North Korea’s Robust Nuclear Program

Steam vapor plumes at the 5 MWe reactor.North Korea nuclear reactors show new signs of activity

(CNN)New satellite imagery examined by Western experts suggests North Korea has begun preliminary testing of one of its nuclear reactors at the Yongbyon research facility. The disclosure comes as preparations get underway for the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in next month — and ahead of Kim’s planned meeting with President Trump in May.

A report by intelligence analysts Jane’s says the imagery indicates the experimental light water reactor, known as an ELWR, could become operational “with little warning” as early as later this year.
According to Jane’s, an image from February 25 shows an emission rising from the reactor’s stack that “implies testing of the machinery at the site.” The stack is “intended to vent noncondensable gases from the reactor’s primary circuit,” Jane’s says.
What is unclear at this stage is whether North Korea plans for the reactor to contribute to electricity generation or its weapons program.
Rob Munks, editor of Jane’s Intelligence Review, says the light-water reactor “could be used for civilian electricity generation — its stated purpose — or diverted towards the nuclear program.”
The reactor is linked to the power grid. Industry experts say that once operational, the ELWR would be able to produce about 25-30 megawatts, perhaps enough to power a town of some 50,000 inhabitants.
DigitalGlobe imagery showing emissions from the stack at the Yongbyon experimental light water reactor in February.

Munks said, “In theory, if the reactor comes online and if it were diverted towards plutonium and tritium production, it could enable North Korea to expand its stock.” By just how much is unclear, he said. Tritium is the most important thermonuclear material for weapons.
Over the last year Jane’s and other research groups have identified increased activity in several parts of the Yongbyon site, 40 miles (75 kilometers) north of Pyongyang. Analysts at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation observed the installation of power lines, a construction and dredging project to supply cooling water to the ELWR and movement of personnel and vehicles.
Construction of the ELWR was completed in 2013 and is optimized for civilian electricity production, but it has “dual-use” potential and can be modified to produce material for nuclear weapons.
An adjacent reactor at Yongbyon also appears to show signs of operation, according to 38 North, a project of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins. Satellite imagery from February shows “steam vapor plumes emanating from the generator hall and river ice melt” near the 5 megawatt reactor. The ice melt would likely indicate that the cooling water pipeline has been extended into the river “to conceal the reactor’s operational status,” 38 North said.
The reactor, which is just upriver from the ELWR, uses pumped-in water from the Kuryong River as its cold water intake and discharges heated water downriver.
“If the reactor is operating again, as the evidence suggests, it means North Korea has resumed production of plutonium presumably for its nuclear weapons program,” 38 North concluded.
Analysts say it has long been North Korea’s goal to construct a light-water reactor. After failing to source one internationally, it began an indigenous program nine years ago.
In the absence of international inspections (inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency were last at Yongbyon in April 2009), it’s very difficult to establish the role of such plants, or estimate how much fissile material and nuclear warheads North Korea has accumulated. Estimates published last year suggested North Korea had anywhere from 20 to 60 nuclear weapons.
So extensive and ambitious has the North Korean nuclear program been — both in terms of weapons and missiles — that the upcoming summits will, even if successful, be the beginning of a very long process.

The Sixth Seal Is Past Due (Revelation 6:12) 

New York City is Past Due for an Earthquake

by , 03/22/11

filed under: News

New York City may appear to be an unlikely place for a major earthquake, but according to history, we’re past due for a serious shake. Seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory say that about once every 100 years, an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 rocks the Big Apple. The last one was a 5.3 tremor that hit in 1884 — no one was killed, but buildings were damaged.

Any tremor above a 6.0 magnitude can be catastrophic, but it is extremely unlikely that New York would ever experience a quake like the recent 8.9 earthquake in Japan. A study by the Earth Observatory found that a 6.0 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and a 7.0 magnitude hits about every 3,400 years.

There are several fault lines in New York’s metro area, including one along 125th Street, which may have caused two small tremors in 1981 and a 5.2 magnitude quake in 1737. There is also a fault line on Dyckman Street in Inwood, and another in Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County. The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation rates the chance of an earthquake hitting the city as moderate.

John Armbruster, a seismologist at the Earth Observatory, said that if a 5.0 magnitude quake struck New York today, it would result in hundreds of millions, possibly billions of dollars in damages. The city’s skyscrapers would not collapse, but older brick buildings and chimneys would topple, likely resulting in casualities.

The Earth Observatory is expanding its studies of potential earthquake damage to the city. They currently have six seismometers at different landmarks throughout the five boroughs, and this summer, they plan to place one at the arch in Washington Square Park and another in Bryant Park.

Won-Young Kim, who works alongside Armbuster, says his biggest concern is that we can’t predict when an earthquake might hit. “It can happen anytime soon,” Kim told the Metro. If it happened tomorrow, he added, “I would not be surprised. We can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.”

Armbuster voiced similar concerns to the Daily News. “Will there be one in my lifetime or your lifetime? I don’t know,” he said. “But this is the longest period we’ve gone without one.”

Via Metro and NY Daily News

Images © Ed Yourdon

Real Threats from the Saudi Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)


Saudi threatens to develop nuclear bomb if Iran does

Xinhua, March 16, 2018

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud announced on Thursday that his country would develop a nuclear bomb if Iran does so, Al Arabiya local news reported.

“We don’t want to own nuclear weapons, but if Iran does that, we would do the same,” he said, adding that the Saudi economy is stronger than Iran’s.

The crown prince also accused Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of harboring expansion ambitions in the Middle East.

The announcement came two days after the Saudi cabinet adopted the national nuclear energy policy that is restricted for peaceful purposes and focuses mainly on the construction of nuclear energy plants.

The policy also requires best exploitation of local natural resources and full application of international standards in radiation waste management.

Southeast Asia Prepares for Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

pakistan-missilSouth Asia’s missile development – Daily Times

Asma Khalid

The South Asia action-reaction dynamics and complex strategic geometry force India and Pakistan to maintain qualitative and quantitative edge in strategic weapons. Both nuclear neighbours are tangled in traditional security competition — enhancing their strategic force capabilities rapidly. India’s pursuit of sophisticated technology and long-range ballistic missile development has not only made Pakistan more determined to acquire similar capabilities to counter Indian threat but also to ensure the credibility of its nuclear deterrence.

A long history of military confrontation and the growing asymmetry and disparity in South Asia has accelerated the process of mastering the latest sophisticated conventional and nuclear technologies.  Therefore, both South Asian nuclear states have developed enough nuclear capable warheads, bombers and ballistic and cruise missiles.

In 2017, significant developments in the nuclear geometry of South Asia have been witnessed.In 2017, significant developments in the nuclear geometry of South Asia have been witnessed. The acquisition of sophisticated nuclear technologies, missile testing, the introduction of the new delivery system and improved payload, ranges, accuracy and reliability of missile programmes indicate the shifting nuclear policy and trends in South Asia. India’s weapons build-up and modernisation spree underscore its shifting nuclear doctrine and force posture. This change is in line with India’s ambitious and hegemonic designs that it has started to pursue vigorously ever since its strategic partnership agreement with the US ostensibly to counter and curtail Chinese influence in the region and beyond. Thus, there is not an iota of doubt that India has increasingly moved towards the adoption of offensive strategies which is clearly reflected by its frequent tests of sophisticated nuclear weapons and technologies. The fact that India conducted 17 missile tests in the year 2017 speaks volumes of its destabilising behaviour. And unfortunately, the US and much of the international community continue to turn a blind eye to these developments at their own peril.

A long history of military confrontation and the growing asymmetry in South Asia has accelerated the process of mastering the latest sophisticated conventional and nuclear technologies

While both Pakistan and India test-fired short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM), medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) and submarine-launched cruise missiles (SLCM), India took the lead vis-à-vis Pakistan by exclusively testing sub-sonic and supersonic cruise missiles from multiple platforms. Of particular concern to Pakistan and neighbouring countries of India, are its tests of the submarine-launched K-4, the air-launched Brah Mos, and Nirbhay missiles which reflect the operationalisation of India’s nuclear triad and ambitions of strengthening BMD. The most notable strategic development is the launch of NS Arighat on 19 November 2017. NS Arighat is the second Arihant-class submarine.

If it were not enough for India’s defence purposes, India has been pursuing advanced technologies for its nuclear-armed missiles. To this end, India’s testing from canister-based launch systems, which generally require the nuclear warheads to be mated to the missile at all times, jeopardises the delicate strategic stability and deterrence stability in South Asia. Nevertheless, Pakistan has been trying hard to avoid being drawn in the costly arms race by relying on the doctrine of Minimum Credible Deterrence. On its part, Pakistan has tested its newly-developed Babur-III (SLCM) and the Ababeel (MIRV), which have multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) capabilities. It is said that Ababeel (MIRV) will facilitate Pakistan to sustain the credibility of its deterrence strategy and neutralise the Indian BMD system due to its ability to deliver multiple warheads.

Moreover, India aims to extend the range of conventional and nuclear precision strike systems and inducting platforms to execute pre-emptive first strikes, such as the integration of the Brah Mos with Su-30 MKI fighter-bombers to further enhance India’s strategic force capabilities. The Indian pursuit of Ballistic Missile Capabilities and BMD system has complicated the security calculations of regional states. Nevertheless, given India’s shift towards offensive or warfighting strategies, Pakistan’s strategic restraint are concerned as India’s offensive force posture has potential to destabilised strategic stability. It is imperative for Pakistan to take effective measures to counter the volatility instigated by Indian Ballistic Missile tests- such as Agni-II and Agni-V.

In response to the most recent test of Agni V, regional states have also shown their concerns such as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated that “preserving the strategic balance and stability in South Asia is conducive to peace and prosperity of regional countries.” This represents that India’s ballistic missile developments demonstrate a significant shift in deterrence postures of regional states. It is viewed that introduction of new delivery systems, and extended ranges of Ballistic and cruise missiles developments will have a spillover effect on its neighbouring states thus triggering and consolidating a new missile race in the region which is comprised of three nuclear weapon states: China, India and Pakistan.

However, the most significant developments in South Asia in the year2017 were: first, the finalisation of ‘Nuclear Triad’ by both India and Pakistan; second, development of Second Strike Capability; and third, India’s admission into Wassenaar Arrangement and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). India’s admission to Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) soon after its admission into MTCR shows that India is being rapidly incorporated among the nuclear weapon states. The continued growth of India’s missile inventory and military modernisation of its conventional and nuclear forces pose an unprecedented complication for Pakistan’s security and regional stability. Many strategic experts agree that the security environment in South Asia is complex as India’s robust modernisation and enlargement of its conventional and nuclear forces are challenging for Pakistan. In this regard, Pakistan believes that its pursuit of sophisticated nuclear capabilities and missile programme appears to be a logical response to counter Indian aggression by maintaining credible minimum deterrence.

The writer is currently working as Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute and can be reached at

 Published in Daily Times, March 16th 2018.

Time to End the Iran Deal

Iran says Tillerson firing shows US ‘determined’ to quit nuclear deal


14 Mar 2018, 7:02 pm

After hard-line Pompeo appointed, Iranian deputy foreign minister asserts that if Washington bolts accord, Tehran will do same

By Agencies14 Mar 2018, 7:02 pm

Rex Tillerson, outgoing US Secretary of State, makes a statement after his dismissal at the State Department in Washington, DC, March 13, 2018. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

TEHRAN — US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s sacking shows that Washington is set on quitting the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, Iran’s deputy foreign minister said Wednesday.

The United States is determined to leave the nuclear deal, and changes at the State Department were made with that goal in mind — or at least it was one of the reasons,” Abbas Araghchi said in comments carried by state new agency ISNA.

That was echoed by Ali Khorram, a former Iranian envoy to the United Nations, in the pro-reform daily newspaper Arman.

Pompeo is very interested in waging a war similar to the Iraq war by citing international regulations,” Khorram wrote of Tillerson’s successor former CIA director Mike Pompeo. “European powers will play a role in balancing his desire.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi, meanwhile, sought to minimize Tillerson’s firing, calling it part of the “frequent and multiple” changes in Trump’s administration.

“What matters to the Islamic Republic of Iran are the policies and approaches of the United States in regard to international issues and toward Iran,” Ghasemi told journalists. “We closely monitor their approaches and macro policies and will take appropriate stances accordingly in the future.”

US President Donald Trump announced Tillerson’s departure in a tweet on Tuesday, saying he would be replaced by Pompeo, who takes a much harder line on Iran than his predecessor.

Trump has repeatedly slammed the 2015 nuclear deal, under which Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for the lifting of crippling international sanctions.

Despite Tillerson’s determination to stick with the deal, Trump has threatened to scrap what he has dubbed a “terrible” agreement unless tough new restrictions were placed on Iran by May 12.

A US exit could kill the pact between Iran, Germany and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

The deal’s backers have presented it as a victory for diplomacy and nuclear non-proliferation efforts.

Tehran has repeatedly ruled out changing a single comma of the text.

The UN’s nuclear energy agency, the IAEA, confirmed in February that Tehran had met its obligations under the agreement.

“If the US quits the nuclear deal, we will also quit it,” Araghchi said Wednesday. “We have told the Europeans that if they can’t keep the US in the deal, Iran will also leave it.”

His comments contrast with those of Iranian officials including President Hassan Rouhani, who has said Iran will stick with the agreement as long as it is beneficial for the country — even if the United States leaves.

While Iran has reaped massive economic benefits from the accord, notably by being able to resume oil exports, it is still constrained by US sanctions in other areas.