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Nuclear News - 08/30/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 30 August 1999

A. Nuclear Cities

  1. Closed City Keeps Secret Of Glorious Atomic Past, The ElectronicTelegraph (UK) (08/29/99)
  1. Democrats Ready for Fight to Save Test Ban Treaty, NewYork Times (08/30/99)

A. Nuclear Cities
Closed City Keeps Secret Of Glorious Atomic Past
        Alice Lagnado
        The Electronic Telegraph(UK)
        August 29, 1999
        (for personal use only)

The architects of the Soviet atomic arsenal will spend this weekend,the 50th anniversary of their first atomic test, contemplating their descentfrom fame and glory to a sorry, povertyicken existence.  The menwho conducted the first Soviet atomic test on 29 August 1949 lived in luxurycompared with the rest of the Soviet Union. Arzamas-16 is the jewel inthe crown of Russia's 12 closed nuclear cities, and the place where AndreiSakharov, the dissident physicist, developed the first hydrogen bomb in1953. The hand-picked scientists working in the Institute of ExperimentalPhysics within the 200km closed zone were hailed as heroes of the SovietUnion, seen as the great hope in the race for nuclear supremacy. They hadthe best food, the highest pay and the biggest apartments the Kremlin couldgive.

That generation of top scientists now scrapes by on tiny pensions ofas little as £10 a month. Their children have left Arzamas-16, orSarov as it is now known, for better prospects in Moscow's sprawling suburbs250 miles to the west. The few who remain feel utterly forgotten by thecountry that once adored them.

The plight of Mikhail Kvasov, 82, who took part in the development andtesting of the Soviet Union's first atomic bomb, typifies that of the agedscientists who remain at the camp. His children are grown up and alreadyretired themselves. He ekes out a living on a pension of 600 roubles (£15)a month. "I live on my rather symbolic pension. I feel that I am not neededby anyone," he said bitterly.

Mikhail Mokshennikov, 65, the head of the Institute's Testing Department,also took part in the first experiment. "I was a student and it was allnew, secret and we didn't really understand what was going on," he said."It was interesting work, but we got used to it and considered it normal."He would like to retire, but could not survive on his pension. "We don'tlike to complain, but we live like everyone else in Russia - with manydifficulties. I have to work, because my pension is only 450 roubles (£10)a month and if I work I get 1,500 roubles (£37)," he said.

Another veteran of the first test, Grigory Tsirkov, 77, recalled itwith enthusiasm. "The explosion was beautiful. It is the best memory ofmy life, and that was the best period of my life," he said. Mr Tsirkovwas less forthcoming about his present situation, although he made it clearthat he felt unhappy and unappreciated.

Arzamas-16 is a city of 85,000 near the Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod.For security reasons it is still not on Russian maps, and remains ringedby barbed wire fences. It enjoys a low crime rate - a rarity in modernRussia - because of the heavy security. The men who built Arzamas-16 wereSoviet citizens who had been used as forced labour in Germany during thesecond world war. They had learnt how to build military test sites andfactories, and when they were repatriated they were used to construct closedcities.

Sakharov described Arzamas-16 as a "symbiosis between an extremely modernscientific research institute, experimental factories, test sites and alarge prison camp."

As a young man Mr Kvasov watched the first Soviet atomic explosion standingabout 20 miles away from it in Semipalatinsk, the nuclear testing sitein Kazakhstan. In an interview with The Telegraph Mr Kvasov said: "It wasthe most wonderful experience. I felt cheerful and full of hope. The explosionwas very bright - we had to wear dark glasses. We could not hear anything;after some time a blast wave came back to us and shook us, so that we couldn'tgo to sleep.

"We had laboured day and night, through the weekends, for this and wewere seeing a result from our work, so naturally we were very happy. Itwasn't frightening. Why should it have been? You may want me to say thebomb is something murderous, that it is anti-people, but that did not playa part; it did not even occur to us."

Out of work there was little time to relax - and no female company."There were no women in the explosion zone apart from one typist, and shewas about 55."

Vladimir Rogachev, the deputy director of the Institute, said that scientistswere staying on despite the pay of £100 or less a month, he said:"People feel duty-bound to stay here and not to go abroad. And we are attractingyoung scientists without difficulty." He denied that representatives ofrogue regimes had approached his scientists. He said: "We do not agreewith Western theories that we have contacts with these countries."

His task is now to redirect scientific staff to new jobs not connectedwith nuclear science. The Institute eventually aims to send half of its18,000 staff to work in the energy sector, computing and ecological monitoring.

In an attempt to rally morale at the nuclear cities, Russian PresidentYeltsin last week spoke out. He said: "By their selfless labours half acentury ago, our scientists, engineers, workers and military personnellaid a powerful basis for Russia's nuclear shield. In the most difficultconditions, in the shortest time, they succeeded in resolving a complexscientific and technical task - unlocking atomic energy."

Mr Yeltsin's sabre-rattling was echoed by Lev Ryabov, the First DeputyAtomic Energy Minister. Moscow must "keep its powder dry", he said, tocounter America's bid to restart the "Star Wars" programme.

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Democrats Ready for Fight to Save Test Ban Treaty
        Eric Schmitt
        New York Times
        August 30, 1999
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON -- The White House and Senate Democrats say they are preparingfor a pitched battle with the Republican-controlled Senate to save oneof the top foreign policy goals of President Clinton's waning Administration:a treaty banning nuclear testing.

Armed with public opinion polls and the support of many scientists,military commanders and arms control groups, Democrats are threateningto bring the Senate to a standstill when Congress returns next month fromsummer recess unless Republicans agree to hold hearings this year on theComprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which 152 nations have signed.

Without the treaty, Clinton warned this month, "countries all aroundthe world will feel more pressure to develop and test weapons in ever moredestructive varieties and sizes, threatening the security of everyone onearth."

His Administration's new push for the treaty has been prompted in partby a raft of unsettling developments -- India's and Pakistan's growingnuclear ambitions, the possible test-launching of a long-range missileby North Korea, and the strong possibility that China has upgraded itsatomic arsenal using stolen American nuclear secrets.

But Senate Republicans are balking, and before the Senate will voteon the treaty the Administration will probably need to satisfy both theRepublicans and the Russians on related arms-control issues, the geopoliticalequivalent of pulling off a triple bank shot.

The Republicans say they do not want to go forward with any new treatyuntil they are assured that the country will quickly build a limited defenseagainst long-range missile attack. But Russia wants the United States toslash its nuclear arsenal before it will consider changes to a landmarktreaty that bars such a shield.

If these two conditions are met, it could free up the test ban treaty,which Republicans have held up. Clinton signed the treaty in 1996 and sentit to the Senate for approval in September 1997, but arms control advocatessay he has not yet made ratification a public issue or fought hard forit in Congress.

"There ought to be the makings of a grand deal in all this," said SenatorJoseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign RelationsCommittee. "But the President has to play a major role. He could affectthis more than he has."

Administration officials say that in the coming weeks, Clinton and topforeign policy aides, like Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright andthe national security adviser, Samuel R. Berger, will push the treaty morepublicly.

The Democrats' effort faces stiff Republican opposition. The treatyis bottled up in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose chairman,Jesse Helms of North Carolina, is locked in a fight with the Administrationover two other treaties that Helms wants to kill before dealing with thetest ban pact.

Those two treaties -- a pact to fight the dangers of global warmingthat the United States signed last year and a set of amendments negotiatedtwo years ago to the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty -- are unlikelyto gain the two-thirds Senate support needed for approval, Administrationofficials conceded.

Clinton, citing reasons other than likely defeat, said the time wasnot "ripe" to send those two treaties to the Senate. Republicans say Clintoncannot pick and choose which treaties the Senate acts on quickly. A stalematehas resulted.

There are three possible paths around Senator Helms and other foes,test ban treaty supporters say. One is to generate public pressure by paintingRepublicans as reckless for blocking a step that would encourage Indiaand Pakistan to sign the treaty. That in turn could force moderate Republicansto prod Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, the majority leader, to overruleHelms.

Only two Republicans, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and James M. Jeffordsof Vermont, openly support the test ban treaty. Other Republicans, includingMaine's two Senators, Olympia J. Snowe and Susan M. Collins, support holdinghearings, but have not committed to the treaty.

Another tactic, which Democrats have used successfully in the past,would be to tie the Senate floor in knots until Lott relents. Biden, alongwith the Democratic leader, Thomas A. Daschle of South Dakota, and SenatorByron L. Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, say they are willing to wagethat kind of guerrilla warfare if needed.

The final and most ambitious route involves a three-way deal that hingeson negotiating changes to the Antiballistic Missile Treaty with the Russiansto allow a limited national defense. Such a deal would almost certainlyinclude a new strategic arms reduction treaty, Start III, that the Russianswant and that could reduce each side's nuclear arsenals to 1,500 warheadsfrom more than 6,000 currently.

Clinton and President Boris N. Yeltsin of Russia blessed such talksin June, for the first time. Discussions started this month in Moscow andwill resume on Sept. 17, when Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbottmeets with a Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Georgi Mamedov, in Washington.

Enormous hurdles remain. The United States has said it will not seriouslynegotiate a Start III treaty until Russia's Communist-dominated Parliamentratifies the Start II pact, which calls for reducing the level of nuclearwarheads to 3,000 to 3,500 on each side. That prospect appears increasinglydim.

Russia has long opposed an American missile defense, fearing that theUnited States would use it as an excuse to reprise the much grander "StarWars" system, which would be dauntingly expensive to match. But Russia'sstrategic forces are declining and it lacks money to pay for new systems.Striking a deal, even if it means swallowing modifications to the AntiballisticMissile Treaty, may be the only way for Moscow to maintain nuclear paritywith Washington.

Both sides also see a narrowing political window of opportunity beforepresidential election politics in Russia and the United States next yearmake it extremely difficult to strike an accord. Experts say both Clintonand Yeltsin are mindful of their legacies.

"It's a lot like a trans-Atlantic flight," Robert G. Bell, the President'ssenior director for defense policy and arms control at the National SecurityCouncil, said of the nexus of issues. "Landing is the critical phase. Whatwe're trying to do is bring all this in for a landing in the last yearor so of the Clinton and Yeltsin administrations."

At the core of the dispute between the Senate and the Administrationis a fundamental difference in arms control priorities. Democrats are seekingto maintain and build on three decades of deals that limit and reduce nucleararsenals and countries' ability to develop more powerful atomic weapons.

Republicans argue that the spread of nuclear, chemical and biologicalweapons, and the means to deliver them, has rendered traditional arms controluseless, and that building a national defense against long-range attackhould be the country's top goal.

"For Republicans, arms control is a secondary approach for nationaldefense," said Senator Gordon H. Smith, an Oregon Republican on the ForeignRelations Committee.

Hindering that goal, Republicans say, is the Administration's continuedembrace of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, which limits the kinds ofnational defenses Russia and the United States can develop.

Even if some grand deal can be struck, the test ban treaty confrontsseveral roadblocks. Even though 152 nations have signed the accord, sofar only 21 of the 44 nations whose approval is required for the treatyto take effect, including Britain, France and Japan, have ratified thepact. Even one holdout among the 44 nations, like North Korea, could preventthe treaty from taking effect.

Although the treaty sets up a global system of sensors to monitor compliance,critics contend that verifying the agreement would be difficult.

Treaty proponents argue that it would lock in American superiority achievedin 1,030 nuclear tests between 1945 and 1992, when the United States agreedto halt testing. Failure to ratify, supporters say, could open the doorfor emerging nuclear states, like India and Pakistan, to conduct more tests,and may also weaken support for other arms pacts, like the treaty to preventthe spread of nuclear weapons.

Five current and former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff supportthe testing ban, which would eliminate underground nuclear tests, as atmospherictesting is already banned. The treaty also has the suport of most armscontrol experts and the directors of the nation's nuclear laboratories,which are responsible for maintaining the safety and reliability of America'snuclear arsenal through nonexplosive nuclear experiments, includingsophisticatedcomputer simulations.

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