An often-troubled joint effort by the US and Russia to control materials for weapons of mass destruction and provide jobs for the scientists who created them is now drawing new support in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
With the practical need for a united front against terrorism made brutally clear, there are quiet calls for renewed attention to a series of bilateral non-proliferation programmes among security experts.
A spokesman for Senator Richard Lugar, former chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said there were hopes for additional funding for the effort, which next year is expected to disburse about Dollars 750m. A long-awaited Dollars 35m US contribution to a Dollars 200m plant to destroy chemical weapons is now slated for passage.
In an effort to keep hazardous materials out of unfriendly hands, the US and its allies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help Russia and its former republics destroy old missiles, secure fissile materials and employ Russian scientists. But enthusiasm for some of the programmes had been waning and parts of the programme had been threatened by budget cuts.
The Bush administration had been prepared to delay an expensive scheme planned by the Clinton administration to destroy excess plutonium and to cut a programme designed to assist Russian scientists in two former secret Soviet "nuclear cities" find new jobs or start new companies.
The Russian-American Nuclear Security Administration Council, a non- proliferation think-tank, last week wrote to President George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, urging them to overcome bureaucratic barriers to co-operation.
They called for intensified efforts on a number of fronts, including control of nuclear materials, disposal of materials from dismantled warheads, exchanges of intelligence on smuggling and interdiction efforts, and downsizing of Russia's nuclear weapons complexes.
Between 1992 and 2000, the US allocated almost Dollars 5bn for non-proliferation and security programmes with former Soviet republics. Currently, the Defence Department spends about Dollars 400m a year to help Russia and other former Soviet republics secure and reduce the nuclear arsenal left by the Soviet Union.
The Energy Department is spending about Dollars 300m a year to control the disposition of plutonium, uranium and other dangerous materials and for "brain drain" programmes to employ and retrain Russian scientists, who might otherwise feel compelled to offer their services to terrorist states. (The Russian government stopped a group leaving for North Korea in 1996.)
The State Department spends about Dollars 50m a year on programmes to provide employment for former Soviet scientists. The US and other countries have found work for about 45,000 former weapons scientists out of a target group of 100,000.
"This was never designed to be the universal solution (for the unemployed scientists)," said Rose Gottemoeller, a former Clinton administration official now with Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think-tank. "It was to provide a pressure release valve during a prolonged transition."
An Energy Department official said new money could be made available from the Dollars 40bn disaster relief package - swiftly backed by Congress after the attacks.
At the very least, the current funding for the bilateral non-proliferation programmes, run by the Energy and Defence Departments, are probably now "untouchable," said Victor Alesso, president of the US Industry Coalition, which works with the Energy Department.
The coalition - a group of more than 100 US companies - is creating businesses with the scientists who once built nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. So far, eight products are in production and 20 are close to production.
Many of these products have potentially important anti-terrorism applications. For example, one company will produce a three-dimensional camera to help safeguard stored nuclear materials. Another has produced a hand-held detector for biological pathogens to determine whether a biological attack is under way.
Another is soon to produce a high-speed needle-less vaccine injector, which can give 600 vaccinations an hour, usable in a biological attack. This programme, funded at about Dollars 25m a year, has strong backing in Congress, but Mr. Alesso said he could easily and efficiently spend Dollars 50m just to meet demand.
The "nuclear cities initiative" was drastically cut from Dollars 27.5m this year to a proposed Dollars 6m in 2002 in the Bush budget. Congress is certain to provide more than that in the final appropriations bill. return to menu
B. Nuclear Terrorism
1. Nuclear Terrorism "Impossible" in Russia - Army Expert
BBC Monitoring Service
September 28, 2001
(for personal use only)
Text of report by Russian news agency RIA
Moscow, 28 September: Vladimir Bentsianov, member of the coordinating council of the Russian armed forces and chairman of the Russian committee of veterans of the special risk unit, is convinced that nuclear terrorism in Russia is impossible. RIA-Novosti says he expressed this view today at a news conference entitled "Is nuclear terrorism possible in Russia? - 50 years of war without nuclear weapons being used." He said that "there can be no nuclear terrorism in Russia."
Sergey Alekseyenko, who took part in the testing of nuclear weapons in Semipalatinsk, noted that from 1955 to 1975 such robust special depots, shelters and fortifications were created on the territory of the USSR that it is simply impossible to somehow steal an atomic bomb or nuclear weapon part.
Also, Alekseyenko stressed, the depots were designed in such a way that they could withstand an impact of 40 kilotonnes, and were built to last for 500 years. He also believes that special emphasis has to be placed on guarding atomic power stations.
He stressed that physicists and nuclear specialists have to look at the real problems of reprocessing nuclear waste, the storage of which he believes is a very expensive business. Science must therefore make every effort now to make a thorough study of the atom, he noted.
Source: RIA news agency, Moscow, in Russian 0928 gmt 28 Sep 01 return to menu
2. Does Osama Have a Nuclear Bomb?
September 28, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- It's a prospect so alarming that it was nearly unthinkable before this month's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
But does the al Qaeda terrorist network headed by Osama bin Laden have nuclear weapons?
Nobody who knows for sure is talking publicly. Yet for much of the last decade, government reports and intelligence experts have been warning that bin Laden has been trying to build the bomb.
The reports have been sporadic but persistent: A 1999 article in the Jerusalem Report magazine claims "bin Laden has several nuclear suitcases," and a 1998 New York Times article says that a bin Laden aide was arrested in Germany on charges of trying to buy highly enriched uranium.
When Time magazine asked bin Laden in late 1998 what his nuclear intentions were, he cagily replied: "Acquiring weapons for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty. If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so."
There's a big difference, of course, between purchasing the right material -- and building a bomb, maintaining it, and successfully delivering it to its intended target. Nuclear weapons also have relatively short shelf lives, meaning a supply of replacement fuel eventually would be required.
"It's difficult to know if he has (nuclear weapons)," said Kimberly McCloud, a researcher at the Monterey Institute of International Studies who tracks weapons of mass destruction. "We know he's been interested in it, and that's reason for concern. At the same time, we don't know if (he) has weaponized it."
One shortcut to membership in the nuclear club is a portable tactical device, often called a "suitcase nuke."
Both the U.S. and the former Soviet Union created such weapons with about 1 kiloton of explosive power -- the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT -- which is enough to level a small portion of a city. The American version was called the Special Atomic Demolition Munition, or Mk-54, and was designed to be carried by a single paratrooper, then detonated by timer.
"You're talking about a bomb, a device with a capability of 1 kiloton of destruction, which is a massive capability that would cause severe destruction of a major inner city area, perhaps causing a multitude of buildings to collapse with the people inside of them," Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pennsylvania) said in 1999.
The Soviet military created similar devices -- and then, apparently, misplaced some during the turbulent dissolution of the Soviet Union a decade ago.
Alexei Yablokov, Boris Yeltsin's former science advisor, told a U.S. House committee in 1997 that he believed dozens of the "suitcase-size nuclear munitions" were missing. At the time, the U.S. State Department said it was satisfied with Russia's assurances.
Some analysts who follow the topic stress there's little hard evidence to suggest a nuke-capable al Qaeda.
"We have no evidence at all that bin Laden has access to nuclear weapons," said Anthony Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who specializes in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
"He now has shown an interest," Cordesman said. "George Tenet has made public remarks on this. No one has see that there is a clean chain of evidence that he has the capability. But no one can account for the Russian nuclear weapons."
Cordesman referred to speeches by CIA Director George Tenet, including a briefing that he gave in February. At the time, Tenet said: "The missile and (weapons of mass destruction) proliferation problem continues to change in ways that make it harder to monitor and control, increasing the risk of substantial surprise."
Perhaps the most detailed glimpse of bin Laden's capabilities comes from the testimony of Jamal Ahmad al-Fadl, a native of Sudan and ex-bin Laden associate who testified for the U.S. government in the World Trade Center bombing trial earlier this year. Al-Fadl testified he spent years trying to obtain highly enriched uranium for bin Laden.
The U.S. government seems to agree. Kenneth Karas, a federal prosecutor in that case, urged the jury in May to remember "the efforts by al Qaeda to obtain components of nuclear weapons and remember bin Laden's endorsement of what he called the Islamic nuclear bomb."
About the only thing that's certain is that if al Qaeda and bin Laden have the materials, making a nuclear weapon may not be that difficult.
A report by Carey Sublette, distributed by the Federation of American Scientists, recalls a 1960s experiment conducted by the U.S. government. In it, three newly graduated physics students were asked to develop a nuclear weapon using only publicly available information.
The result: "They did develop a viable design after expending only three man-years of effort over two and a half calendar years. In the years since, much more information has entered the public domain so that the level of effort required has obviously dropped further." return to menu
C. Nuclear Waste
1. Russia Reports Progress in Removing Nuclear Fuel from Decommissioned Submarines
BBC Monitoring Service
September 27, 2001
(for personal use only)
Text of report by Russian news agency ITAR-TASS
St Petersburg, 26 September, ITAR-TASS correspondent Nikolay Krupenchik: The Russian navy has decommissioned a total of 183 nuclear submarines at the end of their service life. Sixty per cent of the nuclear submarines destined for scrap are in Murmansk and Archangel Region. At the same time, "radioactive nuclear fuel has not been removed from 80 per cent of the submarines that retain but are gradually losing their buoyancy to corrosion." This warning was given by Nina Yanovskaya, director of the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry's inter-sectoral coordinating scientific and technical centre for nuclide production (ICC Nuclide) at today's St Petersburg conference, entitled "Radiation safety: ecology and nuclear power."
The Russian Atomic Energy Ministry has adopted a strategy for speeding up the removal of nuclear fuel from reactors on submarines that are so dilapidated they have only low buoyancy. In 1999, Nina Yanovskaya said, nuclear fuel was removed from eight reactors in the Russian north and Far East. Last year nuclear fuel was removed from 16 submarines and the programme for removing it from another two "went on into 2001." This work will have been done on 21 nuclear submarines by the end of this year. It is necessary to maintain this level in order to complete unloading the reactors of all the Russian navy's decommissioned nuclear submarines by 2007, the ICC director said in conclusion.
Source: ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, in Russian 1315 gmt 26 Sep 01 return to menu
2. Waste Nuclear Fuel Storage Site to Be Constructed in Murmansk
September 26, 2001
(for personal use only)
The Atomflot factory has started construction of a storage site for containers with waste nuclear fuel from nuclear submarines' reactors. The construction of the first storage site in Russia is performed by orders of the Nuclid interbranch coordination centre.
In compliance with the federal programme of nuclear submarines utilization, analogous sites will be constructed later in Arkhangelsk (a White Sea port) and in the Far East in the areas of atomic reactors active zones discharging. The largest storage site is to be constructed at Mayak factory in the Chelyabinsk region (Southern Urals) where waste nuclear fuel is processed.
The Murmansk site will represent a concrete hangar designed for 19 containers. The construction is scheduled to last for 5.5 months. Total cost of the Murmansk project is $1,050 thousand, allocated under the AMEC (Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation) programme. The Russian federal budget will allocate on its part 5.6 million rubles to create a radiation monitoring system for the facility. return to menu
D. Russian Nuclear Power Industry
1. Unified Electrical Systems (UESR): "It Is Not Our Duty to Support the Nuclear Energy Industry"
September 28, 2001
(for personal use only)
Last Friday, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Victor Khristenko presided over a meeting on organising the Administrator for the Trade System (ATS) into the wholesale market of electric power. A compromise was reached during the meeting between the company Rosenergoatom, controlling all nuclear power plants in the Russian Federation, and the Russian joint-stock company Unified Electrical Systems (UESR).
The compromise involves that UESR will have 50% of the votes in the Supervisory Council. 50% is less than UESR asked for (about 80%), but it is higher than the ATS regulation, prepared by Rosenergoatom, required (25%).
The paperwork required to launch ATS should be completed in two months, and it is not clear whether the armistice between the energy jumbos will be sustained.
Today UESR covers 80% of the electric power market (the Federal Wholesale Market of the Electric Power (FOREM)). T he remaining 20% belong to Rosenergoatom).
Nuclear power plants produce about 15% of the total energy supply in Russia, while the thermal stations generate up to 60%.
In the beginning of September, Rosenergoatom stated that UESR, controlling 75% of the Russian energy infrastructure, limits the access of "cheap electric power from nuclear power plants to the wholesale market." The company's representatives also accused UESR of hampering Rosenergoatom's export of electricity to Georgia and Ukraine.
The press centre of Rosenergoatom released a statement saying that due to the artificially set grid limitations, the nuclear power plants failed to generate about 4 billion kWh of electric energy in the period from January to August 2001. The main reason for the limitations was allegedly the UESR's monopoly on both sales and transportation of electricity, which was claimed to limit the access of cheap electric energy on the wholesale market. Rosenergoatom also stated that these limitations were set by UESR in an attempt to protect the thermal electric stations, owned by UESR.
Rosenergoatom also threatened UESR with a trial, but the threat was never carried out.
In an interview with Bellona Web, the head of the UESR press service, Yury Melikhov, said:
"The company [Rosenergoatom] intentionally reduced the grid capacity for its nuclear power plants in order to raise the prices on electricity later. As concerning their threats, we are sure that they will not go to court, despite of the harsh PR-campaign . Furthermore, Rosenergoatom, when realising the futility of their claims, withdrew the plea that we allegedly hampered nuclear energy export to Georgia and the Ukraine. As to the accusations, they are far-fetched and baseless. It is necessary to remember that it is not UESR's duty to sustain the production of nuclear energy."
Mr. Melikhov persistently denounced the statements made by the Rosenergoaton about UESR not providing the energy production companies with equal access to the electricity grids. According to regular practice, nuclear power plants, as well as the other FOREM participants, have full and equal access to electrical networks of the integrated power system. Rosenergoatom intentionally decreased the generating capacity of the nuclear power plants in order to raise the prices and consequently earn the future excess profit.
On the other hand, Rosenergoatom officials say they were not aware that the repairs on several power plants would be finished ahead of schedule, and consequently producing more kilowatts of energy than what was expected. The company's officials also said that they substantially assisted the thermal stations in saving large amounts of fossil fuel.
One can, however, hardly say that tonnes of oil were saved thanks to the nuclear power plants, because transferring energy produced in Rostov in the southern Russia to Arkhangelsk in north-west, which suffers from the shortage of fuel, is simply out of the question because of the long distance.
Previously, Rosenergoatom have expressed their intention to reduce supplies of electric power produced by nuclear power plants to the FOREM market since July 16th. This threat was not fulfilled either. The reason for such a step was low payment capabilities of some customers.
But the low payment capability were caused by Rosenergoatom itself, by lobbying an 54% increase in prices on electricity produced by nuclear power plants, in the first six months of 2001.
UESR claimed earlier, that nuclear management itself had dispelled the myth about cheap nuclear energy. The 68% increase of the fares on nuclear power plants production in the year 2000 and of more than the double in 2001, resulted in the current price of nuclear power being higher than the energy produced by thermal plants owned by UESR.
The energy production plan for the nuclear power plants for the last quarter of 2001, approved last week, suggests a production of 41,2 billion kWh. That is 3,1 billion more than the original plan provided by the government in May 2001.
In compliance with the agreement between Rosenergoatom and RWE Trading GmbH (Germany), the supply of electricity to Georgia was supposed to begin in July 2001, but UESR refused to provide grid management services and energy transport.
Mr. Melikhov explained that the conflict began when Rosenergoatom failed to meet the requirements given by the export legislation. UESR says that the governmental decree issued 12.07.96 N793 stipulates that the energy export can be carried out only by UESR or by the de facto non-existing Ministry for the Foreign Economical Relations.
But as the nuclear energy company sees it, UESR is mentioned in the decree, but that does not mean that it is the only possible exporter.
The decree N793 reads in particular, "Rosenergoatom co-ordinates the activity of exporting electricity produced at the nuclear power plants and distributes foreign currency earnings between them," and UESR "executes export - import of electrical energy (power)."
Mr. Melikhov says, Rosenergoatom offered export of its electricity at dumping prices, which is lower than internal Russian tariffs for nuclear power plant produced energy.
The nuclear energy company officials claimed earlier that the prices UESR asked for while exporting electricity to Georgia were lower than proposed by Rosenergoatom.
The UESR press service representative says, the fares for electricity from nuclear power plants are low, and that allows nuclear lobbyist to speak about the "cheap nuclear energy." A kilowatt of energy, produced at nuclear power plants costs from three up to ten kopecks. At thermal stations the cost exceeds ten kopecks, and at hydro plants it amounts to 15 kopecks. However, in reality the nuclear power plant's fares are complemented by the taxes of Rosenergoatom, boosting the cost of nuclear electric power to between 23 and 28 kopecks per kilowatt.
UESR believes the nuclear power plant's fares are scheming. Neither the cost of building nuclear power plants, nor indispensable means for minimisation of the damage from a possible nuclear accident, nor the cost of decommissioning the nuclear power plants are included in the fares.
"And that is millions of dollars! In 5-10 years the service life of the majority of the nuclear power plants expires. They do not build new power plants, except for Rostov Nuclear Power Plant. Rosenergoatom tries to extract the excess profit, because they know, that their future will not be free of struggle," Mr. Melikhov says.
On September 8th, shortly before the negotiations on creating ATS, the government approved Rosenergoatom reorganisation. In particular, Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, being earlier in direct subordination to the Ministry for Nuclear Energy (Minatom), joined the concern.
There is a great probability that Rosenergoatom slowly will transform into a giant. RBC news agency reported that on September 25th, Ashot Madoyan, the director of the Research Institute for Ecological Problems of Energy Industry, said that the new structure of the company will comprise, apart from the Russian nuclear power plants, also the Armenian nuclear power plants. The Armenian nuclear power plants will become "half Russian." Mr. Madoyan said that the respective decision was taken at the intergovernmental level. He pointed out, that this way Armenia would partly pay off its national debt to the Russian Federation.
The Armenian nuclear power plant (or Medzamor nuclear power plant), located near the country's capital, Yerevan, not far from the Turkish border, has two first generation VVER-440/270s (seismically improved VVER-440/230s) reactors put in operation in 1976 and 1979. The plant is built in a seismically active area, but designed to withstand an earthquake with a force of up to 9 points on the Richter scale. It actually withstood the Spitak quake (Richter point 7-8), but was nevertheless shut down and partially discharged of fuel early in 1989.
In 1998, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) promised a 10m ECU loan to the plant given its shutdown by the year 2004. return to menu
E. Russia - Iran Cooperation
1. Iran to Discuss Arms, Nuclear with Russia
October 1, 2001
(for personal use only)
TEHRAN, Oct. 1 -- An Iranian delegation led by Tehran's defense minister was scheduled to arrive in Moscow Monday for a four-day visit to discuss arms and nuclear power sales between the two nations.
Iran's Defense Ministry spokesman Keivan Khosravi said talks between Iranian and Russian officials would focus on forging defensive, military and technical cooperation based on "each country's national laws as well as international conventions."
"The defense minister (Ali Shamkhani) is to hold talks with Russian officials on ways of expanding ties within the framework delineated by the presidents of the two countries," said Khosravi -- a reference to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's March visit to Moscow. The trip was originally scheduled for early September, but was postponed because Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was in Moscow at the time.
Some analysts say the trip is part of an ongoing effort by Iran to bolster its ties with Russia in a bid to undermine the grip of U.S. sanctions on its economy.
The United States, which considers Iran a "rogue state" for its suspected ties to terrorism and efforts to acquire advanced weaponry from Moscow, renewed its sanctions on Iran for another five years in August, a move criticized by Russia.
Its foreign reserves depleted, Russian is eager to cash in on the potentially lucrative Iranian arms market, and has pledged to negotiate future arms sales with Iran and help Tehran complete a nuclear power station in that country. Russia's Interfax news agency earlier quoted Russian experts as saying such cooperation could earn Russia up to $300 million a year.
Tehran and Moscow insist their nuclear cooperation is of a strictly civilian nature. On the arms front, both nation's insist Russia will sell Iran defensive weaponry and is not a violation of Russia's treaty obligations. return to menu
1. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 27, 2001
Contact: Joan Furlong
M E D I A A D V I S O R Y
U.S.-RUSSIAN NONPROLIFERATION PROGRAM
ADVANCES EFFORTS TO REDUCE TERRORISM THREATS
RUSSIAN NUCLEAR SCIENTISTS TO RE-ORIENT TOWARD COMMERCIAL SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT FOR U.S. COMPANIES
MAJOR RUSSIAN COMPANY JOINS U.S. FIRM IN FIRST PARTNERSHIP ON I.T. PROJECT SUPPORTED BY U.S. NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
WHAT: Announcement of groundbreaking agreement between U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Moscow-based LUXOFT Company and CTG of Wayne, PA, for re-directing of Russian nuclear scientists to broad range of non-military, commercial IT software applications.
WHEN: Thursday, October 4, 2001 * 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. (doors open at 9:30 a.m.)
WHO: Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), Founder, Duma-Congress Study Group; Chairman, House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee Anatoly Karachinsky, CEO, IBS Group (Information Business Systems) Steven K. Black, Acting Ass't. Deputy Administrator, DOE/NNSA Boris Stavisski, Director, Kurchatov Institute Technopark John Gallagher, Chairman, CTG, Inc. Dmitry Loschinin, Managing Director, LUXOFT Moderator: Victor Alessi, President, U.S. Industry Coalition
WHERE: Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, Room Hemisphere B Pennsylvania Avenue & 14th Street NW, Washington, DC (use Pennsylvania Avenue entrance; proceed down one floor to Concourse Level)
Agreement represents new dimension in U.S.-Russian cooperative efforts to reduce global threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technologies.
LUXOFT project is facilitated by NNSA's Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program, which is designed to assist Russian scientists and engineers to transfer technical skills to civilian sector.
Hundreds of nuclear scientists from Kurchatov Institute, the premier nuclear research institute in Russia, will be re-trained by LUXOFT.
LUXOFT, a division of IBS Group, is the dominant force in the Russian IT market, and has extensive experience with major U.S. companies (Boeing, IBM, etc.) LUXOFT presence in U.S. national capital will allow development of new contracts with federal agencies and private industry.
CTG, Inc. is a high-tech information services and business development consulting firm.
USIC is non-profit association of U.S. companies and universities participating in NNSA's IPP program.
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.