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Nuclear News - 01/23/02
RANSAC Nuclear News, January 28, 2002
Compiled by David Smigielski


A. U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement
    1. Russia-US Uranium Price-Cut Talks Fail Interfax via BBC Monitoring Service (01/28/02)
    2. Russia, US Fail To Strike Deal On Uranium Deliveries, Ivan Lebedev, Interfax (01/27/02)
    3. Pound Foolish On Plutonium, Chicago Tribune (01/26/02)
    4. Stalled Talks Prompt Security Concern, Nancy Zuckerbrod, Associated Press (01/25/02)
    5. Russian LEU Shipments Suspended RIA-Novosti (01/23/02)
    6. US-Russia Plutonium Utilisation Cooperation To Continue, ITAR-Tass (01/23/02)
B. Russia-U.S.
    1. Organizing The World To Fight Terror, Igor S. Ivanov, New York Times (01/27/02)
    2. Disarmament's Glacial Pace, Los Angeles Times (01/26/02)
    3. Foreign Media Reaction: U.S. Nuclear Policy: 'Sleight Of Hand' Doesn't Escape Foreign Notice (Excerpted), Department of State (01/18/02)
C. Russia-Iran
    1. U.S. Pressures State Arms Proliferators (excerpted) Rueters(01/24/02)
D. Nuclear Terrorism
    1. FSB Says Moscow Is Vulnerable To Terrorist Acts, RFE/RL Security Watch (01/25/02)
    2. Al Qaeda Documents Outline Serious Weapons Program(Excerpted), Mike Boettcher and Ingrid Arnesen, CNN.com (01/25/02)
E. Russian Nuclear Industry
    1. Russia To Repay Bulgarian Debt With Military Supplies, RFE/RL Newsline (01/24/02)
F. Russian Nuclear Waste
    1. Radioactive Containers In Georgia Still Dangerous, The Times of India (01/27/02)
G. Announcements
    1. Burma -- Nuclear Research Project With Russia, U.S. Department Of State, Office of the Spokesman (01/23/02)

A. U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement

1.
Russia-US Uranium Price-Cut Talks Fail
Interfax via BBC Monitoring Service
January 28, 2002
(for personal use only)


Russia and the USA have failed to agree on a new price for Russianuranium, supplied to the USA under the HEU-LEU purchase agreement whichis worth 12bn dollars, a source in the Russian Atomic Energy Ministrytold Interfax.

"The negotiations that took place between Russia's Tekhsnabeksport andthe US company USEC (United States Enrichment Corporation) last weekhave failed," a representative of the ministry said. "They will becontinued. But the position of the ministry remains the same: protectingthe interests of Russia. However, the Atomic Ministry is ready forcompromise," the source said.

"The Atomic Energy Ministry would not like a sharp drop in the price ofuranium," the source said. In the meantime, USEC wants the price forRussian uranium to be reduced by 15 per cent against the price in 2001.

Russia has suspended shipments of uranium to the US under the HEU-LEUagreement "for technical reasons". Tekhsnabeksport General DirectorValeriy Bogdan said that "USEC has so far not given its Russiancolleagues a schedule for uranium shipments to the USA. As soon as it isreceived, Russian uranium will be shipped to the USA."

Russia and the US signed the HEU-LEU contract on 18 February 1993. Underthis contract, Russia is to supply 550 tonnes of highly- enricheduranium to the USA over the course of twenty years.
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2.
Russia, US Fail To Strike Deal On Uranium Deliveries
Ivan Lebedev
Interfax
January 27, 2002
(for personal use only)


Another round of talks to draft a new contract for deliveries of Russianlow-grade uranium to the American market ended in a flop in Moscow thisweek.

Representatives of the USEC corporation said that they failed to reachan understanding with Russian partners from the Nuclear Energy Ministryand the Tekhsnabexport firm on conditions of implementing the HGU-LGU(high-grade uranium, low-grade uranium) intergovernment agreement forthe next 13 years.

The previous contract, signed in 1996, expired on December 31. The sidesfulfilled their commitments for 2001, and deliveries were temporarilysuspended. USEC and Tekhsnabexport, acting as executive agents of thegovernments of the two countries, could not reach agreement of the priceof low-grade uranium.

It should be brought to a market price in connection with a drop in thecost of nuclear fuel over the past several years. However, the Russianside claimed that USEC proposals deliberately put it into adisadvantageous position.

The agreement on the use of high-grade uranium, received from nuclearweapons, was concluded in 1993.

In compliance with the understanding which was earmarked for 20 years,estimated at 12 billion dollars and received the informal name"Megatonnes -- into megawatts", Russia already supplied the U. S. withover 4,000 tonnes of low-grade uranium to use as fuel at nuclear powerplants.

They were received as a result of processing 140 tonnes of high-gradeuranium, suitable to manufacture over 5,600 nuclear warheads.

Moscow and Washington repeatedly confirmed their interest inimplementing further the agreement, having for them great political andcommercial importance.

According to the American press, the Russian Nuclear Energy Ministrysuggested, in mid-January, examining the emerging difficulties at theintergovernment level. However, the U. S. administration noted that USECand Tekhsnabexport should settle financial questions independently.
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3.
Pound Foolish On Plutonium
Chicago Tribune
January 26, 2002
(for personal use only)


The Bush administration's announcement Wednesday that the United Stateswill recycle weapons-grade plutonium instead of disposing ofit--presumably to save $2 billion--is a stroke of shortsighted thrift.Plutonium is awfully dangerous stuff--it's the highly carcinogenic rawmaterial of nuclear weapons--and the U.S. ought to take the lead toreduce the amount of it in the world rather than fund technologies tokeep it in circulation, particularly in the commercial market.

In September 2000, Russia and the U.S. signed the Plutonium Managementand Disposition Agreement, which commits each nation to get rid of 34metric tons of surplus plutonium, largely from decommissioned nuclearweapons. There are two disposal methods. One is to recycle it into fuelfor commercial nuclear power plants; the other is to encase it in highlyradioactive wastes that crystallize around the plutonium and render itunusable for making weapons. These crystal cylinders then are safelyburied somewhere.

Under the Carter administration, the U.S. had banned recycling for fearthat letting plutonium out of government control was too dangerous andmay even foster the creation of a black market here and in othercountries. In 1996, the Clinton administration moved to fund bothrecycling and permanent disposal. The Department of Energy'sannouncement Wednesday closes off the second avenue. It was no surprise;the Bush administration signaled last year that it favored the recyclingoption.

The other partner in this tango, of course, is Russia and its 34 tons ofplutonium. Russians vehemently argue that recycled plutonium is avaluable energy source--even though reprocessing it is very costly andRussia doesn't have any money to implement either option anyway. Thechaotic situation in Russia also raises serious questions about securityand possible diversion of plutonium to rogue states, terrorists or othercrazies.

By its latest decision, the U.S. is closing the door on destroying andsafely disposing plutonium stockpiles--the safest and most sensiblesolution. Instead, it is turning over the plutonium to the commercialsector for reprocessing and reuse in power plants in the Carolinas.Department of Energy officials promise the recycled plutonium will beclosely guarded. That may be true here, but no such assurances can beoffered about other countries, such as Pakistan, that may want to followsuit. Indeed, the creation of a commercial market for recycled plutoniumis a dangerous idea--here or anywhere else.

The U.S. should instead pursue decommissioning all or most of itsplutonium and encourage others to do the same. With the cashappedRussians, financial incentives might work. During the first Bushadministration, the U.S. was even prepared to buy scrapped nuclearwarheads from Russia and the Ukraine, though the deal fell through.Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham is right that eliminating surplusplutonium is an urgent problem. But opting for recycling, presumably tosave $2 billion, seems like a fool's bargain that invites much morecostly problems.
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4.
Stalled Talks Prompt Security Concern
Nancy Zuckerbrod
Associated Press
January 25, 2002
(for personal use only)


A U.S. company that sells nuclear fuel taken from old Soviet weapons isat loggerheads with Russian negotiators over the purchase price.

The dispute has some Bush administration officials worried about thefuture of the ``megatons to megawatts'' program that serves the dualpurpose of keeping nuclear weapons away from terrorists and supplyingfuel to commercial U.S. reactors.

The latest round of talks between USEC Inc. of Bethesda, Md., and itsRussian counterpart, Tenex, ended Friday in Moscow without a deal.

USEC executives say the negotiations are progressing normally, andthere's no threat to the U.S. government-backed program. But Russianofficials have grown impatient and asked the Bush administration tointervene.

USEC is a former government entity that was privatized in 1998. It isthe government-appointed middleman that buys the Russian nuclear fueland sells it to U.S. utilities. The recycled fuel accounts for abouthalf the low-enriched uranium used in the nation's nuclear plants.

A five-year fixed pricing agreement between USEC and Tenex expired atthe end of last year. USEC says the fixed rate was too high. It wants a10-year agreement with a lower price that will fluctuate with theuranium market.

Gaining a lower price is key for USEC, which has seen its stock pricedrop by about half in the last four years. The company made a $41million profit in the fiscal year that ended in June, but that was downmore than 60 percent from the previous year.

USEC operates the nation's only uranium enrichment plant, in Paducah,Ky. Bush administration officials have said they want to ensure adomestic supplier of enriched uranium exists, so USEC's financialviability is important.

USEC's initial proposal to Tenex has changed little since it was offeredin May 2000, and Russian officials are growing impatient. The lack ofprogress also has Bush administration officials worried.

In a Jan. 8 letter to USEC, Undersecretary of Energy Robert Card said hefears ``if the outstanding issues in the negotiation are not resolvedexpeditiously, the United States could find itself with a nuclear powerfuel shortage.''

In an unusually tart response, USEC President and CEO William Timbersreplied that such concerns are ``unwarranted and disingenuous.''

USEC has not placed an order with the Russians for the current year.Normally, orders would have been placed in October for deliveries inMarch. USEC spokesman Charles Yulish said Friday the company has aninventory of low-enriched uranium, so U.S. power plants will not be leftwithout a supply.

Russia's minister of atomic energy, Alexander Rumyantsev, sent EnergySecretary Spencer Abraham a letter Jan. 15 recommendinggovernment-to-government negotiations. Rumyantsev complained USEC wastrying to secure an artificially low price.

``USEC's proposals aim to create a price-setting mechanism, which wouldhelp the company solve its financial difficulties at the expense of theRussian party,'' Rumyantsev wrote.

Abraham turned down the request. Meantime, the U.S. ambassador toRussia, Alexander Vershbow, sent Russia's finance minister a letterurging the Russian government ``to encourage Tenex to work to resolvethe remaining differences, which in our view do not lend themselves toresolution by governments.''

National security analysts say they are troubled by the back and forthbecause so much is at stake.

``This deal is critical to the future of international security. To seeit fail would be an enormous tragedy,'' said Bill Hoehn, a director atthe Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, a nonprofitresearch organization.

Russia gets roughly $500 million annually from the megatons-to-megawattsprogram, which has destroyed 5,600 warheads.

On the Net: Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council:http://www.216.119.87.134/new-web-site/index.html

USEC: http://www.usec.com
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5.
Russian LEU Shipments Suspended
RIA-Novosti
January 23, 2002
(for personal use only)


Shipments of low-enriched uranium from Russia to the United States havebeen temporarily suspended, a highly placed official in the RussianNuclear Power Ministry disclosed Wednesday.

He said US and Russian experts are expected to negotiate the problemlater this week. The previous contract expired on December 31, 2001. TheUnited States appears reluctant to buy further shipments of uranium onthe same conditions.

The official went on to say experts in the Clinton administration hadokayed the deal to extend the contract, but after the Bushadministration took over, the US put forward additional conditions.

The United States refused to accept low-enriched uranium sold at acommercial price as ready-made nuclear power plant fuel and asked thatthe price be cut by 15 percent. The talks in question are meant tonarrow the differences.

The Russian delegation will be led by senior Nuclear Power Ministryofficials and the executives of the government-owned corporationTechsnabexport, which has been shipping uranium to the US. Philip G.Sewell, Senior Vice President of USEC Corp., will lead the USnegotiators.
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6.
US-Russia Plutonium Utilisation Cooperation To Continue
ITAR-Tass
January 23, 2002
(for personal use only)


Talks on a new contract to deliver Russian low enriched uranium to theAmerican market are to be resumed in Moscow this week. Charles Yulish,spokesman for the U. S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC), told Itar-Tassthat taking part in them will be USEC Senior Vice-President PhilipSeawell, who is to negotiate with his Russian collegues from theMinistry of Atomic Energy and the Techsnabexport Company. The spokesmanis sure that the sides will be able to reach agreement on the furtherimplementation of the intergovernmental LEU/HEU agreement in the nextthirteen years. The previous contract, which they signed in 1996,expired on December. 31. Moscow and Washington concluded in 1993 anagreement on the use of high enriched uranium, extracted from nuclearweapons. In accordance with that agreement, drawn up for twenty yearsand estimated at twelve billion U. S. dollars, which was unofficiallydubbed "Megatonnes -- into Megawatts",

Russia has already delivered to the United States more than fourthousand tonnes of low enriched uranium, used as fuel at nuclear powerplants. They were obtained by means of processing 140 tonnes of highenriched uranium, which is enough to make more than 5,600 nuclearwarheads. According to USEC figures, as much as 2. 3 billion U. S.dollars were paid to the Russian side for this.

USEC and Techsnabexport, acting as executive agents of the twogovernments in the implementation of the agreement, had drawn upeighteen months ago the terms for a new contract, which was expected tocome into force on January 1st, 2002. However, the Bush administrationbegan to analyse the programme when it came to power, and completed thiswork only in December. It agreed to make additional purchases of Russianuranium, processed after its extraction from warheads, but turned downMoscow's idea to deliver Russian commercial nuclear fuel to the UnitedStates.

Therefore, the earlier achieved preliminary agreement had to be revised.The sides began consultations at the end of the year, but have still notagreed on the price, which, in keeping with the new contract, is to bebrought closer to that on the market. This was prompted by droppingworld prices on nuclear fuel, witnessed in the course of the past fewyears. Deliveries of Russian low enriched uranium to the United Statesare now suspended. Techsnabexport had fully fulfilled its commitmentsfor 2001, while USEC does not want to buy new lots of uranium onprevious terms.

The situation has seriously disturbed the U. S. administration, whichrealises that the 1993 agreement with Russia is of great importance fornuclear non-proliferation and national security. Deputy Secretary ofEnergy Robert Card recently addressed a letter to USEC President WilliamTimbers, urging him to promptly achieve an agreement with the Russianpartners and to resume uranium deliveries to the American market. Thecommercial terms of the deal are yet to be approved by the governmentsof the two countries, but Charles Yulish believes that not much timewill be needed to do this, because both Washington and Moscow are verymuch interested in the further implementation of "Megatonnes -- intoMegawatts" agreement.
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B. Russia-U.S.
1.
Organizing The World To Fight Terror
Igor S. Ivanov
New York Times
January 27, 2002
(for personal use only)


The year 2001 was a turning point for Russia, the United States and theworld. Not long ago everybody wondered what was in store for mankind inthe 21st century. Many expressed doubts that Russian-American relationswould retain their key role in world politics. On Sept. 11, all theseissues appeared in a completely different light. The barbaric acts ofterrorists in New York and Washington were indeed a tragedy of worldwidescale. It is no coincidence that President Vladimir Putin compared themwith the Nazi crimes of World War II.

Half a century ago Russia and the United States, despite enormouspolitical differences, combined efforts against Nazism. Now we arejoined by common democratic values, and it is even more obvious that astruggle against a world threat requires the cooperation of ourcountries and the entire world community. The defeat of the Taliban isonly the beginning of a difficult road.

After World War II, the victorious countries deliberated on creatingmechanisms of international cooperation that would prevent another suchcatastrophe. Thus was born the United Nations, which has served as auniversal mechanism ensuring world peace and security.

Today we are facing essentially the same problem. The events of Sept. 11demonstrated the extreme vulnerability of modern countries to newthreats. We lack reliable mechanisms to counter them or to prevent newacts of terror, or to keep weapons of mass destruction from falling intothe hands of terrorists.

That is why one of the most urgent tasks is the strengthening of theworld antiterrorist coalition. Only on the basis of such a coalition isit possible to create an atmosphere of total rejection of terrorists'actions and to banish then from their last nests. The present solidarityagainst terrorism provides a unique chance to begin constructing asystem of international security adequate to address 21st-centurythreats. Russian-American cooperation can play the decisive role increating such a system.

Common sense suggests that work in this direction would be betterconducted under the auspices of the United Nations and on the basis ofstrengthening international law. The Security Council and the GeneralAssembly have already adopted decisions containing the legal basis for along term struggle with terrorism.

Regional organizations can also contribute, as in the efforts to createa new quality in relations between Russia and the North Atlantic TreatyOrganization. Russia does not raise the question of joining the NorthAtlantic alliance; at the same time, we are prepared to cooperate withit in areas of shared interest. The experience of the last decade provesthat such cooperation can be effective only if it is based on theprinciples of equality. Hence the idea of creating a mechanism ofcooperation within the framework of "the 20" ... the NATO member nationsand Russia which can provide joint development and implementation ofdecisions in the fight against terrorism and in responding to othercontemporary challenges.

Bilateral relations must also play an important role in the newinternational security system. It is widely recognized, for example,that Russian-American relations have been and remain one of the mainfactors determining the state of world politics, especially on securityissues.

Over the decades, Russia and America maintained strategic stabilitybased on a series of disarmament and arms control agreements. Last yearsaw rapprochement between our two countries pick up speed after Sept.11. The commonality of interests between Russia and the United States infinding answers to new threats and challenges is at the heart of thisrapprochement. Today we are about to make a very important choice: WillMoscow and Washington seek ways to strengthen security together, or willeach country take its own path, probably at the expense of the other'ssecurity?

In this sense, the events of the past year are ambiguous. On the onehand the United States made a decision ... an erroneous one, in ouropinion ... to withdraw from the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty. At thesame time our countries started a dialogue on a probable new agreementon deep cuts in strategic offensive weapons because we are no longeradversaries. A new framework of strategic relations is to be created inthe course of these negotiations. Russia is prepared to work outfar-reaching understandings on disarmament with the United States, basedon principles of mutual trust, predictability and transparency. Thiscould become a most important positive signal for the entire worldcommunity. The nature of Russian-American relations and the attitudes ofour countries will also have a significant impact on many other problemsof the day, like settling the Middle East conflict and other regionalconflicts.

It is symbolic of new global conditions that Afghanistan, which fordecades was a stumbling block in relations between Moscow andWashington, has become an example of close cooperation of our countriesin the struggle against terrorism. Much remains to be done under theauspices of the United Nations in rendering humanitarian and economicassistance to Afghanistan. We hope that what is achieved there willserve as an example of the kind of cooperation on which the new worldorder will be built.

Vast new prospects are also opening up for Russian-American relations inspheres like economics. There are good reasons to hope that in this newyear mutual understanding between our countries will deepen. Severalimportant agreements were reached between President Putin and PresidentBush at meetings last fall. Many of these agreements are to be filledwith substantive content. In fulfilling those agreements, Russia and theUnited States will serve their own interests and will strengtheninternational security as a whole.

Igor S. Ivanov is the Russian foreign minister.
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2.
Disarmament's Glacial Pace
Los Angeles Times
January 26, 2002
(for personal use only)


The definition of "overkill" is the ability of one nation's nuclearweapons to eradicate another country's population many times over.Russia and the United States meet that definition in spades. There is noreason for both of them to move so slowly to reduce their stockpiles ofredundant nuclear weapons.

This month the Pentagon announced it will reduce the number ofoperational nuclear warheads from the current 6,000 to 3,800 over thenext five years. However, not all the warheads taken offline will bedestroyed; an unknown number will merely be put in storage. Thatrepresents an unfortunate continuity with the Clinton administration,which also stored demobilized warheads.

The primary reason for possessing nuclear weapons is retaliation.Enemies must know that an attack from conventional, biological, chemicalor nuclear arms will be met by a devastating counterattack. Proponentsof storing the weapons rather than destroying them argue that we neverknow where a threat will come from and we need more capability than allother nuclear nations in the world combined: Russia, China, France,Britain, India, Pakistan, presumably North Korea and Israel, maybe Iranand Iraq soon. That's overkill on the overkill.

The Navy's Trident submarines each carry hundreds of nuclear warheads.With enough submarines at sea, undetectable beneath the surface,retaliation can be assured. Cutting the number of land- and air-basedmissiles would not jeopardize security even when the Trident fleet iscut from 18 to 14.

Moscow officials understandably are upset that many warheads would beavailable for reuse and could be refitted onto missiles, perhaps withinweeks. The U.S. and Russia had been ready to work out an agreement onmutual reduction of nuclear warheads, which once totaled more than20,000. The number has been cut by about half under arms reductiontreaties, a major accomplishment. The planned cut in deployed U.S.nuclear weapons from the current 6,000 to between 1,700 and 2,000 in 10years also is movement in the right direction. But Moscow prefers abinding treaty rather than an informal accord on parallel reductions.

Washington would do well to listen to Russia's concerns. The UnitedStates has legitimate worries about the security of Russia's storednuclear weapons and needs help from Moscow in guarding againstterrorists or unfriendly nations buying or stealing them. Washington hasbought uranium stripped from Russian warheads and used it to fuelAmerican power plants, a good example of cooperation. Destroying excesswarheads would be a bigger asset to security than storing them.
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3.
Foreign Media Reaction: U.S. Nuclear Policy: 'Sleight Of Hand' Doesn'tEscape Foreign Notice (Excerpted)
Department of State
January 18, 2002
(for personal use only)


[...]

"U.S. Doesn't Trust Russia"

Andrey Lebedev concluded in reformist Izvestiya (1/14): "Despite itspartnership with Russia in the war on terrorism, Washington doesn'tquite trust this country.... Both U.S. reports (one by the Pentagon andone by the CIA) can only be interpreted as a clear hint that Russia isgoing to have a shaky position at the coming consultations (on armscontrol in Washington). Yet Moscow is determined to insist on'controllable and irreversible' cuts.... There is also the idea ofcompensation for storage of Russian nuclear warheads. Increasedfinancial assistance from the United States may become a sweetener, asRussia is urged to drop its 'irreversibility' demand. But in that case,Russia would be right not to hurry to use up warheads after they aretaken off the missiles either."

[...]
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C. Russia-Iran

1.
U.S. Pressures State Arms Proliferators (excerpted)
Rueters
January 24, 2002
(for personal use only)


The United States on Thursday intensified pressure on states aiding thespread of nuclear, chemical and biological arms, insisting they be heldaccountable for violating international commitments.

In a speech to the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament,Undersecretary of State John Bolton vowed Washington would use ''everymethod at our disposal'' to ensure terrorists do not acquire weapons ofmass destruction after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The conference should also make this a priority, he said.

In particular, Bolton accused Iraq and North Korea of violating theNuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and interfering with monitoring by theInternational Atomic Energy Agency.

[...]

Conspicuous by its absence was any specific reference in the speech toIran, which the United States has accused of trying to acquire nuclear,chemical and biological weapons.

The Bush administration has urged Russia to end its nuclear technologyrelationship with Iran but Bolton's speech avoided any directfinger-pointing at Moscow in this regard.

[...]
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D. Nuclear Terrorism

1.
FSB Says Moscow Is Vulnerable To Terrorist Acts
RFE/RL Security Watch
January 25, 2002
(for personal use only)


The chief of the FSB Directorate in Moscow, Viktor Zakharov, said theuse of radioactive, biological, and chemical substances in terroristacts pose a real threat to the city, Interfax reported on 17 January.According to Zakharov, Moscow harbors a number of "small terrorist cellsand individuals" that are capable of carrying out such attacks. He saidthat "youth religious-extremist organizations" are another potentialsource of danger. However, independent Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov saidthe same day on Ekho Moskvy radio that he considers Zakharov's statementa "provocation causing fear and panic." He said that if the FSB hasinformation related to planned terrorist acts it must do what it needsto do to prevent them, but should not engage in self-promotion.
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2.
Al Qaeda Documents Outline Serious Weapons Program(excerpted)
Mike Boettcher and Ingrid Arnesen
CNN.com
January 25, 2002
(for personal use only)


The al Qaeda terrorist organization was building a serious weaponsprogram with a heavy emphasis on developing a nuclear device, accordingto an exhaustive review of documents discovered in Afghanistan.

The apparent al Qaeda documents were found in a Kabul house reportedlyused by al Qaeda operatives. Afghan police took CNN to the house soonafter the Taliban withdrew from the city in November.

"I don't have any doubt that al Qaeda was pursuing nuclear, biologicaland chemical warfare capabilities. It's not our judgment at the momentthat they were that far along, but I have no doubt that they wereseeking to do so," U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton told CNN onThursday. "It underlines just how serious the threat of the use of theseweapons of mass destruction could be, and why it's such an importantpart of the global campaign against terrorism."

Investigations are continuing into the information found in al Qaedacamps in Afghanistan and in to how close the group was to gainingnuclear and biological weapons capabilities, Bolton said.

Suspected al Qaeda operatives have been arrested recently in possessionof some of the explosives mentioned in the documents. Philippineauthorities recently arrested a man they called a key al Qaedabomb-maker who was hiding 2,000 pounds of explosives.

In Singapore, members of a Malaysian terrorist group linked to al Qaedawere arrested after they sought to purchase 17 tons of ammonium nitrate-- enough to construct several truck bombs.

To help decipher the documents' contents, CNN commissioned threeanalysts to conduct an exhaustive review of the documents. The leadanalyst -- David Albright, president of the Institute for Science andInternational Security -- is an expert on nuclear weapons design andproliferation and has been a consultant to the U.N. organizationinvestigating Iraq's weapons programs.

ISIS senior analyst Corey Hinderstein and Ron Wolfe, one of the nation'stop Arabic translators with experience translating technical and weaponsdocuments, assisted Albright.

Interest in nuclear weapons

The house where CNN found the document was in an upscale neighborhood inKabul known as Wazi Akbar Khan. "Big Arabs" lived there, nearbyresidents told CNN.

The house showed signs of a hasty retreat. In the trash and junk leftbehind were documents demonstrating al Qaeda's interest in nuclearweapons, as well as assembling high explosives made from chemicals foundin household goods.

A discarded letter, dated January 12, 2001, offered a clue to theimportance of this address. It was addressed to Abu Khabbab, whocoalition intelligence sources said is Osama bin Laden's top chemicaland biological weapons commander. A 25-page document filled withinformation about nuclear weapons included a design for a nuclear weaponthat would require hard-to-obtain materials like plutonium to create anuclear explosion, something al Qaeda is not believed to possess.

But if easier-to-acquire radioactive materials are used -- likediscarded nuclear power plant fuel rods -- the design could becomesomething called a "radiological dispersal weapon." Also known as a"dirty bomb," the device would not create a nuclear explosion, butinstead would blow radioactive debris over a wide area, rendering ituninhabitable.

The documents don't reveal if al Qaeda tried to build such a weapon, butafter reviewing several hundred pages of documents, CNN's expertsbelieve al Qaeda was working on a serious nuclear program.

In December, U.S. intelligence officials told CNN that during a meetingof senior al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan within the last year, a memberof the terrorist network displayed a cylinder and said it containedradiological material that could be used in a "dirty bomb."

"And that's one of the things that has to give you pause, is that theyhave been thinking about this a long time," Albright said. "And so thequestion is, when did they start in earnest to learn how to make anuclear explosive?"

Document labeled 'Superbombs'

One document, labeled "Superbombs," appears to be a plan for nucleardevice experts said is unworkable. But the author clearly isknowledgeable of various ways to set off a nuclear bomb. For example,the document describes a little-known short cut to initiate a nuclearexplosion.

But Albright cautioned there is no indication that al Qaeda's nuclearwork has gone beyond theory. To create a nuclear weapon, Albright said adesigner must learn a whole set of manufacturing steps not mentioned inal Qaeda's manual and develop confidence in the weapon's design.

"Even a terrorist group that's going to go to the trouble of working ona nuclear weapon wants to have some certainty that it's going to explodeas a nuclear explosive and not just explode as a high explosive,"Albright said.

Al Qaeda also may have had some help in its efforts to develop a nucleardevice. Two Pakistani nuclear scientists, Bashir Ud-din Mahmood andAbdul Majeed, are suspected by U.S., Pakistani and other coalitionintelligence agencies of having provided some of their nuclear knowledgeto al Qaeda.

Mahmood and Majeed ran a charity in Kabul called Ummah Tameer-e-Nau. Inan office at Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel, CNN found a documentapparently written last May showing Mahmood agreed to a partnership withBarakat General Trading and Contracting Company, which is on the U.S.list of groups suspected of aidingterrorists.

Another document showed plans to set-up a bank with Barakat, expandanartificial-limb factory and explore the mining of minerals --including uranium -- inside Afghanistan.

U.N. weapons inspectors said Iraq used similar companies as fronts todisguise its nuclear weapons program in the mid-1990s.

The Bush administration put Ummah Tameer-e-Nau on its terrorist watchlist last month. The families of the two men continue to say they havedone nothing wrong. CNN's repeated efforts to speak with the men havebeen unsuccessful.

No charges have been filed against the two men, but the Pakistanigovernment says the investigation is not over. The government hasordered them confined to their homes; they are not allowed to speak toanyone outside their families.

[...]
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E. Russian Nuclear Industry

1.
Russia To Repay Bulgarian Debt With Military Supplies
RFE/RL Newsline
January 24, 2002
(for personal use only)


Russia will pay its $100 million debt to Bulgaria through militarysupplies, nuclear fuel supplies, and in cash, BTA reported on 23January, quoting Deputy Finance Minister Krassimir Katev. Katev, amember of the Bulgarian delegation that returned that day from a visitto Russia, told journalists that the sides agreed not to link theRussian debt to the issue of Bulgarian compensation to Moscow forformerly Soviet-owned property. He said the "diplomatic formula" agreedon stipulates that the two issues will be "settled on a parallel basis,as they lie within the competence of different ministries --respectively the foreign and the finance ministries" in the twocountries.
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F. Russian Nuclear Waste

1.
Radioactive Containers In Georgia Still Dangerous
The Times of India
January 27, 2002
(for personal use only)


Radioactive containers, whose emissions seriously injured severalvillagers in western Georgia a month ago, remain unsafe as experts havebeen unable to reach them, the Georgian ecology ministry has admitted.

The ministry's experts have not been able to get close to the radiationsources because of deep snow, and though the local authorities arepaving a road to the location, the work has stalled due to lack offunds.

Three local farmworkers were hospitalized after they discovered thecontainers in a forest in the Tselenzhikhi region and decided to carrythem home and use them for the heat they were emitting.

One of the victims was released from hospital earlier this week. hiscompanions remain in stable conditions, officials said Saturday, addingthat over 700 locals had been examined by doctors after the incident.

The small cases apparently contained strontium-90, experts said. Theirorigin remains a mystery.

Authorities have assured residents that the containers, lying deep inthe forest some 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the nearest populationcentre, pose no danger beyond a radius of 500 meters.
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G. Announcements

1.
Burma -- Nuclear Research Project With Russia
U.S. Department Of State
Office of the Spokesman
January 23, 2002
(for personal use only)


Following is the text of a question taken at the January 23 regularState Department briefing on a nuclear research project Burma isundertaking with Russian assistance. An answer was posted later in theday.

For Immediate ReleaseJanuary 23, 2002

Question: How does the U.S. feel about Burma embarking on a nuclearresearch project with the help of Russia? Are there structural safetyand security concerns? Are there weapons proliferation concerns?

Answer: As a party to the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) since 1992,Burma is of course entitled to share in the benefits of peaceful nuclearcooperation. But, we would like to know more about the nature of thereactor, the anticipated purpose of the reactor, and the safeguards thatwould be applied to it.

Burma has also accepted International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)safeguards on the totality of its nuclear projects (that is,"full-scope" safeguards), which would include this research reactor.Russian Nuclear Suppliers Group obligations would allow it to supplythis reactor only under those conditions.

We expect the government of Burma to live up to its obligations and tonot produce unsafeguarded fissile material.

Safety and security are of paramount importance at any nuclear reactor.Post 9/11 it makes sense for all countries to take extra precautions toensure the security of sensitive materials and facilities. We wouldexpect Russia and Burma to ensure international safety standards aremet.
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DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only.Views presented in any given article are those of the individual authoror source and not of RANSAC. RANSAC takes no responsibility for thetechnical accuracy of information contained in any article presented inNuclear News.



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