New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

      How vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?Ashley Fetters
New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnelsair conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.
The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.
The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.
Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?
Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There’s a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It’s well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”
And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)
Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.
Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.
The Montague Tube, which sustained severe damage during Hurricane Sandy.
MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann
Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)
One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”
Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.
And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.
So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?
“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”
Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail, and we may include it in a future column.

Bolton Warns of the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

John Bolton warns Taliban may get nuclear weapons amid Afghanistan withdrawal

Mark Moore
John Bolton.

John Bolton warned that if the Taliban takes control of Pakistan, that could mean “150 nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Former national security adviser John Bolton blasted President Biden’s botched handling of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan and said it could lead to the Taliban getting nuclear weapons.

“The Taliban in control of Afghanistan threatens the possibility of terrorists taking control of Pakistan … that means maybe 150 nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists,” Bolton told John Catsimatidis in an interview on his WABC 770 radio show on Sunday.

“China, which already has a lot of influence in Pakistan, is going to increase its influence and put more pressure on India. This is a big development in that part of the world,” he continued.

Bolton served as national security adviser from April 2018 to September 2019 in former President Donald Trump’s administration.

The Taliban mounted a rapid military campaign as the Biden administration began removing US forces, seizing territory and capturing provincial capitals, including Kabul, in just nine days.

Troops in Afghanistan.
As the Biden administration began removing US forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban began seizing territory and capturing provincial capitals.
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
The White House scrambled to rescue American citizens and Afghan allies after the takeover, but the operation turned into chaos as thousands of Afghans streamed toward the airport in Kabul to flee Taliban rule and 13 US service members were killed in a suicide bombing by ISIS-K terrorists.

Bolton said Biden embarrassed the US on the world stage and now allies are “wondering if he has a grip on his own administration’s foreign policy.”

But Bolton praised Biden for his nuclear submarine deal with Australia that irked France so much it canceled a gala and recalled its envoys from the US and Australia.

“It’s a huge step forward for us in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It’s a real signal to China that we are determined not to let them just run wild,” he said.

Bolton also said he doesn’t think the Biden administration is “focused” enough to deal with the threats posed by China.

“I think the United States must look at China and the threat it poses across the board. They’ve been stealing our intellectual property for decades … They discriminate against foreign companies and investors. They manipulate the World Trade Organization. They are building up their military… And they are very aggressive politically,” Bolton said.
“The United States needs to come to grips with this threat … and needs to be prepared for a long struggle across the full spectrum of potential power — economic, political and military … I don’t think the administration is focused,” he said.

The South Korean Horn test for nuclear missiles: Daniel 7

Key takeaways from S. Korea’s missile tests

South Korea’s SLBM test. (Yonhap)The recent missile tests President Moon Jae-in oversaw and praised marked a milestone that experts say shows a rapidly growing South Korean missile capability. Here are key takeaways on what it means for North Korea and foreign powers.

Fending off North Korea

South Korea is the first non-nuclear state to have tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile. SLBMs — which have also been developed by China, France, India, Russia, the UK and the US — are designed to deliver a fatal second strike from an undisclosed location in deep seas.

North Korea, which revealed the latest Pukguksong-5 series in January this year, has never publicly test-fired an SLBM from a submarine, though it tested the Pukguksong-3 in October 2019 from a submerged barge — a test many see as a job half done.

Pyongyang is believed to be working on building a 4,000-ton submarine that could carry as many as six SLBMs, twice the number its Romeo class carries. But even the 3,000-ton Romeo has yet to be made public. It is unclear whether North Korean submarines could make a successful SLBM strike.

Meanwhile Seoul has just shown it can fire as many as six SLBMs from its homegrown submarine, the Dosan class. The 3,000-ton vessel is one of the nine submarines South Korea plans on building by the early 2030s, when Seoul expects to see bigger submarines carrying as many as 10 SLBMs.

Last week, the North openly discredited the South’s SLBM test, calling it primitive and not a threat, but Pyongyang is seen as anxious about Seoul getting ahead in the arms race. The South’s missiles cannot carry nuclear warheads but can reach anywhere in the North, including its underground missile bases.

Containing outside aggression

The supersonic cruise missiles South Korea tested alongside the SLBMs reinforce the message that it is ready to deal with the imminent threat from North Korea and other outside aggression.

The anti-ship missile could travel up to Mach 3, three times the speed of sound, and fly up to 500 kilometers, covering the entire Korean Peninsula and the seas surrounding it. North Korea is not believed to have the technology to counter supersonic missiles.

“The weapon is the most up to date cruise missile we have. This will be our core asset to contain outside aggression at our seas,” the Ministry of National Defense said. 

“Some missiles are being made combat ready as we speak,” a military official said, without elaborating on details because of the sensitivity of the matter. 

The military is planning to mount the missile on its homegrown fighter jet, known as the KF-21 Boramae, by the late 2020s. The jet’s prototype was unveiled in April and mass production will start as early as 2026. 

Expanding missile program 

South Korea, which until May was banned from building missiles with range greater than 800 kilometers because of a Korea-US missile pact, has more accurate short-range ballistic missiles than North Korea. Pyongyang’s forte lies in its medium and long-range missiles, which have a flight range of at least 800 kilometers.

Seoul could counter Pyongyang with its short-range missiles, which could reach any part of North Korea. But South Korea still needs more powerful short-range missiles to counter North Korea’s nuclear warheads, and longer-range missiles to deter farther foreign aggression. 

The military has said it will make that happen in the next five years as part of its 315 trillion-won ($271 billion) plan to bolster defense readiness.

“We will see more lethal missiles — including surface-to-surface and surface-to-air — becoming operational. More accurate, long-range missiles capable of striking targets just right will be our new deterrence,” the Defense Ministry said. 

According to Global Firepower’s index of most powerful armed forces this year, Seoul has a better conventional force than Pyongyang. The index puts South Korea at 6 and North Korea at 28 out of 140 countries. But the index did not factor into the North’s nuclear advantage. 

By Choi Si-young (

The China Nuclear Horn Builds New ICBM Ground Silos: Daniel 7

China Builds New ICBM Ground Silos

China’s massive expansion of nuclear weapons, coupled with the sheer size of Russia’s highly modernized arsenal, has inspired the Air Force to take specific, measured steps to ensure its now-emerging Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) will be built to last half a century if not longer.

The plan for the Air Force GBSD is that the weapon will need to be consistently upgradeable so it can function well into the 2070s. This approach, often referred to by developers as “modular” or consisting of “open architecture,” means the weapons technical infrastructure and standards are being engineered with common sets of internet protocol to enable long-term interoperability with new enhancements. These enhancements are likely to be added in coming years as next-generation innovations emerge.

“GBSD as a weapon system is being designed to respond to known threats of our current adversaries and adapt in future to threats that may come along due to maturation of technologies,” Greg Manuel, Northrop Grumman’s sector vice president and general manager, told the National Interest. “Even the ground piece and the hardening of the [command and control] network will adapt over time. Cyber today is not going to be cyber tomorrow. Our solutions will have to adapt and be flexible.”

The Defense Department is pursuing GBSD with a sense of urgency. It is attempting to avoid any kind of functional missile gap in capability until GBSD arrives in sufficient numbers. Military officials are alarmed and extremely disturbed by China’s massive effort to increase its nuclear arsenal. Reports compiled by the Defense Department and Congress show that China will double its nuclear arsenal over the next decade.

“Only four months ago, commercial satellite imagery discovered what is accepted to nuclear missile fields in western China. Each has nearly 120 ICBM silos. Now these compliment and are added into what they already have,” Adm. Charles Richard, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told an audience at the Air Force Association Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall says China’s move to add hundreds of new land-based, fixed ICBM silos is indicative of an effort to develop a “first-strike” capability.

“Most of their weapons have been mobile ICBMs, so this is a very destabilizing move and I am not sure they understand the risk they are taking. Whether they intend it or not . . . their move creates  a first-strike capability,” Kendall said. “If they continue down this path to increase their ICBM force, then that is a de facto first-strike capability.”

Details of GBSD advancement are unavailable for security reasons. Both Air Force and industry developers say the new weapon will be more reliable, lethal and survivable against a growing sphere of enemy countermeasures.

“We are designing a weapons system that will deliver a payload on its intended target,” Manuel said. “This weapons system is being designed to be adaptable and being built to ensure it will drive deterrence for the next fifty years.”

The GBSD is being designed with a single warhead due to the START II agreement between Russia and the United States. China does not operate with similar constraints. In fact, it has road-mobile ICBMs with multiple reentry vehicles.

The GBSD is being built with an upgraded W87-1 reentry vehicle, which will provide “enhanced safety and security” compared to the legacy W78, according to a reportpublished by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information. The report,  titled W87-1 Modification Program (Maintaining the Stockpile), notes that part of the enhancements, according to the paper, include an “insensitive high explosive primary that has been designed and tested with advanced safety features.” The report adds that the new W87-1 warhead, to be fielded by 2030, will “be certified without the need for additional underground nuclear explosive testing.”

“Our first launch will be akin to a regular Minuteman III test vehicle with an unarmed or inert warhead,” Manuel said.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

The Russian and US horns confront one another: Daniel

Russian warplanes intercept US B-52 nuclear bomber over Pacific Ocean as tensions rage amid Vladimir Putin war games

Henry Holloway10:24 ET,

RUSSIAN fighter jets intercepted a US B-52 nuclear-capable bomber over the Pacific Ocean as tensions continue to rage between the nations.

Three Su-35 warplanes escorted the Stratofortress aircraft as the bomber flew close to the Russian border after being detected by radar, Putin’s military officials said.

Russia has recently been hosted large scale war games which have been monitored by the US who dispatched spy planes to the region.

And the latest aerial intercept continues the two side’s tit-for-tat military exercises as they each accuse the other of aggression.

Russia’s national defence control centre said the B-52H bomber was detected by military forces in Russia’s eastern region.

“In order to classify and escort the foreign aircraft, three Su-35s fighters from the air defense forces of the eastern military district were taken into the air,” officials said, reports state-run media RIA Novosti.

Military officials added that the US Air Force plane then moved away from the Russian border and the three warplanes returned to their home base.

Humanity is close to nuclear annihilation: Revelation 16

‘Humanity remains unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation, says UN chief on International Day

Addressing the threat of nuclear weapons, said Mr, Guterres, has been central to the work of the United Nations since its inception; the first General Assembly resolution in 1946 sought “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.” 

The UN chief pointed out that, although the total number of nuclear weapons has been decreasing for decades, some 14,000 are stockpiled around the world, which is facing the highest level of nuclear risk in almost four decades: “States are qualitatively improving their arsenals, and we are seeing worrying signs of a new arms race.” Humanity, continued the UN chief, remains unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation.

Comprehensive ban in ‘state of limbo’

On Thursday, the UN chief called for all countries holding nuclear technology to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted in 1996, and has been signed by 185 countries.

However, for the CTBT to enter into force, it must be signed and ratified by 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries, eight of which have yet to ratify the Treaty: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Pakistan and the United States.

“We have remained in this state of limbo for too long,” he said.  

Signs of hope

However, Mr. Guterres said that he sees the decision by Russia and the United States to extend the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and engage in dialogue, as a sign of hope. He added that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in January, also constitutes a welcome step.

The responsibility to build on these developments, said the Secretary-General, falls on Member States. He described the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, scheduled to take place in January 2022, as a window of opportunity for all countries to take practical steps to comprehensiely prevent the use of, and eliminate, nuclear weapons. 

“Now is the time to lift this cloud for good, eliminate nuclear weapons from our world”, exhorted Mr. Guterres, “and usher in a new era of dialogue, trust and peace for all people”.

Australia goes nuclear-Some see a proliferation threat: Daniel 7

Australia will get nuclear-powered submarines. Some see a proliferation threat.

The U.S. has shared this type of technology before — with France, in fact.

The new AUKUS security partnership led to an immediate diplomatic fallout between France and the United States. But beyond the concerns about NATO and the Western alliance, or questions about great-power competition in the Pacific, some analysts see another worry: Will sharing nuclear submarine propulsion technology with Australia set back the nuclear nonproliferation regime?

What does this deal mean for nonproliferation? Have such transfers of nuclear submarine technology occurred in the past? Here are four things to know.

1. What does the deal involve?

The first major AUKUS initiative will help Australia acquire a conventionally armed submarine fleet that’s powered by nuclear reactors. The fleet will consist of at least eight such submarines and the final deal will be negotiated in the next 18 months. The submarines will be built in South Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison emphasized that “Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability.” Along with the submarines, Australia will buy a number of conventional long-range strike weapons like the Tomahawk missile, and other precision strike guided weapons systems through AUKUS.

2. What are the nuclear proliferation concerns?

According to President Biden, the nuclear technology transfer will occur in accordance to the verification standards and “in partnership and consultation” with the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, the specifics of this deal aren’t clear, leaving a number of big questions. Which parts of the submarine will be built in Australia? Will the U.K. and U.S. build the nuclear reactors for the submarines and then hand them over to Australia — or will Australia build the reactors from scratch? Most importantly, given that the U.S. and the U.K. submarine reactors use highly enriched weapons-grade uranium fuel, will this uranium enrichment take place in Australia?

Some studies suggest that even with International Atomic Energy Agency stipulations, the system has a well-known loophole: Nonnuclear weapon countries can remove fissile material from the safeguards regime and use it in non-weapon-related military applications like fueling nuclear submarine reactors.

The presence of highly enriched uranium outside of the international safeguards regime could be a proliferation threat, as this material will have to be kept secure. However, the other side of the argument is that submarines with highly enriched uranium cores pose less of a proliferation risk. This is because the cores can last the lifetime of the submarine, and do not require any refueling. Furthermore, they can be sealed and delivered by the supplier nation and then taken back at the end of the submarine’s deployment for safe disposal.

The larger worry, perhaps, is that the AUKUS transaction will set a bad precedentfor other transfers of nuclear submarines and nuclear reactors for naval propulsion. This possibility prompts fears of a proliferation cascade leading to similar deals for naval reactors between Russia and China, India and France, and Pakistan and China. Iran, too, is considering the use of highly enriched uranium for submarine propulsion.

3. French Nuclear Forces enjoyed a similar arrangement

The transfer of sensitive naval propulsion technology from the United States to its allies has many precedents. Despite France’s outrage at the AUKUS submarine arrangement, the French nuclear submarine program was a prominent beneficiary of a similar arrangement with the United States.

Recently declassified documents reveal that in 1958, France approached the United States for help building its nuclear submarine. The U.S. supplied France with 440 kilograms of highly enriched uranium under a bilateral agreement between the two countries on the use of atomic energy for mutual defense. The transfer was under the condition that the uranium could only be used by France in a land-based installation. So the first French naval propulsion reactor (the Prototype à Terre, or PAT reactor) was a land-based one.

This reactor was key to France’s ability to build its first nuclear submarines, which were equipped with first-generation naval nuclear reactors identical to the PAT. Shortly after, France moved to a second generation of naval propulsion reactors that relied on low enriched uranium. In fact, the considerable U.S. assistance to the French nuclear program was key to France’s ability to build up its nuclear forces.

Similarly, the first British nuclear-powered submarine, the HMS Dreadnought — commissioned in 1963 — used a U.S. Westinghouse-designed submarine reactor.

4. Is there reason to worry?

The main nonproliferation concern with the AUKUS deal is that it might spark off a proliferation cascade in which other countries transfer similar nuclear technology. For example, if Pakistan and Iran acquire naval reactors from other countries because of the precedent set by AUKUS, or if the deal leads to greater cooperation between Russia and China on naval nuclear propulsion, the goal of a safer, more secure, and stable Indo-Pacific may fail. From a nuclear security perspective, such a cascade also would be worrisome because the recipient nations could divert their nuclear materials toward the development of nuclear explosive devices.

Are the nonproliferation concerns from the AUKUS agreement being blown out of proportion, given the precedents? The United States provided both France and the U.K. with nuclear propulsion technology and nuclear materials throughout the Cold War without any loss of nuclear material — at least to public knowledge — or proliferation cascades of naval propulsion technology. Indeed, the United States’ constant creation of “exceptions” to the norms of nonproliferation, as these examples show, demonstrate that the nonproliferation regime has space to accommodate such potentially destabilizing arrangements.

Additionally, the International Atomic Energy Administration and the three AUKUS countries have almost two decades to come to an agreement about the safety of any future transfer of nuclear material. Australia is likely to deploy the first submarines produced via this deal in 2040. In the meanwhile, it’s likely that Australia will lease nuclear submarines from the U.K. or the United States while it waits to build a new submarine fleet. This type of lease deal also has a precedent in the Indo-Pacific, where India has been operating nuclear-powered attack submarines leased from Russia, aimed toward keeping a close eye on China’s naval presence.

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(@debakd) is a Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University.