The Sixth Seal Will be in New York (Revelation 6:12)

By Simon Worrall


Half a million earthquakes occur worldwide each year, according to an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most are too small to rattle your teacup. But some, like the 2011 quake off the coast of Japan or last year’s disaster in Italy, can level high-rise buildings, knock out power, water and communications, and leave a lifelong legacy of trauma for those unlucky enough to be caught in them.

In the U.S., the focus is on California’s San Andreas fault, which geologists suggest has a nearly one-in-five chance of causing a major earthquake in the next three decades. But it’s not just the faults we know about that should concern us, says Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake. As she explained when National Geographic caught up with her at her home in Portland, Maine, there’s a much larger number of faults we don’t know about—and fracking is only adding to the risks.

When it comes to earthquakes, there is really only one question everyone wants to know: When will the big one hit California?

That’s the question seismologists wish they could answer, too! One of the most shocking and surprising things for me is just how little is actually known about this natural phenomenon. The geophysicists, seismologists, and emergency managers that I spoke with are the first to say, “We just don’t know!”

What we can say is that it is relatively certain that a major earthquake will happen in California in our lifetime. We don’t know where or when. An earthquake happening east of San Diego out in the desert is going to have hugely different effects than that same earthquake happening in, say, Los Angeles. They’re both possible, both likely, but we just don’t know.

One of the things that’s important to understand about San Andreas is that it’s a fault zone. As laypeople we tend to think about it as this single crack that runs through California and if it cracks enough it’s going to dump the state into the ocean. But that’s not what’s happening here. San Andreas is a huge fault zone, which goes through very different types of geological features. As a result, very different types of earthquakes can happen in different places.

As Charles Richter, inventor of the Richter Scale, famously said, “Only fools, liars and charlatans predict earthquakes.” Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? After all, we have sent rockets into space and plumbed the depths of the ocean.

You’re right: We know far more about distant galaxies than we do about the inner workings of our planet. The problem is that seismologists can’t study an earthquake because they don’t know when or where it’s going to happen. It could happen six miles underground or six miles under the ocean, in which case they can’t even witness it. They can go back and do forensic, post-mortem work. But we still don’t know where most faults lie. We only know where a fault is after an earthquake has occurred. If you look at the last 100 years of major earthquakes in the U.S., they’ve all happened on faults we didn’t even know existed.

Earthquakes 101

Earthquakes are unpredictable and can strike with enough force to bring buildings down. Find out what causes earthquakes, why they’re so deadly, and what’s being done to help buildings sustain their hits.

Fracking is a relatively new industry. Many people believe that it can cause what are known as induced earthquakes. What’s the scientific consensus?

The scientific consensus is that a practice known as wastewater injection undeniably causes earthquakes when the geological features are conducive. In the fracking process, water and lubricants are injected into the earth to split open the rock, so oil and natural gas can be retrieved. As this happens, wastewater is also retrieved and brought back to the surface.

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Different states deal with this in different ways. Some states, like Pennsylvania, favor letting the wastewater settle in aboveground pools, which can cause run-off contamination of drinking supplies. Other states, like Oklahoma, have chosen to re-inject the water into the ground. And what we’re seeing in Oklahoma is that this injection is enough to shift the pressure inside the earth’s core, so that daily earthquakes are happening in communities like Stillwater. As our technology improves, and both our ability and need to extract more resources from the earth increases, our risk of causing earthquakes will also rise exponentially.

After Fukushima, the idea of storing nuclear waste underground cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Yet President Trump has recently green-lighted new funds for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Is that wise?

The issue with Fukushima was not about underground nuclear storage but it is relevant. The Tohoku earthquake, off the coast of Japan, was a massive, 9.0 earthquake—so big that it shifted the axis of the earth and moved the entire island of Japan some eight centimeters! It also created a series of tsunamis, which swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant to a degree the designers did not believe was possible.

Here in the U.S., we have nuclear plants that are also potentially vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, above all on the East Coast, like Pilgrim Nuclear, south of Boston, or Indian Point, north of New York City. Both of these have been deemed by the USGS to have an unacceptable level of seismic risk. [Both are scheduled to close in the next few years.]

Yucca Mountain is meant to address our need to store the huge amounts of nuclear waste that have been accumulating for more than 40 years. Problem number one is getting it out of these plants. We are going to have to somehow truck or train these spent fuel rods from, say, Boston, to a place like Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. On the way it will have to go through multiple earthquake zones, including New Madrid, which is widely considered to be one of the country’s most dangerous earthquake zones.

Yucca Mountain itself has had seismic activity. Ultimately, there’s no great place to put nuclear waste—and there’s no guarantee that where we do put it is going to be safe.

The psychological and emotional effects of an earthquake are especially harrowing. Why is that?

This is a fascinating and newly emerging subfield within psychology, which looks at the effects of natural disasters on both our individual and collective psyches. Whenever you experience significant trauma, you’re going to see a huge increase in PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide, and even violent behaviors.

What seems to make earthquakes particularly pernicious is the surprise factor. A tornado will usually give people a few minutes, if not longer, to prepare; same thing with hurricanes. But that doesn’t happen with an earthquake. There is nothing but profound surprise. And the idea that the bedrock we walk and sleep upon can somehow become liquid and mobile seems to be really difficult for us to get our heads around.

Psychologists think that there are two things happening. One is a PTSD-type loop where our brain replays the trauma again and again, manifesting itself in dreams or panic attacks during the day. But there also appears to be a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. If your readers have ever been at sea for some time and then get off the ship and try to walk on dry land, they know they will look like drunkards. [Laughs] The reason for this is that the inner ear has habituated itself to the motion of the ship. We think the inner ear does something similar in the case of earthquakes, in an attempt to make sense of this strange, jarring movement.

After the Abruzzo quake in Italy, seven seismologists were actually tried and sentenced to six years in jail for failing to predict the disaster. Wouldn’t a similar threat help improve the prediction skills of American seismologists?

[Laughs] The scientific community was uniform in denouncing that action by the Italian government because, right now, earthquakes are impossible to predict. But the question of culpability is an important one. To what degree do we want to hold anyone responsible? Do we want to hold the local meteorologist responsible if he gets the weather forecast wrong? [Laughs]

What scientists say—and I don’t think this is a dodge on their parts—is, “Predicting earthquakes is the Holy Grail; it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. It may never happen.” What we can do is work on early warning systems, where we can at least give people 30 or 90 seconds to make a few quick decisive moves that could well save your life. We have failed to do that. But Mexico has had one in place for years!

There is some evidence that animals can predict earthquakes. Is there any truth to these theories?

All we know right now is anecdotal information because this is so hard to test for. We don’t know where the next earthquake is going to be so we can’t necessarily set up cameras and observe the animals there. So we have to rely on these anecdotal reports, say, of reptiles coming out of the ground prior to a quake. The one thing that was recorded here in the U.S. recently was that in the seconds before an earthquake in Oklahoma huge flocks of birds took flight. Was that coincidence? Related? We can’t draw that correlation yet.

One of the fascinating new approaches to prediction is the MyQuake app. Tell us how it works—and why it could be an especially good solution for Third World countries.

The USGS desperately wants to have it funded. The reluctance appears to be from Congress. A consortium of universities, in conjunction with the USGS, has been working on some fascinating tools. One is a dense network of seismographs that feed into a mainframe computer, which can take all the information and within nanoseconds understand that an earthquake is starting.

MyQuake is an app where you can get up to date information on what’s happening around the world. What’s fascinating is that our phones can also serve as seismographs. The same technology that knows which way your phone is facing, and whether it should show us an image in portrait or landscape, registers other kinds of movement. Scientists at UC Berkeley are looking to see if they can crowd source that information so that in places where we don’t have a lot of seismographs or measuring instruments, like New York City or Chicago or developing countries like Nepal, we can use smart phones both to record quakes and to send out early warning notices to people.

You traveled all over the U.S. for your research. Did you return home feeling safer?

I do not feel safer in the sense that I had no idea just how much risk regions of this country face on a daily basis when it comes to seismic hazards. We tend to think of this as a West Coast problem but it’s not! It’s a New York, Memphis, Seattle, or Phoenix problem. Nearly every major urban center in this country is at risk of a measurable earthquake.

What I do feel safer about is knowing what I can do as an individual. I hope that is a major take-home message for people who read the book. There are so many things we should be doing as individuals, family members, or communities to minimize this risk: simple things from having a go-bag and an emergency plan amongst the family to larger things like building codes.

We know that a major earthquake is going to happen. It’s probably going to knock out our communications lines. Phones aren’t going to work, Wi-Fi is going to go down, first responders are not going to be able to get to people for quite some time. So it is beholden on all of us to make sure we can survive until help can get to us.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

The Growing Nuclear Power of India

Rafale In Action: India Keen For ‘Rapid Deployment’ Of Rafale Jets Amid Flaring Tensions With China

The Rafale jets are 4++ generation aircraft and the Indian Air Force is exploring rapid deployment and operationalisation of the Rafale jets arriving in the country by end of this month from France.

EurAsian Times DeskJuly 19, 2020

Rafale jets, which are expected to be delivered to the Indian Air Force by end of the month could be put into action against China, straight away. Rafale aircraft are 4++ generation jets and New Delhi is set to receive a total of 36 Rafale jets under a contract worth Rs 60,000 crore.

The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine, canard-delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft equipped with a wide range of weapons, the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions.

According to Indian News Agency – ANI, top IAF (Indian Air Force) commanders will meet this week to discuss the situation on the LAC with China in Eastern Ladakh and speedy operational deployment of the Rafale jets arriving later this month.

One of the main agenda during the conference headed by Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria would be about the situation on the borders with China and the forward deployments done by the force in the Eastern Ladakh and northern borders, sources said.

The Indian Air Force has stationed its entire fleet of modern fighters like Mirage 2000, Sukhoi-30MKI, and the MiG-29 fighters all along with the advanced and forward bases from where they have been carrying out both day and night operations.

The advanced Apache attack helicopter has also been deployed in forward bases along the China border and are carrying out frequent sorties over the Eastern Ladakh even during night time. The IAF officials will also discuss the rapid deployment and operationalisation of the Rafale fighter jets arriving in the country by end of this month from France.

Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, acting on a “special request” by the Indian Air Force to fasten the deliveries of Rafale fighter jets, France is reworking the calendar for providing the aircraft to India at a faster pace, according to sources quoted by Indian media.

Six Rafale fighter jets are likely to land at their home base in Ambala on July 27 — instead of four that were originally planned to be delivered in the first batch — as France accelerates efforts to meet the demand of Indian Air Force.

India ordered 36 Rafale jets from France in a deal worth Rs 60,000 crore in September 2016 as an emergency purchase to check the depleting squadrons of jets for a possible two-front war with Pakistan and China.

The Nuclear Horns Continue to Grow (Daniel)

Photograph: Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images

Nuclear Tests Have Changed, but They Never Really Stopped | WIRED

Daniel Oberhaus07.16.20 7:00 AM

75 years after the first explosive nuclear tests, now outlawed, sophisticated virtual testing allows American physicists to understand these weapons better than ever.

Just before sunrise on July 16, 1945—75 years ago today—a patch of New Mexican desert was incinerated during the first trial of the most destructive weapon ever created. The plutonium bomb used for the Trinity test left a 5-foot crater in the ground and turned the surrounding desert floor into a radioactive green glass. The blast bathed the peaks of the nearby Oscura Mountains in a blinding white light, and dozens of scientific observers watching from 20 miles away reported feeling an immense heat wash over them. As the light from the explosion faded, one of the architects of the bomb, Kenneth Bainbridge, gave a pithy appraisal of the event to J. Robert Oppenheimer, the project’s lead scientist: “Now we are all sons of bitches.”

And he was right. Less than a month later, the United States dropped the same type of bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, just three days after detonating a smaller nuclear warhead over Hiroshima. It effectively ended World War II, but it came at the price of well over 100,000 civilian lives and the enduring suffering of those who survived.

The bombing of Nagasaki was the second and final time a country has deployed a nuclear weapon in combat. But it wasn’t the last nuclear explosion. Despite a lifetime of activism by Bainbridge and many of his colleagues, nuclear tests didn’t end with the war. By the time the US signed the United Nations Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996 and agreed to stop blowing up nukes, American physicists and engineers had conducted more than 1,000 tests. They blew up nuclear weapons in the ocean. They blew them up on land. They blew them up in space. They dropped them from planes. They launched them on rockets. They buried them underground. A small army of US weapons scientists blew up a nuclear weapon every chance they got, and at the height of the nation’s testing program they were averaging one detonation per week.

The test-ban treaty was meant to end all that. Atmospheric nuclear tests have been internationally banned since the early 1960s due to health concerns about radioactive fallout and other hazards. These weren’t baseless fears. In the 1950s, US physicists drastically miscalculated the explosive yield of a thermonuclear bomb during a test in the Pacific Ocean, and the ashy radioactive fallout was detected as far away as India. Exposure to the fallout caused radiation sickness in the inhabitants of the islands around the test site, and a group of Japanese fishers suffered severe radiation burns when the fallout landed on their boat. Miscalculations of this sort were distressingly common at the time. Only a few years later, a bomber accidentally dropped a nuclear weapon on Kirtland Air Force Base on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Fortunately, no one had yet loaded into the bomb the plutonium pits needed to kick off a nuclear chain reaction.)

The US signed the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty—a bilateral agreement with the Soviet Union to cease above ground tests—in 1963. But nuclear testing only accelerated when it was pushed underground. The US nuclear arsenal peaked in 1967 with 31,255 warheads, and it detonated as many nukes in the 7 years after the partial test ban as it had in the previous 18 years. “With nuclear testing you were under constant pressure to design a new weapon, engineer it, put it down a hole, blow it up, and then move on to the next one,” says Hugh Gusterson, an anthropologist at the University of British Columbia and an expert on the human factors in nuclear weapons research. “The scientists didn’t have a chance to pause and catch a breath.”

This was, obviously, counter to the spirit of disarmament and reducing the world’s nuclear arsenal, which has been the purported goal of the world’s nuclear states since the 1960s. The tests weren’t about ensuring that America’s nukes still worked or learning about the fundamental physics of the weapon. They were about building bigger and better bombs. “Very few of the tests were reliability tests, where you blow it up to see if it still works,” says Gusterson. “They were almost all tests to develop new designs.”

The US ended all underground nuclear tests in the early 1990s in the lead-up to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, despite protests from the heads of the nation’s three national weapons labs—Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, and Los Alamos—who fought “tooth and nail” to prevent the ban, says Gusterson. They were concerned, he says, that a ban would reduce the reliability of America’s nukes and prevent the next generation of nuclear weapons designers and engineers from learning the tools of the trade. But perhaps most importantly, they saw the ban as a threat to the labs’ very existence. All three had been founded to further the development of America’s nuclear arsenal. What was the point of keeping them around if not to blow up their creations?

Mark Chadwick, the chief scientist in the Los Alamos Weapons Physics Directorate, arrived at the national lab in 1990 fresh out of a physics doctoral program at Oxford. At the time, he says, there was a lot of debate among the Los Alamos scientists about the future of the lab, or whether it would have a future at all. “Some thought the labs would really end up struggling to find business and that the nuclear deterrence mission would sort of fade away,” Chadwick recalls. “Overall, the pessimism that the national security mission wouldn’t remain important proved wrong. And fairly quickly, in fact.”

The US conducted its last explosive nuclear test in September, 1992. Today, the nation’s nuclear weapons research is focused on reliability testing and maintenance of the roughly 4,000 active warheads in its arsenal, a program broadly referred to as “stockpile stewardship.” After the test ban, the US government lavished funding on the new stewardship program to keep the nation’s weapons up to snuff. The so-called virtualization of US nuclear tests meant that weapons scientists would employ the most powerful lasers and supercomputers in the world to understand these weapons instead of blowing them up. Physicists at the labs work on the best experimental equipment that money can buy, and their funding has ballooned under the Trump administration. “Business is booming, even without nuclear testing,” says Gusterson.

At the heart of the US stockpile stewardship program is Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a sprawling complex across the bay from San Francisco. It’s home to the National Ignition Facility, which uses the most powerful laser in the world to re-create the conditions found in the heart of an exploding nuclear bomb. “It’s not so much that it replaces nuclear testing, but it’s a very different, richer perspective on what’s happening in an operating weapon,” says Kim Budil, principal associate director for the Weapons and Complex Integration directorate at Livermore.

Nuclear tests have always served a variety of purposes. Their primary one, of course, has been deterrence—an ever-increasing show of strength meant to discourage America’s allies from ever hitting the big red button. But even back when the military detonated live nukes, its architects were doing everything they could to figure out exactly what was happening inside. Each bomb was outfitted with tens of millions of dollars worth of sensors designed to capture data in the fraction of a fraction of a second before they were destroyed. Virtualization now allows scientists to dig deeper into the physics of the bomb.

“Over this 25-year stockpile stewardship, we have dramatically increased our knowledge of the fundamental science that’s required to do this work,” says Budil “We have types of data and quality of data that were unimaginable during the test era just from the advances in experimental technology.”

Say, for example, physicists at Livermore are interested in how tiny imperfections in materials used in a bomb affect its performance. They can load small samples of the material into target vessels that may just be a few millimeters across. NIF channels an enormous amount of energy into 192 laser beams that are aimed at a target; when they strike, the vessel heats up to more than 5.4 million degrees Fahrenheit. If the vessel is in a type of gold target called a hohlraum, the lasers will cause it to act like an x-ray oven and shock the material inside with a high dose of radiation. Scientists can use an imager to study how the x-rays interact with the material, which is relevant to protect the nukes from certain kinds of missile defense systems.

But the real promise of NIF, says Budil, is that it could set us on the path to fusion energy by way of modeling an exploding nuclear bomb. In this case, the laser’s target is loaded with a diamond capsule filled with a gaseous mixture of two hydrogen isotopes called deuterium and tritium. When the lasers hit the target, the x-rays burn off the capsule’s shell. As that material blows off, it causes the capsule to collapse incredibly fast. For a brief moment, pressures inside the capsule are more than 1 million times greater than the atmospheric pressure on the surface of the Earth. This causes the hydrogen isotopes to fuse together and release a tremendous amount of energy.

The conditions in the target at the moment of fusion—extreme as they are—still pale in comparison to the environment in a thermonuclear bomb at the moment of detonation. To re-create those conditions, Budil says, would take an even stronger laser system. “That was something unique—doing a nuclear test that you could generate these incredibly intense environments,” she says. “We don’t have experimental facilities where we have easy access to those conditions.” But by extrapolating from the experimental results in NIF, physicists can still get an unprecedented view of the core of an exploding bomb.

If physicists can sustain that fusion reaction—if they can use lasers to squeeze the hydrogen without letting go—they can get it to release more energy than it took to make the reaction happen. This is called ignition. For the physicists at NIF, achieving ignition would give them a chance to study the conditions of an exploding nuke in detail, and it would also put the world on the path to a virtually unlimited form of clean energy. NIF hasn’t achieved ignition yet, but Budil is optimistic that it’s only a matter of time. “We’re close,” she says.

When they’re not smashing atoms with lasers, scientists at Livermore also conduct what are known as “subcritical tests” at a National Nuclear Security Agency site in the Nevada desert. At BEEF—the Big Explosives Experimental Facility—researchers subject (nonnuclear) materials found in nuclear weapons to extremely powerful conventional explosions to study how they’d respond to an actual nuclear blast. Down the road from BEEF, physicists use a 60-foot, gas-powered gun called Jasper to shoot projectiles at plutonium. These projectiles reach speeds of around 17,000 miles per hour—about 10 times faster than a bullet—and create shock waves as they pass through the barrel. By studying how the plutonium reacts to these pressures and temperatures, physicists can get a better idea of how it will behave inside an exploding nuclear weapon.

The data from these experiments is used to verify the predictions of nuclear weapons simulations cooked up by Livermore’s Sierra supercomputer and to refine the models of the weapon systems that are fed to it. Sierra is the third fastest supercomputer in the world, and Budil says its models are used to understand how changes in the stockpile over time may affect a weapon’s safety or effectiveness. But she cautions that the computer’s models are only as good as its data, which drives physicists at the labs to conduct ever more sophisticated and sensitive experiments.

“The computing machines we’re using today are extraordinary,” says Budil. “But, roughly speaking, they only know what we know. So where there are gaps in our models they won’t give the right answer. We fill that gap with experimental data.”

Although the primary directive of the US weapons labs is to conduct experiments to ensure the reliable operation of the nation’s nukes, the same facilities can be used to study the scientific problems that have nothing to do with war. Michael Cuneo is the senior manager for the Z machine at Sandia National Laboratory, a singular experimental facility that create conditions found nowhere else on Earth. No more than once per day, massive capacitor banks near the Z facility are charged with a tremendous amount of electricity that is released all at once in a pulse so powerful it causes the ground around the facility to shake. Each shot has 1,000 times the electrical energy of a lightning bolt, and all of it is focused on a target the size of a quarter.

Like NIF, one of the primary goals at Z is to study the fusion reactions that occur when the target implodes at over 3,000 miles per second. But the extreme pressures and temperatures that occur around the target—sometimes in excess of 3 billion degrees Fahrenheit—also make it a great way to study the conditions during a nuclear detonation. Cuneo oversees about 140 shots of the Z machine each year, many of which are used for classified national security experiments. But Cuneo says the Z machine is also regularly used by researchers working on questions about how planets evolve or the processes that power the sun.

“There may be a few shots a year that are really just basic science, and many of the experiments serve a dual use,” says Cuneo, who estimates that approximately 10 percent of the Z machine’s shots are for fundamental science experiments. “But that same experimental platform and the same techniques are also used to investigate the performance of materials that are relevant to nuclear weapons.”

Today, weapons maintenance has superseded weapons development, and the show of strength implicit via nuclear testing has been replaced with a soft power, says Gusterson. He recounts how John Immele, the deputy director of national security at Los Alamos National Lab, made the case in the ’90s that the US could flex its nuclear superiority by sending scientists out to give cutting-edge presentations at conferences. This would, presumably, impress upon the world just how well America’s weapons scientists knew their stuff. The implication was that if you messed with America, they’d apply that knowledge to you.

“Nuclear testing not only proof-tested new designs during the Cold War, it also had this sort of signaling function where every time the Earth shook you were signaling what you could do to the other side’s cities,” says Gusterson. “Now you have to find another way of signaling, so you do it with PowerPoint presentations instead.”

But despite nearly global recognition that ending nuclear tests was a good idea, earlier this year the Trump administration floated the idea of resuming explosive nuclear tests. “It’s not something that came out of nowhere,” says Zia Mian, the codirector of Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security. Mian points to the influence of Marshall Billingslea, who President Trump recently appointed as the special presidential envoy for arms control, as a key factor. In the 1990s, Billingslea worked for the Republican senator Jesse Helms, who was a vocal opponent of the US signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. “This has been an ongoing recurring effort in Republican administrations by groups of people and institutional interests who are opposed to the very idea of restraint on the US military’s nuclear weapon capabilities,” Mian says.


Mian characterizes the Trump administration’s interest in nuclear testing as a strongman negotiating tactic at a time when economic and political tensions between the US, China, and Russia are at a boiling point. “It’s a purely political demonstration of American resolve,” he says. “If the US moves toward testing nuclear weapons as proof of alpha-ness in the international community to satisfy Donald Trump’s ego and to force other people into submission, one can imagine that other countries will find their own ways of demonstrating their own determination not to be bullied through detonating nuclear weapons. That leads to a very dark place in international politics very quickly.”

The irony is that resuming nuclear tests would almost certainly serve the interests of other countries more than it would help the US. Only three countries—India, Pakistan, and North Korea—have conducted explosive nuclear tests since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed 25 years ago. But if the US were to resume nuclear tests, Mian says, it would effectively be an open invitation for other countries to do the same. The US has conducted hundreds more tests than any other nuclear-armed country, and a couple more won’t drastically improve the way American weapons designers understand these systems. But newer entrants to the nuclear arena, like India and Pakistan, have completed only a few explosive tests, and more testing could help them significantly improve their weapons systems. This, in turn, could kick off a new regional or global nuclear arms race.

“The relative benefit to other countries of resuming testing might be greater than for the US in terms of reliability, confidence, weapon design,” says Mian. “That is a strategic calculation to try and maintain US advantage in comparison to other countries, rather than abandoning nuclear testing as a common good for everybody.”

So until the day comes that the world’s leaders go beyond mere test bans and decide to dismantle their nuclear arsenals, physicists and engineers will continue to toil away out of view of the public eye, creating ever more faithful models of the bombs they are compelled to study, but hope will never be used.

Updated 7-16-20, 11:25 am ET: Kim Budil is the principal associate director for the Weapons and Complex Integration directorate at Livermore, not the director. The number of nuclear tests peaked in 1962, not 1969.

Palestinian protesters injured in clashes outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Dozens of Palestinian protesters injured in West Bank clashes

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has planned to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank as well as the strategic Jordan Valley.

SNS Web | New Delhi | July 18, 2020 12:26 pm

Dozens of Palestinians were injured clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank against the Israel government’s annexation plan of the Jordan Valley, according to the sources.

The sources told media that Israeli soldiers on Friday fired rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters to disperse dozens of Palestinian protesters on the outskirts of the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

The soldiers’ gunfire wounded several demonstrators and dozens got suffocated after they inhaled tear gas, they said.

The National Commission to Resist the Wall and Settlements organises weekly protests and demonstrations against the Israeli confiscation of lands in the West Bank.

Walid Assaf, head of the Commission, told Xinhua that protesters will carry on peaceful demonstrations against the Israeli decision to build up a settlement post on the top of Mount Ebal in Nablus.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Friday organized a march in Gaza city against the annexation plan.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has planned to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank as well as the strategic Jordan Valley.

Late June, thousands of Palestinians have rallied in Jericho to protest against Israel’s unilateral plan to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley.

Israel has promised to annex illegally-built Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley, moves that were detailed in a controversial plan unveiled by US President Donald Trump in January.

The Palestinians, who claim all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, have rejected the idea.

“The annexation is a threat to the Palestinians and violates international legitimacy resolutions,” Saadi Abed of the Palestinian Democratic Union (FIDA) said, addressing the rally in Gaza.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israeli Attacks Against Iran’s Military Complex

Israeli F-35s & Cyberattack Behind Explosions at Iran’s Military Complex, Nuclear Site – Report

Sputnik News2 weeks ago

On Thursday, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation said that the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility “is operating as usual”, since the reactor was not damaged in an explosion and there were no casualties following the incident.

The Kuwaiti daily al-Jarida has quoted an unnamed “senior” source as saying that Israel was allegedly behind last week’s explosion at Iran’s Parchin military complex and Thursday’s blast at the Natanz nuclear site in the Islamic Republic. Israeli government officials have not commented on the matter yet.

The Jewish state has repeatedly accused Iran of supporting “terrorist” groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and of waging proxy wars in countries such as Syria which could pose a threat to Israel’s security. Tehran, which refuses to recognise Israel’s right to exist, denies the charges, saying that there are only Iranian military advisers in Syria.

The source claimed that the Parchin incident was the result of an air strike conducted by Israeli F-35 stealth fighters, while the Natanz explosion was caused by an Israeli cyberattack against the uranium enrichment plant.

According to the source, the blasts resulted in Iran losing more than 80 percent of its UF6 (uranium hexafluoride gas) reserves, something that may significantly slow down Tehran’s enrichment drive.The claims came after The New York Times reported, citing an unnamed Middle East intelligence official, that the Natanz blast was caused by an “explosive device planted inside the facility”.

The official asserted that the explosion destroyed “much of the aboveground parts” of the Natanz facility, where cutting-edge uranium enrichment centrifuges had been placed before being put into operation.

This followed Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi confirming the blast, which occurred on Thursday morning, adding that the Natanz plant “is operating as usual” because the reactor was not damaged and there were no casualties.Kamalvandi also noted that there has been no pollution at the site, as there was no nuclear material at the plant.

The Natanz incident took place six days after a blast near the Parchin military complex located about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the Iranian capital Tehran. Iranian authorities insisted that the explosion was a result of “leaking gas tanks”, in what came amid reports about satellite photographs showing that the blast occurred at a nearby missile production facility.

The Natanz plant, in turn, remains Iran’s primary uranium processing facility, located 270 kilometres (155 miles) south of Tehran.

The two explosions came after Tehran began moving away from its uranium enrichment commitments in May 2019, in retaliation for the Trump administration’s decision in 2018 to unilaterally withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and to reinstate crippling sanctions against the Islamic Republic,

Despite its promise to suspend JCPOA obligations, Tehran has repeatedly stressed that it has no goal of manufacturing nuclear weapons, and that its uranium enrichment programme is purely peaceful.

More Attacks Against the Iranian Horn

Ships burn as fire hits Iranian port near nuclear power station

A massive blaze has broken out at an Iranian port, ripping through at least seven ships – the latest in a string of mysterious fires and explosions to hit the country.  

Dramatic video purporting to show the blaze shows thick black smoke billowing from the scene at the port of Bushehr – as men desperately try to put out the flames.

The incident is unfolding just 12 miles away from Iran’s only nuclear power station and comes just days after a mysterious blast caused significant damage at a uranium facility in another part of the country.  

Bushehr nuclear power plant was developed by Russia and Iran as part of a joint nuclear cooperation agreement.  

It is not clear how the ships caught ablaze and no injuries have been reported.

Some reports have suggested that the fire broke out at a shipyard where fibreglass hulls for boats are built.

The fire comes amid a string of explosions across Iran – many of which authorities have brushed off as unfortunate accidents.  

Experts fear Israel and the US could be behind the attacks and have questioned whether Iranian cyber security breaches could be to blame. 

Policy Director of United Against Nuclear Iran Jason Brodsky told Fox News: ‘There is evidence of a concerted campaign underway to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.’

Cyber-intelligence expert and CEO of TrustedSec David Kennedy added: ‘Although many are asking the question, was this a cyber-attack or physical sabotage, the answer could be “both.”

‘The most likely suspects are the US and Israel working in tandem.’ 

It follows an embarrassing blunder last week in which Iranian media quoted a former mayor who dismissed a blast on Friday as ‘explosion at a factory making gas cylinders’.

But other media outlets quickly discovered the mayor in question had been dead for over a year.

Other reports said the explosion actually occurred at a missile and chemical warehouse and the blast injured 11. 

The series of bizarre explosions started on June 26, when a factory making cruise missiles and another producing ammunition were hit in Khojir, Tehran, local media reported.   

This was then followed by a gas leak at a medical clinic which caused an explosion killing 19 and injuring six on June 30.

Tehran Deputy Governor Hamid Reza Goudarzi told state television that blast was triggered by a gas leak. The fire department said gas canisters caught fire in the clinic’s basement. 

Then on July 2, a fire and an explosion occurred at Natanz uranium enrichment plant which develops centrifuges. These are needed to make uranium – and other nuclear weapons.

Power outages then occurred when a fire broke out at a power plant in Shiraz  

A fire then broke out on July 4 at the Zergan power plant in the city of Ahvaz in southwestern Iran.

The blaze caused a transformer in the station to explode and ignite the plant – which in turn caused partial electricity outages before it was put out.

Another fire was reported on Sunday at a facility belonging to the Shahid Tondgooyan Petrochemical Company in southwest Iran – but was quickly contained.  

The fire was caused by an oil leak but did not lead to any casualties, Mohsen Beyranvand, the governor of Mahshahr county said, according to IRNA.

This fire occurred shortly after the explosion in the basement of a home in Tehran, injuring one person.

They implied that the injured person worked with the cylinders  and this caused the blast to occur. 

Iran Prepares for a Strike Back at Israel

Iran may respond to Natanz blast: US

Sputnik2:48 PM | July 18, 2020

Earlier in July, Iran reportedly said that it had determined the “main cause” of a blast at the Natanz nuclear site, which will be announced “at a proper time”.

Commander of the US Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie has suggested that Iran will retaliate for recent explosions at nuclear and military facilities in Natanz and Parchin. 

My experience with Iran tells me they will respond”, McKenzie said during an interview with The Washington Post earlier this week.

The remarks come amid Iranian media reports indirectly accusing Israel and the US of being behind an explosion at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site, according to the London-based news outlet Middle East Eye.

Additionally, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida cited an unnamed “senior” source as saying earlier in July that the Parchin incident was the result of an air strike conducted by Israel’s F-35 stealth fighters, while the Natanz explosion was caused by an Israeli cyber-attack against the uranium enrichment plant.

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In a separate vein, an unnamed Middle Eastern intelligence official told The New York Times that the Natanz blast, allegedly caused by a “powerful bomb”, was Israel’s work.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, in turn, warned in a statement that if Tehran concludes that “foreign elements” were involved in the Natanz explosion, they will face consequences.

The statement followed Tehran reportedly announcing that the cause of the Natanz and Parchin blasts had been determined and would be made public “at a proper time”.

The Natanz incident took place on 2 July, six days after a blast near the Parchin military complex located about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the Iranian capital Tehran. Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time that the Natanz plant “is operating as usual” because the reactor was not damaged and there were no casualties.

The Parchin and Natanz explosions occurred against the backdrop of the Islamic Republic’s drive to step away from its uranium enrichment obligations which were part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 

In May 2018, US President Donald Trump announced Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the deal and reinstated tough anti-Iranian sanctions, prompting Tehran to announce in May 2018 that it was going to start suspending its JCPOA commitments.