The Nuclear Risk at Indian Point (Revelation 6:12)

Aerial view of the Indian Point nuclear power plant along th
UNITED STATES – FEBRUARY 19: Aerial view of the Indian Point nuclear power plant along the banks of the Hudson River in Westchester County. (Photo by Susan Watts/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

New York AG: Indian Point deal ‘very risky,’ asks feds to let state intervene

New York Attorney General Letitia James wants the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to listen to thestate’s concerns with the pending deal to sell Indian Point to Holtec International in New Jersey.

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday called the deal to sell the Indian Point nuclear power plant “very risky” and urged federal safety regulators to consider the state’s concerns before moving ahead.

James filed a petition to intervene in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s hearings on Entergy’s plan to transfer ownership of the 60-year-old power plant to a subsidiary of Holtec International when Indian Point shuts down next year.

“Putting the decommissioning of Indian Point in the hands of a company with no experience and uncertain financial resources is very risky,” James said Wednesday. “I am committed to ensuring that New York is granted full participation in this application proceeding and all other decision-making related to Indian Point’s decommissioning.”

Among James’ concerns is a $200 million shortfall in trust fund money that will be used to decommission or dismantle the plant’s three reactors.

The funds currently hold $2.1 billion, but Holtec says the decommissioning effort, estimated to take 12 to 15 years, will cost $2.3 billion.

“Because the license transfer application does not show that adequate decommissioning funding will be available at the time of permanent shutdown,it does not comply with applicable NRC rules and may not be approvedas submitted,” the petition states.

In a statement, Holtec spokesman Joe Delmar said the company welcomed input from the state and others in the approval process.

“We look forward to an opportunity to further discuss with local officials and others Holtec’s plan for the safe, efficient and prompt decommissioning of Indian Point, which can be completed decades sooner than if Entergy performed the work,” Delmar said.

Holtec, based in Camden, New Jersey, has been a presence in the nuclear power industry for decades, mostly in the manufacture of the steel and cement canisters used to store spent fuel.

In recent years Holtec joined a handful of companies created to decommission the growing number of nuclear power plants that have announced plans to shut down. The company promises to cut decades off a job Entergy said would likely take decades.

“Holtec and its team have decades of experience safely decommissioning nuclear power plants and managing high level radioactive material at locations in the U.S. and other countries,” Delmar added. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has previously determined that Holtec has the financial and technical qualifications to perform decommissioning safely, and has approved license transactions at other U.S. nuclear power plants.”

Skeptics have voiced their concern that decommissioning companies could jeopardize safety in the haste to get the job done, siphoning away trust fund money while sticking ratepayers with the tab for cost overruns.

Holtec’s plan calls for removing spent fuel assemblies from reactors and storing them in canisters on the Buchanan site until the federal government designates a permanent repository for storing the nation’s nuclear waste.

Holtec has asked the NRC to allow it an exemption that will allow the company to use approximately $632 million of the trust fund to manage spent fuel on the site.

Its decommissioning proposal said most of the plant’s large parts will be removed by truck and rail and delivered to sites that take in low-level radioactive waste. But, it says it is considering moving some of the parts by barge down the Hudson River — a plan opposed by environmental groups.

The first of Indian Point’s two working reactors is slated to be shut down in April.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer praised James’ action.

“Thanks to Attorney General James for having the backs of Westchester residents by making sure Holtec has a viable plan in place and is held accountable,” Latimer said. “All of Westchester County, from Cortlandt to Yonkers, stands to be greatly impacted by the Indian Point decommissioning process and this move by the Attorney General brings the resources and expertise of the State to this high-stakes proceeding.”

State and federal lawmakers who represent communities around Indian Point said the state’s input was needed to make sure the decommissioning is done safely.

“Nuclear energy has been produced on this site for nearly 60 years, so contamination of the environment is a distinct risk if dismantling the reactors is mishandled,” state Sen. Pete Harckham said.

Consequences of the German Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Nuclear bomb in Germany would kill hundreds of thousands, Greenpeace warns | Euronews

By  Alice Tidey

In this April 22, 1952 file photo a gigantic pillar of smoke with the familiar mushroom top climbs above Yucca Flat, Nev. during nuclear test detonation.   –   Copyright  AP Photo

A nuclear bomb detonating in Germany would instantly kill hundreds of thousands of people, Greenpeace has said, calling on the US to withdraw the small arsenal of atomic weapons it currently has in the country.

The environmental non-profit released a study it had commissioned simulating the impact of a nuclear weapon exploding in Germany on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

“Mass killings such as the one caused by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima must never happen again,” Greenpeace Germany’s spokesman for nuclear disarmament Christoph von Lieven said in a statement.

“The Federal Government must ensure that US atomic bombs are withdrawn from Buchel with the US soldiers,” he added.

Washington announced last week that it would start withdrawing nearly 12,000 of the 36,000 US troops currently stationed in Germany over the coming weeks.

A threat to Germany’s security

Greenpeace’s NUKEMAP study calculated the impact of various strengths of nuclear bombs in several locations: Berlin, the seat of the country’s political power; Frankfurt, the country’s financial centre; and Buchel, a municipality in south-west Germany where several US atomic bombs are stored at an airbase.

The strength of an atomic bomb is measured in kilotons (kt) and megatons (mt) which means that a nuclear weapon with a detonation energy of one kiloton generates the same amount of energy as 1,000 tons (1 Kt) of TNT.

The first-ever nuclear bomb, used on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, was codenamed “Little Boy” and had a strength of 12.5 kt. The one dropped over Nagasaki three days later, codenamed “Fat Man”, had a value of 22 kt.

NUKEMAP found that a 20 kt bomb exploding in Berlin would instantly kill 145,000 people, with an additional 120,000 dying from the radioactive fallout and a further 50,000 passing away from cancer.

A 550 kt bomb — commonly found in Russia’s nuclear arsenal — dropped over Frankfurt would instantly kill half a million people, while 300,000 more would die from radioactive fallout and 160,000 would succumb to cancer at a later date.

In Buchel, the impact of a 170 kt explosion was assessed as multiple weapons of this strength are stored at the airbase. NUKEMAP estimated that 130,000 people would immediately lose their lives, 107,000 would be killed by radioactive fallout and 80,000 from cancer.

Von Lieven argued that “the bombs in Buchel threaten the security of people in Germany and Eastern Europe.”

“Germany must no longer be a potential aggressor and a possible target for a nuclear attack,” he went on.

In another Greenpeace study conducted by pollster Kantar and released last month, 83 per cent of the 1,008 German respondents said they favoured the US withdrawing the bombs kept in Buchel.

Nine countries, 13,800 warheads

Between 90,000 and 160,000 people are believed to have died int he first few months following the Hiroshima bombing, according to the Centre for Nuclear Studies at Columbia University. Another 60,000 to 80,000 are thought to have died in Nagasaki.

Most figures are best estimates as the devastation unleashed by the explosions and uncertainty over the actual population before the bombings make it difficult to have an accurate estimate.

The world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons was estimated at 13,865 at the beginning of 2019 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Only nice countries have atomic warheads. These are China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the UK, the US. Washington and Moscow each have more than 6,000 nuclear warheads.

The Plagues and Famine of the Fourth Seal (Revelation 6)

Photo: Reuters

Locusts continue to plague nations on 3 continents

July 31, 2020 — News Tags: Coronavirus, COVID-19, Desert locusts, East Africa, Iran, Iran Nuclear Dispute, Iran-U.S., Israel News, Israel Now, Latin America, locust swarms, Middle East, UN Food & Agriculture Organization, US Sanctions on Iran

Nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America are relentlessly combatting the worst infestation of desert locusts in decades.

Israeli authorities remain vigilant against the threat posed by the pests, while confident that the nation’s advanced technology and preparedness would successfully eradicate any swarms soon after their detection.

In a brief overview starting in Latin America: grains powerhouse Argentina is getting hit by a second swarm of locusts arriving from neighboring Paraguay, Argentina’s Senasa agricultural health inspection agency said earlier this week – putting farmers on notice about possible crop damage. The new swarm is concentrated in the province of Formosa in north-east Argentina, on the Paraguay border. The area is not part of Argentina’s main Pampas grains belt, but it could hurt crops if the low temperatures of the Southern Hemisphere winter do not keep the swarm from spreading too far southward. “The swarm detected in Formosa advanced in a southern direction,” Hector Medina, a coordinator at Senasa, told Reuters, adding that “The wind allowed it to move quickly and is expected to approach Rio Bermejo, so the alert is extended to Chaco province.”

Brazil declared a phytosanitary state of emergency in Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina due to the risk of an outbreak of the Schistocerca cancellata plague caused by the cloud of locusts flying through Argentina, made up of thousands of the species that arrived in the country from May 11 from Paraguay, traveling at a daily speed of up to 150 kilometers per day.

Turning to East Africa, and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has just publicly thanked the government of Canada for a substantial contribution toward helping to battle infestations of crop- and pasture-devouring desert locusts in the region, as well as for having been among the first nations to respond with donations that now amount $1.5 million. Earlier this month, the European Union injected an additional $17 million. Other funding for the effort to contain desert locust and diminish the upsurge’s food security impacts has also been received from the Governments of Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America, the African Development Bank, the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the European Union, the Louis Dreyfus Foundation, the Mastercard Foundation, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the World Bank Group.

The FAO noted that so far, “nearly half a trillion locusts are estimated to have been killed in the Horn of Africa and Yemen in control operations since January and one million tons of crops – enough to feed nearly 7 million people – have been spared from devastation.”

But “despite the success of control operations spanning 500 000 ha (hectares), heavy rains during this spring season created ideal conditions for reproduction and the potential destruction caused by the new-generation swarms which could still provoke a humanitarian crisis as new swarms strike Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen,” said the FAO, adding that “Survey and control operations are in progress in all countries.

Locusts move in swarms of up to 50 million, can travel 90 miles a day, and lay as many as 1,000 eggs per square meter of land. The locust outbreak in East Africa “is the worst to strike Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years – for Kenya, in 70 years.

The most recent FAO Desert Locust Watch report determined that spring-bred swarms are shifting north to the summer breeding areas. Even though there has been a notable decline in immature swarms in northwest Kenya due to control operations and migration to Ethiopia, there are still some swarms present in parts of Samburu and in Turkana near the Uganda border. Immature swarms in Ethiopia are mainly present in the Somali region and also, to a lesser degree, in parts of Afar, Amhara and Tigray regions. In Somalia, immature swarms are present on the northern plateau where some of them have started to become mature. Survey and control operations are in progress in the three countries. In Sudan, low numbers of solitarious mature adults are present between Eritrea and North Kordofan while mainly immature adults are present further north in the Nile Valley. Small-scale breeding will start shortly in areas of recent rainfall. So far, there are no reports of swarms arriving from NW Kenya, and intensive surveys are in progress.

The situation remains calm in West Africa. Solitarious adults are present in the summer breeding areas in southern Mauritania, central and northern Niger, and in western and eastern Chad where egg-laying will occur shortly in areas of recent rainfall. While the threat of a swarm invasion continues to decline, it is necessary to maintain strict vigilance, preparedness, and thorough monitoring.

In the Arabian Peninsula, local infestations of solitarious adults are present in the southwest in Saudi Arabia, near Najran. Yemen continues to be of particular cause of concern because of the continuation of good rains and breeding in interior areas where hopper bands and swarms are forming. Survey and control operations are in progress in some areas. The locusts have compounded an already dire hunger situation after five years of war that has also been impacted by coronavirus restrictions, reduced remittances, floods and significant underfunding of this year’s aid response. U.N. warnings in late 2018 of impending famine prompted an aid ramp-up after which the World Food Program fed up to 13 million a month. Resurgent violence in recent weeks between warring parties, despite U.N. peace efforts, is also killing and injuring civilians. In Oman, control operations are in progress against hopper groups and bands that formed on the southern coast near Salalah while solitarious adults are present in adjacent areas of the interior.

Summer breeding is underway along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border. In India, numerous adult groups and swarms are laying eggs over a wide area of Rajasthan between Jodhpur and Churu while hatching and band formation from earlier laying have occurred further south from Phalodi to Gujarat.

Pakistan is especially prone to locust attacks because it is situated on the migratory route of locusts coming from the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Oman. Hopper groups and bands are present in the Nagarparkar area of Pakistan in Tharparkar of southeast Sindh. Adult groups are scattered throughout Cholistan and other parts of Tharparkar that will lay eggs shortly.

Last year, Pakistan suffered its worst attack of locusts since 1993, for which the country was largely unprepared. Officials from the Ministry of Food Security and Research say swarms coming from the Horn of Africa could be 400 times more than those that came last year.

Pakistani authorities warned that immediate steps needed to be taken to thwart huge swarms of desert locusts expected to reach Pakistan later this month from the Horn of Africa.

“The situation today is that, within the next few days or weeks, these swarms from the Horn of Africa, especially from Somalia, may arrive in South West Asia. South West Asia means Iran, Pakistan, India,” Federal Minister For National Food Security And Research, Fakhr Imam told a meeting of the National Locust Control Centre (NLCC) last  Friday (July 24).

According to statements from NLCC, 1051 joint teams of Pakistan army, Agriculture Ministry and Food Department have conducted surveys in over 43,9312.21 square kilometers of the affected areas of the country and carried out fumigation operations in 10,720.49 kilometers of land. Around 8000 military personnel, and 9 aircraft, are taking part in the locust control operations.

Meanwhile, in Iran, the Mehr News Agency headquartered in Tehran and owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization (IIDO), reported that the Islamic Republic’s Embassy’s representative in Pakistan, Somayeh Karimdoost, criticized “problems in bilateral cooperation to cope with the challenge of desert locust attacks, the called for strengthening regional cooperation to deal with desert locust.”

She went on to say that the “swarms have already devastated crops and it is feared that they can cause greater damage,” but that “interference is creating hurdles in the implementation of the bilateral mechanism.”

Karimdoost called on the FAO and the World Food Organization of the United Nations to play a more effective role in assisting countries affected by desert locusts and facilitate cooperation between them. She maintained that “Iran has made every effort to control locust attacks and help its neighbors to prevent the damage caused by this problem,” before going on to level veiled criticism at the United States’ sanctions program against her nation, saying that a continuation of “such coercive behavior” would have “a negative impact on the region especially the neighboring states of Iran” in dealing with the locust challenge.

Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Sayyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini previously stated that Washington’s punitive campaign against Tehran, aimed at curbing its nuclear ambitions, “significantly reduced the resources allocated to dealing with desert locusts.”

Overall, the most recent FAO update has assessed a decline in Iran’s locust numbers. According to the organization’s GIEWS Country Brief: Iran (Islamic Republic of) 20-July-2020 FOOD SNAPSHOT: there has been a slightly above‑average cereal harvest forecast in 2020, but that further increases in food inflation following currency devaluation are likely over a detrimental effect on household incomes due to COVID‑19 containment measures, combined with economic slowdown and rapid currency devaluation.

Pertaining to the desert locust, the report noted that even though the pest is common in Iran, “breeding conditions in 2020 were particularly favourable due to abundant rains in the country. Seven provinces (Sistan and Baluchistan, Hormozgan, Bushehr, Fars, Khuzestan, Kerman and South Khorasan) in the southern part of the country, stretching from eastern Islamic Republic of Iran on the border with Pakistan to the southwestern border with Iraq, were affected. As of June 2020, seasonal infestations were declining due to control operations and migration to Indo‑Pakistan summer breeding areas. More than 400 000 hectares were treated since January 2020, with almost one‑third of the treatment carried out in May 2020.”

Economic analysis revealed that “In 2019/20 (April‑March), the overall economy contracted by 7%. Growing 3%, agriculture was the only expanding sector and it contributed to about 8 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”

Among other findings, “The food and beverages price inflation index in Khordad 1399 (corresponding to 22 May‑21 June 2020) was recorded at 14.9% on a yearly basis, driven by the devaluation of its currency, up from 10.7% in Farvardin 1399 (22 March‑21 April 2020), but below 74.1% in mid‑2019.

The general inflation registered 22.5% in Khordad 1399, up from the 19.8% in April 2020, but below 50.4% in July 2019” – with the GIEWS Country Brief on Iran concluding that “The sanctions severely limit the export earnings.”

The coronavirus pandemic deepened Iran’s fiscal deficit and balance of payments, prompting the government in May to slash four zeros and replace the national currency with the Toman at an equivalency to ﷼ 10,000 Iranian Rial (IRR). “The Central Bank of Iran maintains a dual tier exchange rate system. The fixed rate of IRR 42,000 per US dollar is used to finance the imports of essential goods, such as food and medicine, although reports indicate that in the current fiscal year (starting from 20 March 2020), the practice was discontinued for rice. For other transactions, the current official exchange is IRR 22,2763 per US dollar. As of 13 July 2020, USD 1 was trading for IRR 234,000 on the free market exchange, up from IRR 171,000 on 21 June 2020,” reads the report.

Precautionary measures to prevent spread of COVID-19 in March (although somewhat eased in April) were found to have had “a detrimental effect on the incomes, particularly of casual labourers” when “combined with the economic slowdown and the rapid currency devaluation.” In addition to required physical distancing, quarantine for returnees, bans on gatherings, educational activities, social and religious events; several economic steps were also taken.

COVID‑19 relief and recovery measures declared by presidential decree in March amounted to more than 10% of Iran’s GDP. A moratorium on tax payments for a period of three months (7% of the GDP) was implemented, in addition to the establishment of credit facilities for affected businesses (4.4%) in terms of loans with a 12% rate and a repayment period of two years; additional funding of the health sector (2%) and cash transfers to vulnerable households (0.3%). Three million Iranians in the lower income bracket were qualified to receive payments between IRR 2 million to IRR 6 million in four stages, depending on the size of the household. Other measures included increased support to the unemployment insurance fund (0.3%) and new low interest rate loans to vulnerable families.

In early March 2020, the Central Bank also allocated funds (equivalent to 0.06% of the GDP) to import medicine, while also coordinating an agreement with commercial banks to postpone loan repayments that had been due in February for another three months, and granting temporary penalty waivers for clients with non‑performing loans. The Central Bank also expanded the infrastructure for contactless payment via QR codes and digital wallets to limit exposure to the coronavirus through the circulation of banknotes.

The Rising Saudi Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Saudi Arabia has built yellowcake uranium processing plant: WSJ

Remote desert plant was built with China’s aid, paper quotes Western officials as saying, raising proliferation worries.

The yellowcake uranium enrichment plant was built near the remote Saudi Arabian city of Al Ula, according to Western officials quoted by the Wall Street Journal newspaper [File: Ahmed Yosri/Reuters]

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with help from China, has built a facility for the extraction of uranium yellowcake, a potential precursor to fuel for a nuclear reactor, in a remote desert location near the small city of Al Ula, the Wall Street Journal newspaper reported citing Western officials with knowledge of the site.

The facility, which has not been publicly acknowledged, has raised concern among United States and allied officials that the kingdom’s nascent nuclear programme is moving ahead, and Riyadh is keeping open an option to develop nuclear weapons, according to the report.

Disclosure of the yellowcake processing facility is likely to elevate concern in the US Congress about Saudi nuclear ambitions and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s 2018 pledge that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

The Saudi Energy Ministry “categorically” denied to the Wall Street Journal the country has built a uranium ore milling facility, but acknowledged contracting with Chinese entities for uranium exploration within Saudi Arabia.

The Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, did not respond to a request by the Wall Street Journal for comment. Iran has denied it is interested in developing nuclear weapons. Iranian officials did not respond to a request for comment, the paper reported.

Yellowcake is processed from naturally occurring uranium ore and can be further enriched to create fuel for nuclear power plants and, at very high levels of enrichment, nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia’s has signed agreements with China National Nuclear Corp and China Nuclear Engineering Group Corp following a 2012 pact between Riyadh and Beijing to cooperate on the peaceful development of nuclear energy.

The Saudis have raised concerns about a potential nuclear arms race in the Gulf region by pressing ahead with construction of a research reactor and inviting companies to bid on building two civilian nuclear power reactors without agreeing to oversight and inspection by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency.

A US congressional committee issued a report in May 2019 warning the administration of President Donald Trump was allowing US companies to offer Saudi Arabia nuclear technologies without first obtaining non-proliferation guarantees the know-how would not be used to eventually produce a weapon.

In February 2019, government whistle-blowers had alerted the US House of Representatives that the Trump administration was bypassing Congress to greenlight future sales of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, without non-proliferation safeguards, thus potentially laying the ground for a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Saudi production of yellowcake would be cause for alarm in the US arms control community.

The suspected acquisition of yellowcake was among the concerns raised by the US with Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 US invasion that was pre-texted on Saddam Hussein’s alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

At the time, President George W Bush accused Iraq of trying to buy yellowcake from Niger even though CIA intelligence indicated no such transaction ever took place. The discrepancy triggered a US scandal during the Bush presidency.

China Helps Build the Saudi Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

China reportedly helped Saudi Arabia build secret nuclear site

By Steven NelsonAugust 5, 2020 | 11:51am


General view of the city al-Ula, Saudi Arabia. Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters

Chinese companies recently helped Saudi Arabia construct a secret uranium extraction facility, according to a report.

The absolute monarchy, and a US ally, stealthily constructed the “yellowcake” processing plant in northwestern Saudi Arabia, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing Western officials.

Saudi Arabia has the world’s second-largest oil reserves but openly plans to pursue nuclear energy. The shadowy pursuit of uranium, however, raised concern about possible nuclear weapons ambitions.

“Where is the transparency? If you claim your program is peaceful, why not show what you have?” Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the paper.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, said in 2018 that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

The use of Chinese assistance comes as the Trump administration seeks to isolate and punish China for eliminating Hong Kong autonomy and concealing data on COVID-19 before it emerged as a global pandemic.

President Trump has defended bin Salman and has said the alliance serves US interests.

Last year, Trump defied members of both political parties to veto legislation that would withdraw the US from the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen’s civil war.

The China National Nuclear Corp. and the China Nuclear Engineering Group Corp. are believed to have worked on the Saudi nuclear project.

“My guess is that one of the reasons to go to the Chinese is that it doesn’t come with the same controls that coordination with the United States does,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

The Saudi Energy Ministry told the Journal it “categorically denies” claims it build the extraction facility.

Researchers are delirious about nuclear weapons control (Revelation 16)

Researchers: help free the world of nuclear weapons

Seventy-five years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a new treaty offers renewed hope for a nuclear-free world.

04 August 2020


Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow (pictured, centre, receiving the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) has written to world leaders this week urging them to step up disarmament efforts.Credit: Lise Aserud/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The start of August marks an inauspicious anniversary for science, that of the first — and, so far, only — use of nuclear weapons in war.

Seventy-five years have passed since the bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on 6 and 9 August 1945, which killed in the region of 200,000 people. The risk of nuclear conflict remains, and nuclear weapons exist in alarmingly large quantities. At present, the world’s nuclear arsenal — 90% of which is in the United States and Russia — includes an estimated 1,335 tonnes of highly enriched uranium and 13,410 warheads.

The generation of scientists that created nuclear weapons carried with them a heavy burden of responsibility.Some would go on to become committed disarmament campaigners. Others helped to shape a series of important conferences and agreements, starting with the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), whose aims include preventing non-nuclear-armed countries from developing or acquiring weapons technology.

But 50 years of nuclear diplomacy has made one thing clear: the nuclear nations are not ready to give up their weapons just yet. Progress has been made in reducing stockpiles, but these countries are simultaneously investing in updating their arsenals to last well into this century.

So what could persuade the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea to begin fully dismantling their stocks, and to agree never again to develop nuclear weapons?

One idea, which has been in gestation for some years, could be about to have its break-out moment. A new agreement, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), is expected to become international law next year — and scientists have a chance to play a part in helping it to succeed.

Nuclear weapons: arms-control efforts need China

An urgent task will be to establish a new global network of researchers with knowledge on different aspects of nuclear science and technology. The treaty has yet to establish a formal scientific advisory mechanism. Some research groups, notably the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University in New Jersey, have been advising the treaty’s founders on various facets of nuclear science, such as how to accurately verify that stockpiles have been permanently dismantled1. But a more-permanent arrangement, whereby researchers from different countries can offer — and respond to requests for — advice will be needed. Because relations between Russia and the United States have worsened, the many formal and informal networks of nuclear scientists that once existed between these countries are now “practically non-existent”, says former US energy secretary Ernest Moniz, co-chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a think tank based in Washington DC. A new global network will be essential to ensuring the safety of nuclear arsenals, because a lack of communication increases the chance of accidents and misunderstandings, heightening the risk of nuclear weapons being used.

Breakneck progress

The TPNW was agreed in 2017 by 122 non-nuclear countries, mostly in the global south, but also including two European Union member states. The strategy in creating this treaty was conceived a decade earlier by researchers and campaigners at the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy in London; the Australian affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War; the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, based in Geneva, Switzerland, and New York City; and Japan’s Hibakusha, the survivors of the 1945 nuclear attacks.

Together, they built a larger coalition called the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and worked with scientists, United Nations diplomats and humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross2. Some 40 countries have already incorporated the treaty into their national laws, and processes are under way for this to happen in more national parliaments.

Once 50 countries have signed it into law, the TPNW will have the status of an international law. At that point, it will become difficult for individuals (including scientists), as well as companies (including banks), from the treaty’s member countries to play any part in the development and deployment of nuclear-weapons technologies, says Rebecca Johnson at the Acronym Institute, who is one of the architects of the new treaty. But scientists who work on disarmament technologies will not be affected — they are much needed.

The treaty came about for a number of reasons. To begin with, the non-nuclear nations realized that they had to find a way to influence nuclear policy from beyond the shadow of the nuclear states. There seemed to be little justice in countries with nuclear weapons being the ones to decide the rules for the majority who wish for a nuclear-free world.

How a small nuclear war would transform the entire planet

Representatives of the bigger nuclear powers have often argued that they have earnt the right to be the world’s nuclear guardians, because they are stable countries with the most advanced nuclear science and technology — both essential ingredients in ensuring that stockpiles are safe and secure. But, in recent years, the argument that these countries can be trusted to look after the security interests of the rest of the world has become less credible.

Non-nuclear countries have grown increasingly alarmed as, in 2018, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, and, in 2019, the United States and Russia suspended the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

And so, in addition to working with the existing nuclear agreements — in which the nuclear states have a veto — non-nuclear countries negotiated the new treaty through the United Nations General Assembly, under which every country has one vote.

At the same time, the non-nuclear states were able to boost their cause by drawing on some of the latest findings from researchers studying a potential ‘nuclear winter’ — the severe global cooling predicted to follow a nuclear war. Recent research has shown that a relatively small nuclear war between India and Pakistan could cause crops to fail in dozens of countries, devastating food supplies for more than one billion people3. Other research reveals that a nuclear winter would drastically alter ocean chemistry and cause serious harm to reefs and other marine ecosystems4.

Crucially, the treaty’s designers deliberately organized the preparatory process so that female researchers and diplomats were present in significant numbers — which is not usually the case in existing nuclear agreements. As a result of this commitment to knowledge, equality and diplomacy, ICAN was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

A new centre of gravity

The big question is to what extent the TPNW will make a difference to the actions of nuclear states. None has signed, but they will all be affected, in part because the treaty prohibits companies and individuals from signatory countries from assisting in weapons development. And because the TPNW is an intergovernmental agreement, nuclear-weapons countries will need to send delegates to its meetings, whether or not they agree with it.

The TPNW is a historic achievement with a lot riding on its young shoulders. It will still take decades to achieve a weapons-free world, but every journey needs to begin somewhere. Altering the balance of decision-making so that it is shared more equally between the nuclear states and the international community is that necessary first step.

Nature 584, 7 (2020)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-02274-9


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Israel Launches Counteroffensive Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Israel Launches Counteroffensive Against Hezbollah, Hamas

Jack BeyrerAugust 4, 2020 1:40 PM

National Security

Israel waged counterstrikes on Tuesday in southern Syria and the Gaza Strip following aggression from Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syrian military forces, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Israel Defense Forces deployed a contingent of helicopters, fighter jets, and drones against Syrian military installations purposed for observation, intelligence gathering, and communication. This attack came a day following a thwarted Hezbollah attack in a contested area in the Golan Heights, in which four terrorists were killed by IDF responders.

Former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said Hezbollah planned the attack as revenge for previous skirmishes. “It seems [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah tried his luck from the Syrian front,” Yadlin wrote on Twitter.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah has a storied relationship with Syria and the Assad regime, along with a documented history of cooperation during the Syrian Civil War. Both Syria and Hezbollah harbor resentment towards Israel and have had few qualms about the use of violence.

“Hezbollah needs to know that it’s playing with fire,” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week. “Any attack against us will be answered with great force.”

Meanwhile, Israel acted with dispatch on its southern border against terror group Hamas on Monday. IDF forces bombed Hamas sites on the Gaza Strip hours after a rocket was launched towards southern Israel.

Tit-for-tat operations in Gaza are nothing new. Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system intercepted more than 470 shells last year from Gaza-based terrorist rockets—an 85 percent success rate, according to the IDF. On Monday, American defense firm Raytheon announced its partnership with Israeli contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to build a similar missile defense system in the United States.

With such strong defenses, Israel hopes to nudge Gaza towards a less militaristic posture.

“[Hamas] must stop manufacturing rockets and use pipes to build proper water and sewage infrastructure for their children,” said Brigadier General Eliezer Toledano. “They must stop sowing launchers and harvest rockets and sow wheat and harvest grain.”