Jamal Ahmad Al-Fadl said his role in the prospective purchase ofnuclear material began with a call from a senior Al Qaeda official. Aman in Khartoum, Sudan, supposedly had uranium for sale. At the time,Mr. al-Fadl was an operative in Al Qaeda's terrorist army. His job:Check out the deal.
So in late 1993 or early 1994, he met with the first contact, thenanother, and then another, like a job applicant passing throughcorporate departments. Along the way, he noticed that at least one ofthem appeared to have been high in the Sudanese government at somepoint.
Finally, one morning al-Fadl drove with two men to a house north of thecity. They disappeared for a moment, and then came back with a largebag, from which they pulled a cylinder two or three feet tall. Theyhanded him a piece of paper covered with English words al-Fadl couldn'tread. He recognized one phrase: "South Africa."
The demonstration phase of the sales pitch over, al-Fadl and hiscontacts returned to Khartoum in their jeep. He took the paper to an AlQaeda boss.
Osama bin Laden's operatives were impressed, or at least satisfied. Theytold Al-Fadl to pass the word that they would pay the cylinder's $1.5million asking price. Then they gave him $10,000 and took over the dealthemselves.
"You did great job, we going to check it, and everything be fine,"Al-Fadl said he was told.
This story of nuclear shopping was offered as an aside by Al-Fadl duringhis testimony earlier this year in the trial of Al Qaeda associatesaccused of bombing US embassies in East Africa in 1998. Is it a talltale? Maybe. Al-Fadl, a self-described Al Qaeda turncoat, is far from anunimpeachable source.
Al-Fadl also said he didn't know whether this transaction ever wentthrough. The "uranium" in the cylinder might have been a worthless propin a radiological scam.
But its details ring true to many nuclear experts. And the larger pointis indisputable: The shadow army of terrorism, the force responsible forthe deadliest day on American soil since Antietam, is trying,methodically, patiently, to acquire the most powerful weapon knownto man.
The US and its allies have known that intellectually for a long time.But after seeing jetliners turned into cruise missiles, perhaps the Westbetter understands what that really means. Among Sept. 11's effects maybe a phase-shift in imaginations. Few can doubt that if Mohammad Attahad access to a nuclear bomb, he would have used it.
Once throw-weights and basing modes and other aspects of strategicweaponry were the crucial issues of US nuclear security. Now patchingthe holes in Russia's makeshift fissile material protections may be moreimportant. Does bin Laden have the bomb? Is Iraq enriching uranium? Howsecure are Pakistan's nukes?
"And so we find ourselves, at the dawn of the new century, in a new armsrace," said former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia in a recent speech."Terrorists are racing to get weapons of mass destruction. We ought tobe racing to stop them."
New terrorists, new lapses
The old expert consensus used to be that terrorist groups were notterribly serious about getting nuclear weapons. They might try chemicalor biological attack, but not nukes: They are highlydangerous, extremely expensive, and difficult to acquire. And theirhorror would overwhelm the essentially political nature of terroristacts. Through history, most terrorists have wanted to maximize publicity- not casualties.
That judgment had already begun to change before the events of thisfall. The rise of a new generation of terrorists, their goals unclear,their commitment total, their address unknown, saw to that.
A state such as Iraq is dangerous enough. But at least the US has someunderstanding of its weapons programs. A nation has assets andinfrastructure that presumably even a leader such as Saddam Husseinmight be loath to expose to US retaliatory attack.
Al Qaeda and its ilk are different. "The problem is, we can't targetthem like states," says Kimberly McCloud, a researcher at the Center forNonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies.
Then add new opportunity to this equation. It's possible that SouthAfrica could be the source of weapons material. Pakistan might be aproliferation danger, too, considering it is a nuclear-capable statewith long-standing Taliban ties.
But it is Russia and the former republics of the Soviet Union that arethe "Home Depot" of fissile material, in the words of one expert. Thecollapse of the Soviet Union threw its nuclear programs into a chaosfrom which they have yet to completely recover.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the closed cities where the USSR'snuclear weapons were produced changed from islands of prosperity tosinkholes of poverty. The human misery this created - especially in theearly years - led some scientists to attempt desperate actions. In1992, a large group of ballistic-missile experts from the closed city ofMiass tried to reach North Korea, apparently to work in Pyongyang'sintercontinental-ballistic-missile projects. Authorities caught them asthey sat in a plane at Moscow's Sheremetievo-2 airport, waiting to takeoff.
Russian authorities insist that their estimated 30,000 actual nuclearwarheads have remained under adequate control at all times. But the samecannot be said for its military and civilian fissile material.
Over decades, the Soviet Union produced enough highly enriched uranium(HEU) and plutonium to produce some 70,000 nuclear weapons. This wasscattered at perhaps 100 sites throughout theterritory of the former USSR. In the early '90s, some research siteswere protected by nothing but padlocks and weeds. Dedicated scientistsat times had to improvise defenses. When civil war broke out in theformer republic of Georgia in 1992, scientists at one institute inTbilisi took turns guarding 10 kilograms of weapons-grade HEU withsticks and garden rakes.
Much of this material was later moved to Britain for safekeeping. Acache of similar uranium elsewhere in the former republic met adifferent fate. In 1993, scientists at the Sukhumi research center inthe Abkhazia region of Georgia piled cinder blocks around a buildingcontaining 2 kilograms of HEU, and fled oncoming fighting. A Russianteam entered the abandoned building four years later, and found thematerial gone.
The Abkhazia affair remains the only confirmed case of missingweapons-grade fissile material in the world. To this day, no one knowswhere this HEU is. "It may be in the hands of the Abkhaz separatists, orit may have been stolen by or sold to others," says Matthew Bunn, ofHarvard's Project on Managing the Atom.
Overall, there have been 14 confirmed, significant cases of traffickingin fissile material from the former Soviet Union, according to theMonterey Institute of International Studies.
The good news is that most of the cases date to the early and mid-'90s,before Russia stabilized and a US effort to help guard its material tookoff.
The bad news is that there may be more significant cases the worlddoesn't know about. Most of the confirmed incidents took place in Europeor what used to be the western USSR. Yet a glance at a map shows thatsouthern Russia, and the former republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan,etc., are the logical place for a Middle Eastern group such as Al Qaedato go nuke shopping.
The US has been involved in cooperative programs with Russia to controlits loose nuclear weapons and material for years. Since 1991, US moneyhas paid for the deactivation of more than 5,000 Russian nuclearwarheads. It has provided security equipment for dozens of facilities,helped construct a secure storage facility for fissile material, andpaid for science and technology centers intended to provide ex-weaponsscientists the means to work on civilian research.
"These programs have made tremendous progress," notes Jon Wolfsthal, anassociate
But much more may need to be done. Almost half of Russia's fissilematerial is stored in facilities that have not received US-fundedprotection upgrades. Russia continues to add to its stockpile ofplutonium - not for military purposes, but because the reactors thatproduce the material also produce desperately needed electricity.
Earlier this year, a Department of Energy advisory group headed byformer US Sen. Howard Baker and former White House counsel Lloyd Cutlersurveyed the US effort - and found it wanting. The programs need abroader mandate, and they need more money, concluded the group.
"The most urgent unmet national security threat to the United Statestoday is the danger that weapons of mass destruction or weapons-usablematerial in Russia could be stolen or sold toterrorists or hostile nation-states," concluded the Baker/Cutler study.
That was written before Sept. 11.
Al Qaeda and the black market
There is one point about Al Qaeda's nuclear program on which mostexperts agree: It does not yet have an actual atomic weapon. If it did,the chances are it would have exploded by now.
It's less certain whether the group has any radioactive material at all.Al Qaeda has been a player in fissile-material markets for years,according to intelligence reports.
In the early '90s, it allegedly scoured Kazakhstan for USSR-eramaterial, in the belief that the high percentage of Muslims in thisformer Soviet republic might open doors. Apparently, the group came upempty.
Since then, Al Qaeda may have been snared by its share of scams. Theywere dealing, after all, in a back alley of world commerce that makesdrug-dealing look both honest and inexpensive.
At least once, Al Qaeda operatives have been offered low-grade uraniumreactor fuel unsuitable for weapons use without further enrichment.Along with other potential buyers, Al Qaeda also may have fallen for thewidespread "red mercury" fraud. Clever criminals pitch this element as acrucial component of the Soviet weapons program.
"In the case of Al Qaida, the 'red mercury' turned out to be radioactiverubbish," concluded Gavin Cameron, a professor of politics at Britain'sUniversity of Salford, in a paper on terroristnuclear-proliferation activities.
Al Qaeda may have been gullible, but at least the group was subtle.Contrast their approach with that of the apocalyptic Japanese religiousgroup Aum Shinrikyo, whose members were responsible for the release ofsarin nerve gas in five Tokyo subway trains on March 20, 1995.
In the early 1990s, Aum actively recruited adherents from Russia'snuclear design facilities, as well as student physicists from MoscowState University. It purchased property in Australia from which itplanned to mine natural uranium for enrichment - an arduous task beyondthe resources of most nations. In 1993, Aum representatives sought ameeting with then-Russian Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov for theexpress purpose of discussing the purchase of a nuclear warhead. (Themeeting was denied.)
But Al Qaeda's and Aum Shinrikyo's nuclear dealings share at least twosimilarities that experts find worrisome. One is ample funding. At theheight of its influence, Aum had an estimated net worth of $1 billion,obtained largely from co-opting the assets of its members. Al Qaeda'soperations have bin Laden's personal fortune - inherited from hisconstruction-magnate father - as seed funds.
The second similarity is persistence. Following Aum's path, Al Qaeda hasapparently mounted a multinational, many-leveled effort to enter thenuclear club. In recent years, there has been a steady trickle ofreports from experts in Europe and the Middle East who say they havebeen contacted by bin Laden associates and asked for help obtainingfissile material.
Last year, a Bulgarian businessman said he had met bin Laden himself,and had been offered a role in a complex deal to transship nuclear wasteto Afghanistan via Bulgaria. This month, Gul Nazir, head of organicchemistry at Kabul University, said he had turned down offers fromTaliban delegations to provide substances that could be used to helpmake chemical weapons and mine uranium.
Then there's the curious case of Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. Anarchitect of Pakistan's nuclear program, he has traveled back and forthbetween Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent years, allegedly to advisethe Taliban on the construction of food-processing plants.
At least one expert believes a radiological attack of a sort was part ofAl Qaeda's original plan for Sept. 11. In a speech delivered to ameeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in earlyNovember, Mr. Cameron of the University of Salford said that it islikely that the target of the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 was aUS nuclear facility.
The hijackers' intentions are essentially unknowable, he admits, becausethey were stormed by heroic passengers, leading to the plane's crash inrural Pennsylvania. But the plane made a sharp turn near the Pittsburgharea, and rapidly lost height, before the passengers acted. Combinedwith unspecific FBI warnings about threats to power plants, thisevidence may point to the terrorists'intended destination.
"It now appears that one of three nuclear reactors in southernPennsylvania - Three Mile Island, Peach Bottom, or Hope Creek, Salem -may have been the real target," Cameron told the IAEA.
When scientists conspire
On Dec. 18, 1998, an official of Russia's successor agency to the KGB,the Federal Security Service (FSB), said that agents under his commandhad broken up a conspiracy by employees of a major nuclear facility inthe Chelyabinsk region to steal 18.5 kilograms of weapons-usablematerial. If it had gone through, the theft would have caused"significant damage to the [Russian] state," local media quoted FSB Maj.Gen. Valeriy Tretyakov as saying.
In the US, experts reeled.
Chelyabinsk is home to some of Russia's most important nuclearfacilities, including a nuclear-weapons assembly and disassembly plantat Trekhgorny, and a weapons-design lab at Snezhinsk. If a group ofinsiders at one of these sensitive sites had decided to steal fissilematerial - well, that would be a highly serious matter. Furthermore, thematerial involved was apparently not some useless radioactive slurry. Itwas weapons-usable - meaning 18.5 kilograms might be enough to make anentire nuclear weapon.
This incident is not included on most lists of the most importantnuclear trafficking incidents, for the simple reason that it was quashedin its initial phases. But it remains one of the most troubling apparentcases of attempted proliferation of all - because it matches almostexactly the US nightmare scenario for a fissile-material theft.
It wasn't ancient history. It occurred in 1998, after many facilities inthe region had received US money for protection upgrades. It involvedlots of stuff. And it involved a conspiracy of the knowledgeable.
"Multiple insiders are the hardest thing for any security system toaddress," says Mr. Bunn of the Managing the Atom project.
Consider the ramifications. Russia has a "three-man rule" in regard toits nuclear weapons. Individuals are forbidden from working alone onwarheads, as are twosomes.
But if two scientists are in cahoots, they might be able to overpowerthe third. To guard against this, security might have to institute afour-man, or even five-man rule. Perimeter guards might need to bedoubled. The cost and complexity of protection systems escalatesexponentially.
And what would be the genesis of such a conspiracy? Perhaps a group ofdisillusioned scientists or guards would try such a thing on their own,but that may be unlikely, given the difficulties of marketing the stuff.It's more likely that such a theft might come in response to an enticingoverture. Such as Saddam Hussein, perhaps, offering enough money foreveryone in the group to buy a South Seas island.
"What I worry about is state intelligence agencies contacting thesepeople," says Scott Parrish, an analyst at the Center forNonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute.
If the Chelyabinsk conspiracy is the No. 1 worrisome incidence ofpotential trafficking in nuclear material, the Prague seizure might bejudged No. 2.
In December 1994, an anonymous tip led Czech police to a marked car. Init, they found 2.7 kilograms of HEU enriched to 87.7 percent. The amountand purity of the recovered material was highly troubling. Worse, in twoinstances in 1995, Czech authorities recovered small amounts ofadditional HEU that appeared to be from the same source.
This suggests that there is a stock of weapons-grade HEU out there, ofunknown quantity, in unknown hands.
New worries about so-called "dirty bombs," conventional explosives usedto spread deadly radioactive material over a wide area, are also makingsome incidents of trafficking seem important in retrospect.
Earlier this year, for instance, the Russian news agency Itar-Tassreported the seizure of 5 kilograms of cesium 137 from Chechen rebels,who were allegedly loading the material into mortar shells. Most expertsdo not consider this incident confirmed, but the Chechens havethreatened to use radiological material before. And cesium 137 is nastystuff. Its radiation was the cause of many of the fatalities associatedwith the Soviet-era explosion of the Chernobylnuclear plant.
In fact, once worries about dirty bombs multiply, the potential sourcesof dangerous material rapidly multiply as well. Radioactive material isused in many medical and industrial applications. Eastern Europe and thenations of the former Soviet Union even used trace amounts of plutoniumin smoke detectors. "I used to joke that if Saddam Hussein placed anorder in Russia for 500 million smoke detectors, we should get worried,"says Dr. Parrish of the Monterey Institute.
What the U.S. is doing
Preventing a nuclear terrorist attack on the US will require acomprehensive effort far into the future, say US officials. It will beone part - arguably the most important part - of the overall commitmentto homeland defense.
More narrowly, it may necessitate redoubled cooperation with the mostlikely source of loose nukes in the world: Russia. Warming relationsbetween President Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin,today offer a window of opportunity for such an intensification, say itsadvocates.
There is a decent foundation of mutual effort to build on. Initiated bySen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana and former Sen. Sam Nunn (D) ofGeorgia in 1991, the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program hasgrown into a $1 billion-plus effort overseen on the US side by theDepartments of Energy, State, and Defense.
"These programs have achieved impressive results for a relatively minorinvestment," says Stephen LaMontagne, a nuclear analyst at the Councilfor a Livable World Education Fund.
CTR funds pay for the destruction and dismantling of Russian ballisticmissiles and submarines, for instance. Last year, $57 million of USfunds went toward completion of the first wing of the Mayak FissileMaterial Storage Facility, which will ultimately have the capacity toprotect 6,250 dismantled warheads.
The Department of Energy's Material Protection, Control, and Accountingprogram has so far improved physical security at 13 Russian Navy nuclearsites and 24 civilian nuclear installations. But there are some 58 moreRussian nuclear sites that need security upgrades, according to DOEfigures. A program to blend HEU down into less dangerous civilianreactor fuel is moving slowly. Efforts to replace three Russian nuclearreactors that produce both desperately needed energy and plutonium havestalled in a swirl of politics.
And the Bush administration, in its first crack at drawing up anational-security budget, has slashed the funding of much of thenon-proliferation effort. Bush's budget took $100 million out of theDepartment of Energy's side of the effort, alone.
The needs, according to the Secretary of Energy's advisory board taskforce headed by Mr. Baker and Mr. Cutler, include: a real strategicplan; a high-level position within the White House devoted to the issue,perhaps within the National Security Council; more money, and moreurgency. Concludes the report: "There is a clear and present danger tothe international community as well as to American lives and liberties." return to menu
2. U.S. Fears Bin Laden Made Nuclear Strides Concern Over 'Dirty Bomb' Affects Security
Bob Woodward, Robert G. Kaiser, David B. Ottaway
December 4, 2001
(for personal use only)
U.S. intelligence agencies have recently concluded that Osama bin Ladenand his al Qaeda terrorist network may have made greater strides thanpreviously thought toward obtaining plans or materials to make a cruderadiological weapon that would use conventional explosives to spreadradioactivity over a wide area, according to U.S. and foreign sources.
Some of the conclusions come from interrogations of captured al Qaedamembers or associates. Some come from evidence gathered in the lastmonth on the ground in Afghanistan by CIA officers and U.S. SpecialForces from former al Qaeda facilities.
In addition, recent U.S. intelligence reports describe a meeting withinthe last year in which bin Laden was present when one of his associatesproduced a canister that allegedly contained radioactive material. Theassociate waved the canister in the air as proof of al Qaeda's progressand seriousness in trying to build a nuclear device.
The U.S. government last month urgently asked a few key alliedgovernments to assist in determining whether the associate, identifiedonly with a common name, may have entered their countries, perhaps withradioactive material. The concern is sufficiently deep that somecountries have adopted extreme security procedures at their borders,including the increased use of devices that measure radioactivity, thesources said.
There is no conclusive evidence that bin Laden or his associates havebuilt a radiological bomb or even have the capability to do so, thesesources emphasized. But for years bin Laden has said publicly he wasworking to obtain a nuclear capability.
U.S. officials are very concerned that any nuclear detonation by alQaeda would be a calamitous psychological setback to the war onterrorism, and a maximum effort has been launched to detect and preventthe possibility, remote as it might be, several sources said. The worryabout al Qaeda's efforts to obtain a nuclear capability was a factor inthe decision yesterday to issue another national alert about possibleterrorist attacks, a senior source said.
On at least one occasion, the White House cited the increased concernthat al Qaeda might have a radiological bomb as a key reason that VicePresident Cheney was not available for a face-to-face meeting withvisiting senior foreign officials. The meeting usually would haveallowed for informal personal contact, but took place via secure videoconference because Cheney was at a secure location outside Washington.
U.S. intelligence agencies are looking not only for evidence thatterrorists could be assembling a radiological bomb but also for any signthat al Qaeda could be trying to make a very crude and small atomic orfission bomb.
A radiological bomb, also known as a "dirty bomb," could be made bytaking highly radioactive material, such as spent reactor fuel rods, andwrapping it around readily available conventional high explosives. Thedevice is designed to kill or injure not through its explosive force butby creating a zone of intense radiation that could extend several cityblocks. A large, highly radioactive bomb could affect a much largerarea.
There is no public record that any country or terrorist group hasdetonated a radiological bomb.
A diagram of a dirty bomb has been found in a Taliban or al Qaedainstallation in Afghanistan in recent weeks, according to a source. Inaddition, numerous other documents about nuclear weapons in general wererecovered. But a well-placed U.S. source said such diagrams anddocuments could be found in public sources, including the Internet. Thesource said some designs were so inadequate and primitive that they mostlikely would not work.
Al Qaeda's longstanding interest in acquiring a nuclear capability iswell-documented. In February, a Sudanese man who worked for bin Ladenfor nine years, Jamal Ahmed Fadl, testified that al Qaeda was trying toacquire nuclear material in the early 1990s. Fadl said that a bin Ladenlieutenant ordered him to buy uranium from a former Sudanese armyofficer, who offered to sell ore from South Africa for $1.5 million.
Though he did not have personal knowledge that the deal was consummated,Fadl testified, he was paid a $10,000 bonus for arranging the deal. Fadlwas a government witness at the New York trial of four participants inthe al Qaeda bombing of two American embassies in Africa in August 1998.
Last month, bin Laden told a Pakistani journalist that his movementalready had chemical and nuclear weapons.
"I wish to declare that if America used chemical or nuclear weaponsagainst us, then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons," binLaden was quoted as saying. "We have the weapons as a deterrent."
In 1998, bin Laden called it "a religious duty" to acquire weapons ofmass destruction, adding: "If I have indeed acquired these weapons, thenI thank God for enabling me to do so."
One Taliban official in Afghanistan has denied that al Qaeda has anuclear capability.
"We do not even have modern weaponry, not to mention weapons of massdestruction," Abdul Salam Zaeef, former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan,said recently after widespread reports of bin Laden's deterrent comment.
Pakistan has detained two nuclear scientists, both veterans of thesecret program that has given Pakistan about a dozen nuclear warheads,and is interrogating them about their contacts with Taliban and al Qaedamembers. The two, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majid, worked inAfghanistan in recent years but have said they were only providingcharitable assistance to Afghanis.
Mahmood is an expert in plutonium, the highly fissionable material usedin the heart of most nuclear weapons. He was given a desk job in 1999after he publicly said that Pakistan should help other Islamic nationsbuild nuclear weapons. He also spoke publicly in support of the Talibanmovement.
Russia and Pakistan are considered the two most likely sources ofradioactive material for al Qaeda. Russian officials have reporteddozens of attempts to steal enriched uranium or plutonium since 1990.Last month, a Russian general said unidentified terrorists recently hadtwice tried and failed to penetrate Russian top-secret fortified nuclearstorage facilities known as "S-shelters."
Mohamed El Baradei, director general of the International Atomic EnergyAgency, said in a Nov. 1 statement that after the Sept. 11 hijackings,the agency had been alerted to the possibility that terrorists might use"radioactive sources to incite panic, contaminate property and evencause injury or death among civilian populations."
On Nov. 9, President Bush said of al Qaeda, "They're seeking chemical,biological and nuclear weapons."
Bin Laden is a fugitive from Saudi Arabia, which along with the UnitedStates is considered a top target for another attack. Border inspectionand surveillance have been increased substantially in Saudi Arabia;authorities there are on the lookout not only for radioactive materialbut also for any related equipment, parts or technology that might beused in a nuclear device.
In Saudi Arabia, a source said, border guards are searching any packageor truck that might be used by smugglers. Particular emphasis has beengiven to the Saudi border with Yemen, which has had an active al Qaedapresence.
Operatives connected to bin Laden in Yemen are believed to beresponsible for the attack on the American destroyer USS Cole in October2000, when a small boat loaded with explosives rammed the ship andkilled 17 U.S. sailors in the port of Aden. return to menu
B. U.S. Non-Proliferation Budget
1. DOE Threat Reduction Funding Cut, Programs Reorganized
Philipp C. Bleek
Arms Control Today
(for personal use only)
On November 12, President George W. Bush signed into law a bill thatprovides less money forEnergy Department non-proliferation efforts than was allocated lastyear, but more than hisadministration had asked for in its budget request. The law alsoreorganizes several departmentthreat reduction initiatives.
The fiscal year 2002 energy and water appropriations act allocates about$804 million for the Energy Department's Defense NuclearNon-Proliferation programs, approximately $70 millionlower than 2001 funding levels but about $30 million higher than theadministration had requested for the programs earlier this year. (SeeACT, May 2001.) The administration'sproposed cuts had been targeted primarily at threat reduction efforts inRussia, which make upabout one-third of the department's nuclear non-proliferation budget.
For the Material Protection, Control, and Accounting (MPC&A) program,which upgrades security at vulnerable fissile-material andweapons-storage sites, the administration requestedonly $138.8 million for 2002, well below 2001 funding levels. ButCongress appropriated $173million, essentially restoring, but not increasing, as some lawmakershad hoped, funding to 2001levels.
That allocation includes $4 million for the Second Line of Defenseprogram, which helps Russia's customs service detect illicit nucleartransfers across Russian borders, effectivelymerging the initiative with the MPC&A program. During an interview, anEnergy Departmentofficial indicated that the reorganization was intended to facilitate"improved coordination" andcapitalize on "synergies" between the programs.
The law also calls for joint management of the Nuclear Cities Initiativeand the Initiatives forProliferation Prevention, both of which seek to provide alternativeemployment for Russianweapons scientists so they do not sell their services to states orgroups trying to acquireweapons of mass destruction. In addition, the law appropriates a lumpsum for the twoprograms, which the Energy Department will have to divide between theinitiatives. The lawalso significantly increases funding for these two efforts beyond theadministration's original$29 million request, allocating $42 million. The General AccountingOffice, the investigative arm of Congress, had recommended in May that amerger of the programs be considered "toachieve potential cost savings and other efficiencies." (See ACT, June2001.)
Administration officials have made it clear that, upon conclusion of anongoing review they areconducting, funding for the Energy Department's threat reductionprograms could be changedand programs could be further reorganized. Announced by Bush in Marchafter suggested cutsto the programs drew congressional ire, the review is nearingcompletion, according to administration officials. When the review waslaunched, an administration official had indicatedit would last six to eight weeks. (See ACT, April 2001.)
Lawmakers have also sought to boost Energy Department threat reductionfunding with money from the $40 billion emergency supplemental spendingbill submitted to Congress after theSeptember 11 terrorist attacks. Although those efforts have beenunsuccessful to date, somelawmakers still appear to hold out hope that the department's 2002threat reduction appropriations can be boosted. return to menu
1. U.S. to Pressure Russia Over Iranian Relations
December 5, 2001
(for personal use only)
The United States will make fresh diplomatic efforts to get Russia tocurb nuclear and missile cooperation with Iran and other countries, butif that fails it is ready to use sanctions, U.S. officials say.
Undersecretary of State John Bolton is due to travel to Moscow this weekfor high-level talks that will include nonproliferation issues. He willprepare the ground for a Dec. 9 visit by Secretary of State ColinPowell.
The U.S. government's desire to expand relations with Russia, the othermajor nuclear power, gained ground when the Sept. 11 attacks on theUnited States propelled the former Cold War rivals into ananti-terrorism alliance. But despite improving ties, the two sidesremain at odds over Russia's willingness to assist Iran in developingnuclear reactors and missiles. If no way is found to limit theRussian-Iranian relationship, Washington is prepared to impose sanctionsunder U.S. law as it did on China on Sept. 1 for alleged provision ofmissile technology to Pakistan, a senior U.S. official said.
"In the absence of cooperation [by Russia], this administration willimplement the law. And I think the demonstration of that was on Sept.1," the official said.
Washington considers Iran a state sponsor of terrorism and after theSeptember assaults is even more concerned about the potential forextremists to acquire weapons of mass destruction and launch attacks.Experts estimate Iran could become a nuclear power in four to nineyears' time.
Russia is helping Iran to build a nuclear power reactor at Bushehr.Although the facility will be subject to International Atomic EnergyAgency safeguards, critics argue that the project benefits Iran'snuclear weapons program.The Powell and Bolton visits to Russia are dueto focus largely on U.S. plans to develop a missile defense system andon U.S. and Russian plans to slash strategic nuclear arms.
Still, "there's no doubt we need to get moving ahead on that[Russia-Iran issue] if we're going to have a new strategic framework,"one senior U.S. official said. But the focus is broader. "We've got todeal not just with Iran -- the principal case -- but also with whatRussia is doing on nuclear and missile questions with India," he said.
Washington also wants help with other governments since Iran getsassistance from China and North Korea as well as from Russia. "Can theRussians, in addition to not doing it themselves, help us with theIranians to stem proliferation from other sources too?" the officialadded. For Washington, the purpose of the Moscow talks will be "not tojust pick at old scabs but rather to see if there are some issues onnuclear protection or a general set of plutonium issues or in terms ofchemical-biological weapons cooperation, discussion of the IAEA and aset of regional issues" where progress can be made, another seniorofficial said. return to menu
1. India To Acquire 20,000 MW Of Nuclear Power By 2020
PTI news agency/BBC Monitoring Service
December 3, 2001
(for personal use only)
India is all geared up to acquire 20,000 MW of nuclear power by the year2020, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Dr Anil Kakodkar said Monday.
By the end of the 11th plan, about 9,900 MW of nuclear power could beproduced and all pre-requisites including the funds are being taken careof, Kakodkar said while addressing the reporters at the 18th Departmentof Atomic Energy (DAE) safety and occupational health professionals meethere.
Talks are also on with private parties, including the Russians, withencouraging response, although it is at a preliminary stage, Kakodkarsaid.
"We are planning for two units 500 MW in Tarapur, two units of 220 MW inKaiga and Rajasthan each and two 1000 MW each at Kudankulam in TamilNadu," he said.
Dwelling on other energy activities of DAE, Kakodkar said desalinationplant is in progress at Kalpakkam which will generate 6,300 cu.m.potable water per day and is expected to be commissioned next year.
"This is a twin-technology of reverse osmosis and multi-stage flash," hesaid adding smaller mobile desalination units will be taken up by thedepartment in the ongoing 10th plan to provide potable water in thewater scarce parts of coastal India... return to menu
E. U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement
1. Uranium 'Middleman' Likely To Retain Its Role Md. Company Buys Fuel From Russians; Critics Say It Overcharges
December 2, 2001
(for personal use only)
The Bush administration is leaning toward allowing a U.S. company tocontinue as the government's only purchaser of uranium fuel from Russia,running the "megatons to megawatts" program designed to keep bomb-gradeuranium out of the hands of terrorists.
Critics say the company, USEC Inc. of Bethesda, Md., overcharges U.S.utilities for the Russian uranium. And they question the wisdom oftrusting the future of a key U.S.-Russian agreement to a company thathas had a dismal financial record recently.
USEC is the world's leading supplier of uranium fuel for commercialnuclear power plants. Its subsidiary, United States Enrichment Corp., isthe nation's only uranium enrichment company.
USEC acts as middleman for sales of uranium recycled from former Sovietwarheads, which accounts for about half of the enriched uranium used byU.S. nuclear plants.
USEC was sharply criticized last year when it announced it would closeone of its two uranium enrichment plants, leaving hundreds of people outof jobs. Its credit rating was reduced to junk-bond level, and its stockprice plummeted.
Some utilities want to buy uranium directly from the Russians, sayingthat would reduce the cost of producing electricity and lower powerbills for consumers.
The Bush administration has been studying whether to keep USEC as thegovernment's purchaser of Russian uranium. Sources say theadministration is close to keeping USEC, but with conditions.
Among them would be a promise by USEC to build a more efficientenrichment plant than its 50-year-old facility in Paducah, Ky., but tokeep that plant operational until the new one opens. If USEC failed tokeep the plant open, the government would run it.
A senior Bush administration official who spoke on condition ofanonymity said the administration's goals are getting the uranium out ofRussia so that it doesn't fall into enemy hands; ensuring that there isa domestic supplier of enriched uranium; and seeing that U.S. utilitieshave a reliable and affordable source of nuclear fuel.
John Longenecker, a consultant specializing in nuclear energy whopreviously managed the government's uranium enrichment business, saidthose goals work to USEC's advantage.
"Today, USEC has a gun to Congress' and the administration's head andobviously are indicating if they don't receive a subsidy of some kindthey may go out of business, and we may be highly dependent on foreignsources," he said.
A pricing agreement between USEC and its Russian counterpart, Tenex,expires at the end of the year. USEC wants a long-term deal with a lowerpurchase price, which would bolster its profits. The U.S. and Russiangovernments must approve any agreement, and analysts say the Russiansmight be unwilling to agree to the lower price.
Calls to Tenex officials were not returned.
If a new pricing agreement is not reached by Jan. 1, the contract can becontinued for another year. But USEC says it is committed to securing abetter price. The company would probably have more leverage if the Bushadministration publicly stated that USEC would remain the sole U.S.purchaser.
USEC executives say they should be able to continue as the sole agentbecause the program is running smoothly.
Company executives say the program has eliminated the equivalent of morethan 5,400 nuclear warheads.
Some utilities, including North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp., saythe monopoly setup allows USEC to overcharge, inflating the cost ofnuclear power.
"I don't believe any utilities are looking to put USEC out of business.What we're looking for is competition in the marketplace," said DavidCulp, Duke's manager of nuclear fuel management. return to menu
F. Russian Nuclear Forces
1. The "Silent Service" Hails a New Warrior
December 4, 2001
(for personal use only)
Super-silent "Gepard", awesome new flagship of Russia's submarine fleet,ceremonially took to the northern waters of the White Sea under navycolors today (Tuesday) at a ceremony going some way to easing the woundsof the Kursk disaster and restoring marine service morale. It has beenhailed as "Russia's first nuclear-powered submarine of the 21stcentury."
Head-of-state Vladimir Putin met the crew and sent the missile-armed,torpedo-carrying boat - named "Cheetah" in English - into service aftersuccessful sea and weapons trials under the blue and white Russian fleetflag of St. Andrew. The ceremony, at Severodvinsk in the ArkhangelskRegion where the vessel was built, was attended by Russian Navy FleetAdmiral Vladimir Kuroyedov and the Chief of the Russian General Staff,Anatoly Kvashnin, RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Navy officers have already applauded the boost to pride that comes withthe new vessel. Commander-in-chief Kuroyedov went on record as callingit "symbolic for the lost boat to be replaced by a new submarine,"noting that Russia was advancing to building a new fleet, which, "willbe a tribute to the sailors who died on the Kursk".
The 110-metre long craft is the last in a fleet of 14 Bars seriessubmarines to be constructed. It displaces up to 12,770 tons, dives to amaximum depth of 600 meters, and makes a top speed below the waves of 35knots.
"Gepard" is served by a 63ong crew and has an armament potential of24 nuclear-tipped Granit cruise missiles with a range of up to 3,000kilometers. It also carries a "Strela" (Russian for "Arrow")anti-aircraft weapons system. Though much smaller than the wreckedKursk, Gepard is viewed as the most formidable ship in the Russian Navy.Construction began in 1991.
Western naval observers say the submarine's arrival is an important stepforward. U.S. experts believe Gepard may move as fast and as quietly asAmerica's best fully-operational boats of the Los Angeles class, andhave the capacity to dive deeper and harness more firepower, accordingto a report on the U.S. ABC News international website.
The new boat is named to honor a World War 1 Russian submarine. As acomparison, its forerunner moved at 8.5 knots and submerged to a maximumdepth of 50 meters. Its arsenal was two cannon, a machine-gun and 12torpedoes.
An official act transferring and commissioning the new boat was signedat theSevmashpredpriyatiye industrial plant at Severodvinsk yesterday. return to menu
G. U.S.-Russian Relations
1. Trust, But Verify - In Writing
Karl F. Inderfurth
The Boston Globe
December 5, 2001
(for personal use only)
Today is a day that will live in arms-control history. The firstStrategic Arms Reduction Treaty, signed by President George H.W. Bushand Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, comes to a successfulconclusion.
The treaty required both sides to eliminate thousands of long-rangenuclear weapons and reach acommon ceiling of no more than 6,000. This was accomplished under thewatchful eyes of American and Russian monitoring teams, with the UnitedStates conducting more than 300 inspections in the former Soviet Unionand hosting more than 200 Russian inspections at US facilities. START Iworked because each side had confidence the other was complying with itsprovisions.
Unfortunately, legally binding arrangements such as those included inSTART I may soon be a thing of the past.
At their recent summit, President George W. Bush and Russian PresidentVladimir Putin stated their intention to make major reductions innuclear weapons - by as much as two-thirds of their strategic arsenals.This is welcome news. The world will be a much safer place for theseactions. These weapons are, as Bush has said, relics of the Cold War.
At the same time, however, the president also considers arms controltreaties between the two former adversaries outdated relics. He isproposing that they be replaced by trust and a handshake: ''I looked theman in the eye and shook his hand.''
Some of his national security aides go even further. They believetraditional arms control should give way to a go-it-alone policy of''strategic adaptability'' - the ability for the United States to reduceor build up its nuclear forces as it sees fit, unfettered by formalobligations imposed by treaties and agreements.
Bush is right that the arms-control process has been time-consuming andoften frustrating. START I was negotiated between President Reagan andMikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s but did not enter into force until 1994,after ratification by the US Congress and the Russian Duma.
Certainly, this process could use updating and streamlining, as befitsthe new, more cooperativerelationship that is developing between the United States and Russia.
But the president should also be careful not to overlook theindispensable value of arms controlagreements - monitoring, verification, transparency, predictability,including timetables for reductions, and confidence-building - all ofwhich have led, and can continue to lead, to greater security andstability. This process has proven to be very valuable and reliable.
Along with the success of START I, consider this example: In December1987, Reagan and Gorbachev signed the Intermediate Nuclear ForcesTreaty. The agreement committed both states to eliminate allground-launched missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,000 miles.
Last May, two dozen Russian nuclear inspectors left Salt Lake City, thelast of a total of 500 rotating inspectors who have watched a Utahmissile plant over the last 13 years. At a similar plant in the Russiancity of Votkinsk, a team of US inspectors completed their work mandatedby the INF Treaty.
For 13 years, the US and Russian inspectors tracked the implementationof this agreement, whichresulted in the elimination of almost 2,700 missiles.
Contrast this with the elder Bush's 1991 and 1992 moves to unilaterallyreduce all categories oftactical nuclear weapons and completely eliminate others. In response,Gorbachev, followed by Boris Yeltsin, announced their intention to haltproduction and begin to dismantle a large part of Russia's short-rangenuclear stockpile.
According to estimates, at the beginning of the 1990s the United Statesheld more than 7,000short-range nuclear warheads and the Soviet Union up to 18,000. Today,the United States retains about 1,700 such weapons. Estimates of theRussian force are all over the map, ranging from 4,000 to as many as15,000 or higher.
In the absence of formal arrangements providing for verification andinspection, it is impossible to determine how many Russian tacticalweapons remain. And we have no legal basis to ask for an accounting.
Fortunately, Putin appears to understand the importance of ensuring,through formal agreements, that both sides have confidence that theother side is reducing its arsenal as promised.
In their joint press conference in Washington, the Russian leader said:''We are prepared to present all our agreements in treaty form,including the issues of verification and control.''
Bush seemed to concede the point: ''If we need to write it down on apiece of paper, I'd be glad to do it.''
As the two leaders prepare for their next encounter next spring inRussia, Bush should join with Putin to retain the important benefits toboth nations of the formal nuclear arms control process, while workingto streamline and modernize that process as part of their new strategicframework.
As they do so, Bush should also keep in mind the famous injunction ofReagan, who proved to be a very successful arms negotiator: ''Trust, butverify.'' And he got it in writing. return to menu
On November 13, President George W. Bush pledged to reduce the deployedU.S. strategic nuclear arsenal to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads overthe next 10 years, prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to saythat Russia would try to "respond in kind."
The cuts, announced at the beginning of a three-day U.S.-Russian summitheld in Washington, D.C., and Crawford, Texas, would represent asubstantial reduction in the deployed U.S. andRussian strategic nuclear arsenals, which currently consist of about6,000 warheads each, as agreed under the START I accord.
Deploying only 1,700-2,200 strategic warheads would bring the U.S.arsenal below theproposed START III limit of 2,000-2,500 warheads, agreed to byPresidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in 1997, and well below the3,000-3,500 ceiling formalized in START II, which has not entered intoforce. Bush's proposed level of strategic warheads also falls beneaththe 2,000-2,500 range that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had previouslysuggested was the lowest levelthey could support.
The promised nuclear cuts would fulfill a key campaign pledge by thepresident. As a candidate,Bush promised to move beyond "Cold War nuclear targeting," saying hewould pursue "the lowest possible number [of warheads] consistent withour national security," which hecharacterized as "significantly" below START II levels. (See ACT,September 2000.)
It is not yet clear what the United States will do with the thousands ofwarheads to be removedfrom service. In Crawford on November 15, Bush told a group of highschool students, "We aretalking about reducing and destroying the number of warheads to get downto specific levels."
But national security adviser Condoleezza Rice subsequently indicatedthat the warheads mightnot actually be destroyed. "We will not have these warheads near theplaces at which they could be deployed," she said, adding that specificdisposition plans remain to be "worked out." If they were notdismantled, the warheads could be placed in the United States' "activereserve" stockpile, which currently contains about 2,500 warheads.
Also at issue is whether the reductions will be formalized in a treaty.Announcing the cuts fromthe White House, Bush indicated that the "endless hours of arms controldiscussions" that led tothe START agreements were no longer needed because the United States andRussia have "anew relationship based on trust."
But speaking at the Russian embassy later that day, Putin aired adifferent view, saying, "The world is far from having internationalrelations that are built solely on trust, unfortunately. That'swhy it is so important today to rely on the existing foundation oftreaties and agreements in thearms control and disarmament areas."
Some observers had predicted that Washington might agree to formalstrategic reductions withRussia in exchange for concessions to allow more robust missile defensetesting under the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which bansnationwide strategic ballistic missile defenses. Putin has recentlysignaled a willingness to amend the ABM Treaty and has long called for aformal agreement on bilateral reductions to 1,500 deployed strategicwarheads, but Bush administration officials continue to reiterate theirdesire to "move beyond" the treaty and have resisted negotiations onoffensive reductions.
Nonetheless, Bush did show some willingness to formalize the cuts. "Ifwe need to write it down on a piece of paper, I'll be glad to do that,"he said. Rice expanded on this point during a November 15 briefing,indicating that codifying the reductions in a less drawn-out manner thanprevious strategic arms agreements remained under discussion. She alsosuggested that "verification procedures out of former treaties" could"perhaps" be utilized.
On the Senate floor November 15, leading Democrats sharply criticizedthe administration'sreluctance to negotiate a treaty to formalize the nuclear cuts. Citingformer President RonaldReagan's dictum, "Trust but verify," Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV),chairman of the Appropriations Committee, pointed out that "a simplehandshake leaves many questionsunanswered." Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the ForeignRelations Committee, said that "a new START III treaty would not bedifficult to draft [and] would ensure not only rigorousverification but also proper respect for the constitutional role of theSenate regardinginternational agreements."
Before the reductions can be implemented, Congress must overturn a lawprohibiting the president from reducing U.S. nuclear forces below STARTI levels until START II enters intoforce. The language, first inserted in the 1998 defense authorizationact by Republicanlawmakers, prohibits spending funds on "retiring or dismantling"designated strategic deliverysystems, which correspond to a START I-compliant force.
The Senate version of the fiscal year 2002 defense authorization billwould repeal thislanguage, but the House version essentially maintains it. The bill iscurrently under discussion ina House-Senate conference committee, which is expected to adopt theSenate language. return to menu
H. Russian Nuclear Waste
1. Duma Deputies Make Inquiry About Illegal Import Of Foreign Spent Nuclear Fuel
December 4, 2001
(for personal use only)
First deputy leader of the Russian State Duma's People's Deputy groupVadim Bulavinov has handed Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov an inquiryconcerning reports that banned radioactive elements have been importedinto Russia.
The document says that 41,511 kilograms of spent nuclear fuel wasrecently brought to Russia from the Kozlodui nuclear power plant inBulgaria. The public has also learned, it says, thatradioactive technical elements of a reactor, which cannot be brought toRussia under any circumstance, may have been imported to Russia alongwith the spent nuclear fuel.
Bulavinov argued that the key figure in the deal is the offshore companyEnergy Invest & Trade Corporation, with its office in Vaduz(Liechtenstein), registered on the Virgin Islands. Hetherefore urged the government to explain on what grounds the Ministryfor Atomic Energy andits minister allowed the technical elements of a reactor to be broughtto Russia with spent nuclear fuel, and why such deals are being handledby an unknown offshore company.
The Ministry for Atomic Energy said it has not yet received anyinquiries from the StateDuma. "No offshore company was involved in the deal," Ministry spokesmanNikolai Shingaryov has told Interfax return to menu
2. Russian-Norwegian Company To Construct Nuclear Waste Processing Facility
December 3, 2001
(for personal use only)
Representatives of the company Storvik & Zvezdochka Norway AS and of theZvezdochka enterprise (Severodvinsk, Archangel Region) have signed acontract on sub-deliveries for a facility to process low-radiation solidnuclear wastes. The contract was signed as a result of an internationaltender, Zvezdochka General Director Nikolay Kalistratov said at a pressconference today.
The Russian-Norwegian joint venture Storvik & Zvezdochka Norway AS willdraw up the design of the facility, make all the necessary purchases,and build and put the facility into operation. The general plan for thefacility is being developed by the research bureau Onega (Severodvinsk.)
Kalistratov said that the project is 30 per cent complete. Concurrently,technical documents are being drawn up and preparations are under way atthe enterprise. The facility is to be built in 12 months. return to menu
I. Russian Nuclear Industry
1. Russia Offers Loans For Completion Of Two Ukrainian Nuclear Reactors
Ukrainian Television Second Programme/ BBC Monitoring Service
December 4, 2001
(for personal use only)
The first meeting of the Ukrainian-Russian intergovernmental cooperationcommission, held after a two-year break, has already brought results. Inhis introductory address, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov saidthat Russia is ready to allocate loans for the completion of twogenerating sets at the Rivne and Khmelnytskyy nuclear power stations.Russia is also ready to provide expertise and the appropriate equipment.Today, the two prime ministers will, first andforemost, discuss energy issues. In particular, issues regarding thesupply of Russian gas and its transit as well as the cost of energysupplies. As [Ukrainian Prime Minister] Anatoliy Kinakh and MikhailKasyanov noted today, the gas issue is no longer a problem for Russiaand Ukraine and a working meeting is taking place today. The two primeministers will finish their work at about 1500 Moscow time, after whichthey have promised to reveal the results of their meeting to the press. return to menu
J. Links of Interest
1. Confirmed Proliferation-Significant Incidents of Fissile Material
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