1. Dispute on Russian Tests Divides Nuclear Experts
William J. Broad and Patrick E. Tyler
The New York Times
March 4, 2001
(for personal use only)
For half a decade, Russia has conducted what it says are nonnuclear tests under the ground of an Arctic island, as the United States says it does beneath the Nevada desert.
But the tests have caused bitter divisions among intelligence officials and nuclear analysts in Washington. Some have concluded that Russia is lying and is instead detonating small nuclear blasts; other experts say that charge is reckless and probably wrong.
"This question," one intelligence analyst said, "is tearing the community into pieces."
Beyond the dispute is the question of what, if anything, to do if Russia is lying. Led by Republicans, the Senate rejected the global ban on nuclear explosions and it is unclear whether the United States would now accuse Russia of violating it.
Paradoxically, the rejected test- ban treaty had provisions for inspections by which the United States could have sought to examine the Russian test site.
Still, Russia's truthfulness is relevant since underground tests serve to perfect new kinds of nuclear warheads.
President Clinton was briefed on the dispute shortly before he left office and the Bush administration is reviewing it, federal scientists and officials said. The White House offered no view. "We're not going to comment on intelligence matters," said Mary Ellen Countryman, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
Russia strongly denies any deception and says the tests comply with permitted practice. And some federal experts called the charge most likely false, saying the evidence is weak and the analyses flawed.
The intelligence analysts behind the charge have a history of suspecting the worst of Russia, and in one case of embarrassing the United States by accusing Moscow of conducting a nuclear blast that turned out to be an earth tremor. Such analysts have criticized the test ban treaty as hard to monitor. Moreover, the nuclear scientists who are taking part in the analyses often oppose bans on testing weapons they have designed, and some have argued for renewed American testing.
But both sides are said to agree that Moscow is doing more at the Arctic island, Novaya Zemlya, than it has acknowledged. "It's certain," a federal official said, "that the announced activity doesn't tell the whole story."
A positive outcome of the current dispute, said a senior federal science adviser, could be more intrusive means of verification at the nuclear test sites of both sides, which might cut through the fog of suspicion. "These are examples," he said, "of why we need more transparency."
The silence at most of the world's nuclear test sites comes after a half century of explosions in which new and old designs were checked to see how well they worked. The ban on such tests seeks to curb arms developments and races.
To diplomatic acclaim, President Clinton signed the test ban in 1996 after championing its adoption. It allows small tests in which nuclear materials are thrown together as long as the experiments have an energy output equal to zero. In other words, "zero yield" experiments are to produce absolutely no burst of nuclear energy, however tiny, and are widely agreed to have no use in designing new warheads.
The dispute centers on an inherently tricky area of test-ban verification in which nuclear blasts have yields too small to produce the kind of powerful shock waves that distant nations can track easily as faint rumbles in bedrock. Because of that, the debate tends to turn on sketchy evidence, worst-case scenarios and skeptical retorts.
Russian officials, in denying any violations of the ban, said military scientists on Novaya Zemlya are doing nothing more than simple experiments far too weak to represent an atomic blast.
In an interview, the head of the development and testing of nuclear weapons at Moscow's Atomic Energy Ministry, Nikolai P. Voloshin, said "We are not violating the treaty, absolutely."
Russia says it is doing so-called subcritical tests that are allowed under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which 160 nations have signed. While so far unratified, the ban is mostly observed in practice; Moscow has pledged to abide by its rules.
Subcritical explosions use nuclear fuel like plutonium in small discharges that stop short of producing a self-sustaining chain reaction that releases any nuclear energy.
But some federal intelligence analysts charge that Russia is engaging in a type of outlawed test known as hydronuclear. In those tests, metallic bomb parts are thrown together explosively, liquefying (thus the hydro) while releasing small amounts of nuclear energy. The tests stop short of a large blast, releasing perhaps a millionth of the energy of the Hiroshima bomb.
Experts agree that hydronuclear tests can have some use in the design of new nuclear arms, although the extent is debated.
The intelligence team that says Russia is lying includes Lawrence Turnbull, a Central Intelligence Agency analyst, and Charles Craft, a Sandia National Laboratory analyst, officials said.
Mr. Craft leads a panel of the Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee, a group that represents the nuclear views of many federal agencies.
The two, officials added, form the core of a group within the intelligence community that believes that it has evidence that Moscow is going over the hydronuclear line in an effort to develop new kinds of nuclear arms.
Part of the team's evidence, a federal official said, centers on highly sensitive intelligence sources that are seen as giving Washington a clearer view into Moscow's activities on Novaya Zemlya. Neither Mr. Turnbull nor Mr. Craft responded to requests for comment.
Officials said the State Department is skeptical of the accusation and has written formal rebuttals.
The differing sides in the dispute are trying to influence the formal process by which the federal government periodically makes judgments about secret foreign activities. This National Intelligence Estimate seeks to describe the likely state of development in the Russian nuclear program.
Fueling mistrust, officials said, is the sheer bustle on the hilly island, a seemingly barren place about 500 miles long and 500 miles east of Murmansk, inside the Artic Circle. They said American surveillance has observed a flurry of experimental work as well as Russian planes and ships ferrying supplies and nuclear crews back and forth.
"There's lots of interest, activity and money involved," said a top federal science adviser. "So you can understand why people are suspicious."
Mr. Turnbull and his allies have a history of faulty analyses. In August 1997 they told the White House that the Russians might have conducted an underground test at Novaya Zemlya. But after seismic experts challenged that assessment, the C.I.A. retracted that finding and said the tremor was actually a nearby undersea earthquake.
"They've got an ax to grind and are still trying to save face from that," said one federal science adviser.
Defenders of Mr. Turnbull note that Russia has often cheated on arms-control treaties, and that top Russian experts are arguing for new nuclear arms. In Moscow, Viktor N. Mikhailov, a former minister of atomic energy who still wields much power, has been quoted as advocating "a new generation of super precise nuclear weapons."
But Frank von Hippel, a physicist at Princeton University who advised the Clinton administration on the nuclear test ban, said he had heard rumors of the intelligence dispute and considered the violation charge irresponsible. "As far as I can tell," he said, Washington has no evidence "that would prove that the Russian activities are any different than those that the U.S. conducts at the Nevada test site."
If the intelligence team's finding becomes the American view, it might stir a political storm. Even though the Senate in 1999 rejected the test ban by a vote of 51 to 48, the United States is currently conducting no nuclear tests, and weapons experts said the perception of a Russian violation could erode or end support for testing restraint.
Many arms-control experts see small nuclear tests such as those allegedly being done by Russia as too small to be militarily significant, and argue that branding Russia as a test- ban violator on the basis of slim evidence poses more risks than benefits.
But some intelligence analysts argue that Moscow over the decades has learned to tease so much information from small tests that the secretive work could produce new classes of nuclear arms.
Federal experts said the dispute does not appear to be politically motivated or timed to the change of administrations.
Novaya Zemlya is covered with snow and ice most of the year. Starting in 1955, Russia conducted more than 100 nuclear blasts there, the last in October 1990. Since 1995, Russia has used the remote wilderness for what it says are permissible underground experiments to maintain the reliability of its nuclear arms.
From last August through October, Russia announced a series of small tests there. return to menu
2. Russia says only subcritical nuclear tests under way
March 5, 2001
(for personal use only)
Moscow, 5 March: Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry has stated that nuclear tests are not being carried out on the island of Novaya Zemlya. "Reports by The International Herald Tribune that Russia is carrying out nuclear tests are unfounded," the ministry's press service said.
"Only so-called subcritical tests are being carried out at Russia's central nuclear testing ground on Novaya Zemlya. But the same tests are being carried out by the USA," the press service said.
"Small amounts of nuclear materials are used in subcritical tests, which are held in special adits and during which a chain reaction does not occur," ministry experts said. "Last year, Russia carried out five such tests following an official announcement," they said.
The ministry's press service also said that a team of ministry experts has arrived at Novaya Zemlya to prepare a new series of subcritical tests set for this autumn, as usual. return to menu
B. Russia - General
1. Duma Report: Adamov Corrupt
Andrei Zolotov Jr.
St. Petersburg Times
March 6, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW - The Nuclear Power Ministry on Monday denied corruption allegations leveled against the head of the agency, Yevgeny Adamov, by the State Duma's anti-corruption commission.
The report - a copy of which was obtained by The St. Petersburg Times on Monday from the Duma, where it was distributed among deputies Friday - said that Adamov illegally continued to engage in business activities after becoming minister in March 1998, and used his post to appoint business associates to key positions.
"Let the Prosecutor General's Office and the Audit Chamber sort it out," Nuclear Power Ministry spokesman Yury Bespalko said Monday in response to the report, which recommended that law enforcement agencies open a formal investigation into the charges against Adamov.
"They have been here many times and did not find anything wrong...As soon as Adamov was appointed minister, he immediately put all his securities in trust, and has not been involved in business any more. He is not an idiot and he knows that a state official is not allowed to engage in business activities," Bespalko said in a telephone interview.
The 20-odd page report, which was commissioned by the Duma, offers detailed proof of allegations printed earlier by the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, many of which Adamov has denied.
The report cited a speech made by Adamov to the Duma in which he said he had not engaged in business since his appointment as minister in March 1998.
"There have been no deposits to my personal [bank] account since I've been minister," the report quoted him as saying.
But the entire report is devoted to debunking Adamov's statement.
According to the report, Adamov, who from 1986 to 1999 headed NIKIET, a secret energy technologies institute that was the key developer of Chernobyl-type nuclear reactors, violated many security regulations and created "various commercial organizations in Moscow and abroad and continues to be actively involved in entrepreneurial activities."
The anti-corruption commission does not have the right to prosecute, but its report concluded that the Prosecutor General's Office and the FSB should launch a formal probe into Adamov's activities. Copies of the report were to be sent to President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.
It is not clear from the document whether the companies founded by Adamov were directly involved in the nuclear sector. But, according to the report, the companies' Russian offices were set up at security-sensitive nuclear research facilities, and Adamov's NIKIET institute became home to several companies, some of which list Adamov's wife Olga Pinchuk as a co-founder.
The report also said that until 1998 Adamov served as president of a U.S.-based consulting, management and investment company he founded in 1994 called Omeka, Ltd. and registered in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. His wife became the company's representative in Russia and Omeka's local office was registered at Adamov's home address, the report said. In 1998, around the time he was appointed nuclear minister, Adamov resigned as president of Omeka in favor of his U.S. partner Mark Kaushansky.
However, according to the report, at the end of 1999, the company's $5 million in assets were controlled by Adamov ($3.15 million), his wife ($1.5 million) and Kaushansky ($410,000).
The report, which says Adamov has admitted having a U.S. social security card, went on to say that when Adamov applied for a Diner's Club card in 1996, he stated his total annual income at over $120,000.
It also said Omeka provided Adamov's NIKIET with $34,000 worth of flooring supplies and continues to provide the institute with computer equipment to the tune of $50,000 a year.
According to the report, Omeka owns stock in a "housing services" company in Pennsylvania and a medical services center in Michigan, along with investments in Russia and Ukraine.
The report says the company bought a $200,000 house for Adamov in Pittsburgh. The date of the transaction was not clear from the report.
But it said that both Omeka and Adamov's other U.S.-based company, Energy Pool Inc., transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars for Adamov and other Nuclear Ministry officials through the Logic Realty real estate company registered at the address of his NIKIET institute. The report identified Adamov's wife as an Energy Pool shareholder.
In 1996, when Adamov headed NIKIET, it signed a contract with Iran's nuclear agency to conduct an expert assessment of plans for a nuclear facility in Iran. The contract, the report said, violated regulations governing such contacts and, in December 2000, the Prosecutor General's Office opened an investigation into the "illegal export" of technologies related to weapons of mass destruction and military equipment.
"The fact that Adamov engaged in commercial activity while he was director of NIKIET and nuclear power minister has been fully proven," the report said.
It also listed a number of cases when Adamov appointed people with no experience in the nuclear industry to key positions in the ministry and state companies controlled by the ministry. Some of these officials were also listed as shareholders of private companies formed by Adamov before he became minister.
As minister, Adamov initially saw to it that the ministry's international deals - reported to total about $2 billion in exports annually - were channeled through the ministry-affiliated bank Konversbank. Then, according to the report, he ordered bank officials to sell the bank's controlling stake to MDM-Bank, an institution associated with Kremlin insiders Alexander Mamut and Roman Abramovich. Thereby, the report said, MDM got control over some highly lucrative deals.
Yury Shchekochikhin, a Duma deputy who is on the anti-corruption commission and a reporter with the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, said Monday that the commission's investigation had nothing to do with political maneuvers targeting the Nuclear Power Ministry.
"It was a Novaya Gazeta project," Shchekochikhin said. "Deputies requested an investigation after they read a Novaya Gazeta article, and it is not connected with any political struggle."
Shchekochikhin said the investigation had been on the agenda of the previous Duma's anti-corruption commission, of which he was also a member. Last year, the probe got the backing of Nikolai Kovalyov, the Fatherland faction deputy and former head of the Federal Security Service, who now heads the commission.
The Nuclear Power Ministry's Bespalko denied speculation by Greenpeace that the commission's report led to the postponement of the Duma's second reading of a controversial bill allowing the import of spent nuclear fuel to Russia. He said the vote has been rescheduled for late March and the ministry remained confident that the Duma will pass the bill. Bespalko said, however, that the anti-corruption commission's report may complicate the bill's passage. return to menu
2. Moscow Disavows General's Threats
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
March 2, 2001
(for personal use only)
Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 1 March reprimanded Lieutenant General Vyacheslav Romanov, the head of the National Center for Reducing Nuclear Threats, for saying on 28 February that the U.S. was in violation of the 1987 INF (Intermediate Nuclear Forces) Accord and that Russia might retaliate if the U.S. withdraws from the ABM Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 2001). A Foreign Ministry spokesman also said that the general's remarks do not reflect official policy. return to menu
3.Kokoshin Calls for New Anti-Proliferation Mechanism
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
March 2, 2001
(for personal use only)
Andrei Kokoshin, the director of the Institute of Problems of International Security at the Academy of Sciences and a Duma member, told Interfax on 1 March that Russia must work with other countries to develop a political mechanism for preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He said that threats by one country or another do not work and that Moscow must take the lead in pushing for political cooperation to make an anti-proliferation regime work. return to menu
C. Plutonium Disposition
1.EU Russian "Diarmament" Funding Could Increase Russian Stocks of Weapons-Usable Plutonium
March 5, 2001
(for personal use only)
BRUSSELS, March 5, 2001 - The European Commission is considering a "disarmament" funding proposal for Russia which will actually increase the country's stocks of weapons-usable plutonium, heighten the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation and cause severe environmental contamination, Greenpeace warned today.
A new Russian government document, obtained by Greenpeace, reveals plans to use Western disarmament funds to set up a new nuclear reactor programme, known as Fast Breeders, which burn MOX fuel. According to the document the government is considering leasing MOX fuel, made from weapons grade plutonium, to nuclear power plants "... owned by utilities of Western countries, like Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Japan, which are interested in the process of nuclear disarmament". The document states, that Belgium and Italy "are currently joining" a Russian-French- German agreement on peaceful use of weapons grade plutonium. The consequences of this would be an increase in the amount of Russian weapons-usable plutonium and a major increase in the number of nuclear transports in Western Europe as plutonium MOX fuel is moved from Russia to Western Europe and nuclear waste is returned to Russia after the MOX fuel has been burnt in commercial reactors.
European Commission External Affairs, commissioner Chris Patten is setting up a "Unit of Experts" to consider funding the production of mixed oxide plutonium (MOX) reactor fuel, as a way to utilise plutonium taken from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons. The European Union and the G8 group of countries support this option, despite MOX fuel being classified as a "direct-use weapons material" by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
A two-day meeting starts in Brussels tomorrow (Tuesday) of the G8 Plutonium Disposition Program Group (PDPG) with participation of the European Union to discuss the financing of the Russian MOX program. Also in Brussels on Thursday another high-ranked meeting of the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Co-operation Initiative (NDCI) with representatives from all EU and all G8 countries as well as Switzerland, Australia and Norway will discuss the financing and in particular the use of MOX fuel in Western countries. On Friday, EU and U.S. experts will also meet in Brussels to discuss how to fund the production of MOX fuel in Russia. G8 experts have already identified the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as the most appropriate funding mechanism. About US$ 100 million of the funding for a US$ 1.9 billion program is expected to come from the EBRD.
"This program is a dangerous fraud. As a result of this so-called disarmament initiative, Russia will have more weapons-usable nuclear materials than ever before," said Greenpeace nuclear expert Tobias Muenchmeyer.
Last Friday in Moscow Greenpeace revealed confidential documents revealing the large-scale illegal business dealings of Evgeny Adamov, Minister of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom), and demanded his dismissal.
"The EU must be mad to throw millions of dollars into Adamov's ministry for a Russian MOX program. There is no guarantee, that this money will not end up on a private Swiss bank account of Minister Adamov." said Tobias Muenchmeyer. return to menu
2. Plutonium deal can be amended
March 2, 2001
(for personal use only)
On January 10th 2001, U.S. Department of Energy, DoE, published a report on the non-proliferation programs with Russia. The document also contains some new recommendations regarding plutonium handling.
The report suggests ways of plutonium disposal such as immobilization (mixing with glass/ceramics with the following disposal), burning in the form of so-called MOX-fuel (uranium-plutonium blending for nuclear reactors).
On September 1st 2000, Russia and the United States agreed to decommission 34 tonnes of weapon plutonium each. The agreement stipulates burning of plutonium in Russia and immobilization as well as burning in the USA. The new report contains also the following point: "Eliminating up to 100 metric tonnes of Russian plutonium by blending Fuel as mixed oxide fuel [MOX-fuel] and burning it in civilian reactors or immobilizing it with high-level waste, as the US and Russia have agreed for an initial 34 metric tons. A "swap" of excess military plutonium with Western European countries, in exchange for civilian plutonium already being burned as mixed oxide fuel in these countries, would accelerate this process. Alternatively, the US could purchase excess plutonium from Russia, with the US either storing the plutonium or paying for it to be immobilized as waste."
These recommendations are different from the policy previously followed by DoE in the part regarding buying plutonium and its immobilization as waste. This idea appeared long time ago but was never pronounced on the official level. Probably this report will become the first step in the new discussions between two countries.
Russia's attitude was very negative towards any transferral of the plutonium from the country. The official position of DoE was to allow to burn all Russian plutonium stocks in the form of MOX-fuel in Russia. Russian deputy minister of atomic energy, or Minatom, Valentin Ivanov said that Russia on no condition would sell weapon-grade plutonium abroad. "We can sell only fuel, which has plutonium as a component," Ivanov added.
The Russian atomic ministry, however, has already sold 100 tonnes of weapon-grade uranium to the United States. First, the uranium is blended down in Russia and then used in the American nuclear power plants, which supply about 20% of the US electricity needs. From June 1995 and through October 2000, the United States paid Russia $1.6bn for slightly more that one-fifth of the 500 tons of uranium that United States agreed to buy between 1993 and 2013.
The Russian deputy minister said that plutonium could be effectively used only in fast breeder reactors, but development of such reactors requires big investments and time. Two billion dollars are needed for the Russian plutonium decommission. An international fund was to be established in order to collect the necessary sum. All the interested parties can make contributions. At present they are ready to transfer $600 million. If the fund does not get $2bn till the end of 2002 according to the agreement, Russia may suspend the work and "we have to start negotiations again" Ivanov said. The agreement stipulates decommissioning of 4 tonnes of plutonium per year (2 tonnes remain in Russia after decommissioning, 2 tonnes go to the West as MOX-fuel).
Reprocessing of plutonium will allow to transfer Russian nuclear energy to fast breeder reactors - the technology Minatom has great hopes for. According to Ivanov, this process can take 30 years.
"Minatom's behaviour is the best indicator of the Russian irresponsibility regarding plutonium handling. This material is the waste of the cold war and can be used to destroy life. 'Peaceful' usage of plutonium is expensive and dangerous for environment, people, and even atomic industry. Therefore, it should be well isolated from terrorists and atomic industry," Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman of Ecodefense group, said. return to menu
D. Russian Nuclear Power Industry
1. Foreign Funding to Help Step up Russia's Nuclear Safety
Agence France Presse
March 6, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW, Mar 6, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) Foreign sponsors will donate more than 60 million dollars this year to fund new safety measures at Russia's nuclear power stations, Russian nuclear energy officials said Monday.
Some 20 million dollars worth of equipment and know-how would be provided to step up radiation and fire security on the power stations, the officials quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency said.
Some 42.7 million dollars more would finance development of international nuclear safety programs and their implementation on Russian stations.
EU states, the United States, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Scandinavian countries and Japan have teamed up to aid Russia in technical upkeep of its aging nuclear energy grid.
Some 20 million dollars were donated last year to fund 159 nuclear safety projects in Russia, and 29 European, American and Japanese companies provided equipment worth some 14 million dollars for Russian stations.
The world's worst civil nuclear accident occurred in 1986 at Chernobyl, Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union. return to menu