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.
Jacob Nagel and Mark DubowitzOn 1/28/22 at 7:00 AM EST, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
The nuclear negotiations in Vienna continue. The Iranians are setting the tone and pace while the Americans struggle to keep alive the possibility of a deal. The Israelis—for whom these talks will have severe national security implications—are distracted by COVID surges and domestic politics.
There are two parallel paths out of Vienna. One is a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, although it should be clear by now that this outcome is near impossible. The other is an interim arrangement in which Tehran agrees to a limited freeze on some of its nuclear activities in exchange for billions in sanctions relief.
Israeli leaders have requested that Washington put a stop to the Iranian strategy of slowing down the negotiations. That strategy only allows Tehran to develop its capabilities and draw closer to “nuclear threshold state” status. Once that occurs, no country will be able to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. So far, the American response is feckless dialogue.
Biden’s Iran envoy, Robert Malley, is so eager to reach an agreement that he refuses to punish the Iranians for their violations of the 2015 agreement and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nor will he punish them for their lack of cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors. His top deputy Richard Nephew and two others reportedly left the team over disagreements with Malley’s strategy.
While the focus of the negotiations now is a return to the JCPOA, there is no going back to the deal that only temporarily kept Iran 12 months from a bomb’s worth of weapon-grade uranium, and then allowed its nuclear program to expand further. Today, even that 12-month target is no longer possible given the clerical regime’s nuclear advances. Tehran has shattered all temporary restrictions and can easily return to nuclear weapons development after key constraints in the 2015 agreement expire.
Most of that nuclear expansion—including the development of fissile materials, uranium enrichment up to 20 and then 60 percent, the operation of advanced centrifuges and the development of uranium metal for use in a nuclear warhead—have occurred since President Biden abandoned the pressure campaign of his predecessor.
A recent interim agreement proposed to the Iranians by Russia, with Mr. Malley’s consent, included a cessation of 60 percent enrichment (close to weapons grade) and the dilution or export to Russia of those enriched materials. The proposed deal permitted 20 percent enrichment to continue with no accumulation of new uranium material but permission to maintain existing stockpiles. The advanced centrifuges, installed in violation of the 2015 agreement, would not be destroyed and probably not even dismantled. It’s more likely they will remain installed under IAEA seals, ready to resume operation.
In return, Iran would get $8-10 billion in frozen oil money, primarily from South Korea and Japan. This would boost its accessible foreign exchange reserves from $4 billion to $12-14 billion, salvage its ailing economy and provide a war chest to support terrorist proxies. This is on top of recent Chinese purchases of Iranian oil that have spurred minor economic growth.
Then there is the question of the development of nuclear weapons systems. It remains unclear how long it would take for the clerical regime to explode a rudimentary device or develop a nuclear warhead to mount on long-range missiles or UAVs. Estimates range between six months for a test and one to two years for a nuclear-tipped missile.Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi looks on during a meeting with Russian President in Moscow on January 19, 2022.Pavel BEDNYAKOV / SPUTNIK / AFP/Getty Images
As part of the current talks, Iranian negotiators demanded the closure of any new IAEA investigations into undeclared nuclear materials and a promise not to reopen the old ones. As a counter, the parties are discussing a “freeze” of the investigations. While it might be framed as a compromise, such a freeze would do serious damage to the IAEA’s ability to investigate Iran’s nuclear program. Such a decision also would undermine the “unprecedented and intrusive” monitoring and verification regime the Obama administration promised would result from the 2015 deal.
In addition to all these dangerous concessions, Mr. Malley has made no secret of his willingness to lift all sanctions “inconsistent with the JCPOA.” Indeed, he intends to lift all restrictions designed to counter Iran’s terrorism and missile proliferation activities, including sanctions on the Central Bank, the National Oil Company and many other financial institutions and entities related to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The delisting of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization may also be in the offing.
Whether the Vienna process yields a “return” to the JCPOA or an interim agreement, it will be a “less for more” deal that contains far fewer nuclear restrictions than even the 2015 deal while yielding tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief for Iran. For those arguing this is a “less for time” deal, the reality is that time benefits Iran. Under any agreement, Iran would get a financial boost while key restrictions disappear. If the clerical regime bides its time, it can emerge with an industrial-size nuclear program, widely dispersed in multiple hardened facilities, with zero nuclear-breakout and easier, advanced centrifuge-powered, sneakout capabilities.
To make matters worse, sanctions relief will harden the Iranian economy against possible future sanctions. And Tehran will convert the coming windfall to build more lethal conventional military and missile capabilities, while funding its terrorist proxies.
Whether the interim agreement reportedly offered to Iran was an American or Russian proposal is irrelevant. The U.S. negotiating team approved most of it. The Iranians rejected it on the assumption that they will get better concessions as U.S. negotiators grow increasingly desperate. Tehran can always come back to the Russian plan as a fallback.
Any agreement coming out of Vienna will be worse than the disastrous 2015 deal. It will send a message to the markets that doing business with Iran is acceptable. Tehran will “launder” its violations while the regime legitimizes its nuclear expansion. The interim agreement calls for three to six additional months to reach another deal. But temporary agreements can become permanent, especially with the Biden administration distracted by other foreign policy crises in Ukraine and China.
Israel has asked the Biden administration to return to a maximum-pressure policy and to bolster the credibility of its military threat. That’s falling on deaf ears. The Iranians believe the U.S. is weak and will not attack. They further believe Israel does not have the ability to attack alone.
The coming weeks will be decisive. In Congress, Republicans have made clear that only a comprehensive treaty that permanently blocks Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons will get bipartisan support. Without such a treaty, they vow to reimpose all sanctions and return to the policy of maximum pressure when power shifts in Washington.
Israel, however, cannot afford to wait. It is increasingly clear that unless significant steps are taken soon, no country will be able to stop the mullahs from developing nuclear weapons.
Brig. Gen. (res.) Professor Jacob Nagel is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a visiting professor at the Technion Aerospace faculty. He previously served as acting national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and as head of the National Security Council. Mark Dubowitz is FDD’s chief executive. An expert on Iran’s nuclear program and sanctions, he was sanctioned by Iran in 2019.
The views expressed in this article are the writers’ own.
Hamas tries to distance itself from Islamic Jihad’s potentially embarrassing display of support for Yemen’s Houthi rebels; chants include ‘America is the Great Satan’
The Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers on Sunday tried to distance themselves from a protest staged by a rival pro-Iranian terror group that harshly attacked Saudi Arabia over its role in Yemen’s civil war and denounced the US as satanic.
During Saturday’s demonstration by Islamic Jihad, dozens of protesters chanted “Death to the House of Saud” and “American is the Great Satan,” according to an English translation provided by the Washington-based watchdog MEMRI.
Protesters also waved posters of the leader of Yemen’s Houthi militia.Advertisement
Although Hamas did not participate in the protest, it tightly controls Gaza and authorizes all public gatherings. The protest threatened to embarrass the terror group, which already is largely isolated in the Arab world, and draw attention to its own ties to Iran.
On Sunday, Hamas tried to contain the damage. “The shouts against Arab and Gulf states from our Palestinian arena don’t represent our position and policy,” it said.
Yemen’s conflict began in 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis took the capital, Sanaa, and much of northern Yemen, forcing the government to flee to the south, then to exile in Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led coalition, backed at the time by the US, entered the war months later to try restoring the government to power. The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, pushing the country to the brink of famine. Most of the Arab world has sided with Saudi Arabia and largely sees Iran as an enemy.Advertisement
Hamas has long tried to play both sides of the divide, accepting millions of dollars from Iran while also seeking broad Arab support for its armed struggle against Israel. Hamas, a more powerful rival terror group to Islamic Jihad, seized control of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in 2007.
This approach has grown increasingly difficult as Gulf countries have established ties with Israel in recent years. Mixed messages from Hamas have also complicated the task. Mahmoud Zahar, a top Hamas official, said Saturday that he supports Houthi drone attacks against the United Arab Emirates.
Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar speaks to Britain’s Sky News from his home in the Gaza Strip, on May 24, 2021. (Screenshot: Sky News/ Youtube)
The hashtag, “#Palestinians Support the Houthis,” was trending on social media on Sunday and Dubai’s deputy police chief, Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, announced that Zahar was now on the UAE’s most wanted list.
The Saudi-led coalition drastically escalated airstrikes on Yemen’s rebel-held provinces over the past week in response to a drone attack claimed by the Houthis that targeted an oil facility and major airport in the UAE, killing three people and wounding six.
The Emirati government has vowed to respond to the attacks, saying the strike “will not go unpunished.”
By William M. Arkin AND Marc Ambinder On 1/29/22 at 8:51 PM EST
As Russian threats to Ukraine continue and persist, and as the Biden administration contemplates American responses, nuclear weapons lurk in the background. The nuclear option is postured to deter aggression, even in Europe, a fact made clear by a large-scale “Global Lightning” military exercise last year, which was based upon a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic states, a scenario that ultimately escalated to the use of nuclear weapons.
This year—this week—Global Lightning is back. The exercise is one of a handful of regular war games held by the U.S. Strategic Command, the American nuclear command in Omaha, Nebraska. No one planned for the five-day exercise to come up in the calendar at this inopportune time, and this year the scenario involves China. Still, behind the scenes, here’s what Russia sees (even if we see nothing): decision-makers focused on the latest plan, nuclear command and control circuits opened and tested, new innovations and capabilities incorporated and practiced.
While nuclear war fighting is being practiced, there’s also a new nuclear war plan that is being put through its paces.
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Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, sends along a copy of the cover page for the latest iteration of the war plan, updated to take into consideration the major shift underway in the Pentagon to refocus from the war on terror to “great power competition.” Kristensen’s document—released to FAS under the Freedom of Information Act – confirms that the newest war plan “STRATCOM CONPLAN 0810-12, ‘Strategic Deterrence and Force Deployment’, Change 1, was issued on April 30, 2019.
Very little is known about the details of the new war plan, nor what specifically Global Lightning practices this year. Kristensen says that the exercise: “includes practicing operations during a trans-/post-attack nuclear environment, including reconstitution, redirection and targeting of STRATCOM forces.” In English, that means not just the initial use of nuclear weapons but the unfortunate assumption of repeated use (“trans attack”) and then reconstitution of capabilities (“post attack”) to use surviving weapons again. It’s good old fashioned nuclear warfighting, just updated for new capabilities which in theory give the United States more means to survive.
A STRATCOM spokesperson says this: “As a command post exercise, GLOBAL LIGHTNING focuses primarily on the headquarters processes and procedures necessary to plan and respond to a military crisis. There is no associated field training portion of Global Lightning. USSTRATCOM forces, however, remain on watch 24/7 to deter and detect strategic attacks against the U.S. and its allies.”
Of course, this paints a somewhat antiseptic picture of what is actually going on, and it glosses over the main innovation in the nuclear war plan over the past two decades: The incorporation of non-nuclear capabilities into the nuclear war plan that allows contingency planners to assume enough capabilities to survive a Russia first strike, to retaliate, to absorb more attacks, retaliate again, and keep on doing the same again and again (the country miraculously okay with all of this). It’s a capability that’s more provocative than the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) trope of the past, and one that receives shocking little attention.
Of the major STRATCOM exercises, Global Lightning is the most heavily focused on the integrated nuclear command, control and communications enterprise. This is the essence of the pretension of survival against a first strike and continued nuclear warfighting. Here the focus is on integrating new command facilities like STRATCOM’s own Command and Control Facility (C2F), with other command posts operated by other U.S. military commands and even allied countries worldwide. Airborne command posts like the E4-Bs and E6-Bs, those that will in theory be able to take over if the fixed ones are destroyed, as well as ground mobile command posts (those that move around to avoid nuclear targeting), are the next level of “survivable” American nuclear buttons on the move.
Global Lightning practices how a new generation of “protected communications” fit in to make these plans work. These include the Family of Beyond the Line of Sight terminals (FAB-T), which consists of 37 ground stations and nearly 50 terminals aboard nuclear capable aircraft, airborne command posts, including Air Force One, and post-strike reconnaissance assets (e.g., the U-2) The Air Force has been trying to get FAB-T operational for a decade; it allows the president (or whoever is acting president) to communicate directly with nuclear forces and, importantly, to hear back from those platforms.
Stress testing the FAB-T capability is one of many Global Lightning objectives, because every new communication platform has to operate seamlessly with others. Some of these new pathways and more survivable communications capabilities include the Army’s SMART-T (Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal) a new Navy very low frequency (VLF) radio, and the upgrade to the Minuteman Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network Program (MMPU). Just last year, the Air Force also began to install what it calls another, redundant, survivable communication system, the Common Very Low Frequency Receiver, for nuclear operations on B-2 “Spirit” bombers.
Aside from equipment tests, role players during Global Lightning will convene nuclear emergency conference calls from various command posts using the Presidential and National Voice Conferencing system. The PNVC is supposed to work with a bunch of different types of military communication pathways to provide “near toll quality voice conferencing capability for the President, Secretary of Defense, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior national/military leaders.”
The nuclear war plan is hardly just about nuclear weapons anymore. The actual warfighting elements incorporate so many other lethal capabilities that are not nuclear: missile defenses, secret weapons (such as directed energy weapons), long-range conventional weapons, electronic warfare, cyber offense, space attack, even special operations. For more than a decade STRATCOM has been working to incorporate all of these capabilities, both the kinetic and non-kinetic attack pieces, into one overarching plan.
In this state, non-nuclear capabilities enhance an offensive, hitting and disabling targets, but also non-nuclear capabilities are used to nullify and impede Russian (or Chinese) retaliation (or first strike) through interfering with command and control and the navigation (position, navigation and timing (PNT) is the buzzword) and basic functioning of the weapons systems.
Most of these capabilities—including U.S. capabilities that protect against such Russian attacks—exist in Special Access Programs (SAPs), highly controlled compartments that safeguard capabilities beyond “normal” Top Secret. SAPs are created to control the number of people privy to operational, intelligence, or acquisition programs. The entire STRATCOM nuclear command and control (NC2) program is a SAP (designated NC2/ESI, for extremely sensitive information). This covers the secrets of redundancy and the methods and procedures used to approve the launch of nuclear weapons. “Special Technical Operations” is another broad category of SAPs, those related to classified space-related capabilities. Focal Point is another SAP relating to special operations and integration of CIA programs. Another broad SAP is associated with the stealth techniques relating to the B-2 bomber and follow-on aircraft.
But beyond that, there are dozens of programs relating to the secret augmentations and adjuncts to the nuclear war plan: compartmented strategies and plans, intelligence capabilities, information and cyber operations, deception, “special programs.” There are over two dozen specific STRATCOM SAPs being worked on and secured by the same number of defense contractors:
- American Systems;
- Arsiem Corporation;
- BAE Systems;
- Booz Allen Hamilton;
- Constellation West;
- Infinity Systems Engineering;
- McCallie Associates;
- MELE Associates;
- Modern Technology Solutions, Inc.;
- Red River Technology;
- S4, Inc.;
- Serrrano IT Services;
- Solutions Through Innovative Technologies, Inc.;
- Spiral Solutions & Technologies, Inc.;
- Syntelligent Analytic Solutions;
- Systems Planning and Analysis; and
The question here is strategic stability—and whether these various new programs undermine strategic stability. This must at least be taken into consideration given the measures that the Biden administration has already taken vis a vis Ukraine or are inherent to the American arsenal: nuclear deterrence, nuclear armed fighter planes already in Europe, increased naval presence, related and coinciding military exercises, troops “activated” and “rushing” to the Ukrainian border. They all represent some American tripwire. Yet two questions should be asked: Are all of these threats of American action (“deterrent moves” in official parlance) convincing enough to dissuade further Russian military moves? And, at what point do they become too convincing, crossing the line between deterrence and threat? And how do these secret programs, some of which Russia knows about, figure in to their response? This is the Security Dilemma in the age of SAPs.
Here’s a truism. There’s no ideal time for the U.S. Strategic Command to conduct a nuclear global strategic command post exercise. You’d think that with war in the offing in Europe, such things might be postponed. But then you could make a case that at virtually every point in our recent history, exercising nuclear war capabilities might send the wrong signal.
“Talk about timing,” Kristensen says. “It reminds me of the nuclear test [the U.S. conducted] in the middle of the Cuban missile crisis.” There is, of course, an entire body of literature devoted to nuclear signaling, nuclear command post exercises, the history of near-misses and near hits.
So we have a nuclear war plan and then a set of “compartmented” plans (as if Top Secret isn’t secret enough), all creating the impression of the never ending nuclear war, one that is practiced right under our noses with practically no comment or public acknowledgement or debate.
When nuclear weapons were the only component of the nuclear war plan, the firebreak was huge. There was one event to be prevented and deterred. One plan. One nuclear capability. Many of these questions regarding strategic stability didn’t need answering. But today, when there are a variety of SAPs hiding ambiguous and unknown capabilities, we also have a situation where many “conventional” moves (including cyber and space move taking place out of sight) can increasingly be interpreted as precursors to a larger strategic attack. And yet because of secrecy, we can not even assess the impact, leaving it to the Pentagon and STRATCOM to perfectly signal in a crisis, and to the Kremlin to perfectly understand public and secret moves. It’s too much to ask, which is why we need to know what these capabilities are.
This story is co-published with The Secrets Machine.
Kim Jong Un will likely conduct more advanced weapons tests this year in his own version of “maximum pressure.” By Sang-soo LeeJanuary 29, 2022
Since Pyongyang rejected the Biden administration’s proposal of diplomatic talks as insufficient to entice Kim Jong Un back to the negotiating table, North Korea seems to have recalibrated its strategy in dealing with the United States. While the North’s end of year report conspicuously condensed the outcome of its review on foreign policy and replaced Kim’s New Year’s Day address, it is expected that North Korea will conduct more advanced weapons tests and hold military parades to draw full attention from the U.S. and the international community in the upcoming months. This can be seen as North Korea’s own style of a “maximum pressure” strategy, meant to change the United States’ fundamental policy toward the country – what Pyongyang calls the “hostile policy” – before restoring the talks.
North Korea’s 2022 Security and Foreign Policy
Despite the 10th anniversary of Kim Jong Un’s ascension to power last year, he did not deliver a New Year’s Day address in 2022. While North Korean state media reported the results of the five-day plenary meeting of the Workers’ Party Eighth Central Committee on December 27-31, it is puzzling that Pyongyang did not share details on its foreign policy and strategy for 2022. It just said that the meeting reviewed “principled issues” and relevant strategic directions to cope with the rapidly changing international political situation.
Many experts said the absence of an announcement on North Korea’s foreign policy direction could be seen as providing “strategic flexibility” or room to maneuver in the uncertain external environment. Considering the upcoming events, the Beijing Winter Games in February and the South Korean presidential election in March, there are many uncertainties in the region. The possibility of military conflicts in Ukraine and Taiwan cannot be ruled out this year either. However, those upcoming events will have only a limited impact on determining North Korea’s approach to external affairs. China is likely to turn a blind eye to North Korea’s further missile tests if it stays silent during the Olympics. In addition, whoever the next South Korean president is, the foundation of Seoul’s approach to Pyongyang will not change without Washington’s approval.
As a result, Pyongyang might have already evaluated the impacts of future external affairs and set its direction on the foreign policy by taking a “frontal breakthrough” and “strong to strong” strategy to deal with the U.S. and South Korea. Thus, while it is strategically hidden from public reports, North Korea has already prepared its military action plans, such as a series of future missile and possibly even nuclear tests in response to U.S. sanctions, the upcoming South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises, and the potential victory of South Korean main opposition presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol in the election.
North Korea has already tested its missile capabilities six times this month, signaling Pyongyang’s clear intention to follow through with Kim’s 2021 pledge of strengthening the national military capability. Pyongyang will continue carrying out more missile tests in the coming months to demonstrate advancements in its missile technologies. Kim believes that maximum pressure by demonstrating powerful nuclear and missile weapons might be the only way to push the U.S. to make concessions.
A Full Speed “Frontal Breakthrough”
Amid the deadlocked nuclear talks and the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, this year is especially important for Kim. He will need to show his strong leadership on the 110th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, the country’s founder, and the 80th birth anniversary of Kim Jong Il, Kim’s father, which are coming up in April and February, respectively. At the plenary session in December, Kim mainly focused on delivering his messages on the development of North Korea’s rural and agricultural sector in a bid to revive his country’s crippled economy, which has been worsened by a brutal combination of U.N.-led economic sanctions, extreme anti-pandemic measures, and natural disasters since early 2020. Kim’s hands, however, are tied as to the economy as there is no long-term plan he can follow to tackle the country’s devastating food shortages without undercutting his self-reliance approach, as aggressive anti-pandemic measures have completely cut North Korea off from the world since early 2020. It is believed that the only long-term solution for the regime to improve its economic situation is reopening the border with China or resuming nuclear negotiations with the U.S. to lift existing sanctions.ADVERTISEMENT
Given this situation, after two years of a self-imposed border lockdown, two cargo trains from North Korea crossed the border from Sinuiju to Dandong on January 16-17 to receive aid and basic necessities from China. Pyongyang might have decided to restart trade with China to recover its economic situation since disinfection facilities have already been installed on the border area. Furthermore, the resumption of aid from China could make it possible for Pyongyang to push forward its maximal nuclear strategy this year, as it will cushion North Korea against the impact of further sanctions. As the hegemonic race between the two superpowers – the United States and China – is most likely to intensify in the future, North Korea will seek more close cooperation with China to revive its economy by resuming trade, while carrying out “tit-for-tat” responses to U.S. sanctions.
Even if Kim needs negotiations to find a long-term solution for North Korea’s economic difficulties, he will continue focusing on building his strong nuclear power at least until the global pandemic crisis is over. The current situation will prevent North Korean officials from meeting foreign delegations either in the country or abroad. Given the circumstances, therefore, this year is a perfect time for the regime to exert maximum pressure on the U.S. to achieve what it wants prior to restoring talks, as the U.S. is now struggling with Russia in Eastern Europe and with China in East Asia.
Showcase of New Advanced Weapons
Starting off with its first hypersonic missile test of the year on January 5, North Korea has conducted six rounds of missile tests, including hypersonic missiles, cruise missiles, and short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMS), this month alone. Among others, the North’s second hypersonic missile test on January 11 proved that it had successfully developed an advanced version of the hypersonic missile it first tested in September of last year. After that, North Korea fired its KN series of SRBMs on January 14 and 18 in the wake of U.S. sanctions over the missile tests. Pyongyang has angrily criticized the U.S. and South Korea for having a “double standard” toward the military activities conducted by the two Koreas. North Korea deems the South Korea-U.S. joint military drills as proof of “hostile intent” that critically threatens the North’s security while reiterating that its missile tests are for its “self-defense,” not for targeting other countries. Pyongyang justifies its missile tests as part of its policy of responding to strength with strength.
As 2022 continues, North Korea will likely show off even more advanced missile weapons in order to fulfil the pledges made during the Eighth Party Congress last year. In this context, North Korea will test new destructive weapons, and they will not be the typical SRBMs the North launched this month. Looking back on the missiles North Korea test-fired before the nuclear talks began in 2018 and the missiles it displayed in a military parade last year, North Korea’s advanced series of “Pukkuksong” missiles are expected to be showcased this year. North Korea will likely test what it has been developing in recent years, including the improved version of its Pukkuksong-2 solid-fuel ballistic missile and the newest Pukkuksong-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
Furthermore, North Korea’s state media recently reported that the country will reconsider Kim’s self-moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). With this in mind, Pyongyang will also consider proving its strengthened long-range missile capabilities by showing off its miniaturized and multiple nuclear warheads, if necessary. If all these new missile technologies bear fruit, the U.S. missile defense system will be vulnerable to North Korea’s new intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Prospects for Future Negotiations
Back in 2019, Kim said he no longer felt bound by his self-moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests while reiterating that he will never come back to the negotiating table unless the U.S. makes concessions. For North Korea, this means lifting the U.S.-led economic sanctions, withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea, and suspending the joint South Korea-U.S military drills.
In this regard, what the U.S. and South Korea should bear in mind is that it is not the right time to activate their backchannels to restore talks with North Korea and seek a détente. Pyongyang is not ready to return negotiations. Nevertheless, U.S. President Joe Biden must reassess his administration’s strategic patience policy, as just waiting for Pyongyang to return to diplomatic talks runs the risk of North Korea eventually reaching an untouchable level of nuclear capacity. Furthermore, South Korea will also beef up its military capability to deal with nuclear threats from North Korea, in particular as the conservative presidential candidate, Yoon, has claimed the right to conduct a pre-emptive strike on the North. Accordingly, the situation as it stands could push the existing arms race on the Korean Peninsula into a dangerous end game.
The Biden administration has presented an updated nuclear policy that will reduce the importance of nuclear weapons within Washington’s national security strategy. In November 2021, Biden and Xi Jinping agreed during their virtual summit to launch a series of high-level arms control talks. This shows that the Biden presidency is becoming more and more conscious of the value of arms control agreements in restraining global nuclear arms competition. Biden and Kim might be also interested in the establishment of an arms control framework on the Korean Peninsula – an attractive entry point for future negotiations, which can be the basic foundation of the long-term denuclearization process on the Korean Peninsula. In the long term, Washington might benefit a lot from such a framework. Multilateral nuclear arms control measures could prove a useful tool to reduce the arms race between regional actors – namely North Korea, China, South Korea, and Japan – and control the proliferation of nuclear weapons through the reduction of capabilities and assets in the region.AUTHORS
Sang-soo Lee is the deputy director of the Institute for Security & Development Policy (ISDP) and the head of ISDP’s Korea Center.
Updated 2:04 PM ET, Sat January 29, 2022
Top US General issues stark warning on China’s hypersonic missile 02:06
Washington (CNN)The Pentagon is preparing to push the CEOs of America’s largest defense companies to accelerate hypersonic weapons development by hosting a high-level meeting next week with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.The purpose is to “light a fire underneath the entire hypersonic industry” and “encourage industry to pick up the pace,” according to two executives at two defense companies who’ve been invited to attend the meeting which is scheduled for Thursday.The United States has “a lot of catching up to do very quickly,” according to US Space Force Gen. David Thompson, after recent hypersonic weapons tests by China and Russia surprised US national security officials and indicated the US is falling behind their main geopolitical rivals.
“We’re not as advanced as the Chinese or the Russians in terms of hypersonic programs,” Thompson said in November while speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum.
The Pentagon says Austin will deliver “brief framing remarks” at the beginning of next week’s meeting, but it will be chaired by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks as “part of her regular, drumbeat engagements with industry” to discuss “ways to accelerate the development of cutting-edge capabilities and new operational concepts.”
Defense One was first to report news of the meeting.Top executives from Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Leidos, Aerojet Rocketdyne, BAE Systems, L3Harris, and about a half dozen other defense companies have been invited to attend.
Top military leader says China’s hypersonic missile test ‘went around the world’Traveling at Mach 5 or faster, hypersonic weapons are difficult to detect, posing a challenge to missile defense systems. Hypersonic missiles can travel at a far lower trajectory than high-arcing ballistic missiles, which can be easily detectable. They can also maneuver and evade missile defense systems.China and Russia’s advances and recent failed tests have led the Pentagon to inject more urgency into the US program and increase the resources they are devoting to hypersonic weapons development. The FY22 budget committed $3.8 billion to hypersonic research, an increase from the previous year’s $3.2 billion.While Russia and China are developing hypersonic weapons capable of carrying nuclear warheads, the US has focused its development on conventional warheads, which require a greater degree of accuracy and can be more technologically challenging to develop. While defense companies are typically in charge of the manufacturing of weapons and weapons systems, the US military is predominately responsible for testing and launch.The meeting will be moderated by Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu, who told reporters in January that all six branches of the US military are “pushing the contractors very, very aggressively” on hypersonic weapons development. Shyu also noted that “no aggressive schedule, especially if you’re pushing hard on them, will go through perfectly without some problems.”Indeed, the US hypersonic industry has suffered problems and setbacks in recent months. In October, the Pentagon says a test of a hypersonic glide body failed due to a problem with the rocket propelling it to hypersonic speeds, and in April, a hypersonic missile failed to separate from a B-52H Stratofortress bomber during a test at Edwards Air Force Base.
Top US general says China hypersonic test is ‘very concerning’Retired Air Force Gen. John Hyten, while serving as the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said America’s aversion to failure slowed down the testing process. While the US had conducted approximately nine hypersonic tests in the last five years, the Chinese had conducted “hundreds.””We’ve decided that failure is bad,” Hyten said. “Nope, failure is part of the learning process. And if you want to get back to speed, you better figure out how to put speed back into [sic] and that means taking risk and that means learning from failures and that means failing fast and moving fast.”
Still, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall cautioned just last week about “mirror imaging” China’s hypersonic development program, since the US and China have different targets in mind.”I think we have to look very carefully at the target set that we’re interested in and at the most cost-effective way to deal with it, and I think that’s still very much an open question,” Kendall told the Center for New American Security in a virtual discussion.
Kathy Reakes 01/28/2022 10:00 a.m.
If you felt a jolt, you weren’t imagining things.
The USGS, the organization responsible for earthquake tracking around the country, said the 1.4-magnitude quake took place at 12:38 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 27 in Greenwich, two kilometers north-northwest of the neighborhood of Cos Cob.
They reported the quake was felt in Cos Cob, Greenwich, Old Greenwich, and Riverside.10 SecRains hamper Indonesia efforts to aid earthquake survivors
Police received a couple of calls but weren’t sure what caused the jolt.
If you felt the jolt and want to report it, the USGS keeps track of the number of reports here.