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Nuclear News 12/22/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 22 December 1999


A.  START

    1. Putin's START II Call May Get Treaty Passed, NatalyaShulyakovskaya,Moscow Times (12/23/99)
B.  Nuclear Power Industry
    1. U.S., Kazakhstan Agree to Decommission, Secure KazakhstaniNuclear Reactor Near Iranian Border, Department of Energy (12/21/99)
    2. U.S.-Kazakhstan Agree To Close Nuclear Reactor, Reuters(12/22/99)
    3. IN BRIEF: Kola Plant Shut Down, Associated Press(12/23/99)
C.  Russian Nuclear Forces
    1. 1965 Russian Sub on Net Auction, Dave Bryan, AssociatedPress (12/21/99)
D.  Department of Energy
    1. The China Spy Scandal That Never Was, Robert Scheer, LosAngeles Times (12/21/99)
    2. Richardson Aims To Ease Security, Ian Hoffman, AlbuquerqueJournal (12/21/99)
E.  Y2K
    1. Russians Head To U.S. For Millennium Missile Watch, Reuters(12/22/99)
F.  ABM, Missile Defense
    1. No Breakthrough In Russia-U.S. Missile Talks, Reuters(12/22/99)

A. START

1.
Putin's START II Call May Get Treaty Passed
        Natalya Shulyakovskaya
        Moscow Times
        December 23, 1999
        (for personal use only)

The new State Duma is likely to do what Prime Minister Vladimir Putinhas asked and at last ratify the 1993 START II arms control treaty, expertssaid Wednesday.

Putin pushed for ratification Tuesday in his first meeting with theleaders of the new Duma.

The step coincided with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott'sarrival for talks on arms control, among other things, and was seen asa gesture of good will toward the United States.

It also showed Putin's desire to build on his image as Russia's nextpresident, said Ivan Safranchuk, an analyst with the PIR Center.

"Putin wants to improve his own image and show that although he is aRussian patriot he is also a rationally thinking statesman," Safranchuksaid.

Although Putin said Wednesday that the sooner START II is ratified thebetter, the chances of the outgoing Duma taking up the vote are next tonil.

The Communists, who have long opposed the treaty, said Tuesday theywould not consider it this month.

But with the Communists' hold on the Duma weakened after the electionsand the good showing by pro-Putin parties, ratification early next yearis seen as likely.

'"It is already clear that most politicians [in the new Duma] don'thave any firm views as far as foreign policy is concerned. It is not amatter of principle for them. They don't know much about it, They careabout it far less than they care about the economy." Safranchuk said.

"Why would [Unity bloc leader Sergei] Shoigu worry about foreign policy?There is nothing ablaze. No one is dying. I don't even mention [Unity'sAlexander] Karelin-the-wrestler."

Under the terms of the treaty, both nations would reduce their nuclearforces to no more than 3,500 warheads by 2003. The United States now hasnearly 8,000 warheads and Russia about 6,700.

The U.S. Senate approved the treaty in 1996, and the Russian governmentand military have supported it, in part because of the expense of maintainingan aging nuclear arsenal.

"Putin, thinking as a future president, has to bring this importantsubject to a close," Andrei Ryabov of the Carnegie Moscow Center said."He has to free up financial resources to deal with economic and socialissues so Russia doesn't constantly scramble for money to cover its defensebudget.

"Today Russia is a mere shadow of the giant that the Soviet Union was.Russia cannot continue the same expensive programs the Soviet Union couldafford."

Communists and nationalists in the Duma, however, have balked at ratifyingSTART II, saying it endangers Russia's security.

Even so, the Duma has been an inch away from ratification several timeswhen a cooling off of relations with the West squashed the vote. The votewas canceled in late 1998 after U.S. airstrikes on Iraq, and last springbecause of the U.S.-led war against Serbia.

The Communists refused to consider a vote before the parliamentary elections,but faction leaders in the outgoing Duma agreed to put a vote on the agendain the next session.

"Now it will be possible unless the United States and the West undertakesome drastic actions to pressure Russia on issues related to Chechnya,"said Boris Romashkin, an expert with the Duma's defense committee.

Washington's current desire to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic MissileTreaty to allow for a limited national missile defense system has met stiffresistance in Moscow.

But the Russian bill on START II ratification contains a provision thatRussia will be free to break out of the treaty if the United States violatesthe ABM treaty.

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B. Nuclear Power Industry

1.
U.S., Kazakhstan Agree to Decommission, Secure Kazakhstani NuclearReactor Near Iranian Border
        Department of Energy
        December 21, 1999
        (for personal use only)

Agreements Reached on Trade, Energy,
Tax Exempt Status for Nonproliferation Programs;
Two Kazakhstani Children to Receive U.S. Open Heart Surgery

Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson this week signed an implementingagreement with the Republic of Kazakhstan to close and decommission itsplutonium-producing BN-350 nuclear reactor in Aktau, Western Kazakhstan,located near the Iranian border. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) isassisting with the security and disposition of plutonium in spent fuelstored at the reactor site.

The Aktau nuclear reactor agreement was one of two signed by SecretaryRichardson in Washington, D.C. as part of the U.S.-Kazakhstan BilateralCommission meeting. The second agreement strengthens commercial activitiesbetween U.S. and Kazakhstani power sectors, expands exporting opportunitiesfor U.S. companies and creates jobs in both Kazakhstan and the United States.

Officials also agreed to restart DOE's Initiatives for ProliferationPrevention (IPP) "brain drain" program in Kazakhstan. This will allow workto move forward on collaborative efforts by DOE national laboratories andKazakhstani research institutes formerly involved in work supporting thedevelopment of weapons of mass destruction.

Separately, Secretary Richardson also announced that two Kazakhstanichildren will receive heart surgery in the United States as the resultof cooperation involving DOE, the Republic of Kazakhstan and the ForumClub's Children of the World Foundation.

Secretary Richardson signed the agreements with Kazakhstani MinisterShkolnik on Sunday, December 19 in a Blair House ceremony.

"Taken together, these agreements are strong steps that re-emphasizethe commitment of the United States and Kazakhstan to stem weapons proliferationand promote nuclear safety," said Secretary Richardson. "StrengtheningKazakhstan's energy sector will open up new avenues for trade and job creationfor both America and Kazakhstan." Secretary Richardson also welcomed thetwo Kazakhstani boys who will be coming to the United States for open heartsurgery, saying "We hope and pray that this humanitarian effort will succeedin restoring the health of these two Kazakhstani children."

Kazakhstani Nuclear Reactor Closure and Decommissioning The bilateralimplementing agreement for the decommissioning project clears the way foran international support program to ensure that the BN-350 nuclear reactorin Aktau, Kazakhstan, is safely and permanently closed. DOE's Office ofNonproliferation and National Security has already provided basic firesafety equipment to the reactor and Y2K-ready computers for the plantinformationsystem.

A major concern is the security and disposition of weapons-usable plutoniumin spent fuel stored at the reactor site. DOE has nearly completed a projectto reduce the vulnerability of this material by securing it in the reactor'sspent fuel pools. The next phase of the project calls for the removal ofthe material for long-term storage. The Secretary announced that a jointU.S.-Kazakhstani expert group would launch a study on long-term storageoptions early next year.

Energy and Trade Agreement DOE and the Republic of Kazakhstan have agreedto cooperate to help ensure that U.S. developers are made aware of opportunitiesto participate in industrial-scale power generation projects in Kazakhstanof up to 35 megawatts. Opportunities include establishing new combinedheat and power generating  facilities, and upgrading older ones, thatwould take advantage of modern, cleaner U.S. technologies and equipment.U.S. developers would assist in bringing needed investment capital toKazakhstanicompanies and municipalities for these projects. Additional benefits includereducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs in both Kazakhstanand the United States.

Tax Exempt Status for Brain Drain Programs Kazakhstan's lifting of taxationon salary payments made under DOE's Initiatives for Proliferation Preventionwill allow this "brain drain" program to proceed immediately in Kazakhstan.IPP seeks to enhance U.S. national security and nonproliferation objectivesby engaging scientists, engineers and technicians from former weapons ofmass destruction and weapons-related institutes, redirecting their activitiesin cooperatively-developed, commercially viable non-weapons related projects.Kazakhstani scientists involved in collaborative IPP projects will participatein an International Symposium sponsored by the Kazakhstani Ministry ofScience in Almaty, Kazakhstan in the latter part of 2000. Six projectsvalued at $650,000 will restart immediately. Four additional projects witha value of $600,000 could be funded shortly; another six projects witha total value of more than $2.8 million are currently being developed andreviewed.

Heart Surgery for Kazakhstani Children Thanks to the combined effortsof the Department of Energy and the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Forum Club'sChildren of the World Foundation has agreed to pay the expenses for criticalU.S. open heart surgery for two children from Almaty, Kazakhstan. AblaykhanDosayev, almost three years old, has serious heart trouble that severelylimits his activities due to inadequate blood flow and threatens his lifeexpectancy substantially. His operation, which is expected to occur inFebruary, will utilize an artificial blood circulation apparatus not availablein Kazakhstan that is expected to restore Ablaykhan to full health anda normal life expectancy. Ersultan Abdygaliev, one year old, has been diagnosedwith a congenital hole in his heart. His surgery is expected early nextyear.

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2.
U.S.-Kazakhstan Agree To Close Nuclear Reactor
        Reuters
        December 22, 1999
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON, Dec 22, 1999 -- (Reuters) The Republic of Kazakhstan agreedthis week to close and decommission a plutonium-producing nuclear reactorin response to concerns about its security, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and Kazakh Minister VladimirShkolnik signed an implementing agreement on Sunday to permanently closethe BN-350 nuclear reactor in Aktau, Western Kazakhstan, located near theIranian border.

U.S. officials were concerned about the vulnerability of its securitysystem and disposition of weapons-usable plutonium in spent fuel storedat the reactor site. DOE has already provided basic fire safety equipmentto the reactor and Y2K-ready computers for the plant information system.

Working with U.S. nuclear experts, Kazakhstan officials will begin theprocess of removing the plutonium for long-term storage. Richardson saida joint U.S.-Kazakh group will launch a study on long-term storage optionsearly next year.

"These agreements are strong steps that reemphasize the commitment ofthe United States and Kazakhstan to stem weapons proliferation and promotenuclear safety," Richardson told reporters during the U.S.-Kazakhstan BilateralCommission meeting.

The United States is the largest source of foreign investment in oil-richKazakhstan.

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3.
IN BRIEF: Kola Plant Shut Down
        Associated Press
        December 23, 1999
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW -- A reactor at the Kola nuclear power plant in northern Russiashut down Tuesday because of human error during a test of its automaticshutdown system, Itar-Tass reported.

The reactor was turned off by the system to isolate reactors in theevent of a problem because of an error by plant personnel during a scheduledcheck of the system, a spokesman at the Rosenergoatom company told Itar-Tass.

The plant's background radiation remained unchanged, the report said.Experts were preparing a program to restart the reactor, one of four operatedby the plant.

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C. Russian Nuclear Forces

1.
1965 Russian Sub on Net Auction
        Dave Bryan
        Associated Press
        December 21, 1999
        (for personal use only)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. –– Posted on the Internet auction site eBay justin time for last-minute Christmas shopping is a one-of-a-kind gift: Along-range,missile-capable submarine from the former Soviet Russia.

Cost? A cool $1 million. Or best offer.

But bidders must act fast. The diesel-powered vessel commissioned in1965 – named Juliett by NATO during the Cold War – is only for sale untilDec. 29.

People have offered plenty of off-beat items on eBay's Web site, includinga recent offer for a 1956 six-cylinder locomotive for $30,000, Kevin Pursglove,spokesman for San Jose, Calif.-based eBay, said Tuesday.

But the 300-foot-long by 33-foot-wide submarine, painted black savefor a deep red star at its midsection, definitely is in a class of itsown, he said.

"Unless someone has been able to sneak one by us without our noticingit, this is the first one," Pursglove said.

As of early Tuesday evening, no offers had been made for the sub, whichwas posted for sale at a minimum initial bid of $1 million on Dec. 19 byHelsinki, Finland-based Oy Sub-Expo Ltd. The company purchased the vessel,which originally targeted U.S. aircraft carrier groups, in 1994 from theRussian Ministry of Defense.

The city wants the Port of St. Petersburg to be rid of the 2,400-tonvessel because it no longer makes money as a tourist attraction and hasbeen sinking into debt.

According to information on the Oy Sub-Expo Web site, the submarinewas brought to Helsinki where it was first employed as a museum with arestaurant. But the venture was not profitable, perhaps because meals wereserved in the cramped, musty smelling quarters of the sub's former batteriescompartment.

In 1997, a Canadian company, Russian Submarine, B.C., Ltd., leased theJuliett from Sub-Expo and brought it to St. Petersburg the next year, signingan agreement with the city to dock the ship at the Port of St. Petersburg.

The agreement came with a cost of $288 a day over a 2½-year periodbetween September 1997 and March 2000.

But when the Canadian company filed for bankruptcy earlier this year,the city and Sub-Expo came to an agreement in which the city would forgiveabout $123,000 in fees.

In return, the company must move the vessel, and has opted to sell it.

Some were skeptical the company will get any offers.

City council member Bill Foster laughed upon hearing the Juliett wasbeing auctioned.

"EBay is a great thing. I bought a Gameboy off there last week," Fostersaid. "Whether or not you can sell a submarine is another thing. The Russiangovernment would have a fit if they knew."

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D. Department of Energy

1.
The China Spy Scandal That Never Was
        Robert Scheer
        Los Angeles Times
        December 21, 1999
        (for personal use only)

For the past year, the news has been punctuated with lurid stories heraldinga China spy scandal. Most of that fear-mongering was based on the reportof a congressional committee headed by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.)and compiled by a staff that included not a single nuclear weapons expert.
 
Yet when five of the leading national security experts released a studylast week showing that the Cox committee report was riddled with factualerrors, its language "inflammatory" and its key conclusions "unwarranted,"the media barely noticed.
 
The report, compiled by a research team at Stanford University's Centerfor International Security, was coordinated by Michael M. May, directoremeritus of the Livermore National Laboratory, where he was a leader inthe U.S. nuclear weapons program for 36 years. The Stanford study concludesthat "there is no credible evidence presented or instances described ofactual theft of U.S. missile technology."
 
Most of the Cox report--600 of its 900 pages--dealt with that supposedsale or "theft" of missile-launch technology. That was also the claim ofstories in the New York Times last year that won the paper a Pulitzer Prize.The paper has not reported on the Stanford report.
 
However, the congressional and media hysteria did result in legislationthat threatens U.S. leadership in the information age. According to thereport, "Probably the most damaging consequence for this nation's technologyand business leadership in space is the Cox committee's ill-timed and poorlythought out overturn of the existing satellite export-control regime,"which has created bureaucratic barriers to satellite launches.
 
U.S. satellite makers had used the Chinese to launch their productsbecause the U.S. program, which had relied on the success of the spaceshuttle, was scuttled after the Challenger disaster. As one of Stanford'smissile experts, Lewis R. Franklin, notes: "Although the Cox report wantedto portray it otherwise, it was not a bad outcome for the People's Republicof China to have more reliable commercial space launching rockets, as theymostly launch U.S.-built satellites. . . . By taking advantage of the PRClaunch capabilities over the 1990-1998 period, one French and eight U.S.satellites were successfully launched . . . resulting in U.S. commercialdominance of the Asian communications satellite market."
 
The other major concern of the Cox committee centers on the "theft"of nuclear warhead technology. Wolfgang K.H. Panofsky, the world-renownedStanford physicist who has been active in the nuclear weapons program sincethe first nuclear bomb, offers a blistering dismissal of the Cox committeeclaim that China stole the W-88 technology. While the Cox committee refersto this as the most modern weapon in the U.S. arsenal, it is actually adesign that is more than 30 years old.
 
Panofsky offers a detailed brief as to why the Chinese did not requireadvice from the U.S. or the transfer of high-powered computers to developsuch a weapon. The W-88 was originally developed with "computers of muchlower capacity than high-performance computers now on the open market."
 
Although the Justice Department has charged former Los Alamos scientistWen Ho Lee with improperly downloading classified files between 1993 and1997, they do not claim that this has anything to do with China's explosionof a weapon like the W-88, which occurred before that time on Sept. 25,1992. Also, as Panofsky states, the Chinese weapon "is believed to be largerthan the W-88 and is not even remotely a copy or a 'knock-off,' to useCongressman Cox's term, of the W-88."
 
Nor would the W-88 provide a strategic advantage to the Chinese nuclearforce, which consists of 20 antiquated, liquid-fueled missiles hardly capableof challenging the more than 5,000 modern intercontinental weapons possessedby the U.S. They could not even begin this Herculean task of catching upwithout nuclear testing, which the Chinese stopped in 1995. "New designs,"based on purloined data, Panofsky wrote, "without nuclear testing are extremelydifficult, if not impossible."
 
The truth, as the naked eye of holiday shoppers can attest, is thatif there is a Chinese threat, it's not in that nation's puny nuclear forcebut rather the cheaply produced products flooding U.S. stores exportedby a country hellbent on attaining economic prosperity rather than nuclearweapon supremacy.

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2.
Richardson Aims To Ease Security
        Ian Hoffman
        Albuquerque Journal
        December 21, 1999
        (for personal use only)

LOS ALAMOS -- Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on Monday promised tolobby for a rollback of new security laws that most irk scientists at NewMexico's national laboratories.
 
Richardson said federal lawmakers cuffed science at the labs too tightlywith security restrictions in 1999.
 
"We've got to move on," he told reporters in Los Alamos, after a dayin which he met privately with scientists and engineers at both Los Alamosand Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque.
 
"We've had a tough year," he said.
 
Congress clamped down this year on the U.S. Department of Energy andits weapons labs in response to allegations China had stolen secrets onevery U.S. nuclear warhead. Some lawmakers acknowledged the allegationsverged on speculation, and the FBI has directed its espionage inquiriesto other defense contractors.
 
Congress left mandates for widespread polygraph testing of DOE scientists,cuts in research funding and barriers to lab work with foreign scientists.
 
Lab workers handling the most secret weapons information still willbe forced to undergo polygraph testing, but their numbers will be limitedto 800 nationwide. Roughly half of those will be in New Mexico.
 
Richardson said he will ask Congress to amend a law requiring polygraphsfor as many as 13,000 workers over five years. He acceded to scientists'demands for an independent study of the validity of polygraph testing.DOE officials said they probably will ask the National Academy of Sciencesto perform the review, as requested by polygraph critic Sen. Jeff Bingaman,D-N.M.
 
"Nonetheless, we're going to do them," Richardson said of the polygraphs.
 
Scientists told Richardson they resented sharp budget cuts for travelto such nations as Russia, where they work to prevent the loss of nuclearweapons and materials. Richardson told them he also would try to get ridof restrictions on visits and joint scientific work with foreign scientists.
 
"The mission was to tell them that we're thankful for what they'redoing," Richardson told reporters. "The year 2000 has got to be betterthan this year."
 
Los Alamos lab director John C. Browne said Richardson's comments werewelcomed by lab employees. Richardson is expected to issue the same messagetoday at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
 
"The secretary said a lot of things that employees were hoping to hear,"Browne said.

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E. Y2K

1.
Russians Head To U.S. For Millennium Missile Watch
        Reuters
        December 22, 1999
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Dec 22, 1999 -- (Reuters) Russian missile specialists left forthe U.S. on Tuesday as part of a millennium operation to ensure none ofthe two countries' 4,400 nuclear missiles are fired in error at the endof the century.

Russian specialists will join U.S. experts at a staff center in Coloradoto watch for any false warnings of missile attacks sparked by the Y2K computerbug, Itar-Tass news agency said.

Both nations have taken steps to ensure their forces are not hit bythe millennium problem, which may cause some computers to mistake 2000for 1900 and crash.

Tass reported that 18 specialists from Russia's central forces for rocketand space defense were heading to Peterson Air Force Base, head of theU.S. missile-tracking Space Command in Colorado where the teams will monitorthe millennium bug.

"We really do not fear that in Russia there could be an accidental rocketlaunch, a fault with early-warning systems or any other problems," Tassquoted Anatoly Shishkin, top general staff rocket forces official, as saying.

Russia and the United States have expressed confidence their missileswill not accidentally launch when the clock ticks midnight on December31.

"I fully trust Russia's military professionals who will be on duty andwho will be prevent the dissemination of false information," Shishkin said.

The teams will start their joint watch on December 27, working shiftsfor three weeks around the clock as they make sure Russia's 2,000 nuclear-tippedmissiles and the U.S.'s 2,440 which are on permanent alert, do not accidentallygo off.

The joint monitoring was agreed on despite relations between the twocountries being at a post-Cold War low.

Russia was angry with the United States for leading NATO's air strikecampaign against fellow Slav state Yugoslavia during the Kosovo crisisand for Washington's plans to alter a key arms control treaty.

The United States has also criticized Moscow for its offensive againstMoslem rebels in breakaway Chechnya.

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F. ABM, Missile Defense

1.
No Breakthrough In Russia-U.S. Missile Talks
        Reuters
        December 22, 1999
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Dec 22, 1999 -- (Reuters) Russia and the United States failedto make headway in a row over U.S. plans to build an anti-missile defenseshield, Interfax news agency said on Wednesday, citing unnamed diplomaticsources.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott was in Moscow to discussarms control. But Interfax said the sides had failed to come closer overthe issue of the U.S. defense shield, which would violate the 1972Anti-BallisticMissile pact unless Washington persuades Moscow to amend the treaty.

The 1972 Cold-War-era pact placed strict limits on defense systems designedto shoot down enemy missiles, under the logic that such shields would drivethe Soviet Union and the United States to stockpile ever larger arsenalsof nuclear warheads.

But the United States now wants to build a limited system to protectitself from nascent missile programs in countries it calls "rogue states",like Iran or North Korea.

Russia has said it would respond by increasing its offensive nuclearcapability.

"If the basic foundations are changed as the Americans suggest, thetreaty would lose its point," Interfax quoted its source as describingthe Russian position.

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