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Nuclear News - 06/04/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 4 June, 1999

A. Core Conversion
1. Russian Pu-stocks to Increase, Bellona (06/03/99)

B. Russian Nuclear Forces
1. Topol Missile Tested Again, RFE/RL Newsline (06/ 04/99)
2. Russia Again Tests New Strategic Missile, Reuters (06/03/99)

C. Nuclear Waste
1. Cogema to treat submarine waste, Bellona (06/02/99)
2. Duma Drafts Nuclear Imports Law, Bellona (06/01/99)

D. Nuclear Power Industry
1. Thieves stole radiation alarm, Bellona (06/02/99)

E. U.S.-Russian Relations
1. Test ban treaty remains in limbo, Associated Press (06/02/99)
A. Core Conversion
Russian Pu-stocks to Increase
Thomas Nilsen
June 03, 1999
(for personal use only)

Russia is to continue plutonium production beyond the year 2000.

The three plutonium production reactors in Siberia will not becomeentirely civilian by the end of this year as the United States andRussia agreed upon earlier. It means that plutonium production in Russiawill not cease in the near future.

In June 1994, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and U.S. VicePresident Al Gore signed an agreement committing Russia to end plutoniumproduction at the three remaining military reactors no later than theyear 2000. However, the project seems to be shelved as Russia says thereactors are the major source to heat and electricity for theneighbouring cities.

The two reactors in question are located in Seversk and one inZheleznogorsk, central Siberia.

In compliance with the 1994 agreement, the U.S. was to help Russia toreplace the reactors with fossil fuel plants within the agreed timeframe for ending plutonium production. But then, in 1996, Russia and theU.S. reached a new agreement, which stipulated conversion of thereactors to civilian purpose only, rather than replacing them.

The reactors use specifically designed fuel with non-standard cladding.Once the fuel is irradiated inside the reactors it has very limitedstorage time and has to be reprocessed shortly. The reprocessing leadsto production of some 1.5 tons of weapon-grade plutonium annually.

Reactor core conversion
Given the reactor cores are converted, the use of fuel with anon-standard cladding and higher enrichment would be reduced resultingin, at least, 10 to 100 times less plutonium output compared to thecurrent rates. The plutonium from the converted reactors is not aweapon-grade. Secondly, and most important, the spent fuel would notrequire reprocessing.

According to the original agreement in 1996, the reactor core conversionshould have been completed by the end of 1999. Now the plan seems not tobe on schedule. The Russian State Nuclear Inspection, the Gosatomnadzor(GAN), has not yet completed the licensing of the reactors. The GANopposed the reactor core conversion program all the way since it hadfirst been proposed as an option back in 1996. Last year, Bellona Webquoted head of the GAN, Yuri Vishnevsky, saying: "The continuedoperation of the two reactors at Seversk is fraught with danger of aChernobyl type accident to the Tomsk region." Vishnevsky said thereactors had already twice exceeded their service lifetime and thesafety risks in their continuous operation were rather obvious.

The two reactors in Seversk, which stay in operation and which will beconverted, started up in 1965 and 1967 respectively. The remainingreactor in Zheleznogorsk started up in 1964. However, a worst casescenario accident with this reactor is considered less dramatic since itis sealed inside an underground nuclear complex, which will preventradioactivity fallout.

Russia's most dangerous reactors
The two reactors in Seversk are considered to be the most dangerousoperating reactors in Russia. They are graphite moderated, water-cooledreactors, and share basic design with the RBMK reactors at the civiliannuclear power plants like Chernobyl, Leningrad and Ignalina. The coolantfrom the reactors is used to heat the city of Seversk. A part of it isalso transported via pipelines to heat houses in Tomsk, some few kilometres south of Seversk.

As far as Bellona Web can judge, GAN's objection to the conversionproject focuses primarily on the proposed cooling systems for thereactors. The GAN is also sceptical to the sustainable operation of thereactors under the proposed power output levels.

HEU instead of LEU
The initial conversion plans suggested that the reactor cores must befuelled with low enriched uranium, but nobody has so far approved theengineering analyses to determine whether it is feasible for thereactors in Seversk from an engineering point of view.

In a recent interview with highly respected U.S. newsletter NuclearWeapons and Materials Monitor, Co-operative Threat Reduction (CTR)Deputy director, Col. Jim Reid, says: "It is agreed that the first corewill be highly-enriched uranium (HEU)." The core conversion process is apart of the CTR-funded program in Russia. No LEU fuel elements has everbeen certified for use in these reactors cores, and, according to Col.Reid, such certification automatically generates a significant timeelement into the use of the LEU. "We're working diligently now to getGAN to certify these reactors based on a fuel element that they alreadyknow and understand and have been using for years and years."

The progress in the reactor conversion is going to take time. Nobodybelieves anymore that Russia will be ready to halt its plutoniumproduction as agreed upon back in 1992, when Boris Yeltsin formallycommitted Russia to do so by the year 2000. As it looks today, theplutonium production will continue at least until 2002 or 2003, addinganother 3 to 4.5 tons of weapon-grade plutonium to the Russian stocks.
B. Russian Nuclear Forces
Topol Missile Tested Again
RFE/RL Newsline
June 04, 1999
(for personal use only)

The Strategic Rocket Forces on 3 June successfully test-fired a Topol-Mintercontinental ballistic missile (referred to by NATO as the SS-27),according to Russian media. The missile was launched from the Plesetsktest range in Arkhangelsk Oblast and landed on the Kamchatka Peninsula,in the Far East. It was the seventh launch of the missile in the pastthree years. Facing with severe financial constraints, which are alsoaffecting the armed forces, the government has decided to concentratedefense spending on developing the Topol-M, which is designed to befired from either a silo or a mobile platform. Russia plans to deploy 40such missiles by the end of next year, replacing the current force ofheavier, multiple-warhead missiles. A Topol-M system was deployed nearSaratov last December.
Russia Again Tests New Strategic Missile
June 03, 1999
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW, June 3 (Reuters) - Russia again test-launched one of its newTopol-M ballistic missiles on Thursday just as peace appeared closer inYugoslavia, Interfax news agency quoted a military spokesman as saying.

The Topol-M is intended to become the backbone of Russia's nucleararsenal in the 21st century.

Interfax quoted a Rocket Forces spokesman as saying the rocket was firedat 1420 GMT from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the northwest of the countryand later hit a target in Kamchatka, 9,000 km (5,500 miles) away in theFar East.

The military has carried out a series of tests on the missile, known toNATO as the SS-27, in recent years.

Russia has timed past missile tests on occasion to reinforce politicalmessages.

On Thursday Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin faced an angry backlash inparliament and signs of dissent from military hawks in his negotiatingteam over the Kosovo peace plan he agreed with the West.

Military officials could not be immediately reached on Thursday eveningfor comment.
C. Nuclear Waste
Cogema to treat submarine waste
Igor Kudrik
June 03, 1999
(for personal use only)

Cogema was awarded a contract to treat Russian nuclear submarine solidwaste.

Cogema Technologies, Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of Cogema Inc., was awardeda contract by Lockheed Martin Energy Technology to design and supply twosolid waste treatment and conditioning systems for the Zvezdochka andZvezda shipyards in northern and eastern Russia. Both shipyards areheavily involved in decommissioning of nuclear-powered submarines.

The project is a part of the Co-operative Threat Reduction program. Theprogram was commissioned in 1991 by the U.S. Congress to help secureformer Soviet weapons of mass destruction. One of the program'sobjectives is to aid Russia to dismantle ballistic missile submarinesand secure spent fuel and waste, deriving from the decommissioningoperations.

Zvezdochka shipyard, Archangel County, had a solid waste incinerationfacility built in early 80-s. The facility was capable of processingnon-metal waste (plastics, rags), but has never been in full operation.In late 80-s it was practically taken out of service.

The new facility will include a solid waste sorting glove box, a scrapmetal decontamination system, size reduction equipment, and a compactorfor non-metal waste.
Duma Drafts Nuclear Imports Law
Igor Kudrik
June 01, 1999
(for personal use only)

Mutants march in support for nuclear imports in Moscow today.

Moscow Youth Yabloko party and Socio-Ecological Union staged a protestin front of the State Duma, Russian lower chamber of parliament, againstimport of spent nuclear fuel to Russia today. The action, titled theMarch of Mutants, is prompted by the recent attempts to amendlegislation in favour of foreign spent nuclear fuel imports to Russiafor storage/reprocessing.

In February this year, the Duma started this process by proposal toamend the Law On Environmental Protection. The initiative, encouraged bythe Ministry for Atomic Energy (Minatom), received support among all theDuma factions, but Yabloko, a reformers minority in the parliament. Yetthe attempt turned to be a failure after protests by the DumaEnvironmental Committee and NGOs.

In late April, a group of Duma members came up with a draft of Law onIndustrial Storage and Reprocessing of Spent Nuclear Fuel. The law wasto remove all the legal roadblocks towards import of foreign spent fuel.The State Environmental Committee, former Ministry of Environment, hasrefused to approve the draft twice. The draft has not been put up forpublic hearing in the Duma yet.

"The law stands good chances to be approved by the State Duma, in casethere are no protests," Andrey Sharomov, leader of Moscow Youth Yablokoparty, told Bellona Web. "Duma members love to have financial backingfor the voting, so if there are protests the chances are still good:However, they would be significantly lower," Sharomov added.

Meanwhile the financial backing promised by Minatom's head, YevgenyAdamov, is more than tempting for a country with ruined economy. Adamovreassures that spent nuclear fuel collection from other countries is a"$150 billion business" and "a golden opportunity for Russia."

"Yabloko will oppose this law at all levels," Andrey Sharomov assured.

"If the law is approved, Russia will become an international nucleardumpsite, while Minatom's bureaucrats and their lobbyists in the Dumawill get billions of dollars on their bank accounts," states VladimirSlivyak, Socio-Ecological Union's antinuclear campaigner.

In the meantime, to turn Adamov's words into reality, the U.S. basedNon-proliferation Trust Inc. has proposed to Minatom to collect and shipto Russia 6,000 metric tons of spent fuel. The profit is modest incomparison to what Adamov promises - $4 billion - but it might be just abeginning of a long-term big business.
D. Nuclear Power Industry
Thieves stole radiation alarm
Igor Kudrik
June 02, 1999
(for personal use only)

A new theft struck Kola NPP's radiation control systems.

A new theft occurred at Kola nuclear power plant in mid May. This timethe thieve(s) removed two items of equipment, which were a part of theautomatic radiation monitoring system at the plant's fourth reactorunit. The plant lost control over the radiation levels in the fourthreactor hall for 24 hours, but managed to regain it.

The incident was not reported to the police until 27 May. According toMurmansk daily, the Polyarnaya Pravda, the plant's security manager saidthey tried to commission an internal investigation, but failed toidentify the thieve(s).

The radiation monitoring system, 30 electronic dosimeters, was deliveredand installed through the TACIS program (Technical Assistance to theCommonwealth of Independent States) in 1997/1998.

The stolen items did not contain any valuable parts, which could be soldat a good price. So the thieves, apparently, were not any of the plant'stechnicians, but someone from one of the plant's subcontractors, whoperform periodic, but non-nuclear, work on site.

On 8 April this year, a theft in the plant's turbine machinery led to anautomatic shut down of its Number 1 reactor unit. The thief was seized afew weeks later and turned out to be a member of a subcontractor team.

Kola Nuclear Power Plant operates four VVER-440 reactors commissionedbetween 1973, and 1984. The two oldest reactors, now 25 and26-years-old, are scheduled for shut down in 2003 and 2004. Theengineers of Kola NPP are, however, trying to gain permission to prolongthe service life for the reactors some five to seven years beyond 2004.
E. U.S.-Russian Relations
Test Ban Treaty Remains In Limbo
Tom Raum
Associated Press
June 02, 1999
(for personal use only)

Arms-control advocates suggest a nuclear test ban treaty languishing inthe U.S. Senate could, if ratified, make it harder for China to take itsacquired nuclear-weapons technology to the next level. Yet some of thesame Senate conservatives who have been the loudest in condemningChinese espionage and Clinton administration security policies have beenblocking a ratification vote.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed by the UnitedStates in 1996 and submitted to the Senate the following year. Itsratification has long been a major foreign policy objective for the dministration.

It remains on hold before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whereChairman Jesse Helms refuses to bring it up.

Helms first wants the administration to send the Senate modifications toan older treaty - the 27-year old Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty withMoscow. The North Carolina Republican gave the administration until June1 to submit the modifications or face a freeze on all treaties.

Helms reiterated the threat last week: "I will do everything within mypower to ensure that the ABM treaty is never resurrected orreconstituted."

As of Wednesday, the administration still had not sent the Senate theABM modifications agreed to by President Clinton and Russian PresidentBoris Yeltsin. Nor did the White House appear ready to act any timesoon.

A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, saidlate Tuesday that Clinton "clearly intends to fulfill his commitment tothe Senate. But it's strictly the president's prerogative as to thetiming of that submission."

"The situation has been thrown off course by the Kosovo operation," theofficial said. "We intend to try to put the arms control track back ingear with the Russians."

The administration is afraid the GOP-led Senate will vote to scuttle thewhole ABM treaty if it is revisited. Helms admits as much, saying itbelongs in the "dustbin of history" since it was negotiated with acountry that no longer exists, the Soviet Union.

But the biggest reason most conservatives dislike the ABM treaty is thatit restricts deployment of a national defense against ballisticmissiles, long a GOP goal and one more recently embraced by someDemocrats as well.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Coalition to Reduce NuclearDangers, an arms-control organization, said the Comprehensive NuclearTest Ban Treaty "is one of the few tools that is available to the UnitedStates to prevent China from conducting nuclear tests on its warheaddesigns."

"How helpful is it to national security to delay consideration of atreaty that's been in the Senate for 20 months now?" Kimball asked.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty has been signed by 152countries, including Russia and China. Only 29 have ratified it. And ofthose, only two are nuclear powers: Britain and France.

China held its last underground nuclear test in 1996, then declared amoratorium on nuclear testing.

Many treaty advocates claim the Senate delay is keeping other nationsfrom ratifying the treaty, which obligates its signatories not to carryout any nuclear weapons test explosions.

"These are not salad days for arms control," said Chris Madison, aspokesman for Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware. Biden, the senior Democraton the Foreign Relations Committee, is leading the charge for the treatybut has been frustrated by Helms.

The attention may now be on China in light of last week's congressionalreport on espionage, but China has fewer than 20 ballistic missilescapable of reaching the United States. Russia has thousands.

"I suggest we may be losing touch with reality. We are keeping moreweapons in our arsenal than we need, and forcing the Russians to keepmore in theirs than they can control," said Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb.

Kerrey has sought unsuccessfully Senate approval for allowing the UnitedStates to reduce unilaterally its nuclear arsenal below the6,000-warhead level permitted for both nations under existingarms-control agreements.

Yet, in this game of musical treaty chairs, the Clinton administrationis insisting that it will hold off on the ABM modifications until Russiaratifies yet another arms-control agreement, the so called START IIpact.

But with US-Russian relations strained by NATO's bombing in Yugoslavia,the Russian Duma does not seem inclined to act any time soon.

Underscoring the danger, Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russia's special envoy forKosovo, wrote last week in an essay in The Washington Post that "theworld has never in this decade been so close as now to the brink ofnuclear war."

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-S.D., said he and other ban supporters will work inthe coming days "to speak with some aggressiveness on this issue on thefloor of the Senate" in hopes of prompting a vote.

But with Helms in control, no one is giving Dorgan very good odds.

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