The Ramapo Fault and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

 

Living on the Fault Line

A major earthquake isn’t likely here, but if it comes, watch out.

Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo

This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.

The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.

After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.

Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.

During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.

“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”

Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.

Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.

After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.

But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.

Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.

Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.

The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.

For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.

Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”

The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.

The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.

This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”

Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”

But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.

Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.

All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.

For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.

Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the  amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.

To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.

In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial  rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.

As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)

In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.

The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hazus.htm).

Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.

Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.

This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.

“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.

For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at nycem.org.)

All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or  auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.

Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”

***********************

Planning for the Big One

For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.

In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.

Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”

Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.

This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”

A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.

“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”

Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.

Kashmir: the Flashpoint for the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8 )

Tensions Rise in Kashmir – The Owl

Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint as India has endangered immediate neighbourhood: Pak Army Chief

Islamabad, April 28 (KMS): The Balakot airstrike and the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir are the two significant events that will have a “lasting imprint” on the geopolitical situation of South Asia, said Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

In an article in the ‘Green Book 2020’, a research journal of the Pakistan Army which is recognised by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan and published biennially, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa also describes Kashmir as a “nuclear flashpoint”.
General Bajwa being the Patron-in-Chief of the journal expressed his view in a “Note” at the first page of the publication.
“Year 2019 witnessed two significant events which will have lasting imprint on the geopolitics of this region; first, the unwarranted Balakot Strike by Indian Air Force on 26th February and second, the unilateral annexation of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, through abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, “the Pakistan Army chief said.
“Former was a coercive attempt to carve out space for war under nuclear overhang and enforce compellence; adroitly denied by Pakistan Air Force the very next day, through a calibrated and proportionate response – Indian craving for establishing a New Normal was stymied comprehensively.
“The latter, despite condemnation by the World at large, continues to haunt the lives of over eight million Muslims” of Kashmir…” he wrote.
General Bajwa goes on to say: “Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint and in total disregard to international norms, Mr (Narendra) Modi has not only endangered the immediate neighbourhood, but has also raised the ante for the entire World.”
In the ‘Green Book 2020’ editorial, Editor-in-Chief Lt Gen Sher Afgan made a case for the changing global order due to the impact of the latest technologies and revolutions in the military and strategic thoughts.
“New players like China & Russia are pushing the US led International Liberal Order towards an era of more multipolar power centres. Regionalism is gaining currency, Populism sentiment is high and traditional power centres are grappling to remain atop,” he wrote.
He said that South Asia, due to its strategic location and role in world politics, is also under a great impact of this rapid transformation in the geo-politics and geo-economics and Pakistan armed forces had superbly tackled through cross-domain responses.
Former diplomat Shamshad Ahmad Khan in his article, ‘India-Pakistan Relations: In Perspective’, wrote that Pakistan has been living with a lingering suspicion that India had never reconciled to the sub-continent’s partition and facing India’s hostility and belligerence.
He said that as one of the oldest unresolved international conflicts, Kashmir is today “a nuclear flashpoint.”Islamabad, April 28 (KMS): The Balakot airstrike and the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir are the two significant events that will have a “lasting imprint” on the geopolitical situation of South Asia, said Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
In an article in the ‘Green Book 2020’, a research journal of the Pakistan Army which is recognised by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan and published biennially, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa also describes Kashmir as a “nuclear flashpoint”.
General Bajwa being the Patron-in-Chief of the journal expressed his view in a “Note” at the first page of the publication.
“Year 2019 witnessed two significant events which will have lasting imprint on the geopolitics of this region; first, the unwarranted Balakot Strike by Indian Air Force on 26th February and second, the unilateral annexation of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, through abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, “the Pakistan Army chief said.
“Former was a coercive attempt to carve out space for war under nuclear overhang and enforce compellence; adroitly denied by Pakistan Air Force the very next day, through a calibrated and proportionate response – Indian craving for establishing a New Normal was stymied comprehensively.
“The latter, despite condemnation by the World at large, continues to haunt the lives of over eight million Muslims” of Kashmir…” he wrote.
General Bajwa goes on to say: “Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint and in total disregard to international norms,Mr (Narendra) Modi has not only endangered the immediate neighbourhood, but has also raised the ante for the entire World.”
In the ‘Green Book 2020’ editorial, Editor-in-Chief Lt Gen Sher Afgan made a case for the changing global order due to the impact of the latest technologies and revolutions in the military and strategic thoughts.
“New players like China & Russia are pushing the US led International Liberal Order towards an era of more multipolar power centres. Regionalism is gaining currency, Populism sentiment is high and traditional power centres are grappling to remain atop,” he wrote.
He said that South Asia, due to its strategic location and role in world politics, is also under a great impact of this rapid transformation in the geo-politics and geo-economics and Pakistan armed forces had superbly tackled through cross-domain responses.
Former diplomat Shamshad Ahmad Khan in his article, ‘India-Pakistan Relations: In Perspective’, wrote that Pakistan has been living with a lingering suspicion that India had never reconciled to the sub-continent’s partition and facing India’s hostility and belligerence.
He said that as one of the oldest unresolved international conflicts, Kashmir is today “a nuclear flashpoint.”

Unit 2 Shuts Down Before the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Indian Point Unit 2 Will Shut Down April 30

One of the two remaining operating reactors at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York, will close for good on April 30, shutting down early as part of an agreement between Entergy, the plant’s operator, the state of New York, and environmental groups who had pressured officials to close the plant.

The 1,020-MW Unit 2 will close Thursday, leaving the 1,040-MW Unit 3 as the plant’s lone operating unit. Unit 3 is scheduled to close in April 2021 as part of the agreement, a deal reached in January 2017. The closure will mark the end of Entergy’s time as a participant in the merchant power business.

At the time of the 2017 agreement, Bill Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, said, “Key considerations in our decision to shut down Indian Point ahead of schedule include sustained low current and projected wholesale energy prices that have reduced revenues, as well as increased operating costs. In addition, we foresee continuing costs for license renewal beyond the more than $200 million and 10 years we have already invested.”

Not all environmental groups want Indian Point to close. The U.S.-based Climate Coalition in a letter delivered last week to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked the governor to suspend the closure of the plant. The group, which includes climate scientists, environmental groups, climate and clean energy advocates, and others, said in the letter that closing the plant will make the state more vulnerable to power disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state urged Cuomo “to stop this poorly-timed closure and keep New York City’s 2-gigawatt, zero-emission, zero-air pollutant clean energy generation facility operational. Postponing the shutdown of Indian Point and preventing a surge of new, toxic fossil fuel pollutants from spewing into the air while people are perishing from respiratory failure, is probably the most critical, preventative thing you can do to ease suffering and additional deaths.”

Indian Point, located 24 miles from New York City, originally began commercial operation in 1962, with a single, 257-MW reactor; that Unit 1 was retired in 1974. Units 2 and 3 came online in 1974 and 1976, respectively.

Entergy purchased Unit 3 in 2000 from the New York Power Authority, and Unit 2—along with the permanently closed Unit 1—in 2001 from Consolidated Edison.

Plant Set for Decommissioning

Entergy in April 2019 said it would sell Indian Point to Comprehensive Decommissioning International, a Camden, N.J.-based jointly owned subsidiary of Holtec International, a company buying nuclear plants that are closed or scheduled for retirement. Holtec will take possession after the shutdown of Unit 3.

Holtec has proposed decommissioning and demolishing the facility by year-end 2033, at a projected cost of $2.3 billion. The company already has submitted a decommissioning report, which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said it put aside while the agency reviews the plant’s application to transfer the ownership license. Bruce Watson, chief of the Reactor Decommissioning Branch in the Division of Decommissioning Uranium Recovery and Waste Programs in the Office of Nuclear Materials Safety and Safeguards at the NRC, said a financial and technical review of Holtec’s capabilities will be done as the NRC reviews the application.

“We are evaluating Holtec’s technical and financial qualifications to decommission Indian Point,” said Watson in a media briefing April 21. “Such reviews typically take on the order of about a year; however, our review could be completed later this year.”

Richard Chang, a project manager in Watson’s office, at the briefing said Holtec’s plan calls for all spent fuel from Units 2 and 3 to be moved into dry cask storage as of early 2024. The spent fuel from Unit 1 already is in dry cask storage. Holtec expects to complete demolition of all three units at Indian Point by 2032, with site restoration expected to by the end of 2033.

“With respect to estimated costs, Holtec’s plan anticipates the cost of decommissioning Unit 1 as $598  million; Unit 2 as $702 million; and Unit three as over $1 billion, for a total of roughly $2.3 billion. Please note that these amounts include site restoration costs, which the NRC does not oversee. Our focus is on the radiological cleanup of the site,” said Chang. “As of the end of 2018, the decommissioning trust fund for Indian Point Unit 1 held $471 million; Indian Point 2 contained $598 million; and there was $780 million set aside for Indian Point Unit 3. The funds at that time added up to more than $1.85 billion.”

Groups Cite Problems at Plant

Environmental groups pressed for the plant’s closure citing Indian Point’s history of operational, safety, and environmental problems, which included a 2015 transformer fire that sent thousands of gallons of oil into the Hudson River. The groups also cited radioactive releases into groundwater and said the plant had inadequate disaster planning.

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), which oversees the state’s electric grid, last year said retiring Indian Point would not impact the reliability of the region’s power supply. NYISO said annual electricity demand in New York State has declined for more than a decade, and will remain essentially flat over the next 10 years. New York officials, including members of the state Public Service Commission (PSC), had looked at closing Indian Point even before the 2017 closure agreement, citing clean energy and energy efficiency initiatives that continue to grow the state’s use of renewable resources for power generation.

Those initiatives include 1.3 GW of demand response (DR) resources (programs that compensate customers for agreeing to cut their electricity use when called upon during high use periods) in place to cut electric power on peak summer days, along with additional capacity from retail DR programs approved by the PSC that are operated by Consolidated Edison and other utilities.

The state’s NY-Sun solar power program, launched in 2013, continues to ramp up solar projects on homes and businesses across the state. The state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), signed into law last year, mandates the installation of at least 6 GW of solar power in the state by 2025, along with 9 GW of offshore wind power by 2035.

Officials also have said the 1-GW TDI Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission project, which has been fully approved and permitted to bring hydropower from Quebec, Canada, to New York City, is likely to replace some of the generation lost from Indian Point’s closure.

Workers losing jobs due to the closure of Indian Point—the plant employed as many as 1,000 workers in recent years—could be helped by New York’s Cessation Mitigation Fund, created in 2015 to provide community support related to power plant shutdowns.

—Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).

If Kim Jong Un dies, expect nuclear weapons provocation to ramp up

Soo Kim is a policy analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and former CIA analyst.

US should end cycle of blackmail by ignoring successor’s saber-rattling

With rumors swirling that Kim Jong Un has suffered a health crisis, some are already asking who might succeed him as leader of North Korea. Kim’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong, his estranged uncle Kim Pyong-il or even a military junta have been mentioned as possibilities.

But who is not the most important question. What will matter more is what the new regime does to establish its legitimacy and how the U.S. and its allies respond.

At the top of the agenda for all sides, of course, is North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. If Kim Jong Un does die, Pyongyang’s new leader will need to consolidate their power and keep at bay any external challenges, which will spell greater uncertainty, particularly surrounding the fate of the program.

Pyongyang’s nukes and ballistic missiles have guaranteed the survival of the Kim regime, however crippled, for three generations. Within North Korea, the nuclear deterrent has been portrayed as a symbol of national achievement. Externally, it has boosted the efficacy of its blackmail tactics toward its neighbors in Seoul and Tokyo.

For example, North Korea’s recent missile capability advancements helped Kim Jong Un score a handful of summits with the U.S. and South Korean presidents. The supposed denuclearization negotiations, however, left Kim’s nuclear program largely intact while reducing Washington and Seoul’s options for pressuring Pyongyang.

Donald Trump, left, Kim Jong Un, center, and Moon Jae-in, right, walk together at the border village of Panmunjom in June 2019.   © AP

So any new North Korean leader who needs internal legitimacy and international recognition seems likely to calculate that retaining or expanding the nuclear weapons program will help.

More nuclear testing and development, of course, requires the financial wherewithal to pay for it. Pyongyang would have to continue to rely on its illicit networks and sanctions-evading tactics to drum up the revenue and sustain the leadership’s lavish lifestyle.

A new regime will also need complicit international sponsors, so in the early transition stages, we may see a diplomatic offensive. Reaffirmation of ties with China, Russia and other like-minded countries, balanced with a calibrated carrot-and-stick handling of South Korea, may help the new North Korean leader establish their international presence and legitimacy.

China, for its part, has its own strategic interests to consider. Given the strong U.S. alliances with South Korea and Japan, North Korea has been a handy buffer state. China has tolerated North Korea’s nuclear capabilities so long as these did not pose a threat to Beijing’s own stability, kept the Kim regime from collapse and worked to weaken U.S. influence in the region. Beijing’s opposition to harsh international sanctions and its continuing trade with Pyongyang have helped sustain the North Korean regime for years.

With U.S.-China tensions high now over trade issues and the fallout from the new coronavirus outbreak, China may be particularly keen to preserve its own influence over any future North Korean leadership.

This may mean more meddling in U.S.-North Korea relations, or more pressure on Washington for trade and political concessions in exchange for using its leverage over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Indeed, if China decides to involve itself in bolstering a new North Korean regime, that could pose new security challenges to Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.

Ultimately, the critical question about a post-Kim Jong Un North Korea will be how: how will the U.S. and its allies react? How will they respond to an expanding nuclear arsenal and advancing missile capabilities, not to mention more skirting of sanctions?

The initial response likely will establish the tone of relations going forward. Tempting as it may be to reset relations on the path toward normalization, there are hazards to even exchanging pleasantries with any successors.

Such activities may lend the appearance of progress in repairing relations with North Korea, but in the long run they can also provide North Korea with justification for continuing its nefarious activities, no matter who leads the next regime.

If Kim’s successor stays on the course of nuclear blackmail and extortion, an alternative approach might be a policy that ignores Pyongyang’s provocations. This may not be what the North Korean regime expects from the U.S. and like-minded partners; usually, nuclear threats and harsh rhetoric have elicited a response from Washington.

A nonresponse, even rebuffing, might convey a different message: the U.S. will no longer tolerate this recycled pattern of provocation, extortion and dialogue.

Babylon the Great Mounts More Pressure on Iran

US mounts Iran arms embargo battle at UN Security Council

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The US is pressuring UN Security Council members to extend an arms embargo on Iran despite their withdrawal from the nuclear agreement in 2018.

The embargo, introduced in 2015 as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is set to expire in October.

The US has drafted and shared a resolution with Britain, France, and Germany that would extend the embargo,  Reuters has reported. However, they are yet to share it with the other 11 council members, diplomats told the news agency on condition of anonymity.

“It will be dead on arrival,” said an anonymous Security Council diplomat to Reuters.

The US has been largely isolated in Security Council sessions on the Iran nuclear deal since their withdrawal in May 2018. Diplomats speaking to Reuters say it is unlikely to get support from Russia and China, both permanent members of the council with veto power.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was preparing legal arguments that the US remains a participant in the nuclear accords that the country withdrew from in May 2018.

The landmark 2015 nuclear deal was signed between Iran on the one side and the US, Russia, Germany, France, UK and China on the other. The deal was designed to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief.

However, the deal began to unravel in May 2018 when US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the deal unilaterally, arguing the agreement did not guarantee Iran would not obtain nuclear weapons and that Iran was destabilizing the Middle East through armed proxy groups across the region.

The insistence on US participation in the deal  aims to reactivate the entire set of sanctions placed on Iran before the accord was ratified.

 

US officials have argued that this procedural “snapback” is possible due to the United States being listed as a deal participant in the UN resolution that sealed the accord.

The US will activate this legal argument should the arms embargo draft resolution not go through, according to New York Times sources.

Legal opinions on whether the US can argue their continued participation in the accord are split, according to the diplomats speaking to Reuters.

The Russian mission to the UN has already expressed skepticism of this legal argument.

“The country which officially ceased its participation in the #IranDeal can not remain its participant by definition,” Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted on Monday.

A European official, speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, argued that pulling off such a manoeuvre would be incredibly difficult.

“It’s going to be messy from a Security Council standpoint because, regardless of what (Britain, Germany and France) think, Russia and China are not going to sign up to that legal interpretation,” claimed the official.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to Twitter to criticize the US’ planned legal argument, armed with screenshots to prove the US did in fact withdraw from the deal.

Although most powers oppose the US sanctions on Iran, the global financial dominance of the US dollar has meant the deal’s European, Russian and Chinese signatories have been able to do little to alleviate pressure on Iran’s economy from Washington’s crushing sanctions.

In response to the sanctions, Iran has begun a gradual abandonment of its commitments to the nuclear deal – moves that Iran has argued are reversible if sanctions relief is provided.

Tehran announced in January that it would no longer comply with restrictions on nuclear enrichment, the latest move in undermining the landmark deal.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have spiked following the US drone strike in Iraq that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iran’s retaliatory fire of ballistic missiles at US bases in January.

Washington has blamed the attacks on Iran-aligned elements of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF,or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic) , a military network formally integrated into Iraq’s security forces.

A tense exchange between US naval vessels and speedboats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on April 15 has set off a new set of threats between the  leaders of the two countries.

Most recently, Iran says it has launched its first satellite into orbit, a move the US has said strengthens Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities.

War With Pakistan: What ICU Beds? (Revelation 8 )

How many intensive care beds will a nuclear weapon explosion require?

By Tom Sauer, Ramesh Thakur, April 28, 2020

A central computer system monitors the heart rates of each patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) aboard the USNS Comfort, one of two hospital ships operated by Military Sealift Command. (US Navy photo)

A novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China late last year, hopping in one way or another from other animals to humans. Initially the rest of the world thought this outbreak was a local problem and then was shocked at the brutality of the lockdown that the Chinese authorities clamped on Wuhan to quarantine the infection cluster. Despite China’s efforts at containment, soon the virus rode the highways and byways of globalization to quickly circle the world. Other countries realized their hospital systems could be overwhelmed unless they drastically slowed the surge of new infections. No country had the number of beds in its intensive care units (ICUs) to manage patient loads under worst-case scenarios of letting this new coronavirus spread through the community to acquire herd immunity.

To those of us whose primary professional interest lies in nuclear weapons and the dangers they pose, the coronavirus pandemic is a striking validation of the Humanitarian Initiative, which took off 10 years ago with three core propositions: First, no country individually has the capacity to cope with the humanitarian consequences of a nuclear war, and the international system doesn’t have it collectively, either. Second, it is therefore in the interests of all humanity that nuclear weapons never be used again, under any circumstances. And finally: The only guarantee of non-use is the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. These precepts were the powerful impetus behind the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty that 122 states at the United Nations adopted in July 2017.

The pandemic speaks to the truth of the first proposition about the power of the bomb. The near-universal response to the panic created by COVID-19 leads us to the conclusion that the number of ICU beds needed to deal with a disaster should become a new norm, and a new way to judge when radical action is needed to respond to a global threat. So what other types of global catastrophes could call for more hospital infrastructure and personnel than is now available? The bomb is one obvious answer. Are the number of ICU beds sufficient to respond to a disaster caused by the explosion of one nuclear weapon or, in a war, many? No, they are not sufficient. Not even close.

A serious threat assessment consists of estimating the size of a threat and its probability. For the nuclear threat, estimating the size is rather straightforward; the probability is more difficult. A nuclear cataclysm is low probability in the short term, almost certain in the long run, and high impact whenever it happens. Let’s put it another way: For nuclear peace to hold, deterrence and fail-safe mechanisms must work every single time. For nuclear catastrophe to occur, either deterrence or fail safe mechanisms need to break down only once. This is not a comforting equation. Moreover, deterrence stability depends on rational decision-makers being always in office in every single nuclear-armed country. The leaders of the nine countries with the bomb today—China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the UK, and the United States—do not universally reassure on this score.

So let’s take the number of available intensive care beds as the new measure and apply it to potential nuclear catastrophes. With the help of Stephens Institute of Technology researcher Alex Wellerstein’s Nukemap, we can model the approximate results of a hit on a target city by a nuclear warhead of choice. The largest bomb tested by Pakistan—which has a yield equal to 45 kilotons of TNT—would kill 358,350 people and injure 1.28 million, if used in an airburst over Delhi. But there would almost certainly be many more injuries; almost four million people live within the 7 kilometer radius in which the detonation would break glass windows and create other “light” blast effects—which actually are not light and would cause major injuries. If Russia launched one of its nuclear-armed, 800-kiloton Topol missiles against NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 536,180 people would die and 572,830 would be injured. If a 5,000-kiloton Chinese Deng Fong-5 missile reaches Brussels, 839,550 will die and another 876,260 people will be seriously injured. Belgium’s 1,900 ICU beds (minus those of Brussels and surroundings, which would of course be instantly destroyed or rendered unusable) could not begin to cope with a humanitarian disaster of this magnitude. And what if more than one nuclear warhead explodes? What about a nuclear war that produces dozens or hundreds of nuclear explosions?

No society is prepared for such a man-made disaster. Worse, no society can ever be prepared for such a scenario. Nevertheless, many nations (including our home countries of Belgium and Australia) base their defense policies on the threat that the United States will use nuclear weapons in their defense, if necessary.

We cannot predict when and with what ferocity the next global pandemic will hit. But we can be certain that Covid-19 will not be the last pandemic disease to afflict humanity, and we should be making preparations to forestall such a disaster. We also cannot predict when and where nuclear weapons will be used again, and by whom. But we can be grimly confident that a nuclear warhead will be detonated someday, somewhere, if not by choice and design, then inadvertently, through accidental launch, rogue launch, or system failure.

Nuclear deterrence has proven itself to be anything but foolproof. Syria and Egypt attacked Israel in 1973, even though the Jewish state possessed nuclear weapons; in 1991, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein also disregarded Israel’s nuclear arsenal, firing Scud missiles at Tel Aviv. Argentina attacked the nuclear-armed UK in the Falkland Islands war. India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, fought the Kargil war in 1999 (more than 1,000 people died) and had a dog-fight in February last year. We would not call these conflicts—any one of which might have resulted in the use of nuclear weapons—expressions of security or stability. A policy based on hope and luck (as US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara described the conduct of the Cuban Missile Crisis) cannot be the basis of a serious defense policy.

What is the probability of a nuclear war or simply the explosion of a single nuclear weapon? Certainly it is more than zero. And the probability seems to be rising rather than falling. If US President Donald Trump does not extend New START by the end of this year, for the first time in 50 years the world will end up without any bilateral arms control treaty that includes verification. The nuclear-armed countries have not negotiated one new arms control treaty since 2010. North Korea now has nuclear weapons, and Iran may be the next in line.

The world is facing a clear threat of an “outbreak” of nuclear weapons proliferation.

As of now, there are no treatments or preventive measures that work against the new coronavirus circling the world. But a “vaccine” against nuclear weapons use already exists—the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, often known simply as the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty. Unfortunately, despite their legal obligations under Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the five nuclear weapon states and their allies, and also the four nuclear armed states outside the NPT, are refusing to take the prophylactic medication the ban treaty prescribes. The nuclear weapon “haves” refuse to give up their nuclear privileges, even though they promised to do so under the NPT. The US alone will spend $50 billion this year on the maintenance and modernization of nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles.

Doctors know better. They know that they won’t be of any help in a nuclear war. That is why the World Medical Association stands behind the Nuclear Ban Treaty since 2018. The same for the World Federation of Public Health Associations, the International Council of Nurses, and  International Red Cross.

The world has experienced epidemics and pandemics before. It suffered but endured. The coronavirus pandemic too shall pass, and life will go on. But the world is unlikely to return to the pre-pandemic state of affairs. Countries will rebuild domestic manufacturing capacity for critical medical supplies and equipment and create institutional structures to manage a surge in ICU capacity for future epidemiological crises. They will rebuild some vital border protections. And they will build functional redundancy into global supply chains to reduce exposure to single points of critical supply.

But such measures will not work as preparations against a nuclear war; no infrastructure, no matter how sophisticated or extensive, could cope with the horrible injury toll. Using ICU beds as a new norm informs us that no after-the-fact response to a nuclear bomb explosion can work. So prevention in the form of the Ban Treaty vaccine must be universally administered. In the post-pandemic world, therefore, eliminating nuclear weapons must be a top priority of the utmost urgency.

As the coronavirus crisis shows, we need science now more than ever.

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The Iranian Nuclear Horn Grows (Daniel 8:4)

WW3 warning: ‘Iran’s desire for more Uranium could spark Middle East conflict’ – expert

MIDDLE East conflict fears could be raised if Iran continues to stock more Uranium despite the disapproval of the US, according to an expert.

By Gerrard Kaonga 22:45, Sun, Apr 26, 2020 | UPDATED: 22:46, Sun, Apr 26, 2020

Iran: Nuclear weapons ‘won’t be good for US’ says expert

World War three fears remain high as Iran and US tensions continue to escalate. Dr Pupak Mohebali, an expert from Iran International, owned by Volant Media, noted Tehran’s quest for more nuclear material could create uncertainty and instability in the Middle East. During an interview with Express.co.uk, Dr Mohebali said if Iran continues to acquire nuclear material, the US’ allies in the region will look towards the superpower for intervention.

This could ultimately spark a major conflict between Iran and its surrounding nations and potentially the US.

Dr Mohebali said: “It definitely won’t help to establish peace and stability in the region.

“This is because there is rivalry among the surrounding countries.

“I believe acquiring more Uranium could make things worse because before Iran even created a nuclear bomb, we had America attacking and killing Qassem Soleimanni.

Dr Mohebali said if Iran continues to acquire nuclear material, the US’ allies in the region will look towards the superpower for intervention. (Image: Getty)

Iran then attacked several US military bases in Iraq.

“In addition to this, everyday we witness more cases of conflict and turmoil in different parts of the region.

“It simply won’t help bring any of the countries in the Middle East closer.

“It can even make things worse.

“This is because countries surrounding Iran would sit down, the countries allied with the US in the region especially, and they would look at the US and other major powers in the world to see who each country is supporting.

“It definitely would not be good for Iran and I don’t think it is going to be good for any other country, including the US.”

Throughout 2020 Iran has refused to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA).

This has caused concerned as the body has requested cooperation to ensure Iran’s nuclear material stocks match their claims.

Dr Mohebali claimed Iran could use the coronavirus pandemic to their advantage to continue to refuse an inspection. April 26 2020 data (Image: Daily Express)

Dr Mohebali claimed Iran could use the coronavirus pandemic to their advantage to continue to refuse an inspection.

Dr Mohebali said:” If the IAEA can not have its investigators in Iran at the moment it may cause problems.

“It won’t be easy for the IAEA to know the scope of Iran’s nuclear activities during this time.

“Ultimately this could cause a lot of issues in the future.”