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Nuclear News - 08/13/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 13 August 1999

A. Russian Nuclear Forces

  1. Typhoon To Get Scrapped Shortly, Bellona (08/11/99)

B. Nuclear Waste

  1. Russia, Japan Weigh Draft Uranium Deal, Reuters(08/12/99)
  2. The Non-Proliferation Trust Project, Bellona(08/13/99)
  3. The TransferOf Spent Nuclear Fuel To The Russian Federation For Intermediate Storage,Bellona (08/13/99)


  1. Russia Unlikely to Ratify START II, Associated Press(08/11/99)
  2. Putin BacksU.S.-Russian Cooperation, UPI (08/12/99)

D. U.S. – Russia General

  1. U.S., Russia Urged To Lower Missile Alert For Y2K,Reuters(08/13/99)

E. ABM, Missile Defense

  1. RussianExpert Says Moscow Must Defend ABM Treaty, RFE/RL (08/13/99)

A. Russian Nuclear Forces
Typhoon To Get Scrapped Shortly
        Igor Kudrik and AlexeyKlimov
        August 11, 1999
        (for personal use only)

The first Typhoon class submarine will be scrapped shortly. Four moreto go, but Duma might protest.

The first week of July, a Typhoon class nuclear powered submarine arrivedat Sevmash shipyard, Severodvinsk, to get scrapped. The decommissioningof the submarine is funded by Co-operative Threat Reduction program.

Russia has built six Typhoon class submarines – the biggest nuclearpowered submarines ever built. The submarine to get scrapped shortly hasTK-202 identification number. It was launched at Sevmash shipyard on 26April 1982.

The American Co-operative Threat Reduction program, or CTR, funds thedecommissioning work. CTR's objective is to dismantle five Typhoons intotal in the years to come.

The plans for dismantlement of Typhoons have never been confirmed bythe Russian Navy publicly, and have been referred to only by CTR. In 1996,the Russian navy magazine Morskoy Sbornik reported, however, that two Typhoonswere put on reserve. Lack of proper maintenance and finances to upgradethe submarines were named among the main reasons.

There are strong indications that such plans can meet protest from theRussian Lower House of the Parliament, or State Duma,
once this news grips their attention.

The remaining five Typhoons are stationed at Nerpichya in ZapadnayaLitsa Bay at the Kola Peninsula.

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B. Nuclear Waste
Russia, Japan Weigh Draft Uranium Deal
        August 12, 1999
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Russia's Techsnabexport (Tenex) foreign tradeassociation confirmed on Thursday it may be close to a deal to export enricheduranium to Japan, but said the expected volume of supplies was less than100 tonnes.

"A draft contract on enriched uranium is being examined by Japaneseand Russian authorities," Yuri Bespalko, a spokesman for Tenex, told Reuters.

Japanese industrial daily Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun reported earlier thatTokyo Electric Power Co Inc (TEPCO) had agreed to buy 100 tonnes of enricheduranium from Tenex pending approval of Japan's Ministry of InternationalTrade and Industry.

The paper also said TEPCO, the world's largest privately owned utility,had not yet decided whether it would sign a term contract with Tenex orwould remain a spot buyer.

TEPCO told Reuters it was considering a purchase.

A TEPCO spokesman denied existence of a formal agreement but confirmedthe company was examining buying Russian uranium as a possible way of cuttingenergy production costs.

Bespalko added, "The Japanese want our enriched uranium in the formof atomic power station fuel, but possible supply volumes are significantlylower than 100 tonnes."

He declined to name the exact volume or say when shipments might start.

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The Non-Proliferation Trust Project
        August 13, 1999
        (for personal use only)

A group of German and U.S. industry, an NGO and several well-connectedformer government and Navy officials have set up a company with the goalto take title of 6,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel from various countries(excluding the United States and Russia), with the aim to store that fuelfor up to 40 years in Russia. The proceeds would pay for disposition of50 metric tons of Russian excess weapons plutonium as well. The group,Non-Proliferation Trust, Inc. (NPT), plans to raise between $6 billionand $12 billion from the nations trying to rid themselves of their spentnuclear fuel. Proceeds exceeding costs, here based on minimum revenueprojections,is divided up for the following purposes:

  • Fissile materials and safeguards enhancements ($1.8 billion);
  • Spent nuclear fuel decommissioning and disposition, incl. the developmentof a spent fuel geological repository ($700 million);
  • Additional non-proliferation programs and charitable programs administeredby Russia's nuclear energy ministry Minatom ($600 million);
  • A lump sum for Minatom, half of which would pay pensions and salary arrearsfor nuclear and defense workers ($400 million);
  • Various Russian environmental programs ($200 million)
  • Pension payments for eligible retirees ($200 million);
  • Payments to orphans (100 million).
NPT guarantees that the fuel will not be reprocessed and that the Russianplutonium will not be used for weapons production. But NPT does not yetknow what to do with the fuel after the lease expires. In the contract,Russia has an option to keep it. If Russia exercises this option, it willbe able to take title to the materials and do with them as it pleases,including reprocessing it. If Russia declines, NPT would have to find anotherplace to store the waste. Absent voluntary takers, NPT cannot provide ananswer to that question.

NPT hopes to work with Minatom in building a storage facility in a regionalready devoted to nuclear activities, such as Zheleznogorsk, Mayak orSeversk. NPT would assume responsibility of transportation of the materialsto the storage facilities from the countries of origin. NPT promises thatall facilities would be subject to international inspections and wouldcomply with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements. All proceedswould be devoted to nuclear safeguards in Russia; NPT would not retainprofits. NPT participants, however, will administer the project throughoutits lifetime for handsome payments. The draft contract speaks about overheadpayments not to exceed 10% of the project costs.

Key participants
Minatom Development Trust: A trust chartered to hold the funds createdthrough the storage of foreign nuclear fuel and charged with disbursingthe funds to the above-mentioned recipient projects. Board members includeThomas Cochran, National Resources Defense Council, Bruce deMars, DanielMurphy, Judge William Webster, former CIA director, and Dr. William vonRaab, former U.S. Customs Commissioner.

Non-Proliferation Trust: U.S. non-profit organization. On the boardare two former admirals, Bruce deMars, chief of the U.S. nuclear propulsionprogram, and Daniel Murphy.

Alaska Interstate Construction: Construction and management. Would designand construct the storage facilities in Russia.

Wissenschaftlich-Technische Ingenieurberatung GmbH: German nuclearengineeringcompany which designed the German spent fuel storage facility in Ahaus.

Gesellschaft fur Nuklear Service mbH: Responsible for radioactive wastein Germany. Also produces storage casks and monitoring systems.

Halter Marine: Large U.S. shipbuilder with military order book. Wouldbuild transportation vessels.

Egan & Associates: Legal adviser.

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The Transfer Of Spent Nuclear Fuel To The Russian Federation ForIntermediate Storage
    Position Paper by Bellona USA
    August 13, 1999
    (for personal use only)

Implications for environmental security, U.S. non-proliferation policy,human and environmental health in Russia

Executive Summary

The Non-Proliferation Trust, a U.S. non-profit entity, proposes to transferspent fuel to Russia for intermediate storage there. The proceeds of the40-year lease go to a number of social and environmental projects. Whilewell-intentioned and innovative in its approach, the NPT project wouldcause long-term damage to Russia's environment and nuclear safety. It alsocauses grave proliferation concerns. Last, but not least, it allows wealthycountries' nuclear utilities to rid themselves of their nuclear waste forever,while Russia gets paid for only 40 years, and will have high-level radioactivewaste to deal with for hundreds of
thousands of years – when it already cannot manage its radioactivematerials safely today. In the following four pages, this Bellona PositionPaper discusses in greater detail the following aspects:

Creating a market for fissile materials
"Monetarizing" nuclear fuel disposal opens the door for uncontrollabletrade with fissile materials. Non-proliferation efforts depend on accountabilityfor these materials. Moving them between countries and storage facilitieswhile potentially reprocessing them in the process makes exact accountingimpossible and significantly increases the risk of diversion. Thenon-proliferationgoals (securing 50 tons of Russian military plutonium) are designed tocreate Western support more than to help Russia. The disposition of thisplutonium is already covered by international agreements.

Russia adds to the pile of already unmanageable nuclear waste
Russia has 14,000 tons of nuclear waste stored under precarious conditions.The proposed financial support for the Russian waste is short-lived andwill likely not materialize in full, due to the inevitable diversions offunds in a project stretched out over
40 years.

After 40 years, more of the same problems, but no more funds
Russia faces three likely scenarios after the lease period ends inroughly 2040:

  • NPT no longer exists at the time the lease expires in roughly 2040, andthe material, absent a voluntary taker, simply stays in Russia;
  • neither Russia nor other countries are willing to accept the material.Absent an agreement the fuel stays where it is – in Russia; or
  • Russia wants to keep the fuel but insists on reprocessing it for exportpurposes (Russia's present policy), which is inconsistent with the basicpremises of the NPT project and with U.S. non-proliferation policy. Asthere are no other options, NPT has to consent.
Russia needs international help to manage its own nuclear waste. This helpmust be based on long-term political, environmental and human healthconsiderations;it must not be privatized for short-term profit considerations. If, inthe process of evaluating a permanent storage project for Russian waste,an international consensus establishes that the best solution for the world'snuclear fuel storage question is a global facility, this can be discussed.But such a question must under no circumstances be mixed in with Westernutilities' desire to externalize their nuclear waste problems rapidly andat the lowest political and financial cost.

Exporting Spent Nuclear Fuel to Russia — National & EnvironmentalSecurity Aspects

In Spring of 1999, a U.S.-based venture, the Non-Proliferation Trust(NPT), announced a proposal for a project that would allow internationalutilities to lease storage space for spent nuclear fuel in Russia for a40-year period. NPT's stated intention was to raise funds for Russia'snuclear ministry (Minatom) for the safe storage of 50 tons of Russianweapons-gradeplutonium and a number of other environmental and social issues. Theinternationalutilities participating in the project would have to pay a total of between$6 billion and $12 billion. After constructing the necessary infrastructure(cost estimate: $2 billion), a net profit of $4 billion to $10 billionwould accrue and be managed for a number of projects by NPT and a spin-off,the Minatom Development Trust. The nuclear fuel would, however, remainthe property of the NPT, to oversee that all contract conditions are fulfilledfor the entire duration of the project. The project requires U.S. governmentapproval for all U.S.-origin fuel, and should therefore be debated seriouslyamong political decision-makers with respect to its nuclear safety implicationsas well as the long-term national security consequences for the UnitedStates.

For an environmental organization, it is difficult to approve of a schemethat allows the nuclear industry to externalize its political costs byshifting the most damaging issue, the storage of the nuclear high-levelwaste[1] for hundreds of thousands of years, to another country. Whilecompensation would be paid, the American experience has shown that thehighest price in the nuclear  waste debate is political, not financial.The NPT project would thus allow the nuclear utilities of some of the world'swealthiest nations to continue to advertise nuclear energy as a low-costpower generator, while dodging the question of public acceptance
of nuclear waste.

Bellona, however, is a pragmatic and goal-oriented organization whoseinterest it is to improve the overall nuclear waste situation in Russia.The organization has therefore discussed the NPT proposal at length, recognizingthat it is innovative in its attempt to create win-win situations for allthe participating partners. At the end of the discussion, Bellona foundthat a number of issues – both with regards to Russian environmental andnuclear policy and to U.S. national security considerations –force us toobject to the granting of a U.S. permit for the endeavor.

In the following, the three main arguments which caused the decisionto oppose the NPT proposal are discussed in detail.

(1) Opening the door to a market in fissile materials
The "monetarization" of nuclear waste opens a Pandora's box for anultimately uncontrollable trade in fissile materials. If Russia, whichhas been viewed critically for its support of nuclear programs in "riskstates" such as Iran, receives a green light for the storage of internationalhigh-level nuclear waste, how could Washington deny other nations the rightto solve their economic problems in the same way? Numerous poor nationshave in the past earned hard currency in return for allowing hazardouswaste storage on their territory, often at the expense of public healthand environmental destruction[2]. NPT's precedent opens doors for nuclearwaste as well.

While the NPT project is designed to be limited in scope to remainmanageable,Russia's Nuclear Energy Minister Yevgeniy Adamov has already announcedthat the 6,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel from NPT are just a beginningin what he sees as a $150 billion business[3]. Minatom is now lobbyingthe Duma for a change in a federal law prohibiting the import of radioactivematerials.

One main argument against all forms of trade with fissile materials,including reprocessing, has been that as long as these substances are traded,moved or altered, they are difficult to account for accurately. A globalmarket for spent nuclear fuel would increase these problems and open doorsfor potential or real proliferators that the United States has until nowtried to keep shut with all its force. Opening top national security issuessuch as fissile materials management to private enterprises would be aserious step in the wrong direction, as the debate around missile technologysales to China in a too permissive commercial environment has shown[4].In this context, it must also be remembered that the United States at presentimposes sanctions against several Russian enterprises for alleged violationsin selling weapons-related materials to Iran.

(2) More nuclear waste does not solve the problem
Russia has a significant nuclear waste problem of its own. Accordingto a Minatom spokesman, 14,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel are awaitinga permanent solution in the Russian Federation[5]. Adding another 6,000tons of foreign spent nuclear fuel is justified by the NPT with the promiseto support the safe storage of 50 tons of Russian weapons-grade plutoniumand the funding of a permanent storage solution for all waste. Sinceinternationalagreements already address this weapons-grade plutonium, funding thesafeguardingof these materials through the NPT project amounts more to a subsidy forthe governments involved in these agreements than an attempt to addressa pressing problem. The pressing problem is the existing Russian nuclearwaste that is not covered by international cooperative agreements. It isunlikely that this problem will be solved by the NPT project, in spiteof the promise of money for studies for a permanent storage solution. Twomain reasons speak against
any more optimistic assumption:

  • Over the years, it has become evident that even economically depressedareas do not believe that nuclear waste in their backyards will improvetheir situation. The problems are less technical than political, and thuscannot be settled through studies. Yucca Mountain in the United Stateshas become a political battleground, and so have other places. In Sweden,two communities in the North with high (for Sweden) unemployment rates,Storuman and Malå, have voted to halt all further exploratory studies.And the Pangea project that would place an international nuclear wasterepository into the Australian outbacks has sparked a public outcry, inspite of promises of significant economic development.

  • There is no indicator that Russians will react any differently.The initial reaction among locals in regions mentioned for potential storagewas swift and clear, leaving little hope for a change of heart. Given thatthe U.S. government is promoting democracy in Russia, overriding democraticmanifestations of public will be counter-productive to the public imageof the United States in Russia and bad policy[6]. As a consequence, a storagestudy, if ever undertaken (see point b below) may not lead to any action,as the results of the study are likely to be rejected by the populationsthat are asked to live with the consequences.

  • Even more importantly, while the waste is brought into Russia at the beginningof the 40-year contract period, the studies for permanent solutions areundertaken at the tail end. Given the endemic problem with corruption inRussia that even the best foreign management may not be able to eliminatefully, it is unreasonable to inject a vast amount of money into Russiawithin a short period of time for a 40-year project. A multi-billion dollarproject spanning half a century is almost bound to incur cost overrunsand unexpected outflows everywhere in the world. It must be expected thatthe parts of the project funded at the tail end will be the ones shortchangedin case money is lost on the way. It is thus highly probable that Russiawill end up with 6,000 tons of foreign nuclear waste and no solution study,or a severely underfunded one at best. Therefore, any acceptable nuclearwaste management project must be based on a long-term process
  • which emphasizes a proper system of checks and controls throughout (an)overseeable implementation period(s);
  • and  where the solutions to a problem are worked out first and onlywhen they exist, are scientifically proven and widely accepted, actualwork is begun. In the context of the NPT project, scientific studies aboutpermanent solutions would have to be undertaken, the Russian Federationwould have to work out with the fuel origin countries what should happenwith the fuel after the 40-year lease period, the local populations wouldhave to be consulted and the project fully funded. Then, an incrementalprocess of project implementation could begin, with small amounts of moneydisbursed as the project moves along. Of course, under such a businessplan the leasing of storage space would become superfluous, as the nuclearwaste could be dealt with permanently from the outset.
(3) Forty-year project without exit strategy
NPT maintains the title over the nuclear waste throughout the 40-yearlease period. Designed as a safeguard against unauthorized changes of planwithin Minatom, it poses the larger problem of where the materials willgo after the lease expires.

NPT offers the options of either Russia accepting ownership of the materialsin return for a certain amount of money that is kept in the bank to accumulateinterest throughout the lease period, or taking it back and finding anotherstorage offer from another country. To be sure, it is possible that theconcerns over nuclear waste abate over the next four decades; but it isunlikely. Since NPT does not possess a storage option of its own, it isessentially unable to guarantee that the waste can be removed from Russiaif Russia so decides. Thus, what looks like an option for Russia at theend of the lease period turns into a de facto infinite responsibility,with no additional funding available for safe keeping.

Russia's record with its own nuclear waste is dismal. The NPT proposalguarantees to bring Western technology, supervision and money to bear toimprove this situation. The situation returns to the pre-lease conditions,however, after the initial funding dries up and Russia is left on its own,except now there are 6,000 more tons of high-level nuclear waste storedthere.

The fact that Russia accepts this possibility without demanding guaranteesas to the fate of the nuclear waste after the lease period (such as a guaranteeof the fuel origin countries to repatriate it, at least to renew theirfunding at comparable levels for continuous lease periods) indicates thatMinatom is either negligent in its duties towards the Russian population,or else has already made up its mind about the future of the materials.Since Minatom head Adamov is openly advertising Russia's earning potentialfrom reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel for export, it is probable thatMinatom intends to go for a double bonus: First, several billion dollarsfor storage, then more money for the export of reprocessed fuel. Indeed,Minatom has frankly admitted that there is a desire to reprocess the NPTfuel, making "the whole project more  profitable.[7]"

While NPT assures that no reprocessing will occur during the contractperiod, it is in no position to influence Russia thereafter. In the likelycase that no other country wants to accept the waste, Russia is in a dominantnegotiating position to do whatever the Minatom leadership at that timepleases. Thus, the NPT project will most likely lead to the reprocessingand export of the nuclear fuel, and the only immediate advantage over doingso outright is a delay of 40 years. Since there is no market for reprocessedfuel at this time anyhow, and fuel needs to be stored until that marketsituation changes, Russia de facto receives a U.S. subsidy and blessingfor what Washington considers contrary to its national security goals.

The only alternative to this scenario is a repatriation clause forcingthe fuel origin utilities to take their waste back after the lease periodexpires.

The NPT proposal to store spent nuclear fuel from various countriesin Russia for a period of 40 years is inconsistent with U.S. national securitygoals of increasing to a maximum extent the accountability of fissile materialsworldwide. Therefore, the U.S. government should not allow a transfer ofU.S.-origin fuel to Russia.

Secondly, although the project would improve Minatom's economic situationin the short run, it is not in Russia's best interest over a longer period.Local populations are opposed, based on Minatom's past performance recordwith Russian nuclear waste. Furthermore, it is almost certain that Russiawould get stuck with the waste when the contract period expires, and thendepend on the vagaries of the reprocessed-fuel market to either make moneyoff export sales, or spend domestic funds to safeguard the worthless wastein the indefinite future. If these domestic funds are not available, Russiansare getting stuck with
an additional 6,000 tons of high-level waste, while rich countries'utilities are getting a free ride.

Bellona has been in the front line of those who advocate that Russia'sspent fuel problem must be addressed with the help of the internationalcommunity. Bellona USA is planning a report on the potential of the U.S.legacy policies and projects to support safeguarding and remediating ofRussia's nuclear complex. These projects, however, must be undertaken withclear long-term national security, not near-term commercial considerationsin mind. While it may be tempting for political leaders faced with difficultquestions over the costs of the global nuclear legacy, the lure of an immediatefree market subsidy to what must be
government-led and funded efforts will come back to haunt the nextgeneration of both Americans and Russians.

Rather than burdening Russia with the responsibility for 6,000 tonsof additional waste, whose storage will be paid for 40 years, but not forthe thousands of years thereafter, the international community should lookinto possibilities to assure permanent safe storage of the existing wastein Russia. Doing so would provide the world with increased nuclear safety,eliminate the proliferation risk inherent in the Russian stockpiles, andwould help the Russian economy by eliminating the need to continuouslymanage the dilapidated intermediate facilities. If studies for such a projectled to the conclusion that an internationally funded
permanent repository is best suited to accept waste from several countries,this could be discussed. But it must be discussed with global securityin mind, not profit motives and a time horizon ending in 2040.

[1] The author acknowledges the distinction between spent nuclear fueland nuclear waste. The difference, however, appears to be one of publicrelations more than substance. An end product of a production process whoseremoval the industry is willing to pay for is waste by definition, andwill be treated as such in this paper.
[2] This practice was officially ended by a U.N. treaty, the BasleConvention, adopted in 1989 and entered into force on May 5, 1992. It doesnot cover nuclear waste. The United States signed the Convention, Germany,Japan, Russia, South Korea and Switzerland ratified it. For a full textof the Convention, see
[3] Quoted by Pavel Felgenhauer, "Back to the Nuclear Future," MoscowTimes, May 27, 1999, Internet version.
[4] While market solutions tend to be more efficient than governmentprograms, this is a special situation. After waste and money are transferred,there is no longer any incentive for the 'commercial' side of the dealto perform. For 40 years, administrators become salary-recipients withouteither risk or incentive for higher profits. Thus, the NPT will resemblemore a bureaucracy than a free-market enterprise.
[5] Yury Bespalko, Minatom Spokesman, quoted in Melissa Akin, "MinatomSees Cash in Taking Spent Fuel," Moscow Times, July 27, 1999; Internetversion.
[6] Numerous campaigns show the opposition to all nuclear waste imports.In Krasnoyarsk, for example, a local group in 1997 collected 100,000 signaturesdemanding a referendum on the issue of the construction of the RT-2 reprocessingplant. See
[7] Bespalsko in Akin, op. cit.

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Russia Unlikely to Ratify START II
        Associated Press
        August 11, 1999
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's parliament isn't likely to ratify the STARTII treaty any time soon, even though President Boris Yeltsin said the armsreduction deal should be a top priority, a senior lawmaker said Wednesday.

Gennady Seleznyov, the Communist speaker of the State Duma, or lowerhouse, said the United States is to blame for Russia's continued failureto pass START II.

Russia ``cannot trust the United States, which follows a hypocriticalpolicy,'' Seleznyov said. He did not elaborate, but he was likely referringto calls in Washington to amend a U.S.-Russian treaty that bans the constructionof a missile defense system.

Seleznyov's comments came after Yeltsin submitted a list Wednesday ofhigh-priority bills for the Duma's fall session. The list included over20 bills, including START II, the presidential press service reported.

The 1993 treaty, ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1996, would halve theU.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to 3,000 to 3,500 warheads each. Itspassage has long been delayed by Communists in the Duma, who say the treatywould hurt Russia's security.

A liberal Russian lawmaker, Vladimir Lukin, also said Monday that STARTII stood little chance for passage. Lukin, though, blamed the roadblockon frequent changes in Yeltsin's Cabinet.

He spoke a day after Yeltsin dismissed the entire government and namedVladimir Putin as the new prime minister. The old prime minister, SergeiStepashin, had promised Vice President Al Gore to push START II throughthe Duma. Several lawmakers had backed the idea.

START II's passage would clear the way for a proposed START III treaty,which would reduce the sides' nuclear arsenals to as few as 2,000 warheadseach. Russia and the United States were planning discussions on START IIIin Moscow on Aug. 17-19, and Russian officials said changes in the governmentwould not derail the talks.

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Putin Backs U.S.-Russian Cooperation
        August 12, 1999
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (UPI S) _ The White House said President Clinton'snational security adviser, Sandy Berger, spoke by telephone (Thursday)with newly-selected Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The White Housesaid Putin, in his 20-minute conversation with Berger, promised to pursuethe commitments made by Russian President Boris Yeltsin during his Junemeeting in Germany with President Clinton, which included a pledge to keepseeking Russian parliament ratification of the Start II arms reductiontreaty and to begin work on a Start III treaty.

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D.  U.S. – Russia General
U.S., Russia Urged To Lower Missile Alert For Y2K
        August 13, 1999
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON, Aug 13, 1999 -- (Reuters) Citing the risk of an accidentalnuclear war, activists are pressing the United States and Russia to takenuclear missiles off hair-trigger alert during the technology-challengingyear 2000 rollover.

A network of international groups announced a drive this week to tryto persuade U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsinto "stand down" the approximately 2,500 nuclear-armed missiles now poisedon each side for immediate firing.

Standing down the missiles means adding steps before they can be fired.The idea is to give commanders more time to make sure they are acting onsolid information, not scrambled data caused by a computer glitch.

Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, introduced a senseof the Congress resolution last week calling for the "de-alerting" of asmany U.S. nuclear weapons "as is feasible and consistent with nationalsecurity."

"Today the Russian command-and-control system is decaying," Markey said.

He said the so-called Y2K bug in computers not programmed to recognizethe year 2000 made the date change a particularly dangerous period.

The stated fear is that Y2K-related computer glitches could cause theRussians in particular to conclude they are under attack, triggering mistakenretaliation. Russia acknowledges that it lags far behind the United Statesoverall in making its systems ready for 2000 changeover.

Friends of the Earth, an Australian environmental group, spearheadedan effort to send a letter to Clinton and Yeltsin that was signed by 271groups, including Greenpeace International.

"If Y2K breakdowns produce inaccurate early-warning data, or ifcommunicationsand command channels are compromised, the combination of hair-trigger forcepostures and Y2K failures could be disastrous," the
groups said in their letter.

They added that there should be a "safety-first" approach to Y2K andnuclear arsenals.

Alice Slater, president of the New York-based Global Resource ActionCenter for the Environment and a U.S. coordinator of the letter campaign,said activists were organizing grass-roots efforts in many countries tohighlight the issue.

"In a sense, Y2K is a crisis and an opportunity," Slater said in a telephoneinterview.

She described the current drive to de-alert missiles temporarily asa "first step" in a larger effort to ban nuclear weapons altogether.

The Pentagon has invited Russia to send military officers to a proposedtemporary joint "early-warning center" in Colorado Springs, Colorado, toavoid any possible missile-launch miscues as the new century dawns. ButRussia has not responded since the U.S.-led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia,its ally, earlier this year.

Bruce Blair, a former U.S. nuclear missile launch officer who analyzestargeting issues at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said the Y2Kglitch itself could not cause accidental missile firings because peoplehad to make the ultimate decisions on both sides.

But he said permanently de-alerting all or most nuclear missiles madesense in the post-cold War world as a safety precaution.

"Yeltsin's the last person you'd want to wake up in the middle of thenight with a request for permission to launch" on what might be a falsealarm, he said.

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E.  ABM, Missile Defense
Russian Expert Says Moscow Must Defend ABM Treaty
        August 13, 1999
        (for personal use only)

In an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 12 August, armscontrol expert Valerii Alekseevskii argued that it is Russia's task toprevent the "destruction" of the ABM Treaty. "In its desire to deploy anational ABM system," Alekseevskii wrote, the U.S. is steering a coursetoward the revision of that treaty, as a result of which the agreementcould be "derailed." Russia must defend a position whereby the two sidesfully implement their commitments, he added. "If Russia were to go halfwayto meet American attempts to revise the fundamental obligations under theABM treaty, this would be not only a military blunder but also an unforgivableforeign- policy error," Alekseevskii concluded.

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