The Increasing Risk Of Nuclear War

What factors make nuclear war more likely?

BY DAVID KRIEGER, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR

We know that the risk of nuclear war is not zero. Humans are not capable of creating foolproof systems. Nuclear weapons systems are particularly problematic since the possession of nuclear weapons carries an implicit threat of use under certain circumstances. In accord with nuclear deterrence theory, a country threatens to use nuclear weapons, believing that it will prevent the use of nuclear weapons against it.

Nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons are currently under the control of nine countries. Each has a complex system of command and control with many possibilities for error, accident or intentional use.

Error could be the result of human or technological factors, or some combination of human and technological interaction. During the more than seven decades of the Nuclear Age, there have been many accidents and close calls that could have resulted in nuclear disaster. The world narrowly escaped a nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Human factors include miscommunications, misinterpretations and psychological issues. Some leaders believe that threatening behavior makes nuclear deterrence more effective, but it could also result in a preventive first-strike launch by the side being threatened. Psychological pathologies among those in control of nuclear weapons could also play a role. Hubris, or extreme arrogance, is another factor of concern.

Technological factors include computer errors that wrongfully show a country is under nuclear attack. Such false warnings have occurred on numerous occasions but, fortunately, human interactions (often against policy and/or orders) have so far kept a false warning from resulting in a mistaken “retaliatory” attack. In times of severe tensions, a technological error could compound the risks, and human actors might decide to initiate a first strike.

There are many other factors that affect the risk of nuclear war. These include an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons and a greater number of nuclear weapons in each country’s nuclear arsenal. Both of these factors increase complexity and make the risk greater. Additionally, the higher the alert status of a country’s nuclear arsenal, the shorter the decision time to launch and the greater the risk of nuclear war. The risks are compounded when tension levels increase between nuclear-armed countries, increasing the likelihood of false assumptions and precipitous action.

Nuclear policies of the nuclear-armed countries can also raise the risk level of nuclear war. Policies of first use of nuclear weapons may make an opponent more likely to initiate a first strike and thus make a nuclear war more likely. First use is generally a default policy, if a country does not specifically pledge a policy of no first use, as have China and India. Policies of launch-on-warning cut into decision time for leaders to decide whether or not to launch a “retaliatory” strike to what may be a false warning The deployment of land-based missiles also raises the risk level due to the “use them or lose them” nature of these stationary targets.

In addition to identifiable risks of nuclear war, there are also unknown risks — those that cannot be identified in advance. Unknown risks include little-understood possibilities for cyber-attacks on nuclear weapons systems, attacks that could potentially either activate or deactivate nuclear-armed missile launches.

Given the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war, including destruction of civilization and human extinction, identifying and eliminating the factors making nuclear war likely or even possible is imperative. There are simply too many possibilities for failure in such a complex system of interactions.

This leads to the conclusion that the risks are untenable, and all nations should move rapidly to negotiate the elimination of all nuclear arms. While doing so, nations would be well served to adopt and declare policies of no first use and no launch-on-warning, and to eliminate vulnerable land-based missiles from their arsenals.

David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is the author of Zero: The Case for Nuclear Weapons Abolition.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

America’s Fukushima Shuts Down Again (Revelation 6:12)

Indian Point 2 Shut Down Over Water Pump Issue

In New York, one of Indian Point’s nuclear power plants was shut down Monday following an issue with a pump on the non-nuclear side.

Control room operators shut down Buchanan-based Indian Point’s Unit 2 following a problem with the speed control system on one of the unit’s two main feedwater pumps. These pumps distribute water to the plant’s four steam generators to be reheated to make the steam required to generate electricity. This comes as Indian Point 3 returned to power June 22 after being taken offline June 12 to replace two water seals that sit between the lid of the reactor and the reactor vessel. In both cases, there was no release of radioactivity and no threat to the safety of workers or the public.

Falling on Trump’s Deaf Ears

McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, met Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s top foreign policy official, and also met army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

“Our relationship is more important perhaps than ever before,” McCain told Pakistan TV as he left the meeting.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is exploring hardening its approach toward Islamabad over Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in Afghanistan, two U.S. officials told Reuters last month.

“We will not have peace in the region without Pakistan,” McCain, who was accompanied by senators Lindsey Graham, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse and David Perdue, said later.

Aziz, who is Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs because PM Nawaz Sharif holds the Foreign Ministry portfolio himself, said that the strategic partnership between Pakistan and the United States was “was critical to achieve peace and stability in the region and beyond”.

U.S. officials say they seek greater cooperation with Pakistan, not a rupture in ties, after the review the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, due in mid-July, where some 8,800 U.S. troops remain to support the Western-backed government.

Experts on America’s longest war say militant safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban-linked insurgents a place to plot attacks in Afghanistan and regroup after ground offensives. Critics say Islamabad is not doing enough to crack down on militants such as the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network.

Pakistan argues that it has done a great deal to help the U.S. in tracking down terrorists and points out that it has suffered hundreds of deaths in Islamist militants attacks in response to its crackdowns.

Pakistan last week also reacted sharply when the U.S. State Department on June 26 designated as a terrorist Syed Salahuddin, leader of the largest Kashmiri militant group fighting against Indian rule, accusing the U.S. of acquiescing to the wishes of visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Scientists Expecting the Sixth Seal

Scientists find likely cause of 2011 Virginia earthquake, believe there may be more to come

Accuweather

August 19, 2016; 3:59 AM

On Aug. 23, 2011, those living in eastern North America, from Ontario to Georgia, felt an unexpected shock as the earth trembled in the wake of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck near the town of Mineral, Virginia, around 2 p.m. local time.

A notable quake with a magnitude of 4.0 or higher east of the Rockies is a rarity, according to USGS reports.

However, a recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Solid Earth is shedding light on the likely causes behind the event and may indicate that there are more to come.

Unlike earthquakes that occur near plate boundaries in the more seismically active regions of the world, the 2011 quake raised questions among researchers and stirred alarm among those living in the Washington, D.C., area who felt its full force.

According to the American Geophysical Union, the journal’s parent organization, researchers have discovered pieces of the mantle have been breaking off below the North American Plate in this region and sinking deeper into the earth.

Our idea supports the view that this seismicity will continue due to unbalanced stresses in the plate,” Berk Biryol told the AGU.

Biryol is a seismologist at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and lead author of the recently published study. According to Biryol’s research, the geological processes the researchers found revealed thinning and weakening of the plate.

While most earthquakes tend to occur at subduction zones, or near plate boundaries, the processes causing the earthquakes in the middle of plates have often remained a mystery to scientists.

In order to figure out what was happening deep below the Earth’s surface, Biryol and the study’s team had to use seismic waves generated by earthquakes as far as 2,200 miles away to create a 3D map of the region by tracing the paths of the waves as they moved through the ground.

Virginia along with the rest of the North American continent, Greenland and portions of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans are all located on the vast North American Plate. The plate rides on thin, heated layer of viscous rock called the asthenosphere.

Biryol’s study, which found varying, uneven plate thickness, and a mix of older rock and younger rock, may now help solve many of the mysteries behind tectonic plates’ interactions with the asthenosphere.

“At certain times, the densest parts broke off from the plate and sank into the warm asthenosphere below,” the AGU reported.

“The asthenosphere, being lighter and more buoyant, surged in to fill the void created by the missing pieces of mantle, eventually cooling to become the thin, young rock.”

Coupled with the thinning and weakening of the plate, ancient fault lines long considered stable become more susceptible to slipping, which leads to earthquakes, according the AGU.

The new study unveils that there is much more going on deep beneath the Earth’s surface than scientists originally thought, and that pieces of the mantle have likely been breaking off under the plate for nearly 65 million years.

As the research on these occurrences continues, scientists may gain a better understanding on where these earthquakes will likely occur.

Biryol told the AGU that these seismic zones will remain active over time and will likely cause additional earthquakes in the future.