1. Green Groups Worry Russia May Become World's Nuclear Waste Dump
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Moscow (CNSNews.com) - Russia has agreed to take back and recycle weapons-grade uranium that it originally supplied to Libya, but the broader issue of trading in other countries' nuclear materials has critics complaining that Russia could turn into the world's nuclear dump.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement that highly-enriched uranium (HEU) Russia supplied to Libya's Tajoura nuclear research center in the early 1980s had been returned to the Russians.
The agency, which is overseeing Libya's voluntary dismantling of its nuclear program, said the HEU was flown to a facility in Central Russia earlier this week, in an operation funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
There it would be "blend[ed] down ... into low-enriched uranium (LEU), making it unsuitable for a nuclear weapon," the IAEA said.
Apart from helping Tripoli dismantle its weapons of mass destruction programs, Russia has in the past had agreements to reprocess nuclear materials.
Moscow's nuclear agency, Minatom, envisages a lucrative business. Advocates of nuclear-waste imports say Russia could earn $20 billion over the next decade by importing, reprocessing and storing other countries' spent nuclear fuel.
Critics led by the environmental group Greenpeace have lashed out at the plan, saying the environmental fallout could outweigh the benefits.
They argue that Russia has enough nuclear waste of its own.
In Moscow, for instance, a facility located in a residential district just ten miles from the Kremlin has waste depositories containing spent nuclear fuel, water used as a cooling agent and worn reactor parts.
Until recently, Russian law forbade the importing of radioactive waste or nuclear materials from other countries for long-term storage or burial. Only countries using Russian-built nuclear power plants or technology could send nuclear waste to Russia, in line with bilateral deals.
Attempts by environmentalists to lobby for a law opposing any import of spent nuclear fuel failed, when a campaign to collect the 2.5 million signatures required to initiate a national referendum on the question failed.
The campaigners acquired the signatures, but the Central Elections Commission, citing minor technical inaccuracies -- such as the use of an abbreviation for the word "street" in a signatory's address -- rejected more than a fifth of the signatures.
Following that campaign President Vladimir Putin three years ago signed a new law allowing the import of spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing and storage.
Minatom has since then offered to reprocess nuclear waste from around the world at its Chelyabinsk reprocessing plant. The site has had some serious accidents in the past, including an explosion of a high-level waste storage facility in 1957, when more than 10,000 people in the area had to be evacuated.
A nearby lake was used from 1948 until the 1970s to dump untreated high-level waste.
When a severe drought dried up the lake in 1967, its bed was covered by radioactive dust, which later were spread by winds over an area of 2,000-3,000 square kilometers, which included the homes of more than 40,000 people.
Two year ago, the Russian Supreme Court handed a victory to environmentalists, striking down a government decision that allowed the import of nuclear waste from a nuclear power plant in Hungary for storage in Russia.
Environmentalists have contested deals clinched before the law that allows the import of spent nuclear fuel.
Minatom has plans for more than 10,000 tons of foreign radioactive waste to be reprocessed and stored at the country's largest waste storage facility, Krasnoyarsk-26 in Siberia, although non-governmental organization say the site has only 3,000 tons of unused capacity.
There are also plans to build a new waste storage site in a remote northern region.
In one deal involving the United States, Russia has agreed to sell 500 tons of HEU to fuel American commercial nuclear power reactors.
1. Irradiated Reactor Compartments Storage Facility To Be Completed In 2007
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The construction schedule for the onshore storage of the irradiated reactor compartments and hulls currently stored afloat in Sayda bay has been approved.
On February 16-20, the meetings of the joint Russian-German managing and technical councils of the project on safe handling of reactor compartments from the retired submarines was held in Germany, Nuclear.ru was told by Victor Akhunov, Minatom's departmental head for the decommissioning of nuclear installations in Russia. The project is being implemented according to the agreement signed in October 2003.
According to Akhunov, the project consists of 3 parts. The first part is preparation of the compartments for long storage and their preservation. Shipyard Nerpa has the entire necessary infrastructure for these operations. The second part is transportation. It was decided to transport the reactor compartments ready for conservation to the storage facility by the floating dock PD-42. And the third part is creating infrastructure of the onshore storage facility. Reactors can be stored there for 70 years. Shipyard Nerpa, the Kurchatov Russian Science Centre and German Company Energiewerke Nord GmbH will manage the project.
According to the construction schedule approved at the meeting, the first reactor compartments should be placed in the onshore facility already in 2005, but the site is to be completed in 2007. The contracts for some works in 2004 should be signed by March 21. They will deal with site exploration in Sayda bay and technical documentation. ï¿½We hope that already in June this year we can have ground breaking ceremony of the facilityï¿½ Akhunov said to Nuclear.ru.
1. Russia Rejects Allegations That It Helped Iraq Develop Missiles
Radio Free Europe
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Moscow flatly denies recent Western media reports that Russia helped the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in its efforts to develop banned missiles, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 March, quoting Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov. "It is true that the Soviet Union cooperated with Iraq in that sphere, but at that time there were no international sanctions and no international instruments that restricted [such] cooperation," Fedotov said. He denied that Russia or the Soviet Union ever assisted Hussein in efforts to develop chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. He noted that a report by the UN Monitoring Verification and Inspections Commission (UNMOVIC) listed only U.S. and European firms as having been involved in such work. Meanwhile, Federation Council Chairman and presidential candidate Sergei Mironov told ITAR-TASS on 9 March that the UN should take responsibility for ensuring the implementation of the newly ratified Iraqi interim constitution, and expressed the hope that "legitimate bodies of power will soon appear in Iraq."
1. 60 Percent Of CTR Funds For Securing Weapons Of Mass Destruction Do Not Reach Russia
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This money remains in the US agencies dealing with the development of the program.
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign policy committee of the Lower House of the Russian parliament, told recently RBC Daily about that. The CTR program allocated $6.5 billion in total to secure weapons of mass destruction since 1992 . "But according to some specialists about 60% of this sum do not reach Russia, but remain in various structures organising the process. But anyway the sum is decent, and what is the most important that implementation of this program back in 1992-1994 solved a huge problem for Russia and the whole world concerning taking out the nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Byelorussiaï¿½ Konstantin Usachev said.
2. State Department Seeks to Maintain Funds for Nonproliferation Efforts in the Former Soviet Union
Global Security Newswire
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The U.S. State Departmentï¿½s fiscal 2005 budget plan maintains existing funding levels for a program designed to prevent former Soviet scientists from transferring their WMD expertise to countries of concern to the United States, despite evidence of a growing risk that some might do just that, the Russian-American Nuclear Security Advisory Council said yesterday (see GSN, March 11).
The State Department has requested $108 million for nonproliferation efforts in Russia and other former Soviet states, according to a council analysis. That includes $50.5 million for the departmentï¿½s Nonproliferation of WMD Expertise program, a slight increase of $300,000 over current funding. While the State Department has sought to maintain constant funding for the program, RANSAC said, its budget justification documents include a reference from a 2003 survey that found that 20 percent of former Soviet scientists with WMD expertise questioned would consider working for countries such as Iran and North Korea.
The State Departmentï¿½s fiscal 2005 budget request also contains $10.6 million to help Russia and other former Soviet states develop improved export controls and border security, an increase of $500,000 from this yearï¿½s funding, according to RANSAC. The department has also requested $34.5 million for the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund, an increase of $4.5 million (RANSAC release, March 11).
3. Arms Destruction Progresses in Former Soviet States Despite Challenges in Russia, Officials Say
Global Security Newswire
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WASHINGTON ï¿½ Although U.S. efforts to secure and destroy weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet states have made progress, serious challenges to success persist in Russia, two Bush administration officials told a congressional committee yesterday (see GSN, Feb. 18).
In the past year, the Defense Departmentï¿½s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program produced a ï¿½real reduction in the threat posed by former Soviet weapons of mass destruction to the United States and its allies,ï¿½ Lisa Bronson, deputy undersecretary of defense for technology security policy and counterproliferation, said in prepared testimony to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.
Bronson said those efforts included: the completion of a fissile material storage facility at Mayak, Russia last December; the initiation of designs for security upgrades for six decommissioned nuclear warhead storage sites; the destruction of rail-mobile ICBM launchers and missiles beginning last May (see GSN, Feb. 11); the delivery last fall of basic equipment to security forces at 60 storage sites; and the December commissioning of security systems at two chemical weapons storage sites.
Energy Department efforts marked progress as well, including a program for training foreign port authorities to detect nuclear smuggling and securing naval and land nuclear weapons sites in Russia, said Paul Longsworth, deputy administrator of defense nuclear nonproliferation at the Energy Departmentï¿½s National Nuclear Security Administration, in his prepared testimony. The department has also accelerated efforts to secure 600 tons of nuclear weapons-usable material at 50 sites across Russia, he said.
Despite these successes, Longsworth said that liability issues, transparency, access, and problems with concluding contracts and agreements ï¿½will remain challenges in the years aheadï¿½ for U.S.-assisted programs.
Plans for construction of U.S. and Russian facilities to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium are stalled (see GSN, Oct. 10, 2003), as the United States presses Russian authorities to grant full liability protections for Americans who will work there and elsewhere (see GSN, Oct. 17, 2003).
Bronson noted similar issues, focusing on Russian credibility for following through on projects. Furthermore, she said the program faces challenges specific to securing Russian biological weapons materials.
ï¿½We continue to be concerned with Russiaï¿½s compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention,ï¿½ she said, and expressed concern about the solvency of some Russian laboratories. Bronson said Russia has not provided a sample of its genetically altered anthrax strain, and said an ï¿½efficient legal architectureï¿½ for assistance in Russia is needed.
Bronson said that following a recent review, the Pentagon program has implemented measures, including risk reviews of prospective programs and sometimes-legal requirements for Russian implementation, to reduce the possibility of program failure. She said the program also is opening more overseas offices for better on-site management.
ï¿½If risk cannot be mitigated, the project will not be pursued,ï¿½ she said.
Bronson addressed criticisms that such measures have slowed the pace of cooperative threat reduction activities (see GSN, Jan. 13).
ï¿½Our judgment is that this results in a better program,ï¿½ she said.
The Pentagon also reviewed individual threat reduction activities to ensure they work toward administration goals for its global war on terrorism, she said. An estimated $185 million worth of activities will be turned over to Russian responsibility, with an additional aim of increasing Russiaï¿½s stake in their success, she said.
Bush Administration Funding
Bronson defended the Bush administrationï¿½s decision to ask for slightly less funding for the Pentagon program in fiscal 2005 than for the previous year, a drop from $450 million to $409 million, saying that did not indicate a decrease in importance attached to the overall effort (see GSN, Feb. 11). She said Bush is committed to fulfilling a 2002 promise to spend $10 billion over 10 years on the programs.
Bronson said many capital-intensive projects are reaching completion, in particular the construction of a major chemical weapons destruction facility, and newer projects are expected to be less capital intensive.
ï¿½The aggregate FY 2005 request belies the number of important new projects that will move forward without large capital infrastructure investments,ï¿½ she said.
Critics, including lead Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, have charged that those amounts indicate a lack of sufficient commitment, saying the administration should be spending at least $30 billion for the Defense and Energy programs over 10 years as recommended by a bipartisan commission.
1. White House Relaxes Reviews of U.S.-Russian Ventures
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WASHINGTON ï¿½ The Bush administration is relaxing its oversight of U.S. cooperation with Russian rocket manufacturers who are accused of illegally exporting sensitive technology to Iran. The change, which involves less frequent reviews of joint U.S.-Russian space projects, comes at a time when the United States is pinpointing Tehran as a potential hotbed for the development of weapons of mass destruction.
ï¿½Concern about Iranï¿½s WMD is at an all time high,ï¿½ one congressional aide familiar with arms export licensing told CongressDaily. ï¿½You would think that cutting off any cooperation with Iran on missiles that could deliver those weapons would be among the administrationï¿½s highest priorities.ï¿½
In August 2002, the administration implemented stepped-up scrutiny of Russian rocket manufacturers as a means of curbing Russian arms exports to Iran by setting up reviews every six months for a handful of bilateral space efforts.
Under the Clinton administration, these space projects had been subject to annual reviews. The Bush administration also demanded that Moscow take action against Russian companies involved in missile proliferation.
These demands included better law enforcement, aggressive prosecution of arms export violators, and tightened arms export controls. Since that time, critics say Russia has done little to comply with Bushï¿½s demands.
However, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington said Russia complies with international law, not with the demands of the Bush administration.
ï¿½Russia is complying with its international obligations in the area of exporting sensitive technology, including missile technology, and we have never violated such obligations,ï¿½ said Yevgeniy Khorishko, the Russian Embassyï¿½s press secretary.
Last February, the Bush administration extended the review period from six months to one year amid staunch opposition from key lawmakers, including House International Relations ranking member Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), and Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Joseph Biden (D-Del.).
Now the administration says it will extend the review period even further ï¿½ to three years ï¿½ beginning April 1, according to congressional aides.
A State Department spokesman declined to comment on the license extension, but congressional aides say the Bush administration cites a lack of questionable activity on the part of the Russians as the prime reason for the change in policy.
In addition, critics of the posture shift blame senior members of the Bush administration for buckling under industry pressure. Both Lockheed Martin Corp., of Bethesda, Md., and Boeing Co., of Chicago, rely on Russian-made hardware for several major space-launch programs, including: the Boeing-led Sea Launch program; Lockheed Martinï¿½s Atlas 5 rocket program; International Launch Services, the Lockheed Martin affiliate that launches satellites aboard Russian Proton rockets; and Japanï¿½s Galaxy Express rocket program, for which Lockheed Martin is providing first-stage propulsion.
Three of these ventures rely on engines made by NPO Energomash, of Khimki, Russia, a company suspected of violating international nonproliferation agreements by transferring missile technology to Tehran. Energomash has denied the claim.
Another reason, congressional aides said, is the administrationï¿½s desire to keep two major U.S. medium and heavy lift launch vehicle contractors in business. Boeing in particular suffered a recent, major setback when its space unit was temporarily suspended from doing business with the Pentagon on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle after Boeing obtained proprietary EELV information from its prime competitor, Lockheed Martin.
Politically, some critics say the administrationï¿½s fallback could undermine U.S. leverage over Russia, erode U.S. credibility and further impede efforts to curb missile proliferation. But others argue that greater cooperation with Russia provides an incentive for Moscow to remain on its best behavior.
Bush recently called for tougher actions against weapons proliferators, including Iran. In a Feb. 11 speech at the National Defense University, Bush demanded the U.N. act to close loopholes through which Iran and other countries can import dual-use technology that aids in the development of nuclear weapons.
Bush has also called on Russia to support his Proliferation Security Initiative, which is intended to halt air and sea shipments of technology that can be used to develop weapons of mass destruction. Russia is the only member of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations that has not signed on to the initiative, and Khorishko would not comment on whether or not Moscow supports the PSI. The United States will host the upcoming G8 summit in June.
1. EU Big Three Violates Tehran Declaration, Iran to React
Mehr News Agency
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VIENNA, March 12 (Mehr News Agency) -- A member of the Iranian diplomatic mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors said Friday that Britain, France and Germany have reneged on their promises and violated the Tehran declaration adding that Iran will react to this move.
He told the Mehr News Agency that Tehran will react promptly, wisely and logically to the Europeansï¿½ non-committal move.
Despite diplomatic efforts and insistence that Iran has implemented the clauses of the Tehran Declaration and that Paris, London, and Berlin should also live up to their commitments unfortunately these three countries have backed down from their promises and this move would definitely affect Iranï¿½s relations with Europe, the Iranian diplomat said.
On October 21, Iran struck a deal with the European Union big three, Britain, France and Germany. According to the Tehran Declaration, Tehran agreed to sign the 93+2 Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and also voluntarily agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program. In return, the EU big three agreed to recognize Iranï¿½s legitimate right to have a civilian nuclear energy program and to transfer nuclear technology to Iran.
By resorting to unjust and illogical ways these countries are trying to replace legal issues with political matters, said the diplomat.
In recent days, he said, Russia, China and the Non-Aligned members have been trying to soften the views of Canada, Australia, U.S. and even the European big three but unfortunately they did not succeed. Some NAM members interpreted the Westernersï¿½ behavior toward themselves as unprincipled and disrespectful.
2. Russia, China Resist U.S. Over Iran Nuke Resolution
Louis Charbonneau, Reuters
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VIENNA (Reuters) - Washington struggled to break a deadlock on Friday as Russia, China and others rejected a tough draft nuclear resolution on Iran's atomic secrecy and Tehran denied it was playing power games by delaying U.N. inspections.
In backroom meetings at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Canadian, Australian and European diplomats on the IAEA's Board of Governors negotiated with diplomats from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to revise a draft IAEA resolution.
The United States, France, Britain and Germany struck a tentative deal this week on an Australian-Canadian draft text that "deplores" Tehran's keeping sensitive information from the IAEA and suggests a military link to Tehran's atomic program.
Iran's ambassador to the U.N. in Vienna, Pirooz Hosseini, told Reuters the draft was unacceptable and "consultations are going on to... reach an agreed language." Iran is not on the board but is involved in the talks as a key NAM member.
NAM states have 13 out of 35 seats on the IAEA board and proposed a series of amendments to tone down the draft resolution. NAM insists the word "deplores" be changed to "strongly regrets" or something else, but NAM diplomats complained the U.S.-led camp was not keen to compromise.
Another problem arose when news spread in the boardroom that Iran had postponed a planned visit of IAEA inspectors this weekend due to next week's Iranian New Year holiday. Several Western diplomats said Tehran was trying to play power games and show the agency that it calls the shots about inspections.
"This is not the case," Hosseini said. "It is a normal delay. It is because of next week's New Year holiday."
But other diplomats who follow the agency said the arrival of the IAEA inspectors had been pushed back by Tehran for only a few days until after the resolution had been approved -- which means inspectors would arrive in the middle of the holiday.
STICKING POINT: IRAN'S OMISSIONS
Negotiations on the draft resolution were likely to run into Saturday, when it would probably be adopted, diplomats said.
The biggest sticking point was a clause calling for the IAEA board to decide in June on how to react to sensitive information omitted from Iran's October declaration -- such as the advanced "P2" centrifuges that can make bomb-grade uranium.
"This is the sticking point. They (NAM) don't want the resolution to say we will discuss the omissions," a Western diplomat told Reuters. This could happen if Washington presses the IAEA board to report Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. A non-aligned diplomat said Russia and China had received instructions from home to put their political weight behind the NAM proposal. "The Russians got instructions from Moscow," the diplomat said. "They're with us. The Chinese too."
But a Western diplomat said the Russians and Chinese might change their stance and were not solidly with the NAM.
But several diplomats on the board told Reuters that France and Germany were willing to accept most of the NAM amendments, but that Britain was with Washington. This meant there were signs the EU-U.S. deal was falling apart, they said.
The resulting compromise would clearly be softer than what Washington had agreed with the EU's Big Three. Resolutions are adopted by consensus. Non-aligned diplomats said the NAM block -- the board's biggest -- would not back the resolution if its sponsors did not include more of its proposed amendments in the text.
"They are screaming that they have been raped," said a Western diplomat about the NAM's frustration with the talks.
3. Iran's President Threatens Halt In Nuclear Cooperation With UN
Radio Free Europe
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Tehran, 11 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian President Mohammad Khatami today reiterated a warning that his government could stop cooperating with the UN nuclear watchdog agency if it adopts a resolution condemning Tehran's nuclear program.
Khatami said in a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must adopt a "realistic policy and not be influenced" by the United States.
In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell said a IAEA resolution being debated includes a warning Iran is close to violating its IAEA obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and could face "further action."
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi yesterday said Iran would resume its uranium enrichment program after resolving its case with the IAEA.
IAEA chief Muhammad el-Baradei warned such a move could prove very damaging. He praised Iranian cooperation so far.
"Now they [Iranian officials] are cooperating in a very good way with the agency, and I hope we will continue to get Iran's cooperation so we can verify that all their programs are exclusively for peaceful purposes," el-Baradei said.
The IAEA's 35-nation board is meeting in Vienna this week to decide how to deal with Iran's failure to fully disclose its nuclear activities.
VIENNA: Russia dislikes the explicit reference o a military link to Iranï¿½s nuclear programme in a draft UN nuclear resolution backed by the United States and would like this section deleted, diplomats said on Thursday.
Earlier this week, the United States and the European Unionï¿½s ï¿½Big Threeï¿½ - France, Britain and Germany - reached a tentative agreement on an Australian-Canadian draft text that ï¿½deploresï¿½ Tehranï¿½s withholding of sensitive information from UN inspectors and highlights its possible military dimension.
Russia, which is helping Tehran build a $800 million nuclear power station in Iran, has objected and tried to soften every U.S.-backed IAEA resolution or statement on Iran in the past year. Russian UN delegates in Vienna declined to comment. ï¿½Russia doesnï¿½t like this reference to the military and would like to see it out,ï¿½ said one diplomat. Another said Moscowï¿½s concerns about the text were ï¿½no surpriseï¿½.
The draft resolution, to be submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, stops short of referring Iran to the UN Security Council for sanctions.
But U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was confident Iran would be warned it could face sanctions. Iran accused Washington of ï¿½bullyingï¿½ the IAEA and warned the resolution could ï¿½complicateï¿½ its ties with the watchdog.
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which has 13 seats on the 35-nation IAEA board, also voiced concerns about the text, but Western states were working to bring them round. A non-aligned diplomat said NAM had suggested only ï¿½minor changesï¿½. Moscowï¿½s concerns about the resolution come amid worries that President Vladimir Putinï¿½s downgrading of Russiaï¿½s Atomic Energy Ministry to a state agency may kill off a plan to finish the nuclear reactor in Iran, removing a big stumbling block in Russia-U.S. ties, according to industry insiders in Russia.
The draft resolution cites IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradeiï¿½s finding in his February 24 report on Iran that ï¿½most of the workshops used in Iranï¿½s centrifuge enrichment programme are ï¿½owned by military industrial organisationsï¿½ï¿½.
But ElBaradei said: ï¿½That doesnï¿½t mean it is a military programme. We have seen many of these workshops situated in military sites.ï¿½
Hardline states say that if the programme was a civilian power programme, it would be owned by oil-rich Iranï¿½s well-developed energy sector. Diplomats said that if the IAEA board goes on the record acknowledging a possible military link, hardline critics of Iran like Washington will have more ammunition to argue that finishing Bushehr may lead to violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if Moscow unwittingly supports a weapons programme. ï¿½Reuters
MOSCOW, March 10 President Vladimir Putinï¿½s demotion of Russiaï¿½s Atomic Energy Ministry may kill off a plan to start up a nuclear reactor in Iran, removing a big stumbling block in Russia-US ties, industry insiders said on Wednesday.
The Atomic Energy Ministry has spearheaded the $800 million project in Bushehr, Iran, defying repeated US accusations that Iran could be secretly acquiring nuclear arms. The nuclear authority, set up in 1953, was on Tuesday downgraded to an agency within a super-ministry run by Putinï¿½s loyalists.
Insiders said the move was aimed at hushing the independent-minded body whose policies had not always matched the official stance. The Kremlin took a much tougher position on Iran last year, using the leverage of the uncompleted Bushehr project to persuade Tehran to accept stricter UN inspections.
Iran said on Wednesday the draft amounted to US ï¿½ï¿½bullyingï¿½ï¿½. Alexander Rumyantsev, former head of the ministry, had been due to travel to Iran later this month to sign a final deal on nuclear shipments for Bushehr after months of tough talks. But a bilateral endorsement of the crucial deal on the return of spent nuclear fuel back to Russia, presented by Rumyantsev as a measure aimed to alleviate some US concerns on Iranï¿½s nuclear programme, is now under question.
ï¿½ï¿½We have carried out all the negotiations so far and we were finally close to a deal with the Iranians,ï¿½ï¿½ the former ministry official said. ï¿½ï¿½And at this crucial moment when the minister was due to travel there, we are being reduced to an agency of some sort with a little say in decision-making.ï¿½ Nuclear experts say Rumyantsevï¿½s blunt defiance of US pressure on Moscow to withhold fuel for the reactor, currently stored at a facility in Siberia, has irritated the less outspoken Foreign Ministry and the Kremlin. ï¿½ï¿½Russiaï¿½s nuclear cooperation with Iran is the main stumbling block in Russia-US relations,ï¿½ï¿½ said Alexei Arbatov of the Carnegie Endowment think tank. ï¿½ï¿½Now there will be a lot less pressure on the generally pro-Western government to go ahead with the Bushehr project.ï¿½ï¿½
1. In China the Representative of the Atomic Branch of Russia Discusses the Possibility for Cooperation of the Two Countries in this Area
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Translated by RANSAC Staff
Deputy head of the former Minatom Vladimir Asmolov will check the partial progress of the construction of the first stage of the Tyan'van'skoy atomic power station on 14-20 March in China. They reported to a correspondent of Itar-Tass today at this department.
Asmolov will also discuss with his Chinese colleagues the possibility of Russian participation in the construction of the second stage of this NPP, they noted at the agency.
In the words of the speaker, ï¿½at the construction area of the Tyan'van'skoy NPP preparations are being completed for the physical launch of the first power unit, built with the participation of Russian specialists,ï¿½ the launch of the power unit ï¿½is planned to be realized at the end of April ï¿½ beginning of May of this year.ï¿½ The physical launch of the second power unit of the Chinese NPP ï¿½is planned for the middle of next year,ï¿½ ï¿½ they underlined at the former Minatom.
In January of 2004 the Russian company ï¿½TVELï¿½ in accordance with a contract with the Chinese side carried out the delivery of nuclear fuel to the area of the Tyan'van'skoy NPP for the first charge of the reactor of the power unit installed at the station. At the end of 2003 Aleksandr Rumyantsev, at that moment the head of Minatom RF, announced that, ï¿½Russia will take part in the international tender for the construction of the second stage of the Tyan'van'skoy NPP, if it will be conducted in China in the middle of 2004,ï¿½ and ï¿½Minatom is also prepared to propose at this tender in China the design of the high-power power reactor VVER-1500.ï¿½
1. Navigation To Blame For Russia's Missile Launch Failures: Report
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Faulty navigation systems were responsible for Russia's spectacular failure to test-fire three missiles last month, according to preliminary investigation results cited Wednesday.
On February 18, an unarmed Russian ballistic missile known as the RSM-53 veered off course and self-destructed during the nation's largest military exercises in 20 years, attended by President Vladimir Putin weeks before his reelection bid.
The previous day, the navy failed to launch two intercontinental ballistic missiles, known as ICBMs.
A military commission investigating the incidents has determined that navigation systems were to blame for both failures, the Kommersant daily reported Wednesday.
In the incident involving the RSM-53 missile, given the NATO specification SS-N-23 and first developed by the Soviet Union in 1979, "the commission came to the conclusion that the... navigation system was at fault," Kommersant said citing unnamed sources.
During the ICBM launches in the Barents Sea, fault was attributed to the Shluz navigation system of the Tobol-M submarine from which the missiles were due to be fired, Kommersant said.
"It has been determined that 201 seconds before the first launch...there was a malfunction of the main and then the backup system of the Shluz navigation system," the daily wrote.
Both incidents blighted the war games, held less than a month before Putin stands for reelection on March 14 and intended to convince the United States that its missiles could penetrate any defense shield now being developed by Washington.
1. High Capacity 1,500MW Reactorï¿½s Design To Be Ready In Three Years
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Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry plans to develop a new type of high-capacity nuclear reactor by 2007, Russia's state nuclear energy holding Rosenergoatom said in a statement on January 23.
The project has been launched to replace the existing power generating facilities as the ministry estimates that by the end of the decade conventional thermal power units with a combined capacity of about 30,000 MW will have to be put out of operation in Russia due to their expired lifetime. The new reactor, with a capacity of 1,500 MW called VVER-1500, is estimated to cost $78m to design, while the construction of a power unit using this type of reactor will cost some $1.3 billion, a Rosenergoatom official told Prime-TASS. The official also said $400m should be spent on designing the reactor this year. According to Rosenergoatom, the construction of the first such reactor may be expected by 2013. The new reactor is to be constructed at the Leningrad NPP.
2. Outlet at Full Power of the 3rd Power Unit of Beloyarskiy NPP Began Today
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Translated by RANSAC Staff
Today, the 12th of March, outlet at full power of the third power unit with the fast neutron reactor at Beloyarski atomic energy station began, announced ï¿½UralPolit.Ruï¿½ at BAES. At the beginning of the week the power of the unit was reduced from 600 to 165 megawatts. Turbogenerator No.4 of the BN-600 power unit was fully shut down due to problems in the electrical system.
The repair works is now completed. Outlet at full power will take several hours. In the process of increasing the power, the wear and tear of safety valves yielding clean vapor into the atmosphere is reviewed. The noise from the valvesï¿½ work will be heard in Zareche, where BAES is located. The workers of the station ask citizens to remain calm.
There are no deviations from the established safety conditions. Radiological conditions in Zareche and the thirteen kilometers observation zone are at the level of the natural background and consist of about 5-10 micro roentgens per hour.
3. A. Rumyantsev is Convinced that Government Reform Will Not Lead to the Weakening of the Atomic Branch
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Translated by RANSAC Staff
Minatom of Russian will be transformed into the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy. Prime Minister RF M. Fradkov announced at a meeting in the Kremlin, during which the new structure of the Government of Russian was declared. The atomic energy parts of the new department will be subordinate to the newly created Ministry of Industry and Energy, which is headed by V. Khristenko. The nuclear weapons complex will be transferred to Defense Ministry subordination. At the suggestion of the new Minster V. Khristenko, Prime Minister M. Fradkov announced that A. Rumyantsev would become the head of the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy. As A. Rumyantsev noted in an interview with Nuclear.Ru, administrative reform is pursued with the goal of transforming ï¿½all ministries, which have powerful industrial complexes, with the exception of interdisciplinary production.ï¿½ He also noted that the State Atomic Inspectorate RF [GAN] ï¿½will not enter into any technological groups.ï¿½ The new structure of the government was fixed in the Order of the President RF ï¿½On the System and Structure of the Federal Organs of Executive Powerï¿½ signed March 9th. In the opinion of A. Rumyantsev, ï¿½one may not talkï¿½ about any kind of weakening of the atomic industry in connection with these transformations. ï¿½Nothing terrible threatens this branch,ï¿½ ï¿½ he said.
1. Russia-Norway: Experts Test Kola Nuke Plant Safety
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MOSCOW, MARCH 12, (RIA NOVOSTI) - Russian and Norwegian expert teams finished acceptance tests at a Russian nuclear power plant in the arctic Kola peninsula, close to the Norwegian frontier.
The SPDS safety tests concerned power units Three and Four, and lasted from February 26 into March 5 on a Norwegian government programme of technical assistance, Russia's Rosenergoatom nuclear power industrial concern says in a press release.
Interbranch commission experts active at the Kola plant were representing the Rosenergoatom, the IFE of Norway, and Finland's ABB Oy and Fortum Service.
As the release explains, the SPDS safety indices presentation system is a computer complex of automated work benches, which offers a reactor controller real-time information about power unit safety. The Rosenergoatom refers to the SPDS as highly reliable. It has proved its worth in Kola units One and Two.
The Norwegian government programme of technical assistance was launched in the Kola plant in the early 1990s. International partnership on the programme has involved 31 projects implemented by now. Work is underway on another seven. Norwegian government allocations to enhance Kola plant safety approach 120 million kroner.
MAYLUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan ï¿½ Outside the rusting, closed Izolit uranium-processing plant, 23 radioactive waste sites exist in the landslide-prone hills ï¿½ a catastrophe in waiting that could spill poison into the river below and on to the most populous region of Central Asia.
About 70 million cubic feet of tailings left from refining uranium ore during the Soviet era are buried in this mountain valley along the Mayluu-Suu River. The river runs a short distance to Uzbekistan and the Fergana Valley, the region's agricultural heartland with 12 million inhabitants.
Potential disasters could spill from the mountains, said Arip Kokkozov, an official at the Ministry of Ecology and Emergency Situations who monitors Kyrgyz waste sites. Landslides could carry waste into the river; snow and rain could cause leaks from containers built with outdated technology; wind could blow waste through the air; radioactive material could seep into groundwater.
"There are many problems. They need to be solved," Mr. Kokkozov said in his office in the southern city of Osh. "If there was enough money, we could fly it all into space," he joked.
This debt-saddled former Soviet republic has pleaded for outside help to clean up the sites, arguing it doesn't have the resources to tackle the problem alone. Cleaning up Mayluu-Suu will cost an estimated $17 million, officials say.
"I can't say we are receiving enough assistance from abroad, as the cost is very high," said Bolot Aidaraliyev, deputy minister of ecology and emergency situations. "This is not one day's work. Each site requires an individual approach. ... It will take years of work to rehabilitate the sites."
The World Bank has pledged $5 million for this year if preparations to address the problem go as planned. The money would be used to shore up waste sites against landslides and help government agencies get ready for a potential disaster.
Japan is giving about $500,000 under one of the first grants in the project. The European Union also has been involved through its technical assistance program for former Soviet states.
All the former Soviet republics are grappling with environmental problems sown by Moscow's former communist regime, and radioactive, biological and chemical waste sites dot the landscape of Central Asia.
The vast steppes of Kazakhstan were used as a nuclear testing ground, and an island in the Aral Sea shared by Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan held a biological-weapons testing facility. But the waste at Mayluu-Suu poses the most immediate threat to the largest number of people.
Mayluu-Suu, which means "oily water" in Kyrgyz, first got into the uranium business in 1946 as the Soviet Union rushed to develop atomic weapons. Until the 1970s, the town was a restricted military zone that only people who lived and worked in could enter, a place not shown on maps.
It later became known for its light bulb factory, now a Russian-Kyrgyz joint venture that remains the main industry in town. "Our goods provide you with the joy of light," a billboard proclaims in English on the road leading into town.
There are no cheery slogans at the shuttered Izolit factory, where profiles of Lenin and Marx still watch over a model of an atom. The crumpled metal remains of a bridge that once crossed the river to the factory are rusting, half-submerged in the water.
The city's chief physician, Dr. Nemat Mambetov, says health officials found levels of radon ï¿½ a radioactive gas emitted by decaying uranium ï¿½ as high as twice the internationally accepted rates in 28 of 30 homes they examined. Dr. Mambetov said cancer rates in town also appear higher than normal, but he has no funding ï¿½ and no oncologists in town ï¿½ to do more detailed research.
At High School No. 4, American-studies teacher Valentin Ladeishikov is trying to educate people about the dangers in their back yard, and has founded the city's only humanitarian organization to take on the issue. He said some residents have removed radioactive bricks or metal from waste sites and used them to build houses.
On his classroom chalkboard below a drawing of the U.S. Capitol, Mr. Ladeishikov draws a series of circles showing how the effects of a radioactive leak would expand across the region ï¿½ creating ecological refugees who would spread worries about contamination for hundreds of miles.
Mr. Ladeishikov has held educational seminars for students on the dangers of stealing material from the waste sites and on what to do if catastrophe strikes. He is trying to get foreign donations to reach more residents.
"They do not realize the danger," Mr. Ladeishikov said.
On the road into the mountains, Raimjan Osmonaliyev, a village elder and former uranium miner, and four other men pray on their knees facing toward Mecca, just steps from the entrance to the uranium mine and the Izolit factory. Mr. Osmonaliyev, 68, said he has no plans to move his six daughters and two sons ï¿½ and so many grandchildren he has lost count ï¿½ away from Mayluu-Suu.
"This is now in our blood," he replied when asked about potential harm from radiation. "We've been here since birth; that's why there's no injury from it."
Nearby, a sign warns people not to enter the mine, but the fence posts have been stripped of the barbed wire that once kept out trespassers.
"Even if we're scared, what can we do?" Mr. Osmonaliyev asked. "We can't fly into the sky. We can't escape."
ï¿½ Additional information is available on the Internet at the EurasiaNet site on Central Asia's environment: http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/environment/index.shtml
1. First Ever NATO-Russia Missile Defence Exercise 8-12 March 2004
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NATO and Russia are conducting a groundbreaking computer simulation in the United States, 8 to 12 March, to test joint responses to missile attacks against deployed troops.
The exercise will evaluate an experimental concept of operations developed over the past year by a special NATO-Russia working group on theatre missile defence. Theatre missile defence aims to protect troops deployed in a specific area.
The ultimate goal is to ensure that NATO and Russia can quickly and effectively work together to counter a missile threat against troops deployed on a joint mission. Aiming for interoperability
Both Russia and NATO member countries have developed and continue to develop dedicated missile defence systems. However, those systems have been developed on the basis of different technical standards, as well as different operational doctrines of engagement.
The idea is to achieve interoperability in spite of these differences, to be able to cooperate in situations where NATO and Russia are coalition partners.
Formally called a Command Post Exercise, the exercise is a computer-assisted, real-time simulation that focuses on the command and control of troops in a particular situation. Over sixty participants from ten NATO member countries and the Russian Federation are participating.
Theatre missile defence is one area of practical cooperation within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council. The exercise is an important step forward and will provide a basis for future interoperability enhancements, as well as further exercises planned for 2005.
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