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Nuclear News - 08/20/01
RANSAC Nuclear News, August 20, 2001
Compiled by G. J. Marsh

A. U.S. - Russia Relations
    1. Face It, the Cold War Is Over, Quentin Peel, Financial Times (08/20/01)
    2. Transcript: Rumsfeld Discusses Meetings with Russians, U.S. Department of State Washington File (08/17/01)
B. Highly Enriched Uranium
    1. Bush Choices May Save USEC, Joe Walker, Paducah Sun (08/20/01)
C. Nuclear Waste
    1. Siemens Won't Sell Nuclear Plant to Russians, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (08/19/01)
    2. Russians Warn of Nuclear Waste, Vladimir Isachenkov, AP (08/17/01)
    3. Radioactive Russian Waters Worry Chelyabinsk Governor, Environmental News Service (08/16/01)
    4. Russian Plant Tests Nuclear Fuel Vitrification Furnace, BBC Monitoring Service (08/16/01)
    5. Numerous Problems Slow Efforts to Safely Scrap Retired Russian Nuclear Submarines, Russell Working, Japan Times (08/16/01)
D. Uranium Mining
    1. Russia to Develop New Uranium Deposit in East Siberia, BBC Monitoring Service (08/17/01)

A. U.S. - Russia Relations

Face It, the Cold War Is Over
Quentin Peel
Financial Times
August 20, 2001
(for personal use only)

The cold war ended 10 years ago this week, with a whimper. That was when the "red barons" of the Soviet Communist party, the KGB and the Red Army attempted to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev. They abandoned the effort in drunken disarray after three days.

They may have failed, but they finished the task Mr. Gorbachev had begun and ensured the final dissolution of Joseph Stalin's empire. Any vestige of hope in Moscow of remaining a rival superpower to the US vanished in those three days. Ever since, America has been unchallenged.

And yet we still seem to have extraordinary difficulty in coming to terms with the reality that the cold war is over. For it was a state of mind, not merely a nuclear stand-off. The psychology of confrontation is deeply embedded in our thinking, both in America and Europe.

We still talk fondly of "the west," implying that there is a hostile "east" somewhere out there. And we focus on the search for new adversaries and traditional security threats that may justify our continued military spending.

That seems to be where President George W. Bush's ambitious plans for a fantastically expensive ballistic missile defence system fit in. BMD is supposed to counter the danger of "rogue states," usually identified as Iran, Iraq or North Korea, threatening the US with a solitary nuclear missile. On close examination, it seems an unlikely prospect. Even people such as Saddam Hussein are not normally suicidal.

Missile defence is the single most important security ambition of Mr. Bush's administration. Its proponents insist that it is a demonstration of new thinking, to deal with the new reality of nuclear proliferation in the post-cold war world. Yet it sounds alarmingly like old thinking based on cold war attitudes, or at least nostalgia.

The argument is that missile defence means scrapping, or at least drastically amending, the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty signed by Washington and Moscow in 1972. That is something many Republicans have wanted ever since it was agreed.

"It would have to be essentially replaced," says John Bolton, US under-secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, and a strong supporter of BMD. "The treaty is very well written . . . to prevent a national missile defence, and that is precisely what we want. That's why we have hoped to convince the Russians to move beyond the treaty entirely."

The chances are that President Vladimir Putin will end up doing a deal, although he will try to sell his compliance at a price. But that is not the point. The problem is the motivation behind BMD, and what such a system may do to the future nuclear balance.

Two things seem to be behind it and neither has much to do with rogue states. One is a deep emotional attachment to the idea of missile defence, born at the height of the cold war back in the 1960s, on the conservative wing of the Republican party. The other is a fear of China.

Gen Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to two Republican presidents, Gerald Ford and George W. Bush's father, calls BMD a Republican "crusade." Speaking in a BBC interview for the Analysisprogramme this week, he admits it gained a lot of "emotional baggage" in the guise of President Ronald Reagan's Star Wars.

The fierce Republican opposition to President Bill Clinton gave it a new lease of life, he says. Mr. Clinton's unenthusiastic attitude "started the emotion all over again, and gave it the guise of a crusade . . . which the Republicans eventually won with the help of a couple of missile tests from North Korea."

That is where the second driving force comes in. "It's not often articulated but . . . you can think of North Korea as a stalking horse for China," says Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment. "There are many people in this administration. . . who think that a war with China is likely, perhaps even inevitable, in the next 20 or 30 years. [They think] China will challenge us [and] we'd better be ready for it."

It is a viewpoint that Henry Kissinger, the secretary of state under President Richard Nixon, warns against in his latest book. The hawks see China "as a morally flawed inevitable adversary," he says, and believe the US should therefore act "not as a strategic partner, but as it treated the Soviet Union during the cold war: as a rival and a challenge." Dr. Kissinger believes such a strategy would simply cause the rest of the world to gang up on the US.

Supporters of BMD insist that it is not aimed at China. "We don't think that they should really be concerned about missile defence," says John Bolton. "It's not directly against them. After all, it is defensive."

Gen Scowcroft, on the other hand, fears that China will react to BMD by accelerating its missile-building programme and by going mobile and converting to smaller warheads. That in turn could well galvanise India and then Pakistan to step up their nuclear programmes.

He sees the administration as split. "If there is a real division within this administration, it is probably on China," he says. "There is a division between those who see China as inexorably developing into the primary security threat to the US, and those who feel China is transforming rapidly but that . . . it's been overwhelmingly positive. I'm not sure the administration has found its voice."

Whichever way Washington jumps, it all seems to suggest that Russia is a secondary consideration these days - a means to an end but not the end itself.

Yet in spite of the fact that one cannot imagine Russia using its rusting arsenal of nuclear weapons with aggressive intent these days, it will be the most likely source of proliferation if the country remains unstable and impoverished. Either its weapons or its scientists will be for sale to the highest bidder.

All of which suggests that Mr. Bush could be doing something far more useful with the billions of dollars he is planning to spend on BMD. He could be investing in the transformation of Russia into a country where the rule of law prevails, democratic institutions function, and the market economy works. Because none of those things are happening yet, even though the coup failed.
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Transcript: Rumsfeld Discusses Meetings with Russians
U.S. Department of State Washington File
August 17, 2001
(for personal use only)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the United States and Russia must move forward in a new strategic relationship that reflects the end of Cold War hostility.

That strategic formula is not based solely on military issues -- such as mutual nuclear weapons reduction -- but also involves advances in U.S.-Russian political and economic relations, Rumsfeld said August 16 in an interview on the PBS television Newshour.

"What we need to do is to find different structures and agreements and understandings so that we can move forward in a less hostile and more rational relationship," he said.

There have been a number of discussions between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, senior U.S. and Russian defense officials, and himself and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on those issues and on the proposed U.S. missile defense system and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, Rumsfeld pointed out. More meetings between defense officials will be held in September, and the two presidents will meet in October and November.

The meetings to date have enabled U.S. officials to understand the Russian perspective and what things "are really concerning them as opposed to just rhetoric" and to tell them "the things that concern us," he said. "It is a process. It's not an event."

Rumsfeld said the United States will continue to negotiate with Russian officials to move beyond the ABM Treaty, but will not intentionally violate the terms of the treaty as it researches, tests and develops a missile defense system.

If the United States is unable to establish a new relationship with Russia so that it can get beyond the ABM Treaty and proceed to develop the kinds of missile defense capabilities that have been proposed, "then obviously the United States would have to give notice [to withdraw from the treaty]," he said.

Following is a transcript of the interview:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of Defense

DOD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 16, 2001

(Interview with Ray Suarez, PBS Newshour)

Suarez: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld recently returned from Moscow. He discussed with Russian leaders the Anti-Ballistic Missile, or ABM, Treaty, as well as cuts in strategic offensive nuclear weapons. The secretary is also in the midst of a major review to determine the future size and shape of the U.S. military. Mr. Secretary, welcome.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

Suarez: Well, define for us the tone of your meetings with the Russians in Moscow earlier this week. How did they go?

Rumsfeld: Well, they were good meetings. We covered an enormous range of subjects, political, economic as well as security issues because they're really all connected. The relationship been the United States and Russia is a multifaceted relationship and much bigger than simply the security issues. I met for some time with the President Putin, and I met a great deal with the Defense Minister, Mr. Ivanov.

Suarez: And differences remain between the U.S. and Russia over nuclear missile defense, for instance.

Rumsfeld: Among other things certainly. If you think about it, we've had 50 years of hostility between the United States and the old Soviet Union, and we've had ten years since the Russian Federation has existed. And we've seen an improvement in the relationship that's really dramatic. And on the security side we've seen enormous changes. If you think of Western Europe and the old Warsaw Pact and NATO, there's no reason we can't make the same kind of progress on the strategic nuclear side.

Suarez: What would you say are some of the real sticking points in the way they see the world and the way the administration sees it?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's hard for people who have spent all those decades in a hostile relationship and have a whole set of treaties and arrangements that are structured on hostility -- an acknowledged hostility between the two parties -- and suddenly to find themselves in a situation where they're not enemies. They have to live in this world together. They each still have a great many nuclear weapons. And what we need to do is to find different structures and agreements and understandings so that we can move forward in a less hostile and more rational relationship going forward. And that means politically, economically and militarily.

Suarez: Well, President Bush has called the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty a relic, a product of another time in the Russian-U.S. relation. But the Russian leaders for their part say, well, maybe so, but it provided stability -- stability, which it could still provide. What's the American answer to that?

Rumsfeld: Well, the answer is very simple: The treaty was crafted 30 years ago when the Soviet Union and the United States were basically "the" nations that were hostile with nuclear weapons. Today we have a situation where there are any number of countries that are developing weapons of mass destruction and the ability to deliver them and an Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty prevents you from having missile defense.

If your concern is that countries like Iraq or North Korea or Iran or other countries are developing those capabilities and you want to be able to defend against them, then a treaty that's 30 years old with a country that doesn't exist -- and the new country does not have a hostile relationship -- ought not to stand in the way of protecting the population centers of the United States and of our deployed forces and friends and allies around the world.

Most people think we already have missile defenses, but of course we don't. We don't have the ability to defend against incoming ballistic missiles with nuclear weapons. And a policy of vulnerability in the 21st century, when we know the extent of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is, I think, would be a terrible mistake. So President Bush's approach is very rational.

Suarez: Has there been any movement in these conversations? I know when the subject was first broached when the new administration came to Washington, there was a lot of digging in of heels in Moscow.

Rumsfeld: Well, I think there's been some movement. I wouldn't characterize it as a great distance. But we've established discussions that are going forward. The president has met with President Putin, President Bush has. Secretary Powell has met with his counterpart. I've been meeting with my counterpart. We have senior level expert groups that are taking place. One took place in Washington a couple of weeks ago. And another will take place in early September in Moscow. And I think that all of that helps.

What it does is it enables us to understand their perspective and what are the things that are really concerning them as opposed to just rhetoric and what are the things that concern us, and so that they can understand that as well. And I think it's all a useful part of a process. It is a process. It's not an event. It's not you sit down and agree. It's a matter of coming to some common understandings.

Suarez: Some of the public statements of Russian officials go to concern about the tone of the talks themselves. They're not clear on whether these are negotiations that help define how things are going to move forward or consultations where the United States simply tells Russia what it's got in mind.

Rumsfeld: Well, what President Bush has said and what I think makes sense is to try to establish a new relationship with them and a set of understandings that will enable us to move beyond the ABM Treaty. A number of people who use the phraseology you've just used characterizing the Russian position of wanting negotiations, obviously you negotiate with an enemy. You negotiate a treaty to try to control hostility between two parties. So if you can still consider the United States and Russia to be enemies, then obviously it would be natural to go into negotiations and establish ways that you can prevent each other from hurting each other.

If you don't consider each other enemies -- We don't have negotiations like that for treaties to not be hostile with Mexico or Canada or France or England or any number of countries in the world. Russia is still, I think, captured to a certain extent by the old Cold War mentality and fear and apprehension and concern about the West. And our country, of course, is a country that is open, it's transparent. We have free political systems, free press. We covet no other nation's land in the face of the Earth. And they know that.

Suarez: Well, earlier this week on the Newshour, Alexey Arbatov, a member of the Duma, someone who is an expert on these kinds of questions as his committee assignment reflects, said that if the United States were to unilaterally back out of the ABM or breach it through testing, that his colleagues in the Duma have talked about MIRVing existing warheads, that is, adding multiple warheads to weapons controlled under earlier treaties with the United States because suddenly everything would seem negotiable. How do you respond to that?

Rumsfeld: Well, the ABM Treaty has a provision that allows either side to give six months' notice and withdraw from the treaty. The United States is certainly not going to breach the treaty and violate it in any way. If we are unable to establish a new relationship with Russia so that we can get the treaty behind us so that we can proceed and develop the kinds of missile defense capabilities that we're going to need to live in this new world we're in, with proliferation of these weapons, then obviously the United States would have to give notice.

With respect to "MIRVing," meaning to put multiple warheads on a single missile, both countries are drawing down their offensive nuclear weapons. We announced within the last several weeks that we were going to retire the so-called Peacekeeper missile, which is about 500 warheads, plus or minus, and to convert some nuclear submarines to cruise missile submarines with non-nuclear warheads. So we're going ahead in reducing ours. They intend to go ahead and reduce theirs.

Now, with respect to MIRVing, it sounds bad. Gee, what if the Russians MIRV? But if, for example, each side had 20 missiles and one side had one warhead on each missile, 20 missiles, one warhead, they have 20 warheads. And the other side had 20 warheads and one on each missile but they decided to MIRV and they kept the same number and they reduced down to five warheads per missile and four missiles, they'd still have 20 warheads and it would make no difference.

The idea when Mr. Arbatov talks about MIRVing, what he's really saying is that their force structure probably could be most cost effectively managed if they MIRVed and that they would like to do that because they want to reduce the total number of missiles to save themselves some money. But what really counts is not whether or not a country MIRVs, what really counts is the total number of weapons and is it going to be reduced? The answer is, of course, it is. President Bush has said he wants to have the lowest number of warheads -- intercontinental ballistic missile warheads -- that is appropriate for our national security circumstances.

Suarez: But apart from the numbers, might it also reflect a view in the Russian Duma that if the United States backs away from ABM, that suddenly other things -- like Start II -- become negotiable, become revisitable in a way that we hadn't thought they were before?

Rumsfeld: Well, any treaty that has a provision for withdrawal is revisitable. And that's all understood when you enter into it. The United States' position is that the treaty that is concerning us, which is 30 years old, is preventing us from defending the population centers here and our deployed forces and our friends and allies. And that is a real concern. And the Russian position is that they want to be free to have us not develop a ballistic missile capability -- although they have a missile defense capability around Moscow with nuclear-tipped interceptors right now. They're about the only city in the world that has that kind of a ballistic missile defense at the present time.

But that position that Mr. Arbatov articulates is basically, "Look, America, you establish a policy of remaining vulnerable to ballistic missiles while we are protected by a missile defense system in Moscow and while we continue to work with other countries like China and Iran and Iraq and various other countries with respect to proliferating some technologies that are not very helpful to the rest of the world." Now that's an awkward position, it seems to me, for them to be in. I know they make an argument about whether or not it is proliferation of certain types of weapons, but there's no question they're working with Iran on their nuclear capability.

[discussion of Quadrennial Defense Review deleted]

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
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B. Highly Enriched Uranium

Bush Choices May Save USEC
Joe Walker
Paducah Sun
August 20, 2001
(for personal use only)

Union leaders say the future of Paducah's 1,500-employee uranium enrichment plant and its broad economic outreach is in the hands of the Bush administration.

They say they hope White House officials will decide by September or October whether the plant will continue as the nation's sole producer of enriched uranium that is used by nuclear power plants. If not, the country will depend solely on foreign uranium mostly coming from Russia in a deal brokered several years ago to foster nuclear disarmament.

"The bottom line is the plant here is at risk," said Philip Potter, Washington, D.C.-based policy analyst for the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers Union. "If you shut Paducah down, then the Russians have the only surplus capacity in the world, certainly in the short term, and that makes us virtually 100 percent dependent on the Russians."

He said American nuclear plants need about 11 million units of enriched uranium annually to produce electricity for roughly 20 percent of the population - 40 percent in the South, Midwest and Northwest.

Half that supply comes from Russian uranium derived from dismantled nuclear warheads and purchased by the U.S. Enrichment Corp. for about $90 per unit. Three million to 4 million units come from the USEC-run Paducah plant at a cost of about $105 per unit, and the rest from European competitors whose production costs range from about $60 to $100, Potter said.

In short, the Russian uranium displaced plant output and drove production costs up so much that USEC shut down its other plant in Ohio in June, he said. Meanwhile, European sales increased, driving the market price down.

"The combination of those factors certainly made the diffusion plants uneconomic," Potter said. "As long as the (market) price stays in the 80s or low 90s, it's going to be tough to break even at Paducah."

USEC has offset that somewhat by blending the Russian and Paducah plant prices. The big problem comes in late 2002 and early 2003 when most of USEC's higher-priced, long-term contracts with utilities expire, he said.

Those contracts, inherited by USEC from the Department of Energy, are for $110 to $130, giving the company a good profit margin even with Paducah's higher production costs, Potter said. But in a market swollen with uranium, world prices have dropped considerably since those deals were struck.

"USEC got all those contracts when it was privatized, and it's been living off those contracts. That's been a significant part of its profitability," he said. "If you're looking at a chart and you go out to 2003, it looks like you go off a cliff."

The new price has to be in the $100 to $105 range, given the plant's production costs, to make it worthwhile to replace those contracts, Potter said. "If it doesn't replace them, then it's certainly not going to continue to run a plant at a loss for material it doesn't need, or that it can't sell at a profit."

Potter visited Paducah last week during a break in the union's contract talks with USEC. Discussions have been rocky since Aug. 2 when the union local, representing about 700 plant workers, soundly rejected USEC's offer for a new, five-year contract.

Discussions could resume sometime this week, but nothing is set, said David Fuller, president of the union local. Its members are working under the old contract that expired July 31, and could strike by giving USEC a day's notice.

"Obviously, there are a lot of people that have reason for us not to strike, including us," Fuller said.

USEC wants the contract to expire after a year if the company does not achieve three major financial goals related to the Russian uranium. Potter said the union agrees the Russian deal is critically important to the plant, but it "has no place" in contract language. Instead, he said, it should become part of USEC's agency agreement between the United States and Russia.

The union tried to get a written agreement with USEC making it clear "that the executive agency was tied to the continued operation of the plant - meaning if they didn't continue to operate, they had to give up the agency," Potter said.

USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle said the firm has offered in writing to include in the contact a guarantee of a minimum production level at the Paducah plant as long as USEC remains sole agent or an advanced technology plant is operational several years from now. Union officials say that would not be enforceable if the Russian deal and market conditions made USEC do otherwise.

"We certainly would have no objection if the government were to require that any executive agent must have domestic production capacity in operation," she said. "If the government were to impose such a requirement, we would applaud it. That would be in the best interest of USEC, the Paducah plant and community."

USEC wants to remain sole agent of the Russian uranium to control its flow into the United States and help keep prices competitive. It also wants government approval to lower Russian prices and buy Russian commercial uranium, at a significant markup, some say. All those issues are under review by the Bush administration.

Like the union, USEC wants a decision soon, Stuckle said, adding that it "could have serious impact on USEC, the Paducah plant and the Paducah community."

The issue grows more complicated because nuclear utilities are lobbying for another agent to receive some of the uranium. Otherwise, USEC will have market control to drive its prices up, ultimately causing nuclear power costs to increase and be passed on to consumers, they argue.

If another agent is allowed to buy some of the Russian material, it will hurt USEC - and perhaps the plant and community - with cheaper prices, Stuckle said.

Potter said the union will remain diligent in seeking measures to protect workers against world market forces over which they have little control.

"All the people who live in Paducah are caught in the middle of it," he said. "You don't want to be a pawn. You don't want to be powerless. You want to have some say over the outcome here."
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C. Nuclear Waste

Siemens Won't Sell Nuclear Plant to Russians
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
August 19, 2001
(for personal use only)

F.A.Z. HANAU. Siemens says it will no longer maintain its plutonium processing plant ready for export to Russia, thus ending a project aimed at providing Russia with Siemens' Mox technology to reprocess its weapons-grade plutonium for civilian use. After last month's G-8 summit meeting in Genoa again failed to produce a breakthrough on the financial aspects of the project, Siemens felt no further obligation to maintain the facility, the director of its reconstruction division, Helmut Rupar, said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

The Munich-based engineering and technology giant spent DM1 billion ($470 million) to build the never-used Mox plant in the Hesse city of Hanau, which became superfluous when Siemens stopped producing fuel rods here in 1995. Since then, Siemens has been offering it to Russia and the United States for converting weapons-grade plutonium into mixed oxide fuel rods for use in nuclear power plants. Siemens never wanted to make money with the plant but tried to keep open the possibility for the German government to contribute to "a political project," Mr. Rupar said, adding that the company had spent about DM2 million annually -- DM10 million to date -- on maintaining the plant.

He said the cost of building a Mox facility in Russia using equipment from the Hanau plant would cost about DM2 billion, but up to now the United States and France made commitments totaling only DM500 million. Siemens is now looking to sell off individual parts of the plant and is to begin scrapping the unnecessary operational components as soon as possible, Mr. Rupar said. Dismantling the facility will take about six months, he explained, adding that Siemens wanted the buildings that currently house the reprocessing equipment gutted and ready for some other use by no later than October of next year. After repeatedly warning the G-8 participants that Siemens could not keep the facility open forever, he said, the company concluded that the German government did not back the plan to export it to Russia.
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Russians Warn of Nuclear Waste
Vladimir Isachenkov
August 17, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW -- Liquid radioactive waste accumulated during the half-century of the Russian nuclear weapons program could drain into the Ural Mountains region's rivers with disastrous environmental consequences, a regional governor warned.

Artificial lakes containing more than 14 billion cubic feet of waste from the Mayak nuclear processing plant are filled to capacity and within a few years may leak into the region's rivers, Gov. Pyotr Sumin of the Chelyabinsk region in the Ural Mountains wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

"The Techa cascade of lakes is a major potential source of radiation disasters and catastrophes," Sumin said in the letter, a copy of which was sent by environmentalists to The Associated Press on Friday. "There is a danger that the dam will burst, causing catastrophic consequences for the rivers Iset, Tobol and Ob."

Mayak, a major nuclear weapons plant during Soviet times, has been the site of several accidents, including a 1957 waste facility explosion that contaminated 9,200 square miles. The region has been called the most radioactive place on the planet due to accidents and Soviet-era nuclear waste dumping into lakes and rivers.

The vice governor of the Chelyabinsk region, Gennady Podtyosov, said in a telephone interview Friday that the water level in the lakes is just 12 inches below the limit. If action is not taken, contaminated water could burst the dam within three to four years, he said.

"It would be a major catastrophe," Podtyosov said. "Waste would pollute rivers and flow into the Arctic Ocean."

Besides nuclear weapons programs, Mayak is also expected to house and process nuclear waste imported from abroad under a recently passed law.

President Vladimir Putin signed the law last month despite protests by liberals and environmentalists, who insist it will turn the country into the world's nuclear dump. Proponents say it will create jobs and bring in money to state coffers.

Podtyosov said processing waste would require dumping more radioactive water into the overfilled lakes.

In his letter, Sumin urged the government to earmark funds to avert the threat of massive radioactive leaks.

Podtyosov said the problem could be solved by expanding the lakes, installing filters that would clean the contaminated water before letting it flow into rivers or by completing a partially built nuclear power plant that could use some of the water and lower the lakes' level.

Local officials believe the construction of the nuclear power plant, which was suspended in 1992, would be the most feasible way to deal with the problem. Besides dealing with the waste, the plant would also help solve the region's energy shortage, Podtyosov said.

He said Kasyanov had ordered the Nuclear Power Ministry to analyze the problem together with regional officials.

Russian environmentalists assailed the idea of building a nuclear power plant, saying it would exacerbate the region's problems.

"Sumin proposes to avert the disaster by building another potentially catastrophic facility," said Vladimir Slivyak of the Echo Protection group. "Nothing can be more absurd."
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Radioactive Russian Waters Worry Chelyabinsk Governor
Environmental News Service
August 16, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Russia -- The governor of Russia's Chelyabinsk region, Petr Sumin, has warned that water in his district is contaminated with radioactivity from the Mayak nuclear reprocessing plant.

The governor's warning, contained in a July 10 letter to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, was disclosed Wednesday by a Moscow based anti-nuclear environmental group.

The international environmental group EcoDefense! obtained a copy of the letter and made it public out of concern for public health and safety.

"It is no doubt that such letter must be disclosed because it contains information on serious threat to millions of Russian citizens," said Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman of EcoDefense!

Governor Sumin's letter says, "It becomes more and more dangerous to use the Techa River cascade, serving the Mayak facility of Minatom [Ministry of Atomic Energy]. Open water reservoirs contain about 400 million cubic meter of radioactively contaminated water. The level of these waters is about to become dangerous."

Mayak, Russia's only nuclear reprocessing plant, has dumped its radioactive waste into Russian rivers over the past 40 years, Slivyak says.

Governor Sumin suggests that constructing a new nuclear plant is the key to the Mayak problem. He writes, "building of the South-Ural nuclear power plant allows to solve this problem effectively."

Slivyak calls that plan "disastrous" and "absurd." Instead of working to get rid of 400 million cubic meters of radioactive waste, Slivyak says, "Chelyabinsk authority proposes a plan that will increase the amount of nuclear waste in the region as a result of new nuclear plant operation."

An estimated 14,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste, such as spent nuclear fuel, has accumulated at Russian nuclear plants.

Slivyak says the amount of medium and low-level radioactive waste in Russia cannot be calculated across the country because the amount is large and not all of the locations where it is stored are known to the public.

In May, the Russian government changed a law to open the border for foreign spent nuclear fuel to be stored or reprocessed in Russia.

Established as an atomic weapons complex in the late 1940s, Mayak is now the only reprocessing facility operating in Russia. It can handle an estimated 400 tons a year, but Slivyak says that during the 1990s, the plant was reprocessing no more than 150 tons of spent nuclear fuel annually.

According to a source at the plant, it needs modernization that would cost about US$600 million.

The Chelyabinsk district, called an oblast, is situated in the southern Urals bordering on Kazakhstan in the south and Bashkortostan in the west.

A large amount of land near the Mayak facility is still contaminated as a result of a 1957 accident comparable to Chernobyl in its effects. On September 29, 1957, a Mayak tank containing radioactive waste exploded, releasing several millions of Ci of radioactivity into the atmosphere.

Thousands of people were resettled, thousands of square kilometers were polluted. There is a special federal program to rehabilitate this territory in Russian budget, but it is not clear what kind of programs are implemented within its framework.

"Mayak must be shut down as soon as possible," Slivyak said. "The more it operates, the more plutonium will be generated out of spent fuel reprocessing. Russia doesn't need this plutonium, it already has more than enough, so it's unlikely that this material will ever be properly watched and protected," the anti-nuclear campaigner says.
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Russian Plant Tests Nuclear Fuel Vitrification Furnace
BBC Monitoring Service
August 16, 2001
(for personal use only)

Text of report in English by Russian news agency Interfax

Chelyabinsk, 14 August: A Russian enterprise has carried out its first test of a furnace for the vitrification of spent nuclear fuel, a senior executive said.

The Mayak firm in Ozersk near Chelyabinsk used ordinary glass as material for the EP-500/3 furnace, deputy general director Yevgeniy Ryzhkov told Interfax.

He said that before the end of the month, Mayak will start organizing tests in which solutions imitating radioactive waste will be used. The furnace is to go in operation late this year, he said.

The vitrification facility will recycle radioactive waste remaining after processing spent nuclear fuel, Ryzhkov said. Such waste is being placed in a special storage facility in the vitrification unit and 800 of the 2,200 cells are filled.

Ryzhkov said two vitrification units have accepted 300m curies of radioactive waste, 100m curies of which has ceased to exist via natural decomposition. Another 300m curies is stored in liquid form and is to be vitrified within the next six years.

No nuclear waste has undergone vitrification at Mayak for three years, since the enterprise's second vitrification furnace went out of use in 1997.

The Mayak management said a nuclear fuel regeneration and processing plant is under reconstruction. The company plans to finish building a storage tank for 170 tonnes of fuel for VVR-1000 and VVR-440 reactors. Fuel from nuclear submarines and other sea vessels will also be stored in the tank, which is half ready.

Source: Interfax news agency, Moscow, in English 1148 gmt 14 Aug 01
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Numerous Problems Slow Efforts to Safely Scrap Retired Russian Nuclear Submarines
Russell Working
Japan Times
August 16, 2001
(for personal use only)

BOLSHOI KAMEN, Russia -- Propped up onshore amid heaps of scrap metal at the Zvezda shipyard is one of the largest vehicles ever to cruise the planet -- the five-story hulk of a submarine that once carried intercontinental ballistic missiles targeting the United States.

The submarine -- caked in barnacles, reeking like a mud flat at low tide -- is one of six Delta- and Yankee-class submarines that this shipyard has scrapped under a program sponsored by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The Japanese government has also helped fund the processing of radioactive waste removed from the submarines.

From a military perspective, the beached sea warrior is a success story, an example of international cooperation in helping Russia safely dismantle weapons of mass destruction -- as required under treaties with the U.S. But as Zvezda begins processing radioactive waste in modern facilities this month, it is attempting to emerge from a history that also includes stunning failures.

Workers have been owed up to a year's back wages. Construction of a barge to treat nuclear waste fell 5 1/2 years behind schedule. And in a region notorious for blackouts because the cashapped electricity utility often can't afford to buy coal, Zvezda has fallen as much as $1.3 million behind in paying its bill.

One foreign contractor praised the project. "Once reality set in, once they realized this wasn't an endless deep-pocket scenario and that we were limited by money and time, they got pretty serious," he said.

But others -- including the shipyard's own workers and some local political leaders -- are left with a legacy of bitterness over the factory's failure to fully pay wage arrears until recently.

Zvezda sits in a military town of 50,000 in the far eastern finger of Russia that lies between China, North Korea and the Sea of Japan. Bolshoi Kamen is known as a "closed city" -- a place foreigners may not enter without special permission. Federal security agents track visitors and followed this reporter to listen in on interviews, even outside the shipyard.

The town is a throwback to the Soviet era. Many formerly closed cities bet their future on opening to foreigners and outside investment -- nearby Vladivostok, home of the Pacific Fleet, shed its closed-city status in 1992. But Bolshoi Kamen successfully petitioned Moscow to increase its security status, making it even harder for foreigners to get into, because closed cities get more federal aid than other towns.

On Aug. 2, Zvezda celebrated the opening of a low-level radioactive-waste processing facility and a temporary storage warehouse. But a floating barge to process radioactive waste, though working, has yet to receive its final license years into the project.

Despite receiving $110 million in aid from the U.S. government and $20 million more from the Japanese over the past decade, Zvezda for years was overdue on paying workers' salaries. Though the shipyard now pays on time, employees charge that in lieu of past debts, the company built furniture and paid employees in couches and recliner chairs instead of rubles. (Factory director Valery Maslakov denied this, saying Zvezda has merely provided furniture to employees on credit as a benefit of work there.)

Debts to workers and in-kind payment aren't uncommon at cash-starved enterprises in Russia's creaky economy. But Zvezda, though fallen from its glory days as manufacturing site for the Soviet Pacific Fleet, is not a semiabandoned cement factory, but one of only a handful of factories in the nation that are awash in hard currency invested by foreign governments.

The delays in wages angered even foreign contractors, who said it slowed work. One contractor said recently that he sometimes had to pay workers himself because they weren't receiving the money from Zvezda. "There were times I had to send out a stack of rubles to the workers on the site and say, 'If you complete this piping I'll give you 500 rubles or 1,000 rubles,'" he said. "There were a couple of times I complained to [shipyard director] Maslakov and said, why . . . should I have to pay your workers to do what you're supposed to be paying them for?"

Another problem was delays that contractors worried were intentional. In a 1999 cable to Washington, the U.S. consulate in Vladivostok complained that the delays could do broader damage to American efforts to reduce nuclear weapons in Russia. At issue is the radioactive waste-water treatment facility, a sophisticated plant mounted on a barge that is capable of treating 6.84 million liters per year. The Japanese, fearful of nuclear-waste dumping in the sea they share with Russia, commissioned the project.

But McDermott International, Inc. -- a New Orleans firm whose subsidiary, BWX Technologies, Inc., was building the barge -- said its $25 million contract had run $8 million in the red because Zvezda was stalling in order to keep high-spending foreigners in town. If other American contractors learn McDermott's lesson and secure contracts to cover artificial cost overruns, this could shift the burden from private firms to the U.S. government itself, he warned.

"The more artificial the overruns, the less bang we will extinguish for our buck, if this tendency is replicated nationwide," the American cable stated.

Zvezda receives funding for a handful of submarine-destruction projects in addition to the barge. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency is paying the shipyard to chop up submarines, with three more Delta-class submarines left to scrap. After that, Zvezda hopes to receive a contract to scrap submarines that target other vessels, but the U.S., which has focused on ballistic missile-carrying submarines, has yet to decide whether it will fund this, said Col. Robert Dickey of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Officials from EnergoTech LLC, of Arlington, Virginia, are crowing about their completion this month of a facility to process low-level solid radioactive waste and the waste water that comes from washing items such as workers' radiation-contaminated clothing (this water was once flushed untreated into the bay). The company also opened a facility for storing the solid radioactive byproduct until the Russian government decides what to do with it.

Despite the problems faced by some contractors, company president Joel Weiss sees the Zvezda projects as a success. "What I think is the biggest success is that we did this and [a similar project in the northern port of] Severodvinsk in less than three years," he said.

For McDermott, however, the delays in the project sparked desperation. In 1999, the consulate wrote, "Despite frank and direct appeals from McDermott, the municipal administration seems not to get the message that the company is losing large amounts of money on this project, and has been soured on doing any other business in Russia."

Maslakov grew angry when asked recently about the shipyard's past woes, saying that matters such as unpaid wages and electrical bills had been resolved. Raising such complaints at this point, he suggested, misses the larger issue. "Russia now faces quite a serious problem of the dismantling of nuclear submarines that have lived out their lives," Maslakov said. The shipyard helps solve the matter, he added.

One irony of the multimillion dollar radioactive waste-water treatment is that no one has decided what to do with a more tangible byproduct of submarine destruction: Enormous chunks of the submarines that are contaminated with radioactivity. Each submarine has between eight and 10 compartments, and the section that housed the nuclear reactor and two adjacent sections are radioactive, said Sergei Lishavsky, senior specialist with the Vladivostok office of the federal Committee for Protecting the Environment. The rest of the submarine can be sold for scrap, but these blocks are too big to be moved by train, and Zvezda lacks the technology to cut them into smaller pieces.

So they are handed over to the Russian Navy and floated to a storage berth in nearby Chazhma Bay. This means that in a region where scores of mothballed submarines are left to rust and sink in coastal waters, the remnants of even the processed Russian submarines are also left in the sea.

Lishavsky said the radioactive scrap was safely stored in the Primorye region away from the Zvezda plant. "We'll have to take them to Nevada, because we don't know what to do with them," Lishavsky joked.
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D. Uranium Mining

Russia to Develop New Uranium Deposit in East Siberia
BBC Monitoring Service
Aug 17, 2001
(for personal use only)

Text of report in English by Russian news agency ITAR-TASS

Ulan-Ude, 14 August: The Minatom (Russian Atomic Energy Ministry) has decided to give the go-ahead to the industrial development of Russia's most promising uranium deposit in the Republic of Buryatia.

The decision came after Minatom at the end of last week had responded to a request from the Government of Buryatia to consider the results of an experimental development of the Khiagdinskiy uranium ore deposit, the press service of the President of this East Siberian federal component told ITAR-TASS on Tuesday.

The industrial experiment in which Uranium 238 was extracted from the Khiagdinskiy deposit since 1999 showed that up to 100 milligrams of uranium could be extracted from each cubic metre of its enriched ore.

The total cost of producing one kilogram of enriched ore here is about 20 dollars, half the cost at Russia's main uranium mine in the town of Krasnokamensk, Chita Region.

The cost-effectiveness of enriched uranium ore production in Buryatia is seen as the main argument in favour of building an industrial uranium mine here that will put out 1.5 tonnes of uranium concentrate a year.

The new mine can reach its design capacity within five years. The established reserves are sufficient to keep the mine operating for 50 years.

According to specialists, the technology used at the Khiagdinskiy uranium ore deposit can dependably ensure its environmentally safe operation.

Source: ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, in English 0744 gmt 14 Aug 01
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