1. Russia Leans Toward Saving ABM Treaty While U.S. Insists It's a Cold War Relic
San Jose Mercury News
July 27, 2001
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MOSCOW -- The United States and Russia held preliminary talks on President Bush's national ballistic-missile shield Thursday, but quickly confronted a potential impasse as both sides clung to conflicting positions on the treaty that bans such defenses.
U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice denounced the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as a Cold War relic and said the United States would proceed with missile-defense tests with or without Russia's acquiescence. Russian officials said they wanted to try to salvage the treaty.
Rice was part of a top-level U.S. contingent that was dispatched to Russia days after Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin met last weekend at a gathering in Genoa, Italy, of the leaders of the top industrialized nations. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans also were visiting Russia in an effort to strengthen economic ties between the countries.
Bush and Putin agreed Sunday to link talks on Bush's missile-defense shield with efforts to reduce each country's nuclear arsenals. They also agreed to meetings on a range of defense and economic issues to pave the way for a November summit in the United States.
The opening round Wednesday and Thursday produced little more than a commitment to further talks. The U.S. officials met briefly with Putin and more extensively with other Russian officials.
Putin reiterated Russia's insistence that the ABM treaty is a bulwark of nuclear deterrence. The treaty, signed by the United States and the Soviet Union, bans all but the most limited missile-defense systems. It is based on the theory that neither side would launch an offensive nuclear strike if it were unable to protect itself.
Rice described the treaty as "an impediment'' to fighting nuclear threats in the 21st century. The Bush administration wants to move as quickly as possible to develop defenses against missile threats from such nations as North Korea.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov told reporters Russia also reiterated its proposal to reduce nuclear stockpiles in each country to 1,500 warheads.
Rice said there wasn't much discussion about reducing warheads, but the two sides agreed to set up a series of further meetings.
"We do not foresee the kind of tortured arms-control talk about levels that we have seen in the past,'' she said. "We did not mention a number. In fact, we have said that we are not going to get into a politically motivated number.''
U.S. military leaders have opposed paring America's nuclear arsenal as much as Russia has proposed. The United States has about 7,000 strategic nuclear weapons and Russia has about 6,500.
"It's quite clear that the two sides have somewhat different expectations'' about the negotiations, said Dimitri Simes, an expert on U.S.-Russia relations who is president of the Washington-based Nixon Center, a conservative foreign policy institute.
Putin eventually will agree to abandon the ABM treaty, Simes predicted, but not without securing specific guarantees from the United States that it will reduce its arsenal of offensive nuclear weapons.
Bush administration officials said the main achievement of Rice's meetings was to set a timetable for further detailed discussions about replacing the ABM pact with the new security arrangement Bush wants.
Under the plan agreed to in Moscow, a Russian military delegation will travel to Washington on Aug. 7 to discuss U.S. missile-defense plans and related issues. Yuri Baluyevsky, deputy chief of staff o Russia's armed forces, is expected to lead that delegation.
In mid-August, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will visit Moscow to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. The week after that, John Bolton, the State Department's top arms-control official, plans to travel to the Russian capital. return to menu
2. Arms Deal Rattles Cold Warriors
As U.S. and Russian leaders move to revise weapons accords, they face a tough sell to their militaries.
Fred Weir and Robert P. Hey
Christian Science Monitor
July 27, 2001
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MOSCOW AND WASHINGTON -- The nascent move toward a strategic accord in Moscow and Washington over offensive and defensive weapons faces perhaps its toughest scrutiny from a tough-minded constituency - the military.
Behind the attempts by US and Russian negotiators this week in Moscow to lay the groundwork for a package deal lies a brass-button reality: a cold-war mentality that still runs deep among the generals in both countries. Their views will help decide whether any pact linking a reduction in offensive warheads with a US plan to build a missile-defense shield ever gets initialed.
In Russia, the Soviet-schooled military leadership remains deeply skeptical of Mr. Putin's decision to even talk about missile defense, as well as the ongoing expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe.
In the US, one element of the Pentagon remains convinced that deep cuts in the two sides' nuclear arsenals could end up making the strategic balance more unstable, and thus more dangerous.
Complicating the motivations on both sides are efforts to restructure the two countries' militaries to reflect 21st century doctrines.
"Russia's security doctrines are evolving, but past priorities are still very strong held," says Sergei Kazyonnov, chief expert at the official Institute of National Security and Strategic Research. "Our military elite will not take kindly to being told by Washington how Russia should defend itself."
In America's military, with its long tradition of bowing to civilian control, positions are more nuanced. The view of top military commanders is not outright opposition, but pointed skepticism, toward a Bush-Putin arms deal.
The president would ultimately like to reduce the number of American and Russian warheads substantially below the 2,000 to 2,500 that President Clinton and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin sought to establish four years ago as a goal.
Many Pentagon officials would welcome having money shifted from the nuclear arsenal to other military needs. But Job 1, they say, is to be ready to accomplish objectives set by civilian leaders. At present, that means being ready to hit more than 2,000 targets in the former Soviet Union. And even if the benchmark is lowered, the question of adequate nuclear defenses remains.
Earlier this month, Adm. Richard Mies, head of the Strategic Command that controls nuclear weapons, warned Congress that more than the sheer number of warheads needs to be considered for US security.
In his prepared testimony, Admiral Mies quoted two former presidential advisers, whom he did not name, as saying:
"Given the clear risks and the elusive benefits inherent in additional deep cuts, the burden of proof should be on those who advocate such reductions to demonstrate exactly how and why such cuts would serve to enhance US security."
A lower number of warheads, Mies said, does not necessarily make the world safer. He pointed to a number of other factors as also key - including the ability to withstand a nuclear attack and strike back, and the ability to adapt deterrent forces to a rapidly changing future.
His testimony was perhaps the clearest statement yet of the Strategic Command's opposition to deep warhead cuts - a goal Bush raised in his election campaign last year and a key objective this week as his security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, sat down with counterparts in Moscow.
Sharply reducing warheads and missiles would free funds for other Bush defense priorities, from military readiness to his proposed antimissile defense system.
For that reason, "lurking below the surface [in the Pentagon] is a latent consensus among the military in favor of further offensive cuts," says Brookings Institution analyst Michael O'Hanlon in Washington.
But, with its direct oversight of the nuclear arsenal, the Strategic Command's voice is felt much more strongly.
For now, that resistance puts the brakes on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's efforts to reconfigure the military.
"If the Bush administration wants to have a new framework, they have got to lower numbers" of warheads, says Joseph Cirincione, executive director of the nonproliferation project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"The cold war is over," he adds. "But the cold war weapons and posture remain ... If Russia is not the enemy, why are our forces still configured as if they are?"
The Strategic Command is responsible for identifying targets in Russia, or anywhere else, for nuclear warheads. But those targets are set within broad parameters determined by civilian leaders -- the president and Defense secretary.
What Mies is trying to do, says Heritage Foundation defense analyst Baker Spring in Washington, is to "make sure his command is capable of executing" current policy. That would seem to open up a solution, short of twisting arms: Civilian leaders could fundamentally change to overall guidance to the Strategic Command. A less-sweeping set of requirements for fending off Russia in case of nuclear war, they say, and a willingness to assume some risk, would mean the US would need fewer nuclear warheads.
Experts say that Russia's Soviet-schooled military leadership may not be as ready for change as their young and pragmatic president.
"Our leading military officers, whose thinking is more traditional, tend to view NMD and NATO expansion as major threats which Russia cannot compromise with, but must struggle against," says Yuri Fyodorov, vice director of Pir, an independent political research center in Moscow. "They will not reconcile with this easily."
Russian defense policy has changed little over the past decade, largely because Mr. Yeltsin was unwilling to press painful downsizing and doctrinal changes on the Soviet-era armed forces.
After coming to power a year and a half ago, Putin pressured a reluctant Russian parliament to ratify long-stalled arms control treaties, announced sweeping military reforms, and hinted at key shifts in strategic thinking.
A resolution on national security adopted by the Kremlin last year upheld the traditional dominance of nuclear missile forces to deter an American attack, but introduced some new priorities. "Much more importance is now placed on fighting threats like international terrorism, domestic extremism, and cross-border narcotics trafficking," says Mr. Fyodorov.
Though some of Russia's immediate neighbors, such as the post-Soviet states of Georgia and Ukraine, may worry that this spells more meddling by Moscow in their affairs, more distant countries are likely to be relieved that Russian power is apparently refocusing itself on regional concerns.
Putin has also begun purging upper military ranks in ways that suggest major policy shifts to come.
In March, he sacked Yeltsin's Defense Minister, Igor Sergeyev, and replaced him with close friend and former KGB officer Sergei Ivanov. "Sergeyev was a former commander of Russian strategic missile forces, and when he was fired, the status of this branch was lowered," says Alexander Savelyev, a military expert with the official Institute of World Economy and International Relations. "One of the signals was that Russia will now concentrate on building up its conventional forces, and the strategic nuclear component will no longer be dominant." Earlier this month, Putin removed Gen. Leonid Ivashov, known for his hawkish stands on NATO and NMD, from his job as head of the Defense Ministry's international department. Also sacked was General Staff spokesman Valery Manilov, a close ally of Sergeyev.
Still, experts caution that the Kremlin may not have made up its mind about which strategic direction to take. Simultaneous with the visible thawing toward the West, Putin is moving to cement military cooperation with China.
A 20-year Treaty of Friendship signed last week in Moscow between the two countries contains some "alliance-type obligations," according to Russian media.
These include a commitment by both not to enter into any agreement that would jeopardize "the national security and territorial integrity" of the other, and an agreement to immediately consult on a joint response to any threat of aggression against either country. "It is not at all clear what Russia's position is going to be, because the geopolitical situation is still in flux," says Fyodorov.
But, for now at least, Putin should be able to handle any resistance thrown up by the military bureaucracy. "Putin is still very popular, the economy is healthy, and it is a Russian tradition to obey the boss," says Mr. Kazyonnov. "The president is in a very strong position to pursue his policies - whatever they are."
Moreover, in a press conference last week, Putin insisted that Russia does not consider NATO to be an enemy -- a declaration that must have shocked his elderly corps of generals, who have spent their lives preparing for an attack from that very quarter.
There should be "a single defense space in Europe," Putin argued, which could be achieved by Russia joining NATO, by the alliance disbanding unilaterally, or with the creation of a whole new security bloc with Russia at its heart. return to menu
B. Russian Nuclear Forces
1. The Russians' Rapid Missile
July 31, 2001
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Given the latest U.S. intelligence revealed yesterday by The Washington Times, the White House must be particularly pleased that President George W. Bush was able to strike such bonhomie with Russian President Vladimir Putin at last week's G-8 meeting in Genoa, Italy.
Bill Gertz, a reporter for The Times, divulged that Russia has conducted a test of a long-range SS-25 missile that may be designed to scuttle U.S. missile defenses. The missile's engine, a supersonic-combustion ramjet, is just as powerful as it sounds, and can generate speeds of five times the speed of sound. Officials familiar with the testing of the SS-25 said the missile was fired into space two weeks ago from a launch site in central Russia, and in its last stage dropped down into the atmosphere, flying at supersonic speed to an impact range thousands of miles away on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The missile has a range of more than 7,000 miles.
According to Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which overseas [sic] missile defense development, current U.S. systems are capable of knocking down a Scud, even one that travels at high velocity. All the same, given the Russian missile's speed, the closer relationship between Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin seems especially fortuitous.
Mr. Bush has been seeking to convince Mr. Putin that America and Russia could establish a strategic alliance. The U.S.-Russian relationship broke new ground in Genoa, when Mr. Putin said he would be amenable to a U.S. missile defense system if the two countries agreed to aggressively dismantle their nuclear arsenal. "We agree that major changes in the world require concrete discussion of both offensive and defensive systems," a statement issued by the two leaders said.
Interestingly, the Russian missile's capabilities will test to what degree the White House believes its own argument that, in the wake of the Cold War, the United States and Russia are not natural enemies. "If we are going to be intellectually honest about the argument, we have to be prepared to accept" Russia's missile development, said Paul Saunders, director of the Nixon Center, adding that Russia has many security concerns that aren't centered around the United States. Mr. Saunders also said that the missile's long range could prompt some analysts to assume the weapon was engineered by the Russians with U.S.-related concerns in mind. But range guidelines can be misleading, he said, because the longer-range missiles are also more accurate in shorter distances.
Presumably, some policy-makers may point to Russia's testing of the long-range missile as proof that U.S. missile defense is spurring a new arms race. But, since these missiles take several years to develop, the SS-25 can't possibly be a reaction to new U.S. missile defense plans.
Ironically, Mr. Bush's and Mr. Putin's efforts to find common ground on such a potentially contentious issue as missile defense has served to bring the two leaders closer together. And, although U.S. missile defense plans aren't being geared for a Russian attack (given that country's huge nuclear arsenal), the newfound trust between Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin certainly seems propitious - with or without the SS-25. return to menu
2. U.S. Looks at Russian Missile Test
July 30, 2001
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WASHINGTON -- A Russian test of a long-range missile is getting a close look from the Bush administration to determine if it is part of a program designed to foil a U.S. anti-missile shield.
For intelligence reasons, U.S. officials are reluctant to discuss the test except to say a long-range missile was tested about two weeks ago.
Among the questions under review are whether the missile's flight took an unusual path and whether it carried new technology designed to overcome missile defense schemes being explored by the Bush administration.
Officials were to brief a Senate defense appropriations subcommittee in a closed session Monday on the accelerating U.S. program and the billions of dollars it will cost.
Various options are under consideration, including a land-based system of 100 interceptors that would be based in Alaska and guided by a long-range radar station in the Aleutian Islands.
The Russian missile test was disclosed Monday by The Washington Times, which said a road-mobile SS25 with a new jet-powered last stage was launched from central Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a meeting with President Bush July 22 in Genoa, Italy, agreed to hold talks simultaneously on offensive and defensive weapons.
Bush sent Condoleezza Rice, his assistant for national security, to Moscow to make arrangements for the talks.
She set a timetable for strategic arms talks. Russian specialists are due here next week and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld will go to Moscow for parallel talks in late August.
Both Rice and Vladimir Rushailo, head of Russia's National Security Council, said they want to move from confrontation to cooperation.
But Rice said U.S. testing for a missile defense system will go ahead in any event. And Rushailo said Moscow would insist on extended negotiations to try to salvage the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that forbids national missile defenses.
On Friday, the Russian foreign ministry said Rice had not said anything that would cause Russia to temper its opposition to scrapping the 1972 treaty.
Meanwhile, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer disputed contentions of some Democrats that the administration has no authority to spend money on clearing ground in Alaska for a missile defense station.
"Unless Congress speaks otherwise, there is no prohibition on that,'' Fleischer said.
"Imagine all the expenditures the United States government enters into on every given day, whether it's the Department of Defense or any different agency. There is a broader statutory authority for, in this case, promoting the national defense,'' he said. "Congress does not authorize or appropriate every single penny that is spent, it just has to be for the purpose of those agencies.'' return to menu
3. Moscow Tests New Missile
July 30, 2001
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Russia has conducted a test of a long-range missile with a new jet-powered last stage designed to defeat U.S. missile defenses, according to U.S. intelligence officials. They view the launch as Russia's answer to U.S. plans to deploy a missile-defense system against long-range missiles.
The flight test of the road-mobile SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) took place from a launch site in central Russia two weeks ago. It was tracked to an impact area several thousand miles away on the Kamchatka Peninsula. U.S. officials said the missile's flight took an unusual path: Its last stage was a high-speed cruise missile that flew within the Earth's atmosphere at an altitude of about 100,000 feet.
"It looks like the Russians were testing scramjet technology," said one intelligence official. Citing a policy of not discussing intelligence matters, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke declined to comment on the Russian missile test.
A "scramjet," short for supersonic-combustion ramjet, is a high-powered jet engine capable of reaching speeds of five times the speed of sound; Mach 5 or more. It is lighter than a space-borne re-entry vehicle because it does not need to carry its own oxygen.
Officials familiar with intelligence reports of the SS-25 flight test said it involved firing the road-mobile missile nearly into space and then having its last stage drop down to within the atmosphere and flying at supersonic speed to the Kamchatka impact range. The SS-25 ballistic missile has three stages and a post-boost vehicle carrying the warhead. It has a maximum range of more than 7,000 miles.
Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which is in charge of all U.S. missile-defense development, said current U.S. systems capable of knocking down cruise missiles are the Patriot PAC-2 and newly deployed PAC-3. The Navy's ship-launched Standard missile currently deployed on Aegis-equipped warships is also capable of knocking down cruise missiles, Col. Lehner said. Asked if current systems could knock out a cruise missile traveling at Mach 5, Col. Lehner said: "The PAC-3 can shoot down a Scud, even one that moves at high velocity."
U.S. national missile-defense efforts are currently focused on intercepting long-range missile warheads in space. The Bush administration's successful July 14 interceptor test involved knocking out a dummy warhead 140 miles above the Pacific Ocean. The Air Force is developing an aircraft-mounted anti-missile laser that is being designed to knock out missiles shortly after launch in the "boost phase" of their flight. It is not known if the airborne laser could be used against high-speed cruise missiles.
Russian leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, have vowed to adopt countermeasures for Moscow's strategic nuclear missile forces if the United States builds a national missile-defense shield. Mr. Putin said in June -- before his recent agreement with President Bush to discuss scrapping the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty by linking it to bilateral cuts in nuclear stockpiles -- that one Russian countermeasure would be to load multiple warheads or additional warheads on its current missiles.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in an interview with The Washington Times last week that the Pentagon is working on a research and development program that includes "a variety of ways" to shoot down incoming missiles. The Pentagon also is in the process of conducting a nuclear posture review to determine how many and what types of strategic forces should be deployed.
Military experts said that in 1995, the Russians unveiled a prototype scramjet-powered missile called GELA. Several ground tests of the missile were carried out and two brief flight tests also were reported in trade publications. Sven Kraemer, a former White House National Security Council staff specialist on strategic missiles, said he was not aware of the SS-25 scramjet test, but said if it were true, it would be an alarming development. It would indicate Russia is continuing to develop advanced strategic weapons.
"If this is true, it demonstrates Russia's intense effort to very significantly upgrade its offensive capabilities even as it is doing the same in its strategic defense investments," Mr. Kraemer said in an interview. Mr. Kraemer said that in addition to continued development of new strategic weapons, Russia has gone ahead with upgrading its nuclear-armed strategic defense system around Moscow and the construction of deep underground bunkers used to protect leaders and command forces in a nuclear war.
The latest strategic-missile test by Russia is likely to fuel criticism of U.S. aid to Russia for the dismantling of nuclear weapons. Critics of the aid program point out that the money allows Moscow to use its own funds to develop new nuclear arms as it dismantles older ones. The Bush administration has cut some $100 million from the aid program.
Keith Payne, a missile-defense expert who heads the National Institute for Public Policy, a defense think tank, said any Russian effort to counter U.S. missile defenses with a scramjet missile or other techniques is misguided. "The missile-defense system we're talking about isn't designed to defeat Russian ICBMs," Mr. Payne said . "If the Russians want to put any countermeasures, I don't really care. It doesn't undermine what we're developing."
The Bush administration has repeatedly said that a national missile defense is aimed at protecting the United States from missile attacks by "rogue states" such as North Korea and Iraq. Mr. Payne said the scramjet missile may be part of Russia's efforts to develop non-nuclear or conventional precision-guided long-range missiles. "The Russians put a lot of stock in that," he said.
The United States is currently working on its own version of a hypersonic cruise missile that uses scramjet technology and will travel at speeds of Mach 5 or higher. A scramjet space aircraft is also being developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. return to menu
C. Nuclear Waste
1. Forest Fire Threatens Russian Nuclear Sites
July 28, 2001
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MOSCOW -- A raging forest fire on Saturday threatened a radioactive waste storage facility and forced the temporary shutdown of a nuclear reactor in southern Russia, local officials said. Fire experts said the blaze began dangerously close to a storage site for radioactive material in the southern Voronezh region, and quickly took hold in the tinder-box conditions caused by a current heat wave.
Scores of firefighters battled for several hours to extinguish the blaze, which engulfed some 23 hectares (57 acres), as it closed in on the Novovoronezhskaya power plant.
"There was no threat to the nuclear power plant, but there was a threat to the storage facility of radioactive waste which is located nearby,'' fire chief Vladimir Lozovsky told NTV television.
Nuclear officials said the thick smoke and rise in temperature caused by the forest fire had set off the power plant's safety system. Reactor number five was shut down as a precaution.
Vladimir Rozin, the plant's deputy chief engineer, said that there had been no increase in radioactivity during the incident. The reactor later resumed power production but at reduced levels, state-run ORT television quoted officials as saying.
Fire chiefs said the fire was probably started by careless picnickers. return to menu
2. Spent Fuel Imports in 3 Years
Nuclear Engineering International
July 19, 2001
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It will be at least three years before the first consignment of imported spent fuel arrives for storage at Krasnoyarsk, said Russian atomic energy minister, Alexander Rumyantsev.
To make the project feasible, the storage capacity at the Krasnoyarsk Mining and Chemical Combine in Zheleznogorsk will have to be increased to 30,000t to cope with the expected imports, he said. The plant currently has intermediate pool storage with a capacity of 6000t, which can be increased to 8600t. A dry storage facility is being designed, and construction is expected to cost $300-450m million, which will come from the initial payments for the imports.
However, construction in Zheleznogorsk of the RT-2 reprocessing plant, frozen over 10 years ago, will not be resumed. The spent fuel will be stored at Krasnoyarsk and processed at the Mayak Chemical Combine near Chelyabinsk.
Answering critics concerned about use of the revenue from the imports, Rumyantsev said the special commission chaired by Dr. Zhores Alferov (Physics and Mathematics), a Nobel Prize winner and State Duma deputy, would act as a watchdog. The commission will be responsible for the safety elements of each contract and financial flows. Money would first go to "a bank in which the state has a share, such as Sberbank, Vneshekonombank or Vneshtorgbank, and from there to the federal treasury within a matter of one day.
"A quarter of the money will be dispatched to the regions that will store and process nuclear fuel wastes, and 75% will be spent on state environmental programmes." However, nobody knows how much money can be earned from the project. "We don't have a serious business plan," Rumyantsev admitted.
Prices vary from $800 a kilogram (with the return of processed materials, which amount to 1% of the imported material) to $1500 dollars (if the remainder is to be utilised in the processing country). Russia can hope to get a "maximum of 10% of the nuclear spent fuel market, but the real figure will be 5%, or 10,000-20,000t a year."
Rumyantsev added that spent fuel is "a valuable raw material, which only three countries in the world can handle. Russia is one of them. We have already lost the Finnish market and now we are losing the Czech Republic and Hungary. Britain and France are pushing us out of them." A full news update on the country's spent fuel bill is on page 14 of the August edition of Nuclear Engineering International. return to menu
D. Nuclear Seizures
1. 'Radioactive Thieves' Caught at Chernobyl
July 29, 2001
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KIEV: Ukrainian police have arrested two local men accused of trying to smuggle 10 tonnes of radioactive metal from a safety zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the Ukrainian press reported on Friday.
The men were trying to escape with two truck loads of metal that had been used during the decontamination operation after an explosion in one of the plant's nuclear reactors spewed radioactive waste around the surrounding area in 1986.
The illicit cargo registered twice the permitted levels of radioactivity, the Fakti newspaper reported.
The two Ukrainians were arrested at a routine radioactivity control checkpoint nearby and were thought to have stolen the iron-based compound from a store.
DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of RANSAC. RANSAC takes no responsibility for the technical accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News. return to menu