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Nuclear News - 03/04/02
RANSAC Nuclear News, March 4, 2002
Compiled by David Smigielski


A. U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement
    1. Russian Minister Says US Nuclear Deal Satisfactory, Interfax (02/28/02)
    2. USEC, Russia Reach Agreement, The Paducah Sun (02/27/02)
B. Plutonium Disposition
    1. Russians Back Plutonium-To-MOX Plan, James T. Hammond, Greenville News (02/03/02)
C. Russia-U.S.
    1. Equal Security Is Russia's Main Principle In Negotiations With U.S. On Strategic Arms Reduction - General Baluyevsky, Interfax (03/01/01)
    2. Political Twins On The World Stage, Lilia Shevtsova, The Moscow Times (02/28/02)
D. Russia-Iran
    1. Russian Official Denies Abandoning Iran's Nuclear Project, Interfax (03/04/02)
    2. Russia And Iran Fall Out Over Nuclear Power Station, Ekho Moskvy via BBC Monitoring Service (03/04/02)
    3. Nuclear Cooperation Not Linked To Cancelled Moscow Visit, RFE/RL Iran Report (03/04/02)
    4. Russia Said To Honour Its Commitments In Building Iran Nuclear Plant, RIA News Agency (02/26/02)
E. Nuclear Terrorism
    1. Fears Prompt U.S. To Beef Up Nuclear Terror Detection, Barton Gellman, Washington Post (03/02/01)
    2. Russia Rejects US Allegations Of Theft Of Nuclear Materials, Interfax (02/28/02)
F. Russian Nuclear Industry
    1. Russia Offers To Export Nuclear Plant Technology To Romania, Rompres (Bucharest) (02/28/02)
G. Russian Nuclear Waste
    1. Decommissioned Subs Pose Risk Of An Accident: Report, The Associated Press (03/04/02)
H. Russian Nuclear Safety
    1. Russian Institute To Remove Radioactive Waste After Reports Of Iodine Leak, Komsomolskaya Pravda (02/27/02)
    2. Russia: Accident Exercise Carried Out At Smolensk Nuclear Power Plant, Kommersant (02/27/02)
I. Announcements
    1. Transcript Of Russian Minister Of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov's Interview To Russian Media, Rome (Excerpted), Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (03/01/02)
    2. Alexander Yakovenko, The Official Spokesman Of Russia's Ministry Of Foreign Affairs, Answers Questions Regarding A Russian-American Treaty On The Reduction Of Strategic Offensive Arms, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (02/27/02)
    3. Joint Russian-Canadian Statement On Cooperation In The Field Of Peaceful Use Of Nuclear Energy, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (02/27/02)
J. Links of Interest
    1. Nuclear Weapons Proliferation, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (02/25/02)
    2. Press Conference With Nikolai Zlobin And Ivan Safranchuk Center For Defense Information Officials, Regarding Russian-American Relations, Center for Defense Information (02/13/02)
    3. Defusing Nuclear Terror, Jeffrey T. Richelson, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
    4. U.S. Nuclear Posture And Alert Status Post Sept. 11, Center for Defense Information

A. U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement


1.
Russian Minister Says US Nuclear Deal Satisfactory
Interfax
February 28, 2002
(for personal use only)


Russia's interests were not diminished when the terms of the HEU-LEU deal for 2002 in which Russia supplies downgraded highly-enriched uranium (HEU) from dismantled warheads to the United States were agreed, Aleksandr Rumyantsev, the Russian atomic energy minister, told Interfax.

Foreign media reports say that during talks, Russia and the US agreed to reduce the price at which Russia sells the uranium by 15-20 dollars from its current level of 90 dollars per separative work unit (SWU).

Rumyantsev did not say what the new price would be. "This is a commercial secret, however I can say that our interests have not suffered," he added.

The price negotiations took two-and-a-half months, long enough for the Russian delegates to stand up for their country's interests, he continued.

Under the 20-year HEU-LEU deal, Russia must dilute 500 tonnes of highly-enriched weapons-grade uranium (HEU) extracted from about 20,000 warheads into commercial low-enriched uranium (LEU) used as fuel for power plants.

According to the Atomic Energy Ministry, Russia has supplied the US with 4,200 metric tonnes of LEU, equivalent to 141.4 tonnes of HEU, as of January 2002.
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2.
USEC, Russia Reach Agreement
The Paducah Sun
February 27, 2002
(for personal use only)


USEC Inc. issued a brief statement Tuesday confirming a new contract with Russia for cheaper units of enriched uranium derived from dismantled Soviet nuclear warheads.

The statement said shipments will start in March, as scheduled. USEC said it will provide details as soon as the contract is approved by U.S. and Russian officials. "It's inappropriate for us to discuss the terms of the agreement until both governments have approved it," said USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle.

Various Washington sources, including energy workers' union officials, said Friday that USEC and Russian counterpart TENEX had signed the deal in Moscow, pending governmental approval.

USEC says it needs cheaper prices for the Russian material to help offset higher-priced enriched uranium produced by the 1,500-employee Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

The Russian contract is expected to be part of an agreement between USEC and the Department of Energy to keep the plant operational for several years. But union officials fear that if too much Russian material is imported, it will displace plant production and lead to shutdown.
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B. Plutonium Disposition


1.
Russians Back Plutonium-To-MOX Plan
James T. Hammond
Greenville News
March 3, 2002
(for personal use only)


Converting nuclear bomb cores to commercial nuclear reactor fuel remains the only sure way to win Russian cooperation to also dispose of weapons material, the chief of the U.S. plutonium disposition program said.

Meanwhile, the removal of the spent plutonium fuel from reactors in the Carolinas depends on Congress, Energy Department spokesman Joe Davis said.

"It's going to come down to whether Congress wants the experts at NRC to consider whether Yucca Mountain should be built. They'll have a chance to do that later this year.

"There are 131 sites around the country that contain high-level nuclear waste. Congress will decide whether to move spent nuclear fuel away from waterways and metropolitan cities to an arid, desolate location like Yucca Mountain, or to leave it where it is," Davis said.

Ed Siskin, the Energy Department executive working out the details of rendering the bomb cores safe for permanent storage, said senior Russian officials reaffirmed their commitment to a bilateral nonproliferation program last week.

In a report to Congress dated Feb. 15, the National Nuclear Security Administration invoked the U.S. commitment to the treaty with Russia as a primary reason for choosing a $3.84 billion, 18-year program to turn the pure plutonium at the heart of a nuclear bomb into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel.

The Bush administration calls for the MOX fuel to be used in six privately owned electric-power generating reactors. Four of the reactors, two in York County and two near Charlotte, have been committed to the program by Duke Energy Co. The fifth and sixth reactors have not yet been identified, Davis said.

In choosing a MOX-only option, the Bush administration rejected a parallel method of plutonium disposal, called immobilization, that is both cheaper than MOX and preferred by some nonproliferation groups.

"As long we're willing to get rid of our material by MOX, they are willing to get rid of the material, too. We are more concerned with the Russian material's safety than we are concerned with our own. Our plutonium is well protected. The same is not true for the Russians. We want to get that material disposed of once and for all so it can't fall into the hands of undesirable people," Siskin said.

He said the Russians don't like immobilization because they believe a nation like the United States can easily extract that plutonium in the future.

Critics remain concerned that the Russians will not live up to the treaty. Tom Clements, spokesman for the nonproliferation group the Nuclear Control Institute, said it still is not clear that cash-poor Russia will be able to dispose of the 34 tons of plutonium specified under the treaty.

But the NCI also has other concerns about the MOX program, which calls for two plants to be built at South Carolina's Savannah River Site near Aiken, and annual federal spending on the program of between $118 million and $874 million through 2020.

Fabrication of plutonium into MOX fuel is to begin in 2008.

In a letter to South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges, Clements urged the governor to insist that federal officials conduct a supplemental environmental impact study before the MOX program goes forward.

Clements said the report raises new questions about the amount and composition of waste generated by the MOX plants; plans for a waste solidification plant at SRS that has not previously been considered; and an accelerated schedule for using MOX in commercial reactors.

Clements said the changes don't meet current legal requirements and "indicate that DOE plans to push ahead with a flawed program without clarifying the numerous questions and troubling inconsistencies that surround the program."

Siskin said the Energy Department will do what is required by U.S. environmental laws.

"We have a formal evaluation under way right now. We will ensure that whatever changes or additional work that is required will be done," Siskin said.

None of the 34 tons of plutonium to be converted into MOX fuel is now at the Savannah River Site. According to the report to Congress, the material would be shipped there from the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Hanford Site in Washington.

"At the same time, disposition is very important to the State of Colorado because it enables shipment of surplus plutonium from the Denver metropolitan area (site of the Rocky Flats plant) to the Savannah River Site and the subsequent closure of Rocky Flats by 2006," the report states.

Cleaning up Rocky Flats is important to the Bush administration politically, because it would be the first final closure and cleanup of a former nuclear weapons facility.

The pressure to finish the Rocky Flats cleanup caused alarm among South Carolina leaders, who feared the material would be moved here and stranded without adequate commitment from the federal government to eventually remove the plutonium to a permanent repository in another state.

After Hodges threatened to use Highway Patrol troopers to block shipments of plutonium into South Carolina, Congress passed a law requiring the Energy Department to consult with South Carolina leaders and to submit the Feb. 15 report on plans for plutonium disposition.

Bush administration officials have moved from a confrontational stance of negotiating with Republican leaders from South Carolina instead of the governor to a conciliatory meeting last week between Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Hodges.

Davis said Abraham is committed to "getting this agreement done quickly. We are going to provide the level of detail that makes the governor comfortable. We are going to do what the governor wants. We are not going to do anything to slow down the process."

"MOX is important because it reduces the amount of plutonium so that we will have less plutonium stored at a plant in North Carolina, at a Duke Power plant, than when you put it into the reactor," Davis said.

He said the final home of the plutonium and other spent nuclear fuel will depend upon whether Congress allows Yucca Mountain to be considered as the permanent national repository for the high-level nuclear waste.

The current timetable to open Yucca Mountain is 2010, about the same timetable for the final conversion of the weapons-grade plutonium to be converted to MOX fuel and used in the Duke Energy commercial reactors.

"In order to meet our goals and to ensure that the Russians cooperate in the program, we had to move with a program that was faster, cheaper and something that is agreeable to the Russians. Proliferation of nuclear materials is very, very serious. We believe any reasonable person in South Carolina would understand that getting rid of weapons-grade plutonium here and in Russia meets our nonproliferation goals," Davis said.
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C. Russia-U.S.

1.
Equal Security Is Russia's Main Principle In Negotiations With U.S. On Strategic Arms Reduction - General Baluyevsky
Interfax
March 1, 2002
(for personal use only)


First deputy head of the Russian General Staff Colonel General Yury Baluyevsky said that Russia cannot give up its main "principle of equal security" during negotiations with the U.S.

"Our position is basically unchanging. One of the principles at these negotiations is that of equal security of the sides. We will not agree to less," he told a Friday briefing in Moscow.

"Russia and the U.S. cannot solve the security problems of their states by working without each other or against each other," Baluyevsky said. "The world should see new qualities of relations between our two countries, in spite of the existing differences," the general said.

Baluyevsky, who heads the group of Russian military experts at negotiations with the U.S. on the reduction of strategic offensive arms, said it is necessary to look for compromises that will make it possible to eliminate existing disagreements between Russia and the U.S.

"The U.S. preserve both the warheads and the carriers. We military men do not see the movement towards a radical reduction of strategic offensive arms that was earlier stated by the U.S.," he said.

In this connection, Baluyevsky pointed to "the new concept" of operationally deployed warheads, which U.S. experts introduced at the talks [operationally deployed warheads are nuclear warheads the U.S. says will be mounted directly on carriers].

Baluyevsky said the modern Russian S-400 Triumf air defense system "cannot be a counterbalance to the anti-missile defense the U.S. intends to develop." "The S-400 is a system aimed at deflecting aeroballistic and ballistic targets in a theater of war," Baluyevsky said.

He said that in February 2000, Russia asked the U.S. and other NATO countries "to discuss issues relating to cooperation in theater ballistic missile defense [nonategic ballistic missile defense]." "However, until now, they have not given it the attention for which we hoped," Baluyevsky said.
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2.
Political Twins On The World Stage
Lilia Shevtsova
The Moscow Times
February 28, 2002
(for personal use only)


Try to solve this puzzle: Two world leaders that are behaving like political twins. Both have chosen security and order as their priorities and have used war to consolidate society. Both prefer to avoid coalition-building and are fascinated by military might. Neither thought much about the highest office in the country beforehand and both were amazed to find themselves ascending to it. Both were brought to power with a helping hand from the family -- in one case biological, in the other political. Finally, both are exploiting the threat of terrorism to resolve their respective country's problems and cement a new world order; while one talks of "the axis of evil," the other warns about "the arc of instability."

You've guessed it: Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin. They are very different and preside over very different countries, but paradoxically they are also very much alike. Their similarities, however, provoke mixed feelings. It cannot fail to cause concern that the president of a country that is seen as a model of democracy is acting the same way as the leader of a country considered to be an elected monarchy with imperial pretensions. Bush's conviction that he knows how to solve other countries' problems looks very Soviet.

It should be a shock to Bush that Russian statists hold him up as an example to be emulated and complain that Putin is too soft a leader and may repeat the fate of Mikhail Gorbachev. Most worrying, however, is the fact that both leaders seem to believe that a new world order can be created on the basis of a "new" common enemy.

It may seem paradoxical, but of the two leaders, Putin may have more incentive to develop a pattern of leadership more appropriate to tackling the challenges of the 21st century. For, if Putin doesn't want to preside over stagnation, the only way forward is to try to change the rules of the game.

Unfortunately, the Russian president has failed to capitalize on the opportunity created by joining the international coalition against terrorism. He has been bogged down with handling irritants such as the ABM Treaty, and instead of developing a new vision of his country's national interests he has been caught up in discussing relations with NATO -- an organization that may be out of picture sooner than we think.

Now Bush has unwittingly offered Putin a new chance to demonstrate innovative leadership. By announcing his doctrine of unilateralist overdrive, Bush has provoked dismay not only in Russia but also in the rest of the world. Now is a golden opportunity to propose an alternative to the Pax Americana. Russia could do this together with those European countries that have become increasingly critical of the United States. Bush has done a great deed by stirring things up in the swamp of international relations and forcing the world to react. If Putin, French President Jacques Chirac and other concerned world leaders now limit themselves to expressing resentment, then they deserve nothing more than to live in a world structured by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and company, and they should stop complaining.

The world desperately needs a new way of thinking about foreign policy that addresses the core issues facing the global system. A key element of that system is the U.S. — Russian relationship. In order to strengthen European security, reform the UN and its Security Council, combat terrorism, prevent nuclear proliferation, stabilize the world economy, handle energy and environmental problems -- Russia cannot be ignored. However, in order to tackle these issues both leaders need to move beyond the traditional agenda of nukes, NATO, Jackson-Vanik etc. They need to stop thinking exclusively about contentious issues, and look also at areas where both can demonstrate that they have something new to offer the world.

Among such areas is military and economic cooperation in Central Asia. When Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that the U.S. presence in Central Asia "is a positive factor for Russia," he signaled that Russia is taking the unprecedented step of acknowledging that in this part of the world, the United States is solving security problems that Russia is unable to handle alone.

Another area is Russia's role in diversifying the sources of energy products available to the United States and the West. Recent tension between the United States and Saudi Arabia has underscored the importance of having a major backup energy supplier.

Sooner or later, Russia will have to recognize the necessity of cooperating with the United States and Europe in the Caucasus, not only in resolving the conflicts in Nagorny Karabakh and Abkhazia, but also in finding a solution for Chechnya. One more area of cooperation where the United States could play the role of broker is in helping Russia and Japan break their stalemate over the Kuril Islands and open new opportunities for Western investments into the Far East and Siberia.

The litmus test for a new, upgraded U.S.-Russian relationship will be Putin's ability to play a constructive role on Iraq. He has to walk a tightrope: He must prove that Russia is capable of influencing Saddam Hussein but at the same time ready to join a U.S.-led campaign against Iraq, if one is launched. Putin should recall the humiliation that befell the Kremlin during the Kosovo crisis, when Moscow tried to save Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, even after the Yugoslav people had had enough of him.

Its behavior after Sept. 11 demonstrates that for the first time, Russia is playing the role of junior partner to another superpower. Washington has to show sufficient sensitivity and offer Russia a dignified framework for this role. This framework, however, will be effective only if it is based not on the "basis of mutual security interests" as Putin recently suggested, but on the basis of mutual values.

Do Bush and Putin have the imagination and courage necessary to make a breakthrough in the U.S. Russian relationship -- a relationship that could become the nucleus of a new approach to international relations in general? They have an opportunity to give it a shot at least.

As the May summit approaches, however, we are witnessing the same old game. Both countries continue counting warheads -- an exercise that is taking up all their time and energy and will only leave both sides increasingly suspicious of each other. Moreover, the United States is concerned about demonstrating its hegemony and worries about cuddling up to Russia too much, while Russia is desperate to be treated as a great power, at least symbolically. It is hard to get over the impression of deja vu. If the U.S. and Russian presidents fail to make a breakthrough this time, nothing apocalyptic will happen. The world will simply continue on much the same as it did in the last century, while Bush and Putin will continue to look like political twins -- although of very different sizes. However, this resemblance will most probably be the source of increasing concern.

Lilia Shevtsova, senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, contributed this comment to The Moscow Times. Most recently, she is co-editor with Professor Archie Brown of "Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin: Political Leadership in Russia's Transition."
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D. Russia-Iran


1.
Russian Official Denies Abandoning Iran's Nuclear Project
Interfax
March 4, 2002
(for personal use only)


Russia does not have differences with Iran in financing the construction of a nuclear power plant in Bushehr [NPP], Russian Deputy Minister of Atomic Energy Yevgeniy Reshetnikov has told Interfax.

"Russia does not have any problems with the financing of works at the Bushehr NPP. Iran has allocated funds for the construction of the power plant on time," he said referring to press reports that claimed the opposite.

The deputy minister denied that Russian engineers were leaving Iran. "There is no such problem," he said.

The construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant is continuing. "The work will be done on time," Reshetnikov said. Russian specialists are planning to launch the first unit of the Bushehr plant by the end of 2003.

The specialists are acting under a Russian-Iranian contract on the construction of one unit of the NPP. The contract's cost exceeds 800m dollars.

Russia and Iran have agreed that Russia will supply fuel for the Bushehr NPP. The Russian Atomic Energy Ministry will train Iranian atomic energy specialists in Russia.

The Atomic Energy Ministry has supplied a feasibility study of a new VVER-1000 unit to Iran. Iran will choose the construction site by itself.
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2.
Russia And Iran Fall Out Over Nuclear Power Station
Ekho Moskvy via BBC Monitoring Service
March 4, 2002
(for personal use only)


Serious differences have arisen between Russia and Iran regarding the financing of the construction of the atomic reactor at Bushehr [Iranian nuclear power station]. The [Russian] Mignews internet agency quotes Russian diplomatic sources as saying that Iran is not meeting it commitments regarding payment for work completed.

At the present time, Tehran's debt with regard to this project has already meant that many Russian engineers have left Iranian territory.
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3.
Nuclear Cooperation Not Linked To Cancelled Moscow Visit
RFE/RL Iran Report
March 4, 2002
(for personal use only)


Less than a week after Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi canceled a trip to Moscow, an Iranian newspaper reported that Russian nuclear specialists were leaving Iran. Tehran was quick to scotch rumors of disrupted nuclear projects, and there are three possible reasons for the cancellation of Kharrazi's visit.

"Bonyan" newspaper on 25 February reported that Russian specialists at the Bushehr nuclear facility are returning to their motherland. The Iranian newspaper cited a Paris weekly that claimed Moscow has decided to restrict the transfer of nuclear technology to Iran. Bushehr parliamentary representative Mohammad Dadfar told "Bonyan" that it is "clear that the Russians do not have one policy" on the project, and the number of personnel varies. The next day, Dadfar was cited by the "Noruz" daily as saying that he does not know about the departure of Russian specialists. And Bushehr representative Hamideh Idalat said, "It is not true that Russian experts are leaving Iran after pressure was exerted by America." She explained that the Russians' departure is part of a planned transfer of operations to Iranian personnel. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi reacted to the "Bonyan" report by saying that there has been no change in Tehran-Moscow nuclear cooperation, IRNA reported on 26 February. Russian Ambassador to Tehran Aleksandr Maryonov said Moscow-Tehran nuclear cooperation is "developing successfully and has good prospects." He added: "A preliminary date has been set for launching of the first unit of the nuclear power plant -- December 2003," RIA-Novosti reported on 26 February.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi was scheduled to visit Moscow just one week earlier, but the trip was canceled abruptly. This could have been because U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton was scheduled to be in Moscow at the same time, and the issue of Russian military and nuclear cooperation with Iran is a major concern for Washington. Bolton said, "this is a matter of fundamental importance in the shaping of Russian policy to be consistent with that of the other major powers that have access to nuclear and ballistic missile technology to prevent its spread to countries like Iran," "The Washington Post" reported on 20 February. Moscow and Washington are negotiating a new arms control agreement. Moscow's "Kommersant" on 20 February reported that the visit was canceled at Washington's insistence.

Cancellation of the visit also could have been linked to the sudden demotion of Ilya Klebanov, Russian deputy prime minister for arms sales and atomic energy, to minister of industry, science, and technology. The Iranian Foreign Ministry's Press and Information Office announced that "the foreign minister's trip to Moscow has been postponed because of a lack of coordination in his timetable of meetings in Moscow," according to IRNA on 19 February. Yet there is a third possible reason, discussed in the 21 February "Entekhab." It said that Kharrazi was to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss regional issues. Moscow intends to use a Kharrazi visit as a bargaining chip in discussions with Washington.
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4.
Russia Said To Honour Its Commitments In Building Iran Nuclear Plant
RIA News Agency
February 26, 2002
(for personal use only)


Cooperation between Russia and Iran "in using nuclear energy for civilian purposes is developing successfully and has good prospects", Russian ambassador to Tehran Aleksandr Maryanov told RIA-Novosti on Tuesday [26 February].

He said that Russia is not going to abandon its commitments in the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant and "will be implementing in full all accords reached in connection with this project no matter what the prospects for expanding Russian-Iranian cooperation in the sphere of nuclear energy might be..."

Thanks to efforts of Russian and Iranian experts in integration of equipment and building structures of the plant's first unit, the existing difficulties in activating the project have been largely overcome, Maryanov said.

"A preliminary date has been set for launching the first unit of the nuclear power plant - December 2003," the ambassador said.

He said, in particular, that two consignments of large-size equipment have already been delivered to Bushehr and a technical-economic report on building the plant's second unit has been handed over to the Iranian side for consideration.
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E. Nuclear Terrorism

1.
Fears Prompt U.S. To Beef Up Nuclear Terror Detection
Barton Gellman
Washington Post
March 3, 2002
(for personal use only)


Alarmed by growing hints of al Qaeda's progress toward obtaining a nuclear or radiological weapon, the Bush administration has deployed hundreds of sophisticated sensors since November to U.S. borders, overseas facilities and choke points around Washington. It has placed the Delta Force, the nation's elite commando unit, on a new standby alert to seize control of nuclear materials that the sensors may detect.

Ordinary Geiger counters, worn on belt clips and resembling pagers, have been in use by the U.S. Customs Service for years. The newer devices are called gamma ray and neutron flux detectors. Until now they were carried only by mobile Nuclear Emergency Search Teams (NEST) dispatched when extortionists claimed to have radioactive materials. Because terrorists would give no such warning, and because NEST scientists are unequipped for combat, the Delta Force has been assigned the mission of killing or disabling anyone with a suspected nuclear device and turning it over to the scientists to be disarmed.

The new radiation sensors are emplaced in layers around some fixed points and temporarily at designated "national security special events" such as last month's Olympic Games in Utah. Allied countries, including Saudi Arabia, have also rushed new detectors to their borders after American intelligence warnings. To address the technological limits of even the best current sensors, the Bush administration has ordered a crash program to build next-generation devices at the three national nuclear laboratories..

These steps join several other signs, described in recent interviews with U.S. government policymakers, that the Bush administration's nuclear anxieties have intensified since American-backed forces routed Osama bin Laden's network and its Taliban backers in Afghanistan.

"Clearly . . . the sense of urgency has gone up," said a senior government policymaker on nuclear, biological and chemical terror. Another high-ranking official said, "The more you gather information, the more our concerns increased about al Qaeda's focus on weapons of mass destruction of all kinds."

In "tabletop exercises" conducted as high as Cabinet level, President Bush's national security team has highlighted difficult choices the chief executive would face if the new sensors picked up a radiation signature on a boat steaming up the Potomac River or a truck heading for the capital on Interstate 95.

Participants in those exercises said the gaps in their knowledge are considerable. But the intelligence community, they said, believes that al Qaeda could already control a stolen Soviet-era tactical nuclear warhead or enough weapons-grade material to fashion a functioning, if less efficient, atomic bomb.

Even before more recent discoveries, some analysts regarded that prospect as substantial. Some expressed that view when the intelligence community devoted a full-day retreat to the subject early last year in Chantilly, Va., according to someone with firsthand knowledge.

A majority of those present assessed the likelihood as negligible, but none of the more than 50 participants ruled it out.

The consensus government view is now that al Qaeda probably has acquired the lower-level radionuclides strontium 90 and cesium 137, many thefts of which have been documented in recent years. These materials cannot produce a nuclear detonation, but they are radioactive contaminants. Conventional explosives could scatter them in what is known as a radiological dispersion device, colloquially called a "dirty bomb."

The number of deaths that might result is hard to predict but probably would be modest. One senior government specialist said "its impact as a weapon of psychological terror" would be far greater.

These heightened U.S. government fears explain Bush's activation, the first since the dawn of the nuclear age, of contingency plans to maintain a cadre of senior federal managers in underground bunkers away from Washington. The Washington Post described the features of the classified "Continuity of Operations Plan" on Friday.

Bush's emphasis on nuclear terrorism dates from a briefing in the Situation Room during the last week of October.

According to knowledgeable sources, Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet walked the president through an accumulation of fresh evidence about al Qaeda's nuclear ambition. Described by one consumer of intelligence as "an incomplete mosaic" of fact, inference and potentially false leads, Tenet's briefing raised fears that "sent the president through the roof." With considerable emotion, two officials said, Bush ordered his national security team to give nuclear terrorism priority over every other threat to the United States.

Tenet told Bush that Pakistan's nuclear weapons program was more deeply compromised than either government has acknowledged publicly. Pakistan arrested two former nuclear scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majid, on Oct. 23, and interrogated them about contacts with bin Laden and his lieutenants.

Pakistani officials maintain that the scientists did not pass important secrets to al Qaeda, but they have not disclosed that Mahmood failed multiple polygraph examinations about his activities.

Most disturbing to U.S. intelligence was another leak from Pakistan's program that has not been mentioned in public. According to American sources, a third Pakistani nuclear scientist tried to negotiate the sale of an atomic weapon design to Libya. The Post was unable to learn which Pakistani blueprint was involved, whether the transaction was completed, or what became of the scientist after discovery. Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is believed to include bombs of relatively simple design, built around cores of highly enriched uranium, and more sophisticated weapons employing Chinese implosion technology to compress plutonium to a critical mass.

At the October briefing, Bush learned of a remark by a senior member of al Qaeda's operational command. The operative had been an accurate, though imprecise, harbinger of al Qaeda plans in the past.

After U.S. bombing began in Afghanistan, an American official said, the same man was reliably reported to have said "there will be another attack and it's going to be much bigger" than the one that toppled the World Trade Center and destroyed a wing of the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

"What the hell did that mean?" the official said, recalling the stunned reaction of those briefed on the remark. Other reports reaching Washington described al Qaeda references to obtaining, or having obtained, special weapons. "The benign explanation is bucking up the troops" with false bravado, the official said, but the Bush administration took the report "extremely seriously."

Searches of al Qaeda sites in Afghanistan, undertaken since American-backed forces took control there, are not known to have turned up a significant cache of nuclear materials.

The New York Times reported that U.S. personnel in Afghanistan sent three suspected samples to American labs for analysis but found no significant radioactive source.

There is evidence that some of al Qaeda's nuclear efforts over the years met with swindles and false leads. In one case, officials said, the organization was taken in by scam artists selling "red mercury," a phony substance they described as a precursor, or ingredient, of weapons-grade materials.

If al Qaeda has a weapon or its components, U.S. officials said, its whereabouts would be the organization's most closely guarded secret. Addressing the failure of American searchers to find such materials in abandoned Afghan camps, one policymaker noted that "we haven't found most of the al Qaeda leadership either, and we know that exists."

The likeliest source of nuclear materials, or of a warhead bought whole, is the vast complex of weapons labs and storage sites that began to crumble with the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. Russia has decommissioned some 10,000 tactical nuclear weapons since then, but it has been able to document only a fraction of the inventory.

The National Intelligence Council, an umbrella organization for the U.S. analytical community, reported to Congress last month that there are at least four occasions between 1992 and 1999 when "weapons grade and weapons-usable nuclear materials have been stolen from some Russian institutes."

Of those thefts, the report said, "We assess that undetected smuggling has occurred, although we do not know the extent or magnitude."

Victor Yerastov, chief of nuclear accounting and control for Russia's ministry of atomic energy, has said that in 1998 a theft in Chelyabinsk Oblast made off with "quite sufficient material to produce an atomic bomb."

An American official, commenting on that theft, said that "given the known and suspected capabilities of the Russian mafia, it's perfectly plausible that al Qaeda would have access to such materials." The official added, "They could get it from anybody they could bribe."

Col. Gen. Igor Valynkin, chief of the Russian organization responsible for safeguarding nuclear weapons, said on Oct. 27 that any claim Russia has lost an intact warhead is "barking mad."

The U.S. government is not accepting that assurance at face value. "We don't know with any confidence what has gone missing, and neither do they," said one American official.

Thefts of less threatening nuclear byproducts, especially isotopes of strontium, cesium and partially enriched uranium, have been reported more frequently. In November 1995, Chechen rebels placed a functioning "dirty bomb" using dynamite and cesium 137 in Moscow's Izmailovo park. They did not detonate it. Al Qaeda is closely aligned with the Chechens.

There are limits, "governed by the laws of physics," as one official put it, to American technology for detecting these materials. In broad terms they have to do with sensing radioactivity at a distance and through shielding, and with the balance between false positives and false negatives. There are classified Energy Department documents that catalogue what one of them called "shortcomings in the ability of NEST equipment to locate the target materials which if known by adversaries could be used to defeat the search equipment and/or procedures." The Post has agreed to publish no further details.

A division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, known as NIS-6, is leading efforts to build an improved generation of sensors. Some will use neutron generators to "interrogate" a suspected object, and others are planned for long-range detection of alpha particles.

A measure of the government's grave concern is the time devoted by top national security officials to developing options for a crisis involving nuclear terrorism.

One hypothetical scenario, participants said, began with a sensor detecting what appeared to be the radiation signature of a nuclear weapon amid a large volume of traffic on a highway such as I-95.

According to two participants, the group considered how the Energy Department's NEST teams, working with Delta Force, might find and take control of the weapon without giving a terrorist time to use it.

Roadblocks and car-by-car searches, for example, would create chaos, require hours, and give ample warning to those hiding the device. But without roadblocks the searchers might fail to isolate the weapon within a radius defined by the limits of sensor technology. If commandos found the device, they could expect to encounter resistance. Would the president delegate to on-scene commanders a decision that might result in nuclear detonation? Which officials, meanwhile, should be evacuated? Would government inform the public of the threat, a step that would wreak panic without precedent in any country and complicate the job of finding the weapon?

"Evacuation is one of those issues you throw your hands up and say, 'It's too hard,' " said one participant in a tabletop exercise. "Nobody wants to make that decision, certainly not in advance."
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2.
Russia Rejects US Allegations Of Theft Of Nuclear Materials
Interfax
February 28, 2002
(for personal use only)


Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev has categorically denied reports of the theft of a significant amount of nuclear fissile materials in Russia in a Thursday [28 February] interview with Interfax.

Reports said the claims about the theft of fissile materials in the Russian nuclear industry were made in a CIA report to the US Congress.

The document quoted a Russian official as saying that in 1998 "a significant amount of fissile materials was stolen, which is sufficient for making a nuclear bomb" in Russia.

According to the CIA, there were also unreported cases of theft and smuggling, though the scale of such offences was not known.

"Fissile materials have not disappeared," Rumyantsev told Interfax.

"We do not confirm such reports," he said.
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F. Russian Nuclear Industry


1.
Russia Offers To Export Nuclear Plant Technology To Romania
Rompres (Bucharest)
February 28, 2002
(for personal use only)


The prospects for the construction of a new unit on Russian technology at Romania's nuclear plant at Cernavoda were sketched out in Moscow during a visit by Romania's Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 21 February.

Head of International Cooperation Department of Romania's Nuclearelectrica Teodor Chirica says that the VVER-1000 technology to be contributed by Russian experts is accepted in the world because is coated for protection and built on US and German supervision and automation systems. "The Russians have just concluded contracts for the export of four similar reactors, two each to China and India," Chirica told daily Ziarul Financiar on Thursday [28 February].

Romania has built the first reactor at the Cernavoda N-plant on Canadian technology, having opted for a CANDU type of reactor instead of Russia's VVER-4000. The second reactor, which is to be commissioned in 2005, is also built on CANDU technology and estimated to cost 700m dollars to complete.

According to Russian specialists, the VVER-1000 type of reactor would cost some 800m dollars to commission, while Western technology, equipment, and services would cost Romania more than 1bn dollars.

Given the stake at play, namely electricity exports, other countries have also voiced interest in contributing to the finalization of works on reactor III and IV at Cernavoda. One of these countries is Turkey, a net importer of energy. On a recent visit to Turkey, Romania's Prime Minister Adrian Nastase presented his Turkish counterpart Bulent Ecevit the advantages of investments in the plant at Cernavoda, which include a generation price of 12 dollars/MWh.

The price for the energy generated at Cernavoda is some 6 dollars higher than the cheapest energy generated by the water power plants, yet some 20 dollars lower than the energy generated by the thermal plants.
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G. Russian Nuclear Waste

1.
Decommissioned Subs Pose Risk Of An Accident: Report
The Associated Press
March 4, 2002
(for personal use only)


More than half of the Pacific Fleet's 75 decommissioned nuclear submarines are stranded in harbors waiting for nuclear fuel to be unloaded from their reactors, raising the risk of a nuclear accident, a lawmaker said in an interview published Friday.

"The Russian Far East and bordering states are under threat of a nuclear catastrophe every minute," State Duma Deputy Boris Reznik was quoted as saying in a front-page interview in the Izvestia daily. "But the military doesn't let in the inspectors under the guise of military secrecy."

According to Reznik, who said he did his own research, the greatest source of danger is from the decommissioned submarine PM-32, which he said was used as a provisional storage facility for spent nuclear fuel from other submarines.

"It has 126 defect channels through which radiation is continually leaking into the sea," he was quoted as saying.

Officials have repeatedly denied such allegations and contend that the risk of a nuclear accident is extremely slight. "We are doing everything to minimize the possibility of radiation accidents, such as leaks," Viktor Akhunov, a Nuclear Power Ministry official in charge of submarine disposal, was quoted by Izvestia as saying.

The Nuclear Power Ministry said in December that the navy had decommissioned a total of 189 nuclear submarines, but 126 were still waiting to be scrapped.

Reznik told Izvestia that the Pacific Fleet decommissioned 75 submarines, but 45 subs still had fuel in their reactors. Akhunov acknowledged that if more money was available, the decommissioning work, which is expected to be completed in about six years, could be done sooner.

This year, navy experts are expected to unload spent nuclear fuel from 20 nuclear submarines and completely dismantle 17.
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H. Russian Nuclear Safety


1.
Russian Institute To Remove Radioactive Waste After Reports Of Iodine Leak
Komsomolskaya Pravda
February 27, 2002
(for personal use only)


The leak of the iodine-131 isotope which was registered in [Moscow's] Northern District 13 February has led to the decision to completely clear out all the atomic "storage bins" of the Kurchatov Institute Russian Scientific Centre.

After two fixed monitoring posts belonging to the Radon Science and Production Association registered the presence of the radioactive isotope iodine-131 in the atmosphere, a mild panic broke out at the Ministry for Civil Defence, Emergency Situations and the Elimination of the Consequences of Natural Disasters, the Ministry of Atomic Energy and Moscow City Hall. (Komsomolskaya Pravda described this "discovery" in this report entitled "Is a nuclear reactor irradiating the capital?" in its 14 February issue). The amount of the isotope present in the atmosphere was very slight but, in the opinion of the Radon specialists, radioactive iodine is an "untypical" element in the atmosphere of Moscow and could only have appeared as a result of a breach of the technological process at a nuclear reactor of which there are 11 in the capital.

"We ourselves are not happy they talked about this iodine," people at the Radon Science and Production Association Press Service said with a sigh. "Just about everyone has telephoned us - residents of the district who decided to move apartments as a matter of urgency, the Prosecutor's Office, and the Ministry for Civil Defence, Emergency Situations and the Elimination of the Consequences of Natural Disasters."

"Our special commission discovered no emergency situations at the nuclear reactors in Moscow and Moscow Region," the people at the Ministry of Atomic Energy told us. "We do not know why the iodine appeared. Perhaps it is some kind of inexplicable natural phenomenon."

The Kurchatov Institute, which is situated near the Radon monitoring posts where the presence of iodine was registered, insists that all eight of its reactors are working normally and that there have been no leaks.

Nevertheless, the Kurchatov Institute's directorate together with the leadership of the Radon Moscow Science and Production Association have made the decision to completely clear the institute's territory of radioactive waste. Around 2000 tonnes with a total radioactivity level of 100,000 curies will have to be removed. The plan is to get the money from the Ministry of Atomic Energy and the capital's government.

Yelena Termatirosova, Radon's public relations manager, told Komsomolskaya Pravda this need had arisen a long time ago. Not because the waste containers had been leaking but rather because even the slightest specific problem in Moscow is automatically linked with the Kurchatov Institute. And this is understandable: All radioactive waste is the result of research work aimed at developing new types of nuclear weapons back in Soviet times. In addition, in 1998 the Kurchatov Institute embarked on the final stage of developing a fundamentally new fuel for nuclear reactors - plutonium. And the Institute's scope for stockpiling waste is not unlimited.
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2.
Russia: Accident Exercise Carried Out At Smolensk Nuclear Power Plant
Kommersant
February 27, 2002
(for personal use only)


An exercise was carried out in Smolensk Region yesterday, simulating an accident at the local nuclear power station. Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoygu followed the exercise from his Moscow office. The nuclear power station is situated in the southern part of Smolensk Region in the Regional-subordination town of Desnogorsk (population 32,000)...

The official description of yesterday's exercise was "Coordinating the activities of federal bodies of executive authority and organizing protection for the population in the event of an accident at a radiation facility". There has not been an exercise of this kind in Smolensk Region since the 1970s. The actual training took place in offices.

The Smolensk Region civil defence and emergencies administration informed district administrations in the cities of Desnogorsk and Roslavl and the settlement of Yershichi of the accident that allegedly occurred yesterday at the Smolensk nuclear power station. Members of the district commissions spent an hour devising an action plan to rescue the inhabitants of their municipal entities and protect the territory. These proposals and plans were immediately passed to the Regional civil defence and emergencies administration, where an operational headquarters was functioning. From there information was passed to deputy governor Sergey Antufyev, head of the Regional emergencies commission. Mr Antufyev reported the results to the members of the interdepartmental commission, which includes representatives of all Russian Federation ministries, and to its chairman, Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoygu.

The commission members made some critical remarks, but by and large they were happy with the results of the exercise.
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I. Announcements


1.
Transcript Of Russian Minister Of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov's Interview To Russian Media, Rome (Excerpted)
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
March 1, 2002


[...]

There must be determined the lists of questions on which we will begin to work. We have suggested five or six themes, they are obvious. As cooperation develops, new areas of coordination may naturally arise within the framework of this mechanism. But at the initial stage it is necessary to single out the most topical ones, such as the struggle against international terrorism, joint participation in possible peacekeeping operations, strengthening the nonproliferation regime for weapons of mass destruction, and joint actions in emergency situations like, for example, technogenic catastrophes. That is, areas where the joint efforts of Russia and the NATO states are evidently required.

Russia has responded to the offer to hold a Russia-NATO summit in Italy with interest.

[...]

Question: How is work progressing in the preparation of a new START Treaty?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: I informed the Italian Prime Minister of the talks which are now being conducted between Russia and the USA on the reduction of strategic offensive arms based on the understandings reached between the Russian and US Presidents, Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush, last year. We believe that the new Treaty should bear a legally binding character for both sides, subject to ratification in the legislative bodies of the two countries. We have fixed the levels of reduction for nuclear warheads to 1,700-2,200 within 10 years. Agreement was reached that the questions of verification of the reductions should be dealt with on the basis of the norms set in the START-1 Treaty. Two rounds of talks have already taken place. A third one will be held soon. On individual questions we have a rapprochement of positions. Yet questions remain on which the positions diverge. And in the first place this concerns the elimination of nuclear warheads and their means of delivery. If during the talks some dead-end situations arise that will require the involvement in the negotiation process of the heads of the foreign affairs agencies of Russia and the USA, we will be ready at any time to hold a meeting, including in a third country, in order by joint efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution. We are firmly disposed to reach appropriate understandings by the visit of President George W. Bush to Russia and sign the START Treaty. We expect also to adopt a political declaration on a new framework for strategic relations between Russia and the USA.

The Russian-American talks are not proceeding smoothly, as they be when such complicated issues are discussed. But for the present I see no necessity of an urgent meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The deadline for signing the START Treaty has been fixed by the Russian and US Presidents, and we are working in this direction. We will be doing everything necessary for agreements to be reached. But we are not going to sign any documents which would run counter to the interests of our national security just in order to meet a particular deadline.
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2.
Alexander Yakovenko, The Official Spokesman Of Russia's Ministry Of Foreign Affairs, Answers Questions Regarding A Russian-American Treaty On The Reduction Of Strategic Offensive Arms
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
February 27, 2002


Question: How do you assess the progress in the work on preparing a Draft Treaty on the Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms?

Answer: The second round of Russian-American talks has just been held in Moscow at experts' level, focusing mainly on the discussion of this issue. The sides got down to practical work with the draft documents' texts. The Russian and American sides submitted their reciprocal proposals.

There is some progress. First of all, a common understanding was reached that a treaty on the reduction of strategic offensive arms will bear a legally binding character and the sides will submit it for the consideration of their legislative bodies. The duration of the treaty has been fixed at ten years. Agreement has been reached that it will be based on the verification mechanisms of the existing START-1 Treaty and supplemented with new transparency and confidence measures with respect to nuclear warheads, the post reduction levels of which must be 1,700-2,200 units.

Active work is under way also on a second, very important document - the declaration that a new strategic relationship is to be formed between Russia and the USA, by which the main areas and lines of the two countries' cooperation in the political, economic and military-political fields will be stated, in particular, for the creation of a RF-NATO Council at 20 mechanism.

Yet a number of serious outstanding issues still remain. The main thing now - the Russian side adheres to just this view - is to agree on real, not "virtual" strategic arms reductions and limitations that would be ensured by proper measures of control and generally lead to predictability and the consolidation of strategic stability and international security. That's what the world community is expecting of Russia and the United States now. We consider it important to reflect in the treaty also the interconnection between strategic offensive and defensive arms, on which the Russian and US Presidents agreed in Genoa on July 22, 2001.

Question: How soon is it being planned to consider this range of questions at the level of heads of the Russian and US foreign affairs agencies?

Answer: The Russian and US Presidents defined as a priority task the preparation of a new Russian American agreement on radical strategic offensive arms reductions by the upcoming visit of President George W. Bush to Russia. But a lot now depends on the readiness of the American negotiators to realize the presidential accord on effective, radical reductions in strategic offensive arms under adequate control.
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3.
Joint Russian-Canadian Statement On Cooperation In The Field Of Peaceful Use Of Nuclear Energy
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
February 27, 2002


The Russian Federation and Canada have reaffirmed their intention to enhance cooperation in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with the Intergovernmental Agreement for Co-operation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (with Annexes), signed in Moscow and in force since November 20, 1989.

The sides have noted with satisfaction current level of cooperation in the areas of safe, secure and irreversible disposition of Russian weapons plutonium, and desalination.

Both sides have noted the large potential for expanded and enhanced collaboration, particularly in areas such as innovative reactors; nuclear fuel cycles; commercial applications of existing reactors; radioactive waste management and disposal; uranium enrichment services.

In this context, the Russian Federation and Canada have agreed to start consultations on the elaboration of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of the Russian Federation on Atomic Energy and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada on cooperation in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy that would reflect the current and future level of Russian-Canadian interaction in the nuclear field.
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J. Links of Interest

1.
Nuclear Weapons Proliferation
Canadian Security Intelligence Service
February 25, 2002
http://www.csis-scrs.gc.ca/eng/miscdocs/200110_e.html


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2.
Press Conference With Nikolai Zlobin And Ivan Safranchuk Center For Defense Information Officials, Regarding Russian-American Relations
Center for Defense Information
February 13, 2002
http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/6101.cfm


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3.
Defusing Nuclear Terror
Jeffrey T. Richelson
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
http://www.thebulletin.org/issues/2002/ma02/ma02richelson.html


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4.
U.S. Nuclear Posture And Alert Status Post Sept. 11
Center for Defense Information
http://www.cdi.org/nuclear/post911.cfm


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DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of RANSAC. RANSAC takes no responsibility for the technical accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.



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