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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 18 October 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy


  1. Fukushima wastewater release can’t be delayed
  2. China tested n-capable hypersonic missile
  3. China’s Shenzhou-13 spacecraft docks
  4. ASEAN meet may shun Myanmar junta chief
  5. Centre notifies new rules regarding MTP

Fukushima wastewater release can’t be delayed


Japan’s new prime minister said the planned mass disposal of wastewater stored at the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant cannot be delayed, despite concerns from local residents.


GS-III: Science and Technology, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Waste Management)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Types of Nuclear Waste
  2. About Nuclear Waste Disposal
  3. About the Fukushima Incident
  4. Treatment of Fukushima water

Types of nuclear waste

  • Low-level waste is made up of lightly-contaminated items like tools and work clothing from power plant operation and makes up the bulk of radioactive wastes. It represent 90% of the total volume of radioactive wastes, but contain only 1% of the radioactivity.
  • Intermediate-level wastes might include used filters, steel components from within the reactor and some effluents from reprocessing.
  • High-level wastes from nuclear generation, but they contain 95% of the radioactivity arising from nuclear power.

About Nuclear Waste Disposal

  • Intermediate- and low-level wastes are disposed of closer to the surface, in many established repositories. Low-level waste disposal sites are purpose built, but are not much different from normal municipal waste sites.
  • Low-level and intermediate wastes are buried close to the surface.
  • High-level wastes require shielding and cooling, low-level wastes can be handled easily without shielding. High-level wastes can remain highly radioactive for thousands of years. They need to be disposed of deep underground in engineered facilities built in stable geological formations.
  • The regular monitoring is done as per the requirements which are in line with the guidelines of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • The monitoring of various environmental matrices such as air, water, soil etc., in and around the waste disposal facilities is carried out by independent Environmental Survey Laboratories (ESL) of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) which are stationed at all the nuclear sites.

About the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

  • A nuclear disaster happened at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on Japan’s coast in March 2011. An earthquake of magnitude 9.0 Ritcher scale caused a tsunami that flooded the critical control equipment of the nuclear power station and caused a meltdown.
  • The Tokyo Electric Power Company or TEPCO is now dealing with a new issue of radioactive water piling up at the site. Japan is planning to release the water into the sea . Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc would begin the process of pumping out the water in about 2 years after the treatment process is completed. The process is expected to take decades to complete. 

About the treatment of Fukushima Water

  • The water needs to be filtered again to remove harmful isotopes and will be diluted to meet international standards before any release.
  • The water will be filtered again to remove the isotopes leaving behind only tritium, which is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen hard to separate from water.
  • Tepco would dilute the water until tritium level falls below the regulatory limits. It would be then pumped directly into the ocean.
  • Tritium is considered to be less harmful to humans than other radioactive materials. Once released, the process would take 10 years to complete. 

-Source: Indian Express

China tested n-capable hypersonic missile


China’s military has carried out its first-ever test of a “nuclear capable hypersonic missile”, according to a report.


GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Treaties and Policies affecting India’s Interests), GS-III: Science and Technology (Nuclear Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Evidence of China’s expanding Nuclear Arsenal 
  2. Other Highlights from the SIPRI Year Book 2021
  3. China’s Strategy
  4. India’s Cause for concern
  5. Impact on India

Evidence of China’s expanding Nuclear Arsenal 

  • Recently, greater evidence has emerged that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is expanding the size of its nuclear arsenal by building more missile silos (storeroom).
  • It indicates that the PRC is fielding a larger nuclear force based on fixed land-based capabilities.
  • The nuclear missile silo field in the Xinjiang region in western China is believed to host 110 silos.
  • Also, there is evidence that China had built a site with 120 silos in the arid region of Yumen, in the Gansu province.

Evidence from the SIPRI Year Book 2021

  • According to the SIPRI Year Book 2021, China’s nuclear arsenal consisted of 350 warheads at that start of 2021, up from 320 at the start of 2020.
  • China is pursuing a planned modernisation of its nuclear arsenal because it fears the multi-layered missile defence capabilities of the United States.
  • China is arming its missiles with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs) capabilities to neutralise America’s missile shield.
  • The Peoples Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) fields a range of Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs) and Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs), and China also on a sizeable inventory of fissile material.
  • China’s expansion is cause for concern because even as the U.S. and Russia are attempting to reduce the size of their respective arsenals, the PRC is on an expansionist mode.

Other Highlights from the SIPRI Year Book 2021

  • The overall number of warheads in global military stockpiles now appears to be increasing, a worrisome sign that the declining trend that has characterized global nuclear arsenals since the end of the cold war has stalled.
  • According to the year book, India possessed an estimated 156 nuclear warheads at the start of 2021 compared to 150 at the start of 2020, while Pakistan had 165 warheads, up from 160 in 2020.
  • The nine nuclear armed states – the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – together possessed an estimated 13,080 nuclear weapons at the start of 2021.
  • Russia and the U.S. together possessed over 90% of global nuclear weapons and have extensive and expensive modernisation programmes under way, SIPRI said.

China’s Strategy

  • It appears that China is either concealing the number of missiles tipped with nuclear warheads or deceiving the world by building a large number of decoy missile silos. China has been known to deploy decoy silos in the past.
  • Land-based nuclear capabilities would enable China to present a nuclear opponent with a larger menu of targets to strike. This is likely to exhaust a large number of the enemy’s missiles in a first strike. Some of the decoy silos are meant to absorb and exhaust a part of the enemy’s first strike nuclear forces. Therefore, the larger the target list for any potential opponent, the greater the chances of China’s arsenal surviving a first strike thereby boosting the credibility of China’s nuclear deterrence.
  • In all probability, China is expanding its nuclear forces if not to match the larger nuclear forces fielded by the Americans and the Russians, but sufficient to withstand a first strike and then execute a retaliatory attack that would defeat the opponent.

India’s Cause for concern

  • The increase in unclear arsenal of China might not seem large relative to the size of the nuclear arsenal of the U.S. and Russia but it indicates a gradual shift toward a larger arsenal. This presents India with challenges because New Delhi has to contend with a nuclear-armed Pakistan as well.
  • The Indian nuclear arsenal, according to the SIPRI, stands at roughly 150 nuclear warheads with the Pakistani slightly ahead with 160 warheads.
  • China’s nuclear modernisation and diversified nuclear capabilities during conventional military escalation along the China-India boundary is one of the major concerns for India.
  • The PRC is believed to base a part of its nuclear arsenal in inland territories such as in the Far-Western Xinjiang Region, which is close to Aksai Chin.
  • Also, the concern is the rate and extent of the production by PRC as making a precise estimate of the PRC’s nuclear strength is not easy.
  • China’s nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles forces (land-based and sea-based) have improved in quantity and quality.
  • China’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capabilities and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) capabilities in the form of the Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) and the DF-26, respectively, are its most potent land-based missile systems.
  • At least 16 launchers of the DF-26 are known to be deployed in the Xinjiang region close to the Sino-Indian border.

Impact on India

  • China has refused to enter any tripartite arms control negotiations with Americans and Russians.
  • It possibly sees its current build-up as a necessity to bridge the nuclear asymmetries it faces against Washington and Moscow.
  • While the growth in China’s nuclear arsenal might not have an immediate impact on India, its development of land-based nuclear silos in the Xinjiang province is a cause of concern – given the region’s proximity.
  • It is likely to have an impact on the ongoing boundary stand-off between the two countries in Eastern Ladakh.
  • The major concern is the coercive leverage fixed land-based nuclear capabilities give the Chinese in consolidating their territorial gains in Depsang, Demchok and Gogra-Hotsprings.
  • It is unlikely that the strategic balance between China and India will change because of the Chinese nuclear expansion, but it is essential for India to keep a close eye on its neighbour and work on enhancing its own strategic capabilities.

-Source: The Hindu

China’s Shenzhou-13 spacecraft docks


China’s Shenzhou-13 spacecraft carrying three Chinese astronauts docked  at its Tiangong space station on October 2021.



GS-III: Science and Technology (Space Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About China’s Tiangong Space Station
  2. Understanding the Generations of space stations
  3. What is a Space Station?
  4. How are space stations set up and how do they work?
  5. ISRO’s space station ambitions

About China’s Tiangong Space Station

  • The Tiangong Space Station or Chinese large modular space station is a planned space station to be placed in low Earth orbit between 340 and 450 km above the surface.
  • The Chinese Space Station will be roughly one-fifth the mass of the International Space Station and about the size of the decommissioned Russian Mir space station.
  • Operations will be controlled from the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center in China.
  • The Tiangong-3 will be a third generation, modular space station.

Understanding the Generations of space stations

  • First generation space stations, such as early Salyut, Almaz, and Skylab, were single piece stations and not designed for resupply.
  • Second generation Salyut 6 and 7, and Tiangong 1 and 2 stations, are designed for mid-mission resupply.
  • Third generation stations such as Mir, the International Space Station, are modular space stations, assembled on-orbit from pieces launched separately. Modularised design methods can greatly improve reliability, reduce costs, shorten development cycle, and meet diversified task requirements.
  • About Tianhe
  • The module, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, was launched on the Long March 5B, China’s largest carrier rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.
  • Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS).
  • Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a life span of at least 10 years.
  • The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km (211-280 miles).
  • In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.
  • Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.

What is a Space Station?

  • A Space station is an artificial structure placed in orbit, having the pressurized enclosure, power, supplies, and environmental systems necessary to support human habitation for extended periods.
  • In simple words: a space station, also called an orbital station, is a large spacecraft or man-made station in space which can act as a home where astronauts live and/or receive several spacecrafts from the Earth and/or act as a kind of science lab, etc.
  • Depending on its configuration, a space station can serve as a base for a variety of activities. These include observations of the Sun and other astronomical objects, study of Earth’s resources and environment, military reconnaissance, and long-term investigations of the behaviour of materials and biological systems—including human physiology and biochemistry—in a state of weightlessness, or microgravity.

How are space stations set up and how do they work?

  • Small space stations are launched fully assembled, but larger stations are sent up in modules and assembled in orbit. To make the most efficient use of its carrier vehicle’s capacity, a space station is launched vacant, and its crew members—and sometimes additional equipment—follow in separate vehicles.
  • A space station’s operation, therefore, requires a transportation system to ferry crews and hardware and to replenish the propellant, air, water, food, and such other items as are consumed during routine operations.
  • Space stations use large panels of solar cells and banks of storage batteries as their source of electrical power.
  • They also employ geostationary relay satellites for continuous communication with mission controllers on the ground and satellite-based positioning systems for navigation.

How many Space Stations have we launched?

Since 1971, more than 10 space stations have been launched into a low orbit around Earth and have been occupied for varying lengths of time.

Important Space stations in chronological order are Salyut 1, Skylab, Salyuts 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, Mir, the International Space Station, and Tiangong 1 and 2.

ISRO’s space station ambitions

  • Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) has announced its ambitious plan to put up a space station in the next decade.
  • The Indian space station will be much smaller (mass of 20 tonnes) than the International Space Station and will be used for carrying out microgravity experiments (not for space tourism).
  • Preliminary plan for the space station is to accommodate astronauts for up to 20 days in space, and the project will be an extension of the Gaganyaan mission.
  • It will orbit Earth at an altitude of around 400km.
  • ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) is working on space docking experiment (Spadex), a technology that is crucial for making the space station functional. (Space docking is a technology that allows transferring humans from one spacecraft to another.)
  • The International space station (ISS) is currently the only active space station (Operating and permanently inhabited) in the Earth’s orbit.

-Source: The Hindu

ASEAN meet may shun Myanmar junta chief


Southeast Asian countries are discussing not inviting the head of Myanmar’s junta to a summit later in October 2021, due to a lack of progress on an agreed roadmap to restore peace in the strife-torn country.

The junta’s inaction on a five-point plan it agreed in April with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was “tantamount to backtracking”.


GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Important International Groupings, Foreign Policies affecting India’s interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The story so far: Situation of chaos in Myanmar
  2. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
  3. ASEAN’s Objectives

The story so far: Situation of chaos in Myanmar

  • For most of its independent years, the country has been engrossed in rampant ethnic strife and its myriad ethnic groups have been involved in one of the world’s longest-running ongoing civil wars.
  • During this time, the United Nations and several other organisations have reported consistent and systematic human rights violations in the country.
  • In 2011, the military junta was officially dissolved following a 2010 general election, and a nominally civilian government was installed.
  • This, along with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners, had improved the country’s human rights record and foreign relations and has led to the easing of trade and other economic sanctions.
  • There is, however, continuing criticism of the government’s treatment of ethnic minorities, its response to the ethnic insurgency, and religious clashes.
  • In the 2015 election, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a majority in both houses – however, the Burmese military remained a powerful force in politics.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising Ten Countries in Southeast Asia.
  • In 1967 ASEAN was established with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by its founding fathers: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
  • ASEAN is headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia.
  • The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.
  • 8th August is observed as ASEAN Day.
  • Chairmanship of ASEAN rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of Member States.
  • ASEAN is the 3rd largest market in the world – larger than EU and North American markets.
  • A major partner of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, ASEAN maintains a global network of alliances and dialogue partners and is considered by many as the central union for cooperation in Asia-Pacific.

Members of ASEAN

  1. Indonesia
  2. Malaysia
  3. Philippines
  4. Singapore
  5. Thailand
  6. Brunei
  7. Vietnam
  8. Laos
  9. Myanmar
  10. Cambodia

ASEAN’s Objectives

  1. To promote intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration among its members and other countries in Asia.
  2. To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organisations.
  3. To promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.
  4. To accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian Nations.

-Source: The Hindu

Centre notifies new rules regarding MTP


The government has notified new rules under which the upper limit for termination of a pregnancy has been increased from 20 to 24 weeks for certain categories of women.


GS-II: Social Justice and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Background on Abortion in India
  2. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
  3. Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020
  4. About the new Rules

Background on Abortion in India

  • Abortion in India is legal in certain circumstances. It can be performed on various grounds until 24 weeks of pregnancy. In exceptional cases, a court may allow a termination after 24 weeks.
  • When a woman gets a pregnancy terminated voluntarily from a service provider, it is called induced abortion. Spontaneous abortion is when the process of abortion starts on its own without any intervention. In common language, this is also known as miscarriage.
  • Before 1971, abortion was criminalized under Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, describing it as intentionally ‘causing miscarriage’.
  • It was in the 1960s, when abortion was legal in 15 countries, that deliberations on a legal framework for induced abortion in India was initiated.
  • The alarmingly increased number of abortions taking place put the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on alert.
  • To address this, the Government of India instated a Committee in 1964 led by Shantilal Shah to come up with suggestions to draft the abortion law for India.
  • The recommendations of this Committee were accepted in 1970 and introduced in the Parliament as the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 provides the legal framework for making CAC services available in India.
  • Termination of pregnancy is permitted for a broad range of conditions up to 20 weeks of gestation as detailed below:
    1. When continuation of pregnancy is a risk to the life of a pregnant woman or could cause grave injury to her physical or mental health;
    2. When there is substantial risk that the child, if born, would be seriously handicapped due to physical or mental abnormalities;
    3. When pregnancy is caused due to rape (presumed to cause grave injury to the mental health of the woman);
    4. When pregnancy is caused due to failure of contraceptives used by a married woman or her husband (presumed to constitute grave injury to mental health of the woman).
  • The MTP Act specifies
    1. who can terminate a pregnancy;
    2. till when a pregnancy can be terminated; and
    3. where can a pregnancy be terminated.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020

It is an Amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.

Proposals of the Bill:

  1. The requirement of the opinion of one registered medical practitioner (instead of two or more) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation (foetal development period from the time of conception until birth).
  2. Introduce the requirement of the opinion of two registered medical practitioners for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.
  3. Increase the gestation limit for ‘special categories’ of women which includes survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women like differently-abled women and minors.
  4. The “name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed”, except to a person authorised in any law that is currently in force.

About the News Rules

  • The gestational limit for termination of a pregnancy has been increased from 20 to 24 weeks for certain categories of women. The seven specific categories are:
    1. Survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest.
    2. Minors.
    3. Change of marital status during the ongoing pregnancy (widowhood and divorce).
    4. Women with physical disabilities.
    5. Mentally ill women.
    6. Foetal malformation that has a substantial risk of being incompatible with life or if the child is born, he/ she may suffer from serious physical or mental abnormalities.
    7. Women with pregnancy in humanitarian settings or disaster or emergency situations.
  • A state-level medical board will be set up to decide if a pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks in cases of foetal malformation.
  • The medical boards are to either accept or reject the proposal for medical termination of pregnancy within three days of receiving the request.
  • The abortion procedure has to be done with five days of the board receiving the request for the same.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024