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Nuclear News - 04/19/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 19 April, 1999

A. Russia and National Missile Defense
1. Russia, China Warn US of Arms Race, Associated Press (04/14/99)

B. Russia and Kosovo
1. Crisis In The Balkans: Nuclear Specter, New York Times (04/19/99)

C. Russian Nuclear Power Industry
1. "Wanted," Nuclear Cash, Bellona (04/15/99)
A. Russia and National Missile Defense
Russia, China Warn US of Arms Race
Associated Press
April 14, 1999
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW -- Russia and China on Wednesday warned of a new arms race if theUnited States goes ahead with plans to develop a nationwide defensesystem against limited missile attack.

The U.S. Senate recently approved a bill calling for construction of thedefense system "as soon as technologically possible." The Americanshave grown concerned about the possibility of attack from countries suchas Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

Russian politicians have been unanimous in assailing the U.S. plan todevelop anti-missile defenses, saying the move would violate the 1972Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. Moscow strongly opposes U.S. proposals toamend the treaty to allow for limited missile defenses.

Russian and Chinese military officials and diplomats who met in Moscowto discuss the situation issued a statement saying the two countrieshave serious concerns about the U.S. plans.

"The fulfillment of these plans would violate the main obligation underthe ABM treaty," said the statement, circulated by the Russian ForeignMinistry.

Russia and China "believe that undermining or violating the ABM treatywould lead to a whole range of negative consequences: New factors wouldappear that would be capable of destabilizing the internationalsituation ... and create conditions for the resumption of the armsrace," the statement said.

Russia also contends the creation of a missile defense system would puton hold any further nuclear weapons reductions.

President Boris Yeltsin recently approved a bill by Russian lawmakersthat would make their approval of the START II arms reduction treaty,which the United States is anxious to see ratified, dependent on a U.S.commitment to the ABM treaty.
B. Russia and Kosovo
Crisis In The Balkans: Nuclear Specter: Experts Fear War AccidentCould Spread Lab Uranium
Judith Miller
New York Times
April 19, 1999
(for personal use only)

UNITED NATIONS -- International nuclear inspectors are worried that 132pounds of highly enriched uranium at the Vinca Institute of NuclearScience, 10 miles from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, may be used improperly ormay be hit by an errant NATO missile.

David Kyd, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency,which monitors nuclear activities around the world, said Friday that hisagency's main concerns were the "physical security of the material" andthe possibility of "radiological risk" should a bomb hit the plant.

American political analysts also expressed a concern that the Yugoslavs,if pushed, might embark on a nuclear weapons program or use thematerial for bargaining.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and InternationalSecurity, an arms control research group in Washington, said there wasenough material at Vinca to make two nuclear weapons of an implosion-type design, which Iraq was pursuing, and one bomb of a "gun type"design, which South Africa has made.

Both American officials and the international inspectors stressed thatthere was no evidence of Yugoslavia's abandoning its longstandingrenunciation of nuclear weapons. Nor are there signs, they said, thatelements within the military are diverting the uranium or taking othersteps that would suggest an intention to develop a bomb.

"Yugoslavia has a very good record," Kyd said. "We have no concernsthat they would misuse or misappropriate the highly enriched uranium."

But he acknowledged that since late January, his agency has been unableto visit the installation, as it usually does each month, and that forthe past two weeks it has not been able even to telephone.

Early last week, Yugoslavia's representative at the international agencywrote to Mohamed el-Baradei of Egypt, the director general, to expresshis concern about a possible allied attack on Vinca. The letter askedthe agency for its help in ending the bombing and asked Baradei todiscuss the risk of an attack with both NATO and the United Nations.

In response, an international inspector said, the agency stressed thatYugoslavia was responsible for protecting the uranium. The agency alsoexpressed its desire to inspect the plant as soon as possible.

Although they say there is no indication that Yugoslavia intends torenege on its commitment not to develop nuclear weapons, Westerndiplomats and arms control experts have expressed deep concern about thelack of inspections because, they say, Vinca has inadequate physicalprotection and a poor history of handling radioactive material.

A few years ago, Albright said, the international agency improvedsecurity at the plant. Vinca has also received help from Russia andothers to enable it to better handle nuclear waste produced by itsnuclear reactors, both of which have been closed for several years.

But, Albright added, there are still safety concerns about 5,000 spentfuel rods that are stored in some 30 aluminum casks in a pool of water.The casks must be carefully treated to prevent an accidental leak.

American officials and international experts played down the possibilitythat Yugoslavia could make nuclear-laced weapons. "The amount ofmaterial is too small and far too stale, that is, too old to be used asa radiological weapon," a senior administration official said. "Theradioactive material has been sitting in the spent fuel ponds for years,and there's very little of it to make a serious weapon."

Kyd agreed that Yugoslavia would be hard pressed to make a radiologicalbomb -- a "dirty nuke" -- from the material. He added that it would bedifficult for Belgrade to separate the plutonium in the spent fuel tomake a bomb or to disperse it to cause panic and cancer.

"The Yugoslavs do not have the ability to remove plutonium from thelow-enriched uranium," he said.

Administration officials and the international inspectors said Vinca wasnot on the list of NATO targets. Even if it were hit by accident, oneofficial said, the damage to the people of the surrounding area and theenvironment would not be catastrophic.

"Yes, it could be messy," a senior administration official said. "Butthere would not be major radiological contamination. We're not talkingChernobyl or Three Mile Island here."
C. Russian Nuclear Power Industry
"Wanted," Nuclear Cash
Igor Kudrik
Bellona
April 15, 1999
(for personal use only)

Russian nuclear energy officials on a U.S. tour are met by skepticism

Officials from Rosenergoatom, the Russian state-owned operator of eightnuclear power plants, toured the United States last week looking toattract prospective investors to its ailing nuclear energy sector.

Their tour came as Russian nuclear energy producers forecasted deficitsfor the coming years. Sergey Ivanov, a Rosenergoatom official, said hisenterprise was expected to run a shortfall of $60 million this year,$200 million next year and $400 million the following year, The SanDiego Union And Tribune reported. The company needs cash for salaries,standard maintenance and repairs, upgrades and even the purchase offresh nuclear fuel.

The delegation suggested creating a new international body to supervisea network of Russian nuclear power plants. Ivanov said the body couldmanage investments for power plants in need of cash infusions.Day-to-day operations would remain in Russian hands.

The tour was indicative of the desperate measures now being taken byRussian nuclear power managers hoping to keep their industry alive. InJuly 1998, the Russian Ministry for Atomic Energy (Minatom) managed toget government approval for a program to further development the nuclearsector. The plan called for the commissioning of 16 reactor units(including two floating units) by the year 2010 and the closing of nineothers. Three were set to exceed their design lifetimes and limits byreceiving upgrades. The program assumed the completion of reactor unitsunder construction as well as the building of new ones.

But the economic crisis of August 1998 dealt Russia a heavy blow. No newmoney has since appeared either for the construction of new reactors orfor upgrades; nor can funding be found to decommission old reactors.

In February this year Minatom officials said the program was"corrected." An abridged version suggested completing individualreactors at Rostov, Kalinin and Kursk NPPs. Kursk was slated to get aRBMK-1000 reactor - the type that exploded at Chernobyl in 1986.

Western investment was seen as the only way to fund Minatom's abridgedreactor-building plan.

U.S. Administration officials were skeptical of the Russian proposals.They said the effort was "highly preliminary". One Administrationexpert, quoted by New York Times Service, said the Russians had littleof the data they would need to interest Western investors. He said theyalso lacked clear prospects of selling power to customers who can paycash that, in turn, could be used to repay loans or provide dividends oninvestments.

The inability of customers to pay their debts to nuclear power plantsfor energy supply is one of the greatest problems the Russian nuclearenergy sector has faced. It's a situation that doesn't boost thecredibility of Russian proposals in the eyes of Western investors.



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