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Nuclear News - 01/05/00
RANSAC Nuclear News, 05 January 2000

A.  Nuclear Testing
    1. Russia To Conduct Nuke Tests, Associated Press (01/01/00)
    1. Russia To Hold Talks On Nuclear Weapons Storage,Transportation,RFE/RL (12/28/99)
C.  National Laboratories
    1. Feinstein Criticizes UC Lab's Openness, Eric Lichtblau,Los Angeles Times (12/31/99)
D.  Russia - Iran
    1. Iran Hopes For Cooperation With Russia Under Putin, AgenceFrance Presse (01/05/00)
E.  Nuclear Waste
    1. Environmentalist Acquitted After Almost Four-Year LegalOdyssey,RFE/RL (12/30/99)

A. Nuclear Testing

Russia To Conduct Nuke Tests
        Associated Press
        January 1, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia will conduct a series of sub-critical nuclear testsat an Arctic testing range this year to check the safety of its nucleararsenal, a news report said Saturday.

Russia carries out an average of five sub-critical tests at the NovayaZemlya archipelago each year, and will continue the practice in 2000, theITAR-Tass news agency reported, citing the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry.

Such tests are not prohibited by the international Comprehensive TestBan Treaty because the amount of radioactive plutonium used is not enoughto create a nuclear explosion. But critics warn that carrying out evenlimited tests could encourage other countries to conduct full-scale nucleartests.

Weapons-grade plutonium and enriched uranium are used during the tests,but there is no discharge of nuclear energy.

The southern tip of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago is located above theArctic Circle, 1,178 miles north of Moscow, between the Barents and KaraSeas.

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Russia To Hold Talks On Nuclear Weapons Storage, Transportation
        December 28, 1999
        (for personal use only)

The Russian government has given a green light to negotiations betweenthe U.S. and Russian defense ministries on extending two 1995 treatiesdealing with the secure storage and transportation of nuclear weapons,Interfax reported on 27 December.

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C. National Laboratories

Feinstein Criticizes UC Lab's Openness
        Eric Lichtblau
        Los Angeles Times
        December 31, 1999
        (for personal use only)

Nuclear secrets poorly protected, senator says.

WASHINGTON -- The scandal over indicted nuclear scientist Wen Ho Leehas created a potentially damaging rift between Sen. Dianne Feinstein andthe University of California over what the Democratic senator considersthe school system's appalling attitude toward protecting nuclear secretsat its weapons labs, according to newly released documents.

The free-flowing exchange of information promoted by top universityofficials -- including UC President Richard C. Atkinson -- ``really doesa great disservice to our nuclear secrets,'' Feinstein charged at a closed-doorSenate hearing in June from which excerpts were released last week.

The sharp criticism of UC administrators came from an unlikely source:a home state senator who is known as a zealous defender of California'sinterests and has kept a low profile on allegations of espionage at theUC-run nuclear labs. As a result, her broadside could portend long-termpolitical problems for the state's university system -- not only in itsoperation of two nuclear labs but also in its appeal for broader financialsupport.

Indeed, uncertainty over whether Feinstein will back the universitysystem's continued operation of the labs is ``the $64,000 question,''acknowledgedUC Assistant Vice President Scott Sudduth, the system's point man in Washington.

For half a century, the University of California has run two weaponslaboratories for the federal government -- the Lawrence Livermore lab andthe Los Alamos lab in New Mexico.

But the Department of Energy, stung by controversy over China's purportedtheft of highly sensitive nuclear warhead technology, is already threateningto put the multimillion-dollar lab work out to bid for the first time in2002. And Feinstein's support is considered crucial to the University ofCalifornia's efforts to hold onto the job.

Feinstein said in an interview that although she had seen signs of tightenedsecurity at the labs, she had not made up her mind whether the UC systemshould continue to operate them.

``I think it's a fair and open question. I certainly have reached noconclusion. But I think it's appropriate to evaluate it,'' she said. ``I'mlooking at it from a perspective of a secure nuclear program. That's myfirst priority.''

Publicly, Feinstein has said little about the growing controversy overlab security. But her closed-door remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committeemake it clear that she privately holds deep concerns about the cultureand discipline of the labs -- and that she voiced her concerns to UC officialsin an occasionally volatile exchange.

At the Senate hearing, with Attorney General Janet Reno testifying onthe Lee affair, Feinstein said academic freedom seemed to have jeopardizednational security.

She questioned whether the ``culture of interaction'' at the nationallabs, encouraging employees to participate in symposiums and share informationwith non-lab colleagues, is ``an appropriate framework for America's essentiallydeepest and darkest nuclear secrets.''

Feinstein said that when she raised those concerns in a conversationwith the UC president and several regents, she found their reaction ``kindof appalling.''

The UC officials, she said, ``were upset that I challenged this, andthey said in response to my challenges: `Well, if you don't have this kindof free flow and openness in an academic setting . . . you're not goingto be able to attract a good quality of people because of the salary levels.'''

``And I have become very much of the view that if you have this kindof academic culture and academic discipline, that it really does a greatdisservice to our nuclear secrets,'' she said at the hearing.

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D. Russia - Iran

Iran Hopes For Cooperation With Russia Under Putin
        Agence France Presse
        January 5, 1999
        (for personal use only)

TEHRAN, Jan 5, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Iran looks forward tofurther expanding its ties with Russia under its new acting President VladimirPutin, said President Mohammad Khatami said in a message Tuesday congratulatingPutin on his appointment.

Khatami's message also expressed the hope that the conflict in Chechnya,"which has been a cause of worry to all the Muslims in the world" wouldbe solved peacefully, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Russia's ambassador to Tehran, Konstantin Shuvalov, assured Iran Sundaythat Moscow would implement their oil, gas and aeronautics cooperationaccords despite Boris Yeltsin's surprise resignation as president on Friday.

Russia said last month it will speed up construction work this yearon the controversial nuclear power station at Bushehr on Iran's Gulf coast.The plant is strongly opposed by the United States, which fears it willenable Iran to build nuclear weapons.

Apart from the Bushehr plant, where more than 2,000 Russians are working,Russia is working with Ukraine on building a new Tupolev aircraft in Iran.

Tehran has repeatedly condemned Russia's war on Islamic rebels in thebreakaway republic of Chechnya, without overtly criticising Moscow, sayingit favours a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi headed a delegation of the Organizationof the Islamic Conference which visited Moscow and met Putin, who was thenprime minister, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Muslim and Orthodox religiousleaders. The team also visited Ingushetia.

Kharazi said later that Iran wanted to send another OIC delegation toMoscow to discuss the issue again, and has said repeatedly that the organization-- currently chaired by Iran -- is ready to support efforts that wouldend the crisis.

However, it is Putin's tough handling of the campaign in Chechnya thathas swept him to popularity in Russia, and made him the hot favourite towin presidential elections in March.

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E. Nuclear Waste

Environmentalist Acquitted After Almost Four-Year Legal Odyssey
        December 30, 1999
        (for personal use only)

A St. Petersburg court on 29 December declared retired Naval CaptainAleksandr Nikitin not guilty of espionage and treason in connection withhis efforts to publicize the Russian Navy's environmentally hazardous practiceswith nuclear waste. Judge Sergei Golets said the accusations themselveswere unconstitutional because they were based on laws enacted only aftercharges were brought against Nikitin. Nikitin was arrested on 6 February1996.

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