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Nuclear News - 01/24/00
RANSAC Nuclear News, 24 January 2000


A. Nuclear Power Industry

    1. Leningrad Nuclear Plant Workers Threaten to Strike, ItarTass (01/24/00)
B. Nuclear Waste
    1. Submarine Spent Fuel Cask Manufacturing Delayed, IgorKudrik, Bellona (01/23/00)
C. START
    1. U.S. And Russian Arms Officials End ABM Talks, Reuters(01/22/00)
    2. Swords Into Plowshares: Missile Silos Being Blasted, RaadCawthon, Philadelphia Inquirer (01/24/00)


A. Nuclear Power Industry

1.
Leningrad Nuclear Plant Workers Threaten to Strike
        Itar Tass
        January 24, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, January 24 (Itar-Tass) - The staff at the Leningrad nuclearpower plant warn they will stage a strike if their pay is not raised, whileofficials at the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry consider such a strikeillegal.

The workers intend to go on strike, since they believe the plant'sadministrationmust raise the pay by about 50 percent, as an agreement stipulated earlier.

Ministerial officials told Itar-Tass that the raise was really envisaged.However, in connection with the present difficult economic situation, thegovernment has no funds for the increased payments.

Government officials arrived at the station and tried to persuade thestaff to wait.

As soon as the financial problems are settled, the station's staff willreceive all the money with the compensation, the ministry's officials assured.

The workers receive pay regularly. By the way, their pay is higher thanon the average in the sector.

Director Valery Lebedev told Itar-Tass that in case the workers stageda strike, the reactors would be switched to the safe state, that is halted.

Ministerial officials believe a halt as a result of a strike would causean electricity supply crisis in the north-western region.

The Leningrad station satisfies about 60 percent of the region's needsin energy.

In the legal point, if workers halt reactors without permission, itis a gross violation of the Russian Federation Law on Atomic Energy, theofficials noted.

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B. Nuclear Waste

1.
Submarine Spent Fuel Cask Manufacturing Delayed
        Igor Kudrik
        Bellona
        January 23, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Prototype 40-ton spent fuel cask enters site-testing phase; manufacturingseems to be delayed.

A prototype cask for spent nuclear fuel, derived from nuclear poweredsubmarines, is travelling along with Russia's only spent fuel transporttrain. The cask arrived with the train on January 4, 2000, to Murmanskand was tested at Atomflot base - a spent fuel loading point.

In Murmansk, the cask was loaded with mock spent fuel with the use ofthe crane facilities of Atomflot base - the home base for nuclear poweredice-breakers - and service ship Lotta. Lotta is the only vessel in MurmanskCounty capable of handling TK-18 spent fuel casks that are currently inuse.

The cask was presented to a big gathering of Russian, American and Norwegianofficials at Izhora plants, Leningrad County, in late October 1999. This40-ton metal-concrete cask is a part of AMEC program, the acronym for ArcticMilitary Environmental Co-operation. AMEC was established by Norwegian,American and Russian defence ministries in 1996 to solve environmentalhazards associated with military activities in the Arctic. Russian officialssaid at the ceremony that Izhora plants would manufacture 12 casks in 1999and 88 during the first part of the year 2000. There were no reports thatthe promised casks were actually manufactured and it sounds doubtful thatthey will be in a short period of time because the prototype has just enteredthe site-testing phase.

Even if Izhora plants start eventually manufacture the casks, it willonly solve a part of the problem, as a storage site for casks is not readyyet. These casks were designed both for transportation of spent fuel andup to 50-year storage. The latter was prompted by the fact that RussianMayak reprocessing plant in South-Ural is not coping with the amounts ofspent nuclear fuel taken out from the reactors of decommissioned submarines.Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry, or Minatom, is evaluating a number oflocations, such as Andreeva Bay, Gremikha or Nerpa shipyard at the KolaPeninsula and Kamchtka Peninsula in the Russian Far East. No definitivedecision has been made yet.

Currently, the cask is being shipped to Mayak to undergo testing thereand then is expected to proceed with the train to Severodvinsk - anotherspent fuel reloading point in north-west Russia.

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C. START

1.
U.S. And Russian Arms Officials End ABM Talks
        Reuters
        January 22, 2000
        (for personal use only)

GENEVA, Jan 22, 2000 -- (Reuters) Senior American and Russian arms controlexperts on Friday ended three days of talks on their differences over aplanned U.S. national missile defense system, diplomatic sources said.

John Holum, senior arms adviser at the State Department, and his Russiancounterpart Yuri
Kapralov also discussed a future START-3 treaty aimed at further cuttingtheir long-range nuclear weapons arsenals, they added.

No statement was issued after the technical-level discussions, whichU.S. officials close to the talks described as having been "open andbusiness-like".

Officials on both sides were tight-lipped about the talks due tosensitivitiesover the expected vote by late March in Russia's lower house of parliament,the Duma, on ratification of the stalled START-2 arms reduction treaty.

The U.S. Senate has ratified the 1993 pact which calls for the UnitedStates and Russia to cut their nuclear arsenals to 3,500 warheads each.

The talks follow the failure of a critical U.S. anti-missile test lastTuesday that has been denounced by Russia and China, who say developmentof an anti-missile defense system would violate the Anti-Ballistic MissileTreaty (ABM).

The 1972 ABM, hailed as a cornerstone of strategic stability, limitsthe type of systems Russia and the United States may deploy to interceptincoming missiles.

U.S. President Bill Clinton is to decide this summer on whether to goahead with a national missile defense scheme to be deployed by 2005. Itwould be a limited version of former President Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars"program to protect U.S. cities against attack from rogue states such asNorth Korea.

Clinton and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed last Junein the German town of Cologne to work to resolve their differences overthe ABM and strategic nuclear weapons.

Yeltsin agreed at the time to hold talks to listen to U.S. proposalsto modify the ABM, although he reiterated Russia's strong opposition tochanges.

The Geneva talks, the third round since then, came ahead of a January31 meeting in Moscow between U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albrightand Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev last week urged the Duma to ratifySTART-2 before presidential elections are held at the end of March, addingthat it would help convince the United States not to breach the ABM.

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2.
Swords Into Plowshares: Missile Silos Being Blasted
        Raad Cawthon
        Philadelphia Inquirer
        January 24, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Under a desolate North Dakota prairie, a different kind of  nuclear destruction.

NEKOMA, N.D. - Inside the steel pod 60 feet underground, you cannothear the wind whistling across the North Dakota prairie, or feel the outsidetemperature plunging to 18 degrees below zero.

Here, in a self-contained world surrounded by 7 feet of concrete andbehind a massive door designed to withstand a nuclear blast, all is quietbut for the continual sound of running water and the almost imperceptiblehum of the neon lights.

"You're inside a big tomb here," said Loren Nishek, the man in chargeof destroying it all.

This is one of 15 launch-control centers for 150 nuclear missiles thatwere scattered across eastern North Dakota in the 1960s. It was designedto protect a two-man crew whose job was to be prepared to fire up to 10missiles, each one carrying multiple nuclear warheads.

In all, these lonesome missile sites reached from eastern Montana toNorth Dakota's Red River Valley, and from a scant few miles south of theCanadian border to Missouri. The 165 silos and launch centers in easternNorth Dakota, each burrowed into an acre of prairie and surrounded by achain-link fence topped with barbed wire, are being destroyed to complywith the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United Statesand Russia. The "missile field" around Minot Air Force Base in westernNorth Dakota remains operational, as do hundreds of other silos elsewherein the Midwest.

When all of North Dakota's 300 missile silos were operational, eachcontaining a Minuteman III missile, that state had the heaviest concentrationof nuclear weapons of any place on earth.

"I grew up here, and I remember the old saying about how, if North Dakotaever seceded from the union, it would be the third-largest nuclear powerin the world," Nishek said.

For more than three decades, each of the 150 silos in eastern NorthDakota contained a missile aimed across the North Pole at Russia or China.The system was once part of America's "nuclear triad," along withsubmarine-basedmissiles and land-based bombers.

Those silos and the 15 launch centers in eastern North Dakota, someof the most secure ever built by the U.S. military, are being imploded,salvaged and buried. A 20-foot-deep hole will be dug into each site - thedestruction will resume with spring weather - and left open for 90 daysso Russian spy satellites can verify the silo's destruction. All are tobe destroyed by November 2001.

Then, after everything has been salvaged and the concrete of the silowalls fractured, the hole will be filled with the rubble and smoothed,leaving a gravel pad and the telltale fence.

Farmers, some of the same ones who saw their land taken in the 1960sso the silos could be built, will have first dibs on buying the land back.

The ending of the nuclear era in this part of North Dakota has been,at best, a mixed blessing. Though the missile sites and the round-the-clockmilitary patrols in armored vehicles might have been a constant reminderof the threat of nuclear annihilation, the missiles also brought jobs andmoney to a place which previously had little of either.

The last missile left in 1998 - some were moved elsewhere, some weredestroyed - and last year, when the unit providing crews for the launch-controlfacilities was disbanded at Grand Forks Air Force Base, 1,700 jobs werecut.

Through the years, as farmers planted their crops right up to the fencessurrounding the facilities, they came to take them for granted.

People here, in one of the least populated, most conservative areasof the country, generally believed the government when it told them thispeppering of missiles across the prairie was an unavoidable necessity.

"The silos were just part of the landscape," said Bernie Goodman, alocal farmer. "You got where you didn't think anything about them."

Bill Verwey, a former Nekoma mayor, said he always thought of the missilesas protection rather than a threat.

"We were in the very best place in case anything ever happened," hesaid.

Now some here hope that a proposed new missile system, which could bebuilt in Alaska, will instead be built along this windswept stretch ofNorth Dakota.

Don Speulda, now with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, once was incharge of maintaining the missiles within these silos.

One of the few people who routinely entered this cloistered world, Speuldarecalls the pods being staffed around the clock by two airmen at a time.Each team worked a 24-hour stint down in the launch control center, thenhad 24 hours off. When not on duty, they lived with security guards, cooksand other support personnel in a nondescript house above the buried pod.

After seven days at the isolated outpost, the airmen and their supportstaff rotated out and were replaced by a fresh staff from Grand Forks AirForce Base.

"It was very much like being on an oil rig," he said.

Deep in the pod, each missileman wore around his neck a key that, whenturned in unison in locks that were 10 feet apart, would begin the countdownto the missiles being fired.

"There were constant drills," Speulda said. "I'm sure if you talkedto all the people who served here, they could tell you some stories aboutclose calls. But I never really thought about firing the missiles. Theywere designed as a deterrent. The fact they were here meant, in a sense,that they could never be used."

The abandoned, soon-to-be-destroyed silos have an eerie feel.

An industrial elevator, capable, so a stenciled sign says, of carryingnine tons, slowly descends the 60 feet. It stops at a vestibule where oneturn leads to an equipment room - generators, huge storage batteries, andair-purification equipment - protected by a massive door.

"The doors were designed to withstand a nuclear blast, but would movewith 10 pounds of pressure," Speulda said.

A pull on the 2-foot thick, 10-foot high door shows that it still moveseasily on its massive metal hinges, although maintenance on the facilityended two years ago.

In the opposite direction from the elevator is a 5-foot-high passagewaythat necessitates a head-saving duck to enter. Once inside, the crew couldshut a blast-proof door that could be locked and opened only from the inside.

"To get in from the outside once it was locked, you have to disassemblethe door," Speulda said. "That takes eight to 10 hours, plenty long enoughfor whoever was inside to accomplish their task."

Within the pod, which was lowered into a 60-foot deep hole and thenhad tons of concrete poured around it, the paint is peeling and any vitalequipment has long been stripped away. There is a bunk for napping, a smalltoilet, and the vestiges of a microwave-equipped kitchen.

In the business end of the pod sit two identical control desks. Theyare within easy voice range of one another, but too far apart for one personto reach. It was at these desks that the crew members, many of whom signedthe walls on their last tour of duty late in 1997, sat while computersspat out the codes for launching the missiles in silos scattered over a10-mile radius.

"The amazing thing is these were built in the 1960s, and the technologywe had back then is still used today," Speulda said. "Of course, everythingin here could be run off a laptop [computer] now."

On the metal wall above the portal leading back to the vestibule, themissilemen painted a logo.

A different logo is painted on the wall in each of the 15 launch-controlpods, and the North Dakota Historical Society plans to photograph eachfor its archives before the pods' doors are sealed and rubble fills the60-foot elevator shafts.

Following that, the pods will sit, perhaps forever. Most likely therooms will eventually fill with water, but otherwise they will remain darkand undisturbed within their impervious concrete cocoons.

In this pod, the logo is the theatrical masks representing comedy andtragedy. To one side, in a black-painted night sky, a fiery comet passesand arcs away from the Big Dipper. Directly above the door glows the NorthStar, the celestial landmark used to aim the missiles.

Above ground, the wind blows and the sun is wintry pale. Snow driftsagainst the foundation of the deserted launch facility. The windows areboarded up, and the gate remains chained and locked. A forlorn basketballbackboard, the rim and net gone, stands as a lonely sentry in the yard.

Nishek, ice starting to form in his mustache, looked out across thebarren, frigid landscape. There were lines of trees planted as windbreaksand a sole, distant farmhouse with smoke rising from the chimney.

"It looks like Siberia," he said. "This really is the middle of nowhere.I guess nobody cared all that much about what would happen to North Dakota."

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