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Nuclear News, 01/10/00
RANSAC Nuclear News, 10 January 2000


A.  Russian Nuclear Forces

    1. Russia's Missile Warning System Is Decaying, U.S. Says,Jonathan S. Landay, Miami Herald (01/09/00)
B.  U.S. – Russian Relations
  1. Albright To Meet Putin In Moscow Jan 30, Reuters(01/08/00)
C.  Plutonium Disposition
    1. Record of Decision Issued for Surplus Plutonium Disposition,DOE (01/04/00)
D.  Department of Energy (DOE)
    1. Energy Department Proceeds With Implementation Of NationalNuclear Security Administration, DOE (01/07/00)
    2. Plan Outlined For Nuclear Weapons Agency, Associated Press(01/08/00)

A. Russian Nuclear Forces

1.
Russia's Missile Warning System Is Decaying, U.S. Says
        Jonathan S. Landay
        Miami Herald
        January 9, 2000
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON -- Russia's early warning system is so decayed that Moscowis unable to detect U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile launches forat least seven hours a day and no longer can spot missiles fired from Americansubmarines at all, U.S. officials and experts say.

At most, only four of Russia's 21 early warning satellites are stillworking, according to experts on Moscow's space program. That gives Russiancommanders no more than 17 hours -- and perhaps as little as 12 hours --of daily coverage of the 550 nuclear-tipped ICBM silos in Colorado, Montana,Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming.

"Against submarines, they basically have no warning," said TheodorePostol, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who studies Russia'searly warning system.

But because the logic of nuclear deterrence requires both sides to launchtheir missiles before a surprise attack obliterates them, Russia'ssemi-blindnessis as dangerous to the United States as it is to Russia. The fear is thatin the heat of a serious crisis, Russian military and civilian leaderscould misread a nonthreatening rocket launch or ambiguous data as a nuclearfirst strike and launch a salvo at the United States and Western Europe.

If Russia's early warning system "cannot reassure Russian leaders thatfalse alarms are indeed benign events, the danger for both countries couldbe significant," said an August 1999 report by the Congressional BudgetOffice, a research agency for Congress.

"I think the chances (of a nuclear mistake) are rising...from what Ifelt was a very, very low level," warned former Ambassador James Goodby,who negotiated the U.S.-funded destruction of Russian nuclear weapons."...The effects of a glitch would be cataclysmic."

Although U.S. officials insist there is little chance of an inadvertentnuclear war, the Clinton administration finds itself in the unusual positionof offering to help the Russians detect an American missile attack. Oneproposal calls for establishing a joint early warning center in Moscow,another for helping to finance the rebuilding of Russia's early warningsystem.

Early warning radars and satellites remain important because, whilethe United States and Russia have agreed to "de-target" each other, bothcan re-program their missiles in minutes. China, Britain and France alsomaintain ICBM forces. Other countries, including Iran, Iraq, Israel, India,North Korea and Pakistan, are pursuing long-range missile programs.

Russia still keeps an estimated 2,000 nuclear warheads on high alert,most of them atop silo-based SS-18 missiles. Experts say the United Stateshas as many as 2,500 warheads on high alert, divided between Ohio classsubmarines -- four of which are always poised to fire -- and 50 MX and500 Minuteman III missiles in five northern states.

The Kremlin cannot afford to put into orbit the six replacement satellitesit needs to resume 24-hour surveillance of American missile silos, expertssay. Nor can the Russians pay to activate replacements for two land-basedearly warning radars. One was demolished by the former Soviet republicof Latvia in August 1998; the other was dismantled in 1991, after yearsof American complaints, because it violated the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missiletreaty.

As a result, experts in and outside the U.S. government say, Russianradars are blind in the northern areas of the Atlantic and Pacific oceanswhere U.S. ballistic missile submarines operate, each loaded with 24 Tridentmissiles tipped with up to eight nuclear warheads apiece.

Although Russia is believed to have tightened the already strict controlson its nuclear arsenal, experts say there have been several close calls.

The most recent was in January 1995, when Russian officers, despiteprior notification, mistook the launch of a U.S.-Norwegian science rocketfor a U.S. nuclear strike. They alerted the  Kremlin, where formerpresident Boris Yeltsin was brought the briefcase containing the launchcodes for a retaliatory Russian attack. The error was caught just in timebecause Russian satellites detected no launches from U.S. missile silos,experts say.

In 1995, however, those satellites still had 24-hour surveillance capability.Today they do not.

U.S. officials are sufficiently concerned that President Clinton signeda September 1998 accord proposing a center in Moscow where the Russianmilitary could review data from American early warning satellites and radars.In return, U.S. officers would be able to view Russian early warning data.

The administration also would be "receptive to discussions" about footingRussia's $200 million bill for lofting new satellites to restore 24-hoursurveillance of U.S. missile silos, said a senior U.S. defense officialwho asked not to be identified.

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B. U.S. – Russian Relations

1.
Albright To Meet Putin In Moscow Jan 30
        Reuters
        January 8, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Jan 8, 2000 -- (Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albrightis expected to meet Russia's Acting President Vladimir Putin at the endof January during a visit to Moscow, Itar-Tass news agency quoted diplomaticsources as saying on Friday.

Tass said Albright would arrive on January 30, two days before a plannedsession of Middle East peace talks at foreign ministers' level, which Russiaand the United States are due to chair jointly in the Russian capital.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the Tass report.

The meeting with Putin would be the first since the prime minister tookover as acting president on New Year's eve when Boris Yeltsin announcedhis shock resignation.

Albright will also hold talks with her Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov,focusing on progress towards ratification by Russia's State Duma lowerhouse of parliament of the START-2 treaty, which cuts nuclear arsenalson both sides, Tass said.

A possible visit to Moscow by U.S. President Bill Clinton could alsobe on the agenda, it added.

Clinton, who has criticized Russia's military campaign against Islamicmilitants in the breakaway Chechnya region, spoke by phone to Putin onJanuary 1 and said relations were "off to a good start".

U.S.-Russian relations have been chilly since Moscow denounced lastyear's NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. Russia has also criticizedWashington's attempts to modify the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.

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C. Plutonium Disposition

1.
Record of Decision Issued for Surplus Plutonium Disposition
        Department of Energy
        January 4, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The Department of Energy today announced its decision to safely andsecurely dispose of up to 50 metric tons of surplus plutonium from theUnited States in a hybrid approach and to construct and operate three newfacilities at its Savannah River Site (SRS). Such comprehensive actionsare needed to ensure that surplus plutonium is never again used in nuclearweapons.

The hybrid approach allows for the immobilization of approximately 17metric tons of surplus plutonium and the use of up to 33 metric tons asmixed oxide (MOX) fuel. The new plutonium disposition facilities will providepit disassembly, plutonium conversion, immobilization, and MOX fuel fabricationservices.

"This decision sends a strong signal to the world that the U.S. is determinedto reduce surplus weapons-grade plutonium as quickly and efficiently aspossible to ensure that it cannot be used in weapons again,"said Secretaryof Energy Bill Richardson.

These facilities will be located in F Area at the Savannah River Site(SRS) with construction scheduled to peak in 2003. Savannah River was selectedbecause it has extensive experience with plutonium processing and the plutoniumdisposition facilities would complement existing missions and take advantageof existing infrastructure.

The pit disassembly and conversion facility will disassemble nuclearweapons pits and convert the resulting plutonium metal to a declassifiedoxide form suitable for disposition, using either immobilization or MOXfuel fabrication. The immobilization facility will use ceramic can-in-canistertechnology, which immobilizes the plutonium in a ceramic form, seals itin cans, and places the cans in canisters filled with borosilicate glasscontaining high-level radioactive waste.

The MOX fuel fabrication facility will produce MOX fuel for irradiationin existing domestic commercial reactors. These reactors are the CatawbaNuclear Station near York, S.C.; the McGuire Station near Huntersville,N.C.; and the North Anna Power Station near Mineral, Va.. Ultimate disposalof both the immobilized plutonium and the MOX fuel (as spent fuel) wouldtake place in a geologic repository pursuant to the Nuclear Waste PolicyAct. Because adequate reactor capacity is available in the United States,the Department is no longer actively pursuing the option of using CanadianDeuterium Uranium reactors for the disposition of United States surplusplutonium. To assist the U.S., Russia and Canada in considering this optionfor the disposition of Russian surplus plutonium, the three countries areconducting an experiment which will involve irradiating U.S. and RussianMOX fuel pins in a Canadian research reactor. This effort involves makinga one-time shipment of a small quantity of fuel from the U.S. to Canada.

The department will also fabricate a limited number of MOX fuel assembliesfor testing in a reactor before commencing fuel fabrication under the MOXprogram. The department has selected the Energy Department's Los AlamosNational Laboratory to fabricate the lead test assemblies and the EnergyDepartment's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for post-irradiationexamination of lead test assemblies.

The selection of Savannah River to provide immobilization services forsurplus plutonium clears the way for shipment of the surplus plutoniumat the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site near Denver, Colorado,to the Savannah River Site. The department expects to announce detailson these shipments next month.

The Surplus Plutonium Disposition Environmental Impact Statement wasfirst issued for public review and comment in July 1998. Five public hearingswere held near four candidate sites and at one regional location. The EnergyDepartment received over 3,400 comments. In April 1999, the departmentissued a Supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, identifyingthose commercial reactors to burn the MOX fuel, and held a public hearingin Washington, D.C. Comments received on both of these documents were consideredin the development of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, upon whichthe Record of Decision is based.

The public may receive a copy of the Environmental Impact Statementor the Record of Decision by calling 1-800/820-5156 or by mailing a requestto: Bert Stevenson, NEPA Compliance Officer, Office of Fissile MaterialsDisposition, U.S. Department of Energy, P.O. Box 23786, Washington, D.C.20026-3786. The 54-page Summary of the Environmental Impact Statement andthe Record of Decision are also available on the Office of Fissile MaterialsDisposition's website: http://www.doe-md.gov

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D.  Department of Energy (DOE)

1.
Energy Department Proceeds With Implementation Of National NuclearSecurity Administration
        Department of Energy
        January 7, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The Department of Energy today took two additional steps toward establishmentof a new semi-autonomous agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration(NNSA). Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson today met for the first timewith the panel charged with conducting a search for a qualified Under Secretaryfor Nuclear Security. In addition, Secretary Richardson delivered to CapitolHill the Department of Energy's Implementation Plan for the NNSA.

"We are committed to implementing the NNSA and ensuring that the nationalsecurity mission of the department is met," said Secretary Richardson."A key step is identifying a candidate with the right experience and backgroundto lead this agency. Today, the search committee and I discussed the typeof experience and leadership qualities we would like to see embodied inthe Under Secretary. A strong national security background is essentialas a qualification."

Richardson named the search committee after Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM)said that he would help with a legislative change that clarifies the Secretaryof Energy's authority over the new agency. By statute, the new Under Secretaryfor Nuclear Security also serves as the Administrator of the NNSA. Thesearch committee is chaired by former Deputy Secretary of Energy CharlesCurtis and its members are former Secretary of Energy Admiral James D.Watkins, Admiral Henry G. Chiles and Andrew Athy, Chairman of the Secretaryof Energy Advisory Board. Its work will aid Secretary Richardson in identifyinga qualified candidate, who would thereafter be nominated by the President.

The NNSA's Implementation Plan which was delivered to Congress todaylays out the approach the department intends to take to implement the newagency. Under the statute, the National Nuclear Security Administrationis established on March 1, 2000.

"Recognizing our critical national security mission and the importanceof establishing a workable, efficient NNSA, we have spent three monthscarefully developing a plan which outlines the core principles on how wewill set up this new agency," explained Richardson. "This plan will helpguide us as we work to ensure that the weapons laboratories continue toperform scientific research for non-defense Energy Department programsand other government agencies, and that the NNSA operate in a manner thatprotects the environment and the health and safety of workers and the public."

The plan details the program offices and national security functionswhich will be part of the agency, clarifies those departmental functionswhich are not functions of the new agency and discusses how the Officeof the Administrator will be staffed and organized.

Specifically, the NNSA will include the current Offices of Defense Programs,Nonproliferation and National Security, and Naval Reactors. Each of theseoffices -- Defense Programs, Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, and NavalReactors -- will be headed by a deputy administrator. In addition, thecurrent Office of Fissile Materials Disposition will be incorporated intothe new Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation and will be headed bythe Assistant Deputy Administrator, who will also serve as the SpecialSecretarial Negotiator for Plutonium Disposition. The Albuquerque and NevadaField Operations Offices also will be transferred to the NNSA. The employeesof these field operations offices, with the exception of those that areaccountable to non-NNSA program offices, will become employees of the NNSA.At other department field operations offices with responsibility for NNSAactivities, those employees who directly oversee these activities willbecome employees of the NNSA.

The plan also provides for support functions within the NNSA encompassinglegal, security, counterintelligence, legislative affairs, public affairs,intergovernmental liaison, budget and procurement. Due to a number of factorscited in the plan such as importance of program continuity, shortness oftime for implementation, as well as the scheduled change in executive branchadministration next January, the plan calls for certain DOE officers toserve concurrently in some of these support function positions. The fieldmanagers at selected field operations offices also will serve concurrentlyin dual positions.

"As the department implements this plan, it is very important that ouracross the board scientific work and collaboration, which encompasses allof the department's research facilities, not be compromised by the NNSA'screation," said Richardson. "We must work to ensure that all of the missionsof the department have access to the technical expertise and specializedfacilities at all of the laboratories and sites."

The implementation plan is available at: http://www.doe.gov/news/nnsa.pdf.

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2.
Plan Outlined For Nuclear Weapons Agency
        Associated Press
        January 8, 2000
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Clinton administration on Friday sent its blueprintfor a new nuclear weapons agency to Congress and said the Energy Departmentis committed to completing the reorganization by March.
 
Congress created the new National Nuclear Security Administration lastyear in response to concerns about alleged Chinese espionage and lax securityat the Energy Department's nuclear weapons labs.
 
Some Republicans have questioned whether the administration would movepromptly on the reorganization, which by law is to be completed by March1.
 
"We are committed to implementing the (new agency) and ensuring thatthe national security mission of the department is met," Energy SecretaryBill Richardson said Friday.
 
The implementation plan calls for the department's nuclear weaponsprograms — including weapons work at the Lawrence Livermore research labin California and the Sandia and Los Alamos research labs in New Mexico— to be consolidated under a single agency within the department.
 
Congressional supporters of the reorganization said the agency shouldbe largely autonomous, although still under the Energy secretary. Theyargued that clear lines of authority would improve security and safeguardagainst potential espionage.
 
However, the reorganization plan will continue to allow the Energysecretary and key senior DOE officials a say in the agency's operation.
 
The plan requires that positions responsible for security,counterintelligence,legal affairs and environmental and health protection be held by officialswho have those responsibilities within the overall department.
 
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, a leading sponsor of the legislationcreating the new agency, accused Richardson of "attempting to shoehorn"the DOE bureaucracy into the new agency.
 
"The department is clearly resisting one of the most fundamental elementsof the reform plan" to establish a nuclear weapons program "distinct andseparate from the Energy Department," Thornberry said.

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