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Nuclear News - 05/19/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 19 May, 1999

1. U.S. Urged to Maintain Security of Russian Uranium, Washington Post(05/19/99)

B. Lab-to-Lab Exchanges
1. Richardson Fears Hurting Russian Efforts to Stop Nuclear Theft,Associated Press (05/19/99)
U.S. Urged to Maintain Security of Russian Uranium
Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 19, 1999
(for personal use only)

The U.S. government needs to provide more financial and technicalsupport to Russia for at least the next decade to protect Moscow'splutonium and highly enriched uranium stocks from theft or diversioninto nuclear weapons, according to a new study released yesterday by theNational Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.

Energy Department officials were "clearly unrealistic" in thinking theycould reduce U.S. involvement after 1998 and have initial securityupgrades in place at all facilities in Russia by 2002, the report said.The more U.S. officials have worked on programs to secure thesematerials in Russia, the more dispersed they have found the materials tobe and the less adequate their protection, according to the report.

Russia's economic crisis and continuing problems in introducing newsecurity measures make "the threats of theft or diversion . . .considerably greater than estimated three years ago," the panelconcluded. It said last winter the Energy Department had to supply$600,000 in emergency funds because guards at some facilities had nowinter uniforms for outside patrols, and, left without paychecks andfood, were vacating their posts to look for meals.

The panel noted that only a few kilograms of plutonium or three timesthat amount of highly enriched uranium are needed for a weapon. Againstthat, Russian has stored in some 400 buildings around the country 75metric tons of plutonium, good for 25,000 weapons, and 600 tons ofhighly enriched uranium, enough for 8,000 more.

To make this program work, the panel recommended that the present$145 million a year in Energy Department funding be continued "for atleast the next five years" and that the department be ready to increaseit "should particularly important opportunities arise."

The report concerned only nuclear materials not in weapons. The Pentagonhas its own programs to take care of an equal amount of plutonium anduranium installed in Russian nuclear weapons, many of which are beingdismantled with the aid of so-called Nunn-Lugar funding.

The National Research Council's panel also had some criticism of theEnergy Department programs, which have been underway since 1994. Inthe interest of providing physical security first, it said programs havefailed to upgrade the "primitive" Russian accountability system, leavinguncertainties about the amount of plutonium and uranium at each site.

"Without such a system, there may be no way to detect whether materialhas been lost," the panel said. It added that "at many sites thecontents of some buildings are known only in very general terms" andnuclear contents are not disclosed because "lingering suspicionsprobably remain [toward Americans] among some Russian officials."

The panel also said that the level of security devices installed atbuildings is "uneven," and that at some the systems have "not been welldesigned or are not working as intended."

Finally, the report called on the department to put more money infinancing Russian equipment and personnel used on the projects and lesson American. "In the long run a strong indigenous industrial capabilitywill be essential for sustaining [these] systems in Russia."
B. Lab-to-Lab Exchanges
Richardson Fears Hurting Russian Efforts to Stop Nuclear Theft
Associated Press
May 19, 1999
(for personal use only)

WASHINGTON -- The rush in Congress to put new restrictions on foreignvisitors to nuclear weapons labs could jeopardize U.S. efforts to helpRussia guard against nuclear theft, Energy Secretary Bill Richardsonsays.

Richardson said Tuesday the administration would support some limits onthe foreign scientific exchange programs at the research labs, but not asweeping moratorium being proposed by some members of Congress.

Such a moratorium "would literally mean the closure of our Russialab-to-lab program," he said.

The Russia program, aimed at curtailing nuclear material theft andproliferation, has been a top Clinton administration priority over thepast five years and has been largely responsible for the surge inRussian visitors to U.S. weapons labs, beginning in 1994.

Richardson said there is bipartisan support emerging for somerestrictions, especially in the Senate, on the visitor program "that wecan live with" but that other proposals -- especially a sweepingmoratorium on visitors being proposed in the House -- would be"draconian" and not in the country's interest.

While the foreign visitors programs have not been linked by anyinvestigation to espionage, it has been the target of lawmakers tryingto respond to reports of lax security and theft of nuclear secrets byChina from the research labs.

Touring an exhibit Tuesday of anti-terrorist gadgets developed byscientists at the labs, Richardson said the kinds of restrictions beingdiscussed by some in Congress could interfere with attempts to helpRussia improve protection of its stockpile of nuclear material.

Coincidentally, a panel of the National Academy of Sciences reportedTuesday that the risk of theft in Russia of nuclear materials by hostilestates or terrorists is as great today as ever, with 75 tons ofplutonium and 600 tons of highly enriched uranium stockpiled outside ofRussian weapons.

Although the U.S.-Russia joint programs have strengthened security atmany Russian nuclear sites reducing the risk of theft "will requireyears of steady work," said Richard Meserve, chairman of the NationalResearch Council review panel.

The U.S. weapons labs have been at the center of U.S. efforts to improvesecurity in the Russia nuclear programs, officials said.

"These programs are based on reciprocal arrangements. They come to oursites and then we are able to go their sites," Rose Gottemoeller, DOE'sassistant secretary for nonproliferation and national security, said inan interview.

Last year, there were 818 visitors from Russia and 478 from China to theweapons labs at Los Alamos and Sandia in New Mexico, and LawrenceLivermore in California, according to the Energy Department. Visitorsfrom "sensitive" countries to the labs has soared from 270 a decade agoto 2,365 last year.

"A huge majority of these visits are completely unclassified in nature,"said Gottemoeller. She said visitors are not given access to theclassified areas of the labs.

But the department has been criticized by lawmakers for conductingbackground checks on only a small fraction of the visitors, even thosecoming from China, Russia, Iraq and Iran. Mandatory background checkswere reimposed on such visitors in November, officials said.

Richardson said a Senate proposal on the foreign visitor program, whichcleared the Armed Services Committee this week, is one "that we can livewith" and reflects "bipartisan support to fix the problemcooperatively."

That legislation would halt lab-to-lab foreign visitors unless the headsof the CIA and the FBI and the energy secretary certify adequatecounterintelligence safeguards. Another proposal by Sen. Richard Shelby,R-Ala., to halt visits to classified areas of labs also may beacceptable, DOE officials said.

The House proposal, offered by Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., would prohibitvisits from "sensitive" countries altogether unless a waiver was givenby concerned congressional committees. Ryun called it "a mechanism toensure our vital national security secrets are protected."

Richardson called Ryun's measure an overreaction that would close downthe Russia program.

During Richardson's tour Tuesday, Winifred Parker, a nuclear chemist atLawrence Livermore, showed visitors new equipment to detect nuclearmaterial in baggage. It is the type of technology being provided toRussia under the scientific exchange program.

"If we can't visit the Russians and they can't come to us, work isalmost impossible," said Parker, who has been in Russia twice and hasplayed host to Russian nuclear experts at Livermore.

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