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Nuclear News - (04/17/00)
RANSAC Nuclear News, 17 April 2000

A. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Deal

    1. Uranium Producers Complain To Congress About USEC, KatherineRizzo, Associated Press (04/13/00)
    2. Lawmakers Quiz USEC Chief on Privatization, Dana Hedgpeth,Washington Post (04/14/00)
    1. Statement By The President [START II Ratification], WilliamJefferson Clinton, Office of the White House (04/14/00)
    2. Breakdown of Voting in Russia Duma on START-2, Reuters(04/14/00)
    3. Russia: Many Factors Contributed To Duma Ratification OfSTART-II,Jolyon Naegele, RFE/RL (04/14/00)
    4. Putin Clarifies Start II Plans, Associated Press(04/15/00)
    5. Arms Vote Seen Giving Putin Ammunition, David Filipov,Boston Globe (04/15/00)
    6. Arsenal Cuts Don't Cover U.S.'s 12,000 Nuclear Triggers,Walter Pincus, Washington Post (04/16/00)
C.  Russian Nuclear Forces
    1. Duma Adopts Resolution on Russian Strategic Nuclear Force,Itar Tass (04/14/00)
D.  De-Alerting
    1. Adviser: Take Warheads Off Alert, Edith M. Lederer, AssociatedPress (04/15/00)

A. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Deal

Uranium Producers Complain To Congress About USEC
        Katherine Rizzo
        Associated Press
        April 13, 2000
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Companies that mine uranium and convert it into ausable form told Congress on Thursday that they are harmed by the dealthat turned government uranium enrichment factories into a private,stockholder-ownedcorporation.

Mark Stout, president of the Uranium Producers of America, said companieshave reduced production, canceled plans to increase production and evenclosed mines as a result of pressures they trace to the creation of theU.S. Enrichment Corp. USEC operates plants in Ohio and Kentucky.

Government stockpiles of uranium were transferred to USEC as part ofthe privatization deal, which Stout called ``a serious mistake.''

``The result of the excessive government transfers has been productioncurtailments, mine closures, the termination of development plans ... anda total cessation of exploration by every uranium mining company in theU.S. and most overseas,'' Stout said in testimony submitted to the HouseCommerce Committee.

``New Mexico, the historic leader of domestic production, is producingno uranium for the first time since 1955,'' he said.

The committee is scrutinizing the privatization deal in the wake offinancial turmoil at USEC.

It has been a fully private company for less than two years, duringwhich time its stock has dropped 70 percent, its credit rating is in junkbond territory, and its earnings have nosedived.

Between the former government supplies being sold by USEC; recycleduranium from Russian bombs, also being handled by USEC; and a general oversupplyof utility-ready uranium available on the world market, there is littledemand for newly mined uranium, Stout said.

Also struggling is the only company that handles the middle uranium-handlingstep, between initial production and the enrichment done by USEC at plantsin Paducah, Ky., and Piketon, Ohio.

That step, called conversion, takes uranium that has been through anearly processing stage from a form known as ``yellowcake'' and turns itinto uranium hexafluoride, which is the format needed by the enrichmentplants.

The United States has a single conversion operation, ConverDyn in Metropolis,Ill.

ConverDyn's president and chief executive officer, James J. Graham,submitted testimony calling his industry's situation ``one of desperation.''

He, too, blamed the one-two punch of the Russian uranium deal and thegovernment inventory transfers to USEC for imposing ``a burden that thesole domestic provider of primary uranium conversion services cannot bear.''

``Without relief, the demise of the only domestic conversion provider,ConverDyn, is likely,'' the company president said.

Graham and Stout urged lawmakers to step in with measures that wouldguarantee that the current low prices in the world uranium market wouldn'tlead to the United States becoming dependent on foreign suppliers.

The committee's chairman, Rep Tom Bliley, R-Va., has been a critic ofthe USEC privatization deal.

He said in a statement Thursdaythat ``it seems apparent that the mannerof privatization chosen by the Clinton-Gore administration did not fullyconsider relevant market conditions that have resulted in this mess.''

``This lack of foresight appears to have threatened the future viabilityof the uranium industry -- jeopardizing thousands of jobs -- and threatenedour national security,'' Bliley said.

USEC's president and CEO, William ``Nick'' Timbers, said his companyhas had to respond to changing market conditions, including rising costsand falling demand.

As for the transfer of the government uranium inventory, Timbers saidUSEC lived up to its commitment to make sure the sale of that inventorywas done in ``a market-sensitive manner.''

``Clearly, we do not want to sell our uranium in a market-disruptivemanner that might lower the value of our uranium assets,'' he said.

Timbers' written testimony responded to the critics of the inventorysales, saying ``We have a fiduciary duty to our shareholders to maximizethe value of our uranium assets.''
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Lawmakers Quiz USEC Chief on Privatization
        Dana Hedgpeth
        Washington Post
        April 14, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Members of a House subcommittee grilled the chief executive of Bethesda-basedUSEC Inc., a uranium-processing company, and several U.S. energy and Treasuryofficials yesterday about the Clinton administration's decision to privatizethe company.

Much of the questioning came  as a result of two members' worriesthat plants in Paducah, Ky., and Piketon, Ohio--in their home states--maybe shut down. Members of the Commerce subcommittee on oversight andinvestigationsalso probed the company's troubled finances and the $1.2 million in salaryand bonuses that USEC Chairman William "Nick" Timbers received last year.

"When Lee Iacocca came to the government, asking for money for ailingChrysler in the 1970s, he was earning $1 a year," said Rep. Bart Stupak(D-Mich.)

The company, once known as U.S. Enrichment Corp., laid off 500 workersshortly after it went public in July 1998.

The firm's stock value has fallen almost 70 percent since the administrationopted to offer 100 million of its shares at $14 each to the public. Itclosed yesterday at $2.50 a share. Its bond ratings were also recentlyreduced to junk-bond status, sparking concerns from lawmakers.

"We have concerns in our community of there being a plant closing, thecompany's corporate bonds are now considered junk and the plants are operatingat 25 percent," said Rep. Edward Whitfield (R-Ky.), whose district includesthe Paducah plant. "It appears the company may be in serious trouble."

USEC processes uranium, turning it into fuel for nuclear power plants.Its existence dates back to the height of the Cold War, the 1950s, whenit was created to manufacture enriched uranium for nuclear weapons andsubmarines.

It now is part of post-communist plans to reduce the threat of nuclearwar. Under a 1994 agreement, USEC buys processed uranium from Russia, whichblends down highly enriched uranium from nuclear warheads and sells itto USEC for resale to power plants.

"The Cold War is over and the war we are now fighting is global competition,"Timbers said. The company has defended itself by saying it is facing lessdemand--and lower prices—for enriched uranium, but higher production costs."Everything is on the table for consideration," Timbers told the committee.

That spurred Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the subcommittee vice chairman,to ask whether that would include his pay. Timbers replied: "My salaryhas not been discussed in that context."

Members questioned how the plant was dealing with its finances and ifthe administration, which carried out the privatization, knew there wouldbe troubles. Last fall USEC unsuccessfully lobbied the administration for$200 million in help.

"If an IPO was billed as affecting less layoffs, then I ask who didthe math?" asked Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio), whose district includesone of the plants. "USEC came around in less than two years after theywent public looking for us to bail them out. The corporation's prioritiesare wrong.

"We can not allow these plants to continue to cease functioning. Asa government we can not allow this industry to fail, but we can let thiscorporation fail."

Companies that mine uranium and convert it into a usable form told Congressthat they were harmed by the privatization deal. Mark Stout, presidentof the Uranium Producers of America, said that between USEC's supply ofuranium, recycled uranium from Russian bombs—which USEC is also handling--anda general oversupply of utility-ready uranium available on the world market,there is little demand for newly mined uranium.
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Statement By The President [START II Ratification]
        William Jefferson Clinton
        Office of the White House
        April 14, 2000
        (for personal use only)

I am very pleased that the Russian State Duma today approved the STARTII Treaty ' a critical step toward the Treaty's entering into force. Thisaction builds on decades of cooperation between the United States and Russiato reduce nuclear arms and clearly advances the interests of bothcountries. Together with the START I Treaty, it will result in a two-thirds reductionin the strategic nuclear weapons that the Soviet Union and the United Statesmaintained at the height of the Cold War. START II will make our peoplesafer and our partnership with a democratic Russia stronger.  It willopen the door to further significant steps to reduce nuclear arms and thenuclear danger, a course that is strongly supported by the internationalcommunity and has strong bipartisan support in the United States.

I congratulate President-elect Putin and his government, members ofthe State Duma, and Russian citizens who supported this giant step towarda safer future.  I look forward to prompt action on the Treaty bythe Federation Council.  Now, we and Russia can and must seize thisopportunity to intensify our discussions on both START III and the ABMTreaty, so we can take further concrete steps this year to strengthen thesecurity of the United States, Russia and indeed the whole world.
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Breakdown of Voting in Russia Duma on START-2
        April 14, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, April 14 (Reuters) - The overwhelming majority of factions inRussia's lower house of parliament voted on Friday in favour of ratifyingthe START-2 nuclear arms reduction treaty.

Two groups, the Communist Party and Agrarians, voted against.

More than seven years after the treaty was signed, the State Duma voted228 to 131 for ratification with four abstentions.

Following is a breakdown of how the voting went. There are 450 membersin the Duma, but figures may not necessarily add up to that figure.

UNITY - Bloc closely aligned to President-elect Vladimir Putin. 83 infavour, none against, no abstentions.

Unity parliamentary leader Boris Gryzlov called the treaty a ``significantevent for the Duma.'' ``The presence of the president helped to persuadesome deputies to change their mind,'' he said.

YABLOKO - Liberal opposition group headed by economist Grigory Yavlinsky.20 in favour, none against, no abstentions. One member did not take partin the vote.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY (LDPR) - Nationalists led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky.15 in favour, none against, no abstentions. One member did not take partin the vote.

Zhirinovsky called the ratification ``the unity of deputies and theexecutive.'' He added: ``A real national idea took shape.''

UNION OF RIGHT-WING FORCES (SPS) - Liberals led by former Prime MinisterSergei Kiriyenko. 28 in favour, none against, no abstentions. Four membersdid not participate, including human rights activist Sergei Kovalyov andleading liberal economist Irina Khakamada.

Kiriyenko said the treaty amounted to the disarming of the United States.``Russia does not reduce anything except for that which is dying off byitself,'' he said.

FATHERLAND-ALL RUSSIA (OVR) - 43 in favour, none against, one abstention,three did not participate.

PEOPLES' DEPUTIES GROUP - bloc broadly aligned to Unity and Putin. 57in favour, none against, no abstentions, one did not participate.

RUSSIAN REGIONS GROUP -- members representing regional interests. 32in favour, seven against, no abstentions, two did not participate.

COMMUNIST PARTY -- largest group in the Duma. two in favour, 82 against,no abstentions, four did not participate, including former Deputy PrimeMinister Yuri Maslyukov and Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov called the ratification an ``historicmistake'' and ``Russia's next defeat.'' ``Our opponents have militarydiscipline,''he said.

AGRARIAN GROUP --  broadly linked to the Communists. one in favour,39 against, one abstention, one did not participate.
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Russia: Many Factors Contributed To Duma Ratification Of START-II
        Jolyon Naegele
        April 14, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Prague, 14 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The ratification of the START-II treatyby Russia's lower house of parliament comes seven years after Russian andU.S. leaders signed it and four years after the U.S. Senate ratified it.

U.S. arms control expert Don Jensen says the Russian ratification hascome now as a result of many factors, including a shift in the balanceof Russian political forces, the recent election of Vladimir Putin as president,and pressure by the United States.

"I think the timing is due largely to four factors. First, the factthat the new Duma took office at the beginning of this year and the newDuma is, so far at least, far more willing to go along with what the Kremlinwants than its predecessor. That's not to say that the prior Duma was mostaccurately characterized as Communist dominated. It was really anti-presidentand anti-Kremlin and this new legislature seems much more willing to goalongwith President Putin. Second, I think, Putin himself wants betterrelations with the West. This issue is something which is politically oflittle cost to him because it's really in the best interests of Russia,first of all, and second, sends a strong political message to the UnitedStates and NATO and the European Union that he's not only willing to dobusiness, but come to an agreement on issues of mutual concern. And I think,in Putin's case, that he hopes to get economic assistance as well, so thishas to be seen in the context of the broader range of bilateral issues.The third factor, I think, is the strong pressure in the United Statesfrom both Republican and Democratic candidates, that some modificationin the [Anti-Ballistic Missile] treaty is warranted and the strong implicationthat, whether the Russians agree or not, the U.S. will go ahead and researchand develop ABM technology as best they can. And fourth, President Clintonclearly wants a legacy before he leaves office, and while this is perhapsnot as great a step as the U.S. administration would broadcast, it isnonethelessa step toward a reorientation of the strategic security arrangements andarchitecture after the Cold War."

Ratification of START-II could have significance for negotiations onanother treaty, the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile, or ABM, treaty. The ABMtreaty bars most U.S. and Russian deployment of missile defenses, and theUnited States has been pushing for an amendment that would allow it todeploy a limited missile defense designed to repel a small attack by arogue-state or terrorist. Jensen says he expects the Duma's ratificationto strengthen Moscow's hand in discussions on the ABM.

"I think very much it will. Part of the bill in the Duma and the continuingRussian position has been that implementation of START reductions willtake place only in the context and after an agreement on the ABM treatyand any modifications of the treaty. As of this moment, the Russians stronglyoppose any changes in the ABM treaty. The question in the ruling circlesin Moscow is really not whether to oppose the ABM modifications the U.S.proposes, but how best to respond in case the U.S. does take this undesirableaction, which would be deploying a limited ABM system. So I think the STARTratification is really part of the major bigger question of strategic balance,and it has to be looked at only in conjunction with the debate overanti-ballisticmissile defenses. And there's no sign at all that there is going to beany debate, any agreement any time soon."

Jensen rejects suggestions by some commentators that START-II constitutesa unilateral disarmament for the U.S., since much of Russia's missile forceis alleged to have outlived its service lifetime and is supposedly dueto be scrapped.

"I think it's far from unilateral disarmament. Russia's missile forcewill be more or less effective, to the extent that we know, well into thenext decade, 2006, 2007. If they need to, I'm certain that they can, withrelatively little expense, extend the lifetime of particularly the Topolmissile system. Russian military experts talk about re-MIRVing the Topolmissiles (adding more warheads in contravention of existing treaties) ascounter-measure to any deployed ABM system. And they talk about that assomething that can be done relatively cheaply and easily."

START-II reduces the allowable number of warheads in each side's arsenalby half -- to between 3,000 and 3,500 warheads. But Jensen predicts thatthis reduction will not have a significant impact on each side's abilityto destroy the other side.

"I think it won't have very much effect at all. The important issueis balance and deterrence and the issue of 3,000 or 100 warheads has tobe considered in the light of targeting and how you address strategic securityissues on the other side with your force. And as long as the balance ismaintained and both sides reduce proportionately and predictably, I thinkmuch of what we've seen in terms of bilateral strategic relations sincethe beginning of the Cold War will continue."
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Putin Clarifies Start II Plans
        Associated Press
        April 15, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW –– Russia will not immediately scrap any nuclear ballistic missilesfollowing the ratification of the START II treaty, President Vladimir Putinsaid Saturday.

The treaty gives the United States and Russia until 2007 to halve theirnuclear arsenals to 3,000-3,5000 warheads each. In the interim, Russiawill only decommission those missiles whose service life has already expired,Putin said.

The State Duma, parliament's lower house, ratified START II on Friday.Putin said even if the treaty had not been ratified, Russia's heavy ballisticmissiles would have to be decommissioned by 2007.

"The service life of these missiles expired and has been extended,"he said. Defense Ministry specialists advised that a further extensionwould be "inexpedient, dangerous and unreasonable," Putin said, accordingto the ITAR-Tass news agency.

He said "not a single missile, not a single charge will be removed fromduty until the expiration of the final guaranteed time of their use."

The comments appeared to be aimed at the millions of Russians who supportthe Communist Party. The Communists vehemently opposed the treaty, sayingit was a serious threat to Russia's national security and would give theUnited States a major military advantage.
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Arms Vote Seen Giving Putin Ammunition
        David Filipov
        Boston Globe
        April 15, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW - Funny how Russian and American nuclear weapons have evolvedinto little more than the world's most dangerous bargaining chips.

Take yesterday's long overdue vote by the Russian lower house of Parliamentto ratify the 1993 START II strategic arms reduction treaty. On the surface,this was a watershed decision that finally will clear the way for the UnitedStates and Russia to halve their nuclear arsenals, to about 3,000-3,500warheads.

In reality, Russia did not need a 7-year-old arms control agreementto start reducing its nukes. Time, rust, and lack of cash are already takingcare of that.

What the approval did do was to give President-elect Vladimir V. Putina chance to go on the offensive in Russia's bitter diplomatic dispute withthe United States over the arms control issue Moscow really worries about.It also gave the rest of the world a glimpse at Putin's meaning this weekwhen he said Russia would pursue its national security from ''a positionof strength.''

Wasting little time after yesterday's 288-131 ratification vote, Putinproposed slashing the countries' nuclear stockpiles even further, to about1,500 warheads each. He also warned that Russia would abandon all nuclearand conventional arms control agreements if the United States went aheadwith its plans to build national missile defense system. Instead, he said,the United States should follow Russia's good example.

''Our partners should make the next steps. The ball is in their court,''said Putin during a surprise appearance at the Duma, accompanied by histwo aides who carry the briefcases that contain the launch codes for Russia'snuclear forces.

START II must now be ratified by the Federation Council, the RussianParliament's upper chamber, easy approval is expected. Putin, who leavesfor London tomorrow for a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair,said: ''We are now in a very good position diplomatically and politically.''

The Duma vote won immediate approval from the Clinton administration,which has been pushing Russia to follow the example of the US Senate, whichratified the agreement in 1996.

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, on a visit to neighboringUkraine, welcomed the vote as a ''big step forward'' and expressed hopethat she and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov would make progress onarms control in talks set for later this month. But she remained firm onher goal to get Moscow to alter the antiballistic missile treaty to allowfor a US missile defense system.

President Clinton is expected to decide this summer whether to buildsuch a system to protect the country from potential attacks by ''rogue''states such as North Korea and Iraq.

Moscow sees such a defensive shield as a potential threat to the roughstrategic balance that has existed between Russia and the United Statesfor two generations that took seriously the threat that these weapons couldend mankind. Moscow views the planned US defensive shield as a direct violationof a 1972 pact on antiballistic missiles that provided the cornerstonefor all later arms control deals.

The national defense system has strong bipartisan support in the UnitedStates and it is unlikely that Russia can stop it.

But yesterday's events in Moscow gave Putin the political high groundover Clinton before a United Nations conference this month on halting thespread of nuclear weapons. Russia could further upstage Washington in thecoming weeks if the Duma also ratifies the global nuclear test ban treatythat the US Senate did not pass last year. Clinton failed to persuade theRepublican-dominated body to approve it.

In getting the Duma to ratify START II, Putin accomplished what hispredecessor, Boris N. Yeltsin, was unable to do after signing the treatywith George Bush in January 1993. Every time Yeltsin sent the treaty tothe Duma, his Communist opponents who used to dominate the house wouldfind an excuse - NATO expansion in 1997, the US-led airstrikes againstIraq in 1998, NATO's assault on Yugoslavia last year - to refuse to voteon Start II.

Tensions with the West are again high, this time over Chechnya. TheCommunists, who lost ground to pro-Kremlin parties in elections last December,opposed ratification. But the majority went along with Putin's line thatSTART II is a boon for Russia's cash-poor military.

Putin said the treaty would allow Moscow to modernize its nuclear arsenaland divert scarce funds to conventional forces.

''Our nuclear forces, after the ratification of START II, will stillbe able at any moment and any point on the planet to destroy any enemyseveral times over and guaranteed,'' Putin told lawmakers.

At the moment, Russia cannot afford to maintain and protect its existingnuclear stockpile of about 6,000 weapons, nor can it find cash to destroyold warheads and fissile material without US assistance.

As a result, military specialists say, many weapons are rusting away.Under START II, Russia will be decommissioning missiles which would otherwisebecome obsolete. The United States will have to destroy newer weapons.

Putin's proposal of new, drastic cuts for what would be START III reflectthe growing realization here that Russia probably cannot support more than1,000-1,500 weapons, according to Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent Moscow-baseddefense analyst. The Clinton administration has said it wants to keep about2,000-2,500 weapons.

Putin said Russia had to avoid a new international arms race.

''Our main task is to force the USA to reduce its actual nuclear potential,''Putin said before the vote. ''If we don't ratify this treaty, Russia willbe 15 times weaker than the USA by 2010.''

By ratifying START II, deputies also approved motions that give Putina free hand to abandon all arms pacts if the United States goes ahead withits defense system.

The Duma also approved a 1997 US-Russian protocol to START II that extendsthe deadline for Russia to scrap nuclear weapons from 2003 to 2007. TheUS Senate has yet to approve this amendment.

Felgenhauer, for one, thinks it never will. And that is the whole point.START II does not have to actually work for Moscow to use it to gain concessionsin other areas from a Clinton administration that needs, in an electionyear, to be able to claim successes, and avoid trouble, in its dealingswith Russia.
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Arsenal Cuts Don't Cover U.S.'s 12,000 Nuclear Triggers
        Walter Pincus
        Washington Post
        April 16, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Russia's ratification of the START II agreement may spark the firstreal debate in more than a decade over the size of the U.S. nuclear stockpile,which has changed very little since the end of the Cold War.

The number of nuclear warheads deployed on missiles and bombers by Russiaand the United States gradually is dropping from 10,000 to 6,000 on eachside, thanks to the START I agreement, which was signed in 1991 and wentinto effect in 1994.

But in addition to maintaining and refurbishing those 6,000 deployedwarheads, the U.S. Department of Energy has kept a war reserve of about4,000 plutonium triggers or "pits" taken from dismantled warheads, whichcould be turned back into weapons within 18 months.

Under START II, which the Russian parliament ratified Friday by 288to 131, Russia and the United States are slated to cut their arsenals ofdeployed warheads to between 3,000 and 3,500 warheads over the next sevenyears. But the treaty does not govern how many nondeployed nuclear warheadsand pits can be held in reserve, and the Energy Department plans to maintainthousands of spares in working condition.

Critics of the Clinton administration's nuclear weapons policy, suchas Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), believe the United States should unilaterallyreduce the nuclear weapons stockpile instead of keeping it at the levelof the Cold War.

"We have way in excess of what we need," Kerrey said recently. "We forcethe Russians to maintain more weapons than they are able to control."

Kerrey said the administration and the public "should be reminded thatone U.S. Trident submarine's 24 intercontinental-range missiles could deliver192 warheads, each with 100 kilotons, on some country--enough to shatterits society." The United States has 18 Trident submarines, four of whicheventually are to be withdrawn under START II.

The Russian parliament's delay in ratifying START II, which was signedin 1993 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1996, has long been cited asa reason for the United States to remain wary of Russia's intentions andto maintain a large reserve of plutonium and other weapons components.

During the 1980s, the nuclear freeze movement, the Reagan administration'smilitary buildup and U.S.-Soviet arms control talks ensured a nearly continuous,heated public debate over America's nuclear posture. But since the breakupof the Soviet Union in 1991, popular fears of nuclear Armageddon have waned,and the United States has maintained and even begun upgrading its 6,000deployed warheads--plus the 4,000 pits in reserve--with almost no debatein Congress. Kerrey's call for reductions in the stockpile was voted downlast year by a substantial margin in the Senate.

Moscow's deployed strategic arsenal, meanwhile, has continued to declinebecause of the lack of funds needed to keep its nuclear missile submarinesand land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles fully operational. Eventhough newly elected President Vladimir Putin has called for strengtheningRussia's nuclear forces, many experts believe that Russia is sliding towarda force of 1,500 operational strategic warheads, the number it has proposedin preliminary discussions about a START III accord.

Concerned about the possibility of "loose nukes," the U.S. governmentis spending about $2 billion on programs to halt Russia's production ofplutonium, help dismantle Russia's older strategic weapons and improvesecurity around Russia's disassembled pits, of which there may be morethan 20,000, according to Stan Norris of the Natural Resources DefenseCouncil.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for example, is supervising constructionof secure storage at Mayak, a facility in Russia's Ural Mountains, to holdplutonium pits and other materials from dismantled weapons. How many pitsRussia will maintain in working condition is unclear.

"The Russians have been cagey about discussing their future plans forretaining pits," Norris said, "no doubt watching what we do."

Pits are hollow spheres or ovals of plutonium about the size of a softball.In a thermonuclear weapon, conventional explosives compress the plutonium,which causes the nuclei of the heavy metal's atoms to split, releasingenergy and splitting still more atoms in a chain reaction. This primaryexplosion releases X-rays that instantly trigger another reaction, fusinghydrogen nuclei together and unleashing a powerful secondary explosion.

The Energy Department is storing 12,000 pits from disassembled weaponsin specially designed canisters, mostly at its Pantex Plant near Amarillo,Tex. About 8,000 of these are slated for eventual destruction, once thegovernment has built and tested a facility to turn them into harmless powder.

But the remaining 4,000 pits are being kept as a "national securityreserve of plutonium," a hedge against the possibility that Russia or someother country might suddenly begin to build up its nuclear arsenal, saidBrig. Gen. Thomas F. Gioconda, principal deputy secretary of defense formilitary applications.

Meanwhile, the Energy Department is refurbishing the 6,000 thermonuclearwarheads now deployed on U.S. strategic missiles and bombers, accordingto federal officials and congressional sources. Altogether, the departmentspends more than $4 billion a year to maintain the nuclear stockpile andensure its reliability. That does not include the cost of military operations.

Gioconda said the president's annual nuclear stockpile memo, put togetherby the Energy and Defense departments with refinement from the NationalSecurity Council, determines how many warheads are deployed and held inreserve. "The United States is no longer producing plutonium," Giocondanoted, "and pits are the safest way to keep a plutonium reserve."

In addition, the general said, "plutonium aging has become the biggestpolicy issue in the [nuclear weapons] program," because of uncertaintyover the metal's rate of deterioration.

A Russian study released two years ago implied that there could be short-termdegradation in plutonium, a man-made element that scientists previouslybelieved does not significantly decay for 10,000 years.

John C. Browne, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, told a recentcongressional hearing that "the time scale for change is thousands of years,and hence is too slow to be a practical concern for the stockpile." Currentestimates of the lifetime of pits range from 30 to 90 years, he said.

Gioconda said the United States has begun "enhanced aging studies" thatshould provide better data on pit lifetimes by 2003. In the meantime, somenew pits already are being fabricated by a small facility at Los Alamos.

Although Los Alamos eventually could produce 50 plutonium pits a year,Gioconda said the Energy Department plans in the next fiscal year to undertakea preliminary study of a larger pit production plant, which probably wouldrequire 15 years to design and construct.

Most of America's plutonium pits formerly were made at the department'sRocky Flats Plant between Boulder and Golden, Colo. It stopped making newpits in 1989, after environmentalists raised questions about the plant'sdanger to the community.

But funding for "pit manufacturing readiness" in the fiscal 2001 budgetis rising by $38.1 million, or 54 percent, largely to pay for the manufactureat Los Alamos of pits to renovate the W-88, the latest U.S. submarine-launchedmissile warhead. After fiscal 2001, Gioconda said, Los Alamos will manufacturepits "for placement into the stockpile."
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C. Russian Nuclear Forces

Duma Adopts Resolution on Russian Strategic Nuclear Force
        Itar Tass
        April 14, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, April 14 (Itar-Tass) - A resolution on combat readiness anddevelopment of the Russian Strategic Nuclear Force, drafted by the DumaCommittees on International Affairs and Defense, was adopted by the lowerhouse at a plenary meeting on Friday. A total of 289 deputies voted forthe resolution, four voted against and one abstained.

"The Strategic Nuclear Force of Russia is the key instrument of provisionof the national defense," the resolution reads. The Russian fulfillmentof START II and the drafting new international agreements on cuts and limitsof strategic nuclear armaments must be done in such a way that the combatreadiness and potential of the Russian Strategic Nuclear Force are maintainedat a level guaranteeing deterrence of an aggression of any country or agroup of states.

The Strategic Nuclear Force must enjoy the priority financing and itscombat readiness must be maintained in any development of the militaryategicsituation, the resolution says.

The reduction of strategic armaments under START II must be done withthe maximum use of technical resources of the armaments currently in use.

The Cabinet must provide for the professional training and social securityof the Strategic Nuclear Force personnel. Any organizational changes inthe Russian Armed Forces, concerning the Strategic Nuclear Force, mustbe done on a basis of a comprehensive analysis and thorough considerationof such plans by of the Russian Security Council and parliament committees.

The disbandment (relocation) of military units in fulfillment of STARTII and the related dismissal and relocation of military personnel mustbe done in conformity to all legal acts of Russia on rights and socialsecurity of servicemen and their family members, the resolution says.

Bearing that in mind, the State Duma requests the President to instructthe Cabinet to provide for the unconditional fulfillment of the federallaw "On Financing of the State Defense Order for the Strategic NuclearForce of the Russian Federation," to draft measures guaranteeing the supplyof fuel to defense plants, to control the policy of prices on fuel, rawmaterials and accessories of monopoly enterprises, to ensure the legalregulation in bankruptcy of defense plants and the optimum taxation ofworks and services done in the state defense order for cutting spendingon its fulfillment.

It is also recommended to draft within the shortest period and to coordinatewith state power institutions in Russian constituencies a program of theefficient use of the Strategic Nuclear Force infrastructure, which becomesvacant in connection with the disbandment of military units, and a programof the employment of persons temporarily or permanently residing in formermilitary settlements.
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D.  De-Alerting

Adviser: Take Warheads Off Alert
        Edith M. Lederer
        Associated Press
        April 15, 2000
        (for personal use only)

UNITED NATIONS –– The United States and Russia should downgrade the"hair-trigger" alert of thousands of nuclear weapons scheduled to be eliminatedunder the START II treaty, a former Clinton security adviser says.

Frank von Hippel, who served as an assistant director of national securityfor the Clinton administration in 1993-94, said that despite the end ofthe Cold War, the two nations keep thousands of nuclear weapons on highalert in the event of nuclear war.

He said President Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin couldnow agree to make ballistic missiles safer from accidental launch.

"That would be the smartest thing we can do all around as a first step,"he said.

In an interview Friday, hours after Russia's parliament approved thelong-delayed treaty, Von Hippel recalled that before START I was ratifiedin 1991, President Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had agreedto stand down all the weapons that were going to be eliminated under thetreaty in 2001.

"Having negotiated it, and having figured out that they could do itin 10 years, they said, well why not now reduce the risk," he said.

START II would halve U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to 3,000-3,500warheads each by the end of 2007. A new treaty, START III, which is beingdiscussed, envisages cuts to 1,500-2,500 warheads.

Calling on Clinton and Putin to follow in the footsteps of Bush andGorbachev, Von Hippel said it was harder to take the warheads off alertin 1991 than it would be today because at that time there was no way toverify that both sides were complying – but now there are inspections.

Von Hippel, who is investigating nuclear policy alternatives, and retiredU.S. Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, deputy director of the Center for DefenseInformation, stressed that U.S. warheads being taken out of action underSTART II will not be destroyed.

Von Hippel explained that the way START II is written, Russia has toeliminate its multiple warheads but the United States is allowed to deactivateits sea-based missiles without destroying them.

The U.S. Defense Department recently announced that the warheads thatare taken out of missiles under START II are going to be refurbished, Carrollsaid.

"That means make them more reliable, more destructive, more stable andput them back into the inactive arsenal so that in case we get into troublewe can yank out as many as 6,000 weapons to go to war," he said.

Von Hippel said taking thousands of warheads off alert would have apositive impact on the U.N. conference to review the Nuclear NonproliferationTreaty, which starts April 24.

At the last review in 1995, when the treaty was extended indefinitely,five nuclear powers – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States– pledged to work for nuclear disarmament. The treaty, signed in 1970,also commits non-nuclear countries to refrain from developing their ownnuclear arsenals.
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