Partnership for Global Security: Leading the World to a Safer Future
Home Projects Publications Issues Official Documents About RANSAC Nuclear News 4/15/13
Location: Home / Projects & Publications / News
Sitemap Contact
Google www PGS
Nuclear News - 09/21/01
RANSAC Nuclear News, September 21, 2001
Compiled by G. J. Marsh

A. U.S.-Russian Relations
    1. Russia Calls for Global Anti-Terrorism, Barry Schweid, AP (09/20/01)
    2. Russia Should Halt Weapons Aid: U.S., Judith Ingram, AP (09/17/01)
B. Nuclear Terrorism
    1. Terrorists with 'Loose Nukes' the Worst Nightmare, Lawrence Freedman, Irish Independent (09/19/01)
    2. Nuclear Aspirations?, Earl Lane and Knut Royce, Newsday (09/19/01)
    3. Terrorism Haunts Nuke Delegates, William J. Kole, AP (09/17/01)
    4. When the Choice Is National Suicide, William Rees-Mogg, The Times (UK) (09/17/01)
    5. Warlord Tried to Buy Uranium, David Leppard, The Times (UK) (09/16/01)
C. International Nuclear Cooperation
    1. U.S. and Russia Make Progress on Storage of Nuclear Materials, Environmental News Service (09/19/01)
D. Highly Enriched Uranium
    1. Administration Could Opt for Temporary HEU Solution, Platts NuclearFuel (09/17/01)
E. Russian Nuclear Power Industry
    1. Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production to Stop in Russia's Tomsk Region, BBC Monitoring Service (09/21/01)

A. U.S. - Russian Relations

Russia Calls for Global Anti-Terrorism
Barry Schweid
September 20, 2001
(for personal use only)

WASHINGTON -- Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is calling for an international coalition to stand with the United States in a sustained attack on terrorism.

"This is a threat that can be compared to nuclear catastrophe," Ivanov said Wednesday.

In Washington to lend Russia's support to the United States, and to confer on anti-missile defenses and other issues between the two countries, Ivanov called international terrorism "an urgent challenge to all of international humanity."

"The problem of world terrorism cannot be solved by one-time actions," he said. "It cannot be solved with five warplanes, with 10 warplanes."

He said the nations of the world should work together, possibly under the auspices of the United Nations, to take such steps as ending the financing of terrorist groups and closing borders to their operatives.

"We are fighting a long fight against terrorism," he said. "We have no other choice but to fight terrorism together."

Ivanov was in Washington along with other world leaders as the Bush administration seeks support for what is looming as a possible U.S. military strike followed by a long-term campaign on economic, diplomatic and political fronts.

On Thursday, a key Arab country, Saudi Arabia, and an old friend, Britain, were moving into the spotlight.

The Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, was calling on President at the White House and Prime Minister Tony Blair was due there later in the day.

The Bush administration needs strong support from the Saudis to counter suspicions in the Arab world the U.S. offensive against Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks last week, reflects Anti-Muslim sentiment.

Britain, meanwhile, has joined in U.S. military operations against Iraq and is a strategic asset in the Persian Gulf region, which could be a staging area for a U.S. strike against Afghanistan, where the Taliban leaders have refused to expel bin Laden.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, meanwhile, is meeting with Louis Michel, the Belgian foreign minister, Javier Solana and Chris Patten, all of the European Union.

Ivanov said in a speech Wednesday that terrorism is an international problem, arising in the Balkans, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Chechnya, and it must be addressed on a global scale, probably through the United Nations.

"We can and must do a lot together," he said. Nations can try to end financing for terrorism groups and close their borders to terrorists.

But he clearly supported the United States in its determination to strike back for last week's attacks in New York and Washington.

"The evil will be punished. All Russia is with you," he said at dinner sponsored by the Nixon Center and the Moscow International Petroleum Club.

Earlier, in a meeting with Powell, the Russian minister said his government would not object to any U.S. efforts to seek anti-terrorism cooperation from the three former Soviet republics that border Afghanistan, a senior State Department official said Wednesday.

The commitment potentially could open the way for U.S. military cooperation with one or more of the three countries as the United States seeks ways to track down bin Laden and his allies in Afghanistan.
return to menu

Russia Should Halt Weapons Aid: U.S.
Judith Ingram
September 17, 2001
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW -- A top American diplomat indicated Monday that Washington is pushing Moscow hard to stop what U.S. officials say is Russia's contribution to terrorist arsenals by keeping tighter control of technology and materials used in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

After last week's terrorist strikes in the United States, "there has never been more attention to the dangers that terrorists - especially those who might have access to weapons of mass destruction - pose," Undersecretary of State John Bolton said.

"So when in the past it was at one level of priority, I don't think anyone doubts at the moment that it is now at the highest priority," Bolton told reporters after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov.

Russia contends it has provided Iran and other nations only with non-military nuclear technologies, but U.S. and Israeli officials have repeatedly accused it of aiding weapons programs in those nations and demanded a halt.

Bolton's meetings were part of a series of consultations before Secretary of State Colin Powell meets with Ivanov on Wednesday.

American officials have been engaged in a full-court press to break Russia's opposition to the U.S. plans to build a missile shield, which would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. But the terror attacks clearly dominated Bolton's discussions in Moscow.

"I don't think you can seriously argue that truly addressing the question of international terrorism can be successful unless this subject of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of these people is also resolved," Bolton said.

In addition to its concerns about the spread of Russian weapons technology and expertise to potentially dangerous countries, the United States has also questioned the security of Russia's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons stockpiles.

The official in charge of destroying Russia's 44,000-ton chemical arms arsenal, Zinovy Pak, revealed Monday that three people had been arrested trying to break into a storage site, the Interfax news agency reported.

Bolton put a positive spin on his discussions, saying the attacks last week opened an "opportunity for us jointly to make progress on the proliferation front."

He would not directly answer when asked whether the United States has threatened Russia with sanctions - or plans to do so - in an effort to curb proliferation.

Russia has stressed the importance of cooperation with the United States against terrorism following the attacks. "The firmer the solidarity, the more effective our counteraction to international terrorism," Ivanov said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

But Russian officials said little about the proliferation issue Monday, and there was no direct response to Bolton's comments.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Moscow emphasized the need to prevent "all attempts to wash away the current, generally recognized international nonproliferation regimes, whether in the nuclear, chemical, biological or missile sphere," according to Interfax.

In July, the United States rejected a draft protocol intended to strengthen the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. Earlier this month, the Pentagon confirmed its plan to develop a potentially more lethal version of the bacterium that causes deadly anthrax, a move it said would improve U.S. defenses against biological agents.
return to menu

B. Nuclear Terrorism

Terrorists with 'Loose Nukes' the Worst Nightmare
Lawrence Freedman
Irish Independent
September 19, 2001
(for personal use only)

The smoke rising over lower Manhattan last week might not have quite reached the proportions of a mushroom cloud. But the casualty reports pushed the numbers to a level not inconsistent with a small nuclear explosion.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has already warned that at some future time we might find ourselves facing a nuclear-armed terrorist threat.

Yesterday, in the Times of London, it was even claimed that the threat is with us now that stored away in some Afghan bunker are spare "suitcase bombs", convenient nuclear devices left over from Soviet days that only need the appropriate code for activation.

This is the sort of rumour that circulates when times are tense. Fortunately it appears to be wholly without foundation.

Nuclear weapons are not the sort of things that can be packaged or handled so easily but that does not mean to say that Osama Bin Laden would not like to get hold of weapons of mass destruction.

It was also reported yesterday that the FBI was aware of attempts by Bin Laden's followers to buy weapons-grade plutonium for the manufacture of nuclear bombs. He has already tried to acquire chemical weapons in 1998. President Clinton authorised a strike against a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan in the mistaken belief that it was manufacturing chemical weapons for Bin Laden.

With chemical weapons the technical difficulties are less acute. A Japanese group famously tried to pour Sarin gas into the Tokyo underground in 1995 and, although 12 were killed and 5,000 injured, they did not quite achieve the impact they intended.

This group had already tried to use anthrax unsuccessfully and had visited the site of an ebola virus outbreak in Africa to try to collect a sample.

The fact is that, until recently, it was assumed that terrorist groups would not be interested in weapons of this sort. Traditionally, terrorists have always claimed that their strategies of attacking civilians are justified as a means of achieving their goal because they can't take on a regular army on equal terms.

The new terrorism has the killing of civilians as an end in itself. Moreover, greater attention is being paid to what the Bush administration has called the "rogue states" North Korea, Iran and Iraq in particular.

These countries are supposed to be sufficiently sophisticated to build nuclear weapons and more importantly the missiles to deliver them over long distances. They are also said to be sufficiently rash to be prepared to use them, even knowing they could face the full blast of American retaliation. This is the threat that President Bush has used to justify his missile defence programme.

Here a sort of rationality is still assumed, as these regimes might want to use the nuclear threat to persuade the US and other western countries to leave them alone when they try to intimidate their neighbours.

It is by no means clear that such long-range capabilities could ever be developed by these rogue states and, if they could, whether the proposed defences could stop them. Last Tuesday's audacious attacks on New York and Washington demonstrated that it is possible, simply by using knives, to turn a commercial airliner packed with fuel into a lethal Cruise missile.

Even more frightening is the evidence of the mindset behind these acts. This is not an enemy that can be appeased in that it will never be satisfied so long as the US continues to exist at all, and has no problem in contemplating the destruction of whole societies or even the deaths of its own followers.

The terrifying prospect is not, as with the rogue states, that nuclear weapons could be used to coerce the rest of the world but that they might be used to implement some devilish, apocalyptical vision.

This adds to the need to prevent any leakage of weapons, technologies and material from the established nuclear powers. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has been trying to achieve this in a country where the infrastructure is in a mess and many key personnel who know the nuclear secrets are disillusioned and poor.

The Clinton administration put substantial resources into this "loose nukes" problem. So far the Bush administration has shown less enthusiasm.

Hopefully it will now think again. This "loose nukes" problem could, however, now take on a new dimension as a result of the current crisis. Pakistan, which finds itself in an uncomfortable role as a neighbour of Afghanistan and past sponsor of the Taliban regime, became a declared nuclear power in 1998, as did India.

Many people have warned of the danger of putting excessive pressure on Pakistan to comply with western demands to help get at the Bin Laden group.

If the instability being generated already by this crisis engulfed Pakistan, then the safety of its nuclear assets would soon become a major issue.

More specifically, if fundamentalists took over the country there would be enormous concern at who controlled the nuclear arsenal.

As we have seen with the attack on the United States, focusing on the worst case may leave you unprepared for more likely cases.

Bin Laden is playing for very high stakes already and if he is forced to resort to a quick threat of escalation, he will rely on methods that do not necessarily require exceptional resources as long as the results are horrific enough.
return to menu

Nuclear Aspirations?
Sources: Bin Laden tried to obtain enriched uranium
Earl Lane and Knut Royce
September 19, 2001
(for personal use only)

WASHINGTON -- Long before last week's suicide airliner attacks, security specialists had seen evidence that Saudi exile Osama bin Laden has been trying to acquire material for even more disastrous weapons, including enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb.

There have been several efforts by bin Laden operatives to acquire nuclear materials in recent years, according to intelligence sources, official testimony and news accounts. There is no evidence that bin Laden ever actually has obtained such materials.

Still, there seems little doubt about bin Laden's intentions. "Bin Laden has been trying to get his hands on enriched uranium for seven or eight years," R. James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said yesterday.

Russian intelligence sources also confirm bin Laden's interest in nuclear materials. A former Russian intelligence official, in a memorandum to a U.S. counterpart provided to Newsday, said Russian security forces halted an attempt in 1998 to sell an unspecified amount of Soviet-origin, bomb-grade uranium to a Pakistani company controlled by bin Laden. A U.S. intelligence source declined to comment on the incident or to say whether American intelligence agencies have any verification. "There is evidence that bin Laden has been shopping around" for nuclear materials, the source said, as well as components for chemical and biological weapons.

During testimony earlier this year in New York at the trial of four men accused of participating in the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa, a defector from bin Laden's network said he had served as a go-between in a 1993 effort to acquire a cylinder containing uranium (described by several sources as enriched uranium-235.)

The defector, Jamal Ahmed al Fadl, said he had been ordered by one of bin Laden's lieutenants to buy the uranium from former Sudanese military officer Salah Abdel Mobruk for $1.5 million. But Fadl said he was removed from the negotiations and never learned whether the deal went through.

That material was allegedly of South African origin, but much of the concern during the past decade - particularly in the early 1990s after the breakup of the Soviet Union - has been the possible trafficking of nuclear materials from Russian facilities with insufficient controls and safeguards over them. There were reports bin Laden's organization was the victim of a German sting operation when it tried to buy highly enriched uranium on the Soviet black market in 1993 and again a year later. In neither case was any nuclear material transferred.

But analysts say it is likely bin Laden's network is continuing to seek nuclear materials. A U.S. intelligence official said there remains concern bin Laden is interested in obtaining radioactive material for a "dirty bomb." Rather than being used in an atomic weapon, the material would be dispersed in a way that would seriously contaminate a small area.

While non-government specialists caution that bin Laden may have had little success in acquiring nuclear materials, they say it is impossible to say for sure. "We've seen no confirmed or reliable reports of significant quantities [of nuclear materials] going to bin Laden," said Jon Wolfsthal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"Osama bin Laden's agents seem to be operating by stealth," said David Albright of the nonprofit Institute for Science and International Security. "Will they succeed? We'll never know ... The more serious offers are the ones you are not going to hear about. They are going to try to find insiders who have more direct access to the materials."

Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at Harvard University, said last week's terrorist attacks, for which bin Laden has been called a prime suspect by U.S. authorities, suggest bin Laden's network is very well organized and capable of pursuing nuclear materials.

"These events call for dramatically increased political leadership and funding for efforts to secure nuclear materials worldwide," Bunn said. He noted that the Bush administration had proposed cutting the funding for a program to help safeguard nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union. He said the Bush budget for 2002 would cut funding for the program from $170 million to $140 million, although there have been efforts in Congress to restore some of the money.
return to menu

Terrorism Haunts Nuke Delegates
William J. Kole
September 17, 2001
(for personal use only)

VIENNA, Austria -- Haunted by last week's terrorism, delegates from 132 nations opened an annual atomic energy conference Monday with calls for tighter security and admissions that little can be done to shield a nuclear power plant from an airborne assault.

Governments, fearing a similar suicide jetliner crash at a nuclear plant, have tightened security outside nuclear power and radioactive waste facilities worldwide in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But Japan, which is heavily dependent on nuclear energy and has 52 nuclear plants, warned Monday that nothing can shield the plants from a direct hit from a missile or an aircraft.

At the same time, the world must also "ensure that nuclear materials are never used as weapons of terrors," U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told the International Atomic Energy Agency gathering in Vienna.

"We cannot assume that tomorrow's terrorist acts will mirror those we've just experienced," he said.

In a message to delegates, President Bush also urged the Vienna-based agency to keep pace with "the real and growing threat of nuclear proliferation."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the effort "more important than ever in the aftermath of last week's appalling terrorist attack in the United States."

The architects of the world's nuclear plants designed them more with ground vehicle, not airborne, attacks in mind, IAEA spokesman David Kyd said.

Most nuclear plants were built during the 1960s and 1970s, and like the World Trade Center, were designed to withstand only accidental, glancing impacts from the smaller aircraft widely used at the time, he said.

"If you postulate the risk of a jumbo jet full of fuel, it is clear that their design was not conceived to withstand such an impact," Kyd said.

In Japan, Takeo Hiranuma, minister for economy, trade and industry, noted that his country's nuclear plants were built to withstand earthquakes, not "hits from above by missiles or aircraft."

A direct hit of a nuclear plant by a modern jumbo jet traveling at high speed "could create a Chernobyl situation," said a U.S. official who declined to be identified. The 1986 nuclear explosion in Chernobyl, Ukraine, killed more than 4,000 people. Tens of thousands more were disabled in the cleanup afterward.

However, the buildings that house nuclear reactors themselves are far smaller targets than the Pentagon posed, and it would be extremely difficult for a terrorist to mount a direct hit at an angle that could unleash a catastrophic chain of events, Kyd said.

If a nuclear power plant were hit by an airliner, the reactor would not explode, but such a strike could destroy the plant's cooling systems. That could cause the nuclear fuel rods to overheat and produce a steam explosion that could release lethal radioactivity into the atmosphere.

In the United States, one solution could be installation of anti-aircraft weaponry manned by military personnel who would be stationed outside the nation's 104 commercial reactors, said Paul Leventhal, president of the Washington-based Nuclear Control Institute, a nonproliferation advocacy group.

Last week, military fighter jets were alerted to civilian airlines veering off course but failed to get there in time.

"We're in a new era, and we must protect these plants in extraordinary ways," Leventhal said.
return to menu

When the Choice Is National Suicide
William Rees-Mogg
The Times (UK)
September 17, 2001
(for personal use only)

In the interpretation of state speeches there is a rule of the significance of the penultimate. The opening and closing passages of a speech are the place for broad assertions; the middle is the place for the narrative, for the main argument. Just before the end is the place to slip in a disturbing concept, a warning that one does not wish to be overemphasised.

There was exactly such a penultimate passage in the Prime Minister's speech last Friday to the House of Commons. "We know that these groups are fanatics, capable of killing without discrimination. Limits on the numbers they kill and their methods of killing are not governed by morality. The limits are only practical or technical. We know that they would, if they could, go further and use chemical or biological or even nuclear weapons of mass destruction. We know also that there are groups or people, occasionally states, who trade the technology and capability for such weapons. It is time this trade was opposed, disrupted and stamped out. We have been warned by the events of September 11. We should act on the warning."

Dr. Henry Kissinger, who was the most powerful U.S. Secretary of State of the past 40 years, is still used as a well-briefed expositor of US foreign policy in times of crisis. In his current article for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, there is a similar near penultimate paragraph. "Even the smallest nuclear weapon would produce devastation far dwarfing the catastrophe of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon." If Tony Blair and Henry Kissinger both emphasise the threat of nuclear terrorism, they probably have good reason.

Many recent intelligence studies of the threats to American security have referred to the possible possession of nuclear weapons by terrorist groups, and particularly Osama bin Laden's network. An anonymous paper, prepared earlier in the year, which is circulating in the City of London, alleges that "bin Laden's possession of weapons of mass destruction is generally considered (in intelligence circles) to be a given . . . bin Laden's original plan was to build his own tactical nuke. His emissaries have conducted several missions to Europe in an attempt to bring back enriched uranium . . . Reports emerging from Israel and Russia suggest that bin Laden gave his contacts in the Chechen Mafia several million dollars in cash, and heroin with a street value of more than $500 million - in exchange, the Chechens launched an all-out campaign to obtain (ex-Soviet) nuclear suitcase bombs for al-Qaeda (bin Laden's core group).

"One source even suggests that bin Laden obtained several of these nuclear suitcase bombs in the autumn of 1998 and transferred them into storage in the Taleban's main secure complex near Kandahar. The same source also claims that the weapons have not yet been used because they are still programmed with a Soviet era coding system that requires a signal from Moscow before detonation is possible. Another source confirms this information and even specifies that the number of tactical nuclear weapons acquired by bin Laden is close to 20."

This is an account of raw intelligence data, which may or may not be reliable. The terrorists themselves have reason to lie about their possession of nuclear weapons. If they do not have them, they can still use the belief that they do as a threat. If they really do have them, they may not want to draw attention to the fact. However, both the Blair and Kissinger statements, and public evidence given to Congress earlier this year by George Tenet, Director of the CIA, show how seriously the intelligence community takes this possibility. Bin Laden may indeed have nuclear weapons, which could still be in Afghanistan, but could already be hidden near their targets.

U.S. response on the day of the attacks supports this view of the threat. If a similar attack had occurred in the late 1940s, when Truman was President, there is no doubt the President's instinct would have been to return to the White House at once. That was, indeed, what many Americans expected President Bush to do. The fact that he was first flown to a nuclear command bunker in Nebraska may suggest that his security advisers thought that the New York and Washington attacks might be a trap, with a tactical nuclear strike on the White House as the possible follow-up. Any President might have felt he should risk his own life to get back to the White House; no President would have felt he should risk a nuclear explosion in the centre of Washington.

If one reads the situation in these terms, then the war against terrorism which President Bush has announced becomes a different sort of war, with much higher stakes, but perhaps also with a more realistic possibility of victory. Conventional terrorism is extraordinarily hard to eliminate, because there are always countries which have some sympathy for the terrorists, if not for their methods. In Britain we have experience of that. The IRA received essential support not only from openly terrorist countries such as Libya, but from friendly countries such as the Republic of Ireland or the United States itself.

Terrorist organisations can recover quickly from big setbacks. Abraham Lincoln used a metaphor to describe what happens. At a low point, early in the Civil War, the Union armies were being depleted by diversions. Lincoln said: "To fill up the Army is like undertaking to shovel fleas. You take up a shovel full but before you can dump them anywhere they are gone." Defeating conventional terrorists, on an individual basis, is indeed like shoveling fleas. Breaking up a terrorist organisation, which depends on the support of foreign states, may be more feasible if the other states come to feel that the terrorism has become a mortal threat to them.

We have seen the American reaction to the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. These were very serious attacks, causing casualties greater than those at Pearl Harbor, but they were conventional attacks. Suppose that they were now to be followed with nuclear attacks, even using, as Dr. Kissinger envisages, "the smallest nuclear weapons."

It is already certain that a nuclear attack by any foreign state on the United States would be followed by a nuclear counter-attack. However, it seems almost equally probably that a terrorist nuclear attack, even if it were not directly controlled by a foreign state, would lead to a nuclear response by the U.S. against any state that had in any way supported the terrorist group. So long as the threat is the conventional one, there is a certain flexibility; if there were to be a terrorist nuclear attack on the United States, the response against any nation harbouring the terrorists would be instantaneous and terrible.

The United States is now organising a global coalition to destroy all terrorism, particularly the Islamic terrorist network of Osama bin Laden. The major powers of the world all recognise that terrorism is a threat to them. China, Russia, India, Japan, the NATO countries are all in line, whatever quibbles there may be. So are the Islamic countries which are friendly to the United States. There are, however, a number of Islamic countries which have longstanding quarrels with the United States; most of them have had past connections with terrorist groups.

They now face an appalling risk. Apart from Afghanistan, they have no control over bin Laden. Even the Taleban, though they may conceivably control the bombs, cannot control the terrorist network. Facing this risk, some of the most anti-American countries are already dissociating themselves from the terrorists. Libya is backing off. In Iran, the conservative Ayatollah Emami-Kashani, who has been no friend to the U.S., told worshippers in Tehran on Friday that "this heartbreaking event is worrisome to all humanity." Indeed it is.

The aim of American policy is to build a universal coalition against terrorism, so as to isolate the terrorists, depriving them of any state refuge or any state support. If these were only conventional terrorists, that might be hard to achieve and harder to sustain. If, however, the intelligence reports are correct, and bin Laden does have some access to nuclear weapons, then even the most sympathetic Islamic states cannot afford to associate with him in any way. It is one thing to be a suicide bomber; it is another thing to become a suicide country.
return to menu

Warlord Tried to Buy Uranium
David Leppard
The Times (UK)
September 16, 2001
(for personal use only)

Osama Bin Laden, the chief suspect behind the attack on the World Trade Center, has tried at least twice to buy enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb, according to a former terrorist and Western intelligence.

Evidence of Bin Laden's interest in nuclear technology comes from Jamal Al-Fadl, a former close aide to the terrorist who has become the FBI's main "supergrass" in its investigation of Bin Laden's network. Al-Fadl has been warning the American authorities for the past five years that Bin Laden wanted to declare war on America and might "try to do something inside the United States."

In one affidavit, made while he was in the FBI's protective custody, he spoke of his role in Al-Qaeda, Bin Laden's organisation: "I know from personal observation that Al-Qaeda members and associates attempted to obtain components for nuclear and chemical weapons," he said. "In or about late 1993, Al-Qaeda members made efforts to procure enriched uranium."

Al-Fadl identified a key Bin Laden aide involved in the nuclear procurement programme: "One individual who was involved in this effort was [known as] Abu Hajer, who, after reviewing a document related to the proposed purchase of uranium, indicated that the proposed purchase should proceed."

The affidavit has been served in proceedings issued by the U.S. justice department to extradite two Bin Laden suspects from Britain.

In a separate statement, Al-Fadl also claimed he had been to Khartoum in Sudan to try to buy uranium. He said he was put in touch with an associate of a Sudanese army officer, who offered to sell him a consignment of uranium for $1.5m (£1m).

The man showed him what purported to be uranium, which, he claimed, came from South Africa. The material was in a cylinder about 2ft to 3ft long and 6in in diameter.

Al-Fadl told the FBI he dropped out of the negotiations and never found out if the terror group had succeeded in buying the material. He claimed to have been paid £7,000 as a bonus for his efforts.

The "nightmare scenario" presented by the new type of terrorism was hinted at by Tony Blair in his statement to an emergency session of parliament last week.

"We know they would, if they could, use chemical and biological weapons or even nuclear weapons of mass destruction," Blair said, without giving further details.

Israeli security sources also claimed last week that they had knowledge of a plan by Bin Laden to buy a tactical "suitcase-size" nuclear bomb from Kazakhstan, an Islamic country that was once part of the Soviet Union.

One American newspaper said yesterday that US intelligence officials had received reports that Bin Laden had already acquired "some type of nuclear device."

Although such claims are difficult to assess, there is no doubt that Bin Laden wants such weaponry. In one interview he said: "We don't consider it a crime if we tried to have nuclear, chemical, biological weapons. We have the right to defend ourselves."

Most intelligence analysts believe there are many more Islamic terrorist cells able to inflict further attacks. But many think the most potent threat could come from chemical or biological, rather than nuclear warfare.

One senior Whitehall security source said MI5's main concern was the possibility of terrorists using chemical weapons, as in the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo underground, which killed a dozen people in 1995.

Additional reporting: Uzi Mahnaimi, Tel Aviv
return to menu

C. International Nuclear Cooperation

U.S. and Russia Make Progress on Storage of Nuclear Materials
Environmental News Service
September 19, 2001
(for personal use only)

VIENNA, Austria -- The development of a system to verify the location and status of nuclear weapons material released from defense programs in the United States and Russia has passed its annual review at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference in Vienna this week.

The agency's 45th General Conference opened on a somber note with a moment of silence followed by a performance by the Vienna Boys Choir to honor the victims of the tragedy in the United States.

The IAEA General Conference approved by acclamation the reappointment of Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei, incumbent director general.

IAEA verification of Russian and American nuclear material is intended to promote international confidence that fissile material made subject by either of the two nations to agency verification "remains irreversibly removed from nuclear weapon programs," the agency said.

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, together with Minister of the Russian Federation on Atomic Energy Alexander Rumyantsev, and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed El-Baradei met in Vienna Tuesday to review progress.

The three leaders said "significant progress was made" in the development of a model for the Subsidiary Arrangements that provide details for the implementation of the new agreements. These arrangements include facility-specific information, reporting requirements, the technical criteria for verification and the inspection procedures to be applied.

Specific storage facilities being considered under the agreement are the Mayak Fissile Material Storage Facility in the Russian Federation, and the Savannah River K-Area Material Storage Facility, and the Lynchburg Babcock and Wilcox Uranium Downblending Facility in the United States.

"The removal of weapon origin fissile material from the defense programs of the Russian Federation and the United States is in furtherance of the commitment to disarmament undertaken by the two States pursuant to Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)," the IAEA said.

Technically, the three parties are collaborating in developing and testing special verification equipment for use with classified forms of plutonium. This equipment will incorporate neutron and gamma ray measurement systems operating within a system of "information barriers" designed to allow the inspectors to derive sufficient information for the verification to be credible and independent, while preventing access to classified information.

A prototype of this equipment has been demonstrated in the United States. The U.S. and Russia are developing contracts to support the design, construction and testing of such a measurement system in the Russian Federation.

IAEA safeguards seals are verified with laser disk recording.

The three parties are also collaborating on an inventory monitoring system that will assure the IAEA has continuity of knowledge once an item of material is verified and placed in storage to assure the material remains in storage as declared by either nation.

A number of technical workshops were conducted in the past year. A technical workshop was held in the United States at the Sandia National Laboratories in November 2000 to consider appropriate inventory monitoring techniques.

A second technical workshop was held at the Plutonium Fuel Production Facility of the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute in April 2001 to consider how state-of-the-art safeguards systems employed for non-proliferation purposes could be adapted for disarmament verification.

In addition, a technical visit was made in March 2001 to British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. in Sellafield, United Kingdom to observe measurement and monitoring activities in a large plutonium storage facility.

Secretary Abraham, Minister Rumyantsev, and Director General El-Baradei committed their respective organizations to a work program aimed at the completion of a new verification agreement, the Subsidiary Arrangements, the specific verification arrangements for the facilities identified by both countries and the development of specialized verification and inventory monitoring systems.

They agreed that the parties would meet again in September 2002 to oversee the implementation of the initiative.
return to menu

D. Highly Enriched Uranium

Administration Could Opt for Temporary HEU Solution
Platts NuclearFuel
September 17, 2001
(for personal use only)

WASHINGTON -- The terrorist attacks last week against the US have thrown many issues that seemed pressing two weeks ago much lower on policymakers' lists. One issue that may have been affected was the administration's review of US uranium enrichment policies and, in particular, whether USEC Inc. should remain the only US executive agent buying SWU under the US-Russian high-enriched uranium (HEU) agreement.

Many observers say they believe that the administration has been leaning to the appointment of a second agent, and that there is no reason to suspect that the events of last week have changed that view. However, the timing of any administration action will now likely be affected, they say.

USEC said on Sept. 17 that it still has not received any new directions from the administration, and has therefore not placed any orders for 2002 deliveries of blended-down HEU. USEC has been hoping that the administration would approve USEC's signing of a new 13-year deal that USEC said it negotiated with Russia's executive agent in May 2000--a deal that USEC has been counting on.

Otherwise, USEC has been telling investors, its cash flow in its fiscal 2002 will be substantially lower than the negative $30- to $50-million it has been projecting. The only reason that this issue could remain close to the front page of the administration's to-do list is the summit meeting slated for November between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The U.S.-Russian HEU agreement, a key nonproliferation link between the two countries, has enjoyed some immunity from other U.S.-Russian policy discussions because of the HEU deal's commercial nature and the fact that right now, it is "budget neutral" for the U.S. Both presidents, observers said, will want to see the HEU agreement continue to work and so the administration will most likely have some communications with USEC before then.

But USEC may not like the answer. The easiest path for the administration would be to keep USEC as an exclusive agent for one more year and to tell the company to order material for 2002 under the terms of its existing contract. That would mean that USEC would pay 2001 prices--about $90/SWU--in 2002 instead of the substantially lower prices the company would have paid under the market-based formula of the May 2000 deal. But it would also clear the HEU issue from the table for now, freeing up staffers at the Bush-Putin summit to concentrate on how the US and Russia can cooperate in attacking terrorism.
return to menu

E. Russian Nuclear Power Industry

Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production to Stop in Russia's Tomsk Region
BBC Monitoring Service
September 21, 2001
(for personal use only)

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

Seversk, Tomsk region, 21 September: Nuclear reactors of the Siberian chemical complex situated in the closed city of Seversk in the Tomsk region will stop the manufacture of weapons-grade plutonium. ITAR-TASS learnt from the information department of the high security enterprise on Friday [21 September] that the decision to this effect was taken by the Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry.

It was earlier planned that with the stoppage of plutonium production the reactors will also be shut down but it has now been decided that they will continue operating till the year 2005 as they supply electricity to Seversk and to considerable part of Tomsk. Over the next two years it is planned to reconstruct nuclear-power generating sets to switch them to generation of electricity without the possibility of their being used for military purposes.
return to menu

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.

Section Menu:

© 2007 Partnership for Global Security. All rights reserved. Privacy Statement.