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Nuclear News - (04/05/00)
RANSAC Nuclear News, 05 April 2000


A. Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI)

    1. Nuclear Security Decisonmakers’ Forum -- Keynote Address[excerpt],Pete V. Domenici (03/27/00)
B. START
    1. Russians Nearing Arms Control Pact, Barry Schweid, AssociatedPress (03/29/00)
    2. Russia To Seek Nuclear Weapons Cuts, Barry Schweid, AssociatedPress (04/04/00)
C. Russian Nuclear Forces
    1. Putin Wants Pro-Market Cabinet, Better Weapons, AnatolyVerbin, Reuters (03/31/00)
D.  U.S. – Russian Relations
    1. Racing The Clock, Jim Hoagland, Washington Post (04/02/00)
E.  Nuclear Waste
    1. Scientists Draw Up Map Of Russia's Nuclear-Contaminated Areas,Yekaterina Golovina, RIA Novosti (03/30/00)
    2. Ukrainian Spent Fuel Arrives To Russia,  Igor Kudrik,Bellona (04/03/00)
F.  Russian – Iranian Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Russia Defends Nuclear Cooperation with Iran, Agence FrancePresse (04/05/00)



A. Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI)

1.
Nuclear Security Decisonmakers’ Forum -- Keynote Address [excerpt]
        Pete V. Domenici
        March 27, 2000
        (for personal use only)

 . . . Let me turn to discussion of the other major component ofthe NNSA, its non-proliferation programs.  I’ve already noted thatintegration of both non-proliferation and weapons programs within NNSAwas important to me. This provides the Administrator with a critical opportunityto evaluate program priorities and expenditures in both areas.  Inconcert with the Department of Defense, he can evaluate whether nationalsecurity is best served by increasing our own military capabilities, throughstockpile activities, or reducing the threat that our military might haveto face, through enhanced non-proliferation programs.
 
There’s no question that proliferation of weapons of mass destructionis a very serious threat today.  We  face challenges involvingthe warheads, materials, and expertise developed during the days of theCold War.  With that War behind us, arguably the greatest global securitychallenge involves containment and management of proliferation threats–  many of which are in danger of being fueled with former Sovietcapabilities.    Congress is highly supportive of activitiesthat address this threat, as they’ve demonstrated with strong funding forseveral, milestone-driven, programs. But where questions about a program’seffectiveness or goals have surfaced, Congress is far more cautious.

A significant part of Congressional frustration arises from the widerange of uncoordinated programs dealing with non-proliferation.  Each program has reasonable goals, but they aren’t integrated into onecoherent thrust led by a focused and committed Administration.  Ournon-proliferation programs resemble a patchwork quilt designed and executedby several artists.

The net effect of our non-proliferation programs is far less than itcould be and needs to be.  These programs are begging for coherentoversight and inter-agency cooperation.  To address this need, whichis far from new, the 1996 Nunn-Lugar-Domenici legislation called for appointmentof a high-level non-proliferation czar.  Unfortunately, the Administrationhas refused to act on this law.

The Russian nuclear weapons complex could fuel serious proliferationthreats. That complex contains three main challenges:  weapons productioncapacity,  materials for those weapons, and people.

Congress has provided strong support for programs associated with thematerials, where goals and progress are easier to define and measure. The other two areas present unusual challenges, and it’s been difficultto structure programs that receive significant support.

The “brain drain” issue reflects a concern that scientists and engineerswith critical knowledge might sell their knowledge to rogue states or terroristorganizations.  The weapons production issue raises concern aboutRussia’s ability to rapidly reconstitute forces that could invalidate futurearms control agreements.  The Russian nuclear cities are central tothese two threats.

We already have several programs, like the Nuclear Cities Initiative,Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention, and the International Scienceand Technology Center that impact brain-drain issues.  These programscan point to some real successes; IPP has 19 technologies in or nearcommercialization.

Nevertheless, each of these initiatives is struggling for resources. And despite our best intentions and some superb opportunities poised forprogress, our Nuclear Cities Initiative has barely begun to scratch the surface in dealing with the problem of a cashapped and over-sizednuclear complex. To date,  NCI has not garnered enough Congressionalsupport to have stable and realistic funding.

The concerns on weapon production capabilities highlight very largeasymmetries. The U.S. has significantly reduced the size of our nuclearweapons production complex.  These reductions were accomplished openly,and are transparent to Russia.  Russia, in contrast, has barely startedto downsize its complex. Their complex is still sized at Cold War levels.

Little information about the Russian complex is shared, and ten of itsmost sensitive cities remain closed.  Although the Russian FederalMinistry of Atomic Energy has announced its intent to significantly downsizeits workforce, it has been slow in accomplishing this goal and any progressis very closely held.

The current Nuclear Cities Initiative was established to assist Russiain creating job opportunities for employees who are not required to supportrealistic Russian security requirements and to facilitate conversion ofthe production facilities.  It has focused on creation of commercialventures that provide self-sustaining jobs, primarily in three of the closedcities.  The current program scope, progress, and funding are notconsistent with the scale of the threats to us.

I want to significantly advance our progress in the nuclear cities.However, to gain sufficient advocacy for a major funding increase in fiscalyear 2001 and beyond, the program must demonstrate rapid progress in downsizingand an ability for the U.S. to track progress against verifiable milestonesthat support a Russian complex consistent with their future national securityrequirements.

I’m now drafting legislation to accomplish these objectives.

My legislation will demand that funding for this expanded program, forthe 2002 fiscal year and beyond, be contingent on making significant measurableprogress on key issues of strategic interest to both countries, including:

  • Demonstrable conversion from military to civilian activities at the fourcities participating in the FY 2001 program.
  • Development of a ten year plan by the Russian Federation for a nuclearweapons complex downsized to reflect the changing national security needsof Russia. This plan should reflect a production capacity consistent withfuture arms control agreements.
  • Increased transparency of Russian production capacity and nuclear materialsinventories to eventually match that of the United States.
My legislation will try to force the Administration to finally follow thelaw that requires better coordination among the multitude of proliferationprograms.
 
I’m reasonably sure that this legislation will be accepted by Congressand the Administration, if the specific safeguards that I’ve proposed areincluded.  Chief among these is my call for progress to be measuredagainst concrete verifiable milestones that are agreed upon by both nations.

Of course, significant cooperation from the Russian government mustoccur for milestones to be met.   That won’t happen unless theyconcur that these steps are also in their best interests.

I believe that progress in this area is in the best interests of bothnations.  As long as both accept future goals of dramatically reducednuclear weapons, it’s in our mutual interests to accomplish the transitionwith as much care and as little proliferation risk as possible.  It’s also in each nation’s interests for the other to maintain a sufficientlycredible complex to support realistic national security objectives. To the extent that we can take these steps in a mutually transparent way,we should be able to assure each other of our future intentions.

Let me note in closing that the Senate will be eagerly awaiting theformal nomination of General Gordon to run the NNSA.  When he is onboard, he can begin to address some of the complex issues that I’veoutlined. And in the meantime, I’ll be working in Congress to provide him with thebudget and other tools that he’ll need to assure success in maintainingand enhancing the strength of the Department’s national security programs.
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B. START

1.
Russians Nearing Arms Control Pact
        Barry Schweid
        Associated Press
        March 29, 2000
        (for personal use only)
 
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Russian parliament appears close to approvinga long-delayed pact to reduce nuclear arsenals, a top State Departmentofficial said Wednesday.

President Vladimir Putin's government is also coming around to the U.S.view on a need for anti-missile defenses, the official said. For years,the Russian parliament had pigeonholed the 1993 START II arms control accord,stalling cutbacks in U.S. and Russian long-range weapons and delayingnegotiationson a START III treaty to make deeper cuts.

But Steven Sestanovich, who is in charge of the State Department officethat deals with Russia and other former Soviet republics, said the Dumatook up the treaty last Tuesday and ``we have had some indications a voteon ratification will be considered next month or soon thereafter.''

The parliament will take up simultaneously an international treaty toprohibit nuclear weapons tests, he said. The U.S. Senate declined to ratifythe agreement, but the Clinton administration is working for a reversalnext year.

At the same time, the official told reporters, Putin's government isnearing ``a convergence of views'' with the Clinton administration on aneed to consider a spaced-based weapons program to defend against a threatof a missile attack from Iran, North Korea and other so-called ``rogue''states.

``There's a new reality'' in Moscow, he said, based on intensive diplomacywith Russia since Putin took over as acting president at the start of theyear. On Sunday, the former KGB security official was elected to a four-yearterm.

Sizing up Putin generally, Sestanovich said ``there is a lot of uncertaintyabout who the new leader is.'' That is due to a ``lack of a track record''and a presidential campaign that was short on substance, Sestanovich said.

``There is some evidence he favors the western orientation Russia hastaken in the last decade,'' Sestanovich said. ``And there is an expressedcommitment on both sides to pursue a relationship of common interests.''

Next month, Putin will send Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to Washingtonfor talks with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Sestanovich said.She met last month in Moscow with both Putin and the foreign minister.

President Clinton is expected to decide in the fall whether he willgo ahead with a missile-defense program despite the ban imposed by a 1972treaty with the then-Soviet Union. To clear the way, the administrationhas urged Russia to consider changing the treaty.

But Russia has been sharply critical of altering the landmark accord,which discourages nuclear attack because retaliation would be deadly withouta defense against missiles.

Sestanovich said there is a growing ``convergence of views'' on anoffense-defensepackage. He said he based that impression on ``high-level'' contacts withMoscow and with U.S. allies in Europe.

The administration has barred negotiations with Russia on a follow-uptreaty until START II is approved. But the two sides have exchanged their``thinking'' about the provisions of a new treaty, the official said.

Former President Boris Yeltsin assured Clinton several times that hewould push for ratification. But the Duma did not go along.

``There have been plenty of excuses, but no good one,'' Sestanovichsaid.
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2.
Russia To Seek Nuclear Weapons Cuts
        Barry Schweid
        Associated Press
        April 4, 2000
        (for personal use only)
 
WASHINGTON (AP) - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will discussreopening negotiations to reduce U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear weaponson a visit here April 26-27.

But the Clinton administration is holding back until the Russian parliamentapproves a 1993 treaty to cut the two countries' stockpiles.

For years, the Dumas has shelved the START II arms control accord, stallingcutbacks in U.S. and Russian long-range weapons under that treaty.

Last week, Stephen Sestanovich, the State Department official in chargeof the bureau that deals with Russia, said the parliament appeared closeto approving the long-delayed pact.

He also said President Vladimir Putin's government was coming aroundto the U.S. view that a space-based weapons program should be consideredby both countries.

Ivanov, in his talks here, will make the point the 1972 U.S.-Soviettreaty that banned missile defenses was untouchable, the Russian Embassysaid in an announcement of his planned visit.

Clinton administration officials hope to persuade Russia to agree toamend the treaty.

Putin last Friday reiterated his desire to see the START II ratified.However, the pact is still before a committee and hearings have not beenscheduled.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and NATO Secretary-General LordRobertson agreed Monday the alliance should have good relations with Russia.

Robertson told reporters ``NATO-Russia relations are of enormousimportance.''

The former British defense minister called Russia a ``strategic partner''with whom the alliance could discuss ``common security threats.''

Ivanov will stop first in New York for a review April 24-25 of the treatyto curb the spread of nuclear weapons technology. In his talks in Washington``close attention will be devoted to expansion of Russian-American ties,''the Embassy statement said.

Ivanov also is expected to attend NATO's annual Spring meeting in Florencein May.
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C. Russian Nuclear Forces

1.
Putin Wants Pro-Market Cabinet, Better Weapons
        Anatoly Verbin
        Reuters
        March 31, 2000
        (for personal use only)
 
MOSCOW, March 31 (Reuters) - President-elect Vladimir Putin said onFriday he wanted Russia to have a better nuclear arsenal while pressingon with international talks on arms cuts.

Speaking on a visit to a long-secret nuclear town in the Urals, he alsosaid he would choose pro-market professionals for the cabinet he must puttogether after his inauguration in early May. He declined to give any names.

Putin, a 47-year-old ex-KGB agent, was elected last Sunday mostly thanksto his image as a decisive man who wants to restore Russia's national prideand status after years of decline and humiliation which accompanied reforms.

His remarks in Chelyabinsk 70, a research and production centre closedto outsiders until recently, were very much in line with this image. Itwas Putin's first trip out of Moscow since he was elected president.

RIA news agency quoted Putin as saying his motto about wanting a strongstate was being interpreted in the West as a potential "growth of the factorof force and strengthening of the armed forces and special services." Thiswas wrong, he said.

"What we are talking about is a strong state where rules are securedby laws and their observation is guaranteed," he said, vowing to fightcorruption and protect all property rights, including private ownership.

BETTER NUCLEAR ARMS FOR RUSSIA, BUT START-2 ALSO NEEDED

Putin told a meeting of atomic industry chiefs attended by Defence MinisterIgor Sergeyev and top energy and government officials the nuclear industrywas vital for Russia's status "as a state capable of defending itself."

"We must increase the effectiveness of our nuclear deterrence potential,"RIA quoted him as saying.

Itar-Tass news agency quoted Putin as saying the importance of the entirenuclear industry was growing and the task was to make it safer and moreeffective.

He also said: "Russia holds and will continue to hold talks on furthercuts in strategic offensive weapons, aiming at making the world safer andridding it of piles of arms."

He said the government would step up efforts to persuade the lower chamberof parliament to ratify START-2, an arms reduction treaty between Russiaand the United States signed in 1993.

The State Duma elected in December is more responsive to the Kremlinthan the previous, Communist-dominated legislature, and the treaty hasbetter chances of being ratified now.

Russia's nuclear arsenal, the second biggest in the world, has hundredsof nuclear-capable missiles in silos and on mobile launchers as well ason strategic bombers and in submarines.

Russia has started to deploy a new-generation Topol-M ballistic missilein silos and is working on mobile-launched and naval versions. But despitewhat defence experts say is preferential treatment for strategic arms,funding is tight.

Russia's nuclear power stations produced 16 percent more energy lastyear than the year before, Putin said.

He said the nuclear industry as a whole should be transformed but notthrough "mechanical" staff cuts, calling it the easiest but also most dangerousway.

PUTIN WANTS A GOVERNMENT OF MARKET PROFESSIONALS

Putin said his government may include figures from various parties butthey would be chosen for their professionalism and would have to leavetheir party affiliations behind.

The main opposition Communist Party insists on a coalition.

"The main principles on which the work of the government will be basedare strengthening of the state and continuation of market transformation,"Interfax quoted Putin as saying.
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D. U.S. – Russia Relations

1.
Racing The Clock
        Jim Hoagland
        Washington Post
        April 2, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Out of different perspectives and needs, the White House and the Kremlinhave reached rough agreement on a calendar and an agenda for the Clinton-Putinera, an overly elaborate label for one of history's most momentous blinddates.

The 10 months they will share as elected leaders of the world's twomost militarily powerful nations provide scant time for Bill Clinton andVladimir Putin to become acquainted, test each other and decide if theirinterests and national goals coincide or compete. Their careers intersectas U.S.-Russian relations are in a trough, but not in a crisis. The fadingsun of the American political universe and the Kremlin nova might makesmall talk, let Putin assess Al Gore and George W. Bush as prospectivemates and say farewell politely on the doorstep.

But neither history nor Clinton's restless ambition will let that happen.He and Putin will race the clock and attempt to thrash out big decisionson arms control, the Balkans and the aftermath of the Chechen war as thisyear winds down. Their agreements, or disputes, will reach far into aClintonlessfuture.

That is particularly true on containing nuclear arsenals. Clinton facesthe prospect of leaving office without a major arms control agreement tohis credit. But he still hopes to agree with Putin on a framework for aSTART III accord to slash future U.S. and Russian nuclear warhead totals.

A START III framework and an understanding that Washington and Moscowwill pursue serious negotiations on modifying the Anti-Ballistic Missile(ABM) treaty of 1972 would be the main "deliverables" at a Clinton-Putinsummit this summer in Moscow or Europe, U.S. and Russian officials haveagreed, according to diplomatic cables.

Putin's aides have promised he will soon push for Duma ratificationof the long-stalled START II treaty as prelude to the summit. He appearsto have the votes to succeed.

But there is still room for considerable mischief in Moscow or Washingtonby those who oppose the rush to negotiating glory in Clinton's final days.The Duma could put the administration in a difficult spot by making Russia'sadherence to START II contingent on U.S. Senate ratification of other strategicaccords, including a technical ABM protocol that Senate Republicans havevowed to defeat.

In the run-up to his electoral victory on March 26, Putin kept his strategicoptions open. He instructed his officials not to shut the door on eventualagreement with Clinton to modify the ABM treaty, despite strong oppositionfrom Russia's generals. But he also made it clear that he would not agreeto ABM changes as the price for a bilateral summit.

Putin's most trusted national security aide, Sergei Ivanov, told U.S.officials in recent meetings in Washington and Moscow that Russia increasinglyunderstands the U.S. fear of missile attack from North Korea. Changingthe ABM treaty to allow greater scope for national missile defense is asubject worth Clinton and Putin discussing, Ivanov heavily implied.

But Russian officials have also made clear that Putin's preference isfor Clinton to defer the decision on a missile defense system, which the Russians hope eventually will fade away. If talks break down with Clintonor his successor, Putin could settle for reaping a propaganda harvest inEurope, which is wary of U.S. national missile defense plans and of Americanunilateralism.

Leon Fuerth, Vice President Al Gore's national security aide, traveledto Moscow in mid-March to advance summit planning and to tell the Russiansthat they should not wait for a better deal from Gore; they should settlewith Clinton rather than gamble on what the future holds.

Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, will visit Moscowlater this spring to nail down the summit if an April 26-29 visit to theUnited States by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is productive. Clintonand Putin will also meet during international summits of the Group of Eight,the United Nations and the Asia Pacific economic forum this year.

Putin's electoral victory has brought no immediate change to Russiandiplomacy. At a meeting of the six-nation Contact Group on the Balkanslast week, Russia again demanded that the Western powers publicly ruleout Kosovo's independence from Serbia, now and forever more. The demand was refused. And when Clinton raised Chechnya in his congratulatoryphone call to Putin, the Russian leader was unresponsive.

Seven years of mutually inconsistent diplomacy and unsteady leadershipform the backdrop of Clinton's brief twilight encounter with Putin. Forbetter or worse, this American president shows again that he is determinednot to stand still in his final days.
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E. Nuclear Waste

1.
Scientists Draw Up Map Of Russia's Nuclear-Contaminated Areas
        Yekaterina Golovina
        RIA Novosti
        March 30, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The creation of a comprehensive database of all actually or potentiallydangerous sources of nuclear contamination on the territory of the formerSoviet Union has been finished, a research worker from the [Moscow] KurchatovInstitute [of nuclear physics], Otto Lebedev, told a news conference today.

The work has been carried out over six years by the Russian Academyof Sciences, the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy, the Kurchatov Instituteand the international scientific and technical centre for applied systemstudies set up by the EU, the USA, Japan and Russia to provide financialsupport for nonmilitary projects on the control and processing of nuclearand chemical  materials. The centre has spent 55.3m US dollars onenvironmental projects in Russia, including 630,000 dollars on this particularone ...

The researchers have collected and analysed information about nuclearpower stations, Defence Ministry nuclear waste storage facilities, nucleartests, extraction and enriching uranium ore, and production of all sortsof nuclear fuel and nuclear materials. They have identified the 12 mostunsafe regions, including Russia's northwest with its Russian navy nuclearfacilities, the city of Moscow, Moscow Region and the area near Krasnoyarsk[in eastern Siberia], where a plutonium combine and storage facilitiescontaining waste from nuclear power stations are located.
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2.
Ukrainian Spent Fuel Arrives To Russia
        Igor Kudrik
        Bellona
        April 3, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Ukraine sends spent fuel to Russia; attempts to quit this practice fallingout of the scheme laid by Minatom.

A nuclear train carrying a load of spent nuclear fuel from a Ukrainiannuclear power plant arrived to Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk County. The fuelderives from Zaporozhye NPP, which licensed a dry storage site for spentnuclear fuel in attempt to quit costly shipments to Russia.

Ukrainian nuclear power plants, which operate VVER-1000 reactors, havebeen shipping their spent fuel for storage at Krasnoyarsk Mining and ChemicalCombine in Zheleznogorsk (former Krasnoyarsk-26) since 80-s. After thesplit up of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had to pay for this service. Andalthough the price is far below of the international going rate, the shipmentis deemed to be a burden to the shrinking economy of the former Sovietrepublic.

Ukraine operates five nuclear power plants with 14 reactor units, including11 VVER-1000 type reactors.

Rate increase and dry storage
In early December 1998, Krasnoyarsk County governor, Aleksandr Lebed,said the mining and chemical combine in his county would not accept spentnuclear fuel from Ukraine for "small money". The deadlock over the priceended up by $45 rate increase, making the price tag $330 per kilogram in1999.

A Ukrainian VVER-1000 reactor has 50-55 fuel assemblies replaced eachyear - one third of a VVER-1000 reactor core. Annual shipments of spentnuclear fuel to Russia cost Ukraine around $100-120 million a year.

Last year, Ukrainian Zaporozhye NPP had reportedly licensed a storagepad for containers with spent nuclear fuel. The storage technology wastransferred to Ukraine by American Duke Engineering & Services thatwas contracted by the U.S. Department of Energy. Zaporozhye NPP has paidfor manufacturing of two containers for test operation. Plant's officialssay 380 more containers will be needed to store the spent nuclear fuelfrom the plant during 50 years to come.

The containers are made of concrete, have three meters in diameter andcontain helium to cool down the spent fuel. Each container can hold 24fuel assemblies. Ukrainian Energy Ministry, Energoatom, believes that shouldthis scheme function well at Zaporozhye NPP, other nuclear plants can startusing it as well.

Minatom gets nervous
Officials of the Russian Ministry for Nuclear Energy, or Minatom, watchingUkraine's attempts to abandon fuel shipments to Russia, said the Ukrainewould face the same problem with spent nuclear fuel as it has today after50-year operation period for the containers ends. According to VladimirShidlovsky, head of the Minatom's Fuel Cycle Department, Ukraine has very favourable fuel shipment agreement with Russia, which stipulates pricesthree folds below the  international rates. More than 50 per centare paid through barter agreements, rather than cash.

On the other hand, what makes Minatom to accept so unfavourable agreementsfor itself and put efforts to convince Ukraine to follow the shipment scheme?

Krasnoyarsk Mining and Chemical Combine (KMCC), where the fuel is shipped,includes an underground radiochemical plant with military three reactors;two are now closed and the third produces heat and electricity for thecity. The plant was commissioned in 1964 to reprocess spent fuel from itsown reactors to extract weapon grade plutonium.

But the nuclear weapon material production relates to the past of thecombine. The present and the future of KMCC depend on the RT-2 reprocessingplant now 30 per cent complete. The construction of the reprocessing plantwas put on hold in 1989. The new Minatom's strategy outlined recently suggestscompleting it not earlier than in 2015. The first stage of the plant –wet storage for VVER-1000 spent fuel with a capacity of 6,000 tons - was,however, commissioned in 1985. The storage is now around 40 per cent full.By 2005-2007, the capacity of the storage will be used up for 100 per cent.Today, Minatom suggests building an additional dry storage at KMCC. Theproject is said to have been under development since 1998. The constructionis to be launched in 2001 and with the storage site commissioned in 2005.The new dry storage is  designed to hold 33,000 tons of spent fuel,including 24,000 tons of RBMK-type reactor fuel and 9,000 of VVER-1000-typereactor fuel.

The funding sources, given no foreign spent fuel imports are allowed,come primarily from Rosenergoatom, the Russian state operator of nuclearpower plants, Russian nuclear power plants and Ukrainian nuclear powerplants. In terms of the VVER-1000 reactors, Ukraine must be, accordingto Minatom, the major contributor since it operates 11 units and plansto complete two more units in the near future. Russia operates seven VVER-1000units.

Thus, the steps undertaken by Ukraine to break the nuclear dependencylinks with Russia are taken with nervousness at Minatom. Ukraine is, afterall, the only real partner in Minatom-laid plans in comparison to the virtualprospects drawn on paper by this agency so far.
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F.  Russian – Iranian Nuclear Cooperation

1.
Russia Defends Nuclear Cooperation with Iran
        Agence France Presse
        April 5, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Apr 5, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Russia insisted Tuesdayits nuclear ties with Iran respected international agreements, and defendedTehran's right to develop its civilian atomic energy industry, Interfaxreported.

"The nature of Iran's civilian nuclear program has been confirmed byrecognized international organizations such as the IAEA," said foreignministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko.

He was referring to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.

The United States has put heavy pressure on Moscow to end its nuclearcooperation with Iran, which Washington suspects of seeking to developa nuclear arsenal. Russia is helping Iran build a nuclear reactor at Bushehron the Persian Gulf.

"We think that Iran has the right to develop nuclear programs of anon-militarynature, in line with international treaties and agreements," said Yakovenko.

Washington has blacklisted 10 Russian research centers and companiessuspected of working with Iran on nuclear or missile research.
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