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Nuclear News - 03/24/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 24 March, 1999

A. A. START Treaty Update
1. Yeltsin OKs Bill on Start II Treaty, Associated Press (03/22/99)

B. Russia-Iran
1. Senators Demand Pressure on Russia, Associated Press (03/22/99)

C. Plutonium Disposition
1. Canada Mulls Taking Russian Plutonium, Reuters (03/23/99)

A. START Treaty Update
Yeltsin OKs Bill on Start II Treaty
Vladimir Isachenkov
Associated Press Writer
March 22, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Boris Yeltsin has given his approval to abill by Russian lawmakers that could help pave the way for theratification of the START II arms reduction treaty with the UnitedStates.

But the bill could also complicate larger arms control issues betweenthe two countries.

The bill calls for Russia to ratify START II on condition that theUnited States does not alter the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.Such a move is not likely to please the United States, which isexploring the possibility of building a limited national missile defensesystem.

Members of the Russian parliament's lower house, the State Duma, insistthat Russia should reserve the right to walk out of START II if theUnited States does not stick to the ABM treaty.

Yeltsin's spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin said the president has agreed toproposals by lawmakers and has sent a letter to the Duma on Monday.

"Chances for the START II ratification now are higher than any time inthe past," said Vladimir Lukin, the head of the parliamentary foreignaffairs committee, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

The Duma last week set a START II debate for April 2, but Lukin saidMonday it may be postponed for at least 10 days to give all lawmakerstime to again study the document.

The United States and Russia both signed START II in 1993 and it wasratified by the U.S. Senate in 1996. The treaty calls for both sides tohalve their nuclear arsenals to 3,000-3,500 warheads each.

Yeltsin is a strong supporter of the treaty, but Russia's Communists andother hard-liners, who dominate the Duma, have opposed ratification,saying the treaty would give the United States a nuclear edge.

Russian politicians have been unanimous in assailing the U.S. plan todevelop anti-missile defenses, saying the move would violate the ABMtreaty. Moscow strongly opposes U.S. proposals to amend the treaty toallow for limited missile defenses.

The U.S. Senate last week approved a bill on building a national defenseagainst limited ballistic missile attack "as soon as technologicallypossible." The Americans have grown increasingly concerned about thepossibility of attack from countries such as Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

B. Russia-Iran
Senators Demand Pressure on Russia
William C. Mann
Associated Press Writer
March 22, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senators representing both parties demanded Mondaythat Vice President Al Gore press Russia's prime minister in meetingsthis week to stop his country's cooperation with Iran on missiles andnuclear technology.

In a letter, the 34 senators said Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov mustbe convinced that "an Iran armed with nuclear weapons and advancedballistic missiles is no more in Russia's interests than in our own."

"We want to urge you to make Iranian acquisitions of Russian ballisticmissile and nuclear weapons technology an issue of the highest priorityin these talks," they wrote.

Initiated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the letter was signed by20 Democrats and 14 Republicans, including Foreign Relations CommitteeChairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C.

Primakov arrives Tuesday, with meetings set to begin Wednesday.Anti-Russian demands on the vice president by one-third of the Senate'smembership adds another edge to a visit already made tense by Russia'sopposition to possible military action against Yugoslavia by NATO toforce a political settlement in violence-torn Kosovo.

Primakov's visit was planned largely to win favor for a $4 billionRussian loan request from the International Monetary Fund. Developmentsin Kosovo have intervened, and now Iran, which already was on theagenda, will take on new importance.

"We wanted to show the broad support this issue has in the Senate," saidHoward Gantman, spokesman for Ms. Feinstein.

Last Thursday, Russia's atomic energy minister, Yevgeny Adamov,offered to stop cooperation with Iran if sanctions were lifted fromleading Russian nuclear research institutes. The State Departmentwelcomed the offer but said cooperation should be stopped first.

Ignoring pressure from the United States, Russia has sold nuclear andmissile technology partly because of the hard currency it brings to thesuffering Russian economy.

In January, the Clinton administration barred 10 Russian researchcenters from any work in the United States as punishment for providingIran technology that could help development of weapons of massdestruction.

It is those sanctions the Russians want lifted.

Monday's letter noted that both Congress and the administration haveacted against the Russian-Iranian connection, but it said "the leakageof Russian ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technology ... has notabated."

"The fact is that the Russian government's efforts to stanch the flow ofthis dangerous technology to Iran have been decidedly lackluster."

By acquiring such technology, the senators wrote, "Iran would be in afar stronger position to dominate the Persian Gulf region, and it wouldpose an immediate threat to U.S. forces in the gulf, to our alliesthroughout the Middle East and even to some locations in Europe.''

The letter said Russia was likely to seek the right to launch more U.S.satellites, a major source of hard currency. It said Gore should tellPrimakov that an increase would not be considered without "a sustainedcomprehensive effort by the Russian government to shut off the flow" ofdangerous technology to Iran.

Gore and Primakov will meet Wednesday with leading U.S. financial andeconomic figures, then co-chair the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission onEconomic and Technical Cooperation.

C. Plutonium Disposition
Canada Mulls Taking Russian Plutonium
March 23, 1999

OTTAWA -- Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, wading into a sensitiveenvironmental debate, said on Tuesday he had told U.S. President BillClinton Canada would consider importing plutonium from Russian nuclearwarheads.

The debate turns on whether Canada should take the risk of importingradioactive material to help Russia dismantle its huge stock of nuclearweaponry.

"I wrote a letter, and I said that if it was safe and if it wasfinancially possible, that we would consider (it)," Chretien toldreporters after meeting his cabinet.

Chretien sent the letter on March 3 in response to a letter Clinton senton January 21 calling for an international partnership with formerSoviet states to address high-priority arms control and nonproliferationissues.

"One particular area in which Canada is considering participation isplutonium disposition. As you know, we are prepared to consider any safeand financially viable proposal based on an agreement between the UnitedStates and Russia in this regard," Chretien wrote the President.

"I can assure you that we share your concerns about the need to disposeof the material resulting from warhead dismantlement."

The CTV television network broke the story and provided a copy of theletter.

In Parliament, the leftist New Democratic Party's Svend Robinsondemanded: "Doesn't this prime minister understand that Canadians don'twant our country to become a dumping ground for the world's Cold Warplutonium?"

Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy responded that Canada has made nocommitment except to test a small amount of plutonium -- about the sizeof a double-A battery, he said -- to determine the feasibility ofburning it in nuclear reactors.

"But one of the most serious problems we face in the world is nuclearproliferation, and one way we can help it is to burn up the warheadsthat Russia wants to destroy," he added.

"We live in a dangerous nuclear world. We have some responsibility tohelp in the denuclearizing of that world."

The plutonium would be blended with uranium in a concoction called MixedOxide Fuel. A research report by Canada's Library of Parliament saidCanada's CANDU reactors would be able to consume MOX without anyphysical modifications.

The United States and Russia each has about 50 tons of weapons-gradeplutonium from dismantled nuclear warheads.

In a report in December, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House ofCommons, the Canadian Parliament's elected chamber, opposed the idea ofimporting the plutonium as "totally unfeasible."

Axworthy told the House on Tuesday that by May 10 the committee wouldreceive a formal response that would show how the government proposed toproceed.

David Martin, research director for the Nuclear Awareness Project,declared Canada would end up with highly radioactive nuclear waste itwould have to store at taxpayer expense.

"At the back end of the whole thing is the waste issue," he toldReuters. "That is not only a problem in itself, but also the precedentis that Canada would be for the first time, in effect, accepting(nuclear) waste from international military nuclear programs here inCanada. And part of the deal here is it stays here."

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