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Nuclear News - 08/28/00
RANSAC Nuclear News, 28 August 2000

A.  Brain Drain

    1. Putin Ups Nuclear Sector Money After Sub Tragedy, AdamTanner, Reuters (08/25/00)
B. Plutonium Disposition
    1. Schroeder Backs Sale of Nuke Reprocessor to Russia, Reuters(08/28/00)
    2. Britain Helps Fund Russia Nuclear Clean-up, Reuters (08/28/00)
C. Russian Nuclear Forces
    1. Kasyanov Argues Russia Needs Only Minimal Number Of NuclearArms, RFE/RL (08/28/00)
D. Submarine Dismantlement
    1. Program Unveils Nuclear Fuel Container, Galina Stolyarova,St. Petersburg Times (08/25/00)

A. Brain Drain

Putin Ups Nuclear Sector Money After Sub Tragedy
        Adam Tanner
        August 25, 2000
        (for personal use only)
MOSCOW, Aug 25 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin ordered higherpay on Friday for workers in Russia's struggling nuclear sector in hislatest handout to the military since the Kursk submarine disaster.

A Kremlin spokesman did not give the details of Putin's decree. ButPrime-Tass news agency said it offered pay raises and higher pensions tostaff involved in the design, construction and servicing of nuclear warheads.

The order was the latest sign that Putin is seeking to boost spendingon the beleaguered defence sector rather than recognise his impoverishedcountry's limitations and scale back commitments as some Russian politiciansand commentators have advocated.

Putin ordered the government on Thursday to boost salaries to the armedforces, police, prison guards, customs officials and the tax police by20 percent.

He met Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and said defence and securityspending would benefit from any windfalls from oil or other revenues innext year's budget.

Putin was severely criticised for his hands-off approach to effortsto save the crew of the Kursk, which sank on August 12 in the Arctic BarentsSea with the loss of all 118 crew.

Putin said in an emotional television interview on Thursday that moremoney for the military would be forthcoming.

The sinking of the Kursk, and Russia's inability to launch a quick,effective rescue effort, highlighted the impoverished state of the post-SovietRussian military.


Yet Putin, who rose to power on the heels of a military campaign againstthe breakaway Chechen republic, appears loath to admit Russia may havetoo many military commitments for the post-Cold War order.

Many Russians feel the same way.

A poll of 1,500 Russians by the Public Opinion Fund showed 49 percentfelt that Russia is ``a great power and needs a strong army at any cost,''up from 29 percent four years ago.

``During these tragic days, the president has received his strongestsupport from those millions and millions of non-naval specialists, whofeel it was wrong, if not criminal, to 'reform' the army as they have inrecent years,'' the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily wrote on Friday.

Highlighting the government's focus on the nuclear sector, Prime MinisterMikhail Kasyanov toured Sarov, the leading atomic research city once calledArzamas-16 and home to the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb Andrei Sakharov.

He told scientists there that the nuclear-powered Kursk, which sankin the Barents Sea, did not pose an environmental threat. ``The level ofradiation is normal and we have no concerns,'' Interfax quoted Kasyanovas saying.

Putin's boost to nuclear workers comes at a time the sector has enjoyedstable financing and was not seeking more government funding, Atomic EnergyMinistry spokesman Yuri Bespalko said.

``Given the situation in the country things have been pretty good forus,'' he said. ``We have enough resources for stable development of thesector.''

Two years ago scientists, who earn about 4,000 roubles ($144) a monthat Sarov staged a brief unprecedented strike because of months of wagedelays.

($1-27.70 Rouble)
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B. Plutonium Disposition

Schroeder Backs Sale of Nuke Reprocessor to Russia
        August 28, 2000
        (for personal use only)

BERLIN, Aug 28 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroederon Mondayrejected criticism from his coalition over the planned sale of a plutoniumreprocessing plant to Russia by electronics and engineering group SiemensAG.

"There are no security or foreign policy reasons against it," Schroedertold journalists in Berlin before a party meeting. "There is global interestin making weapons-grade plutonium less dangerous through reprocessing."

Members of the environmentalist Greens, junior coalition partners toSchroeder's ruling Social Democrats, have spoken out against trade in nucleartechnology and said Germany should not allow such a sale especially afterthe country pledged earlier this year to phase out nuclear power.

Schroeder also declared a separate dispute with some Greens over theexport of an ammunition factory to Turkey as ended.

"There is nothing to solve. The case is decided," he said.

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, the most prominent Green in the cabinet,last week indirectly defended the granting of export approval for an ammunitionplant destined for Turkey and called for calm from critics of the dealfrom within his party.

The approval of the sale of German tanks to Turkey and the United ArabEmirates earlier this year prompted a near-crisis in the Greens' coalitionwith the SPD.

Fischer had insisted that an order from Ankara for battle tanks shouldonly win an export licence if Turkey showed progress on human and minorityrights, but he was outvoted in the cabinet committee which must approvesuch deals.

Fischer is the most influential figure among the Greens but has littleformal power in the party's diffuse leadership structure. He has facedcriticism from the ecologist party's vocal "fundamentalist" wing over thecompromises he has made since joining the government two years ago.
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Britain Helps Fund Russia Nuclear Clean-up
        August 28, 2000
        (for personal use only)

LONDON, Aug 28, 2000 -- (Reuters) Britain said on Sunday it would stumpup GBP 80 million (USD 118 million) to help the former Soviet Union dealwith nuclear safety issues.

"Nuclear hazards do not recognize international boundaries," ForeignSecretary Robin Cook said in a statement.

"The countries of the former Soviet Union face enormous nuclear problemsthat affect the lives of us all and these problems need to be urgentlyaddressed by the whole international community."

A Foreign Office official said the Cold War had left Russia with largestocks of weapons grade nuclear materials which need to be safely stored.

He said a further GBP 12 million was being allocated to help deal withchemical and biological weapons stocks and facilities.

"This new tranche of money will almost triple existing spending andwiden the scope of the support that we are able to give," Cook said.

He first announced a package of assistance when visiting Murmansk lastyear.

The Russian port is still in mourning following the sinking of the nuclearsubmarine Kursk which claimed the lives of all 118 crew members.
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C. Russian Nuclear Forces

Kasyanov Argues Russia Needs Only Minimal Number Of Nuclear Arms
        August 28, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said in Sarov, Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast,on 25 August that Russia wants to "scale down" the number of nuclear weapons"to the minimally allowable point" but that as a great power, it will dowhatever it has to do to maintain "the minimal level of nuclear arms necessaryfor Russia." He added that Russia "must be sure that our facilities aresafe," Interfax reported. In other comments, Kasyanov said that Russiacould provide a place for other countries to send their nuclear wastesfor permanent disposition. Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cookon 27 August announced that London will provide some $120 million to fundnuclear safety efforts in Russia and other post-Soviet states.
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D. Submarine Dismantlement

Program Unveils Nuclear Fuel Container
        Galina Stolyarova
        St. Petersburg Times
        August 25, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Russian, American and Norwegian defense officials gathered at the IzhorskyFactories last week for the presentation of a prototype transport and storagecontainer for spent fuel from decommissioned Russian nuclear submarines.The container, which was developed by a number of Russian research institutes,was funded as part of the Arctic Military Environment Cooperation (AMEC)project, set up in 1996 by the three countries to resolve environmentalthreats deriving from military activity in the Arctic region. It took lessthan two years to develop, and would sell for $140,000, according to itsdesigners. The container is made out of a ferro-concrete mixture, whichan Izhorsky Factories press release said makes it up to five times cheaperto produce than a metal container.

Boris Alexeyev, a major-general on the Russian armed forces' EnvironmentalSafety Board, said AMEC projects are funded by all sides equally. He saidthat AMEC is sponsoring eight different environmental programs aiming toreduce ecological damage caused by the three countries' Arctic-based militaryforces. "AMEC projects can be divided into radiation and non-radiationprograms," Alexeyev said. "A non-radiation project might be dealing withoily waters created by the activity of navy vessels. Radiation projectsfeature particularly the development of nuclear waste containers, and thetechnology to reprocess nuclear waste."

The new container can store 40 tons of nuclear fuel for up to 50 years,its designers said. A larger container capable of holding 80 tons is beingdeveloped, said Deputy Nuclear Power Minister Valery Lebedev, who is alsodirector of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Station (LAES). At present, theonly other medium-term storage facility in Russia is at the Mayak reprocessingplant near Chelyabinsk "We are also working on ways to reprocess damagednuclear fuel, which would be better than just storing it," Lebedev said."AMEC cooperation has proved successful," said Tonje Westby, an advisorin Norway's Defense Ministry, at the presentation. "It helps exchange knowledgeand technology, and to reach a common understanding of the problem of treatingthe vulnerable Arctic environment."

According to a report by Norwegian environmental organization Bellona,around 280 nuclear-powered submarines were built in the former Soviet Union,with around 180 of them now out of fleet service. More are set to be decommissioned,thanks to lack of maintenance, aging and the conditions of the START-Iarms reduction treaty.

"Of the 110 nuclear submarines in the Northern Fleet, 72 have spentnuclear fuel on board," said Bellona's Thomas Nilsen. "These AMEC projectsare very important. And these new containers can really help solve theproblem of spent nuclear fuel from submarines." The container has alsoreceived a safety certificate from the International Atomic Energy Agency,the world's nuclear-power regulatory body. To deal with all spent fuelfrom its decommissioned submarines, Russia will need a total of 220 ofthe new containers, according to Nina Yanovskaya, director of the scientificand technical center "Nuclid" which coordinated the project. IzhorskiyeFactories has built the first 12 of the new containers, with 36 more setto be produced this year. They will be kept at five new storage sites,the first of which - in Sysoyev Bay in the Far East - is near completion,according to Yanovskaya. Another is planned for the Murmansk region, whilea third will be located near Mayak, she said.

"As many as 40 percent of the nonategic [those not carrying ballisticmissiles] submarines produced in the early 1980s are now in a criticalcondition," Yanovskaya said. Russia's rusting submarines have long beencited by experts as a major potential environmental hazard. "But the strategic[submarines] are almost new, and only present a threat to the United States,as they have ballistic missiles on board."

In the future, however, Yanovskaya said she expected the United Statesto order a large number of the containers to store fuel from the Russiansubs which it is helping dismantle, as part of the $2.3 billion CooperativeThreat Reduction program, and in connection to START-I. The Netherlands,Japan, Great Britain and Norway were also interested in buying the newcontainers, she added.

"The countries participating in AMEC understand that they will continueusing nuclear energy [for military purposes] and want to make it ecologicallysafer." The Russian Defense Ministry is aiming to dismantle all inactivenuclear submarines by 2007. According to Yanovskaya, the first contractwith the United States will be signed in September or October.
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