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Nuclear News - 11/28/00
RANSAC Nuclear News, November 28, 2000
Compiled by Ethan Penfield and Christopher Ficek

A. Russian Nuclear Power Industry
    1. Duma to Eliminate Nuclear Safety Watchdog, Igor Kudrik,Bellona (11/24/00)
    2. News Briefing [TVEL Chairman Resigns], Uranium Institute(11/22/00)
    3. News Briefing [Nuclear Plant Construction], Uranium Institute(11/22/00)
B. Russia - Iran
    1. Russia, U.S. to Hold Expert Talks on Iran Arms Row, Reuters(11/28/00)
    2. Russia to Revive Military Cooperation, Arms Sales With IranAs Russia Rejects U.S. Ultimatums, RFE/RL(11/27/00)
    3. It Smells of Cold War in the USA, Andrei Stepanov, Trud(11/25/00)
    4. Editorial: Arms Trade May Haunt Russia Later, Moscow Times(11/24/00)
C.  Nuclear Waste
    1. From Norway With Nuclear Waste, Thomas Nilsen, Bellona(11/28/00)
    2. Minatom Launches NGO to Fight Envirogroups, VladislavNikiforov, Bellona (11/27/00)
    3. Some Russians Try to Fight Importation of Nuclear Waste,Residents of Already Contaminated Regions Try to Stop Nation From BecomingDump for All, Margaret Coker, Atlanta Journal Constitution (11/24/00)
D.  U.S. Nuclear Arsenal/Stockpile
    1. Russian Military Concerned At US Plans To Modernize Minuteman-3,Hera Missiles, Itar Tass (11/27/00)

A. Russian Nuclear Power Industry

Duma to Eliminate Nuclear Safety Watchdog
        Igor Kudrik
        November 24, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Russian Ministry for Nuclear Energy lobbies amendments that may thrownuclear safety control back to pre-Chernobyl era.  Russian envirogroupscall upon president Putin to interfere.

The State Duma, lower house of the Russian parliament, will soon considera bill calling to amend the Law on Application of Atomic Energy. The bill suggests transfer of licensing functions from the ‘regulatoryagencies’ to the ‘managing agencies’.  In other words, the right tolicence civilian nuclear related activities will be passed over from theRussian State Nuclear Regulatory (GAN) to the Russian Ministry for NuclearEnergy (Minatom), should the bill be voted for.  The only GAN’s alliesseem be environmental NGOs.

Russia’s nuclear watchdog short history may end

The understanding for the need of an independent nuclear state regulatorycame after the Chernobyl disaster.  But the practical steps were madeonly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. GAN was established in1992 as a federal agency and direct subject to the President of the RussianFederation.  The regulatory functions before 1992 were in the handsof Minatom, one of the most powerful ministries in the former Soviet Union.

But the newly born agency was too weak to fight such administrativemonsters such as, for example, the Defence Ministry.  In September1993, GAN was stripped of its responsibility to regulate the nuclear componentof the Russian Navy. The GAN’s rivals in the Defence Ministry’s nuclearsafety inspection managed to persuade the President that the civilian intrusioninto the submarine bases could lead to unwelcome transparency.  Thisin turn would make it difficult to protect the state secrets.  Thereal reason, however, is believed to be the desire of the military nuclearsafety inspectors to hold their high ranks. The split of the responsibilitybetween the two state agencies could downgrade the status of one of them.

In practice it has led to that the defence installations are still beyondthe scope of the federal legislation. The Law on Application of AtomicEnergy from October 1995 regulates only the civilian part of it. The defence installations, stands in the Law, are regulated by other legislation.The ‘other legislation’ has not been developed until today.

The need for guarding the state secrets, as the officials put it, ledto the practice of stamping GAN’s annual reports ‘for internal use only’beginning from 1996.

In 1995-1996, each entity, except for the military, which had radioactivesubstances in use, was obliged to obtain licence from GAN to operate. This resulted in heavy quarrels between GAN and Minatom over several controversialnuclear sites.

In 1997, GAN suspended reprocessing licence for Mayak plant in Chelyabinskcounty. The reprocessing did not halt, however, as Minatom managed to lobbythrough lifting of the ban. In 1999, GAN refused to licence operation oftwo ancient plutonium-producing reactors in Seversk (former Tomsk-7). The reactors were not shut down either. They in fact still operate withoutapproval of the state nuclear safety watchdog.

Beginning from June 2000, GAN has no authority to issue licenses forthese reactors.  The Russian government bowed to Minatom’s pressureand issued a decree on June 20th 2000. The decree transferred the rightto licence military related nuclear activities to Minatom.  BesidesSeversk reactors, the decree resolved another controversial dispute betweenthe two agencies in Minatom’s favour. In spring 2000, GAN withdrew licencefor manufacturing of spent fuel transport and storage casks at Izhora plantin Leningrad county. The project was an international effort and involvedinternational funding.  From the Russian side the project was managedby the Defence Ministry and Nulkid, an obscure Minatom’s establishmentbased in St Petersburg.  GAN said that the containers had design faultsand did not meet safety requirements.  But the governmental decreeremoved the GAN-roadblock factor.  Izhora plant is now working onserial production of the containers.

Nuclear safety setback

But Minatom would not stop fighting GAN down to its knees.  A newamendment authored by Robert Nigmatulin, Duma member and brother of deputynuclear minister, Bulat Nigmatulin, suggests transfer of all the licensingprocedures from GAN to Minatom.  That will strip GAN of all the influenceon the nuclear agency and turn the nuclear regulation back to the pre-Chernobylera.  The amendment is being discussed in Duma committees and canbe put for a vote shortly. Experts believe that the chances for the amendmentbill not to pass the vote ‘approximate zero’.

In an interview with Russian daily Sogodnya, Yury Vishnevsky, head ofGAN, outlined the reasons for Minatom’s crusade against nuclear safetywatchdog.  Vishnevsky bitterly attacked the plans put forward by nuclearminister, Yevgeny Adamov, to increase output of nuclear power in orderto produce ‘cheap’ electricity and to import foreign spent nuclear fuelinto Russia ‘to solve environmental’ issues.  “Do not believe a singleword Adamov says,” Mr Vishnevsky said.

Mr Vishnevsky went on to compare the 50-year nuclear development planpresented by Adamov this year with decisions of Politburo in the old Soviettimes.  Nobody can foresee in such detail what happens in 50 years,the whole plan is a bluff, said Vishnevsky.

Adamov tries to make Minatom look like a super department, but has nothingto give these attempts a substance.  The nuclear power stations operatemainly on first-generation reactors.  Beginning in 2002, 12 reactors(out of 29) are scheduled for decommissioning, while no funds are availableto build new reactors. Each new reactor unit costs around one billion USD,therefore many countries including Russia are working on to prolong theirlife time. The trouble with Adamov’s approach is that he wants to spend$70-$90 per kilowatt of energy produced on upgrade, while GAN believesthat $200-$300 are required to ensure that nuclear power plants operatesafely beyond the original design limits.

Mr Vishnevky also criticised other projects promoted by the nuclearagency such as import of foreign spent nuclear fuel, saying the money earnedwill be “eaten by Minatom or stolen."  Minatom keeps saying that importednuclear fuel (20,000 tons) is a resource after it has been reprocessed,enough to burn in nuclear reactors for 10-20 years.  But Mr Vishnevskyreplied to that argument that “the scales are wrong” when the risk of endangeringthe population of the whole country with discharge of radioactive wastefrom reprocessing plants is envolved.

The strong wording of Vishnevsky’s statements serves as a proof of thefeud between the two agencies.  Minatom has long been acting as acommercial enterprise rather than a state agency.  The fight thatMinatom seems to be winning will be profitable for the agency business-wise,while the nuclear safety will cease to be a forced priority and thus willbe largely neglected.

Envirogroups appeal in support of independent watchdog

The most prominent environmental groups in Russia called upon the Russianpresident, Vladimir Putin, and Russian government Friday not to strip GANof the licensing functions.  The appeal says that such a step woulddrive the nuclear safety control back to the pre-Chernobyl time.

“GAN was deprived of the responsibility to control Navy’s nuclear installationin 1995.  It hampered the on-going international co-operation to securenaval radwaste,” says the appeal.  “We call on you not to reduce thefunctions of the independent nuclear regulatory further.”

But the NGO’s seem to be the only ally of GAN in this fight in Russiaand too weak compared to resources Minatom has.
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News Briefing [TVEL Chairman Resigns]
        Uranium Institute
        November 22, 2000
        (for personal use only)

[NB00.47-17] Russia: The chairman of TVEL, the Russian nuclear fuelfabrication concern, is reported to have resigned after a disagreementwith the top management of the Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom). Itis understood that TVEL chairman Vitaly Konovalov disagreed with plansby Minatom to reorganise the ministry on a commercial basis, involvingthe amalgamation of eight nuclear power plants, TVEL and several exportcompanies into a single commercial structure.  (Nuclear Fuel, 13 November,p3; see also News Briefings 00.32-12 and 00.46-13)
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News Briefing [Nuclear Plant Construction]
        Uranium Institute
        November 22, 2000
        (for personal use only)

[NB00.47-6] Russia: Construction of Rostov-2 will restart in 2001 andthe plant should be completed in 5 years, according to Rosenergoatom deputychairman Yuri Kopiev.  Rostov-1 is expected to start up by the endof December. (NucNet News, 377/00, 15 November; see also News Briefing00.42-12)
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B. Russia - Iran

Russia, U.S. to Hold Expert Talks on Iran Arms Row
        November 28, 2000
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON, Nov 28, 2000 -- (Reuters) U.S. officials will travel toMoscow next week to discuss Russia's plan to break an agreement barringthe sale of conventional arms to Iran, State Department spokesman PhilipReeker said on Monday.

Moscow shows no sign of a change of heart on scrapping the arrangementon Friday and sanctions will be considered, though in many cases actualtransfers of weapons must occur for sanctions to apply, another State Departmentofficial said.

"We do not believe activities have occurred that would constitute awithdrawal" from the arrangement, the official said.

Russia this month overhauled its arms export structures to try to boostrevenues from frozen contracts and possible expansion into big new deals.

Tehran is interested in assembling Russian hardware under license, likethe MiG-29 fighter and T-72C tank.

Reeker said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright brought up the agreementwith Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on the eve of the Organization for Securityand Cooperation in Europe ministerial council in Vienna on Sunday.

"She did discuss the matter of the aide-memoir," he said in referenceto the legally non-binding agreement struck by Vice President Al Gore withthen-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in 1995.

"There's no reason to believe that they'll rescind their decision towithdraw but the two ministers agreed to have experts meet next week inMoscow and they will work out proposals to deal with their concerns," headded.

U.S. officials say Washington will consider sanctions if Moscow actuallyresumes selling advanced technology to Tehran, which is a paymaster ofthe Shi'ite Muslim Hizbollah group that violently opposes existing Israeli-Palestinianagreements.

The Gore-Chernomyrdin deal let Moscow honor existing contracts for armstoo unsophisticated to qualify for sanctions under a 1992 U.S. law, aslong as all conventional arms sales stopped by the end of 1999, the officialadded.

Republicans accused Gore of letting Russia off the hook and used thearrangement -- and news that Moscow planned to break it -- as fuel fortheir argument that the presidential candidate oversaw a failed Russiapolicy.

Democrats say the deal addressed the wider issue of getting Moscow tocommit to ending arms sales by a set date.

They also say Republicans like to forget that the deal was not legallybinding.

"Keep in mind that what we're looking at here is activities.  Idon't believe at this point that Dec. 2 is going to see a huge arms shipmentto Iran. I wouldn't say that that date connotes necessarily Armageddon,"the official said.


Washington looks all the more poorly on arms sales to Iran because itbelieves Tehran has bigger fish to fry -- weapons of mass destruction.

"It is our view that over the last couple of years, Iran has successfullytested the Shihab-3 medium range missile.  It has said it is tryingto build a longer range Shihab-4 and has an active nuclear weapons program,"the official said.

Asked if the unraveling of the Middle East peace process made the Russianmove more troublesome, the official said, "I'd say the protection of interests, and the safety and security of our allies, has alwaysbeen paramount in our mind even in entering into this understanding withRussia."
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Russia to Revive Military Cooperation, Arms Sales With Iran ...AsRussia Rejects U.S. Ultimatums
        November 27, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Following an article in the "The Washington Post" on 22 November, anumber of Russian newspapers reported on 24 November that a few days beforethe U.S. presidential election on 7 November, Russia informed Washingtonthat on 1 December 2000, Russia will withdraw from its earlier commitmentnot to supply Iran with conventional arms.  According to "Vremya novostei,"some Russian government officials have complained that by leaking the secret1995 memorandum of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission on Russian arms salesto Iran, the U.S. has already violated the agreement.  "Nezavisimayagazeta," on the other hand, notes the primary reason for reviving militarycooperation with Iran is not anger at the U.S. but the realization thatthe agreement caused Russia huge economic losses.

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" also reports that analysts with the Foreign IntelligenceService convinced the Kremlin and Foreign Ministry that "the advantagesof resuming full-fledged arms sales to Iran would outweigh all negativeconsequences of the decision."  An unidentified senior defense industryofficial told "Vremya novostei" that preliminary calculations show thatany harm done by future U.S. sanctions will be outweighed by the gainsfrom supplying military hardware to Iran. On 23 November, Clinton administrationofficials warned that if Russia withdraws from the memorandum restrictingarms sales to Iran, the U.S. might respond with economic sanctions againstRussia, Reuters reported.  Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov respondedthat "the language of sanctions is not the kind of language you can usewith Russia." He added that Russia is rigorously abiding by agreementsnot to provide weapons of mass destruction.  If any country has concerns,he said, "we are willing to engage in a dialogue in order to remove suchconcerns."
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It Smells of Cold War in the USA
        Andrei Stepanov
        November 25, 2000
        (for personal use only)

[Translation from RIA Novosti]

Washington is clearly suffering from a recurrence of the Cold War syndromeagain.  Its convalescence from the painful stereotypes of the pastis taking too long.  The current, or rather, the departing US administrationis again hinting at the possibility of introducing scandalous "sanctions"against Russia.

This time Russia is "guilty" of daring to uphold its national interestsby notifying Washington of its withdrawal from all confidential agreements,signed within the framework of the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission back in1995, on December 1 this year.  In accordance with a secret memorandum,allegedly signed at that time, Russia pledged to complete all contractson the delivery of weapons to Iran within four years and not to sign newagreements to this effect.  In its turn, the USA pledged not to introducepunitive sanctions in such sensitive spheres as cooperation in the sphereof high technologies, prospects of American investments in Russia, thevisa regime, and in several other spheres.

Today Moscow is getting rid of these limitations.  And not onlybecause this promises economic advantages (new Iranian military orderscan earn the Russian treasury up to 2 billion dollars, while Russo-Americancooperation, above all in the sphere of high technologies, is skidding,to put it mildly). The thing is that the aforementioned agreements areinfringing on the dignity and national interests of Russia.  Whatcountry would agree its relations with other countries to be regulatedby the legislation of a third country?  In addition, Russia has beenfaithfully complying with the international regime of non-proliferationof weapons of mass destruction, above all nuclear ones.  This fullyconcerns Iran, of which the US administration has been informed more thanonce.

It is clear that Russia needs the mutually beneficial research-technicaland economic partnership with the USA.  But can it allow this partnershipto be used as an instrument of political pressure? Moreover, how shouldit understand Washington's hints on the desirability of Russia's involvementin the counter-terrorist operation against the USA's "arch-enemy and TerroristNumber One," bin Laden, on the territory of Afghanistan?  This wouldamount to drawing Russia into a new military conflict in Central Asia. Indeed, how should Russia regard such hints made against the backgroundof threats of sanctions against it for the resumption of deliveries ofconventional armaments to Iran?

The Russian leadership, on behalf of which Foreign Minister Igor Ivanovand Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev spoke, unambiguously rejected the claimof the US administration to dictate its view of the world to the othersubjects of international law.  Russia will not speak in the languageof sanctions.
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Editorial: Arms Trade May Haunt Russia Later
        Moscow Times
        November 24, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The news that Russia has renounced a 1995 agreement with the UnitedStates that severely restricted its arms sales to Iran appears to be partof a broader policy that has disturbing implications for Russia's long-termsecurity.  It is hard to interpret this announcement in any otherway than as a clear indication that Russia intends major new arms sales,in addition to its ongoing program of cooperation with Iran's nuclear powerprogram.

The siren's call of arms sales must indeed be hard for the Kremlin toresist.  After all, Russia's economy is weighed down by a vast andunder-utilized military-industrial complex whose products are among themost easily exportable commodities Russia has.

And the numbers are truly staggering.  In July, Russia sold $100million worth of military equipment to Libya.  This month the countryannounced an arms deal with China that is reportedly worth $1 billion. When President Vladimir Putin visited India in October, he reportedly signedcontracts for tanks, jet fighters and an aircraft carrier worth as muchas $3 billion.  Experts estimate the potential for sales to Iran runsin the billions as well.  It would take a superhuman effort for acountry in Russia's straits not to be enticed by such opportunities.

The Kremlin is right to pay little heed to American protests over possiblearms sales to Iran.  The United States is by far the world's leadingarms exporter and its blatant hypocrisy in this sphere is nothing shortof outrageous.  However, there are other compelling reasons why Russiashould carefully and publicly examine its arms-sales policies.

Sprinkling the Middle East, the Near East and the Far East with Russiantanks, fighters, ships and other hardware is a recipe for violent instabilitythat could very quickly come back to haunt Russia and create real obstaclesto its economic development.

There can be little doubt, for instance, that an escalation of fightingin Afghanistan or another war between India and Pakistan or armed conflictbetween China and Taiwan would have dire consequences for Russia. Even if Russia is able to avoid being directly drawn into such conflicts(and, particularly in the case of Afghanistan, that assumption is far fromcertain), they would certainly result in economic disruption and humanitariancrises with which Russia would have to cope.

When Russia announced the China arms deal earlier this month, the Russiangeneral at the press conference stated: "We want to stress that this isbilateral cooperation.  It is not aimed at and does not pose a threatto any third country." The question we want answered, though, is whethersuch sales pose a threat to Russia itself.
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C. Nuclear Waste

From Norway With Nuclear Waste
        Thomas Nilsen
        November 28, 2000
        (for personal use only)

With Norwegian flag painted on side, the highly controversial trainwith spent naval fuel will leave Murmansk this week heading for the Mayakreprocessing plant.  At Mayak, all storage sites are filled to capacity.

The four railway carriages were financed by the Norwegian governmentas a part of Norway's assistance package aimed at tackling nuclear wasteissues in Russia. But the assistance is not very welcomed among local officialsand environmental groups in Chelyabinsk county. The county hosts the Mayakreprocessing plant, which will have a heavy task of finding storage placefor the submarine spent fuel shipped from the Kola Peninsula.

The spent fuel will be loaded into the carriages at the nuclear poweredicebreaker base, Atomflot, near Murmansk this week.  The spent fueloriginates from nuclear powered icebreakers. A previous train that wasin Murmansk a month ago took fuel unloaded from two inactive Victor-IIclass nuclear submarines (K-371 and K-387), at the Polyarny naval yard. The civilian nuclear support vessel Imandra, operated by Murmansk ShippingCompany, defuelled those two submarines at Polyarny shipyard in October-November2000.

Upon arrival at the Mayak plant, the spent fuel will be likely loadedinto special designed casks and placed for storage outdoors.  Theold storage facility for naval spent nuclear fuel at the Mayak plant isfilled to capacity. The operation of the reprocessing line has been athalt since last year.  That is why there are no other options thanto store the newly arriving spent fuel in containers.  The containersin questions are of TUK-108, a 40-ton metal-concrete cask partly financedby the Norwegian government and other Western governments.

TUK-108 casks failed to pass an independent safety evaluation. The Russian Civilian Nuclear Regulatory, the GAN, was to issue licencefor those casks.  But having discovered fraud under testing that couldcompromise safety, GAN withdrew the licence from the Izhora plant to manufacturethe casks. In respond Russian Ministry for Nuclear energy, Minatom, lobbiedthrough a governmental decree that deprived GAN of the right to licencethe casks.

"Norwegian government is not only supporting a nuclear waste systemtotally out of civilian control, they are also paying for it," says environmentalistNatalia Mironova from Chelyabinsk.  For years, she has been protestingagainst the Norwegian plan to pay for shipping the nuclear waste as faraway from the Norwegian boarder as possible.  In 1996, she participatedin hearing on the issue in the Norwegian Parliament, and in March thisyear she and other envirogroups sent an urgent letter to the foreign ministerin Oslo, arguing against the project.  The foreign minister neverreplied.

"Mayak does not have a licence to operate, and the safety related tothe storage casks is highly questionable.  I thought Norway intendedto help Russia to increase the nuclear safety, not to undermine it likethey are doing today," says Mironova.

The environmentalists are not alone opposing the transportation of navalspent nuclear fuel from Murmansk region to the Mayak plant.  Interviewedby Bellona Web last autumn, deputy governor of Chelyabinsk county, GennadyPodtyosov, said the local administration in Chelyabinsk was never askedabout their standpoint on this issue.

The Chelyabinsk authorities shared the opinion with the State Committeeon Environment, which concluded in a study that no additional nuclear storageshould be built at the Mayak site. But the State Committee on Environmentwas disbanded by President Putin in May this year. The Norwegian Governmenthas never bothered asking the local Chelyabinsk authorities whether theywould accept additional nuclear waste.

The Mayak reprocessing plant has not been in operation since 1999. Next year, Russia plans to defuel 21 retired nuclear powered submarines. The fuel will be carried away from the Norwegian boarder and piled up faraway in Siberia.
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Minatom Launches NGO to Fight Envirogroups
        Vladislav Nikiforov
        November 27, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Russian Ministry for Nuclear Energy fights green movement to gain commercialbenefits, launches Ecological Forum – an entity created for this purpose.

A new environment movement named Ecological Forum was launched in November.The initiative came from the Russian Ministry for Nuclear Energy, Minatom,in order to create opposition to environmental NGOs.  The charterof the new movement contains one main point: promoting measures to recoverareas with damaged environment and to prevent the greenhouse effect. These goals can be achieved through development of nuclear industry, declarethe new wave ‘green activists’.  From now on Minatom seems to startdefending its commercial interests by means of puppet NGOs.

The establishment of Ecological Forum was prompted by the successfulcampaign of the Russian environmental movement to stop import of nuclearmaterials to Russia. Russian environmental groups collected around 2.5million signatures in support of a national referendum to restore stateenvironmental agencies and to ban nuclear waste/materials import into thecountry.  2 million signatures are enough to initiate the nationalvote.  Once the State Election Committee verifies the signatures,the President has to either set a date for the vote or to ask the ConstitutionalCourt of Russia to evaluate whether the vote questions are in consent withthe legislation.  Should everything go smoothly, the referendum willtake place on March-April 2001.

The Russian nuclear ministry realised that it is impossible to get thepublic support without good PR campaign and appropriate propaganda in theregions.  The movement’s representatives believe that nuclear energyis a good substitute for traditional sources of energy.  They intendto explain to public how profitable it is to import spent nuclear fuelto Russia and how the money earned can help solving environmental problems. The core of the new NGO consists of officials from Minatom and other governmentalagencies.

“Pro-western organisations, such as Greenpeace and Bellona, play onemotions of ordinary people.  They make them answer questions ‘Areyou against import of radioactive materials from the other countries toRussia for storage, disposal or reprocessing?’  Of course, anyonewould answer ‘no’ instinctively, as he or she has no actual informationon this subject,” one the Forum’s representatives was complaining in press.

In an interview with, Minatom’s press secretary, Yury Bespalko,said that the state would never have enough money to solve environmentalissues in Russia.  The ministries should earn money for environmentalneeds themselves.  That is why the new movement includes representativesof the organisations, which are related both to environment or nuclearfuel management in some way, said Bespalko. The new movement will fightagainst existing green organisations, which, according to Bespalko, arefinanced by the Western companies engaged in nuclear fuel reprocessing.Minatom considers their activity as foreign interference into internalaffairs of Russia.  One of the aims of the Forum will be legal strugglewith such activity of the greens.

The movement has the status of national with 46 branch offices openedin different Russian regions.

The Russian nuclear lobby is also trying to get a better grip on powerin the regions.  In the closed city of Ozersk in the southern Ural,the current director of reactor plant, V.V. Malkov, runs for the post ofmayor.  In his election campaign he promotes construction of South-Uralnuclear power plant and “repulse to so-called greens”.

The ideas of Minatom are rather unpopular among Russians due to theobvious wish of the ministry to earn money on bringing foreign radioactivematerials into the country.  Minatom hopes that the creation of thenational movement will help to change the people’s minds in favour of nuclearmaterial imports and stop the looming referendum on this issue.  Inthe future, the movement may help Minatom to suppress NGO’s oppositionto other extensive plans of nuclear industry development in Russia. Those plans rank seldom nuclear safety higher than the commercial interests.
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Some Russians Try to Fight Importation of Nuclear Waste, Residentsof Already Contaminated Regions Try to Stop Nation From Becoming Dump forAll
        Margaret Coker - Cox WashingtonBureau
        Atlanta Journal Constitution
        November 24, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Chelyabinsk, Russia --- Stacks of leaflets dwarf the motley activistshuddled among half-empty tea cups and overflowing ashtrays for a strategysession aimed at defeating the latest government attempt to import nuclearwaste to their back yard.

One in the group suggests mass e-mail messages and another newspapereditorials.  The idea of lobbying their local member of parliamentdraws laughter and skeptical shaking of heads.

''Moscow officials are snobs.  They want nuclear power and weapons. They don't listen to our views. Officials treat us mostly with contempt,''says Nataliya Mironova, head of the Movement for Nuclear Safety, a groupof students, professionals and grandmothers struggling to save this Siberiancity and the surrounding region from further environmental degradation.

Welcome to the world of political activism, Russian-style.  Ina country where political freedom is still new, few of the pillars thatbuttress American democracy exist here.

Most notable is the lack of public participation in creating laws oraccountability for government policies and spending.

But in a minor triumph for citizen participation this week, the Duma,the lower house of parliament, postponed a vote on three draft laws Mironova'sgroup has fought to overturn.

The bills, backed by the Atomic Energy Ministry (MinAtom), would overturncurrent federal law and allow the importation of nuclear waste for thenext 10 to 15 years.  Under the proposed legislation, Bulgaria, Taiwanand Switzerland, for example, could send nuclear waste and spent fuel toRussia and ''lease'' storage space for it --- specifically, at a storagefacility in Mayak, 48 miles from Mironova's home.

Meanwhile, Russia would recycle the fissile material, producing plutoniumit could resell to nuclear countries or use in its own nuclear power plants.

''This law is bad for many reasons,'' said Mironova, a 50-year-old motherof two, sitting in a rented three-room downtown Chelyabinsk apartment thegroup transformed into an office.  ''It would make Russia the world'snuclear dump site.''

Russia's nuclear industry has a checkered history.  Residents ofthis region 1,200 miles east of Moscow had no idea at the time that majornuclear accidents occurred in 1955 and 1957 at Mayak, the Soviet Union'sfirst nuclear weapons factory.

They also didn't know that Mayak workers were dumping nuclear wasteinto the Techa River, a waterway used by tens of thousands of people fordrinking, bathing and watering crops.

''We just called it the 'river sickness' when people's hair and teethstarted to fall out,'' said Gosman Kabirov, a teacher turned environmentalistfrom Muslimovo, one of the villages downstream from Mayak.  ''No onetold us why people were dying so young.''

In the last 10 years, the human fallout because of the Soviet Union'snuclear programs has been well-documented. Some 61 million out of 145 millionRussians live in towns with dangerous levels of contamination, accordingto the state environment committee, an agency recently disbanded by PresidentVladimir Putin.

In Muslimovo, a bleak farming settlement of 4,500 people, the cancerrate is three times the national average and one of every three childrenhas birth defects, villagers say --- although they are barred from examiningofficial medical statistics on orders of the Mayak administration, a mixof military and civilian personnel from MinAtom.  Little money hasbeen given to clean up the land, rehabilitate people or relocate families.

Some Duma legislators say the profits from importation and treatmentof nuclear waste --- an estimated $100-billion-a-year international business,according to Russian scientists --- could be used for environmental cleanup.MinAtom says Moscow would net $21 billion from countries licensing theirnuclear waste to Russia, and an amendment tacked onto one bill stipulatesa percentage of this amount for environmental projects.

''This is the only way for the problems to be fixed,'' said Duma DeputySvetlana Gvozkina, a co-sponsor of the legislation.

Environmentalists think otherwise.  The international environmentalgroup Greenpeace argues that the proposal creates greater possibility foraccidents, especially since the nuclear waste would be transported overvast distances to Siberian storage sites. Kabirov, who has fought MinAtomfor 10 years to secure health records and scientific data for Muslyumovo,believes the motive behind the laws is mainly venal.

''MinAtom is trying to make a new business for themselves.  Thereis no transparency in our country that would allow us to see where themoney goes,'' said the affable Kabirov, 40.

At least some lawmakers agree.  Deputy Viktor Opikunov, a co-authorof the draft legislation, said that the parliamentary faction supportingthe bills decided to take a ''one-month time-out . . . to explain the issuesmore fully to more deputies and the public.''

Even with some support in Moscow, environmentalists say their real hoperests with the decision the government makes on their unprecedented campaignto hold a national referendum on the issue of nuclear waste imports.

In late summer, some 200 citizens groups organized a two-month canvassingblitz, collecting 2.5 million signatures in support of a referendum thatwould allow citizens a vote on whether they wanted to make legal the importationof nuclear materials.

Now, the Central Election Committee has to validate the signatures,and then the Supreme Court must approve the procedure.  If there isno glitch, the referendum must be held within three months of the court'sapproval.

''They are sincerely ignorant,'' Robert Nigmatulin, co-author of thelaws and brother of the deputy minister at MinAtom, said of the referendumorganizers.  ''They react with emotion and not with the facts. I'm telling you the proposal is perfectly safe. That's not my opinion.That is a scientific fact.''

This disdain makes Mironova's coalition wary, especially given MinAtom'slobbying influence and the support shown to their proposal by a U.S.-basedgroup called the Non-Proliferation Trust Inc., which is run by a who'swho of former CIA brass and military officers, including William Websterand Adm. Daniel Murphy.
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D. U.S. Nuclear Arsenal/Stockpile

Russian Military Concerned At US Plans To Modernize Minuteman-3,Hera Missiles
        Itar Tass
        November 27, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Moscow, 27th November: Fundamental modernization of US Minuteman-3 intercontinentalballistic missiles will create additional opportunities for the productionof the Hera missile which is banned by the USSR-USA treaty on the eliminationof their medium-range and shorter-range missiles, which was signed on 8thDecember 1987.  The Russian Defence Ministry today told an ITAR-TASScorrespondent that "Minuteman-3 missiles are currently undergoing modernizationalong three lines: equipment used for quick input of combat tasks and formissile launch is being modernized; the most sophisticated targeting system,which radically improves the accuracy of target hitting, is being installed;and the missile's first and second stages are being replaced by new stagesthat use solid fuel components.  The first successful launch of themodernized Minuteman-3 missile took place in November last year," militaryexperts say.

They say the main subcontractor, Boeing, delivered 500 Minuteman-3 missilesto the US air force (each worth 7m dollars).  "According to availabledata, the Pentagon is not planning to destroy the stages removed from Minuteman-3missiles, and this gives grounds to believe that the design of the Heramissile, assembled using stages removed from Minuteman-2 intercontinentalballistic missiles and Pershing-2 targeting systems, which were subjectto recycling under the treaty on medium-range and shorter-range missiles,will be further improved.  The use of Minuteman-3 stages will increaseHera's operational range up to 5,000 km, so that the missile will be ableto deliver more powerful warheads to the target.

The deployment of such missiles on the European continent endangersnot only Russia's security but that of a number of other countries on thecontinent. This situation creates conditions where the states that favourinviolability of international agreements, including the treaty on medium-rangeand shorter-range missiles, will have to look for appropriate measures,"the military say.
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