MOSCOW - A leading Russian environmentalist said Saturday that legislation to allow the import of nuclear waste could face an uphill battle if lawmakers listen to their constituents.
Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, is to vote June 7 on a third and final reading of the legislation, which passed by a wide margin in its second reading last month.
Alexei Yablokov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a leading anti-nuclear campaigner, said recent opinion surveys, including a poll by Greenpeace on Friday, showed that 90 percent of voters are against the plan.
"I think that it will make the deputies think (twice) about passing this law," Yablokov said.
If it passes the Duma, the bill will face a vote in the upper parliament house, the Federation Council. Yablokov said the chamber's chairman, Yegor Stroyev, was opposed the project and had branded it as a plan "designed either for madmen or the mafia."
Russia's new energy minister, Alexander Rumyantsev, has pushed for the legislation allowing the import of spent nuclear fuel rods from other nations since his appointment in March, saying it was essential for Russia to be able to export new nuclear fuel.
Russia's Nuclear Power Ministry has also lobbied for the plan. The ministry says Russia would earn up to $20 billion by importing 22,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel over a 10-year period. Nuclear power stations around the world have about 200,000 tons of waste in temporary storage
Officials have said spent fuel would be sent by armored train to a facility near Chelyabinsk in the Ural Mountains for reprocessing. The recycling process extracts useable nuclear material from the spent rods while reducing their potential to be used in weapons, the Nuclear Power Ministry has said.
A 1992 law forbids importing nuclear materials from countries other than former East Bloc nations with existing contracts. Russia now imports spent fuel rods from Ukraine, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary for reprocessing, a system established during Soviet times. return to menu
2. Russia Sees Payoff in Storing Nuclear Waste from Around the World
New York Times
May 26, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW - Despite some strong opposition from the public at home and by the government in the United States, Russia is preparing to open its borders to become the largest international repository for radioactive nuclear wastes.
With strong backing from President Vladimir V. Putin, the Ministry of Atomic Energy is expected to get a new legal mandate from Parliament next month to offer permanent storage for the highly toxic spent nuclear fuel that has been piling up in temporary storage basins at power plants around the world.
Moscow estimates that it can earn $21 billion in the next two decades by accepting 20,000 tons from 15 countries Russia has identified that would send used reactor cores by ship and train to new installations in Siberia, one of which is nearing completion.
The program would represent a far-reaching development in the international nuclear power industry, as governments in Germany, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are in the midst of national debates over how to dispose of highly radioactive reactor fuel cores. Spent fuel assemblies, filled with toxic byproducts of the nuclear fission that occurs inside reactor cores, must either be buried in secure geologic formations for thousands of years, or reprocessed to recycle the plutonium and uranium in them as new fuel.
But the reprocessing of nuclear fuel has become one of the most delicate issues of the nuclear safety debate because it separates plutonium and uranium in forms that might be stolen or diverted to illicit nuclear weapons programs. Russia, France and Britain reprocess fuel for civilian reactor programs, and Germany and Japan ship spent fuel to England and France for reprocessing, but the issue of permanent storage for most of the world's spent nuclear fuels and their wastes remains an open question.
The United States abandoned reprocessing technologies in the Ford and Carter administrations, citing proliferation dangers in creating a "plutonium economy," higher costs and environmental concerns. The United States is still evaluating whether it can safely store spent fuel and wastes from 104 American reactors at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
A key element in the Russian proposal is to accept the world's spent fuel, charging up to $1,600 per 2.2 pounds to hold it in perpetuity, but also preserving the option to reprocess and resell it should national policies and economics lead to safer reactor designs and new fuel configurations.
Russian officials say they hope to use profits from the new industry to help pay for an extensive environmental cleanup program here and to promote the development of more efficient reactors that would use plutonium-based fuels in a form designed to prevent their diversion for weapons use.
Russia faces enormous cleanup tasks from Soviet-era radiation accidents and illicit dumping at sea by the Soviet and Russian navies. At the same time, the country has trouble meeting the demand for electricity and has five nuclear plants in various stages of completion to bolster the 29 existing plants.
At the heart of Russia's proposal, officials here say, is an attempt to seize a large share of the future market for nuclear energy at a time when industrialized nations are facing increasing demand for electricity and growing concerns about global warming.
"Russia will demonstrate to the world that its technological potential is high, and it will pave the way to new projects," said Aleksandr Rumyantsev, the country's new minister of atomic energy.
Valentin B. Ivanov, the deputy minister, said in an interview this week that Russia was not sure what shape the nuclear industry would take, but that by garnering a significant share of the nuclear fuels market, it could secure a place for itself as an international supplier of nuclear technology.
The Russian initiative comes at a time when the Bush administration has cut funds for joint projects with Russia to reduce plutonium stockpiles, close Soviet-era bomb-making installations and provide financing to Russian nuclear scientists formerly employed in weapons production. At the same time, President Bush has ordered a broad review of nuclear power in the United States, including an examination of safer reactor designs and nuclear fuels resistant to diversion.
The Russian proposal faces immediate obstacles because the United States controls the movement, through licensing agreements, of nuclear fuels now powering most of the reactors operating overseas.
Nonetheless, Russian officials say they hope to reach an agreement with the Bush administration to enter this business. And Washington is expected to come under some pressure to cooperate from governments that have not resolved what to do with their spent nuclear fuel. Some is stored in high-risk earthquake zones, like Taiwan, which has six American-built nuclear reactors and will soon have two more.
Japan has 53 operating reactors and is in the midst of a national debate over how to store its nuclear wastes. In Europe, there are more than 150 nuclear reactors, and France generates 76 percent of its electrical power with nuclear energy.
Though American companies like Westinghouse and General Electric have old nuclear reactors around the world, the United States government has made no commitment to assume responsibility for the long- term storage of spent fuel and its wastes. Washington does retain veto power over where that fuel and be transported.
During the Clinton administration, Washington encouraged Russia to remove a ban on importing spent fuels. By removing the ban, American officials calculated, Russia could help solve the coming crisis over the long-term disposal of toxic wastes, most of them from reactors sold by American companies.
A group of influential Americans, including a former director of central intelligence, William H. Webster, helped to create the Nonproliferation Trust, a private company that has worked to win support and financing for a permanent repository in Russia for 10,000 tons of spent fuel from reactors operating outside the United States.
Despite those efforts, an agreement has been stymied by American concerns over proliferation, Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran, and Moscow's ambition to make use of spent fuels.
Thomas B. Cochran, a longtime environmental activist who promoted the idea of building a Russian repository as a consultant to the Nonproliferation Trust, said Russian officials were unwilling to accept a moratorium on reprocessing spent fuel. For this reason, he said, the new Russian plan will be "dead on arrival on this side of the Atlantic."
Russian officials disagree. They said this week that as soon as they won legislative approval, they would seek to acquire from foreign customers several thousands tons of spent fuel whose movement does not require United States approval. An installation that can hold the first 3,000 tons of fuel is nearing completion in the closed nuclear city Krasnoyarsk- 26 in central Siberia.
"We will act in parallel," said Mr. Ivanov, the deputy atomic energy minister. He added that "we understand that without an agreement with the United States, it is impossible to use the spent fuel" of many countries. But at the same time, he said, "we know that approximately 10 percent of spent fuel exists outside the U.S. umbrella, and we have received information from some governments that they will start negotiations with us if we get this legislation."
Mr. Ivanov, a physicist and reactor designer, said the United States and Russia could decide to work together on a world standard for proliferation-resistant nuclear fuels and reactors, or they can work separately. In any case, it appears that the two nations now face contentious negotiations on competitive strategies for future energy technologies.
From the outset, a major obstacle will be Russia's plans to supply as many as five nuclear reactors to Iran, creating an atomic energy industry in a country that is believed to support terrorism and seeking to develop nuclear weapons in secret.
Rose Gottemoeller, a former Department of Energy official who supervised nonproliferation programs involving Russia in the Clinton administration. said: "The Bush administration could just continue to stiff-arm Russia on the spent fuel storage issue, saying, `No way, no how' because it can't keep its own nuclear material safe, so why encourage more."
"But there is a new game in town," she said, noting Mr. Bush's interest in re-examining overall nuclear energy policy.
"The administration will at least want to examine this storage idea with the Russians in order to get them to come to the table and get our Iran questions resolved," she said, adding that new technologies in Russia also may warrant study.
Still, there is high-level resistance in Washington to any strategy that would add to Russia's inventory of nuclear fuels and wastes when major issues of radioactive contamination in parts of Russia remain outstanding, along with security concerns over the safe storage of weapons- grade uranium and plutonium.
Kathleen Crane, a geophysicist from Hunter College in New York who mapped radioactive contamination in Russia from 1993 to 1997, said she had long been opposed to allowing spent fuel to be stored in Russia.
But, she said, "nuclear waste is going to be imported by Russia whatever we do, and instead of just letting it happen, we and the rest of the world should take an active role in trying to control it."
Though they acknowledge a grim Soviet legacy that includes the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine and other serious accidents, Russian officials seem determined to take this new legislative step despite polls that show that the public overwhelmingly opposes it if only to position Russia to profit from an industry that, worldwide, may be discovering a new momentum.
Russian officials say they have conducted experiments on a new type of fast breeder reactor, long thought to be too dangerous because its fuel "breeds" more plutonium, creating proliferation risks when that plutonium is recovered in reprocessing.
In coming months, a Russian research reactor will begin testing a new fast reactor fuel that combines plutonium and uranium in a form that cannot be used for nuclear weapons and that does not require traditional reprocessing, said Anatoly S. Polyakov, deputy director of the Bochvar Research Institute here.
"We have a lot to offer," he said, "but the only way for cooperation with the United States is that it be mutually beneficial." return to menu
3. Waste Dump Opened
May 29, 2001
(for personal use only)
OSLO, Norway - Russia's Northern Fleet opened a secret nuclear waste dump in the Arctic to outside inspection for the first time Monday, after years of pressure from its smaller neighbor Norway.
A Norwegian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide was allowed into the Andreyeva Bay base, where tons of highly radioactive waste are stored roughly 45 kilometers from the Russian-Norwegian frontier.
"This really is an area we must do something about. Very large amounts of radioactive waste are stored here under very unfavorable conditions, and we have seen a facility marked by such decay that there is reason to take action as soon as possible," Eide said from Russia in an interview broadcast by the Norwegian state radio network NRK.
Andreyeva Bay is considered one of the world's most radioactively dangerous places. There are more than 100 nuclear submarines at Russia's Northern Fleet bases on the Kola Peninsula, where northwestern Russia borders Norway. return to menu
B. Plutonium Disposition
1. Ecologists Consider Use of MOX-Fuel Environmentally Dangerous
Interfax News Agency
May 25, 2001
(for personal use only)
Moscow -- The use of MOX-fuel (a uranium- plutonium mix) in Russian BOR-60 and BN-600 type reactors represents "a serious real danger to the country's ecology," Vladimir Slivyak, co- chairman of the international environmental group Ekozashita!, said.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, he noted that the use of this type of fuel at Russian nuclear power plants is foreseen in a Russian-American agreement on "the management and distribution of plutonium declared excessive to defense needs."
According to the ecologist, these reactors are designed for other types of fuel "and use of MOX-fuel in these reactors will lead not to changes in the isotope composition of the arms grade plutonium, but to an increased amount of plutonium in the spent fuel."
"If the agreement is carried out in its current form, the risk of an accident and of plutonium contamination of the environment in Russia will increase significantly," he said.
However, he added "the agreement will more than likely not be implemented in the near future due to its high cost- about$ 1.2 billion for Russia and two times higher for the U.S."
According to participants in the press conference, since 1949 a total of 250 accidents have occurred at Russian nuclear cycle companies, including 39 accidents in the past eight years. return to menu
C. Nuclear Smuggling
1. Experts Discuss Threats Of Nuclear Trafficking
Glenn Roberts Jr.
MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers
May 28, 2001
(for personal use only)
International smuggling of radioactive materials is on the rise, with 370 confirmed cases since 1993, and nations must do more to stop the illegal trade, experts said at a conference in Sweden this month.
"While most of these incidents do not involve material that can be used for making nuclear weapons, the high number of events shows that we have reason to be concerned," said Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in his opening address.
About 300 experts, including Lawrence Livermore Laboratory researchers, participated in the agency's International Conference on Security of Nuclear Material and Radioactive Sources.
Researchers for the energy agency reported at the conference that a database of nuclear trafficking has recorded about 550 reported incidents from Jan. 1, 1993, to March 31, 2001, and two-thirds of the incidents have been confirmed.
"The frequency of confirmed incidents has grown in recent years," the researchers reported, and the number of cases per year in 1999 and 2000 was about double the amount in 1996.
About 9 percent of the cases involved highly enriched uranium or plutonium, according to the report. These materials could be useful to the manufacture of nuclear weapons. In one of these incidents, about 2.2 pounds of highly enriched uranium was seized.
Stanley Erickson, who works in Livermore Lab's Nonproliferation, Arms Control and International Security program, attended the conference to present possible strategies for protecting against nuclear smuggling.
"The smuggling of nuclear materials is a matter of grave consequence, and if allowed to occur in sufficient amount could lead to nuclear terrorism or nuclear proliferation," Erickson stated in a paper that he prepared with a U.S. Energy Department expert.
Informants can be very useful in tracking illegal nuclear trafficking, the paper states. And disinformation campaigns intended to thwart would-be smugglers can also prove effective.
"What deters is perception. If the perception that nuclear smuggling is unlikely to succeed is spread to potential smugglers, deterrence will be achieved," the paper states.
Establishing radiation-sensing equipment at the "least risky smuggling routes" should be a priority, and conducting specialized training for law enforcement and transportation workers could curb nuclear trafficking, the paper also states.
Sidney Niemeyer, a Livermore Lab researcher, discussed the expanding focus of an International Technical Working Group, formed in 1995 to foster cooperation in combating illicit nuclear trafficking.
While the group initially concentrated on developing laboratory methods to help pinpoint the source of smuggled nuclear materials, its mission now includes the detection of nuclear materials during transit.
According to a paper prepared by Niemeyer and a collaborator who works for the European Commission Joint Research Centre in Germany, many of the group's members "are directly involved in detecting transit of material" for their respective governments, and "this topic frequently arises" during the group's meetings.
Friedrich Steinhausler, a physicist at the University of Salzburg in Austria who has served as a visiting expert at Stanford University, concluded in a paper presented at the conference that even in the highly regulated United States, "about 200 radioactive sources are reported lost, stolen or abandoned every year."
And "internationally, customs officers and border guards are facing an increasing illicit flow of nuclear material." The materials can be difficult to detect, he states in the research paper. Conference participants concluded that nations must do more, both individually and cooperatively, to improve security for nuclear materials. return to menu
D. ABM Treaty and National Missile Defense
1. Russia Cool On US Missile Treaty Offer
Edward Luce and Robert Cottrell
May 28, 2001
(for personal use only)
Russia gave a cool response on Monday to US plans to offer Moscow a range of military incentives in exchange for its agreement to scrap the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
The treaty bans the development, testing or deployment of weapons in outer space.
Officials in Washington said the proposals were part of a broader drive by the US administration to win over its allies and partners in Europe and Asia to the merits of the national missile defence system.
In particular, the Bush administration is thought to be seeking to drive a wedge between Russia and China, both of which strongly oppose the national missile defence plan.
However, Igor Ivanov, Russia's foreign minister, on Monday said that Russia would remain allied to China in its opposition to US missile defence.
"It cannot be tolerated that any steps should be taken damaging the security interests of this or that state, including, of course, China," he said.
Sergei Ivanov, Russia's defence minister, said Moscow could not formulate a precise response until the US proposals were formally submitted to Moscow.
"We had discussions with the Clinton administration and we are ready to have them with the Bush administration," he said.
"But in order for them to proceed, they have to have an object. You need a concrete understanding of what the other side wants. So far it isn't there."
US officials said the proposals, including the US purchase of Russia's S300 surface-to-air missiles and joint co-operation on upgrading Russia's early warning systems, would be put to their Russian counterparts in the next few weeks.
President George W. Bush is scheduled to meet President Vladimir Putin for the first time in Europe next month and again at a summit in July.
Bush administration officials have sought over the past few weeks to tone down significantly their rhetoric on national missile defence in response to disquiet in Europe that Washington might act unilaterally.
The announcement last week that Senator James Jeffords was leaving the Republican party and thereby handing control of the Senate to the Democrats has persuaded White House officials that it also needs to win over moderate Democrats.
Senator Tom Daschle, who is to become the Democrat majority leader of the Senate, said at the weekend that the Bush administration would face a rough ride in pushing the NMD proposals through Congress.
Both Joseph Biden, the Democrat senator from Delaware who is expected to become chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, and Senator Carl Levin, who is expected to become chairman of the Senate armed services committee, have expressed opposition to key elements of the NMD plan. return to menu
E. Cooperative Threat Reduction
1. U.S. Rethinks Nuclear Aid To Russia: Suspicions, Cost Spur A Review Of Program to Defuse Soviet-Era Arms
Stephen J. Hedges and James Warren
29 May 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- Deep in the heart of Russia sits a nearly completed, $640 million concrete and steel structure designed to store plutonium from Russia's dismantled nuclear weapons. But the Russians didn't pay for the high-tech building at Mayak, a city devoted to nuclear weapons production during the Cold War.
American taxpayers did.
And while some cite the structure as a shining example of helping Russia reduce its dangerous nuclear stockpile, others contend the U.S. is being hoodwinked into financing an upgrade of Russia's weapons complex, one that may make the world even less safe.
Indeed, Mayak's rising expense -- government auditors say it may end up costing the United States $1.3 billion -- is a key element of a Bush administration review of all U.S.-Russia nuclear, biological and chemical non-proliferation initiatives that have blossomed during 10 years of post-Cold War diplomacy. The programs have cost the U.S. nearly $5 billion.
The aim is to reduce weapons of mass destruction and make them more secure, a vital task that Russia clearly cannot do without financial and technical aid. But now, Bush administration officials say, some such initiatives may be cut back or eliminated.
The reappraisal is overseen by the National Security Council, where weekly meetings are held with the Defense, Energy and State Departments, which run the programs. The results of the study are soon expected to go to President Bush.
The review comes as the administration charts a new course in U.S.-Russian relations, moving from rapprochement and financial assistance to one of harder bargains and arms-length diplomacy.
"We need to be aware of the fact that Russia, in particular, claims to lack the financial resources to eliminate weapons of mass destruction but continues to invest scarce resources in the development of newer, more sophisticated [intercontinental ballistic missiles] and other weapons," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently told the U.S. Senate.
The collapse of the Soviet Union left nearly 30,000 nuclear weapons spread mostly across the four new nations of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakstan and Belarus. U.S. diplomacy and money persuaded Kazakstan, Belarus and Ukraine to ship hundreds of missiles and warheads back to Russia, where they could be disposed of more readily.
Even before the reassessment, the administration's tentative budget for fiscal 2002 cut at least $100 million from non-proliferation programs. The move upset influential Republican senators, including Pete Domenici of New Mexico, now head of the Budget Committee; Ted Stevens of Alaska, now chairman of the Appropriations Committee; and Richard Lugar of Indiana, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and a longtime proponent of aiding Russian disarmament. The three will remain potent forces even with the upcoming switch to Democratic control of the Senate.
Businesses and federal agencies in 26 states benefit from the Russian nuclear salvage operations, including two national laboratories in Domenici's state.
Lugar acknowledges that "the Russians are not very cooperative in some of these places at all" and that some programs might have to go. But he says the destruction of weapons has been an unheralded success and should continue at a faster pace.
"We should have deactivated more warheads each year," Lugar said. "From the beginning, I would have spent more. The Russians still have thousands of warheads and hundreds of ICBMs, and that is the reality of the world."
The programs, initially focused on deactivating nuclear weapons, now include converting Russian nuclear sites to peaceful uses, retraining and finding work for an estimated 7,000 scientists and other workers, and tightening security around hundreds of often poorly guarded facilities.
Among those initiatives, the storage facility at Mayak, a central Russian city in the Ural Mountains, is a favorite of critics. Mayak was one of the Soviet Union's 10 "secret" nuclear cities, places that couldn't be found on a map but where nuclear weapons were built. Mayak's main mission was to produce plutonium for each weapon's critical core.
When the Cold War ended, Russia asked the U.S. for help in building a storage facility at Mayak for the plutonium and uranium that would be removed from weapons. The cost of such a specialized structure was estimated at $500 million. The two nations agreed to split the cost.
But by 1996, the U.S. already had spent $20 million on the building when the Russians changed their minds about the method for storing the containers of plutonium.
Kremlin's '11th-hour' change
"At the 11th hour, the Russians said, 'We want to store it vertically,' which would have required redesigning the whole building, which we did," said F. James Shafer of the U.S. General Accounting Office, which reviewed the Mayak project. "At the time, we were still negotiating with the Russians for access. We never got the transparency. The Russians wouldn't provide it, but we went ahead and built the facility."
There may be more costs. The U.S. already has spent $37 million for containers that will be used at Mayak and it expects to spend another $650 million to help Russia prepare its uranium and plutonium for storage.
Nonetheless, the Russians are balking at earlier pledges to allow U.S. officials access to the facility when it is completed. Without such access, U.S. officials can't be sure just what is being stored at Mayak. Still unanswered is who will pay Mayak's $10 million annual operating costs once it opens. Proliferation experts also complain that Mayak only warehouses, and doesn't reduce, Russia's weapons capability.
"Mayak is a big pyramid that you cram valuable stuff into," said Henry Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Education Policy Center in Washington. "But how does that solve your problem?"
Champions of the storage center hold up Mayak as an example of the progress that has been made in helping Russia reduce its nuclear weapons stockpile. In 10 years, they note, Russia has dismantled more than 5,500 nuclear weapons, 1,100 missiles, 85 bombers and other arms. The only alternative, these experts say, is doing nothing, and getting nothing in return.
"I'm hoping that, over time, people will come to understand that it's within the United States' national interest to have warhead plants shut down," said Rose Gottemoeller, formerly the undersecretary for nuclear non-proliferation in the Department of Energy.
Gottemoeller said that while working with the Russians is often frustrating and expensive, the projects have given American scientists and military officials a rare window onto Russia's "holiest of holies," its nuclear complex.
A decade ago, Lugar and then-Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) put the notion of disarming Russia into legislation, crafting a law in 1991 that authorized the Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction, or CTR, within the Pentagon.
Since then, the CTR has carried out a plan that, by 2007, calls for the elimination of nearly 9,900 Russian nuclear warheads, more than 2,000 missiles, 1,400 launchers and silos, 93 bombers, and 41 nuclear submarines. Along the way, though, the Pentagon agency has strayed into several projects, some of them mandated by Congress, that by many accounts became fiascoes.
The agency lost $65 million, for example, on the Defense Enterprise Fund, a private investment initiative to convert Russian defense industries into high-tech manufacturing.
In 1995, the CTR transferred a portion of its work to the U.S. Energy Department, whose national laboratories had 50 years of experience in making and securing nuclear weapons. The department launched the Material Protection Control and Accounting program, which has helped the Russians keep track of its weapons material and better secure it.
Since then, Energy Department contractors have installed everything from security fences to cameras to steel doors at nuclear sites. They have provided guard training and handheld devices that measure radioactive material. Computers have replaced pencil and paper as Russia's means of tracking its nuclear inventory.
"We have a much better understanding than we did in 1994 and 1995," Gottemoeller said. "The Russians are beginning to trust us. They know us better."
Along the way, however, Russia has failed to pay its promised share on Mayak and several other projects, even for minimal expenses. At one point, Energy officials say, the U.S. paid for food and winter clothing for guards at a Russian nuclear center where security had been beefed up at American expense.
U.S. scientists denied access
Russia also has been stingy about granting U.S. scientists access to projects where American equipment is being installed. In 1999 alone, the Russians denied visits by U.S. officials 25 times, according to the Energy Department.
That lack of access makes it difficult to know just how effective the new security measures are. And the upgrades made so far affect just 7 percent of the estimated 650 million tons of weapons material in Russia, according to the GAO.
"Although the United States has spent $481 million to upgrade security systems at Russian laboratories with weapons-grade nuclear materials, because of access problems we may not know if some of these systems are being used as intended and properly maintained," GAO Associate Director Harold Johnson told the Senate a year ago.
A program to dilute 500 million tons of Russia's highly enriched uranium and sell it to the U.S. Enrichment Corp. is finally under way after years of haggling. But while that arrangement takes uranium out of Russia, critics note that it will eventually pay $12 billion to Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy, known as Minatom, which is still designing atomic weapons.
"We have no idea where that money's going," said Sokolski. "If we're lucky, it's going to finance dachas or Bermuda vacations [for corrupt Russian officials]."
Some Russians also are concerned about that money, and what Minatom might do with it.
"We have very big doubts that the profits from the transactions will really be spent on the lofty aims proclaimed by Minatom," said Sergei Mitrokhin of the liberal Yabloko faction in the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament.
"But we have even more doubts that any of this money is going to be spent on something socially useful."
With the U.S. policy review under way, each government agency is waiting too see how much of its programs will remain, and just how they will fit in to what will be a decidedly different approach to Russia's potential threat.
A task force organized by Clinton administration Energy Secretary Bill Richardson issued a report in January that described the security of Russian nuclear weapons as "the most urgent, unmet national security threat to the United States today." The 18-member task force, half of whose members are retired senators and members of Congress, recommended spending another $30 billion over the next 8 to 10 years.
Bush is not likely to buy into that strategy. Although the White House will not make its results known for several more weeks, administration officials have already signaled that changes are in the wind, well beyond the $100 million in cuts they already have targeted.
"I suspect there will be other cuts," said one administration official involved in the review. "And frankly, some of these programs should be cut." return to menu
F. HEU Purchase Agreement
1. Nuclear Deal with Russia
Letter to the Editor
May 26, 2001
The May 7 Business article "Nuclear Fuel Firm Fights for Russia Deal" quoted me out of context, thus distorting my views.
I was quoted as saying that USEC Inc.'s privatization has "worked pretty well." But I made this remark in reference to the accomplishments under the U.S.-Russian highly enriched uranium (HEU) purchase deal. One can be a strong supporter of the HEU deal and the fact that it has resulted in the elimination of Russian weapon-grade nuclear material but still have reservations -- as I do -- about the implementing agent and its ability to balance profit-making goals with the execution of a major U.S.-Russian security initiative.
BILL HOEHN Washington Office Director Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council Washington return to menu