1. Russian Deputy On Terms Of Ratifying Russia-US Strategic Offensive
October 1, 2002
(for personal use only)
The Russian-American Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions can be ratified this year. Chairman of the State Duma Defence Committee Andrei Nikolayev said as much to newsmen Tuesday.
According to the Duma deputy, the Treaty providing for both sides' reducing their strategic offensive nuclear warheads turned out to be worse than desired but better than it could have been.
Among the deficiencies of the document, Nikolayev named the lack of clear-cut control mechanisms. The document, in his opinion, does not entail the liquidation of nuclear weapons, does not set the need for other nuclear countries to join it and does not solve the problem of tactical nuclear weapons.
Besides, Nikolayev pointed to some positive aspects of the document. It formulates mutual obligations of the sides, and was adopted in a pack with other agreements on bilateral relations in the weapons area between the two countries. The Treaty, Nikolayev said, has been adjusted to the present-day political situation. Therefore, even if the international situation worsens, it will barely affect the Treaty's ratification.
The consideration of the document is being held in parliament behind closed doors.
The Russo-American Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions provides for reducing strategic nuclear warheads down to 1,700-2,200, i.e. by 66.7 percent, by December 31st, 2012. Besides, the Treaty envisages the conditions for its further development - a bilateral commission will be responsible for its implementation, while the START-1 Treaty will remain valid too. return to menu
2. Russia's State Duma Sets About Russia-U.S. Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty
October 1, 2002
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW -- In the State Duma the first day of October was highlighted by a behind-the-doors session of the defense and international committees. Colleagues from the security, industry and transport, ecology and energy committees were invited. On the agenda was upcoming ratification of the treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States on reduction of strategic offensive armaments, which was inked last May 24 in Moscow.
What is unusual, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has endorsed the document, has not yet submitted it for ratification by the lower parliamentary chamber. When he is going to do so is not clear. Army General Andrei Nikolaev, chairman of the defense committee, believes that this treaty is crucial for our country and by the time it reaches the State Duma parliamentarians should thoroughly know its gist and contents, understand its importance and be ready to vote for without delay.
In a conversation on Tuesday with the RIA Novosti analyst, Nikolaev said that the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty as any compromise document is not devoid of faults but the fact of its existence is a major and unconditional foreign-policy achievement of President Putin and his team. It is known that, assuming office in Washington, President George Bush junior said: our relations with Russia are now as trustworthy and friendly as with France and Great Britain. With them, or another country, we have no treaties on the reduction of strategic armaments. We and Moscow do not want them, either. Let it do what it thinks fit with its nuclear weapons. We in our country will do what we think necessary, he said.
After the United States withdrew from the antimissile defense treaty and refused to ratify the START-2 treaty the nuclear arms race process was becoming a black hole, unlimited and uncontrollable, noted the general. The arms race gave other nuclear or threshold states an opportunity to neglect international obligations in this field. This could have led to unpredictable consequences. Thanks to the efforts taken by the Kremlin diplomacy, this negative process has been stopped.
What does the Strategic Offensive reductions Treaty give us? First, it sets the level of strategic nuclear warheads at 1,700-2,000 by December 31, 2012. Meaning that today's reserves of the United States and Russia (6,000-6,500 nuclear warheads) will be reduced approximately three times, which is a good showing. Second, both the sides do not just exchange strategic-offensive-arms-reduction wishes but assume juridical obligations. Signed into law upon ratification, they are to be abided by. Third, the treaty has been adopted in package with other agreements, which opens the door to new agreements on lowering the nuclear-deterrence threshold.
The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty is called intermediate on both sides of the ocean. A bilateral monitoring commission has been set up. It is gathered at least biannually at the level of defense and foreign ministers in each of the two capitals alternately. The last such meeting between Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Igor Ivanov and Sergei Ivanov was recently held in Washington.
Among the merits of this treaty is that it does not set or limit a structure for strategic nuclear forces for either of the two sides. For instance, Russia may leave in its arsenals 150 heavy R-36 Voevoda missiles of different modifications, called SS-18 Satan in the West. It has ten independently targeted megaton nuclear warheads, which can penetrate any antimissile defense. For our country it is a guarantee against all sort of "strategic surprises". As reliable protection for us is ensured by twelve combat railway systems R-23 Molodets, or SS-24 Scalpel, with 36 missiles and 360 warheads, which we may preserve, as Satan, on combat duty. Under the unratified START-2 treaty they were to be destroyed.
Russia can, if it had enough funds, equip its new silo-based ballistic missiles RT-2 PM2 Topol-M with three or four independently targeted warheads. This, too, will make it possible to penetrate any density of antimissile defense. The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty does not impose any limitations on the number of warheads on ground-, sea- or aircraft-based missiles. The only barrier is the total number of nuclear clusters - not more than 2,200.
Meanwhile, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty has serious faults, believes Nikolaev. It does not demand liquidation of combat nuclear warheads removed from deployed missiles. The United States gets an opportunity to stockpile them, update and then install back on the same carriers as it sees fit. True, Russia enjoys the same right. But for Russia it is a financially hard process. It is cheaper to dismantle a nuclear warhead and in its stead put, if need be, a new one. But this, too, within the 2,200 formula.
Nor, does this treaty provide a clear-cut answer to mechanisms of monitoring control over the state of the partner's strategic nuclear forces, intend its being joined by other members of the nuclear club, leave tactical nuclear weapons outside negotiations. In the meantime, the 200 American aircraft-based nuclear bombs deployed in Europe pose a strategic threat to Russia.
The defense committee believes that all these are themes for further negotiations between Russia and the United States, as well as other countries. Andrei Nikolaev is sure "the State Duma by a sweeping majority of votes will ratify the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty before the end of this year". Of course, if the president timely submits it to the parliament.
True, several pessimistic experts have said to the RIA Novosti analyst that the ratification process may be seriously complicated by the United States operation against Baghdad without OK from the United Nations Security Council. Incidentally, this was the case with the ratification of the START-2 treaty during the Desert Storm operation and then the attacks on Yugoslavia. Optimists say: attack or no attack on Iraq, this treaty is needed above all by Russia. The pro-presidential forces in the State Duma will not allow its ratification being wrecked. return to menu
3. Duma To Debate Ratifying Russian-US SORT Treaty In October
Viktoria Prikhodko, Galina Filippova
October 1, 2002
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW -- The Russian-US Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (SORT) is to be submitted to the State Duma for ratification this month, the lower house of parliament's defense committee chair Andrei Nikolayev opined in comments Tuesday on a parliamentary hearing behind closed doors on the issue.
"The finishing parliamentary hearings we expect to hold in late November [or] early December so as to ratify the treaty by the end of the year," said Nikolayev.
Deputy Duma Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who is also the leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia, agreed, saying the Duma was likely to ratify the SORT Treaty.
But he insisted the Duma needed to ratify the treaty "at the same time as the Americans... so it wouldn't be like it was with the START-2 Treaty, which we ratified and the Americans did not." return to menu
1. Focus / Russia's Dangerous Dealings With Iran Go On
September 30, 2002
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At his meeting today with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will go through the ritual performed by all Israeli and American leaders during talks in Moscow: He will demand that Russia stop assisting Iran's nuclear program, and he will be answered, as always, with smiles and understanding. And the flow of Russian nuclear technology to Iran will continue.
Earlier this month, an American delegation visited Moscow with a detailed list of all the technologies and raw materials supplied by Russia that could help Iran develop atomic, biological or chemical weapons or long-range missiles. It returned empty-handed, saying no progress would be made until U.S. President George Bush's summit with Putin. But Bush is currently focused on mustering support for his war on Iraq, and Iran has been pushed to the sidelines.
The United States has been trying for more than seven years to get Russia to end its dangerous dealings with Iran, but without success. The Russians did pledge to "tighten controls" on technology exports - but meanwhile, Iran's nuclear project and its long-range ground-to-ground missile project have both advanced.
Russian nuclear aid to Iran flows through two channels. The open one is its assistance in construction of the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, due to be completed by the end of next year. The secret one consists of Russian companies that supply know-how and parts that could aid in the production of nuclear weapons. Time after time the Russians have denied that such deals exist. Neither the U.S. nor Israel believes them.
Robert Einhorn and Gary Samore, who handled America's talks with Russia on this issue for the Clinton administration, analyzed this ongoing failure in an article published in the bulletin of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. In it, they noted that America does not believe Russia's claim that these transfers of nuclear technology are a "private enterprise;" it believes that all such deals take place with the knowledge and consent of government agencies. Had the Russian government really wanted to, the writers said, it could have turned off the tap - or at least reduced the flow substantially.
Russia, they said, actually shares America's reluctance to see Iran join the nuclear club, and privately, Russian officials even admit that they share America's assessement of Tehran's intentions.
But two considerations have caused Russia to prefer a partnership with Iran to strategic and technological cooperation with the United States. The first, they said, is economic: The Russian nuclear industry needs the Iranian market. The second is strategic: Russia views Iran as a key player in the Middle East, and also as one with influence on Russia's large Muslim minority. For both reasons, good relations with Tehran are important to it.
Samore and Einhorn wrote that in late 2000 - just before Clinton's presidency ended - the Americans were close to a deal with Moscow: Russia's then energy minister, Yevgeny Adamov, had agreed in principle to halt Russian cooperation with Iran in sensitive areas such as uranium enrichment and plutonium production in exchange for American acquiescence to Russia's role in the Bushehr project. The two sides almost concluded a written agreement, the article said, but the talks eventually foundered over Washington's fears that Adamov would not keep his word.
Samore and Einhorn also criticized the Bush administration for neglecting this issue, thereby making Russia think that the U.S. no longer cared about it. Recently, Bush's team has begun taking a more active stance. But Russia's position has not moved a millimeter. return to menu
1. U.S.-Russia: Nuclear Fuel Program Needs More Support, Experts Say
Global Security Newswire
September 27, 2002
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON - A U.S.-Russian program to develop fuel alternatives for small nuclear reactors fueled with weapon-grade uranium needs more political and economic support, according to a report released today by the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council (see GSN, Sept. 26).
The U.S.-Russian Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR) program works to develop low-enriched uranium fuel for Soviet-designed test and research reactors that currently use highly enriched uranium. Poorly secured HEU could be an attractive target for terrorists seeking material for a nuclear or radiological weapon.
There are currently about 40 research reactors in Russia that use HEU fuel, plus three in former Soviet states and six in other countries such as North Korea and Libya, according to the report.
"It is vitally important that this effort receive renewed political and financial support in both the United States and Russia," the report says. "The program could make an important contribution to the effort to eliminate vulnerable HEU stockpiles in Russia and those other countries that posses Soviet-designed research and test reactors."
The RERTR program faces several obstacles to its full implementation, however, including financial, political and technical concerns, the report says. One of the program's main concerns is a lack of adequate funding, it says. Currently, the RERTR program's efforts in Russia are funded through a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. State Department's Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund, but that grant is set to expire soon.
Energy has not attempted to obtain the funds needed to keep the program running at an effective level, the report says. In fiscal 2003, according to the report, the program will need an additional $3.5 million above the department's request to continue LEU fuel development and reactor conversion efforts, according to the report. A large-scale program to convert Russian reactors to use the new fuel would need even more funding, which is unlikely to be available from Russia or other former Soviet states, the report says.
Political concerns have always hampered the RERTR program, according to the report.
"Perhaps more than any other U.S.-Russian cooperative nuclear security program, the RERTR effort has been directly impacted by larger U.S.-Russian disputes," the report says.
An example of this involves the Russian Research and Development Institute of Power Engineering, Russia's chief institute for RERTR efforts, according to the report. In 1998, the institute was banned from participating in any U.S. nonproliferation activities over concerns that the institute was aiding Iran's nuclear weapons program. The sanctions ended the institute's role in managing Russia's side of the RERTR contract and has stopped the institute from taking part in any U.S.-Russian cooperation under the program, the report says.
Another political problem is the differing ways U.S. and Russian officials view the program, according to the report. The United States sees the program as primarily a nonproliferation activity. Russia, however, also anticipates commercial benefits such as more international nuclear sales, some of which the United States might oppose, the report says.
RERTR participants have had success in developing LEU alternatives for small reactors, but they have had difficulties in converting reactors to use the new fuel, according to the report (see GSN, April 16). Some Russian reactor operators are skeptical of the idea of reactor conversion, while some Russian nuclear officials oppose cooperating with the United States on secrecy grounds, the report says.
Russian nuclear experts have also noted dissatisfaction among some Western reactor operators and have said the Energy Department is reluctant to convert some of its own reactors to use LEU fuel, the report says. These developments have increased fears among Russian nuclear specialists that using LEU fuel would increase their costs and offer poor reactor performance, the report says.
Russian research reactor operators might be persuaded to begin using LEU fuel, if offered a package of incentives, according to the report. Those incentives could include a guaranteed supply of LEU fuel, assistance in transporting spent fuel off site and payment for and disposal of unused highly enriched uranium fuel, the report says.
The U.S.-Russian "Megatons to Megawatts" program, under which the Untied States is committed to purchasing HEU taken from Russian nuclear weapons, could be expanded to include small HEU stockpiles from test and research reactors, according to the report (see GSN, June 20).
While the RERTR program is already playing an important role in nonproliferation efforts, increased support could help broaden the program's scope, the report says.
"The U.S.-Russian RERTR program is serving a critical role in reducing the nonproliferation and security threat associated with the HEU-fueled research reactors in Russia and other countries with Soviet-built reactors," the report says. "With adequate funding, political support and coordination with other U.S. nuclear threat reduction efforts, the program could be an effective tool in eliminating highly vulnerable HEU stockpiles in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere." return to menu
2. Uzbek HEU Removal Stays on Track; Broader Fuel Effort also Progressing
September 20, 2002
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The U.S.-Russian-IAEA project to remove high-enriched uranium (HEU) from Uzbekistan a pilot for a larger effort to convert or shut down Soviet-supplied research reactors that run on HEU is progressing well, according to the chief spokesman for Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom). Spokesman Nikolai Shingarev indicated Sept. 13 that HEU shipments would start moving soon from the Institute of Nuclear Physics outside Tashkent to a more secure site in Russia in the next month or two, reported the Russian news Web site (www.nuclear.ru).
An official with DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said there is not a definite time for beginning the shipments as certain elements of the operation are still under discussion. Some observers have said the shipments are on track to begin by the end of the year.
Nuclear.ru said the shipment would involve about 70 kilograms (kg) of HEU. Matthew Bunn, a former U.S. nonproliferation official who now is a senior research associate at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, said the shipment would include spent as well as fresh fuel. He also said that not all of the HEU would be immediately removed from the site, as the reactor needs some HEU to operate until it is converted to low-enriched uranium (LEU).
According to a new report issued by the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, the effort to develop a high-density LEU fuel for Soviet-supplied reactors, such as the one in Uzbekistan, is going well. One route that Russia had pursued at first, developing uranium-oxide fuels, was not successful in certain reactors; fuel assemblies failed their irradiation test and released fission products the study says. But a more recent effort by the Bochvar Institute of Inorganic Materials (Vniinm) and the Elekstrostal fuel-manufacturing facility to develop a uranium-molybdenum (U-Mo) fuel is showing more promise, the report says.
The first test fuel elements are to be irradiated later this year, the report says. Oleg Bukharin, a research scientist at Princeton University's Program on Science & Global Security and the lead author of the study, said the fuel is projected to be ready for reactor use about 2005.
He said the consensus is that the U-Mo fuel is expected to perform well. The report says, It is believed that Russian fuel manufacturing facilities would have no difficulty manufacturing this new fuel. Another asset, the study says, is that the basic fuel element would be an aluminum-clad pin, which could then be assembled into more complex geometries. That would be preferable to the alternatives, which involve manufacturing complex shapes, Bukharin said.
The Russian effort receives much of its funding from the U.S., with the rest coming from Minatom. And there are some strains between Russia and the U.S., the report says. It cites as the most notable example the involvement of the Russian Research & Development Institute of Power Engineering (Nikiet). According to the report, that institute was originally the main contractor with Argonne National Laboratory, the lead laboratory for the U.S. Reduced Enrichment for Research & Test Reactors (Rertr) program, through which the Russian program receives its U.S. funding. But because of Nikiet's alleged role in illicit nuclear exports to Iran, it is no longer eligible for U.S. funding, the study says.
Another potential source of tension, the reports says, is that while the U.S. sees Rertr as a nonproliferation effort, Russia has mixed incentives for continued involvement in the program including the possibility that participation will help bolster future Russian international nuclear sales, some of which are not supported by the U.S.
Therefore, Bukharin said, if the Russian fuel development effort does not pan out, and France steps in to produce the fuel, the Russians would probably be quite "unhappy." The U.S. and France have collaborated on research on development of a U-Mo fuel (NF, 19 April, '99, 5).
The report also urges the U.S. to provide more funding for the program, saying the Bush administration's $5.756-million request for fiscal 2003, which begins Oct. 1, is about $3.5-million short of what Argonne needs to continue its work at the appropriate level.
According to the report, the $5.756-million covers work on development and reactor conversion for the both U.S.- and Soviet-supplied reactors under the Rertr program. However, it does not include work on the effort under which Russia is to take back HEU fuel from Soviet-supplied reactors, such as the one in Uzbekistan (NF, 21 Jan., 1). The take-back effort would receive $9.52-million under the Bush FY-03 request, compared with a $1-million request for FY-02.
Bukharin said the total cost of the Russian Rertr should be about $25-million about $1-million to convert each of the 20 or so reactors that are expected to be included, with an additional several million dollars to develop the fuel and set up mass production of that fuel. But he said that was a conservative estimate and that the actual total could be lower. The goal should be to have the program fully in place around 2015, he said.
If the Tashkent pilot project is successful, reactors in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary are to be converted later in this decade, the report says. But Bukharin said that it is a bit sensitive and premature [for Russian officials] to discuss the timeline for the reactors involved in the conversion effort. The NNSA official said, "We have an idea of which ones are priorities, but are not sharing that information for security reasons." return to menu
1. Sharon Moscow Talks To Focus On Israeli Concerns About Russia's Ties To Iraq, Syria, And Iran
September 30, 2002
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Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, and Foreign Minister Ivanov, Russian news agencies reported on 28 September. Sharon, who supports the hard-line position of U.S. President George W. Bush on Iraq, will explain Israeli concerns over Russia's ongoing program of nuclear cooperation with Iran. Sharon, who is being accompanied on this trip by Mossad chief Efraim Halevi, will also articulate objections to Russia's sale of antiaircraft weapons to Syria (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2002). Sharon will also meet with leaders of the Russian Jewish community and with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II in an effort to bolster his support among Israel's ex-Soviet emigre community, which constitutes more than 25 percent of the country's population, ntvru.com and other Russian news agencies reported. return to menu
E. Nuclear Energy
1. Russia Signed Three Contracts For Kudankulam NPP Supply And Assembly
September 27, 2002
(for personal use only)
Russia has signed three contracts with India for the supply and assembly of Russian 'material and technological equipment' for the two-unit Kudankulam nuclear power plant in India, NucNet reported citing Nuclear Society of Russia. Russian officials say that the contracts, worth a total of approximately 1 billion US dollars, also include "delegation" of up to 300 Russian specialists - who are due to arrive in India in October - for assembly of the parts.
According to Russian nuclear export company, Atomstroiexport, Russia will announce a "series of tenders" for third countries to supply equipment under one of the three contracts signed with India. Russia and India signed a general contract for Russia to supply the two VVER-1000 nuclear units to India in February, while the go-ahead to pour first concrete at Kudankulam was given in April. Start-up of the plant is expected to take place at the beginning of 2007. return to menu
2. Playing With Plutonium
Wall Street Journal
October 2, 2002
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The weekend's scare over smuggled uranium in Turkey turned out to be a false alarm. But the danger of nuclear-weapons fuel falling into the hands of terrorists remains clear and present. All of which makes even stranger the Bush Administration's growing enthusiasm for using plutonium as fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.
Unlike the cheaper, safer low-enriched uranium that has become the staple of nuclear power generation, plutonium is the pure stuff of bombs. It is user-ready and compact enough to stash under a taxi seat; only a small amount could yield several nukes on the order of the one that destroyed Nagasaki.
That's why plutonium -- a primarily man-made material extracted from spent reactor fuel -- has for years been restricted in the U.S. to national defense uses. Going back to the mid-1970s, these columns fought an effort to commercialize plutonium use, and our allies included Dick Cheney, then President Ford's Chief of Staff.
In 1976, Mr. Ford stopped the use of plutonium for commercial-reactor fuel in the U.S. He argued that not only was plutonium a big money-loser, but its commercial use entailed far too great a risk of bomb material straying into rogue hands. In 1983, the U.S. wisely scrapped its biggest commercial R&D plutonium project, the Clinch River Breeder Reactor.
Well, here we go again. Under a deal signed between the U.S. and Russia during the Clinton years, and continued by the Bush Administration, all sorts of new plans for plutonium are afoot. The original aim was to get rid of plutonium from the decommissioned arsenals of the Cold War by using it up as fuel in nuclear reactors.
But that brings us right back to the risk of theft along the way. To feed today's reactors, which are geared for uranium, plutonium must first be fabricated into mixed-oxide fuel, or MOX. That means shipping it in weapons-ready form to MOX fabrication plants, then dispersing it among the reactors themselves. Even after it is blended into MOX fuel, plutonium is still relatively easy to separate out.
The amounts involved here are staggering, with the U.S. and Russia each pledging to run through 34 metric tons of plutonium, enough to make thousands of bombs. The whole process would take at least 20 years. We are somehow supposed to believe that even in Russia -- not famous for top-flight inventory control -- nothing would go astray.
Nor would this come cheap. Neither Russia nor the U.S. has facilities for turning plutonium into commercial fuel. So to show the Russians we're serious, the Bush Energy Department has ordered up a MOX plant to be built in South Carolina, over the protests of Governor Jim Hodges, with plans to haul the plutonium-based fuel to reactors in North Carolina. Russia, pleading a shortage of funds, is looking to the U.S. for billions of dollars in subsidies to build its own MOX plant and possibly a fast-breeder reactor run on almost pure plutonium.
Like all bad ideas, this one is also getting worse. With the old taboo on commercial use of plutonium now gone, creative bureaucracies are proposing a whole new generation of plutonium-based reactors. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has been talking up the idea, and none other than National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice -- too young, perhaps, to recall the 1970s debate -- enthused recently to the Financial Times about the vision of helping Russia develop a generation of fast-breeder (plutonium-fueled) reactors.
It's problem enough for the world that a number of nations still engage in commercial reprocessing of plutonium, including France, Britain, India and Japan. These programs have been struggling due to high costs. The sooner they're gone, the better.
Commercial use of plutonium is a gift to the world's terrorists and rogue states. It would be folly for the U.S. to head any further down this path, and it is twice nuts to even think of subsidizing Russia for any such project. return to menu
3. FEATURE-Russian 'Atomic City' Builds Future On Nuclear Dreams
October 2, 2002
(for personal use only)
ZHELEZNOGORSK, Russia The streets of this Siberian city are eerily clean and uniform, free of the buzz of commerce and jumble of billboards found even in the smallest and poorest of Russian provincial cities.
The few visitors who pass into the city through the kilometres (miles) of pine forest and the rings of barbed wire are met instead by a banner reading "Honour and homeland above all."
It is not easy to get into Zheleznogorsk, one of Russia's nine 'closed cities', a well-preserved bastion of the Soviet defence complex where satellites are built and the plutonium stuffing of nuclear warheads was produced.
With the country scrapping, not building, nuclear weapons and Russian space programmes chronically under-funded, the big business in this city is the burial of spent nuclear fuel from Russian reactors and former Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe.
"You think the city sighs with joy when the country sends up a new satellite?" asked one Zheleznogorsk resident. "No, only when a train arrives with spent nuclear fuel. That means salaries will probably be paid for the next six months."
Zheleznogorsk's hopes for prosperity rest on a storage facility that holds 6,000 tonnes of spent fuel from Russian and foreign nuclear power plants.
Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry has said the storage facility earns $50 from each kg (2.2 lb) of Russian spent fuel, $200 from that sent from former members of the Soviet bloc, and hopes to earn $1,000 from the unwanted fuel of developed countries.
HOLES IN THE FENCE
At the nuclear cemetery, 3,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel already lie cooling in containers under several metres of clear water. Many residents of Zheleznogorsk would happily take more.
Some worry that with the pools more than half full, space is running out.
As it is, there is often not enough is the state coffers to pay the scientists, most of whom say they survive on the produce from their vegetable gardens.
"I know of some holes in the fence (surrounding Zheleznogorsk)," a local journalist said. "People with cottages make them to get to their vegetable patches quicker."
A local engineer said the city had tried plans to convert military plants to civilian use but they had not worked out.
"This is how we live -- we look forward to each trainload of somebody else's crap," said the engineer, who like other sources declined to be identified.
For more trains carrying spent fuel to roll into Zheleznogorsk, Moscow needs to cut a deal with the United States, which has made Russia's nuclear ambitions a bone of contention.
Washington says Russia's contract to build civilian nuclear reactors in Iran could end up helping Tehran acquire nuclear weapons and that without proper security Russia's own nuclear materials could end up in a 'dirty bomb.'
Washington has the power to influence Russia's access to 90 percent of the world's spent fuel, according to the Natural Resources Defence Council, a U.S. nongovernmental organisation.
"Russia has two options: One, act alone and lose the market, or two, enter into a cooperative agreement with the United States," Tom Cochran, director of the NRDC's Nuclear Programme, said in Moscow.
Residents, however, say they see a 'great game' unfolding between the United States and Russia for an international market in spent nuclear fuel.
Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry has plans to build a new facility to hold 20,000 tonnes of nuclear waste in Zheleznogorsk, nearly an eighth of the world's total.
President Vladimir Putin last year signed a law allowing the import of foreign spent fuel into Russia despite opinion polls that showed a vast majority of Russians opposed it.
The government, however, has yet to sign a series of decrees needed to bring fuel in from further abroad than former Soviet satellites such as Bulgaria. Soviet era reprocessing agreements with those countries are still in effect, allowing them to ship fuel to Russia.
'LIFE IS GOOD THERE'
Russia's environmentalists have rallied to oppose nuclear waste imports. A national environmental group, Ekozashchita, set up a tent camp on the road to the Krasnoyarsk nuclear camp earlier this year to protest against spent fuel import plans.
But in Zheleznogorsk itself, even the local environmental newspaper, Citizen Initiative, writes about spent fuel in economic terms.
"In our rich region, it is a crime to live in poverty. We should put the situation to rights as far as payment for spent fuel storage is concerned and get full payment, not the crumbs that the Atomic Energy Ministry throws us," Citizen Initiative wrote recently.
Its pages are also full of obituaries.
"People don't live so long there," said a Krasnoyarsk taxi driver. "What's worse, radiation can wreck a man below the belt."
"But life in the closed cities is good. The bus is free, and they get free coupons to the cafeterias. Everything is good, like it was before." return to menu
4. Russia seeks cozier ties with ASEAN
By Sergei Blagov
October 3, 2002
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW - Russia, with its vast and resource-rich regions in its far east, is keen to join Asia's economic and political integration. Not surprisingly, therefore, that in recent days the Russian capital has witnessed a resurgence in diplomacy related to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai visited Moscow from September 29 to October 1 to meet with his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov. According to the Russian official RIA news agency, it was agreed during the talks that Russia and Thailand shared similar views on a number of international issues, notably the key role of the United Nations.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said that Moscow believed that there were "favorable conditions" now for increasing ties with Thailand, notably trade, as well as technology and military cooperation. According to Yakovenko, in 2001 bilateral trade reached US$410 million.
Russia mainly exports steel, chemical products and fertilizers to Thailand. Russia imports Thai sugar, rice and garment. Russia's entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) would benefit Thailand by improving access for Thai farm products and the opening up of new sources for oil, Supachai Panitchpakdi, the WTO's director-general, has stated.
Surakiart also discussed the upcoming trip to Moscow of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is due to pay a three-day visit from October 16 to 18. Thaksin and President Vladimir Putin are expected to discuss measures to increase trade through regular and barter deals.
The Thai government also reportedly planned to invite Putin to pay an official visit to Thailand in October 2003, when the country hosts the summit of leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Hence, Putin may become the first Russian leader to visit Thailand for over a century.
The Kremlin is also keen on stronger ties with the ASEAN's most populous nation. From September 25-28, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda traveled to Moscow, where he was reported to have urged the application of creative approaches to give bilateral trade a much needed boost.
According to Russian official statistics, in 2001 bilateral trade reached $203.5 million. In the wake of the 1997 Asian crisis, Indonesia canceled plans to procure Russian-built Sukhoi-30 jetfighters. However, Russia media outlets have recently speculated that Indonesia is considering the revival of this nearly $1 billion deal.
Overall, though, the Kremlin has conceded that trade with ASEAN nations was still low, and officials have long urged an increase in trade, while Russia has also called for summit meetings with ASEAN nations. Last March, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad flew to Moscow on his first official visit to Russia, and the two nations pledged to develop economic ties.
In 2001, bilateral trade between Malaysia and Russia reached $422 million, or up by 9 percent compared to 2000. Russia exports steel, machinery and fertilizers, while Malaysia exports machinery, palm oil and rubber products to Russia.
Bilateral trade also include arms. Malaysia has long been understood to be considering the procurement of Sukhoi aircraft, notably the Su-30 jetfighter, following the purchase of 18 MiG-29s. Russian media outlets have speculated that Malaysia was reviewing the procurement of 78 Russian-made T-90S tanks, BTR-3 and BMP armored vehicles, as well as Metis-M anti-tank missiles and Igla hand-held air defense missiles.
Russia formerly had extensive ties with Vietnam, its once closest ally in Asia during the Cold War, and it still has important economic interests in the country, notably major hydrocarbon projects, such as the $1.3 billion Dung Quat oil refinery and the $1.5 billion Vietsovpetro joint venture, which pumps some 13 million tons a year in waters off the southern port of Vung Tau.
However, in the wake of Russia's early exit from the Cam Ranh Bay naval base in July, Moscow's political leverage in Vietnam is waning. Correspondingly, Russia's trade with Vietnam has dropped to levels close to Russia's trade turnover with other ASEAN nations. In 2001, Russia exported $360 million worth of goods to Vietnam, mainly machinery and steel, while Vietnam sold $190 million in merchandise to Russia, largely textiles and rice.
In a noteworthy development, Russia's ties with ASEAN nations may well take a certain nuclear coloration. Russia has a nuclear agreement with Vietnam, which reportedly involves continued maintenance of the research reactor in Dalat, Lam Dong province, in central Vietnam. Moreover, last March Vietnam announced plans to build its own nuclear power station in either Ninh Thuan, also in central Vietnam, or its neighboring province of Binh Thuan. It is understood that Russia could be interested in joining this project.
Earlier this year, Russia reportedly agreed to help Myanmar construct a center for nuclear studies and a research nuclear reactor with a thermal capacity of 10 megawatts, and two laboratories. The deal would also include structures for the disposal of nuclear waste and a waste burial site. Under the plan, Russia is to deliver the nuclear fuel. However, it is yet to be announced when work will begin.
Apart from economic issues, relations between Russia and ASEAN have recently witnessed a revival of policy dialogue. Earlier this year, Russian officials welcomed Philippine house speaker Jose de Venecia's proposal for an expanded ASEAN Plus 4 grouping. Explaining his ASEAN Plus 4 proposal (China, Japan, Korea and Russia), De Venecia said that Russia's presence may bring about geopolitical "balances of power" in Asia with its major powers in China, Japan, Korea and India.
Jose de Venecia said that this proposal amended the original ASEAN Plus 3 plan that sought to integrate China, Japan and South Korea in the context of Asia's economic and political integration. Therefore, recent developments indicate that ties between Russia and ASEAN may well be heading towards a new high. However, it remains to be seen whether official pronouncements will be accompanied by actual progress in economic and political ties. return to menu
F. Loose Nukes
1. The Greater Nuclear Danger
The New York Times
September 27, 2002
(for personal use only)
While the Bush administration has been pushing hard for military action to neutralize Iraq before it gets nuclear weapons, Washington has been moving much more slowly to eliminate an even more troubling nuclear threat - the vast array of bomb-grade materials that lie poorly protected around the world, waiting for some terrorist and rogue state to buy or steal them. Indeed, the only reason to fear that Saddam Hussein will have a nuclear arsenal any time soon is the possibility that he might get his hands on some of this loosely guarded material. Left to his own devices, he is years away from developing nuclear weapons, according to two authoritative assessments issued this month. The top priority in the fight against nuclear terrorism must be to safeguard all fissile materials that would make such terrorism possible.
When Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain issued his intelligence dossier on Iraq this week, one of its most striking conclusions was that Iraq will not be able to produce a nuclear weapon as long as United Nations sanctions remain effective and would need at least five years to build a bomb even if sanctions were removed or broke down. However, that period could be shortened to one or two years if Iraq were able to obtain fissile material and other key components from foreign sources. The International Institute for Strategic Studies, based in London, also concluded that Iraq is at least several years away from being able to produce its own fissile material but judged it could build a bomb "within months" if it obtained the material elsewhere.
These alarmingly short time lines underscore the importance of moving all weapons-grade nuclear material to secure, well-guarded sites where terrorists and criminals would have little chance of getting it. The bulk of these materials are in Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union, often at sites that lack physical protection and are staffed by poorly paid workers who might be tempted by bribes. A worrisome amount is also scattered at civilian facilities in other countries.
To its credit, the American government has made significant progress in recent years in helping secure some of the material in Russia, although hundreds of tons of weapons-usable uranium and plutonium in the former Soviet Union still lack up-to-date safeguards against theft. Fortunately, the pace of the global effort has picked up in recent months. Most notably, President Bush helped establish, at the G-8 meeting in June, a global coalition to prevent the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction. The United States will put up $10 billion over 10 years for this purpose, and the other G-8 nations will put up another $10 billion. These are substantial sums that could help drastically reduce the danger. But surely 10 years is much too lackadaisical given the urgency of the threat. A crash program could probably complete the job in three or four years.
The administration's most recent success in securing nuclear material underscores the need to move quickly and how far we have to go. In August, some 100 pounds of bomb-grade uranium, enough for two or three bombs, was whisked out of a poorly guarded research institute in Belgrade and sent to a secure facility in Russia. The elaborate maneuver, which was carried out by American, Russian and Yugoslav experts, protected by Serbian police and Yugoslav troops, was rightly hailed as a triumph in the fight against terrorism. But it took more than a year of secret negotiations to arrange, and it was partly financed with private money. This is a pace we can no longer afford.
Congress is considering several measures that could spur progress a little. It should grant President Bush the permanent authority he seeks to waive conditions that have slowed the flow of money to Russia for safeguarding dangerous materials. It should also authorize the president to extend programs that were originally aimed at the former Soviet Union to any other nations where a threat exists.
But the most important missing ingredient is sustained, high-level attention to a danger that virtually everyone agrees is there. An administration that is putting such intense effort into planning for war in Iraq and bolstering homeland security can surely pick up the pace on the much easier and cheaper task of safeguarding materials that could prove devastating in the wrong hands. return to menu
2. Sensation: Chernobyl Uranium On Sale!
September 27, 2002
(for personal use only)
The court of Minsk, the Belarus capital, started a sensational case, which is at the same time extremely horrifying: several people charged with selling radioactive uranium rods, which highly likely came from the Chernobyl nuclear plant.
The newspaper Sovetskaya Belorussiya (Soviet Belarus) reported yesterday that the investigation department of the National Security Committee (KGB) for Minsk and the Minsk region investigated crimes committed by an international criminal group. The investigation revealed that a group of criminals attempted to sell about 1.5 kilograms of uranium dioxide 235 and 238 in Belarus at the beginning of the year. Numerous tests on the uranium dioxide failed to determine its origin, because the identification numbers had been removed from the uranium rods. However, the invesitgation revealed that the radioactive metal originates from Ukraine, the Chernobyl nuclear plant, to be precise.
There are five people charged with this dangerous crime: one Ukrainian, Veselovsky, and four Belorussians, Kurdesov, Bankalyuk, Volchenko, and Gurinovich. It is because of the involvement of the Ukrainian, Veselovsky, that the uranium is said to originate from the Chernobyl nuclear plant. The investigation discovered that Veselovsky came to Chernobyl in 1987 and was appointed the chief foreman in the reactor shop where radioactive elements were processed. Before the appointment, he worked at a nuclear power plant in Russia. Therefore, it is evidently he who had access to the uranium. In addtion, zirconium tubes with uranium dioxide, similar to that brought to Belarus in 2002, was stolen from the Chernobyl nuclear plant in 1993. A criminal investigation was opened, but no results were achieved. The investigation failed to determine who was involved in the theft. It is astonishing that the same Veselovsky was a key witness in that case.
The Ukrainian origin of the uranium is also confirmed by the fact that the dangerous substance was brought to Belarus in a train Chernigov (Ukraine)- Iolcha (Belarus) through the railway checkpoint of Novaya Iolcha, where border security is weak. In other words, there is much evidence of the Ukrainian origin of the uranium, and it is highly likely that Veselovsky is connected with the theft in 1993. It is quite natural that the man decided to wait for some time for the scandalous theft to be forgotten, and then he decided to sell the stolen uranium. Veselovsky denies the charges and says it was Kurdesov who obtained the uranium. The latter lays the blame on Veselovsky and says it was he who had stolen the tubes. The investigation still failed to unravel the closed circle.
The Belarus Internet site, www.sb.by, reported details of the unique case. According to the conclusion of the investigation, Kurdesov lived in Ukraine for many years and then moved to Mogilev (Belarus). At the end of 2001, he told an acquaintance of his, a supplier at the Minsk bearing plant, Bankalyuk, that he was looking for a client to sell a batch of uranium. Bankalyuk agreed to help him, and soon established contact with Gurinovich, who in his turn found Volchenko. In addition, a criminal case was initiated against Gurinovich in Belarus in January 2002 for an attempt to sell precious stones.
The KGB learnt about some people wishing to sell uranium at the end of 2001. The committee decided to place its officer into the criminal group as a potential client. However, Volchenko and Co. checked the man and his contacts several times before they agreed to have dealings with him. The KGB officer performed his role wonderfully: he asked the criminals to sell him only one rod at first to examine the quality of the uranium.
Kurdesov brought a piece of uranium tube to Minsk on December 28, 2001 and delivered it to Bankalyuk. The latter handed the rod over to Gurinovich, who in his turn contacted Volchenko and arranged a meeting. It was Volchenko who was the last link in the criminal chain and who met with the "client." The KGB paid 10,000 USD for the purchase, but it was worth it. An test on the rod determined that the criminals actually offered uranium dioxide 235 and 238 for sale. It was decided to conclude the operation and seize the whole batch.
A special operation was held which resulted in all members of the criminal group being arrested; 5 zirconium tubes with uranium dioxide 290-300 mm long, one tube 50 mm long, and the 10,000 USD paid for the firse purchase were found during the operation.
It may be incorrect to label the people who participaged in this crime an organized criminal group, as each of them was just a link in a chain of people pursuing their own objectives. For instance, Kurdesov and Veselovsky offered the uranium tubes for 250,000 USD. At the same time, Volchenko planned to sell the same goods for approximately 800,000 USD. The criminals didn't realized what a high price the innocent population would have to pay if the dangerous transaction wasn't prevented. It is not clear yet to what extent the sentence passed will affect the republic that has suffered so much from the Chernobyl tragedy. return to menu
G. Turkey Uranium Bust
1. Turk Nuke Fuel Bust Just One of Several Recently
September 30, 2002
(for personal use only)
When Turkish police seized a little more than a quarter pound of suspected weapons grade uranium from smugglers caught near the Iraqi border on Friday, it was far from the first time they'd busted deadly nuke fuel traffickers traveling through the country looking for the highest bidder.
In fact, less than two months after the 9/11 attacks, paramilitary police in Istanbul seized about a kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of weapons-grade uranium and detained two Turks who attempted to sell the substance to undercover agents, a Turkish security official told Agence France Press.
Other reports estimated that the November 6 weapons grade uranium bust yielded as much a 3.5 lbs. of the deadly substance.
"Police have often seized illicit substances, including nuclear materials, in Istanbul," the French news agency noted, calling the Turkish city "a hub of criminal activity located at the meeting point between Asia and Europe."
Smuggling of uranium and other contraband has increased since the end of the Cold War, as tens of thousand of people from former Communist countries flock to Istanbul to deal in the so-called "suitcase trade."
Turkish police have even uncovered "smuggling rings" that specialize in trafficking in radioactive substances, successfully breaking up one such operation just a month before the 9/11 attacks.
Six Turks were arrested for trafficking in nuclear material in the August 2001 bust.
In early Sept. the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British defense think tank, issued a report predicting that Saddam Hussein could produce a workable nuclear weapon within months if he could "obtain fissile material from abroad, steal it or buy it in some way." return to menu
2. Refined Uranium Found In Turkey Weighs Grams, Not Kilograms
September 30, 2002
(for personal use only)
The refined uranium caught by Turkish police Saturday weighed far less than originally thought, an official source in southwestern Turkey said Sunday.
It was originally believed that the Turkish paramilitary police had seized over 15 kg of weapons-grade uranium in the operation that also resulted in the detention of two men accused of smuggling the substance. The actual weight of the uranium turned out to be hundreds of grams, a fraction of the initial estimate.
The uranium is to be sent for tests to the local Atomic Energy Agency. The two suspects were brought before a judge Saturday night charged with the illegal sale of the material.
Officers in the southern province of Sanliurfa, bordering Syria and 250 km from the Iraqi border, were acting on a tip-off when they stopped a taxi cab and discovered the uranium in a lead container hidden beneath the vehicle's seat, the Anatolian news agency said Saturday.
The incident came at a time of mounting speculation the U.S. could attack neighboring Iraq for its alleged program of weapons of mass destruction.
Officials at Ankara's Atomic Energy Institute would not confirm they had been notified about the material. "Our investigation on whether the uranium was destined for a neighboring country is continuing," a Sanliurfa police official was quoted as saying by Anatolian.
Authorities believe the uranium came from an east European country and has a value of about $5 million, Anatolian said. It was not immediately clear when the operation was carried out. Anatolian only gave the first names of the suspects, which appeared to be Turkish.
Smugglers use Turkey's porous eastern border to import drugs, and hundreds of thousands of migrants each year illegally cross the rugged frontier on their way to more affluent European Union nations.
Police in Istanbul seized more than one kg of weapons-grade uranium last November that had been smuggled into Turkey from an east European state. The smugglers were detained after attempting to sell the material to undercover police officers. return to menu
3. U.S. Reacts Cautiously To Turkish Uranium Seizure
September 30, 2002
(for personal use only)
WACO, Texas, Sept 30 (Reuters) - The United States reacted cautiously on Monday to reports that Turkish paramilitary police had seized about 5 ounces (140 grams) of weapons-grade uranium and detained two men accused of smuggling the material.
"We continue to evaluate the information," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters in Waco, as President George W. Bush was returning to Washington after a weekend at his Texas ranch.
"I do not have at this time anything that is determinative about it," Fleischer said. "Unless and until we have that, and we will, the administration is just going to monitor. ... I would just urge people not to leap to conclusions."
Turkey's state-run Anatolian news agency said on Saturday officers in the southern province of Sanliurfa, which borders Syria and is about 155 miles (250 km) from the Iraqi border, were acting on a tip-off on Saturday when they stopped a taxi cab and discovered the uranium in a lead container hidden beneath the vehicle's seat, the agency said.
Atomic energy experts in Turkey have not yet determined the amount of the confiscated substance and whether it is in fact weapons-grade uranium, Anatolian said on Monday.
"The material said to be of a purity used in nuclear weapons has not yet reached the Nuclear Research and Training Center, where an analysis will be immediately conducted," the Atomic Energy Institute said in a statement carried by Anatolian.
The incident came at a time of mounting speculation that the United States could launch a military attack on neighboring Iraq for its alleged program of weapons of mass destruction.
Bush has accused Baghdad of clandestine efforts to develop a nuclear bomb as his administration works to build international support for an operation to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Turkish authorities believe the uranium may have come from an east European country. return to menu
4. Turkey Says Seized Substance Not Uranium
Mehmet Emin Caliskan
October 1, 2002
(for personal use only)
ISTANBUL - Turkish scientists said on Tuesday the substance at the centre of a nuclear weapons scare was not uranium and that the material seized in the south of the country posed no threat.
Turkish police said over the weekend they had seized 15 kg (33 lbs) of weapons-grade uranium in a taxi about 250 km (155 miles) from the border with Iraq, facing possible U.S. military action over its alleged programme of weapons of mass destruction.
Officials said later the amount had in fact been about 140 grams (five ounces). The difference was explained by the weight of the metal container holding the material.
Scientists at Turkey's Nuclear Research and Training Centre on the outskirts of Istanbul said on Tuesday the substance was not uranium and was not radioactive.
"It is a powder of zinc, manganese, iron and zirconium," Guler Koksal, director of the research facility told Reuters. "It is not radioactive, it is not chemical and it is not explosive."
Suspicions had been aroused by the words "primarily youranuom" (eds, correct) written on the outside of the metal tube in which the sandy powder was stored in a glass vial.
"It doesn't mean anything," Koksal said, calling it "a very big mistake" for officials to have declared the substance weapons-grade uranium without proper checks.
U.S. President George W. Bush says Baghdad has tried to acquire uranium to develop a nuclear bomb. The Bush administration is working to build international support for a military operation to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
1. U.S. to forgive portion of Russian debt in deal: Tauscher authors $300 million bill
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. will forgive Russia $300 million in debt in exchange for the former superpower's securing nuclear material under a bill authored by Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, and headed to President Bush's desk.
Russia possesses about 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons and materials outside of the United States, but doesn't have a reliable system of accounting for its nuclear arsenal. Defense leaders have cited the danger of loose weapons or weaponry expertise falling into the hands of terrorists as one of the greatest threats to U.S. national security.
Under the provision, the United States can excuse a portion of Russia's approximate $3.8 billion Soviet-era debt to America. In exchange, Russia will spend that money on programs to ensure that nuclear warheads, material and other weapons of mass destruction are secured.
Tauscher called the debt swap "a tool that would both help stabilize the Russian economy and find new sources of funding for the critical programs that keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Saddam and al-Qaida."
The measure is part of the State Department authorization bill already passed by the Senate and passed by the House in a voice vote last week. return to menu
I. Cooperative Threat Reduction
1. Cooperative Threat Reduction: Weak Without Treaties
October 1, 2002
(for personal use only)
The Bush administration's new national security strategy reflects an extraordinarily unbalanced approach to dealing with the threats posed by terrorism, asymmetric warfare and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The value of deterrence is downgraded, while preemption is elevated from a military option to a doctrine. Little help is expected from diplomacy, treaties, cooperative threat-reduction initiatives such as the Nunn-Lugar program, export controls and international institutions. Just one sparse sentence in this 31-page document is devoted to the need to "enhance" these instruments, which have been central to the efforts of previous administrations. This skewed approach is unwise, dangerous and extremely burdensome on the U.S. armed forces.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the administration's plans for a military campaign against Saddam Hussein, who has the capacity to use chemical and biological weapons against U.S. expeditionary forces. The Bush administration's preparations for warfare in Iraq have been preceded by the systematic denigration, weakening or rejection of treaties dealing with the deadly weapons that U.S. soldiers might face in combat. Even if victory is achieved on the battlefield with limited casualties, success will be short-lived if nonproliferation and disarmament treaties continue to be weakened and if initiatives to prevent dangerous weapons and materials from falling into the wrong hands are shortchanged.
Military action against Saddam Hussein is justified because of his retention of chemical and biological weapons, in contravention of U.N. resolutions and treaty obligations. His prior use of mass-casualty weapons in aggressive wars and for domestic control constitutes further reason to act. This gruesome record provides an equally compelling opportunity to strengthen international conventions mandating chemical and biological weapons disarmament.
This opportunity is being lost. The Bush administration has spent considerable time and energy to remove the head of the organization to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention, while proposing no measures for improved inspections. Instead, the administration continues to maintain the right to veto "challenge inspections" on U.S. soil and to prevent the taking of samples abroad for rigorous laboratory testing.
If mimicked by other states, these treaty-hollowing prerogatives, approved at the insistence of skeptics during the Senate's ratification debate, could prevent the discovery of "smoking guns" during challenge inspections. The United States has walked away from the surprisingly tough inspection system negotiated under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
In addition, this Bush administration has unilaterally rejected an international agreement to add sorely needed monitoring capabilities to the Biological Weapons Convention, developed over six years of painstaking negotiations. These provisions warrant improvement. Instead, the administration has proposed flimsier alternatives, preferring improved domestic legislation that has minimal value in the absence of agreed international standards. Even this weak effort has now been abandoned.
The administration has also severely weakened the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty not only by rejecting the treaty calling for a complete cessation of nuclear testing, but also by withholding funds for international monitoring of covert tests and by shortening time lines needed to resume nuclear testing.
Budgetary priorities reflect current imbalances. More money is now being spent on missile defense than on the State Department's entire budget. The Bush administration allocates one dollar on missile defense programs for every quarter spent on cooperative threat-reduction programs to safeguard dangerous weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union. Almost five times as much is spent on preparedness programs to resume nuclear testing as on programs to control "loose nukes." New contracts for the Pentagon's cooperative threat-reduction efforts in Russia were suspended for four months this year because Bush administration officials could not certify Russia's compliance with its treaty obligations. Another suspension is looming later in the fall. The Bush administration is right in calling for Russia to provide greater transparency for its chemical and biological facilities but wrong in its choice of penalties.
The United States needs multiple lines of defense against the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and asymmetric warfare. But at present, the Bush administration is strengthening the last lines of defense while weakening the front lines.
Defense preparedness is not the problem here. Nor can there be any doubt that Saddam Hussein needs to be separated from his deadly weapons. At issue is the absence of accompanying measures that could lessen burdens on the U.S. armed forces and strengthen nonproliferation and disarmament accords. As long as severe imbalances persist, and as long as preventive diplomacy and treaties are the object of scorn in Washington, proliferation will proceed apace -- even when preventive military action succeeds. return to menu
2. And The Attendees Were All Aglow (Excerpted)
UPI Capital Comment
September 27, 2002
(for personal use only)
Leading experts in nuclear and radiological issues are convening in London at the end of September for an international conference co-sponsored by the United States National Nuclear Security Administration and the Ministry of the Russian Federation for Atomic Energy. The purpose of the conference is to establish protocols for coordinating global efforts to prevent nuclear and radiological terror. Those presenting at the conference include: NNSA Acting Administrator Ambassador Linton Brooks; U.S. Undersecretary of State for International Security John Bolton; Bruce George, Labor chairman of the British Parliament's Defense Committee; Dr Evgeny Velikhov, president of Moscow's Kurchatov Nuclear Institute and one of Russia's foremost nuclear physicists and Madame Therese Delpech, director of the French Atomic Energy Institute. The conference will be held from Sept. 29-Oct. 2.
1. Draft of the region's non-nuclear status accord discussed in Samarkand
September 28, 2002
(for personal use only)
During a meeting in Samarkand on Friday, the experts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan discussed the draft of the accord on establishing a non-nuclear zone in the region.
According to a RIA Novosti correspondent, who quotes the sources in the UN Mission in Uzbekistan, the participants agreed that the signing of the accord "must take place as soon as possible." The sources reveal that the draft of the accord is a result of "five years of intensive work with the UN assistance." return to menu
K. Russian Subs
1. AMEC to Begin Operations With Russia's Pacific Fleet
October 2, 2002
(for personal use only)
VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIAN FAR EAST - This Russian port city at the tip of the Eurasian continent is as far-flung as some of the polar ice-sheets Dieter Rudolph has visited as the project director for Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC) organization, but on this mid-September day, it is a damn sight warmer.
But it's not the summery weather - which will turn into Russia's characteristic coastal ice sludge within weeks - that has brought Rudolph and 250 other environmental, nuclear and naval experts to Vladivostok for the Ecoflot 2002 conference: It is one of the most heated issues concerning the world's nuclear and environmental security - the disposition of the Russian Pacific Fleet's rusting and polluting retired nuclear submarines.
If things, however, go as Rudolph hopes they will in Washington this week, as US congress debates the Homeland Defence and Defence Appropriations Bills, AMEC will be bringing some of its expertise and experience in ecological monitoring and nuclear waste management from Russia's far north to its far east.
Funded and administered by the US Department of Defence (DOD) and the Norwegian and Russian Defence Ministries, AMEC is an exception among its American government-funded non-proliferation cousins like the Cooperative Threat Reduction act (CTR) or the weapons grade plutonium destruction programmes run through the DOE and State Department, in that AMEC's charter allows it to pursue environmental issues.
Originally, said Rudolph, AMEC was conceived on a shoestring budget as an effort to protect Norwegian fishing territory from encroaching nuclear pollution by Russia's nearby Arctic-based Northern Fleet. Talks on the programme began in 1996, and it was implemented in earnest in 1999. Since then - by the accounts of Russian, Norwegian and American officials - the AMEC programme has been a roaring success.
Rudolph would like to see that success translated to the problems of the Pacific Fleet, which presents many of the same contamination hazards that the Northern Fleet did when AMEC first began work. For the Pacific programme, the shoestring budget remains - AMEC is asking for $25-$30 million total for fiscal years 2003-2008 in the Defence Appropriations Bill, which duplicates the funding it has received for Northwest Russia.
"We're trying to get a sense of where the need is [in the Pacific]. I feel that in Northwest Russia, we have more equipment available to take care of things," said Rudolph in his easy-going manner in an interview in Vladivostok.
"There are three dismantlement sites [in Northwest Russia] and there are three active shipyards ... somehow I get the feeling that's not all necessarily as available here."
"In terms of numbers, you may have more [submarines awaiting full decommissioning] in the Northwest, [but] the probability of rounding up these subs here [in the Pacific] is not as good as with the ones up there," Rudolph added. "You've got one guy here, another guy there, and they probably haven't been maintained in as good a state as some of the others [in the Northwest]."
Familiar problems on the other side of the map
Interviews with Russian naval, nuclear and environmental officials gathered in Vladivostok confirmed Rudolph's suspicions.
By 2010, the Russian Navy expects to take out of service around 200 submarines. In the Pacific, 77 retired submarines are currently awaiting decommissioning. Of those, 42 are still afloat and loaded with spent nuclear fuel - a nuclear waste storage method, by the way, that you will only find in Russia.
Of these 42 submarines, 39 have hulls so corroded and rusted by long years in the water that many cannot be safely towed to decommissioning points at the Zvezda plant at the town of Bolshoi Kamen for fear that they would sink en route, said Viktor Akhunov, head of the Ministry for Atomic Energy's (Minatom's) Ecology and Decommissioning Department. Many of them are at risk of sinking at their docks as it is.
Two of these 39 submarines have already had reactor accidents, said Vladimir Shishkin, chief designer of the Minatom's Institute for Energy Equipment Research and Design, though he would not be more specific. An additional small number of retired submarines - though naval officials will not say how many or what kind - lie literally beached in Kamchatka. There are 22 submarines all together laid up in Kamchatka.
These ailing Pacific Fleet submarines, unlike their Northern Fleet counterparts, are spread out over several thousand square kilometres at bases from the Primorsky Krai, to Kamchatka to the Khabarovsky Krai. One plan forwarded by Shishkin is to corral the submarines into a specially-built shelter to store them until the fission capability in their nuclear reactors ends in about 300 years, essentially leaving them untouched for generations and hoping for the best.
Full decommissioning poses risks of its own. Besides the towing logistics, these old boats could explode during defuelling. Such an accident occurred during refuelling at the Chazhma Bay base in 1985, killing 10 men and causing widespread contamination. Less dramatic but equally deadly risks are long-term leakage, as well as low-level radioactive waste (LLW) generated by defuelling a submarine - an estimated two tonnes of this waste is produced by chemical washing of the reactor core alone.
The Pacific Fleet's two waste storage facilities - one on Kamchatka, to the east of the Gornyak naval shipyard, the other on the southeast tip of the Shkotovo Peninsula, both of which hold low- and high-level solid and liquid waste as well as spent nuclear fuel - suffer from chronic leakage problems, space shortages and transportation woes.
Spent nuclear fuel (SNF) taken out of submarine reactors is being shipped to the Mayak reprocessing plant. But according to Eduard Avdonin, director of Minatom's International Centre for Environmental Safety, the navy can't scratch up a mere $7 million to repair a 27-kilometer stretch of railroad track to ship SNF from Zvezda to the nearest railhead that would take shipments to the Mayak reprocessing facility in the Urals.
But even that 10-day journey to Mayak is fraught with worry: While fresh fuel is shipped on guarded tracks, SNF travels down unattended civilian railways.
For now, the waste is delivered from Zvezda to the train station over a rough road in trucks that have been known to leak, and naval officials confirmed the road is shut "a number of times a year" while technicians deal with the consequences of small-scale spills.
On top of this is a decades-long legacy of sanctioned contamination at sea. Until 1993, it was the Russian Navy's policy to dump low-level liquid nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan before returning to base. Matters will hopefully improve following the joint Russian-Japanese construction of a giant liquid waste treatment barge that went into service in 1998.
Even though the problem of dumping at sea remains edged in memory thanks to footage shot by military journalist Grigory Pasko in 1994, which was later aired on NHK Japanese Television.
But instead of leading to tighter controls at that time, this footage prompted treason charges for Russian military journalist Grigory Pasko, whose own reporting on Russian naval dumping had attracted attention in Japan. In December 2001, Pasko was sentenced to 4 years in a labour camp for intending to pass information on secret naval manoeuvres to Japanese journalists.
Where AMEC would fit in?
The Pacific Fleet is now much like AMEC found the Northern Fleet in 1996 - a potentially catastrophic collection of latent and actual sources of nuclear contamination that threaten to destroy surrounding marine ecosystems. The Northern Fleet also had its own whistle-blower, Bellona's Aleksander Nikitin, who, too, was battling treason charges for exposing radioactive dangers when AMEC got its start.
Where AMEC would fit - in broad terms - is in preventing pollution in the Pacific Fleet area from getting worse by intensive monitoring of the areas where solid and liquid wastes are stored, and by examining vessels awaiting decommissioning, said Rudolph. AMEC would also push for programmes improving the safety of workers involved in dealing with radioactive material.
Perhaps the most state-of-the-art bit of gadgetry that would help fulfil most of those goals is the so-called PICASSO AMEC system of environmental monitoring, which was developed by Norway for Northern Fleet bases. Relying on similar technology that has been used to monitor systems as diverse as nuclear power plants, paper mills, and telecommunication networks, the PICASSO AMEC employs a series of sensors that transmit their data back to central and remote control posts.
This technology may soon see a new application during submarine dismantlement, gauging the radiation emissions that are a part of the process. Further, it may be put to use monitoring those 42 foundering submarines loaded with SNF that the Russian Navy says may sink from corrosion. The system would provide multiple layers of monitoring - both locally and from offsite - that would increase the Russian Navy's ability to detect elevated radiation levels and decrease the response time should a problem arise. Additional remote stand-alone monitoring would add to safety.
An aspect of the system is getting a test run at the civilian nuclear icebreaker operator Atomflot, near Murmansk, where sensors are affixed to a pad for SNF containers to monitor for contamination. Norwegian environmental officials will be provided with remote readouts of the data.
The pad, which holds 19 casks of SNF, is scheduled to go into operation later this autumn. And shipyard Zvezdochka, in Severodvinsk, has built a pad with a capacity for 60 casks - enough space for fuel for 12 two-reactor submarines. The Pacific Fleet is scheduled to receive an AMEC monitoring pad with an 80-cask capacity.
The casks themselves - a 40 tonne transport vessel designated as TUK-108/1 - are also designed with AMEC economic assistance, and have been incorporated into a submarine spent nuclear fuel storage programme at Atomflot, Zvezdochka and Mayak, which is being negotiated by CTR and other international donors.
Rudolph sees large possibilities for the PICASSO AMEC technology.
"If you think ahead, and take those sensors and put them on subs that are awaiting dismantlement, you'll have a terrific warning system, because the Russian Navy is very concerned about the condition [of those vessels]," Rudolph said.
"[The submarine monitoring system] is not installed anywhere yet, but once the Russians see it work, then hopefully they'll say they want to install it in some places. It's really their call."
Indeed, most of the bill for PICASSO AMEC would be footed by the United States and Norway. All the Russians have to do is say yes.
"Typically Norway and the US will fund most of the direct efforts, and Russia will kick in Minatom funds for specific projects, and then there are in-kind contributions - for instance, the use of a Russian naval base, the use of guards, the use of brains."
As one of the cheapest multi-government programmes focused on nuclear safety in the former Soviet Union, AMEC has spent a total of $41.5 million since its inception. Of that, Norway has contributed $10 million, the United States $25 million, and Russia $6.5 million.
By contrast, the DOE is asking for $420 million for its Russia projects from the Defence Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2003 alone. Many millions of this will go toward the continuing battle over plutonium disposition via the MOX fuel programme, which after eight years
on the drawing board is no closer to realization today than it was when it was first conceived. Such comparisons, however, are not likely to assure hands-down passage of AMEC's new plans in US Congress, especially at a time when America's defence expenditures are dictated almost wholly by perceived terrorist threats.
Having coffee in Vladivostok while his staffers back in Washington hash out the final language for AMEC's inclusion in the Defence Appropriations Bill, Rudolph said he was fielding daily queries from home about how to respond to congressional questions.
"Some of them are really surprising. They're asking things like what we plan to do about nuclear terrorism and such," he said.
"I think that by preventing the backlog of radioactive material here, by supplying monitoring equipment at radioactive waste sites [and for] submarines, we will have gone a long way toward preventing this stuff from falling into the wrong hands."
1. Negotiations On Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty Concluded
United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific
September 30, 2002
NEW YORK, 30 September (Department of Disarmament Affairs) -- Experts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan met in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 25 to 27 September 2002, and successfully concluded the negotiations on the text of the Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. This is the result of five years of intensive work, which has been supported by the United Nations.
They agreed that the signing of the treaty should take place as soon as possible. return to menu
M. Links of Interest
1. U.S. Power and Purpose
U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel
Speech to The Eisenhower Institute - Washington, DC
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