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. 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” 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]

Iranian Proxy Militias Hold the World Hostage

Iranian Proxy Militias Blackmail Iraqi Government While US Stands Idle

While the Pentagon is still dragging its feet to assign blame for the most recent rocket attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq, the Iranian proxy militias have removed any doubt, if there ever was any, of who the perpetrator was: They have stated that they will agree to stop attacking U.S. forces in Iraq if Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi formally demands that the United States withdraws all its troops.

The Middle East Eye (MEE) news was the first to report on the issue. It seems that these Iranian-backed militias have moved from conducting local security to trying to dictate policy — Tehran’s policy — on the increasingly embattled Kadhimi government. And their coercive tactics have even spelled out a timeline: The militias gave Kadhimi a 12-month window to get this done.

But then the militias turned around and claimed that they had nothing to do with the attacks on the U.S. If in fact, this is true, then what exactly are they pledging to stop attacking?

The group of militias who have made this ultimatum to the Kadhimi government is calling itself the Coordinating Committee for the Resistance Factions and had meetings in Baghdad, Beirut, and Tehran according to MEE.

Iranian and Lebanese militia factions, as well as “an international organization operating in Iraq,” helped craft the message “one acting as a guarantor and another as a negotiator,” according to an unnamed Iraqi official.

U.S. troops and the coalition fighting the Islamic State inside of Iraq, which is what the militias are supposed to be doing as well, were invited legally into the country by the Iraqi government.

Meanwhile in Washington, the Biden administration is so intent on restarting nuclear negotiations with Iran that it will go out of its way to avoid upsetting Tehran and thus giving it all the plausible denial it desires. Last week, after a targeted missile strike in Iraq, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the U.S. will do what is necessary to “protect” troops overseas.

But the Pentagon’s statements, even after the president ordered strikes on Iranian-backed militias including Kait’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kait’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), have refused to mention Iran. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby’s insistence on blaming the attacks on “Shia-backed militias” rather than “Iranian-backed militias,” which is what they truly are, is quite telling.

There is no such thing as “Shia-backed militias.” And when reporters tried to question Kirby during a Pentagon press briefing, he insisted three times that the attacks were from Shia-backed militias and not Iranian proxies. Later, he grudgingly admitted that “some of the Shia-back militias have Iranian backing.”

Iran has sensed a weakness in Washington and has had its proxies step up the pressure as the U.S. is intent on restarting nuclear negotiations. In Yemen, as soon as the Biden administration cut offensive aid to the Saudi-led coalition that battles Houthi rebels, the Iranian-led Houthis opened an offensive against the oil-rich province of Marib. They’ve also conducted several airstrikes attacking military bases and civilian targets in Saudi Arabia with drones. They have assassinated an Iranian critic in Lebanon and launched the three latest rocket attacks in Iraq.

The nuclear deal will not prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons. In fact, it will have the opposite effect and give it a clear path to one in just a few years. By ramping up the pressure on Washington, Tehran is pushing what it considers a weak, disjointed United States to offer concessions prior to resuming negotiations.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said earlier this month that the nuclear deal is Iran’s best course.

“America and the world will have to kneel before our great nation and give up on their oppressive sanctions. Indeed, we have moved a step forward and achieved a great victory. That murderous butcher in America [President Donald Trump] was toppled, and the current administration has acknowledged, four times so far, that the maximum-pressure [policy] of the previous administration had been a mistake and had failed to achieve the desired result.”

The Islamic Republic is hiding behind its proxies and Washington, so eager to return to the flawed nuclear deal, is providing it the very blanket of deniability it desires. Washington has to stop this and hold Iran accountable.

With Iran, ANYONE can do better than Obama did

With Iran, Biden can do better than Obama did

–Within a month of entering office, Biden withdrew Trump’s claim that Iran’s violating provisions of the JCPOA tracked the snapback mechanism in the JCPOA and mandated that the UN re-impose sanctions on Iran. Almost immediately, Iranian-funded terrorism, which had been mostly dormant during the Trump administration, flared up again. On January 29, a bomb exploded 50 meters away from the Israeli embassy in New Delhi. Counter-terrorism experts blamed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (“IRGC”) for that explosion.

In addition to violence abroad and at home, Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, followed Biden’s giveaways by threatening to increase Iran’s uranium enrichment to 60%. The Iranian parliament then passed a bill to suspended Tehran’s cooperation regarding the Additional Protocol, blocking the IAEA from inspections. The parliament also rejected an interim agreement reached between President Hassan Rouhani and the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Israeli troops nab Gazan infiltrator outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli troops nab Gazan infiltrator who was carrying grenades

IDF says Palestinian man was caught after crossing into Israel from Strip, had stashed grenades along border before arrest

By TOI staff12 Mar 2021, 6:53 pm

Israeli troops on Friday arrested an armed Palestinian man who crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip, the military said.

An initial interrogation revealed the suspect had three grenades he left along the border barrier before he was caught, according to an Israel Defense Forces statement.

The IDF said the suspect, who entered Israel from northern Gaza, was taken in for further questioning.

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The incident came a day after the Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas blamed Israel for an explosion that killed three fishermen off the coast of the Strip earlier this week, leading several armed factions in Gaza to vow revenge.

Hamas interior ministry spokesperson Iyad al-Bozm said that the three fishermen were killed by an explosion caused by a downed Israeli drone that had been caught in their net.

Israel has denied any involvement in the incident.

Family and relatives mourn the deaths of three fishermen from the Al-Lahham family in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 7, 2021. Three Palestinian fishermen were killed when their boat exploded off Gaza’s coast in the Mediterranean Sea. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Observers had suspected that a mortar or rocket launched by Hamas had unintentionally struck the fishermen’s boat, killing them instantly. Hamas regularly fires experimental rockets toward the sea, both to test their military capacities and as a show of force.

Islamic Jihad vowed revenge against Israel following Thursday’s announcement by Hamas, saying that Israel bore responsibility for the fishermen’s deaths.

“The occupation is behind this hideous crime and has committed this odiousness. A response will surely arrive from the Palestinian resistance,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement.

Following the threats, rocket sirens sounded in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon and the nearby community of Kibbutz Zikim, in what the military said was a false alarm

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Reaches a Critical Level: Daniel 8:4

Iran uranium enrichment nears critical level: IAEA chief

Rafael Grossi says more robust inspections needed as US tries diplomacy

VIENNA — The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency seeks to restart broader inspections of nuclear facilities in Iran as the country enriches uranium to levels that would let it create weapons.

The production of uranium at higher levels of enrichment “brings Iran closer to levels for which the development of military uses could not be excluded,” IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi told Nikkei in an interview Friday.

Iran told the IAEA in January that it planned to enrich uranium to 20% concentration, and last month it suspended its compliance with a protocol in the 2015 agreement Tehran struck with world powers that allows for snap inspections and other monitoring measures.

The 20% level is significant because after that threshold, it becomes easier to enrich uranium to weapons-grade concentration.

Grossi called this suspension “an extraordinary situation.”

“It is clear that you need a very robust inspection presence, if you want to have credible assurances that there are no military deviations,” the chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said.

The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna on March 1.   © Reuters

Iran has “a bit less than 20 kilograms of [20% uranium], but they have like 3,000 kilograms of enriched uranium already produced at lower levels,” Grossi said. “So it’s a growing amount.”

And “they are increasing their capabilities” for enrichment by putting more equipment into operation, the Argentine diplomat-turned-IAEA chief told Nikkei.

Grossi traveled to Iran last month to secure a temporary agreement salvaging some freedom to conduct inspections of nuclear sites. This framework of up to three months will “hopefully allow some time for the consultations and diplomatic dialogue” around the stalled 2015 Iran nuclear deal, he said.

Grossi’s comments come as the Biden administration weighs paths to reviving this deal, which involves Iran; United Nations Security Council permanent members the U.S., China, the U.K., France and Russia, with the addition of Germany; and the European Union. U.S. President Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, in 2018 announced America’s withdrawal from the agreement and levied sanctions against the Islamic republic for its nuclear activities.

While the Biden administration has signaled a potential change in stance, the American and Iranian positions on what it would require to return to the agreement remain far apart. “Diplomacy with Iran is ongoing, just not in a direct fashion at the moment,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Friday.

The IAEA will start technical consultations with Iran in April. One area of focus is the presence of uranium particles in undeclared facilities. On this point, Grossi said the responses from the Iranian side so far were “not technically credible.”

Grossi also weighed in on North Korea, which expelled IAEA inspectors in 2009 and has since declared itself a nuclear state.

If the IAEA is able to reenter North Korea, “we are going to go back to a country that has a vast nuclear weapon infrastructure, and a nuclear infrastructure,” he said. “So we are going to be going back to a very demanding sort of work.”

The director-general said he is in the process of expanding the agency’s North Korea monitoring team, which was established by his predecessor, the late Yukiya Amano of Japan.

On the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which happened 10 years ago this month, Grossi said that releasing treated water from the ruined power plant into the ocean is ” technically feasible” and that this approach is used in other parts of the world.

The local fishing industry opposes such a move, and other countries have voiced concerns.

“By involving the IAEA the process will be more transparent, the process will have far more credibility in the eyes of the international community, and perhaps even the Japanese public opinion,” Grossi said.

The China Nuclear Horn Will Respond: Daniel 7

Does China Have an Answer to India’s Arihant Missile Submarine?

By National Interest

Here’s What You Need to Remember: Thanks to nuclear propulsion, Arihant can do twelve to fifteen knots on the surface and twenty-four knots underwater. Maximum diving depth is unknown, and probably a closely held secret, but the Akula class is known to dive to six hundred meters. The submarine is manned by a crew of ninety-five to one hundred.

A new submarine promises to give the world’s most populous democratic nation a powerful second-strike nuclear capability. The INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear ballistic-missile submarine, will finally give the country nuclear weapons that could survive a surprise first strike and go on to deal a crushing retaliatory blow to the enemy. The new sub will complete India’s triad of air, land and sea nuclear forces.

India tested its first weapon, an eight-kiloton device nicknamed Smiling Buddha, in 1974. Although small in yield, the device was a remarkable technological achievement that thrust the young country into the exclusive, so-called “nuclear club” that had until then consisted of the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France and China.

India is believed to have 520 kilograms of plutonium—enough for, according to the Arms Control Association, “100 to 130 warheads.” New Delhi describes this a “credible minimum deterrent” against neighboring nuclear powers China and Pakistan. India has a firm No First Use policy with regard to nuclear weapons, vowing to never be the first to use them in any conflict and only use them to retaliate in kind.

Nuclear-armed submarines are an ideal basing solution for a country such as India. While less accurate than land-based missiles and less flexible than air-launched weapons, ballistic-missile submarines are the most difficult to destroy in a first strike.

The New Shi’a Axis: Daniel 8

US & the Great South Asian Realignment

Chirayu Thakkar

For the last two decades, the US’ India-Pakistan balancing was majorly driven by an equilibrium between two lenses through which Washington looked at South Asia — ‘the Afghanistan lens’ and ‘the China/Indo-Pacific lens’. With a gradual withering away of the Afghanistan lens, the US’ South Asia approach would enter a phase of realignment leaving Pakistan in a quest for ‘strategic relevance’ to the US, writes Chirayu Thakkar

President Biden’s first diplomatic outreach — America is Back — is laden with harsh domestic realities such as irreconcilable partisanship, stark ethnic differences, pandemic riven economy, and an unprecedented assault on the democratic process, all needing urgent attention that limits US’ international focus. The White House’s limited foreign policy bandwidth, at least in the first couple of years, means retracting the US from unwarranted and intractable commitments and focusing on significant challenges — addressing China’s rise, preventing drift of European allies, limiting nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, and fostering healthy globalisation and free trade that benefits the US.

A productive American foreign policy geared up to wind down its presence in Afghanistan and poised to increase its focus on China disrupts its longstanding balance between India and Pakistan, where both rivals have enjoyed equal strategic relevance to the US if not equal benefits. For the last two decades, the US’ India-Pakistan balancing was majorly driven by an equilibrium between two lenses through which Washington observed South Asia — ‘the Afghanistan lens’ that necessitated relying on Pakistan for its support in getting out of the Afghan quagmire and ‘the China/Indo-Pacific lens’ that compelled investing in India as a strategic partner who can stand against Beijing. The equilibrium meant internecine parity to Pakistan while ensuring a steady flow of financial and military aid. With a gradual withering away of the Afghanistan lens, the US’ South Asia approach would enter a phase of realignment, leaving Pakistan in a quest for ‘strategic relevance’ to the US.

Such a realignment would prove a mixed bag for New Delhi. On the one hand, it would limit impunity enjoyed by Pakistan with the US for its state-sponsored terrorism against India by encashing its Afghanistan card. On the other, Pakistan’s desperate attempt to remain strategically relevant can include nefarious designs that can harm Indian interest and threaten regional security. As the American appetite to get out of Afghanistan grows, it is not only imperative for New Delhi to remain vigilant about its interest in Afghanistan but also keep a tab on the strategic desires of its next-door neighbour.

Quest for strategic relevance

Strategic relevance is used in the context of small states. Small states try to play a minor yet critical role in the strategy of big powers in exchange for their own security assurances and financial largesse.

Pakistan, by no means a small state, made strategic relevance to the US a cornerstone of its foreign policy since independence for nearly similar reasons. First, having the US by its side, Pakistan hoped to offset military disparity with a mighty neighbour and arch-rival India during the Cold War years. Second, it would ensure a continuous flow of civilian and military aid from the US. Third, it allowed the unelected Military Inc. of Pakistan to get away with its real power and authority, unlike military juntas of the Third World who face American censure.

Having understood the benefits, Pakistan became a member of SEATO in 1954. While the membership did not obtain security guarantees against Indian incursion similar to NATO Art. 5, it ensured US goodwill and considerable financial assistance. Pakistan continued to seize opportunities coming its way. For example, the late 1960s gave it a chance for yeoman service during the Sino-American détente. Pakistan was summoned to facilitate negotiations with Mao Zedong, which it happily delivered in the hope of American favours.

Nothing turned out to be more fortunate for Pakistan than the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That fortuitous event entrenched Pakistan in the US’ strategic calculus like never before. Pakistan had constant attention of the US as the escalation with the Taliban kept piling on the body count of American troops. However, it seems that the denouement of that dream is approaching, making Pakistan’s rulers in both Islamabad and Rawalpindi jittery.

Geoeconomic reset

Most recently, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf has expressed a desire for a US-Pakistan ‘reset’ based on geoeconomics and not geopolitics. With an ostentatious candor, he says a ‘new Pakistan’ does not want the relationship to be viewed through lens A, B, or C. If Pakistan is really sincere about an economic security paradigm, it is a most-welcomed scenario for India. The market size disparity will settle the unabating chase for parity with India, which is at the root of many regional problems.

This can be a mere charm offensive by Moeed, an old DC warhorse who has spent over a decade shaping pro-Pakistan opinion and lobbying for his country through lucrative think-tank positions he perched. Or, it indicates buying time until Rawalpindi formulates a new strategy. The recent India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement feeds into this arithmetic of taking a step back.  For two reasons, the geoeconomics desire smacks of insincerity.

First, it does not square with Pakistan’s domestic realities. With soaring inflation, billions in circular debt, decreasing per capita purchasing power, incessant political wrangles, federal government’s policy command contested by the provincial, military, and baronial powers, lack of urban infrastructure and connectivity, and domestic security challenges, much leaves to be desired for Pakistan to enamor private US capital.

Second, a geoeconomics-oriented Pakistan has to give up on using terrorism as a state policy; there is no way tradesmen and terrorists can thrive together. However, any such changes would mean the military losing control over the Pakistani state, which it would never let happen. It also raises a paradox: Pakistan’s civil-military elite who have disproportionately benefited from one extraneous lens or another — most recently, Afghanistan — why wants to give that lens suddenly for a standalone relationship? Hence the reset pitch is indicative of both consternation and parallel churning that wants to recapture any potential loss of that status.

Post-Afghan anxiety

With its decision to test Shaheen-III missile that can carry nuclear weapons to Israel on Biden’s inauguration day, Rawalpindi has betrayed its desperation for relevance and attention. But what makes Pakistan so insecure about losing relevance? Apart from internecine parity and millions of dollars in aid, it is Pakistan’s elite that stands to lose the most. It is unimaginable for Pakistan’s civil-military rulers, some of whom are dual citizens having properties, businesses, and families in the US, to lose the heft. It is a personal loss too.

Further, being in the US’ good books grants complete impunity to the military leadership in domestic and international affairs. Just look at the countries that invited US incursions or wrath and their corresponding sins-Iraq for allegedly supporting Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, Iran for aspiring to possess nukes that can threaten Israel, Syria and Libya for dictatorships and abetting jihadists, Myanmar for military despotism, and North Korea for proliferation. But a country where all sins converge — the presence of Osama bin Laden, nuclear weapons that can reach Tel Aviv, sworn animus towards Israel, sheltering jihadists, military dictatorship, indirect control of the civilian government, human rights abuses, and proven proliferation to North Korea, Iran, and Libya — is immune from any American punitive actions because the US needs it to navigate and exit the largest quagmire it entered after Vietnam. Even the idea of losing this privilege can fret Pakistan’s generals more than anything else.

But will Afghanistan be pushed to oblivion? Is a post-Afghan world dawning in? Given the American involvement in Afghanistan today and the Taliban’s truculence, it seems that the US troops would never leave Kabul’s soil. Once, it did not appear to be true in the case of Vietnam too. Many had assumed that a small American presence in Vietnam was a fait accompli, and total disengagement was next to impossible. In a couple of years, they were proven wrong.

Moreover, mere troop presence does not mean high salience in American foreign policy. Some American 5,000 troops are still stationed in Iraq compared to around 2,500 in Afghanistan, but Afghanistan is a high-priority issue today. Even if a battalion remains hunkered down in Kabul, Afghanistan will not attract the same foreign policy focus forever. And Pakistan is aware that the expiry date is approaching.

A new access point

Pakistan is now preparing to plug itself into any issue that can continue its present perks as a ‘strategically relevant’ country. Asad Majeed Khan, the Pakistani ambassador to the US, talking to a DC-based think-tank, said that “we also represent the Iranian interest here… and we have been doing that for the last 40 years.” As Iran supplants Afghanistan as the prime focal point in the days to come, Pakistan would want to encash that issue to its advantage.

Pakistan’s pursuit of strategically relevant access point would be oriented towards west and central Asia instead of eastwards. To its east lies two behemoths — India and China, both would ensure American attention towards Pakistan without the endearing ‘strategic relevance.’ India-US partnership has acquired a new strategic hue shedding the subcontinental shibboleth of a nuclear flashpoint. Pakistan has too often rehearsed nuclear brinkmanship with the US to blunt its utility. After the abrogation of Art. 370, Imran Khan’s entreaties of ‘nuclear shadow hovering over South Asia’ in the pages of New York Times fell on deaf ears.

Similarly, its inordinate proximity with ‘iron brother’ China that proved an asset during the Cold War is now a sure liability. It is folly even to imagine another Sino-American rapprochement, and hence, Pakistan’s China bet is a sunk cost for its American calculus. In fact, anything it needs to do is to salvage its image from sin by association.

Implications for India

This situation leaves Pakistan with three possible options. First, delay the Afghan peace process and buy as much time with the current situation as possible. Although US presence limits Pakistan’s ability to assert itself in Afghanistan, it can endure the short-term pain. Such instability hurts Indian interests as it hurts others. Second, it has already increased its overtures toward Tehran, even if it means upsetting Saudi Arabia and the UAE to an extent. Pakistan is emboldened by China’s leverage brought by Beijing’s promise to pour billions in an economy stifled by sanctions. Beyond beguiling its American counterparts through the Tehran card, cutting India to size in Persia would be its another goal. India’s camaraderie with Gulf monarchs comes at the partial cost of old warmth with Iran, but New Delhi should ensure its vital energy and security interests are not hurt. Finally, Pakistan has a notorious past of fomenting troubles through non-state actors when it is desperate. India would need to stay ahead with better intelligence and border surveillance to meet potential challenges.

Pakistan is facing a crisis moment of bulk expiries in the coming days — Afghanistan, China, and nuclear cards — while its desire to milk its strategic relevance continues. New Delhi needs to closely monitor the internal strategic churning in its neighbourhood and war-game its own responses to stay ahead in the game.

The writer is Visiting Fellow at the Stimson Center in Washington DC