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Nuclear News - 05/21/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 21 May, 1999

A. Nuclear Smuggling
1. Plutonium Smuggler Apprehended, Bellona (05/21/99)

B. Russian Nuclear Forces
1. State Duma Passes Law on Nuclear Weapons, Itar-Tass (05/20/99)

C. Loose Nukes
1. Russia Rejects Western Nuke Claims, Associated Press (05/20/99)
2. Russia Say Its Nuclear Materials Are Safely Protected, Itar-Tass(05/20/99)A. Nuclear Smuggling
Plutonium Smuggler Apprehended
Igor Kudrik
May 21, 1999

Co-operation tabled as security of nuclear material questioned inPlutonium run

Kyrgyz security service agents arrested an Uzbeki national trying tosmuggle plutonium via a flight to the United Arab Emirates on May 14th,Itar-Tass reported.

The material, used in the detonation devices of nuclear bombs, wasreportedly packed in a rubber container. The arrested man said hereceived the plutonium at the airport from a person he had never metbefore and was told to take it to the UAE for a reward of $16,000. Theorigin of the plutonium has not been established.

Russian officials downplayed concerns over the security of nuclearmaterials raised by the incident and voiced by the U.S. NationalResearch Council.

The council, part of the U.S. National Academy of Science, urgedco-operation on security issues between the U.S. and the RussianFederation for at least another decade to help safeguard nuclearmaterials.

"Although joint efforts by Russia and the United States havestrengthened at many sites, we believe that terrorist groups or roguenations have more opportunity to gain access to Russian plutonium andhighly enriched uranium than previously estimated," Richard Meserve, thecouncil's chairman, said in a statement reported by the AssociatedPress.

"The safety and protection of Russian nuclear materials meets and, insome ways, even exceeds international standards," Yuri Bespalko,spokesman for the Russian Atomic Energy Minister, told Itar-Tass.

Bespalko added that such assertions are "an attempt to deprive Russia ofits nuclear power status."
B. Russian Nuclear Forces
State Duma Passes Law on Nuclear Weapons
May 20, 1999

MOSCOW -- The State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament haspassed a Federal law "On the Development, Maintenance, Elimination, andthe Ensurance of the Safety of Nuclear Weapons".

The document determines a legal basis and principles for the Stateregulation of activities connected with the development, maintenance,elimination and the ensurance of safety of nuclear weapons and forsocial protection of the citizens of the Russian Federation. The Lawalso establishes responsibility for a breach of Russia's legislationconcerning this field.

Nuclear weapon facilities and those for the development, testing,production, maintenance and elimination of nuclear charges, nuclearammunition, and components thereof are exclusively Federally owned, thedocument stipulates.

Nuclear weapons developed on the territory of the Russian Federation butdeployed outside it are likewise a Federal property.

A decision on nuclear disarmament shall be taken by the President withthe consent of the Federation Council upper house of the FederalAssembly (parliament).

The provisions of the Convention on Prompt Notifications about NuclearBreakdowns and of other international treaties of the Russian Federationare applied in the event of a nuclear weapon breakdown, which resultedor could result in a discharge of radioactive substances or theirtrans-border spread.

The Convention was signed in Vienna on September 26, 1986. pop/ast
C. Loose Nukes
Russia Rejects Western Nuke Claims
Associated Press
May 20, 1999

MOSCOW -- Russia on Thursday rejected Western claims that its nuclear materials are poorly guarded, asserting that security measures meet andeven exceed international standards.

The Russian Atomic Energy Ministry said the Western reports were totally unjustified, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. American experts whohave visited Russian nuclear facilities were satisfied with safety, theministry was reported as saying.

"During their visits to Russia the U.S. experts have more than once been convinced that the nuclear materials there were safely protected,"ministry spokesman Yuri Bespalko was quoted as saying.

Claims that Russian plutonium and enriched uranium could easily bestolen by terrorist groups were "an attempt to deprive Russia of itsnuclear power status," he said.

The ministry's statement came as Russia's legislature passed a lawThursday aimed at making the maintenance and disposal of nuclear weaponssafer. The law establishes more definite legal accountability fornuclear accidents and requires that all nuclear weapons facilities beunder federal control.

Security protecting Russia's nuclear materials is even worse than hadbeen estimated previously, the U.S. National Research Council said in areport this week. The council, an arm of the U.S. National Academy ofScience, urged the United States to work with the Russians for at leastanother decade on improving the protection of nuclear items.

Nuclear materials are stored at more locations in Russia than wereoriginally identified in a joint U.S.-Russian review in 1997, the said.

Some Russian institutions lack the money to pay salaries or to insurethat proper security precautions are taken, the council said. Russia'seconomic problems have caused financial hardship for governmentofficials and nuclear specialists, it said, increasing the incentive tosteal materials and sell them illegally.
Russia Say Its Nuclear Materials Are Safely Protected
May 20, 1999

MOSCOW -- The safety of protection of Russian nuclear materials meetsand, in some ways, even exceeds international standards, a spokesman forthe Russian Atomic Energy Minister, Yuri Bespalko, said on Thursday.

Commenting on statements, circulating in the West, that "the safety ofprotection of Russian nuclear materials is lower than it has earlierbeen estimated," Bespalko said that "during their visits to Russia theU.S experts have more than once been convinced that the nuclearmaterials there were safely protected".

He regarded the assertions that Russian plutonium and enriched uraniumcould easily be reached by terrorist groups as nothing more than "anattempt to deprive Russia of its nuclear power status."

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