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Nuclear News - 11/29/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 29 November 1999


    1. USEC Board Defers Resignation Decision, Washington Post(11/25/99)
B.  Russian Nuclear Forces
    1. Russia's Elite Missile-Men Get Paid Late Too, Reuters(11/25/99)
C.  Loose Nukes
    1. Experts: New Terrorists Harder to Track, Cite Homemade Nukesand Smaller Groups, (11/18/99)
D.  Russia – Iran
    1. Russia-Iran Nuclear Plant Project Makes Headway Adamov,Itar Tass (11/27/99)
E.  Brain Drain
    1. The Brain Drain, Moscow Times (11/27/99)


USEC Board Defers Resignation Decision
        Martha M. Hamilton
        Washington Post
        November 25, 1999
        (for personal use only)

USEC Inc.'s board of directors met yesterday but stopped short of resigningas the federal government's executive agent in a nuclear nonproliferationdeal with Russia.

The board of the Bethesda-based uranium-processing company—which thefederal government sold to shareholders in 1998--has told the Clintonadministrationand members of Congress that it may resign by Wednesday unless it getsassurances of federal financial assistance. But yesterday the board deferreda final decision until next week.

After conferring by telephone, "the board has taken the matter underadvisement and will make the appropriate decision by Dec. 1," the companysaid in a statement issued after the meeting.

The issue arose as a result of USEC's attempts to lobby Congress andthe administration for as much as $200 million in federal aid, blamingits financial difficulties in large part on its role as agent of an agreementbetween the United States and Russia designed to help rid the world ofnuclear weapons.

Under an accord created in 1993, USEC pays Russia for converting highlyenriched uranium from dismantled Soviet nuclear warheads into low-enricheduranium, which is then used as fuel in nuclear power plants.

USEC has been arguing that it loses money because the price it paysRussia for processing what was formerly weapons-grade uranium is higherthan its own cost of processing. But the Clinton administration and Congresshaven't stepped up with any financial aid.

On the contrary, as of last week the administration was negotiatingwith potential USEC competitors to take over the job, and both theadministrationand lawmakers from both parties were considering whether to rewrite legislationthat protects USEC from a takeover until mid-2001.

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B. Russian Nuclear Forces

Russia's Elite Missile-Men Get Paid Late Too
        November 25, 1999
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Nov 25 (Reuters) - They may be the best vetted and most trustworthytroops in Russia's army -- but the men who maintain Moscow's bomb get paidlate just like lesser mortals.

The elite Strategic Rocket Forces are chosen and screened with the aidof American-donated lie detectors and drug-testing kits and are widelybelieved within Russia to be treated better than non-nuclear comrades --not least because Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev was once their boss.

``As far as the minister's love is concerned, we receive our salarieswith delays, just like everyone else,'' Colonel-General Vladimir Yakovlev,who is in charge of thousands of Russian nuclear warheads, told Thursday'sVremya MN newspaper.

But Yakovlev insisted there was no chance of his men taking out theirfrustration by pressing a nuclear button.

``The fact that we haven't -- touch wood -- had an emergency situationin the last 40 years speaks for the effectiveness of our selection procedures,''he said.

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C. Loose Nukes

Experts: New Terrorists Harder to Track, Cite Homemade Nukes andSmaller Groups
        Hans H. Chen
        November 18, 1999
        (for personal use only)

TORONTO ( -- The United States faces new terrorist threatsthat range from wayward nuclear weapons to increasingly organized skinheadgroups, say researchers speaking at the American Society of Criminology'sannual conference.

The experts say the new threats will require law enforcement agenciesto adopt new tools and tactics.

Foremost among terrorism concerns may be the ability of rogue groupsto construct their own nuclear bombs from the shambles of the Soviet weaponssystem.

"The biggest barrier to terrorists building a nuclear weapon was theacquisition of fissionable material," said Julie Anderson, a researcherwith the City University of New York's graduate program. "Well, that barrierhas fallen significantly."

Anderson based her observation on a 3 1/2-month tour this year of Sovietweapons sites in which  she observed and listened to several casesof potential nuclear theft.

Bombs for blackmail or genocide

More than 100 nuclear-powered Soviet submarines have been decommissionedsince 1991, Anderson said, but their highly enriched plutonium engineshave not yet been disassembled.

"They haven't had the funds to do that, so you have these subs mooredin the docks, often with just one guard watching over them," she said.

If terrorist groups have built nuclear bombs, as some think they have,a possible use for the arms may be to blackmail a nation or commit instantgenocide in an ethnic conflict.

"They haven't used them yet, but the potential is becoming more real,"Anderson said. "There's a lot of hate out there."

Skinheads use hippies as models

Within the United States, domestic terrorism from racist skinheads maybecome more common as they turn to new recruiting and organizing techniques.

Though there are fewer of them today than in their heyday in the mid-1980s,the 500 or so active skinheads in the Pacific Northwest have begun drawingon both revolutionary and far-right rhetoric to recruit new members.

Just as the hippies of the 1960s mobilized against conservatism, skinheadspaint liberals of the older generation as the source of America's trouble.Skinheads have even co-opted some of the hippie terminology, albeit witha new racist and anti-Semitic slant.

"'The Man' now becomes 'ZOG,'" said Randy Blazak, a professor at PortlandState University in Oregon, referring to the common belief among skinheadsthat a "Zionist Owned Government" runs the country.

Small leaderless groups

And from far-right militia groups, skinheads have learned the tacticof breaking into small groups that are easy to mobilize through faxes butharder for law enforcement agencies to infiltrate and track.

"There's fewer of them, but it's more efficient," Blazak said.

In fact, the trend toward smaller, leaderless groups of terrorists maybe the most important change to terrorism that law enforcement agenciesare facing around the world, said Harvey Kushner, a professor at Long IslandUniversity who studies terrorist activities.

Law enforcement agencies from the FBI down must recognize this change,and that their old tactics of infiltrating groups, recruiting informantsor capturing or killing terrorist leaders may no longer work.

"They want us to believe that if we take this guy out, then the threatwill go away," Kushner said. "But it won't. More people will step up tothe plate -- hundreds will step up to the plate."

Avoiding confrontation

The new fight against terrorism may require a deeper understanding ofterrorist grievances and even a willingness to work with extremists. Kushnerpointed to the standoff several years ago between the FBI and a Montanaanti-government group called the Freemen as an example of this new approach.

Instead of storming the Freemen's compound, the FBI brought in outsidenegotiators, some virulently anti-government themselves, to reach a settlement.

"If you're law enforcement and you're looking for terrorists based onold models, you're lost," Kushner said.

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D. Russia – Iran

Russia-Iran Nuclear Plant Project Makes Headway Adamov
        Itar Tass
        November 27, 1999
        (for personal use only)

YEREVAN, November 27 (Itar-Tass) - Russia-assisted construction of Iran'sBusher nuclear power plant is going at a brisk pace, Russian Nuclear PowerMinister Yevgeny Adamov said here on Friday.

He said the construction project "is developing dynamically," and workhas entered a practical phase over this year.

Over 1,500 people are busy at the construction site these days. Adamovsaid work is going on buildings, reactor lids, steam generators and trubine,or lage-size equipment on which completion dates are dependent.

He said he would tour Russia's factories involved in the project, inparticular Saint Petersburg's in December "to see how the contract withIran is being practically implemented".

"We are gradually entering the timetable which was largely directivebut which is more and more becoming an actual timetable of meeting outobligations," Adamov said.

Iran has reaffirmed its intention to commission additional power unitsof the Busher plant to Russia, and work on the second unit has started,Adamov said.

He attended in the Armenian capital Yerevan a meeting of the Russian-Armeniangovernmental cooperation commission.

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E. Brain Drain

The Brain Drain
        Bryon MacWilliams
        Moscow Times
        November 27, 1999
        for personal use only)

On the first day of the fall semester, President Boris Yeltsin welcomeda group of prize-winning young students to the Kremlin. "In the first centuryof the new millennium, you will represent Russia, a great world power,"the ailing leader intoned. "We are all patriots, we all love Russia, andI am sure none of you will ever leave your country."

The remarks, aired on state television across Russia's 11 time zones,struck at the hastening brain drain throughout the sciences; the presidentcould not truthfully assert that the potential domestically rivaled thatin the West, so he branded the emigration of the so-called young Russianelite as a form of treason.

He did not mention that the reward for such allegiance during the pastdecade has meant poverty, outdated equipment, a fall in prestige and thesteady degradation of a proud scientific legacy. He might have been betterserved by the truth, however, as world-class research is nevertheless beingconducted - with international funding, and through contracts with overseasindustry - that makes a case for staying at home.

"The decline is uneven. While some sciences are dying, others are growing.I don't think there are only dark spots. There are light spots, as well,"Boris Kagarlitsky, a researcher at the Institute of Comparative Politicsof the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in Moscow.

More than half of the nation's estimated 500,000 scientists toil inMoscow, where the high cost of living and multi-faceted economy are enticementsto leave teaching and research; it is perhaps a rule that, in making one'sacquaintance, questions about profession are answered first with who aperson is by education - then by what he does for a living.

Siberian Proving Ground

It is not in the capital, researchers say, but in the remote Akademgorodok,or Academic Town, where the future of science will likely take shape. Thisso-called Golden Valley in Western Siberia - which was selected in 1957by General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev as the site for the Siberian Divisionof the Soviet Academy of Sciences - is a proving ground for the new modelunder liberal reforms.

While Moscow is almost certain to net the fattest contracts, the grassroots underpinning of day-to-day research - the commitment to modest, yetimportant work - could pace a renaissance from military to consumer purposesthat would restore pride and guarantee a stable living wage.

The town's 35 research institutes, academies of agriculture and medicineand campus of the Novosibirsk State University, or NGU, fan out among thebirch and pine forests on the shores of the Ob Sea, a mammoth man-madereservoir about 30 kilometers south of Novosibirsk, the largest city inSiberia.

"The scientific potential here has already begun shrinking, but theresearch continues and is of a high level," said Alexander Osadchuk, assistantto the director of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics. "The spiritof science is alive here. ... We're persevering. If we were better financed,we could keep up easily with other research scientific centers in the world."

That is positive talk for an institute averaging 15 defections per year.

Then again, the number of departing scientists has decreased from 30to 40 only a few years ago, director Vladimir Shumny said.

The local Institute of Catalysis once reportedly pasted a wall withdozens of photos of such scientists under the banner KapitalisticheskiyeUdarniki, or Capitalist Pace-setting Workers - a play on a similar Soviet-eradisplay of Sotsialisticheskiye Udarniki, or Socialist Pace-setting Workers.

Not All Stay Away

Dr. Nikolai Rubtsov was among the ÎmigrÎs, at least forawhile. The head of the institute's Laboratory of Morphology and Functionsof Cell Structures ultimately shelved better conditions in Germany to contributeto goals that might not be realized in his lifetime.

"I am from Novosibirsk. I am from Russia. I would like science in Russiato be good," he said. "I have a lot of [Russian] friends who work abroad.But if we are all abroad there will be no one to teach students for thefuture."

Rubtsov works an average of 13 hours per day in the winter and earnsa monthly salary of the ruble equivalent of $70. His parents, both of whomare retired and on pensions, help out financially. He has two sons whohelp tend a plot of land in the summer that yields vegetables and fruitsthat he preserves for the long, sub-freezing winter.

"Sometimes I think that it was my mistake to return to Russia becauseit's really very hard to work here, to live here," he said. "Maybe oneday I'll say, 'I give up. I'm ready to run away.'"

Administrators say scientists like Rubtsov benefit institutions by increasingprofiles abroad and cementing ties with researchers with whom to pursuejoint projects. Such people tend to bring back better equipment, too, albeitthrough donations or second-hand purchases.

But brain drain means more in Russia than losing the best scientists:One researcher brings with him the results of decades of collective workthat often has yet to be patented and, thus, the potential for untold earnings- all for the cost of one yearly salary at Western standards.

"Some [foreigners] help us and then help themselves by recruiting ourbest scientists," Shumny said. "But we are preserving science."

Such statements are easy for administrators, according to a researcherat the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, because they are the best paidand often glean portions of most grants for themselves.

"Their salary is a secret. They live very well," said the woman, whoasked that her name be withheld. "But our miserly money is impossible tolive on. For people my age, it is very difficult to change careers, thereforewe have nothing else to do but remain here. That is what they mean whenthey say, 'We are preserving science!'"

The vaunted Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics says it has curbed stafflosses to about 15 percent by turning to its socialist roots: All the moneythat flows into the institute - from state funding to foreign grants tocommercial business - is spread more or less equally among the staff of3,000, which includes about 500 scientists.

"There is an older generation who will study science to the very end,"said deputy director Eduard Kruglyakov. "Then, there is a younger generationwho cannot subsist and is leaving to pursue commercial interests."

So when noted scientists were each awarded 120,000 rubles through thePresidential Stipend, the money was channeled into 250 to 300 smaller stipendsfor students - who normally receive only two times the nation's minimumsalary of 83.50 rubles ($3.23).

The institute, which built one of the first electron-beam collidersto study fundamental properties of matter, has deals with countries inAsia, North America and Western Europe. "We try to merge our scientificinterests with those of business so as to persevere in our scientific research.We don't do business for the sake of business," Kruglyakov said.

Some people have begun to label Akademgorodok the Silicon Taiga in lightof its flourishing field of computer programming; some 40 software companieshave reportedly opened over the past several years.

Kirill Pavsky, 29, a researcher in mechanical mathematics at the Instituteof Semi-Conductor Physics, said many programmers have gone abroad as mostpost-graduates must take work at ad agencies or department stores to supplementmonthly stipends of about 200 rubles ($7.75). "I wouldn't refuse an overseasinvitation," he said.

As recently as the early 1980s, more than two thirds of Russian studentspursued engineering, medicine and agriculture and the overweening maledream was to become a cosmonaut. But numbers began to decline even beforeperestroika, scientists say, as the Soviet nomenclature - of which highereducation was a major part - began to dissolve.

Enrollment began to fall even more swiftly, along with prestige, afterthe end of the Cold War, when it became clear that the extreme militarization(there are still yashchiki, or mailboxes, about which only the addressesare known) of the pure sciences - and the ideological base of social sciencesand humanities - left the institutions incapable of adjusting to a marketeconomy
without deep suffering.

The Mir space station, one of the country's greatest achievements, hasbeen mothballed and will soon burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. The spacepavilion at the All-Russia Exhibition Center in Moscow - where spacecraftand bronze sculptures of cosmonauts have been piled into a corner, initialsnotched into their veneers - has given way to Indian shuttle traders.

Some view such consequences as far from tragic.

"Everybody in this country thinks we had great science. But what wasthis science used for? For making atomic bombs, for making tanks, for makingweapons and nothing else," said Dmitry Safonov, 27,a psychology studentat NGU whose father is a noted mathematician. "I'm a civilian. What wouldI like to have? A good TV, tape recorder, telephone, car and, above all,a well-equipped bathroom. I don't have these things from Soviet science.

"After our great science started to disintegrate, I got better cars,TV sets, VCRs and telephones in my country. So now I feel much better thanearlier when I had great science that did not serve the needs of people,not my needs, but the needs of the state - and a system that oppressedpeople."

Will the Flow Stop?

Speculation exists that the technological base will erode so substantiallywithin the next two generations that Russia will survive as a peripherynation rich only in minerals. "If Russia wants to guarantee its statehood,and not disintegrate into a colony or 'Balkanize,' then it has to develophigh technologies," said Konstantin Zuyev, a doctor of science formerlyof the RAS' Institute of Philosophy in Moscow.

Zuyev's career is testament to the wholesale restructuring of the sciences.

The former physics graduate of Moscow State University was a doctorof science at the RAS Institute of Philosophy in Moscow but now works asa professor of cultural theory at the Financial Academy of the Governmentof the Russian Federation, plus teaches political science at the MoscowState Linguistics University and Moscow Financial Economics Institute.For this, Zuyev - who also speaks five languages - earns $105 per month.

The questions, it follows, are which areas to support and how?

For instance, Zuyev said, it is improbable that the Russian automotivesector will compete with Japan, Germany and the United States. But Russiais one of only three countries in the world capable of designing and buildingan aircraft from start to finish. Yet the industry is dying because themilitary cannot afford new prototypes, the factories cannot afford to payworkers and
aerospace cannot, therefore, lure young talent.

Moscow's formerly top-secret Institute of Biomedical Problems has comeup with a novel way to market its space achievements to the consumer: ayogurt made with bacterial cultures scraped from intestines of orbitingcosmonauts, which purportedly bolsters the immune system in order to betterstave off illness and infection.

But one of the most salient examples of international collaborationis the development of a so-called biochip that could reportedly revolutionizeDNA study by allowing human genes to be read 1,000 times faster than currentmethods allow. Andrei Mirzabekov, director of the Engelhardt Instituteof Molecular Biology in Moscow, created the concept in the late 1980s -but the licensing outside of Russia is held exclusively by Motorola Inc.and the Packard BioScience Co.

The two companies inked a deal in 1998 with the U.S. Argonne NationalLaboratory that would result in the investment of nearly $30 million inprivate and government funds by 2003 to develop the key to a potentialmultibillion-dollar industry. Of these amounts, Engelhardt will see about$400,000 annually to keep the institute alive, as well as better equipmentand opportunities to work in the United States.

"The United States is the only country which offers the opportunityto develop science and its application in a very fast way. I am first ascientist, and as a scientist I have to think about what can get done inscience," Mirzabekov said at the time.

He pledged, however, never to abandon the research in Russia: "I wouldn'twant to be like a captain who leave his sinking ship."

Foreign grants and investment are not the lone answer. "The argumentis they fund what they want to keep, and let die what they don't, and setthe priorities for Russia in doing so," Kagarlitsky added.

Shumny, director of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, said thestaff is currently working under 20 grants from the International ScienceFoundation of American billionaire George Soros, as well as about 70 smallergrants from the Russian Fund for Basic Research - which is modeled on theU.S. National Science Foundation.

In 1992 Soros effectively introduced to Russia the notion of "peer review,"whereby research proposals and academic papers are submitted to an anonymouspanel of experts prior to awarding funds. But while the process is laudedas a savior by many scientists, it is maligned by others - particularlythose who are older, do not speak English, are not savvy at lobbying orview as
detrimental anything that detracts from research.

West Worries About the Drain

Demoralized Russian scientists are a source of worry to the United States,which has been spending millions of dollars to support research that willsupposedly dissuade cooperation with nations such as Iran, Iraq, Libyaand North Korea.

Earlier this year, the Russian administration confirmed that The ScientificResearch and Design Institute of Power Technology (NIKIET), a nuclear reactordesign center, had held talks with Iran on the proposed sale of a nuclearresearch reactor after the United States imposed sanctions against threeRussian institutes for allegedly helping the country develop missile andnuclear capabilities.

In June 1998, scientists joined miners and teachers in protesting wagearrears of 255 million rubles (then $41.3 million). Vladimir Strakhov,director of the Institute of Earth Physics in Moscow, went on hunger strikestwice in 1996. And Vladimir Khlebodarov, union president of RAS workers,said the RAS has seen more than 70,000 scientists leave for the more lucrativeprivate sector.

The 2000 draft budget allocates barely enough to ensure continued cutbacksand the accompanying pain.

Yet one needs only look at the academy's history to venture that thetruth - in a country not unfamiliar with upheaval - likely lies somewherebetween full recovery and final death:

Peter the Great recruited 17 academics from abroad in 1724 to foundthe Academy of Sciences, saying, "The Academy should bring us trust andhonor in Europe, and prove that people are working here for science andthat it is time to stop considering us barbarians who disregard science."

This year, the academy celebrated its 275th anniversary.

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