Russian workers have begun removing nuclear fuel from the first of 12 atomic submarines to be dismantled at Canada's expense as Foreign Affairs officials monitor what they call a historic and "very, very emotional" exercise.
The Victor-class attack sub, known only by the number 608, patrolled the northern seas for years, possibly armed with nuclear-tipped torpedoes designed to destroy NATO ships. But No. 608 has been mothballed for at least a decade, its nuclear reactors and fuel threatening the Arctic environment and presenting a potential bonanza to terrorists.
Canada is spending $100-million to pay for tearing apart the 12 Russian subs and workers began late last week the painstaking job of extracting radioactive parts from the first of them, said Michael Washer, a Foreign Affairs project manager.
A former lieutenant commander on a Royal Navy submarine, Mr. Washer admitted that seeing the "still quite fine" ship dismantled at a shipyard once shrouded in Cold War secrecy evoked conflicting sentiments.
"I know how much hard work and effort was put in by those crews looking after those submarines ... and now to see them taken apart like this is somewhat sad," said the naturalized Canadian.
"But my approach is that I was part of the Cold War problem and, therefore, I have an obligation to be there and help clean it up. In some ways, history has put me in the right place at the right time."
The Victor-class subs did not carry nuclear missiles, but often were armed with nuclear-tipped torpedoes. Their territory would have been the Barents Sea north of Russia, Mr. Washer said. But he said he and his NATO colleagues encountered them as far afield as the Mediterranean and the Atlantic oceans.
Two other subs, later model Victor-class boats numbered 643 and 645, have been earmarked for the Canadian project already. The plan is for Canada to fund the dismantling of nine more during the next few years.
It is part of Canada's wider committment of $1-billion over 10 years to the G8 Global Partnership, an international project to clean up nuclear refuse in Russia seen as a threat to the environment and security.
A rogue national government might have the resources to fashion the fuel from No. 608 into atomic bomb-grade material, but even a terrorist group could turn it into an "extremely dirty" radiation bomb, Mr. Washer said.
"Just one of these fuel assemblies, if a piece of semtex [explosive] was put on it and let off in New York, I cannot even begin to describe what that would do to the world economy."
The first three subs Canada is helping dismantle are already showing signs of their environmental danger, leaching oil and other liquids into the sea and occasionally even discharging radiation, Mr. Washer said.
Canadian officials are visiting the Zvezdochka shipyard in Severodvinsk monthly to monitor the work and conduct environmental assessments. They are also keeping a close watch on where their money is going after warnings that it could be diverted into weapons-making programs. The shipyard must keep a separate bank account for the Canadian money and has to provide photographic evidence of finished jobs, as well as allowing the Canadians to see with their own eyes, Mr. Washer said.
Since its first nuclear powered sub went into service in 1959, Russia has built about 250 of the vessels, but the Cold War arms race developed so quickly, it could not properly dispose of vessels as they dropped out of service, says the Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian environmental group. Only 40 nuclear subs are still operating.
The United States, Britain and Norway have already funded the dismantling of several subs. Now it is Canada's turn. The exercise is a priority for Russia as well as the world community, said Alexei Lisemkov, press attache at the Russian embassy in Ottawa.
"We greatly appreciate Canada's participation," he said yesterday. "This is a mutually beneficial program."
Seeing the first sub taken apart was memorable, too, for the other Foreign Affairs officials, who asked not to be named.
"It's very emotional. You see these things, you know what they were used for, and you know how dangerous they were," said one diplomat.
"Not only are we dealing on a basis of friendship with people who were formerly our enemy, but we're dealing with some very, very sensitive items."
Another of the officials monitoring the sub project served in the Moscow embassy during the final days of the Soviet Union, when Severodvinsk was a closed city, with access barred to Westerners and severely restricted even to Soviet citizens.
"These Russians have told us that 10 years ago they'd never have imagined they'd see foreigners in their shipyard," he said. "It's symbolic, really, of the end of the Cold War."
When David Lochbaum perused a government Web site one day last summer, he came across documents he thought would be of limited value to the public -- but a potential bonanza for terrorists.
Included in a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report on Waterford III Nuclear Power Station near New Orleans, Louisiana, were diagrams showing all the toxic chemicals and pipelines near Waterford III -- including the natural gas pipelines that lace through the complex.
Explicit in detail, the maps even showed gas line valves, the amount of pressure in the lines, and the proximity of gas lines to air intakes for the nuclear plant's control room.
Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a watchdog group, said he did what he always does when he finds sensitive documents on the NRC's Web site: He called the NRC's nuclear safety managers and suggested they remove the diagram. They did.
Lochbaum isn't alone in finding sensitive material on the NRC Web site. In a four-hour time span recently, Scott Portzline, a Pennsylvania piano tuner and civic activist, found material about four university nuclear laboratories, including floor plans and lists of the radioactive materials they use.
The four schools were Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont; Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston; Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota; and the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Portzline said the floor plans would be valuable to terrorists, allowing them to hunt for potential sources of nuclear material from the relative obscurity of their computers, without taking the riskier step of conducting surveillance.
Using the NRC Web site, a terrorist "could prioritize the largest sources, more dangerous sources or the weapons grade sources" of radioactive material, Portzline said. "You'd know exactly where the sources are, having never visited the facility."
The NRC said Tuesday it is trying to balance the public's right to know with the need for security, and that information is sometimes put on the Web site that, upon review, doesn't belong there.
After the Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Patriot-News reported Portzline's find on October 3, the NRC began reviewing the material. A CNN check last week showed the material was still on the Web site, but the NRC said Tuesday it has since removed the material, saying it was prudent to do so.
Roy Zimmerman, director of the NRC's Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, said the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks highlighted the need to safeguard sensitive information, a process that has taken several steps. In the days immediately after the attacks, the NRC took the Web site entirely off line. When it was restored weeks later, it had been purged of more than 1,000 sensitive documents, he said.
Initially, the agency decided to withhold documents if "the release would provide clear and significant benefit to a terrorist in planning an attack," Zimmerman said.
In early summer, the agency tightened the restriction, opting to exclude information "that could be useful or could reasonably be useful to a terrorist," he said. "It is currently unlikely that the information on our Web site would provide significant advantage to assist a terrorist."
'Next tier' information The information that Portzline found represents a "next tier" of information that deserves review, he said.
An NRC spokesman told CNN Tuesday the agency is considering establishing a task force to address the Web site issue.
Experts asked by CNN to review the Portzline material agreed it doesn't belong on public Web sites, but said that doesn't necessarily mean the material is of value to terrorists.
One expert likened it to a bank, saying customers may know the location of the vault, but still don't have the wherewithal to empty it.
"It [the Web site] may help a little, but if someone's determined to do this, it won't help them much. If someone wanted to find this out, they can," said David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security.
"If secrecy is your only security, then you don't have it. Because everybody that has a brain knows that physics departments use radioactive sources ... and it's not that hard to find where they are," he said.
Lochbaum, who discovered the Waterford power plant maps last summer, said so far this year, he has notified the NRC of six documents he believed should not have been posted; the agency removed four of them.
One document that was removed was an instruction manual for metal and explosive detectors used at Waterford nuclear plant entrances, he said.
"If you were trying to defeat those detectors, having that kind of information would be usable," he said.
"The problem is the NRC is in the habit of trying to close the barn door after the horse is out," said Jim Riccio, nuclear policy analyst for the environmental group Greenpeace.
"Every one of these reactors is a pre-positioned weapon of mass destruction that could be used to hurt this country," he said, adding that sensitive material should be caught before it is posted -- not afterwards.
The NRC's Zimmerman said, "We are appreciative of the public bringing these particular documents to our attention. Our plan, though, is to get out in front of this."
He said the NRC is training licensees to highlight sensitive material when they submit it.
Said Lochbaum, "I'm ... not blaming the NRC for the occasional document that gets out. They handle thousands of documents a year. So even if you're 99.9 percent [efficient at editing documents] an occasional document gets out. I think that's something we have to live with.
"I think everybody's doing their best under the situation."
The world now has about 20,000 nuclear weapons; there were once 65,000. It must be counted as a major miracle of the modern age that in the 59 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki none of them has been used in anger. With hindsight, history may conclude that the major threat facing the United States -- and the world -- in 2004 was not the war in Iraq or the immediate danger of terrorism. It was the impending breakdown of the global system that for six decades kept nuclear holocaust at bay.
Put differently: Despite this campaign's focus on Iraq and terrorism, the next president's major foreign policy problem may involve what can be done about Iran and North Korea.
North Korea already claims to have nuclear weapons; estimates are from six to eight, though the claims and estimates could be wrong. Iran denies pursuing nuclear weapons, but its denials are doubted by outside experts and undermined by Iran's incomplete compliance with nuclear inspections.
There are now eight nuclear powers: the United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel (suspected), Britain and France. The danger is not mainly increasing that number by two. It is that if North Korea and Iran gain nuclear weapons, other countries -- possibly many of them -- would ultimately go nuclear. Then, every nuclear danger would rise dramatically: miscalculation, preemptive attacks, theft, a global market in weapons technology, and use by terrorist groups.
Since the 1950s, a two-part system has prevented nuclear horror.
The first is "mutual assured destruction." The Americans and Soviets didn't attack each other, because both knew they faced annihilation. Over time, other safeguards (the Washington-Moscow "hotline," for example) emerged to minimize miscalculations. One side effect was that, aside from Britain and France, few advanced countries that could have developed nuclear weapons did so. Most lived under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. If they were attacked, they knew (or thought) the United States would retaliate.
The second pillar is the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This now commits five major nuclear powers (the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France) not to transfer weapons technology to other countries. All other signatories, numbering more than 170, disavow nuclear weapons and permit inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. North Korea and Iran signed the NPT; India, Pakistan, Israel and Cuba did not.
If North Korea and Iran go nuclear, this system would be in tatters. The NPT would seem toothless, and the residual self-restraint of "mutual assured destruction" might evaporate.
Would Japan (or South Korea) trust the United States to retaliate against North Korea? Doubts might inspire Japan (or South Korea) to go nuclear. Would Indonesia, Asia's third-largest country, want nuclear weapons? If Iran went nuclear, would Turkey, Egypt or Saudi Arabia follow suit? Would Europe want a bigger nuclear arsenal? The point: If North Korea and Iran permanently go nuclear, we will cross a threshold with unpredictable and frightening consequences.
Unfortunately, it's unclear how we can prevent this. Airstrikes can no longer eliminate North Korea's nuclear weapons because, as Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute says, "we don't know where they are." Military strikes might have worked in the early 1990s (eliminating the capacity to produce weapons), but the risk was that North Korea would attack South Korea.
In their book "Crisis on the Korean Peninsula," Michael O'Hanlon and Mike Mochizuki report that the North Korean military has 1.1 million troops; 12,000 artillery pieces, 500 of which can hit Seoul; 500 ballistic missiles; 20 tunnels under the South Korean border; and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons. "North Korea would probably begin any war with a massive artillery barrage of South Korean and U.S. positions . . . and likely of Seoul itself," they write. "Chemical weapons might well be used."
American airstrikes -- or perhaps Israeli -- might destroy Iran's bomb-making capabilities. But at what cost? Iran might retaliate by sponsoring anti-U.S. terrorism. After an attack or economic sanctions, it might curb oil production.
It's not obvious (to me, at least) whether George Bush or John Kerry could best handle the nuclear threat. Britain, France and Germany have urged Iran to abandon plans to enrich nuclear fuel (from which bombs can be made) in return for assured fuel supplies for its reactors and pledges of economic aid. Kerry has endorsed such an approach, and the Bush administration has backed it, through skeptically. Kerry might work better with the Europeans and Iranians (whom he hasn't labeled part of the "axis of evil''). The case for Bush is that he's scarier. Iran might accept a diplomatic solution if it stood to lose its nuclear facilities through airstrikes.
On North Korea, O'Hanlon and Mochizuki suggest a similar bargain. North Korea surrenders its weapons and submits to inspections; in return, it receives security guarantees from the United States, diplomatic recognition and economic aid. The idea is to bribe a country from going nuclear. Operating on that theory, the Clinton administration signed a less far-reaching agreement with North Korea in 1994, but the North Koreans ultimately cheated. None of these bargains will work if either country's true aim is to possess nuclear weapons and not simply use them as negotiating chips.
Bush and Kerry haven't debated these issues in detail, because each realizes that the victor's practical choices are bleak. If there's any hope, it lies in this paradox: A country with nuclear weapons enhances its power enormously -- and its chances of annihilation. The next president must somehow convince the North Koreans and Iranians that they are taking themselves, and everyone else, down a path of madness.
It has become increasingly apparent that North Korea has no intention of giving up its aspirations for nuclear arms no matter what concessions the US, South Korea and Japan offer, a conclusion with which many analysts in the US intelligence community concur.
Once this realization has sunk in, policymakers in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo will be required to forge new foreign policies and security postures to cope with a nuclear-armed North Korea. What's more, China will be forced to exert whatever influence it can over its roguish ally in Pyongyang.
For weeks, the North Koreans have grasped every opportunity imaginable to assert that they will not return to the six-party negotiations in Beijing led by China and including, besides North Korea, the US, South Korea, Japan and Russia.
Among its latest pronouncements, a spokesman for Pyong-yang's foreign ministry asserted that the "hostile policy" of the US was to blame for a stalemate in the negotiations. He said that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) "felt no need to explain what it [hostile policy] meant."
A diplomat in North Korea's mission at the UN contended that the US was scheming to overthrow his government.
"We can't talk with the United States," Han Song-ryol said, "whether it's in the six-nation talks or a bilateral dialogue."
It does not matter to Pyong-yang who wins the US election in November -- President George W. Bush, the Republican who continues to advocate engaging North Korea through multinational talks, or Senator John Kerry, the Democrat who argues that the US should negotiate with North Korea in bilateral talks.
As the Korean Central News Agency says: "The DPRK does not care who becomes president in the US."
Living with a nuclear-armed North Korea will have immediate, mid-term and long-range consequences.
In the immediate future, the US will still be capable of massive retaliation should North Korea launch a nuclear or conventional attack against US forces in Asia or its allies in South Korea or Japan. In that event, US doctrine under both Republican and Democratic administrations has long called explicitly for the destruction of the North Korean regime.
Politically, North Korea will have lost the bargaining leverage that its nuclear programs have provided, as negotiations will have ended. Pyongyang will not get the diplomatic recognition from the US that it urgently desires, and probably not from Tokyo. Reconciliation with Seoul may be set back.
Economically, sanctions against Pyongyang will remain in place and the aid and trade that it desperately needs for its starving people will not be forthcoming from the US or Japan.
In the mid-term, the international nuclear non-proliferation endeavor intended to prevent the spread of nuclear arms will be dealt another blow. Israel, Pakistan and India have already damaged that effort; Iraq's nuclear plans, whatever they were, have been stopped, but Iran's are believed to be moving ahead.
South Korea, which sought nuclear arms in the 1970s but was dissuaded by the US, may reconsider. A dozen years ago, when North Korea's nuclear plans became known, senior South Korean officials said, as one put it: "If they have them, we must have them."
Nuclear arms in North Korea will undoubtedly stimulate more discussion in Japan about obtaining nuclear arms, but that's as far as it is likely to go since the nuclear allergy that is the legacy of World War II is still strong there. Moreover, basing such weapons, most likely at sea, would be difficult and costly.
The key element in precluding Japan from going nuclear is the US umbrella designed to protect Japan. The US may need to reassure the Japanese that they will be secure without their own nuclear arms.
The long-term consequences of a nuclear-armed North Korea are the most frightening, as Pyongyang could easily find a market for those weapons in terrorist networks in the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia and maybe Latin America.
Tracing and deterring sales shipments would be harder than discouraging a North Korean attack on South Korea. Targets in North Korea are known and have been marked; discovering air or sea shipments of the components of a nuclear weapon would be next to impossible.
Coping with that threat will be more a chore for China than the US and its allies. No more than the US, South Korea and Japan do the Chinese want to see terrorists allied with pirates in the South China Sea endangering their oil lifeline from the Middle East or shipping lanes to export markets everywhere.
1. Russian Expert Says U.S. ABM System Dangerous, Promises Reciprocal Response
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A leading Russian defense specialist has said that the U.S. plans to deploy an anti-missile defense system pose a threat to Russiaï¿½s national security and that Russia was working on various measures which could render U.S. developments in the defense sphere useless.
Radmir Smirnov, the deputy general director of the research and development company Vityaz XXI Century, writes in an article in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily that the ABM system developed by the United States is designed to not only guard against possible nuclear attacks launched by terrorist organizations and rogue states but also from a massive nuclear strike. If the system is successfully deployed, Russia will face a strategic threat to its security and negative geopolitical consequences, the expert writes.
There is a possibility that after the United States finishes the deployment of their ABM system in the next 10 to 12 years the effectiveness of the Russian ï¿½nuclear triadï¿½ (the Air Force, ICBMs and the strategic Submarine Fleet) will fall below an admissible level.
In this context Smirnov calls for a correction of the concept of national security not only in Russia but throughout the world.
He writes that the development of effective response measures to counter the unilateral deployment of anti-missile systems by the United States must be considered a priority by the Russian authorities. Otherwise, Russia and other countries may find themselves practically unprotected against the latest U.S. military potential.
On the other hand, Smirnov writes that Russian specialists are already working on systems that would render the new U.S. developments useless.
Among these he mentioned projects that would cut the time of the initial boost of intercontinental missiles and lower the altitude of warhead separation to 80-100 kilometers and also the latest combat spacecraft that will destroy elements of the U.S. ABM system before it comes into action.
ï¿½It is possible that after spending billions of dollars on the development of the national ABM system the U.S.A. will suddenly discover that Russia has developed some effective response measures costing less than a hundredth of the U.S. spending,ï¿½ the expert writes.
1. Iran-Russia nuclear cooperation develops under IAEA rules: official
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Cooperation between Russia and Iran in nuclear power engineering is developing in compliance with the IAEA rules, said Alexander Rumyantsev, head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency.
He arrived in Geneva on Monday to take part in the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN). Russia has a status of observer in CERN.
'Moscow has never violated international obligations' due to construction of the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Rumyantsev stressed.
Russia 'is a responsible partner. It knows all underwater reefs that nuclear energy has. It watches the solution of problems related to the non-proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies. That is why when we build the plant we formulate requirements so that spent fuel is returned to Russia. This is an excessive demand because the NPT has no such demand', Rumyantsev explained.
"But we have been listening to the view of the world community and convince the Iranians to do so.
We took a step towards our partners. We understand and share their concern. We believe that any country may receive benefits that nuclear energy gives. But we shouldn't admit this energy to serve a source of tremendous disasters such in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945," Rumyantsev stressed.
During the stay in Geneva, Rumyantsev will meet CERN Director General Robert Aymar to discuss bilateral cooperation. He will confer with Rosatom officials working in CERN.
About 1,000 Russian specialists work in different CERN departments.
India will receive a Russian nuclear submarine under a 10-year leasing deal that could be valued at tens of millions of dollars annually for Russia, Interfax news agency reported Thursday.
"India's navy will lease a Project 971 nuclear-powered submarine for 10 years," Interfax said, quoting an unnamed senior Russian defense industry official.
The contract for the deal was signed early this year and the submarine is still under construction at at the Amur shipyard in the Far East port of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, the report said.
"It is 85 percent completed," the official said.
Interfax said independent experts believed the leasing contract was worth "as much as tens of millions of dollars per year," but gave no further details on financing arrangements on the contract.
The report said construction of the submarine would be completed by 2007 after which an Indian crew would be sent to Russia for training aboard the vessel.
In April, Russia handed over to India a frigate, the third and last ship built by Russia for the Indian navy under a one-billion-dollar contract signed in 1997.
India is Russia's traditional ally in southwest Asia, and the two countries have resumed cooperation in the nuclear power sphere following a visit by President Vladimir Putin to New Delhi in October 2000.
Last January, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that Russia had reached a preliminary agreement to sell India an aircraft carrier along with 28 MiG-29K fighter jets in a deal worth around 1.5 billion dollars.
The Indian Navy will lease a nuclear powered submarine from Russia.
"Moscow and Delhi signed a contract, according to which, India's Navy will lease a Project 971 nuclear powered submarine [from Russia] for ten years," a high ranking source at the defense manufacturing complex told Interfax.
He said that the contract was signed in the beginning of 2004.
The submarine to be leased is a Project 971 Nerpa nuclear submarine, which is being constructed at the Amur ship building facility, Komsomolsk-na-Amure.
"It is 85% ready right now," the source said.
The submarine should be finished by 2007. An Indian crew will then arrive in Russia to train on the submarine.
According to independent experts, profits from the use of the submarine could be as much as tens of millions dollars a year.
The July 2004 START Treaty exchange data released in October 2004, show the changes in the composition of the Russian strategic forces. Russia continues to decommission a number of strategic systems and to deploy some new ones. As a result, Russia currently has a total 874 strategic delivery platforms, which can carry up to 3885 nuclear warheads.
The number of the heavy SS-18 (R-36MUTTH/R-36M2) missiles has reached 108, as the Strategic Rocket Forces continued the process of liquidation of the Kartaly missile base (as of July 2004, only 16 missiles remained at this base) and decommissioned six older SS-18 missiles at the Uzhur base.
The number of deployed SS-25 (Topol) road-mobile missiles has reached 315, continuing the process of gradual decommissioning of this missiles at a rate of about 15 a year, which began in 2002. This trend is expected to continue. The Rocket Forces has consolidated all 15 remaining SS-24 (RT-23UTTH) rail-mobile missiles at one base in Kostroma. These missiles are expected to be withdrawn from service in the next few years.
The deployment of new SS-27 (Topol-M) silo-based missiles continued, although at a slow pace ï¿½ six missiles were deployed in December 2003 and four more are expected to be deployed in December 2004. It is likely that ten more SS-27 (Topol-M) missiles will be deployed in silos in 2005-2006.
The Navy began removing missiles from the Delta III (Project 667BDR) strategic submarines at the Pacific Fleet, which probably marks the beginning of the process of decommissioning of these submarines. After this process is complete, all strategic submarines will be based with the Northern Fleet.
1. Russia to Keep Chernobyl-Type Nuclear Reactors ï¿½ Officials
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Russia, under international pressure to boost nuclear security, wants to extend the life of some of its old, Chernobyl-type reactors by at least 15 years, the Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday, citing the countryï¿½s atomic energy officials.
The European Union has continuously urged Russia to shut down its 11 Soviet-build RBMK reactors. But Moscow says they are being constantly modernised to avoid a repeat of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
ï¿½A lot of our reactors are approaching their 30-year limit. We want to extend that, and 15 years is what is being discussed at the moment,ï¿½ said an official at a state-run nuclear operator.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said extensions would be granted on a case-by-case basis once Russiaï¿½s nuclear security watchdog had approved the measure. He could not say when that would be.
Concerns about the dumping of radioactive waste and the Chernobyl accident in what was then Soviet Ukraine ï¿½- the worldï¿½s worst civil nuclear accident ï¿½- triggered a wave of opposition to nuclear power in European countries.
The International Atomic Energy Agency ï¿½- the U.N. nuclear watchdog ï¿½- blamed the accident on an RBMK design flaw.
But Russia, the worldï¿½s No. 5 civil nuclear power, says it is doing everything to ensure security at RBMK plants.
Most RBMK units were built in the 1970s and would have to shut down in the next few years under existing regulations.
Russian ecology groups reacted with outrage.
ï¿½Itï¿½s a disastrous decision. Safety standards at RBMK reactors are nowhere near those of Western plants, and itï¿½s technically impossible to modernise them accordingly,ï¿½ said Vladimir Slivyak, co-head of the Ecodefence environment group.
ï¿½This is the most serious blow to the safety of the nuclear power industry since the Chernobyl disaster.ï¿½
Russiaï¿½s oldest reactor ï¿½- at the Leningrad Power Plant near the border with Finland ï¿½- was shut down last year. But officials re-launched it this month for at least another five years pending modernisation.
Lithuania, which joined the EU in May, has agreed to shut down its Soviet-build Ignalina RBMK plant in coming years as part of its accession agreement, although the plant accounts for more than two-thirds of the countryï¿½s electricity needs.
Incoming EU Energy Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs of Hungary said in September he shared worries about Russian nuclear safety and vowed to focus on the issue after assuming the post in November.
Washington, which is funding Russian efforts to prevent nuclear material from finding its way on to the black market, is also concerned about the higher-than-normal level of plutonium being generated at RBMK reactors as a by-product. Plutonium can be used to make a nuclear bomb.
1. International conference on nuclear safety to be held in city of Kurchatov
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Participants in the international scientific-technical conference, which opened in the city of Kurchatov of the Kursk region on Thursday, will discuss the experience of the Kursk nuclear power plant in the field of raising nuclear safety while exploiting channel reactors.
A two-day conference ï¿½Channel reactors: problems and solutionsï¿½ began in Moscow on October 19. Its technical round will be held in Kurchatov.
The Scientific and Research and Design Institute of Power Engineering and the branch of Rosenergatom - - Kursk nuclear power plant with support of the Federal Nuclear Power Agency are the organizers of the conference.
Apart from home specialists of enterprises and scientific and research institutions of the nuclear branch, scientists from Canada, Holland, Great Britain, Italy, Germany and Lithuania will take part in the conference.
As director of the Kursk nuclear power plant Yuri Slepokon told Itar-Tass, the program of the technical round includes reports on achievements of the Kursk nuclear power plants in the field of raising nuclear safety and on the experience of the first stage of the plantï¿½s upgrading.
Participants in the conference will also visit the upgraded first and second power units, as well as the 5th power unit, which is being built now.
Russian security services seized two containers filled with highly radioactive material at a scrap yard in central Russia, Interfax news agency said on Tuesday.
Radiation levels at the scene in the Volga town of Saratov, where the containers with uranium-238 were discovered, were 358 times higher than normal, Interfax said, citing regional emergency officials.
Nuclear officials in Moscow could not immediately confirm the report.
Depleted uranium, where uranium-238 is usually found, can be theoretically used to make nuclear "dirty bombs."
Russia, which has the world's second biggest nuclear arsenal after the United States, is under international pressure to do more to protect its atomic sites from theft and prevent sensitive materials from reaching the nuclear black market.
Both President Bush and challenger Senator John Kerry have said they consider nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists the biggest threat to the United States.
Interfax said homeless people brought the containers to the scrap yard. It quoted regional nuclear experts as saying officials at the scene had also found an empty container normally used to transport uranium.
Uranium-238 is a highly dense and toxic material mainly used in gun ammunition and armor.
"That type of uranium looks very much like lead so I would not be surprised if someone had simply mistaken it for it and dumped at the scrap yard," a spokesman for the Russian Atomic Energy Agency said.
Highly enriched uranium and plutonium in nuclear reactors can be used to make an atomic bomb.
Spent fuel, as well as other by-products of uranium enrichment such as uranium-238, can produce a "dirty bomb" that needs little atomic content but spreads radiation when it explodes.
Also Tuesday, a truck carrying radioactive materials was seized at the far eastern port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Ria-Novosti news agency reported. No further details were available.
3. Russia's 11 Chernobyl-type reactors all safe: experts
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Russia's 11 nuclear reactors similar to the one that exploded in Chernobyl in 1986 in the world's worst nuclear disaster have been upgraded to avoid similar disasters, Russian and Western experts said Tuesday.
"All the causes that led to the Chernobyl catastrophe have been removed," Nikolai Sorokin, the deputy director of Russia's federal atomic energy agency, told reporters here.
"Chernobyl's managing system was not adapted to the situation. This system has been entirely corrected in the Kursk plant" and is being improved in other nuclear power plants, said Yevgeny Adamov of the Dollezhal Institute, which designed the reactors.
Adamov served as Russia's atomic energy minister between 1998 and 2000.
"An international assessment was carried out in 2002-04 on the Number One reactor of the Kursk plant, and specific programmes were created" for other Russian reactors of the same type, said Michel Shuha from France's Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety Institute.
Three nuclear power plants with 11 reactors among them are currently equipped in Russia with Chernobyl-type reactors -- near the cities of Kursk and Smolensk, in western Russia, and Saint Petersburg, in the country's northwest.
In April 1986, the core of the fourth reactor at the plant of Chernobyl, in Ukraine, exploded and for 10 days spewed radioactive material equivalent to more than 200 Hiroshima bombs into the air, contaminating large swathes of Europe, particularly neighboring Belarus.
The Soviet government said 31 people were killed on the spot.
According to UN figures, between 15,000 and 30,000 have died since the disaster in 1986 and nearly six million people continue to live in contaminated zones.
1. Nunn-Lugar to destroy Albania Chemical Weapons Stash; First Time Nunn-Lugar Used Outside Former Soviet Union
Richard G. Lugar, Senator
Office of Sen. Richard Lugar
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For the first time the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program will be used outside the former Soviet Union. It will be used to destroy chemical weapons in Albania.
Last year Congress approved the Nunn-Lugar Expansion Act, authored by U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, which lets the President use up to $50 million in Nunn-Lugar funds for activities outside the former Soviet Union. President Bush has signed the authorization for Nunn-Lugar work in Albania.
ï¿½The Nunn-Lugar Program has established a deep reservoir of experience and talent that could be applied to non-proliferation objectives around the world. The original Nunn-Lugar bill was concerned with the former Soviet Union, because that is where the vast majority of weapons and materials of mass destruction were. Today, we must be prepared with money and expertise to extend the Nunn-Lugar concept wherever it can be usefully applied. I applaud Albaniaï¿½s leadership in seeking United States assistance in destroying these dangerous weapons,ï¿½ said Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
ï¿½I am pleased that President Bush has embraced the Nunn-Lugar concept and has endorsed efforts to apply it worldwide. Russia will continue to be a major focus but emerging risks must also be addressed in the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere. Nunn-Lugar has developed a unique capability to meet a variety of proliferation threats and I am excited that it will address this unique threat present in Albania.ï¿½
Albania is situated in Southeastern Europe and borders the former Yugoslav regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. Both regions have witnessed tremendous violence and Muslim extremism over the last decade.
Senator Lugar traveled to Albania on August 27 and 28 of this year to meet with Albanian leaders and visit the chemical weapons storage facility that has already received US assistance to enhance the security surrounding the stockpile. In meetings with Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Foreign Minister Islami, and Defense Minister Majko, Senator Lugar discussed the need for Nunn-Lugar to assist Albania in destroying its chemical weapons stockpile. The project is expected to take approximately two years to complete at a cost of approximately $20 million to eliminate 16 tons of chemical agent.
The utilization of the Nunn-Lugar program in Albania was facilitated by the May 2003 Agreement Between the Republic of Albania and the Government of the United States of America Concerning Cooperation in the Area of the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations. This agreement will provide the foundation for the Nunn-Lugar Program work. The United States is delivering a draft implementing agreement to the Albanian Government that defines the scope of the destruction process.
Additional details of the project will be available in the future, but in the meantime the contents and location of the cache will not be released to ensure operational security or prevent revealing to potential proliferators or terrorists information that could endanger the stockpile.
ï¿½To combat the WMD threat in the former Soviet Union, our country has implemented the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Since enactment in late 1991, Nunn-Lugar has devoted American technical expertise and money for joint efforts to safeguard and destroy materials and weapons of mass destruction,ï¿½ Lugar said.
As of October 13, 2004, the weapons systems deactivated or destroyed by the United States under these programs include: 6,462 nuclear warheads; 550 ICBMs; 469 ICBM silos; 13 ICBM mobile missile launchers; 135 bombers; 733 nuclear air-to-surface missiles; 408 submarine missile launchers; 530 submarine launched missiles; 27 nuclear submarines; and 194 nuclear test tunnels. The International Science and Technology Centers, of which the United States is the leading sponsor, have engaged 58,000 former weapons scientists in peaceful work. The International Proliferation Prevention Program has funded 750 projects involving 14,000 former weapons scientists and created some 580 new peaceful high-tech jobs. Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan are nuclear weapons free as a result of cooperative efforts under the Nunn-Lugar program.
2. The Bush Administration's Forward Strategy for Nonproliferation
U.S. Department of State
(for personal use only)
"Forward" Policy on Proliferation
On February 11, at the National Defense University, President Bush ... detailed a number of proposals that made clear the administration's overarching approach: The front lines in our nonproliferation strategy must extend beyond the well-known rogue states, to the trade routes and entities that are engaged in supplying the countries of greatest proliferation concern. This is a "forward" policy, which is most properly described, not as "nonproliferation," but as "counterproliferation."
Most regimes and organizations aspiring to develop their WMD and missile capability are still dependent on outside suppliers and technology. To thwart their ability to purchase the technology required to advance these programs, we are employing a number of tools, including credible efforts to help other states enforce export controls, sanctioning of companies dealing in this deadly trade, employment of scientists and others with the intellectual capacity to develop WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and missile programs, and interdiction of WMD-related shipments before they get to their final destination.
We aim to slow down and even stop weapons development plans by disrupting their procurement efforts, denying proliferators the ability to obtain the intellectual capital, and creating disincentives by raising the costs on suppliers and shippers that get involved in this deadly trade.
Over the past decade, proliferators have employed increasingly sophisticated and aggressive measures to obtain WMD or missile-related materials. Recent events, such as the unraveling of the A.Q. Khan network and the elimination of the Libyan WMD program, brought to public light the dangers posed by this deadly trade that was occurring unseen under the noses of many governments around the world. Proliferators rely heavily on the use of front companies and illicit arms brokers in their quest for arms, equipment, sensitive technology, and dual-use goods for their WMD programs. These front companies and brokers are expert at concealing the intended destination of an item and in making an illicit export appear legitimate -- in essence, hiding the export in the open. Proliferators take other measures to circumvent national export controls, such as falsifying documentation, providing false information about the actual end-use of items, and trading through countries with the least sophisticated laws and enforcement capacities.
The Proliferation Security Initiative
In 2002, the President released his National Strategy to Combat WMD, which contained the seeds of the Proliferation Security Initiative, or PSI. The strategy emphasized enhancing the capabilities of our military, intelligence, technical, and law enforcement assets to prevent the movement of WMD materials and technology to hostile states and terrorist organizations. President Bush has made it clear that the long-term objective of the United States is to create a web of counterproliferation partnerships, through which proliferators will have difficulty carrying out their trade in WMD and missile-related technology.
The President announced PSI in May of 2003. Just one year later 60 countries gathered in Krakow, Poland, to mark the PSI's one-year anniversary. PSI is one of the Bush administration's most prominent innovations. It is a muscular enhancement of our ability collectively to halt trafficking in WMD components. In developing PSI, our main goal has been a simple one -- to create the basis for practical cooperation among states to interdict WMD-related shipments. We often say, "PSI is an activity, not an organization." This is not hard to understand, but is unusual. PSI is not diverted by disputes about candidacies for director general, agency budgets, agendas for meetings, and the like. Instead, PSI is entirely voluntary, relying primarily on the activities of intelligence, military, and law-enforcement agencies. PSI reflects the reality that, even as we continue to support and strengthen the existing nonproliferation regimes, proliferators and those facilitating the procurement of deadly capabilities are circumventing existing laws, treaties, and controls against WMD proliferation. Through PSI, we create the basis for action to ensure that we can stop proliferators in their tracks.
When PSI first emerged, it was criticized inaccurately as an initiative with a shaky legal underpinning. There is in national legal systems and relevant international authorities ample authority to support interdiction actions at sea, in the air, and on land. States around the world have concurred with this fact and made political commitments to the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles. Importantly, the unanimous passage of U.N. Security Council [UNSC] Resolution 1540 establishes clear international acknowledgement that active cooperation among states, such as PSI, is both useful and necessary. Paragraph 10 of the resolution [is] where the UNSC calls upon all states to "take cooperative action to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, their means of delivery and related materials."
Despite PSI's infancy, there already have been notable successes. In October, 2003, the BBC China was intercepted loaded with nuclear components for Libya. The interdiction helped convince Qadhafi that the days of his undisturbed accumulation of the instruments of destruction were over. This early successful interdiction, in cooperation with the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy, is a textbook case study of how PSI can have broad impact on curbing the spread of WMD.
This interdiction also helped unravel the A.Q. Khan nuclear black-market network. Our citizens now understand the stunningly extensive nature of Khan's trafficking in nuclear technology and materials.
These revelations, combined with invaluable information from Libya's program, have knocked the legs out from under an especially insidious international black market in nuclear weapons. Overlooked, however, is the administration's success in persuading Pakistan's leaders to take active measures to interrupt the proliferation of nuclear materials and assistance that has metastasized unchecked through the Khan network for many years. We're now in the process of unraveling that network, although much work remains to be done, in Pakistan and elsewhere.
We are engaged in a range of activities to strengthen our operational capacity to carry out interdictions. In the past 12 months, we and our partners held 11 training exercises on air, land and sea. Last month, the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, hosted a successful week-long series of table-top exercises to test the legal limits of our ability to interdict. The next exercise will be in the Pacific, outside of Tokyo Bay in Japan, later this month, where more than 15 countries will work together to improve our capacity to interdict items transshipped through Asian ports. The threats posed by proliferation from North Korea in the Asian region are obvious. In addition to training, these exercises serve a useful deterrent to companies that otherwise might be tempted to do business with proliferators like North Korea.
To facilitate interdictions, we also have a targeted effort to obtain bilateral agreements to facilitate the boarding of ships suspected of carrying WMD. The United States has signed agreements with the two largest flag registries: Liberia and Panama. We also recently signed with the Marshall Islands, and have some 20 other negotiations on-going. Finally, we are developing PSI to include coordinated law-enforcement efforts to shut down the facilitators and financiers of proliferation.
The Global Partnership
Another important administration initiative is the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, launched by the Leaders of the G8 [Group of Eight industrialized nations] at the Kananaskis Summit in June 2002. Here again, the US-led initiative relies on the commitments of sovereign states, acting separately and in concert, to eliminate and secure sensitive materials. Like PSI, the Global Partnership is an activity, not an organization. The G8 Leaders pledged to raise $20 billion over 10 years for projects to prevent dangerous weapons and materials from falling into the wrong hands.
The United States will contribute half of this total -- $10 billion -- the majority for projects under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program. Over the past two years 13 additional countries have joined the Global Partnership and added their resources.
The United States has nonproliferation projects underway not only in Russia, but in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, and other FSU [former Soviet Union] states, as do other Global Partnership countries.
The United States has recently begun assistance in Iraq and Libya. We are encouraging our partners to undertake their own projects in such states worldwide, and at Sea Island the G8 agreed to use the Global Partnership to coordinate our activities in these areas.
Economic penalties or sanctions are an essential tool in a comprehensive nonproliferation strategy. Prior to September 11, there was great debate as to whether nonproliferation sanctions that were not "multilateral" should be imposed at all. The imposition or even the mere threat of sanctions by sovereign states can be a powerful lever for changing behavior, as few countries wish to be labeled publicly by the United States as irresponsible. Sanctions also increase the costs to suppliers, encourage foreign governments to adopt more responsible nonproliferation practices, and ensure that entities within their borders do not contribute to WMD programs. These levers are important tools in the world's aggressive campaign to combat proliferation.
The Bush administration imposed WMD-related sanctions 26 times last year, 34 the year before that, and has already done so 28 times this year. That's an average of about 32 per year since we got rolling in 2002. ... We have imposed measures under the Iran Nonproliferation Act, the Iran-Iraq Act, the Chemical and Biological Weapons Sanctions Law, the Missile Sanctions Law, and Executive Order 12938. With sanctions recently imposed against companies from Russia, Belarus, China, Ukraine, North Korea, India, and Spain, it is clear that we are not just increasing the numbers but also looking for proliferation wherever it exists.
Our perspective on sanctions is clear and simple. Companies around the world have a choice: Trade in WMD materials with proliferators, or have normal trade with the United States, but not both. Where national controls fail, and when companies make the wrong choice, there will be consequences. U.S. law is clear, and we are committed to enforcing these laws to their fullest extent.
New International Mandate
The President also led the Security Council to acknowledge for the first time that proliferation of WMD is a threat to international peace and security. The administration worked over the course of eight months to craft what became the unanimously adopted Security Council Resolution 1540, which achieved all of the goals set out by the President. The crux of UNSCR 1540 requires states to monitor and control sensitive technologies, materials, and equipment that exist in or transit their territories, in particular to prevent terrorists from acquiring such items.
While not a proliferation panacea, development of UNSCR 1540 makes strong national controls and enforcement a requirement rather than an option. Rather than engaging in protracted, multi-year treaty negotiations, the Security Council responded relatively quickly to lay out some basic requirements to address the threat to international peace and security posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It places a premium on establishment of legal and regulatory measures at the national level, seeking to build capacity from the bottom up, rather than attempting to craft additional, top-down bureaucracy.
More to be done -- the G8 Sea Island Summit and beyond
Even with all that has been done, much more remains, as the administration is the first to point out. The President laid out an agenda listing several areas in which additional action is urgently needed, including addressing the proliferation problems inherent in countries seeking to acquire the complete nuclear fuel cycle and the need for expanded export controls worldwide. At the G8 Summit at Sea Island last June, the G8 leaders endorsed the President's agenda. In an action plan on nonproliferation, the leaders agreed upon a number of steps, such as strengthening the PSI and the Global Partnership, and addressed and further elaborated upon each of the President's proposals. In particular, G8 Leaders committed to work together to address the threat posed by the DPRK [Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea: i.e., North Korea] and by Iran.
North Korea and Iran
Libya is a powerful precedent that a state can surrender WMD without a regime change. This message puts in stark relief the obfuscation of the North Korean and Iranian governments in the face of international pressure to "come clean" [i.e., admit what they have done] and give up their nuclear programs. While we are working diplomatically on both fronts to keep the pressure on -- with Six Party Talks in the North Korean context and the International Atomic Energy Agency investigation in the Iranian context --- our ultimate objective is to ensure these programs do not come to full fruition.
We cannot let Iran, a leading sponsor of international terrorism, acquire nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to Europe, central Asia and the Middle East, and beyond. Without serious, concerted, immediate intervention by the international community, Iran will proceed down that road. While we work to bring this issue to the U.N. Security Council, we are simultaneously pursuing other measures to bring a halt to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, including PSI efforts, worldwide diplomatic efforts including with Russia, the supplier of Iran's Bushehr reactor, and improved enforcement against exports to Iran.
With North Korea, the approach is different again. Sadly, the leader of North Korea has not made that strategic choice to move away from the destructive legacies of the past and place his people first. He still fails to recognize what Libya determined -- that his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction makes North Korea less, not more, secure. We have a framework for negotiations with the DPRK in place: the Six-Party Talks. While the Six-Party Talks are a means to an end, we still believe it is the best venue at this time to realize the shared goal of all countries participating --- namely, a Korean Peninsula permanently free of nuclear weapons ...
... President Bush has begun to lay the foundation for a comprehensive, root-and-branch approach to the mortal danger of the proliferating instruments of destruction. Let there be no doubt that this administration is determined to use every resource at its disposal to stem WMD proliferation. We use diplomacy regularly, economic pressure, active law enforcement, and, when we must, military force.
As President Bush said in his speech to the National Defense University: "There is a consensus among nations that proliferation cannot be tolerated. Yet this consensus means little unless it is translated into action. Every civilized nation has a stake in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction." We are only at the beginning, but it is an extraordinary beginning. We are now not only meeting this ultimate of threats on the field, but we are advancing on it -- battling not only aggressively, but successfully. For the outcome of this battle may be nothing less than the chance to survive.
3. NNSA Expands Efforts to Combat Illicit Smuggling of WMD-Related Equipment and Technologies
National Nuclear Security Administration
(for personal use only)
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is expanding its efforts to train border guards and customs officials worldwide to combat the threat posed by the illicit smuggling of WMD-related equipment and technology.
NNSA's export control office has designed a new Commodity Identification Training (CIT) curriculum to educate and train customs inspectors and border enforcement personnel from around the world in techniques of detection and interdiction. This program supports the Bush administration's priority to prevent illicit trade in items and technologies needed to manufacture weapons of mass of mass destruction (WMD).
By the end of November, these trainings will be conducted in coordination with 11 countries, including Lithuania, Latvia, Georgia, Turkey, Thailand and Ukraine. Latvia is NNSA's most recent success and has formally added the training to the curriculum for its customs personnel, with plans to provide it to on-duty customs personnel on a rotating basis.
"Our goal is to help partner countries incorporate WMD training programs for customs inspectors, investigators, border guards and other key personnel. NNSA initiates these partnerships with our experts at the national laboratories with the ultimate goal of preventing dangerous nuclear-related technology from falling into the hands of terrorists or proliferant nations," said NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks.
In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, NNSA's export control office, in coordination with the Department of State, expanded its cooperation with major supplier states like China and Turkey. Based on concerns heightened by the A.Q. Khan proliferation network, which provided illicit materials to Libya, NNSA established new partnerships with technical and enforcement organizations in a number of Asian countries. NNSA works in these and other countries in the Mediterranean and Middle East that may serve as transshipment points for proliferation-sensitive equipment. These projects reflect NNSA's core missions to promote international nonproliferation and reduce the global danger from WMD.
The CIT program itself is new, and expands NNSA's longstanding cooperation with Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan to support outreach to industries and scientific entities and improve nuclear licensing practices. Through the CIT program, U.S. experts provide border enforcement organizations with technical training and support to help prevent export control failures. Border enforcement organizations serve as the last line of defense against illicit exports and therefore play a critical role in exposing and thwarting export control violators.
The Department of State's Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program coordinates and partially funds the CIT program and other NNSA international export control trainings.
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