Did the champions of the 2005 Gaza disengagement, the ones who declared it would immeasurably improve Israel’s strategic situation, believe we would see the establishment of a new state? Did they believe this new country, Hamastan, would have Jerusalem as its capital?
Let’s lay our cards on the table. The way things look now, Hamas has achieved a dramatic strategic objective: control of Jerusalem. How else can we explain that in the capital of the Jewish state—the city Diaspora Jews dreamed of returning to for 2,000 years, the one we paid for in blood and the place where Israel’s historic kings once walked—we cannot march with our national flag due to purported security sensitivities? Or in other words, out of fear of Hamas’s response?
I, for one, never imagined we would put control of the city in Hamas’s hands, within the framework of security establishment dictates to the diplomatic echelon.
Let’s focus a bit on the democracy aspect. In a country where individual liberties, in particular freedom of movement, are respected, we should be able to travel freely in our capital, with or without Israeli flags. Yet the Jerusalem Day flag march was postponed, and now Israeli lawmakers—elected officials—have been banned from moving freely in the city. Some call the proposed march a provocation that could “raise tensions.
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To this, we must ask: Is Jerusalem really in our hands? And what kind of democracy is this in the first place?
Given the thousands that protested outside the Prime Minister’s Residence weekly at the height of the coronavirus outbreak, claims that the flag march and the entry of Israeli lawmakers into Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter constitute a “public threat” is ridiculous. In our country, the protection of individual liberties, it turns out, is dependent on their political context.
The decisions to cancel the march and to prevent lawmakers from entering the Old City are therefore anti-democratic. Furthermore, they were dictated by Hamas threats.
These decisions, adopted by the Israeli government in adherence to defense officials’ recommendations, are outrageous and constitute a serious blow to Israel’s national security. They are also an expression of the unfortunate fact that “Operation Guardian of the Walls” did not deter Hamas. This is the reality, and we should agree on it.
This fact must bring us back to the basic question: Why haven’t we acted decisively to destroy Hamas’s military force? After all, we’ve been here before. We prepared for it, but we never did it. This was the case even when half of Israel’s population was under fire, our capital was on fire and the port of entry to Israel, Ben-Gurion International Airport, was under attack.
The Israeli government has lost its sovereignty.
It’s not too late. The government must make the necessary decisions based on our national security needs—not for today, this week or this year, but for hundreds of years to come. I was taught that today’s acquiescence is tomorrow’s norm. This repeated cowering to Hamas has led us to a troubling norm in which there is no democracy and no sovereignty.
The fact that Hamas is the first organization to pose a threat to our capital and severely limit our citizens’ freedom of movement bolsters the conclusion this organization must be toppled, and its military capabilities eradicated. Complicated and difficult as this may be, it must be clear to every citizen here that this reality is intolerable. We must act quickly to change it fundamentally.
IDF Col. Ronen Itsik (res.) is a researcher and lecturer in political science and the author of “Behind The Armor: The story of an Israeli soldier,” describing military service and combat situations against terrorist organizations.
Earth Matters: Indian Point’s Final Days – Nyack News and Viewsby Barbara PuffIndian Point has been the crown jewel of the nuclear industrialist complex and closing it is a big step to a sustainable energy future. — Susan Shapiro, environmental lawyer.When scientists began exploring nuclear power in the 1950s, pollsters didn’t ask the public their opinion as support was almost unanimous. By the ’60s, there had been a few protests and opposition increased to 25%. So when Indian Point opened on September 16, 1962, it was greeted with enthusiasm, fanfare, and, in hindsight, naivete.Within a few years, increased pollution, loss of wildlife, and accidents at the plant elicited concern. In response, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and Riverkeeper were formed in 1966. After incidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, public opinion began to turn against the use of nuclear power.In 1984, her first year as a legislator, Harriet Cornell formed the Citizens Commission to Close Indian Plant. A glance at her press releases over the years shows her convictions regarding closing the plant. In a recent speech she noted: “Were it not for the superhuman efforts of concerned individuals and dedicated scientific and environmental organizations focusing attention on the dangers posed by Indian Point, who knows what might have happened during the last 40+ years.”Simultaneously Riverkeeper began documenting incidents, including:1 An antiquated water-cooling system killed over a billion fish and fish larvae annually.2 Pools holding spent nuclear fuel leaked toxic, radioactive water into the ground, soil, and Hudson River.3 Recurring emergency shut-downs.4 27% of the baffle bolts in Unit 2 and 31% in Unit 3, holding the reactor core together, were damaged.5 The plant was vulnerable to terrorist attack.6 Evacuation plans were implausible.7 No solution for spent nuclear fuel, posing the risk of radioactive release and contamination of land.8 The plant was near two seismic zones, suggesting an earthquake over 6.2 could devastate the area.9 Asbestos exposure.These and other issues led the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to rate Indian Point in 2000 as the most trouble-plagued plant in the country. Lamont-Doherty Observatory agreed, calling it the most dangerous plant in the nation.As individuals realized the seriousness of the situation, urgency for a solution grew and Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition was formed in 2001. Comprised of public interest, health advocates, environmental and citizen groups, their goals were to educate the public, pass legislation, and form a grassroots campaign with hundreds of local, state, and federal officials.Clearwater also began monitoring the plant around that time. Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Action Director, recalls, “We were concerned when one of the planes that struck the WTC flew over the plant, including several buildings that hold huge fuel pools, filled with spent fuel rods and radioactive waste.” Had anything happened, the nuclear power industry had provided protection for themselves while neglecting surrounding communities. Powerful lobbyists, backed by considerable financing, induced Congress to pass the Price-Anderson Act in 1957. This legislation protected nuclear power plant companies from full liability in the event of an accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack.With such warnings, it’s hard to believe as late as 2010, The New York Times stated, “No one should be hoping for a too hasty shutdown.” Over time, the cost of litigation by New York State proved more fatal to the continuance of plant operations than protests, though they were a crucial factor and led to initial filings. Attorney General Schneiderman was very active in filing contentions, legal reasons the plant shouldn’t be relicensed, and won several important court cases on high-level radioactive storage.In 2016, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied Entergy a discharge permit for hot water into the Hudson River, part of their once-through cooling system. This permit was necessary for continued operation of the plant and a requirement for relicensing. The New York State Department of State, Bureau of Coastal Management, denied Entergy a water quality certificate the same year, which it also needed to relicense. After more than four decades of danger to the environment and residents, Governor Cuomo announced in January 2017 the plant would finally be closing. Unit 2 would cease production on April 30, 2020 and Unit 3 would end productivity on April 30, 2021.Later that year, in March 2017, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board allowed Entergy to renew the plant’s licenses until 2021, dismissing final points of contention between the company, New York State, and Riverkeeper. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino attempted to sue the state and reopen the plant in April 2017 but failed.Ellen Jaffee, NYS Assemblywoman, stated, “After 46 years of operation, I am glad to finally see the closure of Indian Point. Since joining the Assembly, I have long fought for its closure. I would not have been able to pursue these efforts if not for the environmental advocates, like the Riverkeeper, who fought long and hard beside myself to close the plant. The plant’s closure must be conducted in a safe manner, where all radioactive materials will be properly disposed of, without inflicting further harm on our environment. The closure of Indian Point shows that we can reduce our impact on the environment.”Harriet Cornell said, “We have waited years for this to happen and frankly, it can’t happen soon enough. The facts have long shown there is no future for this dangerous plant.”“The closure of Indian Point marks the shutdown of dirty polluting energy,” noted Susan Shapiro.Holtec, the company chosen to oversee decommissioning of the plant, has a horrific track record. New York State Attorney General Tish James released a statement in January expressing multiple grave concerns about them. According to Riverkeeper, they have a scandalous corporate past, little experience in decommissioning, dubious skills in spent fuel management, workplace safety infractions, and health violations. Another fear is the cost will exceed a decommissioning fund set aside by Entergy, Holtec will declare bankruptcy, and the public will absorb the difference.“Entergy made huge profits from Indian Point,” said Manna Jo Greene. “They’ve hired Holtec, a company with a poor record of decommissioning, to complete the work. Entergy plans to declare bankruptcy, thereby having taxpayers foot the bill. We are not out of danger. It is a different danger.”Richard Webster, Legal Program Director at Riverkeeper, adds, “Decommissioning must be done promptly, safely and reliably. Selling to Holtec is the worst possible option, because it has a dubious history of bribes, lies, and risk taking, very limited experience in decommissioning, is proposing to raid the decommissioning fund for its own benefit, and is proposing leaving contaminated groundwater to run into the Hudson River.”State Senator David Carlucci warned, “The NRC Inspector General Report shows there is much to be done by the NRC to gain the confidence of myself and the public, as the commission is charged with overseeing the decommissioning of Indian Point and ensuring the health and safety of Hudson Valley Communities. We demand answers from NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki. The Chairman needs to come to the Hudson Valley immediately and outline the steps being taken to address our safety and explain how the commission will properly inspect and guard the pipeline near Indian Point moving forward.”One of the gravest dangers in decommissioning is the storage of spent fuel rods. A fuel rod is a long, zirconium tube containing pellets of uranium, a fissionable material which provides fuel for nuclear reactors. Fuel rods are assembled into bundles called fuel assemblies, which are loaded individually into a reactor core. Fuel rods last about six years. When they’re spent and removed they are placed in wet storage, or pools of water, which is circulated to reduce temperature and provide shielding from radiation. They remain in these pools for 10 years, as they are too hot to be placed in dry storage, or canisters. Even in dry storage, though, they remain extremely radioactive, with high levels of plutonium, which is toxic, and continue to generate heat for decades and remain radioactive for 10,000 years.“Elected officials and government groups became involved once they understood the fatal environmental dangers nuclear energy creates for millenium,” said Susan Shapiro. “It is the only energy that produces waste so dangerous that governments must own and dispose of it.”Robert Kennedy, Jr., of Waterkeeper, explained “If those spent fuel rods caught on fire, if the water dropped, the zirconium coatings of the spent fuel rods would combust. You would release 37 times the amount of radiation that was released at Chernobyl. Around Chernobyl there are 100 miles that are permanently uninhabitable. I would include the workplaces, homes of 20 million Americans, including the Financial District. There’s no evacuation plan. And it’s sitting on two of the biggest earthquake faults in the northeast.”On April 24, 2020, Beyond Indian Point Campaign was launched to advocate for a safe transition during decommissioning. Sponsored by AGREE, Frack Action, Riverkeeper, NIRS and Food and Water Watch, they’re demanding Cuomo hire another company, opposing a license transfer before the State Public Service Commission and NRC and pushing state legislation to establish a board to supervise the decommissioning fund. When decommissioning is finished Beyond Indian Point hopes to further assist the community in the transition to renewable energy. These include wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydrothermal power. Sign an online petition on their website to support their work, future generations and earth at BeyondIndianPoint.com, Facebook, or Twitter.“Bravo to everyone involved in making this historic day come to pass,” said Susan Shapiro.Raised in the Midwest, Barbara Puff is a writer who lives in Nyack, NY.
A+ A-ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Thursday told Iraqi militia groups to dedicate their lives to serving the people and to respect the chain of command, warning them that their reputation is at stake, hours after a prominent militia leader was released and acquitted of terror-related charges, sparking outrage among Iraq’s protest movement.
“If someone who belongs to you commits an offense, do not support him… And if his general commander tries to punish him or investigate him, then wait for the results of the investigation and do not be hasty in leaving him or defending him, for neither the jihadi nor the resister is above making mistakes or receiving punishment,” Sadr said in a message to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic).
“The reputation of the jihadists is at stake, and everyone is responsible for it… Serve your people without discrimination between one race and another or one sect or another,” he added.
PMF leader Qassem Musleh was released on Wednesday after the Supreme Judicial Council said the investigative court did not find any evidence to prove the he was involved in the assassination of a Karbala activist leader, Ihab al-Wazni.
“Qassem Musleh was accused of killing the activist Ihab al-Wazni, but no evidence was presented against him, especially as he proved, according to his passport information, that he was outside Iraq when Wazni was assassinated, and he denied committing or participating in this crime,” the Judicial Council stated, adding that Musleh also did not incite violence against the activist.
Unknown gunmen fatally shot Wazni near his Karbala home in May. In a televised interview with al-Hurra last month, Wazni’s mother said that Musleh threatened to kill her son multiple times.
Musleh’s release was celebrated by the PMF, but condemned by activists who believe the Iraqi government does not have the ability to confront the powerful militias.
Sadr issued a warning to the PMF: “We, the mujahideen were not born for life, nor were we created for chairs, authority and domination. Rather, we were created for the sake of the homeland and the people… No domination, no authority, no chairs, no money, and no fame.”
Musleh was released a day after a top-ranked official from the Iraqi intelligence service was assassinated. The intelligence service was involved in the militia leader’s arrest.
Since the start of the protest movement in October 2019, dozens of activists have been killed and several have been kidnapped and tortured. The killers act with impunity as investigations have yielded few results. Iranian-backed militias affiliated with the PMF, which are under the umbrella of Iraq’s security forces, are widely blamed.
Russia has tested its S-500 air defense system with interceptors capable of eliminating hypersonic targets, Izvestia reported.
Trials were conducted at the Sary-Shagan training ground in Kazakhstan, where the missile interceptors successfully neutralized targets, the Moscow-based outlet added citing sources.
The system’s “first samples” will enter service this year while its serial delivery is scheduled for 2025, according to Sergei Chemezov, head of Russian state defense manufacturer, Rostec.
Uses Range of Interceptors
“The S-500 Prometheus mobile air defense missile system is being created to destroy rockets and spacecraft in near-earth orbits. It can eliminate targets flying in hypersound,” Lieutenant General Aytech Bizhev, ex-deputy head of the Air Force for the Commonwealth of Independent States air defense system, told Izvestia.
The mobile system can be transported by ground or air around the country and deployed depending on the threat, Bizhev added.
The S-500 utilizes a combination of missiles to intercept a variety of aerial targets. It employs the 40N6, which is also installed in the S-400, to neutralize “aerodynamic targets.” For ballistic missiles, the system uses the 77N6 with “conventional and nuclear warheads” to destroy targets in the ”transatmospheric sector and in near space,” the outlet wrote.
New Jam-proof Radar Station
The system has received a jam-proof radar station, the Yenisei, Russian news outlet Gazeta.Rureported, citing a source last month.
The Yenisei radar station has locators equipped with remote posts that help the system avoid being jammed by enemy systems.
The system is also capable of uninterrupted operation for a longer period of time than other air defense radar systems, according to Gazeta.Ru. The Yenisei’s fully automatic function reportedly excludes the possibility of human error.
It is an active-passive radar system, which allows it to conduct “reconnaissance and detect air objects and issue target designations to air defense weapons without broadcasting.”
Another key feature of the Yenisei is its ability to scan a sector, unlike most other radar that scans in circles, the outlet wrote, referring to the S-400’s 96L6 all-altitude detector radar station, which does not include the Yenisei’s sector scanning capability.
The ‘E3’ − France, Germany the United Kingdom − Wednesday voiced deep concern at Iran’s “continued violations” of limits set by Tehran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
As the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors met in Vienna, the E3 − who with China and Russia − are signatories of the JCPOA wrote: “We remain deeply concerned at Iran’s continued violations of its nuclear-related commitments, including the escalatory steps taken since January 2021. Collectively, these steps present a significant nuclear proliferation risk, have irreversible consequences for Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and undermine the non-proliferation benefits of the JCPOA.”
Iran announced in 2019 it would begin taking steps beyond JCPOA limits in response to draconian sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump after he withdrew the United States from the deal. The E3 joined Russia and China in condemning Trump’s move but failed to offer Iran relief from the sanctions as its economy went into recession.
Iran’s nuclear steps beyond the JCPOA extended in response to tightening US sanctions, November’s killing of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and the April attack, widely attributed to US ally Israel, on the Natanz enrichment plant. The reference to January in the E3 statement is to Iran beginning uranium enrichment to 20 percent, beyond the 3.67 percent allowed under the JCPOA. Iran has said all fresh nuclear steps it has taken can be easily reversed once the US withdraws all sanctions incompatible with the JCPOA.
As President Joe Biden’s administration entered talks in early May in Vienna to revive the JCPOA, it has continued Trump’s sanctions. In response to the Natanz attack Iran began enrichment to 60 percent, close to the 90 percent required for a nuclear device and a level the IAEA says has no civil purpose. Many analysts argue this was not just a response to the Natanz attack but a means to put pressure on the US to reach agreement in Vienna.
The E3 statement expressed regret that Iran’s latest steps had “come at a time when all JCPOA participants and the United States are engaged in substantive discussions, with the objective of finding a diplomatic solution to restore the JCPOA.”
Irreversible Knowledge Gains
The E3 statement highlighted Iran’s production of uranium metal, a potential component of an atomic bomb as well as a fuel for the Tehran research reactor. This, and enrichment to 60 precent, it called “critical steps for nuclear weapons production and provide irreversible nuclear weapons-related knowledge gains.”
The US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday said Washington was disturbed by Iran’s failure to satisfy the IAEA over potential undeclared nuclear material. An IAEA report at the end of May said Iranian explanations of uranium traces at several sites were inadequate.
Some of the IAEA’s investigations relate to a trove of documents highlighted by Israel in 2018, which is said had been stolen from a warehouse in Iran. The documents, which Israel has not released, and which Tehran claims at least some of which are forged, relate to nuclear activities taking place prior to 2003.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, the IAEA director-general, reiterated a call for Tehran to provide information, and for Tehran to return to the enhanced inspections regime required by the JCPOA and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which in July 2015 endorsed the nuclear deal.
Listen to Today’s Program JD: Coming out of China the state media there urging preparations for a nuclear war with the United States. Boy this is coming out of the old Cold War. It’s heating up pretty hot there is it not Ken?KT: Well it is Jimmy and its something that really we should not be surprised about. The Chinese government is testing the new President in the United States. They think he’s a pushover and they’re going to push. Now you know we’ve spoken many times about China’s nuclear weapons arsenal. It is quite likely much bigger than the official numbers of three to four hundred that they have declared to international organizations. Some sources believe they already have as many as 3,000 nuclear weapons. Now that would be getting close to a par with the United States. What they’re saying here we have an official statement if you wish from the editor of a major state run Chinese newspaper the Global Times, he is a government official stating government policy. He put out an editorial this week this past week talking about China building up its strategic deterrent against the United States and preparing for this intense show down between China and the US. So the Chinese have a new series, a new generation of nuclear weapons. They have something called the DF-41 which is a long range icbm capable of reaching the United States. They also have a new generation of submarine launched missiles. Now what we don’t know is all these missiles appear to be multiple war heads. They could have 8 to 10 war heads. So they’ve got 12 missile launchers on a submarine with 10 war heads. Each submarines has 120 war heads on it right there. That’s enough to take our every major city in the United States.JD: Ken Timmerman reporting on the reality of a nuclear war between China and the United States.We report this information because it is setting the stage for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled.The Chinese media who speaks on behalf of the Red Chinese Government says that China is preparing for a nuclear war with the United States. This report sounds like a page out of Bible prophecy. Revelation 16:12 where we find Red China as one of the kings of the east. China will be a key player in partnership with the antichrist just prior to the return of Jesus Christ back to the Earth, that’s Revelation 16:13-16. This media release from Red China is a foretaste of things to come.
The quake was relatively shallow, at a depth of just over 3 miles, and nearly two dozen people noted feeling it in the USGS’s reporting system. The shaking was categorized as “moderate,” with the expectation of only very light damage.
Earthquakes are not necessarily unusual in the state; Wednesday’s temblor was the fourth in the last 12 months, per government data.
According to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey is actually considered overdue for a moderate earthquake, much like the magnitude 5.5 quake that hit in 1884.Copyright NBC New York
It was around 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16, that the 2.1 magnitude earthquake was recorded. It was a shake-up that took place in northeast Summerville, neighboring the Berkley and Dorchester county border, and largely went unnoticed by locals.
Generally earthquakes that are less than a magnitude 3.0 are not felt, explained Mario Formisano, Dorchester County Director of Emergency Management.
However, there have been approximately 50 reports of residents who said they felt its effects, according to the United States Geological Survey. Still, there remains no reports of injury or damage.
The very nature of earthquakes are completely unpredictable, which is why members of the Dorchester County Emergency Management Department have exercised earthquake preparedness scenarios multiple times throughout the past decade.
Formisano said that because of the counties positioning along the seismic zone, a mitigation plan has been put in place, identifying earthquakes as a major natural hazard for the area. This plan outlines mitigation strategies developed to reduce impacts in the case of a more severe quake.
Though records indicate that the last several earthquakes have registered at magnitudes low enough for there to be little to no impact, the area is not unaccustomed to facing a quake of larger volume.
With a magnitude of 7.3, the historical Charleston earthquake of 1886 led to economic losses of approximately $23 million dollars and at least 60 deaths all within the first moments of its impact, according to a report by the USGS.
Additionally, within 10 minutes, the effects of the quake were reported to have been experienced in places as far away as New York, Missouri and Illinois.
Over the next 30 years, the USGS reported that more than 400 aftershocks were felt in the surrounding Charleston area, contributing to additional wreckage.
“The risk has and will always exist for a major earthquake in our area,” Formaisano said. “That combined with the unpredictability of earthquakes is a reminder for residents and business to always be prepared.”
Within one month two stories of illegal possession and sale of uranium being caught by Indian police have surfaced. Of course, any attempt to smuggle radioactive material must be a cause for concern and Pakistan should report these to the IAEA and question why these incidents have not been recorded in the IAEA’s Incident Trafficking DataBase (ITDB) – because the last one checked they were not there. However, it is not just these particular instances in themselves that should have aroused Pakistan’s and, in fact, the international community’s concern.
What should also be of concern is the fact that this incident is simply one more in a history of nuclear materials going missing or attempting to be smuggled out of India. Unfortunately, the international community has chosen to remain silent on India’s nuclear transgressions, of which there have been many. The fast pace and largely indigenous inputs into its nuclear facilities created safety issues from the start.
According to an Indian parliamentary report, 147 mishaps or safety-related unusual occurrences were reported between 1995 and 1998 in Indian atomic energy plants. Of these, 28 were of an acute nature and 9 of these 28 occurred in the nuclear power installations. In a paper presented at the IDSA, New Delhi, on October 10, 1988, Leventhal and Chellaney pointed to structural design and operational problems that were troubling India at that time.
In the context of nuclear material theft, reports emerged of uranium theft on August 27, 2001 – when police in West Bengal revealed that they had arrested two men with more than 200 grams of semi-processed uranium. According to Indian press reports, Indian intelligence officials believed that a uranium smuggling gang was operating in West Bengal. While reports of Indian involvement in the theft of nuclear fissile material date back to the early 1970s, the magnitude of the threat increased manifold in the 1980s and 1990s. In the late 1980s, the CIA had concluded that India was trying to develop a sophisticated Hydrogen bomb. In 1994, on a tip-off, a shipment of beryllium was caught in Vilnius, worth $24 million. The buyer was thought to be either from India or North Korea – though the shipment was caught before it could reach the buyer.
In July 1998, India’s Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBI) unearthed a major racket in the theft of uranium in Tamil Nadu, with the seizure of over 8 kg of the nuclear material in granule form and the arrest of three men. The contents of this theft were sent to the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) for preliminary analysis and the Centre declared that there were two kinds of substances found in what they said was 6 kg of uranium – natural uranium (U237and U238) and U 235, which is weapons grade uranium.
The investigations also led to cases of further seizure of uranium on July 31, 1998 – of 31 grams in addition to 2 kg, caught from another accomplice of the two engineers. The approximate abundance of uranium U235 in the samples indicated a 1.40 percent and 2.20 percent of enrichment. This showed that the uranium was neither an ore of uranium nor depleted uranium, but had its existence in an atomic research centre. Meanwhile, the director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research denied the possibility that the uranium could have come from the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam near Chennai. However, later, when the CBI vowed to go ahead with the investigation, MAPS stated that the substance caught was not uranium but limenite – a non-strategic substance with ordinary applications.
The shift in the stance of the research centre, from their initial report of a relatively high level of uranium enrichment to its total absence in the substance, caused a considerable problem for the prosecutors as they could not pursue charges against the persons. Later, as a result of this lead, the CBI seized 2 more kilograms of uranium and 31kg of platinum. However, due to the change of statement by the atomic research centre, the case was buried.
Again, on May 1, 2000, Mumbai police seized 8.3 kgs of uranium. The uranium was termed as depleted but radioactive uranium by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). In this instance, the source of this uranium theft – as cited by the police – had been a local hospital, the Lilavati Hospital, in Bandra. The fissile material had been found in the custody of scrap dealers who were caught and charged under the Atomic Energy Act. However, the Lilavati Hospital authorities maintained that no fissile material/uranium was missing from the hospital. The consistent denial by the hospital authorities and the fact that no material was found missing from the hospital equipment indicated that the source of the material was not the hospital. All radioactive materials from the Indian hospitals are technically accounted for and are to be returned to the relevant nuclear research centre. So how could it have found its way to the scrap dealers?
When the stolen material was sent for further analysis to establish the exact nature of the radioactive substance, BARC stated that the material found was primarily a shielding material used as counterweight in aircrafts and had no relevance to nuclear weapons technology. Despite the fact that the material was radioactive and could pose health hazards, K S Parsatarathy, the secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) stated that the 8.3 kg material seized contained merely two percent of uranium U235, which made the material depleted, having a zero weapon value.
The incident might have been an exception, but on November 5, 2000, the CBI recovered 25 kg of radioactive uranium from a person in the Bibi Cancer Hospital – the material was to be returned back to BARC. The person singled out in this case of uranium seizure was also a scrap dealer. According to the scrap dealer, he had bought a machine from the hospital as scrap and was, therefore, the natural owner of the radioactive substance found in the machine. Yet, according to the restrictions imposed on hospitals by BARC they are not allowed to sell radioactive materials to scrap dealers and the hospital had stated that the material was accounted for. The material once again, according to BARC, was depleted uranium. In this case, as in the earlier case, the Bibi Cancer Hospital in its initial statement denied the charges levelled against the hospital but later the hospital withdrew from its earlier stance and admitted that it had sold parts of the machine. Interestingly, the Bibi Cancer Hospital’s record did not show the use of any such machine that used uranium as a radioactive substance.
On November 13, 2000, the IAEA reported that the Indian police seized three uranium rods and arrested eight persons on charges of illicit trafficking of nuclear material. The critical question here is: where did the rods come from? The suspicion was that the civil nuclear facilities were vulnerable to such thefts. Again, on November 7, 2000, according to the IAEA, the Indian police seized 57 pounds of uranium and arrested two men on charges of illicit trafficking of radioactive material. Once again, the radioactive material was traced back to a nearby hospital, which denied any reports of missing uranium from its stocks. The fact that the seized radioactive material had been found in the form of three uranium rods reflects the possibility that the origin of these rods may be from a civilian nuclear power plant, or from one of the rapidly expanding Indian nuclear research facilities – rather than from a hospital.
While reviewing the various cases of uranium theft in India, certain disturbing questions arise as to how and why, in most cases, the uranium was found in the hands of scrap dealers. Why were charges not leveled against those found in possession of the radioactive material? Why, in a number of cases, did the hospitals change their position on the thefts? Who are the potential buyers for the scrapped radioactive material in India, and is the material intended for internal or international buyers? In fact, one can legitimately wonder whether there is a nuclear mafia present in India. Equally of concern are the issues raised about the security of the Indian nuclear facilities, including their research facilities.
When one puts all the reported theft cases together, some patterns can be discerned. Most of the accused have been scrap dealers who are obviously used as front men, which may well indicate the prevalence of organised crime relating to nuclear materials. Again, in almost all the cases, the charges were dropped against those found in possession of the material, and in most of the cases the initial assessments of the material were later altered. The source of origin, in most cases, as stated by the police, have been cancer hospitals – although the nature and quality of the uranium found in the use of the hospitals has differed from case to case. But in all the cases involving hospitals, the latter have denied any material going missing or being stolen. In any case, the amounts supposedly stolen from hospitals are far more than the normal requirements of these hospitals.
So, the focus has to shift to Indian nuclear facilities and the whole issue of their safety – especially in relation to theft and nuclear terrorism. This, in turn, raises concerns about the employees of these facilities and their links to possible mafias. Also, the whole issue of safety of transportation of nuclear materials from the mining stages to the spent fuel storage becomes critical in the dynamics of nuclear theft and technical safety of the facilities. While the rising incidents of nuclear theft create the possibility for a lucrative underground market for potential terrorists, unsafe nuclear facilities create risks for the surrounding populace – which has to live in constant terror of a nuclear accident.
To be continued
Data for some of this paper has been derived from a Monograph co-authored by Mazari & Sultan, entitled ‘Nuclear Safety & Terrorism: A Case Study of India’, for the ISSI. The views expressed are the writer’s own.