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Nuclear News - 07/28/00
RANSAC Nuclear News, 28 July 2000


A.  Plutonium Disposition

    1. U.S. Negotiator Warns Russia Must Get Help to Transform Plutonium,Agence France Presse (7/28/00)
B. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU)
    1. Russian Uranium Stays Under Tight Restrictions, Joe Walker,Paducah Sun (7/27/00)
    2. Tass on Uranium Deal, Anna Bazhenova, Itar-Tass (7/24/00)
C. Brain Drain
    1. Wriggling Off The Hook, Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian(7/26/00)
    2. Russia's Best Brains For Sale, Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian(7/25/00)
D. Russian Nuclear Forces
    1. Political Scientist Criticizes Planned Reform Of Russian MissileForces, Interfax (7/26/00)

A. Plutonium Disposition

1.
U.S. Negotiator Warns Russia Must Get Help to Transform Plutonium
        Agence France Presse
        July 28, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Europe and Japan must provide Russia with financial and technical aidto recycle its stocks of military plutonium or international security willface grave risks, said a senior U.S. official here Thursday.

"If Russia's program does not receive sufficient support, the clockon nuclear disarmament will be set back," Michael Guhin, a U.S. representativein the nuclear disarmament talks, told a Paris press conference.

"Large amounts of weapon-grade plutonium would likely be retained indefinitely,providing a ready source to rebuild cold-war arsenals or to tempt the handof terrorists or states."

The United States and Russia have agreed to destroy 34 million tonsof military plutonium each, a 20-year operation which will cost Russiatwo billion dollars and the United States three billion dollars, said Guhin.

"And if Russia's program fails, the U.S. program will not go forward,"warned Guhin.

Russia plans to transform the plutonium into a fuel, called MOX, whichcan be used in specially adapted nuclear power stations. Once the plutoniumhas been used as fuel it can no longer be used for military purposes.

"This program won't succeed without major contribution from Europe.The program needs Europe and Japan, (...) technically and financially.We want to spread the burden as wide as we can. (...) but the big contributorswill be G7," he continued.

"Can we expect Russia to cover its own cost? The answer is no. Theywill make sizeable contributions. Can private funding make the difference?Again the answer is no. MOX fuel is not competitive in today's uraniummarket.

We will have to make a multilateral agreement," Guhin said.

"Who benefits from the program? Every country that cares about armscontrol," he added.
 
Commenting on support for the disarmament program at the recent Groupof Eight (G8) summit in Nago, Japan, Guhin said the next G8 summit in Genoa,in July 2001, will be crucial to the program.

"This a first step," he said, "By next year, the Genoa summit, we willhave developed an international financing plan for the Russian program.That negotiation will be far more intense than the one we have been goingthrough."

The United States plans to eliminate its military plutonium stocks partlyby transforming it into MOX fuel and burying the rest in underground sites.
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B. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU)

1.
Russian Uranium Stays Under Tight Restrictions
        Joe Walker
        Paducah Sun
        July 27, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The decision is seen as a good sign for USEC and Honeywell.

USEC Inc. managers say the continued control of uranium shipped fromRussia is a positive sign for the financially troubled firm that runs thePaducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

The International Trade Commission ruled 5-0 Wednesday that ending restrictionson overpriced Russian imports would significantly harm the U.S. uraniumindustry, including USEC and ConverDyn, marketing arm for the Honeywellplant in Metropolis, Ill.

Honeywell — which converts uranium to uranium hexafluoride, the rawproduct for the Paducah plant — also is in financial difficulty, in partbecause of the amount of Russian uranium added to the already glutted U.S.market. Adding uranium to a saturated market would force prices even lower,the companies say.

"The ITC's decision is important for maintaining a viable domestic nuclearfuel industry," said William "Nick" Timbers, USEC president and chief executiveofficer. "We have long contended that terminating the Russian suspensionagreement would undermine the domestic industry."

The ruling followed a June 28 U.S. Commerce Department decision thatdumping of natural and enriched uranium on the American market would probablyrecur if the 1992 agreement were ended. Russia had requested the termination.

Timbers said both decisions are critical to USEC, which is buying 500tons of uranium from dismantled Russian warheads in a nuclear disarmamentdeal between the countries. The uranium is priced higher than the USECplants' manufacturing costs and displaces half their production. As a result,USEC has opted to upgrade the Paducah plant and close its sister plantnear Portsmouth, Ohio, by next June.

The ITC ruling ends a "sunset review" of the agreement begun 11 monthsago. The contract limits imports of Russian uranium products except thosematched with new U.S. production or delivered under certain contracts existingwhen the agreement was signed. It does not affect uranium shipped underthe disarmament deal.
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2.
Tass on Uranium Deal
        Anna Bazhenova
        Itar-Tass
        July 24, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The HEU-LEU [reprocessing of highly-enriched uranium into low-enricheduranium] contract is the most efficient programme within the gamut of Russian-Americanco-operation in the nuclear field.

An annual level of 30 tonnes of highly-enriched uranium extracted fromnuclear warheads has been reached, in keeping with the contract, RussianMinister of Atomic Energy Yevgeniy Adamov today told a group of Americanexperts, members of a consultative council attached to the US energy department.

Adamov noted that the HEU-LEU contract had 10 more years to go.

At the same time, Adamov said Russia was dissatisfied with the implementationof the Atomic Towns initiative which provides for civilian production capacitiesto be created in such towns and for the creation of new jobs for nuclearenterprises under the Russian ministry of atomic energy.

Although the plan is to create 40,000 jobs by 2005, only 100 jobs havebeen created so far.
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C. Brain Drain

1.
Wriggling Off The Hook
        Amelia Gentleman
        The Guardian
        July 26, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The concluding part of our series on the decline and rebirth of russianscience unearths fresh hope for the research establishment in the shapeof a pollution-cleansing worm and a new use for the humble aerosol

In the dank basement of a decrepit academic institute in the villageof Bolshevik, a grey provincial sprawl 100 miles from Moscow, Genady Zharikovis cultivating worms. Blue plastic washing-up bowls have been convertedinto breeding farms for 10 different varieties.

Dr Zharikov has skinny, pale worms that feed on manure and a darker,fatter breed which eats paper shreds torn from Soviet scientific journals.But it is the small, deep-red coloured hybrid that he is most proud of.

The technique he has developed for cleaning industrially poisoned soilusing these worms has been hailed as an international breakthrough in environmentalscience.

His successes, and those of the institute where he works, are an inspiringexample of the tentative rebirth of Russian scientific achievement afterthe dark years of scant funding and shattered morale.

A biochemist by training, Dr Zharikov used to work in the notoriousObolensk Institute of Applied Microbiology - the heart of Russia's germwarfare programme. As international suspicion of the institute's activitiesgrew and Russia's defence industry was severely cut, the institute's workwas severely restricted in the early 90s and hundreds of highly qualifiedweapons scientists faced unemployment.

Some went to work in banks, others to trade goods in the local market,but one enterprising group formed a collective and set up its own institutefrom the ashes of the defence project.

With no government funding, they looked for private contracts and grants.The International Science and Technology Centre, set up after the SovietUnion collapsed to 'prevent experts in weapons of mass destruction fromdefecting to rogue states and passing on their knowledge", readily providedsupport.

Dr Zharikov adapted his talents to soil cleansing, focusing on PCB pollution.One of the world's most poisonous industrial compounds, produced globallyin large amounts before scientists realised how dangerous they were, PCBsare carcinogenic and cause birth defects and infertility.

Dr Zharikov identified naturally occurring micro-organisms which swiftlydegrade the contaminants. The specially bred earthworms will eat the micro-organismsand leave the earth dramatically cleaner.

This ingeniously simple method of speeding up the natural process ofsoil self-purification has caused excitement in Europe and the instituteis already receiving orders for the process from abroad.

Delighted with his achievement in straitened times, Dr Zharikov is optimisticabout the future of Russian science.

'It has been a difficult time, but for those who persisted, the worstyears are over," he said. For the first time since the early 90s, no scientiststook to the streets last year to complain about delayed salary paymentsand funding cuts.

A pragmatic, forward-looking sect of Russian academics insists thatnostalgia for a Soviet scientific golden age is wholly misplaced, arguingthat the free flow of government money during that era encouraged wastefuland unnecessary research.

Vladimir Malyukh, a software entrepreneur and former nuclear engineer,explained: 'We had too great an emphasis on pure science. We had a hugeamount of knowledge, but we didn't know how to apply it.

'Again and again you can see the results of this - we were the firstcountry in space, but we still have no technology now for satellite television.

'Politicians were more interested in show results - to prove to theworld what the Soviet Union was capable of - not in results that couldbe used by the population."

The Soviet Union's spaceships, military aerospace technology and atomicweaponry all matched or surpassed world standards. But the televisionsand fridges built for its huge population were riddled with faults. Theharsher new environment of a consumer society is beginning, slowly, toremove this imbalance.

Along the corridor, Konstantin Soloviev, 67, a former weapons engineerand aerosols specialist who worked with anthrax, plagues and other highlyinfectious diseases in the Obolensk institute, is another proponent ofRussia's new scientific climate.

Recently he has converted his skills to developing ways of administeringflu, whooping cough, measle and other vaccines using aerosols as a swifter,less painful method than injections. His research, presented at internationalscience conferences, has been hailed as ground-breaking.

He stresses the value of the freedom in which scientists in the post-Sovietera are able to work. 'We used to work in a completely closed environment- a military style regime - where we were forbidden to reveal the resultsof our work to anyone except a select group of government officials.

'There was a constant sense that our lives were being monitored andthat our work was being watched. Now we can read international journalsand discuss developments with colleagues abroad. The greater openness wehave now is essential to the development of science."

The optimism of these academic entrepreneurs is in stark contrast tothe bleak picture painted by scientists in Russia's older institutes. Buteven the most despondent of the academic elite refuse to believe that thepainful era they have endured has comprehensively destroyed the country'sscientific potential. Time has been wasted, talent lost and institutesclosed, but the work continues.

An increasingly international climate, with grants provided from abroadand scientists from all countries collaborating on projects, has helpedcompensate for the shrunken resources in Russia. Moreover, the rhetoricof the new president, Vladimir Putin, focusing on the recreation of Russiaas a world power, has succeeded in awakening the hopes of the country'simpoverished academics.

The research centre's director, Professor Roman Borovick, is dismissiveof colleagues who lament the disappearance of high level state funding.

'The Soviet Union simply had too many scientists A lot of them weredoing pointless work," he said.

'I believe scientists can and should make money."
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2.
Russia's Best Brains For Sale
        Amelia Gentleman
        The Guardian
        July 25, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The second in our three-part series on the decline and rebirth of Russianscience finds pure research in the doldrums as institutes are forced towork at bargain prices on western commercial projects.

One of Russia's most successful exports in the past 10 years has beenits brains. Highly educated and available at bargain prices, this humancommodity has been in feverish demand throughout the developed world sincethe end of the 1980s.

Russian scientists, with a combination of enthusiasm and sadness, havebeen packing their suitcases and leaving for the west - lured by seductivesalaries and research facilities unavailable at home.

The flow to the west reduced in the last years of the 1990s, but inits place new forms of brain drain have emerged.

For example, scientists are moving to jobs which are more secure ormore lucrative, according to figures issued by the ministry of scienceand technology.

In 19901.6m people were working in science; since then 800,000 haveabandoned their careers, some to go into business, others to scrape a livingin any field that will feed them - as market traders, say, or taxi-drivers.

The newest, subtlest form of the phenomenon is the virtual brain drain- represented by those scientists who stay in their old institutes butwork exclusively on contract to foreign firms.

Vladimir Vaschenko, one of Russia's young software tycoons, is one ofthose entrepreneurs who have been accused of promoting this trade in intellect- selling Russian brain power to the west at discount prices.

Novosoft, the company Mr Vaschenko owns with an American partner, employshundreds of Russian scientists and mathematicians who work on programmingcontracts for international clients. A cluster of similar firms exploitingthe local concentration of highly educated scien tists has led to the regionof southern Siberia around Novosibirsk being labelled Cyberia or the SiliconTaiga.

When Novosoft began it charged western firms wDollars 1 an hour foreach Russian programmer working on their project. It recently raised therate of about Dollars 25 ( pounds 16) an hour. In the United States anexperienced software consultant can demand up to Dollars 200 for the samework.

Mr Vaschenko's venture is part of a global trend. With good phone andinternet links, firms in the west are now in a position to employ skilledpeople overseas - in India, the Philippines, or Russia, to name just three- without the cost of moving them.

Near Novosoft's offices in Novosibirsk, the Siberian Institute of Catalysis,once Russia's leading chemical reaction research centre, is touted by thelocal authorities as a model of how academic institutes can transform themselvesinto profit-making enterprises. This can mean relegating pure researchto the back burner to do paid work for western firms.

The institute went commercial in the early 90s when state funding almostvanished. It now does research almost entirely for the likes of DuPontand Monsanto.

'We used to focus mainly on pure science,' said the institute's vice-director,Vladimir Likholobov. 'Now we have a business section and a marketing departmentthat directs which lines of research we pursue."

To Professor Likholobov this has come as a bit of a shock; to many westernacademics it has long been a familiar trend. And there are Russian academicswho regard the change with resigned pragmatism: in the absence of statesupport, they argue, anything is better than closure.

Prof Likholobova said that most of his colleagues were fairly satisfiedwith the new regime: a proportion of the money coming in from the commercialcontracts was set aside every month to finance their own research and buynew equipment. But Valery Ermikov, a professor at the local universitywho has seen some of his best students leave, is angry about the actualand virtual brain drains. Big void in universities

The state was educating specialists 'for free', he said, then companieslike Microsoft came and stole them. 'A lot of western firms come here andexploit our talents and intellectual capacities and give nothing back.We would like them to treat us with more respect."

Ultimately, though, it is still the physical departures that prove themost devastating. The departure of so many scientists aged between 30 and45 - the age group that ought to be passing on its knowledge to students– has left a void in the universities. The education system has alwaysbeen at the heart of Russia's scientific achievements.

Since 1990 approximately 16,000 scientists have left the country permanentlyto work abroad. At the height of Russia's painful economic reforms in theearly 90s, more than 2,000 were leaving every year; now the annual figurehas levelled off at around a thousand. 'When you examine the figures theydon't look so bad, just a few thousand in a country the size of Russia,"Michael Kirpichnikov, the science minister, said in an interview in Moscow.

'But the reality is that these were often the most talented, energeticpeople. In science new ideas are born in the head of an individual, soeven the loss of one person - a Newton or an Einstein - can be disastrous.Pure science is an international phenomenon, but it is very painful tosee our former colleagues making ground-breaking, world-leading discoveriesas citizens of other countries."

Russia's aim now was to transfer the economy to the high-technologyroad, he said, yet 'one of the basic preconditions for this is a strongpure science base'.

Among the chaotic stacks of scientific journals in Valentin Vlassov'sstudy are piles of photos of his old students, standing in sunshine wavinghappily.

From the backdrops of expensive restaurants and gleaming cars, it isobvious that they are not Russia. These are the ones who have left thetutelage of Professor Vlassov, one of the country's leading biochemists,to seek new lives abroad. There are government schemes to halt such departures,focusing on giving young scientists flats and equipping labs with modernequipment. But with funds scarce, the impact has so far been minimal.

Shuffling through the pictures with arthritic fingers, Prof Vlassovlisted the most talented to have gone. Among them is his son, now a researchfellow in the US.

'You can't blame them for leaving. When there's no money, it's impossibleto do research," he said. 'But if the process goes on, Russian sciencewill die."
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D. Russian Nuclear Forces

1.
Political Scientist Criticizes Planned Reform Of Russian MissileForces
        Interfax
        July 26, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The plan for reforming Russia's strategic nuclear forces as advancedby General Staff chief Anatoly Kvashnin could result in the country losingits position as a nuclear superpower, Sergei Rogov, director of the U.S.and Canada Institute, thinks.

The Kvashnin plan undermines Moscow's position in strategic offensiveand defensive weapons talks and "dramatically increases the efficiencyof the planned U.S. national missile defense [NMD] system," Rogov saysin an article headlined "Strategic Capitulation" published in the Wednesdayedition of Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Kvashnin is advocating the eliminationof the country's strategic missile forces by scrapping its mobile missilesand reducing the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles to 100,he says.

If the Kvashnin plan is approved, the Russian strategic nuclear forcewill consist as early as sometime this decade of as few as 100 single-warheadICBMs, eight to 110 strategic submarines carrying a total of 160 to 200missiles and 60 to 70 strategic bombers, Rogov writes. This "unilateralreduction of the Russian nuclear forces would allow the Pentagon to plana preventive strike without fear of a retaliatory nuclear strike," he argues."It would be sufficient for the United States to have just two submarinespatrolling off Russian shores to destroy in one salvo 100 Russian ICBMsand a score of submarines and heavy bomber bases."

Because incoming U.S. missiles would hit their targets within 10 minutes,"Russia could prove incapable of striking a retaliatory blow before orafter the U.S. strike," Rogov writes. If the Kvashnin plan is implementedand the U.S. NMD is more efficient than it is announced to be, "the Russiannuclear potential may be thoroughly neutralized."

"If Russia announces deep unilateral cuts in its strategic weapons,the United States will not be encouraged to reciprocate and any violationsof the ABM Treaty will be given a green light," Rogov continues in hispiece. Conversely, the threat of a rapid buildup of the Russian strategicnuclear forces "would most probably strengthen the hand of NMD opponentsboth in the United States and among its allies.

That would consolidate the Russian positions in the talks with the UnitedStates on START III and the ABM Treaty."  Rogov calls for announcinga program of testing Topol-M missiles with warheads to make it clear toWashington that Russia is prepared to act swiftly to maintain strategicbalance.

The Kvashnin reforms could also deprive Russia of advantages over othernuclear powers such as China, Britain and France, Rogov concludes.

What is important is that "Russia is dependent on its nuclear arsenalmore than other countries, because the might of its conventional forceshas dropped dramatically following the disintegration of the USSR," whilethe conventional forces of the countries and coalitions on the country'swestern borders are many times stronger than Russia's, he writes.
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