More Radioactive Leaks Before the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Left to right, John Sullivan, Marilyn Elie, Margot Frances, Manna Jo Greene and Jeanne Shaw, members of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, in front of an inflatable, life-size nuclear waste cask last week. Abby Luby Photo

October 8, 2019 By Abby Luby

The closure and dismantling of Indian Point plants 2 and 3 in 2020 and 2021, respectively, have raised red flags about the storage and handling of more than 1,700 tons of dangerous radioactive waste.

At a public meeting last Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) answered questions about the decommissioning process. About 90 people crowded into the Morabito Community Center in Cortlandt to ask Bruce Watson, NRC chief of the reactor decommissioning branch, about the regulatory agency’s oversight role during the plant closures.

For three hours, many were frustrated with the unreliable audio system that made it difficult to hear the speakers. A major concern was about Holtec International, a family-owned corporation based in Camden, N.J., slated to purchase, dismantle Indian Point and manage the irradiated nuclear fuel. Although Holtec has more than 30 years’ experience handling radioactive waste, it has come under scrutiny for fast-tracking decommissioning of nuclear plants.

Holtec proposes to dispose of the waste in as little as eight years; the NRC allows 60 years for the process.

Holtec is a company with a record of bribery, lies and risk-taking. We know the NRC allowed the company into plants in New Jersey and Massachusetts even before objections by citizens’ groups were heard,” charged Richard Webster, legal director for Riverkeeper.

“Can you describe the NRC’s role in approving and selecting companies like Holtec for decommissioning?” asked Peekskill City Councilman Colin Smith during the meeting.

Watson replied that the agency is not privy to contractual details or sale agreements.

“Our sole responsibility is to ensure the applicant is licensed and has the technical and financial ability to own a particular plant,” he said.

When Smith asked for an estimated timeline for transporting the spent fuel rods, Watson said, “Congress promised to take care of high-level waste when they encouraged all these plants to be built. It’s in their ballpark to facilitate the disposal of the spent fuel. It’s way below my pay grade to make that kind of policy. I wish I had an answer for you.”

NRC’s oversight role with Holtec directly ties into the formation of Community Advisory Boards (CABs) as stipulated in a federal law under the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act. Watson indicated that the NRC would be checking in regularly with the progress of the decommissioning, but acknowledged that a heavier oversight role would be put on the Community Advisory Boards.

Many have questioned the authority of the newly formed local CAB, chaired by Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker with Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi serving as vice chair.

“We are all in this together,” said Puglisi in defense of the CAB. “We created a task force two years ago when we learned of the decommissioning and have been meeting monthly. We have a large membership including business people, environmentalists, school officials, chamber of commerce, county executives from Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Orange, along with state representatives.” Puglisi told the NRC to officially recognize the group as a Community Advisory Panel rather than a board.

Knickerbocker said the Community Advisory Panel was a diverse group with Indian Point supporters and critics.

“We are the eyes and ears and the voice for our community,” she said. “Our agenda is the safe decommissioning of Indian Point. This panel will drive the bus for decommissioning.”

The watchdog group Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC) has supported a funded Citizens Oversight Board comprised of impartial members, independent scientists, experts, first responders, plant workers, environmentalists and other informed stakeholders.

“The board should have a budget to hire experts and have appointed environmentalists and volunteers who hold monthly, open meetings,” said IPSEC member Marilyn Elie.

IPSEC maintains a CAB made up of local politicians who might have financial or economic agendas is problematic. IPSEC has drafted citizens’ oversight board legislation that is expected to be introduced to state, county and local lawmakers in January.

Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D-Ossining) told Watson the NRC should fund the CAB.

“The NRC allowed the nuclear plants to be here, and now that they are being decommissioned, you should be sponsoring and funding the CABs using money in the federal government budget,” Galef said.

Although Indian Point units 2 and 3 generate about 2,000 megawatts of electricity, Con Ed no longer gets electricity from Indian Point. In 2017, the contract between Con Ed and Entergy expired and was not renewed, according to the utility. Up to that point, Indian Point supplied only 560 megawatts to Con Ed.

With competing solar and wind markets offering cheaper energy, Entergy’s high price for electricity has priced the company out of the market. Today, Entergy is closing its aging plants across the country.

An upcoming forum on decommissioning Northeast nuclear plants is scheduled for this Thursday, Oct. 10 from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at Hendrick Hudson Free Library in Montrose.

Indian Point Unit 2 Shuts Down Before the Sixth Seal

Indian Point Unit 2 Permanently Shuts Down Today

By Allison Dunne • 8 hours ago

The first of two functioning reactors at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York’s Westchester County will be permanently shut down Thursday.

Control room operators will permanently shut down Indian Point Unit 2, which produced power for 45 years. Unit 3 is scheduled to permanently shut down by April 30 next year. Unit 1 was shut down in 1974. A spokesman for Indian Point parent Entergy says of the 870 employees, more than 40 have accepted offers to relocate to other Entergy plants in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials last week updated the public on the decommissioning process. Holtec International wants to purchase and decommission Indian Point. The NRC is reviewing a license transfer application. The shutdown comes following a settlement announced in January 2017 among Entergy, New York state and Riverkeeper.

The China Nuclear Horn Will Continue To Grow

China Has No Reason to Make a Deal on Nuclear Weapons

April 29, 2020, 5:00 PM EDT

Loading up on nukes.

Photographer: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has informed his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that any future agreement on nuclear-arms control between the U.S. and Russia must also include China. This shift to trilateral negotiations is part of the Trump administration’s effort to remake great-power arms control for a new era.

It’s a reasonable approach, which accurately holds that the old bilateral formula has become disconnected from reality. Whether the U.S. can build the leverage necessary to make this new approach succeed — particularly vis-à-vis China — is far less certain.

The Donald Trump administration, in pursuing this strategy, is breaking with two prior arms control paradigms. The Cold War model focused on stabilizing the competition between Moscow and Washington by capping the size of their nuclear arsenals and limiting their pursuit of the most destabilizing systems. The post-Cold War approach focused on cleaning up the strategic residue of the superpower conflict — namely, by reducing U.S. and Russian arsenals.

The most recent such agreement was New Start, signed in 2010. That pact trimmed the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to roughly 1,550 on either side; it limited the U.S. and Russia alike to 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and nuclear-capable heavy bombers.

Over time, however, two developments degraded the strategic value of the second paradigm. First, the Russians stopped honoring key agreements, while also carrying out a major nuclear-modernization program. In 2018, the Department of Defense reported that Moscow was violating several nuclear and conventional arms control pacts.

Most important was the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1988, which Russia broke by developing and deploying ground-launched missiles of a prohibited range. This left the U.S. as the only country in the world that was effectively constrained from building ground-launched missiles — conventional or nuclear-tipped — with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. After the Barack Obama administration spent several years trying to bring Moscow back into compliance, the Trump administration withdrew from the treaty last year.

Second, the old approach ignored the rise of China. Since Beijing was not a party to the INF Treaty, it was free to assemble a fearsome arsenal of intermediate-range missiles to target U.S. bases, ships and allies in the Western Pacific. Washington, as part of the agreement with Russia, was unable to respond by deploying such missiles of its own. As the U.S. reduced its nuclear inventory, moreover, China began to build up its comparatively modest arsenal.

In 2019, the head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency observed that Beijing “is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile” over the next decade. The U.S. increasingly found that existing control agreements did not correspond to a changing strategic situation — and even weakened its position vis-à-vis Beijing.

Pompeo’s recent remarks hint at the administration’s response to this problem. By withdrawing from the INF Treaty, the administration has sought to free the U.S. from agreements that inhibit its ability to compete with Russia or China. By signaling that it expects future agreements to be trilateral, the administration is serving notice that it will no longer give China a free pass.

And by recommitting to a major nuclear modernization program that dates back to the Obama administration — while also pursuing innovations such as lower-yield nuclear weapons meant to strengthen the credibility of the American deterrent — the administration is trying to build the pressure that might allow for more advantageous arms control deals in the future. Before the U.S. can build down, in other words, it will have to build up.

There is some sound strategic logic here. It makes little sense to forever gear the U.S. arms control agenda to the challenge posed by Russia when China is now the primary competitor. Although both Russia and China are improving their nuclear arsenals, neither presumably wants a prolonged strategic competition with an unconstrained, economically superior U.S.

Withdrawal from the INF Treaty was not as damaging to the unity of NATO as some observers feared at the time; there are early signs that U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific might eventually be willing to host INF-range missiles (probably conventional rather than nuclear). Most important, the Trump administration’s approach reflects an understanding of the paradoxical logic of arms control — that intensifying an arms race is often a precondition to de-escalating it on favorable terms.

Nonetheless, the administration faces some real challenges. For one, China currently has little reason to enter a trilateral agreement on either intercontinental or intermediate-range systems, precisely because it enjoys many of the benefits of arms control with few of the liabilities.

The U.S. could, over time, give China a reason to cooperate, by showing that its position will worsen as America deploys INF-range systems in the Asia-Pacific and modernizes its own arsenal. Unfortunately, the U.S. modernization program has been delayed repeatedly, and its future seems uncertain given the potential for Covid-19 to devastate the defense budget as it has devastated the economy. If Trump or a future Democratic president comes to see the U.S. arsenal as a source of budgetary savings, America may end up lacking the leverage needed to force its competitors to the table.

Second, a trilateral framework brings dangers as well as advantages. That format might allow Washington to subtly drive a wedge between Russia and China, by reminding Moscow that the nuclear domain is virtually the only area in which it is still superior to Beijing. Yet that format might also create opportunities for two U.S. rivals to gang up on Washington in the negotiations, a ploy Russia and Iran seem to have run in the talks leading to the 2015 agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program. One way or another, managing three-way negotiations will require intricate, disciplined diplomacy, a task to which Trump isn’t well-suited.

A third challenge relates to the nearer-term decision on whether to extend the expiring New Start with Russia for another five years, until 2026. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is willing to do so; the Trump administration has so far refused to commit. The calculation may be that holding out increases U.S. diplomatic leverage over Moscow, while allowing U.S to establish the principle that future negotiations must shift to a three-way format with China.

Yet it isn’t entirely clear who would benefit if the treaty actually lapses. In theory, both sides would then be free to build beyond New Start’s limits. In practice, both sides would face constraints.

Russia has a head start, in the sense that its missile production lines are already hot. But Moscow is also experiencing a severe cash crunch from collapsing oil prices in addition to pre-existing economic stagnation: These trends will hamper its modernization or force sharp trade-offs against other priorities sooner or later.

The U.S. has far greater economic capacity, but its modernization program will not gather real momentum until well into the 2020s or even the 2030s, assuming it isn’t set back further by post-coronavirus fiscal austerity. Over the long term, an intensified arms race surely favors the U.S. In the near term, the outlook is murkier.

The Trump administration is right to start looking beyond old arms-control frameworks of diminishing strategic value to the U.S. Moving from those frameworks to something better will be the big challenge for Trump and, one suspects, his successors.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:

Hal Brands at Hal.Brands@jhu.edu

To contact the editor responsible for this story:

Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.net

Hal Brands is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, the Henry Kissinger Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Most recently, he is the co-author of “The Lessons of Tragedy: Statecraft and World Order.”

Russia Threatens Babylon the Great

Russia Threatens Massive Response if US Deploys Low-Yield Nukes on Subs 

By VOA News

April 29, 2020 05:21 PM

FILE – The ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming is seen in the Atlantic, in this photo released by the U.S. Navy Jan. 9, 2008.

Russia is warning that any U.S. attempt to use a low-yield nuclear weapon against a Russian target would set off a massive nuclear response.

The Russian foreign ministry was reacting to a State Department paper released last week that says placing low-yield nuclear weapons on ballistic missiles launched from submarines would counter what it sees as possible new threats from both Russia and China.

Experts describe a low-yield weapon as the kind the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

The State Department asserts that the low-yield weapons “reduce the risk of nuclear war by reinforcing extended deterrence and assurance.”

It alleges Russia is considering using such nonstrategic nuclear arms in a limited war.  

Russia denies it is a threat to the U.S. and accuses Washington of “lowering the nuclear threshold.”

“Any attack involving a U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), regardless of its weapon specifications, would be perceived as a nuclear aggression,”  Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Wednesday. “Those who like to theorize about the flexibility of American nuclear potential must understand that in line with the Russian military doctrine such actions are seen as warranting retaliatory use of nuclear weapons by Russia.”

Russia says it wants to extend the 2010 New START treaty limiting the number of deployed nuclear missiles, warheads, and bombers along with strict inspection regimes. The pact is set to expire next year.

The Trump administration says it wants a new arms control agreement that also includes China — which Russia calls impractical

Pestilence Continues to Plague Iran (Revelation 6)

 

Iran’s health ministry said on Thursday that 71 new deaths from the new coronavirus outbreak took the country’s overall toll past the 6,000 mark.
“The number of deaths from this disease effectively crossed 6,000 today,” ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in televised remarks.
“Considering that we lost 71 of our countrymen in the past 24 hours, a total of 6,028 of those infected with COVID-19 have passed away to date,” he added.
He added that another 983 people tested positive for the virus during the same period, bringing the total of diagnosed cases to 94,640.
More than 75,100 of those infected had already been released from hospital after recovering.
Of those still being treated for the disease, 2,976 were in critical condition.
Doubts have been cast over Iran’s coronavirus casualty figures by experts and officials both at home and abroad.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki criticized some Iranians for not taking the outbreak seriously.
“I have a complaint about some citizens; you are considering the situation to be too normal,” Namaki said in televised remarks.
“It is true that we had very good results at the height of economic distress, that deaths dropped to double digits and hospitalizations reached minimum, but this does not mean the coronavirus is done with.”
Namaki also warned that Iran must prepare itself for a “simultaneous heavy wave of COVID-19 and the flu” in the coming autumn and winter.
Iran has shut schools, universities, cinemas and stadiums among other public spaces since March to contain the spread of the virus.
But since April 11, it has allowed a phased reopening of its economy and lifted restrictions on intercity travel.
Mosques remain closed even as Muslims observe the fasting month of Ramadan.
According to Namaki, his ministry is devising health protocols to allow Friday and group prayers to recommence in cities that have been given the all clear.

TOO LATE: Iran tells US not to ‘plot’ against it

Iran tells US not to ‘plot’ against it amid Gulf tensions

TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday told the United States it “should not plot against the Iranian nation every day”, amid fresh tensions between the arch-foes in the Gulf.

Tehran and Washington have traded barbs over a spate of incidents in the past year involving their forces in the sensitive waters of the Gulf. Their latest high-seas confrontation came on April 15, when the United States said 11 Iranian boats harassed its navy ships in what it described as the international waters of the “Arabian Gulf”.

US President Donald Trump then tweeted that he had ordered the US Navy to “shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea”.

Iran’s president on Wednesday replied that “the Americans should know that this gulf is called the Persian Gulf, not the New York Gulf or the Washington Gulf”.

“They must understand the situation by that name and by the coastal nation that has protected this waterway for thousands of years,” Rouhani said in a televised address during a cabinet meeting. “They should not plot against the Iranian nation every day.

“The soldiers of our armed forces in the guardians of the Revolution, the army, Basij (paramilitary organisation) and the police have always been and will be the guardians of the Persian Gulf.”

Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads for decades. Tensions between them have escalated since 2018 when Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a multinational accord that froze Iran’s nuclear programme and reimposed crippling sanctions on its economy.

The arch enemies have appeared to come close to a direct military confrontation twice since June last year when Iran shot down a US drone in the Gulf. On that occasion, Trump cancelled retaliatory airstrikes at the last minute.

Trump also opted not to take any military action in January after Iran fired a barrage of missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq.

Iran launched the missiles after a US drone strike near Baghdad airport killed Qasem Soleimani, the general who headed the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations arm, the Quds Force.

A Rift Emerges Among the Antichrist’s Men

Iraqi security forces gather in a street, during a curfew imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Baghdad, Iraq (photo credit: REUTERS/KHALID AL MOUSILY)

Iraqi security forces gather in a street, during a curfew imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Baghdad, Iraq
(photo credit: REUTERS/KHALID AL MOUSILY)

A rift emerges among pro-Iranian militias in Iraq

Different units are increasingly divided between those who want to play a role in Iran’s regional strategy and those who want to be a more local Iraqi force.

Iraq’s politics may be getting even more divided after the acting Prime Minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, sought to affirm his office’s control over key Iraqi paramilitary groups. The powerful Hashd al-Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Units have been maneuvering to dominate Iraq since the ISIS war, but they are increasingly divided between those who want to play a role in Iran’s regional strategy and those who want to be a more local Iraqi force.

A letter from the Prime Minister’s office emerged last week in which four brigades of the PMU, some 15,000 men, could be moved from the control of the PMU to the Prime Minister’s office. This would effectively remove them from control by key pro-Iranian influence such as a man named Abu Fadak, who replaced Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis after the US killed MUhandis and IRGC Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani in January.
The real story is more complex. The PMU were formed in 2014 after a fatwa by Iraq’s most well known cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani. They were intended to be a popular mobilization of young men to fight ISIS. Some of the units that joined were historic Iraqi militias that are aligned with Iran. These included Kataib Hezbollah, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) and the Badr Organization. Leaders of these groups such as Muhandis and Hadi al-Amiri of Badr had fought alongside Iraq against the Saddam Hussein regime in the 1980s. Muhandis was a wanted terrorist. Qais Khazali of AAH was once detained by the US at Camp Cropper.
The PMU that emerged in the fall of 2014 was also made up of territorial brigades linked to kay Shi’ite shrines which were also linked to Sistani. These included fighters from Najaf, Karbala and other cities. After ISIS was largely defeated in 2017 the PMU’s future was uncertain. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi wanted to make it an official force and saw it as the hope of the future of Iraq. Others wanted the units to go home and have just the Iraqi army as Iraq’s main military force. Iran wanted the PMU to become Iraq’s version of the IRGC, a kind of Hezbollah-IRGC in Iraq. Iran was thus happy to see the increasing role of Muhandis as deputy of the PMU.
Iraqi politics changed in the fall of 2019 when protests broke out in Shi’ite areas of southern Iraq. The protesters targeted Iranian consulates and offices of Badr and other groups. In response pro-Iranian elements of the PMU sent the Khorasani militia members of the PMU to kill protesters. Other groups, such as Khazali’s AAH also killed protesters. This caused Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign. Behind the scenes Muhandis ordered his militia to conduct rocket attacks on US forces in Iraq, resulting in the deaths of US-led Coalition members. The US responded with air strikes. Hadi al-Amiri maneuvered to work with Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of Iraq’s largest party, to remove US forces from Iraq.
All of this put the PMU in an awkward place. Because it was an official force it was not supposed to act independently and target Americans who were working with Iraqi Security Forces. Sistani was also concerned that his units were being drawn into suppression of protests. Iran was scrambling at the same time to fill the void left by Muhandis and Soleimani, sending Hezbollah members to try to unify the PMU. Iran appeared to stumble in March as internally the Sistani factions of the PMU rejected the role of Muhandis’ successor Abu Fadak and also were not kind to Soleimani’s replacement, Esmail Ghaani during a visit in early April. They approached the Prime Minister and Defense Ministry to suggest moving their units and minority groups out of the PMU.
At the same time Iraqi politics was in turmoil as no new prime minister could be found. Amiri and Sadr worked to torpedo two prime minister candidates in February and March. April arrived with yet another new man trying to become Prime Minister. Abdul Mahdi, who had tried to rein in the PMU in the summer of 2019, decided he was acquiesce to the push to move several brigades away from the PMU’s control. He has now written a letter seeking to move the Imam Ali Combat Division, the Liwa al-Akbar unit, the Al-Abbas Combat Division and the Liwa Ansar al-Majaya under the PMO’s control. These units are mostly territorial brigades linked to Najaf and Karbala and varies shrines. This could split the PMU into two groups: The minority units and Sistani’s supporters and those linked to the IRGC and Iran.
The pro-Iran units include Badr, Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Saraya Khorasani, Kataib Imam Ali, and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba. What is at stake is a large budget and access to some 150,000 fighters. This is a lot of men with combat experience fighting ISIS. The PMU also controls checkpoints, and areas along the Syrian border. It has economic interests as well.
The current crisis within the existing Iraqi crises appears to indicate a rift between the hard core members who want Iraq to be a springboard for Iranian activities in the region and those who want to focus on more local issues. For instance Iran has transferred ballistic missiles to Iraq. Iran seeks to move weapons to Syria via Iraq. All this has provoked tensions with the US and also tensions with Israel in a regional context. The question for the PMU is whether it is becoming a state within a state, with its own prisons, businesses, checkpoints, and munitions warehouses, or whether it will actually integrate into the security forces. It receives handsome salaries from the government which is a way to sponge up state resources. This is in line with Iran’s overall goal to use Iraq as its “near abroad” and make Iraq dependent on Iran. Already Iraq is dependent on Iran for electricity, even though Iraq ostensibly has massive amounts of oil and should be wealthy. With oil prices low the Iraqi government budget is imperiled. This will cause the PMU to exert more control. But the drive for control may have also created this internal rift.
Iraq lacks a new Prime Minister. It has disputes with the Kurdistan autonomous region. ISIS is rising again. The US is leaving many Iraqi bases and Coalition forces have returned home due to the coronavirus virus. The latest shakeup in the PMU is yet one more fragmentation. Iraq’s divided and multi-layered security forces increasing lack accountability, as some of the PMU were involved in killing protesters and firing rockets at US forces, and that means Iraq will have increasing trouble exerting government authority or systematic policies.