MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia has condemned the U.S. for its decision to accelerate missile defence technology testing.
Moscow says the move signals Washington's withdrawal from the 1972 anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty, which bans national missile shields.
Now Russian officials are urging the U.S. to consult Moscow before pushing further ahead with the plans.
On Thursday a U.S. State Department memo sent to embassies around the world said President George W. Bush's missile defence proposals would likely come into conflict with the ABM Treaty "in months, not years."
But the White House says it intends to reach a new understanding with the Kremlin.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov refrained from commenting directly on the memo, merely telling The Associated Press that "making estimates on the basis of some publications would be wrong."
Ivanov referred to an agreement between Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, made during their summit in Slovenia last month, to hold consultations on the ABM treaty.
He said: "We will hold consultations in a constructive way, taking into account interests of our partners."
The unclassified State Department memorandum to all U.S. diplomatic posts, a copy of which was obtained by CNN, said deployment of an interim ground-based missile defence system in Alaska could be completed as early as 2004.
Vladimir Rushailo, secretary of Russia's Security Council, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying: "Russia, as well as many other countries, believes that a unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the ABM Treaty would lead to the destruction of strategic stability."
U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said in Washington that the Pentagon planned to begin construction next April for missile defence tests that could violate the treaty.
Wolfowitz said there would likely be legal arguments about whether such activities violated the ABM treaty but added that the administration intended to reach a new understanding with Russia that would cover such concerns.
CNN's Jamie McIntyre reported that U.S. Democrats were concerned that Russia would respond by putting more warheads on its missiles, and China by building up its nuclear arsenal.
Senator Carl Levin said: "If that is the response, and that very well could be the response, we then have a new arms race on our hands, a new Cold War on our hands, and a greater proliferation threat on our hands."
The Pentagon insisted Russia would agree to amend the treaty, since the limited missile defence offers no protection against the vast Russian nuclear arsenal, but said the U.S. would not violate the agreement:
The revved-up plan calls for breaking ground for a new missile test site at Fort Greely, Alaska, next April, and upgrading existing radar on Alaska's Shemya island.
That could give the U.S. rudimentary anti-missile capability with about 10 interceptors by 2004, two years before the scheduled deployment in 2006.
The airborne laser could be also be pressed into emergency service by 2004, four years ahead of schedule, the Pentagon claims.
And the ambitious plan also calls for testing space-based lasers to shoot down missiles between 2005 and 2006.
But McIntyre added that many critics regard the missile defence shield system as "pie in the sky."
John Isaacs, of the Council for Livable World, said: "It's a shield of dreams. It's a system that there's no notion whether it will work but yet they want to deploy something in the next four years." return to menu
2. Senate Democrats Blast Bush's Missile Defense Plan
July 13, 2001
(for personal use only)
Senate Democrats sharply criticized the Bush administration's missile defense plan yesterday, saying they did not want to vote on an $8 billion request for the program without knowing whether it would violate an arms control treaty.
Pentagon officials responded that they could not say whether the accelerated testing and initial construction planned for fiscal 2002 would break the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, because that was a matter of interpretation.
The conflict emerged as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz gave Congress its first detailed description of the program, which goes well beyond the ground-based interceptor system pursued by the Clinton administration. President Bush's plan includes sea-launched missiles and lasers mounted on airplanes, both of which are prohibited by the ABM Treaty.
"We will not conduct tests solely for the purpose of exceeding the constraints of the treaty," Wolfowitz told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "But neither will we design our program to avoid doing so. . . . Such an event is likely to occur in months, rather than in years."
The admission sparked an angry response from Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the committee's chairman. He noted that the official seated beside Wolfowitz, Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald T. Kadish, director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, told the panel three weeks ago that none of the testing planned for fiscal 2002, which begins Oct. 1, would violate the treaty.
"That's what you told us, general," Levin said. "Three weeks ago. Something's changed in the last three weeks."
"We are in a gray area," Wolfowitz replied. He said it is not clear whether breaking ground next month for a test facility in Alaska would violate the treaty "if you harbor the intention" of turning the test site into an interceptor base, as the administration does.
In Moscow, meanwhile, Russian officials warned that scuttling the treaty could set off an arms race and prompt Russia to refit its missiles with multiple warheads, which have been removed in recent years. Igor Sergeyev, a security adviser to President Vladimir Putin, accused Washington of using "the smoke screen" of consultations to obscure that it "has obviously made the decision to leave the 1972 ABM Treaty."
Publicly, Russian officials did not explain at what point they would consider the treaty to be violated. But the Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed, high-ranking defense official as saying, "We will view the first cubic meter of concrete laid under the launching pad to intercept missiles in Alaska as the U.S.'s formal withdrawal" from the pact.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, speaking at a policy forum on Capitol Hill, said the only action contemplated in Alaska in the near future was the clearing of trees for a test site at Fort Greely, near Fairbanks. "Tearing down trees -- no lawyer that I know thinks that is a treaty violation," Rumsfeld said.
He, like Wolfowitz, said the administration has not been secretive that its plans eventually will "bump up against" the ABM Treaty, which bans any nationwide shield against long-range missiles.
Both officials said, however, that they did not intend to abrogate the treaty. Rather, they promised to seek negotiations with Russia over a new security framework that would permit development of a missile shield.
"If we found there was no way to reach a truly mutual agreement, you would have to then say, 'Well, we do need to have missile defense, we do need to go forward, and therefore we need to give the six-month notification' " required before withdrawing from the treaty, Rumsfeld said. " Is that going to happen? No, I think we're going to find a way to have some mutual understanding."
Sen. John Warner (Va.) and other Republican members of the Armed Services Committee strongly supported the administration's missile defense plan. Not all Democrats opposed it, either.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Ct.) complimented Wolfowitz and Kadish for "speaking directly about this new approach."
"I, for one, will not shy away from supporting authorization or an appropriation that might necessitate a withdrawal from the ABM Treaty if I am convinced that it is necessary to do so for . . . national security, and that the administration has made every possible effort to negotiate . . . with the Russians," Lieberman said.
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) spoke for many of his fellow Republicans when he told Wolfowitz and Kadish, "Spending money to defend the United States of America from intercontinental ballistic missiles ought to be the top priority that we have."
Correspondent Susan Glasser contributed to this report from Moscow. return to menu
3. Democrats Pelt Bush's Missile Shield with Verbal Attacks
Senators allege White House duplicity on fate of ABM Treaty; Pentagon requests another $3 billion
Los Angeles Times
July 13, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- The administration's ambitious plans for missile defense came under sharp attack Thursday from Senate Democrats in the opening clash of a gathering congressional battle over one of President Bush's priorities.
As Pentagon officials unveiled plans to hike antimissile spending and build a missile site in Alaska, Democrats challenged the wisdom of a program that could require withdrawal from an arms control treaty signed 29 years ago with the Soviet Union.
Some Democrats accused the administration of withholding key details of its plans and suggested that it is concealing its intention to quickly deploy a system that would conflict with the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz at a hearing that he had repeatedly pressed administration officials to answer whether their development plans would require withdrawal from the treaty.
But the administration had provided no answers and hadn't done a legal analysis on whether a new round of tests would violate the treaty, said Levin, a leading critic of the administration's plans.
"You're proceeding without it and you're asking us to proceed without it" in approving the fiscal 2002 defense budget, said a visibly angry Levin. "And I hope we don't."
As part of its pledge to deploy a missile defense system as soon as possible, the administration has drafted plans to increase antimissile spending by $3 billion next year, to $8.3 billion, and to conduct a wide range of tests on a variety of technologies. The Bush administration wants to develop a "layered" system that could knock down incoming missiles at three stages in their flight: in the first few minutes, in the "mid-course" phase and in the final seconds before the fall to Earth.
The most controversial element in the new program is a plan to begin building a new missile test site at Ft. Greely, Alaska, near Fairbanks. The test site would include five to 10 missiles and could be deployed as an emergency response to the threat of missile attacks on the United States.
Administration officials said they intend to begin clearing the site of trees next month and want to begin construction of the test bed in April 2002. Wolfowitz, in an apparent reference to these plans, told lawmakers that the construction could put the United States in conflict with the treaty by April.
Administration officials continued to give off contradictory signals about their plans regarding the treaty.
In recent days, the administration has been circulating within the government and to allies a new policy statement on missile defense that says the program "will conflict" with the treaty "within months, not years."
But at an appearance Thursday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sought to distance himself from the official statement. He insisted that he had no hand in drafting it and asserted that officials "can't know" when the program will conflict with the treaty, since the rate of progress on the program can't be foreseen.
Yet news of the administration's policy statement brought a swift reaction from abroad.
Vladimir B. Rushailo, head of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin's Security Council, told reporters in Belarus that unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty "would lead to the destruction of strategic stability, a new powerful spiral in the arms race, particularly in space, and the development of means for overcoming the national missile defense system."
The administration's program also came in for criticism from Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.). He chided Wolfowitz for asserting that the test program could "bump up" against the treaty without violating it, until lawyers determined that a violation had occurred.
Cleland called this "bumping up against the treaty . . . but not inhaling," in a reference to former President Clinton's 1992 description of how he had tried marijuana.
Cleland said that, although he supported missile defense programs aimed at protecting troops against shorter-range missiles, longer-range systems that threaten the treaty "throw the baby out with the bathwater. That's where I get off the boat," Cleland said.
Lawmakers and analysts predicted that the fight over the new missile defense site and the budget would be a pitched contest.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a leading advocate of the system, declared at a Capitol Hill meeting that the fight over missile defense would become "the mother of all battles."
As chairman of the authorizing committee, Levin will have considerable influence over the defense authorization bill that is due for completion in the next few weeks.
Levin may be able to cut deals to shift missile defense funds to unrelated home-state projects in return for some lawmakers joining his opposition to the system; he may also be able to shift money from the missile defense pot to other military accounts that are considered underfunded.
"He's very good at it," Kyl said.
Many Democratic senators are skeptical of the program, starting with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who has called it a "lemon."
But other prominent Democrats are sympathetic to the administration, including Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), who argued in the committee Thursday that the administration should be given some leeway to carry out its plan. return to menu
4. Arms Tests to Stray from ABM Pact
July 13, 2001
(for personal use only)
The United States is planning tests that would stray from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty "in months rather than in years" to achieve President Bush's vision of a global defense against ballistic missiles, the Pentagon's No. 2 official testified yesterday.
The blunt declaration from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz came in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Majority Democrats want to scale back Mr. Bush's $8.3 billion request for missile defense next year.
Mr. Wolfowitz told the committee of an expanded and accelerated test plan, beginning in 2002, that would have the United States build a new interceptor site in Alaska and test the Navy's powerful Aegis radars at sea. The goal is to activate a "layered defense" against ballistic missiles, a far more ambitious and costly security architecture than previously envisioned by the Clinton administration.
"As the program develops and the various testing activities mature, one or more of those will inevitably bump up against treaty restrictions and limitations," Mr. Wolfowitz told the committee. "Such an event is likely to occur in months, rather than in years."
But the deputy secretary painted an optimistic picture of how Moscow will ultimately react. He predicted that the United States will reach an "understanding" with Russian President Vladimir Putin in order that tests which conflict with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty constraints may be conducted.
If Russia says no, Mr. Wolfowitz said, the administration has two choices: "either to allow an obsolete treaty to prevent us from doing everything we can to defend America or to withdraw from that treaty unilaterally, which we have every legal right to do."
Committee Democrats, however, remain skeptical. Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, portrayed the Cold War ABM pact as the glue that holds other arms treaties together. He suggested Russia, China and other nations will respond by igniting a new arms race and increase the deployment of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in order to compensate for this country's limited anti-missile defense system.
"Would that response increase the possibility that unimaginable horrors of a nuclear attack would be rained upon us as a result of breaching the treaty?" he asked.
Mr. Wolfowitz said the envisioned system is only designed to knock down a relatively small number of missiles and thus there is no need for Russia to increase an arsenal that could already overwhelm U.S. anti-missile defenses.
While Mr. Wolfowitz was putting Congress on notice that Mr. Bush plans to keep his campaign promise to field a defense system, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also appeared on Capitol Hill before a pro-defense group to make the same point.
"The United States is not going to violate the treaty," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "If we get to the point where we need to get beyond the treaty and we haven't been able to negotiate something, obviously, there's a provision you can withdraw in six months and that's what you'd have to do."
The administration's offensive on missile defense came two days before the Pentagon conducts an important test of a proposed ground-based interceptor. Tomorrow night's flight test, involving an interceptor and a dummy ballistic missile, is the first since July 2000, when the attempt to "hit a bullet with a bullet" failed.
Mr. Wolfowitz made an impassioned call for the committee to approve Mr. Bush's $8.3 billion request, a 57 percent increase over this year's budget. He said the world has changed considerably since the now-defunct Soviet Union and the United States signed the 1972 ABM Treaty. He said only nine countries possessed ballistic missiles 29 years ago; today, that number has increased to 28. He said the United States has made little progress in developing a defense to stop any type of ballistic missile attack since an Iraqi Scud missile 10 years ago struck a barracks in Saudi Arabia, killing 28 American service members.
"While we have been debating the existence of the threat for nearly a decade, other countries have been busily acquiring, developing and proliferating missile technology," he told the committee. "Thanks in no small part to the constraints of the ABM Treaty we have wasted the better part of a decade. We cannot afford to waste another one." return to menu
5. For the Record: Condoleeza Rice
July 13, 2001
(for personal use only)
From remarks by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice at a National Press Club luncheon yesterday in Washington:
The president has made very clear that he believes that the problems with the ABM Treaty are really twofold. First of all, it is a treaty that was intended to prohibit the building of missile defenses. So, of course, it is very hard to build, and test and develop missile defenses within the context of the treaty. He has also made clear that he believes that it is a treaty that is anachronistic . . . a treaty that enshrines our hostile relationship with Soviet Union rather than our promising new relationship with Russia. And so, he has made very clear that at some point he, in seeking the most effective technologies for missile defense, understands that the treaty will become an impediment to seeking those new technologies.
Now, the Defense Department is developing a test program, and the guidance to them is to look at all basing modes and to look at the most effective ways to defend America's territories, our friends and allies and our troops abroad. . . .
And so we look to move cooperatively with the Russians. We've begun those discussions. We've begun them with our allies. We are talking about it on the Hill. And I believe that the president is confident that he can bring others around to his way of thinking, that it is time to stop the balance of terror as the basis of the relationship and to move to a fundamentally different relationship. return to menu
6. DOD's Wolfowitz Says Ballistic Missile Threat Is Real
Says administration wants relief from ABM constraints)
Jacquelyn S. Porth
U.S. Department of State Washington File
July 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
Washington -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says the threat from ballistic missiles is not fictional, limited, or even remote and will not disappear "if one or another troublesome regime disappears."
Wolfowitz also told the Senate Armed Services Committee July 12 that the Bush administration "must achieve release from the constraints" of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.
Wolfowitz testified before the committee with Air Force Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), as part of the administration's effort to present its case for missile defense and consult on what it sees as the need to move beyond the ABM Treaty.
Committee Chairman Carl Levin (Democrat, Michigan) pointed out that while the President has the right to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, Congress "has the heavy responsibility of determining whether or not to appropriate the funds for activities that conflict with a treaty."
Given the administration's budget request for $8 billion ($8,000 million) for missile defense in the 2002 fiscal year that begins October 1, 2001, Levin said it is essential for senators to understand the consequences of the proposed spending, since some, "are concerned about whether a treaty violation would leave America less secure" because it might spark an arms race that would increase the amount of nuclear materials in the world, thereby increasing the nuclear proliferation threat.
Coming to an understanding about the budget consequences of missile defense spending is "also essential for those who are concerned about the huge one-year increase in funding for missile defense, given other pressing defense needs," he said.
Kadish said the existing research and development program does not define a specific architecture, nor does it rush to deploy untested systems. .He described the program as "a bold move to develop an effective, integrated layered defense (sea-, land- and air-based) that can be deployed as soon as possible against ballistic missiles at all ranges." The BMDO director also noted that program managers no longer differentiate between national missile defense and theater missile defense when describing the overall program.
He said that managers will not cut corners in pursuing missile defenses designed to protect the forces and territories of the United States, its allies and friends. At the same time, Wolfowitz said, money will not be thrown away on missile defense. The program has been designed, Kadish said, "so that, in an emergency and if directed, we might quickly deploy test assets against a rapidly emerging threat," as has been done in the Persian Gulf War and Kosovo. He said redundancy is needed for the program to succeed.
BMDO has scheduled the next missile defense interceptor test -- the first in a year -- for July 14. If it goes well, a follow-up test can be expected in October or November and then tests will occur with greater frequency. Kadish told committee members there will be both success and failures ahead. He acknowledged that major difficulties must be overcome for the relevant technologies to work reliably and effectively, describing it as "an engineering challenge at this time."
Levin said the testimony by Wolfowitz and Kadish marked the first time that Congress is being told that missile defense test activities are likely to bump up against the ABM Treaty in months rather than years, noting that Kadish told the committee only three weeks ago that there would be no ABM Treaty conflict in FY 2002. Even Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the committee that the '02 budget wouldn't be a problem, but then later revised his comments more recently to say: "We don't know for sure," Levin said. He added that Rumsfeld has not answered his July 2 letter seeking clarification.
Wolfowitz said resolving such questions will take a great deal of legal argument because of all the interpretations surrounding the ABM Treaty. "We are in a gray area, Mr. Chairman," he said. The Compliance Review Group is working on it, he added.
"You mean we won't have that assessment from your Compliance Review Group before we have to approve a budget?" Levin demanded. Wolfowitz said the administration is trying to achieve clarity on a variety of issues but "these issues are murky." Later he said there had been no effort on the part of administration officials to conceal information, but they have needed to "scramble hard" to frame the missile defense debate.
The senior minority member, John Warner (Republican, Virginia) sought to defuse the tensions in the hearing and expressed his hope that Congress will work constructively to achieve the defenses that America needs.
Senator Max Cleland (Democrat, Georgia) expressed dismay that spending on missile defense is siphoning away money needed for other military systems. He noted, for example, that the stockpile of precision-guided munitions, which were used so effectively in Kosovo, have not been replenished.
Wolfowitz insisted that U.S. military forces cannot be defended currently against ballistic missiles. "It is the Achilles heel of the U.S. military," he said. But he added, "We have no intention of deploying things that don't work."
When Levin adjourned the hearing, he called on the two Defense Department witnesses to return for more technical questioning on July 17. By then, the outcome of the scheduled BMDO test will provide further focus for members' questions.
7. Rumsfeld: "No Intention of Breaking" ABM Treaty
July 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Wednesday that the United States will not violate the ABM treaty, even as it considers building a missile defense test facility in Alaska that would not be permitted under the 1972 agreement with the former Soviet Union.
He did say the U.S. has the option of nullifying the treaty, though he said there is no intention to do so.
Speaking to a small group of reporters in his Pentagon office late Wednesday, Rumsfeld said, "We want to sit down with the Russians in a way that's rational and professional, and we don't intend to violate the treaty."
The head of the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Office, Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, has proposed building a missile defense test facility in Alaska, at which 10 interceptor missiles could be based.
However, Rumsfeld said the concept had not yet been submitted to Congress, and that because of weather restrictions in Alaska, no construction -- with the possible exception of clearing trees -- could begin until next summer.
Rumsfeld expressed confidence that an agreement will be worked out with Russia before then, but said if all efforts at reaching an understanding fail, the United States always has the option of opting out under the terms of the treaty, which would abrogate, but not violate the treaty.
"We have no intention of doing either one to be perfectly honest. We have every intention of working out an arrangement with the Russians and I think we will," Rumsfeld said. "The bottom line is the treaty is designed to not have ballistic missile defenses, and the president has decided he wants to have ballistic missile defenses, and we are proceeding on an R and D (research and development) effort to get us to point where we can have ballistic missile defenses."
Rumsfeld did not rule out the possibility that a test facility in Alaska could -- in the future -- be used to provide a limited missile defense capability, but he said that would not occur until well after an understanding had been reached with the Russians to "go beyond" what is allowed in the treaty.
"If there were some instance that gave rise to a period of tension and the risk of a ballistic missile from a hostile power, it would be unreasonable to think that you might not try at least to use something that had reached the deployment stage, just as has been done repeatedly throughout the history of our country," Rumsfeld said.
But for emphasis Rumsfeld repeated, "We have no intention of breaking the treaty. Trust me." return to menu
8. Arms Control Experts Criticize Bush Plan on ABM Treaty
Experts Criticize Bush Plan to Break ABM Treaty "Within Months"; Urge Congress to Block Anti-Missile Scheme
July 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- Responding to reports that Bush administration national missile defense plans will come into conflict with a 1972 treaty with Moscow "in months," experts from Washington and London-based nuclear arms control organizations warned that such a proposal would be vigorously opposed at home and abroad. They charged that it would decrease rather than increase national and international security because a crash NMD deployment will not provide an effective and reliable defense against long-range missile attack and will precipitate a counterproductive and unnecessary showdown with European allies, as well as Russia and China.
"The Bush administration is seeking to deploy a rudimentary missile defense by 2004 under the pretense of a new testing program in Alaska. Such a crash deployment would provide only the illusion of protection from potential long-range missile threats, while at the same time it would violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and set off a dangerous action reaction cycle, involving the United States, Russia, and China," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers.
"Abrogating the ABM Treaty against the objections of most Europeans makes a mockery of President Bush's pledge to 'consult' with allies and with Russia on the missile defense issue. Consultation should be a two-way process, as our security will be adversely affected if the United States breaks its treaty commitments," added Rebecca Johnson of the London-based journal, Disarmament Diplomacy.
"The true purpose of the Bush plan seems to be to shoot down the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty rather than incoming ballistic missiles. We urge Congressional leaders -- Democrats and Republicans -- to block this ill-advised decision,'" said John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World. "National missile defense remains a costly and counterproductive shield of dreams," he added.
The Bush Administration's fiscal 2002 defense budget request proposes a substantial increase in spending on missile defenses. The Bush budget calls for fifty-seven percent more spending on missile defense, from $5.3 billion in fiscal 2001, to a proposed $8.3 billion for fiscal 2002. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin (D-Mich.), has said he would seek to block funding for activities that would unilaterally abrogate U.S. treaty commitments.
The fiscal 2002 DoD budget request includes funds for a new anti-missile "test bed" in Alaska, which could be made operational in the event of an "emergency," according to the Bush administration. Construction will begin in August and a violation of the ABM Treaty could occur some months after.
The ABM Treaty allows for agreement on additional national missile defense test sites unless such test sites constitute de-facto deployment of national anti-missile capabilities, which is the intention of the Bush scheme. The Associated Press reports that an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson responded by saying: "We will view the first cubic meter of concrete laid under the launching pad for interceptor missiles in Alaska as the United States' formal withdrawal from the ABM Treaty."
"There is no quick, easy or cheap national missile defense technology," said Lisbeth Gronlund, staff scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"The plan outlined by the Pentagon would provide very little protection should an attack occur. Even if the interceptor and kill vehicle technology worked to some level of effectiveness by 2004-2005, the system would use existing and relatively inadequate radars that would have very little capability to discriminate the warhead from other objects, including debris or simple decoys. Thus, it could be fooled by very simple countermeasures," said Gronlund.
At least 20 or more flight intercept tests, plus hundreds of component and subsystem tests will be needed before the Pentagon will be ready to attempt realistic operational testing of such an NMD system, according to the June 2001 report entitled, "NMD Development is Not Hostage to the ABM Treaty," written by Phil Coyle, former head of DoD's Operational Test & Evaluation and currently at the Center for Defense Information. (See http://www.cdi.org/dm/2001/.)
"The ABM Treaty remains important to arms control as well as nuclear nonproliferation because it promotes stability and facilitates offensive nuclear weapons reductions. We must work with Russia, China, and others to accomplish our global security goals and not act unilaterally," added John Rhinelander, the former U.S. legal advisor for the Nixon Administration's ABM Treaty negotiation team.
"Rather than rush toward deployment of an unproven NMD system, President Bush should redouble efforts to secure nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, pursue deep, verifiable, U.S. and Russian nuclear arms reductions, elimination of dangerous, Cold War launch-on-warning and targeting plans, and pursue a comprehensive nuclear proliferation effort, including the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and a verifiable freeze of North Korea's ballistic missile program," concluded Kimball.
The Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers is a non-partisan alliance of 14 national nuclear non-proliferation organizations dedicated to the pursuit of a practical, step-by-step program to address the threat of nuclear weapons. For further information on national missile defense and nuclear reductions, see http://www.crnd.org. return to menu
9. Bush Speeds Missile Defense Plans
Vernon Loeb and Thomas E. Ricks
July 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
The Bush administration intends to break ground in Alaska next month on a missile defense test site and to develop a multi-layered shield that will include ship-launched missiles and lasers mounted on airplanes within four years, senior Pentagon officials said yesterday.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is scheduled to outline the plan to Congress today. Officials said he would make clear that the administration is moving as fast as possible to build at least rudimentary missile defenses by 2005, regardless of probable objections by Moscow that the United States is violating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Although President Bush has repeatedly stated his determination to build a missile shield, yesterday was the first time that the administration had laid out a detailed plan and timetable for erecting an initial system for shooting down enemy missiles.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld described the effort as an ambitious and accelerated testing program, saying the administration has no intention of breaking the 1972 ABM Treaty any time soon.
"We have every intention of working out an arrangement with the Russians, and I think we will," Rumsfeld told reporters last night. "I can assure you that if the United States of America intended to do something that would violate the treaty in July or August or September, I would know about it."
The ABM Treaty allows each side to build one land-based anti-missile system to protect a single city or field of missile silos. Russia has such a system around Moscow, and the United States originally chose to build one around a missile field in Grand Forks, N.D. But the treaty forbids any system intended to defend the entire nation. It also prohibits the development, testing or deployment of sea- or space-based defenses against long-range missiles.
Last week, the State Department instructed U.S. embassies around the world to inform foreign governments that the United States plans to test not just land-based interceptor missiles but also "other technologies and basing modes, such as air- and sea-based capabilities" against long-range missiles.
"As we have informed our allies and Russia, these tests will come into conflict with the ABM Treaty in months, not years," the department said.
By announcing the plans yesterday, the Bush administration signaled that it intends to proceed regardless of whether a flight test scheduled for Saturday -- the first in a year -- is a success or failure.
After the "kill vehicle" failed to hit a dummy warhead in the previous test last summer, President Bill Clinton delayed a decision on whether to begin construction of a limited missile defense system, saying that more testing and consultation with allies were necessary.
Already, the Bush plan faces an uncertain future on Capitol Hill, where leading Democrats in the Senate have expressed reservations about a fiscal 2002 defense budget that includes a 57 percent increase for missile defense while cutting spending on procurement of other weapons.
The administration plans to notify Congress immediately of its plan to begin clearing trees next month for a new test facility at Fort Greely, Alaska, near Fairbanks, officials said.
Although the administration's plan calls for basing five interceptor missiles there and upgrading a "Cobra Dane" radar installation on Shemya Island in Alaska by 2004, Rumsfeld said that none of the work at Fort Greely would violate the ABM Treaty this year.
In the past, government lawyers and arms control advocates have offered differing interpretations of what amount of construction would be allowed under the treaty. "As soon as the construction site becomes recognizably a strategic ABM interceptor launcher, it would violate the treaty," John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, a defense think tank, said yesterday.
Experts also offered various predictions about how Russia would react, but all agreed that the stakes for the administration are high. "I'm sure they will protest it as a violation of the treaty," said Spurgeon M. Keeny Jr., president of the Arms Control Association and an arms control official in the Nixon administration, which negotiated the treaty with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
In Saturday's test, an interceptor missile carrying a "kill vehicle" will be fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands at a dummy warhead and a single decoy launched minutes earlier from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
But defense officials said yesterday that even a failure would not derail the program. "If it succeeds, it will give us more confidence," said a senior official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity. "If it fails, we'll learn more."
He added that the Bush plan, with its emphasis on "layered" missile defenses, differs dramatically from the Clinton administration's pursuit of a single ground-based system designed to intercept long-range missiles high in space, about mid-way through their trajectory.
The Bush plan calls for multiple systems to target short-, medium- and long-range missiles at all three stages of flight, including "boost phase," which lasts about five minutes after liftoff; mid-course, which lasts about 20 minutes; and "terminal phase," which lasts 30 seconds when an incoming missile traveling at very high speed has re-entered the Earth's atmosphere.
With the addition of the new test site at Fort Greely and introduction of a sophisticated "X-Band" radar, either on a ship or at a ground station in Hawaii, officials said, the Pentagon would be able to carry out more realistic testing.
Some of the tests would involve Boeing 747 jets carrying lasers, a weapon in development that is designed to destroy missiles in their boost phase. The Pentagon also hopes to place interceptor missiles aboard destroyers equipped with advanced Aegis radars, which could track and destroy missiles in either boost phase or mid-course, officials said.
Although no firm cost estimates have been developed beyond fiscal 2002, officials said basic testing of all those technologies could be sustained for about $8 billion a year, the amount now included in the defense spending plan that goes into effect Oct. 1.
A total of 17 tests -- 10 of ground-based systems and seven of sea-launched missiles -- are planned over the next 14 months, officials said.
The new test range, officials said, would enable launches of multiple missiles from several locations in realistic flight paths toward the United States -- unlike the current system, in which missiles carrying dummy warheads are fired from Vandenberg, away from the U.S. mainland.
"We could potentially have an airborne laser shoot at one of the targets in a layered system, deliberately let one go and have the mid-course [system] engage it," another official said. "That's what this test bed is all about."
Development of the new technologies is designed to allow rudimentary versions of the airborne laser, sea-launched missile and the current ground-based system to become operational by 2005, they said, if policymakers determine that missile threats from countries like North Korea, Iran and Iraq have escalated substantially and pose unacceptable risks.
"The idea here is that we would start many different paths in basing and in technology," an official said. "And all that can lead to . . . test assets that can be made operational if the situation warrants it. But that's not our intention, to make those operational right off the bat."
Defense: Antimissile tests will force action "within months, not years." White House argues landmark treaty has outlived its usefulness.
Los Angeles Times
July 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration expects to withdraw from a cornerstone arms control treaty in less than two years, according to a newly prepared statement of administration policy.
The document, obtained Wednesday on the eve of congressional testimony on antimissile systems, says that the administration's ambitious testing plans will conflict with the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 and thus force withdrawal from the pact "within months, not years."
The statement is the clearest signal to date of the administration's intentions regarding the treaty and appears to be aimed at resolving seeming contradictions in earlier pronouncements from various officials. It is likely to be warmly received by missile defense advocates and attacked by members of Congress, U.S. allies and arms control advocates who want the United States to remain with the treaty. The ABM Treaty was designed to limit development of antimissile systems as a means of averting a further nuclear arms race between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
The policy statement, which incorporates several earlier papers on missile defense, was drafted earlier this month. In recent days, it was distributed to lawmakers and to foreign governments, according to an administration official.
Some observers said that the document suggests that the administration's most ardent missile defense advocates, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, are prevailing in the debate on the issue within senior administration ranks.
The policy statement says the administration doesn't intend to conduct its antimissile tests "solely . . . to exceed treaty constraints." Yet, unlike the Clinton administration, there is also no intent to "design tests to conform to, or stay within, the confines of the treaty."
White House officials argue that the ABM Treaty has outlived its usefulness with the end of the Cold War. They say they intend to develop antimissile systems that will protect the United States from a small-scale attack by "rogue" nations.
One administration official, who asked to remain unidentified pending today's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said it is impossible to predict precisely when the testing program will require withdrawal from the treaty. This is because of the ambiguities of the pact and because the pace of the development program is difficult to predict, the official said.
But he acknowledged that administration officials believe that a conflict with the treaty will occur within about two years.
The document also suggests that the administration intends to try to quickly deploy a rudimentary "emergency" antimissile system that includes not only a ground-based component but also other components in the air and in the sea.
Two weeks ago, the administration's defense budget for fiscal 2002 disclosed that the administration wants to build an antimissile test site in Alaska that could be converted for use as a rudimentary antimissile system if the United States were threatened. Ground-based antimissile systems have received the most money and attention in recent years and were the central focus of the Clinton administration's missile defense efforts.
The new documents suggest that administration officials would like to round out the basic ground-based system by adding an aircraft-mounted antimissile laser, as well as a sea-based antimissile system, as quickly as possible.
This suggests the administration is concerned about the threat of a missile attack from North Korea, since an airborne laser is the kind of weapon that might be suitable to patrol North Korean airspace. Administration officials fear the North Koreans are close to developing a simple intercontinental ballistic missile that might reach the fringes of North America and Hawaii.
While the first flight test of the airborne laser is not until 2003, administration officials suggested in the document that they might try to deploy it swiftly if it is able to knock down a missile in that test. In its fiscal 2002 budget, the Bush administration has proposed adding $196 million to the budget of the airborne laser program, nearly doubling it.
Some administration officials have argued for some time that the United States should be prepared to use whatever antimissile equipment it has on hand, even if incomplete, if an emergency threatens. Hadley, the deputy national security advisor, made that argument last year in an article in a scholarly journal.
The new policy paper says that, because the "limited interim capabilities" are not likely to perform flawlessly, "critics may accuse us of deploying systems that do not work. . . . [But] a limited interim capability is warranted in light of existing and emerging near-term threats and the unpredictable nature of those threats."
Arms control advocates dispute the administration's contentions that the Pentagon missile testing program would violate the ABM Treaty within two years. They say the administration is making that argument only to lay the groundwork for withdrawal from the treaty.
Joseph Cirincione, a proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that the Pentagon is far from having the kind of airborne and sea-based antimissile systems that, in tests, would violate the treaty.
"The technology just isn't there," he said.
Cirincione speculated that the administration had issued this latest statement of missile defense policy to strongly reaffirm its intentions to abandon the treaty.
The administration had created that impression in its first few weeks in office.
But more recently, Cirincione said, the administration's intentions had become less clear amid a chorus of opposition to its plans from allies and the Democrats who now control the Senate. return to menu
11. Pentagon to Begin Missile-Defense Construction in April
July 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon plans to begin construction next April for new tests of a missile defense, which could violate a 1972 treaty banning national missile shields, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said today.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee, Wolfowitz did not describe in detail the proposed test facility. But he appeared to be referring to sites in Alaska, which he said would be part of an expanded network of facilities for testing missile defenses.
He said there would likely be legal arguments about whether such activities violate the Antiballistic Missile Treaty but added that the administration intends to reach a new understanding with Russia shortly that would make such questions moot.
"As the program develops and the various testing activities mature, one or more aspects will inevitably bump against treaty restrictions and limitations. Such an event is likely to occur in months, rather than in years," Wolfowitz told the committee. "It is not possible to know with certainty whether that will occur in the coming year."
The State Department has notified its diplomats around the world that the tests will come in conflict with that 1972 treaty with Moscow.
The Pentagon has scheduled for Saturday its first flight test in a year of interceptors designed to shoot down long-range missiles. An attempt last July failed.
The State Department memo drew immediate reaction from the Russian government.
According to the Interfax news agency, Vladimir Rushailo, head of President Vladimir Putin's Security Council, told reporters in Belarus: "Russia, as well as many other countries, believes that a unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the ABM treaty would lead to the destruction of strategic stability, a new powerful spiral of the arms race, particularly in space, and the development of means for overcoming the national missile defense system."
The Pentagon intends to notify Congress as early as next week that it will begin ground-clearing work in August for a new missile defense test site in Alaska, a senior Pentagon official said today.
The site at Fort Greely will be part of an expanded network of missile defense test facilities that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld hopes will accelerate development of a variety of missile defense technologies.
The Pentagon intends to place between five and 10 silo-based missile interceptors at Fort Greely for testing against target missiles fired from an aircraft and perhaps from ground-based locations.
Rumsfeld, meantime, planned to address a Capitol Hill conference today on missile defense, focusing on what he and others argue are new missile threats from smaller states antagonistic to the United States.
"The world has changed fundamentally and the rationale for Cold War arrangements no longer exists," says the memorandum sent to U.S. embassies and consulates July 3.
It is intended to provide American diplomats with talking points to help persuade other governments to support President Bush's aspirations for a missile shield.
Answers to prospective questions are provided. Among "misconceptions" the American diplomats are cautioned to anticipate is that "states like North Korea and Iran would not dare attack the United States, knowing they would pay a terrible price in response."
Deployment of an interim ground-based system in Alaska could be completed as early as 2004, the memorandum said.
Bush has called the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia a relic of the Cold War. It bans deployment in any state except North Dakota of a U.S. shield against long-range missiles.
Russian President Putin opposes setting aside the treaty and has warned it could touch off a new nuclear arms race. He has suggested negotiations to reduce U.S. and Russian arsenals.
Many U.S. allies are skeptical or noncommittal of the Bush administration's aspirations.
On Wednesday, Britain's foreign secretary, Jack Straw, agreed with Bush's assessment of a growing nuclear danger in the world. But he signaled on a visit to Washington that his government intends to withhold a judgment on an anti-missile system while the administration weighs its options on the program's possible variations.
Putin proposed on July 6 that the five long-established nuclear power states -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China -- start negotiations aimed at eliminating 10,000 warheads in the next seven years.
Putin is expected to bring up the proposal with Bush this month at an economic summit meeting in Genoa, Italy.
The Russian leader is not likely to get very far. A senior U.S. official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Putin's proposal is not going to win over the administration. return to menu
12. State Notifies U.S. of Missile Plans
July 11, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- The State Department has notified all U.S. diplomatic posts abroad that stepped up tests for an anti-missile shield will come into conflict with a 1972 treaty with Moscow "in months, not years."
On Saturday, the Pentagon has scheduled its first flight test in a year of interceptors designed to shoot down long-range missiles. The attempt last July failed.
"The world has changed fundamentally and the rationale for Cold War arrangements no longer exists," says the 14-page memorandum sent to U.S. embassies and consulates July 3.
It is intended to provide American diplomats with talking points to help persuade other governments to support President Bush's aspirations for an anti-missile shield.
Deployment of an interim ground-based system in Alaska could be completed as early as 2004, the memorandum said.
The tests, the memorandum said, "will come into conflict with the ABM treaty in months, not years."
Bush has called the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, which forbids deployment of a U.S. shield against long-range missiles in any state except North Dakota, a relic of the Cold War.
Russian President Vladimir Putin opposes setting aside the treaty and has warned it could touch off a new nuclear arms race.
Many U.S. allies are skeptical or noncommittal.
On Wednesday, the new British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, agreed with Bush's assessment that there is a growing nuclear danger in the world. But he signaled on a visit to Washington that his government intends to withhold judgment on an anti-missile shield while the Bush administration weighs its options on an anti-missile program.
Putin, meanwhile, proposed on July 6 that the five long-established nuclear power states -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China -- begin negotiations aimed at eliminating 10,000 warheads in the next seven years.
Putin is expected to bring up the proposal with Bush at the Economic summit meeting in Genoa, Italy, later this month.
The Russian leader is not likely to get very far.
A senior U.S. official told The Associated Press Wednesday Putin's proposal is not going to win over the administration.
The unclassified memorandum to U.S. diplomatic posts, obtained by the AP, said the most urgent threat stems not from thousands of Russian missiles but from a small number of missiles in the hands of rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction.
"Those states also possess a large number of short and medium-range missiles that pose a significant threat to deployed U.S. forces and friends and U.S. allies abroad," it said.
As a result, the memorandum continued, "the United States needs release from the constraints of the ABM treaty to pursue the most promising technologies and basing modes to field limited, but effective missile defenses."
At the same time, the memorandum acknowledges that the 1972 treaty prohibits a U.S. nationwide defense and sharing anti-missile defenses with allies.
As a result, it said, the administration will pursue a program to be able to deploy such defenses to protect the United States, its forces, friends and allies.
Richard Boucher, the State Department spokesman, confirmed that "we have given to our embassies basic arguments on the need for a new strategic framework, for moving beyond the strategies of the Cold War."
He said the memorandum would help the embassies make a case for these ideas. return to menu
B. Nuclear Waste
1. Radioactive Waste May Go to Russia
A new Russian law is to allow the import and storage of nuclear waste, providing a possible solution to Taiwan's nuclear-waste problem
July 13, 2001
(for personal use only)
A decision by Russia on Wednesday to accept shipments of nuclear waste from foreign countries may provide Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) with a long-awaited solution to Taiwan's growing nuclear-waste problem.
It was unclear, however, how much such a solution would cost and when the waste could be shipped to Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday approved a law on nuclear-waste imports, but proposed that such imports would be subject to approval by a special commission.
The law will come into effect once it is published in full in the state-run press in coming days, ITAR-TASS news agency reported.
The new law could reportedly earn Russia as much as US$22 billion over the next 10 years for reprocessing and storing approximately 20,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel.
In addition to Taiwan, countries such as India, China, South Korea, Japan and Switzerland are also interested in the proposal.
Taipower officials yesterday said that they are already looking into the possibility of signing an official contract with Russia to replace an existing memorandum, but denied that a new deal would mean Taiwan would ship more waste to Russia.
The memorandum was a preliminary plan which involves 5,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste.
However, Taipower officials told the Taipei Times yesterday that the policy of nuclear-waste management would not change until Taipower's contracted Russian agent provided them with details of the new law.
"We have to make sure exactly what kind of radioactive waste ... will be accepted," Huang Huei-yu, division head of Taipower's public affairs department, said yesterday.
It is estimated that Taipower has produced approximately 300,000 barrels of radioactive waste, including around 100,000 barrels of low-level waste stored on Orchid Island awaiting disposal.
Environmentalists both overseas and in Taiwan responded with fury to Putin's decision, saying that it would turn Russia into a dumping ground for the world's nuclear waste.
Russia's preliminary plan is to put most of the waste in storage at two of Russia's biggest nuclear sites: the 40-year-old Mayak site in the Urals and Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.
"After a series of accidents, Mayak is now considered to be the most contaminated spot on earth," Tobias Muenchmeyer of the environmental watchdog Greenpeace said.
"The state of both of these sites clearly demonstrates that Russia is the worst possible place to [take] nuclear waste."
Activists in Taiwan were also strongly opposed to the shipment of waste to Russia.
"It's unethical to dump waste in a neighboring area. This will definitely create a notorious image for Taiwan in the international community," said Pan Han-chiang, vice secretary-general of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration.
Pan said that abandoning nuclear energy was the only way to ensure a safe future for Taiwan because existing technologies could do little to ensure the safety of nuclear power.
"[Moving] radioactive waste from Orchid Island to Russia does not mean that the problem of disposing nuclear waste will be solved," Pan said.
Traumatized by memories of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, most Russians are firmly opposed to the idea of nuclear waste imports: an opinion poll earlier this year showed that 89 percent disapproved of the proposal.
Environmentalists in Russia have vowed to fight the proposal. return to menu
2. Alfyorov to Head Nuclear Waste Committee
St. Petersburg Times
July 13, 2001
(for personal use only)
Along with giving his approval of a controversial nuclear-waste import law, President Vladimir Putin named local Nobel laureate Zhores Alfyorov to head a special committee that will oversee implementation of the project.
Putin signed the law, which allows Russia to accept spent nuclear fuel for storage and reprocessing, at the Kremlin on Wednesday. Alfyorov's Committee for Issues on Reprocessed Nuclear Fuel is envisioned as a public information clearing house on the project, as well as a safety watchdog.
"The creation of this commission is not to calm fears, but rather to move in the direction of society to review the issues surrounding the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel," Alfyorov told a press conference at the St. Petersburg branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences on Wednesday.
According to Nuclear Power Ministry officials, shipments of spent nuclear fuel could begin arriving in about a year.
Alfyorov, who is a Communist Duma deputy, has championed Russia's decaying scientific infrastructure since his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for physics in December. He has stated that he sees the waste-import program promoted by the Nuclear Power Ministry as crucial to solving that problem.
If the imports go ahead as planned, proponents of the law say that Russia could earn $20 billion over the next 10 years by importing about 20,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel. The imported fuel is due to be stored until 2021 while Russia upgrades its reprocessing facilities with money earned from exporters such as Taiwan, Japan, China, and Iran.
But despite its success in the Duma and the Federation Council, the law has been vociferously opposed by Russian citizens and environmentalists, who have revealed their distaste for the project in demonstrations and polls. Opinion polls have consistently shown that about 90 percent of the public opposes the plan.
Vladimir Slivyak, chairman of the environmental group Ecodefense, said in a telephone interview from Moscow on Thursday that the project "will turn Russia into the world's nuclear toilet." Opponents also say that rampant corruption and Russia's spotty nuclear-safety record cast doubt on the country's ability to handle the spent fuel safely.
The U.S. State Department criticized the law and demanded that strict safety measures and audits be put in place, said a department official by telephone, who declined to be named on Wednesday.
While conceding he had "no idea" how the money for imports would be accounted for, Alfyorov promised transparency, and said he "trusts implicitly his colleges at the Nuclear Power Ministry" who will be handling the finances.
Alfyorov will head a 20-person committee responsible for overseeing all deals under the law, and which will be empowered to reject those it considers dangerous. However, in making such judgments, the committee will rely on information provided by the ministry.
Although the rest of the committee has not yet been named, the presidential order stipulated that it include 20 people - five from Putin's administration and an equal number from each of the government, the Duma and the Federation Council. It is unclear when the committee will meet for the first time.
But the 71-year-old Alfyorov - although enthusiastic - demurred at his appointment, citing his partiality to solar energy as a clean and potentially inexhaustible source of energy. He said that he saw his acceptance of the appointment as a choice between the lesser of two evils, and voiced the hope that some of the money expected from the import project could finance solar experiments.
"As energy options, solar power is the cleanest. But the law [on importing nuclear waste] is the law," said Alfyorov.
"No research money is being devoted to solar power, so I took this position because nuclear power is the next cleanest thing available. The 21st century is the century of nuclear energy, not only in Russia but around the world."
Alfyorov also confessed to his own lack of experience in nuclear physics. His Nobel work, completed 20 years ago, involved the use of semiconductors and led to the development of such inventions as compact-disc players and mobile telephones.
Nuclear Power Minister Alexander Rumyantsev said at a Moscow press conference on Wednesday that the first loads of waste could begin arriving in a year, although media reports indicated some shipments are already on the way or may even have already arrived.
"We are in contact with foreign colleagues on this issue, but have no concrete customers at the moment," said Rumyantsev, according to Interfax.
"We hope that during that time we can actively work on further safety improvements in our handling of nuclear waste," he said, adding that Russia could possibly corner 10 percent of the nuclear-waste reprocessing business by 2005.
Rumyantsev also welcomed the creation of Alfyorov's oversight committee, albeit with faint praise.
"We're not going to discuss [the law], we are just going to fulfill it," Rumyantsev said. "The law signed by the president supports this home-grown production of nuclear fuel. And now, customers abroad will know that Russia will take its used fuel back."
Rumyantsev said that France and Britain have carved up the market for depleted nuclear fuel, and Russia will have to fight to secure a share. Reprocessed fuel can be used again, leaving small quantities of unusable radioactive waste.
The Nuclear Power Ministry is notorious for its reticence and secrecy. Rumyantsev's predecessor, Yevgeny Adamov, who authored the import plan, was fired in March following allegations that he had illegally continued to engage in business activities and had used his post to appoint his unqualified business associates to ministry positions.
This, according to the Greenpeace Moscow project coordinator Vladimir Chuprov, accounts for Alfyorov's cool reception by Rumyantsev and his own misgivings about the project. "Nothing about the Nuclear Power Ministry, especially its finances, is transparent, and Alfyorov is a liar or a fool if he thinks he can change that," Chuprov said in a telephone interview from Moscow.
"It is all a public-relations stunt, trying to make people think a 'civilian' organization will have some say in the process, when it has already been stated that all positions in Alfyorov's committee go to government suits."
Greenpeace has called for a national candlelight vigil to protest the passage of the law for 10 p.m. on Thursday. Chuprov said he expected "hundreds of thousands" to turn out. return to menu
3. Greens Outraged as Putin Signs Nuclear Imports Law
U.S. now holds the key to Russia's global waste dump
July 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
Russian environmentalists responded with fury yesterday to President Vladimir Putin's decision to sign legislation allowing spent nuclear fuel to be imported, protesting that it would turn Russia into a dumping ground for the world's nuclear waste.
He did so in the face of overwhelming public opposition and widespread scepticism. The new law could earn Russia as much as £15bn from the import of about 20,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel in the next 10 years.
The atomic energy ministry, Minatom, successfully pushed the plan, promising that the money earned by storing and possibly reprocessing other countries' spent fuel would be spent on cleaning up contaminated sites and improving safety in the nuclear industry.
But environmentalists say Russia has the worst nuclear safety record in the world, and that its own nuclear waste is stored in such dangerous conditions that it would be irresponsible to increase the amount.
The preliminary plan is to send most of the spent fuel for storage at two of Russia's biggest nuclear sites: the 40-year-old Mayak site in the Urals and Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.
"After a series of accidents, Mayak is now considered to be the most contaminated spot on earth," Tobias Muenchmeyer of Greenpeace said.
"The state of both of these sites clearly demonstrates that Russia is the worst possible place to [take] nuclear waste."
There is also concern that the money earned will not be spent in a transparent way. Minatom has a reputation for secrecy, and Yevgeny Adamov was sacked as atomic energy minister in March in the face of corruption allegations.
A leaked report by parliamentary investigators claimed that he was involved in a series of business deals connected with his ministerial brief and environmentalists alleged that he had personal financial interests in promoting the legislation.
Traumatised by memories of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, most Russians are firmly opposed to the idea of nuclear waste imports: an opinion poll earlier this year showed that 89% disapproved of the proposal. The prospect of nuclear waste being carried through the country by road and rail has caused further unease.
"This decision allows the import of radioactive waste that will pose a threat to Russians for hundreds of thousands of years to come. Putin is selling Russia and betraying his people," Vladimir Chuprov, a Greenpeace Russia energy expert said.
The leader of the liberal party Yabloko, Grigory Yavlinsky, said the plan "harms Russia's national interests and will have dire consequences for its future generations."
Russia hopes to import spent fuel rods from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Germany and Switzerland, undercutting the services offered by the British and French reprocessing industries.
But Germany has already said it will not send radioactive waste to Russia. Last month the environment minister, Jürgen Trittin, described the plans as "an irresponsible gamble with the health and safety of the Russian people".
Alexander Rumyantsev, the new Russian atomic energy minister, said it would be several years before the imports began arriving, adding: "We hope that during this time we will be able to do intensive work to increase safety."
The plan cannot be realised without US approval. More than 90% of the potential imports needs to be cleared by America because it includes material of US origin. The US state department recently criticised the legislation. return to menu
4. Putin Approves Nuclear Waste Imports
July 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill of amendments to allow the import of nuclear fuel into Russia. Upon doing so he promised the nation, deeply concerned about the tremendous risks inherent in that business, that he would personally supervise the whole process and that he is forming a special watchdog commission for the purpose.
On Wednesday Vladimir Putin signed a bill of amendments to the effective federal laws on atomic energy usage, on environmental protection and on special programs aimed at decontaminating areas contaminated by radiation. The bills will now allow Russia to import irradiated nuclear fuel for storage and reprocessing.
Gazeta.Ru has learnt from an official in the Kremlin administration that apart from signing the amendments, Putin has also ordered that a special commission be established to exercise control over nuclear waste imports. The commission will consist of 20 members, 5 representing the president, 5 the government, and fives each the upper and lower houses of the Russian parliament.
Putin has appointed prominent Russian physicist Zhores Alfyorov to chair the watchdog commission.
Alfyorov and Putin will together decide whom to invite to join the commission.
Also the president has submitted one more amendment to the law on nuclear energy to the State Duma, providing that nuclear fuel can only be imported after the commission gives its consent.
Academician Zhores Alfyorv has continually supported the Nuclear Ministry's initiative to press for laws to allow the import of spent nuclear fuels into Russia and holds that there is no cause for concern.
Alfyorov is convinced that the import of spent uranium will allow Russia to further development its nuclear energy facilities, and that nuclear energy should be made the main source of electricity in Russia.
Alfyorov says that the stiff opposition to the import of spent nuclear fuels is to a great extent caused by the traumatic memories of the Chernobyl disaster. But Alfyorov also believes there are also political motives behind the protests.
But the main thing, holds Alfyorov, is that the issues concerning the import and storage of nuclear waste are the preserve of professional scientists, not the common people and nationwide referendums.
The State Duma deputies who strongly opposed the bill of amendments, most notably deputies from the Yabloko faction, in principle support Putin's idea to create a special watchdog commission.
However, the deputy chief of the Yabloko faction Sergei Mitrokhin told Gazeta.Ru that by signing the amendments to allow for the import of spent nuclear fuels, "the president has committed a political mistake which is detrimental to the national interests of the state."
Mitrokhin said that it would be future generations who would be faced with the grave consequences of the mistake. Mitrokhin also doubts the commission will be truly impartial and unbiased, especially since Zhores Alfyorov is a fervent advocate of developing the nuclear fuel reprocessing business in Russia. Mitrokhin says the members of the commission will probably be lobbyists for the nuclear ministry.
Mitrokhin says that on the commission the government will be represented by the Nuclear Ministry's officials and he doubts that the State Duma, the majority of which backed the nuclear amendments, will be able to effectively oppose any of the commission's decisions.
The upper house, the Federation Council, made its position on the nuclear issue crystal clear by refusing to even discuss the amendments and ceding all responsibility to the president.
Putin has obviously been persuaded by the economists and scientists that the processing of foreign nuclear waste will be a huge money earner and will pose no threat to the environment, otherwise he would have vetoed the amendments to the nuclear energy laws.
The Yabloko faction intends to continue coordinating opposition against the nuclear waste imports. The faction's central council has already decided to initiate an all-Russian referendum on the matter, Mitrokhin told Gazeta.Ru. "Until the very last moment we had hoped that the president would veto the bills. But that did not happen, so now we are starting work to initiate a national referendum."
Mitrokhin said that Yabloko has yet to determine exactly when they would begin to gather signatures in support of a referendum, but said it would be some time in September-October. return to menu
5. Putin Opens Gates for Nuclear Fuel Imports
July 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin signed bills on Wednesday opening Russia to imports of spent nuclear fuel, a move that has enraged ecologists but which the country's nuclear power industry says will earn Moscow windfalls.
The Kremlin said Putin had also ordered a special commission to be set up to oversee contracts under the programme in what looked like a move to appease public criticism of the bills.
The choice of respected Nobel prize-winning physicist Zhores Alphyorov to head the body also appeared to be aimed at easing public fears that unusable nuclear waste, rather than recyclable fuel, might find its way into Russia under the legislation.
To give the commission more clout, Putin asked parliament to amend the newly-signed bills to make sure that no deal on importing nuclear materials under the laws could be struck without its approval.
But despite all the efforts to convince Russians that the laws would do more good than harm to the country where hi-tech industries, such as the nuclear sector, struggle to survive, the legislation's opponents cried foul.
"He (Putin) allowed imports of nuclear waste which will be a threat for Russia and its citizens for hundreds and thousands of years," the Russian outlet of international environment campaigner Greenpeace said in a statement.
Greenpeace said Russians had been subjected to a massive public relations campaign by the media to defend Putin's expected approval of the bills, which shut out any dissenting voices. It promised a non-violent fight against nuclear imports.
Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the liberal Yabloko party, condemned Putin for signing the bills and vowed to push ahead with efforts to call a referendum on the strength of opinion polls showing that Russians overwhelmingly reject the bills.
But Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev said Russia only stood to gain from the laws which rather than turning the country into the world's nuclear dump were opening new frontiers for its ailing nuclear sector.
"These laws potentially support domestic producers...They open opportunities for Russia to get to the world markets with its technologies," Rumyantsev told a news conference.
He added that setting up the special commission could delay signing contracts with spent nuclear fuel exporters.
Rumyantsev said work to secure deals was already under way to win enough contracts to live up to projected earnings of some $20 billion over the next 10 years.
"There are contacts (with potential exporters), but so far no shipments have been agreed," he said.
Critics say Russia may never win contracts to give it enough cash to build the capacity to reprocess all of the imported fuel and suspect the ministry might choose to leave it in the ground indefinitely, or start importing nuclear waste.
Rumyantsev also defended his ministry against attacks that the cashapped industry might not be up to the task of dealing safely with the flood of radioactive materials.
"We have not had a single emergency in 24 years," he said.
The laws allow Russia to accept money for storing spent nuclear reactor fuel until 2021, when it is deemed that accumulated funds will allow it to build plants to reprocess it.
Rumyantsev said Russia was due to import 20,000 tonnes of spent fuel overall, roughly 10 percent of the world stock.
There are four nuclear storage sites in Russia with a total capacity of 4,000 tonnes. Moscow plans to upgrade and put into use reserve sites to boost the figure to 9,000 tonnes. return to menu
6. Greenpeace to Block Nuclear Waste Imports to Russia
July 11, 2001
(for personal use only)
Moscow -- Greenpeace today slammed the Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsing changes to the country's environmental law which pave the way for vast radioactive waste imports to Russia. Under the Russian constitution the law amendments allowing the import of nuclear waste now have entered force with today's Presidential signature.
"Greenpeace will fight every single ounce of nuclear waste that enters Russian territory. It will use all possible non-violent means to protect Russia from this nuclear invasion." said Tobias Muenchmeyer of Greenpeace International.
Putin's signature marks the end of a 10 month decision making process, during which public opposition against the import of radioactive waste has magnified. It has become a main public political issue in Russia. According to a recent opinion poll commissioned by Greenpeace 79.5% of the Russian population wanted President Putin to block nuclear waste imports.
"On becoming president Putin vowed 'to protect the sovereignty and independence, security and integrity of the state and to serve the people faithfully'. With this signature Putin has broken his vow. This decision is against the will of the people's and allows the import of radioactive waste posing a threat to Russia and the Russians for hundreds and thousands of years to come. Putin is selling Russia and betraying his people." said Vladimir Chuprov, energy expert of Greenpeace Russia.
Over the last 10 days Greenpeace Russia has observed massive propaganda in the Russian media promoting the import of nuclear waste. Counter arguments and critical voices of environmental experts and organisations have been banned from the screens and newspapers. "This has all of the hallmarks of the old authoritarian Soviet State, when there was no freedom of opinion. This propaganda shows that the President is afraid of debate and the people's real opinion." said Chuprov.
The scale of potential nuclear waste exports to Russia will depend upon utilities and governments in the so-called 'client' states exporting their nuclear waste as well as on the U.S. Government authorisation, as it controls up to 90% of the spent nuclear fuel in the world.
Germany, one of the countries identified by Minatom as a key customer for Russian nuclear fuel services, has already denounced exporting its radioactive waste to Russia. Last month, Germany's Environmental Minister Juergen Trittin said: "Russia's offer to reprocess nuclear waste from the West and place it in interim storage is an irresponsible gamble with the health and safety of the Russian people."
"Greenpeace urges all nuclear countries to back the German position by taking full responsibility for their nuclear waste and to phase out nuclear power in order to stop the production of more nuclear waste." said Muenchmeyer.
The permission for importing radioactive waste, being promoted by the cashapped Nuclear Ministry, Minatom, will turn Russia into the world's nuclear waste dump. Minatom wants to bring in up to 20,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel from countries including Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Switzerland, Germany and Spain over the next ten years - in contracts it claims will be worth up to $21 billion.
President Putin signed the bills which remove legal roadblocks for spent nuclear fuel imports. Removing the public opposition will be much harder.
July 11, 2001
(for personal use only)
President Putin signed two bills amending the current legislation in favour of spent nuclear fuel import to Russia and leasing Russia's manufactured fuel abroad. He also signed a law On Environmental Programs, which stipulates spending of the funds earned on spent fuel imports.
To calm down the strong public opposition to the project among ordinary population, Putin said he would control each particular importation deal himself. Russian President also established a commission to carry out control over the importation, comprised of State Duma members, Federation Council members, and president's representatives. The commission will be headed by academician Zhores Alferov, a winner of the Nobel Prize.
The flow of spent nuclear fuel into Russia is unlikely to start soon, however. Minatom's planning of the project was criticised by many for the lack of proper planning both on technical, political and economical level.
Minatom has not concluded a single contract so far. The traditional exporters of spent nuclear fuel to Russia, such as the Eastern European countries, which operate Soviet design reactors, will not be able to bring Minatom the promised $20 billion profit. While in order to take spent fuel from Asian countries, Minatom will need a permission from the US administration. Such permission can be granted given that Minatom, among other things, stops nuclear cooperation with Iran and other rogue nations. Minatom has so far been unwilling to bow to such demands.
According to various polls conducted in Russia, 70% to 90% of the population are against importation of spent nuclear fuel. Russian environmental groups collected around 2.5 million signatures last year in support for the national vote. In consent with the Russian legislation, two million signatures collected in 60 different regions are enough to initiate a national vote. But the Central Electoral Committee, which was verifying the signatures, said almost 600,000 were not valid and banned the referendum.
The liberal opposition in the State Duma, Yabloko party, said after the Duma approved the amendments in third reading that they would initiate another referendum. Kremlin's unofficial web site, Strana.Ru, quoted a source in the administration saying that they took the referendum threats seriously and would rather try to find a compromise with Yabloko, than waiting for the people to cast their vote. The deal, however, have not been worked out yet as it follows from what the source said. return to menu
8. Russian Duma Passes Bill Allowing Import of Spent Fuel
Philipp C. Bleek
Arms Control Today
July 8, 2001
(for personal use only)
Russia's lower house of parliament approved a controversial bill June 6 that would allow Moscow to import spent nuclear fuel from other nations. Importing spent fuel could generate billions of dollars for the cash-starved country, but the initiative has raised concerns about the environmental and proliferation consequences of making Russia the world's nuclear-waste dumping ground.
The Duma approved the hotly contested legislation by a vote of 250-125. The bill, which will bypass the Federation Council and must now be approved by President Vladimir Putin, would amend an existing environmental protection law that bars the import of spent fuel for storage or disposal.
Opponents of the measure claim that, given Russia's lax safety and environmental practices and deteriorating infrastructure, making the country a major nuclear waste repository could have dire environmental and proliferation impacts. But after stagnating for years, the plan was shepherded through the Duma by Putin and the influential Ministry of Atomic Energy, who argued that portions of the potential revenue stream could in fact be used to improve Russia's infrastructure and finance much-needed cleanup work at contaminated nuclear sites.
Demand for the spent-fuel storage services Russia may soon offer is evident. In many countries, temporary spent-fuel storage ponds located at reactor sites are reaching capacity. Construction of several geologic repositories-such as the one proposed for Yucca Mountain in the United States-has been delayed, and a number of reprocessing programs have been cancelled or postponed.
Assuming transfers could be made politically palatable-which is far from certain, given the vociferous protests already coming from both Russian and international environmental groups-it appears likely that countries such as South Korea and Taiwan would pay considerable sums to be relieved of their spent-fuel burdens. Russian officials have indicated that they hope to import and reprocess 20,000 tons of spent fuel over a 10-year period, which they have predicted would yield more than $20 billion in revenue and about $7 billion in profit.
In the short term, Russia would store the imported spent fuel, but in the future Moscow apparently hopes to transition from a storage provider to a supplier of advanced-technology reprocessing services and nuclear fuel. Not only would providing such services yield significant additional revenue, but it would also mesh with Russia's long-term vision of generating energy by using plutonium in a proliferation-resistant fuel cycle. (See ACT, October 2000.)
The U.S. government remains the primary barrier to the plan's implementation. Nearly all the fuel in countries likely to be interested in the Russian service is of U.S. origin, and nuclear cooperation agreements with those countries give Washington a veto over shipment to third parties. The United States does not have a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia, and historically it has only approved transfers to states with which it has such an arrangement.
Russian officials have indicated in recent weeks that they hope to reach agreement on nuclear cooperation with Washington. U.S. officials have responded by emphasizing that a range of non-proliferation, environmental, and safety considerations need to be taken into account.
According to a State Department official, the negotiation of a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia has been impeded since the early 1990s by the U.S. government's decision to use the issue to discourage Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran. It appears that the Bush administration remains firmly committed to making a deal on Iran a requirement for agreement, while Russia appears equally committed to completing at least the first power reactor at Iran's Bushehr nuclear site.
Whether the differences can be bridged remains unclear. The official put the matter bluntly, saying, "Russia will have to make a decision about whether to cast its lot with the United States or with Iran."
Establishment of a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement requires a lengthy process, including congressional review and approval, that the State Department official indicated would likely take at least two years.
Washington is also concerned that Russia's potential reprocessing plans would work at cross-purposes to U.S.-financed initiatives to secure and dispose of fissile materials and reduce the proliferation risk from Russia's deteriorating nuclear weapons complex. Washington has sought a commitment from Moscow that it will not reprocess any more spent fuel and thereby produce weapons-usable plutonium. The Clinton administration came close to reaching, but did not secure, an agreement with Russia on a 20-year plutonium-reprocessing moratorium.
In a policy statement released after the Duma's passage of the new law, the Bush administration said that Washington would not allow Russia to reprocess U.S.-origin spent fuel. Whether this policy would apply to future reprocessing technologies that would not fully separate reprocessed plutonium into weapons-usable form, as apparently envisioned in both Russia's plans and the administration's recently released energy policy document, remains unclear. return to menu
C. Plutonium Disposition
1. Operation Plutonium Completed
July 13, 2001
(for personal use only)
ALMATY, Kazakhstan - U.S. officials are expressing quiet satisfaction after an enormous stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium, located in a sensitive zone in Kazakhstan, was made theft-proof in what the Energy Department calls "one of the world's largest and most successful nonproliferation projects."More than 3 tons of plutonium, enough to make 400 bombs, had been stored in a fast-breeder reactor on the Caspian Sea shore under security that one early visitor likened to that of an office building.
Today, the plutonium has been fully secured, said Trisha Dedik, director of the U.S. Energy Department's office of nonproliferation policy, in an interview. "It's been a great success."
On Thursday, Dedik and others took part in a ceremony in the city of Aktau with Kazakh officials celebrating the end of the project.
The plutonium was produced by a BN-350 fast-breeder nuclear reactor located on the arid northwestern shore of the Caspian Sea, a few kilometers from Aktau. Both the city and 350-megawatt power plant, the first-ever commercial breeder reactor, owed their location to considerable uranium deposits that were mined nearby.
The plutonium was designed to be shipped to other parts of the Soviet Union for use as fuel in other reactors like it, but only one, the BN600, was ever built. Located near the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, it ultimately took little or no plutonium from the BN-350, so the material just piled up.
The plant closed in 1999, at the end of its useful life. After 26 years of providing electricity and water by powering a desalinization plant to the Aktau region, there was an accumulation of 3,000 five-meter cylinders called fuel assembles containing spent nuclear fuel, from which a total of 3,250 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium could be extracted with relative ease, according to the Energy Department. Nearly half the assemblies emitted little radiation and could be safely handled by men wearing light protection. The other half were too "hot" to be handled by anything but robots. All spent years in a football field-sized cooling pond in the plant.
"When I walked in there the first time, back in 1995, it had all the security of a modern office building," recalled Fredrick Crane, an American physicist familiar with the plant. "It was a clean and well-run reactor, there were some guards but otherwise all you needed was one code, like in an airport terminal, and you were in."
With each fuel assembly weighing 135 kilograms, a couple of strong men with accomplices inside could spirit out the half-dozen cylinders required to make a bomb. "It was attractive material and it was accessible," said Dedik of the Energy Department. Just 800 kilometers to the south along the Caspian coastline lies Iran and what U.S. officials say is a covert nuclear-weapons program. About 1,300 kilometers to the southeast is Afghanistan, home to accused terrorist Osama bin Laden, and due west, straight across the Caspian, Chechnya smolders.
"There are fast-breeder reactors in Western Europe and Japan, but the plutonium produced there doesn't accumulate like it did in Aktau, it's reprocessed pretty quickly," Dedik said. "There just aren't any big stockpiles. Remember, most weapons-grade plutonium is produced by dedicated reactors, controlled by the military, and they're usually much better guarded than this one was."
So in 1996, the government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United States quietly set up a program to immediately increase security and, starting 1998, to package the fuel assemblies to make them impossible to be stolen. Dedik and Crane were among several dozen Americans who worked on the project, which was funded by the U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction Program under the Nunn-Lugar Act.
A torpedo factory in Almaty that had converted to civilian work was assigned to manufacture big steel canisters in which four or six of the plutonium-rich assemblies - some "hot," some "cooled" - were packed together and sealed before being returned to the cooling pond. Weighing well over a ton, the filled canisters are far too heavy to be handled by anything but a large robot, and all of them now emit lethal doses of radiation. Last month, after nearly three years and $43 million in U.S. aid money, the 478th and last canister was welded shut and lowered into the cooling pond. At the plant, Crane said, there are now manned gates, closed-circuit televisions, x-ray machines and turnstiles with magnetic cards, along with sensors that monitor the materials around the clock.
The packing is designed to last 50 years, but the plutonium isn't destined to stay at the closed Aktau plant that long. Eventually, under a decree signed six months ago by Nazarbayev, the canisters will be taken 4,400 kilometers by train to the former nuclear testing grounds at Semipalatinsk, on the other side of this nation the size of Western Europe. There, silos will be dug into the vast steppe and the fat cylinders will be buried, using a technique perfected in the United States.
"It will be the longest rail shipment of plutonium ever attempted," said Dedik. "They will have to design special transportation casks." And since the rail line wanders through what is now Russia and Kyrgyzstan, special loops will have to be built so that the plutonium stays in Kazakhstan during its whole voyage. return to menu
2. Bill on Weapons-Grade Plutonium Ready for Ratification
July 11, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW -- The international affairs committee of the Russian State Duma lower house of parliament has prepared for ratification a Russian-U.S. agreement on utilization of weapons-grade plutonium, the Duma press service reported on Wednesday.
Russia and the USA signed in 2000 an agreement on the utilization on each side of 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium, which may be used as fuel in nuclear reactors.
The agreement includes commitment by the USA to allocate 200 million dollars for the construction of necessary facilities, as well as the possibility that the sum could be increased in the future.
The entire amount of works to utilize weapons-grade plutonium will take some two billion dollars, Russian experts say. With that in view, the document envisages the setting up of an international mechanism to finance those expenses.
It includes, for example, provisions which enable Russia not to begin the construction of facilities to utilize plutonium until an international fund is set up, that will make it possible to bring utilization capacities to two tons of weapons-grade plutonium a year. return to menu
1. Russia Issues List of Closed Cities
July 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW (AP) - Formalizing restrictions that date back to Soviet times, the Russian government has issued a list of about 90 cities, towns and villages that are normally closed to outsiders for security reasons.
The order, signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, was published in the government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta on Wednesday. Kasyanov said the order was intended to officially establish the names of the settlements.
The list includes the nuclear centers of Zheleznogorsk in Siberia and Snezhinsk in the Ural Mountains, the chemical center in Shikhany in the Volga River region, and the Arctic naval bases of Polyarny, Severomorsk and Vidyayevo.
All the sites on the list have been closed to visitors since Soviet times. But in the Soviet era, their residents often enjoyed high wages and other government privileges; now many are struggling for survival, with diminished government subsidies since the 1991 Soviet collapse. return to menu
E. International Nuclear Cooperation
1. International Nuclear Waste Information Exchange Planned
Las Vegas Sun
July 11, 2001
(for personal use only)
Researchers in the United States and around the world have agreed to participate in an information exchange that could one day change the way countries manage high-level nuclear waste.
A U.S. Department of Energy scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has approached Eastern European, Eastern Asian and U.S. experts to examine everything from studying Yucca Mountain to transforming radioactive wastes into something less harmful to storing and managing the wastes.
Every possible solution is on the research table, Cheng-Kong Chou, associate director of energy and environment at Livermore, said Tuesday.
Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan reached a preliminary agreement last week with the national laboratory to exchange information about nuclear waste management, Chou said.
One of the best aspects of Livermore's plan to share information is funding, Chou said, noting that instead of seeking U.S. funds, other nations are willing to share in the costs.
U.S. government scientists are studying the only current solution -- disposal of 77,000 tons of commercial spent fuel and military wastes -- at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Since there has been so much work done studying Yucca Mountain, it is logical to tap into DOE's expertise vested with the scientists working there, Chou said.
However, other nations are looking at various rock formations, very unlike Yucca Mountain's volcanic ash layers, Chou said.
Japan, for example, is studying granite sites. Granite was once considered in the late 1970s and 1980s in the United States, Chou noted, because it is extremely stable. A granite formation under New Hampshire and Maine has been undisturbed for 600 million years.
A central bank of nuclear waste information could be started at the University of California, Chou said, but other universities also could be invited to participate, including UNLV.
"Eventually, if this is going someday, we hope that UNLV will join us in research," Chou said.
Although there has been no formal discussions with university officials, Donald Baepler, founder of UNLV's Harry Reid Environmental Research Center, said he had heard of the project.
"This is very preliminary," Baepler said. "In my experience, these projects take forever and often get talked to death."
But if the international nuclear waste brain trust gels, Baepler said the university would be interested in participating.
The Harry Reid Center has already received $3 million this year for studying advanced technology that would render highly radioactive wastes less dangerous.
The DOE and scientists around the world are participating in the advanced accelerator project. return to menu
F. Nuclear Testing
1. Nuclear Testing and National Honor
New York Times
July 13, 2001
(for personal use only)
Last weekend, The New York Times reported the latest attack by the Bush administration on a major international agreement - the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, banning all test explosions of nuclear weapons. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz recently raised the possibility of circumstances "where you would have to contemplate" nuclear testing, and an administration official told Agence France-Presse that the treaty "has no support within the administration." Meanwhile, General John Gordon, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, recently informed Congress that he is looking hard at "improving test site readiness."
The intention of the White House to kill the test ban treaty, if fulfilled, would have deeply serious consequences for nuclear arms control and would constitute a major renunciation by the United States of undertakings it has solemnly made. It also throws glaring light on the extremist views of international law held within the administration.
The test ban treaty was signed by President Bill Clinton in September 1996, after its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly by a vote of 158 to 3. (Five nations abstained; nineteen others were either absent or so behind in their dues they could not vote.) The United States voted for it. The three states actively opposed were India, Bhutan (acting under Indian pressure) and Libya. The treaty has now been signed by 161 nations and ratified by 31 of the 44 nuclear- capable, or potentially capable, states named as necessary participants for it to enter into force. A test ban organization has been established, in Vienna, to verify the operations of the treaty. A global seismological network has been set up to detect violations. Until the treaty enters into force, it is universally agreed that a moratorium on testing should be observed.
Three years after President Clinton's signature, the Senate decided against ratifying the treaty by a vote of 51 to 48. Senate debate was gagged by the Republican leadership, and the vote was influenced by Republicans' wish to take retribution against President Clinton for winning the impeachment battle. Simply put, there was shabbiness all round, for which a terrible price was paid.
This treaty has been sought for almost 30 years. The United States had promised to support it on several crucial occasions during the last 10 years, when failure to end nuclear testing was manifestly threatening the broader nonproliferation effort that the United States said, and continues to say, it considers of fundamental importance for national security.
If the United States now destroys the test ban treaty and moves to resume nuclear testing, other nuclear- weapons states will follow suit, and still other states will consider acquiring nuclear weapons. The nonproliferation regime will perish.
Not only will the world be made a much more dangerous place in the obvious ways, but it will become a world in which the word of the United States will have been exposed as meaningless. There is such a thing as national honor. However intangible, it nonetheless exists and is the basis for successful relationships between states. The consequences of simply refusing to honor national commitments - of the United States going back on its word - are incalculable for American and global security.
In May 2000, as part of a regular review conference concerning the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the United States, together with the four other acknowledged nuclear-weapons states, declared that it remained unequivocally committed to "the ultimate goal of a complete elimination of nuclear weapons" and agreed to 13 steps toward nuclear arms control, including aggressive advocacy of the test ban treaty.
But that was in the distant days of the Clinton administration. The new team in Washington seems to have declared year zero as far as prior American undertakings are concerned. The attitude of senior figures in the administration to past commitments and to international law seems to suggest that there is no history before them, a ludicrous and dangerous conception.
At present, government legal analysts in Washington have prepared papers for senior policy makers on the attitude the United States should adopt toward international law. One such paper posits the existence of a new, threatening concept of international law that would gradually strip nations of their sovereignty, replacing national laws with global norms. International law, in this vision, would become a weapon used by a concert of nations against the United States.
The administration's approach is a fearful and misguided one of unilateral rejection. International agreements already in existence and considered offensive, virtually to the United States alone, include the treaties banning land mines and biological weapons, and the accord to establish an International Criminal Court. We might add the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and, most recently, a pact now being negotiated at the United Nations to limit small-arms trafficking. The administration seems to believe that international agreements will increasingly pressure the United States to sacrifice its sovereignty and become subject to direction by international institutions. This argument ignores reality. The United States depends on international treaties for its own safety and prosperity. After all, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is just that, a treaty organization. The World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the United Nations - all these are based on treaties, and the United States, under normal circumstances, has participated in them, often led them, and benefited immensely. International commitments do not threaten American sovereignty. If anything, they make possible a measured extension of American sovereignty. Without them we would not have globalization and America would not, in all likelihood, enjoy its present prosperity or, indeed, its power.
Until recent months, America has behaved largely as a good international citizen. Fulminating against the dark forces of "new" international law can only limit American influence in the international arena. The wiser course now would be for the United States to work to improve treaties where they are flawed and to put its muscle behind gaining universal acceptance of them, to deploy, not withdraw, its sovereignty. If this does not occur, we may well find ourselves at year zero - on nuclear time. return to menu
G. U.S. Nuclear Stockpile Security
1. Nukes: A Lesson from Russia
Bruce G. Blair
July 11, 2001
(for personal use only)
Although the United States spends nearly $1 billion every year to help Russia protect its vast storehouse of nuclear weapons materials from theft or sale on the black market, few Americans know how this aid helps strengthen America's own nuclear safeguards.
Russian experts at the Kurchatov Institute, the renowned nuclear research center in Moscow, recently found what appears to be a critical deficiency in the internal U.S. system for keeping track of all bomb-grade nuclear materials held by the Energy Department -- enough material for tens of thousands of nuclear bombs.
Kurchatov scientists discovered a fatal flaw in the Microsoft software donated to them by the Los Alamos National Laboratory. This same software has been the backbone of America's nuclear materials control system for years. The Russians found that over time, as the computer program is used, some files become invisible and inaccessible to the nuclear accountants using the system, even though the data still exist in netherworld of the database. Any insider who understood the software could exploit this flaw by tracking the "disappeared" files and then physically diverting, for a profit, the materials themselves.
After investigating the problem for many months, the Russians came to believe that it posed a grave danger and suspended further use of the software in Russia's accounting system. By their calculations, an enormous amount of Russia's nuclear material -- the equivalent of many thousands of nuclear bombs -- would disappear from their accounting records if Russia were to use the flawed U.S. software program for 10 years.
Then, in early 2000, they did something they didn't have to do: They warned the United States, believing that an analogous risk must exist in the U.S. system. Although neither Los Alamos nor the U.S. Department of Energy has publicly acknowledged the possibility that innumerable files on American nuclear materials might have disappeared, the Russian warning caused shock waves at the highest levels of the Energy Department.
Unlike the Russians, who did not throw away their manual records of their nuclear stockpile -- the infamous shoe box and hand-receipt system that U.S. assistance was intended to supersede -- the United States has long since discarded its old written records. To reconstruct a reliably accurate accounting record, the Energy Department may need to inspect all of America's nuclear materials -- a huge task that could cost more than $1 billion and still might not detect the diversion of some material, should it have occurred.
The importance of the goodwill and trust that had grown up between American and Russian nuclear experts over years of working together in this area is clear. When the Russian scientists first discovered the computer flaw, the initial reaction in some high-level Moscow circles was to suspect an American Trojan horse, a bug planted deliberately to undermine Russian security. After complaints by their Russian counterparts, scientists at Los Alamos suggested that the Russian scientists instead use a later version of the same program. Kurchatov then discovered the upgraded program not only contained the same bug (though much less virulent) but also had a critical security flaw that would allow easy access to the sensitive nuclear database by hackers or unauthorized personnel.
But trust overrode suspicion. The Russians concluded that the glitches were innocent errors, not devious traps. Thus, they feared the U.S. database, unbeknown to Americans, was not only prone to lose track of nuclear materials but was also accessible to unauthorized users. Russia reported both problems to Los Alamos, which subsequently verified the defects, as did Microsoft. Though a fix remains elusive, Kurchatov scientists also have shared a partial repair they developed.
This Russian feedback may be causing American embarrassment -- U.S. officials apparently have tried to muzzle the Russians and censor their scientific papers on the fiasco -- but it surely represents a high return on the American investment in Russian nuclear security. The lesson is that nuclear cooperation is a two-way street, is paying off and deserves continuing support.
The writer, a former Minuteman missile launch officer, is president of the Center for Defense Information. return to menu
H. Radiological Warfare
1. Radioactive Substance Found in Grozny
July 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
GROZNY -- Men from the Chechen Ministry for Emergencies have found more than 50 kg Cesium-137 isotope on the campus of a former secondary school in Grozny. According to preliminary information, field commander Shamil Basayev's men had stuffed this radioactive substance into mortar shells and fired them at federal troops, Reuters reports.
The maximum radioactive background around that half-ruined school building reached 100 roentgen, which is one-thousandth times higher than the safe level of 0.13 microroentgen per hour, according to Reuters.
Chechen First Deputy Minister for Emergencies Viktor Reznichenko told ITAR-TASS on Wednesday that trucks had to be used to remove the radioactive substance and the contaminated ground from the school campus to Achkhoy-Martan District of Chechnya, where the republic's only burial of radioactive substances is located. Unfortunately, Reznichenko noted, the burial is not guarded. return to menu