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  • Elena Grozdanovska

UN Security Council braces itself for an expedition to the Arctic

Tensions come to a head over rumors USS Jacksonville incident might be caused by foreign malware

The United Nations Security Council will convene Saturday, November 27 to discuss the events onboard the USS Jacksonville on the evening of November 25. The fire outbreak on the nuclear-powered submarine resulted in over a dozen of cases and one death by radiation poisoning, raising fresh concerns over the safety risks tied to the use of nuclear reactors as energy sources.

The submarine was making headway through the Northwest Passage in disputed international waters off the Canadian coast when the alarm was sounded over a fire in the vessel’s engine room. The United States government has yet to issue a statement on the cause of the fire, or to which purpose the Los Angeles class fast attack submarine was stationed at this location. The gravity of the radiation leak resulting from the fire is yet to be determined, but environmental groups have already raised the alarm over its potential impact on marine life and the local indigenous population who depend on it for sustenance. The Northwest Passage is located off the shore of the Canadian Arctic Territories inhabited by over 150,000 members of indigenous communities, the largest of which are the Inuit, the Gwich’in, and the Athabaskan.

The melting of the polar ice caps has gradually accumulated interest in the Arctic in the past two decades, as it opens the region to increased oil and gas exploration, as well as a higher frequency of Arctic trade routes. The Northwest Passage, comprised of a series of straits, is the sea route linking the Pacific and Arctic Oceans via the Arctic Ocean. It is as of yet unavailable for large-scale commercial traffic owing to the amounts of ice and the dangers its shifting poses for cargo vessels. However, the melting of the Arctic’s permafrost due to global warming is expected to clear this route of ice blockades for longer periods of the year in the future, thus serving to raise the strategic interests of regional competitors, including China and Russia.

At the urging of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the President of the United Nations Security Council has called for a meeting of the Council members, joined in this edition by the member-states of the Arctic Council, who have been granted observer status. On the agenda will be the de-escalation of tensions among the concerned parties, with the cause of the accident still undergoing an investigation.

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