The Main Cause of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Indian Point Energy CenterNuclear power plant in Buchanan, New YorkIndian Point Energy Center (IPEC) is a three-unit nuclear power plant station located in Buchanan, New York, just south of Peekskill. It sits on the east bank of the Hudson River, about 36 miles (58 km) north of Midtown Manhattan. The plant generates over 2,000 megawatts (MWe) of electrical power. For reference, the record peak energy consumption of New York City and Westchester County (the ConEdison Service Territory) was set during a seven-day heat wave on July 19, 2013, at 13,322 megawatts.[3] Electrical energy consumption varies greatly with time of day and season.[4]Quick Facts: Country, Location …The plant is owned and operated by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation, and includes two operating Westinghouse pressurized water reactors—designated “Indian Point 2” and “Indian Point 3″—which Entergy bought from Consolidated Edison and the New York Power Authority respectively. The facility also contains the permanently shut-down Indian Point Unit 1 reactor. As of 2015, the number of permanent jobs at the Buchanan plant is approximately 1,000.The original 40-year operating licenses for units 2 and 3 expired in September 2013 and December 2015, respectively. Entergy had applied for license extensions and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was moving toward granting a twenty-year extension for each reactor. However, after pressure from local environmental groups and New York governor Andrew Cuomo, it was announced that the plant is scheduled to be shut down by 2021.[5] Local groups had cited increasingly frequent issues with the aging units, ongoing environmental releases, and the proximity of the plant to New York City.[6]ReactorsHistory and designThe reactors are built on land that originally housed the Indian Point Amusement Park, but was acquired by Consolidated Edison (ConEdison) on October 14, 1954.[7] Indian Point 1, built by ConEdison, was a 275-megawatt Babcock & Wilcox supplied [8] pressurized water reactor that was issued an operating license on March 26, 1962 and began operations on September 16, 1962.[9] The first core used a thorium-based fuel with stainless steel cladding, but this fuel did not live up to expectations for core life.[10] The plant was operated with uranium dioxide fuel for the remainder of its life. The reactor was shut down on October 31, 1974, because the emergency core cooling system did not meet regulatory requirements. All spent fuel was removed from the reactor vessel by January 1976, but the reactor still stands.[11] The licensee, Entergy, plans to decommission Unit 1 when Unit 2 is decommissioned.[12]The two additional reactors, Indian Point 2 and 3, are four-loop Westinghouse pressurized water reactors both of similar design. Units 2 and 3 were completed in 1974 and 1976, respectively. Unit 2 has a generating capacity of 1,032 MW, and Unit 3 has a generating capacity of 1,051 MW. Both reactors use uranium dioxide fuel of no more than 4.8% U-235 enrichment. The reactors at Indian Point are protected by containment domes made of steel-reinforced concrete that is 40 inches thick, with a carbon steel liner.[13]Nuclear capacity in New York stateUnits 2 and 3 are two of six operating nuclear energy sources in New York State. New York is one of the five largest states in terms of nuclear capacity and generation, accounting for approximately 5% of the national totals. Indian Point provides 39% of the state’s nuclear capacity. Nuclear power produces 34.2% of the state’s electricity, higher than the U.S. average of 20.6%. In 2017, Indian Point generated approximately 10% of the state’s electricity needs, and 25% of the electricity used in New York City and Westchester County.[14] Its contract with Consolidated Edison is for just 560 megawatts. The New York Power Authority, which built Unit 3, stopped buying electricity from Indian Point in 2012. NYPA supplies the subways, airports, and public schools and housing in NYC and Westchester County. Entergy sells the rest of Indian Point’s output into the NYISO administered electric wholesale markets and elsewhere in New England.[15][16][17][18] In 2013, New York had the fourth highest average electricity prices in the United States. Half of New York’s power demand is in the New York City region; about two-fifths of generation originates there.[19][20]RefuelingThe currently operating Units 2 and 3 are each refueled on a two-year cycle. At the end of each fuel cycle, one unit is brought offline for refueling and maintenance activities. On March 2, 2015, Indian Point 3 was taken offline for 23 days to perform its refueling operations. Entergy invested $50 million in the refueling and other related projects for Unit 3, of which $30 million went to employee salaries. The unit was brought back online on March 25, 2015.[21]EffectsEconomic impactA June 2015 report by a lobby group called Nuclear Energy Institute found that the operation of Indian Point generates $1.3 billion of annual economic output in local counties, $1.6 billion statewide, and $2.5 billion across the United States. In 2014, Entergy paid $30 million in state and local property taxes. The total tax revenue (direct and secondary) was nearly $340 million to local, state, and federal governments.[15] According to the Village of Buchanan budget for 2016–2017, a payment in lieu of taxes in the amount of $2.62 million was received in 2015-2016, and was projected to be $2.62 million in 2016–2017 – the majority of which can be assumed to come from the Indian Point Energy Center.[22]Over the last decade, the station has maintained a capacity factor of greater than 93 percent. This is consistently higher than the nuclear industry average and than other forms of generation. The reliability helps offset the severe price volatility of other energy sources (e.g., natural gas) and the indeterminacy of renewable electricity sources (e.g., solar, wind).[15]Indian Point directly employs about 1,000 full-time workers. This employment creates another 2,800 jobs in the five-county region, and 1,600 in other industries in New York, for a total of 5,400 in-state jobs. Additionally, another 5,300 indirect jobs are created out of state, creating a sum total of 10,700 jobs throughout the United States.[15]Environmental concernsEnvironmentalists have expressed concern about increased carbon emissions with the impending shutdown of Indian Point (generating electricity with nuclear energy creates no carbon emissions). A study undertaken by Environmental Progress found that closure of the plant would cause power emissions to jump 29% in New York, equivalent to the emissions from 1.4 million additional cars on New York roads.[23]Some environmental groups have expressed concerns about the operation of Indian Point, including radiation pollution and endangerment of wildlife, but whether Indian Point has ever posed a significant danger to wildlife or the public remains controversial. Though anti-nuclear group Riverkeeper notes “Radioactive leakage from the plant containing several radioactive isotopes, such as strontium-90, cesium-137, cobalt-60, nickel-63 and tritium, a rarely-occurring isotope of hydrogen, has flowed into groundwater that eventually enters the Hudson River in the past[24], there is no evidence radiation from the plant has ever posed a significant hazard to local residents or wildlife. In the last year[when?], nine tritium leaks have occurred, however, even at their highest levels the leaks have never exceeded one-tenth of one percent of US Nuclear Regulatory Commission limits.In February 2016, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a full investigation by state environment[25] and health officials and is partnering with organizations like Sierra Club, Riverkeepers, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, Scenic Hudson and Physicians for Social Responsibility in seeking the permanent closure of the plant.[citation needed] However, Cuomo’s motivation for closing the plant was called into question after it was revealed two top former aides, under federal prosecution for influence-peddling, had lobbied on behalf of natural gas company Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) to kill Indian Point. In his indictment, US attorney Preet Bharara wrote “the importance of the plant [CPV’s proposed Valley Energy Center, a plant powered by natural gas] to the State depended at least in part, on whether [Indian Point] was going to be shut down.”[26]In April 2016 climate scientist James Hansen took issue with calls to shut the plant down, including those from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “The last few weeks have seen an orchestrated campaign to mislead the people of New York about the essential safety and importance of Indian Point nuclear plant to address climate change,” wrote Hansen, adding “Sanders has offered no evidence that NRC [U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission] has failed to do its job, and he has no expertise in over-riding NRC’s judgement. For the sake of future generations who could be harmed by irreversible climate change, I urge New Yorkers to reject this fear mongering and uphold science against ideology.”[27]Indian Point removes water from the nearby Hudson River. Despite the use of fish screens, the cooling system kills over a billion fish eggs and larvae annually.[28] According to one NRC report from 2010, as few as 38% of alewives survive the screens.[29] On September 14, 2015, a state hearing began in regards to the deaths of fish in the river, and possibly implementing a shutdown period from May to August. An Indian Point spokesman stated that such a period would be unnecessary, as Indian Point “is fully protective of life in the Hudson River and $75 million has been spent over the last 30 years on scientific studies demonstrating that the plant has no harmful impact to adult fish.” The hearings lasted three weeks.[30] Concerns were also raised over the planned building of new cooling towers, which would cut down forest land that is suspected to be used as breeding ground by muskrat and mink. At the time of the report, no minks or muskrats were spotted there.[29]SafetyIndian Point Energy Center has been given an incredible amount of scrutiny from the media and politicians and is regulated more heavily than various other power plants in the state of New York (i.e., by the NRC in addition to FERC, the NYSPSC, the NYISO, the NYSDEC, and the EPA). On a forced outage basis – incidents related to electrical equipment failure that force a plant stoppage – it provides a much more reliable operating history than most other power plants in New York.[31][32] Beginning at the end of 2015, Governor Cuomo began to ramp up political action against the Indian Point facility, opening an investigation with the state public utility commission, the department of health, and the department of environmental conservation.[33][34][35][30][36][37] To put the public service commission investigation in perspective: most electric outage investigations conducted by the commission are in response to outages with a known number of affected retail electric customers.[38] By November 17, 2017, the NYISO accepted Indian Point’s retirement notice.[39]In 1997, Indian Point Unit 3 was removed from the NRC’s list of plants that receive increased attention from the regulator. An engineer for the NRC noted that the plant had been experiencing increasingly fewer problems during inspections.[40] On March 10, 2009 the Indian Point Power Plant was awarded the fifth consecutive top safety rating for annual operations by the Federal regulators. According to the Hudson Valley Journal News, the plant had shown substantial improvement in its safety culture in the previous two years.[41] A 2003 report commissioned by then-Governor George Pataki concluded that the “current radiological response system and capabilities are not adequate to…protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation in the event of a release from Indian Point”.[42] More recently, in December 2012 Entergy commissioned a 400-page report on the estimates of evacuation times. This report, performed by emergency planning company KLD Engineering, concluded that the existing traffic management plans provided by Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties are adequate and require no changes.[43] According to one list that ranks U.S. nuclear power plants by their likelihood of having a major natural disaster related incident, Indian Point is the most likely to be hit by a natural disaster, mainly an earthquake.[44][45][46][47] Despite this, the owners of the plant still say that safety is a selling point for the nuclear power plant.[48]Incidents▪ In 1973, five months after Indian Point 2 opened, the plant was shut down when engineers discovered buckling in the steel liner of the concrete dome in which the nuclear reactor is housed.[49]▪ On October 17, 1980,[50] 100,000 gallons of Hudson River water leaked into the Indian Point 2 containment building from the fan cooling unit, undetected by a safety device designed to detect hot water. The flooding, covering the first nine feet of the reactor vessel, was discovered when technicians entered the building. Two pumps that should have removed the water were found to be inoperative. NRC proposed a $2,100,000 fine for the incident.▪ In February 2000, Unit 2 experienced a Steam Generator Tube Rupture (SGTR), which allowed primary water to leak into the secondary system through one of the steam generators.[51] All four steam generators were subsequently replaced.[citation needed]▪ In 2005, Entergy workers while digging discovered a small leak in a spent fuel pool. Water containing tritium and strontium-90 was leaking through a crack in the pool building and then finding its way into the nearby Hudson River. Workers were able to keep the spent fuel rods safely covered despite the leak.[52] On March 22, 2006 The New York Times also reported finding radioactive nickel-63 and strontium in groundwater on site.[53]▪ In 2007, a transformer at Unit 3 caught fire, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission raised its level of inspections, because the plant had experienced many unplanned shutdowns. According to The New York Times, Indian Point “has a history of transformer problems”.[54]▪ On April 23, 2007, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined the owner of the Indian Point nuclear plant $130,000 for failing to meet a deadline for a new emergency siren plan. The 150 sirens at the plant are meant to alert residents within 10 miles to a plant emergency.[55]▪ On January 7, 2010, NRC inspectors reported that an estimated 600,000 gallons of mildly radioactive steam was intentionally vented to the atmosphere after an automatic shutdown of Unit 2. After the vent, one of the vent valves unintentionally remained slightly open for two days. The levels of tritium in the steam were within the allowable safety limits defined in NRC standards.[56]▪ On November 7, 2010, an explosion occurred in a main transformer for Indian Point 2, spilling oil into the Hudson River.[57] Entergy later agreed to pay a $1.2 million penalty for the transformer explosion.[54]▪ July 2013, a former supervisor, who worked at the Indian Point nuclear power plant for twenty-nine years, was arrested for falsifying the amount of particulate in the diesel fuel for the plant’s backup generators.[58]▪ On May 9, 2015, a transformer failed at Indian Point 3, causing the automated shutdown of reactor 3. A fire that resulted from the failure was extinguished, and the reactor was placed in a safe and stable condition.[59] The failed transformer contained about 24,000 gallons of dielectric fluid, which is used as an insulator and coolant when the transformer is energized. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that about 3,000 gallons of dielectric fluid entered the river following the failure.[60]▪ In June 2015, a mylar balloon floated into a switchyard, causing an electrical problem resulting in the shutdown of Reactor 3.[61]▪ In July 2015, Reactor 3 was shut down after a water pump failure.[citation needed]▪ On December 5, 2015, Indian Point 2 was shut down after several control rods lost power.[62]▪ On February 6, 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo informed the public that radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into the groundwater at the Indian Point Nuclear facility.[25]Spent fuelIndian Point stores used fuel rods in two spent fuel pools at the facility.[52] The spent fuel pools at Indian Point are not stored under a containment dome like the reactor, but rather they are contained within an indoor 40-foot-deep pool and submerged under 27 feet of water. Water is a natural and effective barrier to radiation. The spent fuel pools at Indian Point are set in bedrock and are constructed of concrete walls that are four to six feet wide, with a quarter-inch thick stainless steel inner liner. The pools each have multiple redundant backup cooling systems.[52][63]Indian Point began dry cask storage of spent fuel rods in 2008, which is a safe and environmentally sound option according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.[64] Some rods have already been moved to casks from the spent fuel pools. The pools will be kept nearly full of spent fuel, leaving enough space to allow emptying the reactor completely.[65] Dry cask storage systems are designed to resist floods, tornadoes, projectiles, temperature extremes, and other unusual scenarios. The NRC requires the spent fuel to be cooled and stored in the spent fuel pool for at least five years before being transferred to dry casks.[66]Earthquake riskIn 2008, researchers from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory located a previously unknown active seismic zone running from Stamford, Connecticut, to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, New York—the intersection of the Stamford-Peekskill line with the well-known Ramapo Fault—which passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant.[67] The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast, but scientists dispute how active this roughly 200-million-year-old fault really is. Many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. Visible at ground level, the fault line likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.[68]In July 2013, Entergy engineers reassessed the risk of seismic damage to Unit 3 and submitted their findings in a report to the NRC. It was found that risk leading to reactor core damage is 1 in 106,000 reactor years using U.S. Geological Survey data; and 1 in 141,000 reactor years using Electric Power Research Institute data. Unit 3’s previous owner, the New York Power Authority, had conducted a more limited analysis in the 1990s than Unit 2’s previous owner, Con Edison, leading to the impression that Unit 3 had fewer seismic protections than Unit 2. Neither submission of data from the previous owners was incorrect.[69]According to a company spokesman, Indian Point was built to withstand an earthquake of 6.1 on the Richter scale.[70] Entergy executives have also noted “that Indian Point had been designed to withstand an earthquake much stronger than any on record in the region, though not one as powerful as the quake that rocked Japan.”[71]The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Indian Point was Reactor 2: 1 in 30,303; Reactor 3: 1 in 10,000, according to an NRC study published in August 2010. Msnbc.com reported based on the NRC data that “Indian Point nuclear reactor No. 3 has the highest risk of earthquake damage in the country, according to new NRC risk estimates provided to msnbc.com.” According to the report, the reason is that plants in known earthquake zones like California were designed to be more quake-resistant than those in less affected areas like New York.[72][73] The NRC did not dispute the numbers but responded in a release that “The NRC results to date should not be interpreted as definitive estimates of seismic risk,” because the NRC does not rank plants by seismic risk.[74]IPEC Units 2 and 3 both operated at 100% full power before, during, and after the Virginia earthquake on August 23, 2011. A thorough inspection of both units by plant personnel immediately following this event verified no significant damage occurred at either unit.Emergency planningThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.[75]According to an analysis of U.S. Census data for MSNBC, the 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Indian Point was 272,539, an increase of 17.6 percent during the previous ten years. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 17,220,895, an increase of 5.1 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles include New York (41 miles to city center); Bridgeport, Conn. (40 miles); Newark, N.J. (39 miles); and Stamford, Conn. (24 miles).[76]In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima incident in Japan, the State Department recommended that any Americans in Japan stay beyond fifty miles from the area.[citation needed] Columnist Peter Applebome, writing in The New York Times, noted that such an area around Indian Point would include “almost all of New York City except for Staten Island; almost all of Nassau County and much of Suffolk County; all of Bergen County, N.J.; all of Fairfield, Conn.” He quotes Purdue University professor Daniel Aldrich as saying “Many scholars have already argued that any evacuation plans shouldn’t be called plans, but rather “fantasy documents””.[42]The current 10-mile plume-exposure pathway Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) is one of two EPZs intended to facilitate a strategy for protective action during an emergency and comply with NRC regulations. “The exact size and shape of each EPZ is a result of detailed planning which includes consideration of the specific conditions at each site, unique geographical features of the area, and demographic information. This preplanned strategy for an EPZ provides a substantial basis to support activity beyond the planning zone in the extremely unlikely event it would be needed.”[77]In an interview, Entergy executives said they doubt that the evacuation zone would be expanded to reach as far as New York City.[71]Indian Point is protected by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including a National Guard base within a mile of the facility, as well as by private off-site security forces.[78]During the September 11 attacks, American Airlines Flight 11 flew near the Indian Point Energy Center en route to the World Trade Center. Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers/plotters, had considered nuclear facilities for targeting in a terrorist attack.[79] Entergy says it is prepared for a terrorist attack, and asserts that a large airliner crash into the containment building would not cause reactor damage.[80] Following 9/11 the NRC required operators of nuclear facilities in the U.S. to examine the effects of terrorist events and provide planned responses.[81] In September 2006, the Indian Point Security Department successfully completed mock assault exercises required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.[citation needed] However, according to environmental group Riverkeeper, these NRC exercises are inadequate because they do not envision a sufficiently large group of attackers.[citation needed]According to The New York Times, fuel stored in dry casks is less vulnerable to terrorist attack than fuel in the storage pools.[65]RecertificationUnits 2 and 3 were both originally licensed by the NRC for 40 years of operation. The NRC limits commercial power reactor licenses to an initial 40 years, but also permits such licenses to be renewed. This original 40-year term for reactor licenses was based on economic and antitrust considerations, not on limitations of nuclear technology. Due to this selected period, however, some structures and components may have been engineered on the basis of an expected 40-year service life.[82] The original federal license for Unit Two expired on September 28, 2013,[83][84] and the license for Unit Three was due to expire in December 2015.[85] On April 30, 2007, Entergy submitted an application for a 20-year renewal of the licenses for both units. On May 2, 2007, the NRC announced that this application is available for public review.[86] Because the owner submitted license renewal applications at least five years prior to the original expiration date, the units are allowed to continue operation past this date while the NRC considers the renewal application.On September 23, 2007, the antinuclear group Friends United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE) filed legal papers with the NRC opposing the relicensing of the Indian Point 2 reactor. The group contended that the NRC improperly held Indian Point to less stringent design requirements. The NRC responded that the newer requirements were put in place after the plant was complete.[87]On December 1, 2007, Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer called a press conference with the participation of environmental advocacy groups Clearwater and Riverkeeper to announce their united opposition to the re-licensing of the Indian Point nuclear power plants. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of the Attorney General requested a hearing as part of the process put forth by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.[citation needed] In September 2007 The New York Times reported on the rigorous legal opposition Entergy faces in its request for a 20-year licensing extension for Indian Point Nuclear Reactor 2.[87]A water quality certificate is a prerequisite for a twenty-year renewal by the NRC.[citation needed] On April 3, 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that Indian Point violates the federal Clean Water Act,[88] because “the power plant’s water-intake system kills nearly a billion aquatic organisms a year, including the shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species.”[citation needed] The state is demanding that Entergy constructs new closed-cycle cooling towers at a cost of over $1 billion, a decision that will effectively close the plant for nearly a year. Regulators denied Entergy’s request to install fish screens that they said would improve fish mortality more than new cooling towers. Anti-nuclear groups and environmentalists have in the past tried to close the plant,[citation needed] which is in a more densely populated area than any of the 66 other nuclear plant sites in the US.[citation needed] Opposition to the plant[from whom?] increased after the September 2001 terror attacks,[citation needed] when one of the hijacked jets flew close to the plant on its way to the World Trade Center.[citation needed] Public worries also increased after the 2011 Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and after a report highlighting the Indian Point plant’s proximity to the Ramapo Fault.[citation needed]Advocates of recertifying Indian Point include former New York City mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph W. Giuliani. Bloomberg says that “Indian Point is critical to the city’s economic viability”.[89] The New York Independent System Operator maintains that in the absence of Indian Point, grid voltages would degrade, which would limit the ability to transfer power from upstate New York resources through the Hudson Valley to New York City.[90]As the current governor, Andrew Cuomo continues to call for closure of Indian Point.[91] In late June 2011, a Cuomo advisor in a meeting with Entergy executives informed them for the first time directly of the Governor’s intention to close the plant, while the legislature approved a bill to streamline the process of siting replacement plants.[92]Nuclear energy industry figures and analysts responded to Cuomo’s initiative by questioning whether replacement electrical plants could be certified and built rapidly enough to replace Indian Point, given New York state’s “cumbersome regulation process”, and also noted that replacement power from out of state sources will be hard to obtain because New York has weak ties to generation capacity in other states.[citation needed] They said that possible consequences of closure will be a sharp increase in the cost of electricity for downstate users and even “rotating black-outs”.[93]Several members of the House of Representatives representing districts near the plant have also opposed recertification, including Democrats Nita Lowey, Maurice Hinchey, and Eliot Engel and then Republican member Sue Kelly.[94]In November 2016 the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the application to renew the NRC operating licences must be reviewed against the state’s coastal management program, which The New York State Department of State had already decided was inconsistent with coastal management requirements. Entergy has filed a lawsuit regarding the validity of Department of State’s decision.[95]ClosureBeginning at the end of 2015, Governor Cuomo began to ramp up political action against the Indian Point facility, opening investigations with the state public utility commission, the department of health and the department of environmental conservation.[33][34][35][30][36][37] To put the public service commission investigation in perspective, most electric outage investigations conducted by the commission are in response to outages with a known number of affected retail electric customers.[38] By November 17, 2017, the NYISO accepted Indian Point’s retirement notice.[39]In January 2017, the governor’s office announced closure by 2020-21.[96] The closure, along with pollution control, challenges New York’s ability to be supplied.[citation needed] Among the solution proposals are storage, renewables (solar and wind), a new transmission cables from Canada [97][98] and a 650MW natural gas plant located in Wawayanda, New York.[99] There was also a 1,000 MW merchant HVDC transmission line proposed in 2013 to the public service commission that would have interconnected at Athens, New York and Buchanan, New York, however this project was indefinitely stalled when its proposed southern converter station site was bought by the Town of Cortlandt in a land auction administered by Con Edison.[100][101][102] As of October 1, 2018, the 650 MW plant built in Wawayanda, New York, by CPV Valley, is operating commercially.[103] The CPV Valley plant has been associated with Governor Cuomo’s close aid, Joe Percoco, and the associated corruption trial.[104] Another plant being built, Cricket Valley Energy Center, rated at 1,100 MW, is on schedule to provide energy by 2020 in Dover, New York.[105] An Indian Point contingency plan, initiated in 2012 by the NYSPSC under the administration of Cuomo, solicited energy solutions from which a Transmission Owner Transmission Solutions (TOTS) plan was selected. The TOTS projects provide 450 MW[106] of additional transfer capability across a NYISO defined electric transmission corridor in the form of three projects: series compensation at a station in Marcy, New York, reconductoring a transmission line, adding an additional transmission line, and “unbottling” Staten Island capacity. These projects, with the exception of part of the Staten Island “unbottling” were in service by mid-2016. The cost of the TOTS projects are distributed among various utilities in their rate cases before the public service commission and the cost allocation amongst themselves was approved by FERC. NYPA and LIPA are also receiving a portion. The cost of the TOTS projects has been estimated in the range of $27 million to $228 million.[107][108][109][110][111] An energy highway initiative was also prompted by this order (generally speaking, additional lines on the Edic-Pleasant Valley and the Oakdale-Fraser transmission corridors) which is still going through the regulatory process in both the NYISO and NYSPSC.Under the current plan, one reactor is scheduled to be shut down in April 2020 and the second by April 2021.[112] A report by the New York Building Congress, a construction industry association, has said that NYC will need additional natural gas pipelines to accommodate the city’s increasing demand for energy. Environmentalists have argued that the power provided by Indian point can be replaced by renewable energy, combined with conservation measures and improvements to the efficiency of the electrical grid.[113]

The Chinese Nuclear Horn Prepares for the first nuclear war

World War 3 alert: China building huge road to move ‘heavy artillery’ towards rival border

CHINA has sparked World War 3 alarm by building a huge road to help transport “heavy artillery” to an enemy border.

By Richard Mark 10:00, Mon, Jan 18, 2021 | UPDATED: 20:46, Tue, Jan 19, 2021

A new 500-mile Karakoram highway will link Astore in northern Pakistan with Yakan Count in northwest China. It will provide a direct artery from China to a disputed region contested by fierce rival India.

The development is a sign Beijing has partnered up with nuclear-armed Pakistan to mount further pressure on India regarding the Himalayan border known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the disputed province of Ladakh.

Indian military analysts told The Times of India the construction of the new road would add to China and Pakistan’s capacity to launch a two-front war against India.

India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said China had increased its military presence in Ladakh, warning it had “undermined peace and tranquillity.”

He said the “government’s strategy at present was to hold the military line”.

China recently partnered with Pakistan to build a new road (Image: Reuters)

However, China said their Indian counterparts should immediately return one of their soldiers, who was arrested after crossing the border last week.

A statement from the People’s Liberation Army said: “India should strictly abide by the relevant agreements between the two countries, and promptly transfer the missing person to China, to help with cooling and de-escalating the China-Indian border situation.”

Tensions flared between China and India last June when a clash along the disputed Himalayan border led to the death of at least 20 Indian soldiers.

In the following months, the nuclear-armed neighbours deployed tens of thousands of soldiers across India’s Ladakh region and China’s Tibetan plateau.

India’s Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar (Image: Getty)

In November, the two sides began formulating a disengagement plan to withdraw troops and establish no-patrol zones.

Both world superpowers fought a border war in 1962, but until last summer they had largely kept a lid on tensions along the LAC.

The Indian Foreign Minister continued: “After 45 years, you’ve actually had bloodshed on the border.

“And that’s had a huge impact on public opinion and politically. Really the impact of trust and confidence in India where China and their relationship is concerned.

China’s defence minister Wei Fenghe (Image: Getty )


War THREAT: China refuses to withdraw troops from Indian border


India-China FACE-OFF: Armoured tanks in brutal border showdown

“That has been profoundly disturbed.”

India and China have also agreed to maintain close communication through diplomatic and military channels regarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Anurag Srivastava, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said the two sides have agreed to hold another round of military talks regarding the issue.

He added: “India and China continue to maintain close communication through diplomatic and military channels with the objective of ensuring complete disengagement in all friction points along the LAC in the western sector.”

The Minister said the full aim was for “full restoration of peace and tranquillity.”

The Power of the Pakistani Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8

Pakistan Army ranks 10th most powerful army in the world

Pakistan’s army becomes the 10th most powerful army in the world according to the Global Firepower Index 2021 released this week.

Pakistan has improved 5 places in the same list since 2019. In 2020, Pakistan stood as the 15th most powerful country. Global Firepower Index is an annual ranking that ranks a country according to its military strength.

In the current list, Pakistan stands at the 10th spot out of 138 countries. It holds a PwrIndx* rating of 0.2083 (0.0000 considered ‘perfect’).

Pakistan Army was ranked the 15th most powerful military in the world, according to the same list issued in 2019.

The Global Firepower ranks the military forces of 138 countries by comparing and examining a wide range of factors and not just the numbers of soldiers or weapons deployed by a country.

The Global Firepower ranking mechanism involves scrutinizing a large variety of factors, which include the manpower, population, geography, diversity of weapons, and the state of development. Countries that are equipped with nuclear weapons get bonus points, however, the nuclear stockpiles of a country do not amount in the final score.

Countries that are equipped with naval fleets but lack diversity are penalized, however, landlocked countries that do not maintain navies are not penalized. The Global Firepower ranking creates the PowerIndex score for each country after examining more than 55 factors, and this ranking allows small and technologically advanced nations to compete with large countries that are less developed and advanced.

The heightened PowerIndex score is 0.0000, which is an unrealistic goal for any country. However, the closer a country is to this number, the more powerful it’s military.

According to Global Firepower’s ranking, Pakistan has an estimated total of 1,204,000 military personnel.

The Iranian Nuclear Horn is Still Vulnerable to Attack

Why Iran’s nuclear facilities are still vulnerable to attack

19 hours ago

By Frank Gardner
BBC security corresponden
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Iran has invested heavily in developing its surface-to-air missile to defend against air attack

The end of the Trump era has caused a collective but cautious sigh of relief in Iran.

Some in the Gulf region feared that in the dying days of his presidency Donald Trump might choose to double down on his policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran and launch a military strike on its civilian nuclear plants and other targets.

Reports from Washington in November indicated this was one option the US president had looked at, before being talked out of it by his advisers.

By contrast, President-elect Joe Biden has made it clear that he wants the US to rejoin the 2015 nuclear pact with Iran, which would mean reversing sanctions and releasing money to Tehran in exchange for Iran’s full compliance.

So is Iran now safe from attack?

AFP

Israel’s defence minister has said it “needs to have a military option on the table”

In a word, no. Israel remains extremely concerned, not just by Iran’s civilian nuclear activities but by its prolific programme to develop its arsenal of ballistic missiles.

On Thursday, Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz was quoted as saying, in reference to Iran’s nuclear development programme: “It is clear that Israel needs to have a military option on the table. It requires resources and investment and I am working to make that happen.”

Israel, as the Islamic Republic’s declared enemy, sees a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands as a threat to its very existence and has urged the world to stop it before it is too late.

In 2018, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled what he claimed to be Iran’s secret atomic archive

Iran has always insisted its nuclear programme is purely peaceful, but its recent action to increase the enrichment of its uranium – one of a sequence which contravene the 2015 deal – has set alarm bells ringing.

In 1981, Israel suspected that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was looking to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.

In Operation Babylon, it took pre-emptive action by carrying out a successful air raid using its own F15 and F16 jets, destroying Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor.

Twenty-six years later, in 2007, it did the same to Syria in Operation Outside the Box, destroying a secret plutonium reactor in the desert near Deir al-Zour just before it was activated.

Out of sight

But Iran is a far harder target, in terms of distance, accessibility and air defences.

It is questionable whether Israel could carry out a successful air raid without US participation – something a Biden administration will be reluctant to do.

Satellite images appear to show recent tunnel construction south of Iran’s Natanz enrichment plant

Conscious of the longstanding threat to its nuclear facilities – from the US, Israel and possibly the Gulf Arab states – Iran has invested money and effort in burying some of them deep underground, beneath its mountains.

Iran’s nuclear industry, while ostensibly civilian, is closely entwined with its military and security infrastructure.

In fact, the Iranians have had so long to prepare for an attack that there is now a distinct possibility that their underground facilities are becoming impenetrable.

Despite this, Iran’s nuclear facilities remain vulnerable to attack on three fronts.

Physical attack

“Iran’s facilities are not impregnable,” says Mark Fitzpatrick, an associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and an expert on arms control.

“[The one at] Natanz is vulnerable to precise bunker-busting bombing, maybe taking two precise hits: one to dig a crater and the other to burst through it or at least to shake the delicate machines enough to put them out of commission.”

But Iran is a vast country and its nuclear facilities are spread out in depth.

As far back as 2012 experts suggested that the uranium enrichment facility at Fordo, buried at least 80m (260ft) inside a mountain, might be impregnable to even the devastating explosive power of US “bunker-busting” precision-guided bombs.

“Fordo’s greater depth protects the facility against bunker-busters, but not against sabotage,” says Mark Fitzpatrick, “and it could be put out of commission for a period of months by blasting its entryways and airshafts”.

GeoEye Satellite Image

Iran resumed enriching uranium to 20% purity at the underground Fordo facility earlier this month

But to reach these facilities would require one, possibly two waves of air strikes penetrating deep into Iranian airspace and either evading or overpowering its air defences.

Iran has invested heavily in developing its surface-to-air missile force, including the Bavar-373 – a homegrown version of Russia’s S-300 system that is capable of tracking and shooting down aircraft up to 300km (186 miles) away.

The prospect of an only partially successful strike, with downed pilots captured and paraded on Iranian TV, is a strong disincentive.

Human attack

This has already been happening.

Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has managed to develop an extraordinarily well-informed network of agents inside Iran.

So well-informed that when Iran’s top military scientist, Brig Gen Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was travelling in a protected convoy on a lonely road east of Tehran on 27 November his attackers knew his precise route and timings.

Reuters

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was known as the “godfather of Iran’s nuclear programme”

Reports differ on how he was attacked on that day.

Iran claims it was by a remote, satellite-controlled machine gun mounted on a pick-up truck. Other sources believe it was by a sizable team of Mossad-trained agents, who escaped and remain at large.

Either way, Fakhrizadeh – known as “the godfather of Iran’s nuclear programme”, who US intelligence says carried out covert work on nuclear weapons – was assassinated.

• How will Iran respond to nuclear scientist’s killing?

• What were the motives behind the killing?

• After Trump, what will Biden do about Iran?

• What is behind mysterious fires at Iran sites?

Israel has not commented officially on who was behind it.

Before that, between 2010 and 2012, four leading Iranian nuclear scientists were all assassinated inside Iran, some by car bombs.

Again, Israel neither confirmed nor denied its involvement. But the killings show that despite heavy protection by Iranian state security, assassins are able to reach their targets, setting back Iran’s intellectual capacity in nuclear technology.

Cyber attack

There is an undeclared war going on in cyberspace, with Iran on one side and the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia ranged against it.

In 2010, a sophisticated piece of malware codenamed Stuxnet was secretly introduced into the computers controlling Iran’s uranium-enriching centrifuges at Natanz.

The result was chaos, causing the centrifuges to spin out of control and setting the enrichment programme back by years.

Reuters

Iran said a fire at its Natanz nuclear facility in July 2020 was the result of “sabotage”

The cyber attack was widely reported to have been Israeli, although US and Israeli experts are believed to have collaborated on developing Stuxnet.

Iran soon hit back, successfully inserting its own sophisticated malware codenamed Shamoon into the network of Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company, Saudi Aramco, disabling 30,000 computers and threatening Saudi Arabia’s oil production.

Further attacks have followed.

Continual risk

The 2015 nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – was supposed to place such stringent curbs on Iran’s nuclear activities that it would negate the need for its adversaries to consider a military strike.

EPA

Iran’s government insists the country’s nuclear programme is entirely peaceful

But Israel and Saudi Arabia were always sceptical about the deal because they considered it too lenient and temporary, and because it did nothing to address Iran’s ballistic missile programme.

Today, they are less than enthusiastic about a Biden presidency reviving the deal unless it addresses those concerns.

Nobody in the Gulf region wants to see another conflict. Even the 2019 missile attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, widely blamed on Iran and its allies, went unanswered.

But as long as suspicions remain that Iran is secretly working on developing a nuclear warhead capability, then the risk of a pre-emptive attack on its facilities will always be there.

The White Elephant in Biden’s Room is Nuclear

As Biden takes office, key nuclear and missile defense decisions loom

Aaron Mehta

WASHINGTON — When U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office, his national security team will have to work quickly to make calls on a number of key nuclear and missile defense decisions, according to a top outgoing Pentagon official.

Rob Soofer, who has served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy since early in the Trump administration, told Defense News in a Jan. 5 interview that he expects a wide-ranging review of nuclear and missile defense issues from the new administration. But he is hopeful that technical reviews needed to keep programs on track will not be delayed in the process.

“Literally everything is on the table, so to speak,” Soofer said, noting there is a limited window before the budget must be produced, perhaps by mid-March. “They will likely alter President [Donald] Trump’s budget request for fiscal 2022 in some fashion. And I would hope that that they would wait until they conducted their Nuclear Posture Review and their Missile Defense Review before they took any precipitous steps with respect to the big modernization programs.”

“I think anything that reflects dollars and cents for the FY22 budget is going to have to have near-term consideration,” he added. “Funding for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent and the nuclear certification of the F-35 — all these nuclear decisions are reflected in the budget request, and so in a sense they have to make a decision within months.”

While most policy decisions, such as questions about the no-first-use policy, “can wait,” Soofer said, a near-term policy decision does have to happen: figuring out the strategy for the New START nuclear pact, which expires in early February. The Biden team has two options to pursue with Russia: a one- or five-year extension.

Soofer, who took part directly in talks with Russia over the last year, believes that based on those talks, there is a real opportunity to get Russian tactical nuclear weapons included in a new version of the agreement.

“In order to take advantage of that opportunity, the Biden administration should not extend the New START treaty for five years,” Soofer urged. “If they do that, Russia will pocket that extension, walk away, and you’re never going to see [the Russians] again.”

Soofer’s view clashes with some in the arms control community. A Jan. 19 report from the Arms Control Association, focused on arms control priorities for the new administration, called for a five-year “unconditional” extension.

“There is no evidence that Russia is desperate to extend the treaty or that a shorter-term extension of New START would make Russia more likely to negotiate a follow-on agreement,” the authors wrote. “Nor is a one-year or two-year extension likely to be enough time to negotiate a new agreement. New START took ten months to negotiate and then about as long to bring into force. And that was at a time when the U.S.-Russia relationship was far less tense.”

A Russian Topol M intercontinental ballistic missile launcher rolls along Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow in 2017. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Looking at the programmatic level, Soofer noted there are a number of big decisions on the horizon, with administration planners having to decide what is and isn’t funded in the near term as they produce the FY22 budget request.

One specific decision coming up soon is whether to approve Milestone B on the Defense Department’s replacement for the nuclear-capable cruise missile, the Long-Range Standoff weapon, or LRSO, a decision due in May.

The LRSO program has received a mixed reaction among Democrats, with efforts in 2015 and 2016 to outright cancel the program. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee during the 2016 election, had expressed skepticism about the program, leading to the prediction that her administration would try to cancel it.

Soofer acknowledged that the policy questions around LRSO are something that the Biden administration will have to “grapple with,” but urged decision-makers not to let that discussion hold up the Milestone B decision, as doing so could have major ramifications for the ability to execute the program.

“If they wait until they’re done thinking about this in a formal [Nuclear Posture Review] construct, which could take a year, they will not be able to make that [engineering and manufacturing development] EMD decision. So I would hope that there’s enough information amongst senior leadership to at least make an EMD decision,” Soofer said.

On the missile defense front, the biggest near-term question facing the new team is how to pursue the Next Generation Interceptor program, or NGI. In the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Pentagon to build an interim homeland intercontinental ballistic missile defense interceptor, with delivery by 2026, just a few years before the NGI is expected to come online.

Congress did allow a waiver for the Pentagon to skip that interim capability should the department decide it’s unrealistic, but that decision will come due very early in the Biden administration’s tenure.

More broadly, Soofer said the “key question” on missile defense for the next administration is the question of whether to move forward with the Trump administration’s plan to add 20 Ground-Based Interceptors in the ground.

“They’re going have to make the key decision whether they’re going to continue with the 20 GBIs. If they do, then they’ll find out fairly quickly that the difference between an interim capability, maybe like a heavy [life-extension program] — the difference between that and the objective system, in terms of time, is maybe one or two years,” he said. “And you have to weigh that against a significant enhancement in capability that NGI gets you primarily through the fielding of multiple kill vehicles.

“All this is going to be very, very politicized. And the strategy and the technology behind it is going to be weighed.”

The IRGC Controls the Iranian Horn

How IRGC Is Gearing Up For More Control In Iran – OpEd

Cyrus YaqubiJanuary 18, 2021

Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency

Most executive institutions in Iran are somehow under the control and supervision of the Velayat-e Faqih, aka the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. However, town, and village council elections are the only vote in Iran that are held without the direct supervision of the Guardian Council. Therefore, efforts have been made to control and monitor these elections in various ways. For example, on January 13, Ali Haddadi, a spokesman for the Iranian parliament’s internal affairs commission, said Parliament was considering a plan to employ the intelligence services of the IRGC in the approval process of town and village council candidates.

Ali Haddadi said the plan “aims to prevent councils from deviating, to monitor their performance and to form an efficient council”.

By implementing this plan, the IRGC can approve or reject the qualifications of candidates before the elections without any legal impediments.

There have been several instances where town and village council members have drawn the ire of various ruling establishments because of their remarks, or by simply taking a stance on policies or getting involved in matters beyond their jurisdiction.

For example, Mehdi Hajati, a member of the Shiraz City Council, spoke out against the arrest of two Baha’i citizens and criticized officials’ actions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. He was expelled from the council, under the pretext of “unjustified absence” from council meetings for two months and was arrested himself.

Another example is Mohammad Parham, a member of the Borujerd city council, who posted a video comparing the leaders of Iran and Finland last January. He was arrested and charged for insulting the leadership.

By implementing this new system of supervision on the election process of town and village councils, Khamenei can effectively eliminate those not affiliated with him through the IRGC.

Basij involved in all projects

Furthermore, changes are going to be made by the parliament to a law on the authority of the IRGC’s paramilitary branch, known as the “Basij”.

The most important of these amendments is about changing the word “authorized” to “obligated” in the second article of the law.

According to this law, all ministries, government and public institutions, and companies, especially the ministries of Agricultural Jihad, Health, Treatment and Medical Education, Roads and Transportation, Cooperation, Energy, Labor and Social Affairs, Education, Welfare and Social Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Presidential Office on Deprived Areas, the Red Crescent Society, the Khomeini Relief Committee, municipalities and rural districts are “obliged, relative to the level of readiness by the Basij, to carry out part… of their relief, cultural and humanitarian activities, plans and projects with the use of Basij forces.”

Therefore, if this law is approved, the Revolutionary Guards will be involved in almost all projects throughout the country.

Movies and TV shows

Long before this, the Revolutionary Guards had established their presence and influence in Iran’s cultural affairs as a security and intelligence institution for more control and to advance Khamenei’s intentions.

For this reason, the IRGC created a television network called “Ofogh Network.” This network is entirely independent from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, a state-controlled media corporation which holds a monopoly of domestic radio and television services in Iran.

The IRGC affiliated Owj Arts and Media Organization oversees the network’s content. In recent years, the IRGC has been very active in producing and making movies and TV shows and has made its presence known in most of Iran’s TV channels. They often broadcast their own narratives on domestic and international contemporary history and current affairs. These programs are entirely financed and technically supported by the IRGC.

COVID-19

To extend its influence, the IRGC got itself involved in so-called Coronavirus “preventive” measures. These measures ranged from symbolically disinfecting streets with pure water, to showcasing a ludicrous “coronavirus detector” in addition to claiming to have developed a COVID-19 vaccine.

The IRGC’s “Coronavirus Detector-110″ was unveiled by the IRGC’s Commander in Chief, Hossein Salami, in the initial phases of the COVID-19 outbreak. The detector was later revealed to be the same device sold to Iraq as a fake “bomb detector” by a British company which cost the Iraqi government millions of dollars.

Three months ago, Salami once again claimed to have found a very effective solution to fight the virus. On November 10, 2020, he announced that about 54,000 Basij bases were to “attack” areas where the coronavirus had taken up residence and go door to door. Salami claimed that this operation was intended to separate the infected from the non-infected and to refer the infected to treatment centers. Of course, this was nothing but another attempt at searching people’s homes and had nothing to do with countering COVID-19. This plan was so ridiculous and ineffective that it was abruptly abandoned, and no further mention of it has been heard since.

In another comical statement, after the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the IRGC claimed that Fakhrizadeh, known as the “Father of Iran’s missile industry” and the “mind behind the nuclear industry”, was actually in the process of developing a coronavirus vaccine before his death.

Economy

Of course, the most essential intervention of the IRGC are its prominent footsteps in Iran’s economy through the Khatam-al Anbiya Central Headquarters, which has been the principal recipient of government contracts in most construction, road building and oil projects.

The Khatam-al Anbiya Central Headquarters has gradually turned the government’s executive branch into one of its major debtors. Now, Khatam-al Anbiya is considering confiscating several government properties that have been put up for sale to fund the government’s budget.

“Young Hezbollah government” and Iran’s 2021 elections

The volatility and hidden potential of widespread protests in Iran is very much the most significant concern of Khamenei. The rifts and conflicts of opinions, corruption and mismanagement within different government branches could trigger a regime-changing movement within Iran.

In an effort to prevent the new potential wave of protests, Khamenei is trying to unify the state for maximum control.

Many believe that the appointment of former IRGC commander Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, as Parliament Speaker could be considered a decision in this direction. In a recent speech, Khamenei once again called for the establishment of a “young Hezbollah government” for the upcoming presidential election in June 2021. He also mentioned that by young, he meant someone in the lines of dead Quds Commander Qasem Soleimani.

IRGC commanders are taking advantage of Khamenei’s remarks by gradually controlling all reigns of power and readying themselves for a military government that will quash all dissent.

However, as history has shown, when a nation stands up, no military government or dictatorship can stop their determination and desire for change. This is an undeniable fact, given the widespread public dissatisfaction with Khamenei’s religious rule.

Israeli jets hit Hamas targets outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli jets hit Hamas targets in Gaza after rockets fired

Associated PressJanuary 18, 2021

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military says its aircraft struck targets in the Gaza Strip in response to two rockets fired from the Palestinian territory. It says fighter jets hit Hamas military targets early on Monday, including sites for digging underground tunnels, some of which stretch into Israel. There were no immediate reports of injuries from the airstrikes. There were also no reports of damage or injury from the rockets launched. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized power of the coastal enclave in 2007. There’s been no major confrontation since 2014 but there are often cross-border skirmishes between the sides.