; Reactor 3: 1 in 10,000, according to an NRC study published in August 2010. Msnbc.com reported based on the NRC data that “Indian Point nuclear reactor No. 3 has the highest risk of earthquake damage in the country, according to new NRC risk estimates provided to msnbc.com.” According to the report, the reason is that plants in known earthquake zones like California were designed to be more quake-resistant than those in less affected areas like New York. The NRC did not dispute the numbers but responded in a release that “The NRC results to date should not be interpreted as definitive estimates of seismic risk,” because the NRC does not rank plants by seismic risk.IPEC Units 2 and 3 both operated at 100% full power before, during, and after the Virginia earthquake on August 23, 2011. A thorough inspection of both units by plant personnel immediately following this event verified no significant damage occurred at either unit.Emergency planningThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.According to an analysis of U.S. Census data for MSNBC, the 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Indian Point was 272,539, an increase of 17.6 percent during the previous ten years. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 17,220,895, an increase of 5.1 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles include New York (41 miles to city center); Bridgeport, Conn. (40 miles); Newark, N.J. (39 miles); and Stamford, Conn. (24 miles).In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima incident in Japan, the State Department recommended that any Americans in Japan stay beyond fifty miles from the area. Columnist Peter Applebome, writing in The New York Times, noted that such an area around Indian Point would include “almost all of New York City except for Staten Island; almost all of Nassau County and much of Suffolk County; all of Bergen County, N.J.; all of Fairfield, Conn.” He quotes Purdue University professor Daniel Aldrich as saying “Many scholars have already argued that any evacuation plans shouldn’t be called plans, but rather “fantasy documents””.The current 10-mile plume-exposure pathway Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) is one of two EPZs intended to facilitate a strategy for protective action during an emergency and comply with NRC regulations. “The exact size and shape of each EPZ is a result of detailed planning which includes consideration of the specific conditions at each site, unique geographical features of the area, and demographic information. This preplanned strategy for an EPZ provides a substantial basis to support activity beyond the planning zone in the extremely unlikely event it would be needed.”In an interview, Entergy executives said they doubt that the evacuation zone would be expanded to reach as far as New York City.Indian Point is protected by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including a National Guard base within a mile of the facility, as well as by private off-site security forces.During the September 11 attacks, American Airlines Flight 11 flew near the Indian Point Energy Center en route to the World Trade Center. Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers/plotters, had considered nuclear facilities for targeting in a terrorist attack. Entergy says it is prepared for a terrorist attack, and asserts that a large airliner crash into the containment building would not cause reactor damage. Following 9/11 the NRC required operators of nuclear facilities in the U.S. to examine the effects of terrorist events and provide planned responses. In September 2006, the Indian Point Security Department successfully completed mock assault exercises required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, according to environmental group Riverkeeper, these NRC exercises are inadequate because they do not envision a sufficiently large group of attackers.According to The New York Times, fuel stored in dry casks is less vulnerable to terrorist attack than fuel in the storage pools.RecertificationUnits 2 and 3 were both originally licensed by the NRC for 40 years of operation. The NRC limits commercial power reactor licenses to an initial 40 years, but also permits such licenses to be renewed. This original 40-year term for reactor licenses was based on economic and antitrust considerations, not on limitations of nuclear technology. Due to this selected period, however, some structures and components may have been engineered on the basis of an expected 40-year service life. The original federal license for Unit Two expired on September 28, 2013, and the license for Unit Three was due to expire in December 2015. On April 30, 2007, Entergy submitted an application for a 20-year renewal of the licenses for both units. On May 2, 2007, the NRC announced that this application is available for public review. Because the owner submitted license renewal applications at least five years prior to the original expiration date, the units are allowed to continue operation past this date while the NRC considers the renewal application.On September 23, 2007, the antinuclear group Friends United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE) filed legal papers with the NRC opposing the relicensing of the Indian Point 2 reactor. The group contended that the NRC improperly held Indian Point to less stringent design requirements. The NRC responded that the newer requirements were put in place after the plant was complete.On December 1, 2007, Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer called a press conference with the participation of environmental advocacy groups Clearwater and Riverkeeper to announce their united opposition to the re-licensing of the Indian Point nuclear power plants. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of the Attorney General requested a hearing as part of the process put forth by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In September 2007 The New York Times reported on the rigorous legal opposition Entergy faces in its request for a 20-year licensing extension for Indian Point Nuclear Reactor 2.A water quality certificate is a prerequisite for a twenty-year renewal by the NRC. On April 3, 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that Indian Point violates the federal Clean Water Act, because “the power plant’s water-intake system kills nearly a billion aquatic organisms a year, including the shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species.” The state is demanding that Entergy constructs new closed-cycle cooling towers at a cost of over $1 billion, a decision that will effectively close the plant for nearly a year. Regulators denied Entergy’s request to install fish screens that they said would improve fish mortality more than new cooling towers. Anti-nuclear groups and environmentalists have in the past tried to close the plant, which is in a more densely populated area than any of the 66 other nuclear plant sites in the US. Opposition to the plant[from whom?] increased after the September 2001 terror attacks, when one of the hijacked jets flew close to the plant on its way to the World Trade Center. Public worries also increased after the 2011 Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and after a report highlighting the Indian Point plant’s proximity to the Ramapo Fault.Advocates of recertifying Indian Point include former New York City mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph W. Giuliani. Bloomberg says that “Indian Point is critical to the city’s economic viability”. The New York Independent System Operator maintains that in the absence of Indian Point, grid voltages would degrade, which would limit the ability to transfer power from upstate New York resources through the Hudson Valley to New York City.As the current governor, Andrew Cuomo continues to call for closure of Indian Point. In late June 2011, a Cuomo advisor in a meeting with Entergy executives informed them for the first time directly of the Governor’s intention to close the plant, while the legislature approved a bill to streamline the process of siting replacement plants.Nuclear energy industry figures and analysts responded to Cuomo’s initiative by questioning whether replacement electrical plants could be certified and built rapidly enough to replace Indian Point, given New York state’s “cumbersome regulation process”, and also noted that replacement power from out of state sources will be hard to obtain because New York has weak ties to generation capacity in other states. They said that possible consequences of closure will be a sharp increase in the cost of electricity for downstate users and even “rotating black-outs”.Several members of the House of Representatives representing districts near the plant have also opposed recertification, including Democrats Nita Lowey, Maurice Hinchey, and Eliot Engel and then Republican member Sue Kelly.In November 2016 the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the application to renew the NRC operating licences must be reviewed against the state’s coastal management program, which The New York State Department of State had already decided was inconsistent with coastal management requirements. Entergy has filed a lawsuit regarding the validity of Department of State’s decision.ClosureBeginning at the end of 2015, Governor Cuomo began to ramp up political action against the Indian Point facility, opening investigations with the state public utility commission, the department of health and the department of environmental conservation. To put the public service commission investigation in perspective, most electric outage investigations conducted by the commission are in response to outages with a known number of affected retail electric customers. By November 17, 2017, the NYISO accepted Indian Point’s retirement notice.In January 2017, the governor’s office announced closure by 2020-21. The closure, along with pollution control, challenges New York’s ability to be supplied. Among the solution proposals are storage, renewables (solar and wind), a new transmission cables from Canada  and a 650MW natural gas plant located in Wawayanda, New York. There was also a 1,000 MW merchant HVDC transmission line proposed in 2013 to the public service commission that would have interconnected at Athens, New York and Buchanan, New York, however this project was indefinitely stalled when its proposed southern converter station site was bought by the Town of Cortlandt in a land auction administered by Con Edison. As of October 1, 2018, the 650 MW plant built in Wawayanda, New York, by CPV Valley, is operating commercially. The CPV Valley plant has been associated with Governor Cuomo’s close aid, Joe Percoco, and the associated corruption trial. Another plant being built, Cricket Valley Energy Center, rated at 1,100 MW, is on schedule to provide energy by 2020 in Dover, New York. An Indian Point contingency plan, initiated in 2012 by the NYSPSC under the administration of Cuomo, solicited energy solutions from which a Transmission Owner Transmission Solutions (TOTS) plan was selected. The TOTS projects provide 450 MW of additional transfer capability across a NYISO defined electric transmission corridor in the form of three projects: series compensation at a station in Marcy, New York, reconductoring a transmission line, adding an additional transmission line, and “unbottling” Staten Island capacity. These projects, with the exception of part of the Staten Island “unbottling” were in service by mid-2016. The cost of the TOTS projects are distributed among various utilities in their rate cases before the public service commission and the cost allocation amongst themselves was approved by FERC. NYPA and LIPA are also receiving a portion. The cost of the TOTS projects has been estimated in the range of $27 million to $228 million. An energy highway initiative was also prompted by this order (generally speaking, additional lines on the Edic-Pleasant Valley and the Oakdale-Fraser transmission corridors) which is still going through the regulatory process in both the NYISO and NYSPSC.
Under the current plan, one reactor is scheduled to be shut down in April 2020 and the second by April 2021. A report by the New York Building Congress, a construction industry association, has said that NYC will need additional natural gas pipelines to accommodate the city’s increasing demand for energy. Environmentalists have argued that the power provided by Indian point can be replaced by renewable energy, combined with conservation measures and improvements to the efficiency of the electrical grid.
The United States Geological Survey is reporting that a 2.8 magnitude earthquake hit Massena, N.Y., on Wednesday, and it is one of many recent earthquakes in the state, according to the Times Union. (Photo courtesy of Gary S Chapman/Getty Images)By Michael O’Brien | mo’firstname.lastname@example.org shares
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The United States Geological Survey is reporting that a 2.8 magnitude earthquake hit Massena, N.Y., this week, and it is one of many recent earthquakes in the state, according to a recent report.
At first glance, United States President Joe Biden’s decision to bring home the 2,500 American troops stationed in Iraq by the end of this year seems sensible in terms of internal politics. Already during his election campaign, he promised to put an end to the long-running American tragedy.
Not only did former President George Bush, who declared the war, fail to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime and turn Baghdad into a democracy, but set in motion the violent and chaotic process of the disintegration of the Iraqi nation into various ethnic and religious components, giving a window of opportunity to Iran to expand its control in the divided country.
As such, disengaging from the region seems like a necessary step, one that would help save lives and resources. And yet, despite the clear benefits of such a move, the Biden administration, which has deprioritized the Middle East, must not ignore its possible regional impacts.
One cannot help but wonder what would become of the Abraham Accords in the absence of US military troops in the region, providing support and backing.
Moreover, withdrawing from Iraq will be a part of a more comprehensive US strategy in the region that includes, among other things, minimizing US naval presence in the Gulf, raising concern in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and even Israel.
For the latter, US disengagement from Iraq poses a clear and tangible threat. If Iran were to take Iraq over entirely, its militia would increase its activities against Israel, especially on the Syrian border.
Israel’s ability to neutralize such a threat might be undermined, with Moscow’s decision to change the rules of the game in the region, and it no longer continuing its countermeasures against Tehran.
Given that the US knows the implications of its decision on Israel, one can assume the move is a calculated one. Washington is trying to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, and its decision to withdraw at this time might be an attempt to soften Iran’s stance in the negotiations.
Renewing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and thus paving the way for a renewed relationship between the two countries, is part and parcel of Biden’s policy and has been ever since he was vice president in the Obama administration.
Therefore, even if Washington agrees to back the impending deal in a way that would provide Israel with security, it is highly doubtful that it will compensate for the damage that abandoning Iraq and renewing the nuclear deal will cause.
In light of all the above mentioned, let us look at the situation realistically and brace for the day Israel is exposed to great danger, and is in need of protecting itself.
The Japanese constitution bans the development and deployment of such weapons. But escalation of threats by U.S. and Chinese officials may threaten this longstanding policy.
This potential for Japan to launch weapons of mass destruction comes at a time of increasing presence of U.S. warships in the South China Sea. China was cruelly devastated by Japan in World War II, something effectively forgotten in the U.S. but not in China. Indeed, a Chinese Communist Party video, still not confirmed as Chinese policy, threatens repeated nuclear attack on Japan in response to anticipated military provocations.
This would amount to a departure from China’s long-term policy of “no first use” (of nuclear weapons). Incredibly, the U.S. has not yet committed itself to a “no first use” policy and has expanded its own nuclear weapons development programs. The recognition of potential danger from such development was clearly visible in the multi-lateral agreement preventing such activity in Iran. The U.S. withdrew its treaty obligations under the Trump administration and has still not been able to revive the agreement.
History in the atomic era contains several examples in which deficiencies in communication during periods of hostility and threats almost led us inadvertently into the launch of a nuclear war.
The atomic scientists who monitor the level of risk have moved the nuclear doomsday clock closer to midnight. Massive expenditures for nuclear weapons development have produced tactical weapons more likely to be used and high yield weapons with destructive capacity far exceeding those used to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
These weapons continue to provoke adversaries, making us less secure. U.S. military policy, resulting in 800 military bases in 80 countries, has not brought us security.
We live in a world in which the other greatest threats to life come from global warming and pandemic illness. To combat these threats international cooperation is needed.
We have developed a framework for such cooperation through the World Health Organization and other agencies of the UN. They have not been perfect but strengthening international collaboration in defeating pandemics and in radically reducing climate chaos may prove to be an insurance policy against falling into a nuclear war. When the reach of weaponry is global the reach of our relationships must be too.
This is far better than relying upon military powers to demonize competitors and continuing to see threats and force as a way that supposedly sane leaders can vie for competitive advantage. Building back better should mean the goods of life, not the instruments of death.
An appropriate agenda would start with rejecting first use of nuclear weapons, ending the budget for nuclear weapons, ending the idea that wars are ever moral alternatives to peaceful conflict resolution and demanding that our government rise to a level of mature diplomacy with all nations.
Negotiations toward zero nuclear weapons should be underway already, something that inspection technology makes practical and doable. We should lead and should incentivize all nuclear powers to join. This is literally a mortal threat to humankind.
Well-meaning military strategists are mired in a very dangerous game. They must be reminded that destroying our planet in a nuclear war would be a betrayal of everything we hold dear.
(Dr. Marc Pilisuk is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, a faculty member at Saybrook University, and the co-author of “The Hidden Structure of Violence.” He is a contributor to PeaceVoice, a program of the Oregon Peace Institute, http://www.peacevoice.info/.)
A supporter of Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite armed groups popular mobilisation forces carries the pictures of slain Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and General Qassem Soleimani during a symbolic funeral
Powerful Shia political and militia leaders in Iraq are divided over Joe Biden’s promise to end a US combat mission in Iraq, amid reports Iran’s top general has paid a secret visit to the country to discuss the plan.
Iran-backed militias in Iraq have stepped up attacks on US forces in the country, piling pressure on Iraqi prime minister Mustafa Kadhimi to secure a withdrawal agreement during meetings in Washington this week.
On Monday President Biden promised to end the “combat mission” by the end of the year but did not explicitly specify if he planned to reduce the 2,500 or so American troops believed to be there.
Administration officials told US media outlets it was likely a withdrawal on paper: and most of the forces would remain but be reclassified in training roles.
Nevertheless, Influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose calls for anti-US presence protests in the past have seen tens of thousands take to the streets, thanked the Iraqi prime minister for the “efforts undertaken to crystallise this agreement”.
It followed a similar message, from political leader and cleric Ammar al-Hakim, who heads up the Hikma Movement that is known to be relatively closely aligned with Iran’s interests in Iraq. Unusually tweeting in English Hakim said the negotiating team in Washington were “crowned with success”.
The Fatah parliamentary coalition, led by militiaman Hadi al-Ameri, meanwhile described the withdrawal as “a national achievement and positive step”.
But a spokesperson Kataib Hezbollah told The Independent they did not believe a full withdrawal would happen, saying instead it was a “deceptive declaration to maintain the occupation”. “There was no official announcement of withdrawal from President but rather a change in the character of the forces from combative to advisory, and this is a manipulation of words and a clear deception,” the spokesperson said.
“The resistance will remain fully prepared until the real withdrawal.”
It came amid reports in Kurdish news outlet Shafaq News that Esmail Qaani, the new commander of Iran’s Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), secretly travelled to Baghdad to discuss the withdrawal with political and armed groups.
It reportedly followed another secretive meeting he held in Baghdad in June.
The announcement comes on the heels of Biden’s decision to withdraw fully from Afghanistan nearly 20 years after the US launched that war in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Together, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have heavily taxed the U.S. military.
Tensions have flared in Iraq over the continued presence of US troops there, despite the fact the administration maintains they are mostly in advisory and training roles.
That reached boiling point last January when under the orders of former US President Donald Trump, the US assassinated Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in an airstrike on Baghdad airport.
Since then, there have been dozens of rocket attacks on US presence in the country.
Qaani reportedly discussed details of the withdrawal as some Iran-aligned groups in Iraq expressed reservations about the deal.
Saad al Saadi – a senior member of the pro-Iran militia group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, echoed Kateab Hezbollah’s wor local media that “the resistance factions will end their military operations if their conditions for full and true withdrawal are met.”
In an interview with Shafaq news he added: “Otherwise, military action will continue,” noting that they will give an opportunity for the forces to withdraw.
Satellite pictures taken of China’s Xinjiang province over the last week reveal the construction of what appears to be a nuclear missile silo field containing underground facilities for the storage and launching of missiles.
It comes after reports from The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) only weeks earlier of a different missile storage field containing 120 silos under construction in Gansu province near Yumen.
The US Strategic Command which comes under the Department of Defense and looks after deterrence measures posted about China’s latest nuclear actions on Twitter.
“This is the second time in two months the public has discovered what we have been saying all along about the growing threat the world faces and the veil of secrecy that surrounds it,” the US Strategic Command said.
The Hami storage facility located in Xinjiang covers 800 square kilometres and is only in the initial stages of development. High resolution satellite images were provided by Planet and dated to July 25.
Construction started in March this year and has continued at a rapid pace with dome-shaped shelters set up over 14 silos and groundwork laid for 19 more silos according to the FAS.
Scientists have predicted the complex could contain up to 110 silos when completed and the two new sites constitute the “most significant expansion of the Chinese nuclear arsenal” according to the FAS.
In 2020 the Pentagon warned China was on track to double its nuclear warhead stockpile and reports of the two new sites come as the US and Russia prepare for arms control talks.
At the time of the Pentagon’s warning China had at least 200 warheads while the United States is understood to have 3,800.
A recent in-person meeting between US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has been viewed by some as an opportunity revive negotiations on nuclear arms reduction target
China has not yet joined any arms control talks and face-to-face discussions between Ms Sherman and Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng held a few days ago did not address weapons storage programs.
At the meeting China set out three demands relating to the nation’s government, development and sovereignty.
The missile silo domes are used to control the climate underneath while sensitive activities are carried out. The storage sites at the new Xinjiang site are separated by close to three kilometres.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — In the past two weeks, five parties have dropped out of Iraq’s election race. Shiite, Sunni, non-sectarian – all sides are questioning the legitimacy of the vote in an environment where powerful militias operate outside government control, activists and elections candidates are threatened, and the electoral commission and political elites are accused of fraud.
Will the election go ahead, is the question on everyone’s lips.
The Sadrist movement was the first to announce its withdrawal when its leader, prominent Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, declared he will not run. “I announce that I am withdrawing my hand from all those who are working with this government, the current and the upcoming, even if they had allegiance to us, the family of Sadr,” Sadr said in a televised speech.
Sadr does not hold elected position himself, but he leads the Sairoon coalition, parliament’s largest bloc.
The Iraqi Communist Party joined the Sadrist movement, calling on the masses not to vote because the elections lack the “slightest degree of integrity.”
In the 2018 election, the Communist Party allied with Sairoon, collectively securing 54 seats.
On Wednesday, the Iraqi Platform, led by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, announced they too were dropping out of the race. A similar decision was made by the National Dialogue Front led by Sunni leader Salih al-Mutlaq.
Wael Abdel Latif, deputy head of the Iraqi Platform party, told Rudaw English on Thursday that with the presence of armed factions threatening the lives of activists, there is no room for fair elections. The electoral law in its current form may lead to internal war between those armed groups, he added.
“The parties have the intention of fraud, and there are four million electoral cards that have been forged in advance. The state will not be able to confront the armed factions, even the United Nations will not be able to monitor every electoral center in the country,” Latif said.
Allawi, who headed the Iraqi government in 2004 – 2005, ran in the 2018 parliamentary elections as head of the National Coalition and won 21 of parliament’s 329 seats.
“We are fully convinced that these elections will be the worst elections in Iraq after 2003,” Latif added.
The Iraqi National House, a new party formed by a group of Tishreen (October movement) protesters, also withdrew from the elections for the same reasons.
Hussain al-Gharabi, the party’s spokesman, told Rudaw English on Thursday that despite government assurances about the elections, it is clear that the ruling political parties have no intention of creating a democratic environment for the vote.
“The conditions for holding the elections are not met, so the party decided to boycott, especially with the presence of uncontrolled weapons and impunity for killers of activists,” Gharabi said.
New election law
Iraq’s electoral system, built after the US invasion of 2003, divides power among Iraq’s biggest religious and ethnic groups – Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. An overhaul of this sectarian system was one of the demands made by protesters who took to Iraq’s streets beginning in October 2019 and forced the resignation of former prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. More than 600 protesters were killed in a wave of violence against the demonstrations, and dozens more have been killed in targeted assassinated.
Electoral laws passed in 2014 and 2018 divided the country into constituencies based on the 18 governorates. The new electoral law expanded the number of constituencies to 83, based on the quota of seats for women.
Twenty five percent of seats in the parliament are reserved for women, numbering to 83 spots. In each constituency, there are three to five seats up for grab, at least one of them reserved for a woman. For example, the province of Baghdad has 17 female MPs; therefore, it will have 17 constituencies according to the new law.
A goal of the smaller electoral districts is better regional representation in parliament, and lawmakers who are connected to their constituencies.
A total of 3,243 candidatesrepresenting 44 coalitions and 267 parties, along with independents, registered with the Independent High Electoral Commission to compete for parliament’s 329 seats.
The head of the Iraqi Communist Party’s political bureau, Raed Fahmy, told English Rudaw on Thursday that there may be a new electoral system in place, but while armed factions threaten candidates, the vote will only guarantee the survival of the same political elites.
“These elections are supposed to bring change, not reproduce the same political class,” he said. “We will not participate in elections in light of the threats to activists, voters and candidates by armed factions. Most of young candidates fled to Erbil.”
Elections will take place as scheduled, Hussein al-Hindawi, an adviser to the prime minister, told Rudaw English on Thursday. The withdrawal of some parties does not constitute a legal reason for canceling or postponing them, he said, noting the government is taking steps to prevent fraud.
“The upcoming elections will be conducted in a completely different way from the previous ones. It will adopt the biometric system that will completely prevent external interference in the elections and will prevent fraud,” he said.
President Barham Salih has suggested tightening the rules on what voter cards are accepted in order to counter fraud. He suggested “preventing the illegal use of short-term voter cards that have not been updated to include biometrics,” adding voters who hold non-updated cards must update them the day of the polls before they vote.
He also proposed the electoral commission announce results with a live broadcast within 24 hours of polls closing.
Will voters boycott?
Despite government assurances, calls to boycott the elections are growing. Interest has been weak from the beginning. The elections, happening a year ahead of schedule, were originally set for June, but the date was pushed to October 10 because registration was low.
In the face of violence and threats to their lives, with killers of activists walking the streets with impunity, some protesters have called for a boycott and Iraq’s Christian voters said they will not participate because of concerns over possible fraud.
But a boycott would diminish the already small independent voice in the parliament, argued an Iraqi watcher who writes under the name Local Observer.
“While it might take several election cycles for pro-reform activists to be well-represented in parliament, the gradual reduction of the parliamentary representation of Sadrists and loyalists would contribute to depriving them of political cover and hinder their ability to further entrench themselves into the state and its institutions,” she wrote.
Political analyst Ihsan al-Shammari told Rudaw English that most of the parties that announced their withdrawal were established parties that participated in previous elections and feared losing popularity after the October protests.
“It seems that these forces are pushing towards postponing the elections because the calculations for staying in the current government are better for them than holding elections and losing them,” he said.
Calls for a boycott are an attempt to convince people that the elections are futile, he said, but they will not affect the decision to hold the vote on time, because reputations are at stake.
“If the [electoral] commission acquiesced to the political decision of these parties, this means that it is weak, politicized and not independent,” he said.
The History of Earthquakes In New YorkBy Meteorologist Michael Gouldrick New York State PUBLISHED 6:30 AM ET Sep. 09, 2020 PUBLISHED 6:30 AM EDT Sep. 09, 2020New York State has a long history of earthquakes. Since the early to mid 1700s there have been over 550 recorded earthquakes that have been centered within the state’s boundary. New York has also been shaken by strong earthquakes that occurred in southeast Canada and the Mid-Atlantic states.
Earthquakes in the northeast U.S. and southeast Canada are not as intense as those found in other parts of the world but can be felt over a much larger area. The reason for this is the makeup of the ground. In our part of the world, the ground is like a jigsaw puzzle that has been put together. If one piece shakes, the whole puzzle shakes.In the Western U.S., the ground is more like a puzzle that hasn’t been fully put together yet. One piece can shake violently, but only the the pieces next to it are affected while the rest of the puzzle doesn’t move.In Rochester, New York, the most recent earthquake was reported on March 29th, 2020. It was a 2.6 magnitude shake centered under Lake Ontario. While most did not feel it, there were 54 reports of the ground shaking.So next time you are wondering why the dishes rattled, or you thought you felt the ground move, it certainly could have been an earthquake in New York.Here is a website from the USGS (United Sates Geologic Society) of current earthquakes greater than 2.5 during the past day around the world. As you can see, the Earth is a geologically active planet!Another great website of earthquakes that have occurred locally can be found here.To learn more about the science behind earthquakes, check out this website from the USGS.