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Nuclear News - 01/06/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 6 January, 1999

  1. Russia's Recession: The Nuclear Fallout, Washington InternationalEnergy Group (12/23/99)
  2. Duma Scheduled To Consider Start II Ratification By Mid-Year, RFE/RLNewsline (1/5/99)
  3. Suppose Russia, India and China Could Really Get Together, InternationalHerald Tribune (1/5/99)
  4. Russian Specialists Obtain Fuel from Weapons Plutonium, Itar-Tass (1/5/99)
  5. Yeltsin Tightens Controls Over Russian Missile Technology,Associated Press (1/5/99)
  6. Nuclear Waste 'To Bankroll Lebed Campaign, The Times (UK) (1/6/99)

Russia's Recession: The Nuclear Fallout
Department of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson
Washington International Energy Group, Op-Ed
December 23, 1998
(for personal use only)

Russia's financial crisis has brought new urgency to U.S. efforts tohelp Moscow tighten controls over weapons-grade nuclear materials andexpertise. Already, episodes involving unpaid guards and inoperativesecurity equipment have increased the risk of nuclear leakage to roguestates or terrorists.

The most disturbing incident reflecting the new pressures of economichardship on nuclear plant personnel took place in the closed city ofMayak, the major plutonium reprocessing site, where tens of tons ofweapons-usable plutonium are stored. In September, a guard sergeantthere ran amok, killing a number of his counterparts before fleeing.He has yet to be apprehended.

Our partnership with Russia to meet these growing security challengeshas been extraordinary. In cooperation with the U.S. Department ofEnergy, Russia is selling the United States large quantities ofweapons-grade uranium in non-weapons-usable form -- 36 tons so far. Italso is accepting our help to improve protection and accounting ofnuclear materials at some 40 nuclear facilities, including highlyclassified sites.

In addition, Moscow has agreed to a U.S.-Russian program to render 50tons of weapons-grade plutonium in each country unusable for nuclearexplosives. And we are pursuing cooperative programs to engage Russianweapon scientists in peaceful projects and facilitate theconsolidation of Russia's nuclear weapons complex.

The Russian financial crisis has made this work more difficult -- butalso more important, since growing economic turmoil will increaseincentives for insiders at nuclear plants to sell material, or theirservices, outside authorized channels. Our most urgent worry is thatthe economic blows are affecting facilities' ability to protect andcontrol nuclear materials.

We have learned, for example, of cases of guards at some civiliannuclear sites not reporting for work and, in one extraordinaryinstance, electricity to a nuclear installation being cut off fornonpayment of utility bills, which obviously affectedelectricity-dependent security systems.

So far we have no evidence that nuclear materials have beencompromised. Nonetheless, these are serious developments, and theDepartment of Energy's task force on nuclear material security inRussia and the newly independent states has been working hard toaddress them.

My department's Materials Protection, Control and Accounting program,for example, promotes "passive" security upgrades -- improvements thatcan work even if guards are not available or if electricity goes out.Examples include vault locks that become "fail-safe" if electricity iscut and that cannot be opened unless two authorized individuals enterthe appropriate codes, and passive physical barriers, such asinterlocking concrete blocks. Steps can be as simple as bricking upvulnerable windows and redundant access points.

We also are intensifying efforts to consolidate materials into fewer,more easily protected locations, although given the scale of theRussian nuclear complex, it will be a number of years before we seesignificant results.

But the question of operating expenses, such as guard salaries, istroubling. The United States has never paid such expenses in the past,considering them to be a Russian responsibility. Nonetheless, we arelooking for ways to help individual sites cope by providing winterclothing for some guards and subsidizing several commissaries toensure that guards are fed while on duty. The costs are modest andclearly a worthwhile investment.

This summer, my department began a major new program with the RussianInterior Ministry, the organization that provides guards at manyRussian nuclear sites. We are improving training and emergencyresponse capabilities. We will use our contacts with the ministry tounderscore the importance of providing salaries and other necessaryitems to guards.

The financial turmoil in Russia hampers our efforts to diversify theeconomies of the 10 closed nuclear cities, and in particular toattract private investment to them. In the coming six months, however,our newly launched "Nuclear Cities Initiative" will lay thegroundwork.

Three cities have been selected as flagships: two nuclear weaponsdesign complexes and a plutonium production center at Kranoyarsk-26.By next January, leaders from these cities will have visitedcomparable "down-sized" nuclear sites in the United States to learnhow we have created civilian jobs there, and teams of U.S. economicdevelopment specialists will have visited the three Russian centers.In coming months Russia is going to need more help, not less, and wemust be ready to respond. Our two countries remain committed toreducing the threat posed by the nuclear legacy of the Cold War.

Duma Scheduled To Consider Start Ii Ratification By Mid-Year.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline
January 5, 1999
(for personal use only)

Vladimir Ryzhkov, the deputy speaker of the State Duma, told Interfaxon 4 January that consideration of the START II treaty is now on theagenda of the Russian parliament for the first six months of 1999. ButRyzhkov added that no vote will be taken until a majority of deputiesindicate that they will support ratification, which, he said, is "sofar not in evidence." Signed in 1993, the treaty was ratified by theU.S. Senate in 1996.

Suppose Russia, India and China Could Really Get Together
International Herald Tribune
Sunanda K. Datta -Ray
January 5, 1999
(for personal use only)

SINGAPORE - Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov's idea for astrategictriangle linking his country with India and China, far-fetched though itmaysound, deserves serious consideration, even though it has not yet beenelevated to the status of a formal proposal.

First, it holds the promise of providing a counterweight in what isbecoming -witness America's almost solitary pursuit of Operation DesertFox against Iraq- a dangerously unipolar world.

Second, it might succeed in subsuming some of the region's moresizzlingtensions. For example, Pakistan would have had less reason for reactingwithalarm to the Indian-Soviet defense agreement signed during Mr.Primakov'srecent visit to New Delhi if China, which is close to Pakistan, had beenaparty to that agreement.

Politicians of India's governing party, who do not seem to realizethattheirspurts of anti-Chinese rhetoric sound suspiciously like an admission ofweakness or an attempt to whip up national hysteria, would also learn tobemore circumspect.

The global advantage of even a loose Moscow-New Delhi-Beijing axiswouldbe tooffer prisoners of the unipolar system another option. It mightencourage theemergence of other poles, in the Middle East or Latin America, andpromptEurope to take a more independent line. Only a multipolar world caninjectsome authority into a sadly marginalized United Nations, so that futurepolicing actions enjoy consensual support.

Of course, the Primakov plan flies in the face of conventional wisdom,whichargues in favor of an alliance between Japan and India, Asia's two majordemocracies, both more than a little wary of China. It also carries ahint ofganging up on the United States.

But Japan is unlikely to be drawn into any Asian strategicarrangement. AndRussia, China and India are all in far too great a need of Americancapital,markets and influence to adopt an adversarial posture.

India knows, too, that the United States alone can restrain neighborswhocompound, if not create, many of its security headaches, external aswell asinternal.

The most that a trans-Himalayan partnership would do, therefore, wouldbecompete with America without challenging it. By reducing tension in afragilepart of the globe, it would lessen America's policing worries, which isadditional reason why Washington should welcome the idea.

In one form or another, the idea has been around for many years. PrimeMinister Jawaharlal Nehru hosted the first Asian Relations Conferencewithgreat éclat in 1947, hoping that it would lead to tangible forms ofcooperation. But Nehru's vision was not always able to bridge the gulfbetweenphilosophy and politics, and the governments represented at theconferencefailed to live up to their commitments.

Now that the Cold War is over, the Soviet empire buried and PresidentBorisYeltsin's Russia bound in a strategic partnership with President JiangZemin'sChina, the time may have come to return to earlier thinking.

Beijing's response that although it ''pursues an independent foreignpolicy ofpeace'' it ''is ready to develop diplomatic relations with all countriesinthe world'' does not altogether rule out the Primakov plan. Theenigmaticwording is probably shorthand for: Wait and see how the United Statesrespondsto human rights and political dissidence in China and to the Taiwanquestion,how the Japanese interpret their upgraded military ties with theAmericans(especially after Tokyo's unambiguous support for Desert Fox) and howIndiashapes up as a nuclear power.

If both China and India adjust for the future, they will discover thattheircommon response to the U.S.-led strikes against Iraq indicated a sharedAsianpsychology. Like Russia, they are also interested in Central Asia's vastoilreserves, in Middle East peace, and in a stable Afghanistan not givenover toreligious extremism.

Russian Specialists Obtain Fuel from Weapons Plutonium.
January 5, 1999
(for personal use only)

ULYANOVSK -- The original "dry" technology of turningweapons plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors has been developed andputinto practice for the first time ever by specialists from the ResearchInstitute ofNuclear Reactors in the city of Dimitrovgrad, Ulyanovsk Region.

They have already processed eight kilograms of plutonium in accordancewiththe new technology and have been heating the building of the instituteand theadjacent residential areas since the beginning of January. The fuel theyobtainedwill be enough for heating them until April.

According to the estimates of Dimitrovgrad specialists, this is "thetechnology ofthe third millenium," because it provides for the turning of weaponsplutoniuminto fuel for nuclear reactors without an enormous amount of water,which wasusually needed during the work with nuclear components. This will makeitpossible to reduce considerably the expenses on the processing ofplutonium,without breaking safety rules.

"Humanity has accumulated thousands of tons of weapons plutonium, but wewere the first to use it for peaceful purposes," Director of theResearch InstituteAlexey Grachyov told Tass. According to his information, specialists innuclearphysics from the United States, Japan and other countries are showingmuchinterest in the new technology and are offering help for thecontinuation of theresearch.

Yeltsin Tightens Controls Over Russian Missile Technology
Associated Press
January 5, 1999
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW -- President Boris Yeltsin has tightened governmentcontrols over the export of Russian technology that may be used todevelopmissiles.

Yeltsin amended and broadened the list of items that will be banned forexports in order to prevent the proliferation of missile technologies,thepresidential press service said Tuesday. It did not name the items.

The action appeared to be a response to the long-standing U.S. concernthatRussian missile technology was finding its way to other nations, with orwithout Moscow's consent.

"That is another graphic confirmation of Russia's adherence to thenon-proliferation policy and its intention to continuously tighten thenationalexport control system," the presidential press service said.

Yeltsin has introduced several changes in recent years to strengthencontrolover the export of high-tech items that may have both civilian andmilitaryuses. However, the government has never said what the measures were.

The United States and Israel have said that Russian missile technologyhasbeen going to Iran, and they have urged Moscow to halt such transfers.

Russia has said it rebuffed Iranian attempts to acquire weaponstechnology,and Iran says it has no intentions of developing weapons of massdestruction.

The United States also has urged Moscow to abandon its plan to helpbuilda nuclear power plant in Iran. The United States fears the project mightallow Tehran to develop nuclear weapons, but both Iran and Russia denythe charge.

Nuclear Waste 'To Bankroll Lebed Campaign'
Anna Blundy
The Times (UK)
6 January 1999
(for personal use only)

WITH a year to go until Russian presidential elections if Boris Yeltsinseesout his full term, it has been suggested that Aleksandr Lebed, the gruffGovernor of Krasnoyarsk, might be attempting to raise money for hiscampaignby insisting that his Krasnoyarsk Gubernatorial Foundation be themediatorthrough which Ukraine would pay Russia for the disposal of nuclearwaste. Segodnya newspaper reported, in an article called The Temptation ofNuclearProfits, that $69 million (£40 million) allocated by the UkrainianGovernmentfor storing and processing waste in the Krasnoyarsk area has gonemissing. Themoney, to be precise, probably never existed because AtomenergoResource, theUkrainian mediating company, is supposed to pay only 15 per cent of thesumdue in cash.

Mr. Lebed complains that the goods, services and IOUs that make up therest of the payment always arrive late and never in full.

The agreement is that the Zheleznogorsk iron ore processing factory inKrasnoyarsk accepts 250 tons of nuclear waste per year at a fee of $275perkilo. "By recycling one kilogram of used nuclear fuel, one can earn upto$1,000," Yevgeni Adamov told deputies of the Krasnoyarsk territoriallegislative assembly yesterday, suggesting that there was an urgent needtobring payments into line with the rest of the world.

Mr. Lebed has elected to hold Ukraine to ransom on the issue and isrefusing to accept any more nuclear waste until the debt is paid at areasonable rate.

He also insists that his foundation must mediate in the affair,according toinformation obtained by Segodnya. As the waste piles up, experts agreethat aconcentration of nuclear material can result in "unpleasant incidents".

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