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Nuclear News - 03/13/00
RANSAC Nuclear News, 13 March 2000

A. Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI)

    1. U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Closed Nuclear City Expanded,Department of Energy (03/10/00)
B. Nuclear Power Industry
    1. News Briefing [Nuclear Power Industry], Uranium Institute,(03/07/00)
C. Nuclear Waste
    1. Russia Considers 'Economical' Dry Storage For Spent Fuel,Nucnet (03/03/00)
    2. Minatom Wants To Keep Spent Fuel Dry, Thomas Nilsen, Bellona(03/08/00)
    3. Radwaste From Icebreakers May Be Shipped To Krasnoyarsk,Thomas Nilsen, Bellona (03/09/00)
    4. Russia Proposes To Store Spent Fuel, Environmentalists DecryNuclear Plan, Michael Dobbs, Washington Post (03/11/00)
    1. US Rejects Russian Proposal For Fewer Nukes, Times ofIndia (03/13/00)

A. Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI)

U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Closed Nuclear City Expanded
        Department of Energy
        March 10, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Russian Scientists Will Work on Radioactive Waste Cleanup with Benefitsto U.S.

The U.S. Department of Energy and Russia’s Ministry for Atomic Energy,through their laboratories and production facilities, this week signedan agreement to develop and test advanced technologies to remediate high-levelnuclear waste in both the United States and Russia. The partnership betweenthe Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories and the Miningand Chemical Combine, a production facility in Zheleznogorsk, Russia, willbegin immediately.

The announced Tank Retrieval and Closure Demonstration Center inZheleznogorskis to be funded by the Department of Energy’s Initiatives for ProliferationPrevention, a unique initiative to secure weapons of mass destruction expertisein Russia and the newly independent states. The center will serve as aninternational site where advanced equipment and technologies for remediationof high-level radioactive waste tanks can be tested, before being qualifiedfor use in cleanup of both the Russian and U.S. complexes. The projectalso advances the Energy Department’s Nuclear Cities Initiative by assistingRussia as it downsizes and commercializes its weapons complex.

"This is an exciting collaboration offering the potential to reducefuture clean-up costs at U.S. and Russian facilities by billions of dollars,"said Rose Gottemoeller, Acting Deputy Administrator for Defense NuclearNonproliferation. "In addition this activity puts Russia’s top scientiststo work in their homeland, helping to prevent brain drain, a major U.S.priority."

The contract, which was signed Tuesday between the U.S. Department ofEnergy’s Sandia National Laboratories’ and Russia’s Mining and ChemicalCombine names Sandia as overall project manager of the Tank Retrieval andDemonstration Center in Zheleznogorsk. The laboratories’ personnel willtest Russia’s tank remediation technology and coordinate this technologywith international standards. The center, funded with $1.5 million fromDOE, will assist Zheleznogorsk in their efforts to become a world providerof technology for cleaning and remediating high-level radioactive wastestorage tanks, a $24 billion industry in the U.S. and Russia.

The Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention is a Department of Energyinitiative that seeks to enhance U.S. national security and nonproliferationobjectives by engaging scientists, engineers and technicians from formerweapons of mass destruction and weapons-related institutes, redirectingtheir activities in coooperatively-developed, commercially viable non-weaponsrelated projects.

The Nuclear Cities Initiative is a Department of Energy initiative thathelps the Russian government provide civilian employment to weapons scientistsin the 10 closed Russian nuclear cities, making it possible for them toremain in their homeland and work on civilian and commercial projects asfacilities in Russia’s weapons complex are downsized or eliminated.
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B. Nuclear Power Industry

News Briefing [Nuclear Power Industry]
        Uranium Institute
        March 7, 2000
        (for personal use only)

[NB00.10-9] Russia: Rosenergoatom has announced plans to invest US$470million in the completion of three units under construction at Rostov,Kursk and Kalinin over the next three years. Rostov-1 is planned to startup later this year, with Kursk-5 starting up in 2003 and Kalinin-3 in 2004.Separately, Minatom minister Yevgeny Adamov has announced that Russia willstart construction on the Koodankoolam plant in India next year. A 1988agreement to build the two-unit VVER plant was renewed in 1998. (Ux Weekly,6 March, p4; see also News Briefings 99.48-9 and 98.30-14)
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C. Nuclear Waste

Russia Considers 'Economical' Dry Storage For Spent Fuel
        March 3, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Russia says a new radwaste dry storage facility could ease the pressureon nuclear power plants nationwide and help cope with an influx of spentfuel assemblies from the mass decommissioning of nuclear submarines.

Proposals for a new central facility for long-term dry storage at themining and chemical works complex in Zheleznogorsk, Siberia, are amongoptions under consideration by the Russian  ministry of atomic energy(Minatom). The site is the only one in Russia with a purpose-built storagefacility for spent nuclear fuel. However, the wet facility for VVER-1000fuel is expected to reach its capacity of 6000 tonnes by 2005 – by whichtime officials say the first phase of the new dry facility could be ready.

The technology of dry storage for fuel from VVER-1000 and RBMK-1000reactors is presently in the research and development stage, although officialssay experience from experimental dry container storage of spent fuel fromVVER-1000's at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant is "positive". Thebehaviour of spent VVER-1000 fuel assemblies in dry storage is also underinvestigation at the Novovoronezh nuclear power plant. Until now Russiantechnology has been oriented towards wet storage in water pools, whichare sited at all of the country's nuclear power plants with RBMK reactors,as well as at the reprocessing plants RT-1 near Chelyabinsk and RT-2 nearKrasnoyarsk. However, the new Minatom report says technical and economiccomparisions show that while the capital costs of wet and dry storage arecomparable, dry storage running costs are much lower.

Officials say the most serious problems are caused by spent fuel accumulationat plants with RBMK reactors. More than 40 000 assemblies (4300 tonnes)have so far been produced over the whole period of operation of seven RBMKunits run by the state nuclear utility Rosenergoatom. Leningrad nuclearpower plant has accumulated 32 000 assemblies (about 3600 tonnes of fuel)and capacities of existing on-site storage pools and separately-placedplant storage facilities will fill up between 2004 and 2008. Minatom saysregional 'accumulative' storage sites, comprising metal-concrete containers,will also be used for the dry storage of spent fuel from the submarinesbecause reprocessing capacity at RT-1 is limited to just 10 tonnes peryear for such fuel.
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Minatom Wants To Keep Spent Fuel Dry
        Thomas Nilsen
        March 8, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The Russian Ministry of Nuclear Energy considers a new long-term drystorage for spent nuclear fuel at the city of Zheleznogorsk in Siberia.

The operating pool-storage for spent nuclear fuel from VVER-1000 powerplant reactors in Zheleznogorsk will be filled to its capacity of 6000tons by 2005. This facility is the only centralised storage for this typeof fuel in Russia. In addition, a smaller intermediate storage for spentfuel from VVER-440 and naval reactors is located at the RT-1 reprocessingplant, or Mayak plant. Spent fuel from RBMK-type reactors is stored on-siteat the various nuclear power plants operating such reactors. Most of theseon-site storage facilities are filled to capacity and urgent measures tocreate extra space are needed. Totally, 40,000 spent fuel assemblies havebeen accumulated as a result of the operation of Russia's seven RBMK reactors.

Russian Nuclear Ministry (Minatom) officials say the first part of theproposed new dry storage at Zheleznogorsk could be ready by 2005. The technologyplanned for the dry storage is currently in the research and developmentphase. So far, Russian storage technology for spent nuclear fuel has beenoriented towards water pool storage, like the existing one in Zheleznogorskand on-site storage facilities at the nine operating nuclear power plants.The water pool storage method has been more preferable because it makesit easier to move spent fuel in and out of the storage in order to reprocessit after a few years.

Minatom's proposal to create a long-term storage marks the first steptowards the end of the earlier Russian agenda that assumed that all spentfuel from pressured water reactors were to be reprocessed. The only operatingreprocessing plant for civilian reactors at the Mayak plant is old andlacks needed technology to take care of the radioactive waste. Its capacityis also limited to 10 metric tons a year.

The proposal filed by Minatom is based on a study, which indicates thata new dry-storage is both technically and economically favourable comparedto expanding the existing wet-storage technology. More over, the capitalcost of operating a dry storage is far less than the expenses for thewet-storageoption.
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Radwaste From Icebreakers May Be Shipped To Krasnoyarsk
        Thomas Nilsen
        March 9, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Murmansk Shipping Company is offered to ship its solid radioactive wasteto Krasnoyarsk County for storage. Experts from Murmansk dispatch to Siberiathis month to study the proposal.

Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCo), the operator of Russia's eight nuclearpowered icebreakers and several service vessels for spent nuclear fueland radioactive waste, has been seeking a better storage option for itssolid radioactive waste the past decade. Until 1986, most of the solidradioactive wastes from Murmansk Shipping Company had been dumped in theKara Sea. Today, the radioactive wastes that derive from operation of thenuclear icebreakers are stored on-site at the service base Atomflot, severalkilometres north of Murmansk at the Kola Peninsula. A minimum of 800 cubicmeters solid radioactive wastes are stored at Atomflot, onboard the servicevessels Lepse and Volodarskij and in five on-shore storage sites. Theradioactivewastes have a minimum of total activity equalling 730.000 GBq. The amountof solid radioactive waste at Atomflot will increase considerably duringthe years to come. For the time being the service vessel Volodarskij isundergoing decommissioning. The spent nuclear fuel is soon to be removedfrom the rundown Lepse, then the vessel will be scrapped, generating tensof tons of radioactive waste.

Limited capacity at Atomflot The intermediate storage facilities atAtomflot have limited capacity, while no other storage options are yetavailable in the region. MSCo therefor welcomes the offer from the Miningand Chemical Combine in Zheleznogorsk.

"We consider this option as interesting. Soon, our experts will go toZheleznogorsk to study the proposal in detail, and look at the proposedsite for storage," says Vyacheslav Rouksha, General Director of MurmanskShipping Company. Zheleznogorsk is located 50 kilometres north of Krasnoyarskon the banks of the Yenisey River. Rouksha says the advantage of such optionis that MSCo can load the radioactive waste onboard a vessel at Atomflotin the Kola Bay. "Such vessel can go then directly to its port of destination."

"Direct sea route" for waste shipment The distance is more than 3,500kilometres. The route first goes through the Barents Sea, the PetchoraSea and the Kara Sea to Dickson, and further down Yenisey all the way tomid-Siberia, where Zheleznogorsk is located. Murmansk Shipping Companyhas 60-year experience of navigating in the most severe regions of theArctic. For the last ten years, the two nuclear powered icebreakers Vaigachand Taimyr have been operating on the Yenisey River as well.

Murmansk Shipping Company has also looked into other possible locationsfor long-term storage of its radioactive waste. The Novaya Zemlya Archipelagoin the Arctic was among them, as well as locations proposed for repositoryat the Kola Peninsula. International economical assistance will, for instance,be provided to build a new storage site for solid radioactive waste atthe Nerpa shipyard north of Murmansk. At this site, mainly naval radioactivewaste derived from the decommissioning of nuclear powered submarines willbe stored, but it seems to be also open for civilian waste, deriving fromthe Radon storage west of Murmansk.

New underground storage site A new underground storage facility forsolid radioactive waste near Zheleznogorsk has been under development foryears. Originally, it was planned to take care of the waste generated atthe new reprocessing plant RT-2. But the construction of RT-2 was haltedin 1989 due to short funds and strong opposition on the local level. Theproposal to Murmansk Shipping Company to ship solid radioactive waste tothe area can be thus seen as a new way to get funding for constructinga new waste storage that would serve other purposes than to take radwastefrom reprocessing. It is not clear, however, whether other enterprisesin Russia facing problems with intermediate storage of radioactive wastehave received similar proposals as Murmansk Shipping Company.

700 million Curie disposed The nuclear complex in Zheleznogorsk (formerlyknown as Krasnoyarsk-26) was built in the early 50-s as the third secretcity in the Soviet Union to produce nuclear weapons. Today, only one ofthe plutonium producing reactors is still in operation. The waste fromthe plutonium production is discharged into deep geological formationsat the depth of 190-475 meters at the Severny repository, around 20 kilometresnorth of Zheleznogorsk. Some 4,5 million cubic meters of liquid radioactivewaste with a total radioactivity of 700 million Curie (26,000 TBq) fromthe old reprocessing plant was dumped here as well. The new storage, whereMurmansk Shipping Company might end up sending its radioactive waste, islocated on the western side of the Yenisey River. A transport tunnel hasalready been built beneath the river. Bellona representatives inspectedthe tunnel in 1994, and at that time the water was leaking inside the tunnelfrom numerous fractures.
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Russia Proposes To Store Spent Fuel, Environmentalists Decry NuclearPlan
        Michael Dobbs
        Washington Post
        March 11, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The Russian Atomic Energy Ministry has drafted an ambitious proposalto earn $21 billion over the next 10 years by importing 20,000 tons ofspent nuclear fuel from Asian and European countries for storage and eventualreprocessing in Siberia, according to confidential ministry documents obtainedby environmental activists.

The plan, which is aimed at cashing in on a worldwide shortage of securestorage sites for spent nuclear fuel, has alarmed environmental groups,which argue that Russia risks being turned into a nuclear dumping groundfor richer countries. U.S. officials oppose the idea for fear it wouldadd to the already huge Russian stockpiles of plutonium, a key ingredientin building a nuclear bomb.

"This document appears to fly in the face of American efforts to halt[nuclear fuel] reprocessing in Russia and the separation of plutonium,"said Tom Clements, executive director of the Washington-based Nuclear ControlInstitute. "Any action that increases the stockpile of  plutoniumin Russia will only heighten proliferation concerns about that country."

While the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry, also known as Minatom, hasmade no secret of its desire to earn precious hard currency from the storageof other countries' nuclear waste, the draft documents provide new detailsabout the Russian recycling proposals, which are more extensive than previouslyunderstood in the West. The documents, which appear to have been draftedlast fall and bear the signature of Deputy Minister Valentin Ivanov, wereobtained by the  environmental group Greenpeace from anti-nuclearcampaigners in Russia.

A Minatom spokesman, Vitaly Nasonov, confirmed the target figure of$21 billion for the storage and reprocessing plan, but described it as"a very rough estimate" of "maximum" possible revenues. The estimate isbased on the predicted emergence of a huge market for spent nuclear fuelstorage because of unsatisfied demand from such countries as Japan, Taiwan,South Korea, Germany and Switzerland.

Implementation of the Minatom plan would require a change in Russianenvironmental laws that prohibit the import into Russia of nuclear fuelsfrom all but a handful of former Soviet Bloc countries. Such a change ispossible, as the political pendulum has been shifting in Russia againstcostly environmental protection programs.

A more serious obstacle, in the view of Western nuclear experts, isthat countries such as Japan and Taiwan acquire their nuclear fuel fromthe United States and therefore must get U.S. government approval for itsdisposal. Other countries, such as Germany, are unlikely to break rankswith Washington on a sensitive nonproliferation issue.

Disclosure of the detailed Minatom proposals comes at a time when theUnited States is seeking to negotiate a moratorium on future plutoniumproduction with Russia. Last month, U.S. officials suggested that the moratoriumwas practically a done deal, but Russian officials have cast a more cautiousspin on the negotiations, insisting that they are merely at a "preliminary"discussion stage.

Plutonium, a fissile material used for making nuclear bombs, is oneof several byproducts of the reprocessing cycle. In contrast to the UnitedStates, which does not produce plutonium for civilian purposes, Russiahas long advocated a "closed" nuclear cycle in which plutonium can be separatedfrom spent nuclear fuel and then used to power civilian reactors. Whileit is not ideal for bomb-making, civilian plutonium is perfectly acceptablefor use in crude nuclear devices.

Undersecretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz, who flew to Moscow this weekto continue discussions with Minatom, said it was safe to say "the U.S.would not agree to any project that involved reprocessing" by Russia ofAmerican-origin nuclear fuels. He said the fact that Minatom "might beexploring the [reprocessing] options" did not undermine "the shared goal"of a "suspension" of plutonium production.

In a late-night phone call from Moscow, Moniz sought to square the Minatomproposal for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel after 2020 with the U.S. proposalfor a moratorium. He said the Russians agreed with the United States thatthere was "no merit in further accumulating plutonium" over the next fewyears, even though they wanted to preserve a long-term option of reprocessing.

Some U.S. experts believe the Russians are pursuing a dual-track strategy,keeping their options open to see which path turns out to be most profitable.Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov "is looking for new businessfor his industry," said Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at Harvard University."Whatever new business he can find, he will go with."

Under the Minatom plan, the spent nuclear fuel would be transportedto Russia by road and rail, as well as by barge through the Russian riversystem. Reprocessing would begin after 2020, following the completion ofa new reprocessing plant in Ozersk, which already has the reputation ofbeing one of the most polluted places on the planet.

Environmental activists, who have been campaigning for a total halton the import of spent nuclear fuels by Russia, were sharply critical ofthe Minatom plan. "It is morally unacceptable," said Alexei Yablokov,environmentaladviser to former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. "They are asking forfuture generations to pay for the economic benefit to this generation."

Tobias Muenchmeyer, a nuclear expert with Greenpeace International,the organization that disclosed the Minatom plan, expressed skepticismabout a promise to reserve around $3 billion for tackling ecological problems.

"Even if they spent this money, it is not all that much," he said, notingthat the U.S. government has earmarked $100 billion for cleaning up muchless contaminated sites.
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US Rejects Russian Proposal For Fewer Nukes
        Times of India
        March 13, 2000
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON: The US has turned down three Russian proposals for a sharpreduction in the number of strategic nuclear warheads each will have inits armoury.

``We don't want to go any lower (than 2,000 or 2,500 strategic warheadsfor each side) because we need these weapons for nuclear deterrence,''US State Department spokesman James Rubin said recently, rejecting theproposals.

At present, both Russia and the US have 6,000 warheads each. The USis prepared to reduce the number to 2000 to 2,500 for each side while theRussians have proposed 500 to 1500 warheads. Russia is ready to go downto 500 strategic warheads but is willing for each side to have 1,000 or1,500 weapons for the time being.

``How many nukes do we need for deterrence to be credible?'' says RobertManning, director of Asian Studies at the Council of Foreign Relationsin an article in the Washington Times, adding, ``China, which PresidentBill Clinton has talked of as a `strategic partner' has a grand total of20 strategic warheads that could hit the US.''

Warning the US administration, Manning said: ``the window of opportunitythat the end of the Cold War opened to reconsider nuclear weapons may beclosing.''

``With it, the possibilities of capitalising on the US and Russian nukedraw downs to lead by example and strengthen non-nuclear norms may beevaporatingbefore we have had a chance to see if the momentum of build-down couldtranslate into a world where nuclear dangers are reduced,'' he added. (PTI)
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