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Nuclear News - 08/16/00
RANSAC Nuclear News, 16 August 2000


    1. U.S. Effort To Secure Nuclear Material Called Lax, DavidSands, Washington Times (08/16/00)
    2. More Work Needed On Russia's Loose Nukes-US Experts, Reuters(08/15/00)
B. Russian Nuclear Forces
    1. Plans to Reform Russia's Strategic Missile Troops Outlined,BBC (08/16/00)
    2. Russia Bares All in New Book about Nuclear Weapons, Reuters(08/16/00)
    3. Russian Official Says No Signs Of Life On Sub, PatrickLannin, Reuters (08/16/00)
    4. Submarine Disaster Fodder For Arms Debate, David Sands,Washington Times (08/15/00)
    1. Russia-US Consultations on Start-3 Open in Geneva, ItarTass (08/16/00)
    2. US, Russia To Meet on Arms Control, Barry Schweid, AssociatedPress (08/15/00)
D. Nuclear Waste
    1. Welcome To Murmansk, Dumping Ground For A Decrepit NuclearFleet, Rupert Cornwell, The Independent (UK) (08/16/00)
    2. Duma's Nuclear Waste Proposal Draws Protest, Galina Stolyarova,St. Petersburg Times (08/15/00)
    3. To Preserve, and Not to Reprocess, Matthew Bunn, NeilJ. Numark and Tatsujiro Suzuki, Nezavisimaya Gazeta- Nauka (07/19/00)


U.S. Effort To Secure Nuclear Material Called Lax
        David Sands
        Washington Times
        August 16, 2000
        (for personal use only)
U.S. efforts to help Russia protect its huge stocks of nuclear bomb-makingmaterials have languished because of tight budgets, bureaucratic restrictionsand a lack of focus from top-level Clinton administration officials, anew report concludes.
"This is an issue that should be at the top of the U.S.-Russian nuclearagenda," said report co-author Matthew Bunn, a former adviser to the WhiteHouse Office of Science and Technology Policy and now a researcher at HarvardUniversity"s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
"I suspect, though, that there's been more time spent at high-levelU.S.-Russian meetings on trade in chicken parts than on nuclear material,"he said.
The collapse of the Soviet Union brought with it a severe deteriorationin security controls on the plutonium and highly enriched uranium usedto supply Russia's still-huge nuclear missile arsenal.
In the episode most recently made public, Russia's security forcesin December 1998 arrested a group of conspirators trying to steal 40 poundsof weapons-usable materials from one of the country's largest nuclear weaponsfacilities.
Although a joint U.S.-Russian program to secure the weapons-grade materialstocks has been in place for six years, the bulk of the work is still tobe done, including a basic accounting of how much material must be protectedand how many labs have been made secure.
But budgets for the Department of Energy (DOE) programs dealing withRussian nuclear stocks have not grown to match the expected new demands,the report concluded, while relations with Russian energy officials havedeteriorated and access to sensitive Russian sites has declined since 1996.
With Russia set to decommission even more nuclear warheads in the comingyears, the danger that unaccounted nuclear material stocks could be acquiredby international terrorists or a rogue regime such as Iraq has only increased,the study's authors contend.
"If the programs today don't work and this material falls into thehands of terrorists, the next nuclear disaster coming out of Russia willbe much worse than what's going on with the submarine in the Barents Sea,"said Kenneth N. Luongo, a study co-author and former senior adviser tothe secretary of energy on nonproliferation issues.
A DOE spokeswoman, speaking on background, noted yesterday's reportpraised a number of U.S. government nonproliferation programs, includingone with Russia's naval nuclear forces.
"There's no higher priority for this department than securing thesenuclear materials," the spokeswoman said, pointing out that funding forprotection and control of Russian nuclear material had gone from $15 millionin 1994 to $150 million this year.
Mr. Luongo said the joint U.S.-Russian program has had some successesbut had lost much of the momentum built up in the program's early years.Experienced DOE personnel left the program, and the issue faded from thenation's newspapers, he said.
Diplomatic missteps — including a 1999 DOE decision to cancel a numberof new contracts under the program in a dispute over access to sensitiveRussian weapons labs — have also created resentment in Moscow.
Mr. Bunn called the cancellation of the contracts a "blunder of colossalproportions."
But the DOE spokeswoman said the cancellation reflected a "consciousdecision to only spend our money on projects where we feel we have sufficientaccess to ensure the work is being done properly." Talks are under waywith Russian energy officials about reopening the sealed labs and renewingthe contracts.
The report, produced for the Russian-American Nuclear Security AdvisoryCouncil, recommends putting the control of Russia's nuclear material atthe top of the U.S.-Russian security agenda; increasing the funds, personnel,and coordination of U.S. agencies involved in the effort; enhancing lab-to-labcontacts between U.S. and Russian scientists; and encouraging Russia toimprove its regulation of nuclear facilities while consolidating stocksin a few well-monitored sites.
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More Work Needed On Russia's Loose Nukes-US Experts
        August 15, 2000
        (for personal use only)
WASHINGTON, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Independent arms control experts onTuesday said the U.S. government should urgently boost a multi-milliondollar programme meant to ensure Moscow's nuclear bomb material does notfall into hostile hands.

A report presented to both the U.S. and Russian governments said itwas vital to reinvigorate the programme to head off ``one of the real nationalsecurity concerns facing the United States,'' which had lost its prioritywith U.S. leaders.

The report, by the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council,said interest in the programme, begun in 1992 and rapidly expanded amidgrowing public concern over so-called ``loose nukes'' in the mid 1990s,was flagging.

``Much of the sense of urgency appears to have been lost,'' it said,adding the issue was no longer a central one for U.S. and Russian politicalleaders and that a wrong impression had been created that most of the workhad been completed.

The United States has helped secure nuclear materials in former Sovietstates since the end of the Cold War a decade ago, when the collapse ofthe economy and central control raised the risk that the materials wouldbe acquired by terrorist groups or states hostile to Washington.

The three authors of the report said that strained U.S. relations withRussia, the removal of U.S. nuclear laboratories from a managing role inthe programme and a lowering of the sense of the risk posed were hobblingthe programme.

Russia was restricting access to key sites, where U.S. specialists soughtto introduce security gates and devices. Accounting systems and new impetuswere needed from the top political levels to revive the initiative, theysaid.

The so-called International Material Protection, Control and Accountingprogramme, overseen by the Department of Energy, is budgeted this yearat about $170 million. It is one part of a total programme of about $900million of U.S. assistance to former Soviet States in 2000 to dismantleand secure nuclear arms.
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B. Russian Nuclear Forces

Plans to Reform Russia's Strategic Missile Troops Outlined
        August 16, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Aug 16, 2000 -- (BBC Monitoring) Text of report by Russian newspaper'Segodnya' on 14th August

The Security Council has adopted a decision to resubordinate the SpaceMissile Defence Troops, which are part of the Strategic Missile Troops,to the air force within the next two years.

Air force commander-in-chief Anatoliy Kornukov said this at a ceremonyto celebrate the 88th anniversary of the air force. But Kornukov's announcementstill does not testify to a defeat for Defence Ministry head Igor Sergeyevor a victory for chief of the General Staff Anatoliy Kvashnin. It is ratherproof of a "hard-fought tie": There will be a reform of the Strategic MissileTroops, but in defiance of Kvashnin's wishes - he had campaigned for itto be done immediately. The Strategic Missile Troops will be eliminatedonly after 2006.

The first step along this road could be the reform of the airborne forcesannounced by the air force commander-in-chief. In the air force commander-in-chief'sview, "with a view to saving resources the country will soon abandon stand-byduty by surface-to-air missile troops". "They will be kept at a lower levelof readiness, and the entire burden will fall on fighter aircraft." Kornukovis convinced that "nobody will snap Russia's wings. We will also have aircraftthat are a bit sharper than the F-22." But the air force is not expectinga massive influx of new equipment before 2008-2010. And this means that,despite Kornukov's statement that "the current pool of long-range aircraftwill be able to operate until 2016, and front-line aircraft can be operateduntil 2010", the air force's problems remain the same as they were - worn-outequipment and a decline in the standard of training of flight personnel.

Reform of the air force will be followed by other reforms too. Thus,over the next five years there will be phased cuts in the Strategic MissileTroops "in step with the removal from combat stand-by duty of intercontinentalballistic missiles, which have served out their guaranteed operationallifetime". And after 2006 "the question of possibly changing the statusof the Strategic Missile Troops will be examined". Here, as 'Segodnya'predicted (see 'Segodnya' on 11th August for the details) the Defence Ministryis primarily discussing the financial issue - on the redistribution offunds within the Defence Ministry. That is, whereas in 1998-1999 priorityfunding went to the Strategic Missile Troops, finances are now changing"route". According to Interfax's information, the Security Council sessionalso adopted a decision "on the additional allocation of more than R2bnfor Defence Ministry needs through the end of 2000". But how this sum isto be found is not specified, of course.

Source: 'Segodnya', Moscow, in Russian 14 Aug 00
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Russia Bares All in New Book about Nuclear Weapons
        August 16, 2000
        (for personal use only)

LONDON, Aug 16, 2000 -- (Reuters) Just 10 or 15 years ago, Western strategicanalysts would pore over grainy satellite photographs, guessing dimensionsand counting exhaust nozzles, to estimate roughly how a Soviet nuclearmissile would perform.

Today they can just order a book on the Internet.

The Russian military has backed the publication of an astonishinglyfrank book detailing the specifications of its doomsday weapons - ballisticmissiles, bombs, bombers and submarines.

And a lot of them, it seems, are rather more powerful than has beenthought.

One example: The 1988-89 edition of Jane's Weapon Systems, the bibleof missilery, gave the standard estimate of an 11,000 km (6,800 mile) rangewith multiple warheads for a terrifying Soviet missile that NATO code-namedSS-18 Satan.

The Western analysts who assembled those estimates - similar to currentfigures - would be mortified to discover that a multiple-warhead versionof the SS-18 can actually reach 15,000 km (9,300 miles).

It can hit a lot more cities than they thought, according to the newlypublished Strategic Nuclear Forces.

Oh, and by the way, the Soviet designation for that variant is RS-20B,author Nikolai Spassky tells us, helpfully offering a cutaway diagram ofanother version to reveal the innards of a weapon that has captivated Westernstrategic planners.

"We can say with confidence that this encyclopaedia will be of interestto specialists who work in the field of development and production of defencehardware..." Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev writes in a foreword,with some understatement.

Indeed, U.S. distributor Tommax Inc says the Pentagon and U.S. nuclear-weaponslaboratories have been the book's keenest buyers.

"This is the first time Russians have published about their own militaryequipment," Spassky told Reuters. "There are books about Russian equipment,but not written by us."

That makes a difference, because only the Russians really know how thesestrategic weapons perform.


Russian tactical weapons, such as fighters and tanks, have been soldto many other countries, and their exact details are widely known. Sincethe thaw of the Cold War, the Russian manufacturers have been happy topublish the figures.

But strategic weapons - designed to hit targets deep behind the frontline – are not generally operated by other countries.

Moreover, since this equipment embodies Russia's nuclear security, Moscowhas always had a strong reason to keep the figures to itself.

The West has relied mostly on estimates about Russian strategic weapons,with some of the guesses supplied to Jane's and other publishers, whichmix in their own judgements to produce the best publicly available assessments.

Russia has divulged some figures in arms limitation talks. The Westdiscovered in the early 1990s, for example, that the RS-22 (or SS-24) ballisticmissile was bigger than it thought.

But Spassky has revealed perhaps the most sought-after secret of allfor the RS-22: after an intercontinental trip from Russia to, say, theU.S. mid-west, its warhead will come down no more than 500 meters (yards)from its target.

The accuracy of any nuclear missile is a crucial statistic, since itdetermines whether the weapon can land reliably close enough to bust openstructures designed to resist it - such as bunkers or underground siloshousing other missiles.


"There are no photographs available of AS-15..." the current Jane'sdirectory, Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems, notes in its entry for themissile that the Russians call Kh-55.

But in Strategic Nuclear Forces we find five very clear photographs,plus two apparently precise line drawings, which show the design of thisbomber-launched cruise missile to be rather different to what the Westhas estimated.

Spassky confirms the Western belief that the missile comes in two versions,but one turns out to be rather lighter and more efficient than Westernanalysts have assumed. And its range and nuclear charge are both greaterthan the figures in Jane's.

But some Russian weapons are perhaps less effective than thought, thebook reveals.

Jane's credits the Kh-15 bomber-launched missile (called AS-16 by Nato)with a range of 150 km (93 miles). Spassky says it will go 60 to 150 km,presumably depending on how fast and high the bomber is flying when itlaunches the weapon.

Since he also specifies high launch speeds of 1,080 to 2,160 km perhour (670 to 1,340 mph), it seems that the weapon can achieve the Western-estimatedestimated performance only with a lot of help from the bomber.

Strategic Nuclear Forces, published by Russian-based Arms and Technologieswith text in English and Russian, is available on the internet at
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Russian Official Says No Signs Of Life On Sub
        Patrick Lannin
        August 16, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MURMANSK, Russia (Reuters) - Russia at last accepted outside help inits desperate attempt to save a submarine crew trapped on the sea bed onWednesday, but there were fears it might be too late for 118 crew no longershowing signs of life.

The crew of the Kursk which sank over the weekend after an unexplainedaccident, had stopped pounding SOS signals on the hull -- their only linkto the outside world -- but officials said there was hope they were stillalive.

Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, the Navy chief, said Moscow had agreed toaccept an offer of help from Britain, which airlifted a rescue mini-submarineto the nearby Norwegian port of Trondheim.

Frantic Russian efforts to dock rescue craft to the escape hatch ofthe Kursk had failed throughout the night. A third attempt, involving atleast two rescue capsules, was under way on Wednesday but was hamperedby strong currents and foul weather.

Officials had said the crew, whose number was originally put at 116,would run out of air by Friday. But Kuroyedov suggested on Wednesday thatoxygen could possibly last until next week.

Interfax quoted Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, leading an emergencycommission on the disaster, as saying the sailors had stopped banging onthe hull, but might not yet be dead.

"There is no sign of life, but from this it is not necessary to concludesomething terrible," he said, adding that the crew might be resting toconserve energy as air ran out.


President Vladimir Putin, on vacation in a Black Sea resort since thecrisis began, made his first public statement and defended the rescue effort.

"From the moment it became clear that something had happened, all necessaryand possible efforts to save the craft and its crew have been carried out,"he said, appearing on television in shirtsleeves surrounded by officials.

"Unfortunately the weather is very bad. A storm has raged for two days,and sailors could not use all the means at their disposal," he said. Hedescribed the situation as "critical".

But the last-minute decision to accept British aid -- which has beenon offer at least since Monday -- could open authorities to criticism thatnational pride had prevented them from calling for help sooner.

"Admirals for some reason think that if even one Russian sailor is savedfrom a Russian submarine with outside help, it will certainly end in apolitical catastrophe," the daily newspaper Sevodnya quoted a Navy sourceas saying.


Kuroyedov has given pessimistic assessments of the rescue's chancessince Monday. But he said he was more optimistic about Wednesday's thirdrescue attempt.

He said the crew might have stopped their tapping because sailors alreadyknew that a rescue craft was on its way and wanted to conserve oxygen.

"One needs to take into account the mentality of submarine officers.Once they knew rescue capsules were above them, they maintained silence,"he said.

"Now I feel far more confident that the operation to rescue the Kurskcrew will produce a result," he said. "The capsules will work until theresult is achieved."

The Russian rescue capsules, operated by a 3-4 man crew, can rescueup to 15-20 men. But they have been unable to dock on the submarine, whichis tilted 60 degrees on the sea floor in waters with strong currents andlow visibility.

Kuroyedov has said that if attempts to evacuate the crew using capsulesfail, two 400-tonne inflatable pontoons may be used to lift the whole vessel.

Tass quoted the Northern Fleet press office as saying pontoons couldnot lift the huge sub to the surface, but could raise it from the seabed108 metres (350 feet) down to a depth of some 50 metres, where scuba diverscould operate.

Officials have said they do not know the cause of the accident, whichdamaged the bow of the submarine. Kuroyedov has said a torpedo hatch onthe front starboard side is wide open and debris is scattered on the seafloor on the port side.
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Submarine Disaster Fodder For Arms Debate
        David Sands
        Washington Times
        August 15, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Russia's latest nuclear submarine disaster provides ammunition to bothfactions in a raging debate in Moscow over the future of the country'sonce-proud military machine.
Even as rescue crews race to save more than 100 Russian submarinerstrapped at the bottom of the Barents Sea, Russian President Vladimir Putinis trying to broker a deal in the bureaucratic feud between those favoringRussia's heavy reliance on nuclear arms and those who say the country mustdevote more scarce rubles to the country's conventional forces.
Mr. Putin chaired a four-hour Security Council meeting Friday, hearingarguments from Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, the leading supporter ofa strong and independent nuclear force, and Chief of Staff Anatoly Kvashnin,who wants to boost conventional defense spending and fold the nuclear forcesinto a single military command structure.
"My suspicion is that the submarine disaster feeds into Kvashnin'sarguments," said David Johnson, a Russian military expert at the Washington-basedCenter for Defense Intelligence.
"This would be a very expensive loss if the submarine can't be salvaged,"Mr. Johnson said. "It certainly complicates the argument that the nuclearforce is such a wonderful centerpiece of Russian security."
Backers of an emphasis on conventional military power point to theimmense difficulties the Russian army and security forces have had in subduinga few thousand guerrillas in the brutal war in Chechnya.
Russian troops fighting in the breakaway republic are said to lacknight-fighting equipment, basic air support, even bulletproof vests, becauseof past defense cuts.
About 70 percent of Russia's defense procurement budget goes to supportthe long-range nuclear force.
The Russian navy has not been spared the severe cuts that followedthe collapse of the Soviet Union. Many warships do not receive the regularservicing needed to keep them seaworthy, according to naval officers andveterans.
But Bill Hoehn, director of the Washington office of the Russian-AmericanSecurity Advisory Council, said the incident actually could strengthenthe nuclear faction, as more details of the sub's plight emerge.
"If it comes to light that the sub had trouble because of poor maintenanceor a lack of resources, you can make the argument that the nuclear forcesneed more budget support, not less," Mr. Hoehn said.
Mr. Sergeyev's supporters, who remain powerfully positioned throughoutthe Russian government, also argue that the country's land- and sea-basednuclear forces, even in their deteriorating state, give Moscow a seat atthe table and strong diplomatic leverage when the world's leading powersconvene.
Russia has complicated U.S. national missile defense efforts and scoredpoints in Europe and Asia by balking at changes to the 1972 Anti-BallisticMissile Treaty, they note.
Speculation also surfaced yesterday that the crippled Russian submarine,an Oscar-2 class nuclear-powered "aircraft-carrier buster," sank aftercolliding with a foreign submarine. NATO forces were in the region observinga major Russian naval exercise.
That NATO countries put so much time and effort into observing theexercise shows the impact even a diminished nuclear force can have.
So far, however, Mr. Putin appears to be siding with Mr. Kvashnin andthose backing a more robust conventional force.
Late last month, some 10 senior military officers linked to Mr. Sergeyevwere fired or abruptly retired. The purge followed a public airing of theSergeyev-Kvashnin debate, and was widely interpreted as an effort by Mr.Putin to cut the defense secretary down to size.
No official announcements were made after Friday's all-hands meetingon defense strategy.
But Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov talked afterward of a"balancing" of defense resources, strongly implying that the heavy tilttoward nuclear forces was being reviewed.
Analysts said yesterday that Mr. Putin must tread cautiously. He rodeto power in large part on the early success of the Chechnya war and hasconsistently cultivated the military as he consolidated his position.
The stranded Kursk submarine is considered the flagship of the RussianNorthern Fleet. Mr. Putin, dressed in a naval uniform, inspected the NorthernFleet in the first days after his election in March and even spent a nightaboard a submarine.
"I think the debate is still very active, even if it's gone behinddoors," said Oleg Bukharin, a Russian military expert at Princeton.
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Russia-US Consultations on Start-3 Open in Geneva
        Itar Tass
        August 16, 2000
        (for personal use only)

GENEVA, August 16 (Itar-Tass) - Another round of Russian-American consultationson the strategic arms reduction treaty (Start-3) and anti-missile defenceopen in Geneva on Wednesday.

The Russian expert delegation to the consultations is led by Yury Kapralov,chief of the Foreign Ministry's security and disarmament department, andthe American one by John Holum, under secretary of state for arms controland international security.

Kapralov said in an interview with Itar-Tass that the sides would discussStart-3, a future Russian-American treatry which is to take arms cuts further.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had passed to the U.S. President BillClinton at the Okinawa summit of G-8 countries Russia's proposals on majorlines of Start-3 talks.

Moscow urges for a rapid start of official talks on this treaty. TheRussian experts will lay out details of the passed document at the Genevaconsultations.

The consultations will also address strategic stability from the perspectiveof the statements made at Russian-American summits in Moscow and Okinawa.

Strategic stability will be discussed along the lines of preparationsfor the future meeting of the Russian and American presidents due in NewYork in September.
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US, Russia To Meet on Arms Control
        Barry Schweid
        Associated Press
        August 15, 2000
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON –– American and Russian negotiators will meet this week totry to conclude modest arms-control agreements that could strengthen cooperationbetween the two countries, despite sharp differences over a missile-defenseprogram.

The potential agreements also could give President Clinton somewhatof a legacy in reducing nuclear dangers that has eluded him over two terms.

Clinton is weighing a limited anti-missile system that could defendall states against a small-scale attack. Republican presidential candidateGeorge W. Bush would go all-out with an extensive defense against missileattack.

Russia objects to any system on the grounds it would violate treatyrestrictions against anti-ballistic missile systems.

For decades, every president has made big moves to reduce the nuclearweapons danger. But Clinton has come up short. A skeptical Republican-controlledCongress and delay in Moscow in approving the landmark START II treatyare among the problems he has faced.

A global treaty to ban nuclear weapons tests was rejected by the Senatelast November, and the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Sen. JesseHelms, R-N.C., has said any arms-control pact Clinton negotiated in hisfinal months would be "dead on arrival" in his committee.

On top of that, last spring, the Senate amended a defense spending billto deny Clinton authority to make unilateral reductions in nuclear arms.

Beginning Wednesday, and with the clock ticking, U.S. disarmament specialistJohn Holum and Yuri Kapralov, head of the Russian arms-control directorate,will meet in Geneva, Switzerland, on ways to improve strategic cooperationbetween their two countries.

Even while disagreeing on a missile defense system, Clinton and RussianPresident Vladimir Putin decided in June at a summit in Moscow to findways to cooperate to lower nuclear tensions.

One of the projects to be taken up in Geneva is sharing techniques toprovide early warning of missile attack, with a joint center to be establishedin Moscow.

Russia gave its approval to the proposition at the Moscow summit andthe aim now is to implement the program.

A second project, proposed by the Clinton administration, would deviseways to warn each other that a test missile or a space rocket has beenlaunched. The objective is to allay misunderstanding and concerns and toavert a dangerous response.

Also on the table for consideration at Geneva is a joint U.S.-Russianproject known as Ramos, which is designed to improve sensors in early warningsatellites.

Joint exercises in missile defenses also will be discussed, two U.S.officials said in describing the Holum-Kapralov meetings. And, they said,the administration had proposed working in Geneva on parts of a text fora new START III treaty to reduce U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear warheads.

The START II treaty, concluded in January 1993 by President Bush, establishedreductions to 3,000 to 3,500 warheads on each side. Ratified by the Senateand finally, this year, by the Russian parliament, it has yet to take effect.

Putin held a pivotal defense meeting in Moscow on Friday. Accordingto Russian press reports, he decided to shrink the Russian arsenal to 1,500,a level proposed by Russia for the START II treaty but rejected by theClinton administration as too low.

The United States has suggested a ceiling of 2,000 to 2,500 warheads.

Clinton administration officials said they were unable to confirm thepress reports, which if accurate would mean Putin had sided in a policydispute with the chief of the Russian general staff, Gen. Anatoly Kvashnin,and against Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev.

The cashapped Russian government apparently is unable even to buildup to the ceilings imposed for some weapons in the START II treaty whiledismantling the powerful missiles outlawed by the pact.

Money saved by unilateral reductions could be used to build up conventionalland, sea and air forces, as urged by Kvashnin.
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D. Nuclear Waste

Welcome To Murmansk, Dumping Ground For A Decrepit Nuclear Fleet
        Rupert Cornwell
        The Independent (UK)
        August 16, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The massive grey concrete slab boasts "Hero City" as you drive intothe bleak expanses of Murmansk. Today, "Radiation Scare City" might bea better name for the great ice-free port above the Arctic Circle, destinationfor the Allied convoy lifeline in the Second World War.

Murmansk is still an important port. But its main post-Soviet distinctionis as the gateway to the Kola peninsula in far north-west Russia, and tothe bases of the country's Northern Fleet, generator of perhaps the greatest,certainly the least protected, concentration of nuclear waste on earth.

Solid radioactive waste is stored at 11 separate sites around the peninsula,sometimes in the open without protection. Liquid waste is stored at thefive main naval bases on the Kola, usually in equally poor conditions.

The stricken submarine Kursk was based at Zapadnaya Litsa, or "WesternEstuary", 30 miles east of Russia's border with Norway. On the westernshore lies Andreyeva Bay, where 21000 spent fuel rods, equal to 90 reactorcores, are stored in rusting containers and tanks whose contents are exposedto the skies.

On the eastern side is Nerpicha, home to six 30,000-ton Typhoons crammedwith nuclear warheads, the largest submarines built.

For curious Westerners, Murmansk is as far as you get. Severomorsk,the headquarters of the Northern Fleet which lies 10 miles to the north,is closed to foreigners, and Zapadnaya Litsa is off limits even to Russians,apart from workers at the bases and the submariners.

But, as always, secrecy breeds rumour. Wedged claustrophobically alongthe eastern side of its fjord, Murmansk is a city where you feel you areliving on the nuclear edge. Still moored close to its very centre is theinfamous cargo ship Lepse, laden with hundreds of damaged fuel elementsfrom nuclear-powered ice-breakers based in the port. Clean-up work on theLepse has started.

But memories are still fresh of a few hours one May day in 1998. Rumoursflashed around Severomorsk that a Delta-class submarine carrying nuclearmissiles had a major accident in the Barents Sea. When the stories reachedMurmansk and its population of 500,000, children were sent home from schooland police were issued with iodine tablets.

Calm returned only when the regional governor and senior Northern Fleetofficers held a press conference to insist the episode had been merelya planned exercise to test reaction to a possible nuclear accident aboarda submarine.

Thomas Nilsen, a specialist at Norway's Bellona Foundation, the worldauthority on the nuclear pollution threat of the Northern Fleet, was scepticalthen about that explanation. And the Kursk disaster is no surprise to himnow.

"Since the financial collapse of autumn 1998, the situation has beendesperate for the Northern Fleet," he said. "There hasn't been enough moneyfor wages and maintenance, and the best officers have left for jobs whereat least their salaries are paid."

But one of the first things Vladimir Putin did after becoming Presidentwas spend a night on a nuclear missile submarine at Murmansk. "That wasa sign of how important he believes the fleet to be," Mr Nilsen said. "Sincethen the fleet has been under more pressure."

After Admiral Hyman Rickover, a founder of the United States's nuclearnavy, made a goodwill visit to the giant nuclear icebreaker Lenin in Murmansk,he tested himself, and found that in half an hour he had absorbed as muchradioactivity as in half a lifetime on US nuclear-powered craft.
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Duma's Nuclear Waste Proposal Draws Protest
        Galina Stolyarova
        St. Petersburg Times
        August 15, 2000

Walking down Nevsky Prospect at midday on Monday, you were more thanlikely to be stopped by people in white coats and gloves and asked: "Howabout taking some nuclear waste home?" There was even a choice of the wasteyou could get - Taiwanese or Swiss. And the lines formed. Of course, thewaste was bricks wrapped in paper bearing nuclear-hazard stickers. Butthe goal was to raise the alarm that the Duma, when it reconvenes in thefall, will be discussing whether Russia should lease its own land to othercountries for the storage of their nuclear waste, until the half-life ofthe element has expired.

In the case of uranium - which would constitute the bulk of waste importsto Russia- the half-life is 150,000 years, making for a long lease. Aftercollecting their waste, participants had the opportunity to sign a petition,which - if it reaches 2 million signatures - will require the Duma to putthe import issue to a popular vote.

According to environmentalists' statistics, Russia currently boastsa nuclear waste load of six billion Curie - the equivalent of 120 Chernobyls.Added to that, there are 14 tons of irradiated fuel coming from Russiannuclear power stations, which need to be recycled.

Should the Duma vote for the proposition, it would mean adding all ofthat to the imports of 20,000 tons of foreign nuclear waste between 2001and 2030, and the construction of several new storage facilities, Sosnovy Bor, Penza, Tomsk and even one on the Kuril Islands. The "wasteproducts" - which were also handed out with a loaf of bread as symboliccompensation for taking the waste - went like hot cakes.

"We thought people would try to make fun of it, but of course observingsuch a demand for "nuclear waste" is distressing," said Alexander Karpovof the Natural Science Society, one of the project's organizers.

"I support the idea of putting environmental issues and the import ofnuclear waste in particular to a referendum, because people should havea chance to express their views and say that not just money but their ownlives are worth a lot," said passerby Sergei Osnovin, deputy director ofthe enterprise Sokol.

"I am against building new storage facilities near St. Petersburg whereI live and my children will live. Turning a great historical center intoa nuclear cemetery isn't smart."

Svetlana Mikhailova of the "Nevsky Angel" charity foundation added hersignature to the petition as well.

"If we don't protest we don't have any right to complain," she said.

A consortium of local environmental and human rights groups, includingthe local branch of Greenpeace, the St. Petersburg Gender Center and Citizens'Watch provided the steam for Monday's shenanigans as well as for the moreserious drive for the referendum to protest the import of foreign nuclearwaste to Russia.

Currently Russian environmental law forbids the import of nuclear waste- but that is a new law. Until 1995, trains from Finland loaded with wastefrom the Lovissa nuclear plant traveled through St. Petersburg on theirway to the overloaded waste-conversion facility Mayak, in Chelyabinsk.Currently trains filled with waste are backed up as much as 20 kilometers.

Recently, though, the idea of renting space for foreign nuclear wastehas been gaining a constituency in the Duma. Vladimir Klimov, a memberof the Duma's Power, Industry and Transport Committee, stresses that spentnuclear fuel is not actually nuclear waste. He adds that money chargedfor the storage would solve numerous financial problems in Russian industry.

Those working at Russian nuclear power stations don't necessarily shareKlimov's views.

"We have by far enough of our own waste we need to store," said NatalyaMalevannaya, head ecologist at the Leningrad Atomic Energy Station, orLAES.

Malevannaya supported the idea of building the new storage facilities,and said this could be the best way to improve the current situation.

Environmentalists, however, doubt the safety of new storage facilities,as they recall accidents involving the leakage of nuclear waste.

"I know there have been accidents, and if there will be more storagefacilities, this will mean more accidents," said Varya, a local supporterof Green peace, who would not give her last name.

"Absolutely anything may happen, if you consider the period of the half-lifeof uranium: 150,000 years. Who on earth can guarantee the complete impenetrabilityof the containers for even several hundred years?" Karpov said.

"Also, if the import of nuclear waste becomes legal, there will emergeillegal deals with companies trying to save money on safety."

"And given the current political situation, I don't feel safe. Thereis also a chance that storage facilities may become a target for some insaneterrorist."
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To Preserve, and Not to Reprocess
        Matthew Bunn, Neil J. Numarkand Tatsujiro Suzuki
        Nezavisimaya Gazeta- Nauka
        July 19, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Billions of dollars are urgently needed to deal with the many problemsof Russia’s vast nuclear complex.  Although international cooperativeprograms are making progress dealing with pieces of these problems, foreigngovernments are simply unable to provide money on the scale needed forpermanent solutions.

But it may be possible to find significant sums by attracting the fundsforeign electric utility companies may be willing to pay for a solutionto their spent fuel problems.  Utilities in some countries are facingan urgent problem as they run low on storage capacity and certain politicalcircumstances prevent them from building more.  Absent a solution,they would have to shut their reactors down.  They may thus be willingto pay more than million dollars a ton, by some estimates, to someone whowould take the stuff off their hands.

The Ministry of Atomic Energy has proposed to do just that, amendingRussia’s environmental law to make it possible to import foreign spentfuel for long-term storage in Russia.  MINATOM has estimated it canmake tens of billions of dollars in this business. However, the Ministry’sidea is to spend that money to build a new reprocessing plant at the closedcity of Zheleznogorsk (formerly Krasnoyarsk-26).  Although then-PrimeMinister Vladimir Putin cast doubts on the MINATOM plan last year, theRussian government reportedly gave its approval to the plan in late Mayas part of its approval of MINATOM’s overall strategy for the future ofnuclear energy in Russia.  The State Duma will presumably considerMINATOM’s proposals, which are likely to meet wholehearted support of mostof the parties but “Yabloko.”

Unfortunately the MINATOM plan ignores the dwindling market for expensivereprocessing, already dominated by the British and French.  Moreover,the United States holds consent rights over the fate of most of the foreignspent fuel of interest to MINATOM, and there is no hope of getting U.S.permission for the spent fuel to be shipped to Russia for reprocessingbecause of the proliferation threat posed by separation of weapons-usableplutonium.  [Finally, MINATOM’s scheme is unacceptable to the Russianenvironmentalists concerned both about the import of spent fuel and establishmentof more dangerous reprocessing enterprises.]

But MINATOM need not abandon its interest in providing spent fuel servicesto overseas customers, and indeed stands to bring in a great deal of revenueif it would offer simply to store foreign spent fuel in Russia, withoutreprocessing.  There is likely to be a strong and steady market forsuch storage services, potentially leading to benefits for MINATOM, theforeign utilities, the United States and Russia’s environment.  [B]illionsof dollars of revenue from such a project could be legally set aside sothat it would be available for protecting nuclear materials and facilitiesfrom thieves and terrorism; for eliminating the vast stockpiles of excessplutonium built up over decades of Cold War; and for providing alternativejobs for nuclear workers laid off from jobs maintaining Russia’s nucleararsenal.

For Russia’s nuclear cities, such a deal would mean billions of dollarsto employ scientists and other workers on critical cleanup, nonproliferationand conversion tasks.  For the foreign utilities, it would mean anacceptable solution to their spent fuel problems at a reasonable price. For the United States, such a deal would provide the money needed to addressa wide range of security headaches, without the proliferation hazards andpolitical problems of reprocessing.  Most importantly, there couldbe a large net benefit for the Russian environment, as the environmentalhazards posed by importing spent fuel in safe, modern dry casks whose safetyhas been demonstrated in use around the world are minimal while the environmentalhazards to Russian citizens that could be corrected with the money fromsuch a plan are immense.  Moreover, the venture would require verylittle up-front investments by Russia.

Spent fuel transportation and storage are proven safe technologies withmany years of positive experience worldwide.  The fuel could be shippedin robust, state-of-the-art containers meeting the highest internationalstandards.  It would be held in steel and concrete casks in dry formrequiring no active intervention to ensure safety.

We have previously proposed that Russia consider such a scheme, andadvocated that Russia use the substantial revenues the project would generateto pay for critical nuclear disarmament activities in Russia that remainunfunded.  Now a commercial group called the “Nonproliferation Trust”(NPT) proposes to carry out such a scheme.  If the Russian and U.S.governments manage to agree, the group believes it can get storage contractsfrom foreign utilities that would provide the necessary capital for theproject.  If properly designed, such a program could represent a majorbreakthrough for both nuclear cleanup and arms reduction.

The principal motivation for the NPT project is not profit but raisingrevenue for Russia’s critical nuclear security and environmental projects. Indeed, a draft agreement prepared by the NPT for MINATOM’s considerationexplicitly states that the organization itself will not retain any profit(although the firms that would perform work for the NPT project would certainlyhope to profit).  The fees generated by the storage project wouldnot go to either MINATOM or a commercial firm, but would be channeled intoa trust legally required to use the money only for nuclear security andcleanup projects, as well as other social programs agreed to in advance. At the same time, the project would provide for the safe storage of thespent fuel and time to determine suitable non-proliferation approachesto its ultimate disposition.

Such a commercial agreement could be permanent – meaning that the spentfuel would ultimately be disposed of in Russia [– or interim,] meaningthat unless some further agreement was reached between the parties, thefuel would be shipped back to its original owners after some fixed storageperiod (say, 40 years).  NPT proposes a permanent approach, underwhich NPT would take title to the fuel and after 40 years transfer ownershipto MINATOM for final disposal in a Russian geologic repository.

Russian environmental groups oppose the NPT scheme even though the U.S.-basedNatural Resources Defense Council is an advisor to NPT and has made thecase that the project’s benefits for Russia’s environment would be muchgreater than its hazards.  We believe an interim approach, in whichRussia provides temporary stewardship while foreign utilities continueto own the fuel, could [address] some of their concerns.  Approvalmight be simpler to achieve, avoiding for now the complications of thepermanent nuclear waste disposal issue.  The disadvantage of a storage-onlyapproach is that the revenue generated per ton of fuel would be smaller,but this might be compensated for by increasing the amount of spent fuelimported.

Russian environmentalists are also concerned that the NPT proposal couldgive MINATOM [a backdoor approach to] its goal of reprocessing importedfuel.  But several barriers reduce this risk.  First of all,the contract NPT proposes would specifically prohibit reprocessing. Second,the United States will surely insist on such a prohibition before givingits consent to ship the fuel to Russia.  As the fuel would be underinternational safeguards, MINATOM could not take it away for reprocessingwithout visibly violating an international agreement.  With all theother spent fuel that already exists in Russia, MINATOM would have no incentiveto do that.  Third, if this is a serious concern, the amendments toRussia’s environmental law necessary for such a spent fuel import dealcould specify that the fuel may only be imported for storage.  Finally,if the storage facility was built in the Russian Far East close to potentialAsian customers, reprocessing the fuel would require re-shipping it toMINATOM’s existing  reprocessing facilities at Zheleznogorsk, Mayakand Seversk.

[Besides addressing the concerns of Russian environmentalists, Russiaand the United States would have to conclude an agreement on civilian nuclearcooperation before a spent fuel import and nuclear cleanup deal could moveforward.]  Without this the United States could not, under its ownlaws, grant consent to ship U.S. origin fuel to Russia. The United Stateshas refused to negotiate such an agreement because of its concerns overRussia’s nuclear cooperation with Iran.  A way forward would be toenter into a limited agreement focusing only on this project.  A broaderagreement for civilian nuclear cooperation could be postponed until theIran issue is resolved (possibly by Russian agreement to build only thefirst nuclear reactor in Iran and forego further Iranian contracts, sincethere is more money to be made from spent fuel imports in any case).

[There is much to be done before any project like the Non-ProliferationTrust would come to fruition.  The Russian and U.S. governments arestudying the matter and will need intensive negotiations, and agreementswill also be necessary with other foreign governments, their utilitiesand the Trust.]  But if the legitimate concerns can be satisfactorilyaddressed, so that the fuel would be managed safely and securely and withadequate assurance that billions of dollars in revenue would be set asidefor nuclear security and cleanup, such an approach could represent a realbreakthrough for the cause of nuclear disarmament and environmental cleanup. We urge Russia to consider these proposals very seriously.
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