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Nuclear News - 06/11/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 11 June, 1999

A. Nuclear Waste
1. Russia, Norway Discuss Ways to Increase Nuclear Safety,Itar-Tass (06/09/99)
2. Russia accepts offer despite treason case, Bellona (06/04/99)

B. Congressional Action
1. Congress Moves to Enhance Nuclear Lab Security, AssociatedPress (06/10/99)

C. Nuclear Power Industry
1. World's First Nuclear Power Plant Plans Closure, Reuters(06/11/99)
A. Nuclear Waste
Russia, Norway Discuss Ways to Increase Nuclear Safety
June 09, 1999
(for personal use only)

OSLO, June 9 (Itar-Tass) - Russia and Norway on Wednesday discussedmatters of cooperation in increasing nuclear and radiation safety, aRussian official said.

A joint intergovernment commission which was founded in 1998 under aRussian-Norwegian accord on cooperation in environment protectioncompleted its second session in Oslo on Wednesday, Nikolai Yegorov, theRussian co-chairman of the commission and deputy nuclear energyminister, told Itar-Tass.

The accord was signed during the visit of Norwegian King Harald V toRussia to agree on conditions of the dismantling of Russian nuclearsubmarines withdrawn from the Russian northern fleet and actions toincrease nuclear and radiation safety of the region.

The Wednesday session debated ten projects of priority value, Yegorovsaid.

"We attach great significance to cooperation with Norway in suchimportant matters as the betterment of environment in the Russian north," Yegorov said.

Norway was one of the first countries to offer help and to Russia insolving complicated environmental problems connected with thedismantling of nuclear submarines, increasing the safety of the KolaNuclear Station in the Kola peninsula and other matters, he noted.
Russia accepts offer despite treason case
Igor Kudrik
June 04, 1999
(for personal use only)

Russia accepts Japanese proposal to tackle nuclear submarinesdecommissioning in the Far East, but proceeds with treason case againstjournalist.

Japan has expressed an initiative to increase co-operation with Russiaon nuclear submarine decommissioning in the Russian Far East. JapaneseForeign Minister, Masahiko Koumura, who visited Russia in the end ofMay, talked this proposal over with his Russian counterpart, IgorIvanov. The Russian side was reportedly positive to the initiativedespite a controversial treason case orchestrated by the Security Police(FSB) in Vladivostok.

Japan started its nuclear safety assistance to Russia by pledging $100million in April 1993. A part of this contribution was spent to build amobile floating liquid waste processing facility, which is nowreportedly completed and commissioned at Zvezda naval yard nearVladivostok.

A new comprehensive plan brought up by Japan suggests conductingfeasibility studies for the following projects:

--To defuel submarines, which has been laid up with reactor cores insidefor considerable time; to place the fuel into transport casks(apparently TK-18 type); to build a temporary storage site at Zvezdashipyard to store the casks.

--To decommission Victor-class submarines at Zvezda shipyard.

--To refit Belyanka-class tanker Pinega into a spent fuel containership. Two Belyanka-class ships (one in the Northern and one in thePacific Fleet) were originally built to transport and store liquid andsolid radioactive waste.

Until now, the United States Department of Defence was the most activein assisting the Russian Pacific Fleet to dismantle old nuclearsubmarines. The projects were carried out through Co-operative ThreatReduction program.

Proposal accepted despite spy case The Russian officials had no problemin accepting Japanese proposal despite a controversial spy case now incourt in Vladivostok. A military journalist, Grigory Pasko, standscharged with treason for divulging information on radiation hazardsassociated with operation of the Pacific Fleet. The journalist faces upto 12 years in prison on charges put forward by the FSB. Pasko's defenceteam says the charges are unfounded and fabricated.
B. Congressional Action
Congress Moves to Enhance Nuclear Lab Security
Associated Press
June 10, 1999
(for personal use only)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress is moving with unusual speed to tightensecurity at nuclear weapons labs, but lawmakers surprisingly have shownlittle interest in using the Chinese espionage uproar to break up theEnergy Department -- an agency that not long ago was a target forextinction.

While the House on Wednesday passed a string of proposals to improvecounterintelligence programs, including wider use of polygraphs atresearch labs,a proposal to begin planning the transfer of nuclearweapons programs to the Defense Department was withdrawn.

And in the Senate, another proposal to create a Nuclear SecurityAdministration that would be given wide autonomy and power within thedepartment has run into strong opposition. It was blocked from flooraction just before Memorial Day, although its sponsors hope to revive itthis year.

The proposal was the subject of three hours of debate Wednesday beforethe Senate Intelligence Committee, where it got a cool reception fromDemocrats.

But Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., argued that such an administration "withclear lines of authority, accountability and responsibility" and controlof its own budget would "ensure the safety and reliability of the U.S.nuclear arsenal."

But Energy Secretary Bill Richardson denounced the idea, calling it "afirst step toward military takeover of nuclear weapons development."

Still, the proposal offered by Kyl and Sens. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska,and Pete Domenici, R-N.M., pales in comparison to efforts only a fewyears ago to dismember the Energy Department altogether and give thenuclear programs to the Pentagon.

Despite the controversy over lax security at weapons labs and loss ofnuclear secrets to China, there is little talk of breaking up the $18billion department, where activities range from promoting more efficientlight bulbs to assuring America's nuclear warheads will work properly ifthey are ever needed.

One reason may be Richardson, the former congressman and U.N.ambassador, who took over at the department in September and has beengiven high marks from both Republicans and Democrats for his handling ofthe security mess.

By contrast, when talk of breaking apart the department was at its peakin 1995, at the helm was Hazel O'Leary, a frequent target of Republicanconservatives who dogged her on everything from her worldwide travelitinerary to her push for an end to nuclear testing.

Richardson by contrast has worked Congress incessantly and with finesseever since the China espionage brouhaha erupted in early March. Hisstrategy has been to acknowledge past failures and agree to a broadrange of security changes and greater oversight from Congress in hopesof heading off more onerous measures.

"I think the worst is over," Richardson said in an interview lateWednesday after the House by a 428-0 vote had approved a package ofproposals that beefs up counterintelligence programs, requires polygraphtests of lab scientists, restricts lab visits by foreigners and requiresa barrage of new reports to Congress ontechnology exports.

It's a package "that we can live with," he continued. But moreimportant, he said, was that the House on a 266-159 vote rejected a muchmore restrictive proposal by Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., that would haveimposed a two-year moratorium on scientific exchanges at the weaponslabs.

And Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C., chairman of the House Armed ServicesCommittee, withdrew his proposal that would have begun a process ofshifting DOE's defense programs to the Defense Department as early as2002. Instead, the House acted on a string of more modest proposalsoffered by Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., that quickly won Clintonadministration support.

"It was a good day," Richardson said.

Meanwhile, Richardson disclosed that an internal departmentinvestigation into the mishandling of the alleged theft of nuclearsecrets at the Los Alamos lab in New Mexico won't be released for atleast another 30 days.

The report, which Richardson said will lead to some firings, had beenexpected this week. But he said the investigation now has been turnedover to the department's inspector general for further review. "Morequestions need to be asked," he said.
C. Nuclear Power Industry
World's First Nuclear Power Plant Plans Closure
June 11, 1999
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Jun 11, 1999 -- (Reuters) The world's first nuclear power plant,put into service in1954 at Obninsk in Russia is being prepared for closure in 2004, asenior official said on Thursday.Viktor Kuzmin, first deputy director of the Obninsk physics and energyresearch center which operatesthe plant, said in a telephone interview that the station would bedecommissioned in 2004 andbecome a museum.

The plant, 100 km (60 miles) southwest of Moscow, will have been inoperation for 50 years,far exceeding the 20 years originally planned.

"Now the station is providing the city much reduced electricity andheating supplies, and is mostly usedfor research, for example, testing energy-producing elements for spacereactors," he said.

"No other nuclear plant has worked for so long and it is extremelyinteresting for scientists to examine itsgraphite reactors, especially for the Leningrad nuclear power stationwhich also has such reactors," he said.

He said his first priority was to work out how to eliminate the dangerof the reactor's radioactive materials, adding that one plan was to sealit all in molten lead, which could be a safe way of conserving it.

"We are going to close down a BR-10 fast neutron reactor at our center,with which we supplied Russian and CIS nuclear plants, to examine itscondition," Kuzmin said.

The official said he would prefer to prolong the life span of existingreactors without compromising safety rather than decommissioning them.

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