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Nuclear News - 05/31/00 - Volume 1
RANSAC Nuclear News, 31 May 2000

Volume 1



A. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Deal

    1. US Uranium Concern Fights To Survive, Nancy Dunne, FinancialTimes (05/18/00)
    2. News Briefing [LEU Shipments], Uranium Institute (05/23/00)
B. Tactical Nuclear Weapons
    1. Nuclear Weapons That People Forget, William C. Potterand Nikolai Sokov, International Herald Tribune (05/31/00)
C. Export Controls
    1. Russia To Boost Exports Of Nuclear Technology, RFE/RL(05/30/00)
    2. Russia Approves Nuclear Exports to Non-IAEA Bodies, AgenceFrance Presse (05/30/00)
D. Russia - Iran
    1. Iran Says Bushehr Nearly Half Finished, RFE/RL (05/23/00)
E.  Nuclear Testing
    1. Russia to Continue Experiments with Non-Nuclear Explosions,Itar Tass (05/30/00)
F.  Russian Nuclear Forces
    1. Russian Missiles Convert to Satellite Launchers, AgenceFrance Presse (05/30/00)
G.  Nuclear Waste
    1. Containers For Nuclear Submarine Wastes, Andrey Korolev,Bellona (05/22/00)
    2. U.S. Energy Department and Russian Academy of Sciences toStart Cooperative Projects in Radioactive Waste Science, Departmentof Energy (05/23/00)
    3. North Russian City Severodvinsk Is Nuclear Powder Keg,Russian Public TV [provided by BBC Monitoring] (05/30/00)
H.  Nuclear Power
    1. 50-Year Nuclear Plan Approved, Thomas Nilsen, Bellona(05/25/00)
    2. Russian Nuclear Reactor Restarted, Associated Press (05/31/00)
 

A. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Deal

1.
US Uranium Concern Fights To Survive
        Nancy Dunne
        Financial Times
        May 18, 2000
        (for personal use only)

USEC, the privatised US uranium enrichment company at the centre ofa landmark US/Russian nuclear agreement, could face partial renationalisationdue to severe financial difficulties.

Moves are under way in Congress to bring back under government controlthe vital uranium enrichment operations sold off in 1998 in a $1.9bn publicoffering - the largest US privatisation since 1986.

Republicans are planning to use the issue against vice-president AlGore, the Democratic presidential candidate, who oversaw the Russian dealand was later closely associated with USEC's privatisation.

At the centre of the company's problems is USEC's operation of a US-Russianagreement, under which the US promised to buy from Moscow over 20 years500 tonnes of atomic bomb fuel, recovered from dismantled warheads. Theterms of the Russian agreement have undermined USEC's financial performanceas the market price of uranium has plummeted below prices fixed in theRussian contracts.

Congressman Ted Strickland, a Democrat who represents an Ohio enrichmentplant operated by USEC, said the privatisation was achieved through a "flawed,secretive process" which had put at risk national security.

"The government should seriously consider assuming ownership of thisindustry once again," he said.

Under consideration is a bill backed by the Paper, Allied-Industrial,Chemical & Energy Workers Union, whose members are fast losing theirjobs in the enrichment industry.

It would set up a government-owned corporation to assume responsibilityfor the US-Russian deal, buying up the Russian materials as agreed withgovernment funds if necessary. Republicans in the House commerce committee- which the party controls - have signalled they could support such a move.

USEC last year tried and failed to get a $200m government assistancepackage. Profits are expected to fall by two-thirds to around $40m overthe next two years and its share price has fallen 67 per cent since itspublic offering in July 1998.

The company is expected to announce closure of one of two giant enrichmentfacilities it operates.

The House commerce committee is expected to hold hearings on USEC inSeptember, attacking the administration for conducting an "incompetent"privatisation and specifically targeting Mr Gore.

"Congress set forth clear guidelines to ensure that this process ofprivatization occurred without jeopardising our national security or theviability of our uranium industry," said Eric Wohlschlegel, House commercecommittee spokesman.

USEC officials argue that they are successfully implementing the Russianuranium programme, which has dismantled the equivalent of 3,254 warheads."Privatisation was not a mistake," said a company spokesman. "If USEC hadremained in government (control), the international market conditions facingit would be exactly the same."

Most of the proceeds of the Russian uranium sales to USEC are used byMoscow to support former Soviet nuclear establishments - along with theirscientists, engineers, and even guards - in an effort to discourage theiremployment by terrorist groups.
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2.
News Briefing [LEU Shipments]
        Uranium Institute
        May 23, 2000
        (for personal use only)

[NB00.21-8] Russia: Tenex has suspended shipments of LEU to USEC becauseof the ongoing lawsuit brought by Swiss import-export company Noga in theUS courts. USEC has confirmed it has received two deliveries this year,representing less than 20% of the year's order for 30 t of HEU blendeddown to LEU. This is the latest in a series of shipment delays and suspensions.(FreshFUEL, 22 May, p1; Ux Weekly, 22 May, p2; see also News Briefing 00.20-9)
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B. Tactical Nuclear Weapons

1.
Nuclear Weapons That People Forget
        William C. Potter and NikolaiSokov
        International Herald Tribune
        May 31, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Mr. Potter is director of the Monterey Institute's Center for NonproliferationStudies. Mr. Sokov, a former Russian arms control negotiator, is a seniorassociate at the center. They contributed this comment to the InternationalHerald Tribune.

MONTEREY, California - Nuclear arms control issues will be on the agendaat the first summit meeting this weekend between President Bill Clintonand his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Neither side, however, appearseager to address the sensitive problem of tactical nuclear weapons, themost destabilizing category of nuclear arms and the one least regulatedby arms control agreements.

Tactical nuclear weapons are relatively small, short-range systems designedfor use in battlefield or theater-level operations. Because of their sizeand forward basing, they are especially vulnerable to theft and unauthorizeduse. They have been unaffected by negotiated arms control agreements andare only subject to the non-binding unilateral, parallel declarations madeby George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in the autumn of 1991.

These initiatives, along with a related pledge by Mr. Putin's predecessor,Boris Yeltsin, in January 1992, provided for the elimination of thousandsof tactical nuclear warheads and the transfer of most other stocks to centralstorage facilities.

Although these unilateral declarations appear to have been largely observedto date, their future is precarious. They are not legally binding, do notprovide for data exchanges, lack a verification mechanism and can be terminatedby either side without prior notification. As such, they are poorly equippedto withstand the challenges of any further deterioration in the U.S.-Russianpolitical relationship, the renewed interest in tactical nuclear weaponsin Russia as its conventional forces deteriorate and the possible U.S.withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

The new Russian military doctrine poses special risks to the 1991 unilateraldeclarations because it provides for the early use of nuclear weapons inregional conflicts. This approach is reflected in the increased integrationof tactical nuclear weapons into war planning, as was evident in the ''West99'' military exercises last summer. In short, nuclear weapons in generaland tactical nuclear weapons in particular are enjoying a renaissance inRussia where they are perceived as a poor man's substitute for advancedconventional arms.

Given these challenges, the informal tactical nuclear weapons controlregime must be reinforced, and a retaining wall must be erected to preventits erosion and collapse. Among the most important steps that should betaken are reaffirmation by the United States and Russia in a joint statementby the two presidents of their continued commitment to the 1991 parallelstatements, or preferably the signing of an executive agreement to thateffect.

Ideally, action of this sort should be taken at the summit meeting betweenMr. Clinton and Mr. Putin in Moscow on Sunday and Monday, before Russiacommits to new production or deployments of tactical nuclear weapons.

It would also be highly desirable for both presidents to direct theirgovernments to begin negotiations on a legally binding treaty that codifiedthe 1991 statements. Such a treaty should include provisions for data exchangeand verification measures. Although these negotiations could conceivablybe held within the framework of the talks to finalize the third StrategicArms Reduction Treaty, this forum is already burdened by other issues.It would probably be best to address tactical nuclear weapons in a separate,dedicated negotiation.

Although efforts should continue to be directed toward reducing arsenalsof long-range strategic nuclear arms, it is increasingly urgent to reinvigoratethe process of eliminating tactical nuclear weapons. Failure to do so wouldundo earlier accomplishments and open the door to a new and destabilizingarms race.
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C. Export Controls

1.
Russia To Boost Exports Of Nuclear Technology
        RFE/RL
        May 30, 2000
        (for personal use only)

A spokesman for the Atomic Energy Ministry's foreign trade departmentannounced at a press conference on 29 May that President Putin has reverseda 1992 decision to ban exports of nuclear material, technologies, and equipmentto organizations that do not belong to the International Atomic EnergyAgency (IAEA), AFP reported. Such exports will be made if they "do notcontradict Russia's international agreements and if the governments ofthe countries concerned assure that they will not be used to build nuclearweapons," the spokesman said, adding that Cuba, Israel, India, North Korea,and Pakistan all have civilian nuclear organizations outside the controlof the IAEA.
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2.
Russia Approves Nuclear Exports to Non-IAEA Bodies
        Agence France Presse
        May 30, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, May 30, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) President Vladimir Putinhas approved the export of Russian nuclear material, technologies and equipmentto organizations outside the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),a senior atomic energy official said Monday.

The approval, made by executive decision, reverses a ban on such exportsto non-IAEA members enacted in 1992 by then-president Boris Yeltsin.

"We are going to collaborate with these organizations if their securityis threatened," Nikolai Ryjov, head of the atomic ministry's foreign tradedepartment, said at a news conference.

The exports will be made if they "do not contradict Russia's internationalagreements and if the governments of the countries concerned assure thatthey will not be used to build nuclear weapons," he said.

Cuba, Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan have civilian nuclearorganizations outside the control of the IAEA, Ryjov said.

The IAEA is an independent intergovernmental body under the UN umbrellain that serves as the global focal point for cooperation in the peacefuluses of nuclear energy.

Through its inspection system the IAEA verifies that nations complywith their commitments, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and other non-proliferationagreements, to use nuclear material and facilities only for peaceful purposes.
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D. Russia-Iran

1.
Iran Says Bushehr Nearly Half Finished
        RFE/RL
        May 23, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Safari announced in Moscow on 22May that the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran, whose construction isbeing finished by Russia, is 40 percent complete, Interfax reported. Safariadded that it is hoped that part of the plant will become operational in2002. And dismissing statements by Washington that Iran poses a "nuclearthreat," he said Tehran's aim is to make the region "nuclear-free."
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E. Nuclear Testing

1.
Russia to Continue Experiments with Non-Nuclear Explosions
        Itar Tass
        May 30, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, May 30 (Itar-Tass) - The Comprehensive Nuclear Tests Ban Treatywill in no way affect the Russian experiments with non-nuclear explosions,officials of the press service of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energytold Itar-Tass on Monday after President Putin had signed a federal lawon the ratification of the Comprehensive Tests Ban Treaty.

The officials recalled that Russia had not carried out any nuclear testssince October 1990. However, it has staged experiments with non-nuclearexplosions since 1995 to check the safety of its nuclear arsenal. No nuclearenergy is released as a result of these experiments and, therefore, theyare not covered by the Tests Ban Treaty.

Russia carried out seven experiments with non-nuclear explosions onthe Novaya Zemlya testing ground in 1999. The last such experiment wasstaged in January 2000. Officials of the press service noted that suchexperiments guaranteed the complete safety of Russia's nuclear arsenal.
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F. Russian Nuclear Forces

1.
Russian Missiles Convert to Satellite Launchers
        Agence France Presse
        May 30, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, May 30, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) About 100 Russian intercontinentalballistic missiles will be converted to launch foreign communications satellites,ITAR-TASS news agency said Monday.

The first launch will take place at Plessetsk cosmodrome in northwestRussia within 10 months, said a spokesman from the launch center.

The conversion program was drawn up by Russian manufacturer Khrunichevin cooperation with Germany's Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA).

The missiles, which would have been destroyed under the START II treatyratified earlier this month, will enable the Russians to save about 170million dollars. It would have cost this amount to dismantle the missiles,ITAR-TASS said.

Khrunichev, manufacturers of Russia's most powerful rocket launcher,Proton, and the space station Mir, has already received orders for 20 launches.
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G. Nuclear Waste

1.
Containers For Nuclear Submarine Wastes
        Andrey Korolev
        Bellona
        May 22, 2000
        (for personal use only)

(Murmansk): Shipyard Zvezdochka produced 100 containers for low activesolid radioactive waste generated during decommissioning of nuclear poweredsubmarines.

On May 10, experts from the United States, Norway and the Russian DefenceMinistry presented 100 containers for storage and transportation of lowactive solid radioactive wastes at Zvezdochka shipyard.

Vladimir Petrushenko, chief engineer of the shipyard, said that about100 nuclear submarines of various classes have been taken out of service.Most of them will be decommissioned at Zvezdochka shipyard. A part of theRussian submarines is being pulled out of service in consent with Start-1and Start-2 arms reduction treaties, the rest were retired due to servicetime limit.

An international tender on design and production of steel transportcontainers was announced in June 1999. Companies from the United States,Germany, Czech Republic (Skoda) and Russia competed the bid. Zvezochkashipyard together with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)based in the U.S. managed to grab the contract.

Zvezdochka shipyard has now completed the contract for production of100 transport steel containers. The contract was signed with SAIC and wasmanaged by inter-governmental program Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation(AMEC), which also financed the project. AMEC, established in 1996, isan initiative from Norway, Russia and the United States that works amongother things towards securing of radioactive waste in the Arctic region,generated during decommissioning of nuclear powered submarines.

Alexander Dyashev, a representative from the Russian Defence Ministry,said that the first 100 containers would be used at the bases of the RussianNorthern Fleet.

The transport container for solid radioactive waste meets all the Russianand international, including IAEA's, safety standards. It is capable tocontain seven standard 200 litter barrels with solid radioactive waste.The loaded container can be shipped by all means of transport and storedat temporary storage pads or permanent storage sites for 10 years. Onecontainer can hold around 2.3 tons of solid radioactive waste. Petrushenkosaid that the plants in the northern Russia involved in decommissioningof nuclear powered submarines, need around 1,300 of such containers.

Zvezdochka shipyard mastered the production of steel transport containersfor low active solid waste and is "ready at any time to begin productionof the new batch of containers, and also participate more actively in AMECprogram." This statement was confirmed by Andrew Griffith, a representativefrom the U.S. Department of Energy, who said that it is a big and serioussuccess of AMEC.

Interfax reported, however, that answering the question whether theAmerican government would further finance construction of the containers,Andrew Griffith said that the final decision had not been made yet, butthe quality of the work done gives pretty good chances that the fundingof the project would continue. This issue will be discussed in Moscow inthe coming week.
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2.
U.S. Energy Department and Russian Academy of Sciences to StartCooperative Projects in Radioactive Waste Science
        Department of Energy
        May 23, 2000
        (for personal use only)

U.S.-Russia Committee on Science & Technology Cooperation Hold InauguralMeeting

Two "Implementing Arrangements" that focus on geologic disposal of nuclearwaste were signed last week in Moscow at the first meeting of the JointCoordinating Committee on Science and Technology Cooperation (JCC). U.S.Under Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz, and Academician Nikolai P. Laverov,Vice President of the RAS, who serve as co-chairs of the Joint CoordinatingCommittee, signed the agreements at the inaugural session, held at theRussian Academy of Sciences headquarters.

"This new cooperation between the Energy Department and the RussianAcademy of Sciences will serve to strengthen a long history of interactionbetween our two organizations," Moniz said. "These efforts have producedfirst rate science in the past and now will focus important attention onnuclear waste management and remediation problems that plague both of ourcountries due to our shared nuclear waste legacy."

The JCC is the managing body for a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperationin Science and Technology between DOE and RAS. The Memorandum was signedby Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on March 24, 1999, as part of the NuclearCommittee of the US-Russian Joint  Commission for Economic and TechnologicalCooperation. The agreement facilitates collaboration between the Departmentof Energy and the Russian Academy of Sciences on scientific problems ofmutual interest and importance, such as environmental stewardship of theformer nuclear weapons complex in each country, and development of cleanenergy technologies. Collaborative opportunities are framed at joint workshops,incorporated into implementing arrangements and detailed in appendicesthat provide work plans and anticipated outcomes.

The "Implementing Arrangements" signed last week take into account theresults and recommendations of the DOE/RAS Workshop on radioactive wastescience, held October 1999 in Moscow. In addition, four appendices involving$906,000 of DOE funds over three years were signed and additional appendiceswere agreed to in principle.

The signed appendices include work on:

the study of the conditions of uranium migration and accumulation inrock similar to those found in the U.S. at possible repository sites;
the study of the chemical and thermochemical properties of radionuclidesand the characteristic migration processes important to repository performance;
the behavior and transport properties of radioactive waste at contaminatedsites in Russia;
and the preparation of a plan for the development of a geologic repositoryor repositories at a site or sites in Russia.

DOE-RAS discussions at the meeting included an actinide workshop heldMay 16-18 at the Russian Academy of Sciences and a proposed depleted uraniumworkshop.
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3.
North Russian City Severodvinsk Is Nuclear Powder Keg
        Russian Public TV [providedby BBC Monitoring]
        May 30, 2000
        (for personal use only)

[Presenter] Today we received a report from Archangel Region. A catastrophicsituation is taking shape there. The reason is radio-active wastes.

[Correspondent] Forty-five kilometres from Archangel there is the 300,000ongtown of Severodvinsk. This is a powerful nuclear shipbuilding centre, butnow this town is a gigantic radio-active dump. Both liquid and solid wastes,spent nuclear fuel, have accumulated in the bay in the very centre of thetown over a period of 13 years. The ecological situation is extremely complicated.The town is literally living on a powder keg. At any moment, an emergencysituation can occur. Experts assert that this will be a second Chernobyl,but there is a way out of this situation. A tragedy can be avoided.

[Chairman of the ecology committee of Archangel Region, Anatoliy Menyayev]In principle, the technology exists which will allow the radio-active wastesto be removed from Severodvinsk. They just need to be removed, loaded ontoa special train and sent to Mayak [processing plant] in the Urals for processing.The schedule for this which has been agreed is not being met.

[Correspondent] The train which is supposed to transport this dangerouscargo away does not make more than two journeys per year, although thetimetable indicates that it should make three times more than that. Onlythen, can the ecological situation in the area be considered safe for people.The main problem is that this special train is the only one in Russia.It serves the needs of the Northern and Pacific fleets, as well as theatomic ice-breakers of the Murmansk steamship line. It is by no means sufficientto take away the nuclear wastes in the summer time. For the moment 300,000Severodvinsk is making ready to deal with an accident situation and isliving according to a regime which envisages constant readiness to evacuatethe population.
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H. Nuclear Power Industry

1.
50-Year Nuclear Plan Approved
        Thomas Nilsen
        Bellona
        May 25, 2000
        (for personal use only)

New Russian energy strategy to build 23 new power reactors before 2020with not less than $15 billion investments for 10 years to come is approvedtoday.

Once again Russia’s Nuclear Minister, Yevgeny Adamov, told the Cabinetthat it was important to change the laws in favour of foreign spent nuclearfuel import to Russia. By doing this, Adamov counts on getting fundingto fulfil the ambitious investment plan for developing of nuclear industryin Russia in the years to come. Additional funding will come from an increaseof the tariff to 1 cent per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated atnuclear power plants. Adamov also suggested diverting a part of gas exportprofits to support the plan.

Adamov asked the new Cabinet to approve the maximum of 23 proposed nuclearreactors and promised to complete them before 2020. Even with new reactors,Adamov said it would be necessary to prolong the lifetime of the firstgeneration nuclear power reactors in Russia. Many of them have alreadybeen in operation for around 30 years, including the two oldest reactorsat Kola nuclear power plant in the Russian Arctic. In the next five years,$550 million is required for upgrade and extension of the lifetime forthe oldest reactors.

Environmental groups in Russia oppose the nuclear development plan presentedin Moscow today. “The new nuclear development project worked out by Minatominclude 23 new dangerous, expensive and unnecessary reactors,” says VladimirSlivyak, antinuclear campaigner for Ecodefence group. Slivyak also saysdevelopment of renewable sources of energy could provide Russia with agreat amount of electricity, but currently the government does not haveany investment plans for such energy.

$3,6 billion earmarked by Minatom for 30 years to tackle the huge wastemanagement problems Russia has encountered is hardly enough. “While Minatomis arguing that nuclear waste problem doesn’t exist, Russian nuclear plantsare contributing to this problem every day,” Vladimir Slivyak says. Currently14,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel from power plants are being generatedand stored in Russia. The Minatom’s strategy plan outlines the potentialfor import of another 20,000 tons from other countries.
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2.
Russian Nuclear Reactor Restarted
        Associated Press
        May 31, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW –– A nuclear reactor at a power plant outside Moscow was restartedafter an automatic safety system shut it down, officials said Wednesday.

The reactor at the Kalinin plant in Tver, 100 miles northwest of Moscow,was shut down automatically Monday afternoon. Emergency Situations Ministryspokesman Col. Nikolai Bobr declined to specify what the problem was, buthe said it was repaired and the reactor was restarted Tuesday morning.

He said no radiation had been released.
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