Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating EarthquakeRoger BilhamGiven recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.
Jesse JohnsonJun 16, 2021
China’s military sent 28 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone Tuesday — the largest-known incursion to date — just days after Group of Seven nations urged ‘the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.’ | REUTERS
China’s military sent 28 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone Tuesday — the largest-known incursion to date — just days after Group of Seven nations urged “the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.” | REUTERS
China’s military sent 28 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone Tuesday — the largest-known incursion to date — just days after Group of Seven nations urged “the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.”
The massive show of force came after a relative lull in the number of Chinese sorties into the ADIZ and bested the previous record, 25 warplanes, that was reported on April 12. The latest mission included 14 J-16 and six J-11 fighter jets and four H-6 heavy bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, as well as various surveillance and early warning aircraft, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said that Taiwanese aircraft were dispatched to warn away the Chinese warplanes, while missile systems were also deployed to monitor them.
In the joint communique released Sunday after their summit in England, G7 nations addressed the soaring tensions in the area for the first time, underscoring “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” and taking China to task over a number of other concerns.
The move also came as the Japan-based USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier strike group entered the disputed South China Sea for what the U.S. Navy termed a “routine mission.”
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According to a map of Tuesday’s incursion released by Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, the bombers and a number of the fighters skirted the southern part of the island by the Bashi Channel — a key entryway from the western Pacific into the South China Sea that the Reagan strike group was believed to have traversed to enter the contested waterway.
The sortie could be similar to exercises by the Chinese military in late January that reportedly simulated a strike on a U.S. aircraft carrier operating in the South China Sea. The Chinese military is also believed to be using the drills to practice “access denial” maneuvers that could prevent foreign forces from coming to Taiwan’s defense in a conflict.
A Pentagon spokesman told The Japan Times that China’s “increasing military activities conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan are destabilizing and increase the risk of miscalculation.”
“Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region. In response to the growing PRC threat, we will continue deepening our unofficial security relationship to ensure Taiwan has sufficient capabilities to defend itself,” spokesman John Supple added, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
The growing rancor and competition between China and the U.S. have stoked fears that a full-scale conflict could break out — with Taiwan caught in the middle, or being the cause of a conflagration itself.
Beijing views Taiwan as an inherent part of its territory and sees it as a renegade province that must be brought back into the fold — by force if necessary.
Washington, which switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979, considers the self-ruled island a key partner and crucial line of defense as the Chinese military continues to push further into the western Pacific.
Although it no longer formally recognizes Taiwan, the United States is required by law to provide Taipei with the means to defend itself, according to the Taiwan Relations Act.
In recent months, Chinese warplanes and vessels have routinely conducted operations in the vicinity of Taiwan, stoking fears of possible preparations for invasion.
The peace research institute Sipri has identified a worrying trend in the development of nuclear weapons. Overall, the total number of nuclear warheads continues to decline, the Stockholm-based institute noted in its annual report published Monday. Currently, however, more nuclear weapons are operational than a year ago, it said. The reduction of deployable warheads appears to have stalled. At the same time, comprehensive and expensive modernization programs were underway.
According to the report, the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea possessed a total of 13,080 nuclear warheads at the beginning of this year. That’s 320 fewer than at the start of 2020 and less than one-fifth of what the nuclear powers had in their arsenals at the height of the Cold War in the mid-1980s. The U.S. and Russia continue to have more than 90 percent of these weapons, according to Sipri estimates. The decline is attributed primarily to the disposal of discarded warheads by Russia and the United States. Together, the two countries possess more than 90 percent of all nuclear weapons. The reduction had been agreed in the 2010 bilateral “New Start” disarmament agreement. Shortly before it expired on February 5, it had been extended by five years.
The peace researchers classify the number of nuclear warheads that have already been mounted on missiles or are located on active bases as a cause for concern. These nuclear weapons are considered by Sipri to be ready for deployment. Their number increased from 3720 last year to 3825, and it is estimated that about 2000 of them are kept on high alert. Almost all of them are in the possession of Russia or the USA. These two nuclear powers each added about 50 deployable nuclear weapons last year. Britain and France also have deployable warheads.To be sure, the last-minute extension of New Start was a relief, explains Sipri nuclear weapons researcher Hans M. Kristensen. But the prospects for additional bilateral nuclear arms control between the nuclear superpowers remain poor. Kristensen calls the increase in operationally deployable warheads alone “a worrying sign.”
Nuclear weapons appear to play an increasingly weighty role in Russian and U.S. national security, according to Sipri. There are ongoing programs to further develop nuclear weapons systems such as nuclear warheads, missile and aircraft carrier systems, and production facilities, he said. The seven other nuclear powers have much smaller arsenals. But they are also in the process of modernizing or upgrading them.
According to a recent study by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican), the nine nuclear weapons states spent 72.6 billion U.S. dollars (the equivalent of about 60 billion euros) on expanding their arsenals last year. Adjusted for inflation, that was $1.4 billion more than in 2019. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ican had overseen the UN agreement to ban nuclear weapons, which was adopted in July 2017. It entered into force in January. The nuclear powers as well as members of the NATO military alliance, which also includes the U.S., Britain and France, have so far rejected the agreement.
After 11 days of intense fighting, Hamas and Israel began a cease-fire. Here is the arc of the conflict.
A fragile cease-fire went into effect between Hamas and Israel early Friday in Israel, bringing to end, for now, 11 days of intense fighting. A series of deadly flash points had galvanized both sides in a region where the human cost of war has been all too familiar.
Israeli warplanes started bombarding Gaza City on May 10, compounding the civilian suffering in the coastal enclave. At the same time, the rocket barrage by Hamas — the militant group that has ruled Gaza since 2007 and does not recognize Israel — took a toll on Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv, the commercial center of the country.
As the civilian casualties grew, the conflict polarized Israeli society, and the world, like seldom before, and it has spurred unrest within Israel and the occupied territories that has been more intense than any in years.
Here is what drove the conflict, and the arc it took.
Who was killed?
Israeli airstrikes and artillery barrages on Gaza, an impoverished and densely packed area of two million people, killed at least 230 people, including 65 children, and wounded 1,620 as of Thursday, producing stark images of destruction that reverberated around the world.
In the other direction, Hamas missiles rained over Israeli towns and cities, sowing fear and killing at least 12 Israeli residents, including two children — a greater civilian toll within Israel than during the last war, in 2014, which lasted more than seven weeks.
Israeli strategists and representatives described the campaign’s aim to be the destruction of as much of Hamas’s infrastructure as possible, including the group’s network of rocket factories and underground tunnels — a subterranean transit system that the Israel military refers to as “the metro.”
But Israel came under increasing international criticism for the growing number of children that were killed in airstrikes on Gaza. Images of children’s bodies circulated on social media, along with a video of a bereft Gaza father comforting his wailing infant — the only one of his five children to survive an Israeli airstrike. Among the deaths were eight children killed in a single airstrikeat a refugee camp.
The conflict has fueled a humanitarian catastrophe that touches nearly every civilian living in Gaza.
On the Israeli side, one of the children killed was a 5-year-old Israeli boy who died after a rocket fired from Gaza made a direct hit on the building next door to his aunt’s apartment, where he was visiting with his mother and older sister. Mourners attending the funeral of Yigal Yehoshua, 56, on Tuesday in Hadid, central Israel. Yehoshua died of wounds when his car was pelted with rocks during riots.Oded Balilty/Associated Press
Some people were also hurt or killed in a burst of unrest in mixed-population cities in Israel, including in Lod, where two people died. And in the occupied West Bank, at least 20 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces.
How did the current conflict start?
The conflict erupted on May 10, when weeks of simmering tensions in Jerusalem among Palestinian protesters, the police and right-wing Israelis escalated, against the backdrop of a longstanding battle for control of a city sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
The root of the latest violence is an intense dispute over East Jerusalem, which is predominantly Palestinian. Protests had gone on for days ahead of a Supreme Court ruling, originally expected on May 10 but then postponed, on the eviction of several Palestinian families from East Jerusalem. Israeli officials described it as a dispute over real estate. Many Arabs called it part of a wider Israeli campaign to force Palestinians out of the city, describing it as ethnic cleansing.
The protests sharply intensified after Israeli police prevented Palestinians from gathering near one of the Old City’s ancient gates, as they have customarily done during the holy month of Ramadan. The police responded on May 10 by raiding the Aqsa Mosquecompound, one of Islam’s holiest sites, to keep Palestinian protesters from throwing stones, they said. Hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers were wounded in the skirmish.Palestinians running during clashes with Israeli police at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque on May 10th, in Jerusalem’s Old City.Ammar Awad/Reuters
Militants in Gaza then began firing rockets in Jerusalem’s direction, to which Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza. Barrages by both sides intensified through the week, as did casualties — though Gazans have suffered a disproportionate number of deaths.
Did Israel accomplish its goals?
Armed with extensive war plans, Israel’s military leaders methodically went down a list of targets, trying to inflict maximum damage on Hamas’s military abilities and its commanders.
Yet the top tier of the Israeli military acknowledged that those efforts may not prevent another round of fighting, perhaps even in the near future.
Hamas and its affiliates still have about 8,000 rockets, according to a senior Israeli officer, and several hundred rocket launchers, according to another such officer — enough for two future wars.
What is the humanitarian situation in Gaza?
Gaza was already suffering under the weight of an indefinite blockade by Israel and Egypt even before the latest conflict. But the battle between Hamas militants and the Israeli military has spurred a devastating humanitarian crisis.Al Rimal clinic in the Ministry of Health bombed by an Israeli aircraft on Tuesday in Gaza.Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times
The fighting has damaged 17 hospitals and clinics in Gaza, wrecked its only coronavirus test laboratory, sent fetid wastewater into its streets and broken water pipes serving at least 800,000 people.
Sewage systems inside Gaza have been destroyed. A desalination plant that helped provide fresh water to 250,000 people in the territory is offline. Dozens of schools have been damaged or closed, forcing some 600,000 students to miss classes. Some 72,000 Gazans fled their homes.
What kind of arsenal does Hamas have?
Despite Israel’s surveillance capability and overwhelming military firepower next door, Palestinian militants in Gazahave managed to amass a large arsenal of rockets with enhanced range in the 16 years since Israel vacated the coastal enclave, which it had occupied after the 1967 war.
Hamas, with help from allies outside Gaza — including Iran, according to Israeli and Hamas officials — has parlayed that arsenal into an increasingly lethal threat. Since the conflict erupted last week, Hamas has launched more than 3,000 rockets toward Israeli cities and towns. The intensity of the barrages has put the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, among others, under greater threat than in previous conflicts.
Beyond tunnels and rockets, Israeli military experts and officials say there is another lesser-discussed and murky threat: clandestine naval commandoes entering or hitting Israel by sea, and waging potential attacks at energy facilities or populated settlements. On Monday, Israel’s military released a video showing Israeli defense forces destroying a vessel that it said was suspected of being on its way to carry out an attack on Israeli waters.
What is the Iron Dome?
As the worst violence in years rages, each night the sky is lit up by rockets fired from Gaza, and by the guided projectiles of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system shooting up to counter them. The images of the tense call-and-response barrages have been among the most widely shared online, even as the toll wrought by the violence becomes clear only in the light of the next day’s dawn.Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system firing on Wednesday to intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip. The view is from Ashkelon, in southern Israel.Dan Balilty for The New York Times
The Iron Dome missile defense system became operational in 2011 and got its biggest first test over eight days in November 2014, when Gaza militants fired some 1,500 rockets aimed at Israel.
While Israeli officials claimed a success rate of up to 90 percent during that conflict, outside experts were skeptical. The system’s interceptors — just 6 inches wide and 10 feet long — rely on miniature sensors and onboard computer processors to zero in on short-range rockets.
Israel has suffered casualties and the psychological terror of incoming rockets, but the system is clearly winnowing out much of the daily rocket fire.Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian advocates demonstrating last week outside Downing Street in central London. Justin Tallis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
How did the international community respond to the conflict?
A growing chorus of international parties had called on Israel, Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza to lay down their weapons.
The cease-fire was mediated by Egypt as neither the United States nor Israel talk directly with Hamas. Egypt has been the interlocutor in concluding rounds of warfare between Israel and Hamas, including the last two big confrontations, in 2008 and 2014.
Anger with Israel had spread across the Arab world, with King Abdullah of Jordan on Monday blaming the escalating violence on what he described as Israeli provocations.
France had led efforts to call for a cease-fire at the United Nations Security Council. The United States, Israel’s strongest ally in the United Nations and a veto-wielding permanent member of the council, had opposed even a statement condemning the violence, which many other U.N. members blame on Israel.
In his public comments, President Biden refused to join the growing calls from world leaders and many of his fellow Democrats for a cease-fire, or express anything short of support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
But in six private conversations, Mr. Biden and other American officials told the Israelis that they had achieved some significant military objectives against Hamas. Mr. Biden pressed Mr. Netanyahu on what his goal was, and what would allow him to say he had achieved it so that a shorter war was possible.
In response, according to the people familiar with the discussions, Mr. Netanyahu did not lay out specific objectives that he had to accomplish before agreeing to a cease-fire.
How did the last conflict, in 2014, unfold?
In 2014, Israel invaded Gaza after 10 days of aerial bombardment failed to stop Palestinian militants from showering Israeli cities with rockets. The bloody conflict, which lasted for 50 days in July and August, ended in a truce. By then, 2,251 Palestinians, of whom 1,462 were civilians, had died. Israel had lost 67 soldiers and six civilians, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Israeli leaders agreed to to halt hostilities under intense diplomatic pressure and with increasing casualties on both sides. At the time, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to calculate that a succession of short truces could be cobbled together to begin unwinding the conflict.On July 16, 2014, an Israeli airstrike killed three young boys on a beach in Gaza City.Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Accepting a truce offered Israel an opportunity to thwart the threat of tunnels being used to attack or kidnap its citizens, without risking more of the civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip that were turning world opinion against it.
Hamas, too, faced pressure to accept the truce, not only from international negotiators but from many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who were suffering under continuous Israeli bombardment and grappling with the devastation and destruction around them.
Pakistan ‘Beats’ India In No. Of Nuclear Weapons But ‘Far Behind’ In Delivery Mechanism — SIPRI Report
Apoorva JainJune 16, 2021
The number of nuclear weapons that India possesses is fewer than that of its twin rivals — China and Pakistan, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) analysis of the global nuclear weapons.
This report comes at a time when India and China mark one year of the deadly Galwan Valley clash amid a continuing standoff at the LAC.
According to the 2021 Yearbook on Armament, Disarmament and International Security by SIPRI, the world continues to modernize nuclear warheads, missile and aircraft delivery systems, and nuclear weapon production facilities.
The nine nuclear-armed states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)— together possessed an estimated 13,080 nuclear weapons at the start of 2021, a slight decrease from 13,400 in 2020, the SIPRI report shows.
Despite a slight decrease in total warheads of the erstwhile cold war rivals, more than 90% of nuclear weapons are possessed by the US and Russia — close to 5550 and 6255.
The total number of deployed warheads with operational capacity has increased by 105 units to 3825. More than 50% of these remain in possession of Russia and the US.
India’s Twin Troubles – China & Pakistan
Both India and Pakistan increased the number of nuclear warheads by less than 5% as compared to last year’s assessment. India now has a total of 156 warheads, a little behind Pakistan that has 165.
Meanwhile, China’s nuclear arsenal grew by 9%, up from 320 to 350 in one year.
China’s nuclear tests date back to 1964 and continued until 1996, which is said to be its 45th test overall. China was recognized as one of the world’s five ‘weapons states’, while India was excluded from such status. China is also one of the P-5 countries (permanent members of the UN Security Council).
It remains committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) 1968 that prohibits all countries except the P-5 (US, UK, France, Russia and China) from possessing nuclear weapons. China has been critical of nuclear proliferation in its backyard.
“China has never admitted that India and Pakistan are nuclear weapons states,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang had earlier said.
India’s nuclear program is said to have begun in the aftermath of the 1962 war with China whereas Pakistan began to prioritize the industry after its defeat in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war.
India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974 followed by a series of tests after a gap of 22 years, in 1998. India’s nuclear doctrine is committed to “no first use” policy and has defended its nuclear program on “deterrence” grounds.
Pakistan denoted six nuclear bombs in the course of four days in 1998 as well.
“Pakistan continues to prioritize the development and deployment of new nuclear weapons and delivery systems as part of its full-spectrum deterrence posture vis-à-vis India,” according to SIPRI.
The report also called out both countries on low levels of transparency. “The governments of India and Pakistan make statements about some of their missile tests but provide no information about the status or size of their arsenals,” it said.
Experts fear an increase in nuclear deterrence capacity will trigger an arms race between the two that will have wider repercussions for the whole South Asian region.
The Race For Nuclear Supremacy
While India has a stronger and larger military force than its historic adversary, the nuclear capabilities of both are similar.
India has the advantage of possessing a nuclear-triad, the ability to launch nuclear weapons by air, land, and sea. Pakistan is yet to possess sea launching capabilities.
India’s nuclear arsenal includes ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines and fighter jets that can drop nuclear weapons on marked targets.
India’s range of short to medium-range Agni ballistic missiles along with its variants and Prithvi missiles currently make up for most of the land-based nuclear arsenal. India is on course to operationalize its second-nuclear powered submarine, INS Arighat after the first one, INS Arihant operationalized in 2018.
The induction of Rafael jets, in addition to Mirage 2000 and Jaguar fighters, increases the country’s nuclear bombs carrying capacity as well as nuclear deterrence missions.File Image: Rafale Jets at Aero India 2017 – Wikimedia Commons
Among Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the long-range ballistic missile Shaheen-3 is capable of targeting India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands as far as the eastern coast of India.
A worry for India is the consistent rise of China militarily and economically. It carried out tests on the first nuclear submarine launched way back in 1981. Since then, China has rapidly enhanced its nuclear program.
According to US government sources, it has four such submarines in operation with two more under construction. With possession of a range of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), tactical cruise missiles and the ability to chemical and biological weapons, China is diversifying its strategic nuclear capabilities.
China is in the middle of significant modernization and expansion of its nuclear weapon inventory, and India and Pakistan also appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals, according to the yearbook.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entering into force this January 21, 2021, brings a sliver of hope for disarmament activists and civil society members.
“The TPNW is the first treaty to establish a comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons, including their development, deployment, possession, use and threat of use,” as per SIPRI.
Commenting on the growing divide between nuclear-armed states and the rest, Matt Korda, an associate researcher with SIPRI said that “all investing in the long-term future of their nuclear forces, and other countries that are impatient to see progress on nuclear disarmament promised by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”.
15 June 2021
Iraq is working on a plan to build nuclear reactors in face of widespread blackouts that have sparked social unrest, Bloomberg reported on 8 June. Despite being OPEC’s second biggest oil producer, Iraq is suffering from power shortages and insufficient investment in ageing plants, and needs to meet an expected 50% jump in demand by the end of the decade. Building NPPs could help to close the supply gap.
Iraq is seeking to build eight reactors capable of producing about 11 gigawatts, said Kamal Hussain Latif, chairman of the Iraqi Radioactive Sources Regulatory Authority (IRSRA). It would look for funding from prospective partners for the $40 billion plan and pay back the costs over 20 years, he said.
Falling oil prices in 2020 deprived Iraq of funds to maintain and expand its long-neglected electricity system. The resulting outages triggered protests that threatened to topple the government.
“We have several forecasts that show that without nuclear power by 2030, we will be in big trouble,” Latif said in an interview at his office in Baghdad. Not only is there the power shortage and surge in demand to deal with, but Iraq is also trying to cut emissions and produce more water via desalination “issues that raise the alarm for me.”
Latif said the Iraqi cabinet is reviewing an agreement with Russia’s Rosatom to cooperate in building reactors. South Korean officials this year said they wanted to help build the plants and offered the Iraqis a tour of reactors in the United Arab Emirates run by Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco). Latif said the nuclear authority has also spoken with French and US officials about the plan.
Bloomberg cited a company official as saying Kepco was not aware of Iraq’s nuclear plans and has not been in touch with Iraqi officials or been asked to work on any projects there . Rosatom declined to comment when asked about an agreement with Iraq.
Even if Iraq builds the planned number of power stations, that still won’t be sufficient to cover future consumption. The country already faces a 10GWe gap between capacity and demand and expects to need an additional 14GWe this decade, Latif said. Iraq, therefore, plans to build enough solar plants to generate a similar amount of power to the nuclear programme by the end of the decade.
Iraq currently has access to 18.4GWe of electricity, including 1.2GWe imported from Iran. Capacity additions mean generation will rise to around 22GWe by August, still short of notional demand that stands at almost 28GWe under normal conditions. Peak usage during the hot months of July and August exceeds 30GWe, according to the Electricity Ministry. Demand will hit 42GWe by 2030, Latif said.
The nuclear authority has selected 20 potential sites for the reactors and Latif suggested that the first contracts could be signed in the coming year.
In April, Latif told the Iraqi News Agency (INA) that a meeting with US officials had been requested through an authorised high-level delegation and other government agencies. “We are looking for common ground with our partners in this preliminary phase that precedes the bidding stage,” he said. Saaran Al-Aajibi, a member of the Parliamentary Security and Defence Committee, said he was hopeful Iraq will build nuclear reactors similar to those of its neighbours. He told Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed in April that the reactors would be for peaceful purposes. While Aajibi emphasised the benefits of new nuclear reactors he said that that the infrastructure required will put a strain on the government’s finances. Iraq suffered more than a decade of violence and upheaval after the 2003 US invasion, which destroyed much of its infrastructure.
Last September, IRSRA said Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi had ordered the formation of a committee tasked to build a nuclear research reactor. The research reactor would be used to help produce medical isotopes and pharmaceuticals, and used in agricultural and industrial applications, and construction would take approximately five years, Latif said. He told INA that Iraq was “looking forward to restoring its position in nuclear science, which it occupied in the 1970s and 1980s”.
Iraq’s nuclear activities began in 1956 encouraged by the US Atoms for Peace programme, with the establishment of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission and acquisition of the 2MW IRT-5000 research reactor from the Soviet Union in 1962. Iraq signed Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1968 and ratified it in 1969. Iraq developed extensive nuclear expertise and infrastructure, including three research reactors. However, key facilities were damaged or destroyed first in 1981 by an Israeli air strike and then in 2003 by US bombing. Former President Saddam Hussein sponsored nuclear weapons development during the 1970s in violation of the NPT until 1991 Gulf War, after which the nuclear programme was subject to stringent international oversight and weapons development ceased.
Iraq had initially pursued the plutonium pathway to weapons, acquiring two research reactors from France in 1976 (the larger 40MWt Osiraq reactor, or Tammuz I, and the smaller 800KWt Isis reactor, or Tammuz II), as well as a fuel manufacturing facility and a pilot plutonium separation and handling laboratory from the Italian firm SNIA-Techint in 1979. All these facilities, apart from the hot cells, were placed under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
Israel bombed the Osiraq facility in 1981, destroying the reactor core before it achieved criticality. Statements from scientists involved in the programme said this shifted Iraq’s strategy from openly acquiring a latent capability to produce and recover plutonium for weapons to covertly developing a uranium enrichment capability at undeclared facilities.
Over the next decade Iraq pursued several enrichment methods. In 1987 a Yugoslav firm was contracted to build a facility in Al-Tarmiya north of Baghdad to produce 15kg of weapons-grade uranium a year using electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS). A second EMIS facility was built at Ash Sharqat, northwest of Baghdad.
Work on the gaseous diffusion, which began at Tuwaitha in 1982, was later moved to a site near Rashdiya in northern Baghdad. This was intended to produce low enriched uranium (LEU) feedstock for the EMIS programme but was abandoned in 1987/88 in favour of gas-centrifuges. Iraq reportedly was assisted by centrifuge experts associated with West German firms but the prospect of a US military response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait stalled progress, and in 1990 Iraqi scientists were directed instead to recover safeguarded highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the French- and Russian-supplied research reactors.
The Gulf War ended in 1991 with UNSC Resolution 687 directing the IAEA to find and dismantle Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme, and ensure compliance with the NPT through comprehensive verification. By October 1997 the IAEA had completed 30 inspections, overseeing the dismantling of nuclear facilities, and removal of all weapons-usable nuclear material from Iraq, while other nuclear materials were placed under IAEA control.
Iraq ceased co-operation with IAEA in 1998 and but permitted verification to resume in 2002 in an attempt to prevent a US-led invasion based on allegations that it had weapons of mass destruction. Although Iraq had retained its nuclear expertise, IAEA said three months of intrusive inspections revealed “no evidence or plausible indications of the revival of a nuclear weapon programme in Iraq”. However, the invasion took place regardless. In 2004, the US Central Intelligence Agency’s Iraq Survey Group (ISG), tasked with uncovering evidence of WMD programmes, also concluded there was no evidence to suggest a coordinated effort to restart Iraq’s nuclear programme.
Iraq has since shown support for the nonproliferation regime, including ratification of the IAEA Additional Protocol in 2012. Earlier actions, including provisional implementation of the Additional Protocol, led the UNSC to lift restrictions on Iraq’s nuclear activities in 2010.
By Daniel Villarreal On 6/15/21 at 7:19 PM EDT
The Israeli military has confirmed an aircraft attack in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, retaliating against incendiary balloons deployed by Hamas. The attack comes barely two days after the ousting of Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The attack reportedly targeted Hamas armed compounds in response to incendiary balloons that were deployed from the area. The balloons caused 10 fires in fields of southern Israel, Reuters reported.
The attacks were the first to occur following an 11-day ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian forces.
Following the balloon attack, Israeli nationalists marched around Damascus Gate, a site of Palestinian life within east Isreal. The crowd of mostly young men held blue-and-white Israeli flags while dancing and singing religious songs, the Associated Press reported. The march also commemorated Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in 1967.
The march created a challenge for Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, just days after Netanyahu’s departure. Bennett now rules over a diverse coalition that only narrowly succeeded in ousting Netanyahu.
While the march on Damascus Gate threatened to raise tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, canceling it would’ve possibly gained Bennett and his new government coalition criticism for bowing to Hamas’s wishes rather than supporting Israeli nationalists.
Palestinians have viewed Israeli celebrations at Damascus Gate as demonstrations of Israeli control over an area that they view as their capital. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh of the West Bank Palestinian Authority called the march an “aggression against our people,” according to the Associated Press.
After the Israeli government approved the march, Hamas issued a statementurging Palestinians to take to the streets and “rise up in the face of the occupier and resist it by all means to stop its crimes and arrogance.”
Palestinian official Waleed Assaf said of Bennett’s new government, “They talk about it being a government of change, but it’s just going to entrench the status quo. Bennett is a copy of Netanyahu, and he might even be more radical.”
Netanyahu, who served as prime minister for 12 years, now serves as the opposition leader. He considers Bennett’s ascendency and the new government as “illegitimate,” according to David Bitan, a lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud political party.
United Nations (U.N.) Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said that officials from the international body have stressed “the need for all sides to refrain from unilateral steps and provocations, for them to exercise restraint and allow for the necessary work to be done to solidify the current cease-fire.”
Bennett has said he opposes a Palestinian state and has pushed for expanding Israeli settlements and annexation. His agenda challenges U.S. President Joe Biden‘s hopes for a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Newsweek contacted the U.S. embassy in Israel for comment.