1. US Energy And Russian Atomic Ministers To Meet Today
August 2, 2002
(for personal use only)
Today US Secretary of Energy Spenser Abraham, who is on a working visitto Moscow, will meet with Russian Economy Minister German Gref andAtomic Minister Alexander Rumyantsev. The parties are expected todiscuss questions concerning the development of the bilateral andinternational cooperation in the energy sector and nonproliferation ofnuclear materials.
The participants of the meeting are to discuss the activity of theUS-Russian working group on the cooperation in the energy sector andpreparations for the US-Russian energy summit, which is to take place inHouston at the beginning of October. Government officials andbusinessmen of the two countries will take part in the summit. Abrahamis to leave Moscow on August 4, 2002. return to menu
2. Ellis: Treaty Won't Weaken U.S. In Absence Of Missile Defense
August 2, 2002
(for personal use only)
Adm. James Ellis, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told a Senatepanel Aug. 1 that the nuclear arms reductions recently agreed to by theU.S. and Russia will not weaken America's deterrent capability in theabsence of a national missile defense system.
President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the StrategicOffensive Reductions Treaty (or "Moscow Treaty") on May 24 in Moscow.Over the course of the next decade, the treaty would mandate thereduction of each country's operationally deployed nuclear forces tobetween 1,700 and 2,200 warheads. The Bush Administration is seekingSenate ratification for the treaty.
During a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. JamesInhofe (R-Okla.) asked Ellis, who commands America's strategic nuclearforces, if it would be more prudent to delay reductions until afterAmerica's multilayered missile defense system is in place.
"We don't have any kind of a defense against a ballistic missile rightnow, so our primary defense would be deterrence, and that's what we'retalking about today," Inhofe said. "We're doing this [treaty] with oneof our allies ... and yet Iran, Iraq, North Korea, China - othercountries do pose a threat."
Ellis said the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which served as a guide forthe Administration's proposed cuts, involved a thorough analysis offuture threats.
"This treaty codifies an in-depth analytical effort ... that assessedthe levels that are the specified objective of the treaty ... [alongwith] all of those issues that were likely to confront the nation in theforeseeable nature," he said. "The flexibility inherent in this treaty... will be more than adequate to the nation's national security needs."
In a break with tradition, the three-page Moscow Treaty contains nounique provisions for both sides to verify weapons reductions. The STARTtreaty's verification regime is scheduled to remain in force untilDecember 2009.
Trust and verification
In his written testimony to the committee, Charles Curtis, president ofthe Nuclear Threat Initiative, praised the simplicity of the Moscowtreaty, but cautioned that both countries must follow up withverification procedures.
"What matters most is what happens next," Curtis said. "It's importantthat the U.S. Department of Defense develop and make public at theearliest possible date its own plans for reducing our 'operationallydeployed' forces under this treaty. Russia should do the same with itsforces, and then both nations should follow with agreed mechanismsspecifically designed to allow both sides to monitor these reductions."
Ranking member John Warner (R-Va.) called the treaty a "significant stepforward" for both countries, praising it for continuing former PresidentReagan's policy of "trust but verify."
"It provides a sound basis on which to proceed with further steps,"Warner said. return to menu
1. Iran Nuclear Issue Sours U.S.-Russian Talks On Energy
Steven Lee Myers And Sabrina Tavernise
New York Times
August 2, 2002
(for personal use only)
American anger over Russia's construction of a nuclear power plant inIran and its plans to build as many as five more soured two days oftalks between senior American and Russian officials that were intendedto highlight new cooperation in securing the world's energy supply.
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said today that Iran was "aggressivelypursuing nuclear weapons" and that Russia's construction of a civiliannuclear plant at Bushehr, on the Persian Gulf, supported Iran's efforts.
"We have long been concerned that Iran's only interest in nuclear civilpower, given its vast domestic energy resources, is to support itsnuclear weapons program," Mr. Abraham said at a news conference here."For that reason, we have insistently urged Russia to cease all nuclearcooperation with Iran, including its assistance to the reactor inBushehr."
On the eve of Mr. Abraham's visit, the Russian government released adocument outlining plans not only to complete the $800-million reactorunder construction at Bushehr, but also to build three more there andtwo others at Ahwaz.
The announcement angered officials in Washington, worsening one of themost contentious disputes between the United States and Russia even asthe two nations made progress toward cementing programs previouslypromised by President Bush and President Vladimir V. Putin.
For instance, Mr. Abraham presented a plan today to finance a study ofenergy deposits in eastern Siberia, off Russia's northern and easterncoasts. It is the most concrete result so far of the agreement signed byMr. Bush and Mr. Putin in May to enhance cooperation on energy. Theannouncement came amid concerns that oil supplies could be disrupted byany American attack on Iraq.
"We see Russia playing a great role in terms of global energy security,"Mr. Abraham said. "By assisting Russia in exploring their energyresources, we improve global energy supplies."
In broader terms, the Arctic and Pacific offshore regions, which arethought to contain up to 70 percent of Russia's current energy reserves,offer "some of the least studied and potentially most significantgeological basins in the world," he said. Exploration costs, however,will be high, as the area is ice-covered for most of the year.
Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, chief executive of the Yukos Oil Company,Russia's second-largest oil company, welcomed the announcement, sayingthe survey would allow long-term planning.
"Our geologists are absolutely sure there are significant reserves ofoil and gas there," he said in an interview.
Despite the agreement on oil exploration, the two sides made no progresson the question of Russia's nuclear assistance to Iran. Mr. Abraham,along with John R. Bolton, the under secretary of state for armscontrol, had previously planned to be in Moscow this week, but lastweek's announcement on Iran significantly altered the agenda.
The subject dominated many meetings with senior Russian military andenergy officials, including the nuclear energy minister, Aleksandr Y.Rumyantsev, an administration official said today.
"We told them how unhappy we were about the announcement," the officialsaid. "We felt blindsided and angry."
American and Russian officials said more talks on the matter would beheld later this month or next, focusing on tightening Russia's controlsover the export of equipment or expertise that could be used in anuclear weapons program.
During the meetings, Mr. Bolton also raised concerns about Russia'sassistance in Iranian chemical and biological programs, as well as salesof advanced conventional weapons, like surface-to-air missiles.
The administration official said some Russian officials seemed to havebeen surprised by the announcement of expanded nuclear cooperation withIran, suggesting divisions in the government here.
"The public line is that Russia opposes the proliferation of nuclearweapons and that they are not cooperating with Iran in building them,"the official said. "The problem is that Russian entities, with orwithout cooperation of the government, are working with the Iranians."
Russia signed an agreement to build the Bushehr reactor in 1995,completing construction that a subsidiary of the German company SiemensA.G. suspended after Iran's revolution in 1979. More than 1,000 Russianengineers and technicians are now at work on the project. Theinstallation of the reactor's main turbine is expected to begin as soonas this month.
Russia has defended the project, saying the reactor is subject toinspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
But the United States has warned that Russian expertise in a civilianproject could easily leak into secret weapons programs, which Irandenies having. return to menu
2. US DOE Chief Harshly Criticises Russia-Iran Nuclear Cooperation
August 2, 2002
(for personal use only)
US Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham delivered a strong rebukeThursday to Russia's plans to expand nuclear cooperation with Iran,asserting that Tehran is actively building nuclear weapons and pursuingaccess to rocket technology, presumably under the guise of Russianassistance to the country's civilian atomic energy program.
Abraham's remarks - which came a day after a closed-door meeting amongRussia's Nuclear Minister Alexander Rumyantsev, and Undersecretary ofState John Bolton, who deals with arms control issues - exposed a whatcould become a deep rift between the anti-terror coalition that wasformed between Russia after Sept. 11.
At the press conference, Abraham focused much of his concern on Russia'ssurprise announcement Friday of a 10-year plan for cooperation withIran, which includes the building of five more nuclear reactors in thatcountry - two at the hotly disputed Bushehr plant and three more inAhvaz, 65 kilometres from the Iraqi border.
"Clearly the extension of Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran remainsan issue of utmost concern to us," US Department of Energy, or DOE,chief Abraham told reporters in Moscow after several days of talks withtop Russian officials on energy cooperation.
"We consistently urge Russia to cease all nuclear cooperation with Iran,including its assistance to the reactor in Bushehr," he said.Though Abraham's visit to Moscow had been scheduled for months, and hada different agenda, he said to an aide that Russia's announcement of thenew Iranian construction project quickly became the priority of hisvisit, a US Officials said.
Russian and Iranian officials have repeatedly argued that the Bushehrfacility - and any more reactors that may be springing up over the nextdecade - is for peaceful, power generating purposes only.
But the existing $800 million deal in Bushehr has been a sticking pointin Russian-American relations for years because US officials andnon-proliferation groups fear the cooperation could help Iran developnuclear weapons. Russia maintains that the aid only serves civilianpurposes and that the construction is under international control.US officials and non-proliferation experts have additionally begged thequestion as to why Iran, a nation so rich in its own natural resourceswould need a nuclear reactor - to say nothing of five - and received nosatisfactory answer.
But the five new reactors were not the only worry for the United States.
"[Iran is] aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons as well as weapons ofmass destruction," said Abraham at the press conference.
Russian nuclear officials have pledged to sign a formal agreement laterthis year to bring the spent nuclear fuel from Bushehr back to Russiafor reprocessing to avoid any proliferation risks - but one insider atthe Nuclear Ministry, Minatom, who spoke on the condition of anonymity,said progress on this agreement is slow.
Abraham refrained from detailed commentary at Thursday's pressconference, saying that the question "has been passed the highestpossible levels, Presidents Vladimir Putin and George Bush."
But he did signal that Washington did not want the disagreement toderail a $20 billion pledge signed by G8 leaders earlier this month tohelp Russia dismantle its weapons of mass destruction.
"Our main goal is to address challenges in the area of proliferation.Those problems have to be addressed regardless of the circumstances, andI expect this will be a successful program," Abraham said.
Jeanne Lopatto, Abraham's spokeswoman, reached by Bellona Web Thursday,played down the provocative nature of her boss' remarks, saying: "Idon't think we made any news here - he was just reiterating a positionthat has been held for a long time - he didn't raise any new questions."
Other DOE officials reached by Bellona Web refused to comment onAbraham's speech.
But Alexander Pikayev of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,could not recall a time when an American official had made such strongstatements on Iran from a public rostrum in Russia.
"The Iranians are after the bomb, of course, but this is the first timean American politician has made such a forceful connection between thatprogramme and Russia help - he didn't beat around the Bush, so tospeak," he told Bellona Web.
A spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Moscow Thursday reiterated thathis county's nuclear cooperation with Russia is for peaceful purposesand was enraged by the suggestion that Russia's cooperation wasotherwise.
Aside from the five new reactors, last Friday's Kremlin announcement ofcooperation with Iran also envisions Russian help to explore Iranian oilfields, launch satellites and build passenger jets and conventionalpower plants.
A Russian expert on Iran, Radzhab Safarov, told Bellona Web Thursday heexpected portions of the programme might be watered down before finalapproval - in part because of pressure from the West and pro-Westernofficials in Russia.
Iran, meanwhile, sounded a defiant note. A commentary in thestate-controlled Tehran Times, an English-language newspaper, saidIran's government would respond in kind to any military action againstthe Bushehr plant.
"Iran will definitely not sit by idly if its nuclear installations areattacked," the paper said, defending the project as intended forcivilian power needs. "It is a matter of national pride and security."The Washington Times newspaper reported in May that Iran had placedbatteries of US-made Hawk surface-to-air missiles around the Bushehrinstallation.
Nikolai Shingarev, head of Minatom's board of relations with governmentagencies and information policy said that - aside from the Iran issue -the Rumyantsev-Abraham meeting also included a discussion of aUS-Russian report on proliferation resistant reactors, which includedreferences to Minatom's long-dreamt-of fast neutron BREST reactor."What sort of reactor will be selected for this requires the signatureof the two presidents," he said. "Whether the BREST reactor isconsidered is up to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin."
Another hot issue - imports to Russia of spent fuel over which theUnited States maintains consent rights - was not discussed, according toShingarev. return to menu
3. US Worried By Russia-Iran Nuke Deal
August 1, 2002
(for personal use only)
U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said on Thursday Washington wasdeeply worried by Russia building nuclear reactors in Iran and wanted itto stop, exposing a deep rift between the anti-terror coalition allies.
"Clearly the extension of Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran remainsan issue of utmost concern to us," Abraham told reporters in Moscowafter several days of talks with top Russian officials on energycooperation.
"We consistently urge Russia to cease all nuclear cooperation with Iran,including its assistance to the reactor in Bushehr," he said. Iran was"aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons as well as weapons of massdestruction," said Abraham, whose agenda included talks with the chiefcabinet lobbyist for nuclear power sales to Iran, Atomic Energy MinisterAlexander Rumyantsev.
Civil atomic energy projects would only fast-track the Islamicrepublic's nuclear weapons programme, he said. Iran denies developingnuclear weapons.
The White House sees Iran as part of an "axis of evil", but hadpreviously reacted mildly to Russia's approval of a long-term programmeto boost nuclear cooperation with Iran.
Russia last week approved plans to construct up to six civil nuclearreactors, expand conventional power stations, develop oil and gasdeposits, jointly produce aircraft and cooperate in communications andthe metals industry. This would be in addition to Russia's 1990sagreement with Iran to build a nuclear plant at Bushehr on the Gulfcoast, a project that has long infuriated Washington.
Iran has repeatedly said that its nuclear cooperation with Russia is forpeaceful purposes. But U.S. officials argue there can be no other reasonfor a country with Iran's oil resources to want so many nuclear powerreactors.
Nuclear power, along with armaments and space exploration, is one of thefew areas where, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russiantechnology remains genuinely competitive and a source of national pride.But Russia has also pursued the nuclear relationship with Iran in partas a way to earn hard currency needed to develop the cash-starvedcountry's infrastructure.
President Vladimir Putin pointedly told U.S. President George W. Bush ata summit in Moscow in May that Russia was building exactly the same typeof reactors in Iran that the U.S. had offered to North Korea, another"axis of evil" state. U.S. officials later said Putin had assured Bushin private that Russia would do nothing that would help Tehran obtainnuclear weapons. Since signing an arms reduction deal with Russia at theMay summit, the United States has made a priority of preventingextremists from obtaining material for a nuclear bomb.
Abraham signalled that Washington did not want the disagreement toderail a pact signed by leaders of the G8 group of leadingindustrialised nations to provide $20 billion to help Russia dismantleits weapons of mass destruction.
"Our main goal is to address challenges in the area of proliferation.Those problems have to be addressed regardless of the circumstances, andI expect this will be a successful programme," the U.S. official said.
Russia's determination to pursue its cooperation with Iran has promptedU.S. academics to propose Washington accept Moscow's closercollaboration with Tehran in exchange for tougher verification ofIranian nuclear projects. return to menu
4. USA Concerned About Russia's Plans To Build Nuclear Power Stations InIran
August 1, 2002
(for personal use only)
The USA is extremely concerned about Russia's new plans to build severalnuclear power stations in Iran, US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham tolda press conference in Moscow on Thursday.
According to him, Iran is rapidly constructing nuclear weapons andstriving for access to missile technologies. The USA has been longconcerned about Iran's striving for building nuclear power stations inspite of sufficient energy reserves, Abraham stressed.
However, the minister didn't give a detailed commentary on thestatement, issued by the western press, that Russia intends to build 6new nuclear power stations in Iran in the next ten years in addition toone in Bushehr.
Russia and the USA are discussing this issue at the highest levels,Spencer Abraham stressed. return to menu
5. Russia May Supply $5 Billion In Defense Equipment To Iran Before 2005
August 1, 2002
(for personal use only)
Russia is likely to supply at least $5 billion worth of conventionalarms, in particular airplanes, helicopters, submarines and air defensesystems to Iran before 2005, according to Radzhab Safarov, the directorof the Russian Center of Iranian Studies.
"Russia's proceeds from first supplies of conventional arms to Iran musttotal at least $1.5 billion," he told a news conference in Moscow onWednesday as he commented on the draft of the long-term program fortrade, economic, industrial and technological cooperation with Iranrecently approved by the Russian Cabinet.
In that draft, "Russian tells the world that its arms supply to Iranwill continue and that Moscow will supply conventional weapons to Tehranwithout any consultations or even discussions with third parties,"Safarov said.
The Bushehr and other nuclear power plants to be built with Russian aidwill certainly be protected by most reliable air defense systems andmeet international standards, he said.
Iran may use those systems "to both monitor the country's area andprevent outside attacks on the country," Safarov said. return to menu
C. Russian Nuclear Power Industry
1. Mystery Proposal Could Subjugate Minatom To Three Government Bodies;Lawmakers Say Report Had President's 'Full Attention'
July 31, 2002
(for personal us only)
Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering a document delivered tohim by Yabloko Party leader Grigory Yavlinsky, outlining a plan thatwould subjugate the monolithic Nuclear Power Ministry, or Minatom, tothree government bodies, stripping away the Stalinesque opacity thathelped drive the arms race and continues to shroud its civilian pursuitsin secrecy.
The document - whose authorship officially remains a mystery - wasdelivered to Putin on July 10 and deals in its opening with an analysisof Russia's looming programme to import, store and reprocess foreignradioactive waste. It contained suggestions that last year's legislationallowing these waste imports be amended to require the return ofreprocessed waste to its country of origin, something the current lawsdo not regulate.
But within the document, a copy of which was shown to Bellona Web, was along addendum to the president listing sweeping reforms for Minatom - sosweeping in fact, that Minatom itself would cease to exist and becomelittle more than a small government bureaucracy.
Among the suggestions were that Russia's nuclear energy monopolyRosenergoatom - which owns Russia's 10 nuclear power plants - be handedover to the Ministry of Energy; that Minatom's nuclear militaryindustrial complex be given away to the Defence Ministry; and thatMinatom's fuel cycle study laboratories be designated as a separatestructure entirely and put under the supervision of the Ministry forIndustry, Science and Technology.
According to the Kremlin press office, the report has been given toPrime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Putin's chief of staff AlexanderVoloshin has been handed the mandate of assembling experts for anofficial meeting on the topic. The Kremlin spokesman also said thatMinatom has received notice of the proposal and has until August 1 toreply.
"This proposal is obviously being taken very seriously," said theKremlin spokesman. But the spokesman could only hint at who authored thetext.
"Ecologists, perhaps, Duma deputies interested in that sort of thing - Iwill say no more," he said with a trace of bitterness.
The authors of the report, who are known to Bellona Web but whorequested strict anonymity, described Minatom in the report as "anarchaic administration that has undergone no reform in many years and isnot capable of dealing with contemporary conditions."
"As a result of this, it hatched new and complicated projects that turnout to be calamities for the country," the report continued.
A source close to the authors said the report was delivered to Putinpersonally by Yavlinsky during a July 10 meeting between the two.
Yabloko Duma Deputy Sergei Mitrokhin, who has seen the report, said inan interview with Bellona Web Tuesday that his party, one of the fewliberal factions in the Duma, "had followed all of the proposals as theywere being drawn up and we fully support the document."
He said that the suggestions were getting "the president's fullattention" and that during a recent meeting with Duma faction leaders,Putin had said that recent actions of Minatom were "troubling" him.
"I think, therefore, we could be seeing some changes in the very nearfuture," Mitrokhin said.
It is too early to say what the break-up of Minatom would mean. Pressspokesmen for the Defence Ministry, the Ministry for Industry, Scienceand Technology and the Ministry of Energy all said this was the firstthey had heard of the plan.
The Defence Ministry spokesman even expressed alarm.
"Dismantling Minatom means accounting for weapons-grade plutonium anduranium and turning it over to [the Defence Ministry]," he said. "But Isincerely doubt Minatom has even half of that material accounted foryet."
Nikolai Shingarev, head of Minatom's board for relations with governmentagencies and information policy, was also caught unawares by the news,but said that the policy changes relayed to him by Bellona Web were"impossible."
"There are two big problems that only Minatom can take care of and thoseare ecology and nuclear security," he said. "With Minatom divided acrossseveral agencies, these problems will never be solved."
He would comment no further on the report itself because he had not seenit, but he did note that Minatom's brass had received the requestspromised by the Kremlin for a response to the report's conclusions.
Mitrokhin said, however, that the changes cannot take place with thespeed of a "coup."
"This can't be handled abruptly like a U-turn," said Mitrokhin. "Russiais a nuclear power and Minatom has been responsible for all branches ofthat. Gradual changes will proceed with that in mind."
But Mitrokhin agreed that, since its inception, Minatom has beenaccountable to effectively no government agency, running a virtualcountry of closed nuclear cites across Russia for weapons developmentand fuel cycle experiments.
Then, last year, Minatom began leading a charge to abandon legislationprohibiting the import of radioactive waste to Russia, saying wastestorage and reprocessing fees could net Russia $20 billion over the nextten years. The plan would add another 20,000 tonnes of spent nuclearfuel (SNF) to the 10,000 tonnes that Russia has already accumulated byitself.
The plan was a flop with Russian citizens, who organized a petitiondrive and raised 2.5 million signatures, 500,000 more than were neededto force the import question to a national referendum. But the federalCentral Election Commission cast aside 800,000 of those signatures on"technical" reasons, some as petty as "incorrect" street abbreviationslisted by petition signatories.
At the same time, then Nuclear Minister Yevgeny Adamov was coddling theDuma with so much cushy eleventh hour lobbying that claims surfacedlater that many deputies had been bribed to pass the legislation.
Adamov's successor, Alexander Rumyantsev, is pursuing the importprogramme with as much zeal as his predecessor, but - as was shown at arecent press conference, where the minister continually bumbled figuresand referred to import customers Minatom does not have - he is just asinclined to cloaking Minatom's real plans from the public as theministry's Stalin-era founders were.
"This is the kind of thing that comes up in any conversation aboutMinatom," said Mitrokhin. "This is something that has to change." return to menu
2. Fossil Fuel Plant To Replace Zheleznogorsk Plutonium Reactor May AlreadyBe Literal Fossil
July 30, 2002
(for personal use only)
One hot morning in early July, three brick masons, carrying clinkingshoulder packs, showed up for work at the Sosnovoborsk Heat andElectrical Central, known by its Russian abbreviation as TETs.
But the three who turned up for work that day at the half-constructedfossil fuel plant, located some 15 kilometres from the ZheleznogorskMining and Chemical Combine, or GKhK, told Bellona Web that they wouldbe - and have been for months - the only workers likely to be coming towork. Identifying themselves only as "residents of Central Asia," theyfreely said they were working without documents or contracts, and onlyvaguely knew what kind of construction they were to be performing.
"Every couple of days, someone comes by and pays us in vodka and a fewtroubles," said one worker - older than the other two - explaining theclinking in his daypack.
"Then we set to work with bricks and mortar, building some sort of wall,but we're not sure what it's for because we have no design to follow."
The fossil fuel plant has been under construction for more than adecade. But non-proliferation funding from the US Department of Energy(DOE) is slated to complete the plant's construction in order to supplyheat and power to the closed nuclear city of Zheleznogorsk, which haspreviously staved away the hard Siberian freeze with a weapons-gradeplutonium-producing reactor. But that reactor is scheduled to be shutdown in four years.
Pressures from Minatom
Last week, Zheleznogorsk received a visit by a cortege from the RussiaNuclear Power Ministry, or Minatom, which included First Deputy NuclearPower Ministers Mikhail Solonin and Vladimir Vinogradov. Vinogradov saidZheleznogorsk is "one of Minatom's most problematic enterprises."
The problems, he said, according to the RIA news agency, stemmed fromthe necessity of converting the production of the city, closing downthose workshops engaged in weapons production, while maintaining thescientific viability of the combine.
Of equal importance, he said, was completing the construction of the drystorage facility for spent nuclear fuel (SNF) at Zheleznogorsk's RT-2facility, leaving little eleventh-hour doubt that controversial SNFimports will soon be apart of Russia's nuclear landscape.
"This city will maintain its scientific value in the nuclear community,"Vinogradov said, according to Interfax news agency. In order to makesure that was the case, he ordered the administration of theZheleznogorsk GKhK to have a report about the next 20 years' developmentof Zheleznogorsk on his desk soon, RIA reported.
Presumably, this development begins with the refurbishing of theSosnovoborsk TETs, with US DOE funding, as quickly as possible.
Pressures from the Americans
The option of building a brand new fossil fuel plant for Zheleznogorsk,instead of refurbishing the old one has, according to DOE officials,been discussed by the Russian side. But according to Anatoly Mamaev, ofZheleznogorsk's Citizens' Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation, "thetime has long come, and therefore this question [of where to build thefossil fuel plant] has to be decided quickly - otherwise the Americansmay not give us the money."
"They have already warned us once," he told Bellona Web.
The most logical choice, therefore - for which a local subcontractor,Glavspetsstroi, has already been picked, according to news reports - isthe half-constructed behemoth outside Sosnovoborsk, located 15kilometres from the closed nuclear city.
Why the hurry? Because the Zheleznogorsk plutonium reactor is scheduledfor shut-down by 2006 as part of a non-proliferation agreement with theUnited States, which has already closed all the 14 plutonium reactors ofits own.
Russia has two other plutonium reactors, both located in Seversk, nearTomsk in Central Siberia, and they too are scheduled to close in 2006.Combined, these three reactors produce 1,500 kilograms of weapons-gradeplutonium a year. Seversk will also receive a fossil fuel plant on theDOE tab.
But progress in the decade-long doldrums of economic reform at theSosnovoborsk plant has not been rapid, and the DOE has a major taskbefore it in jump-starting the effort.
The plants construction began in the mid 1980's in order to providepower and heating backup to the nuclear city should routine, orotherwise, shutdowns of the plutonium reactor plunge the Siberian cityinto cold and darkness. Funding for the construction, however, dried upaltogether with the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, andsince then construction has been insignificant and intermittent.
Whose plant is it?
There is also confusion as to what government agency is responsible forthe Sosnovoborsk fossil fuel plant at present, and who is paying the"salaries" of those three workers interviewed by Bellona Web. Aspokesman for the new subcontractor, Glavspetsstroi, which has not yetbegun work, said they aren't paying the workers, and a spokesman forBechtel, the American construction firm which has been responsible formuch of US-led non-proliferation construction over the past decade alsosaid they were unaware of any work being performed at the plant.
But, according to environmental groups in Moscow and Sosnovoborsk, theplant's construction is under Minatom's purview, and the workers, aswell as activists who have been inside the facility, say warning signs,posted by Minatom, are to be found throughout.
One Sosnovoborsk environmental activist - in fact Sosovoborsk's onlyenvironmental activist, Yevgeny Spirin - insisted in an interview withBellona Web that the plant was under the control of Minatom, which hasbeen using it as a money laundering front since the construction began.
"In the same amount of time and with the same amount of money it hastaken them to build a third of this TETs, you could have built fourfossil fuel plants for Zheleznogorsk," said Spirin. "And there is no wayto get information from Minatom about when this plant will be complete,what ecological standards it will adhere to - nothing."
But Nikolai Shingarev, head of Minatom's board for relations withgovernment agencies and information policy, said Spirin and others werebarking up the wrong tree and denied Minatom was responsible for anycurrent activities - modest though they may be - at the plant. He toldBellona Web that Minatom made a substantial investment in the fossilfuel plant, which was meant to provide a substitute source of energy forthe nuclear city when construction began in the mid-1980s.
"It is impossible that this plant is 'no one's responsibility,'" saidShingarev. "That just doesn't happen - it is a government facility. It'sjust a matter of figuring out which part of the government answers forit."
Shingarev also dismissed Spirin's allegations of money laundering.
Mamaev said that many of the original costs of starting the plant'sconstruction came from Krasnoyarsk's regional budget - presumablyaugmented by federal and Minatom funds mentioned by Shingarev.
But Mamaev added that there were protracted squabbles during thebuilding of the plant as to who would get the profits from its heatingand electric revenues - Zheleznogorsk, the Krasnoyarsk Regionaladministration, the then Ministry of Energy or the now defunct Sredmash,the Soviet-era cover name for Minatom. This impasse, according toMamaev, also contributed to halting the plant's construction and itscurrent quasi-leaderless state.
Spirin said that he had approached the administrations of bothZheleznogorsk and the Krasnoyarsk region in his search for informationabout the plant, only to be pointed back to Minatom - though he addednone of the officials he spoke with were entirely sure Minatom was theplace to turn to.
Meanwhile, back at the TETs, the self-appointed spokesman for therag-tag group of workers said their workday ended when the vodka ran outor it got too hot to continue. "It feels like working in Soviet times,"he said with a gold-toothed smile and entered the restricted zonethrough a shabby gate to add another few kilograms of mortar to theplant.
What the DOE is inheriting
Obviously, this is a work ethic the DOE intends to change in 2003, onceit takes over the project of shutting down Russia's three plutoniumreactors and brings to bear part of the $49 million the US governmenthas allocated out of its budget for the "Elimination of RussianWeapons-Grade Plutonium Production" on refurbishing the TETs plant. Thatproject alone is estimated at $14 million.
But aside from having to deal with the apparent confusion over who isresponsible for the plant, the DOE is also inheriting a task that haslanguished in the arms of US Department of Defence's Cooperative ThreatReduction (CTR) programme for ten years.
The original plan, under the DOD-CTR approach, was to perform aso-called core conversion on the reactors, a process that would haveconverted them in such a way as to stop them from generating volumes ofweapons-grade plutonium. But according to former US governmentofficials, the CTR programme had neither competent management nor soundscience on its side.
All three of Russia's plutonium producing reactors - which are onaverage 34 years old- are pioneers of the fatally flawed Chernobyl-styleRBMK-1000, which makes core conversion an invitation to nucleardisaster. Because of this, the DOE could also inherit another $75million in unspent funds from the DOD's failed core conversion projectto spend toward the reactor shut-down project next year, for a possibletotal of $124 million in 2003.
The DOE may also face the ire of a town whose bread and butter have justbeen fed to the birds. The loss of the reactor and the radiochemicalplants where the SNF from the reactor is reprocessed into weapons-gradeplutonium oxide, will, according to the city administration's chiefpublic relations officer, Eduard Zavdugayev, "lead to changing patternsof employment," in his town of 90,000, most of whom depend on somedegree or another on the Chemical Combine.
"If our city had taken a vote last year on whether to close down thereactor, more than 50 percent would have voted no," fumed Zavdugayev to60 members of an anti-nuke protest camp, which was set up in early Julynear Zheleznogorsk.
"We have to shut down that reactor, and that reactor heats our city,which means we need to build that TETs or freeze."
He added, however, that many Zheleznogorsk residents are against theTETs not on the grounds of the employment insecurity it will cause theclosed city, but on environmental grounds as well.
"We have been reassured that the TETs will be built to modern standardswith all sorts of new technology, but the fact is that it is a fossilfuel plant with smoke stacks, the pollution from which will effect theenvironment," he told the camp participants.
"So the next question is how will we live," Zavdugayev continuedbitterly. "There is at the moment no other source of heat or power[besides the reactor]. Many of us are against closing it down - furtheraction lies in the hands of the authorities and what they want."
The drive for SNF
But in a later interview with Bellona Web, Zavdugayev was far moresanguine, and the change from his fiery attitude on the public rostrumto his calm demeanour during a private conversation can only beexplained by one thing - the revenues from SNF storage atZheleznogorsk's RT-2 facility that have most bureaucrats in theKrasnoyarsk region rubbing their hands.
"We don't see the closure of the reactor as a catastrophe or aninterruption of our way of life, but rather a shift in theinfrastructure of the city's mission," Zavdugayev said.
"Yes, the reactor will close, but we also will need highly skillednuclear scientists to monitor the proposed burial facility for fissilewaste," he said referring to the as yet incomplete RT-2 temporarystorage facility in Zheleznogorsk.
"We also need qualified reactor scientists - which we already have - tomonitor the reactor itself for the next 50 years, until radiation levelssubside to levels safe enough to dismantle it. When viewed in that light- plus the SNF imports - the shut-down of the reactor has gained usemployment for decades."
Nuclear Minister Alexander Rumyantsev said at a recent press conferencethat RT-2 will eventually hold 80 tonnes of fissile waste. This,however, was at variance with other projections by Minatom andZheleznogorsk officials, who said the temporary SNF storage facilitywill hold 33,000 tonnes.
Math errors aside, Minatom proposes to charge $1 billion for 2,000tonnes of foreign SNF - which Rumyantsev said significantly undercutsRussia's main competitors - that will remain in the RT-2 dry caskstorage while Minatom applies the proceeds of its import fees toupgrading Russia's ailing reprocessing infrastructure.
The storage of SNF will mean big cash dividends, both for Zheleznogorsk,and the Krasnoyarsk region as a whole, and administration will be paidseveral million dollars for hosting the waste.
Zavdugayev even cited areas where the Zheleznogorsk economy could grow -thanks precisely to the fossil fuel plant he not minutes beforedenounced as ecologically unsound and a plague to the people of hiscity.
"We are planning aerospace fuel experiments - like NASA's - withplutonium and uranium as the reactor programme phases out," he said.Minatom would not comment on these specific plans.
"There will be no lack of work for our brain power, but this issomething these 'greens' just don't understand. They hear SNF andplutonium, and alarm bells go off. Well, we already have some 3,000tonnes of SNF in storage [at RT-2] and it poses a danger to no one. Noone."
Points of "agreement"
If there is any common ground to be found between self-financed activistlike Spirin and a paid representative of the nuclear industry likeZavdugayev, it is the potential for further pollution from the TETs onceit goes into operation.
Although Zavdugayev seemed to mention the potential pollution from theTETs as a rhetorical tool to turn the tables on the environmentalists,rather than an expression of actual concern for the environment, Spirinraised this point in a later interview.
"The TETs is being built on old plans with old methods and there is agreat risk that the area will be severely harmed by pollution from thesmoke stacks that will billow out a layer of ash on the surroundingforests," he said.
"As for the DOE plan, anything is possible - if they refurbish the plantto ecological standards, then I am for the plan. But I don't think itwill help us much if they stick to the old plant blueprints, which theymight do if they are concerned about the 2006 deadline." return to menu
1. Transcript Of Russian Minister Of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov InterviewTo Russian Media Following Meeting With US Secretary Of State ColinPowell In Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
July 31, 2002
Question: Igor Sergeyevich, how did your meeting with Colin Powell pass?
Foreign Minister Ivanov: I have just had a working meeting with USSecretary of State Colin Powell. We discussed current issues inbilateral relations, and examined some urgent international problems.
So far as bilateral matters are concerned, we are conducting activepreparations for the first session of the Russian-American commission,made up of the foreign and defense ministers, that will be held onSeptember 20 in Washington. The agenda has been agreed and questionsrelating to the implementation of the Strategic Offensive ReductionsTreaty and strengthening of the nonproliferation regime, as well as tomissile defense have been examined. Now preparations are being conductedfor this session.
We agreed that as soon as the SOR Treaty is ratified in Moscow andWashington, the session of the working group on its implementation willimmediately be held.
On July 26 a session of the working group at the level of first deputyheads of the foreign affairs agencies on the issues of joint efforts inthe struggle against new threats and challenges was successfully held inWashington. It has once again demonstrated that our cooperation isexpanding in this area. We intend to collaborate further in the face ofnew threats and challenges.
We examined topical international problems, above all those associatedwith the Asia-Pacific region, taking into account the work of the forumnow being held.
It is necessary to say that at the forum itself many participants havewelcomed the efforts of Russia directed to a resumption of theinter-Korean dialogue.
For our part we consider it important that a meeting was held todaybetween the US Secretary of State and the Minister of Foreign Affairs ofthe DPRK. As well, there took place a meeting between Japan's Ministerof Foreign Affairs and the head of the DPRK's foreign affairs agencytoday. Agreement was reached to resume in early August the inter-Koreandialogue. We believe that all this goes in the mainstream of our effortsaimed at strengthening the inter-Korean dialogue and improving thesituation on the Korean Peninsula. This can be achieved, as we haverepeatedly stressed, only through dialogue. It is important that ourpartners are now acting in the same direction.
We also discussed the situation in the Middle East, which,unfortunately, remains complicated. Still, our representatives areactively working with the parties so that the agreements are realized inpractice that were reached within the framework of the Quartet. The nextmeeting of the Quartet at ministers' level will take place in Septemberin New York in the course of the regular session of the UN GeneralAssembly. By that time, we hope, concrete measures will have been workedout to stabilize the situation in the region.
I informed the US Secretary of State on the development of the situationon the Russian Georgian border in the wake of the actions ofinternational terrorists from the territory of Georgia. I stressed thatsuch actions of international terrorists from the territory of aneighbor state can only be regarded as an act of aggression. That'sexactly what we are now speaking about at our forum as we discuss thesituation around Kashmir - when the transboundary terrorist activity isdestabilizing the situation in the region. What is now occurring on ourborder with Georgia does not differ in any way from this situation: thesame international terrorists in the same way from the territory of aneighbor state are carrying out criminal activities on Russianterritory. If the Georgian leadership is not in a position to deal withthis problem on its own, so assistance from the international communityis necessary in order to end such actions.
Question: At what level will the inter-Korean dialogue be resumed inAugust?
Foreign Minister Ivanov: At the level of the ministers for thereunification of South and North Korea.
Question: What was the reaction of Colin Powell to your statementrelating to Georgia?
Foreign Minister Ivanov: He took note of that and it seems to me that heis fully aware of our serious concern over this situation. I repeat muchof the time of our meeting this afternoon was devoted to the struggleagainst international terrorism and to the problems which are arising inthe region. What is occurring now in the North Caucasus does not differin any way: the same actions by the same terrorists using the samemethods?
Question: What are the major results of Russia's participation in theninth session of the ARF?
Foreign Minister Ivanov: Yesterday Russia together with the othercountries adopted a document on the suppression of financing forterrorist organizations. It is necessary jointly to work out legal normsfor combating terrorism both within the UN and at the regional levelbecause terrorism, just as other threats, bears a transnational,transboundary character. It is important jointly to broaden the exchangeof information, including between special services, in order to cutshort the actions of such groups. This is a whole variety of measureswhich can be implemented both at the global and at the regional levels.
Question: Igor Sergeyevich, the King of Saudi Arabia made a warning onaccount of Iraq. Was this problem touched on in the course of themeeting with Colin Powell?
Foreign Minister Ivanov: So far this question was not raised. Ourposition is well known, there are no new aspects.
Question: Igor Sergeyevich, you informed Powell of your meeting with KimChong-il, and he, in his turn, you of his brief meeting with theMinister of Foreign Affairs of North Korea?
Foreign Minister Ivanov: I informed the US Secretary of State, theForeign Ministers of Japan and South Korea and other colleagues of thetalks I had had in Pyongyang. I expressed our firm conviction thatdialogue is the only route toward a settlement of the inter-Koreansituation and that Pyongyang is ready for that dialogue, I repeat,without preliminary conditions. It is important that this position metwith understanding.
As I understand, the conversation between the US Secretary of State andthe DPRK Minister of Foreign Affairs bore a general character, and itsprincipal task was to launch a negotiation process at the level ofspecial representatives. A US special representative will soon meet withhis Korean counterpart.
Question: Where will this meeting take place?
Foreign Minister Ivanov: It is not ruled out that it will be held inPyongyang.
Question: How can you comment on the fact that at the end of ColinPowell's brief meeting there followed the rather tough statement of theAmerican side reconfirming its demand to conduct negotiationscomprehensively?
Foreign Minister Ivanov: We have proceeded and continue to proceed fromthe assumption that each of the sides can have its concerns. But thoseconcerns should not serve as a preliminary condition for dialogue, theyought to be stated in the course of negotiations. It is necessarythrough a direct dialogue to search for answers to these concerns. It isimportant that this principle is now being realized. This meeting couldnot remove the concerns which the US and the Japanese sides declared andwhich concern, from their point of view, the nuclear and missileprograms that might be implemented in the DPRK. Only North Korea itselfcan answer these questions, and a direct dialogue is necessary for that.
Question: Did a meeting between the Korean sides take place?
Foreign Minister Ivanov: It has been announced that the meeting will beheld, because Seoul has given a favorable response to the suggestion ofPyongyang and the dates and levels of the meetings have been fixed.
Question: What are the major outcomes of the work of the ninth sessionof the ARF?
Foreign Minister Ivanov: Today a final document will be published and apress conference will be held, during which an account of the resultswill be given.
At the conclusion of the morning plenary session all the participantsnoted that from meeting to meeting, and this is now the ninth meeting,the scope of mutual understanding is expanding with regard to theproblems being discussed. This is not merely a discussion of positions,but also a search for points of contact. The present forum is devoted,above all, to the issues of security and stability in the region. Wedevoted the main attention in the course of the morning session toefforts in the struggle against international terrorism, thenonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the settlement ofregional conflicts. Important is the very fact that the Ministers ofForeign Affairs of North and South Korea are participating in thisforum.
That such a representative forum is formulating common positions is veryimportant for our further joint efforts in dealing with the existingproblems. return to menu
2. Alexander Yakovenko, The Official Spokesman Of Russia's Ministry OfForeign Affairs, Answers A Question From CNN Regarding The Prospects OfCooperation By The Russian Federation With Iran In The Field Of PeacefulUses Of The Atom
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
July 31, 2002
Question: What are the prospects of Russian cooperation with Iran in thefield of the peaceful atom in the context of the elaboration of aLong-term Program for the Development of Trade, and Economic, Industrialand Technical Cooperation Between Russia and Iran for the Period Tillthe Year 2012?
Answer: The position of Russia on cooperation with Iran in the nuclearfield remains unchanged. This cooperation bears an entirely peaceful andmutually beneficial character and is fully consistent with all theinternational obligations of Russia, primarily in the domain of nuclearnonproliferation.
The whole activity of Iran in the nuclear field as a party to the Treatyon the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons is under the control of theAgency, which, as is known, has identified no violations by Iran of itsobligations.
At the present time we are collaborating with Iran in the constructionof a nuclear power plant in Busher and in the ensuring of its nuclearsafety. As to the prospects of cooperation with Iran in the field ofpeaceful uses of the atom, the Long-term Program for the Development ofTrade, and Economic, Industrial and Technical Cooperation Between Russiaand Iran for the Period Till the Year 2012 speaks only of the availablepotentialities, the realization of which depends on many factors,including, of course, political. return to menu
E. Links of Interest
1. Testimony On The National Security Implications Of The StrategicOffensive Reductions Treaty
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