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Nuclear News - 04/02/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 2 April, 1999

A. Plutonium Disposition
1. Canada Prepares For Plutonium Imports, Bellona (03/30/99)

B. Russia and Kosovo
1. Russian Military Say US Testing New Secret Bombs in Yugoslavia,Itar-Tass (03/29/99)
2. U.S. Official Urges Russia Not To Fan Kosovo Flames, Reuters(04/01/99)
3. Nuke Threat From Russian General, Boston Globe (04/01/99)

C. Russia's Nuclear Weapons Complex
1. West Thinking About New Nuclear Nations Within Russia?, RFE/RLNewsline (04/02/99)

D. US-Russian Relations
1. Yeltsin Denounces NATO's Strikes, but Wants 'Normal' Ties with US,Associated Press (03/30/99)

A. Plutonium Disposition
Canada Prepares For Plutonium Imports
William Stoichevski
March 30, 1999
(for personal use only)

While the Canadian government puts a benevolent face on plutoniumimports, Canada's reactors await better business

The Canadian parliament resonated with condemnation from oppositionleaders on March 23rd in response to news that the government waspreparing to import plutonium derived from American and Russian nuclearweaponry.

The Canadian broadcaster, CTV news, obtained a copy of a 1997 studycommissioned by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and the provincialelectricity monopoly, Ontario Hydro, that concluded the best way toimport radioactive material was by sea. Leaking the $1.5 millionfeasibility study sparked a heated environmental debate in Parliamentand threw the government's commitment to transparency on nuclear issuesinto question.

One of the recommendations made by a Standing Committee on ForeignAffairs and International Trade to the House of Commons in December 1998was that Canada not burn the plutonium and reactor fuel mixture known asMOX, in its reactors. It's recommendation "that the Government of Canadaexplore additional means of ... providing more information to Canadianson civilian uses of nuclear technology" now appears to have beenignored.

Reuters reported Prime Minister Jean Chretien was defensive whenquestioned about his decision to write Bill Clinton and suggestplutonium disposition as a possible role for Canada in Russia's postCold War clean up.

"I wrote a letter, and I said that if it was safe and if it wasfinancially possible, that we would consider it (plutonium imports),"Reuters reported Chretien as saying. Chretien had said publicly in 1996that he was for plutonium imports. In his letter of March 3 he toldClinton that Canada had yet to determine whether the expected cost andrisk associated with importing, burning and storing plutonium would betoo much for Canadians.

Plutonium perils Risks include a range of maritime disaster scenariosthat might release the mixed-oxide fuel, MOX, into the sea, whilesecurity measures entail preventing the material from falling intoterrorist hands.

"One can expect additional risk in all stages of handling, using, andstoring this fuel," Irene Kock, of the Canadian Nuclear AwarenessProject, said in an interview with Bellona Web.

"Spent fuel is the intended product: the plutonium is not all consumedand new plutonium is formed ... the objective is to contaminate theplutonium so it is unapproachable. The same can be achieved withnitrification using liquid high level radioactive waste imbedded withplutonium from warheads and turned into glass or ceramic."

The commercial motive Burning plutonium in reactors, as the Canadianstudy envisioned, is described by the idea's supporters as a way ofreducing the worldwide supply of the strategic material, which is themain explosive in nuclear weapons. But its import into Canada istestimony to the durability of the fissile material problem, which, forCanadians, carries with it an underlying irony. The material is producedin reactors and Canada's export of reactor technology is quitewidespread.

AECL, the developer and vendor of CANDU reactor technology, would beresponsible for developing the security infrastructure for importedplutonium. But much of the radioactive material at its experimentalChalk River facility -- the likely destination of the first import ofplutonium later this spring -- are barely concealed and await safedisposal. The facility's inability to safely dispose of low levelradioactive material casts a dangerous shadow over the additionalhandling of newly radioactive plutonium.

"AECL is interested in proving that MOX can be used in CANDU reactors soit can tell its clients that CANDU's have a flexible fuel cycle," Kocksaid.

Kock added that Ontario Hydro, whose reactors would begin burningplutonium in 2005, initially saw the concept of importing the mixed fuelas a way of financing and justifying the restart of four of itsreactors, but that the utility had changed its priorities.

"They did not make a bid to the U.S. Department of Energy in 1998 totake on some MOX fuel; the whole deal depends on a three-way agreementbetween (the) U.S., Russia and Canada, which has not yet materialized."

A test quantity of mixed-oxide fuel containing less than a kilogram ofplutonium (one or two per cent of the mixture) is expected to be shippedfrom Los Alamos, New Mexico to Chalk River this spring, Koch said.

Southam News confirmed the information and, on March 24, reported that ashipment of Russian plutonium would arrive later this year for testing"as part of Canada's contribution to nuclear disarmament."

"The U.S. alone has a 50-tonne stockpile that it must eliminate underconditions of a Russian-American arms-control agreement."

B. Russia and Kosovo
Russian Military Say US Testing New Secret Bombs in Yugoslavia
March 29, 1999
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW -- The United States is testing new secret weapons in Yugoslaviawhich Russian military experts estimate as something in betweenconventional and nuclear arms.

"The United States is using Yugoslavia as a test range for its latestsecret means of destruction", representatives of the Russian Defenseministry told Tass on Monday.

They said a bomb tested in Yugoslavia radically differs fromconventional weapons. It was created in Los Alamos and is aimed todestroy radio electronic equipment.

The military said that the bomb generates an electric impulse similar toelectromagnetic fluctuations caused by a nuclear explosion.

"By its combat characteristics such a bomb is in between conventionaland nuclear armaments which gives grounds to refer it to the weapons ofmass destruction", the military said.

They added that the bombs are carried by two strategic B-2 bombers ofthe Stealth technology.

U.S. Official Urges Russia Not To Fan Kosovo Flames
April 1, 1999
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW -- A senior U.S. government official urged Russia on Wednesday tochoose its words carefully to avoid inflaming public anger over NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia.

The official also told a briefing that Moscow had put some bilateralprojects, including a review of a major military program, on hold butwas keen to limit the damage to U.S.-Russian ties.

As an example of behind-the-scenes cooperation at a time of publicRussian bluster, the official said Russia and NATO had agreed a documentin Vienna paving the way for the Cold War-era Conventional Forces inEurope (CFE) treaty to be adapted.

"What I am hearing, and these are senior that there is everydesire despite the really profound disagreement over this set of eventsto keep the programs and the bilateral relations going," he said.

The official, who did not wish to be more closely identified, saidprotests outside the U.S. embassy in Moscow in the past week had notbeen spontaneous.

He did not blame the Russian government but said: "I frankly think thatfirst of all the government has a certain amount to do with exactly howthese emotions are played out, as do other elements in the politicalleadership here."

"I think there is a relationship between the way the government talksabout these events and the degree to which the emotions are eithercalmed or inflamed," he said. "I think that there is a responsibility onthe part of the leadership here to keep that in mind, and one would hopethat they would do so."

Despite his comments, State Department spokesman James Rubin said inWashington the United States was concerned by Russian plans to send aNavy reconnaissance ship to the Mediterranean to be close to the Kosovoconflict.

"While the Russian Foreign Ministry has made it quite clear that Russiadoes not intend to become entangled in the conflict in the Balkans...thedeployment of these ships we don't see as a particularly helpfulgesture," Rubin said.

The U.S. official in Moscow said Russia's public and official responseto NATO's military campaign had been deep and broad but had a strongdomestic political tinge in a parliamentary election year. There is alsoa presidential poll in 2000.

"Almost anything that happened -- small, large, economic, political,security, cultural, it doesn't seem to matter -- was going to get acertain political twist," he said.

But he cautioned against assuming Kosovo would have an automatic impacton the parliamentary election in December.

"There are nine months till the elections," he said. "Therefore I'm notprepared to argue how significant this will be."

The official said some "high profile" U.S.-Russian projects,particularly military ones, had been put on ice but not cancelled.

Russia had asked to postpone a review of the Cooperative ThreatReduction program, under which Washington is helping to dismantlewarheads and remove nuclear materials, he said.

"On the other hand almost all the programmatic activities are going onwithout interruption," he said.

On the deal to help adapt the CFE treaty, he said: "Today... in Viennathey will basically sign a document which is going to be the next bigstep in the adaptation of the CFE treaty."

The official said the United States had no evidence Russia was supplyingarms to Yugoslavia and had not been given advance details of what PrimeMinister Yevgeny Primakov took to Belgrade on his unsuccessful mediationtrip on Tuesday.

He said Russian police had made no arrests in their probe into a failedattack on the U.S. embassy on Sunday. Beefed-up security had promptedthe embassy to stop issuing visas.

"The security authorities are providing us with security now that webelieve is going to allow us to resume normal operations," he said. "Soyou'll see an announcement that we are reopening the consulate tomorrow(Thursday)."

Nuke Threat From Russian General
Boston Globe
April 1, 1999
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW - Russia yesterday added a little muscle to its harsh criticismof NATO airstrikes, preparing one war ship for travel to theMediterranean and readying as many as six others.

A senior Russian commander said Moscow would not hesitate to use itsnuclear weapons, if forced. And lawmakers asked the Kremlin to beginarms shipments to Yugoslavia.

The moves came as Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov returned empty-handedfrom a one-day trip to Belgrade and Bonn aimed at stopping the fightingin Yugoslavia.

Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said one warship of the Black Sea Fleetwould leave the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol tomorrow and another sixwere ready to sail "to ensure Russia's security when the DefenseMinistry considers it necessary."

Moscow has escalated its protests against the bombing of Yugoslavia bysaying NATO's action threatens Russia because it sets a precedent forintervention in local conflicts.

Sergeyev said Russia was considering other "decisive actions," but didnot elaborate. The chairman of Russia's General Staff, Anatoly Kvashnin,chose the moment to remind the world that Moscow no longer ruled out theoption of launching a preemptive nuclear strike against a potential foe.

"If it comes to a matter of whether Russia will exist or not, theneverything the military has, including nuclear weapons, should be used,"Kvashnin told reporters.

C. Russia's Nuclear Weapons Complex
West Thinking About New Nuclear Nations Within Russia?
RFE/RL Newsline
April 2, 1999
(for personal use only)

"Izvestiya" reported that some Western analysts, none of whomare identified by name or affiliation, are predicting thatupcoming parliamentary and presidential elections are likelyto expedite centrifugal processes in Russia. As a result,regions or regional associations may decide to form their ownmilitary units and may even develop "nuclear ambitions." Inorder to prevent the possibility of Russia's nuclear weaponsfalling outside the control of Moscow, these analysts havesuggested that Russian nuclear weapons be put underinternational control of either NATO or the UN or both. Onealternative proposed, according to the newspaper, is todeploy the naval forces of the U.S. and other Westerncountries along Russia's border and establish a specialregime to monitor the country's nuclear weapons.

D. US-Russian Relations
Yeltsin Denounces NATO's Strikes, but Wants 'Normal' Ties with US
Associated Press
March 30, 1999
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Boris Yeltsin said today that NATO's airstrikeson Yugoslavia were a violation of international law, but added thatRussia would not allow itself to be drawn into the conflict militarily.

"NATO raids on Yugoslavia are continuing to bypass the U.N. SecurityCouncil, in violation of the U.N. Charter, reason and common sense," theRussian president said in his annual state of the nation address.

"I will do everything to put an end to military actions in Yugoslavia,"Yeltsin said at the Kremlin, where both houses of parliament wereassembled.

But the president also said that Russia would not intervene with force,and did not want the dispute to undermine its relationship with theUnited States.

"Russia has made its choice -- it will not allow itself to be drawn intothe conflict," Yeltsin said. "We are trying to avoid another globalsplit."

Yeltsin, who has been ailing in recent months, spoke in a strong, clearvoice, putting on his glasses to read the 20-minute speech.

Yeltsin sent Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov with a top-level Russiandelegation to Yugoslavia today to seek an end to the NATO strikes.Russian officials said that the trip is a peace effort, but it also wasseen as a show of solidarity with Russia's closest Balkan ally.

Yeltsin's office also distributed a longer written text in thepresident's name. Despite the dispute over Yugoslavia, Russia wants topress ahead with nuclear arms reduction agreements with the UnitedStates, Yeltsin said.

He again called for ratification of the START-2 arms control treaty,which has languished in the Russian parliament for years. Once thatagreement has been approved, the two countries should seek to furtherreduce weapons, he said.

"The tragic mistake of the United States on the Kosovo issue should notturn into a prolonged crisis in the Russian-U.S. partnership," thepresident said.

Yeltsin's remarks reflect Russia's strong opposition to the NATO strikesin Yugoslavia, but also acknowledged the reality that an economicallydepressed Russia cannot cut its ties to the West.

Much of Yeltsin's speech was devoted to the country's economic crisis, asubject the president has largely ignored in recent months.

"The policy launched in the early 1990s and aimed at creating a marketeconomy in the country has been and remains correct," Yeltsin said.

However, he acknowledged that the collapse of the country's financialmarkets last August "has thrown the country four years back."

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov criticized Yeltsin's speech,saying the president continues to blame the country's shortcomings onthe parliament, where the Communists have the largest faction.

"It was the old song about how correctly everything had been done andhow the (parliament) spoiled everything," Zyuganov told the Interfaxnews agency.

Russia's economy has been shrinking for almost all of the decade andforecasts for this year remain pessimistic. The country did receive abit of good news Monday when the visiting chief of the InternationalMonetary Fund, Michel Camdessus, said the fund was willing to extend newloans to Russia.

The IMF credits won't rescue the Russian economy, but could help boosteconomic confidence and encourage other foreign lenders and investors toreturn to Russia.

Yeltsin accepted partial blame for the country's economic failings inrecent years.

"The country's leadership itself has been largely responsible forcultivating among people high reform expectation and has not beencourageous enough to acknowledge this for years," Yeltsin said.

Yeltsin, 68, has been ailing in recent months and is still only anoccasional visitor to his Kremlin office. Primakov has been given thetask of reviving the economy, and also handles many presidential dutieswhen Yeltsin is not available.

However, Yeltsin insists he will serve out his term until it expires inthe middle of next year.

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