EUROPE

At the beginning of February, the explosive threat in Northern Ireland, UK, has risen with multiple incidents. A bag containing 28 pipe bombs, an improvised under-car bomb, two grenades and other bomb-making equipment has been found in the river Lagan in Belfast. An Ammunition Technical Officer (ATO) carried out an examination of the objects at the scene and the weapons have been taken away for extensive forensic examination. It is now being investigated by the PSNI’s Terrorism Investigation Unit. In a separate incident, on January 31st British police first received a telephoned warning that there was a bomb in a lorry in Belfast docks which was due to go by ferry to Scotland from Northern Ireland, set to explode in Britain at the time it left the European Union. However, the Police could not identify the lorry. The explosive device was later found attached to a heavy goods vehicle in the Silverwood Industrial Estate in the town of Lurgan in County Armagh, Northern Ireland.


A letter bomb caught fire at a bank in Amsterdam and another was disarmed at an office near Utrecht. This marks the latest in a series of such attacks in the Netherlands in the past months. No injuries have been reported. Police believe the two letters that detonated harmlessly this week, in mail rooms at Dutch bank ABN Amro and Japanese printer company Ricoh, are connected with letters sent to seemingly random business locations around the country in early January.

France’s state-controlled power group EDF plans to shut down the Number 1 reactor of its Fessenheim nuclear power plant on February 22, 2020 and the Number 2 reactor at that same plant on June 30.

THE AMERICAS

The current US administration has abandoned the intention to affirm US commitment the Ottawa Convention (Mine Ban Treaty). US President Donald Trump has lifted restrictions on the deployment of anti-personnel landmines by American forces. The decision reverses a 2014 Obama administration ban on the use of such weapons, which applied everywhere in the world except for in the defence of South Korea. US forces will now be free to use the weapons across the world “in exceptional circumstances”, the White House said.


US President Donald Trump on Thursday said he opposes the long-delayed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, reversing his policy on a project on which the United States has spent billions of dollars over decades but never opened. Tensions between Nevada lawmakers and Washington over nuclear waste flared when the administration revealed that in 2018 the government secretly shipped deadly plutonium to Nevada from a South Carolina site that produced it for nuclear bombs during the Cold War. Nuclear waste from electricity generation is currently stored at nuclear power plants, first at spent fuel pools and then dry storage casks. Other sites being considered for the waste are in rural Texas and New Mexico. This news comes at the same time as the new $740.5 billion defense budget request sent to Congress which includes more money for nuclear weapons, marking an increase of 18% compared to the past year. 

ASIA

The Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (Bapeten) in Indonesia issued a statement telling residents to stay away from a piece of land in Serpong, 43 km south of Jakarta, because it was contaminated. Bapeten said it had discovered an elevated level of radioactive isotope Caesium-137 during a routine test for radioactivity in the area at the end of last month, causing alarm among some locals and raising questions about its source. Indonesia does not have an active nuclear power industry, but a reactor used for research is about 3 km (1.9 miles) away from the site of the contamination.


The number of new cases of Coronavirus rose in China and outbreaks worsened in Japan and South Korea, undermining hopes for a slowdown in the spread of the disease.  Authorities in China's Hubei province confirmed an additional 411 cases of the virus on February 20th, 62 more than the previous day, taking the total number of cases at the epicenter of the outbreak to 62,442. There are an additional 14,000 or so cases outside Hubei, mainly recorded in China. The death toll from the outbreak now stands at 2,247. Outside China, the largest coronavirus outbreaks have been in South Korea and Japan, where hundreds of people were infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which began disembarking passengers this week from Yokohama Bay. 

MIDDLE EAST

Explosive use in mass-casualty incidents has continued over the month of February. A suicide bomber killed six people near a military academy in Kabul, Afghanistan.The bombing took place near the government-run defense university, the Marshal Fahim Military Academy, at the beginning of the morning rush hour. The Taliban denied involvement in the blast and there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.Later in the month, at leastone policeman was killed and two injured when an IED went off near a police mobile van deployed for the security of polio workers in northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

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