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Nuclear News - 06/09/00
RANSAC Nuclear News, 09 June 2000

A. Plutonium Disposition

    1. Unintended Consequences: The Moscow Plutonium Deal,
    1. Russia Sees Start-3 Deal in 2000, Renews ABM Stance, Reuters(6/9/00)
C. Nuclear Testing
    1. More Subcritical Tests Later This Year, Bellona (6/6/00)
D. Nuclear Waste
    1. Delays Threaten Russia Waste Cleanup, Associated Press(6/7/00)
    2. US, Russia to Ban Use of Nuclear Waste for Arms Plutonium.,Itar-Tass (6/9/00)
E. Russia – Iran
    1. Israel Tells Russia of Concern About Transfer of Nuclear Know-Howto Iran, Agence France Presse (6/8/00)
F. Russian Nuclear Forces
    1. Russia Hints That it May Re-Build Intermediate-Range Missiles,Agence France Presse (6/9/00)

A. Plutonium Disposition

Unintended Consequences: The Moscow Plutonium Deal
        June 9, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The Moscow summit failed to make any big breakthroughs on arms controlbut purported to make a small breakthrough when the Russian and Americanpresidents agreed to destroy 34 metric tons of plutonium. On the face ofit, the U.S.-Russian agreement would seem to help the cause of disarmament.But over the long term, it will achieve just the opposite.

At their summit in Moscow this week, U.S. President Bill Clinton andRussian President Vladimir Putin initialed a landmark deal: The UnitedStates and Russia pledged to destroy 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium,largely by using  it for fuel in civilian nuclear reactors. The agreementsuggests a showcase of cooperation between the two nations, eliminatingfuel that could be used in weapons of mass destruction.

But over the long term, this agreement may, in fact, worsen the problemof nuclear proliferation. The Clinton-Putin agreement will create a large-scaleglobal civilian demand for – and supply of – plutonium, a prime componentin the construction of nuclear weapons.

According to the text of the agreement, Russia will turn its share ofthe plutonium into a fuel called MOX, for use in nuclear reactors bothin Russia and abroad. The United States is adopting a similar plan for25.5 metric tons of its plutonium; the remainder will be sealed in glassand buried.

This swords-into-plowshares plan is designed to produce energy: A singlegram of plutonium can produce as much electricity as a metric ton of oil.And plutonium, unlike oil and other fossil fuels, produces no greenhousegases. Once the MOX is used up, the remaining plutonium residue is no longerusable for nuclear weapons. The United States will pay for its portion,$4 billion, by itself, as well as sink $200 million into Russia’s civiliannuclear industry. At the July summit in Okinawa, the United States andRussia will ask the G7 to cough up the remaining $1.55 billion for theRussian program .

However, plutonium is more dangerous than uranium; it produces morelethal radiation for a much longer period. It is also much easier to adaptfor use in nuclear weapons. And, of course, much of the MOX will be usedin converted Russian reactors, some of which are more than 20 years old.A Chernobyl-like accident involving plutonium would be far more seriousthan the original one, which involved uranium.

The plan begins with a total of 10 American and Russian reactors. Butit would take these reactors 20 years to use all 1,000 metric tons of VOXthe agreement would produce. If the agreement is extended to the rest ofthe American and Russian plutonium stockpile, this could exceed 60 years.This is why the agreement would bring other countries on board. Belgium,Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Ukraine and the United Kingdom have allexpressed an interest.

Developing such a large market for MOX would serve other purposes aswell. The average uranium-fueled nuclear reactor produces 200 to 250 kilogramsof waste plutonium per year. At the end of 1998 there were 345 reactorsin total; that means the nuclear industry creates roughly 77 metric tonsof plutonium waste annually.

This waste plutonium cannot be used to make nuclear weapons, and disposingof it incurs much expense. This is partly why nuclear power has fallenout of favor in most countries. By converting plutonium to MOX, the American-Russiaagreement would help turn this waste into fuel, thus boosting an ailingAmerican uranium nuclear industry.

But developing a global civilian energy infrastructure with a long-termneed for plutonium-based fuel has a strategic cost. In order to transformwaste plutonium into MOX, it must first be purified. This purified plutoniumcan be used for nuclear weapons.

To counter this concern, the United States insists it will decommissionall parts of its new plutonium industry once the weapons-grade plutoniumis destroyed, thus ending the proliferation threat. But Russia has madeit clear it intends to continue using plutonium for fuel. So have othercountries. Japan plans to have one-third of its 53 reactors using MOX by2010. There are already 30 reactors in Europe licensed to use the plutonium-basedfuel. All are simply waiting for a steady supply. The Clinton-Putin dealwill build the processing centers – several in Russia – necessary to ensurethat supply.

Almost all of the MOX reactors would be outside the United States andthus beyond American control.

Suddenly, the disarmament deal looks much less appealing. On average,every reactor that runs on MOX fuel will require four to six metric tonsof MOX – which contains 250 to 300 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium– a year. According to the Department of Energy this is enough raw plutoniumto make about 55 small nuclear weapons. And with 77 metric tons of newcivilian plutonium created every year, the chances of losing a few kilogramshere and there are immense.

The Clinton-Putin deal will firmly establish a uranium reactor to plutoniumreactor link, setting the stage for a continual, global proliferation hazard.The only other option is to bury the weapons material as is, leaving itvulnerable to theft – an option the United States shuns. But it is fareasier to steal plutonium above ground from one of potentially dozens ofcivilian facilities than from a guarded underground site. By agreeing tothe use of MOX as the predominant method for disposing of plutonium, Clintonand Putin have created a global – and permanent – proliferation nightmare.
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Russia Sees Start-3 Deal in 2000, Renews ABM Stance
        June 9, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Russia said on Friday Moscow and Washington could agree on new sweepingcuts in their nuclear arsenals before 2001 but renewed its opposition toU.S. plans to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

At a weekend U.S.-Russian summit, the two countries agreed in a statementto view the landmark treaty in the context of "new threats," a move seenas a U-turn in Moscow's hard stance on U.S. plans to build a national anti-missiledefence system.

"The statement speaks about potential threats. Our position is thattoday there are no such threats," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told a newsconference. "That is why we say that if such a threat requiresinternational cooperation."

Ivanov said that despite the United States dragging its feet on fullyratifying all aspects of the START-2 treaty on nuclear warhead cuts, Moscowsaw a good chance to move toward sealing a new far-reaching START-3 agreementbefore 2001.

"We consider it possible to reach concrete agreement with the UnitedStates on START-3 before the end of this year," he said. The sides agreedin 1997 on outline cuts under START-3, but Russia wants to go lower. Washingtonwants to amend ABM to build defences against "rogue" missiles. Moscow opposesthis.
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C. Nuclear Testing

More Subcritical Tests Later This Year
        June 6, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Russia will conduct a series of subcritical test explosions of nuclearweapons before the end of this year, Minatom announced last week in Moscow.The last series of such tests were staged in January. Minatom says theaim of the tests will be to check the safety and readiness of its arsenals,reports Interfax. Russia conducted seven subcritical tests at Novaya Zemlyain 1999.
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D. Nuclear Waste

Delays Threaten Russia Waste Cleanup
        Associated Press
        June 7, 2000
        (for personal use only)

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia –– Delays in funding may jeopardize efforts toremove nuclear waste from a deteriorating ship being used as a dump in Russia's far north, a top nuclear official said Wednesday.

Norway and other nations earlier pledged to fund the cleanup, but have since put off signing agreements to move the project forward. According to the Interfax news agency, Russia's Deputy Minister of Atomic Energy Valery Lebedev said the donor nations are holding up efforts to remove the nuclear waste stored aboard a small ship called the Lepse, which is anchored in Murmansk harbor.

Murmansk is a major Russian seaport located just east of Norway, the nation that has pledged the largest share of funding.  Lebedev saidRussia would not take responsibility for the project's failure  ifdonors were reluctant to sign agreements and held up funding, Interfax reported.

Norway's Deputy Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide has denied the project is in danger. He said France and the Nordic Financing  Cooperativeare finalizing legal requirements with Russia before signing on, and that their agreements will complete the funding package.

"We think that will go quickly," he said, adding that his nation couldnot  release its share until all the details are settled.

Environmentalists have called the small, run-down ship a floating Chernobyl because of the radioactive waste stored haphazardly in its hold. The waste is not in immediate danger of leaking but cannot be safely removed using ordinary cranes. Meanwhile, the vessel is slowly decaying in the harbor.
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US, Russia to Ban Use of Nuclear Waste for Arms Plutonium
        June 9, 2000
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON, June 9 (Itar-Tass) - The United States hopes to draft ajoint statement with Russia for the G-8 July summit in Okinawa on imposinga moratorium on the use of waste fuel of nuclear power plants for the productionof arms-grade plutonium.

Deputy administrator for defense nuclear non-proliferation Rose Gottemoellertold reporters on Thursday that U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson andRussian Nuclear Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov instructed experts to finalisethe agreement by the above deadline.

According to Gottemoeller, the sides have already passed three-quartersof the road. It is now time to resolve a very complicated question on atransfer of nuclear technologies to third countries, provoking anxietyin connection with the nonproliferation problem. This will need tense workin the next month, she emphasised.

The U.S. administration plans to render aid to Russia in 2001 in realisingthis understanding to a sum of 100 million dollars.

The sum will be used for improving safety of the South Ural Mayak nuclearcomplex, construction of a new fuel waste storage and for raising reliabilityof nuclear reactors.
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E. Russia-Iran

Israel Tells Russia of Concern About Transfer of Nuclear Know-Howto Iran
        Agence France Presse
        June 8, 2000
        (for personal use only)

JERUSALEM, Jun 8, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Israeli Prime MinisterEhud Barak expressed concern at the on-going transfer of nuclear technologyto Iran, during a meeting Wednesday with Russian Interior Minister VladimirRushailo.

The alleged export of missile and nuclear technology to Iran, whichIsrael regards as a threat to its security, is a long-running sore affectingties with Russia.

"Barak ... expressed his concern over the Iranian and Iraqi armamentefforts and the continued flow of nuclear technology to Iran," a statementfrom his office said.

Both Israel and the United States are worried that Russia wants to expandits nuclear cooperation with the Islamic republic and is opposed to Moscow'sinvolvement in developing a nuclear reactor in Iran.

Iran denies Israel's right to exist and is a staunch opponent of theArab-Israeli peace process.

Rushailo arrived here on Sunday along with an Israeli boy, Adi Sharon,who returned home after being held hostage by a criminal gang in Russiafor almost 10 months.

Barak also briefed Rushailo on developments in the peace process, sayingthat most attention was focused on the Palestinian track following Israel'stroop withdrawal from Lebanon, ending a 22-year occupation.

But he said he "hopes that the negotiations with Syria will resume inthe future."

Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara said after talks with US Secretaryof State Madeleine Albright in Cairo on Wednesday that there was stilla chance to revive the negotiations which stalled in January.

Albright, on a three-day swing through the Middle East, announced Tuesdaythat the peace talks with the Palestinians would shift back to Washingtonnext week in a bid to forge a framework agreement.
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F. Russian Nuclear Forces

Russia Hints That it May Re-Build Intermediate-Range Missiles
        Agence France Presse
        June 9, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Jun 9, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Russia may redevelop intermediaterange missiles in response to any U.S. deployment of an anti-missile shield,one of Russia's top security officials said in an interview Thursday.

Serguei Ivanov, Security Council secretary, said that "one of the adequatecounter-measures (against a U.S. missile defense shield) is the use ofintermediate range missiles".

But he did say precisely what he meant by the word "use".

According to Yuri Gladkevich, an expert from the military news agencyAVN, Ivanov's comments could herald "the re-start of intermediate rangemissile construction and an increase in their range of deployment."

Ivanov was quoted as saying that the "violation" by the U.S. of theAnti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty "will cancel the START I and STARTII agreements, as well as agreements on intermediate range missiles."

He added that the National Missile Defense (NMD), or defense shield,presented "unilateral advantages" and was "without any doubt designed tocounter our intercontinental ballistic missiles".

Moscow and Washington failed to agree on modifications to the ABM treatythat would allow the US to deploy its defensive shield at a summit betweenPresidents Vladimir Putin and US President Bill Clinton here June 3-5.

Speaking in the daily newspaper Komsomolskaia Pravda, Ivanov also didnot rule out Russia one day joining NATO, if the move corresponded to Russianeconomic interests.

Putin said in early May that he "did not exclude" the idea of Russiaeventually joining NATO, on condition that his country was treated as anequal partner.
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