The Sixth Seal Is Long Overdue (Revelation 6:12)

By MARGO NASH

Published: March 25, 2001

Alexander Gates, a geology professor at Rutgers-Newark, is co-author of ”The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes,” which will be published by Facts on File in July. He has been leading a four-year effort to remap an area known as the Sloatsburg Quadrangle, a 5-by-7-mile tract near Mahwah that crosses into New York State. The Ramapo Fault, which runs through it, was responsible for a big earthquake in 1884, and Dr. Gates warns that a recurrence is overdue. He recently talked about his findings.

Q. What have you found?

A. We’re basically looking at a lot more rock, and we’re looking at the fracturing and jointing in the bedrock and putting it on the maps. Any break in the rock is a fracture. If it has movement, then it’s a fault. There are a lot of faults that are offshoots of the Ramapo. Basically when there are faults, it means you had an earthquake that made it. So there was a lot of earthquake activity to produce these features. We are basically not in a period of earthquake activity along the Ramapo Fault now, but we can see that about six or seven times in history, about 250 million years ago, it had major earthquake activity. And because it’s such a fundamental zone of weakness, anytime anything happens, the Ramapo Fault goes.

Q. Where is the Ramapo Fault?

 A. The fault line is in western New Jersey and goes through a good chunk of the state, all the way down to Flemington. It goes right along where they put in the new 287. It continues northeast across the Hudson River right under the Indian Point power plant up into Westchester County. There are a lot of earthquakes rumbling around it every year, but not a big one for a while.

Q. Did you find anything that surprised you?

A. I found a lot of faults, splays that offshoot from the Ramapo that go 5 to 10 miles away from the fault. I have looked at the Ramapo Fault in other places too. I have seen splays 5 to 10 miles up into the Hudson Highlands. And you can see them right along the roadsides on 287. There’s been a lot of damage to those rocks, and obviously it was produced by fault activities. All of these faults have earthquake potential.

Q. Describe the 1884 earthquake.

A. It was in the northern part of the state near the Sloatsburg area. They didn’t have precise ways of describing the location then. There was lots of damage. Chimneys toppled over. But in 1884, it was a farming community, and there were not many people to be injured. Nobody appears to have written an account of the numbers who were injured.

Q. What lessons we can learn from previous earthquakes?

A. In 1960, the city of Agadir in Morocco had a 6.2 earthquake that killed 12,000 people, a third of the population, and injured a third more. I think it was because the city was unprepared.There had been an earthquake in the area 200 years before. But people discounted the possibility of a recurrence. Here in New Jersey, we should not make the same mistake. We should not forget that we had a 5.4 earthquake 117 years ago. The recurrence interval for an earthquake of that magnitude is every 50 years, and we are overdue. The Agadir was a 6.2, and a 5.4 to a 6.2 isn’t that big a jump.

Q. What are the dangers of a quake that size?

A. When you’re in a flat area in a wooden house it’s obviously not as dangerous, although it could cut off a gas line that could explode. There’s a real problem with infrastructure that is crumbling, like the bridges with crumbling cement.There’s a real danger we could wind up with our water supplies and electricity cut off if a sizable earthquake goes off. The best thing is to have regular upkeep and keep up new building codes. The new buildings will be O.K. But there is a sense of complacency.

MARGO NASH

Handing Over Iraq to the Antichrist

Introduction to Iraq in Transition: Competing Actors & Complicated Politics

The Republic of Iraq has faced considerable challenges after the American-led invasion in 2003 to oust Saddam Hussein, ranging from insurgency to endemic corruption and poor government services. Baghdad has emerged as the epicenter of a broader geopolitical struggle between the United States and Islamic Republic of Iran, two hostile adversaries at odds since the Islamic Revolution toppled the American-friendly Shah in 1979. Amidst these broader challenges, Iraq faced an existential security threat in 2014, after the Islamic State gained strength in Syria, augmented its ranks with foreign fighters, and took control over eastern Syria and parts of western Iraq, including the Iraqi city of Mosul, the country’s second largest city. The war to defeat this group was brutal and fraught, with the Iraqi military bearing the brunt of the casualties fighting for control over densely populated urban areas and vast expanses of desert terrain. The fighting consumed Iraqi affairs for years, blunted the sharp tensions that underpin U.S.-Iran relations, and focused military efforts on the defeat of a common enemy.

In the year since the defeat of the Islamic State, the American role in Iraq has become less clear.The United States has undertaken an aggressive policy, dubbed “Maximum Pressure,” to economically coerce the Iranian government to make a series of concessions,including limits on the development of ballistic missiles and foreign policy changes. This effort included the American withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the multi-national agreement that placed considerable limits on Iran’s nuclear program and instituted an expansive inspection regime to verify the terms of the deal in exchange for Iran receiving American and European sanctions relief. The Trump administration’s decision to reimpose sanctions severely complicated the arrangement, depriving Iran of the reward for its compliance and setting in motion a series of Iranian steps to try to coerce Europe to continue to uphold trade with the Islamic Republic. The United States, however, has threatened to sanction European entities should they not comply with American policy.

The tensions over sanctions have had a deleterious effect on stability in Iraq and the Middle East, more broadly. The Iranian government has gradually increased its efforts to impose a cost on the United States for using sanctions to end its export of oil, beginning with a series of attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, escalating to include missile strikes on important oil centers in Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq and Khurais, and then a shooting down an American surveillance drone. In response to rocket attacks inside Iraq, the United States has struck Iraqi militia’s linked to Iran and, in January 2020, assassinated Major General Qasem Soleimani, the now-deceased leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp. (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iranian-linked actor that oversaw Iraqi militias sympathetic to the Islamic Republic. In retaliation, the Iranian military fired a salvo of ballistic missiles at bases in Iraq, striking targets with precision, but luckily resulting in no American deaths. The strikes still resulted in over one hundred cases of traumatic brain injury in the soldiers at the targeted bases. The tit-for-tat underscores Iran’s appetite for risk, particularly at time when its economy is under siege from U.S. actions.

Inside Iraq, the government has sought to remain neutral, balancing its vital relationship with Washington against its equally important relationship with Tehran. The Iraqi government is also facing a series of internal challenges: incessant protests about corruption as well as post-conflict challenges following the war against the Islamic State. To analyze the future of Iraqi politics, the Foreign Policy Research Institute has gathered five authors to analyze competing political actors and the issues affecting different constituencies and regions. Each chapter includes a series of policy recommendations for governments to consider as they try to assess Iraq’s political landscape. The first chapter, co-authored by Benedict Robin-D’Cruz and Renad Mansour, evaluates Iraq’s Sadrist movement and why, despite Shi’i cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s prominence in Iraqi politics, the group remains one of the most complex and frequently misunderstood movements in Iraq. The second chapter, by Pishko Shamsi, focuses on the Kurdistan Regional Government, the competing political actors, and how a failed independence referendum after the defeat of the Islamic State upended the region and prompted a re-evaluation of relations with Baghdad. The third chapter, by Inna Rudolf, assesses the Popular Mobilization Forces, with a focus on Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the militia leader killed alongside Qasem Soleimaniin January 2020 in an American drone strike outside of the Baghdad airport. The fourth chapter, by Ramzy Mardini, examines Iraq’s Sunni population and how they are coping with the tragedies faced during the illegitimate reign of the Islamic State and the challenges that they now face after the group’s defeat. And the final chapter, by Kirk Sowell, explores Iraqi domestic politics, particularly how key political actors interact with the government in Baghdad and how sectarianism influences politics, and what that may portend in the near future.

This edited volume is intended to look beyond the U.S.-Iran competition in the country and explore the drivers of Iraqi politics to provide needed context for policymakers and practitioners studying the country. It was made possible by support from GPD Charitable Trust, an organization working to build partnerships that lead to a more peaceful, prosperous, and stable world, and in collaboration with the DT Institute.

Download the report here

Abstract

In 2017, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq held an independence referendum, which triggered severe backlash, including the loss of control over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The backlash from the independence referendum prompted the regional government (Kurdistan Regional Government) to urgently shift policy and re-engage with Baghdad. Since then, the region has recovered politically and has implemented a pragmatic strategy to revitalize the economy and internal affairs. The KRG also launched diplomatic initiatives to restore relations with Iran and Turkey, and has pursued a policy of neutrality to manage the Region’s myriad of crises. Moreover, the KRG has pursued tactical alliances with Iraqi political parties to secure short-term gains, including the resumption of budget transfers from Baghdad.

The KRG’s deal-making with Baghdad, however, has fallen short of translating into a sustainable policy, and many of the gains are fragile and dependent on Baghdad’s changing political scene. Without a long-term strategy, the KRG’s new leadership is unlikely to be able to deliver much needed institutional reforms to help curb corruption, improve governance, and enhance transparency in public affairs. And while the KRG has committed to reform politically, it remains unclear if it will bring about meaningful change and address structural challenges, such as entrenched crony networks, rentier economics, and partisan control over the public sector and security forces.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan organization that seeks to publish well-argued, policy-oriented articles on American foreign policy and national security priorities.

Pishko Shamsi is an international lawyer and policy analyst, previously serving in diplomatic and governmental capacity on Iraq, Syria, and the Middle East region.

The Supreme Leader doesn’t want détente with Babylon the Great ever

The Supreme Leader doesn’t want détente with the United States—ever

Mon, Apr 20, 2020

IranSource by Shahir Shahidsaless

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him on stage during a meeting with Iranian air force commanders in Tehran, Iran, on February 08, 2020 (Reuters)

Iran’s Supreme Leader has cemented no talks and no relations with the United States as the grand strategy guiding Tehran’s foreign policy. He offers some arguments behind this strategic thinking and they are all flawed.

On August 14, 2018, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei argued that “we can enter the dangerous game of talking to the US only when we reach the. . .  economic power that we have in mind so that we are not influenced by America’s brinkmanship and pressure.”

In the last hundred years, no country that has been in constant conflict with the US has been able to achieve sustainable growth. China and Vietnam, whose systems are in clear contrast with the United States—especially the latter, which was in a bloody twenty-year war with the US—have learned this lesson. That is, in part, why America is now Beijing and Hanoi’s leading trade partner.

This argument is even flawed when you look at Iran’s own experience since the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran in 1979. Its unwavering hostile position toward the US being a major factor, the Islamic Republic has experienced unceasing devaluation of its national currency, rampant inflation, and stress on its economy as a result of punitive sanctions over the decades. Iran has also been unable to establish an enduring commercial and technological relationship with any other economic power because of its tense relationship with the US—again, because of sanctions.

Some may argue that President Donald Trump’s move to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran and reimpose sanctions is the reason Iran or, rather, Khamenei continues this hostile position toward America. Proponents of this argument forget that, in 2015, 42 senators and 162 members of the House, along with President Barack Obama, stood behind the nuclear agreement with Iran and fought tooth and nail with Iran hawks and lobby groups. When Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was photographed walking across a Geneva bridge with his American counterpart John Kerry, many concluded that overt hostility between Iran and the US was over. Many believed that talking between the two countries would become the new normal and that moderates would gain the upper hand in Iran.

In an interview in 2015, President Obama said, “It’s also possible that if we can successfully address the nuclear question and Iran begins to receive relief from some nuclear sanctions, it could lead to more investments in the Iranian economy and more opportunity for the Iranian people, which could strengthen the hands of more moderate leaders in Iran.”

About the same time, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said, “It is possible to change hostility with the US to friendship. . .  Reopening of the US embassy in Tehran is not impossible.

Both Obama and Rouhani were wrong.

Shortly after inking the deal in 2015, Ayatollah Khamenei banned further talks with the United States, closing the door on any possible improvement in US-Iran relations and disappointing supporters of détente in both countries. “We agreed to hold talks with America only on the nuclear issue and for particular reasons,” he remarked. “I have not authorized negotiations and [we] will not hold talks with them.” The Supreme Leader, then, added, “The Iranian nation expelled this Satan [from the country]; we must not allow that when we expelled it through the door, it could return and gain influence [again] through the window.”

Khamenei and his followers, who dominate the system, are concerned that “negotiations with the United States would open gates to their economic, cultural, [and] political influence” and ultimately erode the system’s Islamic character.

Khamenei, also, maintains that “resistance [against US hegemony] is costly, but [that] the cost of capitulation is significantly greater.” He argues that Iran will lose its independence if it restores relations with the US. The problem with this position is that Khamenei equates having relations with the US to capitulation and loss of sovereignty. If we accept his reasoning, the only independent countries are the handful that have hostile relations with the US—the rest are, apparently, American serfs.

Not everybody in the Iranian leadership accepts Khamenei’s rationale, however. A glaring example is Foreign Minister Zarif. The moderate faction has consistently maintained that ending hostilities and interaction with the US is not only possible but in the interest of the nation. Nevertheless, the hardline faction led by Khamenei has, on all occasions, torpedoed US-Iran rapprochement and labeled those who support direct talks with the US as being “stupid” and “traitor[s]”. By quitting the Iran deal in May 2018, Trump has further provided the Supreme Leader and his supporters with a powerful means to justify their anti-Americanism.

But, the bigger problem with Khamenei’s argument is whether the Iranian people support this policy, given the constant pressure that Iran has been under for the last 41 years as a result of enmity with the US. There is no way to conduct a poll in Iran to ask about Khamenei and the system’s popularity. But the recent parliamentary elections may be able to give us an idea.

Based on the official figures, which we will assume are not manipulated for the sake of argument, the turnout in the February 21 elections was about 42 percent. This has been the lowest turnout in any election in the Islamic Republic’s history. In Tehran, the capital, turnout went down from 50 percent to 26 percent.

Here is the interesting part: one presumes that all the supporters of Ayatollah Khamenei turned out to vote. Why? Because Khamenei made a statement that participation in the election “is not just a national and revolutionary duty,” it is “a religious duty.” This is a fatwa. So, here is the interpretation of the above figures. Out of roughly 58 million eligible voters, about 34 million turned their backs on Khamenei’s fatwa despite emphasizing that voting is a religious duty.

It could be argued that, even in developed countries, the turnout for national elections is historically low. In the US, for example, the turnout in the 2010 and 2014 midterm congressional elections were 45.5 and 41.9 percent, respectively. But the significance of low turnout in Iran is that tens of millions and, in this case, the overwhelming majority, ignored the Leader’s fatwa. It’s worth noting that despite Khamenei’s injunctions, Iranian society—particularly in the urban areas, where 70 percent of the population lives—is already profoundly “Westoxified” judging from the social behavior and entertainment choices of the young and the middle and upper classes.

In other words, they do not accept Khamenei and his policies. On March 21, on the occasion of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, the Supreme Leader said in a speech, “No nation succeeds if it seeks hedonism. . . production of goods should increase by our working ten-fold.” Why should the Iranian people work eighty hours a day instead of eight? Seemingly, to compensate for shortages resulting from strategic opposition to the US.

But, will this hostile position toward Iran end after the death of the 81-year-old Khamenei, who is rumored to have cancer? So far, Ebrahim Raisi, the head of Judiciary, has the strongest chance to assume the leadership position after Khamenei’s demise. In any event, after Khamenei’s era ends, Iran will still be ruled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) regardless of who comes to power. And the IRGC’s central doctrine is that the hostility between the Islamic Republic and the US is unresolvable and eternal. Even Khamenei is careful not to cross this IRGC red line.

Shahir Shahidsaless is an Iranian-Canadian political analyst and freelance journalist. He is the co-author of Iran and the United States: An Insider’s View on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace. He is a contributor to several websites with focus on the Middle East as well as the Huffington Post. He also regularly writes for BBC Persian. Follow him on Twitter: @SShahidsaless.

The Upcoming Final War (Revelation 16)

World War III Cometh: These Are 2020s 5 Most Dangerous Hotspots
And war could break out in any of them.

by Robert Farley Follow drfarls on TwitterL

Here’s What You Need To Know: The prospect of global conflagration in 2020 is low. Everyone awaits the result of the U.S. election, and a better understanding of the direction of US policy for the next four years. Still, every crisis proceeds by its own logic, and any of Pakistan, India, China, Israel, Iran, Turkey, or Russia might feel compelled by events to act.

.As the United States enters an election year, prospects for global stability remain uncertain. President Trump’s foreign policy stood at odds with those of his predecessor, and will likely a central point of contestation in the election. At this point, several crises might emerge that would not only turn the election, but potentially bring about a wider global conflict.

Here are the five most likely flashpoints for world war in 2020 (See my World War III lists from back in 2017, 2018 and 2019).

None are particularly likely, but only one needs to catch fire. Let the wars begin!

Iran-Israel:

Iran and Israel are already waging low-intensity war across the Middle East. Iran supports anti-Israel proxies in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere, while Israel feels comfortable in striking Iranian forces across the region. Israel has taken steps to quietly build a broad anti-Iran coalition at the diplomatic level, while Iran has invested deeply in cultivating ties with militias and other non-state actors.

It is hardly difficult to imagine scenarios that might bring on a wider, more intense war. If Iran determines to re-embark on its nuclear program, or decides to discipline Saudi Arabia more thoroughly, Israel might feel the temptation to engage in broader strikes, or in strikes directly against the Iranian homeland. Such a conflict could easily have wider implications, threatening global oil supplies and potentially tempting the United States or Russia to intervene.

Strains between Turkey and the United States have only grown over the past year. Tensions increased dramatically when the United States unexpectedly gave Turkey a green light to clear Syrian border areas of U.S.-supported Kurds, then immediately issued an about-face and threatened Ankara with sanctions. All the while, an arsenal of US nuclear weapons, by all accounts, remains at Incirlik Air Force base. Certain statements by President Erdogan suggested that he has immense aspirations for Turkey, aspirations which might include nuclear ambitions.

The state of the relationship between the U.S. and Turkey has decayed to the extent that some fear for the future of the NATO alliance. No one expects Erdogan to really go through with an attempted seizure of the weapons, and even if he did it’s unlikely Turkey could break the safeguards on the warheads in any kind of reasonable time. But Erdogan is not known to compartmentalize issues well, and it’s possible that linkages with other problems could push Washington and Ankara to the very edge. And of course, Russia hovers on the edge of the problem,

Kashmir:

Over the past decade, the gap in conventional power between India and Pakistan has only grown, even as Pakistan has tried to heal that gap with nuclear weapons. Despite (or perhaps because) of this, tensions between the rivals remained at a low simmer until steps taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reduce the autonomy of Kashmir and to change citizenship policies within the rest of India. These steps have caused some unrest within India, and have highlighted the long-standing tensions between Delhi and Islamabad.

Further domestic disturbances within India could give Pakistan (or extremist groups within Pakistan) the idea that it has the opportunity, or perhaps even the responsibility, to intervene in some fashion. While this is unlikely to begin with conventional military action, it could consist of terrorist attacks internationally, in Kashmir, or internationally. If this happened, Modi might feel forced to respond in some fashion, leading to a ladder of escalation that could bring the two countries to the brink of a more serious conflict. Given China’s looming position and the growing relationship between Delhi and Washington, this kind of conflict could have remarkably disastrous international ripple effects.

Korean Peninsula:

A year ago, hope remained that negotiations between the United States and North Korea could succeed in permanently reducing tensions of the peninsula. Unfortunately, core problems in the domestic situations of both countries, along with a puzzling strategic conundrum, have prevented any agreement from taking hold. Tensions between the two countries now stand as high as at any time since 2017, and the impending U.S. election could imperil relations further.

The Trump administration continues to seem to hold out hope that a deal with North Korea could improve its electoral prospects in November. But North Korea has no interest in the terms Trump is offering, and has become increasingly emphatic about making its disinterest clear. Recently, North Korea promised a “Christmas present” that many in the United States worried would be a nuclear or ballistic missile test. It turned out to be nothing of the sort, but if North Korea decides to undertake an ICBM or (worse) nuclear test, the Trump administration might feel the need to intervene forcefully. In particular, President Trump has a reputation for pursuing a deeply personalistic foreign policy style, and might feel betrayed by Supreme Leader Kim, producing an even more uncertain situation.

South China Sea:

U.S.-China relations stand at a precarious point. A trade deal between the two countries would seem to alleviate some tensions, but implementation remains in question. Economic difficulties in China have curtailed some of its naval construction program, just as a flattening of the defense budget in the United States has moderated shipbuilding ambitions. At the same time, China has worked assiduously to assure its relations with Russia, while the United States has sparked controversies with both South Korea and Japan, its two closest allies in the region.

Under such circumstances, it seems unlikely that either country would risk conflict. But President Trump has staked much of his Presidency on confrontation with China, and may feel tempted to escalate the situation in the coming year. For his part, President Xi faces the continuous prospect of turmoil at home, both in the Han heartland and in Xinjiang. Both sides, thus, have incentives for diplomatic and economic escalation, which always could lead to military confrontation in areas such as the South or East China Seas.

What Does the Future Hold for 2020?

The prospect of global conflagration in 2020 is low. Everyone awaits the result of the U.S. election, and a better understanding of the direction of US policy for the next four years. Still, every crisis proceeds by its own logic, and any of Pakistan, India, China, Israel, Iran, Turkey, or Russia might feel compelled by events to act. Focus on the election should not obscure the frictions between nations that could provide the spark for the next war.
Dr. Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI, teaches at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of the Battleship Book and can be found at @drfarls. This first appeared last year.

Why Australia Will Go Nuclear (Daniel 7)

Op-Ed: What is Paul Dibb’s real question about Australia’s defence?

In the 15 March edition of The National Interest, renowned Australian strategist Professor Paul Dibb, AM, in his piece, ‘How Australia Can Defend Itself Against China’s Military’, raised two main points – both of which pose the question – what is meant by ‘Australian defence?’ asks Dr John Bruni of SAGE International.

The centrality of ANZUS

It is a given that Australia has long sheltered under the ANZUS Treaty in order to ward off opportunistic military forays against the country’s national interests in its immediate region. When ANZUS was founded in 1951, the types of threat Australia worried about were communist bloc or aligned countries seeking to harm Australia in traditional military ways.

Back then there was no cyber war, no drones, no battlefield robots, virtual or augmented reality. The high frontier of space, so central to all military operations today and to international commerce, would not be conquered until the 1956 launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite.

Most military planners believed that war, any war would resemble World War II, but with the possible addition of nuclear weapons.

Between 1951 and 2020, the price all Australian governments have and continue to pay to maintain ANZUS is to lend support to American military activities.

As recent history has shown, Australian governments have lent their support to American military operations even if these were deemed unpopular by the Australian public. ANZUS is Australia’s equivalent of nuclear deterrence. No belligerent country could ever be entirely sure if the US would intervene on Australia’s behalf in a state-on-state war.

For 69 years this strategic ambiguity has served Canberra well.

However, since the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016, old certainties are less clear as the US is seen to be moving toward a more transactional and less sentimental approach in foreign policy.

As the US is currently in an election year, four more years of a Trump presidency would certainly present problems to all treaty allies of the US. However, the likely alternative of a Joe Biden presidency does give some hope for a partial restoration of old alliance values and solidarity.

For Australia, a Biden presidency might jolt the country out of its current strategic navel-gazing and return it to the country’s more natural role of strategic complacency.

Many would breathe a sigh of relief were this to happen, but the one silver lining of President Trump has been in making Australian policymakers think hard about what Australia’s role in the world would be like without any guarantee of US strategic commitment.

The Dibb prognosis

According to Dibb, at the crux of his article are two major points, firstly:

“A $1.1 billion upgrade to the Royal Australian Air Force Base at Tindal, which is about 300 kilometres south of Darwin, to lengthen the runway so that US B-52 strategic bombers as well as our own KC-30 air-to-air refuelling aircraft can operate from there.”

And secondly:

“The announcement by the US State Department that Australia has been cleared, at a cost of about $1.4 billion, to purchase 200 AGM-158C long-range anti-ship missiles (LRASM), which can be fired from our F/A-18 Super Hornets and the F-35s when they are delivered.”

Dibb’s piece is interesting in that central to these two points assumes that whoever the incumbent is in the White House, post-November 2020, Australia’s national security policy will maintain a strongly American focus.

The problem for Australian policymakers is that in this new age we are living through, it won’t matter how pro-American the Canberra elite is, if a US administration does not think an Australian strategic problem aligns with American interests – Australia may not have Washington’s support.

Furthermore, there is an assumption that the presence of USAF aircraft on Australian soil would be enough of a deterrent to prevent any form of Chinese or Russian hybridised military action against Australian interests along archipelagic south-east Asia and the south Pacific.

But these foreign, though allied, aircraft will not be under the sovereign direction of the RAAF or the Australian government. They will be under the authority of the US government. Here the decision to use them in support of Australian defensive measures stops with Washington.

While the signalling of American strategic support for Australia is important to keep the ANZUS Treaty relevant, for the Australian government, American support should never be taken for granted.

After all, if NATO and its much-vaunted ‘Article 5’ whereby an attack on one is considered an attack on all is currently being questioned among many NATO member states – ANZUS – which does not have a similar mechanism for automatic mutual support, should give Australian authorities pause for thought.

So, let us look at the known strategic threats to Australia.

The Lucky Country

From a state-on-state level, Australia remains the lucky country. Canberra has good, pragmatic relations with many regional states. Australia’s position as a farm and a mine for Chinese industry means that it is highly unlikely that the PRC would deliberately use force against Australia under any rational circumstance.

However, as an American staging base, Australian territory hosting US facilities may come under PRC attack should the destruction of these facilities be accorded a high priority by Beijing. This would only happen should a conventional war break out and rapidly escalate between Chinese and American forces over touchstone issues like Taiwan or the South China Sea.

For more peripheral hybridised operations directed against Australian interests, potentially sparked by non-state actors along Australia’s arc of strategic interest, from archipelagic south-east Asia to the south Pacific, the upgrading of RAAF Tindal to host US strategic bombers is less about Australian defence and more about America building-up power projection redundancy should its forward positions in South Korea and Japan decline for political reasons.

Does this add to or diminish Australian security? It is a polarising topic.

For defenders of ANZUS, any increase in US personnel flowing through to Australia increases the country’s defensibility under any and all circumstances. This is the public line of their argument, and it makes sense to maintain the close US-Australian relationship since being close to the US does give Australia access to critical technologies and intelligence.

Making Australia relevant to America therefore is a rational action to take in spite of any known gaps. From an Australian perspective, the commitment of ‘penny packet’ forces to protracted and unpopular American military missions to the Middle East or elsewhere is a small price to pay for keeping Australia as a steadfast ally foremost in the minds of American politicians and policymakers.

Fear of abandonment is strong among the Canberra political and policy-making elite.

For sceptics of ANZUS, any increase in US personnel or facilities in Australia limits our foreign policy options and damages the Australian brand among countries whom it trades with but who are not enamoured with US strategic and foreign policy.

Furthermore, sceptics have a far darker assessment of America’s commitment to Australian defence. For them, the US will do what the US does in order for it to advance its own interests – even at the expense of its ‘enabling’ allies.

But like with most polarising topics, the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes. And it is up to Canberra to navigate between its sovereign needs and requirements and those of its primary ally and trading partners. Not an easy task by any stretch. Made worse by the fact that Australia has no clear strategic narrative.

So, upgrading RAAF Tindal for USAF strategic bombers can be seen both as a net strategic gain for Australia and a net detriment, depending on where one sits on the ANZUS Treaty.

Increasing the base’s capacity to host domestic KC-30 air-to-air refuelling aircraft is important, not so much for the sovereign defence of Australia though there is that element to it, but for in-flight refuelling of RAAF fighter planes escorting USAF strategic bombers in long-range missions designed to ‘signal intent’ or to conduct harassment of PRC maritime traffic in the South China Sea.

The second point, the purchase of 200 AGM-158C long-range anti-ship missiles again can be seen as a way for the RAAF to better defend Australia against seaborne conventional naval threats.

Is this purchase based on a need to hedge against localised naval developments along Australia’s strategic arc?

Yes, but only at the very outside of likely scenarios. A country always has to hedge against fast-changing circumstances. But modernising and building a fleet of warships and fighter planes to alter the regional balance of power and threaten Australia is not something that any state in south-east Asia or the south Pacific can do easily, stealthily or affordably.

And, whatever these states have in their existing orders of battle are neither of the numbers nor of the quality that Australia has to worry about.

So, the purchase of these long-range anti-ship missiles again is more likely to keep the RAAF technologically up to fighting alongside the USAF in anti-PRC missions should an outbreak of war take place between China and the US.

And what of the threat from China to Australia? Is it a military threat or something else?

The China question? 

China has run intelligence operations against the Australian government by attempting to buy influence through the country’s politicians and political parties. It has run cyber operations against Australian businesses.

But China lacks the capacity for sustained long-range probing flights or a sustained naval presence in or near Australian waters. Much of China’s military is deployed close to its coastline and to countries that are in close geographic proximity to it.

Long-range (naval) missions are usually limited to occasional short-duration forays towards Alaska or Queensland. The country’s strategic ballistic missile fleet is also limited in size and capacity.

The level of threat to Australia from Chinese physical assault is therefore small, but manageable. The threat China poses to American facilities in Australia is a larger concern. And it is a concern that squarely puts Australian territory in harm’s way.

For instance, a Chinese ballistic missile strike against Pine Gap with either conventional high explosive, nuclear or EMP warheads could degrade or destroy a significant American intelligence outpost in a relatively unpopulated part of Australia.

Casualties would be low, but the facility’s loss would cause immeasurable shock to the US and Australian governments. Operationally, much of Pine Gap’s intelligence-gathering capacities might be re-routed to other American facilities, however, if the US were fighting Chinese forces, in a fast-moving war where real-time and near real-time intelligence is of the essence, the loss of Pine Gap would hurt US warfighters and their allies.

A similar attack on RAAF Tindal would put the Australian government in an even greater quandary. While Pine Gap is a US facility on Australian soil, RAAF Tindal is a sovereign Australian military facility, hosting American strategic air assets. How would Canberra react to the loss of this critical forward base in northern Australia?

If Australia were actively assisting American forces in a hot war with the Chinese over the South China Sea, RAAF Tindal might be considered a viable target by Chinese strategic missile forces, eager to roll back the reach of American aircraft.

Returning to Dibb’s two points, successive Australian governments have made it clear that it sees its continuing interest in keeping the US as the indispensable strategic partner, while at the same time keeping the PRC close as an economic partner.

The peculiar nature of this balancing act is not lost on some commentators who have observed that in this case, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Australia will never abandon the US for fear that no other Western country will be in a position to replace the US as Australia’s senior strategic ally.

China on the other hand is a ‘work-in-progress’. With China, Australia can make hay while the sun shines until the PRC milch-cow dries up or changes into something completely different. It is dispensable.

Made all the more because of the PRC’s cultural and political divergences from Australia in its human rights record, its politics and the heavy-handed social practices of the CCP.

Unless or until Australia’s politics and society adapt to CCP norms and conditions, a highly unlikely event,these divergences will never be breached making communist ruled China a country to be economically exploited but never truly trusted.

So, can Australia defend itself against the Chinese military? This is perhaps the wrong question.

For contemporary Australia, the PRC is an intelligence threat first and foremost.

The country’s efforts should therefore be marshalled to counter PRC influence operations, commercial espionage, cyber attacks and spying activities. This would make Australia safe from Chinese encroachments and manipulations.

Australia’s geographic distance is still the country’s greatest strategic asset.

The fact that China needs Australian raw materials and agricultural products to fuel and feed its industries makes Australia indispensable in keeping the Chinese economic juggernaut and autocracy alive.

Ironically in spite of the great leverage it holds over the PRC, Australia in a very tepid way believes itself to be a ‘middle power’ but usually acts like a small power.

If on the other hand the question is asked, can Australia help defend American interests located in Australia against the Chinese military? This is another point entirely and will depend on whether the Chinese military is actively targeting American facilities in Australia and Australian sovereign facilities harbouring American strategic assets.

If we assume that this is the case, then lengthening RAAF Tindal’s runway and purchasing 200 long-range anti-ship missiles will only be relevant to Australia’s ‘defence’ if it is part of a planned American offensive against the PRC.

And that can only mean that an Australian government’s ability to choose not to engage in such a US offensive is highly constrained, further undermining Canberra’s exercise of sovereignty in its own defence.

If Australia’s defence is really part of an American offensive posture, Dibb’s points may make Australia capable of slipstreaming into a planned US attack on Chinese forces. It does not mean that Australia’s sovereign defensive capabilities are any stronger because:

  1. Australia is acting as a facilitator and enabler of American power in the Indo-Pacific.
  2. US bases on Australian territory expose Australia to the risk of a pre-emptive Chinese ballistic missile strike against them, should regional tensions between Washington and Beijing escalate to open warfare.

What people are now suggesting is that Canberra invest in Patriot anti-ballistic missile/anti-aircraft batteries in order to plug the obvious gap in American military asset protection in Australia. The central question becomes, who should be responsible for this? The Australian or American governments?

SAGE International Australia (SIA) is an independent, not-for-profit think tank dedicated to deepening the understanding of global strategic and political issues.

SAGE International Australia aims to advance knowledge on international security trends and conflict resolution by providing high-quality research, analysis and policy debate and advice. SIA aims to deepen conversation with government, academia, civil society and the media on key political and security issues that contributes to local, national and global stability, peace and prosperity.

Dr John Bruni, author of ‘On Weapons Decisions’, is the founder and chief executive of SAGE International Australia, a South Australia-based online think tank and consultancy operating out of Adelaide since 2008. 

Dr Bruni is also on the board of directors of the Royal United Services Institute of Defence & Security Studies Australia (RUSIDSS-A), an institution he has been involved with for well over two decades.

Dr Bruni has long-term experience in teaching international relations, politics and security. He is a researcher and analyst who has worked for IHS Jane’s, London and the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies & Research (ECSSR), Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Dr Bruni has written extensively on national security and defence related issues including the Northeast Asian balance of power. He is also member of the MAST Technical Conference Committee.

The New Cold War (Daniel 7)

APRIL 20, 2020

One of the most important events of the last century was one that never took place — that is, thermonuclear war. Following the U.S. nuclear strikes against Japan in 1945, further use of nuclear weapons seemed inevitable. The United States and the Soviet Union amassed arsenals of unprecedented power, and competed for nuclear superiority in a contest that seemed certain to end in all-out nuclear conflict. But instead, neither utilized their arsenals, competition drove the Soviet Union bankrupt, and the Soviet empire collapsed. The United States and its allies dominated global politics after the Cold War, and democracy spread further across the world than at any other time in history. The Cold War ended without the use of a single nuclear weapon.

However, the non-use of nuclear weapons since 1945 can be misunderstood, and the wrong lessons can be learned. It is sometimes assumed that the absence of nuclear war since World War II proves that nuclear weapons are not relevant for national security, will never be used in conflict, or that a taboo against nuclear weapons will deter their use in the future. This thinking is dangerous, and may bring about the very event it assumes can never occur.

Nuclear weapons were never used during the Cold War because national leaders, even in situations like the Cuban Missile Crisis, judged that there was never any clear advantage in launching a nuclear strike. The risks never outweighed the perceived benefits, as a nuclear attack would clearly lead to nuclear retaliation. Deterrence worked during the Cold War, but only because Washington and Moscow worked hard to convince the other that using nuclear weapons would never be worth it. With the possibility of a new Nuclear Posture Review in 2021, it is important that policymakers study what will drive countries to use, or not use, nuclear weapons in the future.

The Nuclear Taboo Exists, But it Can Be Broken

It is sometimes argued that a normative basis of restraint, a “nuclear taboo,” is responsible for the lack of inter-state nuclear conflict. While such a taboo almost certainly exists, it is unlikely to prevent states from using nuclear weapons on its own. The decision to use nuclear weapons, like the decision to engage in conflict in general, has had a lot less to do with morality and a lot more to do with assessments of the national interest and domestic political considerations.

The United States and the Soviet Union refrained from nuclear strikes during the Cuban Missile Crisis due to mutual vulnerabilities. The crisis only de-escalated when both sides gave each other strategic victories — the Soviets removed its nuclear missiles from Cuba, while the United States removed missiles from Turkey. U.S. government officials decided not to use nuclear weapons during the Vietnam War because the nature of the conflict made them impractical and not worth the cost. Military analysts calculated it would take around 3,000 nuclear weapons a year to accomplish their goals in Operation Rolling Thunder. Following the Korean War, policies were put in place to immediately respond with nuclear weapons if a return to hostilities occurred. Nuclear weapons were used in Japan in World War II because of this same calculus. The U.S. government calculated it could save 500,000 allied lives and massive amounts of time and money by using them.

This is not to say the nuclear taboo has no effect on policy. The fear of the moral, reputational, and political costs associated with using nuclear weapons — specifically, using nuclear weapons first in a crisis — has certainly acted as a deterrent. The taboo, combined with the mindset that the weapons would not be necessary for victory, contributed to President Harry Truman’s decision to not use nuclear weapons in the early days of the Korean War, and prevented Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s original war plans — which included the use of up to fifty nuclear weapons and a belt of radioactive cobalt to prevent reinforcements — from being implemented. Even Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara is reported to have privately advised against waging nuclear war under any circumstances.

Arms control agreements, for their part, have reinforced the nuclear taboo by seeking to control potential escalation, provide transparency, and minimize the situations where it would be advantageous to use nuclear weapons. However, arms control agreements are not signed primarily for normative reasons. Countries — specifically Russia and the United States — have pursued arms control agreements as a means of furthering competition and offsetting an adversary’s advantages in specific sectors.

These agreements were pursued when there was a disparity in capabilities to curb competition and abandoned when the strategic conditions for the agreements were no longer favorable. For example, the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty limited both the Soviet Union and the United States to maintain comparable capabilities and avoid a costly arms race. But Washington withdrew from the treaty in 2001 when it had a clear advantage in developing missile defense technology. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, signed in 1987, allowed both sides to reduce tensions in the European theater, while strategically allowing continued competition in the realm of air and sea-launched missiles where the United States had a clear advantage. Russia began violating the treaty decades later when the strategic calculus changed, in the face of a proliferating Chinese intermediate-range missile force.

Thinking Through Deterrence

Nuclear deterrence is often assumed to work automatically, but in practice, nuclear states are inherently difficult to deter. Deterrence is not a condition achieved from simply possessing nuclear weapons; it is based on the perception of military power in general. Nuclear weapons drastically enhance a state’s strength by creating the capacity to cause catastrophic amounts of damage in a very short period of time, with strikes that are largely indefensible. Due to the unique characteristics of nuclear weapons, nuclear states become less likely to engage in conflict with each other. However, this makes it even harder to deter a nuclear state from campaigns against non-nuclear states.

The United States has extended its deterrence commitments to its allies in Asia and Europe. Unfortunately, this may be an empty promise. In the case of a crisis with a nuclear state like Russia or China, the potential for escalation to the nuclear level always exists. This begs the question: How far is Washington really willing to go to defend an ally, and how would the American people respond to risking nuclear war to defend an ally when there is no threat to the U.S. homeland?

If a nuclear power decided to use nuclear weapons against a state within the American nuclear umbrella (e.g., Australia, Japan, South Korea, and NATO allies, among others), the United States might refrain from responding with nuclear weapons, since doing so would risk its own survival. This dynamic is one of the reasons that the United States maintains a strong military presence and forward-deployed nuclear weapons in the territory of its European allies: The United States is far more likely to respond to aggression if American citizens are killed. This vulnerability allows states to build “theories of victory” that involve the use of nuclear weapons at the tactical level to offset conventional inferiority and deter foreign involvement.

Theories of Nuclear Victory

Nuclear use may be more plausible than many would like to believe. America’s adversaries invest a lot of resources in nuclear weapons, and a considerable amount of time thinking about situations in which they would use nuclear weapons and how to fight the United States under nuclear conditions. For example, if China decided to militarily retake Taiwan — a primary goal of the People’s Liberation Army — it faces two considerable obstacles. While it is possible it could succeed in an amphibious landing and take Taipei, the costs would be immense. Additionally, an invasion risks U.S. intervention and the outbreak of a war between the United States and China over the sovereignty of Taiwan. One of the goals of Chinese war planning against Taiwan is to ensure a quick and decisive occupation that would deter the United States from getting involved in the first place. Though China’s stated nuclear weapons posture claims a no first-use policy, this could be a situation where the cost-benefit ratio of using nuclear weapons is too good to easily overlook. The use of low-yield nuclear weapons against specific targets, such as Taiwanese military bases or coastal defenses, would have two effects. It would clear the way for a Chinese occupation with possibly fewer costs than a conventional approach, and would likely deter U.S. intervention. With no U.S. forces being harmed and China having demonstrated a willingness to escalate to the nuclear level, the United States is unlikely to find it worth the risk to intervene.

China would face economic and diplomatic costs from the international community, but it would face significant costs from annexing Taiwan anyway. Beijing could judge that using nuclear weapons would be worth it. Analysts have to honestly assess how much using nuclear weapons would improve Beijing’s chances of success, and weigh that against the repercussions of doing so.

Russia, with its aggressive nuclear posture, massive arsenal, and recent expansionist actions in Ukraine is another alarming case. Moscow’s calculated use of escalation controls shows a willingness and ability to calculate the appropriate use of force. If Russia can annex territory in Ukraine, it can conceivably do the same in the Baltics. A 2016 RAND study argued that Russian forces can rapidly move through and capture one or all of the Baltic states quicker than NATO would be able to effectively respond. Additionally, the Russian territory of Kaliningrad and its anti-access/area-denial capabilities provide an effective means of defending against NATO intervention. Countering such an offensive would almost certainly require strikes against Russian territory, which could trigger a nuclear response from Moscow. Russia is well practiced in utilizing the fear of further escalation and uncertainty to its advantage; limited nuclear strikes, or a nuclear demonstration in key areas, could be used to create uncertainty and fear of conflict escalating to a larger scale, deterring conflict at a lower level of escalation. If push came to shove, would NATO be willing to risk nuclear conflict for a small state in Russia’s backyard?

Of course, nuclear deterrence is most credible as a means to prevent foreign invasion. This has been the primary reason numerous states have sought nuclear weapons in the first place, including India, Pakistan, Israel, and even North Korea. A significant threat to the homeland of a nuclear state could lead to the use of nuclear weapons to make up for conventional inferiority, especially if the state is losing ground to advancing forces. The state may utilize a limited strike against an invader’s military bases, to cut off supply trains, or even against an adversary’s cities to coerce them into backing down. Furthermore, if the state feels its nuclear deterrent is being threatened, it may escalate by using its nuclear weapons under fear of a “use it or lose it” situation. Theoretically, this dilemma prevents invasion from occurring in the first place. But, if an adversary truly believes in this normative restraint and invades despite this deterrent, is it really believable that the state will continue to refrain from using nuclear weapons when its survival is at stake?

In the Cold War, analysts learned that it was very difficult to credibly engage and win in strategic-level warfare against a nuclear state. But this same lesson does not apply to nuclear versus non-nuclear states. The United States and Russia are unlikely to target each other in nuclear conflict — it is too risky. But nuclear weapons can be used against a non-nuclear state — outside of a nuclear adversary’s homeland — without triggering a suicidal response. There is a major difference between striking a nuclear power’s cities and threatening their survival and using low-yield weapons against a state that cannot retaliate at the nuclear level.

A counterargument is that it would not be necessary to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state. However, this assumption may not always hold true, and the fear of inter-state nuclear conflict may be the edge a nuclear state needs to deter against foreign interference. If an American adversary uses nuclear weapons — in a manner that does not threaten the United States — will America blink? Is the United States truly willing to respond with nuclear weapons when doing so could quickly turn a situation that did not originally threaten it into one of mutual suicide?

Nuclear Restraint Is Not Based on Morality

Nuclear weapons may have increased deterrence between nuclear-armed states, but it is increasingly difficult to deter them in other campaigns. There are situations when a state may be able to use nuclear weapons to their advantage, and deterring against this requires hard work.

Nuclear weapons have not been used in combat in 75 years. Considerations of nuclear warfare have become taboo, which has contributed, in part, to the non-use of nuclear weapons for so long. But the taboo does not guarantee that nuclear weapons will not be used in the future, and history shows us that taboos are often broken. Recent evidence suggests that the nuclear taboo may not be as robust as many assume. An increasing number of Americans have even declared they would support using nuclear weapons to save American lives — a sentiment unlikely to be unique to the United States. In one study, 59 percent of respondents stated that they would support the use of nuclear weapons against Iran to save U.S. soldiers, and a different study showed that 77.2 percent would support a nuclear strike against al-Qaeda if nuclear weapons were deemed twice as effective as conventional weapons.

Unfortunately, the use of nuclear weapons may be increasingly plausible in the years ahead. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or “Iran deal,” meant to slow the inevitable proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, but was undermined when the United States withdrew from it in 2018. North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles have proven to be an effective means of deterring U.S. intervention and will not go away anytime soon, bringing fears of proliferation both in East Asia and to other dictatorships around the world. Bilateral arms control agreements are becoming less relevant as they weaken signatories against states outside of the agreement, and multilateral arms control agreements have become less likely to have meaningful content due to the wide variety of conflicting capabilities, arsenal sizes, and security concerns. The unfortunate reality is that the nuclear taboo is falling apart. If we wish to continue to see a world where nuclear weapons are not used, deterrent postures must be based on the assumption that states will use these weapons when it is in their interest to do so. 

Gerald C. Brown (@GeraldC_Brown) is an analyst with Valiant Integrated Services, where he supports the Department of Defense nuclear enterprise and conducts nuclear strategy research and exercise analysis. Previously, he spent six years in the U. S. Air Force, Global Strike Command, working in nuclear security operations. All views expressed here are his own.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Dwight Eisenhower was president in the early days of the Korean War. That was incorrect. Harry Truman was president at the start of the Korean War.

Image: U.S. Air Force (Photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Bulow-Gonterman)

Unit 2 at Indian Point Prepares for Shutdown Before the Sixth Seal

Cleaning Up Indian Point

The Indian Point nuclear plant will begin its shutdown in April. (File photo)

 

Lawmakers raise doubts about proposed transfer

The Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan is scheduled to begin its shutdown in April, after which the site will need to be cleaned up and its spent, radioactive rods secured.

Entergy, which owns the plant, doesn’t want to do the decommissioning and so has asked the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the OK to transfer its license to a firm called Holtec International. The cleanup is expected to take 15 years.

The NRC has opened its public comment period on the request. Judging by the mood at a joint Jan. 30 meeting of the Indian Point Closure Task Force and the Community Unity Task Force, the agency can expect to hear an earful.

Holtec has come under scrutiny about its capacity to do the work, as well as its financial health. A presentation by a Holtec representative on Jan. 15 at the Buchanan Village Hall did little to quell those doubts.

“I came out more worried than when I went in,” said Dr. Richard Becker, a councilman for the Town of Cortlandt.

Becker said that a slide in the presentation that detailed Holtec’s rapid international expansion seemed intended to show the company’s financial strength but had the opposite effect.

“In my experience, businesses get into trouble two ways: One, when they don’t have enough business, and two, when they have too much business,” he said.

Becker was also not assured when the representative said he did not know anything about the expansion of the Algonquin Pipeline near Indian Point,as well as how that would affect decommissioning.

One of the plant’s two reactors is scheduled to be shut down at the end of April, with the remaining reactor scheduled to be taken offline in 2021. If the license transfer is approved by the NRC, Holtec would be awarded the plant’s $2.1 billion decommissioning fund.

At the Jan. 15 meeting, the Holtec representative said the company would be responsible for any budget overruns. If the fund ran low, he implied that, the firm would stop work until it could be replenished with the interest earned on its balance.

At the Jan. 30 meeting, Sandy Galef, whose district in the state Assembly includes Philipstown, disputed those claims.

“I don’t think that’s acceptable to us,” she said of the plan. Galef went as far to say that she did not believe the particular Holtec representative should be conducting any further presentations on the matter.

George Latimer, the Westchester County executive, said he would like to see more Holtec public presentations, including in south Westchester. “The discussion of transporting radioactive material out of the plant, down the river — every single river town that’s south of here down to Yonkers will want to know more about that,” he said.

State Attorney General Letitia James also has expressed concern about the proposed transfer, asserting in a statement that Holtec has “absolutely no experience in such an enormous, complex and consequential undertaking. I am committed to ensuring — through legal action, if necessary — that the State of New York is granted full participation in this application proceeding and all other decision-making related to Indian Point’s decommissioning.”

Have Your Say

Proposed Transfer of Indian Point Operating Licenses
NRC Proceeding (NRC-2020-0021)
regulations.gov
Deadline: Feb. 24

Proposed Amendment re: Cessation Program Funding Mechanism
New York State Energy Plan
energyplan.ny.gov
Hearings: Feb. 27 (Albany), March 2 (New York City)
Deadline: March 8

Proposed Transfer of Indian Point Energy Center
New York PSC Proceeding (19-E-0730)
www.dps.ny.gov
Select “Post Comments” tab
Deadline: April 7

James and 12 other state attorneys general have protested the NRC ignoring multiple requests by the state of Massachusetts to hold a public hearing over Holtec acquiring the license to decommission the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth.

At the Jan. 30 meeting, Galef said she didn’t want to see a similar process play out in New York. “We’re kind of limited as to what we can do as elected officials in getting to have hearings,” she said, noting that state legislators have little sway over federal agencies. “But we can certainly put public pressure on them.”

No matter who ends up decommissioning the plant, state and federal leaders are working on a variety of strategies to counter the loss of jobs after the plant closes. Patricia Keegan, a representative from Rep. Nita Lowey’s office, announced at the meeting that, as part of a recently approved federal spending bill, Lowey had created a $15 million program for economic development in the form of competitive grants restricted to communities that are directly impacted by nuclear plant closures.

In addition, Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker, working with other mayors across the country who preside over municipalities with shuttered nuclear power plants, is lobbying for a federal law that would be referred to as the STRANDED Act, for Sensible, Timely Relief for America’s Nuclear Districts Economic Development. The bill would award municipalities $15 per kilogram of nuclear waste that’s left at a closed nuclear power plant.

There is also a state bill that has passed both the Assembly and Senate designed to protect the jobs of plant employees, although it has not yet been signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. While Holtec officials have said that the company plans to hire Indian Point workers for the decommissioning, some people remain skeptical.

“I would just like to get that in writing” said Lou Picani of Teamsters Local 456. “People tend to get amnesia.