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Nuclear News - 03/30/01
RANSAC Nuclear News, March 30, 2001
Compiled by Terry C. Stevens

A. U.S. Disarmament Budget
    1. U.S. Reviewing Aid Meant to Contain Russia's Arsenal, Judith Miller, New York Times (03/29/2001)
    2. Baker Wants Money for Russia Plan, Carolyn Skorneck, AP (03/29/2001)
    3. Baker Says U.S. Must Help Russian Nuclear Storage, Tabassum Zakaria, Reuters (03/28/2001)
    4. U.S. Reviews Russia Weapons Program, Carolyn Skorneck, AP (03/29/2001)
    5. Press Conference by the President [Excerpt], The White House (03/29/2001)
B. Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom)
    1. Rumyantsev Taking Over Ministry of Atomic Energy, ITAR-TASS (03/30/2001)
    2. Russia to Move High Technology to World Market: Rumyantsev, ITAR-TASS (03/30/2001)
    3. U.S. Watching Change at Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry Closely, Agence France Presse (03/30/2001)
    4. New Russian Atomic Energy Chief Good News for U.S., Reuters (03/29/2001)
    5. Putin asserts control in government changes - press [Excerpt], Reuters (03/29/2001)
    6. Nuclear Minister Ousted, Yevgenia Borisova, Moscow Times (03/29/2001)
    7. Russia will see no nuclear waste?, Strana.Ru (03/28/2001)
C. U.S. - Russian Relations
    1. Russia plays down possible US cut in non-proliferation aid, Agence France-Presse (03/30/2001)
    2. Russia Expects Talks with US on Problems of Nuclear Security, ITAR-TASS (03/30/2001)
D. Russian Nuclear Power Industry
    1. New Nuclear Power Plant Draws Mixed Reaction, Angela Charlton, AP (03/27/2001)

A. U.S. Disarmament Budget

U.S. Reviewing Aid Meant to Contain Russia's Arsenal
Judith Miller
The New York Times
March 29, 2001
(for personal use only)

The White House is starting a comprehensive review of all American aid programs to Russia set up to stop the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, a senior administration official said yesterday.

The broad review, initiated by National Security Council officials who have previously been critical of some of these programs, is likely to change significantly how Washington spends more than $760 million a year trying to dismantle former Soviet nuclear, biological and chemical complexes and prevent unconventional weapons and hazardous materials from being either sold to rogue states and terrorist groups or stolen by them.

The senior official said that several of the programs, such as the Department of Energy's $173 million program to strengthen the security and accounting for fissile material at nuclear weapons storage sites, appeared to be "very effective." Others, several administration officials said, may not be money well spent, like the more than $6 billion long- term effort to help Russia and the United States dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium each. Programs deemed ineffective could be sharply reduced, or even scuttled, officials said.

The review comes at a time of growing tension between Russia and the United States fueled by the administration's discovery of a suspected Russian spy in the top ranks of the F.B.I., its determination to build a shield against nuclear missiles, and its criticism of Russia for selling nuclear technology to Iran.

The administration's adoption of what it calls a "realistic" or "unsentimental" approach to Russia has prompted Russian officials to accuse Washington of being out of step with the times, intent on reviving cold war policies, and abandoning the previous administration's effort to treat Russia as a partner.

Hence, the administration's review of nonproliferation policies risks heightening tensions with Russia at a time of great internal change in that country.

It could also fuel concerns among Democrats and other critics of President Bush's more conservative stance toward Russia that the administration might use the review to punish Russia for selling technology to Iran or to justify deep cuts in nonproliferation programs. The senior administration official stressed yesterday that the review was aimed at improving the quality, effectiveness and transparency of the nonproliferation programs.

Its goal is not to punish Russia or undermine American commitment to helping Russia safeguard dangerous weapons material and prevent the theft, diversion or sale of unconventional weapons and expertise.

"This is not a challenge to Russia or an effort to dismantle nonproliferation programs," the official said. "This is about enabling the progress we've made to continue and making nonproliferation programs even more effective. We want to strengthen nonproliferation."

The review is examining dozens of programs run mainly by the State Department, Pentagon and Department of Energy that have poured millions of dollars into Russia and the former Soviet republics since the cold war. Most were created by the Clinton administration, but a few began as Congressional initiatives backed by former President George Bush.

The wide-ranging programs have tried to help Russia dismantle its vast unconventional weapons complexes, safeguard nuclear and other hazardous materials and prevent the former Soviet scientists who produced them from selling their products and skills to rogue states and terrorist groups.

The review is parallel to a broad review of Russia policy by the White House recently but separate from it. The nonproliferation review will be conducted by senior officials at the National Security Council and is expected to last six to eight weeks, officials said. In the meantime, the official said, the programs will continue.

Officials said it was also separate from the across-the-board cuts in fiscal 2002 budgets that the Office of Management and Budget has asked agencies to make to accommodate President Bush's proposed tax cuts.

According to the review's "terms of reference," portions of which were read to a New York Times reporter, it will explore, among other things, the "cost-benefit ratio" of each major program and how well it serves America's national interest, whether Russia and other countries should shoulder a larger share of its cost, and whether the program should have a "sunset" provision to ensure it does not continue after its objectives have been met. It will also evaluate whether Russia has been sufficiently supportive of the program and examine whether there are other programs that might better serve nonproliferation goals or better ways of coordinating the programs.

While the official was reluctant to discuss the administration's attitudes towards specific programs in advance of the review, he said that the "scorecard" of the Department of Defense's Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, which received $458 million from Congress in this fiscal year, was "pretty impressive." By the end of 2000, an administration official said, those programs, among other things, had deactivated 5,288 missile warheads, destroyed 419 long-range nuclear missiles and 367 silos, eliminated 81 bombers, 292 submarine missile launchers and 174 submarine missiles, and sealed 194 nuclear test holes and sites in Russia and other former Soviet republics.

The official also praised the Department of Energy's program that permits the United States to buy and convert 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium, the equivalent of 25,000 warheads, to low-enriched uranium that can be used as commercial fuel in nuclear reactors. Administration officials said that since the agreement was reached in 1994, about 110 metric tons of such uranium has been purchased and converted.

Administration officials and other experts criticized two programs - the Department of Energy's $6 billion effort to dispose of Russian and American plutonium, to which Congress has appropriated $280 million to date, and its Nuclear Cities Initiative. Established in September, 1998 to stop the brain drain from Russia's vast, closed nuclear cities and reduce the size of the massive complexes, the program has been pummeled on Capitol Hill. In fiscal 2000, Congress halved the initiative's budget and placed other conditions on spending.

The impending review received a strong endorsement yesterday from an influential Democrat who helped pioneer nonproliferation programs with post-Communist Russia. Former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia said that any new administration "should take a comprehensive look at programs to reduce the threat of weapons, materiel, and know-how coming out of the Soviet Union." The programs, he added, "need better cooperation and to fit into a broader strategic picture."

Mr. Nunn, who now chairs the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a private group financed by Ted Turner to reduce the threat of nuclear and other unconventional weapons, presided this week over a conference in Atlanta on nonproliferation challenges in Russia. He said that both Russian and American participants would "favor strengthening those programs," despite some frank discussion of their weaknesses.

Senator Nunn said that he hoped the review would give such programs a higher priority in the new administration.

Howard Baker, the former Senate majority leader from Tennessee whom President Bush has nominated as ambassador to Japan, urged the administration not to cut money for nonproliferation programs in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.

Senator Baker was co-chairman of an Energy Department-backed task force that recommended that $30 billion be spent over 8 to 10 years to help secure or neutralize Russia's nuclear weapons-usable material and keep its scientists conducting legitimate work.

Ronald F. Lehman II, a former director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the Reagan and Bush administrations and a champion of cooperation with Russia in nonproliferation, told the committee that all of the programs would benefit greatly from a "bold review" and a "clearer vision of goals, strategy, and priorities."

A concern among Democrats was articulated by Kenneth N. Luongo, a former Clinton administration official who is executive director of the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, which promotes American-Russian cooperative security initiatives. He said that while he welcomed a review in principle, he feared that it might not be fair and might reflect the administration's biases. "A prejudiced review that looks at what can be eliminated, and not what can be improved, is missing an enormous opportunity and is likely to further rile relations with Russia," he said.
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Baker Wants Money for Russia Plan
Carolyn Skorneck
The Associated Press
March 29, 2001
(for personal use only)

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush's nominee as ambassador to Japan, former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker Jr., recommended more money Wednesday for a program Bush wants to cut: helping Russia safeguard its nuclear materials.

"I don't think there's any issue, really, that's more important than making sure we don't annihilate ourselves through an accident or something," Baker told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing called by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., a champion of the U.S. effort on the Russian weapons.

"The fact that we haven't blown ourselves up so far is no guarantee that we couldn't still do it," he said. "Or that some rogue nation or rogue group hasn't yet successfully stolen a nuclear weapon doesn't mean they can't still do it if all you've got is a padlock" on a door to prevent theft.

Baker said he wasn't challenging Bush's spending plans. He said, however, that securing Russia's vast nuclear weapons and material and ensuring its underpaid nuclear scientists are not lured to work for rogue nations or terrorists "is a competitor of great importance for resources."

The White House is starting a comprehensive review of U.S. aid to Russia set up to stop the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, The New York Times reported in Thursday's editions.

The review was initiated by the National Security Council, which has previously been critical of the programs, an unidentified senior official was quoted by the Times. The United States spends $760 million a year trying to help Russia safeguard its weapons and hazardous materials.

White House officials and National Security Officials declined to comment on the report Tuesday night.

A task force Baker co-chaired with former White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler recommended that $30 billion be spent over eight to 10 years to secure or neutralize all of Russia's nuclear weapons-usable material and keep its scientists performing legitimate work.

It would build on current joint U.S.-Russian efforts.

The task force addressed an Energy Department program - promoted by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. - to eliminate the uranium and plutonium from former Soviet nuclear weapons dismantled through a program sponsored by Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga.

Under Nunn-Lugar, financed mainly by the Defense Department, the weapons of mass destruction are being destroyed and dismantled. Both programs pay scientists to do peaceful work.

Bush's fiscal year 2002 budget proposes cutting more than $72 million from the Energy program, say government and private sources who saw the numbers. The Clinton administration had earmarked the program for a 50 percent increase to $1.2 billion for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

"We have a very simple choice. We can either spend money to reduce the threat or spend more money in the future to defend ourselves," Domenici said in a statement read by Lugar. "I am a strong believer that threat reduction is the first and best approach."

There has been no indication the Defense Department will cut the $433 million the Nunn-Lugar program is getting this year, said Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher. A total of $4.5 billion has been spent since 1992, he said.

Persuading Congress to increase the money could be difficult, Lugar said.

"Some would say, `Not a penny more for this,"' believing the United States would simply be aiding Russia's development of newer weapons, he said.

Baker agreed one good argument - suggested by Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the committee's top Democrat - might be likening the program to Bush's favored National Missile Defense.

They share the same objective, Baker said: "Survival."

"You either interdict the weapons material (on the ground) or try to catch them after they are launched," he said.

"It really boggles my mind that there could be 40,000 nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union, poorly guarded and poorly stored, and the world isn't in a near-state of hysteria over the danger," Baker said.
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Baker Says U.S. Must Help Russian Nuclear Storage
Tabassum Zakaria
March 28, 2001
(for personal use only)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russia's nuclear weapons storage facilities are in poor shape and the United States must help secure them for its own national security, Howard Baker, co-chair of an Energy Department task force, said on Wednesday.

"It really boggles my mind" that thousands of nuclear weapons are poorly stored, Baker said, "and the world isn't in a near state of hysteria."

The collapse of the Soviet Union left more than 40,000 nuclear weapons and 1,000 metric tons of nuclear materials without the Cold War infrastructure to ensure their security, Baker told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

The concern is that the weapons could be stolen, sold to hostile groups, and used against Americans, he said.

"The only thing we can't do is nothing.... If we don't do it no one will," he said, adding that Russia does not have the resources to address the task by itself.

The panel concluded that current budget levels for nonproliferation programs were inadequate, and proposed funding a program to help secure nuclear weapons and material in Russia at up to $3 billion a year for the next 10 years.

President George W. Bush should push others such as the European Union, Japan and Canada to share the costs of securing Russia's nuclear arsenal, said Baker, a former Republican senator from Tennessee who was recently nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Russia and the United States have a "special responsibility" to ensure the nuclear arsenal is safe because they invented the nuclear age, he said. "We invented it, now we have to see whether we can live with it."

While it was disturbing that Russia had trade with Iran in dual-use nuclear technology and missile technology and apparently intended to supply new conventional weapons systems to Iran, those concerns should not hamper U.S. efforts to help secure Russia's nuclear arsenal, Baker said.

"You still can't let that be the total consideration of the relationship between the United States and Russia on this subject," he said.

Baker said he looked forward to his new assignment in Japan and declined to comment on Japan's economy.
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U.S. Reviews Russia Weapons Program
Carolyn Skorneck
The Associated Press
March 29, 2001
(for personal use only)

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush said Thursday that his administration is reassessing U.S. programs to help Russia stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The announcement prompted congressional fears of cuts in the popular programs.

"They think we're going to get tough with the Russians, and part of getting tough with the Russians is cutting back on these programs, which is absolutely foolhardy," said Sen. Joseph Biden, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's top Democrat.

But Bush told reporters the review does not indicate a deepening of the chill developing between Washington and Moscow.

"It's in our nation's best interest to work with Russia to dismantle its nuclear arsenal," Bush said. "We want to make sure that any money that is being spent is being spent in an effective way."

The United States spends more than $1 billion a year on the programs. They are designed to help Russia secure its vast cache of nuclear weapons and material and ensure that Russia's underpaid nuclear scientists are not lured to work for antagonistic states or terrorists.

The Bush administration plans to cut the Energy Department's nonproliferation programs by $100 million, from $873 million in the current year to $773 million in fiscal year 2002, said Clay Sell of the Senate Appropriations Committee's energy and water panel staff.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who leads that panel, wrote and still strongly supports those programs that help secure and find legitimate uses for uranium and plutonium taken from former Soviet nuclear weapons.

"There's definitely a concern (in Congress) that this so-called review will be set up to reinforce the policy views the White House has already taken in developing its budget," said Sell, whom Domenici's office asked to respond to questions on the matter.

Sell also questioned the review's stated aim of efficiency, saying it's "an unconvincing policy position to say we're going to secure nuclear materials so they will not be stolen by terrorist states only if we can do it efficiently," Sell said. "We've got to address it no matter what."

The $433 million the Defense Department is spending this year to help Russia dismantle its nuclear weapons and their delivery systems - $4.5 billion has been spent since 1992 - seems safe from cuts, a congressional aide said.

A task force led by former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker Jr., R-Tenn., and former White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler recommended increasing spending on the programs to $30 billion over eight to 10 years.

Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., a strong supporter of the programs, understands the administration's review. "Some of the dollars have not completely gone to the stated purpose, so reforms and additional oversight are necessary," said Weldon, who long has taken an interest in Russia.

"But a unilateral call for cutbacks is wrong, and I would oppose that," said Weldon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's readiness panel. "Now is not the time to be withdrawing from Russia. Now is the time to be even more aggressive in engaging Russia."

Former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., a co-author with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., of the Pentagon program of dismantling Soviet nuclear missiles, questioned the possible cutbacks.

"I am puzzled as to recent rumors which indicate that budgets for these essential threat reduction programs may be seriously reduced," Nunn said at a National Press Club luncheon. "If true, this would be heading backward. No one knows how long the present window of opportunity will remain open."

Senate support for the nonproliferation programs has been overwhelming, regularly drawing more than 80 and 90 votes, said Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher. House members have been less enthusiastic for the "legitimate reasons" of misuse of funds, Weldon said.

Also Thursday, Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee questioned John Bolton, Bush's nominee for undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, about the programs.

Bolton said it would be "presumptuous" to say whether he supported an increase because that would imply he already had a role in the government. He said he had told Lugar, "I thought this review was a good thing."

Ultimately, Bolton said, "I would want to see these programs performed successfully," as long as the Russians cooperate more fully and other countries contribute to the cost.

The committee chairman, Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., urged Bolton to "hold your ground" against the barrage of questions from Democrats.
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Press Conference by the President [Excerpt]
The White House
March 29, 2001
(for personal use only)

Q: Mr. President, is your administration reviewing U.S. aid to Russia to stop the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons? Are you considering reducing that aid, and if so, why?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're reviewing all programs, those related to de-escalating potential nuclear problems. We want to make sure that any money that is being spent is being spent in an effective way -- have the obligation to the taxpayer is to make sure that the money, for example, going to the Russian program, part of Nunn-Lugar, for example, is effective. And so we're putting a full review on the programs.

And we fully intend to continue to cooperate with the Russians. It's in our nation's best interest to dismantle -- work with Russia to dismantle its nuclear arsenal. I was pleased to see that Senator Nunn, one of the authors of the Nunn-Lugar bill, agreed with our approach to take a look to make sure the programs are efficient. And we will continue to do so.
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B. Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom)

Rumyantsev Taking Over Ministry of Atomic Energy
Veronika Voskoboinikova
March 30, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Mar 30, 2001 (Itar-Tass via COMTEX) -- Alexander Rumyantsev, new minister of atomic energy, believes that the "do no harm" principle is the most important thing in his work. "The nuclear industry has entered a period of active development. This is why we should move most carefully, in order not to disrupt this development," he said in an exclusive interview with Tass on Friday.

Rumyantsev said that the first thing he is going to do on his new post is "to study and analyse the situation." When he was still the director of the Kurchatov Institute, he attended last week an expanded meeting of the collegium of the Ministry of Atomic Energy, which summed up the results of the year 2000. It is at that meeting that he saw for himself: the industry has overcome recession and has entered "a period of active development."

Responding to the question about possible personnel changes in the top echelons of the industry, the new minister said that "personnel changes are not a priority task." In his opinion, the "do no harm" principle should be applied to personnel changes too, because it is under the present management that the industry achieved good results.

Ex-Minister of Atomic Energy Yevgeni Adamov began to turn over the ministry to Rumyantsev on Thursday, showing him around the building, a source in the ministry told Tass. Rumyantsev will start working on his new post next Monday. On Friday he will stay at the Kurchatov Institute. The Ministry of Atomic Energy is now run by two first deputy ministers -- Vladimir Vinogradov and Valentin Ivanov.
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Russia to Move High Technology to World Market: Rumyantsev
March 30, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Mar 30, 2001 (Itar-Tass via COMTEX) -- Russia's new Nuclear Power Minister Alexander Rumyantsev said he would continue efforts of his predecessor Yevgeny Adamov to move Russian high technologies to world markets.

He said in an interview with Itar-Tass on Friday that major lines of this work would be Russia's building nuclear power plants in other countries and importing irradiated nuclear fuel (INF) for reprocessing.

"The contracts for construction of nuclear power plants abroad that are being carried out now correspond to all world norms and interests of the state, so this work will be continued," Rumyantsev said.

He said Russia has contracts to build nuclear power plants in Iran, China and India.

"The issue of INF is very responsible, high technologies should go to the world market," Rumyantsev said.

He said Russia had to liquidate environmental consequences of its previous industrial accidents. It is planned to get money for this work from accepting INF from other countries for reprocessing.

he Nuclear Power Ministry expects to earn about 21 billion dollars on the world INF market within 20 years. A third of these funds is to go into environmental programmes, Rumyantsev said.
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U.S. Watching Change at Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry Closely
Agence France Presse
March 30, 2001
(for personal use only)

WASHINGTON, Mar 30, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) The United States is closely watching Russian President Vladimir Putin's cabinet changes, but has focused interest on his replacement of controversial nuclear energy minister Yevgeni Adamov, a senior U.S. official said Thursday.

"We think that the atomic energy ministry has been tolerating if not supporting the transfer of sensitive technologies to Iran," the official said, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity.

"Whether the change in leadership stops that or not we'll have to see ... it's hard to say, but we'll be obviously watching carefully because we think that ministry has not been acting consistently with the kind of assurances that we've been getting from Putin," the official said.

Despite pledges from Putin and other top Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and newly named Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, that Moscow intends to abide by its nuclear non-proliferation agreements, Washington and others have accused the ministry of violating those vows.

The United States is most concerned about past and possible future transfers to Iran, which it terms a "rogue state," and has threatened to impose sanctions on Moscow should it continue them.

"Putin and company assure us that Russia intends to stand by its non-proliferation commitments and yet we see an atomic energy ministry that we think has been tolerating if not supporting transfers of sensitive technology to Iran," the U.S. official said.

"We'll see if this leads to greater control," he said, referring to Adamov's replacement, Alexander Rumyantsev, who has been head of the Kurchatov Institute, Russia's main nuclear research establishment, since 1994.

In addition to the U.S. concerns about Adamov, the environmental lobby Greenpeace has accused the minister of illegal nuclear deals.

Last month the anti-corruption committee of the Russian Duma detailed alleged illegal activities by Adamov, accusing him of having interests in at least 10 commercial enterprises in Russia and abroad.

Washington is also watching to see the impact on the Russian military of Putin's replacement of former defense Igor Sergeyev with his close ally, Ivanov, the former national security advisor, the official said.

"Sergei Ivanov going to the defense ministry gives Putin more control and a certain level of civilian control over the defense apparatus," he said, declining to comment on what the United States expected from those changes.
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New Russian Atomic Energy Chief Good News for U.S.
March 29, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Mar 29, 2001 -- (Reuters) Russia's appointment of a new atomic energy minister could be good news for a U.S. administration anxious to keep Iran from obtaining Moscow's nuclear know-how, industry experts said on Thursday.

"President Vladimir Putin's decision to fire Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov is a significant event in the area of nuclear non-proliferation," said Vladimir Orlov, director of the Center for Policy Studies in Russia, in a statement.

Adamov was replaced on Wednesday by Alexander Rumyantsev, the head of the Kurchatov Institute, one of Russia's leading nuclear laboratories. Part of his job will be to ensure Russia's stocks of fissionable material do not fall into the hands of terrorists or states bent on acquiring nuclear arms.

But he has yet to take a public stance on proliferation issues. Moscow insists it is respecting all its international obligations to prevent the spread of nuclear material and know-how. But critics say Adamov's bids to sell Russia's civilian nuclear technology abroad undermined this claim.

The outgoing minister was the prime mover behind India's import of nuclear fuel for its Tarapur power plant, a deal which a dismayed U.S. State Department said raised questions about Russia's commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.

Adamov also wanted to sell Tehran three reactors in addition to a nuclear power plant under construction at Bushehr, in the Gulf, causing further consternation in Washington.

A Deal Too Far?

The daily business newspaper Kommersant said Adamov had been dismissed because the Kremlin was unhappy that he had been "excessively active in reaching nuclear deals with Iran," long a U.S. bogeyman.

"With tensions rising in relations with the United States, Adamov's Iranian projects were inappropriate," Kommersant said. Significantly, Adamov was the only minister not given a new job in Wednesday's reshuffle, it said.

Proliferation issues have been at the heart of a transatlantic slanging match between Washington and Moscow since U.S. President George W. Bush took office.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has accused Moscow of being an "active proliferator" of missile and nuclear technology, which justified the U.S. decision to go ahead with a $60 billion national missile defense shield denounced by Russia.

German police foiled at least two bids to sell nuclear material stolen from Russia in the 1990s. The U.S. Carnegie Endowment think tank has said conspirators tried to steal 18.5 kilograms (40.7 pounds) of weapons-usable material as recently as 1998.

The think tank said less than a tenth of Russia's highly enriched uranium stockpile has been made useless for weapons.

Also in Rumyantsev's in-tray is a plan by his predecessor to import nuclear waste for treatment in Russia. Parliament last week delayed a vote legalizing the imports.

In televised comments on Wednesday, the new minister said the project was "reasonable, but concretely how this should be carried out must be carefully discussed".

Adamov's project, which supporters said could earn Russia $20 billion over two decades, enraged ecology groups and liberals who said it would turn Russia into the world's nuclear dustbin. They say such a scheme is madness in a country whose own storage facilities are in a pitiful state.
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Putin asserts control in government changes - press [Excerpt]
March 29, 2001
(for personal use only)

Kommersant said while the whiff of financial scandal had never been far from ousted atomic energy minister Yevgeny Adamov, he had been removed for being "excessively active in reaching nuclear deals with Iran."

Adamov had been negotiating with Tehran to build three nuclear reactors, in addition to one under construction at Bushehr on the Gulf. "With tensions rising in relations with the United States, Adamov's Iranian projects were inappropriate," it said.

Secret Pact with Yeltsin

Citing Kremlin sources, Sevodnya said Putin had promised Yeltsin he would not change key ministers for a year after his election victory. Two days after the anniversary, he made his move.

"He Did It!" screamed the banner headline of Vremya Novostei. "For a long time the president did not want to replace anyone, even when it was clear there was a need to do so."

Kommersant dismissed Putin's claims that he had made the changes as part of a bold plan to demilitarise public life.

"The president has clearly decided to strengthen personal control over the activities of the power ministries," it said.
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Nuclear Minister Ousted
Yevgenia Borisova
The Moscow Times
March 29, 2001
(for personal use only)

President Vladimir Putin sacked Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov at a time when the minister was coming under mounting pressure for alleged corruption, abuse of office and a controversial plan to import spent nuclear fuel for storage.

As his replacenment, Putin plucked career nuclear official Alexander Rumyantsev from his post as head of the Moscow-based Kurchatov Institute, Russia's oldest nuclear research center.

Lawmakers and environmental activists hailed the ouster of Adamov as a positive step but questioned whether the appointment of Rumyantsev would bring any changes to the policies of the Nuclear Power Ministry.

Rumyantsev himself was vague about his plans Wednesday. He said that developing the nuclear industry would be a priority.

"My first steps will be to study the situation," Rumyantsev was quoted by Interfax as saying. "I have been working in the industry for 32 years. It is like a home to me, but all the same I must find out everything about what is going on."

Adamov's import plan - which envisions Russia raising $20 billion over 12 years by accepting 20,000 tons of spent fuel - would also have to be examined, he said.

"[The project] is expedient : but we must thoroughly discuss the exact way in which it could be implemented," Rumyantsev told ORT television Wednesday night.

Adamov made no comment about his ouster Wednesday.

Putin praised Adamov at the same Cabinet meeting at which he announced his dismissal. "[Adamov] did a lot to strengthen the industry" and that is "a fact," Putin said.

But Adamov remains at the center of an investigation into whether he used his post as nuclear power minister to boost the business of the consulting and trading company Omeka, a U.S.-based firm in which he also owns a stake. The State Duma's anti-corruption commission issued a 20-page report at the beginning of this month questioning Adamov's ties to Omeka after his appointment as minister and his purchase of houses in Switzerland and the United States.

Adamov last week denied any inappropriate conduct in his dealings with Omeka.

The Duma report also accused Adamov of firing a number of experts from the Nuclear Power Ministry and replacing them with business partners incompetent in the field.

The Prosecutor General's Office is investigating the allegations in the report and its "work is still going on," prosecutor's office spokeswoman Natalya Vishnyakova said Wednesday.

But Adamov's lobbying for the Duma to pass bills allowing the import of spent nuclear fuel sparked the loudest outcries. Environmentalists and nuclear experts accused the minister of having no intention of safely storing the radioactive material but of looking for an easy way to earn much-needed cash for the nuclear industry.

As anti-nuclear protesters rallied outside the Duma last week, lawmakers agreed to postpone a second hearing on the bills to further examine the feasibility of the project.

Sergei Mitrokhin, a Duma deputy with the Yabloko faction and a fierce opponent of Adamov's spent fuel project, said the resignation was "very positive."

He said, however, that he was waiting to see what would happen to Adamov's project.

"Whether the project will go ahead very much depends on his [Rumyantsev's] position," Mitrokhin said in a telephone interview. "But I don't know his stance. What I know about him is that his reputation is very good, and this is the most important thing that distinguishes him from Adamov."

But Vladimir Slivyak, a co-founder of the Ecodefense environmental organization, said Rumyantsev has already flirted with the idea of importing nuclear waste. Last year, he said, the Kurchatov Institute teamed up with the Nuclear Power Ministry to draw up a plan to import nuclear waste from Taiwan for storage near Sakhalin island in the Far East.

"We found out about these plans and spoiled the deal," Slivyak said.

Vladimir Kuznetsov, a former high-ranking official at the nuclear safety watchdog Gosatomnadzor and current director of the Russian Green Cross program for nuclear safety, said he doubted that Rumyantsev would take any major steps to change Adamov's policies.

"They are both from the same team," he said. "They [the ministry and Kurchatov Institute] are only separated formally - it is easier to earn money that way."

Kuznetsov added that he believed Rumyantsev lacks strong management skills.

"He has failed to raise money to dispose of radioactive waste on his territory," he said. "Look, he has 2,000 tons of radioactive waste and 900 rods with spent liquid nuclear fuel that are kept in mostly unsafe conditions on the two hectares of area that the institute controls. Some of the storage facilities are just large pits in the ground!"

Kurchatov vice president Nikolai Ponomaryov-Stepnoi disagreed.

"[Rumyantsev] is a very organized person who always makes intelligent and balanced decisions," Ponomaryov-Stepnoi told Interfax.

Alisa Nikulina, a coordinator of the anti-nuclear campaign of the Social-Ecological Union, added: "If Rumyantsev openly supports the import of nuclear waste into Russia, then that would be a clear signal that the Cabinet and the president also support it."
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Russia will see no nuclear waste?
March 28, 2001
(for personal use only)

The most significant appointment in the Russian government is the replacement of the Atomic Energy Minister, Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Union of Right Forces (SPS) faction in the State Duma, said on March 28. He associates this event with reports about corruption in the nuclear ministry. In Nemtsov's view, the passage of the bill on radioactive waste import to Russia will now be slowed down and the policy with regard to Iran will be changed.

The right-wing leader supposes that Yevgeny Adamov has been replaced by Alexander Rumyantsev at the post of atomic energy minister evidently because the information collected by the parliamentary commission for combating corruption on Adamov has been confirmed.

President Putin once said that he would be most strict with officials allowing themselves to have private ties with the West. Russian media have repeatedly reported about the atomic energy minister's relations with organizations abroad.

And not just with minor Western firms, but with big companies working under contracts from the Pentagon and the U.S. Energy Department. Through those companies he established ties with world giants seeking a profit from the $12 billion uranium contract between Russia and the U.S.

Under this contract Russian highly enriched uranium, extracted from nuclear arms, is to be processed into fuel for nuclear power stations. Attention is to be paid here not only to the sums involved in the contract, but also to the technologies and closed information allowing one to get immense profit, say, from future government decisions.

Nemtsov believes that the president preferred to "remove Adamov in order not to compromise himself as well." As for Adamov's successor, Nemtsov said that the near future would show how Rumyantsev would act, in particular, with regard to cooperation with Iran.
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C. U.S. - Russian Relations

Russia plays down possible US cut in non-proliferation aid
Agence France-Presse
March 30, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW, March 30 (AFP) - Moscow sidestepped Friday a strong hint from Washington that it may cut aid meant to stem the proliferation of Russia's nuclear, chemical and biological arsenals, saying it wanted to pursue cooperation in this area.

President George W. Bush said Thursday that he had ordered a review of US non-proliferation aid to Russia. The White House said it would be conducted by the National Security Council, known to be sceptical of such programs.

However, Bush denied that the move, announced in the wake of the worst tit-for-tat expulsions of US and Russian diplomats since the Cold War collapsed, implied a worsening of relations with Moscow.

"We have taken note of US President George Bush's statement confirming his administration's intention to continue and develop cooperation with Russia in reducing the nuclear threat," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said.

"The Russian side is ready for such cooperation," he added, according to a foreign ministry statement received by AFP.

But the spokesman commented that this would have to take place on "the basis of an eventual large-scale reduction of strategic offensive weapons that will maintain and strengthen the foundations of strategic stability."

"We expect a rapid start to Russian-US talks on the whole range of issues of nuclear security," Yakovenko added.

Washington spends more than 760 million dollars a year to help Russia dismantle former Soviet weapons of mass destruction and prevent those arms and their designers from falling into the hands of terrorists and so-called "rogue nations."

"It's in our nation's best interest to work with Russia to dismantle its nuclear arsenal," Bush said. "We want to make sure that any money that is being spent is being spent in an effective way."

A New York Times report, described as "accurate" by the White House, cited an unnamed senior administration official as saying the review would likely result in significant alteration of the aid program.

The senior official told the daily that the assessment should not be viewed as a challenge to Russia or an effort to cancel the assistance, but as a bid to enhance the effectiveness of non-proliferation aid.

But there were questions as to how Moscow would read the move, which comes after it expelled 50 US diplomats in retaliation for Washington's decision to expel 50 Russians, after a top FBI agent was accused of spying for Russia.

Bilateral ties have been further strained by US plans to build a missile defense shield, Russia's cooperation in the nuclear field with Iran and its resumption of conventional arms sales to Tehran.
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Russia Expects Talks with US on Problems of Nuclear Security
Viktor Khrekov
March 30, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Mar 30, 2001 (Itar-Tass via COMTEX) -- Russia is looking forward to Russo-US talks on the entire range of problems related to nuclear security, representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Yakovenko told Itar-Tass on Friday.

Yakovenko commented on a statement made by the US administration which declared that it intends to continue cooperation with Russia, including in matters pertaining to financial assistance to Russia in elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

Moscow has drawn attention to a statement made by the US president who reaffirmed at a press conference in the White House on March 29 that his administration intends to continue and develop cooperation with Russia in the field of lessening nuclear threat, Yakovenko said.

"Russia is prepared for such cooperation, which we believe should be based on subsequent big cuts in strategic offensive weapons under the conditions of maintaining and strengthening the internationally recognised basis of strategic stability" Yakovenko said.

"We are looking forward to the soonest beginning of the Russo-US talks on the entire range of problems of nuclear security," Yakovenko declared.
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D. Russian Nuclear Power Industry

New Nuclear Power Plant Draws Mixed Reaction
Angela Charlton
The Associated Press
March 27, 2001
(for personal use only)

VOLGODONSK, South Russia - For Yuri Kormushkin, the opening of Russia's first new nuclear power plant since the 1986 Chernobyl accident is a colossal accomplishment. Now chief of nuclear safety for the station, he nursed it for most of the 22 years since its conception.

For Alexander Filipenko, the launch is a mistake. The hair on his arm bristles when he describes the intense heat and destruction the reactor's fuel rods can produce. He speaks from memories of sealing the charred gash in Chernobyl's reactor No. 4, and of once-hardy comrades withered from radiation exposure.

Amid increasing power blackouts and deepening energy shortages across this vast country, Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry wants to build 20 new nuclear reactors by 2020 and double reliance on nuclear power. The start-up of the Rostov plant in southern Russia is just the beginning, officials hope.

It marks an end to what many call the Chernobyl era, nearly 15 years of fear that emerged from the radioactive ashes of the world's worst nuclear accident.

The Chernobyl plant is in Ukraine, which won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and Russian officials have tried to distance themselves from responsibility for the accident.

No other former Soviet republic has opened a nuclear plant since the 1986 accident, although Ukraine is keen to finish two long-stalled reactor projects to compensate for the energy lost when it shut down Chernobyl in December after years of international pressure.

Despite warnings from environmental groups about the risks of nuclear power, Russia's government appears to be winning its campaign to convince Russians that nuclear power means jobs and electricity, not death and destruction.

"It really feels like a breakthrough. Other nuclear workers are looking at us with hope," Kormushkin said of the moment when Rostov's Soviet-designed, cylindrical orange reactor was switched on for the first time in mid-February.

Plant officials insist Rostov will never see a Chernobyl-style accident.

Its VVER-1000 reactor has a concrete containment structure that the RBMK model at Chernobyl lacked. That is supposed to contain damage from explosions and withstand a major earthquake or the crash of a 20-ton aircraft. The Rostov reactor's fuel rods also are cooled by pressurized water instead of the less-stable graphite used in RBMKs.

International industry groups and environmental watchdogs acknowledge the VVER-1000 model is the safest of Russia's reactors, but say it still is less reliable than modern Western counterparts.

The government's chronic cash shortages amid Russia's post-Soviet decline kept development of the plant at a standstill in many sectors. Then in 1999, the government saw a windfall from high world prices for oil. Financing for the Rostov plant and other projects resumed.

The Rostov plant will pump electricity to the North Caucasus region.

Environmental groups warn that the Rostov plant was built on earthquake-prone land and worry that it sits on the shore of the Tsmilyansk Reservoir, a key water source.

Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov has promised residents within 30 kilometers of the plant they will get discounted electricity and medical care.

Adamov has also predicted an employment boom for depressed Volgodonsk, a Soviet-era city of 180,000 people adjacent to the plant, which is 1,000 kilometers south of Moscow.

Plant wages average 4,700 rubles ($167) a month, above the Russian median income. But of 3,000 employees, the 300 top wage-earners were brought in from elsewhere in Russia - and most of the 8,000 people who have worked on the recent construction will soon return to joblessness.
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