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Nuclear News - 09/01/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 01 September 1999


A. Nuclear Cities

  1. Nuclear Prowess Wanes in Russia Decline of a Closed City ReflectsTroubled Program, Washington Post (08/31/99)
B. Nuclear Waste
  1. Head of French Nuclear Agency Hopes to Cooperate with Mayak,ItarTass (08/30/99)
C. Russian Nuclear Forces
  1. Russia's Nuclear Weapons Complex Is Basis For State Security,Itar Tass (08/31/99)
  2. Report: Russia To Sell China Nuclear-Powered Submarines, AgenceFrance Presse (09/01/99)
D. U.S. – Russia General
  1. Efforts To Avoid Accidental Nuclear War January 1 Are BackOn Track, Scripps Howard News Service (09/01/99)

A. Nuclear Cities
1.
Nuclear Prowess Wanes in Russia Decline of a Closed City ReflectsTroubled Program
        David Hoffman
        Washington Post
        August 31, 1999
        (for personal use only)

SAROV, Russia—The train rolls slowly past a double barbed wire fenceand arrives inside a citadel of secrecy, Arzamas-16, a closed nuclear citylong omitted from official maps and the birthplace of the Soviet atomicbomb.

Amid pines and birches 249 miles east of Moscow, the city has returnedto its prerevolutionary name, Sarov, but it remains at the center of aquandary for Russia and the world about the future of nuclear arms andthose who build them. One of 10 closed cities in the Russian atomic weaponsarchipelago, Arzamas-16 is home to the All-Russia Scientific Research Instituteof Experimental Physics, the oldest and most prominent of Russia's twonuclear weapons design laboratories, and Avangard, a warhead assembly anddisassembly plant that is due to be phased out in the next few years.

Last week, on the 50th anniversary of the first Soviet atomic test,on Aug. 29, 1949, Soviet nuclear weapons designers gathered here for acelebration. They were surrounded by history. Tucked in a corner of thecity is the house where Andrei Sakharov lived while developing the hydrogenbomb. Nearby is the house of Yuri Khariton, the founder of Arzamas-16 anda Soviet weapons pioneer. While the city is still closed to foreigners,some Western and Russian journalists were invited to the commemoration.

As the aging veterans rose to accept their awards, as they recountedthe urgency and fears of their early drive to match the U.S. atomic bomb,as they debated the role of espionage in gaining information for theirdesign, Russian nuclear scientists of today listened with more than a fewdoubts about their own future.

In the Soviet Union's heavily militarized economy, atomic scientistswere nurtured and coddled. At the same time, they were heavily guardedby a police state that prohibited most of them from ever meeting foreigners.Now, nearly eight years after the Soviet collapse, their current counterpartsare in regular contact with the outside world, and in many ways they arebeing thrown a lifeline from the West.

But Russian scientists are still coming to terms with a country thatcan no longer support such a vast nuclear weapons complex. The years-longdrive to convert from defense to civilian work is lagging. Questions persistabout the danger that some scientists might take their knowledge to politicallyradical states hungry for nuclear potential -- including Iran, Iraq andNorth Korea.

Moreover, nuclear scientists here face a paradox. Russia's economicdecline has devastated its conventional, or nonnuclear forces. It doesnot possess the kind of high-precision weapons used by NATO during theKosovo war, so Russia's military and political leadership has concludedit must rely, at least for the foreseeable future, on the nuclear shield– no matter how tattered and aging. This includes not only continent-spanning,nuclear-armed missiles, but also thousands of short-range tactical nuclearweapons.

Although details remain secret, there appears to be a drive among someweapons designers to persuade Russia's leadership to build a new generationof low-yield tactical nuclear weapons for use on a battlefield, which couldbe Russia's answer to its lack of high-precision conventional weapons.President Boris Yeltsin chaired a meeting of the Kremlin security councilin April that discussed the issue, but what was decided, if anything, hasnot been made public.

A leading voice for building such new weapons has been Viktor Mikhailov,the hawkish former minister of atomic energy and now first deputy ministerand chairman of the Science Council. In the text of remarks for thecommemorationhere, Mikhailov said that a "new generation" of low-yield nuclear weapons"will have particular significance for the world." He said there shouldbe no doubt that "this weapon can really be used in case of any large-scalemilitary conflict."

In a brief interview, Mikhailov added: "Nuclear weapons are devaluingany conventional weapons, including the weapons that were used in Yugoslavia,the new ones. Nuclear weapons are much more powerful, a deciding factorthousands of times higher than any other. I am not saying millions of times,but thousands of times." When asked if Russia is developing such weapons,he was evasive, saying that scientists here "have their hand on the pulse."

But other leaders of the nuclear weapons program said that a new generationof tactical nuclear warheads was not on the horizon. "It is not a key goalfor Russia right now," said Vladimir Rogachev, deputy director of the NuclearCenter for International Relations.

Radi Ilkayev, the director, also suggested that it would be difficultin current financial circumstances to devote money to new weapons design.In response to a question, he noted that nuclear weapons testing is nowbanned. "That is why these works, even if they could be conducted in thecalculation phase, their practical realization and putting them on dutywill be complicated and impossible, because there is no nuclear testing,"he said.

Ilkayev added, however, that maintaining tactical nuclear weapons isan important part of Russia's nuclear deterrent. "Tactical nuclear weapons-- operative tactical nuclear weapons -- are required for Russia. Our bordersare enormous. Tactical nuclear weapons should not be seen as a field weapon,but as a weapon of deterrence of major international conflicts," he said,adding that rather than developing new warheads, the laboratories are focusingon how to extend the service life of those already deployed.

Many Russian scientists are frustrated by the nuclear test ban thatRussia and the United States are observing without having ratified theComprehensive Test Ban Treaty. But the top officials here insisted theywould not pressure the government to break the treaty. "We aren't seriouslytrying to push our government to start this testing. We don't want to startif other countries will follow the same" path, said Rogachev.

The future of Arzamas-16 and other Russian nuclear facilities is cloudedby Russia's continuing economic slide. The ruble crash last year left manyscientists even worse off financially than before and potentially morevulnerable to recruitment by other countries seeking weapons technology.Although Arzamas-16 has paid some overdue wages, the delays persist, andin recent years there have been strikes and protests by nuclear workers.The parent Ministry of Atomic Energy also has been hard-hit by financialproblems and is looking to the export of civilian nuclear power technologyfor cash.

Moreover, the government can no longer afford such a large nuclear weaponsdesign complex, which includes a second laboratory, Chelyabinsk-70, nowknown as Snezhinsk. In 1998, a plan was adopted to slash the number ofdefense workers in all the closed cities from 75,000 to 40,000 by the year2005. At the nuclear design center here, there are currently about 13,000workers, including 7,000 scientists, about half the levels of the mid-1980s.

The struggle to convert this once prestigious city of 75,000 to commercialand civilian work has faced mammoth obstacles. Many weapons scientistswere wary, and viable projects have been difficult to turn into commercialsuccess.

Some progress is evident. Ilkayev said about one-quarter of the nuclearcenter's funding now comes from outside the government, including a hostof Western grants and programs. There are also low-tech conversion projects,for production of such things as artificial diamonds, oil and gas equipmentand church bells. The cities of Sarov and Snezhinsk also received controversialspecial federal tax status as "offshore" zones in an attempt to lure business.Recently, a Russian geography outfit took an unprecedented step -- it madea map for the first time showing this once invisible city.

The tense competition of the Cold War has not entirely disappeared;foreign spies are still pursued here. Lt. Gen. Yuri Zevakin, a top foreignintelligence official, said: "I can tell you clearly that at the end ofthe Cold
War -- let's not speak about who won it -- the military intelligenceefforts intensified."

What worries Western leaders most is the prospect of nuclear scientistsselling their know-how. A host of programs are now aimed at trying to keepthem engaged in civilian work. The International Center for Science andTechnology, a joint effort of the United States, Europe, Japan and Russia,has put Arzamas-16 at the top of its list of facilities receiving grants.By some estimates, the program has reached 60 percent of the 2,000 scientistsat the core of the Russian nuclear program.

But there are also many unknowns about thousands more scientists outsidethe core group in other branches of military and civilian nuclear energy."I can't guarantee that they will not travel to some other places," saidRogachev, "but right now the situation is quiet."

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B. Nuclear Waste
1.
Head of French Nuclear Agency Hopes to Cooperate with Mayak
        Itar Tass
        August 30, 1999
        (for personal use only)

OZYORSK (Chelyabinsk Region), August 30 (Itar-Tass) - Russian chemicalindustry complex Mayak will cooperate with French atomic physicists, headsof this Ural enterprise, where a visit by General Administrator of theCommissariat for Atomic energy of France Yannick d'Escata ended his two-dayvisit on Monday, told Itar-Tass.

The French guest visited the most important objects of the Mayak productionassociation (the Chelyabinsk Region) -- the factory for the regenerationof used nuclear fuel (the only one in Russia) and the experimental installation"Paket" producing uranium-plutonium fuel for nuclear reactors.

Yannick d'Escata highly appraised the technical level of productionand a good qualification of Ural specialists.

Yannick d'Escata expressed hope for the possibility of the implementationof joint Russian-French projects which will promote the relaxation of nucleartension in the world.

According to specialists from the Mayak association, Russian and Frenchatomic physicists have similar technologies in regenerating fuel of energyand transport reactors, as well as in the field of processing radioactivewaste.

As for the possible unification of efforts in the sphere of productionof mixed fuel, this is one of the vital issues. After all, in the courseof the implementation of intergovernmental agreements on the reductionof nuclear weapons tens of tons of plutonium are released which are dangerousto keep even in special containers.

In view of a number of researchers, the best way to get rid of theaccumulateddangerous waste is to burn it in peaceful energy installations. This possibilityis provided by the creation of mixed uranium-plutonium fuel.

Yannick d'Escata arrived in Moscow on Wednesday at the invitation ofRussian Minister of Nuclear Power Industry (Minatom) Yevgeny Adamov.

The purpose of his visit was to familiarise himself with the activitiesof a number of enterprises of the nuclear complex of Russia.

According to information made available to Itar-Tass from head of theMinatom press service Yury Bespalko, the programme for the French official'sstay in Russia is "unprecedented in its duration and the number of enterpriseswhich the guest intends to visit." He will stay in Russia till September6.

On Wednesday d'Escata will set off for Siberia where he will visit theAngarsky electrolysis chemical industry complex (the Irkutsk Region). Atthis plant Russian specialists work together with French colleagues.

D'Escata will also visit enterprises of the Minatom in Zheleznogorsk(the Krasnoyarsk Territory) and the Mayak production association.

Then the head of the French nuclear branch will leave for Dimitrovgrad(the Ulyanovsk Region), visit Sarov (Arzamas-16) and the Leningrad nuclearpower station.

Besides, Yannick d'Escata intends to attend the Zvyozdochka plant inthe city of Severodvinsk, which utilises nuclear submarines, and the physicsand power institute in Obninsk near Moscow.

According to Yury Bespalko, such a broad programme for d'Escato's visit"stresses the friendly and constructive character of relations betweenthe nuclear agencies of France and Russia."

On September 3 Yannick d'Escata is due to meet with head of the MinatomYevgeny Adamov.

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C. Russian Nuclear Forces
1.
Russia's Nuclear Weapons Complex Is Basis For State Security
        Itar Tass
        August 31, 1999
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, August 31 (Itar-Tass) - The nuclear weapons complex of Russiaremains the basis for the country's security, Prime Minister Vladimir Putinstated on Monday speaking at the festivity at the Central theatre of theRussian army devoted to the 50th anniversary of the test of the first atomicbomb in the USSR.

According to the premier, "if we do not preserve the nuclear weaponscomplex in the next 5-7 years, the situation in the world will changeradically."

"Half a century ago the test of the first atomic bomb was carried outin the Semipalatinsk test range," the chairman of the Russian governmentnoted.

"This event was historical for the country and the world as a whole.Our armed forces began to possess a new means for curbing a potential aggressor.The planet was deprived of the monopoly for the most terrible weapon inhistory of the mankind," Vladimir Putin pointed out.

He stressed that "a peculiar role in the implementation of the atomicproject was played by our special services, first of all by the foreignintelligence service."

In view of the Russian premier, "this page of the Russian history shouldbe written and made public. We must conceal nothing and we have somethingto be proud of."

"The impetus for the creation of an atomic bomb was the test of theU.S. atomic bomb, the bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," the primeminister recalled.

"Already after the first nuclear tests the Soviet Union stood for theirbanning. Nuclear weapons have never been an end in itself for Russia. Theirimprovement was always a retaliating measure to an outside challenge."

The Russian Federation stands firmly for the complete renunciation ofnuclear weapons, the head of government accentuated.

In September 1996 Russia signed the Treaty "On the comprehensive banof nuclear tests."

At present the preparation for its ratification is under way. The cominginto force of this treaty meets the vital interests of the country, VladimirPutin said.

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2.
Report: Russia To Sell China Nuclear-Powered Submarines
        Agence France Press
        September 1, 1999
        (for personal use only)

HONG KONG, Sep 1, 1999 -- (Agence France Presse) China has reached agreementwith Russia to buy two nuclear-powered submarines to deter any US presencein the Taiwan Strait as relations between Beijing and Taipei worsen, areport said Wednesday.

The billion dollar deal for the Typhoon-class submarines, capable oflaunching nuclear warheads, was reached during Russian deputy prime ministerlya Klebanov's recent visit to Beijing, the Hong Kong Standard said citingmainland diplomatic sources.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin and his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsinendorsed the sale during their talks in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, last week,the English-language daily said.

The sources said the submarines were aimed at deterring the US SeventhFleet from intervening in the intensified crossait relations followingTaiwanese president Lee Teng-hui's call for "state-to-state" ties withBeijing.

The Typhoon-class submarine is one of the world's most modern and largestnuclear-powered submarines, equipped with 20 launchers capable of firingSSN-20 ballistic missiles which have a range of 8,300 kilometers (5,100 miles), the report said.

The upgrading of advanced arms sales was seen as sustaining the "strategicpartnership" pledged by Jiang and Yeltsin in their talks.

Russia is also to sell advanced SU-30-MKK fighter jets to China. TheInterfax news agency reported last Sunday the aircraft were part of anarms deal worth two billion dollars reached during Klebanov's Beijing visit.

Hong Kong newspapers also reported Wednesday China's first firing ofmissiles from a high attitude region late last month and the firing ofmissiles from submarines in naval exercises north of Taiwan.

China's relations with Taiwan have been further soured by Taiwan's rulingKuomintang enshrining the idea of statehood in party documents.

Beijing said the move will push the island towards the "abyss of war."

Jiang has reiterated that while Beijing would prefer peaceful reunificationwith Taipei it still had not ruled out the use of force.

China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the nationalistsfled to the island in 1949 after losing a bitter civil war to the communists,with Beijing viewing Taiwan as a renegade province.

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D. U.S. – Russia General
1.
Efforts To Avoid Accidental Nuclear War January 1 Are Back On Track
        Lisa Hoffman
        Scripps Howard NewsService
        September 1, 1999
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON -- U.S. and Russian efforts to avoid an accidental nuclearwar on New Year's Day 2000 is back on track now that relations betweenthe two countries are warming.

On ice since the Russians backed off in pique this spring over NATO'sbombing of Yugoslavia, discussions between the two powers resumed lastweek on a plan for American and Russian nuclear weapons officers to jointlyman an early-warning missile launch center in Colorado Springs, Colo.,at the turn of the year.

The purpose is to eliminate the possibility that the Russians mightthink an American attack is under way if their early-warning computer systemscrash, or otherwise malfunction, as a result of the Year 2000 "millenniumbug."

If no further diplomatic glitches develop, a formal agreement couldbe signed on Sept. 13, when Defense Secretary William Cohen and Russiancounterpart Igor Sergeyev are scheduled to meet, Pentagon officials say.

On another Y2K front, the Pentagon has decreed that U.S. cities andcounties will be on their own in dealing with any domestic disruptionsthat might result from Y2K foul-ups in power plants, water supplies orother such systems.

The reason given is that such problems are strictly a domestic matter,about which the military by law is generally forbidden to act. Some thoughthad been given early on in planning for possible Y2K disruptions to givingthe Pentagon a backup role. But since then, the threat of Y2K-related woeshas ebbed as tests of utilities and other public systems have showed littlereason to worry.

Even so, the National Guard -- which is under the control of state governors-- plans to be prepared to intervene if problems do crop up. The Pentagonbelieves state and local governments won't need assistance beyond that.

The U.S. military also is expressing growing confidence about its ownability to make the year leap without much note. That is particularly thecase with NORAD -- America's own early-warning system -- which months agowas certified as Y2K glitch-free.

However, the defense department is still concerned about Russia'spreparednessfor the dawn of 2000.

With a devastated economy and other crises under way, Russians haveplaced a low priority on taking the measures needed to reprogram computersand chips.

The nightmare scenario is that computer screens in Russia's nuclearweapons command would suddenly go blank or jumbled information would appear.Fearing an attack in progress, the Russians might order a devastatingcounterstrike.

If, instead, officers from both countries are posted in the same buildingor room -- beginning several days before New Year's and perhaps continuingfor weeks – any suspicion that a computer anomaly is actually an attackcan quickly and easily be quashed.

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