- U.S. Hopes To Resolve Uranium Dispute With Russia, Reuters (01/12/99)
- Greenpeace Warns Of Russia Plan To Import N-Waste, Reuters (01/12/99)
- Russia Reacts Angrily To New U.S. Sanctions, Washington Post (01/14/99)
- Russia To Triple Number Of Nuke Workers In Iran, Reuters (01/14/99)
- Y2K Nuke Accidents Called Unlikely, Associated Press (01/14/99)
- How One Man Is Trying To Stave Off Another Russian Nuclear Disaster,Philadelphia Inquirer (01/15/99)
- Focus-Russia Duma Indignant Over U.S. Iran Moves, Reuters (01/15/99)
U.S. Hopes To Resolve Uranium Dispute With Russia
January 12, 1999
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WASHINGTON -- U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said onTuesday he hoped to resolve problems soon with a deal in which theUnitedStates agreed to buy 500 tons of highly enriched uranium from Russia tofuelAmerican commercial nuclear power reactors.
"We hope soon to bring to closure the recent issues that have dogged ourprogress on implementing this important agreement," he told a conferencesponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "There are still some issues we need to narrow down," he said. He gavenodetails.
Under the $12 billion 1993 deal, Russia was to convert 500 tons ofhighlyenriched material into low-grade uranium over 20 years. The fissile material, enough for 20,000 nuclear weapons, was to beextractedfrom decommissioned nuclear warheads and sent to the United States afterdilution. The U.S. side had agreed to pay for both the natural and enrichedcomponentsthat make up low-enriched uranium.
But at the end of 1996 the United States stopped paying for theuranium'snatural component. Instead it said it was willing only to pay for theenrichedpart, and for the natural component it has been returning an equalamount ofnatural uranium. Russian energy officials accused Washington of violating its obligationsandsaid they would begin selling the natural uranium on world markets. U.S. experts said the problem was complicated when the United StatesEnrichment Corporation (USEC), Russia's partner in the 1993 deal, wasprivatized by the U.S. government last year and when Russia put a valueon theuranium out of line with world prices.
Richardson said that already under the deal, 36 tons of Russian HEU --enoughfor over 2,500 nuclear weapons -- had been blended down and delivered totheUnited States for use as reactor fuel.
Greenpeace Warns Of Russia Plan To Import Nuclear Waste
January 12, 1999
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MOSCOW -- The environmental group Greenpeace said Tuesday Russiawas considering importing nuclear waste from Switzerland for long-term storage in a move it called illegal and environmentally risky.
A Russian Atomic Energy Ministry official who took part in Septembertalksin Zurich confirmed to Reuters Moscow was exploring reprocessing and storing spent fuel from Switzerland and other Western nations but had struck no deals yet.
``There were such talks, but that does not mean that Russia or Russianrepresentatives have agreed to import or exportanything,'' said Boris Nikipelov, a ministry marketing expert.
``The question is being studied in Switzerland and France and Germanyandin the East.''
In Zurich, Swiss utilities acknowledged having held talks on storingnuclear waste in Russia, but they did not inform Swissauthorities since no contractual agreements had been made.
``A memorandum of understanding is not a contract and therefore notpresented to authorities,'' the Swiss utilityNordostschweizerische Kraftwerke (NOK) said in a statement which itreleased on behalf of itself and other utilities.
Greenpeace released a Sept. 17 document signed by Russia and a Swissutility official from Elektrizitaets-GesellschaftLaufenburg AG expressing Swiss interest in sending spent fuel to Russiafor permanent storage.
``Such a shipment is completely illegal under Russian environmentallaw,''Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigner Igor Forofontovsaid. ``Society knows nothing of these activities.''
NOK said the fact that Swiss utilities have made various internationalcontacts to talk about permanent international storagesites has been publicly known for years.
The memorandum did nothing more than confirm talks would also be heldwithRussia about the possibility of internationallong-term storage of radioactive nuclear waste, it added.
A spokeswoman for Switzerland's Environment, Energy and TransportMinistrysaid they had learned of the memorandum fromthe Greenpeace statement.
Nikipelov, one of two ministry officials present at the talks, saidnuclear officials were trying to change a 1991 law that allowsreprocessing but not storage of foreign waste. ''Before reprocessing youneed to have storage,'' he said.
Many countries import or export nuclear power plant waste, but the issuealarms some Russian experts who say the country isalready unable to handle its own waste from the Soviet era.
Before the 1991 law was adopted, Russia imported waste from countriesusing Soviet-designed nuclear power plants includingUkraine, Lithuania and Finland, officials said.
``All necessary safety measures are taken: a special train, reinforcedsecurity,'' said Yuri Bespalko, a spokesman for Russia'sAtomic Energy Ministry. ``So far there is no basis to sound an alarm.Thisalarm by Greenpeace is a false alarm.''
If the nuclear waste imports from Switzerland take place from 2000 to2030as outlined in the preliminary protocol, it would bethe first time Russia had accepted nuclear waste from Western-designedreactors, officials said.
Environmental officials estimated Russia stood to earn between $120 and$450 a pound by taking nuclear waste, with theSwiss protocol calling for several thousand tons to be sent to Russiaoverthe 30-year period.
Such amounts would mean billions of dollars for cashapped Russia,butpressure from environmental groups has alreadyended an agreement to process Finnish nuclear waste.
Russia Reacts Angrily To New U.S. Sanctions
Washington Post Service
January 14, 1999
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MOSCOW - Russia reacted angrily Wednesday to the U.S. decision toimpose sanctions on three more Russian institutes suspected of helpingtransfer missile and nuclear technology to Iran, saying the charges weregroundless and would complicate U.S.-Russian relations.
Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov denounced the measures as''counterproductive.'' The Foreign Ministry issued a statement sayingtheallegations ''have no grounds whatsoever'' and the three institutes''are infull compliance'' with Russian and international law.
Frustrated Russian politicians also leapt on the announcement to ventsome anti-American vitriol. Gennadi Zyuganov, the Communist Partyleader, said, ''The United States of America has imagined that they areagendarme, prepared to dictate conditions not only to countries, bombingforeign states, but also to ban, and even to dictate conditions toseparateuniversities and scientific laboratories.''
The sanctions, announced in Washington on Tuesday by the WhiteHouse national security adviser, Samuel (Sandy) Berger, bar U.S.dealings with the Scientific Research and Design Institute of PowerTechnology, the Mendeleyev Chemical Technology University, and theMoscow Aviation Institute. Mr. Berger and other U.S. officials have notpublicly detailed the allegations against the institutes, but a U.S.delegation in Moscow late last year outlined the complaints to Russianofficials.
The first institute is a leading nuclear reactor engineering facility inRussia,headed until recently by Yevgeni Adamov, who is now Russia's ministerof atomic energy. According to U.S. officials, the institute issuspected ofhelping provide technology to Iran for a small nuclear research reactorwhich could be used to make weapons-grade material. In a televisedinterview Wednesday, Mr. Adamov insisted that he had told the U.S.''more than once'' that nuclear technology was not being transferred.
The other two schools are suspected of hosting Iranian students seekingnuclear and missile technology. Pavel Sarkisov, dean of the Mendeleyevschool, told reporters that only one Iranian postgraduate student iscurrently enrolled, that he is studying polymers ''and there is no way''heis working on nuclear issues. Alexander Matveyenko, dean of theaviation school, said it has 28 Iranian students but insisted they donotstudy missile technology.
''Iran is our neighbor, you understand; we are going to be togetherforever with this state,'' he said. ''We have a common Caspian, we havecommon problems, and I do not see why we should not teach Iranianstudents, and other students, those specialties which are not listed asbanned by international agreements.''
Both the United States and Israel have been pressing Russia for morethan a year to close down a broad array of contacts which they claimcould provide Iran with missile and nuclear technology. Russia hasrepeatedly responded by claiming that it would tighten enforcement ofexport controls, while Iran has denied that it is receiving suchtechnology.
Ivan Safronchuk, a research fellow at the Center for Policy Studies inRussia who recently wrote a report on the Russia-Iranian connection,said that Russia has put a ''satisfactory export control system'' on thebooks. But the rules are not enforced, he said.
''It is only on paper,'' Mr. Safronchuk said of the export controlregime.''The Russian side does not have enough means to enforce this paper.''
Russia To Triple Number Of Nuke Workers In Iran
January 14, 1999
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MOSCOW -- Fresh U.S. accusations that Moscow is helping Tehran buildnuclearweapons and missiles have flared at a time when Russia plans to morethan triple its staff of nuclearworkers in Iran, an official said on Thursday.
A spokesman for the Atomic Energy Ministry told Reuters on ThursdayRussia will increase its staffat the site of the Bushehr civilian nuclear reactor in Iran over thenext few months to 1,000 peoplefrom about 300 now.
Earlier this week the United States imposed sanctions against threeRussian research institutes itaccused of aiding Iran's nuclear and missile weapons programs.Washington has warned of othermeasures if Russia does not curb what it says are exports of dangeroustechnologies.
Russian experts are building a 1,000 megawatt light-water nuclearreactor at Bushehr.
Moscow and Tehran have repeatedly said the plant's only purpose isgenerating electricity, butWashington has said that it is convinced Iran is using the reactor as acover to acquire sensitiveRussian nuclear technology.
``We are increasing the number of workers there in the coming months,''Atomic Energy Ministryspokesman Yuri Bespalko said. ``There will be about 1,000 Russianworkers there.''
He said most of the 300 already in Bushehr were construction workers andthe increase was aimedat helping to meet the construction deadline.
The United States told Russia on Wednesday that it must stop cooperatingwith Iran's nuclear andmissile programs or face curbs on its lucrative space launches of U.S.satellites that would takeeffect in 2000.
German firms began work on the Bushehr project in 1974. Work was laterhalted and the plant wasdamaged in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
Russia and Iran signed an estimated $800 million contract to completethe plant in January 1995. Thefirst unit is scheduled to be finished by May 2003.
Last week Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov said the first reactorat Bushehr was between30 and 40 percent complete at a cost so far of about $100 million.
During a visit by Adamov to Tehran in November, Iran asked Russia toprepare a study of thefeasibility of building three more nuclear reactors at Bushehr. Adamovsaid the additional reactorswould cost between $3 billion and $4.5 billion, which he said wascheaper than Western models.
The three Russian research institutes hit with U.S. sanctions this weekjoin seven entities on whichWashington slapped sanctions last July, just days after Iran test-fireda missile capable of hitting Israeland other U.S. allies.
Russia has strongly denied that the three institutes named this weekwere helping Iran and saidsanctions imposed by Washington could hurt bilateral relations.
Y2K Nuke Accidents Called Unlikely
January 14, 1999
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WASHINGTON -- Russia is behind many Western nations in confronting the Year 2000 computer glitch, but Soviet-era computers that control nuclear weapons and reactors are unlikely to cause any accidents, a Russianexpert said Thursday.
Andrei Terekov, a St. Petersburg University mathematics professor anddirector of Lanit Holding, a firm helping Russian companies with the transition,said the cashapped government still had much to do before it was readyfor the changeover at the end of the year. He estimated it would cost $500million to fix critical systems. Terekov said, however, there was growing awareness in Russia ofpotential failures in computers in less than 350 days.
``My understanding is that the problem with strategic weapons has been solved,'' Terekov said, meaning it was unlikely the Y2K problem wouldcause warheads to detonate or missiles to be fired by mistake. But he said``there still were problems with infrastructure,'' referring to air defense andearly warning systems.
Russia has agreed to allow NATO experts to investigate how the year 2000 computer problem could affect these systems. While some experts warn that Russia's nuclear weapons could bedestabilized by the millennium bug, in which older computers will recognize thedouble-zero date as 1900 rather than 2000, NATO said its primary concern is to avoidany malfunctions in Russia's command and control systems. Terekov said Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov had ordered key ministries such as Defense and Atomic Energy to be ready for any Y2Kproblems and would make the necessary money available despite the country'seconomic crisis.
Terekov spoke at a news conference at the National Press Club called to announce a technology transfer agreement between his company andRelative Technology Inc. of Cary, N.C. Relativity has developed Russian-language capable software that can adapt Soviet-era computer applications tomodern platforms. No price was announced for the accord. Terekov's company, Lanit, has received approval from the RussianFederation Committee for Communications and Information to establish Year 2000readiness centers in several Russian cities. He said he would seek contracts from companies such as Aeroflot, the country's airline, and the Gazprom oiland gas conglomerate.
How One Man Is Trying To Stave Off Another Russian Nuclear Disaster
Trudy Rubin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Philadelphia Inquirer
January 15, 1999
(for personal use only)
Sometimes a lone individual can illuminate a problem with which theworld hasn't yet come to grips. Such is the case of retired Russian NavyCapt. Alexander Nikitin, who will come before Russia's Supreme Court onFeb. 4 for a decision on whether he should be tried for espionage.
Nikitin's crime? He revealed how Russian submarine bases on the KolaPeninsula near Norway have become dangerous dumping grounds for nuclearwaste. The Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian environmental group thatpublished Nikitin's findings, says that 90 reactors' worth ofradioactivefuel from decommissioned subs is sitting in cracking tanks, opencontainersor rusting hulks. Foreign experts aren't allowed near them.
"The ships' condition is so bad that they could just sink," Nikitin toldme in an interview in St. Petersburg in December. Bellona(www.bellona.org)calls the situation "a Chernobyl in slow motion."
Nikitin's case highlights how the Cold War's end and Russia's economiccollapse have foisted a new kind of nuclear threat on the world. Russiaisdisarming its nukes but can't afford to store the radioactive mattersafely. Russian officials (from embarrassment or ingrained secrecy) wanttokeep the extent of the mess hushed up.
The Russians can't agree on where to build new storage facilities or howto pay. Meanwhile, a bankrupt Moscow isn't paying maintenance or staffsalaries for naval repair yards servicing the Northern Fleet. Food isshort; crews are desperate: In September, a 19-year-old sailor shoteightcomrades and threatened to blow up his nuclear attack sub beforecommittingsuicide in the torpedo compartment.
But in the new Russia, a lone crusader like Nikitin at least has achance to get his message out. "I am the first Russian who was accusedofespionage who was released before a final court decision," he says. ARussian court threw out the charges last October -- but gave the FSB(theKGB's successor) a second chance to present stronger evidence. Now theSupreme Court must decide whether to dismiss the case or let the FSB tryNikitin again.
If he is exonerated, more Russians may join in exposing their country'snew nuclear dangers. This, in turn, could galvanize Western governmentstoprovide more financial aid to help Russia store its nuclear wastesafely."When [ the FSB ] started this investigation," says Nikitin, "theythought no one would know." But the security services didn't realizethatthey were living in a different Russia, more connected with the outsideworld.Nikitin, 45, who had devoted his 23-year navy career to working onissues of nuclear waste security, had linked up to that larger world.Afterhis retirement in 1992, he was desperate to publicize the deterioratingnuclear waste situation but couldn't find work with a Russianorganization.Most Russians were too busy figuring out how to survive in their newsituation to worry about radiation dangers. Friends and former militarycolleagues grasped the problem, he said, but dared to talk about it only"in their kitchens."
Then Nikitin met Bellona staffers and agreed to help them withnonclassified information. "When I started to write my report, my goalwasto tell the world that there was a very serious problem which Russiacouldn't solve on its own," says Nikitin, an intense, handsomescholarly-looking man with a dark bushy mustache and aviator glasses.In 1996, the FSB arrested him for spying. In a throwback to the Sovietera, he was imprisoned for 10 months and denied medicine for his ulcers,and his lawyer was beaten up by mysterious thugs. After a wave ofinternational protest, from Amnesty International to Vice PresidentGore,he was let out of jail pending resolution of his case.
Nikitin believes the outcome will determine whether Russians willfinally confront their nuclear dilemma. "During Soviet times, there werespecial symbols which it was impossible to discuss, like the nuclearindustry, the Ministry of Defense, the KGB. No one could say anythingcritical of their activities. And they don't like it that someone nowbegins to tell the truth."
But even if that truth comes out, it won't produce the funds to secureRussia's nuclear waste. At present, the United States spends around $400million a year on a program to dismantle weapons of mass destruction inRussia, including help in cutting up submarines that once carriedballisticmissiles. But this doesn't address the lack of storage for spent fuelfromthe submarines and other radioactive waste.
Nikitin would like to see the Europeans and America spend much more toremove waste from submarines and build special storage facilities. Heknowsthe obstacles are enormous. Russia's military is wary and humiliated;itsatomic energy officials have big mistakes to hide. And Westerners areunwilling to bear the costs.
But consider the alternatives. Nikitin knows of two cases in whichthieves stole fissile material from northern naval bases. One group wascaught; one threw it away. (See the Inquirer series this week on thedangers of nuclear theft.) How much is it worth to prevent a terroristbombor another Chernobyl?
Focus-Russia Duma Indignant Over U.S. Iran Moves
January 15, 1999
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MOSCOW -- Russia's lower house of parliament blasted theUnited States on Friday for imposing sanctions on three Moscowinstitutes forallegedly helping Iran's nuclear and missile programs.
The State Duma "expresses its indignation in connection with the UnitedStates'groundless introduction of sanctions against a series of Russianorganizations," itsaid.
The house passed the document unanimously in a preliminary vote.
In a mostly symbolic act, Washington halted aid and commercial linkswith threeRussian scientific institutes on Tuesday. A day later it added a threatto limitlaunches of U.S. satellites on Russian rockets unless Moscow halted itsallegedcooperation with Iran.
"The U.S. inability to normalize relations with Iran and a series ofArabgovernments should not lead to the end of Russia's friendly relationswith thesegovernments," the declaration said.
In debate on the issue, Duma deputies angrily criticized the U.S.actions, sayingthey were unprecedented, harsh and constituted "gross meddling" inMoscow'saffairs.
Nikolai Bordyuzha, President Boris Yeltsin's chief of staff, said onFridayWashington had not presented Moscow with concrete evidence to supportitsclaim that the Russian institutes were helping Iran's nuclear andmissileprograms.
"America has not revealed its sources," Bordyuzha was quoted byItar-Tassnews agency as saying.
Moscow has repeatedly said Washington's allegations are groundless andthat ithopes that the two countries can hold talks about the issue.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has indicated the issue will be high on theagendawhen U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visits Moscow later thismonth.
The United States has made public few details of its case against theRussianorganizations accused of helping Iran, and Russia's Federal SecurityAgency saidon Thursday it suspected inept spying could explain the charges.
The Duma resolution asked the Russian government to develop retaliatorymeasures against the United States in response to the sanctions.
Moscow has given no sign of curtailing cooperation with Iran, and theAtomicEnergy Ministry says it plans to more than triple its staff of nuclearworkers inBushehr, Iran, where it is building a civilian reactor.
Russia says the Bushehr plant is for purely civilian purposes and hasbeen given aclean bill of health by the International Atomic Energy Agency.Washington saysthat, despite such assurances, Iran cannot be trusted with nucleartechnology.