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Nuclear News - 11/17/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 17 November 1999


A.  HEU

  1. Money To Salvage Russian Uranium Deal Sought In Last-MinuteNegotiations, Associated Press (11/16/99)
  2. Uranium Institute News Briefing  [USEC], The UraniumInstitute Online (11/16/99)
  3. Company Buying Uranium From Russian Warheads May Opt Out,Associated Press (11/17/99)
B.  Plutonium Disposition
  1. Energy Department Releases Study of Alternatives For Sitingof Plutonium Disposition Facilities, Department of Energy (11/12/99)
  2. Plutonium Shipments Heading This Way For Test, TorontoStar (11/16/99)
  3. Plutonium Test Gets Nod, Toronto Sun (11/17/99)
C.  Russian Nuclear Forces
  1. Russian Bear Shows Its Nuclear Claws Before Summit, Reuters(11/16/99)
  2. Russia Tests 2 Ballistic Missiles, Associated Press(11/17/99)
D.  START
  1. Russian People's Support for Start-2 Assessed, ObshchayaGazeta (11/11/99)
E.  U.S. – Russia General
  1. Bush Outlines Foreign Policy, Associated Press (11/17/99)



A. HEU

1.
Money To Salvage Russian Uranium Deal Sought In Last-MinuteNegotiations
        Katherine Rizzo
        Associated Press
        November 16, 1999
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Enrichment Corp. said Tuesday it still wastrying to make up its mind on whether to continue keeping Russian uraniumoff the world market by paying a premium price for it.

It has until Dec. 1 to decide whether to remain in that role. SpokesmanCharles Yulish said the corporation was continuing to negotiate with Congressand the Clinton administration.

There was no indication that they had reached an agreement, but Yulishsaid, "We're very encouraged."

The company made what has turned out to be an unprofitable deal fornuclear peace.

It is locked into a contract that requires it to pay Russia more forthe uranium removed from its warheads than anyone else is paying anywhereon the worldwide market. It can bail out of the agreement by giving thegovernment notice no later than Dec. 1.

Yulish said the corporation's board would meet in late November to decidewhat to do about the contract. A bailout would allow USEC to stop handlingRussia's uranium after next year.

Yulish would not confirm details of the company's negotiations, saying,"It's very fluid right now."

A memo from the company's lobbyist, Tommy Boggs, was circulating onCapitol Hill. That memo suggested the $65 million that otherwise wouldgo to Russia instead could be steered to USEC to make up for the pricesit is paying for the Russian uranium.

The memo also suggested that Congress allow the company to move about$70 million worth of depleted uranium into the government's inventory.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's chief of staff, Gary Falle, saidhe could not comment on details of the negotiations. He said the administrationwas determined that any agreement must include a promise to keep workerson the job at USEC plants in Piketon, Ohio, and Paducah, Ky.

"If there is any kind of actual help with regard to any kind of relief,there has to be a worker component to the package," he said.

USEC and the administration said they want the Russian deal to succeed.

But the administration has discussed with at least two companies thepossibility of replacing USEC should it decide to get out of the arrangement.

USEC is under scrutiny by lawmakers who question whether taxpayers arebetter off with the nation's uranium enrichment plans run by the privatizedcompany rather than by the government.

The Russians have agreed to discuss a price change in 2001, when thecontract runs out. Until then, the market price of nuclear fuel for powerplants has weakened enough that the corporation estimates a $200 milliongap between what it must pay and the price it can get for the fuel.

The deal with the Russians calls for the United States to pay $8 billionover 20 years for 500 tons of uranium from nuclear warheads. Enough uraniumto arm 3,000 warheads has been diluted and shipped to the United Statesfor resale as fuel for nuclear power plants.

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2.
Uranium Institute News Briefing  [USEC]
        The Uranium Institute Online
        November 16, 1999
        (for personal use only)

[NB99.46-1] USEC Inc is actively considering ending its role as theUS government’s executive agent under the Russian HEU Agreement. The revelationcame during recent discussions over USEC’s request for US$200 million tooffset the costs of purchasing SWU and LEU from Russia. The governmenthas begun discussions with potential candidates who could either replaceUSEC as the executive agent, or work with USEC as an additional agent,should USEC decide to withdraw. USEC must give 30 days’ notice to pullout of the agreement, after which it must continue to perform for one year.Meanwhile, the cost data and financial analyses USEC provided to the Departmentof Energy to justify the subsidy are still being reviewed. USEC is reportedlyacting to resolve a number of issues associated with implementing the HEUdeal. (FreshFUEL, 15 November, p1) The administration is reportedly consideringa much smaller aid package than the US$200 million requested, in exchangefor some new commitments by USEC to the government. (Ux Weekly, 15 November,p2; see also News Briefing 99.44-7)

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3.
Company Buying Uranium From Russian Warheads May Opt Out
        Associated Press
        November 17, 1999
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON (AP) - The company that buys up uranium from Russian warheadsto keep it off the world market is seeking a subsidy from the U.S. governmentto make up for its estimated $200 million in losses, threatening to quitthe work if the money doesn't come through.

``We're very encouraged'' that a deal can be reached through negotiationswith Congress and the Clinton administration, spokesman Charles Yulishof the U.S. Enrichment Corp. said Tuesday, declining to give details.

The company must decide by Dec. 1 whether to continue the ``swords toplowshares'' effort it began under a 1993 contract with the U.S. government.If it opts out, USEC would stop the work at the end of next year.

USEC - created initially to run the nation's uranium enrichment plants- was established with public funds, but it uses its own money, and thatof its investors, to buy the uranium from Russia that it then sells tonuclear power plants.

But it is locked into a contract that requires it to pay Russia morefor the uranium than it can get from electricity plants seeking nuclearfuel. That will leave the USEC with what it estimates to be a shortfallof $200 million by the time its contract expires at the end of 2001. TheRussians have agreed to discuss a price change, but not until 2001.

So the company is negotiating for a subsidy from the U.S. government.

``USEC is fully engaged with the administration and with congressionalrepresentatives to explore and develop solutions to the problem,'' Yulishsaid. He would not confirm any details of the company's negotiations, saying,``It's very fluid right now.''

However, a memo from the company's lobbyist, Tommy Boggs, circulatingon Capitol Hill suggested that $65 million that otherwise would go to Russiacould instead be steered to USEC to make up for the above-market pricesit is paying for its uranium. The memo also suggested that Congress letthe company move about $70 million worth of uranium tails, or depleteduranium, into the government's inventory.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's chief of staff, Gary Falle, alsodeclined to comment on details of the negotiations but said the administrationwas determined that the end result include a promise to keep workers onthe job at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Ohio and Paducah GaseousDiffusion Plant in Kentucky.

``If there is any kind of actual help with regard to any kind of relief,there has to be a worker component to the package,'' he said.

The administration has discussed with at least two companies the possibilityof replacing USEC should it decide to get out of the Russian recyclingarrangement.

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B.  Plutonium Disposition

1.
Energy Department Releases Study of Alternatives For Siting of PlutoniumDisposition Facilities
        Department of Energy
        November 12, 1999
        (for personal use only)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week released to the publicthe “Surplus Plutonium Disposition Final Environmental Impact Statement”that analyzes the potential impacts of alternatives for the dispositionof up to 50 metric tons of plutonium surplus to the United States’ defenseneeds. The document also identifies the Department’s Savannah River Sitein Aiken, S.C., as the preferred location for building three key plutoniumdisposition facilities.

“Completion of this environmental review is an important step in assuringthe safe and secure disposition of U.S. and Russian surplus plutonium,”said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. “The U.S. and Russia are closeto reaching an agreement to put our surplus plutonium into forms whichcan never be used for nuclear weapons.”

The Department’s strategy for disposing of surplus plutonium involvestwo methods: approximately 17 metric tons will be immobilized in ceramicmaterial surrounded by vitrified high-level waste and up to 33 metric tonswill be irradiated as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in existing domestic, commercialreactors. Three specialized facilities are required to implement this strategy:(1) Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility to disassemble plutonium pitsand convert the resulting metal to an oxide powder; (2) MOX Fuel FabricationFacility to fabricate plutonium oxide into mixed oxide fuel; and (3)ImmobilizationFacility to immobilize plutonium oxide with ceramic material. The EnvironmentalImpact Statement (EIS) analyzes the potential impacts of siting, constructing,operating and ultimately decommissioning these facilities.

Implementation of the MOX approach requires the fabrication of prototypeMOX fuel test assemblies prior to the start of operations of the MOX fuelfabrication facility. These assemblies will be used to validate the performanceof MOX fuel in commercial reactors. The EIS identifies the Department ofEnergy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, as the preferredsite for the fabrication of the prototype assemblies and the Departmentof Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, as the preferredsite for the post-irradiation examination of the prototype assemblies.

The Department issued the draft Surplus Plutonium Disposition EIS forpublic comment in June 1998. A supplement to the draft EIS, which analyzedthe potential impacts of using MOX fuel in six reactors at three sitesin North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, was issued in May 1999.

The Department plans to issue a Record of Decision on the action proposedin the EIS no sooner than 30 days after the availability of the documentis announced by the Environmental Protection Agency in the Federal Register.

The final EIS consists of a Summary document and three volumes: VolumeI - Main Text (approximately 800 pages); Volume II–Appendices; and VolumeIII–Responses to Comments. Copies can be requested by calling 1-800/820-5156;by mail addressed to the U.S. Department of Energy, P.O. Box 23786, Washington,D.C. 20026-3786; or via the Internet at www.doe-md.com. The final EIS andits summary may also be viewed on this web site.

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2.
Plutonium Shipments Heading This Way For Test
        Laura Eggertson
        Toronto Star
        November 16, 1999
        (for personal use only)

Critics want `unnecessary' move cancelled

OTTAWA - Canada will proceed with a plan to import a test amount ofplutonium from the United States, despite Washington's decision not touse Canadian reactors to burn larger quantities of the radioactive fuel,says Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

But anti-nuclear activists and opposition members pressed the federalgovernment yesterday to cancel the shipments, arguing there's no need fora test if the larger disposal program doesn't go ahead.

``What we are demanding right now is that the Canadian government haltthe test shipment,'' said Kristen Ostling, national director of the Campaignfor Nuclear Phaseout. ``The rationale has completely collapsed for this.These shipments should not take place.''

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) plans to import two shipments ofsmall amounts of plutonium - one from Russia and another 125 grams fromthe U.S. - to burn in the experimental Candu reactor at Chalk River. Theplutonium is contained in mixed oxide fuel, known as MOX.

The test - called the Parallex project - is designed to generate dataon how well each of the fuel shipments burns in the Candu reactor.

The MOX shipments were supposed to be the first in a wave of importsof tonnes of plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons in Russia and theUnited States.

But on Friday, the U.S. confirmed a decision announced in March thatWashington will use domestic reactors to dispose of its own plutonium.

Atomic Energy of Canada never counted on getting large commercial shipmentsof U.S. MOX, said Larry Shewchuk, a spokesperson for the AECL.

 `It is pretty clear Canadians  do not want a test burn'

The Candu manufacturer has instead focused on the prospect of largecommercial shipments from Russia.

Canadian communities lining the highway the test shipment will travelhave opposed importing the material, as have the Mohawk First Nations atAkwesasne and Kahnawake, said Reform Party MP Dave Chatters (Athabasca).

``It is pretty clear that Canadians do not want a test burn. Will thePrime Minister call off this unnecessary and unwanted test burn today?''Chatters asked in the House.

Canada needs to proceed with the test burn to help eliminate the dangersand hazards of nuclear proliferation, said Foreign Affairs Minister LloydAxworthy.

``The United States does want to proceed with the tests because theyagree . . . there is a very important serious problem of nuclear proliferationof a large surplus of nuclear warheads,'' he told Parliament.

The United States believes it would send the wrong signal to Russiaif the Parallex test was cancelled, said Laura Holgate, director of theDepartment of Energy's office of fissile materials disposition.

``We need to take every advantage of every opportunity we have to encourageRussia to dispose of its plutonium,'' she said from Washington.

If large-scale shipments of Russian MOX fuel are to proceed, Canadaand the U.S. need the data on how well it burns in the Candu, another U.S.government official said.

Axworthy promised in September that Canada would dispose of the MOXin its Candus as part of Ottawa's attempt to ensure plutonium from Russianwarheads is not disposed of shoddily, or stolen by terrorist organizations.

The U.S. is footing the $3-million to $4-million (U.S.) cost of thetest shipments, and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. hopes to get a subsidyfrom the United States to dispose of more Russian material.

The Department of Energy has not yet agreed to subsidize Russian disposalon a larger scale, Holgate said.

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3.
Plutonium Test Gets Nod
        Stephanie Rubec
        Toronto Sun
        November 17, 1999
        (for personal use only)

OTTAWA BUREAU,  OTTAWA --  Transport Canada gave the greenlight yesterday to import U.S. and Russian weapons-grade plutonium fora test burn in Chalk River's CANDU reactor.

The department approved two emergency response plans for up to six shipmentsof a radioactive plutonium mix, or MOX fuel, but attached a few conditions.

The Atomic Energy Canada Ltd., the agency that oversees the tests, hasagreed to all of them, including conducting an unloading exercise in Cornwall.

AECL spokesman Larry Shewchuk said now all he's waiting for is the U.S.and Russia to send the MOX.

The U.S. has agreed to pay for all test burns to determine if plutoniumfrom nuclear warheads can be used as fuel in CANDU reactors. The U.S. willsend 119 gm of MOX from New Mexico to Canada, crossing the border at SaultSte. Marie, while Russia will send 132 gm on a ship to Cornwall. Both loadswill be escorted by armed guards and tracked by satellite.

Greenpeace spokesman Steve Shallhorn said he won't declare a defeatuntil the radioactive samples reach Chalk River.

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C. Russian Nuclear Forces

1.
Russian Bear Shows Its Nuclear Claws Before Summit
        Peter Graff
        Reuters
        November 16, 1999
        (for personal use only)
 
MOSCOW, Nov 16 (Reuters) - The Russian bear showed its claws on Tuesdaybefore a summit with Western leaders, saying it had tested nuclear-capablemissiles as a possible response to the United States pulling out of adisarmamenttreaty.

The commander of Russia's navy was quoted as saying that test-firingsof three submarine-based Stingray missiles on October 1-2 were a partialresponse to possible U.S. plans to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-BallisticMissile (ABM) treaty.

RIA news agency quoted Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov as saying the launchesshould be seen as ``one of the elements of Russia's asymetrical responseto the possible withdrawal of the United States.'' .

By ``asymetrical response,'' Russian officials appeared to be referringto a build up of Russia's offensive nuclear strike capability in responseto the U.S. move.

The statement, the latest in a series of increasingly alarmist Russianremarks over ABM, came just before a European security summit in Istanbul,where presidents Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton are expected to have theiriciest encounter ever.

Yeltsin's spokesman has said ABM will be on the agenda when he meetsClinton.

The Cold-War-era ABM treaty banned systems designed to shoot down enemymissiles, under the logic that such defences would have spurred the UnitedStates and Russia to build ever larger arsenals of nuclear warheads tobreak through enemy shields.

Now, with the Cold War over, the United States wants to deploy a systemto defend itself against a possible launch from North Korea, Iran or anotherof what it calls ``rogue states.''

CHANGE TREATY

U.S. administration officials have asked Russia to amend the pact toallow Washington to deploy the new system. Moscow says doing so could triggera new nuclear arms race.

Last month Yeltsin warned Clinton of ``extremely dangerous consequences''if the United States goes ahead with its plans.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Anatoly Kvashnin said on Monday Russia wasconvinced Washington intended to break the treaty. Russia planned to respondby beefing up its own nuclear arsenal.

Tuesday's statement was the first time that Russian officials have directlylinked the test of an offensive nuclear strike weapon to the arms controlrow.

A Russian general made a similar statement last month about the testof a Russian anti-missile rocket, a defensive weapon.

Russia's cash strapped military rarely test-fires expensive missiles.Officials earlier said the Stingray tests were aimed at determining whetherthe missile's shelf life could be extended.

Defence analysts say Russia is working on a new submarine launched ballisticmissile to match its latest generation of land-based Topol M missiles.

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2.
Russia Tests 2 Ballistic Missiles
        Judith Ingram
        Associated Press
        November 17, 1999
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW –– The Russian Navy said its Arctic Fleet test-fired two ballisticmissiles today from a nuclear cruiser submarine, underlining the country'scombat-readiness amid heightened tensions with the West.

The missiles were launched from a Typhoon-class submarine within twohours of each other from a site in the Barents Sea, and the warheads hittheir targets on the Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, the Navy's pressservice said.

It was Russia's third test launch in a month, and like the others, itseemed to carry a strong political message.

Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, the commander of the Russian Navy, congratulatedthe Arctic Fleet on today's launches, saying in a statement, "the navalstrategic force demonstrated top combat-readiness and met the highest modernstandards."

Russia was alarmed by a recent U.S. proposal to amend the 1972 Anti-BallisticMissile treaty to allow the United States to build a missile-defense system.The United States said it needed the system to protect itself against limitednuclear attacks by so-called rogue states, such as Iraq and North Korea.

But Russian military officials have said the real target was Russia.

The ABM treaty allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to protectjust one area each with interceptor missiles, but banned further developmentson the assumption that mutual fear of destruction would stop either sidefrom launching a nuclear attack.

But Russian-Western ties have deteriorated in recent years over a seriesof disputes, cooling the warm relationship that followed the collapse ofthe Soviet Union in 1991.

NATO's expansion to the east earlier this year, and its airstrikes againstYugoslavia, incensed the Russians. They have angrily rejected Western criticismof their current military campaign against breakaway Chechnya.

On Nov. 2, the Russian military fired an interceptor missile designedto knock down ballistic missiles – the first such test in years. The missilewas one of dozens deployed around Moscow in accordance with the ABM treaty.

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D. START

1.
Russian People's Support for Start-2 Assessed
        Obshchaya Gazeta
        November 11, 1999
        (for personal use only)

Viktor Litovkin report: "Russians Are More Sober-Minded Than Some PeopleImagined"

What is the Russian public's view of the problem of nuclear disarmamentand a reduction in strategic offensive arms? Deputies of the State Dumawho decline to ratify the START II Treaty refer here to the interests oftheir constituents, although no one has ever asked people about this.
 
Staff of the Moscow PIR-Center, the Center for Political Research ofRussia, set about eliminating this lacuna. With the help of the PublicOpinion Foundation they conducted a poll on this subject of the populationof 56 cities and townships in 29 oblasts, krays, and republics of the country.Some 1,500 respondents took part in the poll. What was learned?
 
Primarily the fact that nuclear weapons are our citizens' least concern.To the question "Would the world be more stable were more countries topossess nuclear weapons than currently" 75 percent of those polled didnot know how to respond. Only 14 percent were opposed to an expansion ofthe participants in the "nuclear club."
 
True, 57 percent of those polled voted for such weapons to be destroyedeverywhere. But 34 percent were opposed to this. Seventyeight percent ofpeople advocated Russia never transferring nuclear technology and weaponsto anyone under any circumstances.

More than half of those polled--54 percent--had never heard anythingabout the US Administration's plans to develop a system of national antimissiledefenses, to flagrantly violate the 1972 ABM Treaty between the UnitedStates and Russia, that is. Twentyfive percent had heard something aboutthis, but did not know what precisely. Although 47 percent of those polledpropose in response to the Americans' violation of this treaty the creationof our own ABM system. Thirtytwo percent consider it essential to obtainconcessions from Washington on this matter diplomatically, 8 percent considerit necessary to increase the number of our nuclear warheads. Fiftyfivepercent of the participants in the poll here (attention State Duma deputies!)vote for the ratification of the START II Treaty. Only 25 of society isopposed, and 20 percent are indifferent to this problem.
 
The overall result of the study shows, as Vladimir Orlov, directorof the PIR-Center, told your Obshchaya Gazeta military correspondent, thatthe population of our country has a far more sober view of the problemsof nuclear disarmament than some politicians. Particularly in the campaignperiod.
 
Should the START II Treaty be ratified? No, 25 percent. Yes, 55 percent.Could not say, 20 percent.

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E. U.S. – Russia General

1.
Bush Outlines Foreign Policy
        Ron Fournier
        Associated Press
        November 17, 1999
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON –– Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush sayshe would seek to cut off international aid to Russia if the bloodshed inChechnya continues.

Outlining his vision for American foreign policy in advance of a majoraddress Friday, the two-term Texas governor also said he would be willingto share technology to help Russia develop an anti-ballistic missile systemif Moscow pledged to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Bush said Russia, China, the Middle East and Central and South Americawould be his top priorities as president.

The Republican front-runner hopes Friday's speech and a Dec. 2 debatelay to rest questions about his presidential credentials. A string of foreignpolicy gaffes have raised doubts about his readiness in a field where hisfather, former President George Bush, excelled.

"I'm going to talk about optimism and keeping the peace, keeping thepeace not only for this generation but to keep the peace for a lengthyperiod of time," Bush said in a brief telephone interview Tuesday. "I'mgoing to talk about the need for America to seize the moment, to set atone for a new American internationalism.

"The way to achieve our objective will be through a strong military,through economic policy based upon fair trade and through strong alliances,"Bush said.

Like the rest of the GOP field, Bush wants Russia to amend the 1972Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty to allow the United States to develop a nationalmissile defense system.

In an effort to signal that the move would be purely defensive, Bushsaid he would offer to help Russia develop its own missile-defense systemby sharing technology. Russia must first pledge to stop spreading nuclearweapons technology to other nations, he said.

"Our priorities with Russia are to stop the spread of weapons of massdestruction, urging Russia to join us with the development of anti-ballisticmissile systems" and expand a program in which the United States helpsdismantle nuclear weapons for the Russians.

He said he hoped the steps would persuade Russia to amend the treaty."If they don't, we have the option to exit the treaty," Bush said. Oneof the greatest threats facing the nation is Russia's ability to providenuclear weapons technology to rogue nations, he said.

"We need to persuade them that we need to change ABM. We would be willingto share the technology so long as they make a pledge against the spreadof weapons technology," he said.

The Clinton administration has proposed helping Russia develop radartechnology in hopes that Russia amends the treaty. Condoleeza Rice, Bush'stop foreign policy adviser, said that while the administration is discussinga narrow incentive to Russia, Bush is talking about a broader – but notyet specific – approach to sharing technology "that might have any numberof elements."

"Anti-ballistic missile technology is good for all peace-loving nations,"she said.

Asked about fighting in Chechnya, Bush read from a draft of his address:"If the Russian government attacks innocent women and children in Chechnya,it cannot expect international aid," he said.

The proposal echoed a pledge made by rival John McCain, the Arizonasenator who said last week that he would give Russia 10 days to stop thefighting and then seek to cut off International Monetary Fund aid.

Aides say Bush does not plan to plow new ground with his address. Heis less interested in producing headlines, they said, than he is in showinghe is capable of dealing with substantial foreign policy issues in broadthemes.

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