Nuclear Fusion Could Rescue the Planet From Climate Catastrophe

“Mills and BrLP don’t even want to have any connection or connotation to the term ‘Nuclear Cold Fusion’… Hydrino reaction is what is being mistaken for ‘Cold Fusion’… All these researchers, scientists, start ups and international collaborations are wasting their time because they have an incorrect theory of physics, of the electron… … This isn’t difficult to understand!”

Illustration: Story TK for Bloomberg Markets

Nuclear Fusion Could Rescue the Planet From Climate Catastrophe

Nuclear fusion could be the clean energy the world needs—and private companies are now working on machines to harness it.

By Jon Asmundsson and Will Wade28 September 2019, 10:00 BSTFrom 

About two dozen private companies around the world are working to harness a transformative energy technology that could rescue the planet from climate catastrophe. One is using space in an old factory that’s home to a mothballed U.S. Department of Energy-funded research machine in Cambridge, Mass. Another is housed in an industrial building behind a Costco outside Vancouver. A third is down the street from a self-storage facility in the foothills of Orange County, Calif.

The companies are working on commercializing fusion.

A scale model shows the array of pistons that General Fusion plans to use to compress plasma.Photographer: Ian Allen for Bloomberg Markets

Fusion’s promise is huge. It would be the most energy-dense form of power: A liter of fusion fuel is equivalent to 55,000 barrels of oil. In its most common form, that fuel would come from a practically inexhaustible source: water. In fact, 2 cubic kilometers of seawater could in theory provide energy equivalent to all the oil reserves on Earth. “It’s ubiquitous, inherently safe, zero-carbon energy—at a scale that can fuel the planet,” says Matt Miller, president of Stellar Energy Foundation Inc., a nonprofit that promotes the development of fusion power. “Now that’s worth working on.”

It was only about 100 years ago that people came to understand that fusion was the process powering the sun. Shortly thereafter, scientists began trying to re-create it. From tabletop experiments, fusion quickly developed into Big Science. Since 1953 the U.S. government has devoted more than $30 billion to fusion research, including basic science and weapons-related work, according to data from Fusion Power Associates, another nonprofit. European countriesRussiaChina, and Japan have also made huge investments in pursuit of the holy grail of energy.

Since the 1950s, however, expectations that researchers were on the verge of breakthroughs have repeatedly come up short. What’s different now is that advances in technology are bringing fusion within reach.

Turning theory into practical devices is being enabled by advances in supercomputing and complex modeling, says Steven Cowley, director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and former head of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority. Fusion used to be defined as “the perfect way to make energy except for one thing: We don’t know how to do it,” Cowley says. “But we do.”

So what is fusion again? The idea is deceptively simple: Smash two atoms together so they fuse into a single heavier element and release energy. It’s the opposite of fission, the process used in today’s nuclear power plants and the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

QuickTake: Nuclear Fusion

In fission, a large, unstable nucleus is split into smaller elements, releasing energy. Fusion, by contrast, starts with light atoms. Take two hydrogen nuclei, for example. Ordinarily, their positive charges repel each other. But apply enough heat and pressure, and they might get close enough for the attraction of the extremely short-range but powerful nuclear force to kick in, joining them into a single helium nucleus. When that happens, the mass of the newly formed nucleus ends up slightly less than the sum of the two hydrogen nuclei. And that difference in mass gets released as energy, in accordance with Albert Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2. Simple. Stars do it. The sun does it. It’s the basic energy process of the universe.

Early efforts to harness it, though, gave fusion a reputation for hype and disappointment. After World War II, an Austrian scientist who’d worked in Germany ended up in Argentina, where he persuaded dictator Juan Perón to fund his fusion experiments. On an island in a remote Andean lake, the scientist, Ronald Richter, set up an elaborate facility. In February 1951, he detected what appeared to be heat from a thermonuclear reaction in his reactor. The next month, Perón announced at a press conference that Argentina had harnessed the atom to create unlimited energy. A subsequent investigation found that a glitch in Richter’s instruments led to his mistaken heat reading. Richter was discredited.

Long Road

Fusion’s history is studded with disappointments as well as advances

British astronomer Arthur Eddington’s “The Internal Constitution of the Stars” posits that stars including the sun are powered by the fusion of hydrogen.

Photographer: Hulton/Getty Images

Nuclear physicist Hans Bethe describes the fusion reactions that create the energy emitted by stars, for which he later wins the Nobel Prize.

Juan Perón and scientist Ronald Richter announce that Argentina has developed fusion energy.

The first test of a hydrogen bomb, code-named Ivy Mike, uses a fission explosion to ignite a fusion reaction in deuterium fuel. The 10-megaton blast leaves a big crater on Enewetak atoll.

ZETA excitement and disappointment as U.K. researchers announce they’ve likely created a controlled fusion reaction, but later retract.

Source: Daily Sketch

A fusion demonstration at Progressland at the World’s Fair in New York.

In an example of cooperation, the U.K. brings laser equipment to the Soviet Union to measure the temperature of the T-3 tokamak, confirming 10 million C plasma.

Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor, or TFTR, starts at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. It sets a record plasma temperature of 510 million C.

The Soviet Union proposes international collaboration on fusion at the Geneva summit of Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, which leads to the start of ITER.

Photographer: Dirk Halstead/Life Collection/Getty Images

Chemists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons’s cold fusion experiment can’t be replicated.

The Joint European Torus, or JET, sets a record with a fusion output of 16.1 megawatts, equivalent to about 67% of the input energy, a Q of 0.67.

Construction of ITER, an international fusion demonstration project, in the south of France is 60% complete. When turned on, ITER is expected to produce 10 times the energy it consumes, a Q of 10.

Source: ITER

Many physicists were skeptical of the initial report, but news of the apparent breakthrough spurred research in the U.S., the U.K., and the Soviet Union. At Princeton, a top-secret U.S. government project aimed at working on the H-bomb started researching fusion technology. In 1951 scientists there began developing a device called a stellarator that would use magnetic fields to confine superheated plasma. The effort, code-named Project Matterhorn, was eventually declassified and became the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

In the U.K., work on a machine called Zeta, which “pinched” fusion fuel by running a huge current through it, led to another premature announcement of the dawn of the fusion age, in 1958. It turned out that strange instabilities in the fuel were what led researchers to mistakenly think they were seeing evidence of fusion.

The Argentine news also fast-tracked work on an idea developed by Soviet physicist Andrei Sakharov, a dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner: confining fusion fuel in a doughnut-shaped configuration with a machine called a tokamak.

Since the 1960s, when government labs and universities around the world began constructing tokamaks in earnest, more than 200 working machines have been built. A key sign of progress in the fusion field is the chart of the so-called triple product, a measure of reactor performance. Plot this number—how hot, how dense, and how well-insulated the systems are—against a timeline, and it looks a lot like Moore’s law, the famous doubling of computing power every two years. But fusion’s improvement is even faster. “Tokamaks have beat Moore’s law,” says Bob Mumgaard, chief executive officer of Commonwealth Fusion Systems, which was spun out of MIT.

So why does it matter how hot a fusion system gets? Consider the sun. Our local star has a lot of plus-size gravity to apply to the fusion process. Its interior brings the pressure of a mass equivalent to about 333,000 Earths and a temperature of about 15 million C (27 million F). That’s the kind of forge in which fusion happens.

On Earth, with so much less gravity, you need higher temperatures: 100 million C, for example. So the first step to get there is to heat a gas and turn it into a plasma, says Michl Binderbauer, CEO of TAE Technologies Inc., based in Foothill Ranch, Calif. “That happens through adding more energy, so at some point the ions and electrons that make up the atoms fall apart into a soup of charges,” he says. “That’s the state that actually most of the universe is in—what we call a plasma.”

Almost all of the visible stuff in the universe is plasma. “We’re living probably in one of the few specks of the universe where there’s no plasma in our immediate surroundings other than lightning or something,” Binderbauer explains. What’s more, in the 1950s, when instabilities and other “funky behavior” in plasma turned out to make fusion much harder than expected, Mumgaard says, it led to the development of an entire discipline, plasma physics. The field has in turn contributed advances in medicine and in manufacturing semiconductors.

Now, heating plasma to 100 million C sounds daunting and terrifying. Wouldn’t it vaporize whatever it touches? Short answer: no. The plasma is a handful of particles in a vacuum chamber, Binderbauer says. It’s millions of times less dense than air, its state is extremely fragile, and if it touches anything it instantly cools down. TAE’s Norman machine heats plasma to 35 million degrees, says Binderbauer. If, hypothetically, he could stick his hand into the vacuum shell, he says the plasma wouldn’t burn him. “My arm will absorb all of the energy,” he says. “I won’t even turn very warm.” Fusion, unlike fission, has no risk of meltdown. “You have to protect the plasma from the surrounding environment, not the other way around,” he says.

Fusion would have one other important benefit over solar, wind, and other intermittent sources of renewable energy, says Christofer Mowry, CEO of General Fusion Inc., based in Burnaby, B.C., near Vancouver: It’s “dispatchable” power. In most of the applications anticipated for fusion, the energy created in a reaction would heat water and run a conventional steam turbine generator. Plants could be safely and conveniently situated in cities and other places power is needed, Mowry says.

One obvious downside to fusion, reflected in the field’s 70 years of history and dashed hopes for imminent breakthroughs: It’s extraordinarily difficult to bring off.

In 1983 the late Lawrence Lidsky, an associate director of what was then called MIT’s Plasma Fusion Center, wrote an article titled “The Trouble With Fusion.” Fusion, he wrote, “is a textbook example of a good problem for both scientists and engineers. Many regard it as the hardest scientific and technical problem ever tackled, yet it is nonetheless yielding to our efforts.” Still, Lidsky laid out a laundry list of problems that, he contended, made it unlikely that fusion would ever be an economically viable source of power.

More than three decades later, the problems Lidsky identified remain. Chief among them is radioactivity. To be sure, the fuel used in fusion doesn’t pose quite the same dangers as fission’s uranium and nuclear waste. To understand fusion’s radioactivity challenge requires a slightly deeper dive into the science.

To begin, a variety of different light elements can be combined in a fusion reaction. However, the fuel that’s easiest to fuse is a 50-50 combination of two isotopes of hydrogen: deuterium and tritium. D-T, as it’s called, has been the main focus of the field. Deuterium is heavy hydrogen, the stuff found in seawater. Its nucleus consists of a proton plus a neutron (in contrast to plain old hydrogen’s lonely proton). Tritium is heavy, heavy hydrogen: a proton with two neutrons. It’s radioactive, with a half-life of about 12 years. It’s also extremely rare and expensive, but it would be bred in fusion reactors.

When deuterium and tritium nuclei fuse, energy gets released as an alpha particle (a helium nucleus, which is two protons and two neutrons) and a very energetic neutron. Those neutrons are neutral, unconfined by the magnetic field holding the plasma. They crash into whatever material is facing them, which in tokamaks, for example, is called the first wall. The crash transfers heat and also knocks the atoms in the wall’s material out of place, damaging it and making it radioactive.

A plasma injector at General Fusion. Such machines are designed to shoot fusion fuel into a vortex of liquid metal where it would be compressed by pistons and ignite. Photographer: Ian Allen for Bloomberg Markets

Daniel Jassby, a retired researcher from the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, says the incessant barrage of neutrons from burning D-T will create a lot of radioactive waste. Replacing weakened first-wall structures will drive up costs, he says, because of the expense of installing the new components as well as the downtime in which the system won’t be selling power. What’s more, the size of the machines means fusion reactors may produce as much as 10 times more waste than conventional fission reactors, he says. And while the levels of radiation may not be as intense as those of spent uranium fuel rods, that just means the byproducts of fusion systems are dangerous for a century instead of millennia.

The true operating costs for fusion reactors may not be low enough to cover their costs, let alone compete with existing power plants, according to Jassby. “Why would anybody want this?”

Nevertheless, a certain strain of utopian idealism has always run through the fusion endeavor. It may be what prompted the 1985 agreement between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev to cooperate on building a fusion energy project. Now known as ITER, the giant, long-delayed, 35-nation cooperative project is under construction—and about 60% complete—in the south of France.

When ITER achieves its first plasma, which is slated for 2025, it’s expected to hit a fusion milestone: It will produce more energy than it consumes. “There’s nobody knowledgeable in the space who doesn’t believe when they turn ITER on that it’s going to produce net energy out,” says General Fusion’s Mowry. ITER is expected to produce 500 megawatts while consuming 50. In the parlance of the field, it will have a Q>1. Specifically, since it’s expected to produce 10 times the energy put in, it would have a Q=10.

In the plasma physics community, there’s no question that fusion is viable. Now these startups are aiming to build a working—and profitable—fusion power plant, Mowry says. “Private fusion ventures are not going to work on fundamental plasma physics and fusion science,” he says. “They sit on top of that half a century of hard-won knowledge, and they’re all about commercialization.”

Here’s a snapshot of three such companies:

Commonwealth Fusion Systems, Cambridge, Mass.

TECHNOLOGY: Developing high-temperature superconducting magnets to confine plasma in a small tokamak called Sparc.
FUNDING: $115 million
INVESTORS: ENI, Breakthrough Energy Ventures*, Future Ventures, Khosla Ventures, and others
(* Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg  LP, which owns Bloomberg Markets, is a member of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition)

Commonwealth Fusion Systems, which was launched by professors from MIT’s Plasma Physics and Fusion Center in 2018, is looking for space. For the time being, CFS and MIT design and technical teams are working in what used to be the control room for Alcator C-Mod, an Energy Department-funded experimental tokamak on MIT’s campus. The machine, which sits in a large bay two doors away, ran a so-called high field using especially powerful magnets and set a record for plasma pressure.

CFS is seeking to make the next advance in magnetic confinement using new, commercially available high-temperature superconductors. The discovery of such materials was an advance that won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1987.

Before high-temperature superconductors became available in the past decade, tokamak builders faced a trade-off: use a lot of power to run a high magnetic field or run a lower magnetic field in a much bigger device, like ITER, says Mumgaard of CFS. The new superconductors will enable the company to build a smaller, cheaper version of an ITER-like machine. “Two years from now, we will have that magnet done,” he says.

CFS’s subsequent step will be to build a demonstration machine called Sparc that will use the new magnet technology. Sparc will be about 12 feet tall and could fit into half a tennis court. Construction is supposed to start in 2021 and finish in 2025. A commercial version, called Arc, is expected to follow. It would be approximately twice as big, fitting into a basketball court.

CFS’s tokamak will burn D-T fuel, which means it will confront the first-wall problem. The solution, Mumgaard says, is “to build a machine so you can replace the wall very easily.” Replace it often enough, he says, and it wouldn’t get very radioactive and could be stored and then recycled. “You can choose what you put around the machine,” he says. “Right now we can go with the stuff that’s cheap and easy. And yeah, it’s activated. But in the future we can put in stuff that lasts longer.” One potential solution would be using specialized alloys that are more resistant to becoming radioactive, though the industry is still working to develop such materials.

The radioactive material from fusion reactors is drastically different from fission waste, Mumgaard adds. “It’s basically not stuff that’s biologically active,” he says, unlike the volatile gases that can escape in a fission accident. “So it’s like a completely different category. Whether or not we can explain that well to the public, you know, is one of the challenges that we have to figure out in fusion.”

Still, Mumgaard is upbeat. “Fusion is a big endeavor, and there’s a lot of excitement around it,” he says, adding that enthusiasm is coming from energy people, investors, and academics. “We’re trying to birth an industry here. And it’s a fun place to be.”

General FusionBurnaby, B.C.

TECHNOLOGY: Developing  magnetized-target fusion machine in which plasma is injected into a cavity surrounded by swirling molten metal and then compressed by synchronized pistons to create fusion.
FUNDING: More than $100 million
INVESTORS: Bezos Expeditions, Chrysalix Venture Capital, Khazanah Nasional, and others

MowryPhotographer: Ian Allen for Bloomberg Markets

General Fusion, outside Vancouver, is taking a different approach to building a reactor. Founded in 2002 by plasma physicist Michel Laberge, the company dusted off a 1970s design by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Called Linus, the design included features that inspired General Fusion’s concept. “It’s basically the fusion equivalent of a diesel engine,” Mowry says. General Fusion’s machine addresses the first-wall problem by facing the plasma with swirling molten lead and lithium, which absorbs the neutrons. “We inject the plasma into a spherical cavity made out of liquid metal, and then we have basically an array of lots of pistons that are synchronized to collapse that cavity down very quickly around the plasma, heating it up until it burns—just like the analogy of a diesel engine,” he says.

Today’s high-speed electronic controls made it possible to synchronize the pistons with a precision that was impossible in the 1970s, according to Mowry. “That’s an example of what we call enabling technologies,” he says. The company is getting ready to build a scale model demonstration that it aims to complete in 2025.

“Fusion’s time is really coming now,” Mowry says. Before joining General Fusion, he worked in the energy industry for 30 years, including founding a company that designed so-called small modular reactors for fission energy. Now, he says, fusion is becoming competitive with fission. “When you look at the realistic time frames for commercializing advanced gen-four fission technologies, it’s no shorter than that time frame to commercialize fusion these days,” he says.

TAE Technologies Inc., Foothill Ranch, Calif.

TECHNOLOGY: Developing beam-driven field-reversed configuration machine, which fires two plasmas into each other in a confinement vessel so that their magnetic field holds them while heated by particle beams.
FUNDING: More than $600 million
INVESTORS: Goldman Sachs Group, Vulcan Capital, Venrock, and others

TAE Technologies, started in 1998, is the oldest company in the field. The late plasma physicist Norman Rostoker, who co-founded the company, took a long view, CEO Binderbauer says. Early on, Rostoker asked what fuel would be most likely to enable a viable fusion power plant—instead of what would be the easiest. He chose hydrogen and an isotope of boron, known as boron-11, because they produce no radiation during fusion and are readily available.

The catch? You have to cook the boron-11 fuel at temperatures of billions of degrees. So that’s the path TAE is taking. Such temperatures have already been achieved in particle physics experiments, according to Binderbauer. “When we talk about temperature, what it really is, it’s sort of how fast and with what energy are these particles zipping around and colliding with each other,” he says. Consider the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva and convert the experiments there into temperature units, Binderbauer says. “CERN actually has created trillions-of-degrees situations where an operator will control it, put these particles into these storage rings, and they run around there,” he says.

TAE’s current machine, which accelerates two plasmas into each other in a confinement vessel and heats them with particle beams, is called Norman. It operates in the neighborhood of 35 million C. The company’s next device, called Copernicus, is aiming for 100 million C.

NormanSource: TAE Technologies

Like other moonshots, the effort to harness fusion has been both inspiring and frustrating. The finish line may still be years away, but breakthroughs along the way have been sufficient to keep attracting scientists—and, more recently, investors.

And fusion could have an important place in the future energy mix. “The statistics will tell you in the next 25 years we’re going to double the amount of electrical demand and consumption,” Binderbauer says. “To me, finding baseload power that is decoupled from having to burn fossil fuels is very, very critical.”

The potential market is enormous, requiring an investment of $10 trillion or more in generating equipment by 2050. “You can build multiple very-high-value companies in a market like that,” he says. “And we will never even step on each other’s toes.”

Asmundsson is Go editor of Bloomberg Markets and Wade covers energy for Bloomberg News in New York.


‘At the end of the day, it’s all about Iran’

‘At the end of the day, it’s all about Iran’

Brig. Gen. Dror Shalom, the head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate’s Research Division, warns that Israel is in a “dangerous round” against the Islamic republic and needs to “keep a tight grip on the wheel.” In an exclusive interview he says that despite the evolving threats, Israel is working hard to frustrate Tehran’s ambitions: “We’ve moved from lopping off branches to chopping down trees.”

 by  Yoav Limor  Published on  2019-09-29 13:15 Last modified: 2019-09-29 13:59Brig. Gen. Dror Shalom

It’s the job of the head of the Research Division in Military Intelligence Directorate to worry, but recently, Brig. Gen. Dror Shalom has been more worried than usual.

In a special interview with Israel Hayom, Shalom says, “We are seeing a much more chilling picture recently … the past year and a half, I’ve raised the volume about how volatile things are. We’re in a much more complex reality than we were in the past, and it’s only getting worse.”

Shalom is talking about all the fronts Israel faces, but first and foremost – Iran.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about Iran,” he says.

“We’re in a dangerous round against Iran, and we need to keep a tight grip on the wheel,” he warns.

When it comes to Iran’s nuclear program, Shalom envisions three possible scenarios:
First, the US reaches a new nuclear deal with Iran, which might not entail everything Israel wants; second, that the military escalation in the Persian Gulf continues until the US is forced to respond to Iran’s activity, which could also force Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to get involved, possibly against Israel; and third, that Iran continues to violate the 2015 nuclear deal while remaining short of nuclear weapons capability.

Q: In other words?

“Raising the level of [uranium] enrichment to over 3.5%, holding more than 130 kg. (290 pounds) of enriched uranium, using the heavy water reactor at Arak to hold over 300 kg. (660 pounds), and mostly moving ahead in research and development – gathering knowledge and experience that will allow them to progress more quickly in the future.”

Q: From the moment they decide to, how long will it take them to build a nuclear bomb?

“I haven’t changed my basic assessment, which is two years for a bomb and a year to reach enough fissile material, but the processes that are underway right now allow them to build up their muscle, so when they do decide [to build a nuclear bomb], it will be fast and easy for them.”

Q: Are you sure you’ll be able to identify those events?

“The destabilizing of the nuclear deal demands that we divert some of our resources to this issue, because I’m definitely a lot less easy today. We’ve gotten into a gray area in which they’re moving ahead without, which requires us to be a lot more sensitive. Will we know? The Iranians are a very sophisticated enemy, and it bothers me.”

Q: What are the chances that there are [Iranian] sites you don’t know about or haven’t located?

“My working assumption is always that there are things I don’t know, so we have a very well-organized effort to tackle the nuclear issue, not only in Iran, but throughout the entire region. We leave no stone unturned to avoid being surprised. As someone who was a partner in the [attack on] the Syrian reactor I’m not at all easy about Iran, and that’s a change for the worse that poses a real challenge unless a new nuclear deal is reached that also serves us [Israel].”

‘Soleimani is upgrading his capabilities’

In the past few years, Israel has been very active in Syria. The IDF’s superior intelligence and airpower allowed it to carry out thousands of actions, at first against Hezbollah’s attempts to arm itself and then against Iranian attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria.

“We’ve moved from lopping off branches to chopping down trees – from attacking shipments to attacking the core,” Shalom says, referring to activity that combines both military and diplomatic aspects.

“We identified the tensions that exist in the Putin-Assad-Iran triad and were able to maneuver within it so that all our actions correspond to all three of those points. The idea is to remain below the level of war. We’ve managed to stop a lot of things – we’ve had major successes,” he says.

Q: What was stopped?

“A lot fewer weapons are coming in [to Syria and Lebanon]. The Shiite militias bases they wanted to build aren’t being built. Iran’s monetary investment has declined.”

Q: That came at the price of a direct conflict with Iran.

“That was planned. We didn’t want to kill Iranians, but we took into account that there was a chance that these actions could result in casualties because Iran is willing to sacrifice Arab Shiites but not Persian Shiites.”

Q: Does Tehran know about the results of these attacks, or is Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani hiding them?

“Not everything goes through an official approval process, and not everything is reported. Soleimani is a very serious guy. He learns, he’s very determined, he has faith, and he is always improving. Now he has started setting up military capabilities there that are designed to attack us without fighting an actual war.”

Q: How well do you know him?

“I know him well. I don’t like to personify or glorify our enemies, and I think we need to handle him through other channels.”

Q: Even so?

“He’s very close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, like a son, and that’s important because it biases the way the Iranian leader sees things. Soleimani believes in the Islamic Revolution with all his heart, and he is the main one who is executing it, who translates the ideology of Khamenei and Ayatollah Khomeini into practice and influence on the region as a whole.”

Q: If he were taken out of the game, would it change anything?

“I don’t talk about specific people. Soleimani is a key figure who is spearheading moves against Israel.”

At the start of 2018, the IDF’s Military Intelligence Division pointed to two processes it expected to see. The first was that as a result of continued pressure on Iran in Syria, Iran could try to gain a foothold in Iraq. The second was that Iran was transferring advanced weaponry to Syria to attack Israel, which could make the “between war” period even more volatile.

Q: What kind of capabilities are we talking about?

“From [manpower] frameworks that include both Sunnis and Shiites and militias that come in from other areas to weapons that include missiles, rockets, drones, and possibly even more complex things.”

Q: Like cruise missiles?

“Yes. There is also cruise missile activity.”

Q: What is happening in Iraq?

“Soleimani put a lot of time into Iraq, from a geopolitical perspective. He is very busy with that and he is using it as a base for Iranian military capabilities, with militias and allies. He is also using all that to influence Iraqi politics as well as to create another area of military activity, not only against us but also against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.”

Q: Do you see any possibility that he might shoot at us from Iraq?

“I think it’s very likely.”

Q: What will he shoot?

“It could be surface-to-surface missiles, cruise missiles, or long-range UAVs. He has UAVs that can fly 1,000-1,200 kilometers (600-700 miles) which he has used in the Persian Gulf.”

Q: What would make him decide to fire at Israel?

“In the end, when he takes a hit to the nose, he wants to hit back, and he has taken some blows recently. So my working assumption is that it’s only a matter of time until he tries.”

Q: Any time he has tried to attack Israel from Syria, he hasn’t really succeeded.

“He is humiliated. He took some serious blows and discovered that not everything he wants to do works out. But he’s active, he isn’t giving up, and he isn’t saying ‘uncle.’ He is upgrading his capabilities, and what didn’t work out for him last time could succeed next time.”

‘The tie in Syria has been upset’

Despite the prevailing belief in Israel, Syrian President Bashar Assad isn’t thrilled about the Iranian military activity in his country.

“He’ll have to understand that Soleimani is playing with him,” Shalom says.

“The bases Iran is trying to build in eastern Syria are definitely not what Assad wants, and he is also disturbed by the Iranians spreading radical Shiite ideology. But in the end, his hands are tied. The Russians also understand the complexity of what the Iranians are doing.”

Q: How much freedom of action do we have with the Russians after their jet was shot down last year?

“We are holding a very delicate dialogue with the Russians. We don’t want to clash with them, but they also understand how much damage we can do. They know we aren’t suckers. Still, we’re being very careful and walking on tiptoe – but as far as I understand, we have some freedom of action to some degree.”

Q: Is it possible that the “non-war” is starting to approach the level of war?

“Yes. I think we’re starting to approach the level of war. And yet, as intelligence, our job is to see what can be done without a full-scale war and point to places that could lead us out of that. For now … things are more volatile, and there is more potential for them to devolve.”

Q: You said the Iranians are trying to move “advanced capabilities” to Syria. What are we talking about?

“Iran is transferring specialized missile capabilities to Syria and is organizing its militias there – tens of thousands of fighters in Syria, not all of whom are going to be fighting against us in real-time. Some are meant to seize territory or bolster the capabilities of Hezbollah in its war against us in Lebanon.”

Q: So your working assumption is that if we fight a war with Hezbollah, it will receive help from the Shiite militias?

“My working assumption is that in the next war in Lebanon, we will need to prevent reinforcements from being moved to Lebanon from Syria, and also expect to be challenged from Syria in the form of rockets and missiles, possibly more.”

‘Hezbollah was hoping not to kill’

Hezbollah’s project to manufacture precision-guided missiles made headlines a few weeks ago after a drone attack on its main development site in Beirut, attributed to Israel, shut it down.

“It’s a serious project that’s defined as a ‘major strategic threat,’ which I think is accurate. It needs to be stopped, even though right now missiles are not being manufactured in Lebanon,” Shalom says.

Q: Did the incident in Beirut do much to stop those efforts?

“I think that what was blown up there will delay the project by a few months at least.”

Q: What did Nasrallah conclude from that strike?

“I think he’s playing with fire. Still, it wasn’t an incident that he would start a war over. I think he can be made to stop the precision missile project.”

Q: How?

“In his risk assessment so far, he has lived with the sense of immunity in Lebanon, that there is an ‘equation’ that says he doesn’t take action on our side, and we don’t take action on his – that he doesn’t kill our people and we don’t kill his. He thinks we can do what we want in Syria as long as we don’t kill Hezbollah operatives … The day of the strike, Nasrallah was embarrassed twice: when supposed Hezbollah members from Lebanon were killed in Syria, and by the Beirut incident. So he was committed to a response, but he is slowly realizing what he got himself into. If you ask me, I think he hoped his response would not result in any Israeli soldiers being killed.”

Q: In the Avivim incident, was he trying not to kill anyone?

“Nasrallah is a jihadist, a defender of Lebanon. He is no lover of Israel. He gave instructions to carry out a retaliation. Some of our soldiers could have been killed, and if they had, there would be a response, and we might have found ourselves fighting battles in Lebanon.”

Q: You said he could be made to give up the missile project. How?

“Through a combination of secret activity … and a broad diplomatic offense. The last incident gave the whole story a boost of energy.”

Q: What is Nasrallah’s top priority?

“Economics, economics, economics. How he can make cuts here or there because he’s in very tough financial circumstances that are partly the result of US sanctions on Iran. He is also busy with the organization’s image among the Shiite population and with other domestic matters. A lot of his operatives deal drugs, for example. He has families who lost relatives who fought in Syria, and the wounded [from the Syrian war]. He runs a large, long-standing organization that has to be rehabilitated.”

Q: Is he afraid of war?

“He is very put off by the thought of war. Nasrallah understands our capabilities. In the Research Division, I have an entire branch that has spent years identifying targets in Lebanon, and he is very familiar with what our air force can deliver.”

Q: In Operation Northern Shield, he lost a major project – the tunnels.

“He was really surprised, but I’m not sure that’s behind us. We need to remember that his plans to attack us didn’t depend on the tunnels alone. He has a massive plan that we’ve been practicing for.”

Q: Has he given up the underground front?

“My assumption is no.”

‘Islam doesn’t put food on the table’

At the other end of the country, the Gaza Strip has been on the brink of war for the past year and a half. It’s always on the verge of blowing up, even though neither Israel nor Hamas wants that to happen.
Shalom says it took time for Israel to realize that Yahyah Sinwar was a different kind of leader, one who wasn’t aspiring to terrorism alone.

“His strategy is more challenging. He didn’t pop out of a tunnel. He wears suits and leads the masses to the border, and we hand suitcases of money over to Gaza.”

Q: How long can we keep a lid on things in Gaza?

“In Gaza, we’re sitting on powder kegs. But the main problem there is the economic, civil, and humanitarian situation. Even Hamas understands that – it might say that Islam is the solution, but Islam can’t feed the masses or pay the electricity bill. So it’s starting to look for other ways.

Q: A peace deal?

“Yes. Hamas wants a deal, but one that doesn’t recognize Israel even though it’s unclear to me how that could stop it from getting stronger. So we are recommending an arrangement that will include easements, improve the civil situation and promote long-term projects so they can get out of the sewage they’re swimming in. Still, the question about Israel’s strategy in the Palestinian context remains open.”

Q: Is Sinwar willing to put jihad aside to rebuild the Gaza Strip?

“No, but Hamas is now willing to agree to long-term ceasefires.”

Q: A hudna (truce)?

“Yes. We in intelligence have identified an opportunity for an agreement. To those who think our only role is to identify targets, I say, ‘what is a target?” Because I don’t think we’d be stronger after another escalation or war.”

Q: Explain that.

“There are two scenarios. One is that we make major military progress but suffer heavy losses, and then reach the same deal Hamas is willing to make now. The other is that Hamas would fall apart during a war.”

Q: Would that give us a Somalia situation in Gaza?

“I think it would. Hamas’ governability is already facing challenges in Gaza, and given what we are planning to do to it in the next war – and this isn’t propaganda – it’s not certain it would survive, even if we aren’t the ones who decide to bring it down. It could fall apart on its own.”

Q: Would Hamas be willing to pay any price in a deal, including returning Israel’s captive citizens and fallen soldiers?

“I think so, although that depends to a large extent on us.”

Q: Will the Palestinian Islamic Jihad thwart a move like that?

“The Islamic Jihad has no responsibility. They get up in the morning and want to carry out jihad, to provoke wherever possible. We are doing risk management with Gaza, and it could all blow up at any moment.”

Q: Would a war in Gaza drag us into escalation in the north?

“Not necessarily. I think that it’s much more likely that the northern front would drag in Gaza.”

The Arab Spring continues

The delicate situation in the north and in Gaza obscures the fact that most recent terror attacks, and victims of terrorism, have been in Judea and Samaria. Still, that area remains relatively quiet, due to Israel’s efforts to thwart terrorist activity; effective security coordination with the Palestinian Authority; and attempts to improve the economic situation of Palestinians there and protect their daily routine.

“All of that depends greatly on PA President Mahmoud Abbas,” Shalom says. A lot of people in Israel see him as an inciter, but he is key to the quiet that has been in effect since 2006. That doesn’t mean he loves Israel – he isn’t a member of Likud or Blue and White, but it’s in his interest.”

Q: And yet you talk about ‘strategic deterrence’ in Judea and Samaria.

“Because the situation is unstable and could get worse. Strategic deterrence isn’t to prevent an intifada. That’s the easy part, and we were almost engulfed in one with all the lone-wolf terrorist attacks. But in the past year or two, we’ve seen incidents in which the Palestinians tried to damage security coordination, and with a younger generation that barely remembers the last intifada and the unknown factor of Hamas, everything could crumble.”

Q: Could someone replace Abbas?

“I find it hard to imagine anyone who would present more moderate or pragmatic positions than Abbas. We need to take that into consideration.”

Q: How stable are the moderate regimes in the region?

“The upset in the Arab street continues. Regime stability is in question throughout the Middle East. Even in places that supposedly made it through the rocky time, there is still instability and they don’t have well-balanced systems. Tyranny still exists, but in different forms and the economic development that’s underway won’t lead to any major change.”

Remembering Sadat in 2019

The 1973 Yom Kippur War is an open wound for the Research Division and a constant reminder of the limits of intelligence.

“It’s always in our mind. That generation wasn’t any less intelligent, and they got it wrong. It forces us to be humble,” Shalom says.

Q: Is the Research Division as important as it was, or is it less central in our cyber world?

“It’s true we’ve gone to a technological world, but the Research Division has a very prominent status … At the end of the day, the core of the IDF’s and the government’s activity comes from intelligence the Research Division supplies, and as a result, we have a great amount of responsibility on our shoulders.


Iran to be annihilated any day soon?

Well… It’s finally here… fucking Gulf War III, Judgement Day!

The most likely scenario is the US bombs shit out Iran in an eight hour timeframe… No warning, no ground troops, no going to the UN… Just launches an all out ‘shock and awe’ attack, and aims to destroy the Mullahs in 24 hours…

Iran could be destroyed in devastating ‘shock and awe’ blitz under leaked US ‘war plan’

Okay… First, what everyone really cares about… Oil prices go through the roof, threatening the global economy.

Second… Instantly, overnight… You have a failed terrorist state on your hands… Make Iraq look like a fucking children’s tea party.

A failed Shia Islamic state… With a population of like 81 million? (Minus the million that where just killed the night before)

It will plunge the entire region into chaos for decades! Fucking generations of hate, of revenge, of terror…hate for Israel.

Iranian proxies (Hezbollah, Hamas, Lebanon, Syria) will go to war with Israel… They’ll target Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide… From London to Japan, and every club that they can get in…

Russia and China won’t be very happy… couldn’t really do much.

The whole region will be a tinder box.. terror in Europe, Latin America, Central Asia…

My concern is Israel.


The world is about to try and destroy the Jewish people… Once again… … I guaranfuckingtee it… 100%

It’s everywhere… every comment on the Joe Rogan show, The Sun newspaper… everywhere on the internet.

It’s everywhere in the UK, a gangstalking cult… These people are a cult of deranged, abused, twisted, sick, evil individuals… … It’s happening across Europe, the US, the middle east…

You’re looking at the biggest threat to the Jewish people… ever? (Since Nazi Germany)

“Never again”? :/ … It’s happening right before your very eyes, if you don’t see it… you’re fucking deluded!

(Learn two things… Krav Maga and GUTCP!)


What Sets Netflix’s ‘Unbelievable’ Apart From Other True Crime Shows

“That is the best detective show I’ve ever watched! First of all I thought “meh… I’m not watching a show about a real life serial rapist”… and after the first episode I wasn’t going to watch it… I ended up watching it in three days. Awesome show…

And yes, I have a huge crush on Detective Duval! 😀

(essentially why I continued watching it after episode 2… there’s a scene where she rips into one of the officers on her team… had me in stitches)

What Sets Netflix’s ‘Unbelievable’ Apart From Other True Crime Shows

Despite the scary subject matter, don’t ration your viewings of ‘Unbelievable,’ Netflix’s gripping new crime show. In the same vein, three-quarters of the giant streamer’s ‘Criminal’ are worth a watch

Adrian Hennigan

What can we glean from the fact that so many of this year’s best dramas are based on relatively recent tragic events? HBO has already given us “Chernobyl” and “Our Boys,” about the 1986 nuclear disaster and 2014 murder of Palestinian youth Mohammed Abu Khdeir, respectively.

And less than four months after depressing the hell out of us (in a good way) with “When They See Us,” based on the infamous miscarriage of justice concerning the Central Park Five, Netflix now gives us the equally brilliant “Unbelievable.” (Oh, and then there’s season three of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which continues to depict events in Trumplandia to such chilling effect.)

Everything you need to know about “Unbelievable” was actually articulated three years ago in the episode of podcast/radio program “This American Life,” upon which Netflix’s eight-part show is based (along with the December 2015 ProPublica and Marshall Project article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape”).

“This is about two very different police investigations,” explained narrator Ira Glass. “One of them is done so inspiringly well it’s like the detectives in it are like detectives in a television show: smart, resourceful and great judgment; just police at their very best. The other case — the same crime, lots of the same facts — is the opposite.”

Like many others, I’m sure, I was initially reluctant to watch “Unbelievable.” For starters, there was the grim-sounding subject matter: two cops pursuing a serial rapist. Not exactly a “pass the popcorn” evening. Worse, there was pretty much every single previous film or show ever made about serial rapists. At best, these have been guilty of almost mythologizing monsters and forgetting the victims, and at worst, guilty of serving up titillation, voyeurism and how-to guides for wannabe rapists.

The very worst offender? The BBC’s “The Fall,” with model-turned-actor Jamie Dornan as a chiselled family man who just happens to be a predator who tortures and sexually abuses women.

So, it was only when the rave reviews for “Unbelievable” started pouring in that I relented. Even then, I thought I would ration my viewings, lest the subject matter prove too much. After all, if I want eight hours of sordidness and depravity, I can always switch on Fox News.

But then, about 10 hours after I had started watching, I found myself finishing episode eight, completely overwhelmed by the humanity, intelligence and warmth of this brilliant show.

Merritt Wever, left, and Toni Collette in “Unbelievable.”
Merritt Wever, left, and Toni Collette in “Unbelievable.” Beth Dubber / Netflix

Where shows like “The Fall” fail because they, well, fall under the spell of the attacker, “Unbelievable” focuses solely on the people who matter: the victims and the people fighting to prevent the next attack. This show isn’t concerned with the modus operandi of a rapist or what or who made them what they are. Instead, it cares about why victims aren’t believed, why the crimes aren’t treated with the same gravity as other serious offenses, and why male police officers themselves are part of the problem.

The critics are pretty much united in their love of “Unbelievable,” so I’ll keep my eulogizing brief with five points about the show:

1. The first two episodes are bleak and very unsettling, but after that the show focuses on the heroic-but-believable female detectives at the heart of the investigation. The series also develops a surprisingly sharp sense of humor, which is not what you might have expected at the outset.

2. Kaitlyn Dever is going to be a star. Fresh from appearing with Elizabeth “Beanie” Feldstein in the best comedy of the year (“Booksmart”), she is unbelievably brilliant here as Marie Adler, the teenager whose shitty childhood only gets worse as she hits adulthood. Memo to Dever: Do not sack your agent; they are getting you amazing roles.

3. Why am I not more familiar with Merritt Wever? She’s been in a lot of films and shows I’ve seen (most notably as Denise, the doctor, in “The Walking Dead”), but nothing prepared me for how superb she is here as empathetic Colorado Det. Karen Duvall — a God-fearing cop and mom who never loses faith in her own abilities. What’s most refreshing is that Duvall’s character’s Christianity is simply part of what makes her tick, not the be-all and end-all (although I did love the Post-It on her car dashboard, featuring a quote from Isaiah 6:8 and her message to God: “Here I am; send me”).

David Tennant in "Criminal." Four countries take the same idea of a police interrogation scene and create their own characters and dramas.
David Tennant in “Criminal.” Four countries take the same idea of a police interrogation scene and create their own characters and dramas. Jose Haro / Netflix

4. It takes a certain type of show to withhold its star player until a quarter of the way through the series, but that’s what “Unbelievable” does with Toni Collette. Still, she makes up for lost time in the remaining six episodes, creating in Det. Grace Rasmussen perhaps my favorite TV cop since Allison Tolman’s Molly Solverson in season one of “Fargo.” Whether cussing her way through team meetings or driving her fabulously gold-colored pickup, Collette is a mesmeric presence. Now, finally, after 25 long years, I can stop having the words “You’re terrible, Muriel!” in my head every time I see the actress on screen (thanks, “Muriel’s Wedding”), and can replace them with one of the many memorable phrases she spits out in “Unbelievable” — like her description of a male suspect being “an asshole, just not our asshole.”

5. So much about “Unbelievable” is praiseworthy, but special mention should go to creators Susannah Grant, Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman for their scripts. (Grant and the husband-and-wife novelists team both separately wanted to make the show, and it was a very happy union that they were paired on it to such good effect). Netflix has a bad habit of padding out its shows, but there is literally not a second wasted here. Even seemingly incidental characters get great scenes, demonization is avoided and, best of all, the show manages to provoke outrage by simply presenting the facts and letting the viewer do the rest.

If we really must have so many horrible real-life events in the world, then at least let the subsequent dramatizations be as good as this one.

When crime pays

Whoever said crime doesn’t pay clearly never told Netflix, because in addition to “Unbelievable” and last month’s second season of “Mindhunter,” the streaming giant also just released “Criminal.”

The format’s the thing here, as four different countries take the idea of an interrogation scene in a police station, and create their own characters and dramas from it. The only constant in each version – each featuring three 45-minute episodes – is the set itself. The countries where the four shows are set are the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain, yet, ironically, the weakest version comes from the very people who came up with the concept: British director Jim Field Smith and writer George Kay.

And despite being by some stretch the weakest of the four shows, the U.K. version will probably be the most watched — thanks to the presence of David Tennant and Hayley Atwell as the suspects being grilled in the first two episodes. Sadly, these are merely thinly veiled excuses for the actors to raid the “emotions” dress-up box and show us their acting chops. It feels like an audition tape by an overenthusiastic actor who has been between jobs for too long.

My advice would be to skip the British version and watch the French, German and Spanish shows instead (in that order). All three episodes of the French version are excellent (I was particularly gripped by the first one, about someone being investigated for potentially lying about being at the Bataclan terror attack on November 13, 2015, and the third, about a brutal attack on a gay man). Even better, the five investigators in this Paris police station are all interesting characters you want to learn more about, especially given their own personal ambitions.

I also really enjoyed the Berlin-set German episodes, especially after I got used to the somewhat overstated performance by Sylvester Groth (from “Dark”) as the senior male investigator.

The opening episode features an enjoyably twisty plot based around the reunification of Germany at the end of the 1980s. And if Tennant and Atwell want to see some real acting chops, they should check out Nina Hoss in the final episode as Claudia, a serial killer’s wife and accomplice. I’ve loved Hoss’ work in other shows (including “Homeland”), but didn’t even recognize her here. Now that’s what I call acting.You Might Also Like