Brace Yourselves, New Yorkers, You’re Due for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Brace Yourselves, New Yorkers, You’re Due for a Major Quake

A couple of hundred thousand years ago, an M 7.2 earthquake shook what is now New Hampshire. Just a few thousand years ago, an M 7.5 quake ruptured just off the coast of Massachusetts. And then there’s New York.

Since the first western settlers arrived there, the state has witnessed 200 quakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater, making it the third most seismically active state east of the Mississippi (Tennessee and South Carolina are ranked numbers one and two, respectively). About once a century, New York has also experienced an M 5.0 quake capable of doing real damage.

The most recent one near New York City occurred in August of 1884. Centered off Long Island’s Rockaway Beach, it was felt over 70,000 square miles. It also opened enormous crevices near the Brooklyn reservoir and knocked down chimneys and cracked walls in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Police on the Brooklyn Bridge said it swayed “as if struck by a hurricane” and worried the bridge’s towers would collapse. Meanwhile, residents throughout New York and New Jersey reported sounds that varied from explosions to loud rumblings, sometimes to comic effect. At the funeral of Lewis Ingler, a small group of mourners were watching as the priest began to pray. The quake cracked an enormous mirror behind the casket and knocked off a display of flowers that had been resting on top of it. When it began to shake the casket’s silver handles, the mourners decided the unholy return of Lewis Ingler was more than they could take and began flinging themselves out windows and doors.

Not all stories were so light. Two people died during the quake, both allegedly of fright. Out at sea, the captain of the brig Alice felt a heavy lurch that threw him and his crew, followed by a shaking that lasted nearly a minute. He was certain he had hit a wreck and was taking on water.

A day after the quake, the editors of The New York Times sought to allay readers’ fear. The quake, they said, was an unexpected fluke never to be repeated and not worth anyone’s attention: “History and the researches of scientific men indicate that great seismic disturbances occur only within geographical limits that are now well defined,” they wrote in an editorial. “The northeastern portion of the United States . . . is not within those limits.” The editors then went on to scoff at the histrionics displayed by New York residents when confronted by the quake: “They do not stop to reason or to recall the fact that earthquakes here are harmless phenomena. They only know that the solid earth, to whose immovability they have always turned with confidence when everything else seemed transitory, uncertain, and deceptive, is trembling and in motion, and the tremor ceases long before their disturbed minds become tranquil.”

That’s the kind of thing that drives Columbia’s Heather Savage nuts.

New York, she says, is positively vivisected by faults. Most of them fall into two groups—those running northeast and those running northwest. Combined they create a brittle grid underlying much of Manhattan.

Across town, Charles Merguerian has been studying these faults the old‐fashioned way: by getting down and dirty underground. He’s spent the past forty years sloshing through some of the city’s muckiest places: basements and foundations, sewers and tunnels, sometimes as deep as 750 feet belowground. His tools down there consist primarily of a pair of muck boots, a bright blue hard hat, and a pickax. In public presentations, he claims he is also ably abetted by an assistant hamster named Hammie, who maintains his own website, which includes, among other things, photos of the rodent taking down Godzilla.

That’s just one example why, if you were going to cast a sitcom starring two geophysicists, you’d want Savage and Merguerian to play the leading roles. Merguerian is as eccentric and flamboyant as Savage is earnest and understated. In his press materials, the former promises to arrive at lectures “fully clothed.” Photos of his “lab” depict a dingy porta‐john in an abandoned subway tunnel. He actively maintains an archive of vintage Chinese fireworks labels at least as extensive as his list of publications, and his professional website includes a discography of blues tunes particularly suitable for earthquakes. He calls female science writers “sweetheart” and somehow manages to do so in a way that kind of makes them like it (although they remain nevertheless somewhat embarrassed to admit it).

It’s Merguerian’s boots‐on‐the‐ground approach that has provided much of the information we need to understand just what’s going on underneath Gotham. By his count, Merguerian has walked the entire island of Manhattan: every street, every alley. He’s been in most of the tunnels there, too. His favorite one by far is the newest water tunnel in western Queens. Over the course of 150 days, Merguerian mapped all five miles of it. And that mapping has done much to inform what we know about seismicity in New York.

Most importantly, he says, it provided the first definitive proof of just how many faults really lie below the surface there. And as the city continues to excavate its subterranean limits, Merguerian is committed to following closely behind. It’s a messy business.

Down below the city, Merguerian encounters muck of every flavor and variety. He power‐washes what he can and relies upon a diver’s halogen flashlight and a digital camera with a very, very good flash to make up the difference. And through this process, Merguerian has found thousands of faults, some of which were big enough to alter the course of the Bronx River after the last ice age.

His is a tricky kind of detective work. The center of a fault is primarily pulverized rock. For these New York faults, that gouge was the very first thing to be swept away by passing glaciers. To do his work, then, he’s primarily looking for what geologists call “offsets”—places where the types of rock don’t line up with one another. That kind of irregularity shows signs of movement over time—clear evidence of a fault.

Merguerian has found a lot of them underneath New York City.

These faults, he says, do a lot to explain the geological history of Manhattan and the surrounding area. They were created millions of years ago, when what is now the East Coast was the site of a violent subduction zone not unlike those present now in the Pacific’s Ring of Fire.

Each time that occurred, the land currently known as the Mid‐Atlantic underwent an accordion effect as it was violently folded into itself again and again. The process created immense mountains that have eroded over time and been further scoured by glaciers. What remains is a hodgepodge of geological conditions ranging from solid bedrock to glacial till to brittle rock still bearing the cracks of the collision. And, says Merguerian, any one of them could cause an earthquake.

You don’t have to follow him belowground to find these fractures. Even with all the development in our most built‐up metropolis, evidence of these faults can be found everywhere—from 42nd Street to Greenwich Village. But if you want the starkest example of all, hop the 1 train at Times Square and head uptown to Harlem. Not far from where the Columbia University bus collects people for the trip to the Lamont‐Doherty Earth Observatory, the subway tracks seem to pop out of the ground onto a trestle bridge before dropping back down to earth. That, however, is just an illusion. What actually happens there is that the ground drops out below the train at the site of one of New York’s largest faults. It’s known by geologists in the region as the Manhattanville or 125th Street Fault, and it runs all the way across the top of Central Park and, eventually, underneath Long Island City. Geologists have known about the fault since 1939, when the city undertook a massive subway mapping project, but it wasn’t until recently that they confirmed its potential for a significant quake.

In our lifetimes, a series of small earthquakes have been recorded on the Manhattanville Fault including, most recently, one on October 27, 2001. Its epicenter was located around 55th and 8th—directly beneath the original Original Soupman restaurant, owned by restaurateur Ali Yeganeh, the inspiration for Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. That fact delighted sitcom fans across the country, though few Manhattanites were in any mood to appreciate it.

The October 2001 quake itself was small—about M 2.6—but the effect on residents there was significant. Just six weeks prior, the city had been rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers. The team at Lamont‐Doherty has maintained a seismic network in the region since the ’70s. They registered the collapse of the first tower at M 2.1. Half an hour later, the second tower crumbled with even more force and registered M 2.3. In a city still shocked by that catastrophe, the early‐morning October quake—several times greater than the collapse of either tower—jolted millions of residents awake with both reminders of the tragedy and fear of yet another attack. 9‐1‐1 calls overwhelmed dispatchers and first responders with reports of shaking buildings and questions about safety in the city. For seismologists, though, that little quake was less about foreign threats to our soil and more about the possibility of larger tremors to come.

Remember: The Big Apple has experienced an M 5.0 quake about every hundred years. The last one was that 1884 event. And that, says Merguerian, means the city is overdue. Just how overdue?

“Gee whiz!” He laughs when I pose this question. “That’s the holy grail of seismicity, isn’t it?”

He says all we can do to answer that question is “take the pulse of what’s gone on in recorded history.” To really have an answer, we’d need to have about ten times as much data as we do today. But from what he’s seen, the faults below New York are very much alive.

“These guys are loaded,” he tells me.

He says he is also concerned about new studies of a previously unknown fault zone known as the Ramapo that runs not far from the city. Savage shares his concerns. They both think it’s capable of an M 6.0 quake or even higher—maybe even a 7.0. If and when, though, is really anybody’s guess.

“We literally have no idea what’s happening in our backyard,” says Savage.

What we do know is that these quakes have the potential to do more damage than similar ones out West, mostly because they are occurring on far harder rock capable of propagating waves much farther. And because these quakes occur in places with higher population densities, these eastern events can affect a lot more people. Take the 2011 Virginia quake: Although it was only a moderate one, more Americans felt it than any other one in our nation’s history.

That’s the thing about the East Coast: Its earthquake hazard may be lower than that of the West Coast, but the total effect of any given quake is much higher. Disaster specialists talk about this in terms of risk, and they make sense of it with an equation that multiplies the potential hazard of an event by the cost of damage and the number of people harmed. When you take all of those factors into account, the earthquake risk in New York is much greater than, say, that in Alaska or Hawaii or even a lot of the area around the San Andreas Fault.

Merguerian has been sounding the alarm about earthquake risk in the city since the ’90s. He admits he hasn’t gotten much of a response. He says that when he first proposed the idea of seismic risk in New York City, his fellow scientists “booed and threw vegetables” at him. He volunteered his services to the city’s Office of Emergency Management but says his original offer also fell on deaf ears.

“So I backed away gently and went back to academia.”

Today, he says, the city isn’t much more responsive, but he’s getting a much better response from his peers.

He’s glad for that, he says, but it’s not enough. If anything, the events of 9/11, along with the devastation caused in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy, should tell us just how bad it could be there.

He and Savage agree that what makes the risk most troubling is just how little we know about it. When it comes right down to it, intraplate faults are the least understood. Some scientists think they might be caused by mantle flow deep below the earth’s crust. Others think they might be related to gravitational energy. Still others think quakes occurring there might be caused by the force of the Atlantic ridge as it pushes outward. Then again, it could be because the land is springing back after being compressed thousands of years ago by glaciers (a phenomenon geologists refer to as seismic rebound).

“We just have no consciousness towards earthquakes in the eastern United States,” says Merguerian. “And that’s a big mistake.”

Adapted from Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles, published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Kathryn Miles. Thanks

Israel strikes at Hamas after rocket fired from outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

A ball of fire and a plume of smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City after Israeli warplanes targeted the Palestinian enclave early on Sunday.—AFP
A ball of fire and a plume of smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City after Israeli warplanes targeted the Palestinian enclave early on Sunday.—AFP

Israel strikes at Hamas after rocket fired from Gaza

AFP Published December 5, 2022  

GAZA CITY: The Israeli air force said it had carried out overnight air strikes against sites of the Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip after a rocket was fired from the Palestinian enclave towards Israeli territory.

The Israeli army reported on Saturday evening a rocket had been fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, the first in a month.

The attack came as one of Gaza’s larger armed factions, Islamic Jihad, threatened to retaliate after Israeli troops killed two of its leaders in the West Bank town of Jenin on Thursday.

“In response to the rocket fired towards Israeli territory, IDF fighter jets targeted overnight (Sunday) a weapons manufacturing site belonging to the Hamas terrorist organisation,” the Israeli army said in a statement.Pause

The target was a site “where the majority of the organisation’s rockets in the Gaza Strip are being manufactured”, it said.

Israel Defence Forces also hit “a Hamas tunnel in the Southern Gaza Strip”, it said.

The army said a few hours later it had targeted a Hamas military post in response to fire from the Gaza Strip against Israeli warplanes.

The armed wing of Hamas said it used anti-aircraft missiles during Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

Security sources in Gaza reported two strikes in the south of the enclave, one against a military training site in Khan Younis and the other in an uninhabited area close to Rafah.

The strikes caused no injuries, according to Palestinian medical sources.

“The Zionist enemy is extending its aggression against our people by brutally bombarding the Gaza Strip, following its crime yesterday of executing the martyr Ammar Mufleh in Huwara,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said.

A surge in bloodshed in the occupied West Bank has sparked international criticism of the Israeli army for its use of lethal force against Palestinian civilians.

Criticism has focused on the killing of Ammar Hadi Mufleh, 22, in disputed circumstances in the West Bank town of Huwara, just south of Nablus, on Friday.

At least 145 Palestinians and 26 Israelis have been killed in violence in Israel and the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem, this year, the heaviest toll since 2015.

In August, at least 49 Palestinians, including combatants but also civilians, were killed in three days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, which has been under Israeli blockade since 2007.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2022

Hamas fires at Israeli jets following rocket attack outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

A ball of fire and a plume of smoke rise above buildings in southern Gaza as Israeli warplanes strike the Palestinian enclave on December 4, 2022. (AFP)

Hamas fires at Israeli jets as air force hits terror group following rocket attack

Armed wing Qassam Brigades confirms shooting missiles at Israeli jets, which targeted rocket manufacturing center, tunnel in overnight sortie, possibly heating up Gaza tensions

By Emanuel Fabian and TOI staffToday, 1:27 am

Israeli warplanes carried out retaliatory strikes against Hamas in the Gaza Strip early Sunday and rocket alerts were activated near communities inside Israel as the terror group said it launched missiles at Israeli aircraft, in the latest tit-for-tat that threatened to send the region spiraling into another round of conflict.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a short statement just after 1 a.m. Sunday that it was attacking Gaza in retaliation for a Saturday evening missile strike, which had broken a month of relative calm. It said a central rocket-making site used by Hamas was among the facilities targeted.

Hamas’s Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades armed wing said a short time later that it had targeted the Israeli planes with anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles.

A rocket alert was issued for open areas near the small farming communities of Shlomit and Bnei Betzarim, which sit near the Egyptian border and opposite Gaza’s Rafah, the IDF said.

There was no confirmation of any missile strike inside Israel.

The Israeli sorties came hours after a projectile launched out of Gaza landed in an open field near the communities of Nahal Oz and Kfar Aza Saturday evening. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The military said fighter jets targeted a weapons workshop and tunnel used by the Hamas terror group, which de facto rules the Strip.

“The workshop is used as a main site for making most of the group’s rockets in the Strip,” the IDF said in a statement.

“The strike overnight continues the progress to impede the force build-up” of Hamas, it added.

The IDF said later that it targeted a Hamas military post in retaliation for the anti-aircraft fire. It also published a video showing the strikes.

Iran state body reports 200 dead in protests

 WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Iran state body reports 200 dead in protests, Raisi hails ‘freedoms’

The protests began over the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police

President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday hailed Iran’s Islamic Republic as a guarantor of rights and freedoms, defending the ruling system amid a crackdown on anti-government protests that the United Nations says has cost more than 300 lives.

A top state security body meanwhile said that 200 people, including members of the security forces, had lost their lives in the unrest, a figure significantly lower than that given by the world body and rights groups.

The protests, in their third month, were ignited by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police enforcing strict mandatory hijab rules.

The demonstrations have turned into a popular revolt by furious Iranians from all layers of society, posing one of the boldest challenges to the clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution.

Meanwhile, a social media video appeared to show authorities demolishing the family home of Elnaz Rekabi, a climber who competed in an international contest without a headscarf in October. Rekabi later she had done so unintentionally, but she was widely assumed to have expressed support for the protests.

State media on Saturday quoted the head of the judiciary in northwestern Zanjan province as saying the ruling to demolish the villa had been issued four months ago as the family had failed to obtain a construction permit.

Unfazed by the brutal crackdown, protesters have raised slogans against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and repeatedly demanded an end to the Islamic government.

Social media videos showed renewed protests late on Saturday in some parts of the capital Tehran, including the eastern Haft Howz area where protesters could be heard chanting: “Murderer Khamenei should be executed.” The footage could not be immediately verified.

The authorities blame the revolt on foreign enemies, including the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The Pentagon Is Sounding The Alarm On China Horn’s Massive Nuclear Build-Out

Pentagon to Scap "Peacekeepers" Missiles

The Pentagon Is Sounding The Alarm On China’s Massive Nuclear Build-Out, But Experts Disagree About How To Respond

(Photo by Michael Smith/Getty Images)


December 03, 20223:53 PM ET

The Department of Defense (DOD) confirmed China’s “ambitious” acceleration of its nuclear program in a report Tuesday, but experts disagree whether the development presents a growing threat to the U.S. as the Pentagon struggles to update and expand its own aging arsenal.

China’s current nuclear stockpile has exceeded 400 warheads is on track to reach 1,500 warheads by 2035, signaling a push from Beijing to achieve nuclear superiority over the U.S., the Department of Defense (DOD) warned in an annual report on China’s military and security threat to the U.S. released Tuesday. The United States’ nuclear arsenal has grown older in the meantime and smaller relative to those of its peer adversaries, leaving experts wondering how much change is needed to dissuade China from further aggression, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Beijing is already racing, and the only thing worse than engaging in an arms race is losing one,” Bradley Bowman, director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the DCNF:

China “probably” intends to construct new warheads and missiles that “at least equal the effectiveness, reliability” and resilience of those belonging to the U.S., the report stated. However, China denies taking part in an arms race, instead accusing the U.S. of boosting the “China threat” narrative as a convenient excuse for enhancing its nuclear arsenal and pursuing global military dominance, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Satellite imagery from 2021, depicting 300 missile silos under construction in north-central China that could potentially house nuclear weapons, suggested otherwise, according to researchers from the Federation of American Scientists. Earlier that year, Beijing surprised Washington when it apparently conducted a successful test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile.

China’s accumulation of nuclear power in recent years represents a “dramatic acceleration” from the mid-2000s, a senior military official told Politico.

However, the United States’ firm rejectionof a “no first use” policy and commitment to protect allies under its nuclear umbrella could frighten China into supersizing its own arsenal, Lyle Goldstein, director of the Asia Engagement program at Defense Priorities, told the DCNF

“China is doing a response to what we are doing,” he said.

Washington has recently begun to upgrade the technology on existing nuclear weapons; while the Pentagon positioned the U.S. nuclear force to manage only a Russian threat in the 20th century, it has changed little since, experts told the DCNF.

“We are decidedly behind,” in both quantity and diversity of nuclear capabilities, Tom DiNanno, a Hudson Institute fellow and former arms control official in the State Department, told the DCNF. “Our nuclear force has not been not been modernized, problem one,” while China and Russia have both modernizedtheirs, he added.

The U.S. has agreed to limit nuclear buildup under the stipulations of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia; the U.S. currently owns roughly 5,500 warheads, of which 1600 are deployed and 1,700 are retired.

To combat the perceived threat from China, the U.S. not only needs newer weaponry, but more nuclear weapons with a variety of characteristics to support an array of deterrence purposes, Patty-Jane Geller, a researcher at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, told the DCNF.

“We have the number of nuclear weapons to deter only Russia as a large nuclear threat,” Geller said. “Now that China is second, we won’t have enough to maintain strong nuclear deterrence.”

“Our focus is both undersized and has qualitative issues. We have no hypersonic capability,” DiNanno said.

For example, long-range missiles deployed in the 1970’s are still deployed, even though the Pentagon intended them to last just 10 years, The Associated Press reported.

The Biden administration also plans to retire the United States’ most powerful nuclear weapon, the B83 gravity bomb, over unsustainable operations and maintenance costs, but has not stated how it plans to replace the bomb with an equivalent capability that access well-protected targets, Geller said, a sentiment echoed by Republican congressmembers.

“In order to convince an adversary it’s not a good idea to launch a nuclear weapon, we want to threaten what they value” — their nuclear weapons — “and we also want to be able to limit damage in a nuclear war,” Geller continued. Should America’s adversaries achieve nuclear superiority, “it would allow them to take greater risk in their aggression.”

Some experts questioned whether China’s buildup matters at all. China has long surpassed a threshold of nuclear weapons needed to “credibly threaten to destroy dozens of American cities,” Goldstein told the DCNF, so any increase in the number of weapons China holds in absolute terms is “irrelevant.”

China has abandoned its historically minimalist strategy, which advocated holding the smallest possible number of nuclear weapons to ensure China’s national security, in favor of an “ambitious” nuclear buildup regime, the defense official said, according to Politico.

The U.S. should focus on quality over quantity, he argued, while attempting the difficult task of getting China to agree to arms control measures, thus avoiding a costly arms race.

While China has pledged never to launch a first nuclear strike, it has demanded nuclear parity with peer countries who hope to welcome China into an international arms control system, The Washington Post reported. China’s hesitance to agree to nonproliferation terms could further upset the global balance of power and provide China with an enhanced array of options for “deterrence signaling,” exercises of power meant to contain U.S. action, the defense official said.

“The more proliferation there is, the more concerning it is — the more deeply destabilizing to the region it is,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen Pat Ryder said in a statement Tuesday.

China could mimic Russia’s fielding of nuclear weapons over Ukraine in a Taiwan contingency, frightening the U.S. into stifling support for a key ally, Geller explained to the DCNF.

However, if the U.S. were to scale back its commitments, a scenario where China and the U.S. have trained tactical warheads on one another could be avoided, Goldstein said.

“The pace and opaque nature of Beijing’s ‘strategic breakout,’ combined with its refusal to engage in substantive nuclear arms talks with the United States, risk miscalculation and force the Pentagon to assume the worst,” Bowman told the DCNF

Why the Nuclear Horns are Rising: Daniel 7

Pekka Olavi Haavisto
Pekka Olavi Haavisto

Finland says Russian nuclear threat is reason to join NATO

Sun, December 4, 2022, 4:16 AM

He explained that Moscow’s nuclear threats have forced Finland to reflect on possible responses and sources of support if it was to be subjected to such rhetoric, considering that Finland shares about a 1,300 km border with Russia.

According to Haavisto, these considerations ultimately led Finland to apply for NATO membership status.

The Finnish FM further called the recent Russian strikes on Ukrainian power infrastructure “very cruel”. as they left ordinary people without heating, power, and sewage systems, proving Russia’s intent to kill Ukrainian civilians.

Haavisto also stressed the importance of nuclear safety even in times of war. He said that a major incident at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant (ZNPP) , the biggest nuclear plant in Europe, could be “one of the worst scenarios that can happen.”

ZNPP, as well as other nuclear plants in Ukraine, have been disconnected from the power grid multiple times due to Russian attacks.

NATO officially invited Sweden and Finland to become member-states on June 29. The day before, Turkey, Finland, and Sweden came to an agreement where Ankara promised to not block these two country’s accession to NATO, in exchange for certain conditions.

28 NATO members have already ratified the accession protocols for Finland and Sweden, though Turkey and Hungary have yet to do so. All 30 NATO members must agree on membership for a country to join the alliance.

Iran Increases her Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8

Iran's new nuclear power plant will be located near its western border with Iraq, state media says. (AP PHOTO)
Iran’s new nuclear power plant will be located near its western border with Iraq, state media says. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

Construction begins on Iran nuclear plant

Staff WritersSat, 3 December 2022 3:39PM

Iran has begun construction on a new nuclear power plant in the country’s southwest, state TV has announced, amid tensions with the US over sweeping sanctions imposed after Washington pulled out of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Saturday’s announcement also comes as Iran has been rocked by nationwide anti-government protests that began after the death of a young woman in police custody and have challenged the country’s theocratic government.

The new 300-megawatt plant, known as Karoon, will take eight years to build and cost around $US2 billion ($A2.9 billion), the country’s state television and radio agency reported. The plant will be located in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, near its western border with Iraq, it said.

The construction site’s inauguration ceremony was attended by Mohammed Eslami, head of Iran’s civilian Atomic Energy Organisation, who first unveiled construction plans for Karoon in April.

Iran has one nuclear power plant at its southern port of Bushehr that went online in 2011 with help from Russia, but also several underground nuclear facilities.

The announcement of Karoon’s construction came less than two weeks after Iran said it had begun producing enriched uranium at 60 per cent purity at the country’s underground Fordo nuclear facility.

The move is seen as a significant addition to the country’s nuclear program.

Enrichment to 60 per cent purity is one short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90 per cent. Non-proliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran now has enough 60 per cent-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.

The move was condemned by Germany, France and Britain, the three Western European nations that remain in the Iran nuclear deal. Recent attempts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, which eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, have stalled.

Since September, Iran has been roiled by nationwide protests that have come to mark one of the greatest challenges to its theocracy since the chaotic years after its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The protests were sparked when Mahsa Amini, 22, died in custody on September 16, three days after her arrest by Iran’s morality police for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women.

Iran’s government insists Amini was not mistreated, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beating after she was detained