Economic Consequences of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Scenario Earthquakes for Urban Areas Along the Atlantic Seaboard of the United States

If today a magnitude 6 earthquake were to occur centered on New York City, what would its effects be? Will the loss be 10 or 100 billion dollars? Will there be 10 or 10,000 fatalities? Will there be 1,000 or 100,000 homeless needing shelter? Can government function, provide assistance, and maintain order?

At this time, no satisfactory answers to these questions are available. A few years ago, rudimentary scenario studies were made for Boston and New York with limited scope and uncertain results. For most eastern cities, including Washington D.C., we know even less about the economic, societal and political impacts from significant earthquakes, whatever their rate of occurrence.

Why do we know so little about such vital public issues? Because the public has been lulled into believing that seriously damaging quakes are so unlikely in the east that in essence we do not need to consider them. We shall examine the validity of this widely held opinion.

Is the public’s earthquake awareness (or lack thereof) controlled by perceived low Seismicity, Seismic Hazard, or Seismic Risk? How do these three seismic features differ from, and relate to each other? In many portions of California, earthquake awareness is refreshed in a major way about once every decade (and in some places even more often) by virtually every person experiencing a damaging event. The occurrence of earthquakes of given magnitudes in time and space, not withstanding their effects, are the manifestations of seismicity. Ground shaking, faulting, landslides or soil liquefaction are the manifestations of seismic hazard. Damage to structures, and loss of life, limb, material assets, business and services are the manifestations of seismic risk. By sheer experience, California’s public understands fairly well these three interconnected manifestations of the earthquake phenomenon. This awareness is reflected in public policy, enforcement of seismic regulations, and preparedness in both the public and private sector. In the eastern U.S., the public and its decision makers generally do not understand them because of inexperience. Judging seismic risk by rates of seismicity alone (which are low in the east but high in the west) has undoubtedly contributed to the public’s tendency to belittle the seismic loss potential for eastern urban regions.

Let us compare two hypothetical locations, one in California and one in New York City. Assume the location in California does experience, on average, one M = 6 every 10 years, compared to New York once every 1,000 years. This implies a ratio of rates of seismicity of 100:1. Does that mean the ratio of expected losses (when annualized per year) is also 100:1? Most likely not. That ratio may be closer to 10:1, which seems to imply that taking our clues from seismicity alone may lead to an underestimation of the potential seismic risks in the east. Why should this be so?

To check the assertion, let us make a back-of-the-envelope estimate. The expected seismic risk for a given area is defined as the area-integrated product of: seismic hazard (expected shaking level), assets ($ and people), and the assets’ vulnerabilities (that is, their expected fractional loss given a certain hazard – say, shaking level). Thus, if we have a 100 times lower seismicity rate in New York compared to California, which at any given point from a given quake may yield a 2 times higher shaking level in New York compared to California because ground motions in the east are known to differ from those in the west; and if we have a 2 times higher asset density (a modest assumption for Manhattan!), and a 2 times higher vulnerability (again a modest assumption when considering the large stock of unreinforced masonry buildings and aged infrastructure in New York), then our California/New York ratio for annualized loss potential may be on the order of (100/(2x2x2)):1. That implies about a 12:1 risk ratio between the California and New York location, compared to a 100:1 ratio in seismicity rates.

From this example it appears that seismic awareness in the east may be more controlled by the rate of seismicity than by the less well understood risk potential. This misunderstanding is one of the reasons why earthquake awareness and preparedness in the densely populated east is so disproportionally low relative to its seismic loss potential. Rare but potentially catastrophic losses in the east compete in attention with more frequent moderate losses in the west. New York City is the paramount example of a low-probability, high-impact seismic risk, the sort of risk that is hard to insure against, or mobilize public action to reduce the risks.

There are basically two ways to respond. One is to do little and wait until one or more disastrous events occur. Then react to these – albeit disastrous – “windows of opportunity.” That is, pay after the unmitigated facts, rather than attempt to control their outcome. This is a high-stakes approach, considering the evolved state of the economy. The other approach is to invest in mitigation ahead of time, and use scientific knowledge and inference, education, technology transfer, and combine it with a mixture of regulatory and/or economic incentives to implement earthquake preparedness. The National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP) has attempted the latter while much of the public tends to cling to the former of the two options. Realistic and reliable quantitative loss estimation techniques are essential to evaluate the relative merits of the two approaches.

This paper tries to bring into focus some of the seismological factors which are but one set of variables one needs for quantifying the earthquake loss potential in eastern U.S. urban regions. We use local and global analogs for illustrating possible scenario events in terms of risk. We also highlight some of the few local steps that have been undertaken towards mitigating against the eastern earthquake threat; and discuss priorities for future actions.

Indian Point nuclear plant before the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

Indian Point nuclear plant reeks of troubled history

Sam Thielman


Mon 28 Mar ‘16 04.00 EDT

As New York’s governor and other critics wage an ongoing campaign to shut the facility down citing leaks and old age, nearby residents explain complicated tale

Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York, is among the oldest nuclear power plants still in operation.

Outside the Westchester Diner in Peekskill, New York, about 40 miles from New York’s Central Park, a reactor dome crests the trees behind an overpass like a giant’s bald head.

It’s one of two at Indian Point Energy Center, at the bank of the Hudson river in neighboring Buchanan, among the oldest nuclear power plants still in operation, and a monument to the energy industry’s resistance to years of work by concerned scientists, locals and state officials to close down a facility that only last month dumped a plume of radioactive waste into their groundwater.

Indian Point’s two working reactors opened in the early 1970s and have had a lot of people worried for a long time. Five years ago the New York Times wondered if it was “America’s Fukushima” – the Japanese site of the world’s worst radiation crisis since Chernobyl. In February the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, called its operation “unacceptable” – he wants the plant closed.

It’s easy to see the source of his concern. The population density around Indian Point is of more than 2,100 people per square mile, by far the greatest for any of the US’s 61 nuclear power plants. Many of those people live and work in the plant’s shadow with growing unease.

In May 2015, an electrical transformer in the reactor called Unit 3 exploded, causing water to flood a room near the explosion where electrical distribution panels are housed and pouring 3,000 gallons of oil into the Hudson. The Union of Concerned Scientists classified the incident as a “near miss” in its annual review. Last year near misses occurred at eight nuclear facilities in the US.

“Had the flooding not been discovered and stopped in time, the panels could have been submerged, plunging Unit 3 into a dangerous station blackout, in which all alternating current (AC) electricity is lost,” the report’s authors wrote. “A station blackout led to the meltdown of three nuclear reactor cores at Fukushima Dai-ichi in 2011.”

In February, radiation levels at three monitoring wells around the plant spiked, in one spot by 65,000%. Patricia Kakridas, a spokeswoman for Entergy, said the source was likely “water which exited a temporary filtration system that was set up and dismantled in late January 2016” in preparation for refueling; the company said radioactive material won’t leach into drinking water.

And in March, when the plant was being refueled, a breaker tripped and cut power in one of the reactors; when the diesel generators kicked in, they died while trying to restart the first electrical system. Fortunately a second backup worked.

Because the plant is cooled in large part by water from the Hudson – up to 2.5bn gallons a day – it kills about 1 billion fish and other aquatic organisms a year.

Incidents such as these are among the reasons Cuomo wants it closed, and Indian Point is now in a vulnerable position. The operating license for Indian Point 3 expired in December. The license for Indian Point 2 expired in 2013 (Indian Point 1 was decommissioned in 1974). Yet both remain active as the company pursues a license renewal and in the meantime Spectra, a pipeline company, is planning to add a gas pipeline that runs underneath the property to the two that have been there since the plant was built.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has called the operation of Indian Point ‘unacceptable’.
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has called the operation of Indian Point ‘unacceptable’. Photograph: Mike Groll/AP
Not everyone wants the plant to close; it’s one of Buchanan’s few employers. About 1,000 people work at the plant, without counting the related businesses nearby. The town’s population is 2,060 as of the 2013 census.

Dennis Drogan, who worked at the plant from 2002 to 2003 and now owns the Bella Roma deli in the nearby village of Tarrytown, said Buchanan relies heavily on the plant and locals are stunned some of their neighbors want to shut down the place that supports their livelihood. He also said it’s safer than people say.

“Getting into the property is very, very difficult,” he said. Drogan was an electrician at the facility in the time when post-9/11 counter-terrorism restrictions were being put into effect in the plant due to its proximity to New York City. “If you want to tighten a screw, you have to say why,” he said.

Courtney Williams, a cancer researcher who lives in the area with her husband and little girl, puts it this way: “If you are looking at it really just with fresh eyes, you’re just like, ‘This is fucking insane, there’s a pipeline going through it and gas pipelines underneath it and it’s 40 years old and it’s right outside of New York and it’s leaking tritium [the radioactive hydrogen from February’s leak], this is insane! What are you doing!’ But if you’ve been working at the plant for 40 years, and you work there and your mom worked there, you’re just like, ‘Everyone’s comfortable with it here. Their families live nearby. They wouldn’t be doing anything that’s dangerous.’”

In fact, Williams’s mother used to work at the plant as a nurse. But Williams says that having handled radioactive material in her scientific training – Yale and then a PhD in biochemistry Princeton – that feeling of safety is illusory. “It’s your sense of what is dangerous. There are snake-charmers and lion-tamers whose blood pressure doesn’t go up … Doesn’t mean it’s safe! It just means they’re acclimated to that level of risk.”

Westchester, wooded, close-knit and old, is one of the original 12 counties of the province of New York, the British colony that became the Empire State. Its primary means of travel are the twisting, interlocking highways and the Metro North railway system that ends at Grand Central terminal in Manhattan. Evacuation plans for the numerous villages and towns in the 50-mile “peak injury” evacuation zone, to say nothing of most of the five boroughs, have been derided as “fantasy documents” by Northeastern University public police professor Daniel P Aldrich.

Indian Point Energy Center is about 40 miles from Central Park in mid-Manhattan
Cuomo has waged an ongoing campaign against the plant’s continued operation, citing “unacceptable” failures, especially the leak of radioactive water in February, but to no avail.

Reactors 2 and 3 remain open in part because of a regulatory quirk: There are so many complaints, called “contentions”, filed with its primary regulator, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), that Entergy is allowed to keep Indian Point running until it can respond to all the grievances as part of its relicensing process.

Less than three weeks after the water leak, the NRC decided to honor Entergy’s request, made several years prior, that it be allowed to perform a comprehensive leak test every 15 years, rather than every 10.

How long that will take is anyone’s guess. Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the NRC, said he could not say when (and if) a decision on the plant’s renewal would come. “I can’t give you a specific date,” he said. “Nobody would have anticipated it taking this long.”

The NRC has never declined to renew an operating license.

Sheehan said complaints about Indian Point were frequent, but they were also largely about undramatic issues. “Indian Point has had a number of issues, but they haven’t risen to the level of high safety significance,” Sheehan said. “I mean, fossil fuel plants have transformer fires.”

Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper, an activist organization close to Buchanan in Ossining that is seeking to shut down the plant, blames much of the trouble on simply age. “Indian Point is just too old, there’s too much that cannot be replaced, there are too many components that have seen too much use.”

But it continues to be used. Edwin Lyman, senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists’ global security program in Washington DC, blames the license-renewal process itself. “The process was designed to limit the scope that could be considered, specifically the ability of the public to intervene,” Lyman said. The process was changed in 1995, Lyman explained, so that all a nuclear plant must do to address a “contention”, or objection to a way the plant has been run, is demonstrate a plan to correct a specific problem.

And some of the problems are longstanding and increasingly worrisome, notably the spent fuel pools – storage for the waste material, still radioactive, from the rods used to power the plant.

“We have great concerns about onsite storage of spent fuel in the pools,” Lyman said. “There’s a real risk that if that water is let out fairly rapidly either through a seismic event or a terrorist attack, that the spent fuel could actually catch fire.”

The fuel remains onsite at Indian Point, as it does at most nuclear power plants, and must be carefully maintained, for example it must be cooled for at least a decade before it can be sealed in concrete “dry casks”. Sheehan (and others) point out that moving it out of the state along Interstate 95 is impractical given the population density along the busy transport corridor. The plant has produced about 1,500 tons of waste and continues to produce more.

At this point, the license renewal process for Indian Point is scheduled through at least September of 2016 but the legacy of Indian Point, whether it closes or no, has a half-life of far, far longer.

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Weakens

Protestors in Iranian Qom city shout death to “Hezbollah”, “Shame on Khamenei”

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Anti-regime demonstrations in Iran started from the city of Mashhad and moved to other cities, including the city of Qom, which includes most religious institutions and schools. The demonstrators shouted “Death to Hezbollah” and “Aren’t you ashamed Khamenei? Leave the country.”

Protestors in different Iranian cities also carried slogans condemning the interference of Iran in other countries at their own expense, as per slogans such as “get out of Syria and take care of us” and “Not Gaza, or Lebanon, I would give my soul for Iran.”

Iran supports Bashar al-Assad annually with billions and supports Hezbollah with hundreds of millions, arming and funding sectarian militias brought from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon to suppress the Syrian people’s revolution as well as supporting the Houthis in Yemen.

According to the slogans repeated by the Iranians during the past two days, it is clear that they prioritize themselves when it comes to their country’s support of militias in Lebanon, al-Nujaba movement in Iraq, and Houthis in Yemen.

Korea Defies Babylon the Great

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Saturday that it will never give up its nuclear weapons as long as the United States and its allies continue their “blackmail and war drills” at its doorstep.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency took the oft-repeated stance as it reviewed the country’s major nuclear weapons and missile tests this year.

North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date in September and launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles into the sea in July and November, indicating that it is closer than ever to gaining a nuclear arsenal that could viably target the mainland United States.

The aggressive tests have led to more international sanctions and pressure on North Korea amid concerns that the window for stopping or rolling back its nuclear program is closing rapidly. The U.S. and South Korea have maintained that they won’t negotiate with the North unless it is willing to discuss curbing its nuclear weapons and missile program.

In its report Saturday, KCNA said North Korea had taken steps for “bolstering the capabilities for self-defense and pre-emptive attacks with nuclear force” in the face of a continued “nuclear threat and blackmail and war drills” by the United States and its “vassal forces.”

The North often lashes out at the annual military drills between the United States and South Korea, which the allies describe as defensive in nature.

KCNA accused President Donald Trump of employing unprecedented hostile policies against North Korea and threatening it with talks of pre-emptive strikes. It described North Korea as an “undeniable new strategic state and nuclear power.”

“Do not expect any change in its policy. Its entity as an invincible power can neither be undermined nor be stamped out,” KCNA said.

“The DPRK, as a responsible nuclear weapons state, will lead the trend of history to the only road of independence,” it added, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

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