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Nuclear News - 08/06/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 6 August 1999

  1. Govt Likely to Step up Pressure on Duma to Ratify Start-2, Itar-Tass (08/02/99)
  2. Key Legislator Predicts Start-II Passage In 2000,RFE/RL (08/03/99)

B. Russian Nuclear Forces

  1. Russia Develops New Short-Range Missile, RFE/RL(08/03/99)
  2. Nerpa To Scrap More Subs Bellona(08/04/99)

C. Congressional Action

  1. White House Threatens Veto Of New House Proposal: FY-00 DefenseBill Stalls OverCompeting Plans For DOE Restructuring, InsideDefense (08/04/99)

D. Nuclear Waste

  1. CTR Foots Nuclear Shipment Bill, Bellona(08/04/99)
  2. Italy Hands Over to Russia Devices for Nuclear Control, Itar-Tass (08/05/99)

Govt Likely to Step up Pressure on Duma to Ratify Start-2

August 2, 1999
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW, August 2 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian government is likely to step up itsefforts to convince the State Duma to ratify the START-2 treaty in the autumn,Duma Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Vladimir Lukin said.

Lukin told Itar-Tass on Monday that this issue has been "actively discussedlately during the talks between Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and(U.S. Vice-President) Al Gore, at the Cologne summit and in Sarajevo."

"But there very little chance that it will be ratified before January of nextyear," he added.

He explained that the incumbent Duma is "preoccupied with the upcoming electionsto the lower house of parliament.... This is why the left-wing majority in theDuma, while understanding that the treaty has to be ratified, is unlikely to doit now because it has spent so much time explaining to its electorate that itsratification will be a betrayal."

Lukin stressed that the treaty should be ratified only when all questionsconcerning anti-missile defence systems are worked out.

"The Americans have decided to create a national anti-missile defence system andRussia should understand very clearly what this means, what problems it may facebecause of this and how they can be solved in the START-3 treaty," he said.

Lukin believes that the question of START-2 ratification may be included in theagenda of the new State Duma in January. He thinks the new Duma will "deal withproblems in a more rational way, including with the ratification of suchimportant treaties as START-2, because the next parliamentary elections will befar away."

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Key Legislator Predicts Start-II Passage In 2000

August 3, 1999
(for personal use only)

State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin told ITAR- TASS on2 August that although the Russian government is likely to increase its effortsto persuade the lower chamber to ratify the START-II treaty in the fall, "thereis very little chance that it will pass before January 2000." He explained thatDuma members are "preoccupied with the upcoming elections" and the left-wing majority, "whileunderstanding that the treaty has to be ratified, is unlikely to do so nowbecause it has spent so much time explaining to its electorate that [thetreaty's] ratification would be a betrayal." Lukin, who is a member of theYabloko faction, added that the treaty should be ratified only when allquestions concerning anti-missile defense systems have been worked out. InAugust, U.S. and Russian officials are expected to meet in Moscow to discuss theSTART-III and ABM treaties.

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B. Russian Nuclear Forces
Russia Develops New Short-Range Missile

August 3, 1999
(for personal use only)

ITAR-TASS on 2 August reported that Russia had developed a new short-rangemissile that has "far greater precision" than its predecessors. The Iskander-Emissile was described as a "deterrent weapon" to be used in local conflicts.Meanwhile, Commander of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces Colonel- GeneralVladimir Yakovlev said in Belarus on 2 August that another rocket regiment will"undoubtedly" be formed by the end of the year and will be equipped with 10Topol-M missile systems, Interfax reported. The new regiment would be attachedto the Tatishchevskaya division based in Saratov Oblast, where the first suchregiment, also with 10 Topol-M missile systems, was established last year.

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Nerpa To Scrap More Subs

Igor Kudrik
August 4, 1999
(for personal use only)

Nerpa shipyard greets prolongation of Co-operative Threat Reduction program(CTR), scraps more nuclearsubmarines.

Nerpa shipyard sighed with relief in the morning of June 18 when the news camethat Co-operative Threat Reduction program, or CTR, received a prolongation forseven years.

Nerpa shipyard, located on the Kola Peninsula, was founded back in 1972 torepair general-purpose nuclear-powered submarines. In 1992, Nerpa was grantedthe right to decommission nuclear submarines ofsecond generation. In May 1998, the management of Nerpa signed an agreement withCTR which stipulated scrapping of three Delta-class submarines. In 1999,negotiations went on to scrap five more submarines at Nerpa and repair spentfuel Malina-class (PM-12) transport vessel that belongs to the Northern Fleet.Talks were also underway to support Nerpa with completion of a decommissioningplant. The construction of the plant started back in 1993 and was scheduled tobe completed in 1996, but short funds tossed the original plans.

In spring this year, with the Kosovo conflict breaking out, the heavy exchangeof warlike words between Washington and Moscow threatened to jeopardise CTRprolongation. But everything went smoothly after all.

"This [CTR prolongation] was very important for us," Pavel Steblin, generaldirector of Nerpa shipyard, told Murmansk daily Polyarnaya Pravda. Steblin saidthat Nerpa received funds from Russian defence establishment to repair asubmarine last time in 1996. The Presidential Program on Nuclear SubmarineDecommissioning is not funded properly. This year, only 20% of the earmarked$1,300,000 was received from the state to scrap submarines.

Today, Nerpa is finished with decommissioning the first two Deltas. The thirdone will be completed by the end of this summer. The forth Delta has arrivedexpecting its turn to get scrapped.

CTR was founded in 1991 when the U.S. Congress directed the Department ofDefence to help secure former Soviet weapons of mass destruction. Since 1991,Congress has provided $2.3 billion to support CTR's efforts. The program is alsoknown as the Nunn-Lugar program. Since 1992, CTR developed a specific programfor dismantling ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) required under START- 1 armsreduction treaty. In 1997-98 CTR realised that the Russian government was unableto pay workers to carry out the scrapping of submarines. As a result, in 1999,CTR was on contract for seven strategic submarines:one Yankee and six Delta-class submarines. In 1999, CTR planned to signcontracts for nine additional submarines. The decommissioning takes place atNerpa and Zvezdochka shipyards in the Russian Northwest and at Zvezda shipyardin the Far East of Russia.

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C. Congressional Action
White House Threatens Veto Of New House Proposal: FY-00 Defense Bill StallsOver Competing Plans For DOE Restructuring

Martin Vaughan
Inside Defense
August 04, 1999
(for personal use only)

The fiscal year 2000 defense authorization bill has stalled in conferencecommittee over competing House and Senate plans to restructure the EnergyDepartment and create a new agency within DOE to manage the department's nuclearweapons labs.

The stall in the House-Senate conference committee comes amid significantcontroversy over an offer from the House Armed Services Committee. The offer -proposed jointly by the chairman and ranking Democrat on the committee, Reps.Floyd Spence (R-SC) and Ike Skelton (D-MO) July 26 -- drew a veto threat fromOffice of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew July 29. Deputy DefenseSecretary John Hamre also called Spence and Skelton late last week in an effortto nix the proposal, committee sources say.

The proposal is also facing bipartisan opposition from several senior Houselawmakers concerned with a loss of committee jurisdiction and from environmentalactivists who are worried the proposed agency would not be subject toenvironmental regulation.

At press time, Democratic sources say that Skelton was no longer supporting theSpence measure because of the veto threat.

It was not clear whether Spence and other House lawmakers would continue tostick with the offer. A spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee wouldnot comment on the dispute. The spokesman said these were "internal conferencediscussions" and would not comment.

Congressional sources say the legislative dispute, along with a simultaneousspat over committee jurisdiction, have likely delayed the ability of theconference committee to wrap up its work on the FY-00 defense authorization billby the end of July as planned.

At issue is an effort to create a semi-autonomous agency within DOE to improvemanagement at the nuclear facilities, with a special emphasis on reformingsecurity procedures at the facilities. Recently, both the congressional CoxCommission and the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board issuedreports detailing serious national security breaches at the labs.

In an effort to prevent future breaches, lawmakers sought to develop plans tochange the way DOE is managed. Several weeks ago the Senate approved a DOErestructuring plan, proposed by Sens. John Kyl (R-AZ) and Pete Domenici (R-NM).

House lawmakers originally approved a bare-bones plan, proposed by Spence, aspart of their FY-00 defense authorization package, H.R. 1401. The offer floatedby Spence and Skelton July 26 was a more detailed version of that originalproposal.

While both proposals would create a semi-autonomous agency within DOE, thedetails of the two blueprints differed significantly, particularly on the issueof how much control the energy secretary would have over the new agency's policydevelopment. Congressional sources say the Senate plan expressly provides thesecretary with authority to make policy in a number of areas and theadministrator of the new agency would handle implementation of any changes.

These sources say the Senate proposal is more environmentally sound because ofan amendment offered by Domenici and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) that wouldprovide the energy secretary with clear oversight over the new agency'scompliance with environmental, safety and health requirements.

However, the Spence proposal contains provisions that these sources say wouldgut the secretary's ability to make policy for the new agency by handing thatauthority to the agency's administrator, who would carry the rank of undersecretary for nuclear security.

In his July 29 letter, OMB's Lew warned that the Spence proposal wouldjeopardize "the creation of sound counterintelligence, intelligence, andsecurity efforts, and environmental, safety and health compliance activities ofthe new organization."

Sources say the administration is also concerned that both proposals would limitthe secretary's ability to conduct oversight of the new agency.

However, even if Spence agrees to the Senate proposal, he still facesconsiderable opposition from a bipartisan group of senior House lawmakers whoare concerned that reforming DOE in a defense authorization bill would scaleback their committees' jurisdiction over the department.

Leading the opposition are Reps. Thomas Bliley (R-VA) and John Dingell (D-MI),the chairman and ranking member of the House Commerce Committee, as well asReps. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Jerry Costello (D-IL) of the House ScienceCommittee.

These lawmakers earlier this month had unsuccessfully sought to sway HouseSpeaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and others to oppose the measure in favor of amore comprehensive approach that would give those two committees jurisdictionover the bill as well.

In their most recent effort, Bliley urged Commerce Committee lawmakers in a July28 letter to oppose the Spence proposal. "We are carefully studying theproposal, but are told that the DOD conference may conclude as early as thisweekend. Obviously, in this time frame, we cannot and should not seek to adopt aproposal that will completely restructure a Cabinet department and/or weakenexisting regulatorySafeguards concerning the environment, safety and health," Bliley wrote.

However, Spence and Skelton reiterated to their Senate counterparts in a letteraccompanying the July 26 proposal that "it is imperative that DOE reorganizationlegislation be worked out in the context of our conference report."

Meanwhile, environmentalists warned Spence and Skelton in a July 28 letter thatthey too are opposed to the House plan. Several groups say in the letter thatoversight of environmental and safety concerns at DOE labs and other facilitiesmust remain the responsibility of DOE's Environmental Management andEnvironment, Safety and Health offices.

According to the letter, "This restructuring represents a return to theinstitutional conditions that resulted in almost 50 years of environmental,safety and health mismanagement at DOE facilities and -- at an estimated costof $250 billion -- the largest environmental cleanup in the world."

But the letter also targets the Senate restructuring proposal, claiming thatboth plans may result in the "unintended consequence" of disrupting anddiverting funds from DOE's cleanup program.

House Democrats acknowledge Armed Services staff have already made some targetedchanges to the environmental provisions of the bill, moves they characterize as"a step forward." For instance, the new proposal preserves the energysecretary's authority to promulgate regulations for environment, safety andhealth, whereas the provision as reported by the House would have left that tothe discretion of the chief ofthe new "security administration."

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D. Nuclear Waste
CTR Foots Nuclear Shipment Bill

Igor Kudrik and Thomas Jandl
August 4, 1999
(for personal use only)

U.S. officials grant exception to non-reprocessing policy, as CTR funds Russiansubmarines fuel shipment to Mayak.

The Co-operative Threat Reduction program has funded four fuel shipments to theMayak reprocessing plant this year. The fuel from a total of six submarines wasshipped to Siberia from the Kola Peninsula and the Russian Far East. The effortrequired a waiver from U.S. policy which prohibits that U.S. funds be spent onsupport of reprocessing.

A U.S. Congress effort to secure former Soviet weapons of mass destruction namedCo-operative Threat Reduction program, or CTR, developed a specific program fordismantling ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) required under the START- 1 armsreduction treaty in 1992.

At the first stage, CTR supplied Russian shipyards with dismantling equipment tohelp create the infrastructure that scrapping nuclear submarines requires. In1997-1998, CTR started to fund the decommissioning work itself, by providingfunds to pay workers' salaries. At present, CTR' objective is the dismantlementof a total of 31 SSBNs: one Yankee, 26 Deltas, and 5 Typhoons.

A few years after SSBN dismentalment started, CTR realised that Russia'sinfrastructure did not have the capacity to ship fuel from scrapped submarinesto the Mayak plant. Russia has adopted what is known as a "closed cycle" for theremoval of spent fuel from submarines equipped with PWR reactors and fromnuclear-powered civilian vessels. The fuel is sent to the Mayak plant forreprocessing. Russia's has five TK-VG-18-type rail cars, which can shiptwo-and-a-half to three reactor cores at a time. The storage facilities forspent nuclear fuel at the Northern Fleet and Pacific Fleet are run down andfull.

The cost per fuel shipment was around $1 million to $1.5 million. But with thedevaluation of the ruble after the 1998 economic crisis, the dollar-denominatedservice got cheaper. A shipment can now be reprocessed for about $500,000.

Non-reprocessing policy with exceptions

In August 1998, CTR's executives briefed U.S. policy makers that fordismantlement of submarines to continue, the U.S. side has to agree to fundshipment of fuel for reprocessing at Mayak. Spent nuclear fuel could not bestored safely and this created a bottleneck for dismantlement that threatened tohalt work. Around mid-December 1998, the first official cables were sent toRussia announcing that a waiver for the non-reprocessing policy would begranted. Negotiators said the United States would consider supportingreprocessing of fuel from up to 15 strategic submarines.

The first train with submarine spent fuel left Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk County,in April this year. A second shipment was performed from Atomflot base inMurmansk in May. A third train arrived at Severodvinsk on 25 June and left forMayak a week later. During the first half of 1999, the train was in the PacificFleet as well to collect fuel from dismantled submarines there. Finally thetrain arrived in Murmansk again in late July, this time reportedly to load fuelfrom operations of nuclear-powered icebreakers.

Each train, which now consists of five railcars, can carry a maximum 735 fuelassemblies, or around three reactor cores. So, all in all, around 12 reactorcores (six submarines) were sent to the Mayak plant.

Dry storage at Mayak

The U.S. permission to reprocess spent fuel was limited to 15 strategicsubmarines and conditioned on co-operation on the development and licensing of adry storage facility for the remaining 15 boats. CTR plans decommission 31submarines, but one was already defulled by the Russian side. Moreover, thenumber of submarines to be decommissioned with CTR funds might increase in thefuture with inclusion of general-purpose submarines. An assessment whether theUnited States should get involved in general-purpose submarine dismantlement isdue out October 1 this year.

Mayak envirodossier

Under Lake Karachay, at a depth of 100 metres, a pocket containing some 5million cubic metres of radioactive liquid salts has been created. Moving at aspeed of 80 metres per year towards the confluence of the River Irtysh and itstributary Techa, the pocket is currently located 1.5 to 2 kilometres from animpending catastrophe. In case it eventually reaches the Techa, and consequentlythe Irtysh, vast areas of Western Siberia and the Arctic Ocean will becontaminated. So far, no solution has been proposed to prevent the disaster.

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Italy Hands Over to Russia Devices for Nuclear Control

August 5, 1999
(for personal use only)

KAPITOLOVO, (Leningrad Region), August 5 (Itar-Tass) - "Nuclear and radiationsecurity has no state borders: the available arsenals of mass destructionweapons must be destroyed, but at the peace time it is imperative first of allto have effective means of protection of an operating staff from the impact oftechnologies for processing radioactive waste," Consul- General of Italy in St.Petersburg Salvatore Pinna told Itar-Tass here on Thursday.

He opened a ceremony of handing over to the Russian Federation one stationaryand two mobile installations -- devices for measuring a quantity of plutonium ina human organism -- a very dangerous radioactive substance, as well as threemobile laboratories for monitoring environment, the totak cost of which is sixmillion U.S. dollars.

At a news conference it was noted that specially organised national tenders anddeliveries to Russia of this unique equipment were effected in compliance withthe Agreement between the governments of the Russian Federation and Italy oncooperation in the destruction of nuclear weapons in Russia, now being reduced.

After tests in Kapitolovo near St. Petersburg the Italian equipment will be sentto the city of Snezhinsk (the Siberian chemical industry complex and theemergency technical centre), and the mobile express-laboratory will betransported to the city of Seversk.

It is supposed that one of the mobile installations will be stationed in anemergency technical centre in St. Petersburg.

Besides, this equipment will be delivered to the city of Serov (the NizhnyNovgorod Region) and the city of Snezhinsk (the Chelyabinsk Region), where thereare special integrated plants for processing radioactive waste.

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