USA’s Fukushima At The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

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Ernie Garcia, elgarcia@lohud.com

A review of unplanned shutdowns from January 2012 to the present showed this year’s events happened within a short time frame, between May 7 and July 8, in contrast with events from other years that were more spread out, according to data released by Indian Point.

If a nuclear plant has more than three unplanned shutdowns in a nine-month period, its performance indicator could be changed by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which results in additional oversight. That’s what happened with Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., after four unplanned shutdowns in 2013.

So far, Entergy said there doesn’t appear to be a pattern to the Indian Point shutdowns.

“You do want to look at these events holistically to see if there is something in common, but you also look individually to see what the causes were,” Nappi said. “A plant shutdown in and of itself is not a safety issue.”

One of the four recent Buchanan shutdowns triggered a special inspection by the NRC and calls to close the nuclear plant by environmental groups and elected officials. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said in the past Indian Point should close, but his office did not respond to a request for comment about whether the recent shutdowns have prompted any state scrutiny.

The NRC is expected to release a quarterly report on Indian Point this month that will address the transformer failure and, by year’s end, is planning an inspection of the transformer and an analysis of transformer issues since 2007.

Besides its transformer-related inquiries, the other three shutdowns have not raised “any immediate safety concerns or crossed any thresholds that would result in additional NRC oversight,” agency spokesman Neil Sheehan wrote in an email.

The unplanned shutdowns at Indian Point and Pilgrim in Massachusetts were mostly preventable, said Paul Blanch, a former Indian Point employee with 45 years of nuclear power experience.

“For this to happen this frequently indicates a deeper problem,” he said. “I believe it’s management oversight in the maintenance of these plants.”

Nappi said the transformer that failed May 9 and caused a fire and oil spill into the Hudson was regularly monitored. Investigators determined the failure was due to faulty insulation.

“The transformer inspection and reviews were in accordance with our standards and industry expectations, yet there was no indication the transformer was going to fail,” Nappi said.

The NRC conducted a separate, but related special inspection into the May 9 incident that focused on a half-inch of water that collected in an electrical switchgear room floor. Inspectors determined a fire suppression system’s valve failed to close properly.

Inspectors noted in their report that Entergy knew about that problem since April 2011 and replaced the valve but didn’t discover the actual cause — a dysfunctional switch — until after the fire.

Indian Point’s Unit 3 was down 19 days May through July, with the transformer failure accounting for 16 days. The shutdowns didn’t cause the public any supply problems because New York’s grid can import electricity from other states and New York has an energy plan to maintain reliability, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The nuclear energy industry judges a power plant on how continuously it produces energy, which is called a capacity factor.

There were 100 nuclear plants in the United States in 2014, a record year in terms of efficiency. In January, the Nuclear Energy Institute announced the U.S. average capacity factor was 91.9 percent.

Indian Point has an above-average efficiency rate. The plant’s Unit 2 and 3 reactors were each online more than 99 percent of the time during their most recent two-year operating cycles. They are currently in the middle of other cycles.

Stepping up to Nuclear War with Iran

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Iran nuclear deal was in near terminal condition and on life support even before President Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson’s dismissal this week may hasten its demise.

As CIA chief and Iran hawk Mike Pompeo prepares to run the State Department, the Trump administration is weighing a speedier withdrawal from the agreement than even the president has threatened, according to two U.S. officials and two outside advisers briefed on the matter. They were not authorized to discuss the sensitive negotiations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

While such a scenario is unlikely, the fact it is being floated as an option may give U.S. officials more leverage in negotiations with European signatories to salvage the accord by toughening it. Two such negotiating sessions have already been held and a third is set for Thursday in Berlin.

Trump, who calls the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy achievement the worst deal ever negotiated, has vowed to walk away from the 2015 agreement in mid-May unless Britain, Germany and France join the U.S. in addressing what the president says are its fatal flaws. These include no penalties for Iran’s missile work and support for militant groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

The deal that was negotiated by the Obama administration and six other countries limits Iran’s enrichment and stockpiling of material that could be applied to a nuclear weapons program. In exchange, Tehran was granted widespread relief from international trade, oil and banking sanctions. Trump’s next deadline to extend some of those concessions is May 12, and he has vowed not to do so again unless the Europeans meet his demands.

Any U.S. withdrawal would likely crater the agreement. If the U.S. begins threatening fines and other punishments for sanctions violations, countries around the world are likely to curtail commerce with Iran. That could prompt the Iranians to walk away as well, and perhaps even restart nuclear activities banned under the accord.

An indication of the Trump administration’s thinking could come Friday, when the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the European Union and Iran meet for a periodic review at the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna.

State Department policy planning chief Brian Hook, who is running the negotiations with Europe, will lead the U.S. delegation to the larger meeting in Austria’s capital. Hook, who Tillerson leaned on heavily for policy advice and direction, could meet separately in Vienna with the Iranian delegation head, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Aragchi. For his part, Aragchi sees the writing on the wall. He told a parliamentary committee in Tehran on Wednesday that Tillerson’s ouster was proof that Trump would pull out and promised that Iran would withdraw if the U.S. does.

In the U.S., Iran deal supporters braced for what they see as the inevitable. Pompeo “is certain to advise the president to withdraw the United States from our obligations under the nuclear agreement,” said Diplomacy Works, a group of mainly former Obama administration officials that lobbies for staying in the deal.

Hook had been tasked by Tillerson with getting the Europeans to agree to as many of Trump’s demands as possible, with an eye toward selling the president on extending the sanctions waivers. Doing so would buy U.S. negotiators time to deal with elements of the agreement Trump has disparaged – such as its expiration dates on key nuclear constraints – and missile and terrorism concerns.

With Tillerson gone, the emphasis will likely change.

The ex-oilman had waged an often lonely battle within Trump’s Cabinet to save the deal. He succeeded for 13 months. But each time Trump faced another sanctions deadline, Tillerson met increased resistance to keeping the agreement alive.

In firing Tillerson on Tuesday, Trump in particular noted his disagreement over the Iran accord. Trump won’t have that problem with Pompeo, who has lambasted the deal on a level similar to Trump, making clear the two men are of the same opinion.

Trump said that he and Pompeo “have a very similar thought process” on the deal.

As a congressman, Pompeo vociferously denounced the accord when it was struck.

“The (deal) can perhaps delay Iran’s nuclear weapons program for a few years,” he wrote at the time. “Conversely, it has virtually guaranteed that Iran will have the freedom to build an arsenal of nuclear weapons at the end of the commitment.”

His stance and position with Trump could give Pompeo leverage with the Europeans that Tillerson never enjoyed.

U.S. officials said American positions have hardened over the past several weeks, notably on Iranian ballistic missile testing and the deal’s provisions that allow Iran to gradually resume advanced atomic work. Because Iran and the Europeans refuse to renegotiate the nuclear deal, U.S. officials are seeking to create a supplemental agreement with Europe to address these matters.

At Thursday’s meeting in Berlin, U.S. and the European officials are hoping to compare draft written proposals and combine points of agreement into a new document that could form the basis of a side deal.

U.S. and European diplomats say they’re closer on long-range ballistic missile launches, inspections and new sanctions on Iranian-backed militant groups. Gaps are larger on medium-range missiles that could hit Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states and on the deal’s particulars for when advanced atomic work can restart.

The U.S. focus turned to medium-range missiles after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Trump in Washington earlier this month. Iran maintains that it must have medium-range missiles to defend itself, an argument the Europeans have been sympathetic to.

The differences are even more stark on the sunset provisions, which are codified in the nuclear deal and which the Europeans and Iran regard as inviolable, according to the diplomats. One senior negotiator involved in the talks said last week that Europe is prepared to be “creative” in addressing the provisions but would not budge from opposing any measure that would punish Iran for activity that is otherwise permitted under the 2015 agreement.

The Usual Iranian Hegemony in Iraq (Daniel 8:4)

 AFP , Friday 16 Mar 2018

Speaking to reporters as he returned from a trip to Oman, Afghanistan and Bahrain, Mattis said officials he met with had expressed frequent concerns about Iranian behavior.

“One thing that came through loud and clear is the suspicion of Iran and the evidence of Iranian destabilizing efforts,” said Mattis, a longtime Iran hawk.

“I heard it when I was up in Afghanistan. You know what’s going on in terms of Iran’s support to Assad. Now Iran is following Russia’s example (and) mucking around in Iraq’s elections,” Mattis said, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“It was just brought home to me again that they are not changing their behavior, they are continuing to be a destabilizing influence,” Mattis added.

The Pentagon chief said he would not speculate as to whether Iran’s efforts were having any impact on the Iraqi electorate ahead of the May parliamentary and provincial assembly elections.

“Iran is trying to influence using money the Iraqi elections. That money is being used to sway candidates, to sway votes,” he said.

“Iran should leave the Iraqis to determining their own future,” said Mattis.

Despite increased rhetoric from Washington about Iran’s activities in the region and US President Donald Trump’s continual railing against the Iran nuclear deal, Mattis noted that Iranian naval vessels in the Gulf have become less provocative toward US ships.

He said ships from both the regular Iranian navy and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps have curtailed the sorts of incidents that had become almost routine over the past few years, and are now staying away from American vessels.

“In the Gulf itself, they are not coming in as close to our ships, the provocative actions in the Gulf seem to have relented somewhat,” Mattis said.

“They are not doing as many bellicose confrontations and that sort of thing.”

Commander Bill Urban, spokesman for the Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, said there had been no “unsafe or unprofessional” interactions with the Iranians at sea since August 14, 2017 when an Iranian drone with no lights on flew close to US aircraft operating in the Gulf.

Urban told reporters that “a substantial period time” has passed since then, “something that we think is great.”

He said there has been “an across-the-board change in behavior.”

Last year and in 2016, the US Navy frequently complained about the behavior of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels, which would often shadow and steer toward American ships.

In at least one incident, US sailors had to fire flares and warning shots before the Iranians turned away.

Urban said that since then, the Iranians have stopped approaching so closely.

Mattis said that off the Yemen coast around the Bab-al-Mandab strait, the Islamic Republic is testing a number of offensive capabilities.

“It’s where you find (Iran’s) radars, their ballistic missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles,” Mattis said.

“We’ve found their mines, their explosive boats all being tested, increased capability being demonstrated down there.”

Fifth Fleet and its associated task forces continually patrol the Gulf and inspect some of the ships passing through the region.

In 2016, sailors seized weapons apparently headed from Iran to Yemen, including machine guns and rocket launchers.

Urban said task forces this year have confiscated record amounts of heroin, much of which may have been grown in Afghanistan to fund the Taliban.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps is a paramilitary force that answers directly to the Islamic republic’s supreme leader.

In January 2016, the Iranians briefly captured the crew of two small US patrol boats that strayed into Iranian waters.

The 10 US sailors were released 24 hours later.

Nuclear Horns Escalate in the Middle East (Daniel)

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman arrives at Lambeth Palace, London, Britain, March 8, 2018. Credit: Yui Mok/Reuters

Saudi Arabia will develop nuclear weapons if its arch-rival Iran does so, the kingdom’s crown prince said in remarks released on Thursday, raising the prospect of a nuclear arms race in a region already riven with conflict.

“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS in an interview that will air in full on Sunday.

The Sunni Muslim kingdom has been at loggerheads with revolutionary Shi’ite Iran for decades. The countries have fought a long-running proxy war in the Middle East and beyond, backing rival sides in armed conflicts and political crises including in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

He downplayed Iran’s power during the interview, saying that Iran was far from being a rival to Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi reacted harshly, saying the Saudi crown prince was a “delusional naive person” who has no idea of politics, Iranian state TV reported on Thursday.

“He has no idea of politics apart from bitter talk that emanates from a lack of foresight … His remarks do not deserve a response, because he is a delusional, naive person, who never talks, but with lies and bitterness,” Qasemi said.

Prince Mohammed, who also serves as Saudi defence minister, said last year that the kingdom would make sure any future struggle between the two countries “is waged in Iran,” prompting Iranian threats to hit back at most of Saudi Arabia except the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Riyadh has criticised the 2015 deal between world powers and Tehran under which economic sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for the Islamic Republic curbing its nuclear energy program. U.S. sanctions will resume unless President Donald Trump issues fresh “waivers” to suspend them on May 12.

The comments by Prince Mohammed, who at 32 is heir to the throne, also have implications for Israel, another U.S. ally which neither confirms nor denies the widespread assumption that it controls the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal.

Israel has long argued that, should Iran develop nuclear weapons, it would trigger similar projects among the Persian power’s Arab rivals and further destabilize the region.

It has never joined the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has said it would consider inspections and controls under the NPT only if was at peace with its Arab neighbors and Iran.

Civilian program

Saudi Arabia is stepping up plans to develop a civilian nuclear energy capability as part of a reform plan led by Prince Mohammed to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil.

The world’s top oil exporter has previously said it wants nuclear technology only for peaceful uses but has left unclear whether it also wants to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel, a process which can also be used in the production of atomic weapons.

The United States, South Korea, Russia, France and China are bidding on a multi-billion dollar tender to build the country’s first two nuclear reactors.

Prince Mohammed’s comments, ahead of a trip to the United States next week, could impact the bid by a consortium that includes Toshiba-owned Westinghouse.

U.S. companies can usually transfer nuclear technology to another country only if the United States has signed an agreement with that country ruling out domestic uranium enrichment and the preprocessing of spent nuclear fuel — steps that can have military uses.

In previous talks, Saudi Arabia has refused to sign up to any agreement that would deprive it of the possibility of one day enriching uranium.

Reactors need uranium enriched to around five percent purity but the same technology in this process can also be used to enrich the heavy metal to a higher, weapons-grade level. This has been at the heart of Western and regional concerns over the nuclear work of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival which enriches uranium domestically.

Riyadh approved a national policy for its atomic energy program on Tuesday, including limiting all nuclear activities to peaceful purposes, within the limits defined by international treaties.