1. Russia to export $500m of uranium to U.S. in 2004
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Russia will ship to the United States half a billion dollars worth of commercial uranium this year under a deal aimed to help Moscow recycle its vast stocks of Cold War-era warheads, a nuclear official said on Thursday.
The official at the Russian Atomic Energy Agency said the 20-year scheme, part of Washington's plan to prevent dangerous nuclear material from falling into extremists' hands, has brought Russia $4 billion in revenues since the mid-1990s.
"The agreement has also helped us maintain a solid position on the global uranium market," he said, on condition of anonymity.
Russia, the world's No.2 nuclear power after the United States, processes about 40 percent of world uranium a year.
Moscow and Washington have a number of costly -- and mainly U.S.-sponsored -- programmes aimed at protecting and recycling atomic material stored across Russia and elsewhere.
But despite such cooperation, nuclear proliferation remains a thorny issue between the two Washington opposes Russian plans to build a nuclear reactor in Iran on the grounds Tehran could use the technology to produce bombs. Russia and Iran say the reactor is for civil use.
Under the 20-year scheme, Russia has already recycled about 200 tonnes of weapons-grade uranium from 8,000 nuclear warheads during the period, according to Russian media reports.
Nuclear officials have said Russian fuel exported under the deal is enough to meet about 10 percent of the U.S. demand for electricity.
It exported somewhere between $450 million and $500 million in low-enriched uranium to the United States last year as a fuel component for power plants. The deal is worth $12 billion, according to Interfax news agency.
Last month, Russia and the United States signed a separate agreement to lock away some of the most dangerous nuclear material scattered around the globe to keep it out of the wrong hands.
Under the plan, Moscow will secure the return of all fresh Russian-origin highly enriched uranium by the end of 2005 and all spent fuel by 2010 from more than 25 reactors in 17 states.
The $450 million programme parallels U.S. efforts to reclaim nuclear materials of U.S. origin.
Russia plans to dismantle all of its decommissioned nuclear submarines by 2010 with the help of international aid, an official with the federal nuclear energy agency said Monday. "We hope to regulate the problem of dismantling the nuclear submarines by 2010 with the help of our international partners," a spokesman for the agency told AFP.
Russia has about 100 decommissioned nuclear subs waiting to be dismantled and 70 of these still have nuclear reactors aboard, the spokesman said.
The agency estimates it will need nearly four billion dollars to dismantle the subs, which pose an environmental threat to seas around the vast country.
Some 192 Soviet-era and Russian submarines are thought to have been decommissioned since the 1980s, of which 89 have been dismantled.
Most of the foreign financing pledged for the program has come from the United States, with Canada, Japan and Norway also contributing funds.
1. State Department program brings delegation of scientists from former Soviet Union to UCSC
UC Santa Cruz Currents
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A delegation of scientists from the former Soviet Union working through the U.S. State Department's BioIndustry Initiative visited UCSC last week for an all-day program that included research presentations, laboratory tours, and informal discussions. The visit could lead to new collaborative research projects involving UCSC faculty and scientists from the countries of the former Soviet Union.
The BioIndustry Initiative (BII) was created after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to strengthen U.S.-Russian cooperation in combating the threat of bioterrorism.
The BII sponsored more than 100 leading scientists and biotechnology industry representatives from Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan to participate in the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual conference, BIO 2004, held in San Francisco last week.
After the conference, most of the delegation then came to UCSC, where they were hosted by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
BII director Jason Rao earned his bachelor's degree in synthetic organic chemistry at UCSC and worked in the laboratory of Bakthan Singaram, professor of chemistry and biochemistry. Rao later earned a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and worked at the National Institutes of Health before joining the State Department's Office of Proliferation Threat Reduction.
Rao said his connections with the campus weren't the only reason he wanted to bring the delegation to UCSC. "This is a fertile ground for research, and there is a lot of opportunity here," he said.
Joseph Konopelski, professor and chair of chemistry and biochemistry, said the day's events engendered a lot of interest in potential collaborations between UCSC faculty and the visiting scientists. Konopelski said that after seeing how good the interactions were during lunch, he rearranged the afternoon schedule to allow more time for informal discussions.
"There's no question that there is incredible scientific talent in the countries of the former Soviet Union. What they are hungry for now are interactions with other scientists and opportunities that their own economies just can't provide," he said.
The mission of BII is to counter the threat of bioterrorism through targeted transformation of former Soviet biological research and production capacities. Rao said this unique international program has "incredible potential," both in joint efforts to combat terrorism and in opening up significant opportunities for U.S. industry.
"We are tapping into one of the greatest scientific communities during a time of enormous growth and opportunity. The possibilities are endless," he said.
The program at UCSC included presentations by both UCSC faculty and visiting Russian scientists working in various areas of biomedical research. Among the UCSC presenters was Anthony Fink, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who has collaborated with Russian scientists in some of his research on the role of protein aggregation in diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
"It looks like we may start a new collaboration based on the discussions we had with some of the scientists in the delegation," Fink said.
Among the distinguished Russian scientists who presented their work was Raisa Martyniuk, a deputy director general for R&D at the State Research Institute of Virology and Biotechnology (VECTOR). A major goal of VECTOR is to fight emerging infections, Martyniuk said.
"The only way to do this is through collaboration," she said. "We are working for the long term because there are many emerging and newer problems, such as SARS and Avian flu. We want to develop a new generation of antivirus drugs, vaccines, and new methods of diagnostics of infectious diseases. We are working together for the mutual benefit of people throughout the world."
BII's partner organizations include the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) in Moscow, a multinational nonproliferation program; the Boston-based Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT), a consortium of Harvard teaching hospitals, MIT, and Draper Laboratory; and its Russian counterpart, TEMPO, the Non-commercial Partnership Center of Modern Medical Technology. Through these partnerships, doctors and scientists in the United States and Russia are working together to develop anticancer vaccines and other exciting medical breakthroughs, said Rita Watson, communications director for CIMIT.
1. WMD could fall into Al-Qaeda hands - Russian deputy minister
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Components of weapons of mass destruction possibly remaining in Iraq could fall into the hands of Al- Qaeda terrorists acting on Iraqi territory, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov told Interfax on Thursday.
"It is difficult to ascertain that the previous Iraqi regime had links with Al-Qaeda. At the same time, it is obvious that Iraq has become an appealing magnet for terrorists of every kind, and Al-Qaeda is feeling quite comfortable in Iraq now. Therefore, the threat that components and materials which may possibly remain in Iraq could fall into the hands of international terrorists is quite high," Fedotov said. This is why "it is so important to completely clarify Iraq's disarmament dossier," the deputy minister said.
2. Nations must cooperate to fight threat of nuclear terrorism
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International cooperation is crucial in fighting the growing threat of nuclear terrorism, US and European officials said here Wednesday. "Over the course of these years we have seen too many incidents of radiological materials finding their way from one path to another, outside the normal control mechanisms of nations," Admiral James Loy, deputy secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security told reporters.
Asked about the possibility of an attack with chemical, biological or a nuclear dirty bomb built from radioactive material and conventional explosives, Loy said: "Our concern for (such a) likelihood is raising all the time."
"In the wrong hands weapons of mass destruction have the capacity of raising the stakes dramatically," he said on the sidelines of a security conference in Vienna of the pan-European Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
EU counter-terrorism coordinator Gijs de Vries said however that "the general assessment is that conventional attacks are more likely at the moment."
"But we must be prepared" for weapons of mass destruction attacks, he said.
Both anti-terrorism exports said so-called biometric passports, which use readings from eye retinas or fingerprints, should be put into use as soon as possible to avoid false use of such identity documents.
Loy said two other areas where the 55 nations of the OSCE should focus their efforts in the coming year were better monitoring of containers transported by ship and international exchanges of information in order to crack down on stolen passports.
RTR broadcast a documentary on 19 June about the activities of the top secret Vympel ("Pennant") task force, including its efforts to combat potential nuclear terrorism. Created in the 1970s as an elite unit of the KGB's foreign-intelligence wing, Vympel was originally tasked with the destruction of key strategic sites in NATO countries in the event of a major conflict. Its officers were effective at penetrating the West, the documentary film reported. The film reported that Vympel agents surprised KGB generals and the Soviet leadership when they "captured" the Kalinin nuclear power station during a 1988 exercise. During the 1993 confrontation between then President Boris Yeltsin and the parliament, the unit refused to carry out an order to storm the White House, which was then the seat of the Russian legislature, resulting in the Vympel's dissolution. It was re-formed as part of the Federal Security Service's (FSB) antiterrorism effort in the mid-1990s, specializing in combating nuclear terrorism.
4. Defence Ministry rules out leaks of nuclear weapons from Russia
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The Russian Defence Ministry completely rules out the possibility of leaks of nuclear weapons from Russia.
"There could be no leaks of nuclear weapons or their components from Russia," - this is how the press service of the ministry commented to RIA Novosti on the statement by the American commission investigating [9 September] terrorist acts in New York and Washington.
The document, distributed on Wednesday [16 June] at the final, 12th session of the commission, says that the terrorists of Al-Qa'idah were working on the idea of seizing a missile with nuclear warhead and launching a strike at the territory of the United States. According to the commission, the terrorists were considering various ideas, including, for example "how to seize a launch installation and to force Russian scientists to strike US territory with a nuclear missile".
"The leadership of the Russian Defence Ministry and the General Staff of the armed forces have repeated more than once that all nuclear weapons, their constituent parts and components are under the strictest control and are meticulously accounted for," the press service of the Russian Defence Ministry stressed.
Therefore there cannot be any leaks, let alone sales of nuclear weapons or their components from Russia, assurances were given in the Russian Defence Ministry. "This is absolutely ruled out and this has been said on several occasions by Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov himself, the first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Yuriy Baluyevskiy, and other specialists," the press service stressed.
WASHINGTON -- Senator Edward M. Kennedy yesterday again led the charge for Democrats in criticizing President Bush's Iraq policies, declaring Bush's intense focus on Iraq has impeded the fight against nuclear proliferation and allowed North Korea and Iran to continue their nuclear programs without restraint.
Kennedy has been the Democrats' stalking horse in building the party's case against Bush's Iraq policies, putting forth arguments that sometimes find their way into the presidential campaign of his Massachusetts colleague, John F. Kerry. In April, he set off a round of comparisons when he declared the Iraq war "Bush's Vietnam."
Yesterday, speaking before a nuclear nonproliferation conference sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Kennedy again went further than Kerry in declaring Bush's Iraq policies an impediment to the larger fight against terrorism.
"The negligence of the Bush administration is even more startling when you consider two of the nations involved -- North Korea and Iran," Kennedy said. "But instead of leading the world against these real threats, the president chose to lead America alone into the quicksand to counter the mirage of a threat in Iraq."
The Bush campaign rejected Kennedy's assertions, calling the senator an "attack dog for Kerry."
Kennedy, for his part, offered his own prescriptions for countering the threat of nuclear terror. He called for a new plan for North Korean disarmament, "based on sequential, measurable, and verifiable steps, with incentives at the completion of each step." Currently, the Bush administration is a party to multinational talks on North Korean disarmament, but has been reluctant to trade favors for disarmament.
Kennedy also vowed to continue his fight against the administration's proposals for a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons, so-called bunker busters. He called the administration's plans an impediment to persuading smaller nations to give up their nuclear ambitions, quoting Mohammed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as saying, "there are some who have continued to dangle a cigarette from their mouth and tell everybody else not to smoke."
Kennedy also called for more spending on the Nunn-Lugar program to purchase insufficiently secured nuclear materials from the former Soviet Union, and for a harder line on Pakistan, whose leading nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan, recently admitted selling secrets on the international black market.
All of Kennedy's proposals echo similar plans set out by Kerry in a speech June 1 in West Palm Beach, Fla. But Kerry's address referred only in passing to the Bush administration's "fixation" with Iraq and did not say it was responsible for furthering nuclear proliferation.
Terry Holt, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, disputed Kennedy's claim that the administration hasn't worked hard enough to secure loose nuclear materials.
"Senator Kennedy ignores that the Bush administration has fully funded Nunn-Lugar proposals and it also is working with the G-8 nations to come up with proposals to end the spread of nuclear weapons," Holt said. "The Bush administration has put nuclear proliferation front and center in its relationship with G-8 partners."
Holt also accused Kennedy of working in concert with the Kerry campaign, trying to damage Bush by making charges that are too inflammatory to come from the candidate himself.
"John Kerry has appointed Ted Kennedy to be his attack dog, and Kerry and Kennedy share a world view that's out of the mainstream of the American people," Holt said. "Neither John Kerry nor Ted Kennedy understands the threat this country faces in the global war on terror. This goes back to the fight against the Soviet Union. Neither Kerry nor Kennedy understood that peace through strength was the way to fight communism."
Kennedy, for his part, blasted the Bush administration for abandoning the commitment to nuclear disarmament that he believes reduced the tensions of the Cold War, referring to his brother President John F. Kennedy's efforts to cut nuclear arms after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
"Surviving the brink underscored in my brother's mind the necessity of cooperation, even with the most difficult adversary, so that no American president would ever again be faced with the same impossible dilemma," Kennedy said.
His voice rising to a thunderous bellow and falling to a ridiculing mewl, Kennedy seemed to relish his role as attacker: On the most important issue of the times, he said, the Bush administration has been absent and distracted.
"The Bush administration's unilateralism and its single-minded focus on Iraq have severely undermined this all-important enterprise," he said, referring to decades of arms-control agreements. "The result has been a serious setback for our nonproliferation policy, and may very well have made Al Qaeda terrorists even more determined to find a way to make a nuclear attack on America."
2. Ukraine says will destroy toxic nuclear missile fuel without US aid
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Ukraine will forge ahead next year with the decommissioning of a critical part of its nuclear arsenal despite being denied promised financial aid from the United States, Russian ITAR-TASS news agency quoted a senior Ukrainian official as saying on Wednesday. "Ukraine has decided to carry out the programme on its own," said Evhen Ustimenko, head of the chemical plant in Pavlohrad, eastern Ukraine, where the material is being stored.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine found itself in possession of the world's third largest nuclear arsenal. It had inherited 176 launchers of intercontinental ballistic missiles -- 130 SS-19s and 46 SS-24s -- carrying a total of nearly 1,300 warheads.
When it became independent from Moscow, Kiev proclaimed itself nuclear-free and began liquidating its nuclear arsenal. This included destroying 5,000 tonnes of toxic propeller fuel destined for its SS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile launchers.
In 2000, the US Congress approved plans to spend 24 million dollarsmillion euros) on building a plant in Ukraine to liquidate the fuel. The plant was to be built in 2003-04 and the destruction of the fuel, currently being stored in Pavlhograd, was to be completed in late 2007.
But the administration of US President George W. Bush suspended funding for the project in 2003, saying it wanted the scheme made cheaper and safer for the environment.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma issued a decree recently stipulating that Ustimenko's plant would resume work to destroy the fuel next year and that the job was to be completed in 2011.
Ustimenko said on Wednesday his facilities might also be given the task of retreating fuel from 20,000 other non-nuclear missiles currently being stockpiled in military depots across Ukraine.
The missiles are not necessarily destined to be destroyed. But the fuel is an instable chemical product that is both corrosive and toxic and cannot be left in the missile fuel tanks indefinitely.
Separately, the Ukrainian army is due on Thursday to start destroying 95,000 weapons stockpiled in a huge depot near Melitopol, in the southeast of the country, an operation that is due to take two to three weeks, Interfax news agency quoted regional official Volodymyr Yanko as saying.
A fire triggered a string of devastating explosions of munitions at the depot in May, killing five people and forcing the evacuation of thousands of local inhabitants.
The site was housing the equivalent of 4,500 wagonloads of munitions, mcuch of them inherited from the Soviet Union.
1. Bulgaria fears nuclear scientists may go freelance
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Bulgaria is worried its nuclear scientists may work for terrorists or rogue states when the country shuts down two nuclear power plants over the next few years, its foreign minister said on Wednesday.
Bulgaria has agreed to scrap the plants when it joins the European Union, which Sofia hopes will happen in 2007, leaving thousands of nuclear scientists without a job, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy said.
The international community must make sure these scientists do not turn freelance and help develop weapons in secret, Passy told reporters at a security conference of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna.
"We shall have to release several thousand excellent nuclear specialists ... from active duty," Passy said.
"They are private citizens and they might easily be attracted by countries or governments or forces which are not under the control of the international community. This is a serious threat that all of us will have to address," he added.
Nuclear scientists have sold their expertise secretly before.
The father of Pakistan's atom bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted in February that he and scientists from his Khan Research Laboratory leaked nuclear secrets to other countries.
Khan, whose official salary was around $2,000 a month, made tens of millions of dollars by operating a global atomic black market which is known to have supplied North Korea, Iran and Libya with sensitive nuclear technology.
South Africa, a former nuclear power, is investigating allegations that some of its nuclear scientists aided Khan's illicit network.
Unlike Pakistan and South Africa, however, Bulgaria has never developed nuclear weapons.
After more than two decades of war and disruption, science in Iraq is in shambles, the National Nuclear Security Administration reported Wednesday.
With the fall of Baghdad a little over a year ago and the subsequent occupation by the American-led coalition, the scientific support that might contribute to national recovery is under enormous stress.
"This sector has truly collapsed almost to the zero line," said the report.
A survey of Iraqi science and technical priorities, assisted by the Cooperative Monitoring Center of Sandia National Laboratories found Iraq to have many basic needs and face many obstacles on the path to reconstruction.
"We are moving with all due speed to implement this program," said NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks. "This administration places a high emphasis on nonproliferation programs and the effort to engage Iraqi scientists is a very important one."
In the survey conducted in Iraq earlier this year, highest priorities were given to the areas of health, water, the environment, housing and electricity.
One problem unique to Iraq, identified by the survey, is a peculiar generation gap, in which older scientists, many over the age of 50, are more likely to have studied abroad before the country's isolation took hold in the '90s. They are also more likely to have taken part in the exodus during and after the first Gulf War.
Complicating their participation, the survey notes, "There is a great resentment toward expatriate Iraqis who now position themselves as leaders."
The younger generation was schooled in Iraq, resulting in a marked decline in expertise, particularly in the areas of mathematics and information technology.
Both groups will have a role to play in Iraq's future, but both will need a different kind of attention.
"Iraqi engineers and technicians hold excellent practical and manual skills and should be strongly encouraged to become engaged in this initiative," the authors of the study wrote. "Most of them are young and may be easily swayed toward irrelevant or illegitimate operations."
The study team quickly found first hand that buildings and ministries had been closed and moved, due to the postwar burning and looting of government buildings. Travel from one place to another was dangerous and unsafe.
Basic infrastructure was sorely lacking. The Minister of Science and Technology told the study team that current office space is adequate for only 2000 of the ministry's 10,000 employees.
"The remaining number wait in gardens, car parks and lobbies around the ministry office to assure that they receive their pay," said the survey. "Some simply stay at home to avoid the chaos and the 'jungle rule.'"
The team members reported many requests to help establish laboratories, technology centers and even colleges, but the NNSA initiative was not geared to address infrastructure.
Typical of Iraqi distress is the agricultural situation, highlighted in the report by a closer view of the date palm industry, now with half the number of trees due to lack of care and environmental damage. With excessive use of pesticides, reduced availability of water for irrigation, and loss of seed technology from looting, numerous projects were proposed to revive the country's formerly rich agricultural resources.
Of 450 projects suggested, the NNSA expects to fund one small pilot project in the area of water monitoring or epidemiology, as a step toward broader support from U.S and international scientific communities, and funding organizations.
1. United States Should Maintain Russian Involvement in Missile Defense, U.S. Lawmaker Says
Global Security Newswire
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WASHINGTON ï¿½ The United States has an ï¿½obligationï¿½ to ensure that Russia is involved in missile defense efforts, which in turn could help improve overall relations between the two countries, U.S. Representative Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) told reporters yesterday (see GSN, May 26).
As examples of possible joint efforts, Weldon proposed that the United States might someday deploy boost-phase missile defense systems, which seek to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles soon after launch, in the Russian Far East to help counter possible North Korean missile attacks. The United States could also help fund Russiaï¿½s construction of an advanced version of its S-300 theater missile defense system, he said.
The subject of joint U.S.-Russian missile defense efforts was also raised last month during a meeting in Moscow between a U.S. delegation of lawmakers and Missile Defense Agency officials and Russian officials, said Weldon, who led the U.S. delegation. During that trip, agency officials proposed using Russian-made targets in missile defense exercises and proposed helping to fund the construction of a large phased-array radar system in eastern Russia, Weldon said. He added that such a radar system, which would ï¿½complementï¿½ a U.S. system, would aid the United States in tracking possible missile launches from a number of countries of concern, including China, Iran, North Korea and Syria.
Weldon also said that the United States cannot ï¿½walk awayï¿½ from the Russian-American Observation Satellite (RAMOS) program, which was intended to construct two observation satellites for civilian and military use. According to reports, the Missile Defense Agency has decided to cancel the project.
To date, the United States has done a poor job in convincing Russia that missile defense efforts pose little threat to Russian security, Weldon said. ï¿½We [have] to get beyond the mindset of being Cold War enemies,ï¿½ he said.
Russiaï¿½s involvement in missile defense efforts could also help improve overall U.S.-Russian relations, which ï¿½are not good right now,ï¿½ Weldon said. He criticized both the Bush and Clinton administrations for a series of what he described as foreign policy missteps over the past 15 years that have damaged bilateral relations, such as the handling of the U.S. withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and continued Cold War-era trade restrictions against Russia.
ï¿½We [have] to give them [the Russians] some wins,ï¿½ Weldon said.
2. IAEA DIRECTOR GENERAL TO VISIT US, RUSSIA IN JUNE
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On Saturday, June 19, after the sessions of the Managers' Council of the International Atomic Energy Ministry, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei is to go to the US on a seven-day visit, IAEA official spokesperson Melissa Fleming told journalists.
According to her, Mohamed ElBaradei will address a session of the Carnegie Foundation and meet with American statesmen and politicians.
On Sunday, June 27, the IAEA Director General will arrive in Moscow to participate in the conference entitled "Fifty Years of Nuclear Power - the Next Fifty Years". It will be held in Moscow and Obninsk (the Kaluga region, 150 kilometers to the southeast of Moscow).
Mohamed ElBaradei will hold talks with Russian cabinet members in Moscow and will head for St. Petersburg after that.
Russia could lose lucrative nuclear contracts in wake of its failure to complete the Bushehr reactor project in Iran.
Russian analysts warned that Moscow's failure to meet its deadline for the completion of the Bushehr nuclear reactor pointed to the susceptibility of the government to U.S. pressure. They said that such a perception would scare off other countries from signing nuclear contracts with Russia.
Over the last few months, the analysts said, Russia failed to win a tender for the construction of two reactors in Finland. The analysts said the government in Helsinki concluded that Russia could not be counted on to keep any commitment to complete a nuclear project.
"The Iranian project is a good possibility for Russia to prove its capability in this field," Radzhab Safarov, director of the Center for Studying Modern Iran, said. "But it has been building one reactor for about nine years now which creates a certain image of the country. If the construction rates of the Bushehr nuclear power plant do not increase, Russia may lose other tenders as well."
Despite American criticism, Russia has pledged to continue its nuclear ties with Iran. Yet it remains unclear whether Moscow is driven by mainly commercial motives, or if it is making a point in favor of global "multi-polarity" against American unilateralism.
Russia has a good chance of winning the contract to build the Bushehr-2 nuclear site in Iran, Center for Modern Iran Studies head Rajab Safarov told journalists in Moscow earlier this week. Moscow and Tehran are expected to sign a protocol of intent on building Bushehr-2 during Russian Federal Nuclear Energy Agency chief Alexander Rumyantsev's visit to Iran in July or August, Safarov said. The plant would be Iran's second nuclear facility.
In fact, Safarov reiterated and clarified earlier pledges by Russia's federal nuclear agency, which indicated that Moscow would continue building the Bushehr nuclear reactor despite criticism of Iran by Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the United Nations watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The US is pressing for Iran to be taken to the UN Security Council for allegedly secretly developing nuclear weapons, but has not won support for this yet at the IAEA. But earlier this month, ElBaradei hardened the tone of the IAEA's investigation into Iran's nuclear program.
Yet Russia still insists on its nuclear ties with Iran. "Russia has no reasons for curtailing its cooperation with Iran in completing the construction of the first Bushehr reactor, scheduled to be launched in 2005," Russian Federal Nuclear Energy Agency spokesman Nikolai Shingaryov said earlier this month, adding that "negotiations will be continued on Russia's participation in the construction of a second Bushehr reactor. No convincing evidence that the Iranian nuclear program may have a military aspect have been found."
Earlier in June, first deputy chairman of Russia's State Duma, Lyubov Sliska, told Iranian news agency IRNA that Russia seeks to expand its ties with Iran. "We should not heed US views in expansion of our ties with other countries around the globe," she said. "The Russian president knows better how and where to establish friendly ties and cooperation with others."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia sees no reason to halt cooperation with Iran in the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. On June 10, Putin told reporters at the end of the Group of Eight (G8) summit on Sea Island in the US state of Georgia that Russia would halt cooperation only if Iran refused to be transparent and stopped cooperating with the IAEA. "But for the moment, we have no reason to do that," he said.
Putin's comments came as G8 leaders - even Putin - said they were "deeply concerned" about Iran's compliance with IAEA requirements and stressed: "We deplore Iran's delays, deficiencies in cooperation, and inadequate disclosures." Iran rejected the G8 statement, saying there is no proof Iran has done anything wrong.
Russia has long been under fire for its help in building the first Bushehr nuclear plant on Iran's Gulf coast. The US insisted that the Russian technology could be used to develop nuclear weapons, but Moscow and Tehran argued that the plant could be used only for civilian purposes. Moscow has brushed off repeated US demands that it cancel the US$1 billion Bushehr 1,000 megawatt light-water nuclear reactor project.
Meanwhile, Russia has said it would freeze construction on the Bushehr nuclear plant and it would not begin delivering fuel for the reactor until Iran signs an agreement that would oblige it to return all of the spent fuel back to Russia for reprocessing and storage. This agreement was reported as close to being signed last September but so far the deal has failed to fully materialize.
Last October, Russia announced a delay for the launch of the Bushehr nuclear reactor till 2005, and urged Tehran to improve disclosure of its nuclear plans. However, there has been no talk about dropping the Bushehr agreement. Nonetheless, the Kremlin has repeatedly argued it abides by international agreements banning the proliferation of nuclear technologies.
Russian officials have also complained that the criticism of the Bushehr project was in part sparked by commercial considerations. Russia's nuclear executives have claimed that unnamed "competitors" were trying to undermine Russia's nuclear energy exports, which could eventually bring Moscow up to $3 billion a year.
Tehran seemingly appreciates Russia's stance on Bushehr. Coincidence or not, earlier this week Iran approved enlargement of Russia's preferred project, the North-South transport corridor agreement: Tehran approved the membership of Turkey and Ukraine in the project. Russia is trying to make the North-South transport connection a viable alternative to Red Sea routes as well as US-backed Eurasian transport links. Russia, India and Iran signed an agreement on the development of the North-South corridor in 2000 and the agreement also includes Kazakhstan, Oman, Tajikistan and Belarus.
On the other hand, Russia's insistence on nuclear ties with Iran indicates an absence of double standard approaches, which still allow some chosen nations to rely on nuclear weapons but ban other countries from any nuclear ambitions.
Russia makes no secret of its reliance on atomic weapons. Russia now has three missile armies and 16 divisions that have a total of 735 intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with 3,159 nuclear warheads, according to Russian media reports. Only Russia's missile-nuclear shield "can safeguard our sovereignty and national security", Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has said.
Moscow argues it strictly follows international agreements banning the proliferation of nuclear military technologies. But Russia concedes that other nations may also have civilian nuclear ambitions of their own: this argument could also serve to back up Moscow's preference of global "multi-polarity", a concept that opposes American unilateralism.
In the meantime, hypocrisy and double standards have become a matter of concern for the IAEA. In a speech in Washington earlier this month, ElBaradei urged nations to "abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue nuclear weapons but morally acceptable for others to rely on them". The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty signed more than three decades ago called on the declared nuclear states - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France - to move toward full nuclear disarmament. Meanwhile, these nuclear powers pressuring Iran and North Korea to stick with non-proliferation and abandon nuclear arms are themselves still actually relying on the weapons.
3. Russia may win contract to build 2nd nuclear plant in Iran
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Russia has good chances of winning a contract to build the Bushehr-2 nuclear power plant in Iran, General Director of the Center for Modern Iran Studies Rajab Safarov said at a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday.
Russia and Iran are expected to sign a protocol of intent on building Bushehr-2 during Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency chief Alexander Rumyantsev's visit to Tehran this summer, Safarov said.
At the same time, "there are a huge number of candidates to be contractor of the Iranian nuclear program, from the U.S. to European countries," he said.
"Such a respectable organization as the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] is becoming more and more politicized rather than remaining a technical organization, and increasingly more people have been questioning its real ends," Safarov said.
Safarov noted that the participants in the latest IAEA Board of Governors session debated a blueprint for a very tough resolution on Iran's nuclear program.
"I believe the main purpose of the latest debates in the IAEA was to discredit Russian-Iranian cooperation under a nuclear program and win these contracts through third countries and front companies some time later," he said.
4. Russia to push for objective IAEA resolution on Iran
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Russia will push for a new balanced and objective resolution on Iran in the IAEA Board of Governors, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. "We will continue working on developing a balanced version [of the resolution] based on the real facts reflected in the report prepared by IAEA Secretary General Mohamed El Baradei," Lavrov told Interfax in Tashkent on Thursday. Lavrov disagreed that the new version of the resolution on Iran, which has been submitted to the IAEA Board of Governors by the UK, France and Germany, is accusatory in nature. "The draft resolution is critical to the same extent in which it reflects the positive aspects of Iran-IAEA cooperation," Lavrov said. The document is based on a report prepared by El Baradei which Russia considers to be "generally objective and balanced," he said. "Russia is ready to work on a draft resolution which will reflect the provisions outlined in this report earlier, in particular, that Iran is cooperating with the IAEA. But this cooperation needs to be continued to clarify the questions the IAEA still has for Iran," Lavrov said. The IAEA is still studying Iran's last report, which was submitted in late May, Lavrov said. The minister stressed that it will take time to study this issue because it is a large document with some 1,000 pages.
1. Putin arrives in Kamchatka to meet with Pacific Fleet command
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Petropavovsk-Kamchatsky. The plane of the head of state landed at the Yelizovo airdrome on Thursday.
The president will hold a meeting with the Pacific Fleet command. Prospects for the development of the nuclear submarine base in Vilyuchinsk are expected to be among the main items on the meeting agenda.
Vladimir Putin went to Vilyuchinsk right from the airport.
The closed town of Vilyuchinsk is located at Krasheninnikov Bay in the southern-eastern part of the Kamchatka Peninsula. It consists of inhabited areas of the nuclear submarine base (Rybachy), coast support units of the Pacific Fleet (Primorsky) and the Navy shipyard (Seldevaya).
3. VILYUCHINSK SUBMARINE BASE (APROPOS VLADIMIR PUTIN'S KAMCHATKA VISIT)
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The town of Vilyuchinsk (population, about 30,000) was established in 1968 by merging the Rybachy, Primorsky and Seldevaya industrial townships. This town got its name from a nearby volcano. However, Vilyuchinsk was referred to as Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky-50 for more than 20 consecutive years. The town's real name was only made public January 4, 1994.
In August 1938 a diesel-submarine base was established in the Avacha bay's Taryinskaya harbor, accommodating submarine crews and eventually giving rise to Vilyuchinsk. The local ship-repair industry began to develop in late 1959; moreover, nuclear-powered submarines serving with the Soviet navy's Pacific fleet were moored in Krasheninnikov harbor only a few years later. An ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) aircraft unit was deployed in Rybachy over the 1959-1960 period; moreover, the No. 26942, 31268 and 63878 military units were established there.
The nuclear-powered submarine flotilla was reorganized as the SSBN (Strategic Submarine Ballistic Nuclear) squadron in 1998.
The Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Omsk, Tomsk, Vilyuchinsk, Irkutsk, Chelyabinsk, Krasnoyarsk, St. George the Victorious and some other SSBN-s are moored at the Rybachy-district base.
NATO reference books list this Russian SSBN base as Hornet's Nest.
4. SMF COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF: RUSSIA'S STRATEGIC MISSILE FORCES TO BE MANNED 85-86% IN 2004
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The 2004 graduates of the Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) Academy will help to bring the SMF manning level to only 85-86% of the required strength, SMF Commander-in-Chief Nikolai Solovtsov told journalists in Moscow after the graduation ceremony held at the Academy headquarters on Saturday.
"The military missile personnel will be in high demand in the years to come. All the graduates have been attached to SMF units and services, with each getting a pre-assigned position," Solovtsov said.
According to him, "you cannot find a SMF unit without the Academy's graduates on the personnel roster".
Nikolai Solovtsov himself also graduated from the SMF Academy and harking back to his experiences as a young captain he said: "A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, but every time that I attend the graduation ceremony at the Academy I feel the powerful strength of this establishment whose history dates back to 1820".
All in all, 450 graduates are leaving the Academy this year. On completion of the gala ceremony, some commanders of the SMF units were granted housing certificates along with advance in rank traditionally conferred upon graduation.
Solovtsov stressed that the housing problem continues to be one of the most vital in the Strategic Missile Forces, with about 14,000 SMF officers lacking proper housing facilities. He expressed hope that the policy currently pursued by the state in this area will let each Academy graduate get his own apartment in the near future.
"Still, the SMF will provide lodgings for all 2004 graduates; none of them will be left without accommodation," the SMF Commander underlined.
In 2004 the Academy has let out highly qualified military officers for the 173rd time in its long history. The graduation ceremony was attended by Russia's first Marshal, former Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev who had graduated from the Academy himself. In his greeting address at the ceremony the Marshal expressed deep gratitude to the Academy's senior commanders and teaching staff.
"Only high level of combat readiness can preserve peace in the world," Sergeyev said.
5. Flight of Russian strategic bomber to U.S. likely to be cancelled
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The planned flight of a Russia Tu-95MS strategic bomber to the United States along Valery Chkalov's route via the North Pole will likely be cancelled, Russian Air Force Commander- in-Chief Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov has announced.
"This stems primarily from the unacceptable conditions put forward by the American side," he told reporters on Friday.
He said that after the September 11 terrorist attacks the United States has strongly tightened regulations on foreign aircraft flying over U.S. territory, especially warplanes.
"For instance, we were told that one of their pilots must be in the crew. That is unacceptable," Mikhailov said.
He said the crew of the Tu-95MS Moskva was fully prepared to fly the route of the famous Russian test pilot, Valery Chkalov.
As part of the celebrations of Chkalov's birth centennial in the U.S. on June 15 to 21, the bomber was supposed to fly from Russia to North America via the North Pole. It was to be refueled in the air over the Arctic Ocean outside the Novaya Zemlya archipelago by an IL-78 air tanker.
1. Belarus contemplates nuclear plant project, asks Russia for more gas
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Belarus is determined to request Russia to increase gas supplies within the framework of the gas transport joint venture project. "We will encourage Russia to increase gas supplies to Belarus if the parties agree on the gas transport joint venture. However, it also depends on the production rate", Belarusian vice-premier Andrei Kobyakov told a Wednesday news conference in Minsk.
"We prefer gas, as it makes our power-engineering industries cost- effective", the vice-premier added.
He pointed out, wherever possible, one should use local fuels, however, without carrying things to the point of absurdity. Instead of using the technologies of our forefathers, one should employ the 21st-century know- hows, he added.
Kobyakov mentioned to the coal-burning power plant in Brest, which is now under construction. Today's technologies make it possible to turn such power stations just as environmentally friendly as the gas-burning ones.
At the same time, the government representative does not rule out the chance that a nuclear power plant may be built in Belarus. This issue still remains, however, it is not among the next investment projects, he informed. Kobyakov reminded, Belarus government faces the challenge of diversifying supplies of energy resources.
2. Atomic energy facilities may turn into joint stock companies, Alexander Rumyantsev confirmed
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Head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency Alexander Rumyantsev confirmed the possibility to transform atomic energy facilities into joint stock companies.
The potential of the atomic energy industry is much higher than the current budget and off budget financing of future power plant units, he told Itar-Tass during the Global Energy award ceremony in St. Petersburg on Sunday.
Thus, joint stock companies in the atomic energy industry required by present-day realities. This is not an end in itself or a tribute to market, but an instrument for drawing domestic and foreign investments, Rumyantsev said.
At first, this will be possible for transformer stations, repair services and other facilities, which are not directly related to management of nuclear sites, he added.
3. Russiaï¿½s fast-neutron reactors worldï¿½s best, US professor says
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U.S. Professor Leonard Koch, Global Energy International Prize winner, said Russia had unconditional priority in the creation of a new generation of fast breeder reactors.
Existing and new Russian BN-600 and BN-800 fast reactors may provide the basis for international atomic energy cooperation in the 21st century, he said at a briefing with the Global Energy laureates in St. Petersburg on Saturday.
Koch believes that these are the best reactors of this type in the world.
Other 2004 Global Energy Prize winners are Russian Academicians Fyodor Mitenkov and Alexander Sheindlin.
Koch, who is a member of the American Nuclear Society and the National Engineering Academy, was awarded the prize for the development of the physical principles of fast-neutron reactors.
The gold medals, hand-made diplomas and 300,000 U.S. dollar checks will be awarded to the winners at the Russian presidentï¿½s residence ï¿½ the Marble Hall of the Konstantin Palace in Strelna ï¿½ outside St. Petersburg on June 20.
The Energy Dialogue between Russian government officials and top managers from major international energy companies will be held after the award ceremony. It will involve Global Energy founders: officials from the gas company Gazprom, the United Energy System of Russia, and the oil company YUKOS.
1. KYRGYZ LAWMAKERS SOUND ALARM ON URANIUM CONTAMINATION
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The Parliament of Kyrgyzstan has decided to appeal to the global community to help avoid contamination of the region with radioactive uranium waste.
At their plenary session Friday, the Kyrgyz Parliament heard reports by Vice Prime Minister Kubanychbek Zhumaliyev and Emergencies Minister Temirbek Akmataliyev on measures to condition and store safely all uranium waste dumped in the republic.
According to Kyrgyz government officials, the contamination threat is the most serious at six of the republic's tailing dumps, which have a high radioactive waste content and may cause an environmental disaster not just in Kyrgyzstan, but also in the whole of Central Asia.
The Parliament has called the executive branch's attention to the necessity of stepping up design and construction works to avert the danger of global environmental pollution and of efficiently using the financial and material aid provided by international organizations. The Cabinet of Ministers has been instructed to approach their counterparts in the neighboring Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan with a proposal to provide financial and material aid to prevent the hazardous waste from contaminating the area.
At the moment, Kyrgyzstan has over 30 tailing dumps, containing about three million cubic meters of uranium waste, mothballed over thirty years ago. All the dumps are located in earthquake- & mud avalanches-prone areas, and their current condition is assessed as critical.
1. Remarks by Russian Delegation Head A.Yu. Alexeyev at the Opening Session of the Third Round of Six-Party Talks on the Nuclear Problem on the Korean Peninsula, Beijing
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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I would like to begin by expressing gratitude to our Chinese colleagues for this opportunity to meet again in this hall and for the great amount of preparatory work done by them in the runup to the convocation of this round of talks.
In our view, the negotiating process that was initiated in August last year and the numerous meetings and contacts between negotiators both on a bilateral and on a multilateral basis are gradually yielding fruit. We have come to this round with a clear understanding of the partners' positions. We have reached common understanding of the fact that nuclear weapons should have no place on the Korean Peninsula. At the same time we recognize that the DPRK should be given appropriate guarantees, and also helped with its social and economic development, primarily in the power sector. Finally, the denuclearization process should be verifiable and proceed within the framework of the international law. In addition, we have taken a major step towards the further institutionalization of our talks by establishing a working group, whose early meetings produced results that can be viewed in a quite positive light.
Therefore, all the participants in the negotiating process agree that the goals set out can only be achieved through equal dialogue with mutual respect and regard for the interests and concerns of all the parties. There are a number of indications allowing us to say that, in spite of all the difficulties, the positive dynamics of the talks are obvious, while the chosen targets are correct and meet the interests of all the participants.
The Russian delegation arrived in Beijing with the firm intention to make their constructive contribution to the negotiations and to the finding of mutually acceptable solutions with the aim of the ultimate settlement of the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula. We have a sincere interest in the present round being productive and in the continuation of the six-party process, and we are open for contacts and cooperation with all the participants in the talks.
2. Transcript of Remarks and Answers to Questions by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Press Conference on the Results of the Meeting of the Heads of State Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Tashkent, June 17, 2004 (excerpted)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Daily News Bulletin
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Question: What does Russia expect from the forthcoming round of six-party consultations on the North Korean nuclear problem? Can one count on a breakthrough in the course of this round?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I don't think the forthcoming six-party meeting will be the last. There is no hurry. The issues are truly complicated and their solution is being held back by a period of many years of mutual mistrust. The six-party mechanism plays an important role in restoring trust and finding solutions that would guarantee that there are no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and that the countries there, in particular the DPRK, feel secure and have reliable sources of energy supply that do not depend on the political situation.
The negotiations will not be crowned with a final accord. But the very fact that all the participants come out for continued negotiations in this format is, in our opinion, positive. Without going into detail, I can say that there are stand-by positions and compromise proposals that are being put forward, clarified and elaborated as negotiations proceed. Such proposals have been made by Russia too. Together with China, the Republic of Korea and more recently also with Japan we confirm our readiness, if a preliminary basic understanding is reached, to assist the DPRK, above all in the humanitarian and energy spheres.
So, there is a fairly large package of proposals on the negotiating table from which one can choose the main elements making it possible for the negotiations to continue with an eye to reaching a final agreement. No breakthroughs are expected in the course of the upcoming round of negotiations. It is necessary to preserve this important format and to move patiently toward the goal set.
Question: Great Britain, France and Germany have submitted to the IAEA Board of Governors a new draft resolution on Iran which reportedly has a critical tone. What is the Russian attitude to that document?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: As regards the draft resolution of the IAEA Board of Governors tabled by Great Britain, France and Germany it is as critical as it is cognizant of the positive aspects as regards the cooperation between Iran and IAEA. It is based on the report that the IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei circulated in the Board of Governors. On the whole we believe the report is objective and balanced and we are prepared to work on a resolution of the Board of Governors that would reflect the basic conclusions of the report. They consist in that Iran is cooperating with the IAEA, that this cooperation must continue in order to clarify the questions that the Agency still has. The IAEA continues to study the latest report submitted by Iran at the end of May. It is a sizable report, up to a thousand pages. So, technically, that work must continue.
Our position will be that the IAEA Board of Governors should support the balanced position of the Agency's Director General that is based on real facts.
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