1. Q&A: Ambassador Alexander Vershbow and Russiaï¿½s Place in the World (excerpted)
United Press International
(for personal use only)
Q: How secure are Russiaï¿½s nuclear weapons? There has been a plethora of stories concerning suitcase-sized nuclear weapons developed by the former Soviet Union. Russia claims, and Minister Ivanov repeated these assurances in Washington, that these weapons no longer exist or are in safe hands. Nevertheless, concerns remain. How worried should we be about potential Russian ï¿½loose nukes?ï¿½
A: Unfortunately, there are still some concerns and doubts. We donï¿½t in any way question the determination of the Russians to secure nuclear materials, and we have developed extraordinarily good cooperation under the various Nunn-Lugar programs over the past decade ï¿½ in which we made a material contribution to strengthening the security of facilities and destroyed a lot of dangerous material. But at the same time, there still is a concern that there may not be 100 percent success through these programs. It is a subject we continue to discuss when we have fragmentary evidence of dangerous materials that might be smuggled or sold on the black market. The main thing we have to think about is such materials falling into the hands of terrorists, if only for a dirty bomb. It is a tall order to develop a nuclear weapon, though that is certainly a genuine concern, but radiological dispersal devices, as dirty bombs are known as in the trade, are something we all have to worry about. We are glad that Minister Ivanov expressed such confidence and we hope it is borne out.
Recently, two fascinating topics have grabbed the attention of the Western public: speculation that Russians had sold "suitcase nuclear bombs" to al-Qaida terrorists -- based on a claim by a biographer of Osama bin Laden's factotum, Ayman al-Zawahiri -- and an outbreak of terrorist incidents in the Central Asian ex-Soviet republic of Uzbekistan.
These two matters are linked, for as I previously wrote in TCS, Uzbekistan sits in the middle of a dangerous nest of nuclear, ex-nuclear, and aspiring nuclear powers, including its former ruler, Russia; its neighbor Kazakhstan; nearby Pakistan, and China. In addition, the problem of Wahhabi terrorism, backed by the extremist religio-ideological bureaucracy in Saudi Arabia, is as undeniably deadly as the explosions carried out by suicide bombers in the streets of Tashkent in the past few weeks.
As for al-Zawahiri's threats, the Egyptian surgeon-turned-murderer is a notorious and hysterical loudmouth who will say anything for effect.
But are "suitcase nukes" a serious danger for global security?
To emphasize arguments I have made previously and elsewhere, handling of nuclear explosives is no work for amateurs. The specter of "suitcase nukes" has elicited extensive and authoritative comment from experts in the field, such as Nikolai Sokov and William C. Potter, who are published by the Monterey Institute for International Studies (see, for example, http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/week/020923.htm).
These knowledgeable figures remind us that rumors about "suitcase nukes" first began circulating in the late 1990s. Particularly in Islamic circles, it became common to hear that Al-Qaida or the Taliban had purchased "suitcase nukes" from rogue Russians. The hubbub was fed by Alexander Lebed, the late Russian politician, who claimed some 100 such devices had gone missing on ex-Soviet territory. Lebed added the inflammatory detail that Chechen separatists had come into possession of nuclear weapons. And Lebed issued the charge during an election campaign in which he was a candidate for a local governorship.
But evidence available from open sources suggests, first, that the probability that "suitcase nukes" were indeed stolen or sold to terrorists is low, and that if they were, their effectiveness has become diminished by the passage of time.
"Suitcase nukes" are not something one can store in a basement and use whenever one feels like it. They require regular maintenance and replacement of components, and in the absence of their handling by technicians, they would probably have little or no effectiveness, aside from providing evildoers with small quantities of weapons-grade radioactive materials, which unfortunately could be used to fabricate a "dirty bomb" -- i.e. a radioactive substance wrapped around a conventional explosive.
A "dirty bomb" would spray radioactivity, and while it might not destroy major structures or kill many people outright, would cause contamination leading to illness and death. A "suitcase nuke" could devastate a significant area and kill many people. But one does not set off a real, live nuke, whatever the size, just by throwing a switch. All nuclear weapons are protected from "casual" misuse by fail-safe systems that can only be overridden by trained personnel.
Russian accusations against the Chechens are so frequent and exaggerated -- notwithstanding the very real and lethal infiltration of Saudi/Wahhabi agents into the Chechen national movement -- that the association of the "suitcase nukes" scenario with the Chechens almost appears as evidence against taking it seriously.
In addition, solid information on the possibility that "suitcase nukes" were ever produced in the former USSR has not advanced significantly beyond the publicity uproar of the late 1990s. If such weapons really existed, more would be known about them, and they would probably have been used.
Nevertheless, at the end of March a Russian newspaper, Moscow News printed a claim by a military officer, Colonel-General Victor Yesin, described as former head of the Russian Strategic Forces, that miniaturized nuclear weapons had been developed in both the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. Yesin described these items as "nuclear mines." But this was also an old story. At the time of the Lebed allegations, a Russian scientist, Alexei Yablokov, stated that 700 "nuclear mines" had been held in Soviet arsenals. Yablokov appeared confused about the difference between "nuclear mines" and "suitcase nukes."
The existence of nuclear mines, as well as an American product known as the "small atomic demolition munitions" has long been admitted. The Russians planted such mines along their borders with Chinaï¿½ which, for those concerned about Central Asia, is no source of comfort. Wahhabi agitators have made the millions of Muslims living in Chinese-ruled Eastern Turkestan another of their major targets.
Even if "suitcase nukes" do not represent an immediate and dramatic menace, the global coalition against terror must exercise every possible measure to guard against such weapons falling into the hands of extremists. That means reinforcing controls inside the U.S., compelling the Russians to clean up their nukeewn landscape, and standing by Uzbekistan and other countries that are in the front rank of struggle to curb the spread of Wahhabism.
3. Ivanov Rules Out Possibility Of Terrorists Obtaining Russian Nukes
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON, April 7 (Itar-Tass) - Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the country's nuclear weapons are under reliable protection and that they will never get into terrorists' hands.
Ivanov made the statement as he summed up the results of his visit to the United States at a news conference on Tuesday evening.
Russia gratefully continues to receive international financial aid for the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction. However, this aid is used not for the protection but for utilizing nuclear waste: "the superfluous reactors and submarines we piled up in the past," he said.
"No leak of these materials is possible, there hasn't been a single case of the loss of even one gram of weapon-grade uranium or plutonium," the minister said.
"The purpose of terrorists is to destroy as many people as possible. I'm not sure they need any intricate weapon for it," Ivanov added, "of course, they wouldn't mind obtaining such a weapon, but even without it the threat of large-scale acts of terror remains."
According to Ivanov, the causes of future armed conflicts in the world will be related to economy increasingly often.
Future conflict will be largely motivated by interests in the access to energy resources, free shipping or other communications. Another characteristic feature of new threats is that they will be neither external nor internal but "transborder," the minister said.
"Even now we see terrorists trying to blast pipelines or ships. One of our priorities is to protect Russia's economic interests. But we prepare troops for the protection of not only national but also international interests," Ivanov said.
In this connection, he recalled the drills on the Caspian Sea in 2002 and near Sakhalin in 2003, at which troops practiced the protection of oil platforms and pipelines.
4. Nuclear Weapons Should Not Be Used Against Terrorists
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON, April 7, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - A series of noteworthy remarks have been made by Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in the course of his address at the Center for Defense Information in the American capital.
Thus, replying to a question about the expediency of using nuclear weapons in the struggle against terrorism, Ivanov said: "Honestly speaking, traditional weapons are quite enough against terrorists." The use of nuclear weapons against terrorists, according to the minister, may drastically lower the threshold of their employment. "We can let the genie out of the bottle," Ivanov added.
In commenting on an issue which has been particularly pressing in the recent period - leakage of military-purpose nuclear materials - the Russian minister said: "I can speak with certainty about weapons-grade nuclear materials - plutonium and uranium. I state with full responsibility that there cannot be any leakage of such materials from Russia," Ivanov said.
"What is more, there is not a single example of even one gram of military-grade plutonium or uranium being left unaccounted-for," the Russian minister added.
Ivanov believes that Iraq's territory has become the center for attracting terrorist groupings from all over the Arab East. "Iraq's territory occupied by US and allied troops, including those that joined NATO the other day, has become a focus of attraction for members of terrorist groupings from all over the Arab East, a genuine magnet for extremists of all hues," the Russian minister said.
This happened because there was no real coalition-based coordination of stabilization measures, reckons the head of Russia's defense department.
He believes that the world is still threatened by large-scale terrorist attacks.
"There are many examples when terrorists, including those who fought in Chechnya, have instructions ready at hand on how to make poisons and toxic agents. Unfortunately, this is a result of globalization: now one can see in the Internet how to make dangerous devices." Characteristically, the Russian minister believes, future potential conflicts will somehow or other be connected with the economy, in particular, with access to some or other resources.
"So one of the tasks of the Armed Forces of Russia is to protect our economic interests. We have started holding appropriate exercises," he said.
According to him, the first such training exercise took place on the Baltic in 2002.
"Also in 2002, we held water and ground exercises in Sakhalin. I may note that large American investments are there. We therefore train our troops to protect not only Russian interests," Ivanov said.
By the end of 2006 Russia will build and enter into operation 6 objects for the destruction of chemical weapons. Only in this way may Moscow fulfill, in the established period, its international obligations under the Convention on banning the development, production, accumulation, and use of chemical weapons (CW) stores and their full destruction. Therefore, despite the promise of international aid, Moscow will have to bear the lionï¿½s share of the cost of the erection of these factories itself. In the words Russian specialists, Western aide has not reached 20 percent of the necessary level and the main offender in this is the U.S.
- To focus only on the American alone would be unjust, - the State-Secretary of the Russian Munitions Agency Vyacheslac Kulebyakin announced to ï¿½Izvestiaï¿½. - Of all the countries - partnered with Russia in the matter of the disposal of chemical weapons they promised to provide the most money. But today in the framework of the decision of the ï¿½big eightï¿½ we are working with more than 13 foreign governments. For this year alone, the aide expected from them exceeds $300 million.
At the ï¿½big eightï¿½ summit in June 2002 in Kananaskis , Canada, it was decided to give Russia $20 billion over ten years for the destruction of its stores of weapons of mass destruction. Not only countries of the ï¿½eight,ï¿½ however, will give money, but all states interested in their own security.
- Intergovernmental agreements stipulated, that from 1992 to 2003 donor-countries promised to proved more than $1.3 billion for the chemical weapons program, however a little more than $268 million has been received in reality, - notes the General Director of the Russian Munitions Agency Viktor Kholstov.
Thus, in September of last year, the U.S. Congress sanctioned the provision of $548 million for the CW destruction program in Russia, of this 498 million ï¿½ for the construction of a facility in the Shchuche settlement of the Kurgansky oblast (by the Americanï¿½s own estimate, no less than $987 million is need for its erection). The second half should be ensured by Russia and it European partners. However, on March 1, 2004 a contract was signed for performance of work for the delivery of equipment and materials for construction in the sum of $96.6 million, of this $83.5 million was paid in reality.
Bargaining is inappropriate, or cash on the barrel
Shchuche ï¿½ the key facility for Russian chemical disarmament. Without it, it is simply impossible to fulfill the obligation for the second stage of disposal: reprocess 20 percent of the 40 thousand tons of chemical agents present by 2007. The only factory working today, in the Gorny settlement of Saratovsky oblast, will destroy 1,142 tons of lewisite, mustard gas and their mixtures. In the beginning of 2005, an analogous facility will be brought into commission, construction with German aid at the town of Kambarka in the Udmurtsky Republic. Here will also be kept ï¿½barrelsï¿½ of lewisite and mustard gas ï¿½ 6.4 thousand tons. However, Gorny and Kambarka together do not give the needed 20 percent.
In circles close to the Russian Munitions Agency rumors are circulating concerning why the U.S. has ï¿½put on the brakesï¿½ in the provision of money. For example, they speak of the fact that Washington constantly sets out new conditions for Moscow. Either to certify the quantity of CW possessed, or to give exclusive rights for the conducting of inspections of Russian facilities, institutes or other military units that have no relation to the decommissioning of CW.
- In the business of chemical disarmament, bargaining is inappropriate, - believes the Head of the State Commission for Chemical Disarmament Sergei Kirienko. ï¿½ This problem does not have a nation, but an international character. The destruction of Russian CW stores guarantees that they do no fall into the hands of international terrorists.
They also say that the hang-up is connected with the complications in the destruction of the U.S.ï¿½s own chemical arsenal. The American already decontaminated 30 percent of their CW stores ï¿½ this was done by the method of burning the chemical agents in special ovens. However, the population of the three states were such factories were built, protested their activation. As a result, Washington was forced to begin the construction of new disposal facilities, using less ecologically dangerous technologies for decontamination (similar to those applied in Russia today), but more complicated and expensive. The result was the U.S. was forced to ask the Convention Committee in The Hague to extend its deadline for fulfilling the convention. Costs in the U.S. are considerably higher than in Russia. For example, for the full disposal of the 40 thousand tons of chemical agents it possess, Moscow will need a little more than $3 billion, but the American spent about $17 billion simply for the disposal of less than 10 thousand tons of their chemical weapons.
We can disarm ourselves
In all of this situation, the Russian side is most disturbed by the unpredictability in their relationship with the U.S. The Americans require concrete plans from Russia for the decontamination of its CW arsenals. But how are they to be produced, if Moscow does not know in what volume and in what time period Washington will provide the money? However, Russia is not trying to ï¿½focusï¿½ on international aid.
- Our country at the moment of signing the convention and today ï¿½ these are two totally different states, - they say in the Munitions Agency, having in mind that if at time the convention was ratified in 1997 Moscow did not have the money and needed international aid, today the country is able to allocate almost $200 million a year for chemical disarmament. It is thanks to this that the erection of the basic structure of the second production corpus at the Shchuche facility is being conducted (the U.S. was to build the first). In the near future an agreement will be completed with Italy on cooperation in the construction of a mini-factory in the city of Pochep in the Bryanky oblast. Here the first stage of the decontamination of chemical munitions, to a sub-reactionary mass state will be conducted, after this, the latter will be sent for further disposal at other factories.
- We will cope with our task with international aid, or without it ï¿½ said Vyacheslac Kulebyakin. ï¿½ But if there is aid, we can do it all considerably quicker.
However, as was announced to ï¿½Izvestiaï¿½ at the U.S. embassy, if there are contradictions between Moscow and Washington in relation to Shchuche, they will all be resolved no later than the end of April ï¿½ the sides will sign an additional protocol on the conditions for control over the quality of construction and testing of finished facility. Then the promised means will go to Russia.
Chemical Weapons Reserves in Russia
Category 1 chemical weapons total volume of CW possessed ï¿½ 40 thousand tons sarin, soman, VX gas ï¿½ 32.2 thousand tons mustard gas, lewisite and their mixtures ï¿½ 7.8 thousand tons
1. Atomic Reactors From Decomissioned Submarines Are Reliably Guarded
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON, April 7, 2004 - RIA Novosti. The fact of receiving financial aid by Russia for scrapping military atomic reactors does not mean that they are poorly guarded, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said at a meeting with reporters in the Center for Defense Information in Washington.
"The fact that we receive with gratitude aid from different countries for scrapping atomic reactors from the decommissioned submarines does not mean that the reactors are poorly guarded.
"The problem is that Russia, regrettably, is paying for near-sighted policy of the cold war times. We have built too many submarines, too many reactors - we don't need so many and they should be scrapped', Ivanov said.
"To create a nuclear-based sophisticated system is cheaper than to scrap it," the Russian minister added.
In his words, the funds that Russia gets from the international programs are channeled precisely for waste utilization.
In equal measure this also refers to the chemical weapons large stocks of which piled up during the cold war times.
MOSCOW, April 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated the need for space demilitarisation.
"We will do and must do everything it takes to demilitarise space and turn it into the arena of peaceful co-operation based on trust, sober calculations and clear understanding of the national interests," the Russian president said at gala celebrations of Space Day.
The head of state believes that military-political confrontation in space would continue for quite a while.
"Of course, we are seeking to stop the space activity from being an area of military-political confrontation. But we all understand only too well that this confrontation is taking place and will last for quite a long time. We mean it and should take it into account in the future," said Mr. Putin.
In his words, the country's leadership realises that the space activity is one of the most important activities.
"We understand this," said the president. "We understand that the space activity is the most important activity for the country not only because it solves environmental and agricultural problems but also because it is highly crucial for the country's existence." "We will base our efforts on this realisation," said Mr. Putin.
1. Moscow Believes NATO May Deploy Nuclear Weapons In Baltic Republics
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) - The General Staff of Russia's Armed Forces does not rule out that NATO may deploy nuclear weapons in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the former Soviet republics and now the new NATO nations, Yury Baluyevsky, First Deputy Chief of General Staff, said at a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday.
However, such issues cannot be regarded as internal affairs of a Baltic state in question or the United States. "The international community's opinions must not be disregarded," emphasized Gen. Baluyevsky.
Gen. Baluyevsky said Moscow believed the emergence of new military alliances made no sense.
"If we follow the path of creating new military blocs, it will lead us back to the time of opposition between the Soviet Union and later between Russia and NATO, the competition which required a lot of effort and huge funds," said Gen. Baluyevsky.
Speaking about NATO's possibilities, he said that any organization, which involves more than 6 members, was actually uncontrollable.
In comments on media reports that Russia may join the alliance with time, the general said Moscow had not even discussed that question.
It is not that important whether Russia will join NATO or not. Russia does not need to join any coalitions whatsoever to protect itself, according to Gen. Baluyevsky.
However, Moscow is interested in political, economic and cultural cooperation with NATO nations, he noted.
Russia is, for example, creating a peacekeeping unit for joint actions with NATO.
"Russia is raising a brigade, but my opinion is that creating a unit specially for peacekeeping missions is a costly undertaking," said Gen. Baluyevsky.
When speaking about latest developments in Iraq, Gen. Baluyevsky said Russia's General Staff had information on the coalition forces' real toll, but did not elaborate further, saying he did not want to enjoy a small triumph over others' misfortunes.
According to General Baluyevsky, the General Staff believes the Iraqi conflict will not end any time soon.
Iraq's authorities have been somewhat perplexed lately, according to him.
"Some units of Iraq's Armed Forces have declined to help the coalition forces in crushing the uprising, while the Shiites, whose support was important for the coalition, are involved in the uprising," recalled the general.
The general emphasized that the US-led coalition had won an easy victory over venal servicemen, rather than over the Iraqi people.
Gen. Baluyevsky also said the Russian Armed Forces were not linked to the Qatar developments.
(Some of the Arab newspapers wrote on Monday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov was involved in the assassination of Chechen terrorist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. Vyacheslav Sedov, chief of the Russian Defense Ministry's press service, called the statements "absurd." Yandarbiyev was killed on February 13 when his car was blown up in Doha, Qatar's capital).
Gen. Baluyevsky also said at the press conference that more than half of Russia's arms had been withdrawn from Transdniestria (self-proclaimed republic within Moldova).
"The OSCE is thoroughly monitoring the withdrawal of Russia's equipment and arms from Transdniestria, with OSCE officials monitoring the loading processes, the sealing of train cars and the trains' arrival at the destination point," said the general.
Moscow allowed international monitoring to rule out accusations of the failure to fulfill the obligations, according to the general.
General Baluyevsky emphasized that it was impossible to set the deadline for the withdrawal.
One or two trains laden with Russian military equipment and arms used to leave the Dniester region every day. Russia could have completed the pullout by the end of July with such a train schedule. However, the process has been halted and nobody knows when it will resume and will be completed, according to Gen. Baluyevsky who emphasized that it was not Russia's fault.
As the Bush administration wrestles with changes in the U.S.-Russia relationship, the issue of Iran's nuclear proliferation has re-emerged as the most important source of tension between the two states. This past weekend, the U.S. State Department imposed sanctions against two Russian firms based on "credible information" that they were selling equipment that could assist Iran in its quest for weapons of mass destruction.
The bogeyman of Russians providing Iran with "the bomb" remains alive and well in Washington. Indeed, at a hearing convened by the House International Relations Committee on March 18, the question of Russian support for Iran's nuclear program was repeatedly raised by members of Congress and cited as a major stumbling block for the development of partnership between the two countries. Successive U.S. administrations have viewed Russia as Iran's foremost nuclear supplier and thus believe that getting Moscow to cease all cooperation with Iran -- even in areas permitted under the Non-Proliferation Treaty -- is the principle counter-proliferation measure.
However, given Iran's rapid pace toward self-sufficiency, cutting off Russian assistance will no longer have a material impact on Iran's nuclear path. Iran can cross the nuclear threshold without receiving a single addition piece of Russian-manufactured dual-use technology.
Over the past few years, a series of revelations have revealed that the Islamic Republic is increasingly employing its civilian nuclear research program to gather sufficient knowledge and expertise to achieve a nuclear weapons capacity. The first shock came in August 2002, when U.S. intelligence reported that Iran had built extensive facilities for enrichment of uranium in Natanz. The Natanz installation currently contains 160 centrifuges needed for this purpose, with another 1000 under construction. The plan is to have 5000 operational centrifuges within three years.
In addition, it appeared that Tehran was completing another facility at Arak for heavy water production. The most recent IAEA inspection team has ominously found many traces of concentrated fuel suggesting that Iran has largely completed an indigenous fuel cycle. Given the sophisticated nature of Iran's program, traditional tools of counter-proliferation such as pressuring Russia and other countries not to engage in trade with Iran and instituting a more rigorous export control policy are unlikely to succeed.
Given that neither IAEA's more intrusive inspections nor pressure on Iran's suppliers is likely to obstruct Tehran's path, Washington has to devise a new strategy of pressure where Russia is an active participant. Tehran will only abandon its WMD program if it is made clear that violation of clearly demarcated red-lines -- including the testing and deployment of nuclear weapons -- would lead to Iran's total economic and diplomatic isolation.
The Islamic Republic remains vulnerable to multilateral economic pressure, particularly from its more reliable commercial partners such as the EU and Russia. Indeed, it was only after the European states suspended their trade discussions with Iran that the mullahs agreed to sign the additional protocols.
And this is a threat that the regime cannot ignore. Increasingly pressed to provide economic opportunities to a more and more restive (and young) population, Tehran needs trade and investment for survival much more than nuclear arms. As long as U.S. economic sanctions remain in place, Iran's Moscow connection is a vital lifeline and so gives Russia a good deal of influence.
If the United States is serious about preventing an Iranian nuclear breakthrough, Russia has to be a major part of the solution. A U.S. policy of continuously decrying Russian conduct and imposing sanctions and penalties is guaranteed to lead to Kremlin intransigence, at a time when cooperation is needed.
Moreover, the sanctions have no practical impact. The companies sanctioned are not seeking any investment from U.S. sources nor have any prospects for business deals with American firms. The only tangible result is an irritated Russian Foreign Ministry. Meanwhile, the Iranian government hopes to exploit dissension between the United States and its key partners in Europe and Asia to deflect attention away from its WMD programs.
Shifting the focus away from Russia's business deals onto Iran's treaty obligations is an appropriate first step. The onus should not be placed on Russian companies to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that technology they legally sell to Iran is being used for nefarious purposes. Russia cannot be expected to accept U.S. calls for isolating Iran, especially when nothing substantive is being offered in return.
Both Moscow and Washington, however, want a non-nuclear Iran. So rather than pressing the Kremlin to abandon all ties between Russia and Iran, the Bush administration would be best served by enlisting Russian help to monitor the situation in Iran, and, if necessary, to serve as an intermediary between Washington and Tehran.
Russian-American cooperation has helped to defuse the tensions on the Korean peninsula. There is no reason this model could not work in the Persian Gulf as well.
Ray Takeyh is a professor of national security studies at the National Defense University and adjunct scholar at the Center for American Progress. Nikolas Gvosdev is a senior fellow for strategic studies at The Nixon Center. They contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.
1. Russia Offers India Floating Nuclear Power Plants
(for personal use only)
In March this issue was discussed in India by Vladimir Asmolov, Russian Nuclear Agency representative, ITAR-TASS reported.
Russia has offered to supply floating nuclear plants to India as a way of bypassing international restrictions on nuclear technology transfers.
The NSG restrictions will not be broken as Russia plans to build a floating nuclear power plant and trawl it to India's shores. The plant will be operated by Russian personnel and India will only buy electricity.One 70-MW floating unit can generate enough electricity and thermal energy to support a town of 50,000 people or provide enough fresh water for one million people. Mounted on a barge it can be towed to any point along India's coastline and operate for four years without reloading nuclear fuel. However, the cost of electricity produced by the $150-million floating plant will be twice as high as for onland reactors. Russia is planning to construct a full-fledged floating nuclear plant by the year 2008 to supply power to the country's remote northern areas.
Russia is now constructing two nuclear reactors at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu under an accord signed before the NSG clamped down its restrictions in 1992. Being a member of the NSG, Russia cannot have any new nuclear deals with India, but floating reactors are different.
2. Indian Experts Start Training At Novovoronezh NPP
(for personal use only)
NOVOVORONEZH, (Voronezh region) April 7 (Itar-Tass) - A group of Indian specialists who will work at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant has started training at Russiaï¿½s Novovoronezh NPP, head of the training centre at the NPP Alexander Ivanchenko told Itar-Tass on Wednesday.
The group comprises 30 future NPP operators. ï¿½They are very young people who graduated from Indian higher educational establishments, but there are also graduates of European universities among them,ï¿½ Ivanchenko noted.
The group will undergo a special training course in Novovoronezh and then will be trained at the Kudankulam NPP under construction with Russian assistance.
This is the second group of specialists from the Kudankulam NPP. A total of 120 engineers of the Indian NPP will have undergone training in Novovoronezh.
The Novovoronezh educational-training centre is one of the largest educational establishments of this kind in Russia. It has modern equipment and training facilities that simulate operation of NPPs under various conditions.
The centre conducts initial education and refresher courses for engineers of Russian NPPs and for Chinese, Iranian and Bulgarian experts.
1. Russian Deputy Chief of Staff Speaks on US Small-Scale Nuclear Weapons
(for personal use only)
Report by Dmitriy Litovkin: "Terrorists Cannot Be Frightened With Nuclear Genie"
Russia is treating with great caution Washington's plans to develop small and super-small nuclear weapons, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov said Tuesday (6 April).
"This research could let the genie out of the bottle," Sergey Ivanov warned. "These weapons could disrupt the existing parity of nuclear deterrence and drastically alter the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. After all, even the smallest nuclear weapons are still nuclear weapons." (passage omitted on background to small-scale nuclear weapons' development)
"The United States should be the first to raise the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons to the super-maximum level," Yuriy Baluyevskiy, Russian deputy chief of General Staff, believes. "If the nuclear weapons which were formerly seen only as a political instrument of deterrence become battlefield weapons, that will be not simply scary but super-scary. We will be compelled to modify the development of our own strategic nuclear forces depending on Washington's plans for the use of these weapons."
In recent years Moscow has systematically been cutting back on enterprises for the production of nuclear weapons. Of the previous four plants, only two were to have been left by 2003. And even these were to be engaged in dismantling the nuclear weapons taken out of use.
"Russia does not need to conduct additional nuclear tests in the sphere of creating low-yield nuclear devices," former First Deputy Minister of Atomic Energy Lev Ryabev believes. "In Soviet times we viewed the entire range of possible weapons so for us there cannot be any innovations in that sphere. If there is a political decision, then the enterprises which belonged to the Ministry of Atomic Energy system will meet the military's requirements in full."
However, Moscow sees no need for this. It was Sergey Ivanov again who announced on Tuesday that Russia and NATO are prepared jointly to develop new types of weapons, including nonlethal weapons, needed for the fight against international terrorism. That will hardly apply to low-yield nuclear weapons: You cannot resolve tasks of that kind with their aid.
Russia named the location for the world's first floating nuclear power station yesterday. A stretch of land on its northern coast will become home to a project that for years seemed to be no more than a far-fetched dream.
The local government in the polar region of Archangel said yesterday they had allotted land for the 70-megawatt reactor near the Sevmashpredpriyatiye shipyard on the northern coast. It will occupy 1.5 hectares (3.8 acres) of sea space, and require 0.6 hectares of coastline to which it can be tethered.
Despite environmentalists calling the project "crazy", government officials yesterday said they were determined for it to go ahead.
Nikolai Shingaryov, spokesman for Federal Agency for Nuclear Energy, told the Guardian: "This is a project on which we have worked for several years. We designed the floating reactor. Engineering, social and environmental experts have all approved it. The only thing that we had yet to resolve was where to build it. And now we know."
He said several regions were competing to host the station.
"In the polar regions this is the cheapest and most ecologically clean way of producing electric energy and hot water. The technology of these KLT-40 reactors has been in use for thousands of hours on icebreakers and on nuclear submarines. It would be well-protected and it is no more dangerous than any other nuclear ship."
The site was chosen, officials told the Interfax agency yesterday, because there was no seismic activity or high winds there. Environmentalists reacted with alarm at the proposal.
Vladimir Kuznetsov, a nuclear power expert from the Russian Green Cross, said: "Our major objection is that all the information about the past work and reliability of this type of reactor is still completely secret."
He said the previous site for the reactor, just off the coast of Pevek in Chukotka, where the Chelsea FC boss Roman Abramovich is governor, was abandoned after studies - aided by his group - exposed its likely its environmental impact. He claimed that the studies for Archangel had been carried out by "spoon-fed" locals to prevent similar negative results.
Though the spent fuel will be taken by train to the reprocessing plant 1,800 miles away in Chelyabinsk in southern Russia, concerns were raised as to where low to medium level waste would be stored. Mr Kuznetsov said he was not aware of plans to dump waste in the sea, but did not know what "would happen in reality".
Yet Vladimir Slivyak, of the environmental group Ecodefense, said some waste would have to be dumped in the sea or "the station would need a whole separate ship to store this waste". He added that the station would have to be brought to shore every 10 years to change the fuel, and that its tethering to the shore could break in the severe storms of the northern region.
"If the plant loses its electricity source from the shore, it could blow up," he said.
Mr Slivyak said the project - for years a pipe dream of Russia's poorly funded yet imaginative nuclear industry - was close to realisation. He said other states needed to get involved in the project for it to become a reality as Rosenergoatom has only invested $1m (ï¿½545,000) thus far. "This is nothing," he said.
He added: "India is very interested in this, but Russia would face problems over its non-proliferation commitments if it gave them the technology. China is the most interested, but their conditions are not favourable to Moscow."
He said that despite this interest, it would probably take three to four years to build. But he added: "It is too crazy to be implemented, even in a country like Russia."
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - From India to China, energy-deficient Asia is spending billions of dollars to build nuclear power plants, sparking fierce competition among global equipment makers for the bonanza.
The blossoming of nuclear power in Asia, where 18 of the world's 31 units under construction are located, is dubbed by some as a renaissance of the sector and has become a massive magnet for European, Canadian and Russian suppliers.
The lure is so strong that the United States may relax this year its curbs on the sensitive technology transfer to select Asian nations as China has other sources of nuclear expertise.
"Nuclear power will certainly continue to increase as a share of the region's capacity and that's mainly driven by activities in China and India," said Charles Chang, Asia power and gas analyst at rating agency Fitch.
Nuclear fuel makes up 1.4-3.7 percent of the power output in Asia's two most populous nations, below the 35-40 percent for Japan and South Korea and 78 percent for France.
Few projects have broken ground in the West in the past few years as environmental, health and security concerns have persisted since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. A growing number of aging nuclear plants in Europe are reaching their expiry dates and it has not been decided if they would be replaced.
To clinch the lucrative contracts in Asia, nuclear equipment suppliers have focused on their safety records as well as competitive investment and production costs, analysts said.
Suppliers also have to convince their own governments to let them export such sensitive technologies. The governments must also build good ties to win such deals, industry experts said.
The suppliers include Framatome ANP, a venture between France's Areva and Germany's Siemens, Electricite de France, and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, an unlisted global nuclear equipment maker, and Russia.
Framatome said on its Web site it "is ready to take part in the new development phase of the Chinese nuclear program" and "is ready to issue the most suitable proposal to allow the Chinese industry to become more and more self-sufficient."
Washington bars firms such as Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric Co, a unit of state-owned British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, and General Electric, from building reactors in China.
But industry sources said Washington was expected to ease its control on China in September.
"U.S. firms are not allowed to provide a whole set of equipment to China, let alone signing contracts and providing loans to build the plants for us. But this September the restriction is expected to be lifted," said Liu Changxin, deputy secretary general with the Chinese Nuclear Society in Beijing.
China is about to build four 1,000-megawatt (one million kilowatt) plants costing $6 billion as part of its drive to quadruple nuclear capacity to 32,000 MW between 2005 and 2020.
Beijing plans to tender the projects in 2005, said the World Nuclear Association (WNA).
Westinghouse would bid to supply its latest reactors, known as AP 1000s. The projected cost for the AP 1000, scheduled to get design approval in September, will be $1,000-$1,200 per kilowatt.
Framatome would also make a bid, said the WNA, which represents nuclear companies and organizations.
Gilbert Vaughn, a Westinghouse spokesman, said the use of "a series of AP 1000s in China" could support as many as 5,000 skilled U.S. jobs over the course of construction.
"These jobs would help to load Westinghouse design-and-manufacturing facilities as well as those of U.S.-based suppliers, including major architectural, design and construction organizations," Vaughn said in an email to Reuters.
U.S. firms are now allowed to provide engineering services for China, which uses reactors from France, Canada and Russia. Russia's equipment is cheaper and Moscow has political clout over its neighbor due to China's demand for its arms, Liu said.
Most of the world's 440 nuclear plants, which supply 16 percent of global electricity, are in Japan, Europe and North America. The cost of building a nuclear plant is high but its fuel is cheaper than other alternative fuels.
China and India are trying to emulate Japan and South Korea, which built their first nuclear power plants decades ago with U.S. or European technology, but are now capable of making their own reactors and even exporting them, analysts said.
Japan's Mitsubishi Corp, Toshiba Corp and Hitachi Ltd supplies nuclear power parts to China.
India, which began construction on six plants in 2002 and aimed to have 20,000 MW of nuclear capacity by 2020, mainly uses equipment and technology from Canada and Russia.
Russia is supplying India's first large nuclear power plant via a Moscow-funded $3 billion contract, the WNA said.
In India and China, nuclear equipment makers are usually required to bid with proposals to fund the projects. The funds are normally via loans from the bidding firm's governments.
Although China and India are tapping the domestic bond market, the projects will remain largely out of reach of private capital, analysts said.
"They will never get project finance. It is too political," said Vijay Sethu, Asia power banker at ANZ Investment Bank.
Rosenergoatom, the state-owned nuclear power monopoly, may invest as much as $47 billion by 2020 to boost output, the Nuclear Energy Ministry said on its web site, citing Yevgeny Sharov, the company's deputy head of planning.
Rosenergoatom plans to almost double production capacity to as much as 42,000 megawatts by 2020 from 22,000 megawatts, Sharov said at a conference in St. Petersburg. The company aims to raise annual output to as much as 300 million megawatt-hours from 148.6 million megawatt-hours produced in 2003.
Rosenergoatom plans to raise production at a time when Russia is moving to break up Unified Energy Systems, which provides 70 percent of Russia's electricity.
Rosenergoatom will invest at least 1.1 trillion rubles ($38.6 billion) by 2020, with capacity rising to at least 32,000 megawatts and annual production reaching at least 230 million megawatt-hours, Sharov said.
MOSCOW, April 7 (Itar-Tass) -- President Vladimir Putin has sent a letter to his Chilean counterpart Ricardo Lagos Escobar, in which he addressed topical issues on the bilateral agenda.
ï¿½I hope you will agree that Russian-Chilean relations are on the rise. The closeness or coincidence of the approaches of Moscow and Santiago towards most of global and regional issues provide a good basis for the deepening of cooperation between our countries in the international arena,ï¿½ Putin said.
ï¿½Russia and Chile call for building a just multipolar world, a collective search for solutions to acute problems, the strengthening of the central role of the U.N. in maintaining global peace. The legislative bodies of our countries make a tangible contribution to the development of trust and partnership. We hope that the traditions of steady inter-parliamentary ties, which have been borne out again by this visit, will multiply,ï¿½ the document said.
Putin said Russia and Chile had everything they needed to boost trade and economic contacts, and enhance cooperation in the fields of high technologies, aerospace industry, and peaceful use of nuclear energy.
The president also called for the broadening of cooperation within the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. This is undoubtedly a significant area that opens up additional possibilities for cooperation, including in trade and economy. ï¿½I am wishing you success in fulfilling the important tasks that are facing your country as APEC president,ï¿½ Putin said.
The message was delivered by Federation Council chairman Sergei Mironov who was in Chile on an official visit.
5. Russia`S Nuclear Plants To Widen Uranium Consumption By Nearly 2 Fold To 8,500 Tons By 2020.
Gateway to Russia
(for personal use only)
Russia's nuclear plants will widen uranium consumption by nearly 2 fold to 8,500 tons by 2020, Grigory Mashkovtsev, rep. from Russian Academy of Science, said over the St. Petersburg Forum: Russian Fuel & Energy Complex: Regional Aspects.
G. Mashkovtsev said the nuclear plant output will widen 2 fold - from 150 bln kWh to 300 bln kWh by 2020 under the RF Energy Strategy. So they will need around 8,500 tons of natural uranium on year while today's consumption is 4,600 tons on year. With the fuel rod array and other product export taken into account, around 16,000 - 17,000 tons of uranium will be required by 2020. Currently, Russia has only a single uranium maker - Priargunskoe with the annual capacity of 6,800 tons of uranium. Russian-Kazakh joint venture Zarechnoe was established in 2003. The capacity is around 1,000 tons of uranium.
Russia has 545,000 tons of uranium in explored reserves. However the balance reserves account for no more than 25% reserves, G. Mashkovtsev said.
6. Russian Nuclear Officials Offered BNFL Further Cooperation
(for personal use only)
Former Russian Nuclear Ministry can enrich uranium, nuclear materials shipment, produce nuclear fuel and teach RW and SNF safe handling etc.
On February 3 in Moscow Minister of Atomic Energy Alexander Rumyantsev met British Nuclear Fuels Ltdï¿½s, or BNFL, Chief Executive Michael Parker, ITAR-TASS reported. The parties discussed the current cooperation between Minatomï¿½s companies and BNFL in the field of nuclear fuel cycle, reactor installation, nuclear safety improvement, nuclear plant upgrades and enhancement of performance. Russia was also presented by TVEL, Tekhsnabexport and Rosenergoatom companies. The particular issues discussed included interaction between TVEL and BNFL regarding fabrication of fresh nuclear fuel and its components; Tekhsnabexport talked over exports of the Russian uranium enrichment services and nuclear material shipments to foreign customers under the agreement between Tekhsnabexport and BNFL where BNFL secures transportation and logistics services for deliveries of the Russina uranium products under contracts with European and Japanese customers, Nuclear.ru reported.
In context of the U.K. program of rendering assistance to Russia to enhance nuclear power plant safety (Nuclear Safety Program ï¿½ NSP) and cooperation between Rosenergoatom and BNFL the issued were discussed regarding improvement of nuclear safety of reactor installations, upgrades and performance improvement of nuclear power plants, in particular, upgrades of diagnostics and monitoring systems, control and protection systems, radwaste management, increase of load factor, transfer of BNFLï¿½s experience in decommissioning of nuclear power units, and personnel training in accordance with the international quality standards, Nuclear.ru reported.
1. Appeal To The State Duma, Ministries, Departments And Scientists
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW - After a seminar entitled ï¿½Spent Nuclear Fuel and Radioactive Waste Handling and Storage in the Kola Peninsula,ï¿½ its participants voted to adopt an appeal to the State Duma of the Russian Federation, government ministries, federal departments, and scientists.
Noting the growing public concern over radioactive contamination, the appeal read, the State Dumaï¿½s Committee on Natural Resources and the Duma Committee on the Environment, consider the problem of spent nuclear fuel, or SNF, handling pressing and find it necessary to take immediate actions on funding environment enhancement in the Kola Peninsula.
The appeal also stated that the total amount of accumulated irradiated nuclear fuel is above 21,000 working channels and that solid radioactive waste is more than 25,000 cubic meters. Since the end of the 1980s, 114 nuclear power submarines have been withdraw from service in the Northern Fleet. An on-shore engineering base in Andreyeva Bay, which was created in the 1960s for nuclear power submarine maintenance, received and stored fresh and irradiated nuclear fuel and solid and liquid radioactive waste. During its long-term service, protective barriers from SNF and radioactive waste storage facilities degraded and partly lost their ability to function, causing the penetration of radioactive waste into the ground and the contamination of constructions, areas and waterways, and the formation of radioactive contamination sources.
During nuclear power plant operation, a considerable amount of SNF and radioactive waste has accumulated at the Lepse floating technical base. The Lepse is located on the Kola Bay in the center of Murmansk, a city with a population of approximately 350,000, which is almost half of the population of the Murmansk Region. The major portion of the SNF and radioactive waste aboard the Lepse is in damaged condition, presenting a real radio-ecological danger to the Murmansk Region.
The assessment of operational conditions at storage facility 2-A (Anreyeva Bay)has shown that permissible exposure time for staffers handling SNF is 19 seconds a day. Such a short time illustrates that the preparation of spent fuel for shipment will be complicated and time-consuming. The operaations are impossible without special technology and equipment.
The condition of casks and fuel at storage facility 3-A (the Lepse) is unknown because the storage examination is impossible for a fuel unloading project approved in 1982. It is evident that the fuel condition in this storage facility is the most critical, and radiation exposure is constantly increasing.
Rehabilitation works require the complete reconstruction of infrastructure concerning the safety of dangerous technological operations and the compliance of personnel with environment protection norms and regulations. At present, such an infrastructure is being created at federal expense and with western technical assistance. Only Norway has invested more than NOK 65m in Andreyeva Bay. Sweden and Great Britain are also funding the programme.
On this basis, the State Duma of the Russian Federation ratified a Framework Agreement on a multilateral nuclear and environmental program in the Russian Federation and a protocol to the agreement concerning claims, litigation and indemnity against liability, which were signed in Stockholm on May 21, 2003.
The purpose of the above-mentioned multilateral Framework Agreement and the Protocol is to develop a legal basis for a long-term cooperation to ensure nuclear and radiation safety in northwest Russia during nuclear power submarines dismantling and SNF and radioactive waste handling. Subsequently, a legal basis has been created in Russia for the program on environment enhancement in the SNF and radioactive waste storage areas.
Given the critical environmental situation in the Kola Peninsula and the importance of a rapid solution to this problem, the appeal says, it is necessary that the environmental enhancement of the Murmansk Region environment should be considered one of the goernmentï¿½s main priorities.
The seminar participants suggested the State Duma fundï¿½and increase fundingï¿½to resolve the above objectives, and to confirm the mutual interest in the enhancement of the Kola Peninsula environment at parliamentary meetings with the EEC and European countries.
Russiaï¿½s ministries and departments have been offered to regularly monitor the environment condition and implement programs on the enhancement of Russiaï¿½s Kola Peninsula.
The scientific community and Russiaï¿½s public expect the Russian Academy of Sciences to expand research in the robotic handling of SNF in ruined facilities to prevent further contamination to humansand to ensure safe handling of damaged SNF and radioactive waste.
2. Nuclear And Radiation Safety Remained Normal In March 2004
(for personal use only)
No radiation or nuclear accidents, which could result in nuclear or radiation safety reduction, were registered by the Russian Nuclear Regulatory (GAN) in March.
Automatic safety shutdown system was triggered once at the Kalinin NPP unit no.2 on 27.03.2004 due to the failure in the circulation pump. Safety and radiation levels remained normal. Automatic safety shutdown system at the research reactors was triggered four times last month. According to GAN, no serious safety violations or radiation consequences took place. A geophysical device IBN-8-5 with a source of ionizing radiation was accidentally dropped in the borehole in the Urals, Surgut, Tyumen region on 17.03.2004. The personnel were trying to get the device from the whole. Radiation levels remained normal in the area.
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (AFP) - Russia's Okhotsky Sea is in imminent danger of a nuclear disaster from two sunken power units, local lawmakers warned.
The 2.5-tonne IEU-1 units were lost in the Pacific Ocean's Okhotsky Sea in 1987 and 1997 due to emergencies during their transportation by helicopters, lawmakers told reporters.
One unit now rests off Sakhalin island's eastern Nizky cape, while another lies only 300 meters (yards) away from the island's northern Maria cape.
"In case their shell is destroyed by seawater, the released strontium-90 would contaminate all regions near the Okhotsky Sea," and the fish harvested here by fishing crews from many countries, the regional parliament's deputy Viktor Sereda said.
"All of Russia's Far East would be in danger due to migration of sea animals," Sereda added.
Russia's cashapped Pacific Fleet attempted to retrieve the units, but all expeditions fell through due to lack of financing, despite appeals by local ecologists.
Space is still an area in which military-confrontation takes place, but the world community is working towards its demilitarisation, President Vladimir Putin said at an event at the Federal Space Agency marking Space Exploration Day.
Space should become an arena for peaceful cooperation built on trust, sober calculation and clear understanding of all the national interests involved.
All-round expansion and intensification of work in space is a strategic priority for Russia. Only by developing its space exploration programme can Russia claim a leading place in the world.
DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of RANSAC. RANSAC takes no responsibility for the technical accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.
RANSAC's Nuclear News is compiled two to three times weekly. To be automatically removed from our mailing list, click on the following link: Remove Me From The List