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Nuclear News - 10/30/00
RANSAC Nuclear News, 30 October 2000
Compiled by Ethan Penfield and Christopher Ficek



A. Russia - Iran
    1. Senators Question Deal on Arms Sales to Iran, Andrew F.Tully, RFE/RL (10/27/00)
    2. U.S. Senators Threaten Subpoena on Gore's Russia Deal,Reuters (10/27/00)
B. Nuclear Power Industry
    1. Rostov Nuke Power Plant to Start Working in December 2000,Itar-Tass (10/27/00)
    2. Russia's Roseximbank Lends Bulgaria N-Plant $80 Mln, Reuters(10/26/00)
C. Nuclear Waste
    1. Study: Levels Of Nuclear Waste Unknown, Associated Press(10/27/00)
    2. Nuclear Storage Space Sufficient, Minister Says, ItarTass (10/20/00)
D. US – Russia General
    1. Bush, Gore in Sync on Nuke Weapons, John Fleck, AlbuquerqueJournal (10/22/00)



A. Russia - Iran

1.
Senators Question Deal on Arms Sales to Iran
         Andrew F. Tully
         RFE/RL
         October 27, 2000
         (for personal useonly)

WASHINGTON, Oct 27, 2000 -- (RFE/RL) America's relations with Russiaare coming under scrutiny in the U.S. Congress. At issue are news reportsthat Vice President Al Gore signed a secret deal in 1995 with Viktor Chernomyrdin– then Russia's prime minister -- agreeing to Moscow's arms sales to Iran.

Under the agreement, the U.S. would not impose economic sanctions onRussia if it completed arms sales that already had been contracted withIran -- as long as the transactions were complete by December 31, 1999.

Under American law, Washington must bring sanctions against any countrythat sells weapons to Iran if the president determines that the sale woulddestabilize the region. That law was co-sponsored in the Senate by Gorehimself -- then a Senator (D-Tennessee).

On Wednesday, two subcommittees of the Senate Foreign Relations Committeeheld a joint hearing to discover whether the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreementviolated the very law that Gore had sponsored. They also wanted to determinewhether the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton violated otherlaws by not informing Congress of the details of the pact.

All congressional committees are led by members of the Republican Party,which has a majority. Gore and Clinton are members of the Democratic Party.Democrats say the hearings are politically motivated, coming less thantwo weeks before the election in which Gore is running for president.

Senator Gordon Smith (R-Oregon) -- chairman of the Subcommittee on EuropeanAffairs -- opened Wednesday's hearing by expressing concern about the ultimateeffect of the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement.

"This agreement may reportedly have limited our response to Russia'sarms sales to Iran -- a country which is a significant sponsor of internationalterrorism directed against the West and its allies."

But Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) -- the Democratic Party's seniormember on the subcommittee -- said it was important for the Clinton administrationto work with Russia -- in secret, if necessary -- to limit Iran's accessto advanced weapons. In fact, Biden said, the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreementapparently did just that at a time when Moscow had financial incentivesto increase such sales.

"We can't control arms sales to areas of concern if we don't includeRussia in that [arms-control] regime. After all, Russia has lots of weaponsto sell, and they need the money."

Biden quoted from a report by a national security expert saying theweapons that Iran bought from Russia have -- as he put it -- "little militarymeaning." The assessment was made by Anthony Cordesman, a leading adviserto Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), the other sponsor of law requiringsanctions for countries selling weapons to Iran. McCain is a politicalopponent of Gore.

The first witness at Wednesday's hearing was John Barker, a senior officialof the State Department specializing in restricting the proliferation ofweapons. He said the substance of the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement was communicatedto Congress and to the American people. But he said some details were withheld.

"Of course, certain sensitive documents were classified and were closelyheld in the executive branch [the Clinton administration] -- that is, beforethey were published in the newspaper. This is the common practice for alladministrations on very sensitive diplomatic negotiations. But the thrustof these documents was widely telegraphed [disclosed indirectly] to boththe Congress and the American people."

Following Barker was Joseph DeThomas, another State Department officialwho told the committee that he has worked to restrict arms-proliferationunder both Democratic and Republican presidents. He supported Barker'sargument that Congress had been lawfully notified about the Gore-Chernomyrdinagreement, and that only very sensitive details were withheld.

Despite this sensitivity, DeThomas complained, photographs of thesedocuments recently appeared in American newspapers. And he told the Senatorsthat they should be careful about how fiercely they attack the Clintonadministration over the issue. This, he said, would only serve the interestsof Iranian and of anti-Western forces in Russia.

"The arrangements discussed here today are manifestly in the interestsof the United States, and of the effort to halt proliferation. But theyhave powerful opponents in Moscow. A partisan brawl that drags legitimatelyclassified material into the newspapers as photo insets can only benefitIran and those forces in Moscow most hostile to our objectives."

Smith -- the chairman of the hearing -- said the foreign-policy implicationsof the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement go far beyond stability in Iran andAmerica's relations with Russia.

"This sort of deal-making must reawaken fears among the newly free statesof Central Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia that they may becomeonce again the objects of secret agreements between great powers. It ishardly likely to increase their confidence in the United States."

The Senate hearings -- and similar hearings in the lower house of Congress,the House of Representatives -- come at a politically awkward time forGore, who is campaigning for president. The election is on November 7.

Gore has portrayed himself during the campaign as having far superiorcredentials in foreign affairs than his opponent, Republican George W.Bush, the governor of the western state of Texas.

Gore's supporters say the scrutiny of his agreement with Chernomyrdinis designed to undermine the vice president's foreign-policy qualifications.Republicans respond that their concern is not politically motivated. Infact, 11 former senior officials in the American government – includingformer Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former national securityadviser Zbigniew Brzezinski -- issued a letter saying the agreement couldjeopardize the security of the U.S. and its allies.
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2.
U.S. Senators Threaten Subpoena on Gore's Russia Deal
         Reuters
         October 27, 2000
         (for personal useonly)

WASHINGTON, Oct 27, 2000 -- (Reuters) A group of 10 Republican senatorsthreatened on Thursday to subpoena documents related to Vice PresidentAl Gore's 1995 pact with Moscow on arms sales to Iran unless the WhiteHouse turns them over by Monday.

Administration officials declined to provide the documents to the SenateForeign Relations Committee at a Wednesday hearing in which they defendedthe deal against Republican accusations that it skirted U.S. law and Congresshad been kept in the dark on the details.

"In essence, you are saying to the Congress and the American people:'Trust us,'" the senators said in a letter to Secretary of State MadeleineAlbright.

"Considering the fact that almost everything we have learned about thissecret deal has come from the news media and not the administration, werespectfully decline," the letter said, setting a deadline for turningover the documents that would be just one week before the presidentialelection.

Democrats and Gore campaign officials say Republicans are trying toscore political points off the issue ahead of the election.

Among those signing the letter were Senate Republican Leader Trent Lottof Mississippi, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms of NorthCarolina, Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner of Virginia andArizona Sen. John McCain.

The pact was negotiated by Democratic presidential candidate Gore andformer Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in 1995. Under the agreement,Russia was allowed to sell conventional weapons to Iran under existingcontracts through 1999 but pledged not to enter into any new contracts.

In return, the United States agreed to take no action against Russiafor the sales under a 1992 nonproliferation law co-sponsored by Gore andArizona Republican Sen. John McCain that bars arms deals with Iran andother states viewed as sponsors of terrorism.

Administration officials defended the deal at Wednesday's hearing, sayingit was consistent with U.S. law and achieved its main purpose of stoppingnew Russian weapons sales to Iran while not providing new weapons capabilitiesor altering the regional military balance.

The letter gave the administration until Monday to turn over the documentsoutlining the pact, and threatened subpoenas if the Foreign Relations Committeedoes not receive them.  "Congress has a right and responsibility toreview all the relevant documents, and to judge for itself whether thetransfers the vice president signed off on were covered by U.S. non-proliferationlaws," the letter said.

It said the administration's refusal to turn over the documents was"unacceptable."
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B. Nuclear Power Industry

1.
Rostov Nuke Power Plant to Start Working in December 2000
        Itar-Tass
        October 27, 2000
        (for personal use only)

VOLGODONSK, Rostov region, October 27 (Itar-Tass) - The Rostov nuclearpower plant will start working in December 2000, Nuclear Minister YevgenyAdamov said in Volgodonsk on Friday.

He paid special attention to social problems of Volgodonsk residents,which the ministry would tackle in connection with the construction ofthe nuclear power plant. The minister met with deputies of the Volgodonsklegislature to discuss the power plant's supply of heating to Volgodonsk,the construction of medical centers and a center of the emergencies ministryand orders to Volgodonsk builders and the Atommash plant.

Prospects for the construction of the second unit of the Rostov nuclearpower plant were also discussed.
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2.
Russia's Roseximbank Lends Bulgaria N-Plant $80 Mln
         Reuters
         October 26, 2000
        (for personal use only)

SOFIA, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Russia's Export-Import Bank Rosexim on Thursdayprovided an $80 million loan to help Bulgaria modernise two 1,000-megawattreactors at its Soviet-designed nuclear power plant at Kozloduy.

The 15-year loan is with a five-year grace period and a 7.5 percentannual interest rate, Bulgaria's finance ministry said.

Finance Minister Muravei Radev, who signed state guarantees for thecredit, said the loan would help the plant's upgrading to European standards.

Most of the upgrading work is carried out by a consortium comprisingGermany's Siemens AG , France's Framatome and Russia's Atomenergoexport.The remaining part will be performed by U.S.-based Westinghouse.

The overall modernisation programme of the two reactors is expectedto cost $380 million and the Kozloduy plant has started work with its ownfunds.

Two other loans have already been extended to Sofia for the units' modernisation.

In May the European Commission signed a 212.5 million euro ($176.3 million)loan to help Kozloduy perform its upgrading programme and U.S. Citibank(NYSE:C - news) extended a $77 million loan for the two big reactors inJuly.

Apart from the two 1,000 MW reactors, the Kozloduy plant, which providesalmost half of the country's power, has four older 440 MW reactors.

Bulgaria, which started talks on joining the European Union in March,had bowed to its pressure and agreed to close the two oldest reactors by2003, earlier than initially planned.

A final decision on the early closure of the two other 440 MW reactorswill be taken in 2002 and Sofia hopes to run them to the end of their projectedlife by upgrading them to internationally acceptable safety standards.

(1 euro equals $0.83)
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C. Nuclear Waste

1.
Study: Levels Of Nuclear Waste Unknown
         Associated Press
         October 27, 2000
         (for personal useonly)

LOS ALAMOS, N.M.—A Department of Energy study suggests the amount ofplutonium and other radioactive contaminants buried at sites around thenation's nuclear weapons complex could be 10 times greater than previouslybelieved.

The DOE listed Los Alamos National Laboratory as having the third-mostwaste buried or dumped into the soil.

However, estimates for the northern New Mexico lab did not increasemuch from previous numbers, and lab spokesman John Gustafson said officialsbelieve they have a better idea than officials at some other nuclear sitesof what was dumped where and when before 1970.

The Energy Department conducted a two-year inventory in response toa 1997 complaint from environmentalists that the DOE had no idea how muchmaterial had been dumped into the soil or buried in flimsy containers nearnuclear sites.

Environmentalists say the DOE now should commit to cleaning up thatwaste because it could leach into water supplies and because there couldbe so much more of it than scientists had believed.

"Protecting the purity of water is essential," said Arjun Makhijani,president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, whichasked the DOE to look into the issue. "Development in the West is definedby water resources. It would be irresponsible of DOE not to begin lookingat ways this waste can be retrieved and stored."

The report, released this summer, estimates 126,000 cubic meters ofnuclear waste from weapons work were buried or dumped into the soil acrossthe nuclear complex. The material studied is radioactive waste with a longhalf-life, meaning it would take a long time to decay.

The study looked at material buried or dumped before 1970, when thefederal government required nuclear sites to package and segregate suchwaste.

The buried waste has generally been left where it is.

"Historically, with some possible exceptions, these wastes have beenconsidered irretrievable except by extraordinary means," wrote CarolynHuntoon, assistant secretary for environmental management.

Makhijani believes the department should put a priority on cleaningup contaminated dirt and old radioactive dumps.

Otherwise, he says, the nation's water could end up contaminated withradioactivity, which has been shown to cause cancer.

James Bearzi, chief of the state Environment Department's radioactiveand hazardous waste bureau, said it's not clear whether cleaning up somedisposal areas from the early days of Los Alamos' nuclear work is the bestidea. Many DOE and lab workers say it would be more dangerous to dig extremelycontaminated material out of the soil or old waste dumps because it woulddisturb the material and expose workers and the public to the contamination.

Many of the old disposal areas at Los Alamos are on dry mesa tops andare unlikely to leach in to the aquifer or the water supply, experts say.

Previous DOE estimates said radioactivity in retrievable waste, whichwould be sent to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, constitutedabout 97 percent of the nation's contamination and the waste dumped orburied made up about 3 percent. The new DOE study says buried waste makesup about 30 percent of the nation's radioactivity.

The study looked at Hanford in Washington state, the Idaho NationalEngineering and Environmental Laboratory, Los Alamos, the Nevada Test Site,Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and the Savannah River Sitein South Carolina.
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2.
Nuclear Storage Space Sufficient, Minister Says
        Itar Tass
        October 20, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Moscow, 11th October: There are no technical problems in Russia as regardsthe handling of irradiated (spent) nuclear fuel, Russian Atomic EnergyMinister Yevgeniy Adamov told a news conference today.

According to Adamov, the available capacities for storing irradiatedfuel (a so-called "liquid repository" and special containers) are enoughto last for 50 years, whereas the deadline for storing spent nuclear fuelis 30 years. The processing of the fuel will be completed and its wastewill be buried by then.

The existing capacities for processing irradiated nuclear fuel (theMayak combine in the town of
Snezhinsk) are also sufficient. It is planned to finish the constructionof a second processing plant, RT-2, in Krasnoyarsk Territory. With thecommissioning of this plant, Russia will be able to expand its participationon the world market of services connected with storing and processing spentnuclear fuel from foreign nuclear power stations.

The minister therefore spoke in favour of the State Duma passing anamendment to the law "On the environment protection", which would makeit possible to receive spent nuclear fuel from other countries for storingand processing.
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D. US – Russia General 

1.
Bush, Gore in Sync on Nuke Weapons
         John Fleck
         Albuquerque Journal
         October 22, 2000
         (for personal useonly)

In a bunker behind barbed wire at Los Alamos National Laboratory, workerstest special welding equipment to be used to make plutonium cores for nuclearweapons.

While presidential attention to the doomsday devices usually revolvesaround questions of strategic policy and world peace, in New Mexico nuclearweapons policy is a parochial issue — nuclear weapons work is one of thelargest industries in the state.

But in the lead up to next month's presidential election, the majorparty candidates have offered voters no major differences on the issue.

"For arms-control advocates, there isn't a lot to choose from," saidChristopher Paine, a former Congressional arms-control staff worker nowemployed by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Both Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush pledge further cutsin the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and both say they are opposedto a resumption of U.S. underground nuclear weapons tests.

But a reduction in nuclear weapons does not necessarily mean a reductionin work for New Mexico's nuclear weapons laboratories, noted Sen. PeteDomenici, R-N.M.

"You would still have to have these laboratories," Domenici noted.

History bears out the observation — despite an end to nuclear testingand reductions in the arsenal under the last two administrations, budgetsfor nuclear weapons work are growing.

But with the Cold War long over and issues like Medicare and tax cutsdominating the public discourse, nuclear weapons policy has been largelyabsent from the campaign debate.

"Taking a look at what they're talking about and taking a look at thepolls, this issue is not foremost on their minds," said Daryl Kimball ofthe Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers.

Part of the economy

New Mexico, home to four major Department of Energy institutions, isa nuclear state.

The first atomic bomb was built here, and today the federal governmentspends $2.5 billion per year here on nuclear weapons programs.

That makes weapons work one of the largest components of the state'seconomy, and nuclear weapons policy is closely watched here.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, workers are setting up a small assemblyline to make plutonium cores for nuclear bombs, replacement parts for agingnuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque, employees of Sandia National Laboratorieshave completed a factory to build replacement neutron generators, littleelectronic components at the heart of a bomb used to give it its explosivekick.

At both laboratories, scientists are intensely studying weapons componentsas they age, trying to figure out how to keep them safe and reliable forthe foreseeable future.

In the early 1990s, as the Cold War ended, the labs began shifting tocivilian technology. But in recent years they have returned to their roots,to a primary focus on national security. The future of all that work hingeson key questions that will face the next president:

How large a nuclear arsenal should the United State maintain?
Should our 8-year-old moratorium on underground test blasts continue?
How should we approach negotiations with the Russians — our chief
nuclear adversary — on arms control?

Test Ban Treaty

Since the Cold War ended, it has been rare for a nuclear weapons policyquestion to land on the front page of the nation's newspapers.

That changed last year when the Senate took up deliberations on theComprehensive Test Ban Treaty. A holy grail of the arms-control communitysince the 1950s, the treaty would ban all nuclear weapons testing amongsignatory nations.

After a heated debate last October, the Republican-controlled Senatedelivered a major blow to the Clinton administration, defeating the CTBTon a 51-48 vote.

Al Gore called the vote "a massive act of irresponsibility damagingto the security interests of the United States."

Gore has promised to revive the treaty and try once again for ratification.Bush opposes the treaty.

"In the hard work of halting proliferation, the Comprehensive Test BanTreaty is not the answer," Bush has said.

But the practical effect of the difference between the candidates isnot as significant as it might appear. That is because Bush has said hewill continue the testing moratorium.

Bush argues there is no way to verify or enforce a test-ban treaty,that it offers "only words and false hopes."

Whatever happens on the treaty, however, "it's unlikely that we willresume testing," said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.

Size of the arsenal

While official numbers are classified, reliable nongovernment estimatesfrom the Natural Resources Defense Council suggest the United States andRussia maintain an arsenal of 9,000 to 10,000 nuclear weapons each.

Both major-party presidential candidates say that is too many, but theyoffer different approaches for reducing the number. In a widely noted speechMay 23, Bush took the more aggressive stance on the issue.

He promised, if elected, to launch a major review of our nuclear arsenal,to determine how many we really need, and pledged "to pursue the lowestpossible number consistent with our national security."

But while traditional arms-control policy calls for negotiating reductionswith the Russians so that each side brings down its arsenal at the samerate, Bush said the United States should be willing to make unilateralcuts if that is what it takes.

"We should invite the Russian government to accept the new vision Ihave outlined and act on it," Bush said. "But the United States shouldbe prepared to lead by example, because it is in our best interest andthe best interest of the world."

Gore also argues for cuts in the size of our arsenal, but says the UnitedStates should negotiate the reductions with the Russians rather than doingit on our own.

A reduction in the size of our nuclear arsenal is unlikely to causeany cutbacks at New Mexico's weapons laboratories, Domenici noted.

Since the end of the Cold War, both U.S. and Russian arsenals have beencut in half. But spending on the U.S. nuclear weapons program during the2001 Fiscal Year will top $5 billion — its highest level ever.

Both candidates also say U.S. assistance to Russia to dismantle itsnuclear weapons should continue.

"I'll ask the Congress to increase substantially our assistance to dismantleas many of Russia's weapons as possible as quickly as possible," Bush said."I am committed to continuing this work," Gore said.

Counting on experience

On nuclear-weapons policy, Gore backers like to point to the vice president'sexperience.

Bingaman noted that he and Gore served together for eight years on theSenate Armed Services committee, a time during which the then-Tennesseesenator specialized in arms-control policy.

"He generally does understand the issues," Bingaman said. But whileBush has not served in such a national policy post, the Texas governoris likely to surround himself with the sort of skilled defense policy expertswho have surrounded him during the campaign, people like retired
Gen. Colin Powell, Domenici pointed out. Bush's running mate, DickCheney, is a former secretary of defense.
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