1. Russian Academic Calls For Single State Body To Oversee Arms Destruction
September 2, 2002
(for personal use only)
Cooperation between Russia and the United States in cutting nucleararsenals needs the establishment in Russia of a state body, responsiblefor the liquidation of weapons of mass destruction, the strategicresearch section head at the Institute of World Economics andInternational Relations [of the Russian Academy of Sciences], AleksandrSavelyev, told ITAR-TASS on Monday [2 September].
According to the scholar, such a body would act as a coordinator ofRussian programmes and would shoulder responsibility for streamliningincoming foreign aid, and would promote the development of internationalcooperation and the strengthening of international security.
"The Russian-American understandings on further destruction of strategicoffensive weapons over the next decade (up to 2012) expand considerablythe scale of work to be done," the researcher noted. "That is why thequestion is raised on efficiency of both individual projects and theentire programme."
Among top priority tasks of such a body, the scholar singled out theidentifying of priorities of appropriate undertakings, an appraisal ofRussia's requirements in this sphere both in direct funding and inequipment and technologies as well as the compilation of comprehensiveplans, and implementation of instructions by the political leadershipfor the entire decade of planned reductions.
According to Savelyev, the United States supplied Russia (under theprogramme of aid) with considerable quantities of equipment fordismantling nuclear submarines, including cranes with magnetic liftingdevices, cutting tools, excavators with knives, guillotine presses,cutters for cables and equipment for processing scrap.
"The US remains, for the time being, the main donor under the programmeof joint lessening of the threat (Nunn-Lugar programme). However,cooperation between Russia and France, Canada, Japan, the European Unionand along the Russia-NATO line is growing in strength.
Therefore, Russia needs a single state body whose powers will enable itto conduct work at interstate and international levels," Savelyev noted. return to menu
1. U.S. Senator Richard Lugar Discusses Disarmament With Russian DefenseMinister Ivanov
Mara D. Bellaby
August 29, 2002
(for personal use only)
U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, one of the architects of the decade-old U.S.campaign to safeguard the former Soviet Union's arsenal, appealedThursday for Russian and U.S. officials not to get bogged down bybureaucracy in their bid to reduce the threat of weapons of massdestruction.
In a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Lugaracknowledged that "in both of our countries sometimes we have problemswith bureaucracy," but he expressed confidence that such problems couldbe overcome to keep disarmament programs on track.
Russia, struggling with a shortage of funds, has sought help from theUnited States and other Western countries to safeguard and destroy someof its Soviet-era arsenal of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
But some U.S. funding for weapons destruction projects in Russia havebeen suspended over uncertainty about Russia's own financialcontribution. Meanwhile, some lawmakers in the U.S. Congress havequestioned the Kremlin's commitment to carrying out its obligationsunder chemical and biological weapons treaties.
Moscow has dismissed the concerns.
"We have already done a certain amount of work," Ivanov said, welcomingLugar to the Defense Ministry at the end of the senator's nine-day triparound Russia, which included a visit to the Arctic port of Severodvinskfor the unveiling of a new, U.S.-funded facility to unload spent nuclearfuel from decommissioned submarines. "We are moving forward."
Ivanov and Lugar both hailed the Moscow Treaty signed by U.S. PresidentGeorge W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in May, whichslashes their nuclear arsenals by about two-thirds, to between 1,700 and2,200 warheads apiece.
Ivanov said he hoped for quick approval by the Russian parliament andthe U.S. Congress, but he noted that during his upcoming visit toWashington in September, he expected to discuss some of the stillunresolved details such as "monitoring and the timeline."
"We must not live with dual standards but have identical standards,"Ivanov said, without elaborating.
But noting progress in disarmament efforts, Ivanov pointed to theopening on Aug. 23 of the U.S.-funded facility in Severodvinsk, whichwill enable the Zvyozdochka disposal plant to unload spent nuclear fuelfrom the reactors of four Delta and two Typhoon submarines each year.
The U.S. effort in the former Soviet Union, which Lugar launched withformer Sen. Sam Nunn, has helped the former Soviet republics of Ukraine,Kazakhstan and Belarus become nuclear-free and provided assistance toRussia in costly efforts to dismantle its nuclear weapons, securenuclear and chemical stockpiles and find civilian jobs for weaponsscientists.
Since 1991, the Nunn-Lugar program has helped eliminate 5,970 strategicnuclear warheads, 446 ballistic missiles, 432 booster rockets, 483long-range air-to-surface missiles with nuclear war heads, 322submarine-launched missiles, 24 strategic nuclear-powered submarines and194 silos for nuclear tests in Russia, according to Russian newsagencies. return to menu
2. Sergei Ivanov: Russia And US To Ratify Strategic Offensive ReductionsTreaty Quickly
August 29, 2002
(for personal use only)
Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Ivanov assures that theRusso-American Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty will be ratified"quickly enough" both in Russia and the US. This was disclosed tojournalists after Ivanov had met with US Senator Richard Lugar.
Russia and the US are unanimous, concerning this crucial agreement andthey realize its role in enhancing international security and bilateralrelations, the Russian minister remarked.
According to Ivanov, the officials considered prospects for ratificationof the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty at the meeting. SenatorLugar spoke in favour of the ratification.
The sides also exchanged their opinions on creating a mechanism toimplement the agreement, signed by leaders of the G8 in Kananaskis, ofallocating $20 bln for liquidation of mass destruction weapons and forother issues for a decade, Sergei Ivanov said. return to menu
3. American Senator Richard Lugar Is Satisfied With His Trip To Russia
August 29, 2002
(for personal use only)
The American side believes that the Treaty on Strategic OffensiveReductions is of key importance for relations between Russia and theUnited States and for ensuring stability all over the world. AmericanSenator Richard Lugar told reporters about it after his meeting withRussian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov. Richard Lugar said that GeorgeBush supported the Treaty.
We believe that this Treaty gives the opportunity to strengthen thefriendship between our countries, said the senator. Richard Lugarpointed out that on the eve of his visit to Russia he met with PresidentGeorge W. Bush and discussed with him this question.
The senator, who is the co-author of the programme for assisting Russiain eliminating weapons of mass destruction, is satisfied with theprogress in implementing this document.
During his tour of Russia Richard Lugar visited a number of militaryfacilities. Everywhere I was cordially welcomed and I am thankful forthis, said the Senator. return to menu
4. Russian Defense Minister To Visit USA In September
August 29, 2002
(for personal use only)
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov will visit the USA in Septemberto take part in the work of the Consultative group for StrategicSecurity set up in line with a decision of the two countries'presidents, the official said on Thursday during his meeting in Moscowwith American Senator Richard Lugar. Lugar is a co-author of theAmerican programme that envisages assistance to Russia in theelimination of chemical weapons and strategic arms that are to bedecommissioned in compliance with the START-1 Treaty.
"We have a lot of interesting topics to discuss," the Minister pointedout.
The decision to set up the Consultative group was taken during USPresident George W. Bush's visit to Moscow this May. The agenda of itsfirst session in September is expected to include a discussion of issuesrelated to non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. return to menu
1. Russian Nuke Technicians Flood Iran For Final Push At Bushehr Reactor
September 3, 2002
(for personal use only)
Some 600 Russian technicians - with 2000 more expected to arrive by theyear's end - have begun assembling heavy equipment that will form a keypart of the first reactor at a nuclear power plant in Iran.
Russia is going ahead with the $800 million project - at the PersianGulf for of Bushehr -despite strong objections from the United Statesofficials who in recent weeks have alleged that the construction of the1000 megawatt reactor is a cover for Iran's intentions to developweapons grade plutonium there.
But Russia asserts that the nuclear plant would serve purely civilianpurposes and remain under the international supervision of theInternational Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA. The plant is scheduled tobegin operating in June 2004 with the loading of nuclear fuel into thereactor set for December 2003, Russia's atomic energy ministry said.
"We have reached the stage of assembling our reactor and the turbine,"Viktor Kozlov, managing director of Atomstroiexport company - whichhandles construction projects abroad for Russia's Atomic EnergyMinistry, or Minatom - told Bellona Web.
Kozlov added that, as construction of the nuclear plant in Iran entersits final stage, "the number of Russian specialists will rise and willreach 2,000 people by year's end. They will be joined by their familiesand will live in a special village that has been set up for them nearthe site of the plant."
The main shell of the water-cooled nuclear reactor, built in StPetersburg, was delivered to Iran last November.
The nuclear project has been the result of warming ties between the twocountries that have also seen Iranian President Mohammed Khatami travelto Moscow for friendly talks with his Russian counterpart VladimirPutin. And in July, the Kremlin announced a draft plan for a 10-year,$10 billion programme of economic cooperation with Iran that wouldinvolve the building of five more reactors there.
The relationship has unnerved the United States, where several StateDepartment officials have identified the Bushehr reactor as the singlemost pressing security question remaining between America and Russia.
US President George W Bush has named Iran, alongside Iraq and NorthKorea, as part of an "axis of evil" which he claims is seeking todevelop weapons of mass destruction.
Monday's announcement from Kozlov dovetailed with yet another statementfrom Minatom assuring that spent nuclear fuel, or SNF, produced by theBushehr reactor would be sent back to Russia to prevent itsreprocessing, which would yield plutonium.
"Russia will strictly adhere to the principles of the InternationalNuclear Energy Agency, under which spent nuclear fuel must be returnedto the country supplying the fuel," Interfax quoted Deputy Nuclear PowerMinister Valery Lebedev as saying Tuesday.
Because of spent fuel transportation requirements, however, that fuelwill have to remain in cooling tanks at the Iranian plant for up tothree years, another Minatom source, who requested anonymity saidTuesday.
Such long-term access to the fuel after its use could, manyenvironmentalists and arms experts fear, lead to eventual clandestinereprocessing experiments in Iran.
Other possibilities for producing plutonium from the Bushehr reactorwere outlined by Alexei Yablokov, former environmental advisor to theAdministration of Boris Yeltsin.
Noting that the technology used in a civilian nuclear reactor can beused to produce weapons grade plutonium, Yablokov and said that Irancould manufacture enough plutonium to build a nuclear bomb by replacingthe control rods in the Bushehr plant's nuclear fuel assembly with rodsfilled with uranium 238 and bombarding them with neutrons. Uranium 238is easily accessible. Natural uranium contains 99.3 per cent of uranium238.
"That is why sharing nuclear technology with such unstable countries asIran is a suicidal step," said Yablokov, who now heads the Centre forRussian Environmental Policy.
It was Yablokov who in 1995 learned of a secret deal Minatom had struckwith Tehran to build breeder reactors and other facilities that wouldhelp Iran produce weapons-grade plutonium. When he passed this on toYeltsin, the Russian leader was furious and the deal was called off-publicly, at least. But Yablokov and others insist that the secretdealings continue and that it is only a matter of time before theproduce a nuclear weapon. return to menu
2. Iran Says Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant Develops Well
September 3, 2002
(for personal use only)
Construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant goes on strictly asscheduled and the facility will be commissioned on time, the IranianForeign Ministry announced on Monday.
At a news conference, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefisaid the assembly work is underway in the reactor building of the plant.
He said heavy equipment has arrived from Russia by sea under anagreement between the Russian company Atomstroikoexport and the IranianOrganization for Atomic Energy.
Local press reports said on Sunday Russian technicians in Iran began theassembly of the heavy equipment, which is part of the first reactor atthe Bushehr plant.
Under the agreement signed in 1995 between Iran and Russia, the800-million-US-dollar station, a project initiated by the German firmSiemens and abandoned after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, is expectedto come into operation in early 2004.
Russia has been constructing the controversial power plant despiteobjections from the United States, which fears that Iran is trying todevelop weapon-grade plutonium. return to menu
3. Iran Nuke Plan
September 3, 2002
(for personal use only)
The Nuclear Power Ministry has drawn up a plan for the return of spentnuclear fuel from an Iranian power plant, being built with Russian help,that has drawn strong opposition from the United States.
The agreement on the return of fuel was completed over the summer andhanded over to the government, an official in the ministry's pressoffice said Monday on condition of anonymity.
"Russia will strictly adhere to the principles of the InternationalNuclear Energy Agency, under which spent nuclear fuel must be returnedto the country supplying the fuel," Deputy Nuclear Power Minister ValeryLebedev said, Interfax reported.
But because of requirements for its transport, the ministry said thespent fuel would be held for three years in a cooling tank at theIranian plant before it is taken back to Russia. return to menu
4. Russian Work On The Bushehr N-Plant In Iran Enters Key Stage, OfficialSays
September 2, 2002
(for personal use only)
Some 600 Russian specialists began work Sunday on a key phase of the $US800 million project to build the first power unit of the Buchehr NPP inIran. "We have reached the stage of assembling the main technologicalequipment, i.e. the reactor," Viktor Kozlov, managing director ofAtomstroyexport company told Nuclear.Ru As construction of the plantenters its final stage, by year-end " several hundreds more of Russianspecialists will join our stuff in Iran".
In order to allocate such a considerable number of specialists as wellas their families, a guarded village has been near the constructionsite, comprising comfortable cottages, the official said. Besides, anagreement has been reached regarding charter flights from Russia to Iranin order to make the arrival of Russian specialists easier, Mr Kozlovsaid. He also confirmed that the plant would enter commercial operationin 2004, and the nuclear fuel would likely be loaded in the reactor ofthe first unit in December 2003. return to menu
1. Moscow, Ottawa Identify WMD Nonproliferation As Key Priority
September 3, 2002
(for personal use only)
Moscow and Ottawa want talks to be initiated promptly on theimplementation of a Group of Eight document on the "Global Partnershipagainst the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction," it waspronounced at a meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov,who is political director for Russia at the G8, and Canadian Ambassadorin Moscow Rodney Irwin.
The two men tackled issues of bilateral cooperation and interaction onthe global scene as part of preparation of political-level contacts duethis month. The Russian interlocutor noted the work done by Canada toprepare and successfully conduct the G8 Summit at Kananaskis in June.The Summit's results, Moscow feels, "continue to work in favor ofconsolidation of strategic stability, the international anti-terroristcoalition, the reduction of regional tension, including in the MiddleEast and in the Persian Gulf region." The two parties noted the fruitfuldevelopment of the Canadian-Russian dialogue at all levels. Theydiscussed ways of expanding trade ties, encouraging energy coordination,and enhancing the Northern Dimension in bilateral ties. return to menu
1. Kremlin Can't Control Secretive Nuke Agency
San Francisco Chronicle
September 1, 2002
(for personal use only)
The United States and Russia, whose cooperation in the war on terrorismseemed to be laying to rest memories of Cold War hostility, are onceagain on the opposite sides of a major dispute - this time overWashington's suspicion that Russia is secretly supporting Iran's nuclearweapons program.
The main suspect is not the Russian government, but its Atomic EnergyMinistry, or Minatom - a colossal, opaque and virtually unsupervisedagency created by Joseph Stalin -- that experts say is knowingly helpingIran become a nuclear military power. President Bush has cited Iran asan exporter of terrorism and one of the three nations, along with Iraqand North Korea, that comprise an "axis of evil."
Nor is the nuclear plant in the southern Iranian city of Bushehr theonly source of U.S. irritation with Minatom. Earlier this year, theKremlin's official accountants reported that hundreds of million ofdollars of American and European aid for managing disposal and securityof Russia's nuclear waste has disappeared.
The Kremlin, too, has its problems with the secretive agency. Eventhough Minatom employs more than 600,000 people and has an annual budgetestimated to be about $1 billion, about 1.5 percent of Russia's federalbudget for 2002, it keeps many of its actions hidden from bothparliamentary and government monitoring agencies -- and even fromPresident Vladimir Putin.
More than a decade after the end of the Cold War, the nuclear agencycontinues to enjoy virtually the same level of confidentiality it didwhen hundreds of thousands of its employees packed away in "closedcities" across the Soviet Union were designing and building nuclearweapons.
Critics charge that Minatom takes advantage of its secrecy status inorder to engage in transactions that have little to do with Russiandefense and pay little regard to the country's strategic interests.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
The Bushehr deal with Iran, experts say, is emblematic of Minatom's wayof doing business.
Although Iran has expressed willingness to obtain nuclear weaponstechnology and, according to the Bush administration, has ties tointernational terrorist groups, Minatom regards the $840 million Bushehrreactor simply as a successful business venture and could care lessabout its potential uses, according to a Russian nuclear scientist whofrequently travels to the project site.
"Yes, Iran will get their weapons-grade plutonium and build a bomb.Everybody knows that," said the scientist, who spoke on condition ofanonymity.
"So what? We are making money today."
With Russia eager to boost its overseas trade and bring in badly neededhard currency, the government goes to great lengths to justify the Iranplant as only a civilian project. The Kremlin insists that the Bushehrplant can be used only for civilian purposes, is in strict adherence tointernational nonproliferation guidelines and cannot in any way boostIran's weapons programs.
"Turning Iran into a nuclear military power is more dangerous for Russiathan for the United States," said Russian legislator Sergei Mitrokhin,who has repeatedly charged that Minatom knowingly funnels sensitivetechnologies into Iran under the cover of building the plant in Bushehr.
Mitrokhin said the long-term chances of a conflict between Russia andIran - - its power rival in Central Asia -- are "enormous" because ofIran's support for Islamic fundamentalism. Militant Muslim groups havemounted insurgencies in the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan,Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
RUSSIAN POLICY 'CRAZY'
"It is crazy to build them reactors," Alexei Yablokov, a senior adviserto former President Boris Yeltsin on environmental issues, said in arecent interview.
Noting that the technology used in a civilian nuclear reactor can beused to produce weapons grade plutonium, Yablokov and other Russianexperts say that Iran could manufacture enough plutonium to build anuclear bomb by replacing the control rods in the Bushehr plant'snuclear fuel assembly with rods filled with uranium 238 and bombardingthem with neutrons. Uranium 238 can be found in conventional weapons,such as depleted-uranium artillery shells.
"That is why sharing nuclear technology with such unstable countries asIran is a suicidal step," said Yablokov, who now heads the Center forRussian Environmental Policy.
It was Yablokov who in 1995 learned of a secret deal Minatom had struckwith Tehran to build breeder reactors and other facilities that wouldhelp Iran produce weapons-grade plutonium. When he passed this on toYeltsin, the Russian leader was furious and the deal was called off --publicly, at least. But Yablokov and others insist that the secretdealings continued.
U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham voiced worries about Iran'sintentions last month.
"Iran is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons as well as other weaponsof mass destruction and long-range missiles," he said. "For that reasonwe consistently urge Russia to cease all nuclear cooperation with Iran,including its assistance to the reactor at Bushehr."
Putin pointedly told Bush at a May summit in Moscow that Russia wasbuilding exactly the same type of reactors in Iran that the UnitedStates had offered to North Korea, another "axis of evil" country.
'A COMMERCIAL ACTIVITY'
Analysts say the agency's continuing disregard of the Bushadministration's urging to halt nuclear cooperation with Iran is notpart of some Cold War- style plot to exact revenge on the United States.
"The construction in Bushehr is not an ideological act," Pikayev said."It's a commercial activity."
Minatom announced in July a 10-year, $10 billion plan to build five morereactors on the eastern banks of the Persian Gulf, drawing scathingcriticism from Abraham.
Alexander Rumyantsev, Minatom's head, has repeatedly issued assurancesthat the project poses no risks for nuclear weapons proliferation andthat it "fully corresponds to all requirements of the international lawand Russia's international obligations."
"We have agreed with Iran that all spent nuclear fuel (from the Bushehrplant) would be returned to Russia, and this means Russia will fulfillits obligations concerning nuclear nonproliferation," Rumyantsev toldthe Russian NTV channel in June.
Yet Mitrokhin and others question whether Putin -- confronted by severeeconomic problems- has the means or will to monitor whether Iran livesup to its agreement.
"The Kremlin controls Minatom much less than Minatom controls theKremlin," Mitrokhin said. "Minatom acts like a powerful lobbyingstructure and has no opponents in the Kremlin, and the president isobviously under (its) influence. "
AGENCY NOT ALL BAD
Minatom has its defenders as well as critics. Alexander Pikayev, an armscontrol expert at the Moscow office of the Washington-based CarnegieEndowment for Peace, and other analysts argue that the secretive agencyactually deserves credit for helping prevent the uncontrolledproliferation of nuclear weapons around the globe amid the chaos thatfollowed the Soviet collapse in 1991.
Citing the ministry's Soviet-style management and penchant for theclandestine, Pikayev said, "Had it not been for Minatom, (Russian)nuclear scientists would have been selling nuclear bombs all over theplace in the early 1990s."
Others say that its style has no place in the kind of open governmentsystem that Russia is trying to build.
In July, a group of legislators, including Mitrokhin, approached Putinwith a proposal for sweeping changes in the structure of the colossalministry, including a plan to subjugate Minatom to three othergovernment bodies and strip it of the secrecy that surrounds itscivilian activities.
According to a report by Bellona, an environmental group in Norway,Putin has ordered his staff to gather experts for an official meeting onthe topic.
And at a meeting recently with parliament leaders, Putin said that hewas "worried" by some of Minatom's activities, said Mitrokhin. He addedthat Putin did not elaborate.
Because of the classified nature of Minatom's operations, evenparliament does not know how much of the money the agency receives fromIran makes it into government coffers, Mitrokhin said.
The Russian scientist who has spent time at the Iran site leveledanother explosive charge at Minatom officials -- accusing the ministryof embezzling vast sums of money through money-laundering schemes,covert transfers and illegal transactions.
When asked to elaborate, the scientist refused. "Why would I do that?"he said. "I don't want to lose my cut of the pie."
He confirmed, however, a report that Minatom had billed Iran at fourtimes the going rate after it purchased ventilation systems for theBushehr reactor from a Czech company.
Maxim Shingarkin, an expert at the Moscow office of Greenpeace whomonitors Russia's nuclear projects, said "millions" of dollars werepocketed by Minatom officials as a result of the scheme.
"I know how it works," said Shingarkin, a former major in the Russianmilitary's secretive 12th Department, which is in charge of strategicweapons. "I was part of the system myself."
The work in Bushehr is not the only source of allegations aboutcorruption among ministry officials.
In January, Russia's Accounting Chamber (the equivalent of the U.S.General Accounting Office) issued a report charging that $270 million inU.S. and European aid, intended to clean up and build safe storagefacilities for Russia's radioactive waste, had disappeared.
The aid was delivered to Minatom so that former Soviet stockpiles ofnuclear materials would not fall into the wrong hands. But theAccounting Chamber reported that the ministry had diverted the money toobscure research projects and had provided no accounting of how it hadbeen spent.
A Minatom spokesman said last week that the ministry needed up to 45days to answer any questions regarding the money.
Shingarkin charged the funds were either stolen by Minatom officials ordiverted to projects more lucrative than improving the security ofRussia's nuclear facilities. Although 40 percent of Russia's nuclearstorage sites have received U.S. assistance to upgrade security, newsecurity systems have been installed in only 20 percent of facilities.Shingarkin and other whistle- blowers blame this on embezzlement and redtape within Minatom.
To attract attention to the problem, Shingarkin and Mitrokhin earlierthis year easily broke into two high-security sites where Minatom storesspent nuclear fuel and radioactive materials. Shingarkin said theyclimbed through gaps in metal fences and got close enough to be able tosteal enough mildly radioactive waste to make a "dirty bomb" but did notencounter any guards along the way.
"There is no question that . . . terrorists, if they so desire, caneasily reach places where Russian plutonium is stored," Mitrokhin said. return to menu
F. Russian Scientists
1. Russian Science's Comeback
Valery N. Soyfer
Wall Street Journal
August 30, 2002
(for personal use only)
It has become commonplace in the West to speak about a deep crisis inRussian science in the last 10 years, and indeed there are problems. Buta recent tour of Moscow and Novosibirsk I took with colleagues fromGeorge Mason University has convinced me that things are changing forthe better.
The emigration of up to 400,000 Russian scientists to the rich West aswell as Asian and Arab states and the attraction of better-paying jobsin business have both helped deplete the talent pool over the pastdecade. The sharp decline in state financing since the collapse of theUSSR also hurts. Those scientists who stay behind find themselves indifficult straits.
Yet efforts to stem the decline seem to be paying off, at last. In thelast decade, the EU and U.S. financier George Soros launched severalprograms, with Mr. Soros alone spending more than a quarter billiondollars to found the International Science Foundation (ISF) and itssuccessor the International Soros Science Education Program (ISSEP). Amajor goal was to teach Russian scientists how to apply for grants andget funds for research. More than 100,000 scientists have received ISFand ISSEP grants and many scientific conferences were organized. Thishelped better prepare Russian scientists to compete for funds abroadand, best of all, gave them good incentives to stay put to workproductively at home.
At Novosibirsk State University and Moscow State University, the twoelite educational institutions, competition for places is on the risealong with applications, with roughly 10 students vying for one spot.Gifted young Russians are starting to realize they need a soundeducational background to succeed in a normal market economy, whichRussia is slowly becoming after the chaos of the Yeltsin years.
We derived a similar impression from our conversation with the directorsof two leading institutes of Akademgorodok, the special-built Sovietscientific town near Novosibirsk. The Institute of Cytology and Geneticslost a third of its 1,200 scientists after communism fell. "However,during the last four or five years we were successful in obtaininggrants from Russian and foreign granting agencies, and as a resultwithin the last two or three years we entirely restored the number ofscientists in our institute," says its director, Vladimir Shumnyi.
The Institute of Nuclear Physics, a leading research center, alsoreoriented its focus, Deputy Director Gennady Kulipanov told us. Duringthe Soviet period, he said, almost 80% of resources went to research and20% for industrial applications of the results. Now, four-fifths oftheir time is used to produce industrial equipment that is sold inChina, Japan, South Korea and even in the U.S., earning more than $20million a year. Last year they sold Western firms gigantic magnets andindustrial particle accelerators for radiation of polymers, thesterilization of mail, and the detoxification of wastes.
The same is happening in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major cities.Why? Russian politics are more stable, boosting confidence in thefuture. If in the past the Soviet empire relied on a vast military andindustrial complex, now Russia should rely on the robust development ofa normal economy. Which, in turn, can't develop without modern science.It's hard to overestimate the importance of Western assistance inhelping to bring this about.
Mr. Soyfer is a distinguished professor at George Mason University. return to menu
G. Nuclear Fuel Transfer
1. US, IAEA Experts Check State Of Nuclear Fuel Delivered From YugoslaviaTo Russia For Processing
September 3, 2002
(for personal use only)
Representatives of the US Energy Department and experts of theInternational Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Dmitrovgrad, Russia'sUlyanovsk Region, Tuesday to inspect the state of the nuclear fuel sentfrom Yugoslavia to Russia for processing.
The press service of the state-owned Nuclear Reactor Research Institutetold RIA Novosti that the center has taken 800 kilograms of unusednuclear fuel, containing 48 kilograms of enriched uranium, forprocessing.
The fuel was produced for Yugoslavia at one of the Russian plants andits processing is part of an IAEA anti-nuclear terrorism program.
The experts are weighing the fuel (5,046 small cylinders) and areexamining uranium's enrichment degree. Then, the cylinders will bestored in containers under seals. They will be kept in the containersuntil the Research Institute needs the fuel for its research reactors.
The Institute stressed that the experts were working withoutanti-radiation protection because the fuel was not radioactive.
The Research Institute emphasized that the US that had financed the fueltransportation from Yugoslavia thought the protection level in theInstitute is very high.
The press service added that the Institute would keep participating inthe IAEA fuel-processing program. Only hazardous fuel produced in Russiawill be processed. return to menu
2. A Nuclear Weapon Just Waiting to Happen
Los Angeles Times
August 29, 2002
(for personal use only)
Terrorists with the makings of a nuclear bomb represent the worsthomeland security nightmare. So last week's removal of enough highlyenriched uranium, or HEU, for 2 1/2 bombs from the poorly guarded Vincaresearch facility in Yugoslavia is a dramatic step toward making theworld a safer place. But it is only the first step.
Today, plutonium and HEU--the essential ingredients of nuclearbombs--are in hundreds of facilities, in scores of countries. Becauseobtaining such materials is the hardest part of making a nuclear bomb,vulnerable nuclear material anywhere is a threat to everyone everywhere.Yet there are no binding global nuclear security standards, and thesecurity for these materials ranges from excellent to appalling. Vincawas so impoverished it had dead rats floating in its spent fuel pool.
There are more than 300 civilian research facilities like Vinca aroundthe world fueled with HEU, which is the easiest material for terroriststo make into a nuclear bomb. Many of these sites do not have enough HEUto pose a serious security threat. But there are others like Vinca:poorly secured and with enough material for a nuclear bomb.
Rather than trying to beef up security everywhere, we need a focused"global cleanout" program targeted on getting rid of bomb material fromas many sites as possible around the world and then effectively securingthe sites that remain. The surest form of prevention is to ensure thereis no bomb material to steal.
Such a global cleanout effort would be feasible and cost-effective. LikeVinca, many of the facilities containing potential bomb material have nogenuine need for it anymore, recognize that they cannot afford to secureit effectively for the long haul and can be persuaded to give it up ifthe right incentives are offered.
The program should have the flexibility to tailor its work to the needsof each site--from paying the cost of shipping the material away, tobuying the material outright, to helping to convert research reactors touse fuel that cannot be used in bombs, to paying scientists to doresearch that no longer requires a research reactor.
A program funded at perhaps $50 million per year would have thepotential to eliminate essentially all of the most serious threats--thefacilities that are both poorly secured and have a substantial amount ofbomb material--within a few years.
The Vinca operation vividly demonstrates why such a focused, flexibleprogram is needed. While ultimately successful, pulling it togetherrequired more than a year of secret interagency and internationalnegotiations. And when the U.S. government found that it did not havethe authority to spend money on one part of the job crucial to sealingthe deal with Yugoslavia, it had to reach out for $5 million from theprivate Nuclear Threat Initiative, founded by Ted Turner and Sam Nunn.It was a similar story when the United States airlifted nearly 600kilograms of vulnerable HEU from Kazakhstan in 1994: more than a year ofinteragency debate to pull the mission together while the materialremained insecure.
Post-Sept. 11, we no longer have time for that, and we cannot afford toforce the government to go to the private sector for handouts to getthese vulnerable bomb caches secured. We need to create one office withall the authority needed to get the job done and to move as fast as wepossibly can to reduce this urgent risk to U.S. security.
When Congress returns from its August recess, the House and Senate willbe debating language in the Senate's defense bill that would authorizesuch an effort (although the Senate failed to provide new money to carryit out).
In the interest of securing ourselves and our children from terroristnuclear attack, Congress and the Bush administration need to worktogether to launch a fast-paced effort to clean out all of Vinca'svulnerable cousins, wherever they may be. return to menu
H. Nuclear Terrorism
1. W. Forgets The Nuclear Threat
The New Republic
September 9, 2002
(for personal use only)
The United States added a critical ounce of prevention to its war onterrorism last week. One hundred pounds of prevention, actually, in theform of bomb-grade, highly enriched uranium airlifted from Serbia toRussia for safekeeping. The nuclear material had been sitting around formore than a decade at Belgrade's Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences--adecrepit civilian nuclear reactor--in small, low-radiation canistersthat would have been easy to carry off without special equipment. Thesite was protected by little more than a barbed-wire fence and a fewlightly armed guards. And of course it was located in a country withwhich we had recently been at war, in a region home to Albanian Muslimfundamentalists allied with Al Qaeda. All of which made U.S. officialsvery, very nervous. If the material were stolen, it would have takenonly modest expertise and equipment to make it into two or three crude,Hiroshima-sized bombs. Instead the Russians will now convert it into arelatively harmless form for commercial use. The operation was hailed,understandably, as a major advance in the war on terrorism. Oneadministration official described it to The Washington Post as a"ground-breaking event." Another bragged to The New York Times, "This isa big win."
But it's a win that almost didn't happen. Indeed, what's most strikingabout "Project Vinca" is less its deft execution than the fact that ittook so long. The Vinca mission was first conceived well beforeSeptember 11. And even after the September 11 attacks, it took nearlyone year for the United States to overcome the bureaucratic infightingand legal technicalities that hindered the operation. For instance, theSerbians were happy to part with their uranium--but only on thecondition that the United States clean up the residual radioactive wasteleft behind. Yet Congress has strictly prohibited the use of federalfunds for purely "environmental" purposes. And so the George W. Bushadministration had to go begging to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI),a private nonprofit group, which donated $5 million for the cleanup.(Send your thank-you notes to CNN mogul Ted Turner, who bankrolls NTI.)"The notion that the U.S. government has to go to the private sector toget handouts for fundamental security issues is just ridiculous," saysMatthew Bunn, a nuclear proliferation expert at Harvard's Belfer Centerfor Science and International Affairs. Given that there are at least twodozen more nuclear sites around the world with bomb-grade material andshoddy security--sites that should have been secured long ago--thegovernment's reliance on private funding is also unacceptable. Yet noone expects rapid progress anytime soon.
This is not how it was supposed to be. After September 11 the Bushadministration made preventing terrorist acquisition of weapons of massdestruction (WMD) its highest priority. The president himself was saidto be particularly fixated on the threat of nuclear terror. An Octoberbriefing about the potential for nuclear terrorism in the United Statesfrom CIA Director George Tenet "sent the president through the roof,"intelligence sources told The Washington Post. "With considerableemotion, two officials said, Bush ordered his national security team togive nuclear terrorism priority over every other threat to the UnitedStates." Nothing would better demonstrate our new post-September 11resolve than a fierce, uncompromising, worldwide clampdown on nuclearmaterials and expertise. No expense would be spared. Bold action wouldreplace idle talk. And yet so far, it hasn't.
The first sign that the Bush administration still doesn't get it when itcomes to nuclear terrorism is the homeland security strategy it releasedthis summer. The document narrowly defines homeland security as limitedto prevention and response within America's borders. It addresseschemical and biological weapons, for instance, solely from theperspective of vaccines and decontamination. And it likewise proposes todefend against a nuclear blast by "[p]revent[ing] terrorist use ofnuclear weapons through better sensors and [inspection] procedures." Ofcourse, the ability to respond to domestic chemical, biological, ornuclear attacks is essential. But the White House strategy makes almostno mention of efforts to prevent terrorists from getting their hands onthese weapons in the first place. That may be a more complicated task,but it is ultimately a lot more effective. The harsh truth is that onceterrorists have a bomb, finding it, much less disarming it in time, willbe exceedingly difficult. Therefore homeland security begins abroad--andthat doesn't just mean invading Iraq. It means putting together abroad-based campaign for the nonmilitary preemption of materials thatcould be used to make a terrorist--or Iraqi--bomb.
The administration's questionable policy posture was illustrated earlierthis year, as millions of Americans flocked to movie theaters to watch astolen nuke annihilate Baltimore in The Sum of All Fears. Days after theTom Clancy thriller opened, the U.S. Customs Service mounted a p.r.campaign to reassure the nation that the film's terrorists--who smugglea bomb by ship into Baltimore's harbor--could be thwarted. Customsofficials showed off radiation and gamma-ray detectors and proudlydeclared, as Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner put it, that "anykind of nuclear weapon is going to stand out like a sore thumb." As CNNshowed footage of inspectors scanning cargo containers, Bonner assuredviewers the "Sum" scenario was implausible.
It was a deft exercise in p.r. but a highly misleading one. Even afterSeptember 11, Customs only inspects between 2 percent and 10 percent ofthe 40-foot-long shipping containers that arrive in the United Statesevery day by the thousands. A nuclear device, moreover, could beshielded with lead from detection by most sensors. And a terrorist couldmake a mockery of Bonner's boast by detonating his cargo, remotely or bytimer, before it is ever unloaded and subject to scanning--when, forexample, the ship carrying it first enters the harbor. When I askedStephen Flynn, a National Security Council (NSC) official in the Clintonadministration and a well known border-security expert, what he thoughtof Customs' public reassurances, he laughed. The only semi-reliable wayto stave off such a disaster, Flynn says, is to create a high-techsystem of shipping security that includes inspection of cargo headed tothe United States before it leaves foreign ports. But Rotterdam is theonly one of the 20 "megaports" through which cargo passes whereinspections have begun. Negotiations with other foreign governments aremoving slowly. What's more, Bush's recent pocket veto of $5.1 billion incongressional emergency spending will prevent $39 million budgeted forthis new Container Security Initiative from being spent.
But even if a comprehensive system for detecting nuclear devices inforeign ports were in place and adequately funded--it wouldn't beenough. Terrorists might still be able to hide the bomb in lead orotherwise circumvent detection; and even if they were caught, thedisclosure that they had come so close to a successful nuclear attack onthe United States would have unpredictable effects on society and theeconomy. A true anti-nuclear homeland security strategy needs to startbefore terrorists get nuclear materials--by clamping down on suchmaterials at sources such as the Vinca Institute and similar sites inplaces like Belarus, Ukraine, and even the Republic of Congo. But ratherthan give preemption efforts the kind of high-level attention one wouldexpect for a top-priority threat, Bush's homeland security strategyleaves them to midlevel bureaucracies in the State and DefenseDepartments--the same places where they have languished, underfunded andlargely ignored, for years.
Under the administration's existing nuclear security regime,bureaucratic problems like the one that nearly derailed last week'sBelgrade airlift are endemic. When the Clinton administration pulled offa similar removal of nuclear materials from Kazakhstan in 1995, theoperation bogged down at one point over the question of whether theEnergy or Defense Departments would pay for the cost of "ready to eat"meals for the U.S. teams in the former Soviet republic. It is notuncommon, says Harvard's Bunn, for three U.S. teams from differentagencies to arrive at the American Embassy in Moscow en route to inspectthe same Russian nuclear site--none of them aware of the others'missions. This year millions of dollars for new initiatives in theformer Soviet Union--including security upgrades at ten former Sovietnuclear weapons sites and training for guards at nuclear storagesites--were stalled for months as administration officials haggled overwhether to "certify" full Russian cooperation with conditions of U.S.aid. (And because the administration must certify Russian complianceannually--in six different categories, ranging from compliance with armscontrol agreements to protection of human and minority rights--progresscould easily stall again when the next deadline comes in October.)Current regulations also put very narrow limitations on how the UnitedStates can employ former Russian scientists who might be tempted to workfor terrorists or for "axis of evil" states; simply paying a scientistto go into retirement, for instance, is prohibited by law. Moreover,regulations mandate that American contractors play a role in securityupgrades at Russian nuclear sites, a requirement that often leads todelays. The Russians may be willing to build a new electric securityfence, for instance--but not if it means an American contractor istromping around a nuclear weapons plant. Standoffs like this have leftU.S.-bought security equipment lying in unopened crates at Russian sitesas recently as this spring.
And those are just the problems faced by U.S. programs in the formerSoviet Union and Eastern Europe. Many of the most worrisome nuclearsites are in other, still more lawless areas in Africa and the MiddleEast. One reactor in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, for instance, isprotected by only a rusted, padlocked metal gate. It has been missing afuel rod since the 1980s, when the director evidently lent out his keyring without realizing the reactor key was on it. (When recentlyquestioned on the matter by a Western reporter, the director feigneddeafness.) Some reports suggest the rod was stolen and shopped around bythe Italian mafia, although its fate is unclear. Nor is anyone quitesure what's happening at the plant now. Since a 1997 coup in the Congo,the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not been allowed toinspect the plant. There are disputes about whether this reactorproduces material fissile enough to build a crude nuke, but certainly itcould provide the key components of a dreaded, radiation-spewing "dirtybomb." And the Kinshasa reactor is just one example of the similarlyappalling conditions that can be found at several other reactors innations like Romania, Uzbekistan, and Ghana.
Listening to Bush's uncompromising post-September 11 rhetoric, you mighthave expected that the U.S. shock troops would have flown to Kinshasawithin days of the World Trade Center's collapse. Yet even now theadministration and Congress haven't cut through the legal restrictionsthat make such an operation difficult. Current law still makes itextremely difficult for Washington to expand some of its most effectivenuclear-security programs beyond the former USSR, where American effortshave been focused since 1991. To its credit, the Senate recently passedlegislation giving the Defense Department broad new flexibility to spendnuclear security funds wherever it wants. But incredibly, HouseRepublicans--motivated by residual anti communism and skepticism aboutanything that sounds like foreign aid--passed a specific prohibitionthis summer against using these funds in other countries. The WhiteHouse has exerted no visible effort against this senseless provision.
There's wide agreement that the fundamental problem with U.S. efforts tosecure WMD abroad is a lack of vision, coordination, and leadership atthe heart of our government--that is, in the White House itself.According to a May 2002 General Accounting Office report, for instance,existing efforts to combat nuclear smuggling are "not effectivelycoordinated and [lack] an overall governmentwide plan to guide [them]."The obvious solution would be the creation of a White House post, withdirect access to the president, to oversee the myriad programs run bythe Departments of State, Defense, and Energy. Yet despite years ofadmonitions from foreign policy luminaries of both parties, there isstill no one in the executive branch with both the mandate and theauthority to create a broader vision for a campaign against nightmareweapons. Bush's proposed Department of Homeland Security, with itsdomestic focus, doesn't solve this problem. ("[Tom] Ridge wonders, `Howdo we deal with something?'" says NTI's Laura Holgate. "But that's verydifferent from, `How do we prevent something in the first place?'")Until a high-level post is created, coordinating America's nuclearcounterproliferation programs will remain the principal task of SusanCook, a midlevel deputy at the NSC, who does not even reportdirectly to Condi Rice, let alone the president.
Until nuclear security is coordinated at the highest levels, the WhiteHouse will continue to muddle along, giving some programs more moneythan they can spend, while senselessly chopping the budgets of others.The IAEA, for instance, is the only global institution charged withpolicing nuclear material around the world. It is a fine frontlinewatchdog. And yet its $100 million budget for monitoring materials indozens of countries is on par with the police department of a midsizeAmerican city. Moreover, that budget has seen zero real growth over thepast 15 years, even as the agency's responsibilities have increasedenormously. Without more money, for example, the IAEA may no longer beable to operate the security cameras it has installed to monitor thespent fuel pools of several reactors worldwide.
Meanwhile, Congress has had to bully the Bush administration into amplyfunding the joint U.S.-Russia Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR), whichthe White House initially sought to cut in its last budget. Even now theadministration is asking for slightly less money than the Clintonadministration's last, pre-September 11 request. Funding to employ"loose geeks"--the thousands of Russian scientists whose knowledge posesa proliferation threat--remains paltry, which astonishes Amy Smithson ofthe Henry L. Stimson Center. "It's much cheaper to address aproliferation threat at the source than it is to try to defend againstit." And at its current pace and budget, the Department of Energy won'tbe able to secure every vulnerable Russian nuclear site--never mindthose in other nations--until 2008.
That's much too long to wait. A few months before September 11 a specialcommission headed by former Senator Howard Baker and former White HouseCounsel Lloyd Cutler examined the state of America's anti-nuclearprograms and found them disastrously lacking. The nuclear danger is "themost urgent unmet national security threat" to the country, theyconcluded, adding that "the current budget levels are inadequate and thecurrent management of the U.S. government's response is too diffuse, ...leav[ing] an unacceptable risk of failure and the potential forcatastrophic consequences." These facts have not fundamentally changedsince September 11. At this summer's G-8 summit the Bush administrationpledged more money for these programs--an encouraging step--but has yetto follow through with any short-term commitments of funding. Al Qaeda'sleadership, needless to say, has no equivalent delays holding it back.At this pace, says Harvard terrorism expert and former Clintonadministration defense official Graham Allison, a nuclear explosion inthe United States can be imagined "quite vividly" and is "not evenunlikely." Our attitude should be, "Go get that stuff today," Allisonsays. "Not tomorrow. Today."
Washington's response to the nuclear terror threat is in many ways acase study in its overall attitude toward homeland security. After PearlHarbor the U.S. economy was quickly and fundamentally redirected towardthe war effort. Today the Bush administration is calling for $38 billionin homeland defense spending next year, which equals about 0.4 percentof America's GDP--or roughly one-tenth of the U.S. military budget.Bush's homeland security strategy pledges that "we will spend whateveris necessary to secure the homeland." Yet the president fights withCongress over minuscule increases in homeland securityspending--including money for those cargo inspections. And while theBush administration is prepared to spill American blood to keep SaddamHussein from building a nuclear bomb, it has failed to untangle thebureaucracy that is giving Osama bin Laden the time to steal one. GeorgeW. Bush may say that the nuclear threat is his top priority. But hestill isn't acting that way. return to menu
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