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Nuclear News - 09/27/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 27 September 1999

  1. Weaknesses Found in Nuclear Safeguards Energy Dept. ReportUrges Improvement in U.S. Protection of Russian StockpileWashingtonPost (09/25/99)
  2. Russian Nuclear Aid Problems Cited, Associated Press(09/25/99)
B.  Loose Nukes
  1. Ukrainian Police Hold Suspected Nuclear Smugglers, Reuters(09/27/99)
C.  Nuclear Cities Initiative
  1. Energy Secretary to Visit Closed Russian Cities, Inspect PlutoniumDisposition, Material Safeguards and Naval Storage Sites, Departmentof Energy (09/24/99)
D.  Nuclear Waste
  1. Chelyabinsk Authorities Rule Out New Fuel Storage,Bellona(09/23/99)
  2. Duma Reads Spent Fuel Imports Bill, Bellona(09/27/99)
  1.  New GAO Report: Nuclear Nonproliferation: Status ofTransparency Measures for U.S. Purchase of Russian Highly Enriched Uranium,GAO (09/22/99)
  1. Ex-Soviet Nuclear Site Dynamited, Associated Press(09/26/99)
G.  Congressional Action
  1. Senate Approves Bill That Would Toughen Nuclear Lab Security,Associated Press (09/23/99)
  2. Senate, House Conferees Double Outlay For Nuclear Security,Associated Press  (09/25/99)


Weaknesses Found in Nuclear Safeguards Energy Dept. Report UrgesImprovement in U.S. Protection of Russian Stockpile
        Bradley Graham
        Washington Post
        September 25, 1999
        (for personal use only)

A five-year-old U.S. program to help safeguard nuclear bomb-making materialin Russia has suffered from inadequate oversight and spent some funds onfacilities that have little to do with atomic weapons, according to anEnergy Department internal audit.

The program has poured millions of dollars into Russian complexes thatremain largely off-limits to U.S. teams, preventing American authoritiesfrom determining whether the money is spent appropriately, investigatorsfound.

The probe, by the Energy Department's inspector general, comes at atime of mounting concern in Congress over U.S. aid to Moscow and the Clintonadministration's management of relations with Russia. While the EnergyDepartment program has been widely viewed as one of the administration'sbest-conceived attempts to limit the spread of Russian nuclear material,the new report indicates that even this initiative has faced bureaucraticobstacles in Russia and supervisory shortcomings in the United States.

"Programmatic improvements are needed to ensure that funds and equipmentare used for their intended purposes," inspector general Gregory H. Friedmanconcluded. "The department needs to enhance its system of controls to addressthe matters noted in this report."

A copy of the unreleased report, dated Sept. 16, was made availableto The Washington Post by a government official who said he was worriedthat taxpayer dollars were being misspent.

Established in 1994 to keep stockpiles of enriched uranium and plutoniumthat once belonged to the Soviet Union under tighter lock and key, theso-called Nuclear Material Protection, Control and Accounting program hasexpanded quickly to 77 projects and a budget this year of $137 million.Much of the money was intended to supply Russian facilities with the typesof devices--security cameras, tamper-proof seals, portal detectors--thatwould reduce the potential for theft of weapons-grade material.

Surveying nine projects that spent $51 million this year, the EnergyDepartment audit faulted three for focusing on securing low-enriched uranium,rather than the highly enriched variety used in nuclear weapons. In sixcases, investigators determined that U.S. project teams lacked enough accessto Russian facilities or inventory data to know if the equipment they providedwas being properly used.

The audit also found that U.S. teams--comprised of contract personnelfrom the Energy Department's seven national laboratories—sometimes ignoreddepartmental guidance in selecting projects. It said the program desperatelyneeded more federal government supervisors, noting that the current fourwere overwhelmed.

Rose Gottemoller, who heads the Energy Department's office ofnonproliferation,accepted the audit's criticisms without dispute. "We're working on them,"she said.

She attributed many of the shortcomings to the difficulty of openingdoors to Russia's weapons-making facilities that were long closed to U.S.authorities. Thanks to U.S. efforts, she said, 100 metric tons of Russiannuclear material--out of an estimated total of 650 tons--will be underimproved control by this time next year. That's enough, she added, to make6,000 nuclear warheads.

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Russian Nuclear Aid Problems Cited
        H. Josef Hebert
        Associated Press
        September 25, 1999
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON –– More than $1 million in U.S. assistance for protectingRussian nuclear material has been spent on items that pose no proliferationrisk or in some cases to pay Russian taxes, according to an internal EnergyDepartment review.

The report by the department's inspector general comes as Energy SecretaryBill Richardson is about to make a five-day trip to Russia, including visitsto some of the nuclear sites where the U.S. funds have been used to beefup security.

The 5-year-old assistance program is considered by Congress and theWhite House, as well as by private nuclear nonproliferation groups, tobe one of the most successful in government in helping to deter the theftof Russia's nuclear material, including weapons-grade uranium and plutonium.

Congress last year provided $137 million for 80 separate projects inthe program and plans to increase that, possibly to as much as $165 million,in fiscal 2000.

But the DOE inspector general's report, a copy of which was obtainedFriday by The Associated Press, says the program – although consideredvaluable – has been plagued by some problems as well.

The report said it found that in three of nine projects examined, atotal of $929,000 was spent "to secure materials of little proliferationrisk." U.S. project managers also in a number of cases did not know howmoney was spent because of limited access to Russian facilities, the reportsaid.

While the program has "accomplished much towards reducing the threatof nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism ... improvements are neededto ensure that funds and equipment are used for their intended purposes,"wrote Inspector General Gregory Friedman.

While investigators could not determine the amount of money involved,the report said "significant" amounts of U.S. assistance that was supposedto go for upgrading security ended up being used to pay Russian taxes.

Rose Gottemoeller, the Energy Department's assistant secretary fornonproliferationand national security, said in an interview that the tax issue has beenknown for some time and is an issue "that will remain with us ... as partof the way we have to do business in Russia now."

A draft agreement between the United States and Russia would exemptthe U.S. assistance funds from taxes and customs duties, but that has notbeen made final. Even then, says Gottemoeller, some local taxes may stillbe levied contrary to the central government's directive.

Private nuclear nonproliferation groups characterized the concerns raisedby the IG report as trivial when viewed against the size of the programand its successes in improving security at Russia nuclear sites since 1994.

"Dollar for dollar we're getting value out of this program," said DarylKimball of the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers, an alliance ofnonproliferationadvocacy groups. "This is not a program that should be thrown out the windowbecause a million dollars is being spent on relatively low priority issues."

Kevin O'Neill of the Institute for Science and International Securitysaid the potential risks from poorly protected nuclear weapons materialin Russia "is one of the most immediate and pressing problems today" andfunding of a few low priority programs should not be of concern.

Richardson is scheduled to leave next Tuesday for his five-day tripRussia. He will visit some of the facilities where the U.S. funds havebeen used to better protect nuclear materials.

"It is vital that we continue to build on our joint accomplishmentsto secure nuclear material and safely dispose of excess plutonium no longerneeded for nuclear weapons," he said in a statement Friday announcing thetrip.

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B. Loose Nukes

Ukrainian Police Hold Suspected Nuclear Smugglers
        September 27, 1999
        (for personal use only)

KIEV, Sep 27, 1999 -- (Reuters) Ukrainian police have detained a criminalgroup accused of trying to smuggle highly radioactive materials that canbe used for military purposes, a police spokesman said on Monday. IvanLadzhun told Reuters by telephone from Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukrainethat the group of three was headed by a man from Russia's unruly NorthCaucasus republic of Dagestan.

He said the band had also included another Russian and a Ukrainian national,who tried to sell abroad several hundred grams of strontium-90 worth $450,000."This radioactive material can be used in military technology," Ladzhuksaid, adding the contraband cargo had been packed in two special capsulesdisguised as coffee tins.

He declined to name the origin or destination of the strontium or itspotential buyers.

He said Ukrainian police were checking the possible involvement of thedetained Dagestani in the bomb blasts which have killed nearly 300 peoplein Russia this month.

Ukrainian nuclear energy experts said strontium, a by-product of nuclearreactors, was used in monitoring devices but could also be a source oflethal radiation.

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C. Nuclear Cities Initiative

Energy Secretary to Visit Closed Russian Cities, Inspect PlutoniumDisposition, Material Safeguards and Naval Storage Sites
        Department of Energy
        September 24, 1999
        (for personal use only)

Reorienting Russian Nuclear Scientists to Civilian Work a Top Priority

Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson will be in Russia September 28 toOctober 2 to review a number of joint U.S./Russian nuclear nonproliferationprograms. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union amassedvast stockpiles of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the essentialmaterials for nuclear weapons. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), whichmaintains the nuclear weapons stockpile for the defense of the United States,is working with Russia and other independent states of the Former SovietUnion to prevent nuclear material and nuclear weapons knowledge from
being diverted to rogue nations and terrorists.

While in Russia, Secretary Richardson will inspect U.S./Russian programsto secure nuclear weapons material, review a new Russian method for disposingof plutonium taken from dismantled nuclear weapons, dedicate an "open computingcenter" that offers high-technology job opportunities for Russian nuclearscientists as they transition away from nuclear weapons work, and openthe Ministry of Atomic Energy's "Situation Crisis Center," which will allowU.S. and Russian officials to communicate by voice and video in emergencysituations. The Secretary will also meet with Minister of Fuel and EnergyKalyuzhny to promote trade and investment, engage in energy efficiencywork, and assist in helping the coal sector. Secretary Richardson co-chairsthe Energy Policy Committee of the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economicand Technological Cooperation. The Department of Energy has been workingwith the Russian government on these issues since 1993.

"This invitation to visit some of the world's most sensitive nuclearweapons-related sites is a clear indication that Russia is resolved towork with the West to ensure that the world is safe from nuclear espionageand theft," said Secretary of Energy Richardson. "It is vital that we continueto build on our joint accomplishments to secure nuclear materials and safelydispose of excess plutonium no longer needed for nuclear weapons."

Secretary Richardson will visit Russia at the invitation of Russia'sMinistry of Atomic Energy (MinAtom) and the Russian Navy. Secretary Richardsonwill review Russian plutonium disposition activities in Dmitrovgrad; inspectRussian naval fuel storage and Department of Energy (DOE) work securingnuclear materials under the joint Material Protection, Control and Accountingprogram in Murmansk; travel to the closed and formerly secret nuclear cityof Sarov to dedicate, with Minister of Atomic Energy Yevgeniy Adamov, itsfirst open computing center, which was developed under the auspices ofthe Nuclear Cities Initiative; and open the MinAtom Situation Crisis Center,which establishes a groundbreaking video link between the U.S. and Moscow.In Moscow, Secretary Richardson will also address a reception to mark thefirst oil production from the recently inaugurated Vityaz Production Complex,Sakhalin Island; this event is sponsored by the Administration of SakhalinOblast, Ministry of Fuel and Energy and Sakhalin Energy Investment CompanyLtd.

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D. Nuclear Waste

Chelyabinsk Authorities Rule Out New Fuel Storage
        Thomas Nilsen
        September 23, 1999
        (for personal use only)

Chelybinsk County administration says it is strongly against any newspent fuel storage at Mayak plant. Both European programs and AmericanCTR consider a dry storage option at Mayak as viable.

CHELYABINSK (Bellona Web): While Norway, Sweden and the Nordic Investment
Bank are setting up a $50 million funding package for a new interimstorage for spent fuel at Mayak reprocessing plant, the local administrationin Chelyabinsk says it will never be built. In an interview with BellonaWeb, Vice-Governor Gennady Podtyosov even claims he has never heard aboutthe proposed new storage for submarine spent nuclear fuel. Moscow and theNordic Governments have negotiated such storage for several years, butnobody bothered to ask the locals. It was not surprise, as Moscow has notradition of including the local authorities in their planning in termsof the Mayak plant that has been the main production facility for plutoniumfor the top-secret Soviet nuclear weapons program for decades.

The Western Industrial Group initiated the plan to help Russian NuclearMinister, or Minatom, with building a new interim spent fuel storage atMayak as a part of the work to remove spent fuel from the naval bases andlaid up submarines at the Kola Peninsula. The present spent fuel storagein Andreeva Bay at Kola is run-down and filled to capacity. In addition,the spent fuel is still held in more than 100 naval reactors onboard submarineslaid up at several bases and shipyards. In Mayak, naval spent fuel hasbeen reprocessed since the late 70ties. The current problem is lack ofinterim storage and railway cars to ship the fuel from Kola in the RussianArctic to the Mayak plant in the South Ural, a distance of around 3.000kilometres.

Norway has already provided $25 million to build four new railway carsfor the transportation. The TK-VG-18 railway cars are currently underconstructionat a plant in Tver and are scheduled for completion in March 2000. Some65.000 spent fuel assemblies are stored at the Kola Peninsula in Andreevabay, as well as in laid up submarine reactors and onboard service vessels.The planned new interim storage at Mayak will have a capacity of 6.000spent fuel assemblies, but the capacity is enough since the spent fuelwill be reprocessed constantly after a short storage period.

Interviewed at his office, downtown Chelyabinsk, Vice-Governor GennadyPodtyosov was surprised by the question about the Chelyabinsk administration'sviewpoint of the planned new storage. He immediately grabbed the phoneand called the chief engineer at Mayak, located in the closed city of Ozersksome 40 kilometres north of Chelyabinsk. Mayak confirmed the plans.

"This plan has never been presented for the Governor before. We arestrongly against the construction of such new interim storage for spentnaval fuel at Mayak," Podtyosov said. The struggle between Moscow and thelocal authorities is clear. Podtyosov underlines that Minatom in Moscowand Western governments can discuss what ever they want but without theGovernors signature the project will never materialise.

The Chelyabinsk authorities shares this opinion with the State Committeeon Environment, which concluded in 1989 and 1991 that no additional nuclearstorage facilities should be build at the Mayak site.

Besides the fact that Minatom and the Western Industrial Group agreeupon the idea to construct a new interim storage at Mayak, there is stilla disagreement which technology should be applied. The Industrial Groupinsists on building a new dry storage, which they claim will be cheaper.On the other side, Minatom, with support from Mayak, wants to completea wet storage, the construction of which started several years ago at Mayak.According to the chief engineer at Mayak, the proposed dry storage fromthe Western side does not satisfy the Russian safety requirements.

Several sources from the Western side told Bellona Web that a possiblecompromise could be to build a dry storage on the existing wet storagefoundation. Minatom has agreed to do a safety evaluation of the project,while Mayak still insists that the only possible solution is to completethe wet storage.

CTR might contribute to dry storage option
This year, the American Co-operative Threat Reduction (CTR) programstarted funding shipment to Mayak of spent nuclear fuel, derived from thedecommissioned submarines in the Northern Fleet and the Pacific Fleet.The U.S. government has granted CTR the right to ship and reprocess fuelfrom 15 strategic submarines. It is further conditioned, however, onco-operationon the development and licensing of a dry storage facility at Mayak. Thedry storage will be preliminary designed to hold fuel derived from another15 submarines CTR will pay the decommissioning of. All in all, CTR's objectiveis to
dismantle 31 strategic submarines, but the assessment is underway whetherCTR program should cover the dismentelment of Russian general-purpose submarinesas well. Once endorsed, the CTR's need for a dry storage at Mayak willincrease, since the further official U.S. support to reprocessing at Mayakis unlikely to happen.

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Duma Reads Spent Fuel Imports Bill
        Igor Kudrik
        September 27, 1999
        (for personal use only)

State Duma holds first reading of a bill favouring spent fuel imports.Russian Federal Envirocommittee grants support for the bill.

Russian State Duma, the lower chamber of the parliament, held firstreading of a bill regarding amendment of the Law on Environmental Protectionto allow spent fuel imports to Russia on September 24. The Russian Ministryfor Atomic Energy, or Minatom, failed to persuade Russian Cabinet membersto approve amendments and forward them to the State Duma for considerationin late August. The Duma took the issue up on its own without waiting forthe Cabinet.

Minatom's lobbyists are working hard on separating the issues of spentfuel and radioactive waste in the bill amending the Law on EnvironmentalProtection of the Russian Federation. The current version of the law saysthat any import of radioactive materials is prohibited. Once 'spent fuel'and 'radioactive waste' are separate issues, fuel will be considered aresource eligible for import.

The amendments have reportedly received support among all the Duma factions,but Yabloko, a reformers' minority in the parliament. Tamara Zlotnikova,head of the Duma Environmental Committee and member of Yabloko, said herfaction would oppose the amendment bill at all levels.

But the situation has changed in favour of those supporting spent fuelimports. The Russian Federal Environmental Committee, former Ministry ofEnvironment, stated publicly its support for the amendments. The head ofthe Committee, Victor Danilov-Danilian, said last week his agency wouldsupport the fuel imports because the money earned could be used for improvingthe overall radwaste management in Russia. Minatom has heavily appliedthe same dubious argumentation in attempt to push forward the amendmentbill. The Federal Environmental Committee turned down the drafted billon several occasions before.

The idea to accept foreign spent fuel for reprocessing was an old dreamof Minatom that was buried some 5-6 years ago when the construction ofa new reprocessing plant, RT-2, in Krasnoyarsk County, Western Siberia,was put on hold due to the lack of funding. The idea to import spent fuelwas recently revoked by the U.S. based Non-Proliferation Trust (NPT) thatsuggested storage of 10,000 tonnes of nuclear fuel in Russia. Minatom enlargedthis idea by suggesting to import unlimited amounts of spent fuel and proposingreprocessing services as well.

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New GAO Report: Nuclear Nonproliferation: Status of TransparencyMeasures for U.S. Purchase of Russian Highly Enriched Uranium
        September 22, 1999
        (for personal use only)

[Editor's note – The online version of the above cited GAO report, numberedRCED-99-194, is available online at the following website:

The report is in .pdf format and is a total of 25 pages, includingappendices. --CMF]

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Ex-Soviet Nuclear Site Dynamited
        Rozlana Taukina
        Associated Press
        September 26, 1999
        (for personal use only)

ALMATY, Kazakstan - A blast equivalent to 100 tons of dynamite collapseda tunnel at a former nuclear testing ground yesterday as part of a programto dismantle the former Soviet Union's missile-launching system.

The controlled explosion in a tunnel under the Degelen Mountains ineastern Kazakstan was part of a U.S.-Kazak agreement to dismantle silo-basedmissile launchers in the former Soviet republic.

The blast was caused by the second of three bombs designed to eliminatethe infrastructure at a former nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk, onceone of the world's largest nuclear testing grounds.

Officials at Kazakstan's National Nuclear Center said the first undergroundexplosion, which sealed missile silos and the maze of tunnels under thetest site, took place on Aug. 22 last year, and that the third and finalblast will be detonated in 2000.

Yesterday's detonation cost $800,000 and was paid for by the UnitedStates, the officials said, according to the Interfax news agency.

The blast also provided information on checking and calibrating theinternational nuclear monitoring system under the Comprehensive NuclearTest Ban Treaty, which Kazakstan signed.

"The explosion was staged from 12:00 to 12:40 local time and, accordingto the international agreement, it was a test of the international nuclearmonitoring system to tell nuclear explosions from earthquakes and militaryactivity," said Larisa Ptitskaya, head of the nuclear security and ecologyinstitute of the National Nuclear Center in Kurchatov.

From 1949 to 1989, the Soviet Union set off 470 nuclear explosions atthe Semipalatinsk testing grounds. More than 100 of the tests took placeabove ground.

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G. Congressional Action

Senate Approves Bill That Would Toughen Nuclear Lab Security
        Tom Raum
        Associated Press
        September 23, 1999
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON - With only five dissents, the Senate voted final approvalyesterday of a $288.9 billion military bill that would overhaul the EnergyDepartment and tighten security at nuclear weapons labs. It also containsthe biggest military pay raise since the early 1980s.

 Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, viewing the energy reorganizationas congressional overreaction to allegations of Chinese nuclear spying,has suggested a veto.

 But other administration officials said such a veto could be aproblem, given the 4.8 percent across-the-board pay raise and other politicallypopular military readiness increases embedded in the huge bill.

 ''There are obviously things in the bill that we like - the payraise, some readiness things,'' said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart.''So we're going to look at this; and when we have a decision, we'll letyou know.''

 In any event, margins of passage in both House and Senate werefar above the two-thirds needed to override a veto. Yesterday's Senatevote was 93-5. The House approved the measure 375-45 last week.

 The legislation would set up a separate, semiautonomous agencywithin the Energy Department - the National Nuclear Security Administration- to oversee the government's nuclear weapons program.

 Critics said it would undermine the energy secretary's authority.

 It is the first overhaul of the Cabinet agency since it was created22 years ago during the Arab oil embargo. The department at that time alsobecame custodian of the government's three nuclear labs.

 The 4.8 percent pay raise, which would take effect next Jan. 1for the nation's 1.4 million active-duty military, is 0.4 percentage pointshigher than a military pay increase President Clinton proposed in the fiscal2000 budget.

 The bill also improves pension programs and increases retentionbenefits in an effort to help the Pentagon ease severe problems in recruitmentand re-enlistment. Overall, the bill earmarks $8.3 billion more in spendingfor the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 than Clinton had recommended.

 The measure ''would do more for our men and women in uniform thanany other bill considered by Congress in at least a decade,'' said SenatorCarl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

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Senate, House Conferees Double Outlay For Nuclear Security
        William C. Mann
        Associated Press
        September 25, 1999
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Angered by allegations of Chinese spying, Senateand House negotiators more than doubled the amount to be spent oncounterintelligencenext year at the nation's nuclear weapons laboratories.

A House-Senate conference committee set aside $39 million for operationsagainst spying in the fiscal year beginning Friday, compared with $19 millionin the current budget year.

In all, the $21.3 billion Energy and Water Development Appropriationsbill sets aside more than $4.4 billion for the Department of Energy tooperate the three laboratories, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said Saturday.

That is an increase of $102.2 million in DOE funding.

"This has been a very difficult year for DOE and our national laboratories,but these hardships should serve as a clarion call to reform and move awayfrom a complacency that has compromised our national security," Domenici,chairman of the Senate Appropriations energy subcommittee, said in a statement.

Just Thursday, Attorney General Janet Reno said the Justice Departmentand FBI are expanding an almost 4-year-old investigation into an allegedtheft of weapons secrets by Chinese agents. She said the FBI had new informationbut did not elaborate.

So far, the investigation into alleged Chinese theft of secrets involvingone of the most advanced U.S. nuclear warheads has centered on the NationalWeapons Laboratory at Los Alamos, N.M.

A Los Alamos employee, Wen Ho Lee, was suspected for years and firedin March, although the government admits it lacks evidence to charge him.

China has denied stealing U.S. nuclear secrets

The largest chunk of the Energy Department's funding in the appropriationsbill, $4.2 billion, goes for computer monitoring, storing, maintainingand dismantling the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

The bill also includes money for helping Russia keep its weapons-gradeweapons materiel away from terrorists.

The House and Senate had been at odds over the bill for months and atone time were more than $1.1 billion apart in how much to appropriate forthe national laboratories in New Mexico and California.

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