Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 26 August 2023

BRICS gets six new members

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

The five-member BRICS invited six more countries to join the alliance, in a move which can strengthen its claim of being a ‘voice of the Global South’ on one hand, while raising concerns about China’s increasing dominance on the other. BRICS consists of BrazilRussiaIndiaChina, and South Africa. In its ongoing summit at Johannesburg, South Africa, it has invited Iran, the United Arab EmiratesSaudi ArabiaArgentinaEgypt, and Ethiopia. Their membership will begin in January.

Why New Members

  • Adding new members strengthens the group’s heft as a spokesperson of the developing world. BRICS currently represents around 40% of the world’s population and more than a quarter of the world’s GDP.
  • With the additions, it will represent almost half the world’s population, and will include three of the world’s biggest oil producers, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran.
  • The rush towards BRICS is driven by two basic impulses: “First, there is considerable anti-US sentiment in the world, and all these countries are looking for a grouping where they can use that sentiment to gather together.
  • Second, there is a lot of appetite for multipolarity, for a platform where countries of the Global South can express their solidarity.”
  • The formation of BRICS in 2009 was driven by the idea that the four emerging markets of BrazilRussiaIndia, and China would be the future economic powerhouses of the world. South Africa was added a year later.
  • While the economic performance of BRICS has been mixed, the war in Ukraine — which has brought the West together on the one hand and strengthened the China-Russia partnership on the other — has turned it into an aspiring bloc that can challenge the western geopolitical view, and emerge as a counterweight to Western-led fora like the Group of 7 and the World Bank.

What this means for India

  • If India’s presence at the recent G7 summit in Hiroshima, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi also participated in an informal Quad summit, was seen as a sign of New Delhi’s US tilt, it continues to attach importance to the “anti-West” BRICS.
  • India is also part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and despite problems, it has relations with Russia, with China.
  • While China does want BRICS to be an anti-western group, the Indian view is that it is a “non-western” group and should stay that way.
  • Among the new members, while India looks at all of them as partnerships worth developing, concerns have been raised that the group could become more pro-China and sideline New Delhi’s voice and interests.


Indigenous ASTRA missile tested

GS Paper - 3 (Defence Technology)

LIGHT COMBAT Aircraft (LCA) Tejas successfully fired the ASTRA indigenous Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missile off the coast of Goa. The missile release was successfully carried out from the aircraft at an altitude of about 20,000 ft. All the objectives of the test were met and it was a perfect text book launch.

More about the News

  • ASTRA is a state-of-the-art BVR air-to-air missile to engage and destroy highly maneuvering supersonic aerial targets.
  • It is designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL)Research Centre Imarat (RCI) and other laboratories of DRDO.
  • The test launch was monitored by the Test Director and scientists of Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA)Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) along with officials from Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) and Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DG-AQA), the aircraft was also monitored by a Chase Tejas twin-seater aircraft.
  • The LCA programme has been the flag bearer of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) efforts towards indigenisation of its aircraft fleet.
  • The nature of this project of national importance, it is required that all stakeholders adopt a collaborative approach towards its success.
  • It was brought out that all contracted fighter variants of the LCA Mk 1 had been delivered to the IAF.
  • After the LCA Mk 183 LCA Mk-1A aircraft have also been contracted by the IAF in 2021.


Fukushima nuclear water release

GS Paper - 3 (Nuclear Energy)

Twelve years after the Fukushima nuclear meltdownJapan is releasing the power plant’s cooling water into the ocean. Japanese officials say it’s safe, but experts are divided. It’s hard to have a purely fact-based discussion about Japan’s Fukushima water release plan. Due to several scandals and a lack of transparencytrust appears to be low in both TEPCO, the company that operated the now-defunct Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant, and the Japanese government, with its close ties to the atomic energy industry.

Fukushima: Why is the water being released into the Pacific Ocean?

  • Storage tanks holding the cooling water at the ruined facility are full. Japan has had to cool the reactors at the nuclear power plant since they were destroyed during a catastrophic tsunami in 2011.
  • It takes 170 tons of cooling water per day to keep them cool. In addition, rain and groundwater have been seeping into the site. There are 1,046 storage tanks holding 1,343 million cubic meters of water.
  • Once the water has been filtered, it is considered safe and sent through a one-kilometer (0.62 mile)-long tunnel before being released into the Pacific Ocean — a process that will take an estimated 30 years to complete. The radioactive waste, meanwhile, will remain on land.

Is Japan allowed to release filtered cooling water into the sea?

  • Both Japan’s atomic agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have approved the plan.
  • The IAEA said Japan had met international safety standards and that “discharges of the treated water would have a negligible radiological impact to people and the environment.
  • They said it had been common practice for nuclear power plants worldwide to release used cooling water into the ocean for decades routinely.
  • However, environmental and fishing experts, as well as neighboring states, have accused Japan of downplaying the level of radiation in the cooling water.
  • They are concerned about far-reaching ocean contaminationpotential environmental damage, a fall in fishing revenue and loss of reputation.

How will the water be prepared before it’s released?

  • Before it’s released into the ocean, the contaminated cooling water and groundwater will be sent through a filter system called the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS).
  • ALPS can filter 62 different radionuclides — radioactive elements — but can’t filter out the radioactive isotope tritium.
  • So, TEPCO wants to dilute the water until the concentration of tritium is reduced to about 1,500 Becquerel per liter or less than a fortieth of the national safety standard. A becquerel (Bq) is a unit that measures the rate at which radioactive material emits radiation or how many atoms in the material decay in a given time.
  • TEPCO says that if the levels of tritium remain too high after filtration, they will repeat the process before releasing the water.

How dangerous is tritium?

  • Tritium is a form of hydrogen that occurs naturally in Earth’s atmosphere. It is radioactive but far less dangerous than cesium-137 or strontium-90 — both of which are life-threatening.
  • It emits a weak beta particle that can be stopped by a sheet of plastic or human skin.
  • It’s a different story if strontium-90 gets into the human body: “Strontium is absorbed by the bones, and once it’s in the crystalline structure of the bones, you can’t get rid of it again.

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