Scientists tell us that it is just a matter of time until another superquake hits the region, and personally I am one of the millions of Americans that believe that we will eventually see a New Madrid earthquake that will divide the United States in half.
That is one of the reasons why I included a New Madrid earthquake in my novel. But others are skeptical. They point out that we have not seen a truly devastating earthquake in that region for more than 200 years. So why be concerned about one now?
What everyone can agree on is that there is an area of significant geological weakness under the New Madrid fault zone. This area of weakness formed when the continents were breaking up. The rift that formed did not end up splitting the North American continent at that time, but the area of weakness remains. The following comes from Wikipedia…
This relative weakness is important, because it would allow the relatively small east-west compressive forces associated with the continuing continental drift of the North American plate to reactivate old faults around New Madrid, making the area unusually prone to earthquakes in spite of it being far from the nearest tectonic plate boundary.
And indeed, there have been some awesome earthquakes in this region throughout history.
Back in 1811 and 1812, there were four earthquakes along the New Madrid fault zone there were so immensely powerful that they are still talked about today.
The most powerful of this series of quakes was on December 16th, 1811. The following is one description of what happened on that day…
This powerful earthquake was felt widely over the entire eastern United States. People were awakened by the shaking in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Charleston, S.C. Perceptible ground shaking was in the range of one to three minutes depending upon the observer’s location. The ground motions were described as “most alarming and frightening” in places like Nashville, Tenn., and Louisville, Ky. Reports also describe houses and other structures being severely shaken, with many chimneys knocked down. In the epicentral area the ground surface was described as being in great convulsion, with sand and water ejected tens of feet into the air — a process called liquefaction.
But there have also been others times throughout history when we have seen a major earthquake along the New Madrid fault.
For example, according to scientists there is evidence of other superquakes in the distant past…
Geological evidence indicates that two such super-earthquakes happened twice in the past 1,200 years: the first some time between 800 and 1000 A.D., and the second between 1300 and 1600 A.D.
And now earthquake activity in the central portion of the nation is increasing again.
As I noted above, the USGS says that the frequency of earthquakes in the central and eastern portions of the United States has more than quintupled in recent years. And the USGS has now gone so far as to point out the relationship between human activity and the increase in earthquakes. The following comes from an article done by the U.S. Geological Survey…
The number of earthquakes has increased dramatically over the past few years within the central and eastern United States. Nearly 450 earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and larger occurred in the four years from 2010-2013, over 100 per year on average, compared with an average rate of 20 earthquakes per year observed from 1970-2000.
This increase in earthquakes prompts two important questions: Are they natural, or man-made? And what should be done in the future as we address the causes and consequences of these events to reduce associated risks? USGS scientists have been analyzing the changes in the rate of earthquakes as well as the likely causes, and they have some answers.
USGS scientists have found that at some locations the increase in seismicity coincides with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells. Much of this wastewater is a byproduct of oil and gas production and is routinely disposed of by injection into wells specifically designed for this purpose.
So what would happen if a major earthquake did strike the New Madrid fault zone?
In October 2009, a team composed of University of Illinois and Virginia Tech researchers headed by Amr S. Elnashai, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), considered a scenario where all three segments of the New Madrid fault ruptured simultaneously with a total earthquake magnitude of 7.7. The report found that there would be significant damage in the eight states studied – Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee – with the probability of additional damage in states farther from the NMSZ. Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri would be most severely impacted, and the cities of Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri would be severely damaged. The report estimated 86,000 casualties, including 3,500 fatalities; 715,000 damaged buildings; and 7.2 million people displaced, with 2 million of those seeking shelter, primarily due to the lack of utility services. Direct economic losses, according to the report, would be at least $300 billion.
But remember, that study only considered a magnitude 7.7 earthquake.
Of course most Americans are completely oblivious to all of this. In fact, most Americans don’t even know what the New Madrid fault zone is or where it is located.
But there are people in the government that are very aware of this threat. In fact, the federal government considered it important enough to hold a major five day simulation known as “National Level Exercise 11″ just a few years ago…
In May, the federal government simulated an earthquake so massive, it killed 100,000 Midwesterners instantly, and forced more than 7 million people out of their homes. At the time, National Level Exercise 11 went largely unnoticed; the scenario seemed too far-fetched — states like Illinois and Missouri are in the middle of a tectonic plate, not at the edge of one. A major quake happens there once every several generations.
National Level Exercise 11, or NLE 11, was, in essence, a replay of a disaster that happened 200 years earlier. On Dec. 16, 1811, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake hit the New Madrid fault line, which lies on the border region of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. It’s by far the largest earthquake ever to strike the United States east of the Rockies. Up to 129,000 square kilometers [50,000 square miles] were hit with “raised or sunken lands, fissures, sinks, sand blows, and large landslides,” according to the U.S. Geological Service. “Huge waves on the Mississippi River overwhelmed many boats and washed others high onto the shore. High banks caved and collapsed into the river; sand bars and points of islands gave way; whole islands disappeared.” People as far away as New York City were awakened by the shaking.
More quakes, of a similar size, followed. But the loss of life was minimal: Not too many people lived in the area at the time. Today, there are more than 15 million people living in the quake zone. If a similar quake hit, “7.2 million people could be displaced, with 2 million seeking temporary shelter” in the first three days, FEMA Associate Adminsitrator William Carwile told a Congressional panel in 2010. “Direct economic losses for the eight states could total nearly $300 billion, while indirect losses at least twice that amount.”
And major corporations are also concerned about what could happen.
For example, in a previous article I noted that Wal-Mart had “participated in an exercise” that simulated a major earthquake in the New Madrid fault zone…
Buried in a Wall Street Journal article from about a week ago was a startling piece of information. According to a Wal-Mart executive, Wal-Mart “participated in an exercise to prepare for an earthquake on the New Madrid fault line” earlier this summer.
Nobody knows when it is going to happen.
But this is a real threat.
And if we do see a magnitude 9.0 earthquake or greater, we could be talking about a continent changing event
Strategic nuclear forces occupied a central position in the parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression. China’s state media show an extremely open and positive attitude towards reporting China’s strategic weapons this year.
China’s strategic nuclear forces also improve its ability against missile defense system. China has created a technology base to rapidly expand nuclear arsenal and ultimately develop itself into a nuclear superpower.
Range of DF-26 can cover all bases of United States in the Asian-Pacific region. DF-26 can also threaten the U.S. aircraft carrier battle group, reducing the ability of United States to respond to crisis in the Asian-Pacific region.
China will continue to test new weapons, including new missile DF-41 and its rail-mobile version, new intercontinental missile DF-31 and its improved version DF-31B. These missiles can carry MIRV and employ new types of launchers. In addition, China is developing mobile supersonic warhead, which is expected to make achievement by the end of 2020. From a technical point of view, China may be on an equal footing with two nuclear superpowers.
Getty National Archives
By Charles P. Pierce
Dec 30, 2015
Here in the shebeen, we’ve been talking a lot about fear, reasoning, and unreasoning these days. The other night, my son recalled a story he’d heard from his high school social studies teacher, a guy who’d grown up around Worcester a half-generation ahead of me. At one point, somebody published a list of the Soviet Union’s first-strike targets in the event of a nuclear war. Worcester was fifth place on the list, probably because it was where the Wyman-Gordon Company made the engines for the B-52 bomber. (Was this a genuine story, or a plant from U.S. intelligence? It hardly matters now.) Some local wags made up buttons that said, “We’re Number 5!” I do remember the list coming back into the news during the two nervous weeks of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Call me a sucker for boomer nostalgia, but a bunch of guys in second-hand pickup trucks still don’t scare me as much as the fact that there’s a death-load of nuclear material and nuclear weapons still floating around out there on a somewhat open market. Comes now William Perry, a former Secretary of Defense, to share my concerns.
Perry thinks the US nuclear force no longer needs land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, and can rely on the other two ”legs” of the force—bomber aircraft and submarine-based missiles. ICBMs should be scrapped, he says, adding, ”I don’t think it’s going to happen, but I think it should happen. They’re not needed.” He opposes the Obama administration’s plan to build a nuclear-capable cruise missile. He looks at Russia’s nuclear modernization and US plans to spend hundreds of billions to update its nuclear arsenal and sees irrational competition. ”I see an imperative to stop this damn nuclear race before it gets underway again, not just for the cost but for the danger it puts all of us in,” he said.
This puts Perry far ahead of our national politics on this subject which, when they deal with nuclear weapons at all, largely talk about them in the context of the “war” on terror, of suitcase bombs and deadly container ships. Perry is properly concerned with these scenarios, but he’s also sending up flares to the effect that the United States and Russia may be careering toward the days of Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove again, the days of accidental apocalypse.
This one goes on the must-read list for 2016. It’s time to differentiate between the real threats and the monsters that lurk in the hedgerows of the Id. I wonder where Worcester is on the list these days.
Australia’s uranium market is also set for a bright future, with a strong possibility of new mines opening in Western Australia provided global demand strengthens as forecast.
And, as with so many of the world’s minerals, Chinese demand is a key driver.
A recent commodities research note from Macquarie Bank called uranium the “best mined commodity of 2015”.
After a collapse in generation following the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, “nuclear power has been making a quiet comeback,” said Macquarie. “We have now seen more than two years of consistent year-on-year growth. Total output this year is set to be the strongest since 2011.”
China, India, Korea and Russia were the engines of growth in the industry, said Macquarie, expected to contribute 70 per cent of new reactors by 2030. Furthermore, Japanese reactors were returning to the fleet, with 20 Japanese reactors back online by 2020.
However, cheap gas and coal, the rise of politically-friendly renewable energy and the costly need to extend the life of reactors had hit the industry in the West, the paper said.
In the US five reactors had closed since 2012, “with potentially as many to follow”; Germany will phase out all reactors by the early 2020s; while Sweden will cut back its reactor fleet by 40 per cent.
New capacity in Asia
However, said Macquarie, “the combined size of these reductions is less than half of the scheduled new capacity additions” in Asia. Widespread closures in the US, despite record-low energy prices, were “unlikely”: US nuclear energy use was its highest since 2009, nuclear power was still cheaper than fossil fuel, and the focus on reducing coal usage meant uranium had become a relatively more popular source of baseload power generation.
“We still see nuclear power as a growth industry,” said Macquarie. “We still expect solid demand growth on a five-year view.”
China has 26 nuclear reactors in operation and 25 under construction. But long-term plans call for 92 reactors operating by 2025 and 129 by 2030.
In 2015, China approved new reactors for the first time since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2009, with the China General Nuclear Power Corporation receiving the go-ahead for two gigawatt reactors.
China was “the only part of the world that’s really increasing reactor capacity by any large margin”, said Mining and Metals Senior Associate at Citi, Matthew Schembri.
Consequently, the Chinese were trying to create “uranium independence,” said Mr Schembri, not only by producing more but also by stockpiling and buying equity shares in foreign projects.
“They’re aiming for one-third to be domestically produced, one-third from foreign equity ownership in foreign mines, and one-third to be imports,” said Mr Schembri.
But the world was not likely to face a shortage of uranium despite the uptick in demand, he said.
“It is going to be an important power source in the future and the most recent Chinese five-year plan has said that, but even so, the world has enough uranium that’s it’s not going to create a particularly tight market.”
Uranium has fallen from around $US152 per pound in 2007 to well under $US60 since the global financial crisis, with a low just above $US28 in May 2014. This year, it peaked around $US40 in March. It is currently trading at $US35.35, which is just off the year’s lows.
Mr Schembri said that the price would return to $US40, rising to $US50 in the longer term. At these price levels, existing mines would remain viable and new ones would open, he said.
Macquarie agreed, stating that “almost all mine output is cash-positive at current price levels”.
Mr Schembri added that the recent Paris Climate Summit – which pledged to restrict global warming to “well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels”, a goal that is expected to increase demand for nuclear power as countries shift away from carbon-dioxide-producing coal power – had had no effect on the uranium market or prices.
Toro Energy, which hopes to develop the Wiluna uranium desposit in Western Australia, was upbeat about the future in its 2015 annual report
“Market sentiment continues to improve as emerging economies embrace low-emission nuclear power,” said Toro.
“Demand increases of between 15 per cent and 22 per cent by 2020 and 37 per cent to 58 per cent by 2025 are expected.”
Long-term prices for a pound of uranium were around $US44-$US45, the company said, with China, India and Japan the key drivers of demand.
Globally, said Toro, there were 442 reactors around the world producing 380 gigawatts of power.
In 2025, this is expected to increase to 512 reactors producing 471 gigawatts. In 2030, there are expected to be 576 reactors producing 560 gigawatts.
There are a numerous proposals for new Australian mines, including four well-advanced proposals in Western Australia alone: Lake Way (Wiluna), which Toro Energy hopes to mine; Yeelirrie and Kintyre, which Canadian uranium miner Cameco wishes to develop; and Mulga Rock, which Vimy Resources has an interest in.
They are also the subject of fierce opposition from environmental groups such as the Australian Conservation Foundation, while the Western Australia’s ALP opposition opposes uranium mining and export. The next Western Australian election is in March 2017.
Under the terms of the agreement between Obama and some Iranian leaders, neither the US Congress nor the Iranian Parliament signed on to the deal, Iran was supposed to give up its nuclear weapons research in return for Western assistance in developing civilian nuclear facilities in Iran. Iran was also supposed to be prohibited from acquiring or developing ballistic missile technology for at least eight years (it actually wasn’t but if I start calling out Obama and Kerry on their chronic lying I won’t get anything else done). I suppose someone, somewhere, believed this agreement to be binding upon Iran its just that those people aren’t in the Iranian government.
First, the unsurprising part. Ballistic missiles are a great tool for your typical rogue regime with pretensions of being a regional power to have. If you are planning on acquiring nukes, ballistic missiles are must-have. So we have this:
Western intelligence says the test was held Nov. 21 near Chabahar, a port city in southeast Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan Province near the border with Pakistan. The launch took place from a known missile test site along the Gulf of Oman.
“The United States is deeply concerned about Iran’s recent ballistic missile launch,” Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., said in a statement after the last Iranian ballistic missile test in October.
Well, so long as Samantha Power is “deeply concerned” instead of her usual state of “deeply stupid” I suppose things are under control.
Last month the president sent his Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to Vienna to twist the arm of International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano into issuing a favorable report on the state of the Iranian nuclear program.
The yes-or-no question Amano faced was simple: Has Iran closed the military aspect of its nuclear program?
Being an honorable man, Amano could not provide the straight “yes” that Muniz was asking for. “Much progress has been made, but much remains to be done,” he said. “More confidence building is needed, and verification of what Iran is doing may need many more weeks.”
Amano also hedged in his formal report to the IAEA board of governors. In paragraph 79 of the report, he states that the IAEA is in no position to categorically report that all of Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful. That’s because the IAEA does not have access to all nuclear sites in the Islamic Republic. He then injects a dose of hope by reporting that Iran has “taken preliminary steps” to meet its treaty obligations.
Such a cocktail of optimism and pessimism may be passable if one dealt with repairing one’s plumbing. But we’re dealing with a nuclear arsenal in the heart of the world’s most unstable region.
Interesting. The IAEA can’t verify that Iran’s nuclear weapons programs had ceased to exist. Is this a surprise? Under the terms of the agreement, IAEA inspectors must give Iran 24 days notice of any inspection and “sensitive” facilities are only open to inspection by Iranian, yes, you read that correctly, inspectors.
The current dealings stink to the extent that not even the Washington Post, a major cheerleader for the nuclear surrender, can’t ignore it:
IRAN IS following through on the nuclear deal it struck with a U.S.-led coalition in an utterly predictable way: It is racing to fulfill those parts of the accord that will allow it to collect $100 billion in frozen funds and end sanctions on its oil exports and banking system, while expanding its belligerent and illegal activities in other areas — and daring the West to respond.
It’s not hard to guess the reasons for this fecklessness. President Obama is reluctant to do anything that might derail the nuclear deal before Iran carries out its commitments, including uninstalling thousands of centrifuges and diluting or removing tons of enriched uranium. The same logic prompted him to tolerate Iran’s malign interventions in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, along with the arrest of Mr. Rezaian, while the pact was under negotiation.
U.S. officials argue that Iran’s nonnuclear violations make it all the more important that the nuclear deal be implemented. But that ignores the clear connections between the missile launches and Tehran’s ambitions to become a nuclear power. The only practical military purpose of the missiles the regime is testing is to carry atomic warheads. And while missile launches are not prohibited by the nuclear pact itself, the separate resolution banning them remains in effect until the deal is implemented, after which a new resolution takes effect that calls on Iran not to develop such missiles for eight years.
However, according to Khamenei, Israel, which he labels as “adou” and “doshman,” meaning “enemy” and “foe,” is a special case for three reasons.
The first is that it is a loyal “ally of the American Great Satan” and a key element in its “evil scheme” to dominate “the heartland of the Ummah.”
The second reason is that Israel has waged war on Muslims on a number of occasions, thus becoming “a hostile infidel,” or “kaffir al-harbi.”
His calculation is based on the assumption that large numbers of Israelis have double-nationality and would prefer emigration to the United States and Europe to daily threats of death.
Khamenei makes no reference to Iran’s nuclear program. But the subtext is that a nuclear-armed Iran would make Israel think twice before trying to counter Khamenei’s strategy by taking military action against the Islamic Republic.
In Khamenei’s analysis, once the cost of staying in Israel has become too high for many Jews, Western powers, notably the US, which have supported the Jewish state for decades, might decide that the cost of doing so is higher than possible benefits.
Khamenei counts on what he sees as “Israel fatigue.” The international community would start looking for what he calls “a practical and logical mechanism” to end the old conflict.
Khamenei’s “practical and logical mechanism” excludes the two-state formula in any form.
“The solution is a one-state formula,” he declares. That state, to be called Palestine, would be under Muslim rule but would allow non-Muslims, including some Israeli Jews who could prove “genuine roots” in the region to stay as “protected minorities.”
Under Khamenei’s scheme, Israel, plus the West Bank and Gaza, would revert to a United Nations mandate for a brief period during which a referendum is held to create the new state of Palestine.
All Palestinians and their descendants, wherever they are, would be able to vote, while Jews “who have come from other places” would be excluded.
Khamenei does not mention any figures for possible voters in his dream referendum. But studies by the Islamic Foreign Ministry in Tehran suggest that at least eight million Palestinians across the globe would be able to vote against 2.2 million Jews “acceptable” as future second-class citizens of new Palestine. Thus, the “Supreme Guide” is certain of the results of his proposed referendum.
He does not make clear whether the Kingdom of Jordan, which is located in 80% of historic Palestine, would be included in his one-state scheme. However, a majority of Jordanians are of Palestinian extraction and would be able to vote in the referendum and, logically, become citizens of the new Palestine.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s navy was reduced in size, and many new weapons systems were canceled while weapons were mothballed.
Under Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the navy is getting substantial funding for new weapons systems, with the goal of restoring Soviet-level power by 2020, according to the 68-page December report, “The Russian Navy: A Historic Transition.”
The publication seems to be evidence of further U.S. government recognition that Russia, following its military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea last year, is emerging as an elevated strategic threat.
Recent sales have included Kilo-class submarines to Algeria and Vietnam, Gepard-class frigates to Vietnam, and a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier to India. Sales of high performance Club missiles—the export version of the Kalibr family of missiles – have been underway for over a decade.
“This proliferation of high grade weapons is one of the most troubling aspects of Russian Federation adventurism worldwide,” the report said.
The new attack submarine is the nuclear-powered Severodvinsk, launched in 2010, with eight to be deployed by 2020.
Another class of attack submarine is in development and will be used to protect missile submarines.
Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon strategic nuclear policymaker, praised the Office of Naval Intelligence for producing the report.
“I’m glad that ONI is now looking at the Russian navy threat and publishing on it,” Schneider said.
“My main criticism is the lack of attention to the Russian theater and tactical nuclear capability,” he added. “Thirty years ago we had an in-kind deterrent against the Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons. This is now entirely gone. We have left ourselves vulnerable to devastating attacks by Russian nuclear forces against the navy.”
High tech weapons include laser and other directed energy weapons designed to damage or disrupt electronics through radio frequency bursts.
Moscow also is working on an electro-dynamic rail gun that uses electricity to fire a high-speed projectile with a muzzle velocity of 6,500 feet per second.
“The near- and mid-term combustion-based technologies are a transitional step to the creation of a railgun,” ONI said.
The attack submarines are capable of firing advanced cruise missiles, including the new Kalibr missile that was recently fired by Russian warships in the Black Sea against targets in Syria.
“Russia plans to deploy Kalibr capability on all new … nuclear and non-nuclear submarines, corvettes, frigates, and larger surface ships,” the report said.
“Kalibr provides even modest platforms, such as corvettes, with significant offensive capability and, with the use of the land attack missile, all platforms have a significant ability to hold distant fixed ground targets at risk using conventional warheads.”
Plans call for adding the Kalibr to old Russian ships and submarines as part of the naval buildup.
Two diesel-electric submarines also are being produced, the Petersburg and Kilo submarines, and an advanced diesel electric submarine called “Kalina” is planned for 2020.
The surface warship build up includes a new guided-missile corvette and four new types of guided missile frigates. A new generation of guided missile destroyer also is planned, and a new class of aircraft carrier also is being developed.
For the carrier, the report identifies the new advanced fighter jet known as the PAK-FA that is in the testing phase.
“The Russian Navy is being equipped with the newest [technology]; including precision long-range strike weapons, and has big nuclear power,” Chirkov was quoted as saying in the report. “Naval forces today are capable of operating for a long time and with high combat readiness in operationally important areas of the global ocean.”
The report mentions the deployment of a new ocean research ship, the Yantar, which was launched in August. U.S. intelligence spotted the ship conducting surveillance of U.S. missile submarine areas and underwater cables in the Atlantic in late August and early September.
The report makes no mention of the Russian autonomous underwater nuclear weapon, code-named “Kanyon,” that was revealed on Russian television.
However, the report says Russia has developed advanced high-technology torpedoes, including wake-homing, high-speed “super-cavitating” devices, and a “super-heavyweight” torpedo.
“One of Russia’s newest torpedoes is the multi-purpose depth homing torpedo (UGST), which entered service in 2002,” the report said. “The UGST has a monopropellant-fueled axial piston engine with pump jet propulsor. It is capable of acoustic, wire-guided, and wake-homing modes and is designed to be fired from both submarines and surface ships.”
The torpedo can travel at speeds up to 50 knots with a detection range of up to 1.5 miles for submarines and a mile for surface ships.