WASHINGTON -- The guards who oversee the vast, remaining nuclearstockpile of the former Soviet Union have gone months at a time withoutpay. Highly enriched uranium--usable for a nuclear bomb--hasdisappeared. Among the buyers-in-waiting is the world's most wanted man,Osama bin Laden.
President Bush last week underscored the threat, noting that Bin Ladenhas vowed to seek weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs.
Before the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings, many government officialsassumed that terrorists would refrain from using radioactive materialsbecause of the grave risk to themselves. This assumption now appearsoutdated, raising dire questions about the possibility of terroristattacks that could kill tens of thousands or more civilians.
"Absent a major new initiative, we have every reason to expect therewill be an act of nuclear terrorism in the next decade, maybe sooner,"said Graham T. Allison, an assistant secretary of Defense underPresident Clinton.
Interviews and documents show that U.S. and Russian leaders over thelast decade have taken incomplete steps to safeguard a potentially largenuclear shopping mart in which scientists or officials motivated by cashmeet terrorists seeking the ultimate weapon.
Although Bush said his administration "will do everything we can" tothwart Bin Laden's nuclear ambitions, past promises have fallen short:As a candidate, Bush vowed to increase spending for securing the formerSoviet nuclear arsenal and to press for "an accurate inventory of allthis material." As president, he has done the opposite--proposingspending cuts in his first budget. And Bush has not sought to use any ofthe $40 billion provided for anti-terrorism spending after Sept. 11 tobetter secure the coveted stockpile.
With new urgency, experts are examining the widespread opportunities forterrorists to acquire nuclear materials and know-how from the formerSoviet Union.
A report prepared for the U.S. secretary of Energy early this yearwarned of "dozens" of worrisome incidents. Other government consultantshave verified the disappearance of highly enriched uranium from anunguarded plant on the Black Sea, interviews and records show. Aprominent U.S. physicist told The Times of being presented with an offerto buy neutron "guns," devices that can be used to detonate a nuclearbomb.
And according to U.S. experts, neither the Russians nor the Americanshave a complete inventory of all the highly enriched uranium andplutonium, another ingredient for a nuclear bomb.
"I am concerned that weapons-usable nuclear material may have goneastray," said Rose Gottemoeller, who served as assistant secretary ofEnergy for nonproliferation and national security during the Clintonadministration.
Bin Laden Claims He Has Weapons
For now, American officials say they do not know whether Bin Laden'sinternational terror network, Al Qaeda, possesses either intact nuclearweapons or the materials to make them.
But Bin Laden, in interviews in December 1998 with U.S. television andmagazine reporters, said it was a "religious duty" to possess nuclearmaterials and chemical weapons. When Bin Laden and others were indictedin November 1998 for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa,federal prosecutors alleged that "from at least as early as 1993, Osamabin Laden and others known and unknown made efforts to obtain thecomponents of nuclear weapons."
On Friday, a leading Pakistani newspaper quoted Bin Laden as saying inan interview Wednesday that he has both nuclear and chemical weapons. "Iwish to declare that if America used nuclear or chemical weapons againstus, then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have theweapons as deterrent," Bin Laden said, according to the account in theEnglish-language newspaper, Dawn. Bin Laden declined to say where hemight have acquired the weapons.
Al Qaeda would not be the only terrorist group to pursue nuclearmaterials. Aum Shinrikyo, a wealthy doomsday cult based in Japan,recruited nuclear physicists from Moscow. Investigators determined thatthe group also tried to mine its own uranium in Australia and to buyRussian nuclear warheads.
Some analysts speculate that Bin Laden or others also could seek nuclearmaterials from "rogue" states such as Iran and Iraq, suspected offomenting attacks against the U.S. The shared border and Islamic tiesbetween Afghanistan and Pakistan have helped spur conjecture that BinLaden has gained assistance from two or more Pakistani nuclearscientists, who were recently detained for questioning and released. Thegovernment of Pakistan insists that its nuclear weapons have remainedsecure.
For U.S. officials, the nature of the nuclear threat has evolved sinceDecember 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved into Russia and 14 otherindependent states, with thousands of assembled nuclear weapons stillaimed at North America.
Properly securing and destroying many of those weapons remains animperative. But what looms even larger for many security specialists arethe separate and portable materials necessary to make a nuclearbomb--highly enriched uranium or plutonium. Also of great concern areother radioactive materials that could be used, with a conventionalexplosive, to construct a relatively simple "dirty" bomb. Such anexplosive could inflict casualties on the scale of the Oklahoma Citybombing, and the radioactive material could contaminate a large urbanarea.
Ingredients for Disaster
With just a few kilograms of radioactive material--which can be obtainedfrom nonmilitary sources--a terrorist could make the crude device.Weapons specialists say it could be delivered with such low-tech meansas a passenger van or boat.
For a nuclear device, as little as 12 kilograms, or about 26.4 pounds,of highly enriched uranium, or four kilograms--less than a soda canfull--of plutonium would be needed, along with other components that areavailable commercially. Building and detonating a nucleardevice would take far greater scientific training than needed for the"dirty" bomb, and experts differ on how readily terrorists could executesuch a mission. But the precision that the terrorists demonstrated Sept.11 has challenged such assumptions.
"We are now in a new arms race," Charles B. Curtis, deputy secretary ofEnergy under Clinton, said in an Oct. 29 speech to the InternationalAtomic Energy Agency in Vienna. "Terrorists and certain rogue states areracing to get weapons of mass destruction, and we are racing to stopthem."
Viewed from the vantage point of the Cold War, progress has been made incooperatively identifying and reducing the former Soviet arsenal.Thousands of nuclear weapons have been dismantled. Hundreds of metricstons of nuclear material have been placed under improved security. TheU.S. has spent billions of dollars to assist the former Soviet republicsin securing or eliminating nuclear weapons and material. And new effortsare expected to be discussed when Bush and Russian President Vladimir V.Putin begin talks Tuesday in Washington.
Still, the U.S. has fallen short of the actions needed to avert thecalamity invited by loose nuclear materials, more than a dozen leadingexperts said. They voiced dismay that the government is not ramping upits efforts in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
"These materials pose a clear and present danger to the U.S. nationalsecurity," said John P. Holdren, a Harvard University specialist who in1995 headed a secret study for Clinton of the security of weapons-gradeuranium and plutonium within the former Soviet Union. "We haven't doneenough."
Nuclear Material Found Missing
Just a decade ago, the city of Sukhumi was known for its comforts.Located in the Abkhazia region of the former Soviet republic of Georgiaon the eastern reach of the Black Sea, it was a"how-much-wine-can-you-drink place," in the fond memory of one visitor.Then came a rebellion by ethnic separatists.
The disruption affected more than the resort atmosphere. Sukhumi, itturns out, also was home to a nuclear research facility. Amid thefighting and ensuing chaos, about two kilograms of highly enricheduranium disappeared, according to a team of researchers led by WilliamC. Potter at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, anindependent graduate school in California.
A Russian-speaking researcher who assisted Potter, Emily Daughtry, saidshe confirmed the prior existence of the highly enriched uranium withboth the former director of the Sukhumi nuclear research center and withGeorgian Foreign Ministry officials whom she visited.
She said the director told her that, in September 1993, as the city wasbeing taken over by the Abkhazian separatists, "the scientists askedGeorgian security forces for help in moving what [the director]characterized as radioactive materials out of the institute and out ofthe city."
Daughtry, now a law student at UCLA, said the security forces werefighting the rebels and could not assist the scientists. "And so thescientists surrounded the material storage areas with concrete blocks,and then they left," she said. "They fled the city; they couldn't takeit with them."
When a team of Russian inspectors finally gained access to the Sukhumifacility, about 880 miles southeast of Moscow, in December 1997, theyfound it deserted, according to Potter. He said the inspectors foundnone of the highly enriched uranium, although other radioactive materialwas present.
"This is an instance in which weapons-grade material is known to havedisappeared," said Potter, who also is a consultant to the EnergyDepartment's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He said he sharedhis findings with U.S. officials.
The Times was unable to reach the former director of the Sukhumi nuclearcenter. In Moscow, a spokesman for the Russian nuclear energy ministry,Yuri Bespalko, said he was unaware of weapons material missing fromSukhumi or any other location.
"There is definitely a full inventory of all nuclear materials inRussia, and it is simply impossible that something could go missing,"Bespalko said. "Today, nothing threatens Russia's nuclear installations.As for former Soviet republics . . . there may have been separate casesin the past, but today, according to our information, all nuclearmaterials are under a reliable protection."
Current and former U.S. officials say the record suggests otherwise.
The Monterey Institute has documented 11 cases of diversion and recoveryof uranium and plutonium from 1992 to 1997. More recently, theInternational Atomic Energy Agency described six arrests or seizures ofweapons-grade nuclear material linked to the former Soviet Union from1999 through last January.
The January report of a task force led by Republican Howard H. BakerJr., a former U.S. senator and White House chief of staff, and DemocratLloyd N. Cutler, a former White House counsel, referred to "dozens" ofincidents of attempted theft.
Culture of Deal-Making
In 1998, the report said, employees of a Russian nuclear facility inChelyabinsk were caught "attempting to steal fissile material of aquantity just short of that needed for one nuclear device." Also in1998, a Russian employee at a lab in Arzamas was charged with"attempting to sell documents on nuclear weapons designs to agents ofIraq and Afghanistan for $3 million," according to the task forcereport. In January 2000, Russian agents arrested four sailors at a baseon the Kamchatka Peninsula with a stash that included radioactivematerials they were suspected of having stolen from their submarine.
The regional head of Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, the mainsuccessor agency to the KGB, attributed the Arzamas case and others tothe "very difficult financial position" of workers at the nucleardefense facilities, the report said.
Indeed, specialists who commute to Russia say that a culture ofdeal-making persists. "People are trying to sell all various things,"said Thomas L. Neff, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicistwho pioneered a program that buys the Russians' highly enriched uraniumand recycles it for nonmilitary purposes.
Neff described an incident several years ago in which a Russian engineerhe met outside a nuclear weapons facility in the town of Lesnoy offeredto sell him 700 neutron guns, devices that can be used both fordetonating a nuclear bomb and for oil drilling. Neff said he reportedthe overture to U.S. authorities.
"That's just the tip of the iceberg," Neff said. "I had a number ofexperiences like that. . . . Engineers have come out and talked to me,brought me out samples of their stuff, which is pretty scary. . . . Imean, I could have been anybody."
Just last month, Igor Volynkin, head of the defense agency responsiblefor protecting Russia's nuclear arsenal, told reporters that on twooccasions in the last year, terrorists had staked out nuclearfacilities. Security was beefed up in response, Volynkin said.
Potter, who participated in two National Academy of Sciences studies ofthe security of the former Soviet nuclear facilities, said "the Russiansmaintain that they have accounted for everything. In fact, anybody who'sever been to one of these Russian facilities knows that that is a joke."
Based on the volume of known theft attempts, Potter said, it is "likelythat Western observers of the nuclear trafficking scene have missedsignificant instances of diversion and/or export."
Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union have a total of about1,100 metric tons of weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium and 160metric tons of plutonium at 123 sites, according to specialists and U.S.government reports. This includes 603 metric tons of weapons-gradematerial stored separately from nuclear weapons at 53 facilities.
But neither Russia nor the U.S. has a complete inventory of the amountand location of all the highly enriched uranium and plutonium, U.S.experts say.
"There's a great deal of anxiety in our community about that, probablyin theirs too," said Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), co-sponsor of themost prominent U.S. program to reduce the threat of weapons of massdestruction in the former Soviet Union. "We haven't accounted foreverything. So that if something was taken, someone might not know it."
Officials also have been unable to confirm the status of the formerSoviet Union's portable nuclear explosives, called backpack bombs orsuitcase bombs.
"There were such bombs, absolutely," said Nikolai Sokov, who was aRussian negotiator for the START II arms control pact signed in 1993."They should have been dismantled. We do not know for sure if they havebeen dismantled."
Volynkin, the nuclear security chief, told reporters in October thatRussia had 84 nuclear devices weighing 30 kilograms or less and that allhad been destroyed or put under tight control.
Gottemoeller, the former assistant Energy secretary, said the attemptedtheft of 1.5 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from a facility inPodolsk in 1992 "was a major wake-up call" for Russian officials.
U.S. officials assigned to assist the Russians in the early 1990s "had aproblem establishing working relationships," Gottemoeller said, untilthe Russians "got the fear of God put into them because some of theirwork force started walking out with pellets of uranium in theirpockets."
Glasnost, the opening of Soviet society, posed its own challenge. Theold security regime was developed with closed borders and nuclearworkers who were relatively well paid. This eroded quickly with thesuperpower's breakup into independent states with open borders andrampant corruption.
Quick Fixes For Lax Security
The Americans found stunningly lax security at the nuclear facilitiesthey visited: Perimeter fences with holes or gaps. Hinges rusted offdoors. Nuclear material stored in lockers with flimsy padlocks.
Working with the Russians, they made quick fixes--bricking up windows,installing blast-proof doors, placing radiation detectors at the exits.
More comprehensive improvements have been made at a smaller number offacilities--electronic sensors on fences, internal alarms,closed-circuit television monitors and electronic systems to screenvisitors.
But many of Russia's nuclear weapons storage sites remain off-limits toU.S. officials. The General Accounting Office reported in May that U.S.officials had yet to gain access to 104 of 252 nuclear-site buildings"requiring improved security systems."
The Russians' reticence stems in part from nationalist sentiment.
"Some people find it humiliating," said Igor Khripunov, who for 21 yearswas an official with the former Soviet Union's Ministry of ForeignAffairs and now is associate director of the Center for InternationalTrade and Security at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. "Youshouldn't underestimate this sense of national pride. We were this greatsuperpower, and now we have to get money and assistance from the countrywe considered our adversary."
Retired Brig. Gen. Thomas E. Kuenning Jr., who directs the Pentagon'sprogram for reducing threats from the former Soviet Union's nuclear,chemical and biological weapons, said in an interview that "Russia'ssecurity paranoia" is an impediment.
Security Concerns at Civilian Facilities
For the Americans, access is required to ensure that U.S. tax dollarsare being spent appropriately, Kuenning said. The Russians, in turn,want reciprocal access to sensitive U.S. nuclear facilities. "But we'repaying the bill," he said. In his view, reciprocity "is not an issue."
Despite "steady, consistent progress," Kuenning said, "there are[security] vulnerabilities that we realize and the Russians realize. Andwe're working very hard to try to fix" them.
John C. Reppert, a former defense attache to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow,said his greatest worry is vulnerabilities at the civilian Ministry ofAtomic Energy test facilities and academic institutions. He said hesuspected that security was "at best a padlock and a barbed-wire fence,"with fewer guards who are less well trained than those at militarylocations.
(Russia signed an agreement with the U.S. Energy Department in Septemberto provide access to some sensitive Ministry of Atomic Energy facilitiesthat had been closed to the Americans.)
Even at the ostensibly premier military facilities, the reliability ofthe security guards is a constant concern. Some endured months-long gapsin pay in the mid-1990s.
Kuenning said pay has improved--it's higher than salaries for ordinarysoldiers--and the guard force has a high percentage of officers. But, headded, the tough economic conditions in the remote places where manyguards live "add to the challenge" of securing the stockpile.
A bipartisan congressional commission headed by former CIA Director JohnM. Deutch and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) detailed some of thosechallenges in a July 1999 report:
"Russia has no reliable inventory of its fissile material, and Russianvulnerability to an 'insider' threat is increased by power outages atRussian nuclear installations, by the need for unpaid guards andtechnicians to forage for food."
The General Accounting Office reported in February that "hundreds ofmetric tons of [Russian] nuclear material remain unprotected." Thereport added: "We also observed instances where systems were notoperated properly. For example, at one nuclear facility that we visited,an entrance gate to a building containing nuclear material was left openand unattended by guards."
When members of the Baker-Cutler task force visited seven of the nuclearfacilities in July 2000, they, too, found severe shortcomings. The taskforce concluded that the republics of the former Soviet Union remained"the most likely place" for terrorists to acquire nuclear materials.
"Many of the Russian nuclear sites remain vulnerable to insidersdetermined to steal enough existing material to make several nuclearweapons and to transport these materials to Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan,"the task force's report said. ". . . With the expertise required to makeat least a crude nuclear bomb now widely available, it is critical thatthese materials be secured, neutralized, or eliminated."
The U.S. government's capacity to detect diversions of nuclear materialalso has been undermined by policy shifts within the CIA, severalrecently retired agents said in interviews. They described specificdirectives to disband spy missions within the former Soviet Union,Pakistan, Germany and other nations where Islamic terrorists are nowsuspected to have operated.
The directives came as the CIA shifted to a post-Cold War posture ofspying less on presumed friends and of relying more on high-techeavesdropping than on informants.
"It's had a devastating effect," said one of the ex-agents, who workedinside the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and Europe. "We're outof the game. It terrifies me."
A succession of U.S. presidents and members of Congress has agreed uponthe need to help the former Soviet Union better safeguard its nuclearmaterials--and strides have been made.
The Defense Department's Cooperative Threat Reduction program, known asNunn-Lugar after its two original Senate sponsors, has helped deactivate5,708 nuclear warheads, destroy 435 intercontinental ballistic missilesand 483 air-to-surface missiles, and eliminate hundreds of bombers,submarines and missile launchers. Cost: $4 billion.
The Energy Department has spent nearly $6 billion to improve overallsecurity of the nuclear materials, reduce the amount of weapons-usableuranium and plutonium, and combat illicit trafficking in nuclearmaterial.
And a State Department program has provided grant money to about 34,000weapons scientists and other workers to help steer them into civilianresearch. The U.S. has contributed about $134 million to thisinternational effort.
Without viable commercial opportunities, officials fear that some of the50,000 scientists and engineers who worked to develop the Soviet nucleararsenal would be tempted by offers from "rogue" states or terrorists.
"There still is an environment out there where, despite some improvementin the economy, there are extremely limited choices for many of thesepeople," said a senior State Department official. "Which means that ifwe can provide them an alternative to a bad guy walking through the doorwith a suitcase full of money, then this continues to be important."
Yet the need to contain the resulting nuclear dangers remainsunfulfilled, as highlighted in January by the Baker-Cutler task forcereport.
The task force called for the U.S. to spend up to $30 billion over thenext eight to 10 years to prevent the use of a nuclear weapon byterrorists against American troops or citizens.
Based on his statements as a candidate, Bush recognized the need to act.
Appearing on Nov. 19, 1999, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library inSimi Valley, Bush said: "Under the Nunn-Lugar program, security at manyRussian nuclear facilities has been improved and warheads have beendestroyed. Even so, the Energy Department warns us that our estimates ofRussian nuclear stockpiles could be off by as much as 30%. In otherwords, a great deal of Russian nuclear material cannot be accounted for.The next president must press for an accurate inventory of all thismaterial. And we must do more.
"I will ask the Congress to increase substantially our insistence todismantle as many of Russia's weapons as possible as quickly aspossible."
On Nov. 21, 1999, Bush explicitly called for higher funding for theNunn-Lugar program. "We not only ought to spend that money, we ought toincrease that amount of money in the budget to make the world safer,"Bush said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Yet last Feb. 28, when Bush submitted his first budget as president, heproposed spending 9% less on the Nunn-Lugar program, reducing the totalfrom $443.4 million to $403 million. And despite candidate Bush's vow to"press for an accurate inventory" of all the nuclear material, the newpresident's budget proposed significant reductions in related programsthat are administered by the Energy Department.
Bush proposed reducing by about 11%--from $872.4 million to $773.7million--the department's overall nonproliferation efforts in the formerSoviet Union. (Congress last month approved more money than Bushrequested but less than the current funding level.)
And Bush included no money in his budget for a U.S.-Russia inventory ofall plutonium produced in Russia. The current budget, the last underClinton, included $500,000 to launch the plutonium program.
The administration also is using none of an initial $20-billionemergency package to better secure the Russian nuclear materials. Thepackage is aimed at countering terrorism and assisting in the recoveryfrom the Sept. 11 attacks. And Bush has not asked Congress for any fundsfor this purpose from an additional $20-billion spending request that ispending on Capitol Hill.
Several nuclear security experts criticized Bush's approach.
"This is a scandal," said Holdren, the Harvard specialist who chairs anarms control panel of the National Academy of Sciences. "It is farcheaper and more efficient to protect both the knowledge and thematerial at their source than to try to figure out how to intercept themonce they've been manufactured into a nuclear bomb somewhere."
Bush, Putin to Talk About Nuclear Threat
An administration official said Bush is committed to reducing the threatof nuclear proliferation and expects to discuss the issue with Russia'sPutin at this week's summit.
"We are actively examining new and expanded efforts in these areas," theofficial said.
The official did not directly address questions submitted by The Timesabout the contrast between Bush's campaign statements and his spendingdecisions.
Pentagon officials defended Bush's approach to the Nunn-Lugar program.They say he sought the full amount they requested.
Clinton raised spending for safeguarding the former Soviet nuclearstockpile throughout his presidency, but he, too, pledged more than hedelivered. In his State of the Union address Jan. 19, 1999, Clintonsaid:
"We must expand our work with Russia, Ukraine and the other formerSoviet nations to safeguard nuclear materials and technology so theynever fall into the wrong hands. Our balanced budget will increasefunding for these critical efforts by almost two-thirds over the nextfive years."
Clinton included spending increases in his two subsequent budgetrequests--but substantially less than two-thirds, with much of the moneygoing toward programs that were not aimed at securing the nuclearmaterials.
Some former aides say Clinton should have moved more boldly.
Matthew Bunn, a leading authority on the Soviet nuclear arsenal whoserved as an advisor to the White House Office of Science and TechnologyPolicy in the mid-1990s, wrote last year: "President Clinton has said afew words about the high priority of these issues, and then has failedto follow through with the sustained commitments of money, personnel andpolitical attention to get the job done."
And Clinton's predecessor, George H.W. Bush, was hesitant to support theNunn-Lugar initiative in 1991 and 1992.
Lugar said that when he and then-Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) approached theadministration to use U.S. funds to secure and dismantle nuclear weaponsin the former Soviet Union, Bush was preoccupied with other prioritiesas the nation emerged from the Persian Gulf War and the presidentconfronted both a recession and his reelection bid.
"It was not immediately adopted by the Bush administration as a plan ofaction," Lugar recalled. "They may not have seen rapidly the efficacy,or even the need, to do this."
Cutler, the co-chairman of the task force report issued in January, saidthe country's leaders and the public remained complacent for a decade.
"Before the 11th of September, you couldn't get anybody's attention onnuclear risks, especially the nonproliferation risks," Cutler said."They thought that if the Cold War was over, it was over. They didn'trealize how serious the risks are that the Russian material can eitherbe stolen or sold, how primitive the security is." return to menu
2. Atomic Leaks: The West Fears Soviet Bomb Material Could Be Stolen By Terrorists
Andrew Jack and Clive Cookson
November 10, 2001
(for personal use only)
When experts funded by the US government began examining the security ofmilitary nuclear installations in Russia during the 1990s, they wereshocked by what they found. Fences had collapsed, doors were not lockedand guards were poorly paid or absent.
Even officers from the Russian navy, usually reluctant to admitweaknesses, conceded privately that there was a risk of materials beingstolen. "It is hard to describe the extraordinary sense of urgency,"says Jack Caravelli, assistant deputy administrator of the US NationalNuclear Security Administration, of the need to make these materialssafe.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, followed by the wave of anthraxmail in the US, have led President George W. Bush and other worldleaders to warn of the consequences of chemical, biological and nuclearweapons falling into the hands of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaedanetwork. And the crumbling remains of the former Soviet Union's militarycomplex are widely seen as the most likely source of expertise andmaterials for terrorists seeking weapons of mass destruction.
Many US politicians have reiterated warnings, such as that issuedearlier this year by a bipartisan commission chaired by Howard Baker, aformer senator, and Lloyd Cutler, former White House counsel: "The mosturgent unmet national security threat to the United States today is thedanger that weapons of mass destruction or weapons-usable material inRussia could be stolen and sold to terrorists or hostile nation states."
Within Russia, the mood is relatively calm. Adding to a series ofdenials by senior officials over the past few weeks, President VladimirPutin stressed on Wednesday that his country's stockpiles of biologicalweapons "were always in the Soviet Union - and are now in Russia - wellguarded". He added that reports of the sale of nuclear secrets wereundocumented "legends".
Mr Putin's view is broadly shared by independent outside experts.Although the Inter-national Atomic Energy Agency warned last week thatthe world faced a serious risk of nuclear terrorism, IAEA staff say theyhave gathered no new evidence since September 11 of al-Qaeda or anyother terrorists trying to obtain nuclear material.
Mohamed El Baradei, IAEA director-general, says the warning is basedsimply on an assessment of the terrorists' psychology and ruthlessness:"The willingness of terrorists to sacrifice their lives to achieve theirevil aims makes the nuclear terrorism threat far more likely than it wasbefore September 11."
Frightening reports in the media - for example, that al-Qaeda possesses20 "suitcase bombs" capable of one-kilotonne nuclear explosions or thatthe Taliban regime has been offered small tactical weapons from theSoviet nuclear arsenal - "should be met with much scepticism", saysMorten Bremer Maerli, a specialist on nuclear terrorism at the NorwegianInstitute of International Affairs.
But Charles Curtis, president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, anindependent charitable organisation, told an IAEA seminar on terrorismlast week: "The theft of potential bomb material is not just ahypothetical worry but an ongoing reality. This includes the attemptedtheft by a conspiracy of insiders of 18.5kg of highly enriched uraniumfrom a weapons facility in the Urals. It includes nearly a kilogramme ofHEU in the form of fast reactor fuel pellets seized last year in therepublic of Georgia."
Reports of former Soviet scientists working for "rogue regimes" andthefts of nuclear or biological materials are very hard to verifyindependently. Limited details - of thwarted thefts or attacks - areoften provided by military or security service officials without furtherinformation. Their remarks have sometimes been interpreted as efforts toboost their own image and morale or to seek additional funding.
Matthew Bunn of Harvard University, a member of the Russian-AmericanNuclear Security Advisory Council, has monitored many "anecdotal"incidents over the past few years. "We don't have confirmed evidence [oftheft]," he says. "But absence of evidence is not the same as evidenceof absence."
There certainly are huge risks. The Soviet Union's weapons complex, thelargest the world has known, has left a dangerous legacy. Chemicalstockpiles of 40,000 tonnes, of which about three- quarters are nerveagents, are held in seven main locations. While Russia claims to havedestroyed its bioweapons stockpiles, there is no mechanism forindependent verification and at least four military research centres arestill operating today.
Estimates of weapons-grade nuclear materials stored in dozens of sitesacross Russia range upwards of 600 tonnes, with a similar quantity stillarmed on about 40,000 weapons. Countless lower-grade radioactive sourcescould be used for terrorist purposes, such as making "dirty bombs" thatspread nuclear contamination by means of conventional explosions.
So far, attempts to destroy, decommission or safely reuse such materialshave been limited. Substantial foreign aid, mainly from the US, has ledto the construction of two new facilities designed to destroy chemicalweapons. But they are not yet ready to begin work and Russia is alreadydemanding a five-year extension of the 2007 decommissioning deadline setunder theChemical Weapons Convention that it ratified in 1997.
Greater progress has been made with nuclear decommissioning, including apioneering programme to convert and sell enriched uranium to acommercial US company to burn in power stations. Up to 2,000 weapons ayear are also reportedly being dismantled, although the process remainsopaque.
Another significant risk comes not from theft but from leakage ofintellectual property. Up to 70,000 people worked on the Soviet Union'sbiological re-search programme alone - much of it for military purposes.About 750,000 people live in 10 nuclear cities across the countrydesigned specifically for weapons development. Mr Caravelli estimatesconservatively there may be 10,000 to 25,000 scientists with expertisethat could prove useful.
Efforts to finance alternative commercial work for scientists, includingbiotechnology projects at Vektor, are under way but remain modest. Evenso, there are encouraging signs. In 1999, the civilian-run RussianMunitions Agency took over responsibility for chemical weaponsdecommissioning, triggering a more energetic approach to the problem,and last year Mr Putin pledged political support.
But some experts are demanding a greater sense of urgency. Mr Curtis,who was deputy energy secretary in the Clinton administration, wants MrBush and Mr Putin at their summit next week to "commit their countriesto a course of action that would ensure that any nuclear, chemical andbiological weapons are safe, secure and accounted for - with reciprocalmonitoring to assure each other, and the world, that this is the case." return to menu
3. Scientists Fear Nuclear Terror Dangers
November 9, 2001
(for personal use only)
A group of senior Russian and US scientists specialising in nuclearsafety yesterday sharply criticized the White House decision to blocknew spending designed to reduce the risk of Russia's military arsenalfalling into the hands of terrorists.
Ransac, the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, whichincludes academics from both countries who have long been working in thefield, expressed concern that no additional efforts were being made tosecure Russia's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Their comments came after US President George W. Bush on Wednesdaythreatened to block theDollars 40bn (Pounds 27bn) appropriations bill launched in the wake ofthe September 11 terrorist attacks if extra allocations were added.
A group of senior US politicians had been calling for further spendingin order to include items on enhanced security in Russia, seen as apotential source given the size of the Soviet Union's militaryprogrammes, reported failures in the past and the temptations for manyscientists as well as guards working on low wages.
Ransac had called, in particular, for an acceleration in a US Departmentof Energy programme to improve security at military installations, freshfunding for the Nuclear Cities programme designed to assist defenceconversion activities in Russia's ten centres involved in its nuclearweapons development, and extra support for mea-sures to help tighten thecountry's border and export controls.
Bill Hoehn, head of Ransac's Washington, DC, office, said: "This is atotal fiasco. It is atrocious that officials don't see non-proliferationprogrammes as valuable. The President's wielding of his veto is reallygross. Nothing is being done to tackle the source of the problems."
He said the decision was particularly upsetting given Mr Bush'sstatements earlier this week thatOsama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network were attempting to obtainnuclear weapons, and the Atomic Energy Authority's calls for rapidincreases in nuclear security worldwide.
Until September 11, he said that Mr Bush's administration had "if notslowed down, certainly not accelerated" efforts to finance and assistprogrames aimed at reducing Russia's military stockpiles, and the risksthat were associated with them.
A Department of Energy official stressed yesterday the urgency ofcontinuing and increasing his agency's programmes, which have so farimproved security at Russian installations representing a third of thetotal estimated stored nuclear materials.
US experts have long highlighted reports of military materials smuggledout of Russia, scientists cooperating with potential "rogue states", andthe poor conditions in which stockpiles are guarded. return to menu
B. U.S. Non-proliferation Budget
1. Democrats slam Bush nonproliferation cuts: 'Pearl Harbor strategy' assailed
November 9, 2001
(for personal use only)
Washington --- House Democrats on Thursday continued to attack the Bushadministration's proposal to cut back a program designed to keep Russiannuclear weapons parts away from terrorists, calling it a "Pearl Harborstrategy."
"Had the terrorists of Sept. 11 used a nuclear bomb with just a sodacan-size [piece] of plutonium, over 2 million Americans would have beenkilled," Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) said at a news conference.
For the past several days, Edwards has been criticizing the White Houseand House Republicans for pushing through an appropriations bill thatreduces funding for the nonproliferation program, while voting for largetax cuts in the president's economic stimulus package.
"If special-interest corporate tax breaks take precedence overprotecting Americans from nuclear terrorists' bombs, then Americans havemore to fear than fear itself," Edwards said.
"The [White House] Office of Management and Budget seems to have a PearlHarbor strategy: Wait until the bombs fall and then call it anemergency," he said.
Edwards and seven other Democratic representatives at the newsconference criticized provisions of a $25 billion appropriations billthat passed the House last week.
The bill provides funds for the Army Corps of Engineers and theDepartment of Energy during fiscal 2002, which began Oct. 1.
In the bill, the budget of a 10-year-old program to help Russiansprevent theft of nuclear warheads and weapons-grade uranium andplutonium was reduced by $20 million. Bush recommended cutting theprogram by more than $100 million from last year's $870 million.
Edwards noted that Bush this week warned that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaidaterrorist organization is trying to obtain nuclear weapons.
The six-term representative also quoted from a report this year by atask force headed by former Sens. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Howard Baker(R-Tenn.), who said the "most urgent national security threat facing theUnited States today is the possibility that nuclear material from Russiacould be stolen or diverted and used against U.S. citizens at home orabroad."
Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) said that before the Energy Departmentprogram began assisting Russian efforts to control nuclear material,enough plutonium and highly enriched uranium to provide explosives forthousands of nuclear weapons had been stored at "hundreds" of sites.
Much of it, she said, was in buildings that had "gates but no locks,guarded by guards armed with guns with no bullets. People close toweapons materials small enough to pick up and carry could not feed theirfamilies."
Edwards said that House leaders had promised to help him get morespending to fight nuclear proliferation but that the amount was frozenat $40 billion. return to menu
C. Nuclear Terrorism
1. Lax Nuclear Security in Russia Is Cited as Way for bin Laden to Get Arms
New York Times
November 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
VIENNA, Nov. 10 In the last year, there have been dozens of violationsof nuclear security rules in Russia and at least one loss of fissilematerial; Taliban emissaries have tried to recruit Russian scientists,and terrorists have tried to stake out a Russian nuclear storage site atleast twice, say senior officials of the International Atomic EnergyAgency and Western governments.
The officials detailed the incidents, citing conversations with Russianofficials and verified news reports. Despite significant improvements inRussian nuclear security in the 1990's some of it with American moneyand advice up to half of ex-Soviet civilian and military nuclearstockpiles with weapons-grade material are not well protected.
Officials of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, theUnited Nations body for monitoring nuclear programs, are deeplyskeptical of Osama bin Laden's claim, in an interview published inPakistan on Friday, that he possesses nuclear weapons.
On the other hand, given the vulnerability of material in the formerSoviet Union, the increasing professionalism of nuclear smuggling andthe relative ease of fabricating a primitive weapon, they cannot rule itout.
In the Kazakh port of Aktau on the Caspian shore, one ton of plutoniumand two tons of highly enriched uranium sit near a now closed breederreactor.
Ukraine, with 17 nuclear reactors and one research reactor, isconsidered a country of "serious concern" by officials because of itsclimate of government corruption and crime. Enough highly enricheduranium to make a bomb remains at a research reactor just outsideBelgrade throughout the 1999 Kosovo war.
Just last week, Turkey announced it had broken up a gang of smugglerswho tried to sell 2.2 pounds of what appeared to be highly enricheduranium for $750,000 to undercover police officers, material they saidthey had bought several months ago from a Russian of Azeri origin.
Officials are increasingly concerned that terrorists willing to diecould create a "dirty bomb," wrapping more easily stolen radioactivematerials used in medicine and industry around a conventional explosive,like dynamite, to try to make a significant area of a city uninhabitablefor many years.
Russian officials say their fissile nuclear material is under strict andimproving controls. But only 10 days ago, in a discussion with officialsat the United Nations agency here, Yuri G. Volodin, chief of safeguardsfor the Russian nuclear regulatory agency, revealed that in the lastyear, there were dozens of violations of Russia's regulations forsecuring and accounting for nuclear material.
Mr. Volodin noted one loss of nuclear material, which he called of the"highest consequence." He said he could not be more specific about thetype of material or the size of the loss.
Last month, Col.-Gen. Igor Volynkin, head of nuclear security forRussia's military, said that twice this year Russian forces discoveredstakeouts by terrorists of a secret nuclear arms storage facility,although he did not say where.
Also last month, an official of the Russian Security Council, RaisaVdovichenko, told Russian journalists that emissaries of the Taliban hadasked an employee of "an institution related to nuclear technologies togo to their country to work there in this field."
There is continuing evidence of efforts to traffic in nuclear materialthat give many officials deep concern.
In April 2000, the police in Georgia seized, in Batumi, several hundredfast-reactor fuel pellets, containing 920 grams nearly a kilogram ofhighly enriched uranium; in September, at Tbilisi airport, the policeconfiscated half a gram of plutonium.
The Russians say they thwarted an effort, at the very end of 1998, by anorganized gang to steal 18.5 kilograms more than 40 pounds of highlyenriched uranium from a military weapons facility near Chelyabinsk inthe Urals.
Still, senior officials here and in Washington do not believe that Mr.bin Laden or even any state interested in a shortcut to a bomb fromSyria and Iran to Iraq and Libya has been able to obtain the roughly25 kilograms (55 pounds) of highly enriched uranium required to make asimple bomb, or the roughly 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds) of plutonium, amuch more difficult material with which to work.
But they also admit that they cannot possibly know for sure.
The atomic energy agency has built a database of incidents of nucleartrafficking since 1993 only counting incidents confirmed by the statesinvolved. Of the 175 cases of trafficking in nuclear material and 201cases of trafficking in medical and industrial radioactive materials,only some 18 cases involved even small amounts of the fissionablematerial needed for a nuclear bomb plutonium or highly enricheduranium (enriched by 20 percent or more).
Altogether in all these cases, agency officials say, there have beenseizures of about 400 grams (nearly one pound) of plutonium and anadditional 12 kilograms (26.4 pounds) of uranium at varying levels ofenrichment, equivalent to only some 6 kilograms of uranium 235.
The most serious cases, involving large amounts of material, took placein 1993 and 1994, when Russian, German and Czech police officers madelarge seizures of very highly enriched nuclear material manufactured inthe former Soviet Union, usually at nuclear-fuel fabrication plants.
In March 1993, in St. Petersburg, nearly three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of90 percent enriched uranium-238 were seized; in August 1994, in Munich,the police seized about 360 grams of Russian-made plutonium; in December1994, 2.7 kilograms (just over 5 pounds) of 80 percent enricheduranium-235 were seized, part of a shipment that showed up in smalleramounts in other places and which officials hope was not part of aneven larger shipment, apparently stolen from the Russian nuclearresearch center in Obninsk, about an hour's drive southwest of Moscow.
For context, officials point out, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had madeonly 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of bomb-capable uranium before the gulfwar broke out.
But in fact the atomic energy agency's database is only a guide, andperhaps not even a good one. "Are we seeing half the iceberg or only thetip?" said one official, noting that the police consider seizures ofdrugs, a commodity far easier to secure, to represent only some 10 to 20percent of what is shipped. Nor does the agency, devoted to civiliannuclear energy, know much about the military programs of states withnuclear weapons.
Friedrich Steinhäusler, a physics professor at Stanford University andco-director of a Stanford center on the physical protection of nuclearmaterials, said, "It's clear that we're seeing a typical move towardprofessionalism in this smuggling business, with increasingly fewerincidents of significance, but of greater significance, as professionalsare probing the market."
He noted that traffickers increasingly are going south, over traditionalsmuggling routes through Turkey, the Caucasus and especially centralAsia, closer to Afghanistan, where borders are extremely long and lax.
Matthew Bunn, assistant director of the science, technology and publicpolicy program at Harvard University's Kennedy School, was a ClintonWhite House adviser. The main source of loose nuclear material remainsthe former Soviet Union, he says, with some 600 tons of weapons- gradenuclear material stored there outside of warheads.
The key question, he says, is to improve the security around militaryand especially civilian nuclear installations. In as many as half, hesaid, there are no automatic detectors that sound an alarm if materialis smuggled out, and no security cameras where material is stored.
"For all the work we've done with Russia, after seven years, we stillhave most of the job to do," Mr. Bunn said. "This is a serious threat,and we know how to fix it," he said, urging that President Bush agreewith Russia at the this week's summit meeting to account for and secureall nuclear material.
Some safeguards put in place by the Americans in the former Soviet Unionno longer function, agency officials said spare parts are expensiveand available only from the United States, and sometimes guards do notbother to use the equipment.
The Vienna agency is also looking for a 10 percent increase in its ownbudget of some $320 million, said Graham Andrew, the special assistantfor Scientific and Technical Affairs, to upgrade security standardsaround the world. He and other officials regard a terrorist nuclear bombto be "highly unlikely."
But the likelihood of terrorists compiling the radioactive materialsnecessary to make a dirty bomb with immense economic and psychologicalimpact is much higher, the officials say.
The dirty bomb is an almost ideal instrument of terror, Mr. Bunn said.It would not kill many people, but it would terrify, and make a largearea unsafe to work or live in, possibly for decades or longer.
One official said: "Imagine a dirty bomb on the Washington mall. Do youabandon the White House?" return to menu
The prospect that Osama bin Laden's terrorists may have gotten theirhands on small, easily transportable "suitcase nukes" has some people inWashington now truly concerned.
There's no evidence such a device has been smuggled into the country.And even if it had, experts say it would be extremely difficult forterrorists to detonate. And a congressman who has been studying thesubject for years on the subject say there's no doubt that such nuclearsuitcases do exist.
"I can tell you unequivocally we built these devices similar to this andso did the Soviets during the Cold War," said Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa."The defense minister of Russia told me to my face, 'Yes, congressman,we built these devices. Just as your country built them during the ColdWar.'"
In fact, the Department of Defense made a training video in the l960s,demonstrating how "small atomic demolition munitions" can be stuffedinto parachutes and attached to Navy commandos, who then show how theweapons can be affixed to bridges and ships underwater.
"These devices were designed to be used to take out major infrastructurefacilities," said Weldon. "We destroyed ours. Now the question is, do weknow whether or not Russia has them all accounted for and do we knowthat they destroyed them all?"
Russia Defends Nuclear Inventory
This week in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin told 20/20'sBarbara Walters none of the nuclear suitcases is missing.
"I don't really believe this is true," Putin said. "These are justlegends. One can probably assume that somebody tried to sell somenuclear secrets. But there is no documentary confirmation of thosedevelopments."
More on the Putin Interview
But Weldon says he got a much different answer four years ago when hewent to talk to with one of Russia's top generals.
The general, formerly Russia's leading defense adviser, said 86 of 132suitcase bombs were unaccounted for.
Where were the missing nukes?
"I have no idea," Weldon recalled the general saying.
White House Sees Chilling Threat
That's one of several nuclear scenarios now causing great concern at theWhite House, where President Bush this week sounded the alarm about binLaden's suspected efforts to go nuclear.
"They're seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons," Bush toldleaders of formerly communist states Tuesday in Warsaw, Poland. "Giventhe means, our enemies would be a threat to every nation and eventuallyto civilization itself."
This week, the White House called in the man who tracked missing nuclearweapons for the last administration, Graham Allison, now director of theBelfer Center for Science and International Affairs at HarvardUniversity's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Allison says the threat is very real, particularly given evidence thatbin Laden and his associates have tried to obtain nuclear weaponsmaterial.
As for the nuclear suitcases, Allison's advice is to assume severaldozen nuclear suitcases in Russia are missing.
"I think the difficult thing for us all to come to grips with, that, myGod, would people really want to kill thousands or tens of thousands ofAmericans," Allison said.
The Nuclear Bazaar
But Allison and most other experts say the real concern is not thesuitcase but a thriving nuclear black market, in places such asIstanbul, Turkey.
"There is a black market in weapons-grade uranium. There is a blackmarket for weapons-grade plutonium. And there certainly is a market forradioactive material in general," said Freidrich Steinhausler of theUniversity of Salzburg in Austria. Steinhausler is one of the world'spre-eminent experts on the illegal market in stolen nuclear materials.
"[Osama bin Laden's terrorist network] Al Qaeda is trying actively toobtain radioactive and or nuclear weapons grade material," saidSteinhausler. "In terms of probability of threat, I would put thenuclear bomb rather low. I would put the radioactive dirty bomb, much,much higher."
A so-called dirty bomb, a conventional weapon laced with radioactivematerial, would make a scene like the attack on the World Trade Centereven worse, Steinhausler says.
"Picture the bucket brigades that we saw in Ground Zero in aradioactive-contaminated area. They couldn't operate there," he said."Picture the dust-caked office worker who survived the World TradeCenter attack. He would not only be covered in dust from the detonation,he would have inhaled radioactive stuff. His body would be contaminated.
"The technology required is really high school level. You don't haveeven to be an engineer to fabricate that. If you can make yourconventional explosive, to lace it with radioactivity is really child'splay."
Over-flights by special surveillance aircraft of the bin Laden trainingcamps in Afghanistan have not picked up the presence of any radioactivematerials. But bin Laden, when asked by ABCNEWS on Christmas Eve of 1998whether he had acquired nuclear weapons, gave a troubling answer.
"I would state that to acquire weapons in defense of Muslims is areligious duty," he said.
And given that kind of talk, American authorities say the many nuclearscenarios, including the nuclear suitcase, simply cannot be ruled out.
"Up until now we had a built-in safety barrier, where we said well ifthe radioactive material, it would kill or threaten the carrier, that'sa method that's not going to be used," Steinhausler said. "But eversince Sept. 11 we know that's no longer valid. We now know the carrier,the agent, the terrorist himself is ready to die. And if he diescrashing an aircraft into a building or if he's ready to die carryinghighly radioactive material, there's not much difference." return to menu
D. Russia-India Cooperation
1. Russia Shrugs Off Nuclear Ban to Seal Deal With India
Asia Times Online/Inter Press Service
November 9, 2001
(for personal use only)
NEW DELHI - By this week finalizing a deal that was conceived 13 yearsago to help India design and build two large nuclear power reactors,Russia has broken an international boycott on the transfer of nuclearequipment imposed as punishment when New Delhi first exploded a nucleardevice almost 30 years ago.
Concluded in Moscow during Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee'sNovember 4-7 visit, the deal facilitates the construction of tworeactors for a US$3 billion power station at Kudankulam village on thecoast of southern Tamil Nadu, expected to generate 2,000 MW of power.
Under the deal, Russia will design the plant and supply 90 percent ofthe equipment and materials. Construction of Kudankulam-1 is scheduledto start within months, with the reactor going online in December 2007.Kudankulam-2 is due to begin operating in 2008. The plant will consistof two standard high-pressure VVER 1,000 water-cooled andwater-moderated reactors that will produce 1,000 MW of power per unit.The uranium used in the reactors will be 4.2 to 4.3 percent enriched andwill be supplied by, and returned to, Russia after it is burned.
While the international boycott slowed down India's ambitious nuclearprogram, it by no means halted it, either for the production of power orfor defense, as demonstrated by a second round of tests in May 1998.
India is not a signatory to the 1970 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty(NPT) and does not accept "full-scope" inspections of its nuclearfacilities by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA). The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), established in 1975, of whichRussia is a member, prohibits the export of nuclear technology tocountries which do not accept full-scope safeguards.
Indeed, soon after the administration of President George W Bush tookover earlier this year, it demanded that Russia stop supplying nuclearfuel to reactors at the Tarapore power plant near Mumbai, although theplant observes full IAEA safeguards and was in fact originally installedby the US power giant General Electric in 1969.
The US stopped supplies of nuclear fuel for the reactors after 1974, butIndia kept the reactors running by sourcing fuel from France and China,as well as from Russia which kept up supply even after the 1998 nucleartests. According to the Indian Express newspaper, Russia supplied 58tonnes of low enriched uranium for Tarapore this year. The paperdescribed it as "rare evidence that Moscow is prepared to defyWashington when it comes to its own strategic and business interests andits special relationship with New Delhi".
Leading anti-nuclear and environmental groups such as GreenpeaceInternational have charged the Indian government with maintaining closelinks between its nuclear energy and its nuclear weapons program. "Itwas technology acquired by India, ostensibly to generate nuclearelectricity, that was used in the 1974 nuclear weapons test andsubsequent tests in 1998," says Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigner BenPearson.
When the US passed its non-proliferation act in 1978, specifying thatnuclear reactors cannot be exported to countries that do not observefull-scope safeguards, it was guided by Congressional findings that UStechnology may have contributed to India's 1974 nuclear tests.
Russia appears unconcerned by charges that India's nuclear power andweapon programs are linked. Last October, Russian President VladmirPutin even visited the Bhabha Atomic Research Center near Mumbai, whichplayed a key role in "weaponization". And some years back, the then headof the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy, known as Minatom, YevgenyAdamov, said Russia's motivation for proceeding with the nuclear energypact with India was "because we need the money, we need the work ... wewill not be pressured to reject such commercial projects because we mustearn our keep".
The conclusion of the Kudankulam deal this week has not so far evokedany reaction from Washington, and the Hindu newspaper's analyst C RajaMohan has speculated that it might even serve as a cue for Washington toreview its policy on non-cooperation with India in the civilian nuclearenergy sector.
Since the US favors designating nuclear power as a Clean DevelopmentMechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol, it could end up losing out toRussia in partnering India's stated goal of stepping up nuclear powergeneration capacity to 20,000 MW by the year 2020 from the present 2,280MW.
The Kudankulam project is being implemented under an Inter-GovernmentalAgreement signed between India and the Russian Federation, representedby the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) andAtomstroyexport. Russia will extend by way of credit 54 percent of totalexpenditure of the project at 4 percent interest repayable in 14 equalinstallments, one year after the commissioning of the plant.
The NPCIL will manage the project. It is a wholly-owned governmententerprise under the administrative control of the Department of AtomicEnergy. It undertakes the design, construction, operation andmaintenance of the country's atomic power stations for generation ofelectricity.
Atomstroyexport was born in 1998 as the legal successor ofAtomenergoexport and Zarubezhatomenergostroy, a specialized foreigntrade export-import association and an industrial association,respectively, that had previously given technical assistance to othercountries in the development of their atomic energy programs, both inthe era of the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation. It isalso developing projects in China and Iran.
The project was the brainchild in 1988 of then Soviet leader MikhailGorbachev and prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Since then, Russia has beenurged to finalize the pact. But a section of officials at India'sDepartment of Atomic Energy (DAE) strongly opposed it. And thesubsequent disintegration of the Soviet Union delayed the project. Itwas not clear then whether the project would be taken up by Ukraine orthe Russian Federation. Initially, the designers of the project wereUkranians. Later, the Russian Federation took up the project.
Some officials of the DAE argued that a nuclear energy pact would serveonly to benefit the Russian nuclear industry. "Nuclear power generationin India has not succeeded because it requires stable grids. Theexisting grids in the country cannot handle the output of a 1000 MW unitfrom Kudankulam. So there is no logic in going ahead with the deal," onesenior DAE official was quoted as saying.
Opponents also said that the Kudankulam project would harm India'sautonomous nuclear program, breaking the country's control of thenuclear fuel cycle and creating unnecessary dependency. Another reasonfor the delay was pressure from the US, with senior officials, includingformer president Bill Clinton, publicly saying that the move was "notgood news".
India's total electricity generation capacity last year was estimated at454 billion kilowatt-hours. Of this, 79 percent is conventional thermal;18 percent hydroelectric and only 2 percent nuclear. India's nuclearpower program currently has 14 operating reactors, including two boilingwater reactors (BWR) and 12 pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR).Nuclear power units in India operated at an average capacity factor(plant load factor) of 79 percent during the first half of the financialyear 2001-2002.
While India has steadfastly refused to accept international safeguardsfor its indigenously-built nuclear facilities, it accepts full-scopecontrols for facilities built with foreign collaboration.
Opposition to the building of the Kudankulam power station is nowlargely confined to local activists who have been organizingdemonstrations against the project in the coastal village. According tothe activists, the project has all the makings of another Chernobyl (theSoviet Union accident of 1986) and is being pushed through withoutmaking environmental, seismological or epidemiological assessments in aheavily populated, povertyicken area of the country.
However, located 25 kilometers northeast of Kanyakumai, Kudankulam isconsidered by the government to be the safest place to set up such anuclear project, as the region falls in seismic zone 2, where there areno active faults in the vicinity, nor any major lakes or dams to causeinduced seismic activity. And being right on the coast of the Gulf ofMannar, surrounded by the Indian Ocean on one side and the Bay of Bengalon the other, the site has a plenty of sea water for condenser coolingand dilution of effluents. The area is also not subject to severecyclonic storms or tidal waves.
Further, all land for the plant has been acquired, and siteinvestigation, including hydrological surveys and micro-seismic studies,have been completed, says the NPCIL. return to menu
2. Defying US, Russia Supplied Uranium for Tarapur this Year
Shekhar Gupta and D N Moorty
November 8, 2001
(for personal use only)
EARLY this year, Russia supplied India 58 tonnes of low enriched uranium(LEU) in what is seen as rare evidence that Moscow is prepared to defyWashington when it comes to its own strategic and business interests.And its "special" relationship with New Delhi.
The first official supplies of LEU were received in two lots in Januaryand February by the Nuclear Fuel Complex in Hyderabad, the facility thatfabricates fuel for nuclear-power reactors in India. This was confirmedby top sources both in Russia and India.
The supplies, costing about Rs 117.5 crore, are meant for Tarapur andsources say the fuel is sufficient to last "five to six years," beforeIndia shifts to the indigenously fabricated MOX (mixed oxide) fuel.Sources in the Department of Atomic Energy told The Indian Express thatthe latest consignment is exclusively for use in Tarapur's boiling waterreactors.
Originally supplied by General Electric of USA in 1969 at a ratedcapacity of 210 MW each, these reactorsthe oldest in the worldnow runat a re-rated capacity of 170 MW.
Following Pokharan I and subsequent sanctions, the US reneged on itscommitment to supply the fuel. However, after an agreement between theUS and India during the Reagan Administration, France stepped in.
But France, too, stopped supplies in 1992. The French fuel lasted tillabout 1995 when India was forced to negotiate with China.
So till date, according to a highly placed source, the Tarapur units arerunning on Chinese fuel. Beijing is said to have supplied approximately60 tonnes. The Russian fuel, sources said, is to be loaded in the nextcycle.
When asked whether China refused to supply additional fuel to Tarapurprompting India to seek Russian fuel, an official said: "It's a matterof market economics. We would have bought the fuel from any source thatwould have supplied it cheap. Russian LEU was cheaper than that of theChinese, hence we took the fuel from them."
However, sources said, the price difference is marginal and the realvalue of the deal is towards long-term Indo-Russian nuclearco-operation. India is a major buyer in the nuclear energy market andRussia, obviously, doesn't want to be left out. Especially when China isemerging as a key supplier of nuclear fissile material amid reports thatit has "defied" restrictions to supply to Pakistan. The Russians alsowant to make the point that when it comes to nuclear energy deals, theycan't be dictated by the United States, which they see as pursuing itsown "selective" non-proliferation goals. Though Moscow has committeditself not to have any nuclear co-operation with a nation that doesn'taccept full-scope safeguards, the official position is that it is merelyfulfilling its commitments made to India during the visit of formerPresident Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988.
This position takes advantage of the revised Warsaw guidelines of April1992 with respect to export of nuclear materials by members of theNuclear Suppliers Group. Under these guidelines, an exception was madeto agreements and contracts drawn before April 3, 1992. It is thisclause that Russia cites to defend its nuclear exports to India despitestrident US objections.
The current deal, sources said, went through normal business channels byopening a letter of credit with a bank and the subsequent release of 90%cent of the contracted amount. Observers link the Tarapur supplies tothe agreement signed yesterday in Moscow for technical and financialassistance from Russia for the construction of two 1000 MW Russian VVERs(light water reactors) at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. Under the deal,worth an estimated $3 billion, construction is to begin by next June andis expected to be completed by the year 2007. return to menu
1. Notice of Meeting - Federal Advisory Committee for the End-to-End Review of the U.S. Nuclear Command and Control System
Department of the Air Force
November 13, 2001
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Department of the Air Force
Federal Advisory Committee for the End-to-End Review of the U.S. NuclearCommand and Control System
AGENCY: Department of the Air Force, DoD.
ACTION: Notice of meeting.
SUMMARY: Pursuant to Public Law 92-463, notice is hereby given offorthcoming meetings of the Federal Advisory Committee for theEnd-to-End Review of the U.S. Nuclear Command and Control System (NCSS).The purpose of these meetings is to conduct a comprehensive andindependent review of the NCCS positive measures to assure authorizeduse of nuclear weapons when directed by the President while assuringagainst unauthorized or inadvertent use. This meeting will be closed tothe public.
DATES: November 13-14, 2001 and November 25-26, 2001.
ADDRESSES: Room 3C912, Pentagon, Washington DC.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. William L. Jones, U.S. NuclearCommand and Control System Support Staff (NSS), Skyline 3, 5201 LeesburgPike, Suite 500, Falls Church, Virginia 22041, (703) 681-8681.
Janet A. Long, Air Force Federal Register Liaison Officer. [FR Doc. 01-28457 Filed 11-8-01; 12:26 pm] BILLING CODE 5001-05-U return to menu
F. Links of Interest
1. Uncovered Nukes: Arms Control and the Challenge of Tactical Nuclear Weapons