1. Moscow On Adopting Resolution On Prevention Of An Arms Race In Outer Space
October 25, 2002
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MOSCOW, October 25, 2002. /from a RIA Novosti correspondent/. - Moscow hopes that passing a resolution on the prevention of an arms race in outer space at the on-going session of the UN General Assembly will add a new impetus to the discussion of military-space agenda within the framework of multilateral forums as well as bilaterally.
The Russian Foreign Ministry Department of Information and Press reports that on Tuesday, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space" by an overwhelming majority (151 "in favor" and 2 (US and Israel) abstained). It was co-drafted by 26 countries, including Russia.
The Foreign Ministry explains that the adopted resolution acknowledges once again the importance and urgency of preventing an arms race in outer space, the need for reinforcing, strengthening and increasing the effectiveness of the international legal regime applied to outer space. The document stresses that the Conference on Disarmament plays the leading role in negotiations on reaching a multilateral agreement on the prevention of an arms race in outer space in all its aspects, including placing any kind of weapons into space.
The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that the adoption of the resolution by the convincing majority "testified to the fact that the international community was increasingly and actively supporting the idea of keeping outer space free of weapons and proved the need to conduct negotiations aimed at reaching an international agreement in this respect." A joint draft on the possible elements of the future international legal agreement on the prevention of placing weapons into outer space, use of force or threats to use force against space objects, introduced by Russia and China at the Conference on Disarmament, can be regarded as the first practical step in this direction.
The Russian Foreign Ministry recalled that at the previous, 56th session of the UN General Assembly, Russia put forward a proposal to impose a moratorium on placing military facilities into outer space prior to reaching a relevant agreement. Russia "is ready to undertake this commitment immediately if the leading space powers will join the moratorium." In October Russia made another step on the way to openness and increasing confidence regarding space. It declared that it was ready to provide information on its forthcoming launches of space objects, their purpose and basic parameters in advance.
Moscow hopes that the adoption of the resolution on the prevention of an arms race in outer space at the on-going session of the UN General Assembly will add a new impetus to the discussion of military-space agenda within the framework of multilateral forums as well as bilaterally. "Russia is ready to start intensive negotiations," the Russian Foreign Ministry concluded. return to menu
2. START-3 To Be Ratified By Russia, USA Before The End Of 2002
October 25, 2002
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MOSCOW - Moscow reckons on seeing the strategic offensive reductions treaty ratified by the Russian and US parliaments before the end of 2002, reports the Russian foreign ministry. The latter also says that, on October 23, the First Committee of the UN general assembly adopted by a consensus a draft resolution on a bilateral reduction of strategic nuclear weapons and a new framework of strategic relationships.
This resolution welcomes the accords reached by the presidents of Russia and the USA at the Moscow summit in May 2002, on a reduction of strategic nuclear warheads and formation of new ones, says the foreign ministry document. These accords are based on "mutual trust, openness and predictability of strategic relations," says the report.
"The resolution also calls for pooling the world efforts on the generally accepted principles of non-proliferation. This ought to be done with a view "to hitting topical targets of preventing the acquisition and development by terrorists of any types of mass destruction weapons, missiles and relevant technologies, equipment and materials," says the document.
The foreign ministry has emphasized that the passing of this resolution is "telling evidence of support by the world community for Russia's and the USA's moves toward strengthening strategic stability and construction of a safer and more predictable world." return to menu
1. Russia Refuses To Stop Aiding Iran's Nuclear Programme
The Independent (U.K.)
October 27, 2002
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Russia refused this weekend to abandon its efforts to bring Iran's nuclear power programme on line, which it is feared will help Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran will soon commission its first civil nuclear plant at Bushehr, greatly speeding up its clandestine race to produce a nuclear weapon that could threaten its neighbours - unless it brings a pre-emptive attack from Israel, which destroyed Iraq's only nuclear reactor in 1981.
Russia is now actively co-operating with Iran to complete the Bushehr reactor, which experts say will provide Iranian scientists and engineers with the ability to produce weapons-grade nuclear fissile material. From there it is a short step to building a bomb that can be delivered by the long-range missiles that Iran has reportedly acquired from North Korea.
Russia rejected the latest US attempts to persuade it to stop helping Iran. Washington has dangled the prospect of a $10bn (£6.4bn) radioactive material storage project for Russia in return, an issue the US was expected to raise with Russia at the Asia Pacific economic summit in Mexico this weekend. But Russia insists the project will go ahead. "Russia is not providing any weapons technologies, and is not even negotiating such projects with Iran," said Moscow's atomic energy minister, Alexandr Rumyantsev.
The Bushehr nuclear facility has already cost Iran billions of dollars since work began before the revolution against the Shah of Iran. The site was attacked six times by Iraq during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and the core of two nearly completed reactors were destroyed.
Fears that Israel could attack the long-delayed plant are very much alive in Tehran. "Everyone in Iran is concerned about the Israeli threat," Kamel Kharrazi, Tehran's foreign minister, told The Independent on Sunday. "They have missiles; they have everything. That is why we have been trying to develop our missile technology to defend ourselves." The nuclear facility at Bushehr was to produce electricity, he said, "and we are negotiating with the Russians to provide fuel for the power plant to be returned afterwards".
The fact that the plant is being built under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards has not eased concerns in the West. About 3,000 Russian personnel are already working at the Bushehr plant, and the large movement of equipment and technicians between Russia and Iran is the perfect cover for covert weapons-related assistance or smuggling, say international non-proliferation agencies.
Suggestions that the country is trying to build a bomb were also sharply denied by Iran's environment minister and vice-president, Massoumeh Ebtekar. Even though the country has the world's second largest gas reserves and third largest oil reserves, it needed to diversify its sources of energy. "[The nuclear programme] is totally peaceful," she said. "There is no reason why you should think otherwise."
Worries about Iran's secret efforts to build a bomb have also been fuelled by attempts to buy reactors from China. return to menu
C. Russia-North Korea
1. Russia Follows Its Own North Korean Agenda
October 25, 2002
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MOSCOW - The revelations of North Korea's continued nuclear program have come as something of an embarrassment for Moscow as they come at a time that the Kremlin has pledged to restore ties with Pyongyang in an effort to extract economic gains from projects on the divided peninsula.
Following talks between Russia and the US over North Korea's nuclear program, Moscow reportedly shared Washington's concern at Pyongyang's apparent violation of non-proliferation accords. US Undersecretary of State John R Bolton had talks with deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov, Vladimir Rushailo, head of the Kremlin's Security Council, and Nuclear Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev.
The US administration has been keen to win Russian support for a common diplomatic strategy, along with China, South Korea and Japan, against North Korea over its nuclear program. Washington is demanding that North Korea "immediately and visibly dismantle its nuclear program", State Department spokesman Richard Boucher has said.
On October 21, Mamedov announced after a meeting with Bolton that the US gave "confidential information" to Russia over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. However, the Kremlin expressed a measure of skepticism and Russian officials indicated that Moscow intended to check the information for itself through diplomatic channels. On October 22, Bolton told journalists in Moscow that the US put forward no accusations against Russia relative to North Korea's nuclear program. There are widespread reports that North Korea received nuclear technology from Pakistan at the end of the 1990s, via either China or Russia. Islamabad, Beijing and Moscow deny this.
Russia has promised to help in rebuilding North Korean enterprises launched during the Soviet-era, including those in the power sector, and subsequently Pyongyang was rumored to have turned to Russia for assistance in the nuclear sector. And in March 2002 there was talk about alleged Russian plans to build a nuclear power station in North Korea, although Russia's Nuclear Energy Ministry dismissed the speculation.
Indeed, Moscow, aware of widespread sensitivities about North Korea's nuclear capabilities, has consistently dismissed allegations of any involvement. On August 15, Russian deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov stated that Russia and North Korea were not engaged in any "concrete talks on cooperation in nuclear power".
Officially, Moscow says that it has tried to convince Pyongyang to refrain from nuclear escapades. On October 23, Mamedov told the South Korean ambassador in Moscow that Russia supported "full realization of the 1994 framework agreement", as well as major relevant international treaties, notably the non-proliferation agreement, according to the Russian official news agency RIA. North Korea has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which commits nations to forswear developing or spreading the technology to develop nuclear weapons, as well as a 1994 accord in which it agreed to abandon any nuclear ambitions in exchange for help with a civilian nuclear-reactor program. The United States has said it has proof that North Korea has broken both pledges by trying to acquire sophisticated centrifuges used only to purify uranium for nuclear bombs.
The Kremlin, though, has conceded that Pyongyang might have something to hide. On October 23, RIA commented on Pyongyang-Seoul talks that "North Korea was yet to abandon its nuclear program".
On the other hand, some Russian officials tried to defuse fears over North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons program. On October 21, Rumyantsev told Ekho Moskvy Radio that he did not believe that North Korea had manufactured nuclear weapons. He conceded that Russia had an agreement on "scientific and technical" matters, yet claimed that the deal remained on paper.
Relations between Russia and North Korea have been on the upturn recently. For instance, earlier this month the Kremlin prided itself for its role in helping arrange Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's trip to North Korea. Moreover, Russia has expressed interest in forming a six-party forum comprising the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, China and the United States to discuss North Korea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited North Korea in July 2000 to become the first Kremlin leader ever to visit Pyongyang. Also in 2000, Moscow and Pyongyang signed a new treaty to replace an outmoded Soviet-era accord of 1961. In August 2001, Kim Jong-il traveled 13,000 kilometers from Pyongyang to Moscow and back on the Trans-Siberian railroad. On August 20-24 this year Kim undertook yet another rail trip to Russia and expressed "1,000 percent" satisfaction with his visit to Russia's far east.
These closer ties arguably leave Russia vulnerable to accusations of complicity in North Korean nuclear and missile escapades. For instance, North Korea's missile arsenal includes Soviet-made Luna-M tactical complexes and 30 Scud missiles, known as Nodong or Rodong in North Korea. North Korea's Nodong missile is the weapon on which the Iranian Shahab-3 missile and Pakistan's Ghauri, both medium-range and nuclear capable, are based. During the Gulf War, Iraq also employed Scud missiles, which can carry conventional, chemical, biological or nuclear warheads.
Moreover, it has been alleged that North Korea produces enriched uranium in Iran in exchange for upgrading Iranian missile weapons. These allegations are notably embarrassing for Moscow, since Russian scientists are working to complete the Bushehr light-water nuclear reactor at a cost of $800 million in Iran. It has been rumored that earlier this month US officials told their Russian counterparts that if they stopped nuclear ties with Iran, the Bush administration would allow the import of spent nuclear fuel to Russia. Rumyantsev has alleged that Russia could make up to $10 billion by storing and reprocessing radioactive substances, but the scheme has to date been blocked by the US.
Russia's self-serving relations with axis of evil member states are reflected in Moscow's reluctance to support the US on its tough anti-Iraq stance. For instance, the Kremlin lashed out at the US draft of a UN Security Council resolution on Iraq. The American resolution did not fit the criteria that the Russian side had laid out, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov reportedly announced after meeting with the chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, in Moscow earlier this week.
Nevertheless, Moscow has been keen to avoid accusations that it uses North Korea as a sort of proxy nuclear state to serve its own interests in East Asia. The issue of Pyongyang's nukes is supposed to be discussed by the US and Russian presidents at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Mexico at the weekend. However, against a backdrop of an unprecedented hostage crisis in Moscow - Chechen guerillas stormed a Moscow theater on Wednesday and took up to 600 hostages - it remains far from certain whether the Kremlin will have time, or the inclination, to tackle the issue. return to menu
2. Russian Foreign Ministry Insists On Implementing 1994 US-North Korean Agreement
October 23, 2002
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Russia insists on the full implementation of the 1994 framework agreement between the US and North Korea. As the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry reported, Deputy Foreign Minister and Political Director in G8 Georgy Mamedov said so at a meeting with the North Korean ambassador. During the meeting the officials considered a number of up-to-date aspects of bilateral cooperation in the international field as well as the situation on the Korean peninsula.
As it was reported earlier, the source of the crisis between the US and North Korea was a statement made at a meeting of North Korean representatives with the US delegation, according to which Pyongyang was not committed any longer to the 1994 agreement. According to the agreement, North Korea should have ceased working on its nuclear program. North Korea had not only to stop developing its nuclear weapons, but also allow international inspectors to examine the country and make sure it had no materials or technologies that could be used for creating nuclear arsenal. In exchange, the US promised North Korea to provide food and technical aid, in particular, the aid in constructing nuclear power plants. return to menu
D. Nuclear Terrorism
1. Al Qaeda Nukes Are Reality, Intelligence Says
The Washington Times
October 28, 2002
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LONDON - Soon after September 11 last year, the notion that al Qaeda might have nuclear weapons was largely dismissed by intelligence professionals.
It is, however, a working assumption in security circles now that the terror group does have nuclear capabilities. Al Qaeda's secret nuclear stash is assumed to be somewhere in Afghanistan, although finding it is proving to be as hard as locating Osama bin Laden.
The first clue came during Christmas, when low-grade uranium-238 was discovered in tunnels near a former al Qaeda base in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
U.S. officials said that enough material was found to make one "dirty" radiological bomb, which involves combining nuclear materials with conventional explosive to spread contamination over a wide area.
The black market in radioactive materials has been booming for some years, and the archives are littered with stories of smuggling.
In March 2000, for instance, customs officers in Uzbekistan stopped a truck, destined for Quetta in Pakistan, that was carrying 10 lead-lined containers filled with strontium-90, enough to manufacture scores of dirty bombs.
The uranium found in Kandahar is in theory suitable for a radiological weapon, but not a fission bomb.
That the retreating fighters from al Qaeda and Afghanistan's Taliban regime chose to leave this behind when they took to the mountains fueled suspicion that their nuclear crown jewels went with them.
Geoff Hoon, the British Defense secretary, hinted as much early this year, when he said: "We are certainly aware that he has some material that could contribute to a nuclear weapon."
There is no consensus among experts on whether al Qaeda possesses working nuclear warheads, as Osama bin Laden contended in an interview after September 11.
Rose Gottemoeller, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and assistant energy secretary for nonproliferation in the Clinton administration, said: "I believe that the chance that al Qaeda controls actual warheads is virtually nil.
"It is much more likely that they have acquired some nuclear materials, but here the range could be very wide: from depleted uranium or low-level radioactive sources [such as those used in smoke detectors], all the way up to weapons-usable material - highly enriched uranium or plutonium."
"I think it more likely that they have some kind of lower-level sources than weapons-grade material, but this cannot be excluded," Miss Gottemoeller added.
"The origins for the lower-level materials could be very broad, virtually worldwide; weapons-grade material is much more precious, therefore proliferating countries tend to hold on to it.
"It is possible such material could have come to him from a former Soviet nuclear facility, not only in Russia, but in Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, etc."
A minority of specialists holds that al Qaeda already may enjoy command and control over Pakistan's nuclear arsenal via close links with the country's Inter-Services Intelligence, the agency credited with creating the Taliban.
Others suggest that theft of military hardware is a more likely possibility. One former Soviet GRU (military intelligence) agent says he knows for certain that al Qaeda possesses small atomic warheads.
"Mossad [Israeli intelligence] reported that bin Laden bought tactical nuclear weapons from some former Soviet republics," he said. "They are not the suitcase-type bombs that people often refer to, but more the warhead-type munitions. These are the payloads of short-range missiles, torpedoes, and the like." He declined to elaborate.
Others believe that pilfering military warheads is unfeasible, but that al Qaeda might have bought some of Russia's missing Cold War-era "suitcase nukes" on the black market.
In 1997, the Red Army's former chief, Gen. Alexander Lebed, acknowledged that 84 such devices were missing from the military's inventory.
Atomic Demolitions Munitions (ADMs), as portable nuclear weapons are formally known, are miniaturized warheads that were developed by the United States during the Vietnam War. They were designed for use against key infrastructure targets, such as bridges and dams. The Soviets soon followed suit and produced their version in huge quantities.
They were secretly buried near targets in the West by specially trained GRU agents as part of a Soviet strategy to knock out key government and military targets and hamper response to a nuclear attack.
According to informed sources, these weapons constantly circulated around the world in diplomatic baggage, and large numbers were buried along Russia's borders for use as nuclear land mines in the event of invasion. They were often disguised as boulders.
Each has a yield of about 1 kiloton - equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT.
It has been estimated that one ADM could immediately kill 100,000 people if it exploded in a major city center, with hundreds of thousands dying from cancer in the fallout.
ADMs have a shelf life of about eight years, after which they need to be retrieved and sent to a laboratory for refurbishment.
One source said that a semi-skilled operative could set one off easily, given the right codes. They can be set to detonate using an built-in timer or can be triggered remotely with a mobile phone call.
Academics are not sure that terrorists have gotten their hands on ADMs, but few will rule out the possibility.
Robert Sherman, director of strategic security at the Federation of American Scientists, said that this is "more likely than getting a ballistic missile warhead."
Paul Rogers, professor and head of the Center for Peace Studies at the University of Bradford in Britain, said: "There were unconfirmed reports that one or two Soviet-era tactical nuclear weapons had got to Iran a few years ago. Apart from that, I do not have any evidence that al Qaeda has access to such weapons."
However, one senior Western intelligence contact is adamant that the terrorists do have a number of these weapons - nine, to be precise. The price on the deal is put at $30 million, plus 2 tons of opium per nuke.
"Reliable sources report that not only atomic munitions were sold by the Russian underworld and smuggled into [Central Asia] during the conflict between the U.S. and the Taliban, but that several Russian nuclear technicians were hired by the Islamic fundamentalists to try and make the weapons operational," the Western source said.
According to Mr. Rogers, an ADM would cause cataclysmic damage: "The effect of the [New York City World Trade Center] plane-fuel explosion and the gravitational forces of collapse of the two towers was about 600 tons of TNT equivalent, so an ADM would destroy a couple of city blocks, or a major bridge, or an airport terminal."
Western cities, however, may not be high on the target list if al Qaeda is holding these as weapons of final resort. The group may be planning to use them to achieve bin Laden's ultimate goal: the creation of an Islamic superstate.
This could be achieved by using nuclear weapons to destroy the oil industry in the Middle East and trigger an unprecedented global economic meltdown, according to a report published late last year by Decision Support Systems Inc., a private-sector intelligence and risk-management consultancy.
In a "limited number of strategic positions," a small nuclear device would expose the Middle East's oil infrastructure to massive radiation, with sand spreading fallout on a vast scale. In addition, hydrostatic shock waves transmitted through pipelines could destroy production and delivery facilities over wide areas.
With most of the world's oil reserves inaccessible, the United States no longer would have an economic interest in the region. And there is a precedent for such a plan: Iraq's attempt to destroy the oil fields in Kuwait during the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Few experts doubt the feasibility of such a plan. Mr. Sherman said: "If you presume perfect accuracy - that is, hand placement within inches of where intended - there are very few objects that would not be severely damaged by a small nuke.
"I presume that someone with a detailed knowledge of the oil field could cause a cascading effect with great damage."
According to Mr. Rogers, the greatest threat lies further downstream in the production process. "Such warheads would have a limited effect against an oil field because well heads are normally quite dispersed but could do substantial damage to a refinery or a major pumping facility," he said.
Oil has been a sore point with bin Laden. Al Qaeda propaganda prior to September 11 accused the United States of "robbing all Muslims" of exactly $36.96 trillion by exploiting its oil interests in the Middle East. It issued a pamphlet providing a long and detailed breakdown of its calculations, explaining that this was why America was responsible for poverty in the region.
The pamphlet ends with a vow of revenge, and what appears to be a euphemistic reference of future intent: "O Muslims, the times are critical indeed. Seek the approval of Allah quickly, for this is imperative. Then it won't take as long for the American jinn [in Islamic tradition, a powerful spirit lower than an angel] to be put back into the bottle as it takes for the first light of dawn to turn into the break of day." return to menu
2. Zakayev: Terrorists Could Strike Nuke Plant Next (Excerpted)
October 27, 2002
(for personal use only)
COPENHAGEN - Chechen militants, like the group that took Moscow theatre-goers hostage, may take even more drastic action to oust Russian forces from their province, the envoy of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov said on Sunday.
Akhmed Zakayev said Chechnya's elected leaders were ready for a political solution with Moscow but that desperate Chechen militants were beyond their control.
"We cannot guarantee that there will not be another group on Russian territory," he told Reuters in an interview.
"Terrorist acts are possible. We cannot exclude that the next such group takes over some nuclear facility. The results may be catastrophic, not only for Russian society and for Chechen society but for the whole of Europe," he said.
Chechen rebel fighters have in the past threatened to sabotage Russian economic targets and even strike at nuclear power plants.
Zakayev said Russia's leadership would have to bear responsibility for any such attacks because it had failed to end violence in Chechnya, a mostly Muslim region on Russia's southern fringe.
"What happened in Moscow was a gesture by desperate people, the result of the continuing war in Chechnya. These are people who have been subjected to violence, humiliation, who have lost their relatives," he said.
Zakayev reiterated that the Moscow theatre hostage-takers had acted without the knowledge of Maskhadov, a moderate who was elected Chechen president in 1997 but is now in hiding.
Maskhadov has condemned the action of the 50 or so guerrillas, most of whom were killed when Russian special forces stormed the theatre early on Saturday.
The Group of Eight (G-8) nations are making progress in eliminating Russia's stockpile of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The G-8 summit in June agreed to pool $20 billion (about 2.5 trillion yen) toward that goal over the next 10 years.
The United States has already set its contribution at $10 billion. Except Russia itself and France, other G-8 members followed up in the recent working-level meeting in Canada by committing a combined $5 billion for these four projects:
Disposing of surplus plutonium from reduced strategic nuclear capabilities;
Dismantling retired nuclear submarines;
Disposing of chemical weapons; and
Securing alternate employment for researchers involved in nuclear arms development.
Once the projects begin, we should reasonably expect reduced risk of having nuclear materials fall into terrorist hands. The sooner the G-8 members move, the better.
The United States, which became dramatically closer to Russia after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks last year, took the initiative in this aid program. But the sheer sums involved led most G-8 members to hesitate at first because of their own economic tribulations.
The fact that they relented is proof of their collective resolve to make the world safer.
Apart from the increased terrorist threat worldwide, the G-8 nations are keenly aware of the inherent danger in Russia's lack of proper safeguards over its own huge arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in the financial problems resulting from years of economic chaos.
Of course the programs are not without hurdles. Japan and the European Union have been helping Russia dismantle its nuclear submarines, but progress has been hampered by Russian military secrecy and bureaucratic red tape. With Russia now a full G-8 member, these problems must be addressed responsibly.
The Americans are eager to dismantle Russia's strategic nuclear missiles, which present a direct threat to the United States, but have shown little interest in the attack submarines that do not target the United States. Having proposed this G-8 aid program, the United States should not remain cool about issues that are of concern to other members.
Japan has pledged $100 million for plutonium disposal and $130 million for dismantling nuclear submarines. The outstanding Northern Territories issue makes any substantial additional funding unlikely, but it remains true that Japan's share is considerably smaller than Germany's 1.5 billion euros.
Nuclear submarines are an environmental hazard, and Japan was supposed to have started helping dismantle them in 2000 through a joint Japan-Russia committee. But Japan never got around to actually making its payment because diplomatic negotiations with the Russians became difficult. While efforts were being made to smooth out the bumps, the government and ruling coalition parties began stalling.
Russia says it has 55 retired nuclear submarines in the Far East, and 42 still hold spent nuclear fuel. Three of the boats are said to have been involved in accidents that damaged their reactors and fuel rods, and they might well be leaking radiation.
Certainly Russia is responsible for preventing radiation pollution, but helping Russia would be an effective way to speed the scrapping of the nuclear subs.
Collaboration on disarmament improves relations between the two nations that are not otherwise close. Japan should be more actively involved in this G-8 aid program. return to menu
F. Russian Submarine Decommissioning
1. Russia's New Nuclear Threat
October 27, 2002
(for personal use only)
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia -- Hundreds of nuclear submarines float quietly at their berths throughout the Russian Federation. The end of the Cold War has not ended the threat posed by these sleek gray killing machines. Today, however, concern focuses on the environmental risks created by the decommissioning of these submarines. The disposal of their spent fuel and other forms of radioactive waste is a major environmental challenge for Russia and the entire region.
International cooperation has played a critical role in the decommissioning process, but considerably more help is needed. Concerned governments will primarily contribute desperately needed funds; Russia can provide expertise and manpower, but first it must provide the basic infrastructure -- most important, the rule of law -- that will permit those resources to be put to their intended use.
The Soviet Union built nearly 250 nuclear submarines, never contemplating how they would be taken out of service. The fleet was bequeathed to the Russian Federation, which has struggled, largely unsuccessfully, with obsolescence. Old age, arms-control treaties and budget shortfalls have forced the Russians to pull a growing number of the submarines out of service. Currently, 190 nuclear-powered submarines, or NPS, are scheduled for decommissioning. Seventy-six have had their reactors unloaded; 21 have been dismantled; and another 55 are waiting to be decommissioned. Forty-two reactors are still loaded with fuel, some of which have been removed from the submarines.
The numbers are both confusing and unreliable. At a conference in Vladivostok last month on NPS ecological problems, hosted by Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy, or MINATOM, attendees huddled regularly to find out what the real numbers were. The above statistics represent the consensus view.
Despite the confusion, one thing is painfully clear: The number of NPS to be decommissioned is far greater than Russia's ability to deal with them. Speaking at the MINATOM conference, A.I. Yunak, chief of technological safety of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, was explicit: "The recycling capacity of the navy ship-repair yards and civil industry are low." There is "the impossibility of timely recycling."
The numbers bear him out. By 2010, 131 NPS will still be waiting to be decommissioned. In the meantime, the subs sit at their berths, with their hulls rusting. There are many dangers: In addition to the risk of their losing buoyancy and sinking -- which has happened to a couple of the subs -- they tempt hard-pressed locals who will steal anything that can be resold. Several incidents have already been reported and a few serious mishaps narrowly averted. Although the theft of nuclear materials is possible, it is unlikely.
The greater danger is a radiological accident during the decommissioning process, which is long and complex. It involves moving the subs to a central facility, offshore defueling, storing the spent nuclear fuel and the wastes generated during that process, and eventually disposing of all wastes associated with decommissioning. No link in the chain is secure. Even the train lines needed to move materials from the Zvezda Far Eastern Shipyard in Bolshoi Kamen -- which, as the chief recycling facility for the Pacific Fleet, is just a couple of hours north of Vladivostok -- are in disrepair.
In addition to the "ordinary" risks, three NPS with damaged reactor cores need special care in recycling.
Russian experts have highlighted "a number of urgent problems" in the decommissioning process. The train lines are one bottleneck, as is the lack of storage facilities on land and on water for low-level wastes.
A critical concern is the service vessels that are used to prepare the submarines for decommissioning. According to Russian sources, six of these "floating shops" are damaged and "of grave concern." The equipment used in unloading and transportation operations "is worn and needs overhaul, which has become one of the reasons of radioactive substances [have been] released into the environment in spent nuclear-fuel unloading." Extensive use has turned these ships into "radiation hazardous objects." They are now part of the problem, and need to be recycled as soon as possible.
Russia estimates that the total cost of decommissioning the Pacific Fleet submarines is about $3.9 billion; some $60 million is needed for this year alone. The international community has been helping. The U.S. provides some funds, but that assistance has been limited to strategic submarines; not covered are attack subs, which don't carry intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The U.S., Russia and Norway cooperate in the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation Program, which addresses spent nuclear fuel and waste management and storage. As the name suggests, it has focused on submarines located in the Arctic, which excludes the Far East region. The International Atomic Energy Agency and NATO have cooperated with Russia in dismantling NPS and storing the spent fuel. Recognizing that dumping radioactive waste was a threat to its own environment, the Japanese government has provided funds, too. Unfortunately, only one project has materialized over the last decade: the construction of Landysh, or Suzeran, a floating facility to process low-level liquid wastes.
At the MINATOM conference, Japanese and British officials expressed in unusually blunt language their frustration over the difficulties in helping the Russians. Diplomats explained that they had money, but they needed legal guarantees before they could commit funds, and they were not forthcoming. "We are not satisfied with the slow pace of implementation," complained one Japanese. The failure to move forward exacerbates the problems: Not only does it increase the risk of an accident, but Zvezda, and facilities like it, are losing expertise as skilled individuals leave the region to find employment elsewhere. That means that when the money comes through, it may be too late.
In addition to tackling the nuclear-waste problem directly, scientists from the Cooperative Monitoring Center of Sandia National Laboratories have proposed that the Zvezda site be monitored for radioactive emissions. Sandia, in cooperation with the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific, provides similar data at www.cscap.nuctrans.org -- its nuclear energy transparency Web site. That project is part of an attempt to create new norms of transparency regarding nuclear energy in the Asia Pacific region.
Russia, along with the U.S., Japan, Korea, and Taiwan contribute real-time data on radiation emissions from various nuclear facilities. John Olsen, a senior scientist at Sandia and the author of the project, believes Japan should have a natural interest in supporting the program, especially since it could be affected by radiation emissions during the decommissioning process.
Russia is rightfully concerned about the NPS decommissioning problem and has expressed both an understanding of the need and desire for international assistance to deal with this issue. To their credit, Russia's neighbors and other concerned governments have signaled their willingness to help. It is up to Moscow to lay the foundation for long-term collaboration. return to menu
G. Russian Nuclear Industry
1. Ukraine cannot complete reactors due to financial restraints
October 25, 2002
(for personal use only)
Ukrainian energy company Energoatom has no resources to finance completion of the reactors at Khmelnitsk and Rivno NPP as well as improving safety on the operating reactors, news agency UNIAN reported.
During Autumn-Winter season the Ukrainian NPPs need $735 million, the earnings are, however, only $584 million. Energoatom will manage to finance only purchase of the nuclear fuel, its shipment back to Russia, salaries for personnel and other pressing payments. It was planned originally to spend $90 million on maintenance works, but only $43 million will be spent in reality. According to Energoatom, the company received only 79.2% of the cost of the delivered energy during first 9 months of 2002. return to menu
1. On the Approval by UN General Assembly First Committee of the Russia, US Joint Draft Resolution on Bilateral Strategic Nuclear Arms Reductions and New Strategic Framework
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
October 28, 2002
The First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on October 23 approved by consensus the draft resolution jointly introduced by Russia and the United States, "Bilateral strategic nuclear arms reductions and new strategic framework."
The resolution welcomes the agreements reached by the Russian and US Presidents at the summit in Moscow this May on the reduction of strategic nuclear warheads and the formation of the strategic relationship based on mutual trust, openness and predictability, which establish more favorable conditions for ensuring security and cooperation and bolstering international stability.
The resolution calls for the combining of efforts by the world community on the basis of the generally recognized principles of nonproliferation, including the principles endorsed by the leaders of the G8 countries at the Kananaskis summit this June, in the interest of accomplishing the urgent task of preventing the acquisition or development by terrorists of any types of weapons of mass destruction, missiles and the related technologies, equipment and materials.
The adoption of this resolution has strikingly demonstrated the world community's support of the steps taken by Russia and the United States to promote strategic stability and build a more secure and predictable world and is an important stimulus for actively continuing the joint work of the two countries in the interest of safeguarding international security. Moscow expects the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty to be ratified by the parliaments of Russia and the United States even before the end of 2002. return to menu
2. U.S. "Deeply Concerned" About Russian Assistance To Iran: State Responds To Question On Russian Assistance On Nuclear Plant
Washington File: U.S. State Department
October 23, 2002
The United States is "deeply concerned that Russian entities continue to provide important assistance to Iran's weapons of mass destruction and missile delivery programs," the State Department said October 23.
"If the Russians end their sensitive cooperation with Iran, we have indicated we would be prepared to favorably consider" transfers to Russia for storage of spent reactor fuel currently held by third countries, "an arrangement potentially worth over $10 billion [$10,000 million] to Moscow."
This statement was posted October 23 as an answer to a question taken at the previous day's regular State Department press briefing.
Following is the text:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman October 23, 2002
Taken Question from October 22, 2002 Daily Press Briefing
Question: What can we say about reports that we have offered economic incentives to Russia in return for their stopping work on the nuclear reactor in Iran and Bushehr?
Answer: Iran is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons, as well as other weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles and advanced conventional weapons. The U.S. position is clear: a weapons of mass destruction-armed Iran would be a major threat, to Russia as well as to the United States and our friends and allies in the region.
We are deeply concerned that Russian entities continue to provide important assistance to Iran's weapons of mass destruction and missile delivery programs. President Putin has said that he shares our concerns but the Russians have denied that they are helping Iran with its weapons of mass destruction and missile programs.
We will continue to intensively work this issue closely at senior levels with Russia.
An end to Russian proliferation to Iran would allow the United States and Russia to reap the full promise of our new strategic relationship. That would benefit Russia economically, politically and strategically far more than any short-term gain from sensitive transfers to Iran.
One example is the potential transfer to Russia for storage of spent reactor fuel currently held by third countries, much of which requires U.S. approval for such transfer because the US originally supplied the fresh fuel to those countries. If the Russians end their sensitive cooperation with Iran, we have indicated we would be prepared to favorably consider such transfers, an arrangement potentially worth over $10 billion [$10,000 million] to Moscow. return to menu
I. Links of Interest
1. Senator Nunn's Remark at the World Affairs Council of Washington, D.C.
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