Partnership for Global Security: Leading the World to a Safer Future
Home Projects Publications Issues Official Documents About RANSAC Nuclear News 4/15/13
Location: Home / Projects & Publications / News
Sitemap Contact
Google www PGS
Nuclear News - 03/23/01
RANSAC Nuclear News, March 23, 2001
Compiled by Terry C. Stevens and Benjamin D. Wampold

A. U.S. - Russian Relations
    1. Kremlin Aide: Spy Row to Halt US-Russia Security Cooperation, Gazeta.Ru (03/23/2001)
    2. Spy Row May Fuel Bush Inclination to Ignore Russia, Paul Taylor, Reuters (03/22/2001)
    3. U.S. Orders Four Russian Intelligence Officers Expelled by End of Month, Wendy S. Ross, The Washington File (03/22/2001)
    4. U.S.-Russian Relations Slide in Putin's First Year, Agence France Presse (03/22/2001)
    5. Putin Downplays Tensions in US-Russian Relations, Paper Says, Bloomberg (03/22/2001)
    6. Russia Reacts to U.S. Statements, Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times (03/21/2001)
B. Nuclear Waste
    1. Activists Win Reprieve in Nuclear Fight, Yevgenia Borisova, Moscow Times (03/23/2001)
    2. U.S. May Oppose Moscow's Plans to Import Spent Nuclear Fuel, Sophie Lambroschini, RFE/RL (03/21/2001)
    3. Nine out of ten Russians oppose import of nuclear waste, Interfax (03/21/2001)
C. Russian Nuclear Power Industry
    1. Report: Ministry Wasting Tax Cash, Yevgenia Borisova, Moscow Times (03/20/2001)
D. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Deal
    1. Shipments of Uranium from US to Russia, Uranium Institute (03/15/2001)
E. Russian - Indian Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Russia, India plan nuclear plant deal, The Russia Journal (03/20/2001)

A. U.S. - Russian Relations

Kremlin Aide: Spy Row to Halt US-Russia Security Cooperation
March 23, 2001
(for personal use only)

An influential Kremlin aide was quoted as saying on Friday that the latest U.S.-Russian spy dispute would halt cooperation between the countries' security services for at least several months.

"For the next few months one can forget about fruitful cooperation between Russian and U.S. special services," Itar-Tass news agency quoted Sergei Ivanov, secretary of President Vladimir Putin's Security Council, as saying.

Ivanov, on a visit to Poland, said the areas affected included cooperation in fighting international terrorism, proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies and drug trafficking. Washington announced on Thursday the expulsion of 50 Russian diplomats it suspects of being intelligence officers. In response, Russia ordered on Friday four U.S. diplomats to leave the country for "activities incompatible with their status". Russia has described the U.S. expulsions, the biggest since the end of the Cold War, as a political and "deeply unfriendly" move.
return to menu

Spy Row May Fuel Bush Inclination to Ignore Russia
Paul Taylor
March 22, 2001
(for personal use only)

LONDON (Reuters) - The latest U.S.-Russian espionage row does not signal a return to the Cold War but it may reinforce the new Bush administration's inclination to neglect Russia, analysts say.

Washington's decision to order out nearly 50 Russian diplomats as suspected spies, the biggest mass expulsion since before the collapse of the Soviet Union, revived memories of superpower confrontation that are far from today's reality.

Since taking office in January, President George W. Bush and his advisers have been keen to convey a different message -- that Russia matters increasingly little and ties with Moscow are no longer central to Washington's world view.

While Bush has met or plans to meet the leaders of Europe, Japan, South Korea and China, U.S. officials have pointedly said he has no plans for a full summit with President Vladimir Putin, only talks in the margins of international gatherings.

"Russia acts as if the United States still viewed the world through the prism of its relations with Russia. Russia does not lie at the center of U.S. foreign policy, nor can it," said Thomas Graham, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

"The administration will be inclined to deal with Russia as part of clusters of other states...There is very little that the administration believes it can resolve by dealing solely or primarily with Russia," Graham said.

Counter-Productive Neglect

Senior Bush administration officials have signaled that Washington no longer sees Moscow as central even in traditional areas of great power diplomacy such as arms control, although it still has the only nuclear missile force of comparable size.

Bush has said he aims to cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal unilaterally to match its own security needs rather than negotiate mutual reductions with Russia by treaty.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has dismissed the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty limiting missile defenses as "ancient history." Some Bush advisers advocate abandoning rather than trying to renegotiate it.

Washington's main worries about Russia now are the risk of "loose nukes" -- nuclear weapons being stolen from the ex-Soviet arsenal -- and a leakage of arms technology to "rogue" states.

Underlying the changed approach are disillusionment with the results of the former Clinton administration's policy of political and economic engagement with Moscow, and intelligence forecasts of a continuing steep decline in Russian power.

"As you look into the future, Russia looks more like sub-Saharan Africa than it does like Europe. There is a major disconnect between Putin's policies today and Russia's vastly reduced resource base," a senior intelligence official said.

Diplomats said some European allies are worried by the Bush administration's perceived tendency to neglect Russia. Germany and France have both counseled against ignoring or humiliating Moscow. Even Britain is reported to have misgivings.

Some American critics say a policy of malign neglect would be counter-productive to U.S. international security aims.

"The initial attempt to downgrade American relations with Russia strikes me as verging on the petty. Russia is a still a major military power and has influence in parts of the world we care about," said James Rubin, who was State Department spokesman under the Clinton Administration.

"I fear this administration is shooting itself in the foot by adopting a rhetorical stance vis-a-vis Russia when it could pursue the same policies more effectively by showing Russia a little respect," he told Reuters in an interview.

NMD, NATO Enlargement

Rubin, now teaching at the London School of Economics, said relations with Moscow had been tense in the late Clinton era because of Russia's Chechnya crackdown, deep hostility to NATO's Kosovo war and ties with states seen by Washington as dangerous.

Putin's courting of Iran, North Korea and China, and support for Iraq, appeared to be an attempt to counter Russian weakness in its dealings with the United States, he said.

U.S. anger at the level of Russian intelligence activity in Washington had been brewing in the last 18 months of the Clinton administration, another former official said.

Rubin said U.S.-Russian ties had withstood previous espionage expulsions but would face bigger tests in the coming months over Bush's plans for a comprehensive missile defense, and a possible further enlargement of NATO.

Much would depend on whether the administration sought to consult and reassure Russia, without giving it a veto, or whether it chose to brush Moscow aside.

"You can shove this down Russia's throat -- what are they going to do? But you're not going to create the real security that you want if you down have the depth and comfort level of relationship with Russia," Rubin said.

Clinton had managed to win Russian acquiescence to NATO's Bosnia intervention, continued sanctions on Iraq and the first wave of NATO enlargement by building a respectful relationship with ex-President Boris Yeltsin, he argued.
return to menu

U.S. Orders Four Russian Intelligence Officers Expelled by End of Month
Wendy S. Ross
The Washington File
March 22, 2001
(for personal use only)

Washington -- The United States government has declared four Russian intelligence officers persona non grata, giving them ten days to leave the United States.

Two other Russian intelligence officers left the United States voluntarily before the U.S. government action.

All six are suspected of involvement in operations linked to Robert Hanssen, the former official of the Federal Bureau of Investigation accused by the U.S. government of spying for Russia, a senior State Department official told reporters at a background briefing March 22 on the government's action.

In addition, the U.S. government has ordered 46 other Russian intelligence officers to leave the United States by July 1, the official said, noting that the size of the Russian intelligence presence in the United States has been a concern to the U.S. government since the end of the Cold War.

President Bush told reporters March 22 that "We made the right decision yesterday. I was presented with the facts, I made the decision, it was the right thing to do. And having said that, I believe that we'll have a good working relationship with the Russians. But we did the right thing yesterday."

Asked if Moscow might now expel some U.S. diplomats, the President said, "I have no idea what Moscow is going to do."

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told reporters that "the United States believes that the Russian military presence was out of line with what should be a very fruitful and indeed excellent relationship. It was raised several times in the last administration and we are pleased to have it behind us."

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters that President Bush was "involved extensively" in the decision.

"The President looks forward to having a productive relationship with Russia," said Fleischer. "The President also will have a policy that is marked by realism."

Since the February 18 arrest by the U.S. government of FBI Agent Hanssen, President Bush had been discussing with his national security team what possible remedies and consequences could be, Fleischer told reporters.

"And then last week, his national security team made a recommendation to him. The President gave the go-ahead last week. Secretary (of State) Powell met with Russian officials last night (March 21) ... and that's when the Russians became informed of the action."

Since the Clinton administration, the United States has raised concerns to Russia about the "number and level of intelligence officers that Russia has in this country," Fleischer said.

Secretary of State Powell told reporters at the State Department that the United States has "important interests in maintaining cooperative and productive relations with Russia, and we intend to continue working to advance those interests."

Powell said he had talked March 22 by phone with Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov about the expulsions, telling him "We consider this matter closed."

Powell had called in Yury M. Ushakov, Russia's Ambassador to the United States on March 21 to inform him of the expulsions.

"The department made clear to the Russian side that any other Russian officials who may be subsequently implicated in the Hanssen case will not be welcome in the United States," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a statement.

"In addition, we have made clear to the Russian side the need to take actions to address our long-standing concerns about the level of their intelligence presence in the United States," Boucher said.
return to menu

U.S.-Russian Relations Slide in Putin's First Year
Agence France Presse
March 22, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Mar 22, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) A year after taking office, Russian President Vladimir Putin is faced with growing acrimony in the U.S.-Russian relationship over spy scandals, anti-missile defense and arms sales to Iran.

Washington's plans for a national missile defense (NMD) system and Moscow's arms sales to Iran, considered by the United States to be a dangerous "rogue" state, had already damaged bilateral ties.

But the U.S. expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats, following the revelation that FBI veteran Robert Hanssen worked as a double agent for 15 years, seems to underline U.S. President George W. Bush's tougher policy on Russia, led by a former KGB agent.

Even though Hanssen was finally arrested on February 18, the affair was a slap in the face and a major setback for U.S. intelligence, triggering the expulsions and counter-measures from the Russians.

The time of friendly gestures -- such as Putin's pardon last December of U.S. national Edmond Pope, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for spying -- has been quickly forgotten.

Bush has said he would pursue the NMD project, a plan which his predecessor Bill Clinton was happy to delay when faced with Russian hostility and European concerns about a resulting arms build-up.

Moscow, worried by the prospect of a change in the strategic status quo, has repeatedly complained that NMD would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, rendering it null and void, and has proposed that a similar European project was the only alternative.

Russia's recent warming ties with Iran, long cast aside by Washington as a rogue state attempting to develop its nuclear arsenal, have also put U.S.-Russian ties in jeopardy.

The dispute caught fire in November, when Moscow announced it was scrapping a secret agreement struck with the United States under which it was to end conventional arms sales to Iran by December 31, 2000.

Last week, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami signed a series of agreements with Putin during a state visit to Moscow, paving the way for future defense deals and further collaboration on the controversial Bushehr nuclear reactor.

Khatami's four-day visit was seen as cementing economic and military ties between Iran and Russia, all to Washington's extreme displeasure, particularly the prospect of significant technology transfers.

Beyond strategic issues, the former Cold War superpowers also have been at odds over several smaller issues.

The arrest of former Kremlin aide Pavel Borodin in New York, wanted by Swiss authorities on money laundering charges, has been heavily criticized by Russian authorities.

Taken into custody on January 17, the aide will remain in a New York jail until his extradition hearing, set for April 2.

Russia's foreign ministry on Thursday criticized the U.S. State Department for planning a meeting with a separatist Chechen official, identified only as I. Akhmadov. The exact date of the meeting was not exactly clear.

NASA voiced its disapproval when the Russian space agency insisted Wednesday it would honor its 20-million dollar contract to send U.S. businessman Dennis Tito to the International Space Station (ISS).

The incident, which has also drawn the opposition of Russia's Western partners in the project, has created an icy climate in which it could be difficult to launch a positive dialogue between Moscow and Washington.

Putin travels to Stockholm on Friday for the two-day EU summit, looking for a warmer reception from his European counterparts than that which he has received from Washington.
return to menu

Putin Downplays Tensions in US-Russian Relations, Paper Says
March 22, 2001
(for personal use only)

Moscow, March 22 (Bloomberg)-- Russian President Vladimir Putin downplayed the significance of recent tensions with the U.S. in an interview with Russian journalists published in the daily Izvestiya.

"I don't think anything should be dramatized," Putin said when asked about U.S. President George W. Bush's policies toward Russia. "In every country, every time when there is a new administration, and the U.S. is not an exemption, there is a rethink of policy of the previous bosses of the White House."

Bush has said the U.S. should be more cautious about Russia and that he supports a missile defense system, which Russia opposes. Putin says he opposes a "unipolar" world dominated by the U.S. and has boosted ties with Asian and European countries.

The U.S. plans to expel 50 Russian diplomats on suspicion of spying, after Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence agent Robert Philip Hanssen was arrested on suspicion of passing secrets to Moscow, CBS News and the New York Times reported. Russia will take "adequate steps" to respond to such a move, the Interfax news agency said today.

Earlier this week, Moscow said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was using language reminiscent of the Cold War by accusing Russia of assisting countries such as Iran, North Korea and India with missile technology.

"Russia will conduct a foreign policy without any large- state chauvinism," Putin told the newspapers. "We are determined on having relations with other states that are based on equality. One of the main partners for us, of course, is the United States."

Putin said Russia believes the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty should bar the missile defense system backed by Bush.

"We believe, and will continue to believe, that this treaty and its founding principles are the base of modern international security," he said. "We will insist on that, but we are counting on a positive dialogue with American partners."

Putin said he concurs with recent statements by Bush that Russia is neither an enemy nor an opponent of the U.S.

"I think this is a very positive signal," he said. "We heard it, we treat the U.S. in the same way. We are counting on a positive dialogue."
return to menu

Russia Reacts to U.S. Statements
Patrick E. Tyler
New York Times
March 21, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW - On Tuesday Russia accused two senior officials of the Bush administration of making "openly confrontational" statements by labeling Moscow as an "active proliferator" of dangerous weapons technologies.

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued its strongly worded response to an interview published in Britain's Sunday Telegraph in which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, used the most trenchant language to date among senior Bush aides to complain of Russia's role in providing ballistic-missile technology to Iran and other nations.

The interview marked the second time in recent weeks that Rumsfeld openly criticized Russia's proliferation record. It comes at a time when the administration is said to be reviewing whether to continue a policy of high-level engagement and cooperation with Russia, or to downgrade the relationship to reflect Russia's diminished status and to show disapproval of Russia's opposition to American policy initiatives in missile defense and nonproliferation.

"Russia is an active proliferator," Rumsfeld said in remarks to Winston Churchill, grandson of the wartime leader, who conducted the interview at the Pentagon. "It has been providing countries with assistance in these areas in a way that complicates the problem for the United States and Western Europe." He added, "We all have to live with the results of that proliferation." Rumsfeld made a similar statement on Feb. 14.

Wolfowitz was more caustic, saying of the Russians, "these people seem to be willing to sell anything to anyone for money. It recalls Lenin's phrase that the capitalists will sell the very rope from which we will hang them."

He went on to say, "My view is that they have to be confronted with a choice." Moscow, he said, "can't expect to do billions of dollars worth of business and aid and all that with the United States and its allies" while at the same time selling "obnoxious stuff that threatens our people and our pilots and our sailors."

Russia, along with China and North Korea, has provided assistance to Iran's military and ballistic-missile programs and is constructing a civilian nuclear power station in Iran, which Washington opposes.
return to menu

B. Nuclear Waste

Activists Win Reprieve in Nuclear Fight
Yevgenia Borisova
The Moscow Times
March 23, 2001
(for personal use only)

Opponents who have been fiercely protesting a plan to import 20,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel to Russia won a reprieve Thursday when the State Duma decided to delay a vote on the bill until at least early April.

Duma deputies, who had overwhelmingly approved the bill in first reading in December, agreed that too many uncertainties remained about the proposal from the Nuclear Power Ministry and called for at least two weeks to review its feasibility.

About 200 demonstrators -- 100 from each camp -- had gathered outside the Duma building in freezing weather before the scheduled vote Thursday morning. Environmentalists stood beside the Duma, cajoling lawmakers as they arrived at work, while nuclear power workers protested across the street near the Moskva hotel.

The environmentalists' protests may have paid off. Hearings on the bill, which the Nuclear Power Ministry says would earn Russia $20 billion over 12 years, were tentatively postponed to April 4 or April 5.

The delay comes as a welcome respite to opponents, who had feared that it would be rushed through both second and third readings Thursday.

The decision was "a good result," said Sergei Mitrokhin, a deputy with the Yabloko faction and one of the fiercest opponents of the project.

"A better result, of course, would have been the ultimate rejection of the project," he added.

Even if the bill passes, the U.S. could block Russia from getting imports.

Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov kept a brave face.

"It is an absolutely correct decision. If questions appear, they must be discussed so that no doubts are left," he said.

While only 38 deputies voted against the bill in December, 339 deputies on Thursday demanded the postponement of the second hearing in lieu of more information about how revenues from the project would be spent.

They also asked for a report from government environmental experts about the project's risks, paperwork required by law for ecologically risky projects that had not been submitted with the proposed legislation.

"I think the Duma needs additional consultations," said Unity faction head Boris Gryzlov. "The issue hasn't been prepared for the hearing."

Speaker Gennady Seleznyov said that lawmakers will "weigh all the pros and cons and the bills may be returned to the first reading again. If needed, additional investigations must be made."

Communists and Agrarians -- who almost unanimously backed the bill in December -- will base their next vote "on the additional information that we receive from parliamentary hearings," said Agrarian faction chief Nikolai Kharitonov.

Other government officials blasted the delay. Liberal Democratic Party Deputy Alexei Mitrofanov said opponents of the legislation were "enemies of the people" because they "oppose making decisions that would bring Russia many billions of dollars."

Presidential representative Alexander Kotenkov said failure to pass the bill was "favorable for our rivals," hinting that opponents of the legislation were getting hefty financing from foreign countries that didn't want to lose their corner on the spent nuclear fuel market.

However even if the bill passes into law, the Nuclear Power Ministry will probably not be able to gain the 10 percent of the market that it is aiming for due to pressure from the United States, according to a letter from the U.S. State Department that was released by the Ecodefense environmental group Thursday.

The letter was written in response to a query from environmental organizations about the Nuclear Power Ministry's planned project.

"Any transfer to Russia of power reactor spent fuel subject to U.S. consent rights could only take place if the United States were to conclude an agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation with the Russian Federation," reads the letter signed by Richard Stratford, director of the Office of Nuclear Energy Affairs.

No such cooperation will be signed until Russia stops cooperating with Iran in its nuclear programs, the letter said.

The letter effectively blocks the ministry's hopes of importing spent nuclear fuel from a number of countries with which it has already entered into negotiations including Taiwan, where fuel is provided from the United States, said Vladimir Kuznetsov, a former inspection head in Gosatomnadzor, the governmental nuclear safety watchdog.

Currently, about 90 percent of the world market of about 200,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel is controlled by the United States, while another 6 percent is controlled by France and Britain, he said. Russia controls only 4 percent.

The Washington-based environmental group Nuclear Information and Resource Service said that the United States has the power to halt the movement of most of the world's spent fuel.

"The U.S. supplied much of the enriched uranium that powered the reactors in the first place, and it is nearly impossible for any nuclear country to differentiate between the enriched uranium supplied by the U.S. and that supplied by other nations," NIRS executive director Michael Mariotte wrote in an article posted on his organization's web site (

"This letter significantly adds to ecologists' argument that the Nuclear Power Ministry's projects are not properly thought out," added Vladimir Slivyak, co-head of Ecodefense.

A Nuclear Power Ministry source, who did not want to be named, would only say: "The project is not going to start tomorrow. In a few years things may change."

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court dealt environmentalists a bitter blow Thursday by ruining their hopes for a national referendum against the import of spent fuel. The court upheld a decision by the Central Elections Commission last year to throw out about 600 signatures out of the 2.5 million gathered across Russia to conduct the referendum, thus voiding the petition.

Environmentalists said they will lodge an appeal.
return to menu

U.S. May Oppose Moscow's Plans to Import Spent Nuclear Fuel
Sophie Lambroschini
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
March 21, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Mar 21, 2001 -- (RFE/RL) Even opponents of Russia's controversial plan to import spent nuclear fuel say the package of three bills is likely to pass its second reading Thursday (March 22) in the Duma.

But some observers are questioning what role the United States, which controls the majority of the world's spent fuel, intends to play in Russia's ambitious plan to store -- and reprocess -- up to 20,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear fuel. In this last of a three-part series, RFE/RL Moscow correspondent Sophie Lambroschini looks at the politics and policymaking behind the proposal.

In December a government proposal to import spent nuclear fuel sailed through its first reading in the Russian Duma with barely a murmur from the opposition.

The proposal's second reading this week may not go so smoothly. The fate of the Atomic Energy Ministry's plan to import 20,000 tons of the world's spent nuclear fuel depends on Russia's internal politics.

The pro-import mood in Russia's lower house of parliament has cooled since the December reading. This is due largely to massive lobbying efforts by the plan's opponents, many of them regional politicians from Siberia, where the imported fuel will likely be shipped. Some experts also say that the United States may have the power to halt the Atomic Energy Ministry plan by forbidding the export to Russia of its own spent fuel.

Still, most observers say the plan -- which consists of three bills lifting a 1992 ban on spent-fuel imports and providing for revenues to pay for cleaning up Russia's nuclear industry -- is likely to scrape through its second and third reading.

They say the Duma, which has been largely submissive to President Vladimir Putin, will not be able to withstand Kremlin pressure on the issue. The action of a Duma committee, which last month threw out a number of amendments that would have imposed independent control over the plan's import process and financial flows, further suggests that the plan is likely to get a smooth ride.

Critics of the plan have spent the past three months gathering ammunition. Most recently, the Duma's anti-corruption commission published a report accusing Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov of illegal business activities, tax evasion, and appointing unqualified people to high ministerial posts.

Import opponents say the report -- which was forwarded to the Prosecutor-General's Office with an inquiry request -- has heightened existing concern that revenue from importing spent nuclear fuel would be misused or simply vanish into Russia's notoriously opaque nuclear sector to be used on defense projects.

Influential communist Duma deputy Anatoly Lukyanov told RFE/RL that the revelations about Adamov had done serious damage to the Atomic Energy Ministry's reputation and fed doubt among deputies over the wisdom of the import bill:

"There is such a [large] flow of comments [coming from our voters]. I think that this issue has yet to be settled once and for all. It will still be discussed, especially in the area of controlling the nuclear-waste imports."

Two separate news conferences by anti-import lobbies are being held before theThursday reading. Sergey Apatenko, a deputy from the pro-government Unity faction and a conference organizer, says opposition to the plan has brought together deputies from across the political spectrum. But Apatenko says he doubts that opposition efforts in the end will have any serious impact on the vote.

"Even before the first reading, I spoke to a number of Communist deputies. I went to about 10 or 15 people. They all said they would vote against the plan. And now the situation is the same. I recently spoke to them as part of our group's activities and they said again that they will vote against. Well, when you've already been tricked once -- when they showed their true colors on December 22 -- there's no reason to believe what they say now. That's why I think the [lobbying] work should not be stopped now -- it should be intensified."

Observers say overall support for the bill is strong because many deputies accept the Atomic Energy Ministry's argument that Russia will not be able to overhaul its aging nuclear sector without the $20 billion in revenue the import plan is supposed to bring in.

The Duma's two largest factions -- Unity and the Communists -- are expected in large part to come out in favor of lifting the import ban. If the plan passes its second reading, it will have to go through a third and final reading before being sent to the Federation Council -- the upper house of parliament -- and the president to be made into law.

However, some observers point out that even if the plan becomes law, external pressure from the United States may still be able to thwart it by slashing its list of potential clients.

Officially, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will not comment on the policies of other nations, and has yet to issue a formal statement on Russia's import plan. However, the United States -- which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to cut down on available stocks of enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium -- has indicated that the proliferation risk posed by Russia's crumbling nuclear sector is an important concern.

With this in mind, Rose Gottemoeller, a Carnegie Endowment senior associate and former DOE official, says the U.S. will definitely oppose the Atomic Energy Ministry's plan to reprocess into plutonium the spent fuel it imports. Moreover, she says the U.S. will be able to curtail the Russian plan by vetoing the import of all spent fuel of U.S. origin:

"The United States is responsible for any fuel that was basically fabricated in the United States. And so the United States is going to have to agree to the long-term disposition of this fuel in Russia, because the United States, basically, when it fabricates and sells fuel to a nuclear utility anywhere in the world, retains the right to have a say in its final disposition."

Gottemoeller says the U.S. may exercise this right if the Russians fail to meet certain conditions:

"So the United States will have a say in whether or not this fuel can go to Russia. [And it will require some considerable negotiations to ensure that Russia will not be reprocessing this fuel because] under no conditions will the United States be willing to see this fuel go to Russia if it is going to be reprocessed. That will be just a basic condition. So then it will be up to the Russians to decide if that is an acceptable condition."

Gottemoeller argues that the U.S. could even veto Russia's storage of the spent fuel if it deems safety standards insufficient. Darwin Morgan, an Energy Department spokesman, told RFE/RL that countries currently holding fuel of U.S. origin include Brazil, the Czech Republic, India, Japan, Mexico, Slovenia, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the so-called "Euratom" group of 15 European nations.

However, Russian Atomic Energy Ministry spokesman Vitaly Nasonov says the import of spent nuclear fuel will be a profitable business for Russian even without these clients:

"There's nothing scary about [the possible ban on U.S.-origin fuel] -- then we just won't [import it.] I think that even without U.S. fuel, the market is still [big] enough."

But Nasonov did admit the ministry's original projected earnings of $20 billion from spent fuel imports was based on research that included the U.S.-origin fuel markets.

Some experts also doubt that the U.S. is, in fact, defending anti-proliferation principles and point to what they see as recent contradictions in U.S. policy.

One such apparent contradiction is a published DOE study laying out a "technical framework" for the storage of foreign spent fuel in Russia. Russian environmentalist Vladimir Slivyak says the study is a sign that the U.S. is actually toying with the idea of taking Russia up on its offer to import spent fuel.

The study was drawn up by the California-based Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a DOE affiliate. It is based on the hypothetical but potentially real example of spent fuel being shipped from Taiwan through Vladivostok in Russia's Far East to either of the two Siberian nuclear plants earmarked by the import proposal. It lists, in very general terms, the technical issues involved, like the need to build additional storage and transport facilities.

The study suggests that the storage program could be an extension of a U.S.-Russian agreement on plutonium disposition signed last year. The agreement provides for the United States to help Russia begin fabricating mixed plutonium-uranium oxide fuel, or MOX, using weapons-grade plutonium.

MOX, when burned in special reactors, can automatically recycle itself, creating a closed and infinite fuel cycle. It has been tentatively mentioned by the U.S. as a constructive way of using up excess weapons-grade plutonium, despite widespread concern about the plan's safety risks.

However, DOE official Morgan says the Livermore study was strictly hypothetical and does not reflect U.S. policy.

Russian nuclear expert Vladimir Kuznetsov, who has been an outspoken opponent of the import plan, says his fear is that in the end most countries will prefer to see their spent fuel shipped to a distant location in Russia rather than deal with disposing of it themselves. He says: "It is in the corporate interest [of every country's nuclear sector] to find a way to get disconcerting nuclear energy by-products -- spent fuel, waste, and other radioactive material -- out of the public eye."

It may be precisely this attitude that the plan's supporters are banking on if this proposal is passed and becomes law.
return to menu

Nine out of ten Russians oppose import of nuclear waste
March 21, 2001
(for personal use only)

Moscow, 21 March: An overwhelming majority of Russians - 89 per cent - have a negative attitude towards the idea of bringing nuclear wastes to Russia from abroad for their reprocessing and burial even for financial compensation. Only 4 per cent of Russians support this idea, and 7 per cent found it difficult to state their position.

Interfax obtained this information on Wednesday from the sociological research group, which conducted a representative all-Russian poll of 1,600 respondents residing in over 100 populated areas in all seven federal districts.
return to menu

C. Russian Nuclear Power Industry

Report: Ministry Wasting Tax Cash
Yevgenia Borisova
The Moscow Times
March 20, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW - The embattled Nuclear Power Ministry, already under investigation for alleged illegal sales of nuclear equipment abroad, came under fresh attack Thursday when environmentalists accused it of cheating taxpayers of billions of dollars.

The ministry is effectively forcing taxpayers to fund billions of dollars worth of foreign nuclear reactor contracts by allowing buyers like Iran and China to pay through federal loans, Moscow-based environmental groups Ecodefense and the Social-Ecological Union said in a report released Thursday.

The $5 billion in deals that have been signed or are pending with other countries have interest rates as low as 4 percent and payback periods of up to 20 years, the report said.

"All of this money will make it back only in 15 years to 20 years," Vladimir Slivyak, a co-author of the report, said in a telephone interview. "And we can't expect countries with unstable economies to manage to make the payments at all."

"I wonder why Russia is spending billions of dollars - which is effectively the money of Russian taxpayers and is badly needed here - to fund the export of dangerous technologies," he said.

A Nuclear Power Ministry spokes person shrugged off the report, saying environmentalists did not have the expertise to judge his ministry's activities.

The Finance Ministry, which oversees the government's cash flow, refused to confirm the terms of the contracts, saying they are classified information.

But Slivyak said all information in the report was taken from publicly available material.

Vyacheslav Sotnikov, assistant to the head of Atomstroiexport, which builds nuclear power plants abroad, called the report "superfluous."

"The contracts are very complex and involve some payments in cash, some in goods and some in loans," he said, refusing to give further details. He added that all of the deals had to be approved by a number of levels within various ministries before winning the government's stamp of approval.

None of the nuclear reactor contracts, however, have to be approved by the State Duma - even though some of them are worth up to 10 percent of the federal budget, the environmentalists said in their report.

"Even though the state effectively uses the money of taxpayers for nuclear exports, the [government's] export rules do not allow the public to participate in making the decisions," the report said. "Thus, taxpayers have to sponsor economic projects in other countries."

One deal the report points to - and one that irks the United States - came in a 1995 decision to build a $850 million nuclear reactor for a power plant at the Iranian port Bushehr.

Iranian President Mohammad Kha ta mi on Thursday inspected the nearly completed body of the reactor at Izhor skiye Works in St. Petersburg. It is supposed to be delivered in 2003-04.

The United States considers Iran a rogue state and fears it will use the nuclear technology to develop weapons.

The report said that Atomstroiexport is financing most of the project through loans it secured from banks.

"Iran has paid off only 5 percent of the cost of the contract," the report said. "The rest will be paid off after the shipment of the reactor."

Izhorskiye Works said Thursday that the Iranian president promised a new reactor contract as soon as the current one is completed.

The report also points to a $1.5 billion contract to construct two reactors for the Lyanynugan nuclear power plant in China as an example of a deal that is costing Russia dearly. When the contract was signed in 1997, Russia agreed to provide a 13-year loan with 4 percent annual interest for all but 10 percent of the cost.

China was only required to make a down payment worth $75,000, half in cash and the rest in goods, the report said. It will then pay another $75,000 when the contract is fulfilled.

"We are building two blocs for China. I can say we are halfway finished," said Viktor Kozlov, general director of Atom stroiexport in an interview with Russian Ren TV on Wednesday.

He added that negotiations to build two reactors for India are being conducted and a contract to build them is likely to be signed in the fall.

Russia has already initialed a $2.6 billion contract to build a nuclear power plant in the Indian city Kudankulam. The terms for that deal, signed in April 1999, included an unspecified loan being disbursed over 10 years and being repaid over 12, according to Prime-Tass, citing an intergovernmental agreement. One-fourth of the credit is to be paid in kind.

Russia has also promised to lend Bulgaria $150 million to upgrade the Kozlodui nuclear power plant, the environmentalists said.

Interestingly, negotiations between Iran and the Nuclear Power Ministry this week were not hampered even though the Prosecutor General's Office has opened an investigation into whether a branch of the ministry illegally exported nuclear technologies and radioactive materials - items needed to build weapons of mass destruction - to Iran.

Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov headed the branch, a scientific research institute, before being appointed to head the ministry.

Meanwhile, the Moscow prosecutor's office launched an investigation last week into whether Adamov improperly engaged in business activities after being named minister in March 1998, the office said Thursday. The probe was instigated by a Duma report issued March 5 that accused Adamov of engaging in such activities and of using his position to appoint business associates to key positions.

Prosecutors refused to comment about the case Thursday.
return to menu

D. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Deal

Shipments of Uranium from US to Russia
The Uranium Institute
March 15, 2001
(for personal use only)

Uranium shipments from the US to Russia have been agreed by the US Enrichment Corporation (USEC), Techsnabexport (Tenex) and ConverDyn who will all cooperate on the return of natural uranium to Russia. This is in line with the Russian and US Megatons to Megawatts programme through which USEC purchases diluted weapons grade uranium and in return provides natural uranium from its deposits. Tenex acts as an agent for the Russian government whilst ConverDyn operates an enrichment plan in the US.
return to menu

E. Russian-Indian Nuclear Cooperation

Russia, India plan nuclear plant deal
The Russia Journal
March 20, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW - The Russian energy concern Rosenergoatom expects by the end of 2001 to ink a deal for the building of a nuclear power plant in the Indian city of Kudal, Deputy Russian Atomic Energy Minister Bulat Nigmatulin told a Saturday press conference in Rostov-on-Don, according to Reuters

The planning of the technical project for the plant is close to completion, Nigmatulin said. This project is based on the same technological principles as those employed in building the Rostov nuclear plant, which enters industrial operation in August or September, as well as other nuclear power plants boasting water-cooled VVER-1000 reactors, he said.

The information-analytical center at the Rostov nuclear power plant had reported earlier that a delegation of Indian specialists is currently at the plant studying the start-up and adjustment routines for power unit #1 and will also be taking part in putting its energy production capacities into operation.
return to menu

Section Menu:

© 2007 Partnership for Global Security. All rights reserved. Privacy Statement.