Earthquake activity in the New York City area


Although the eastern United States is not as

seismically active

as regions near plate boundaries, large and damaging earthquakes do occur there. Furthermore, when these rare eastern U.S. earthquakes occur, the areas affected by them are much larger than for western U.S. earthquakes of the same magnitude.

Thus, earthquakes represent at least a moderate hazard to East Coast cities, including New York City and adjacent areas of very high population density.

Seismicity in the vicinity of New York City. Data are from the U.S. Geological Survey (Top, USGS) and the National Earthquake Information Center (Bottom, NEIC). In the top figure, closed red circles indicate 1924-2006 epicenters and open black circles indicate locations of the larger earthquakes that occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. Green lines indicate the trace of the Ramapo fault.

As can be seen in the maps of earthquake activity in this region(shown in the figure),

seismicity is scattered throughout most of the New York City area, with some hint of a concentration of earthquakes in the area surrounding Manhattan Island.

The largest known earthquake in this region occurred in 1884 and had a magnitude of approximately 5.For this earthquake, observations of fallen bricks and cracked plaster were reported from eastern Pennsylvania to central Connecticut, and the maximum intensity reported was at two sites in western Long Island (Jamaica, New York and Amityville, New York).

Two other earthquakes of approximately magnitude 5 occurred in this region in 1737 and 1783. The figure on the right shows maps of the distribution of earthquakes of magnitude 3 and greater that occurred in this region from 1924 to 2010, along with locations of the larger earthquakes that occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884.


The NYC area is part of the geologically complex structure of the Northern

Appalachian Mountains. This complex structure was formed during the past half billion years when the Earth’s crust underlying the Northern Appalachians was the site of two major geological episodes, each of which has left its imprint on the NYC area bedrock.

Between about 450 million years ago and about 250 million years ago, the Northern Appalachian region was affected by a continental collision, in which the ancient African continent collided with the ancient North American continent to form the supercontinent Pangaea.

Beginning about 200 million years ago, the present-day Atlantic ocean began to form as plate tectonic forces began to


apart the continent of Pangaea. The last major episode of geological activity to affect the


in the New York area occurred about 100 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era, when continental rifting that led to the opening of the present-day Atlantic ocean formed the Hartford and


Mesozoic rift basins.

Earthquake rates in the northeastern United States are about 50 to 200 times lower than in California, but

the earthquakes that do occur in the northeastern U.S. are typically felt over a much broader region than earthquakes of the same magnitude in the western U.S.This means the area of damage from an earthquake in the northeastern U.S. could be larger than the area of damage caused by an earthquake of the same magnitude in the western U.S. The cooler rocks in the northeastern U.S. contribute to the seismic energy propagating as much as ten times further than in the warmer rocks of California.

A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt as far as 100 km (60 mi) from its

epicenter, but it infrequently causes damage near its source. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake, although uncommon, can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from its epicenter, and can cause damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi) from its epicenter. Earthquakes stronger than about magnitude 5.0 generate ground motions that are strong enough to be damaging in the epicentral area.

At well-studied plate boundaries like the

San Andreas fault

system in California, scientists can often make observations that allow them to identify the specific fault on which an earthquake took place. In contrast, east of the Rocky Mountains this is rarely the case.

The NYC area is far from the boundaries of the North American plate, which are in the center of the Atlantic Ocean, in the Caribbean Sea, and along the west coast of North America. The seismicity of the northeastern U.S. is generally considered to be due to ancient zones of weakness that are being reactivated in the present-day stress field. In this model, pre-existing faults that were formed during ancient geological episodes persist in the intraplate crust, and the earthquakes occur when the present-day stress is released along these zones of weakness.

The stress that causes the earthquakes is generally considered to be derived from present-day rifting at the Mid-Atlantic ridge.

Earthquakes and geologically mapped faults in the Northeastern U.S.

The northeastern U.S. has many known faults, but virtually all of the known faults have not been active for perhaps 90 million years or more. Also, the locations of the known faults are not well determined at earthquake depths. Accordingly, few (if any) earthquakes in the region can be unambiguously linked to known faults.

Given the current geological and seismological data, it is difficult to determine if a known fault in this region is still active today and could produce a modern earthquake. As in most other areas east of the Rocky Mountains, the best guide to earthquake hazard in the northeastern U.S. is probably the locations of the past earthquakes themselves.

The Ramapo fault and other New York City area faults

The Ramapo Fault, which marks the western boundary of the Newark rift basin, has been argued to be a major seismically active feature of this region,but it is difficult to discern the extent to which the Ramapo fault (or any other specific mapped fault in the area) might be any more of a source of future earthquakes than any other parts of the region. The Ramapo Fault zone spans more than 185 miles (300 kilometers) in

New York,

New Jersey, and

Pennsylvania. It is a system of


between the northern

Appalachian Mountains

and Piedmont areas to the east. This fault is perhaps the best known fault zone in the Mid-Atlantic region, and some small earthquakes have been known to occur in its vicinity. Recently, public knowledge about the fault has increased – especially after the 1970s, when the fault’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York was noticed.

There is insufficient evidence to unequivocally demonstrate any strong correlation of earthquakes in the New York City area with specific faults or other geologic structures in this region. The damaging earthquake affecting New York City in 1884 was probably not associated with the Ramapo fault because the strongest shaking from that earthquake occurred on Long Island (quite far from the trace of the Ramapo fault). The relationship between faults and earthquakes in the New York City area is currently understood to be more complex than any simple association of a specific earthquake with a specific mapped fault.

A 2008 study argued that a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake might originate from the Ramapo fault zone,

which would almost definitely spawn hundreds or even thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars in damage. Studying around 400 earthquakes over the past 300 years, the study also argued that there was an additional fault zone extending from the Ramapo Fault zone into southwestern Connecticut. As can be seen in the above figure of seismicity, earthquakes are scattered throughout this region, with no particular concentration of activity along the Ramapo fault, or along the hypothesized fault zone extending into southwestern Connecticut.

Just off the northern terminus of the Ramapo fault is the

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, built between 1956 and 1960 by

Consolidated Edison Company. The plant began operating in 1963, and it has been the subject of a controversy over concerns that an earthquake from the Ramapo fault will affect the power plant. Whether or not the Ramapo fault actually does pose a threat to this nuclear power plant remains an open question.

Understanding the Means of the Australian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Understanding the ‘Forever’ Alliance: What AUKUS Means for Australia and the World


Salvatore Babones

© 2022 US Navy via AP

Australia’s accession to AUKUS will not result in any net gain to the alliance’s nuclear submarine numbers for decades to come. But it will give the alliance a meaningful, capable base at the fulcrum of the Indo-Pacific region, in a politically-stable country that is unlikely ever to withdraw from the partnership, writes Salvatore Babones, Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney. We welcome polemics and invite to discussion all those who have a different perspective of the issue covered by the author.

When Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States announced a new strategic partnership in September, it should have come as no surprise — and treated as no big deal. The three countries fought together in World War I, and their navies have been closely cooperating in the Western Pacific since World War II. When the Japanese bombed the northern Australia city of Darwin on February 19, 1942, the American destroyer USS Peary was there to return fire. The United States has mutual defense treaties with both the UK and Australia, and for their part the British and Australian navies are both “Royal” navies, reporting to the same queen.

So why does anyone think the new AUKUS partnership is such a big deal? Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, certainly thinks it is. He portrayed it as his country’s “single greatest [security] initiative” in seventy years. In the post-announcement press conference, he called AUKUS a “forever partnership” — thirteen times. He also said that it created a “forever relationship” that would lock Australia into a “forever responsibility… forever into the future.” While it is true that Australia’s prospective AUKUS submarines might be in service until the end of the century, forever is a very long time.

But Morrison wasn’t exaggerating. He was only signaling what he could not say. The AUKUS headlines focused on the US and UK offering to share naval nuclear propulsion technology with Australia. They didn’t mention the main reason why submarines need nuclear propulsion. There is one primary mission for nuclear-powered attack submarines, and it is a mission that cannot be performed by their diesel-electric competitors. Nuclear-powered attack submarines hunt, track, and (in extremis) kill nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines.

The “forever” in AUKUS isn’t the long wait for delivery of the subs. It’s the forever of nuclear Armageddon.

When a country with a Westminster parliamentary system makes a major strategic decision, it’s not taken on the sole responsibility of the government of the day. The opposition is brought in for consultation, since it would be embarrassing for the country were its strategic priorities to change with every change of government. Accordingly, Australia’s opposition Labor Party would have been consulted when Scott Morrison’s Liberals opted for AUKUS. The Labor leader Anthony Albanese quietly endorsed the deal, affirming that it would “certainly continue” under a future Labor government. Other senior Labor Party figures were not so supportive.

Andrew Futter

The AUKUS agreement, and particularly the nuclear-submarines component, appear to be part of a broader plan to bolster US capacity in the Asia-Pacific, reassure regional allies of the US commitment to defence of the region, and perhaps above all, to counter the perception of a “rising” and more assertive China. At the same time, it will look to many like US double standards and even reflective of a neo-colonial attitude to nuclear proliferation where some countries are deemed “responsible” nuclear operators and others are not, writes Valdai Club expert Andrew Futter.


The prominent Labor senator Kim Carr said the agreement raised “questions about preserving Australian sovereignty itself, because for many decades ahead AUKUS will lock Australia rigidly into the global strategic priorities of the US … regardless of who occupies the White House.” That cautionary criticism shows that Carr understands the real meaning of the deal, even though he has presumably sworn not to divulge any details as the price of being informed about it. If AUKUS were no more than a submarine procurement plan, why would it threaten Australia’s very sovereignty? After all, Australia already operates a range of high-technology American defense equipment, including the nuclear-capable F-35 stealth fighter jet. As Carr is well-aware, the real importance of AUKUS isn’t the submarines; it’s the mission for which they are designed.

In 1958, one year after the first British hydrogen bomb test, the US and UK signed a mutual defense agreement for cooperation in nuclear weapons and naval propulsion technologies. For a decade following the Second World War, the UK had attempted to maintain an independent capability as an autonomous great power alongside the US and USSR, but the 1956 Suez Crisis put paid to British ambitions for strategic parity. The launch of Sputnik in 1957 demonstrated that the USSR had leapfrogged not only the UK in military technology, but in some ways even the US itself. Britain wanted a role, and in 1958 it accepted that its future role in the world was to play loyal lancer to the American superpower.

Ever since then, the US and UK have cooperated to monitor every potentially hostile nuclear weapon in the world — and to keep their own nuclear forces secret and safe. And while the public tends to think of nuclear missiles as huge rockets buried in hardened silos, professionals understand that the real nuclear threat comes from nuclear-armed submarines.

Land-based and air-launched nuclear missiles must be launched from far away, and are potentially vulnerable to enemy first strikes. Submarine-launched nuclear missiles, by contrast, can be launched from just off an enemy coastline, and are safe from nuclear first strikes.

The only way to take out a nuclear-armed submarine is the old-fashioned way: to sink it.

And that is the job of the nuclear-powered attack sub.

From the time the USSR launched its first nuclear ballistic missile submarines, the US and UK have teamed up in a global game of cat-and-mouse, working together to keep tabs on every Soviet submarine. Their goal was, in case of war, to be able to sink these subs before they could launch their missiles. That meant having an attack submarine on the tail of every missile sub, all the time. To what extent the Western allies succeeded in this mission, no one will ever know. But now the mission has expanded. China launched its first nuclear ballistic missile submarine in 1983, but it was only a test platform. In 2007, it began launching a new generation of ballistic missile submarines, and a third generation is reportedly under development.

New threats call for new responses, but the US-UK naval alliance lacks a major submarine base in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. American nuclear-powered attack submarines make port visits to Japan, but they are based far away, at Pearl Harbor and in San Diego. British attack submarines are based in Scotland, and presumably focus on the Arctic and North Atlantic. The Western alliance lacks a heavy logistics and maintenance base for submarines in the Indo-Pacific region where Chinese ballistic missile submarines are most likely to operate, and Australia is the ideal place to host one. Long before Australia gets its own nuclear-powered attack submarines, it is likely to develop the infrastructure for hosting its AUKUS allies’ subs.

And that is the point of AUKUS. Australia doesn’t have the engineering capacity to build nuclear-powered submarines, and any US or UK subs built for Australia will simply reduce deliveries to the Western powers’ own submarine fleets. Australia’s accession to AUKUS will not result in any net gain to the alliance’s nuclear submarine numbers for decades to come. But it will give the alliance a meaningful, capable base at the fulcrum of the Indo-Pacific region, in a politically-stable country that is unlikely ever to withdraw from the partnership. Thus the “forever” of Morrison’s AUKUS announcement. Australia has gone all-in on the Anglo-American alliance.

This is bad news for China, but good news for the rest of the world. Of course, non-aligned states cannot be expected to publicly endorse the strengthening of Western naval cooperation. Neither Russia nor even France will welcome the AUKUS partnership. But citizens of every country can sleep a little easier knowing that someone — anyone — is monitoring China’s nuclear weapons. Today’s China is a free radical, erratically challenging the limits of nearly all established conventions of international behavior. It is, frankly dangerous: not just to its enemies, but to its friends, and even to itself. Australia-based nuclear-powered submarines will never attack a French, Indian, or even a Russian submarine, because none of their owners would ever attack Australia, the United Kingdom, or the United States. With China, we can’t be so sure.

No one wants a war with China, but if anything ever were to go horribly wrong, the whole world would benefit from coordinated action to prevent a nuclear catastrophe.

Hamas TV series glorifies fight outside of the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Hamas TV series glorifies fight against Israel, but it’s no ‘Fauda’

30-episode ‘Fist of the Free’ centers on botched real-life Israeli undercover operation inside Gaza, with a heroic and victorious Palestinian twist

By AGENCIES and TOI STAFF16 February 2022, 10:37 am  

Actors wearing Hamas uniforms in an action scene as a crew from the Hamas-run al-Aqsa satellite channel shoots for a 30-episode series, titled ‘Fist of the Free,’ in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Feb. 3, 2022. (Adel Hana/AP)

The Palestinians scrambled out of the tunnel and attacked an Israeli tank in broad daylight as gunfire and explosions echoed across the Gaza Strip frontier.

This time it wasn’t the start of another war, but an action scene filmed for a TV series produced by the territory’s terrorist Hamas rulers, who are avowedly committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.

The 30-episode series, titled “Fist of the Free,” presents the fighters as scrappy heroes outwitting a better-armed Israeli military. Unlike “Fauda,” the hit Israeli drama that deals with some of the same subject matter, it is unlikely to get picked up by Netflix.

It’s the latest such production by the media arm of Hamas, which has invested heavily in its offerings despite a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza since the Islamist terror group seized power in 2007.

The shows are aired on Hamas-run TV, and “Fist of the Free” will debut during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan, when viewership soars after the dawn-to-dusk fast is broken and networks across the Muslim world debut big-budget offerings.

“The idea of our films and series centers on our struggle with the enemy,” says Sadi al-Attar, the assistant director. He says the latest show is a response to “Zionist aggression.”

Actors dressed in Israeli and Hamas uniforms act out the scene of an attack on an Israeli tank replica as a crew from the Hamas-run al-Aqsa satellite channel shoots for a 30-episode series, titled ‘Fist of the Free,’ in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Feb. 3, 2022. (Adel Hana/AP)

The storyline centers on a real-life botched Israeli raid in Gaza in 2018. An undercover unit disguised as Palestinian aid workers aroused suspicions in a town near the border. When their cover was blown, a gun battle ensued in which seven Hamas fighters and an Israeli commander were killed.

In real life, the undercover unit was detected by local residents, the death toll was lopsided and Israel successfully evacuated 16 undercover agents. In the dramatization, Hamas brilliantly outwits the Israelis and scores a major victory.

Al-Attar rejects any comparisons to “Fauda,” which centers on an undercover Israeli unit that poses as Palestinians and conducts daring raids against terrorists. That series presents complex characters confronting moral tradeoffs, but has been criticized for its far-fetched plot twists and for reducing Palestinians to the bad guys in a cop drama-like shoot-’em-up.

“We are not responding to them in their Fauda program,” al-Attar said. He acknowledged having watched a few scenes of the Netflix thriller, calling it “lying and misleading.”

Hamas and Israel have fought four wars and dozens of more limited skirmishes over the past decade and a half. Israel and Western countries view Hamas as a terrorist group because of its long history of attacks on Israeli civilians. Hamas, which won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, portrays itself as the “resistance” to military occupation, a view reflected in its media productions.

The group has produced seven series and several movies centered on the conflict, most of them aired on its Al-Aqsa satellite TV network during Ramadan.

An actor dressed as a Hamas militant crawls out of a tunnel as a crew from the Hamas-run al-Aqsa satellite channel shoots for a 30-episode series, titled ‘Fist of the Free,’ in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Feb. 3, 2022. (Adel Hana/AP)

In 2017, it built an entire movie set based on Jerusalem’s Old City, including a replica of the Dome of the Rock — part of the Temple Mount site that is sacred to Jews and Muslims and has been a persistent flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Al-Attar declined to say how much was being spent on the latest series, which he said was funded by donations.

There were no cranes on set, so overhead shots were taken by drone or by a cameraman sitting on another man’s shoulders. Crew members used their camera batteries to detonate mock explosives. The filming took place at a Hamas military base near the frontier.

The cast is recruited locally, from a population that has had little contact with Israelis since Hamas seized Gaza from the rival Palestinian Authority in 2007 and Israel applied a tight blockade, which it says is necessary to limit the smuggling of arms into the coastal strip.

Zohair al-Belbisi, a 64-year-old who has never set foot in Israel, was cast as David, an Israeli commando tasked with sneaking into Gaza to recover high-tech equipment captured by wily Hamas militants.

“It’s the first time I play the role of an Israeli intelligence officer,” al-Belbisi said as he rested between takes. He described his character as “very cunning,” with a knack for getting out of dangerous situations — until his luck runs out.

Spoiler alert: David is killed by friendly fire.

Palestinian actors dressed as fighters attack a replica of Israeli tank while a crew from the Hamas-run al-Aqsa satellite channel shoots for a 30-episode series, titled ‘Fist of the Free,’ in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Feb. 3, 2022. (Adel Hana/AP)

The propaganda goes largely unchecked inside Gaza, where Hamas does not tolerate dissent. Since taking power in 2007, Hamas has jailed journalists and activists, banned newspapers, shuttered rival TV stations and restricted movie screenings.

Its rivals in the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which rules parts of the West Bank from its center of government in Ramallah, have also cracked down on dissent.

Hamas is hoping to gain a wider viewership for its latest production, offering the rights for free to channels in Syria, Lebanon, Algeria and Turkey. But it will struggle to break through the Ramadan lineup, when production houses across the region crank out top-quality dramas with marquee actors.

It is also likely to face barriers online, as Facebook, YouTube and streaming services censor content perceived as inciting violence.

But al-Attar says he wouldn’t take a meeting with Netflix even if it asked, because the streaming service “is biased toward the occu

US in ‘very final stages’ of Obama nuclear talks, State Dept. says

Iran’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency Kazem Gharib Abadi (R) talks to Russia’s Governor to the IAEA Mikhail Ulyanov, during a meeting in Vienna, Austria. (File/AFP)

US in ‘very final stages’ of Iran nuclear talks, State Dept. says

Iran’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency Kazem Gharib Abadi (R) talks to Russia’s Governor to the IAEA Mikhail Ulyanov, during a meeting in Vienna, Austria. (File/AFP)

LONDON: The United States is in “the midst of the very final stages” of indirect talks with Iran aimed at salvaging a 2015 deal limiting Tehran’s nuclear activities, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday.
“This is really the decisive period during which we’ll be able to determine whether a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is in the offing, or if it’s not,” Price — using an abbreviation for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 deal with world powers — told reporters.
Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani responded in a tweet, calling on Western powers “to be realistic, avoid intransigence and heed lessons of past 4yrs. Time for their serious decisions.”
“After weeks of intensive talks, we are closer than ever to an agreement; nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, though,” he tweeted.

World powers are entering the final stage of talks with Iran in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 deal, which was rendered moribund by the US walking out of the accord in 2018.
The administration of president Donald Trump reimposed sanctions against Iran, battering the Iranian economy, while Tehran ramped up its nuclear work in response in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Earlier on Wednesday, France said Tehran had just days left to accept the deal, warning that a major crisis would be unleashed if there is no agreement.
“It is not a question of weeks, it is a question of days,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the Senate, adding that the “moment of truth” had now arrived in the marathon process.
“We need political decisions from the Iranians. They have a very clear choice,” Le Drian said.
“Either they unleash a serious crisis in the next days… or they accept an agreement that respects the interests of all the parties, especially those of Iran,” he said.
He described a deal as being “within grasp” and noted there was now agreement on an accord between the European powers in the negotiations — France, Germany and Britain — as well as China, Russia and the US.
“We have found convergence significant enough to enable an agreement that is within grasp right now,” he said.
But he said that time was running out because Iran was continuing to intensify its nuclear activities in violation of the 2015 deal, which aimed to provide safeguards that Tehran would never seek a nuclear weapon.
“The more this goes on, the more Iran is accelerating its nuclear procedures,” he said.
China’s envoy to the talks said that Iran was being constructive by putting everything on the table in response to US approaches. “They have not only adopted this straightforward approach but also made a political decision based on give and take,” Wang Qun told Reuters.
Meanwhile, Iran urged the US Congress to issue a “political statement” that Washington will stay committed to a possible agreement in Vienna talks to restore the deal.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian urged the US guarantee on the JCPOA in an interview with the Financial Times published on his ministry’s website.
“As a matter of principle, public opinion in Iran cannot accept as a guarantee the words of a head of state, let alone the United States, due to the withdrawal of Americans from the JCPOA,” he said.
He stressed he had asked Iranian negotiators to propose to the Western parties that “at least their parliaments or parliament speakers, including the US Congress, can declare in the form of a political statement their commitment to the agreement and return to the JCPOA implementation.”
“Iran’s commitments are as clear as a mathematical formula,” said Amir-Abdollahian.
“It is absolutely clear what we are supposed to do and how these measures will be verified” through the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, he said, adding that the other parties must have “no concern.”
“But we remain concerned primarily about the guarantees” from the US side, he noted, adding that “we are facing problems during this period because the other party lacks a serious initiative.”
He also said Iran was ready to enter into the process of direct talks with the US, adding if Washington’s intentions are “genuine” they should take some “practical and tangible steps on the ground before any direct talks and contacts can take place.”
(With Reuters and AFP)


The risk of nuclear disaster in Ukraine

Russia’s large-scale military mobilisation on Ukraine’s border has grim historic precedents. But should the Kremlin pull the trigger, it will encounter a hazard that no invading army has ever faced before: 15 nuclear power reactors, which generate roughly 50% of Ukraine’s energy needs at four sites.
The reactors present a daunting spectre. If struck, the installations could effectively become radiological mines. And Russia itself would be a victim of the ensuing wind-borne radioactive debris. Given the vulnerability of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors and the human and environmental devastation that would follow if combat were to damage them, Russian President Vladimir Putin should think again about whether Ukraine is worth a war.
Power plants are common targets in modern conflict, because destroying them inhibits a country’s ability to carry on fighting. But nuclear reactors are not like other energy sources. They contain enormous amounts of radioactive material, which can be released in any number of ways. Aerial bombing or artillery fire, for example, could break a reactor’s containment building or sever vital coolant lines that keep its core stable. So, too, could a cyberattack that interrupts plant operations, as would a disruption of offsite power that nuclear plants rely on to keep functioning.
Were a reactor core to melt, explosive gases or belching radioactive debris would exit the containment structure. Once in the atmosphere, the effluents would settle over thousands of miles, dumping light to very toxic radioactive elements on urban and rural landscapes. And spent nuclear fuel could cause further devastation if storage pools were set afire.
The health consequences of such fallout would depend on the population exposed and the toxicity of the radioactive elements. The UN Chernobyl Forum estimated that the 1986 Ukraine accident would inflict 5,000 excess cancer deaths over 50 years, though some environmental groups think that figure grossly understates the likely toll. Indeed, thousands of thyroid cancers emerged in the years immediately following the accident.
In the midst of a pandemic that has killed millions, nuclear-reactor fatalities may seem trivial. But that would be an unconscionable misreading of the risk. To reduce the uptake of radiation that settled on the ground after Chernobyl, Soviet authorities had to relocate hundreds of thousands of people and remove large swaths of agricultural land and forests from production for decades.
In and around the reactor, 600,000 “liquidators” were deployed to clean up the site. Engineers built a giant “sarcophagus” over the reactor building to contain further releases. Millions of people suffered psychological trauma, and some seven million received social compensation. Eventually, the economic losses mounted into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Japan is still counting the hundreds of billions that the 2011 Fukushima disaster will cost, and that incident released only one-tenth of the radiation that Chernobyl did, mostly into the ocean.
A war would magnify these risks, because the reactor operators who might mitigate the fallout would be more prone to flee for fear of being shot or bombed. If a reactor is in the middle of a chaotic battlefield, there may not even be any first responders, and ill-informed populations hearing rumours would be on their own wandering – and panicking – in contaminated zones.
After the guns went silent, Ukraine would be saddled with the long-lingering effects that follow from any nuclear accident. And, as Chernobyl demonstrated, it would not be alone. Radiation releases do not observe national borders, and Russia’s proximity would make it a sink for radioactive aerosol deposits.
Given Chernobyl’s legacy, one might think that Russia would shun attacks on operating reactors. And avoidance is indeed the historic norm. True, Israel has attacked Syrian and Iraqi suspected nuclear-weapons plants, and Iraq bombarded two reactors in Bushehr, Iran, during the 1980s war. But in those cases, the plants were still under construction.
There have also been instances when attacks on operating nuclear power plants were considered: Serbia weighed a strike against Slovenia’s Krško nuclear plant early in the Balkan War, and Azerbaijan contemplated attacking Armenia’s Metsamor plant in the 2020 war.
But there are other cases when only dumb luck, rather than reason, prevailed. These include Iraq’s failed Scud attacks on Israel’s Dimona weapons reactor during the Gulf War and the US strike on a small research reactor at Iraq’s Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center outside Baghdad during the same conflict.
Ukrainian anxieties about its nuclear vulnerability bubbled up in 2014 when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea. Concerned that further conflict could result in a reactor attack, it appealed to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Security Summit to help boost its defences. Unfortunately, there is no defence that can withstand a Russian bombardment.
Is a reactor strike a bridge too far for Putin to cross? Russia’s combat behaviour since the breakup of the Soviet Union gives cause for concern. In the Afghan, Chechen, and Syrian wars, Russian forces acted with scant regard for conventional boundaries. Then there are the vagaries of war generally. Bad stuff happens; combatants make mistakes; soldiers in the field ignore restraints.
A case in point was the March 26, 2017, bombing of the Islamic State-held Tabqa Dam in Syria. Standing 18 stories high and holding back a 25-mile-long reservoir on the Euphrates River, the dam’s destruction would have drowned tens of thousands of innocent people downstream. Yet, violating strict “no-strike” orders and bypassing safeguards, US airmen struck it anyway. Dumb luck saved the day again: the bunker-busting bomb failed to detonate.
For the Kremlin, the lesson ought to be clear. Invading Ukraine poses the risk of a radiological disaster that will affect not only the host country but also Russia itself. No war of choice merits such a gamble. — Project Syndicate

* Bennett Ramberg, a former foreign affairs officer in the US State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, is the author of Nuclear Power Plants as Weapons for the Enemy.

The New Hypersonic Nuclear War: Revelation 16

Illustration by Shutterstock.

Hypersonic missile revolution: A new struggle for outer space


 FEB 16, 2022 – 12:05 AM GMT+3

Illustration by Shutterstock.

In November 2021, the Financial Times reported that China had tested its new nuclear hypersonic missile system. The testing of any missile system is not abnormal or surprising news but the surprise lay in the methods and technology. According to the report, before the hit, the test missile made two rounds of the earth in lower orbital space, making it nearly undetectable. It was also highly maneuverable and could change its path during travel. According to this report, this missile, called a hypersonic glided vehicle, was launched in lower earth orbit and, theoretically, could evade any U.S. missile defense system.

Officially, China denied the nuclear-capable hypersonic missile test and said it was a routine spacecraft check. However, many U.S. experts, including serving and retired army generals, warned the U.S. that China might be the first to deploy nuclear weapons. U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also confirmed the test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic weapon by China. The outgoing vice chairperson of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff called it stunning and warned that China could launch a surprise nuclear attack on the U.S. in the future.

Many countries, including Russia and the U.S., are working on a hypersonic weapons system. In 2018, Russia announced that it has hypersonic nuclear weapons that can hit almost any part of the world. The U.S. is working on land, air and sea-based hypersonic weapons systems. The U.S. has conducted some successful tests after many failed attempts. In October 2021, the U.S. announced a successful trial, but in December 2021, the third test of the AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) failed. Observers and experts warned that, when it comes to developing hypersonic weapon systems, the U.S. lags 20 years behind China and Russia, who have already deployed their systems. However, the U.S. hypersonic weapons program is still in the developmental and testing phase.

Speed of sound

Hypersonic missiles are weapons that can travel more than five times the speed of sound. Speeds between Mach 1 and Mach 5 are categorized as supersonic, whereas any speed over Mach 5 falls into the hypersonic range. Sound travels 1,225 kph (699 mph), which means hypersonic missiles can travel at least more than 6,000 kph (3728 mph). It is reported that the top speed of the Russian hypersonic missile Avangard is near Mach 20.

The development of hypersonic weapons opened the debate about new weapons races, especially weapons systems in low orbit or outer space. Whether weapons can be tested in outer space is not up for debate; however, the way China launched its hypersonic glided vehicle worried experts. According to some experts, this test violates a treaty to use outer space for peaceful means. In order to respect the sanctity of peace, no weapons systems are allowed to be deployed in outer space. Deploying any weapon in outer space will create uncertainty and trigger a costly, dangerous weapons race.

China’s test and the U.S. response initiated a new debate on the politics of outer space, or astropolitics.

Usually, artificial satellites fly from low Earth orbit (LEO) to geostationary orbit. The LEO is the range spanning from 100 kilometers to 1,500 kilometers from the Earth’s surface. Some communication, surveillance and remote sensing satellites fly in this orbit. The International Space Station (ISS) also operates in this orbit. The distance spanning 6,000 kilometers to 20,000 kilometers from Earth’s surface is called medium Earth orbit (MEO). Most telecommunication satellites move in this orbit. High Earth orbit applies to the distance up to 36,000 kilometers from Earth’s surface and mostly weather satellites can be found in this orbit.

Military technology using outer space is nothing new, but only for communication, surveillance and weather observation purposes. No country has deployed any weapon in outer space until now. There is no evidence that China is trying to deploy any weapon in the LEO, so only the method of its testing is disputable.

Experts divide space weapons into three categories:

  1. Earth to space
  2. Space to space
  3. Space to Earth

In another way, these weapons can be divided into kinetic and non-kinetic space weapons.

An earth-to-space kinetic weapon is also called an orbital anti-satellite weapon (ASAT). These weapons generally have a warhead or projectile that directly hits the targeted satellite or aircraft. This type of weapon hits the target in LEO and can destroy any satellite in this range. It poses a danger since in times of war, military spy satellites, some communication satellites and navigation satellites can be hit easily. The U.S., Russia, China and India have successfully tested this missile system. There is no bilateral or international treaty that bans striking satellites in war. With Earth-to-space non-kinetic weapons, jammers, lasers and cyber capabilities are included. Through jamming technology, one satellite can scramble another. Using lasers, an enemy satellite can be rendered useless. The U.S., Russia, China, Iran and North Korea already have these weapons.

The “space-to-space” kinetic weapons are the most passive system but can be used to hit any target in space during war. These weapons include co-orbital ASATs and derbies that can be crashed into a targeted satellite. In space-to-space weapons that are non-kinetic in nature, high-power microwave beams, co-orbital jammers and lasers are included. With space-to-earth weapons, a weapon can be de-orbited from a space carrier and hit a target on Earth. Though this weapon was never deployed, according to Cold War experts, the USSR weapon system known as the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS), fell in this category, despite the USSR’s denials. The USSR argued that it did not fall into the defined limit of lower orbit. China’s recent hypersonic test is also considered to be in this category.

Nevertheless, this missile will not be counted in this category since it was not deployed in space for a long time before hitting the target. In space-to-earth non-kinetic weapons, high-power jammers and lasers are included. With lasers, any target on land or sea can be hit.

Global competition

The continued development of hypersonic weapon systems by big powers creates panic and a new type of weapons race. Developing and poorer countries cannot compete because this technology requires big financing, advanced technological capabilities and highly skilled and trained human resources. Some developing countries, including Turkey, are also working on hypersonic technology, but their efforts are in the early stage. In December 2020, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited the leading Turkish defense company Roketsan and announced trials had started on liquid-propelled rocket engine technology. He also indicated that Turkey is developing a hybrid fuel rocket engine. If these efforts are successful, Turkey can progress with hypersonic technology. However, it will take time for Turkey to create an aerospace defense force with hypersonic capabilities.

As military activities increase in Earth’s lower orbit, new treaties to protect outer space from weaponization need to be debated. Space treaties came into existence in the Cold War era following continued weapons testing in outer space, prompted by the U.S. and USSR ambitions to establish a military base on the moon. To prevent any militarization of space and avoid an escalation from either side, the U.S. and USSR signed a treaty in 1967. Given the changing concepts and dimensions, space weapons need to be discussed again taking the changes into account. Only communication, navigation, remote sensing and surveillance satellites should be allowed. The presence and testing of all weapons systems should be banned in outer space.


Holder of Ph.D. in geopolitics from Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi and based in Ankara. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Arctic Review, Moscow

Russia Continues to Hold Nuclear Drills: Daniel 7

Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3
The Russian military has sent jets and bombers with the ability to carry nuclear weapons to Syria for military exercises, as Western nations see a Russian invasion of Ukraine as imminent. Above, Russian strategic bombers fly back to base after rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade outside Moscow on May 4, 2020.YURI KADOBNOV/GETTY IMAGES

As War Threat Looms, Russia Holds Naval Drills With Nuke Bombers in Syria



The Russian military has sent jets and bombers capable of carrying nuclear and other state-of-the-art weapons to Syria for military exercises, as Western countries worry that an invasion of Ukraine is imminent.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu traveled to Syria where he met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to discuss an exercise by Russia’s Navy in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, as well as “various issues of military-technical cooperation between the countries,” the ministry said Tuesday.

Shoigu also inspected Russia’s Hmeymim airbase where he met pilots of Tu-22m long-range bombers and MiG-31k fighter jets who arrived from Russia to participate in the exercise with the Russian Navy, according to the ministry.

The Tupolev Tu-22M3M is a supersonic long-range bomber the Russian military unveiled last year. Versions of the bomber have been in use since 1962. The most recent nuclear-capable iteration includes upgraded navigation and sighting systems, a more powerful motor and the advanced Kh-32 cruise missiles.

Russian MiG-31k fighters arrived at Hmeymim airbase in Syria for the first time in 2021. The aircraft is capable of firing a Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, or “Dagger,” hypersonic missile. The missile has a range of over 1,243 miles and is reported to be capable of traveling 10 times the speed of sound, making it difficult to intercept.

Despite amassing more than 100,000 troops along the Western border with Ukraine, Russia has denied intention to invade the country. Russia’s defense ministry said Tuesday that is has begun pulling back troops near the border.

But Western and Ukrainian officials have yet to be reassured. Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmitry Kuleba said during a briefing that his country needed to see evidence of a Russian troop withdrawal.

“Different statements are constantly being made from the Russian Federation, so we already have a rule: we will see, then we will believe,” Kuleba said. “We will see a diversion—we will believe in de-escalation.”

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg similarly said during a Tuesday press conference that he had seen no signs of de-escalation on the ground.

Worried of an impending Russian invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that the U.S. is relocating its embassy from the capital city of Kyiv to Lviv.

The Russian military exercises included 15 warships of the Pacific, Northern and Black Sea Fleets, in addition to over 30 aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces, according to the ministry. The exercises were intended to practice searching for submarines and establishing control “over navigation in the Mediterranean Sea and the flight of aircraft over it.”

“The main focus of the ongoing exercise is to practice the actions of the Navy and the Aerospace Forces to protect Russian national interests in the oceans, as well as counter the military threats of the Russian Federation from sea and ocean directions,” the ministry said. The drills are also meant to provide training for Russian forces defeating enemy ships, “as well as firing at sea and air targets using artillery and anti-submarine weapons.”