1. Hiding The Good News: Nuclear Weapons 'Scoop' Buried In Most Accounts
Scripps Howard News Service
(for personal use only)
Most of my colleagues in journalism think they are in the news business for good. But rarely do they think they are in the business of good news.
And so, when a good-news scoop erupted a couple of weeks ago, here's what most news organizations rushed to report:
Which is to say: Nothing. (Or, to be fair, as close to nothing as you can get in the news business and still cover your aspirations so you can continue calling yourself a journalist.)
First, the scoop was sort of buried by the newspaper that broke the story -- The Washington Post played its own Dec. 24 exclusive on page 10A. The good news: In a secret operation, U.S. and Russian officials, working with Bulgarian police, removed from Bulgaria 37 pounds of highly enriched uranium that had been dangerously unsecured there since the collapse of the Soviet Union. They brought this weapons-grade material to a secure facility in Russia before it could be stolen or bought by terrorists.
The next day, of course, the good news was really buried by the Post's prime competitor. The New York Times didn't bother to report its own story on the good news, but merely ran a shorter version supplied by the Associated Press.
And, of course, since this was a real, secret operation, there was no media photo op. Which is why you didn't see television coverage of this good news. There was one excellent, lengthy story that ran on National Public Radio.
Now all of this lack of good-news coverage might seem sufficiently vexing grist for today's punditry, given the fact that we live in a world where huge amounts of weapons-grade nuclear material remain perilously undersecured -- and terrorist leader Osama bin Laden has warned us that he considers it his "religious duty" to obtain a nuclear bomb.
But there is more vexation to come. For that original Washington Post exclusive actually buried in the middle of its report what is no doubt the best news, the most reassuring news, of that good-news story. And the other accounts never got around to mentioning it.
The Post article revealed that the Bush administration, working with Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency, has finally set a deadline that is key to making the world safe in an age of terrorism.
By the end of 2005, this joint effort will bring back to Russia all the weapons-grade uranium that had been left in the former Soviet republics since the collapse of communism more than a decade ago. Once back in Russia, the weapons-grade material will be down-blended so that it can no longer be used to make nuclear bombs.
What makes this so important is that when it comes to securing the world's most vulnerable nuclear, chemical and biological arsenals and materials, officials in the United States and elsewhere have been unconscionably slow to do what needed to be done.
The operation in Bulgaria, a bargain $400,000 effort funded by the U.S. government, was the third successful operation of that sort. In 2002, U.S. and Russian officials retrieved 100 pounds of weapons-grade uranium from an outmoded reactor in Yugoslavia; three months ago, they removed 30 pounds of vulnerable nuclear material from an installation in Romania.
But until Congress expanded the scope of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act this past year, U.S. law did not permit the federal government to finance such covert efforts to purchase and secure nuclear material except within Russia. Indeed, in a rare back-channel arrangement, the Yugoslavia operation was funded by a private charitable U.S. organization, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which was founded by Ted Turner and former U.S. senator Sam Nunn to spotlight the dangers posed by unsecured weapons of mass destruction. (I've sounded the same theme, in concert with that organization, while promoting my latest book, "Avoiding Armageddon," which focuses on terrorism and vulnerable weapons, and things we need to do to make ourselves safer.) After that successful operation in Yugoslavia, the U.S. government determined that 24 other poorly secured reactors in other nations contain weapons-grade nuclear material that is vulnerable to theft or purchase by terrorists.
So the best news of all may be that the Bush administration is finally showing a sense of urgency about this under-heralded, under-funded program that is crucial to securing America's homeland. And in the process, every nation's homeland. But two years is a long time to wait -- and hope -- until the world's most vulnerable reactors can be secured.
What needs to happen now: President Bush must order his budgeters to respond with a new funding urgency strong enough to meet and defeat this security threat.
2. Russian Court Begins Trial Over Sinking Of K-159 Nuclear Sub
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SEVEROMORSK /Murmansk region/, January 12 (Itar-Tass) - The Severomorsk Garrison military court began hearings on Monday on the sinking of a K-159 nuclear submarine on August 30, 2003, during a towing operation to a utilization site. Nine people died in the accident.
Standing accused are several North Fleet officials, including fleet commander Gennady Suchkov.
The K-159 submarine, decommissioned 14 years ago, foundered as it was being towed from a location near the village of Gremikha for utilization in the town of Polyarny.
Nine of the ten crewmembers engaged in the operation died.
A group of investigators from the office of the main military prosecutor said the tragedy was a result of negligence on the part of the officials who were subsequently brought to trial.
The trial is held behind closed doors because case material contains confidential information, court representative Andrei Karnov said.
3. Severodvinsk Shipyards Started Scrapping Of Three N-Subs
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Experts of Sevmash (Northern Machine Engineering Enterprise) defense shipyard in Severodvinsk have started scrapping of three nuclear submarines at the money allocated by the U.S. and the U.K., ITAR-TASS reports referring to the enterpriseï¿½s press-service. In the floating dock of the shipyard the team has started dismantling of the Typhoon class nuke submarine built to be the second largest N-sub in Russia. The final cutting of the vessel is financed by the U.S. out of the ï¿½Cooperative Threat Reductionï¿½ Nunn-Lugar-inspired program.
In the neighboring dock of Zvezdochka shipyard Sevmash team has started a ï¿½jointï¿½ scrapping of two multipurpose nuclear submarines: К-525 and К-206 (former Arkhangelsk and Murmansk, correspondingly). These operations are funded by the U.K. under the Global Partnership program adopted by G8 countries in 2002. The disposal of each multipurpose submarine in Severodvinsk is to cost ï¿½ 5.2 million. According to Minatom of Russia, 99 of Russiaï¿½s nuclear submarines have retired and are subject to scrapping.
4. New Anti-Sinking Technology For Subs Created In Severodvinsk
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SEVERODVINSK, Arkhangelsk region, January 9 (Itar-Tass) - The Severodvinsk-based defence enterprise Severny Reid has developed a unique technology which prevents decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines from sinking. The unmatched in the world technology employs foamed polystyrene, the Severny Reid administration told Itar-Tass on Friday.
The technology is based on a transportable polystyrene apparatus developed by the St.Petersburg-based Rubin central design bureau of sea equipment jointly with the Ecopol enterprise.
The method is working as follows: submarine ballast tanks are filled with the light and water-resistant foamed polystyrene. The polystyrene cushion ensures the subï¿½s floatability pending scrapping during more than 10 years.
ï¿½Three polystyrene units have been assembled by now. They are used by the Northern and Pacific fleets,ï¿½ a Severny Reid official said. According to him, ï¿½30 nuclear subs with corroded hulls have been filled with foamed polystyrene. With thorough financing, all the decommissioned submarines could be treated using this technology,ï¿½ the official said.
In the Severodvinsk water zone there are more than 10 submarines awaiting scrapping and none of them is filled with polystyrene.
The deal involved Europe's biggest Soviet army weapons cache, Russia's prime minister and the leader of a separatist enclave in Moldova known as a gunrunner's haven.
As described in a confidential 1998 agreement obtained by The Associated Press, Russia and Trans-Dniester would share profits from the sale of "unnecessary" arms and ammunition chosen from 40,000 tons of material stored in an arms depot in the breakaway region.
The transaction is only one piece of an arms-dealing puzzle in Trans-Dniester where the decade-old depot also contained hundreds of portable surface to air missiles until last month - when concerns they could end up in terrorists' hands prompted Russia to announce it had withdrawn them.
A former Moldovan official says the tiny region even was the repository of rocket-mounted "dirty bombs," or warheads designed to scatter deadly radioactive material that have gone missing.
That widely publicised claim remains unresolved, with officials not even sure the dirty bombs ever existed.
But an AP investigation involving interviews with a dozen officials and experts reinforced suspicions that Trans-Dniester is a hotbed of legal and illegal weapons transactions that are largely unregulated.
Moldova's western neighbour, Romania, shares that view.
Trans-Dniester is a "black hole of trans-border organised crime, including drug smuggling, human trafficking and arms smuggling," Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana told AP.
Weapons from Trans-Dniester have turned up in Chechnya, Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region, and in the hands of insurgents in Africa, a government minister of another country in the region told AP. The official spoke on condition he not be identified further.
Experts say that just about every sort of weapon is available.
"If I were in search of most commodities related to weaponry ... this would be the place to go," said William Potter, director of the Centre for Non-proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute for International Studies in California. "Even if I did not find the weaponry, I would find the individuals who could get me that weaponry."
Reputed gunrunning sources include arms and ammunition from the huge Soviet army depository near the northern town of Kolbasna - including tens of thousands of assault rifles and other small arms and weaponry attractive to terrorists. The depository is guarded by Russian peacekeepers.
Additionally, at least six factories are believed to be churning out grenade and rocket launchers, Makarov pistols and Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortar tubes and other relatively low-tech weapons under contract to the Russian military - and possibly skimming off surplus production to sell to arms dealers, diplomats in the region told AP.
Some, like Tiraspol's Tochlitmash and Elektromash, are believed to be dual use plants, with civilian and secret military production lines.
Ruslan Slobodeniuk, whose business card identifies him as Trans-Dniester's "deputy foreign minister," said Elektromash - a Soviet-era factory in Tiraspol spouting smoke and steam from all corners into the winter skies - made only transformers.
"We are ready to show our factories to journalists," he told the AP.
Authorities did not respond to a request for a tour of Elektromash.
The 1998 arms deal between Russia and Trans-Dniester involved the Soviet army repository - 40,000 tons of ordnance, arms and ammunition dumped in this remote speck of south-eastern Europe in the early 1990s as the Soviet Union broke up and Moldova became independent.
The negotiators: then-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Igor Smirnov, self-named president of the separatist enclave.
Moscow and Tiraspol, Trans-Dniester's capital, would split profits from the sale of "unnecessary weapons, ammunition, military assets and materials," according to the 1998 agreement that bears their signatures.
There seems to be no public record of the deal but Russian and Western officials confirmed its existence to the AP as part of a one-page memorandum on what to do with the huge weapons cache - Europe's largest.
It was superseded a year later by a pact providing for a full withdrawal to Russia of all military equipment.
One Russian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said his understanding was that the deal was never enacted, but Western diplomats were sceptical, saying nobody will ever know how much of what was sold, to whom, or at what price in that one-year window - or the criteria used to determine what was "unnecessary."
The authoritarian Smirnov has answered to no one since breaking Russian-speaking Trans-Dniester away from Moldova in 1992 after a brief war, sparked by fears that Moldova would seek reunification with Romania.
Tiraspol is caught in a Soviet-era time warp, left over from Moldova's former Soviet republic status. Located between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova was part of Romania until 1940 and most people speak Romanian or Ukrainian. Trans-Dniester, however, was never part of Romania.
Some Trans-Dniester soldiers sport fur hats with the Red Star emblem, and creaky Volga sedans vie for parking spots with Western cars on the cracked pavement lining crude "bloks" - ugly prefab apartment blocks of raw concrete badly in need of repair. There are still about 2,000 Russian troops in the breakaway region, officially acting as peacekeepers.
Business dealings by Smirnov associates often include smuggling of all kinds -including weapons by the truckload, say diplomats and experts.
Though less than two hours by air from most European capitals and only 50 miles to the south-east of Chisinau, Trans-Dniester is as inaccessible as some of the continent's most remote regions.
To the east lie 250 miles of border with Ukraine. Unguarded fields are broken by thick stretches of fir and bisected by twisting dirt paths where a truck could surreptitiously slip away en route to the Black Sea port of Odessa and an outlet to hotspots in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere.
Customs officials at the three major international crossing points are corrupt, as are those at railway crossings, say diplomats in the region, all speaking on condition of anonymity.
Oazu Nantoi, a well-connected former Moldovan government official in Chisinau, cites the example of a senior Ukrainian customs official in conversation with his Moldovan counterparts in 2001.
"After some quantity of vodka, the official said: 'Guys, pay us ï¿½1.2 million a week, and we'll close the borders"' to illegal traffic, Nantoi said, citing an official present at the talks. "'All it takes is ï¿½1.2 million a week -cash."'
Almost as porous are the unofficial borders to Moldova, bordered to the west by Romania. Both countries are high on the list of Europe's most corrupt nations.
Illustrating the depth of the smuggling problem even at controlled crossing points, a Moldovan examination two years ago of temporary customs stamps used by Trans-Dniester found 350 counterfeit versions.
Smirnov's son, Vladimir, heads the Trans-Dniester customs service. He is also said to be the major silent partner in Sheriff, the enclave's business consortium with fingers in everything from Trans-Dniester's mobile phone network, to gas stations, supermarkets and the still-growing gargantuan sports complex on Tiraspol's outskirts.
Western diplomats estimate the sports complex has already cost ï¿½108 million -twice as much as Moldova's annual budget.
Nantoi, who now runs the non-governmental Institute for Policy Studies in Chisinau, asserts Trans-Dniester was the repository of dozens of dirty bombs -warheads designed to scatter deadly radioactive material - which now are missing after years of storage near Tiraspol military airport.
Nantoi showed AP what he said was a Russian military document dated Oct. 18, 1994, urging "prohibition" of work with the warheads - 24 ready to use, 14 dismantled - because of dangerous radiation.
Another document from May of that year recorded the "burning and burying" of uniforms contaminated by high radiation.
Nantoi said reports reached him in 1998 that Alazan rockets - inaccurate, short range missiles typically used by the Soviets for weather experiments - had been fitted with warheads modified to carry radioactive material. The rockets and warheads since appeared to have disappeared from storage.
"I could not discover what had happened to them," he said.
Moldova's government has declined comment. Valery Litzkai, who acts as Trans-Dniester's "foreign minister," described the dirty bomb reports as a "smear campaign."
"There are no weapons here," he told AP.
Potter, of the Monterey Institute, said some former Soviet government officials believed the documents could be authentic but considered it unlikely that Russian units would keep such crude weapons "considering their access to much more sophisticated weaponry."
Dismissing the dirty bomb allegations as just one part of an anti-Trans-Dniester campaign, Litzkai and other Trans-Dniester officials assert there have been no major finds of weapons in terrorist hands that can be proven to have come from their enclave.
Still, even they cannot deny evidence of arms trading.
Moldovan police four years ago halted a truck leaving Trans-Dniester. Inside were Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles, detonators, plastic explosives, members of Trans-Dniester's army, and Lt. Col. Vladimir Nemkov, a deputy commander of Russian peacekeepers in the enclave.
Other officials denied the incident ever happened. Litzkai confirmed the incident but suggested it was a setup.
Asked about Nemkov's whereabouts now, Litzkai shrugged, then paused for effect.
Jon Wolfsthal is deputy director of the Non-Proliferation Program at the Carnegie Endowment. He is co-author of "Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction."
January 11, 2004
WASHINGTON ï¿½ It's been a poorly kept secret for several years that Pakistan helped develop nuclear programs in Iran, North Korea and probably in Libya. For the United States, however, Pakistan's help in the war on terror has been more important than its peddling of nuclear technology to rogue states. As a result, Islamabad has felt no significant U.S. pressure to impose tighter controls on Pakistani nuclear experts, expertise or equipment. But as evidence of Pakistan's role in nuclear proliferation mounts, that's no longer an acceptable trade-off. A country that arrests terrorists one day and sells nuclear technology the next is not contributing to greater U.S. security.
After Sept. 11, 2001, news reports revealed that two Pakistani scientists had direct contacts with Osama bin Laden while he was operating in Afghanistan. Investigators later alleged that Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, had traveled almost a dozen times to North Korea to help Pyongyang develop a uranium-enrichment program. And International Atomic Energy Agency officials reported that uranium-enrichment equipment inspected in Iran was identical to that found in Pakistan. Now, Pakistani officials confirm that several of the country's top nuclear experts are being questioned for providing nuclear technologies to other countries. And there is a growing possibility that Libya's nuclear program, which Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi recently pledged to shut down, bears Pakistan's nuclear signature.
The U.S. has had little success in convincing high-level Pakistani officials to safeguard the country's nuclear materials and technology. Last year, for example, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell raised the issue with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, offering U.S. assistance. The Pakistani response was the equivalent of: "Butt out, we can handle our own affairs." Last month's announcement that the Pakistani army was assuming control of the country's nuclear program was strictly a public-relations move.
It's possible that the Pakistani scientists being questioned were operating without government permission. But Pakistan had a heads-up about such contacts from the U.S. two years ago, which should have prompted authorities to be more vigilant about monitoring nuclear personnel. It's also possible that Pakistani nuclear experts helped Iran and North Korea as part of official policy. Pakistan received intermediate-range missiles from North Korea, but it was never clear how cashapped Islamabad could afford them. Similarly, cash and oil from Iran may have been lures for Pakistan's nuclear technology.
Regardless of why its scientists peddled nuclear assistance, Pakistan has a problem it cannot or will not control: It has become the world's No. 1 nuclear proliferator.
Accordingly, some say that Pakistan should be sanctioned or treated as a rogue state. It's unclear, however, that punishment ï¿½ or the threat of punishment ï¿½ would stop Pakistan from selling nuclear technology or compel it to monitor its nuclear facilities more closely. Instead, it might increase economic pressures and destabilize Pakistan, reducing even its nominal control over nuclear weapons and facilities.
There's a better course.
The U.S. should make clear at the presidential level that Pakistan's past nuclear misconduct has damaged American security, and that to ensure its partnership with Washington, Islamabad must satisfy U.S. concerns about its nuclear program. This would have to include acceptance of American assistance to establish a personnel-reliability program, which would include use of background checks, polygraphs and drug tests; to improve physical protection of nuclear weapons, materials and equipment by deploying modern security systems; and to adopt international standards on the protection of nuclear materials at production and storage sites.
At the same time, Washington must emphasize that its top priority in its relations with Pakistan is nuclear proliferators, not assistance in the pursuit of Bin Laden and members of Al Qaeda. Concern is already running high in Pakistan that the U.S., just as it did after the Soviets had left Afghanistan, will cut its ties after Bin Laden is captured. Making nuclear nonproliferation the goal might reduce this fear because it would require the U.S. to work with Pakistan over the long haul, including helping to reform its economy. Furthermore, India's and Pakistan's agreement to talk peace could give Islamabad more leeway to work with Washington to secure its arsenal.
The belief in Pakistan is that the U.S. cannot fight the war on terror without its help. But the price for such cooperation cannot be Pakistan's continuing complicity in spreading nuclear technology to rogue states. That price is simply too high.
Washington has promised a brighter future for Kadafi because he has abandoned his nuclear ambitions. It should do the same for Pakistan as long as Islamabad acts responsibly and stops selling its nuclear knowledge to the highest bidders.
1. RIA Novosti Interview With Russian Envoy To The Un Sergey Lavrov (excerpted)
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A record number of votes of the General Assembly delegates has been registered for the Russian-Chinese initiative on the non-militarisation of space. Overall, the disarmament resolutions have confirmed the desire of the sweeping majority of states not to slacken their attention to every aspect of multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation. As to non-proliferation, I can say that, also on Russia's initiative the Security Council has begun work, at the unofficial consultations level, on a new draft resolution preventing the weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means from getting into the hands of what is called "non-state subjects". I hope the resolution will be coordinated and approved, which is going to become an important step in the struggle against the spread of the weapons of mass destruction and in increasing the role of the United Nations in such questions. I emphasise that it is in no way intended to impinge in any way on the competence and rights of such non-proliferation mechanisms as the International Atomic Energy Agency, Chemical Weapons Ban Organisation, Biological Weapons Ban Convention. All these mechanisms and the related treaties and conventions do not in full preserve their force and the Security Council will not meddle in their work or replace them. It means actually using the Security Council prestige to close the gap in the non-proliferation regimes concerning mostly states.
We are not going to say that every state in its territory should take concrete and verifiable measures to ensure safe keeping of not only the weapons of mass destruction but also their potentially dual-purpose components, which can be used for the manufacture of warheads filled with fissionable, chemical or biological materials. It is not to be allowed for the weapons of mass destruction, or whatever components for their production and delivery, to get into the hands of terrorists and other "non-state subjects". This is what we see as the goal of the Security Council, because this theme has not yet been closed in the set of international non-proliferation agreements.
1. Russia Hesitant To Seize Materials Terrorists Desire
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Russia is reluctant to join an 11-nation U.S.-led effort to seize illegal shipments of nuclear and other proliferation materials that could fall in the hands of terrorists, senior U.S. officials said yesterday.
Even though discussions are still in their initial stage, the officials said the Russians are not yet convinced of the legality and merits of the plan, known as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and proposed by President Bush in the spring.
"They are not ready to join the process," a senior State Department official who asked not to be named told reporters. "They are interested but are raising a lot of questions."
Russia, which has a big navy despite its decline since the Soviet Union's collapse more than a decade ago, would be an "important player" in the PSI, the official said.
"It would add political weight as one of the founding member of nonproliferation regime," he said.
The PSI, which Mr. Bush put forth in a speech during a European trip, is designed to intercept on the high seas shipments of illicit arms and other proliferation materials from states and other actors Washington regards as supporters of international terrorism.
In addition to the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Australia joined the effort.
Singapore has recently expressed an interest in being part of the process and invited John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security who oversees the PSI's implementation, to visit the tiny state this week.
Russia, which was not invited to be among the initial members and to which the PSI was not even mentioned in a substantive way until President Vladimir Putin met with Mr. Bush at Camp David in September, might have felt left out, some administration officials said.
"We haven't had real discussions with the Russians yet, and I don't think their position is solid and firm, so I wouldn't describe the picture as gloomy," one official said in reference to Moscow's joining the PSI in the future.
"Russia is part of the problem and part of the solution," the official added, in a hint of the country's questionable proliferation behavior following the decline of the Soviet Union. Since the Soviet collapse, sensitive technology and unemployed scientists from Russia are believed to have been used for some other nation's nuclear programs.
"It's no secret that we have imposed sanctions on Russian companies and individuals," the official said.
Several U.S. officials said the Bush administration did not reach out to Moscow at the beginning of the PSI process, choosing instead to engage like-minded countries on proliferation issues.
The United States has also accused Russia of helping Iran's nuclear program, which both Tehran and Moscow insist is only for peaceful purposes.
2. Russian Non-Proliferation Efforts Still Lacking: Senior US Official
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WASHINGTON (AFP) Jan 09, 2004 Russia has been helpful in pressing Iran and North Korea to address concerns about their nuclear programs, but the United States believes it could and should do more to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, a senior US official said Friday.
"Could they do more? The answer is yes," the official said, noting that Moscow has thus far refused to take part in a US-led scheme to seize such weapons in transit.
The official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity at the State Department, said Russia was "playing a little hard to get" in response to US calls for it to join the so-called "Proliferation Security Initiative" (PSI).
"They are so far not ready to join the process," the official said.
"They are interested but are raising lots of questions about what are the legal authorities that would permit this broader strategy of interdiction to go forward," the official said.
"We're trying to get them from this interrogatory mode into more active participation," the official said.
PSI was proposed by US President George W. Bush in late May with the aim of stopping countries -- particularly North Korea and Iran -- from buying or selling biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, their components or delivery systems.
Under the scheme, nations cooperate to intercept those items on the high seas, in international airspace or during overland transit.
The first PSI seizure -- of uranium enrichment components destined for Libya -- occured in October and may have helped to convince Tripoli to renounce weapons of mass destruction two months later, according to US officials.
Since its launch, the initial 11 members -- Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United States -- have been joined by Canada, Denmark, Norway, Singapore and Turkey.
But Russia, along with China, has questioned the legality of the initiative, despite arguments from the United States and others that it is consistent with existing international law.
In addition, Russia has expressed displeasure with the fact that it was not invited to take part in the initial drafting of the initiative's outlines, according to the senior official.
"They are a little miffed that they weren't in on the ground floor, ... so they are playing a little hard to get," the official said.
Washington regards Moscow's participation in PSI as particularly important, given the size of its navy and its role in the Soviet era as a co-founder of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"Russia is a country with a big navy and could be an important player," the official said.
"Plus, Russia, as one of the founding members of the non-proliferation regime, would add political weight to the initiative and send a message to potential proliferators -- both sellers and buyers -- that they should stop messing around," the official added.
The Bush administration signaled its frustration with Uzbekistan's human rights record by declaring that the authoritarian government of President Islam Karimov has failed to make progress toward international standards, State Department officials said Friday.
A human rights evaluation is required as part of the U.S.-funded Nunn-Lugar project to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, material and technology in the former Soviet Union. Despite a history of poor performances, no former Soviet republic had ever formally failed the test, the officials said.
In Uzbekistan's case, money will continue to flow to ensure the security of weapons materials. President Bush waived the human rights certification requirement on the grounds that the U.S. national interest would be best served by continuing to work with Uzbekistan, the primary provider of uranium to the Soviet government.
While the move is symbolic, Human Rights Watch advocate Tom Malinowski said the decision made clear to a Central Asian ally for the first time "that its relationship with the United States may tangibly suffer because of political repression."
"The Uzbek government has sold itself to the United States as a partner against terror," Malinowski said. "I hope this decision reflects a growing recognition in the administration that real partners in that fight give people peaceful avenues for expressing themselves, rather than shutting them down."
Later this year, the State Department must review Uzbekistan's performance again to release U.S. foreign aid to Uzbekistan, primarily help to the military and law enforcement authorities. Unlike the Nunn-Lugar money, there is no provision for a presidential waiver, Malinowski said.
Uzbek authorities have been warned repeatedly about their human rights record, said a senior State Department official, who noted that the department's top human rights executive, Lorne Craner, had visited Uzbekistan more often than any other country during his tenure.
"We were looking for continued progress on a number of fronts, and we just weren't seeing it," the official said. Although the Uzbeks tried to refute the U.S. conclusions, he said, the response "didn't look like it amounted to progress."
Another official described a "mixed" human rights record in Uzbekistan, saying that "it's not a question of their backsliding. They haven't done anything to show that they're moving in the right direction."
The most recent State Department report, released in March, told of "serious abuses" and Karimov's "nearly complete control" over all branches of the government. Covering 2002, the report said the police and officers of the former KGB tortured and beat opponents and engaged in arbitrary arrests, particularly of Muslims suspected of extremist activities.
An estimated 6,500 people were behind bars for political or religious reasons, the report said, and "an atmosphere of repression stifled public criticism of the government." Opposition political parties were denied registration, the report said, and members of domestic human rights groups were harassed.
WASHINGTON - The United States is continuing to its military relationship with Uzbekistan, including paying to disable nuclear weapons from the old Soviet arsenal, under President Bush's waiver of rules that required improvements in the country's human rights record.
Both the finding that Uzbek President Islam Karimov's government failed last year to meet rights criteria of the Nunn-Lugar disarmament program, and Bush's waiver on national security grounds, were effective Dec. 31, State Department spokesman Lou Fintor said Sunday.
Nunn-Lugar, named for its authors - Sam Nunn, a former senator from Georgia, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind. - established a program in 1991 to work toward elimination of strategic nuclear weapons. The program has destroyed thousands of warheads and launchers.
To receive money under the law, U.S. partners in the program must satisfy human rights requirements unless the president says the national interest takes precedence.
Fintor said an assistant secretary of state, Beth Jones, called in Uzbekistan's ambassador, informed him of the two decisions "and emphasized the need for stepped-up efforts by Uzbekistan to improve the human rights situation. The United States will continue to work with Uzbekistan toward this goal."
The State Department's last report on Uzbekistan's human rights record was released in March. It criticized Karimov's government for its suppression of democracy and serious abuses of Uzbeks' rights.
1. Russian Minister of Atomic Energy to Visit Teheran
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MOSCOW, January 8 (Itar-Tass) -- Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Alexander Rumyantsev will hold talks with Iranian leaders in Teheran in the second half of February about the situation with the construction of the first power unit of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) of Iran, Nikolai Shingaryov, official representative of the Ministry of Atomic Energy told Itar-Tass on Thursday.
According to his information, ï¿½agreement about it was reached at a meeting of Alexander Rumyantsev and Iranian Ambassador to Moscow Golam Reza Shafei.ï¿½ According to his information, initially Rumyantsev intended to visit Iran in mid-January, but postponed the visit because of the recent natural calamity.
Russian and Iranian officials are going to discuss at the forthcoming talks ï¿½ways to speed up the building of the Bushehr NPP. Probably, an additional protocol on the return of the used nuclear fuel to the intergovernmental agreement about the building of the first Iranian NPP will be signed,ï¿½ Shingaryov continued.
At present assembly and adjustment operations are coming to a close at the construction site of the first power unit of the Bushehr NPP. The power unit ï¿½is ready by 90 per cent,ï¿½ Shingaryov added. According to Shingaryov, ï¿½the TVEL Company of Russia produced nuclear fuel for the reactor of the first power unit. It will be delivered to Iran immediately after the signing of the protocol on the return of the used nuclear fuel to Russia.ï¿½
According to his information, during the meeting of Rumyantsev and Golam Reza Shafei, ï¿½the Iranian embassy expressed gratitude to the Atomstrojexport Company of Russia for helping the victims of the recent earthquake in Iran.ï¿½
The representative of the Ministry of Atomic Energy explained that when the news came about the earthquake in the city of Bam, Iran, Atomstrojexport, which is the general contractor for the building of the NPP in Iran, purchased and turned over to Iranian officials 1,000 tents for quake victims. ï¿½Russian specialists building the Bushehr NPP raised 10,000 dollars for the quake victims among themselves,ï¿½ added Valery Govorukhin, deputy minister of atomic energy and state secretary of the ministry.
1. Russia Hails Readiness Of NKorea To Stop Nuklear Programme
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ULAN BATOR, January 13 (Itar-Tass) -- Russia welcomes Pyongyangï¿½s readiness to stop its nuclear programme, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said at a ceremony of awarding to him honorary doctorship of the Mongolian State University.
Commenting on North Koreaï¿½s statement expressing readiness to mothball a reactor in Yongbyong, he said ï¿½this is a step forward that will give reasons to count on a constructive answer from the USï¿½.
Ivanov noted a positive response to Pyongyangï¿½s statement from American Secretary of State Colin Powell.
ï¿½This can become a good basis for the continuation of the negotiating process,ï¿½ he said.
ï¿½Ensuring a nuclear-free status of the Korean Peninsula and retention of it in the sphere of nuclear non-proliferation, ensuing security of all states located there, the development of peaceful cooperation in Northeast Asia meets the interests of Russia.ï¿½
Ivanov added that the issue of nuclear non-proliferation on the peninsula ï¿½should be solved only by a peaceful, negotiating processï¿½.
ï¿½Such solution could allow forming in this subregion a system of relations of states that would strongly guarantee the stability and peaceful cooperation, including rapprochement of both parts of Korea,ï¿½ he said.
2. It Is Still Possible To Hold Talks On Korean Issue In January
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MOSCOW, January 8 (Itar-Tass) - There is still a chance to hold the second round of the 6-nation negotiations on the Korean problem in January, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov told Itar-Tass on Thursday.
ï¿½We still have two weeks left at our disposal, and there is a chance to hold the next round this month,ï¿½ the high-ranking diplomat stated. ï¿½However, we must go to the talks with a ready-made document,ï¿½ he added. ï¿½This work should be completed before the opening of the second round, since it will be quite difficult to finalise the document in the course of the negotiations,ï¿½ he stressed. ï¿½It is perfectly possible to agree on the principal goals of this phase of the negotiations and we are quite optimistic about itï¿½, Losyukov noted.
Beijing is sponsoring the new round of the 6-nation talks with the participation of the two Korean states, China, Russia, America and Japan. However, the Chinese New Year holidays will begin in the third decade of January, i.e. two weeks from now.
3. North Koreaï¿½s Readiness To Freeze Nuc Program Acclaimed
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MOSCOW, January 8 (Itar-Tass) - Pyongyangï¿½s statement on North Koreaï¿½s readiness to freeze its nuclear program ï¿½is an important and serious step, which should not be overlooked,ï¿½ Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov told Itar-Tass on Thursday.
In exchange for safety guarantees and North Koreaï¿½s deletion from the list of ï¿½axis of evilï¿½ countries, and also in exchange for economic aid, primarily in the field of energy, Pyongyang is ready to freeze all its nuclear installations, and also to discontinue the peaceful generation of nuclear power, the Central Telegraph Agency of Korea officially reports.
ï¿½This step gives grounds for definite optimism,ï¿½ the Russian diplomat stated. ï¿½It confirms the earlier made North Korean statements on the possibility of its renunciation of the nuclear program, including the military componentï¿½. Moscow ï¿½has notified the United States on its attitude to this problem and believes the Pyongyang declared stand should be taken seriouslyï¿½. ï¿½This is our advice to the United States,ï¿½ Losyukov stressed. ï¿½Freezing is not the end-goal, but it is an important step towards its achievement. Concrete agreements could be reached on the basis of this statement during the 6-nation negotiations on the Korean settlement,ï¿½ the Russian deputy foreign minister noted.
At the same time, China is recommending to agree on the ï¿½freezingï¿½ of the North Korean nuclear program as the first step towards its eventual complete liquidation. Such a decision, in its opinion, should be included in the joint document of the second round of the 6-nation negotiations, the Kyodo Tsushin reports with reference to Washington sources.
In turn, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters after his talks with Spanish Foreign Minister Anna Palacio, who is on a visit in Washington, that the prospects for the second round of the 6-nation negotiations on the normalisation of the situation on the Korean Peninsula were getting better in light of Pyongyangï¿½s statement on its readiness, on certain terms, to stop the implementation of all the aspects of its nuclear program. An Itar-Tass cable from Washington reports Powell as saying that this was a positive step forward, which had evoked a favourable reaction in the region.
North Koreaï¿½s readiness to renounce the tests and production of nuclear weapons, given some preconditions, was also acclaimed by South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan, who stated in Seoul that ï¿½this contributes to the creation of a constructive atmosphere for the holding of the second round of the six-nation negotiations.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan has also positively assessed Pyongyangï¿½s promise to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for Washingtonï¿½s concessions, Itar-Tass reports from Tokyo. In his opinion, this reflects North Koreaï¿½s desire ï¿½to make headway at the negotiationsï¿½ towards the settlement of the conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
In the meantime, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expects the 6-nation negotiations on the North Korean nuclear issue to be shortly resumed. The statement of his official spokesman, which was circulated at the U.N. Headquarters on Wednesday, says Kofi Annan is ï¿½reassuredï¿½ by Pyongyangï¿½s recent statement on its readiness to stop the implementation of practically all the aspects of its national nuclear program, given some preconditions, and also by the reaction to it of the sides concerned. There is a growing impulse to resume the 6-nation negotiations and thereby to promote the Beijing process, aimed at settling the nuclear issue and all the attendant problems on the Korean Peninsula, he believes.
4. RF Wants US To Respect Pyongyangï¿½s Readiness To Freeze Nuke Plans
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MOSCOW, January 8 (Itar-Tass) - The United States should pay attention to Pyongyangï¿½s willingness to freeze its nuclear program, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov told Itar-Tass on Thursday.
He described the North Korean statement to this effect as ï¿½an important and serious step, which should not be left without due response.ï¿½ Moscow ï¿½informed the United States of its stand on the problem. It believes that Pyongyangï¿½s stated position should be taken seriously.ï¿½
ï¿½This is our advice to the United States. Freezing is not the ultimate goal, but it is an important step towards attaining that goal. Concrete agreements may be reached on the basis of this statement at the six-party talks on the Korean settlement,ï¿½ Losyukov said.
ï¿½This step provides grounds for some optimism. It confirms previous statements made by North Korea on a possibility of giving up its nuclear program, specifically its military component,ï¿½ the Russian diplomat said.
The North Korean official news agency reported on Tuesday that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea ï¿½will not test and manufacture nuclear weapons, it will freeze its nuclear facilities and even discontinue nuclear power generation for peaceful purposes, if the United States meets a number of Pyongyangï¿½s requirements.ï¿½
The North Korean news agency said the republicï¿½s readiness was ï¿½yet another brave concessionï¿½ to Washington. Progress in the settlement of the nuclear issue depends on weather the United States agrees to take concomitant steps ï¿½to eliminate the anxiety of the parties.ï¿½
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea insists on security guarantees, the dropping of the country from the list of terrorism supporters, the lifting of the U.S. sanctions and the provision of energy assistance.
1. 13 INF Shipments From Russian And Foreign N-Plants To MCC Planned For 2004
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13 shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel (INF) from nuclear power plants of Russia and Ukraine to the Zheleznogorsk-based Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC) were expected to carry out in 2004, as Nuclear.Ru was informed by the MCC public relations office. These shipments will also include the one from Bulgarian Kozlodui nuclear plant. According to Isotope and Chemical Plant (ICP) director Vyacheslav Saveliev, the coming year will be a tough one. In addition to the INF receipts the plant is to refurbish the first layer wells of Severny site, assembly equipment at Shop # 1 radwaste storage tanks and carry out pilot sludge extraction from them. The INF storage safety improvement program requires completion of construction a connecting gallery between buildings # 1 and # 2 that is to expand storage capacity up to 9,000 tons along with enhancement of safety.
Summing up ICPï¿½s 2003 results, Saveliev noted that the plant had supported continuous operation of the combineï¿½s major divisions and provided for accident-free operation of the plantï¿½s equipment. During the year the plant received nine INF shipments from the Russian and foreign nuclear plants. INF storage received 606 irradiated fuel assemblies from Russian, Ukrainian and Bulgarian nuclear plants. Also, the INF storage facility carried out operation as to reload irradiated fuel assemblies from 12-piece into 16-piece shrouds. According to the ICP director, the full replacement of 12-piece shrouds will increase by 33% the storage capacity. The construction of a connecting gallery between buildings # 1 and # 2 was started to improve INF storage safety. A large scope of work was done to set up a protected area around INF storage facility and to prepare the first layer of Severny site for receipts of solutions from RCP (radiochemical plant).
In Shop # 1 the radwaste storage tanks were prepared for low-activity solution testing of pulp extraction equipment designed by MCC design bureau. The roof repair technology, which uses overlaying material instead of the previously used roofing felt, was developed and implemented to improve operating quality and durability of roofs. A large scope of work was undertaken to repair the gasholder and vent pipes of ICP gas clean-up facilities. The work has been started to lay a fiber optic communications cable, which would improve communication between the plantï¿½s facilities and incorporate ICP into the MCC local area network. In addition, in 2003 the preparatory work for INF dry storage construction has been started.
2. Last Batch Of INF Shipped From Novovoronezh-1,2
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The last batch of irradiated nuclear fuel (INF) ï¿½ 15 casings with irradiated fuel assemblies ï¿½ had been taken off-site from shutdown Novovoronezh-1,2, as Nuclear.Ru was informed by Rosenergoatom Concernï¿½s press center. Earlier 30 casings with IFAs were shipped to PA Mayak. Late 2003 the most labor-intensive and technologically complex stage of the work to prepare the remainder of cut INF for the off-shipment was completed.
The INF repackaging operations were preceded by a large-scale preparations and implementation of organizational and engineered measures involved peer reviews, concurrence and formalization of a documentation package to justify safety during such operations, obtaining the relevant licenses and modifications to conditions of the Novovoronezh-1,2 operating license issued by Gosatomnadzor of Russia. The work was done to design, fabrication and equipping of a protective (hot) cell for cutting the storage casings and welding of transportation casings. Technical measures were developed as to ensure operability of the protective cell and its equipment during INF repackaging operations.
Specialist from Rosenergoatomï¿½s Headquarters structural units were working together with the plantï¿½s engineers and technicians to support the activities and prepare cut INF shipment from Novovoronezh-1,2. With the last INF batch shipped off-site Novovoronezh-1,2 have conditions for rendering them nuclear safe that will allow for continuing the implementation of the two nuclear power units decommissioning program.
Kalinin-3 nuclear power unit had completed the containment system tests to check it for strength and leaktightness, as Nuclear.Ru was informed by Kalinin nuclear plant information office. This is an essential stage of start-up operations which should demonstrate quality of construction and assembling of the reactor hall containment, assess the state of concrete, steel and inner environs. The start-up management group headed by V. Aksenov appraised the tests as ï¿½quite successfulï¿½. This was the first time when a computer-aided parameter control system was used for such tests. Experts believe the system was a contributor to the successful completion of containment testing.
The containment system strength and leaktightness tests have demonstrated, besides technical availability of the system and compliance of the structure with approved regulations, the capability of the plant team to solve tasks they are challenged with. According to the Kalinin-3 deadlines and milestones, another important start-up and alignment operation stage will start after January 20 to involve individual equipment functional trials. In 2003 Kalinin nuclear plant produced 15 billion 171 million kWh of electricity to exceed the FEC of Russiaï¿½s planned figure by 240 million kWh and 2002 output by 200 million kWh. Load factor approached 86.6 % with the planned 85.22 %. Presently Kalinin nuclear power plant operates two units with total load of 2070 MW.
4. MCC Reported On Radiochemical Plant Operations In 2003
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Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC) had reported on operations of its major divisions in 2003, as Nuclear.Ru was informed by the MCC public relations office. Alexander Tretiakov, the radiochemical plant director, believes 2003 was successful for the enterprise. All planned targets were met: the amount of fuel taken out of the reactor had been processed under the contract with TVEL; the product (grade A melt) had been fabricated and delivered to the customer; the radioactive sludge remained from previous activities had been made safe; equipment repair and maintenance had been performed as planned. In 2003 MCC did not suffer from accidents, occupational injuries, personnel overexposure; the permissible levels of chemicals and radionuclide content in releases and discharges were not exceeded.
Tretiakov also noted that, besides the main activities, they paid a lot of attention to the future prospects. The radiochemical plant employees were involved in organization and conduct of research to develop a new technology for processing of INF of commercial nuclear reactors and to justify feasibility of setting a processing plant in the combineï¿½s tunnels. R&D were carried out to solve problems of extraction and reprocessing of radioactive sludge, to develop an insoluble bottom solidification technology and setting a solidified waste storage facility. The combineï¿½s divisions jointly with contractors were working on expansion of the plutonium dioxide storage facility, improving its handling technologies associated with long-term storage and subsequent transportation. The revenues and proceeds from commercial outputs increased by 104 and 12 million rubles as compared with the preceding year.
5. Kola Nuclear Plant Stops Planned Target For Power Generation (sic)
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MOSCOW, January 11 (Itar-Tass) - In 2003, the Kola nuclear power station (KolAES) generated 9,918 million kWh of electricity or two percent more than the planned target of the Federal Energy Commission of Russia, Tass learnt on Sunday at the pres centre of the Rosenergoatom Concern. The press centre specified that the overfulfilment ï¿½totalled 323.7 million kWh, or topped the figure for the 12 months in 2002ï¿½.
According concern specialists, ï¿½generation of power at KolAES is to rise to ten billion kWh in 2004ï¿½. ï¿½All in all, KolAES generated 266 billion kWh of electricity since the start of the stationï¿½s operationï¿½, the press centre added.
The press centre noted that ï¿½four power units operate at the station now with an aggregate load of 1,370 MWï¿½. Rosenergoatom reported that one set is ï¿½ at a stand-by, and there are no malfunctions in the operation of the stationï¿½.
The radiation background on the grounds of KolAES ï¿½is in line with the level of normal operation of nuclear power blocks and is not above natural background figuresï¿½, the concern reported.
6. No Contracts For Irradiated Nuke Fuel Import In Russia This Year.
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MOSCOW, January 7 (Itar-Tass) - Russiaï¿½s atomic energy minister said on Wednesday that Russia is unlikely to sign any new contracts for the import of irradiated nuclear fuel (INF) for its storage and reprocessing.
ï¿½We are simply barred from that very lucrative market,ï¿½ the minister, Alexander Rumyantsev, told Itar-Tass. According to Rumyantsev, ï¿½the world market of INF has been long divided among other countries, first of all the USA and Franceï¿½.
ï¿½No negotiations on possible contracts are being held presently,ï¿½ he added. Amendments to the legislation allowing the exports of irradiated nuclear fuel in Russia for temporary storage and procession were passed in 2001.
Their passing by the parliament came amid heated discussions in the society. The Green Party was categorically against, and some politicians are still opposed to the idea of INF imports. No contracts have been signed as of yet.
The Russian Atomic Energy Ministry believes that projects for the import of irradiated nuclear fuel are ï¿½fantastically profitableï¿½ and can bring surplus profit. Russia can import foreign INF at 1,000 dollars per kilogram and gain about 20 billion dollars. Net profit may amount to ten billion dollars, which could be channeled into ecological projects. Besides, once processed irradiated nuclear fuel may serve as fuel for nuclear power stations.
However, the passing of amendments was necessary not only for the signing of new contracts, but rather for legislatively ï¿½supporting the exportï¿½ of fresh nuclear fuel produced in Russia, the minister stressed.
It is supplied to nuclear power stations in many former Socialist states that were built in the Soviet times by Soviet specialists, Rumyantsev said.
Besides, Russian nuclear fuel should be supplied to foreign nuclear power stations, being built with participation of Russian specialists in China, India and Iran. The return of irradiated nuclear fuel back to Russia is a compulsory condition for the supply of fresh fuel. That is being done to prevent the threat of the spread of nuclear technologies.
Russia and Iran are expected to sign early in 2004 an additional agreement on the return of INF from the nuclear power station in Bushehr, which is currently under construction.
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