MOSCOW, May 6 (RIA Novosti) - An Atom 2004 military exercise has been scheduled for next summer in Russia's Northwest, announced Nikolai Rogozhkin, second in command of the Interior troops. The soldiers will drill crucial industrial project defence against tentative terror attacks.
A similar exercise, Atom 2003, was held in Russia's north last year.
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Ukrainian security forces seized nearly 375 pounds of a radioactive material seen as a likely ingredient for a "dirty bomb" and arrested three people, authorities said Thursday.
In a joint action, Ukraine's police and state security agents seized two containers of cesium-137 and arrested three men from the southern city of Simferopol on the Crimean peninsula, police spokesman Yuriy Kondratyev told The Associated Press. An unspecified number of people were detained throughout Ukraine.
Cesium-137 is considered a likely ingredient for a so-called "dirty bomb," in which conventional explosives are combined with radioactive material.
Cesium-137, a highly radioactive material, is used in soil-testing gauges in construction and is found in photoelectric batteries and vacuum valves. It explodes if it comes into contact with water, and exposure to it can cause blood diseases, sterility and birth defects.
Police and state security agents acted on a tip-off that two buyers from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, were ready to purchase cesium at an estimated price of $60,000 per container, Kondratyev said. Each container seized weighed more than 187 pounds, he said.
Police declined to detail where the cesium was from or what roles the three suspects played in the case.
Western countries and the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency have repeatedly warned that former Soviet republics, including Ukraine, have become a traffickers' marketplace for radioactive materials.
Earlier this year, Ukrainian authorities arrested a man trying to take a container of about 1 pound of uranium into neighboring Hungary.
Washington has stepped up efforts to assist Ukraine in improving its border controls to prevent the smuggling of illegal weapons and materials and technology for weapons of mass destruction.
Lapses in arms disclosures and delays in chemical weapons destruction prompt proliferation fears
Just days before the seventh anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention on April 29, the General Accounting Office released a report charting obstacles to treaty implementation that pose proliferation concerns.
GAO acknowledges that the treaty and its implementing entity, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), have reduced the risks from these weapons. But GAO finds compliance with the treaty spotty, and hurdles to nonproliferation many.
Among the difficulties are delays in destroying declared stockpiles. GAO calculates that, as of November 2003, only 11% of the more than 70,000 metric tons of declared chemical weapons worldwide has been destroyed. Russia and the U.S.ï¿½holders of more than 95% of the declared arsenalsï¿½are unlikely to meet the treatyï¿½s extended deadline of 2012 for complete destruction of these weapons, GAO states.
A key aim of the treaty is to stem the spread of chemical weapons (CW), especially to terrorists. To achieve this, the treaty requires member countries to adopt sweeping national laws to criminalize treaty-banned activities. GAO says fewer than 40% of the 162 countries now parties to the treaty have adopted such laws.
One of the treatyï¿½s myriad requirements is that member countries submit timely and accurate declarations of their treaty-related activities. Reciting 2001 State Department assessments of arms control compliance, GAOï¿½without elaboration or more recent informationï¿½states that ï¿½China, Iran, Russia, and Sudan have not fully declared the extent of their chemical weapons programs.ï¿½
The GAO report also tracks OPCWï¿½s monitoring of declared CW destruction facilities operated by the military and of commercial facilities producing or using treaty-listed chemicals. By GAO tallies, from April 1997, when the treaty became effective, until the end of 2003, OPCW has conducted about 1,600 inspections in 58 member countries.
More than half of those inspections have occurred at military facilities. Some 634 inspections have taken place among the 5,460 declared commercial facilities. But GAO warns of impending problems for the resourceapped OPCW as its workload increases in the future.
Although the report makes passing reference to compliance activities of other countries possessing chemical weapons, it focuses primarily on Russiaï¿½s efforts to dispose of its vast arsenal. This is not surprising because Russia is a prime concern of the reportï¿½s requester, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee.
A GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL familiar with treaty implementation who asks not to be named tells C&EN that Hunter ï¿½is a pronounced skeptic on any U.S. funding for Russiaï¿½s CW destruction program, even after [the terrorist attacks] of 9/11.ï¿½ Others say Hunter has become more open-minded in the post-September 2001 world.
Funding for the dismantling of Russian nuclear and chemical weapons comes from the Defense Departmentï¿½s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, also known as the Nunn-Lugar program. Hunter was successful in zeroing out CW destruction funding under CTR for fiscal 2000 and 2001. But since 2001, President George W. Bush ï¿½has fully supported the effort to destroy the Russian stockpile,ï¿½ Paul F. Walker says, and CW destruction money has been restoredï¿½but with conditions. Walker is director of the nongovernmental Global Green USAï¿½s Legacy Program that facilitates the elimination of Russiaï¿½s Cold War weapons.
One condition on CTR funding, Walker says, is that the Pentagon certify to Congress that Russia has fully and accurately declared its stockpile. ï¿½Russians have refused to respond adequately to that request because they see it as an attack on their sovereignty and a sign of lack of trust and cooperation between the two countries.ï¿½ So each year since 2001, President Bush has had to waive the condition to release the flow of CTR funding. The need for the waiver has ï¿½led to some delays in the fundsï¿½ reaching Russia, Walker explains.
ï¿½AMERICAï¿½S APPROACH to supporting Russiaï¿½s weapons destruction efforts has been hardball,ï¿½ Walker says. An example he cites is an unpublicized U.S. proposal ï¿½that the U.S. have access anytime, anyplaceï¿½within a 24-hour noticeï¿½to suspected but undeclared stockpiles.ï¿½ Russia has balked at this proposal.
The 2001 State Department claimï¿½repeated in GAOï¿½s reportï¿½that Russia has not fully disclosed its CW holdings or the full extent of its CW program is based on ï¿½old intelligence when it was thought the Russians had a much larger stockpileï¿½ than the 40,000 metric tons they declared to OPCW, Walker says. ï¿½No one knows whether the old intelligence reports were correct or whether Russia had destroyed part of its stockpile over the last couple of decades,ï¿½ he adds.
ï¿½There is no current proof that the Russians have hidden stockpiles,ï¿½ Walker says. ï¿½There is no rational reason why they would hide any stocks because of the large political downside if any were found out,ï¿½ he continues. ï¿½Iï¿½m very dubious that the old allegations of undeclared stockpiles are valid.ï¿½
Based on those intelligence reports, the State Department declared in 2001 that Russia was developing a new generation of nerve agentsï¿½known as Novichok agents. It was thought then that these agents could circumvent the treaty and possibly defeat existing detection and prophylactic measures.
ï¿½To the best of my knowledge,ï¿½ Walker says, ï¿½offensive research and development of Novichok agents has been stopped.ï¿½ A government official says the Russians ï¿½are not producing anything now, but lab work continues. The concern is that this research is for offensive use.ï¿½ The treaty allows member countries to conduct research on small quantities of prohibited agents for defensive, but not offensive, purposes.
GAO repeats the Pentagon and State Department line that Russia, in addition to incomplete disclosure of its CW programs, lacks a credible CW destruction plan. The absence of such a plan ï¿½has hindered and may further delay destruction efforts, leaving Russiaï¿½s vast chemical weapons arsenal vulnerable to theft or diversion,ï¿½ GAO contends.
Of Russiaï¿½s seven stockpile sites, the most vulnerable to theft is the one at Shchuchï¿½ye. This site, east of the Urals on the steppes of Siberia, borders Kazakhstan. Russia considers Chechens in this region terrorists.
The destruction facility at Shchuchï¿½ye, about 12 miles from the stockpile site, is under construction with support from the U.S. Shchuchï¿½ye holds about 14% of Russiaï¿½s total arsenal, mostly nerve agent in artillery shells. These are portable weapons and, as the government official says, ï¿½the problem with small munitions is an insider problem. The best way to solve that problem is to destroy the weapons.ï¿½
The Shchuchï¿½ye facility is also slated to destroy small nerve gas munitions transported from the Kizner storage facility. Shchuchï¿½ye and Kizner together warehouse about 30% of Russiaï¿½s arsenal.
The U.S. has underwritten security upgrades at Shchuchï¿½ye to the tune of $20 million. This hardening of the facility was completed in late 2003. But as the government official mentions, Shchuchï¿½yeï¿½s weapons still remain vulnerable to theft and diversion. This lingering vulnerability has made Hunter ï¿½a bit more receptive and understanding of Russiaï¿½s chemical demilitarization projects now,ï¿½ Walker says.
Security enhancements aside, the government official contends that the ï¿½Russians donï¿½t have a practical plan for destroying their CW stockpile.ï¿½ Such a planï¿½a condition for further CTR fundingï¿½was to be supplied by the Russians this past March. They missed that deadline.
Amy Smithson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, and an expert on the treaty and its implementation, argues that ï¿½the Russians do have a credible plan.ï¿½ But, she says, ï¿½putting that plan into action requires significant [foreign] funding.ï¿½
The government official counters by saying ï¿½a plan is more than spelling out what destruction method will be used,ï¿½ which in the Russian case is a two-step neutralization process (C&EN, Dec. 1, 2003, page 28). A plan, this official says, ï¿½spells out how you get it all accomplishedï¿½detailed schedules for destruction, testing, and operation. A plan calculates how much money is needed to accomplish the things you plan to do, and where this money is coming from.ï¿½ Most important, ï¿½the schedules and the finances need to be realistic.ï¿½
For example, the official says, ï¿½Russia is still claiming that Shchuchï¿½ye will begin operating in 2005. That is not credible.ï¿½ Pentagon officials have said that 2009 is more likely.
Based on information the Pentagon has provided, GAO estimates that Russia will not completely destroy its arsenal until 2027. Comparable information puts the U.S. date for complete destruction at 2014.
In their comments to GAOï¿½s draft report, State and Pentagon officials said the estimate was ï¿½misleading.ï¿½ In its comments, the State Department wrote: ï¿½The 2027 date assumes a single nerve agent destruction facility, Shchuchï¿½ye, yet elsewhere the report cites Russian plans for three additional nerve agent destruction facilities.ï¿½
Walker says that ï¿½a realistic goalï¿½ for complete dismantlement of the Russian arsenal is probably ï¿½2020 at best.ï¿½
GAO also misrepresents the amount of funding Russia has contributed to its destruction program. Foreign donors, including the U.S., Germany, Italy, and Canada, have spent about $585 million, with commitments of more than $1.7 billion.
The accounting agency originally said Russia had spent only $95 million. The Pentagon and the State Department corrected GAO by pointing out that Russia had spent $95 million for the Shchuchï¿½ye site but about $420 million for all CW destruction-related activities. In addition to Russia, GAO says China, Iran, and Sudan ï¿½had not acknowledged the full extent of their chemical weapons programs.ï¿½ These countries are all parties to the treaty.
Again, relying on the 2001 State Department report, GAO says, ï¿½China maintains an active chemical weapons research and development program, a possible undeclared chemical weapons stockpile, and weapons-related facilities that were not declared to OPCW.ï¿½ Iran, GAO says, ï¿½is seeking to retain and modernize key elements of its chemical weapons program.ï¿½ In Sudanï¿½s case, GAO says this African nation has set up an R&D program to produce chemical weapons indigenously.
A chemical warfare expert who asks to remain anonymous questions the earlier intelligence assessments based on ï¿½how far off the markï¿½ intelligence estimates were for Iraqï¿½s weapons of mass destruction.
HOWEVER, the government official says the 2001 assessment for China remains unchanged today, although ï¿½what ï¿½programï¿½ means is hard to figure outï¿½ from publicly available information. This official says the U.S. ï¿½still believes Iran has an active ï¿½program.ï¿½ ï¿½ But, the official says, the Sudan allegations should be taken with a ï¿½very large grain of salt.ï¿½
Libya, which recently became a treaty member, has fully declared its chemical arsenal. In doing so, it became the sixth declared possessor state.
In addition to Libya, the U.S., and Russia, the three other possessor statesï¿½ which together have about 3% of the worldï¿½s stocks of chemical weaponsï¿½are Albania, India, and South Korea. Under an agreement with South Korea, OPCW never publicly names it as a possessor state. Instead, OPCW calls it ï¿½a state party.ï¿½
By February, Libya had destroyed some 3,300 empty aerial bombs. Nearly 24 tons of mustard agent and hundreds of tons of precursor chemical remain to be destroyed. A number of U.S. companies are vying for contracts to help Libya destroy its mustard gas using incineration.
GAO makes no recommendations on how member states can ensure that the treaty continues ï¿½to credibly address nonproliferation concerns worldwide.ï¿½ Instead, GAO notes that member countries and OPCW face tough choices in addressing destruction delaysï¿½especially in Russiaï¿½s programï¿½the slow progress in criminalizing treaty-prohibited activities, and OPCWï¿½s increasing inspection workload.
1. U.S. Energy Department Personnel Conduct Nonproliferation, Export Control Seminars in Several Countries
Global Security Newswire
(for personal use only)
In the past three months, the U.S. Energy Department has conducted training programs on nonproliferation and export controls in Russia, other former Soviet states and Eastern Europe, according to a report by a department official published this week by the Monterey Institute of International Studiesï¿½ NIS Export Control Observer (see GSN, March 23).
In early February, a team of Energy Department specialists conducted two regional workshops of nuclear-related export controls in St. Petersburg, according to Richard Talley, of the departmentï¿½s Office of Export Control Policy and Cooperation. The workshops were the first to be held by the department in cooperation with the Russian Economic Development and Trade Ministry.
Also in February, Energy Department personnel, along with speakers from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Euratom and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, conducted two workshops on nuclear export control cooperation activities in Ukraine. In March, U.S. and Ukrainian technical export control specialists held a course of nuclear-related commodity identification for Ukrainian customs inspectors.
In mid-March, U.S. technical specialists held a weeklong course on WMD commodity identification in Sofia for Bulgarian customs inspectors, Talley reported. Later that month, Energy Department personnel, along with the Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Committee, held a course in the Kazakh city of Almaty on nonproliferation and internal compliance programs for Kazatomprom, the countryï¿½s national nuclear operator, and several small nuclear entities (Richard Talley, NIS Export Control Observer, April 2004).
BRUSSELS, Belgium ï¿½ For all their discussions on security matters, world leaders meeting next month in Sea Island appear ready to give short shrift to the most pressing security problem in the world: the possibility that terrorists will acquire nuclear materials, former Sen. Sam Nunn said Monday.
Nunn spoke after a U.S.-European security exercise, dubbed "Black Dawn," in which officials from 15 countries participated in a fictional scenario where al-Qaida terrorists acquired highly enriched uranium.
In one portion of the exercises, the terrorists merely acquired the material. In the second portion, the terrorists detonated a crude 10-kiloton nuclear bomb at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
The results: 40,000 people killed immediately. An additional 300,000 in need of urgent medical attention. Hospitals overwhelmed. Stock markets around the world crashed.
"Trillions and trillions and trillions of dollars are at stake," Nunn said. "How long would it take to restore confidence?"
Rolf Ekeus, chairman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the scenario was plausible. Terrorists have become more violent and less discriminating, he said. And that development coincides with the availability of nuclear material from Russia.
"Europe is as much a target as is the United States," he said.
The conferees concluded prevention is preferable by far to trying to cope with such a catastrophe. Instead of waiting for a post-event commission, such as the one considering what should have been done before Sept. 11, 2001, world leaders should take preventive action now.
Nunn, who retired from the Senate in 1997, heads the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization funded by CNN founder Ted Turner. Its goal is to reduce the risk of nuclear materials and know-how falling into the hands of terrorists or a rogue state.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative organized the exercise, along with the European Union and NATO. About 55 officials from 15 countries and a half-dozen international bodies participated.
Asked whether this was the most pressing issue world leaders could discuss at the Group of Eight summit meeting in June, Nunn replied, "I don't think anything else is even close."
Two years ago, the G-8 offered a $20 billion commitment over 10 years to assist Russia and other former Soviet republics in destroying and safeguarding weapons. Nunn said he would like to see G-8 leaders meeting in Georgia set a schedule for distributing those funds.
But he said he sees no evidence yet that world leaders are prepared to do more than offer renewed pledges.
Isn't it amazing how often we miss the mark in this country in the name of overkill?
The most recent example is the denial or serious delays of visas since the 9-11 attacks to dozens of top Russian scientists. The scientists were invited here by the nation's nuclear weapons laboratories - including Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque - to participate in research and collaborations on "threat-reduction activities."
Among the topics on the agenda were nuclear nonproliferation and how to keep nuclear weapons, materials and technology from falling into the hands of terrorists.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman is right to complain to federal authorities, including directly to Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. The United States is bungling the important goal of protecting U.S. homes and lands with bone-headed actions such as these.
It's a little like the airport merry-go-round, in which airport security guards force motorists, who want to pick up arrivals, to drive in circles and waste gasoline, rather than stop - even as Americans spend billions of dollars and lose hundreds of American military lives protecting oil interests in the Middle East.
Sooner or later, the nation will realize that it can't have it both ways.
WASHINGTON - Russian scientists, invited to speak at Albuquerque's Sandia National Laboratories, have had their visas denied or delayed by the U.S government, Sen. Jeff Bingaman said Monday.
The visa problems have "resulted in the delay or cancellation of threat reduction activities" at Sandia and forced other non-proliferation events to be moved to Western Europe, the Silver City Democrat said in a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.
In the last 28 months Sandia officials invited 305 scientists from Russia or the former Soviet Union to the United States to talk about how to keep their nuclear weapons, material or technology out of the hands of terrorists.
The U.S. government turned around and kept 86 of them from coming by delaying or denying the visas, Bingaman said.
His letter was released as part of briefing Monday by the American Chemical Society for congressional staff on the problems foreign scientists and students are having entering the United States since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Sandia spokesman John German confirmed Bingaman's numbers.
The scientists' visas are being delayed because they are suspected technology thieves, not terrorists.
In 1998, the United States began "Visas Mantis" checks to prevent the entry of persons who might attempt to export U.S. technology.
A laudable goal, said James Langer, vice president of the National Academy of Sciences. But in 2000 there were just 1,000 "Mantis" checks; last year there were 20,000, he said.
"It's clearly being used as a way to turn down visa applications or at least delay them a long time," said Langer.
Auditors for the General Accounting Office reported earlier this year that "Mantis" checks now take an average of 67 days and they found some which lasted more than 120 days.
Some foreign scientists in the United States are afraid to go home because they know their re-entry will be delayed. Langer said he knows one Ukrainian scientist who decided he could not go home to attend his mother's funeral.
A top official at the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged the visa delays, but said they should be reduced once a Terrorist Screening Center is fully up to speed. The center was established at the Justice Department last year to combine the databases of numerous government agencies.
Previously, names had to be sent for review to several different agencies, some of which could only check files by hand, explained Stewart Verdery, assistant secretary of for border and transportation security, policy and planning at the Department of Homeland Security.
Verdery said he would have to learn more of the facts before responding directly to Bingaman's letter about the Sandia program. But if the United States is inviting those scientists here, they should be a priority for visas, he said.
1. US And Russia Nukes: Still On Cold War, Hair-Trigger Alert
The Christian Science Monitor
(for personal use only)
A Clinton-era plan to enhance US-Russia early warnings systems languishes under bureaucracy.
MOSCOW - It promised to be a quiet evening at the Soviet nuclear early warning center when Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov settled into the commander's seat on Sept. 26, 1983.
But within minutes, Colonel Petrov was locked in perhaps the most dangerous drama of the cold war. An alarm sounded, warning screens blinked. A computer map on the wall showed the hostile launch of a US nuclear warhead.
"Every second counted.... My legs were unsteady, my hands were trembling, my cozy armchair became a hot frying pan," says the former officer. It only got worse. Within five minutes the computer registered five more launches; the alarm flashed: "Missile Attack."
The decision that Petrov made in those pressure-cooked minutes - that the computer was in error, and the elaborate early warning system that he helped build was wrong - may have prevented a nuclear holocaust.
Twenty years later, there is growing concern that a similar nuclear miscue could happen again. The lone superpower and its former rival still aim thousands of missiles on hair-trigger alert at each other's major cities. As the US rushes to deploy a missile shield this summer designed to intercept North Korean warheads, Clinton-era plans that would improve both US and deteriorating Russian detection systems are stalled.
At presidential summits in both 1998 and 2000, the US and Russia announced plans for a joint, real-time warning system in Moscow. The blueprint, drawing on American's sophisticated satellite network and Russia's wide radar net, promised to keep better tabs on the superpower arsenals as well as on terrorist threats.
"I wish I could say there is no chance of it [today]," Petrov says, in a matchbox kitchen with a yellowing star chart. "But when we deal with space - when we [play] God - who knows what will be the next surprise?"
Dreams of joint efforts ground to a halt long ago. Meanwhile, neglect has left Russia's system in disrepair.
"The fact is, the Russians are flying blind," says Jon Wolfsthal, a nonproliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "There are huge portions of their periphery that are unmonitored because their satellites are down, and they've lost a number of [Soviet-era] radar sites."
The result is a growing concern about false readings that could show a hostile nuclear launch, and provoke real retaliation. Such fears have been augmented by a string of Russian military accidents, from failed test missile launches to a sunken nuclear submarine.
After a secret year-long investigation into the 1983 incident, Petrov says the false readings that shocked him and his team were attributed to a rare but predictable reflection off the earth. The system was fooled again in 1995, when Russians briefly thought that a scientific launch from Norway was a nuclear-tipped US missile heading their way. President Boris Yeltsin reportedly brought out the launch suitcase called the "nuclear football" - perhaps the closest it's ever come to being used in Soviet or Russian history - before coming to believe there was no need to respond.
"There are examples of weather satellite launches, the full moon rising, flocks of geese - all these horror stories in history," says Mr. Wolfsthal. Part of the solution was meant to be a joint warning center built in Moscow. It was to have been completed years ago.
When President Bill Clinton and Mr. Yeltsin first announced plans to build the center in 1998, it was heralded as a breakthrough in preventing a "false warning" leading to accidental war. When Russia's new President Vladimir Putin signed the deal in 2000 with Mr. Clinton, the White House touted it as a "milestone in ensuring strategic stability."
Expert advice backed up that view, with compelling findings in the mid-1990s that combining the US and Russian systems would significantly boost results.
"We went through a whole simulation of different missiles fired by different countries from the Mideast to Europe at different targets at different trajectories," says Bruce Blair, president of the Center for Defense Information in Washington who oversaw the detailed research with Russian scientists.
"We looked at detections of the US system operating alone, and the Russian one alone, and found the combined performance would be 20 to 70 percent better," says Mr. Blair, a former Minuteman launch officer and early proponent of the joint warning center.
With seven Russian radars stretched from the Baltics to Azerbaijan - which can pick-up Middle East launches - and the US satellites, "you just have a lot more assets focusing on the threat," adds Blair. "We could work together and have a much better ability to detect third country attacks."
US and Russian leaders had another reason to be optimistic. Russian missile officers used a US command center in Colorado Springs, Colo., for months at the end of 1999, to familiarize themselves with the US early-warning system - and to be on hand during the Millenium New Year - to ensure direct contact with Moscow in case any Y2K computer "bug" affected the Russian system.
"It was incredibly useful, and built a lot of trust between ... early-warning groups on both sides," says Carnegie's Wolfsthal. "But in the end, they went away, and we're left without real-time sharing."
The joint project, first envisioned for completion in mid-2001, has foundered on everyday issues of what Russian taxes should be paid for imported US equipment, and legal concerns about liability.
"It's a lack of political will on both sides," says Vladimir Dvorkin, a former major general in Russia's nuclear forces, and a top strategist until 2001. Russia's early warning is "less trustworthy" than the American one, he says, though its readings "will never serve as the only guide [to launch]."
Even more important, General Dvorkin says, is "joint analysis of threats coming from unstable regions with authoritarian regimes."
The mundane points stalling the project are surprising security experts. "If you're a lawyer at the State Department, [liability and taxes] may be very important issues," says Wolfsthal. "But if you are concerned about the geostrategic survival of the human species, they are minuscule in their relevance."
Experts on both sides are planning to issue a wake-up call, however. A group has planned to begin a year-long modeling exercise that will examine the risks of inaction, and the need for the joint center.
"We want to show what can happen without this center," says Pavel Zolotarev, a former Strategic Forces major general. "If such a center were already open here, these threats would probably not lead to dangerous situations. We'll get these results in a year, but who knows when we will be able to convince the leadership?"
Over the past decade, the US has spent roughly $7 billion funding nuclear-threat-reduction programs to control "loose nukes" and to secure weapons-grade nuclear material and scientific expertise that might be easy targets for terrorists. The $1 billion total spent per year on all threat reduction amounts to less than one-third of one percent of US defense spending.
Taking the thousands of warheads off hair-trigger alert, experts say, would also help lower risks. Experts estimate that there is a world total of 30,000 assembled nuclear weapons and enough bomb-grade material to create nearly a quarter million more.
Some Russian experts argue that, since they have no intention of ever "launching on warning," Moscow is deliberately letting its early-warning system deteriorate.
"Certainly if you look at what they do to maintain their satellite constellation, it's pathetic," says Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at Harvard's Belfer Center. There is virtually no coverage of areas where US submarines could launch missiles - long considered the first phase of any attack on Soviet forces.
"I can't imagine a Russian president awakened in the middle of the night with a blip on the radar screen, saying 'Yes, I'm going to launch the missiles on that basis,' knowing what he has to know about the state of their early-warning system," says Mr. Bunn.
1. US Lawmakers Do Not Trust Iran, Call On Russia To Suspend Nuclear Cooperation With It
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON, May 7 (RIA Novosti) -US House of Representatives at its session Thursday afternoon called on Russia to suspend nuclear cooperation with Iran.
The overwhelming majority of the House (376 against 3) supported the draft resolution on Iran saying, among other things, that the US Congress "deplores any efforts by any country to provide any assistance to Iran in the nuclear sector".
The US Congress "calls on Russia to suspend its nuclear cooperation with Iran and refrain from making an agreement on supply of nuclear fuel to the reactor in Bushehr" until the Iranian side halts "finally and verifiably all activities designed to ensure creation of own nuclear arsenal, including a complete termination of the uranium enrichment project and construction of the plutonium reprocessing plant," the resolution points out.
An appeal to Russia is part of a package of measures aimed at enhancing the international control over Iranian nuclear programs and ensuring that Iran fully meet its commitments to the IAEA.
Republican Henry Hyde, Chairman of the House's Foreign Affairs Committee, and Democrat Tom Lantos, an influential Committee member, co-authored the draft resolution.
Russian specialists have been constructing a nuclear power plant in Bushehr (a town in the north of Iran's Persian Gulf coastline) since early 1990s. Previously, under the Shah's regime, the project had been awarded to a German company, but after the 1979 Islamic Revolution the Germans, under a strong US pressure, had to abandon all work on the site. Before 1979, the Shah was the main US ally in the Middle East and South East Asia and the United States had no objections against the its satellite's nuclear program. Now the situation has changed: the USA appears to have permanently ranked Tehran among the states of `the axis of evil`, and in this context any cooperation with the `rogue nation` must be forbidden. For its part, Moscow believes that its assistance to Iran in development of the Iranian own nuclear power industry is in full compliance with all relevant international treaties, including the basic treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (Tehran, in contrast to Israel, is a party to that treaty). Moreover, in order to eliminate the international community's concerns, Moscow and Tehran agreed to sign a special protocol on mandatory export of all spent nuclear fuel to Russia.
2. RF, US Scientists, Military, Offs Discuss Asia-Pacific Security, Pay Special Attention To The North Korean
(for personal use only)
VLADIVOSTOK, May 5 (Itar-Tass) -- Partakers of the seminar entitled ï¿½Challenges of the twenty first century and security policy in the Asia-Pacific region: outlook from Russia and the United Statesï¿½ that opened here on Wednesday focused attention on strengthening security and expanding cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Russian and US scientists, politicians and military experts pay special attention to the North Korean nuclear problem, Chinaï¿½s role in the Asia-Pacific region and international investment projects in Russiaï¿½s Far East.
The delegation from the leading North American analytical institute on problems of the Asia-Pacific region --- the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies headed by its president Mr. Stackpole represents the US side, a source in the territorial administration told Itar-Tass.
Vice-governor of the Maritime Territory Viktor Gorchakov, rector of the Far Eastern State University Vladimir Kurilov and director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Yevgeniy Kozhokin are taking part in the seminar.
The territorial administration and the Interregional Institute of Public Sciences of the Far Eastern State University organised the seminar.
MOSCOW. May 5 (Interfax) - Investment in the construction of new nuclear energy capacity is growing and will reach 24 billion rubles this year, compared with 22.2 billion rubles last year and 14.5 billion rubles in 2001, Rosenergoatom General Director Oleg Sarayev said at a press conference.
"There is activity in investment. But due to the rising cost of materials and equipment it is basically insignificant," he said.
Rosenergoatom uses this money to complete generating blocks that are nearly finished, to increase the utilization ratio and to handle radioactive waste, he said.
Sarayev said the company plans to launch the fifth block at the Kursk Nuclear Power Plant in June 2005. A commission is working at the plant to determine the cost of completing the block. "The results will be announced in May and the actual cost will be determined," he said.
He said building a new block at the Kalinin Nuclear Power Plant cost more because a new automated control system was built. "This is a new system that will be the foundation for future plants," he said.
2. Russia's Limit on Uranium Exports Sends Prices Higher
(for personal use only)
May 5 (Bloomberg) -- Cameco Corp. plans to boost annual output 18 percent at Canada's McArthur River mine, the world's richest uranium deposit. Areva SA of France is investing $90 million to develop a mine in southern Kazakhstan. And International Uranium Corp. is searching the Gobi Desert.
Producers are scouring the world for uranium. The price of the radioactive element has risen 51 percent since the Russian government decided in October to limit its uranium exports, which are used to generate half of all U.S. nuclear power. At the same time, world demand will outpace supply by 11 percent in the decade ending in 2013 as inventories decline, the World Nuclear Association trade group forecasts.
``You just have to look at the supply and demand of uranium to see there's going to be a huge shortage,'' said Len Racioppo, president of Montreal-based Jarislowsky Fraser Ltd., Cameco's second-biggest shareholder, with 3.44 million shares as of March.
Uranium reached a 20-year high of $17.75 a pound on the spot market in March after Russia decided to use more of the metal for 25 nuclear plants it plans to build by 2020. To keep prices from rising further, power companies began avoiding spot purchases, and prices leveled off in April. Buyers are instead focused on material needed in 2005 and 2006.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia became the world's second-biggest exporter of the metal after Canada, selling uranium culled from aging nuclear warheads to reactor owners such as Chicago-based Exelon Corp. and Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp.
Reactor fuel made from Russian Cold War weapons now powers one in 10 U.S. homes and businesses, according to the Washington- based Nuclear Energy Institute trade group.
The shares of Saskatoon, Canada-based Cameco climbed 74 percent to C$64.85 in the year ended today, while the shares of Darwin, Australia-based miner Energy Resources of Australia Ltd. gained 51 percent to A$3.50 and Vancouver-based International Uranium shares rose more than fivefold to C$1.95. Each stock outperformed the 21 percent increase in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.
The added uranium production by Cameco and other producers carries risks. Russia might reverse its limit on exports, regulators in countries such as Canada might delay granting environmental approval for mining or prices might decline as supply rises.
A Russian decision to unlock inventories to boost government revenue would undermine prices and reduce mining company profits, says Greg Barnes, an equity analyst at Canaccord Capital Corp. in Toronto, who has a ``buy'' rating on Cameco stock. ``Prices would plunge if there was new Russian supply,'' Barnes said.
Developing new uranium mines will tie up capital for years without a return. A new mine may take more than 10 years to pass environmental requirements from discovery to production. Cameco and Cogema Resources Inc., a unit of Areva, invested C$416 million ($305.2 million) in the McArthur River mine from discovery in 1988 until production began in 1999.
Russia will retain 74 million pounds of warhead uranium from this year through 2013 as a result of the limit, said Cameco Senior Vice President George Assie. Until production catches up with demand for uranium, nuclear power companies in the U.S., Europe and Asia will need to find a source to replace the metal that Russia will keep for itself, he said.
Racioppo of Jarislowsky Fraser said global demand may outstrip supply. Two of the world's three largest uranium mines had production delays last year, compounding a 73 percent decline in the stockpiles of U.S. utilities over 20 years through 2002 as power companies trimmed inventory costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Owners of homes and businesses may not have higher uranium prices reflected in their electricity bills for at least two years because U.S. reactor owners tend to replace only about a third of their fuel every 18 to 24 months, said Rose Cummings, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy.
Mining by companies such as Cameco and Energy Resources of Australia produced 92 million of the 172 million pounds of uranium used by civilian reactors in 2003, with the rest consisting of the inventories of utilities, reprocessed uranium and material from Russian warheads.
The Russian cap on uranium sales compounded a decline in available supply caused by a three-month closing at Cameco's McArthur River mine after an April 2003 flood. Supplies were further squeezed by delays at the Olympic Dam mine in Australia, the third-biggest uranium mine, and by concern that higher costs would lead to closing Rio Tinto Plc's Rossing mine in Namibia by 2007.
``Usually you don't have so many significant events happening in such a short time,'' says James Cornell, 49, president of RWE AG's Danbury, Connecticut-based RWE Nukem Inc., the world's third-largest uranium supplier.
Under a 1993 accord with the U.S. government, Russia agreed to sell as much as 24 million pounds of warhead uranium a year through 2013 to nuclear power companies in the U.S., Europe and Asia. The accord was part of a U.S. government plan to give Russia a financial incentive to decommission warheads and to ensure that nuclear material didn't end up in the hands of terrorists.
In the years after the accord was reached, the increased uranium supply helped push prices as low as $7.10 a pound in late 2000, according to Ux Consulting Co. LLC of Roswell, Georgia. The price was too low to cover the costs for mining companies to explore for the fuel that powers the world's 439 nuclear reactors, including 103 in the U.S., said Ron Hochstein, chief executive officer of International Uranium.
The assumptions of a steadily expanding uranium supply from warheads changed in October when Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy said it would tighten control on warhead uranium as the country's demand expands.
``Demand for more low-enriched uranium in Russia is rising because Russia is building new reactors,'' said Vladimir Smirnov, director general at AO Techsnabexport, or Tenex, part of Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy responsible for nuclear exports.
Russia's warhead uranium limit made companies reassess the difficulty of securing metal supplies, says Cameco Chief Executive Jerry Grandey.
``It was a complete change in supply-and-demand assumptions,'' says Grandey, 57. ``There just aren't any other big new supplies of uranium out there.''
Reduced Flow to U.S.
The end result of Russia's cap and talks between Tenex and Cameco, RWE Nukem and Cogema will be reduced flow to the U.S., Europe and Asia of as much as 27 percent, or 74 million pounds, from 2004 through 2013, said Assie, who took part in the meetings.
Cameco is seeking approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to boost production from its McArthur River mine in northern Saskatchewan by 18 percent to 22 million pounds, spokesman Lyle Krahn said.
Areva plans to pull about 3.9 million pounds a year of uranium from southern Kazakhstan's Muyunkum deposit to take advantage of ``strong demand and rising prices,'' the Paris-based company said last week.
``It's really starting to have the flavor of a uranium rush,'' says Hochstein, 42, who is traveling to the Gobi desert for the first time as his company, North America's only uranium recycler, revives a mining unit left dormant since 1999. ``Russia's created a sense of urgency.''
May Make Profit
The higher uranium prices mean International Uranium's mining unit may make a profit in five years while producing less than a quarter of the amount of uranium extracted by Cameco, Hochstein said.
Uranium is mined from open pits and tunnels or flushed from rocks through a process known as in situ leaching, with 60 percent of the mining taking place in Canada, Australia and Niger in 2002, according to the World Nuclear Association. The radioactivity of uranium requires miners at Cameco's McArthur River mine to manipulate remote-control boring machines and scoops to drill and recover the metal.
After milling and preliminary refining, companies convert uranium concentrate, or yellow cake, into uranium hexafluoride gas, a preliminary step toward creating reactor fuel. The gas is enriched and turned into uranium dioxide and eventually made into pellets for loading into reactors.
U.S. nuclear reactors are running at about 90 percent capacity, up from about 65 percent in 1979, partly because rising costs have deterred investment in new nuclear power plants. The last U.S. order for a reactor that was actually built was submitted in 1973, the Nuclear Energy Institute said.
New Nuclear Plants
Three U.S. power companies, Exelon, Richmond, Virginia-based Dominion Resources Inc. and Entergy Corp. in New Orleans, applied last year for preliminary site approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build nuclear reactors at existing power plant locations, the first such requests in 31 years.
Expectations of increased demand have some industry executives questioning whether nuclear utilities focused too long on buying uranium at the lowest price rather than ensuring a steady supply, says Thomas C. Bordine, manager of nuclear fuel services at Hudson, Wisconsin-based Nuclear Management Co., the operator of eight U.S. reactors.
Says Robert Cleary, 60, the former chief executive of Energy Resources of Australia, a unit of Rio Tinto: ``It's time to think about reducing the risk of having a nuclear reactor with nothing to feed it.''
KIEV, May 7 (Itar-Tass) - Five people have died in the fire that broke out at ammunition depots in Ukraine's Zaporozhye region on Thursday, Ukraine's Emergency Situations Ministry told Itar-Tass.
The Ministry said there was one fire-related death in the incident. The other four persons died of cardio-vascular diseases, probably provoked by the stressful emergency.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Yevgeny Marchuk named a human factor as preliminary cause of the blaze.
The fire which began on Thursday afternoon, triggered explosions of ammunition, and is still continuing. Experts said there could be more blasts in the next few days.
Meanwhile, the situation at the Zaporozhskaya nuclear power plant, located some 40 kilometers from accident area, remains calm.
The administration of the nuclear plant, the largest in Europe, has not taken any emergency measures in connection with the incident, head of the plant's information center Sergei Shimchev told Itar-Tass.
It has complete information about the events in Novobogdanovka, Shimchev said. "There is no need to tighten security, the plant's personnel are always prepared to act in case of any emergencies," he said.
Also, all the six VVER-1000 reactors are adequately protected, and cannot be put out of order even if a MiG fighter falls on them at a velocity of 200 meters per second.
Each container keeping spent nuclear fuel on the premises can sustain a direct hit of an armour-piercing shell at a close range, Shimchev said.
2. Radioactive Waste Sites in Kyrgyzstan Receive Aid
Ecolinks News Service
(for personal use only)
BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN, May 5, 2004 ï¿½ Danger from radioactive waste sites in the southern town of Mayluu-Suu in Kyrgyzstan will decline due to the World Bankï¿½s pledge to nearly double their monetary aid.
The Soviet nuclear industry left Kyrgyzstan with several radioactive dumps and uranium waste sites. These dangerous radioactive waste sites threaten one of Central Asia's most densely populated agricultural and industrial areas, the Fergana Valley. The Fergana Valley is divided among three ex-Soviet republics: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Concern over the areaï¿½s water supply is high. Emil Akmatov, spokesman for the Emergencies Ministry, calls the situation ï¿½critical.ï¿½ Possible landslides could cause the dumps to leak into a river that is part of the Fergana Valley.
After Kyrgyzstanï¿½s plea for international aid, the World Bank initially offered $5 million for ecological projects, which was to include the dumpsites in Mayluu-Suu. After assessing the situation together, the Kyrgyzstan government and the World Bank together increased the funding for rehabilitation projects to $11.8 million. Kyrgyzstan pledged $2 million of that amount. The World Bankï¿½s board of directors still must approve the proposal in June.
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