1. White House Moves into Danger Zone on Plutonium
August 28, 2001
(for personal use only)
NEW YORK - A few years ago, before Washington worried about rogue nuclear missiles, it worried about rogue nuclear bomb makers.
The end of the Cold War left the world swimming in bomb-making expertise and surplus stocks of plutonium. The U.S. and Russia together harbored an estimated 300 metric tons of military plutonium alone, much of it in decommissioned warheads.
(One metric ton is enough to make 200 nuclear bombs similar to the one that pulverized Nagasaki.)
There have, of course, been no "accidents," so far. And the few verified incidents of nuclear smuggling haven't justified the scare headlines of the early 1990s.
So, time to relax, right? The Bush administration apparently thinks so.
Last week the administration leaked word that it was considering abandoning an agreement with Moscow to eliminate 68 tons of plutonium from existing nuclear weapons - 34 tons on each side - by 2007.
The deal had been struck a little over a year ago by former U.S. president Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin after more than five years of backroom bartering and study by officials of both nations. The plutonium would be disposed of either by turning it into fuel for civilian reactors or by immobilizing it through mixing the material with radioactive waste and embedding the mixture in glass "logs."
Either way, it required a lot of money - as much as $8 billion (U.S.) for the entire program - and the U.S., along with European allies, was expected to underwrite a portion of Russia's costs.
Money, if you believe the administration, is the principal reason the program is likely to be history. "There's no philosophical shift that says suddenly we're perfectly fine with surplus plutonium laying around - we're not," an official told The New York Times last week.
But the new administration is cutting corners where it can. Last May it signaled that it would cut spending on other key nuclear non-proliferation programs, such as retraining Russian military scientists and bolstering security and safety at Russian nuclear military installations.
Some of these programs haven't lived up to the hopes invested in them. (The less-than-committed guards at many of Russia's once impregnable nuclear storehouses are an open secret.) But others have: With better pay and increased scientific exchanges with the U.S., Russian nuclear experts are demonstrably less tempted to be recruited by labs in places like Iran.
Nevertheless, the White House claims it needs to go back to the drawing board. One idea being floated: developing better American reactors to burn plutonium more efficiently.
But that could take years and it's left some nuclear experts scratching their heads in confusion.
"The administration appears ready to spend more in one year to try and defend against a North Korean missile that does not yet exist than it is willing to spend over 20 years to eliminate thousands of weapons' worth of plutonium in Russia and the U.S.," commented the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
However, Washington's turnabout makes sense if you consider another priority on this administration's agenda: energy.
After years of declining use of nuclear energy, Bush analysts have elevated fission power plants to a key position on its must-have list for American energy security.
Building nuclear reactors that can reprocess waste plutonium is attracting keen interest. The idea was roundly rejected 20 years ago by previous administrations on the grounds that it would encourage nuclear proliferation.
But nonproliferation is evidently no priority for this administration. The nuclear test treaty is dead in the water and this week Washington signaled it was ready to resume relations with India after the chill caused by the dueling Pakistan-India bomb tests three years ago.
Apparently, the mood in Washington is that treaties and sanctions do little to restrain would-be nuclear powers, so why bother?
Russia, noticeably, couldn't be happier. It signed on to the plutonium agreement reluctantly to begin with and made it a key condition that Moscow would be able to use its military plutonium for energy use.
Under the terms of the Putin-Clinton deal, either country can terminate the plutonium program if there's no mutual agreement on financing by March, 2002. That will probably happen.
"It suits Russia perfectly well that an invaluable source of energy will be left alone," wrote Moscow analyst Yekaterina Kats last week.
If the U.S. similarly accepts military plutonium as an "invaluable" energy source, that would lower the bar against using plutonium generated by civilian reactors - about 1,400 metric tons in the world now and counting.
MOSCOW -- A long-discussed U.S.-Russian plan to stop production of weapons-grade plutonium in Russia has been stalled by funding shortages, and the government said Monday that it wants the United States to agree to postpone its implementation.
The agreement, signed in September 1997 by Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, was hailed at the time as a historic event and a big step in U.S. efforts to ensure that Moscow safeguards and reduces its vast nuclear stockpile.
But it has already been delayed by disagreements over audits meant to ensure U.S. money would be spent properly. Now Russia wants to push back the schedule of the project to convert three plutonium-making reactors to production of uranium for civilian power plants.
As it stands, the plan calls for two nuclear reactors in the Siberian city of Seversk, once a closed city known as Tomsk-7, to stop producing plutonium in 2002 and 2003, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
A third reactor in Zheleznogorsk - another formerly top-secret Siberian city, called Krasnoyarsk-26 in Soviet times - was to stop in 2004.
But amid persistent funding problems, Russian Cabinet's information department said Monday that Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has ordered the Nuclear Power Ministry to negotiate an amendment to the deal with U.S. officials.
It said the Seversk reactors would keep working through 2005, and the one in Zheleznogorsk until the end of 2006.
In addition to producing plutonium, the reactors also provide electricity and heat for residents of the cities, and the U.S.-Russian deal called for the two countries to share the costs of building replacement power facilities.
The proposed amendment, authorized by Kasyanov, also included a stipulation that the United States would help modify reactors or build alternative power facilities if funds are available. The government statement didn't say when the amendment is expected to be signed.
Officials at the U.S. embassy in Moscow declined to comment.
Also Monday, Sen. Richard Lugar - a chief architect of deals to reduce and safeguard nuclear stockpiles following the 1991 Soviet collapse - was visiting Severodvinsk, a naval port on Russia's northern coast that is the focus of efforts to dismantle scores of aging nuclear submarines with the help of U.S. funding.
The Indiana Republican, who arrived in Russia on Sunday, has complained of massive cuts in the programs designed to help Russia secure its vast cache of nuclear weapons and material, which environmental groups have said pose a major threat to the surrounding area.
He was inspecting a maintenance plant, U.S.-financed disposal projects and a shipyard before heading back to Moscow. He planned to visit the Volga River cities of Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan before leaving for neighboring Ukraine later this week, the U.S. Embassy said. return to menu
3. The Plutonium Nightmare
New York Times
August 27, 2001
(for personal use only)
While the Bush administration is worrying about potential missile threats from North Korea, Iran or Iraq, it must not neglect the more immediate danger posed by tons of inadequately secured Russian plutonium. Any country trying to develop nuclear weapons would love to steal a few pounds of the bomb-making material. Yet the White House is considering indefinitely delaying a plan worked out with Moscow last year to begin disposing of the Russian plutonium.
The agreement provides for each country to gradually eliminate 34 metric tons of plutonium from its own stockpiles, mostly by burning it in power reactors. Citing rising costs, some administration officials prefer to wait until a newer, cheaper disposal technology can be developed. That would be a dangerously false economy.
Russia is the world's most inviting source of plutonium. It has more than 160 metric tons in all, roughly half contained in weapons and the other half stored under less than ideally secure conditions. The stored portion alone is enough to build about 8,000 nuclear bombs. Getting that plutonium out of the reach of would-be bomb makers should be one of Washington's top defense priorities.
The 34 metric tons of Russian plutonium and most of America's corresponding share - the United States has about 100 metric tons altogether - were to be mixed with uranium and burned as fuel in power reactors. The remaining American plutonium was to be mixed with other materials and turned into logs of radioactive glass and buried, a cheaper and safer method but one that Russia could not be persuaded to adopt. Earlier this year the Bush administration suspended the glass logs approach indefinitely, arguing that it would be cheaper to use just one disposal method. Now it may give up on the burning method as well.
Cost estimates for both methods have risen steeply since the plan was first proposed. Nevertheless, it is still a bargain compared with the risk of plutonium theft by a foreign government or terrorist group. Even using the more expensive burning method, the total cost of disposing of some 80 metric tons of plutonium would be about $6.6 billion on the American side and somewhat over $2 billion on the Russian side, spread out over nearly two decades. Most of the Russian cost would have to be assumed by the United States, although Europe has also promised to help.
In return, enough plutonium to build thousands of nuclear warheads would be eliminated. An administration prepared to spend more than $8 billion in a single year testing an unproven missile defense system should not object to spending much smaller yearly amounts to eliminate a tempting source of plutonium. There is no harm in exploring other potential disposal technologies. But such experimentation should not delay carrying out the present agreement with Moscow. If anything, that arrangement, which calls for each side to dispose of just two metric tons per year, should be accelerated. Meanwhile, Washington should increase its investment, currently $140 million a year, in improving security at Russian plutonium storage facilities.
Missile defense, even if technologically perfected, cannot by itself provide adequate protection against nuclear dangers. Ballistic missiles are only one of several ways a potential foe could subject the United States to nuclear threat or attack. The faster excess bomb plutonium can be eliminated, the safer Americans will be. return to menu
4. Berlin, Industry Now Anticipate Hanau Mox Plant Will Be Scuttled
August 20, 2001
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With no progress having been registered at the last two G-8 summits, officials from Germany's nuclear fuel cycle industry and the federal bureaucracy now anticipate that the proposal floated by Siemens AG to deliver to Russia equipment from its nearly complete plutonium fuels fabrication plant in Hanau will be abandoned, and the plant will be scrapped or sold elsewhere if a buyer can be identified.
Without interest being signaled by other G-8 countries, Berlin officials said, it was highly unlikely the German government under Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder would force the controversial issue any time before a federal election scheduled for late 2002. "That's far too late for Siemens," one Berlin official said last week.
"We've seen absolutely no progress on this" since 1999, Helmut Rupar, in charge of decommissioning Siemens' fuel fabrication facilities in Hanau, told NuclearFuel on Aug. 16.
"None of the G-8 countries are telling us they want the plant, so we are starting to look seriously at alternative plans; we can't wait forever."
Other German fuel cycle officials said last week they no longer believed that the virgin mixed-oxide (MOX) fabrication plant, about 95% complete and built at a cost of about DM 800-million (U.S.$360-million), would ever get to Russian soil. "It won't likely go there," one senior executive said.
"More likely it will be scrapped, unless (Siemens) can find another taker."
Rupar said that the "absolute lack of tangible support" registered at the last two G-8 summits has now prompted the company to consider scrapping the facility.
German sources said that because the G-8 had taken no action, some senior Siemens corporate managers, outside the nuclear field, were now saying the company should not indefinitely pay to keep the Hanau plant on standby, effectively isolating Rupar and other nuclear personnel at Siemens who wanted to see the plant be used as proposed.
According to diplomatic sources in other G-8 countries, one obstacle to moving the plant to Russia has been the unproductive negotiations among Siemens, Russian industry, and G-8 countries about the level of compensation Siemens should be awarded for delivering the equipment to the Russian Federation. This was denied by the Siemens executive. He said the company "has settled on a value" for the plant established as $82-million in documents that were accepted by the U.S. and G-8. Because the worth of the MOX plant is "peanuts" compared to the $2-billion-plus sum that the entire weapons plutonium disposition project in Russia is expected to cost, Rupar said, the size of Siemens' compensation package for its involvement in the project "can't be a serious roadblock. The real problem is lack of political will" in G-8.
Rupar also denied that Siemens had any contacts in Russia or has held any discussions with the Russian side about moving the plant there. "We offered this to the (German) government, and it is up to them and G-8 to decide," he said.
Last year, officials at U.S. DOE made clear that without the Hanau MOX equipment set up in Russia, the G-8 could never keep on schedule plans for beginning to process ex-Soviet weapons plutonium.
European sources, including German diplomatic and industry officials, said last week that, thus far, the Bush administration had not signaled since taking office in January that it values the multilateral Russian weapons plutonium disposition project as a contribution to nuclear disarmament. Some European officials expressed undisguised irritation. "If (Bush) doesn't want to burn the (Russian) plutonium, then he should tell us what he wants to do with it," one staffer involved in the negotiations said.
Nonetheless, European sources involved expressed no confidence that Europe itself could or would seize the disarmament high ground to move the project ahead if the U.S. drops the ball. "Only the U.S. is in the position to do that," one official said.
Siemens has for several years been getting support, including some funds, from the German Foreign Ministry to study weapons plutonium recycling issues, and company officials would not comment on the attitude of the German government toward the continued international diplomatic inertia on the plan to ship the Hanau plant to Russia. But other fuel cycle industry sources in Germany said that senior Green aides in the federal bureaucracy will take no initiative on their own to move the Siemens offer forward, since Green fundamentalists are "politically allergic" to the plutonium fuel cycle.
Action by Germany until at least 2003 is even less likely than in the past, Berlin officials said, since Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his Green coalition partners face re-election at the end of 2002. Political insiders have remarked that Schroeder's re-election strategy is based on not tackling any controversial issues that would split his Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens over the next 15 months.
Noting that inner-coalition differences on nuclear policy already threatened to terminate the SPD-Green partnership during protracted negotiations since 1998 on a national nuclear energy phase-out deal with industry that finally was signed this June, said one SPD Bundestag staffer. Schroeder, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, nuclear regulator Juergen Trittin, and Federal Minister of Economics Werner Mueller "will avoid touching the MOX-plant-to-Russia issue like the devil avoids holy water" any time before 2003. Fischer and Trittin are Greens and in the past have disagreed on whether sending the plant to Russia is justified-Trittin opposing it on antinuclear grounds and Fischer less opposed in light of the Foreign Ministry's commitment to nuclear disarmament. Mueller is a political independent in a ministry inclined to look after Siemens' interests. Schroeder "would have to be crazy to try to move this along now," the SPD staffer said.
The Siemens official said that the company is currently paying about DM 2-million ($900,000) per year for the cost of maintaining the plant in operating condition. Because there has been no support from G-8, "we aren't going to pay that for ever."
Some German officials said that Siemens has begun to look around for another potential interested taker for the MOX plant. Some suggested that because China has an acknowledged plan to reprocess its power reactor spent fuel and recycle the separated plutonium, it might be offered the Hanau equipment by Siemens. During the 1990s, China purchased fuel fabrication equipment and technology from Nukem GmbH related to the high-temperature gas-cooled (HTR) reactor line which Germany had pioneered but then abandoned. But Rupar denied that any consideration had been given to a potential sale of the MOX plant to China.
There is no chance that the plant or its equipment would be sold to parties in the U.S., Siemens officials said, since the U.S. has a firm contract with Cogema for a MOX plant to be built there. At one time, German officials said, Siemens had made a pitch to have a second Siemens-design plant built and the same technology used in both the U.S. and Russia, but when Cogema intensified independent negotiations with the U.S., "that didn't fly," one Berlin diplomat remarked.
Other German officials conjectured that it would be more likely that the MOX plant would be scrapped. return to menu
B. Highly Enriched Uranium
1. Bush's Nuclear Threat
August 22, 2001
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An ongoing Bush administration review of nuclear security policy is threatening the financial prospects of USEC Inc., a Bethesda, Md. company that markets fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.
The White House is considering whether to revamp an 8-year-old program that give USEC the exclusive rights to purchase commercial nuclear fuel derived from Russian missile warheads. The program has been a cornerstone of U.S. efforts to prevent weapons-grade uranium from getting into terrorist hands.
The potential loss of business comes at a tough time for USEC, which is struggling as a result of tough foreign competition. USEC has purchased the fuel since 1993 from Tenex, its Russian counterpart. But the White House review has stalled new purchases, irritating USEC's relations with Russian agencies.
Tenex told USEC that the Russian government wanted the two companies to "promptly" schedule deliveries for early 2002, according to a July 27 letter obtained by The Washington Times. Tenex said in the letter that the complex technological requirements of preparing the fuel for delivery, and the need for various government approvals, required quick action by USEC. But the administration, which is rethinking USEC's entire role in the process, has asked the company not to place new orders until the review is complete, said sources close to the company.
"We are conducting a review of all nonproliferation programs with Russia and . . . USEC falls under that review," White House spokesman Sean McCormick said. In particular, the administration is skeptical about the costs of certain programs, Mr. McCormick said. The delay caused by the review soon will eat into USEC's business because it cannot meet demand in the United States without deliveries from Russia, say nuclear industry analysts.
"If they don't have this deal with the Russians, they won't be able to supply their customers," said Eric Webb, vice president of Atlanta-based UX Consulting Co., which studies the nuclear industry.
The Bush administration's review of the USEC program is the latest blow to the Bethesda company, which is still struggling to carve out a role for itself eight years after it was created out of the government-owned U.S. Enrichment Corp., and three years after it went public. But the company's biggest problem is political. USEC began a 20-year program - negotiated in 1993 by the administration of George Bush - to buy nuclear fuel made from Russian warheads. It was a centerpiece of efforts to reduce nuclear stockpiles.
Since then, USEC, the sole U.S. company involved in the project, has paid the Russian government $2 billion for fuel that once filled nearly 5,000 warheads. The program does not use taxpayer money. Last year, the company negotiated a new purchasing contract with Tenex, the state-owned Russian corporation that converts weapons-grade uranium into less-concentrated commercial fuel. But, wanting the approval of the new administration, it held off putting the deal into effect.
The Bush administration, instead of quickly approving the deal, decided to undertake a comprehensive review of nuclear security policy that included the USEC-Tenex program. The White House put former Harvard University professor Richard Falkenrath, a bitter critic of USEC, in charge of the review. Mr. Falkenrath declined to comment on the issue.
The administration is under pressure from other U.S. companies that would like to purchase reactor fuel from Russia, which would break USEC's monopoly. Company officials also declined to speak for the record. But USEC Senior Vice President Philip Sewell said in a July 25 speech that the company desperately needs the administration's approval of the new contract.
"The new commercial terms reached by USEC and Tenex are vital to the continuing success of the [warhead conversion] program," he said.
USEC produces its own nuclear fuel at a plant in Paducah, Ky. But the 50-year-old Paducah plant is not nearly as efficient as those operated by European companies. Only by purchasing cheap Russian fuel can USEC hold its ground against the competition, Mr. Webb said. The administration's review could erase this advantage.
"They could go from having everything to nothing at all," he said.
USEC's stock has fallen from a high in late May of $11, partly as a result of problems with the Russian deal. The stock closed yesterday unchanged at $7.20. USEC reported on Aug. 1 that its earnings were $41.1 million for the fiscal year ending on June 30, down from $109.1 million the year before. It has announced several rounds of layoffs, including at the Bethesda headquarters. return to menu
C. Nuclear Waste
1. Kazakhstan: Nuclear Fallout Still Signals Health Hazards
August 29, 2001
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On 29 August 1991, Kazakhstan declared that it was ending nuclear testing at its northern Semipalatinsk range. The announcement halted nearly four decades of explosions that have left scars both on the landscape and the people of the region.
The timing of the announcement by Kazakhstan was interesting, coming as it did eight days after the failed coup in Moscow. Kazakhstan would later receive more attention for announcing that it was decommissioning the nuclear arsenal it had inherited from the Soviet Union.
The missiles and warheads are gone now, but the effects of the testing will be with the people of Kazakhstan for many years to come.
Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev spoke yesterday at a ceremony in Almaty marking the release of his new book about the topic of nuclear weapons testing, titled "Peace Epicenter." The title, Nazarbayev explained, comes from the fact that "Kazakhstan found itself at the epicenter of global confrontation...."
There is a certain logic to the title. At the start of the Cold War, the Soviet government needed testing sites for its nuclear weapons program. Northern Kazakhstan was one of two sites chosen in the Soviet Union -- the other was the virtually uninhabited island of Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Circle. And it was in northern Kazakhstan -- on 29 August 1949 -- that the first Soviet nuclear test was conducted.
More than 450 nuclear tests had been carried out in Semipalatinsk -- most of them above ground -- by the time Mikhail Gorbachev declared a moratorium on such testing shortly after he became Soviet leader in 1985. A 1992 study estimated that 1.6 million people in Semipalatinsk had been affected by the radiation released during the nuclear testing.
While Semipalatinsk -- an area roughly half the size of Switzerland -- was the most active nuclear testing site in Kazakhstan, Nazarbaev said yesterday that nuclear testing was conducted over almost half of present-day Kazakh territory.
At his book launch, Nazarbaev said: "Kazakhstan was the only country in the world where an inhumane totalitarian regime carried out experiments without regard for the ecology or the health of the population, even though the problems were known."
Studies of the region indicate higher rates of cancer and other diseases than in most of the rest of the world. Lakes near where the tests were carried out have an eerie glow. Television and photo-journalists traveling in the region, including those from "National Geographic" magazine, have documented shocking images of deformities among the local population. The respected U.S. television news program "60 Minutes" broadcast the image of a baby still-born with a Cyclops-like eye, which became a symbol of just how serious the situation had become in Semipalatinsk.
Roald Sagdeev is the director of the center for space research at Kazakhstan's East-West Institute and attended yesterday's ceremony in Almaty. Sagdeev says the temperature in the Semipalatinsk region is now about 10 degrees Celsius higher than historic norms and has remained so for the last four years. He attributes this rise in temperatures to the nuclear testing.
Despite the harm to the environment and the local population, Kazakhstan's decisions to close the testing sites and give up its nuclear arsenal were not easy to make. Its nuclear arsenal had originally been put into place to protect the Soviet Union from neighboring China. Some Muslim nations had even been quick to congratulate Kazakhstan on becoming the "first Islamic nuclear state."
The United States helped Kazakhstan destroy its nuclear missiles. Russian technicians dismantled the warheads and sent them back to Russia, while U.S. specialists removed the weapons-grade uranium.
Kazakhstan was nuclear-free by the mid-1990s. President Nazarbaev said yesterday that Kazakhstan will remain a nuclear-free zone and urged other Central Asian nations not to pursue their own nuclear weapons programs.
Of course, for anyone who lived or still lives around Semipalatinsk, or near other former testing sites in Kazakhstan, the damage is done. Every common cold brings the suspicion of something much worse. Every pregnancy is a gamble.
So it came as a surprise that at yesterday's presentation of his new book, President Nazarbaev announced that Kazakhstan is considering a plan to allow low- and medium-grade radioactive waste from other countries to be buried in Kazakhstan.
Experts of the national Kazakhatomprom company believe the country can bring in $30 to $40 billion over the next 25 to 30 years by allowing the burial of such waste on its territory.
Those experts say the waste could be safely buried in old uranium mines in western Kazakhstan's Mangistau region -- or, ironically, in the former Semipalatinsk nuclear testing range. return to menu
2. Russia Moves to Import Nuclear Waste
Agence France Press
August 23, 2001
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MOSCOW - The environment protection group Greenpeace lambasted Russia today for its decision to authorise nuclear waste imports on a huge billboard rented in northern Moscow and said Moscow was currently negotiating a first contract with Taiwan.
Under the proposed agreement, Russia would import 2,000 tonnes of nuclear waste from a US-built Taiwanese nuclear power plant, Greenpeace officials said.
Negotiations have entered their final stage, the officials said.
The Russian nuclear ministry denied that talks were under way.
"We are not carrying out any negotiations with any country at the moment," a ministry spokesman said.
He stressed that Russia still had to "set up mechanisms to make such deals possible."
Earlier this year, Greenpeace wrote in a report that the United States was giving serious thought to stocking US nuclear waste in Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law last month allowing for the import of foreign nuclear waste into Russia.
Greenpeace has rented a billboard for two weeks in Moscow and put up a large poster showing the Kremlin and the Russian parliament with a caption reading "No nuclear waste will be stocked here." return to menu
3. Moscow to Calculate Radiation Exposure
August 21, 2001
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City Hall is seeking a clearer picture of radiation exposure levels in Moscow - but some independent experts doubt the initiative will reveal the whole truth.
Mayor Yury Luzhkov signed a decree this month under which the city's nuclear safety watchdog Radon is to collect, unify and analyze data on radiation from various sources. Institutions that have been separately monitoring groups of the population, including their own personnel, are to start forwarding their data to Radon. Radon experts are to measure directly individuals' exposure using dosimeters and calculate cumulative exposure using their data about radiation levels in the sites where an individual lives and works.
Radon's deputy head Oleg Polsky said until now such information has been sparse. "There are certain risk groups, like medical personnel in radiology wards or industrial workers at factories where radiation sources are used," said Polsky. "Their exposure is measured at work - but people are irradiated not only at their workplaces."
Maxim Shingarkin of Greenpeace questioned the accuracy of Radon's system for calculating exposure. "There is an industrial dump-heap at Shcherbinka near Moscow where the radiation level is very dangerous," Shingarkin said. "How will it be possible to calculate the exposure of Muscovites who go there to their dachas, or drink water contaminated by this dump?"
Food can also be a danger, because irradiated food products sometimes reach Moscow's markets. In late June, for example, Radon experts raided seven Moscow food markets and seized 155 kilograms of fresh blackberries. Tests revealed radiation emissions 50 times above the maximum permitted by the Health Ministry. "We had 68 such incidents in July," said Svetlana Osipova, a radiology expert of the city's veterinary service, which is responsible for testing produce sold in registered city markets.
According to Radon spokeswoman Tatyana Samarina, radiation levels throughout the city are within norms accepted by the Health Ministry. "Radon has already compiled a map of the city that reflects potentially dangerous sites," she said. The map can be seen on City Hall's web site, www.mos.ru/atl/ecol-maps/roo8.jpg. According to Radon's research, an average of 70 percent of Muscovites' radiation exposure is from natural sources, mostly the radioactive gas radon emitted by soil and rocks and ultraviolet radiation from the sun, and 28 percent is from medical examinations, such as radiography or X-rays. The remainder is in food and water and from industrial and scientific sources, including active nuclear reactors at scientific research institutes.
"More than 2,500 enterprises in Moscow keep such sources, 80 percent of which are beyond their usage date," Samarina said. "They are responsible for only about 0.1 percent of the total radiation contamination in the city."
Shingarkin of Greenpeace said this figure seems small, because the calculation treats affected personnel as a tiny proportion of the city's total population - yet the actual radiation exposure of this small group may be high. Likewise, Shingarkin said Samarina's statement that city radiation levels are within accepted norms is based on averaged figures and there are sites in Moscow where radiation levels are higher than average. return to menu
D. U.S. Nuclear Forces
1. Last of 450 Missile Silos Destroyed under Pact
August 26, 2001
(for personal use only)
PETERSBURG, N.D. -- A rumbling explosion destroyed the last of the Minuteman missile silos marked for destruction under the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, leaving a 90-foot hole filled with broken concrete and twisted steel in a North Dakota field.
The treaty, signed by former President George Bush and then-Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, cut the long-range nuclear missiles stockpiled in the Cold War arsenals of the United States and the former Soviet Union.
It also created almost two years of work for the personnel at Grand Forks Air Force Base, which has been blasting and burying the Minuteman silos it once controlled in the state. On Friday, they destroyed the last of the 450 Minuteman missile silos marked for destruction under START I.
Grand Forks was one of three bases to lose their Minuteman wings, along with Whiteman in Missouri and Ellsworth in South Dakota.
Three other bases manage the remaining arsenal of 550 Minuteman and Peacekeeper missiles: Minot, in north-central North Dakota; Malmstrom, near Great Falls, Mont.; and F.E. Warren, near Cheyenne, Wyo., said Col. Tom Bradley, chief international affairs officer for the Air Force Space Command.
Taking out a concrete and steel missile silo meant to withstand all but a direct nuclear hit is no easy feat.
It took hundreds of pounds of dynamite placed in 69 holes drilled through the concrete top and filled with diesel fuel and fertilizer to turn the silo into a 90-foot hole.
That hole will be filled with rubble, capped, and left for 90 days so that Russian satellites can confirm the destruction, said Steve Marback, a technical sergeant with Grand Forks Air Force Base.
After that, the ground will be offered to farmers.
Bradley said the silos' destruction proves they did their job of deterring nuclear war.
MOSCOW, Russia -- Iran's defense minister will visit Russia next week to discuss arms and nuclear power deals, Interfax news agency quoted unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry sources as saying Thursday.
Interfax said Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani, who will be in Moscow from September 3-6, is expected to sign an agreement with Russia on expanding "military-technical cooperation" during his trip.
Neither the Russian Foreign Ministry nor the Iranian embassy in Moscow were immediately available to comment on the report.
The trip is part of a process of rapprochement between the two states. It follows Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's March visit to Moscow and a trip to Tehran last December by then Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev.
Military cooperation featured highly on both those visits.
Khatami's trip to Russia, the first by an Iranian head of state in nearly 30 years, upset the United States, which sees Iran as a "rogue state" and is alarmed by Moscow's pledges to develop military and civil nuclear cooperation with it.
Iran sees the warming of ties as undermining the grip of unilateral U.S. sanctions which have badly hurt Iranian industry. Russia has criticized the United States for renewing sanctions on Iran.
Moscow and Tehran also share security concerns. Both Russia and mainly Shiite Muslim Iran are wary of radical Sunni Islamic movements in Afghanistan and central Asia.
Russia, which is keen to cash in on a potentially lucrative Iranian arms market, has pledged to clinch arms sales and help complete a nuclear power station.
Interfax quoted Russian experts as saying such cooperation could earn Russia up to $300 million a year.
Tehran and Moscow insist the nuclear cooperation is of a strictly civilian nature. They say arms will be defensive and that sales do not violate Russia's international treaty obligations.
Moscow told the United States last year it no longer felt bound by a secret 1995 deal to curtail weapons sales to Iran.
The deal, agreed to by then Vice President Al Gore and then Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, barred Russia from signing new contracts for Iranian purchases of conventional weapons. Existing contracts were to be completed by 1999. return to menu
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