1. World's Chemical Arsenal Bulging, Terrifying --Iraq's weapons may be mythical, but the deadly material is ubiquitous
Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press
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They were no-shows in Iraq, but tons of chemical weapons are stoking fears and costing billions to clean up elsewhere in the world ï¿½ from concrete "igloos" in Oregon, to the Panama rainforest, to the highlands of China, where Japanese war leftovers reportedly have killed hundreds.
In fact, more chemical munitions have turned up lately in Australia than in Iraq, where the Bush administration claimed up to 500 tons would be found. As Baghdad arms hunters searched in vain, chemical weapons material was even being unearthed four miles from the White House in Washington.
At least 8 million such weapons are stockpiled worldwide, and concern is deepening not only over the health and safety of nearby communities, but also over the threat of theft or attacks on depots brimming with sarin or VX, fearsome nerve agents that can kill by the drop.
"Chemical terrorism is something we should all be very concerned about," said Rogelio Pfirter, chief international watchdog for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which oversees destruction of the armaments under a 1997 treaty.
As troubling as the terror potential is, "these weapons are leaking and pose a threat even without terrorist involvement," said Jonathan Tucker, a Monterey Institute specialist in unconventional arms. "The sooner we get rid of them, the better."
Inside U.S. chemical depots, shells filled with old sulfur mustard sometimes bubble over like a deadly champagne. Outside, the government is handing out thousands of emergency-warning radios to local residents. At least 12 leaks ï¿½ all apparently contained on-site ï¿½ occurred last year at the Army depot in Tooele, Utah, researchers at Washington's Stimson Center think tank reported.
National Guard companies have thrown cordons around these U.S. installations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In terrorism-plagued Russia, specialists fret over the security protecting its 36,000 tons of nerve agent.
Chemical warfare reached its depths in World War I, when mustard, phosgene and other gases left more than 1 million wounded and dead on European battlefields. It is World War I leftovers that cleanup crews have been uncovering since 2001 at an old Army test site in residential Spring Valley, up Massachusetts Avenue from central Washington, D.C.
Poisonous clouds were also unleashed in the 1930s by Italian troops in Ethiopia and China's Japanese invaders, and in the 1980s by Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War. It's believed that Egyptian gas was used in Yemen's civil war in the 1960s.
The Chemical Weapons Convention, the 1997 treaty outlawing the weapons, gave governments declaring chemical holdings ï¿½ today the United States, Russia, India, South Korea, Albania and Libya ï¿½ 10 years to destroy them.
Even if extended to 2012, as the treaty allows, that deadline looks unachievable by either the United States or Russia, a U.S. government study finds. By April, the Americans had barely eliminated 20% of its stockpiles, and the Russians 1%.
"The greatest difficulty is purely one of resources and cost," said Richard Guthrie of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The U.S. Army has learned how complex and costly it is to eliminate the dangerous stockpiles ï¿½ originally more than 30,000 tons, mostly sarin, a thin liquid; VX, with the consistency of motor oil, and the molasses-like sulfur mustard.
Absorbed through skin or inhaled as gas, the nerve agents can produce convulsions, paralysis and death. Mustard severely blisters skin and internal membranes.
These agents are packed into bombs and aircraft spray tanks, artillery shells, rockets and landmines, mostly stored beneath earth-covered concrete domes at eight depots across the United States.
When it began its planning in 1985, the Army thought that it could destroy the weapons in nine years for $1.7 billion. Two decades later, it still faces years of work and cumulative costs of more than $25 billion.
"There have been a variety of delays," said Greg Mahall, spokesman for the Army's Chemical Materials Agency.
Chemicals that gelled, crystallized or otherwise degraded demanded special handling, he said. Testing, permits and oversight requirements, at all levels of government, slowed construction and operation. Environmental and other local groups sought court orders to block incineration. Then the Utah plant shut down for eight months in 2002-03 after workers were accidentally exposed to sarin gas.
The pace picked up in recent months as a second incineration facility opened, at the depot in Anniston, Ala. The Army began chemically neutralizing weapons, a newer method, at its Aberdeen, Md., site, and incinerators at the Umatilla, Ore., depot began ï¿½ on Sept. 8 ï¿½ burning rockets loaded with nerve gas.
Roadblocks remain. Plans to chemically neutralize weapons at a Newport, Ind., depot are stalled while the Army hunts for a dumping ground for the waste. Local resistance doomed a plan to process it in Dayton, Ohio. Similar opposition is growing to an Army alternative: discharging it from a New Jersey site into the Delaware River.
The Pine Bluff, Ark., arms depot may begin burning sarin by next year. But delays have plagued the two other sites ï¿½ in Richmond, Ky., where anti-burning activists forced the Army to convert to chemical neutralization, and in Pueblo, Colo., where neutralization may not begin until 2009.
Kentucky-based activists, the Chemical Weapons Working Group, are demanding more openness about what's going on at the facilities. Director Craig Williams noted that the Anniston Star newspaper, through a Freedom of Information Act request, found that three sarin spills had occurred inside the Alabama facility this year.
"They were serious incidents, and the only way anybody found out about them was through a Freedom of Information request," he said.
The information flows less freely from inside Russia, where the "CW" destruction effort, underwritten by U.S. and European aid, bogged down for years. Too little Russian money was available, and U.S. aid was blocked at times as congressmen complained that Moscow wasn't doing enough. The $2-billion-plus centerpiece ï¿½ a giant plant at Shchuch'ye in the Ural Mountains ï¿½ may not be ready until 2009.
Meantime, "a large quantity of Russia's chemical weapons will remain vulnerable to theft or diversion," the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, warned in March.
Undeclared stockpiles or abandoned weapons add another dimension ï¿½ the unknown ï¿½ to the CW threat.
China has the biggest such "orphaned" stockpiles, at least 700,000 chemical munitions abandoned by Japanese troops at World War II's end in 1945, most in the northeast province of Jilin. Last year, mustard gas drums broke at a construction site, killing one and injuring 33.
Chinese plaintiffs suing the Tokyo government contend that the weapons have caused 2,000 deaths since the war. Japanese news reports say Tokyo now has agreed to build a $2.75-billion facility in Jilin to dispose of the weapons, using robots to dig up the unexploded ordnance.
For its part, the U.S. military dropped 31,000 mustard and other chemical munitions on Panama's San Jose island in 1944-47 tests. The Pentagon long claimed that it left none behind, but in 2001, Panama's government said seven intact weapons were found. Researchers believe that hundreds more lie unexploded in the uninhabited rainforest.
Washington offered to clean up the seven weapons. Panama rejected that, demanding that the whole island be cleared. "The U.S. government considers the matter closed," said Gonzalo Gallegos, State Department spokesman.
In Australia last year, 22 mustard shells were found in remote northern Queensland, leftovers from Allied chemical warfare experiments during World War II.
Many more old chemical weapons lie in World War I battlefields in France and Belgium, and elsewhere around the world. But bigger questions hang over secret arsenals ï¿½ in China itself, for example, suspected of holding such arms but not declaring them under the 1997 treaty.
The Middle East is a black hole for the treaty. Many of its states ï¿½ including Egypt, Syria and Israel, all possible chemical weapons states ï¿½ did not ratify the pact.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' Pfirter said universal ratification is a prime goal this decade. But a more realistic goal might be his hope to better monitor the chemical trade and factories ï¿½ 4,000-plus worldwide ï¿½ whose products could help terrorists make weapons.
"We should continue to work toward better and greater coverage on the industrial front," he said. The U.S. GAO concluded in March, however, that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons "faces resource challenges in addressing the proliferation threat posed by commercial facilities." Pfirter's 200 inspectors and $89-million annual budget can't meet the demand.
Paul Walker, a longtime American campaigner for CW cleanup, said that the job ahead is huge and that resources have been wasted.
"We know where the weapons of mass destruction are, and they're not in Baghdad," said Walker, of Global Green USA. "They're in Shchuch'ye and elsewhere, and the cost of getting rid of them is a small fraction of what we're spending in Iraq."
A terrorist alert over two nuclear waste ships was issued today.
The ships will arrive in the English Channel on Friday on their way to the south of France.
Experts said today if terrorists get on board the vessels, the results would be "absolutely catastrophic".
The ships contain enough weapons-grade plutonium to create 40 nuclear bombs. Yet just one cannon and a handful of police protect its deadly cargo.
"They are really a sitting target for terrorists," said Dr Frank Barnaby, a former nuclear physicist at the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment.
"Any half-decent terrorist group could get on board easily and either start a fire or simply take the plutonium on board.
Making nuclear weapons from it is a relatively straightforward process."
The cargo, which started out from South Carolina in the USA last Monday, is destined for a nuclear reprocessing plant in south France via the port of Cherbourg.
It is believed Greenpeace is planning a campaign to try to stop the ships docking.
The ships used, the Pintail and Pacific Teal, are registered in Britain so the Department of Trade and Industry takes responsibility for their security.
A spokesman claimed all necessary arrangements had been made. He said: "There are armed-response units on board
the two ships, and they are travelling in convoy to protect each other," a spokesman said. "We have taken every precaution required by international laws."
However, John Large, a nuclear consultant who recently gave evidence to the US Department of Energy on the safety of the ships, said: "This is really a terrorist's dream. To manufacture this much plutonium would take decades, and this is very, very high-quality material."
Mr Large carried out several simulations of the effects of an accident on board the ship and found much of the South Coast of Britain would be affected.
He said: "This is fine, talc-like powder, and if the wind is right, it would kill several thousand people and wind could carry it for around 60 miles."
The prevailing assessment in the United States is that Al-Qaida and other large terror organizations are individually making efforts to obtain fissionable nuclear materials that will enable them in the future to produce atomic weapons. It is no wonder that important American strategists are saying that the greatest security threat to the United States today is a nuclear terror attack, which will surprise and cause the U.S. a mortal blow. They believe that if preventative measures against atomic terror are not taken, then an "American Hiroshima," as they call it, is almost inevitable.
One of the leading experts who holds this view is Professor Graham Allison of Harvard University, a former senior Pentagon official who has participated in numerous conferences dealing with the nuclear issue. Allison sets forth his firm opinions in his new book, "Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe" (Times Books), which was published in August and is receiving a great deal of attention.
In it he also expresses astonishment at the possibility that nuclear terror is not of concern to Israel, even though it could well serve as a target for an organization like Al-Qaida. According to Allison, it is known that in the past Al-Qaida conducted experiments with chemical and biological weapons as well as with radioactive materials, the main danger of which is the creation of mass panic.
Another expert, Professor Paul Bracken of Yale University, who recently visited Israel, also believes that the danger of atomic terror is real.
That danger is increasing because of the wild proliferation of nuclear materials and know-how, as exemplified by the case of "the father of the Pakistani atomic bomb," Abdul Qadeer Khan, who sold nuclear know-how to various rogue countries like Iran, Libya and North Korea. This affair - in which a country that is considered a friend of the United States becomes the largest disseminator of nuclear know-how - takes up considerable space in Allison's book.
Other sources for the spread of know-how and materials could be Iran and the Confederation of Independent States. There are those who believe that a pre-nuclear Iran constitutes a danger. Brenda Shaffer, an expert from Harvard, says that there is a danger of the loss of control over nuclear materials that have been produced in Iran and are liable to be sold to various elements.
During the Cold War period, the United States was also under a nuclear threat from a rival power. However, this danger - as opposed to the danger of nuclear terror - had an address. Today there is not even a phone number by which it is possible to negotiate with nuclear terrorists, and of course there is no target for a response to a terrible act.
The powers of yesterday, which had at their disposal no fewer than 22,000 tactical nuclear bombs but also had at least an address, could lose their safe hold on them. Criminal elements are liable to sell the small atomic bomb to terrorists, and the smuggling of such a bomb into the United States would also not be difficult, according to commentators.
Israel's name often comes up in chapters in Allison's book that deal with ways to prevent the spread of atomic weapons. Allison notes three main aims that are essential to any strategy of prevention, goals that necessitate above all an umbrella of close international cooperation.
The first aim is to prevent at any price new member countries from joining the existing nuclear club, whose members are, according to Allison, the United States, Russia, England, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel.
The second aim is to prohibit additional countries from enriching uranium or extracting plutonium on their own. Instead, an international bank of enriched uranium will be established, and countries that need it for peaceful purposes will be able to apply to the bank.
The realization of this aim will make it easier to achieve the third aim - getting rid of the fissionable materials that already exist. With Iran, for example, there will be a need to negotiate the way in which it will get enriched uranium for peaceful purposes. This is after it will agree to stop producing it on its own. Thus far there has been no real international awakening on this issue, and the truth is that in light of what is happening in the world, Allison's proposals seem like an ideal vision, though it is doubtful that it can be realized.
1. Kyrgyzstan blocks British, German nuclear imports
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Kyrgyzstan's government announced Wednesday it was blocking controversial plans to import nuclear waste from Britain and Germany for reprocessing.
The government said it was banning imports of uranium-bearing graphite for treatment at the Kara-Balta ore reprocessing facility.
"The ban on imports of uranium-bearing material to Kyrgyzstan applies not only to Britain but to other countries, including Germany," a Kyrgyz government spokeswoman told AFP.
The announcement came after British media announced that British Nuclear Fuels would be sending 1,800 tonnes of such material from its first generation Magnox reactors to Kara-Balta.
The ban also applies to a plan approved by a Kyrgyz government commission in June by which a German firm RWE NUKEM GmbH was to send 1,700 tonnes of a similar material for reprocessing at Kara-Balta.
"The decision was made due to the absence of guarantees concerning the safe-keeping of the uranium-bearing material and in accordance with international security norms," the government's statement read.
While environmental groups and Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev had opposed the imports, Kara-Balta's management said they anticipated much-needed funds from such deals with which they could renew the decaying facility.
This impoverished country's Soviet-era nuclear sites are seen as threatening continued growth in the number of foreign tourists attracted to its spectacular mountain landscapes.
1. BELARUSSIAN COMPANY PROLIFERATES WMDs? HOAX, SAYS BELARUSSIAN AMBASSADOR
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Allegations of Belvneshpromservis Co. trespassing the mass destruction weapon nonproliferation regime are all wrong, says Vladimir Grigoryev, Belarussian Ambassador to Russia.
"This is fiction, a fabricated fact. One sees such things only in a nightmare," he exclaimed at a news conference in Moscow.
Belvneshpromservis is figuring on a US-published black list of companies sanctions against which have been introduced on a US legal act of 2000, which bans exports to Iran of technologies, commodities and services that fail to comply with the nonproliferation regime for mass destruction weaponry and vehicles.
"Belarus does not possess any such technologies, and it is immoral to allege we are taking part in the project. That won't do," said the diplomat.
"This is like what Congressman McKeon was saying in Riga, and what a European Commission spokesman said on four Belarussian officials banned entry to Europe. These are all links in one chain, and we shall not be surprised if more links appear quite soon. All that is done to wall Belarus off from the world," stressed the ambassador.
The US Administration entered 14 companies and organizations on the list of companies in for sanctions, as of September 20. The black list includes Russia's Khazra Trading Co., Belarussian Belvneshpromservis, and the Ukrainian-based Regional Foreign Economic Association of Zaporozhye.
The information appeared in an instruction carried by the US Federal Register today. A total 23 companies have been blacklisted for today.
2. RUSSIAN EXPERTS CALL WORLD TO RECOGNISE INDIA'S, PAKISTAN'S NUCLEAR STATUS
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The world is demanding from India and Pakistan to join the NPT, nuclear non-proliferation treaty, as nuclear-free countries. It would be far more expedient to shift to new strategies that would, in particular, put up with the two countries' nuclear status. The opinion comes up in a paper on South Asian nuclear arsenals. Introduced in Moscow today, it was drawn by a Russian expert team. Gennadi Chufrin, its leader, is Vice-Director of the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations under the Russian Academy of Sciences.
As the team sees it, the new strategies ought to envisage a set of steps to bring down to the least possible-or rule out completely-the negative results of the two countries staying outside the nonproliferation treaty. To be offered in exchange is international recognition of their nuclear status. Those measures are also to promote compliance with nuclear technologies and materials non-proliferation.
To that end, it is necessary for India and Pakistan to include in their national nuclear doctrines the principle of not being the first to use nuclear arms. Either country is to receive recommendations to reach a bilateral agreement on reciprocal military expenditure reduction.
There is another way, say Russian experts, to bring down the nuclear conflict hazard-India and Pakistan are both to pledge not to station nuclear arms in Kashmir.
There is danger of international terrorists to obtain nuclear weaponry. Of special importance in that context is India and Pakistan giving up R&D to improve tactical nuclear arms.
The experts call to encourage Indian and Pakistani cooperation with the IAEA, and promote the two countries' efforts to join international instruments on missile technology non-proliferation control.
1. Duma member questions U.S. sanctions against Russian firm
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Duma international affairs committee chairman Konstantin Kosachyov said he hopes the United States will provide specific evidence to back sanctions it has introduced against a Russian enterprise it accuses of smuggling nuclear technology into Iran.
The enterprise fell victim to U.S. sanctions against companies in several countries, including Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, which the United States accuses of violating the nonproliferation regime. The White House has used sanctions against other Russian enterprises in the past.
"However, in not a single case has the U.S., in making a decision on sanctions against Russian enterprises, offered our country any proof of the validity of their allegations of violations of the international agreement on the nonproliferation of nuclear technologies," Kosachyov told Interfax.
He argued that the lack of such evidence is preventing Russia from prosecuting offenders and tightening its nonproliferation controls, if necessary.
"If the Americans fail to provide specific proof this time as well, we will be forced, as in previous instances, to regard these actions by the U.S. as groundless and as a factor in dishonest competition," he said.
1. RUSSIAN FEDERAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY HEAD TO VISIT TEHRAN IN NOVEMBER
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Head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, or FAEA, Alexander Rumyantsev is to visit Tehran in late November, the Iranian Embassy in Moscow reports.
"The aim of his visit is to hold talks on issues of cooperation in the sphere of atomic energy," a source in the press center of the Embassy said.
The visit had been planned for mid-February earlier, but later it was postponed as parliamentary elections in the Islamic Republic went on against the backdrop of numerous demonstrations in support of the acting democratic MPs, who were debarred from nomination for a new term, a source in Teheran noted.
The postponement of the visit gave rise to a storm of allegations that Russia had given in under pressure on the part of the U.S. Indeed, the fact coincided with a statement made by U.S. Under-Secretary of State John Bolton in Berlin, "We have obtained information that Iran does not comply with the obligations assumed last October to halt uranium-enrichment processes."
However, the trip was put off owing to practical rather than political reasons, Rumyantsev remarked. "Our commercial partners, namely the Russian TVEL Corporation, fuel supplier, had been to sign a corresponding contract with its Iranian partners by mid-February, when disagreement emerged as to spent fuel storage prices," the minister commented for the Vremya Novostei newspaper. At that moment the minister hoped the price question would be adjusted in the course of a fortnight, by late February, so that he would be able to visit Iran to sign a package of documents. The very question of spent fuel returning to Russia has been settled, as a matter of fact," Alexander Rumyantsev asserted. The minister denied any political background of fuel supplies and return. The fuel will be provided to the atomic power plant in Bushehr no later than in the middle of 2005, by the date the first Russian-made light-water reactor is scheduled to be started. Spentfuel return to Russia will be carried out in about a decade due to technological reasons.
Russia offered Wednesday to resume construction of a nuclear power plant in Iran if Iran will return the spent fuel, the Interfax news agency reported.
At a Moscow news conference, Russian Security Council secretary Igor Ivanov made the offer of returning to the Bushehr facility.
Iran quite rightfully raises the question that it should have equal access with other countries to advanced technologies, including nuclear technologies used for peaceful purposes, Ivanov said. Russia is demonstrating in practice that the demand is righteous and therefore we cooperate with Iran.
International concerns were raised that spent nuclear fuel can be reprocessed into weapons-grade uranium, which prompted Russia to suspend its construction of reactors in Iran.
4. Russia to resume nuclear project in Iran for fuel return guarantee - official
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Russia will resume construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant if Tehran agrees to return spent fuel, Russian Security Council secretary Igor Ivanov said.
Iran as an independent country has the right to develop and access modern technologies, including nuclear, for peaceful purposes, he said at a Wednesday news conference at the Interfax central office.
"Iran quite rightfully raises the question that it should have equal access with other countries to advanced technologies, including nuclear technologies used for peaceful purposes. Russia is demonstrating it in practice that the demand is righteous and therefore we cooperate with Iran," he said
5. RUSSIA WILL CONTINUE COOPERATION WITH IRAN IN NUCLEAR SPHERE - SECRETARY OF THE RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL
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Russia is developing cooperation with Iran in the nuclear sphere, Igor Ivanov, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, said at a press conference in Moscow.
In particular he reminded those present about the project of building a nuclear power station in Bushehr. This project will be completed provided the spent nuclear fuel will be returned to Russia, he said.
"If we had had some doubts we would not have been so persistent in completing this project despite all the pressure exerted on us," the Security Council Secretary said replying to the question about the apprehensions voiced by some countries about the possibility of creating nuclear weapons by Iran.
Moreover, Ivanov pointed out that if separate countries have apprehensions that Iran can develop nuclear weapons, and Russia does not have any, such apprehensions could be removed through greater openness. The Secretary of the Russian Security Council positively assessed Iran's latest steps in this sphere. In his opinion they "created a favorable situation."
Ivanov cited the following example: "Questions arise what for Iran needs a full cycle for the enrichment of uranium if this is inexpedient economically. If the question is posed - an answer should be given."
"An open dialogue between Iran and representatives of the world community is needed," he stressed. He pointed out that Iran is right when it declares that it "must enjoy the same right of access to high technologies as other states."
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has informed President Vladimir Putin about the tests of a dummy Bulava (Mace) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) that were held in the White Sea last week.
An exact replica of a real Bulava reached a preset altitude after being launched from the submerged world's largest nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), the Dmitry Donskoi.
This was a significant event for Russia's Navy and military-industrial sector. Although, a great deal of time and work is still needed to create the Bulava complex and place it on combat duty, one can confidently say that Russia and its strategic nuclear forces already have a new intercontinental SLBM.
Bulava missiles will be installed on Mk 955 Borei-class SSBNs. The keel of the first such vessel, the Yuri Dolgoruky, was laid down at the Severodvinsk Nuclear Shipbuilding Centre in the Archangelsk region in 1996.
The Yuri Dolgoruky should have entered into service in 2001 as the first of six third-generation submarines that were to replace Mk 941 Typhoon-class SSBNs. However, this did not happen because the development of a solid-fuel ballistic missile, which was to have replaced the obsolete R-39 (RSM-52) SLBM (NATO reporting name, SS-N-20 Sturgeon), was not completed.
The missile's initial three tests were conducted unsuccessfully at a White Sea testing range in the late 1990s. Each time, the missile blew up in mid-air, failing to reach its target.
The Moscow Heat Engineering Institute was ordered to develop a new SLBM, i.e. the Bulava. The Yuri Dolgoruky and the world's largest Typhoon-class SSBN, the Dmitry Donskoi, had to be redesigned accordingly. The missile platform, rather than the missile itself, was the main problem.
Any Russian, US, French or British SSBN uses special propellant charges, cavitators, when it launches missiles from beneath the waves. These cavitators precede the missile, pushing water aside, thereby enabling the missile to move freely.
It is extremely difficult to identify the appropriate clearance between two physical bodies flying out of the water to ensure that the flames of a powder or another charge do not affect the warhead of another. The point is that several nuclear warheads share one multiple independent re-entry vehicle (MIRV). At the same time, the speeds of these two bodies must be synchronised to the highest degree of accuracy to ensure the clearance is not too great. Moreover, the cavitator must fly aside on the surface and let the missile continue to its target.
The difficulties did not only lie in the technical and technological aspects. The project also failed to receive regular budget allocations at the planned levels. This naturally affected the commissioning of the new strategic systems and the smooth running of the missile-production chain. Nonetheless, the new-generation SLBM was developed in record time, despite the problems besetting the Moscow Heat Engineering Institute and the country's military-industrial sector. Financing began in late 1999, and the first successful underwater launch was conducted in September 2004.
Yuri Solomonov, general designer of the Topol-M ICBM and the Bulava SLBM, told RIA Novosti that even the Soviet Union could not develop new weapons systems at this pace despite mass production and almost limitless funds.
Not much is known about the Bulava SLBM, but Moscow has informed the Pentagon about its main specifications in line with bilateral Russian-US agreements. However, nothing has been made public. Nevertheless, two things are clear: the missile uses solid fuel and features several MIRVs. The question remains how many.
It is not difficult to estimate the Bulava's range. Its status as an ICBM means that it can hit targets at least 8,000 to 10,000km away. It also seems that Bulava MIRVs can breach any available or potential ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) system. This is the Moscow Heat Engineering Institute's trademark. President Vladimir Putin mentioned these specifications in February 2004, while visiting the Plesetsk testing range near Arkhangelsk.
One can also say that the Yuri Dolgoruky will carry 12 Bulava missiles, as it has this many silos. Russia's navy is expected to commission the Yuri Dolgoruky in 2005 or 2006 and receive at least two other submarines in this class by 2010. The keel of the second Mk 955 SSBN was laid March 19, 2004 at the Sevmashpredpriyatiye shipyard. It will be named the Alexander Nevsky. And the third SSBN is waiting for its turn.
The successful launch of the submerged Bulava dummy missile shows that the Russian political and military leadership's plans in this field will be successfully implemented. Russia will sail 10 to 12 SSBNs by 2012, with the number of nuclear warheads corresponding to the parameters of the Russian-US Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty.
During an official visit to Kyrgyzstan, due on September 30- October 1, Iranian first vice-president Mohammad-Reza Aref will meet with Kyrgyz president Askar Akayev, prime-minister Nikolai Tanayev and the speakers of both chambers of the Kyrgyz parliament.
During the meeting, the sides will discuss a wide range of issues related to strengthening bilateral political, trade-economic and cultural-humanitarian cooperation, reported the press-service of the Kyrgyz foreign ministry.
The sides will also discuss the possibility of attracting Iranian investments to the reconstruction of small hydro power stations on the Naryn river in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the implementation of joint projects in tourism and housing construction. Another important issue to be discussed in the course of the forthcoming meetings is the sides' participation in the post-war restoration of Afghanistan, where presidential elections will be held on October 9 for the first time since the overthrow of the regime of Islamic fundamentalists late in 2001.
On the results of Reza Aref's visit to Bishkek, the sides will sign several agreements on cooperation in electric power engineering and healthcare, as well as the program of cooperation in tourism and cultural development for 2004- 2006, reported the Kyrgyz foreign ministry.
For India, the challenge lies in making nuclear power competitive in the market, writes Richard Mahapatra
FIFTY years of Obninsk, the first nuclear power station in the world, saw 500 scientists and policy makers from 32 countries come together for the inauguration of a week-long conference on nuclear power, the mandate being to promote this as the sole reliable source of energy in the 21st century. Such an effort comes at a time when 70 per cent of the worldï¿½s 442 nuclear reactors are on the verge of decommissioning. The sector is also unable to corner the biggest share of the power generation pie. In 2002, all reactors, with a combined capacity of 360 Gigawatt-electrical (GWe) provided just 16 per cent of the worldï¿½s electricity. This percentage has remained the same since 1987.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says that by 2015 the total installed capacity will be just 10 GWe more. Plus, by 2030, the 400-odd lifetime-extended reactors would have to be replaced by new ones to avoid a huge electricity shortage. ï¿½From this year we need at least four reactors every year to increase capacity. Is this realistic?ï¿½ asks Ronald Steur of IAEAï¿½s nuclear power technology development section.
Since the public at home wonï¿½t allow new ones, developed countries are extending the lifetimes of the old reactors. The need for energy security has only fuelled the process. This is also cost-effective. The USAï¿½s Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved upgrades of 96 reactors since 1977, some of these by 20 per cent. Switzerland has increased the capacity of its five reactors by 12.3 per cent and Japan plans to extend plant lifetimes by up to 70 years.
A peculiar situation exists in Europe. On one hand Germany plans to phase out nuclear power by 2025 because of concerns about safety and waste, and on the other, France gets 80 per cent of all electricity generated from nuclear power and plans to increase its capacity. Between these extremes lie other nations.
Among the 10 states that have joined the EU this year, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Hungary and Lithuania operate 19 mainly Russia designed reactors. Since Europeï¿½s dependence on imported energy sources could rise to 70 per cent in 20-30 years, it has recommended a wider acceptance for nuclear energy in itï¿½s Green Paper on Energy Security.
Under the USAï¿½s Nuclear Power 2010 initiative, the government and private companies will work together to explore sites for new nuclear plants. The first nuclear plant built under this initiative, announced last year and granted $38 million by the US government, will be ready by this decadeï¿½s end.
However Asia is going to be the future for nuclear power. The International Energy Outlook 2004 (IEO), a report by the US based Energy Information Administration, says that by 2025, Asiaï¿½s installed capacity would increase by 44 GWe, about 96 per cent of total projected increment in the entire developing world. China will add nearly 19 GWe, South Korea will add 15 GWe, Japan will add 11 GWe and India and Russia will add 6 GWe.
Of the 31 reactors lately connected to the worldï¿½s energy grid, 21 are in Asia. Of the 27 new ones being built, 18 are in Asia. ï¿½New nuclear plants are most attractive where energy demand is growing and alternative resources are scarce, and where energy security and reducing air pollution and green house gases are a priority,ï¿½ said Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general, IAEA.
Another destination for nuclear technology is South Africa. Having dismantled its nuclear weapons programme, South Africa is heavily into nuclear technology development. On 11 June this year, the cabinet approved a huge expansion in research on a most important nuclear project ï¿½ the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor. There is to be a demonstration plant at Koeberg near Cape Town. An associated fuel plant will come up at the Pelindaba, west of Pretoria.
The idea behind PBMR is a nuclear power generating plant that poses no hazard. PBMR proponents say the uranium ï¿½pebbleï¿½ cores used as fuel make this a reality. The technology, being friendly towards small plants, can easily be set up in rural or remote areas or cater to a particular community. All it needs is enough water for cooling. South Africa has already spent $44 million in research. The stakeholders ï¿½ IAEA is the advisor and Electricity Parastatal Eskom, the South Africa-based Industrial Development Corporation and British Nuclear Fuels are partners. A private partner is being sought for the $1.2 billion to get the sites up. Even though a stable international partner has not been secured, funding seems certain.
However nuclear energy faces two challenges ï¿½ environmental and political. Concern for the environment would not give it public approval and after 9/11 sharing nuclear technology has become a political minefield. Other challenges are ageing infrastructure and developing technology to prevent proliferation.
Internationally, efforts to create technology that was proliferation-resistant lead to two initiatives ï¿½ The 19-nation International Project On Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) in 2000, to think of reactors with a closed fuel cycle producing little spent nuclear fuel, and Generation-IV, initiated by the USA along with the Russian Federation and IAEA. However, both have failed to link due to lack of consensus.
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor technology has also reached a deadend due to a similar lack of consensus. This nuclear fusion project involving many countries is stuck on the issue as to where the reactor should be built. Some want the reactor at Cadarache in France, but others want it in Rokkasho-mura in Japan.
But the environmental problem of waste disposal is an even bigger problem. ï¿½By 2010 we need to demonstrate that the most pressing problem of waste disposal has been addressed, or we will continue to have a pessimistic image of nuclear energy,ï¿½ says YA Sokolov, deputy director-general of IAEA.
No country on earth knows how to dispose of radioactive wastes safely and permanently. Spent uranium must be guarded for at least 15,000 years and plutonium for about 75,000-100,000 years. Every year the worldï¿½s 442 nuclear plants produce 12,000 tonnes for radioactive waste. Add 50,000 tonnes of plutonium, if nuclear weapons are dismantled. Nuclear power will grow between 2015 and 2050. Where will the waste go?
The last and biggest hurdle for nuclear energy is the cost of producing the technology. With deregulation of electricity markets, nuclear power has to compete with coal, gas and hydro-electricity. For operating plants, high construction costs have been paid off or written off as subsidies, thus lowering operational costs. So while the profits are up at well-run plants mostly in developed countries, setting up new plants has become prohibitive.
New plants cost up to three times more to build than fossil fuelled plants. Completion takes 12-15 years, blocking return on capital. Since it takes 25-30 years from the blueprint stage to the operational stage, investors pumping in money have to wait for three decades for returns. No wonder recent investments in Western Europe and North America have veered towards natural gas.
The Indian nuclear power programme is attempting to leapfrog from a market share of three per cent to 25 per cent by 2050. This means it has to capture half a per cent of the energy markets for the next 26 years. But India has already spent huge amounts of money on its nuclear programme, a massive investment of Rs 10,00,000 crores. Now as it takes up power generation it lacks investment. The return of three per cent electricity is a massive waste of resources.
The first challenge, hence, is to make the nuclear power competitive in the market. According to a cost analysis of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd done on two 500 MW capacity nuclear and thermal power plants which would be commercially viable in 2004-2005, nuclear power has gained in cost competitiveness. The cost of generating electricity from nuclear power after the initial four or five years has been found to be cheaper than thermal power. But this is based on massive government spending on infrastructure and discounts to electricity generation.
ï¿½In India, nuclear power is the only viable source left for us,ï¿½ says B R Grover, strategic planning head, BARC. With its coal and gas reserves enough only for this century, India is left only with renewable sources and nuclear. Rather than allow its compulsions to turn into an obsession, India needs to keeps its energy options open. With nuclear energy not being itï¿½s imperative, can it not be easily seduced by nuclear hardsell?
3. Rosenergoatom Concern to hold exercises at NPP in Beloyarsk
(for personal use only)
Rosenergoatom Concern, that operates numerous nuclear power utilities across Russia, will hold complex exercises at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant near Yekaterinburg on Tuesday.
The previous large-scale exercises of this type were last held at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant 10 years ago. This time, observers from the United States, France, China, Ukraine and Armenia will monitor the exercises, in which the top managers and personnel of the Beloyarsk NPP, specialists from the Rosenergoatom crisis-management centre and experts of the group for assistance to NPPs in emergencies, as well as means and forces of the Ministry for Emergency Situations and the Russian Defence Ministry will be taking part.
The objective of the exercises is to improve operational interaction and information exchanges in the course of clean-up operations after possible emergencies at nuclear power plants and to test special hardware and means of communication.
One reactor of the BN-600 series is now operational at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant. It is the worldï¿½s most powerful fast-neutron reactor. Rosenergoatom specialists plan to use the spent nuclear fuel imported into Russia in the fast breeders of the BN-600 type. The design service life of Power Generating Unit 3 at the Beloyarsk NPP is 30 years, and it runs out in 2010.
The Beloyarsk nuclear power plant is now building its fourth power- generating unit that will use a BN-800 breeder with s capacity of 800 megawatt. It will be commissioned in 2009.
1. Russian MFA Information and Press Department Commentary Regarding Questions from the News Agencies Interfax and RIA Novosti Concerning the Russia-US Working Group on Counterterrorism
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)
Questions: Please comment on reports that a meeting of the Russia-US Working Group on Counterterrorism, of which, on the American side, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is a cochairman, is expected to be held soon. Previously his opposite number was First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Trubnikov. Does the information correspond to reality that, from now on, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Kislyak will represent Russia in this Group?
When and where will the Working Group meeting be held, and to what questions will the sides accentuate their attention?
Answer: That meeting is indeed being prepared.
By now eleven meetings of the Russia-US Working Group on Counterterrorism have already been held. In the framework of this mechanism key issues related to collaboration between Russia and the United States on the counterterrorist front, and other aspects of counteraction against new challenges and threats are being examined. The Group has acquitted itself as an efficient and effective body for coordinating the two countries' cooperation in this area.
Until recently, First Deputy Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov was the Group's Russian cochairman. Jointly with his US counterpart, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, he ensured the successful organization of bilateral partner-like cooperation in the struggle against terrorism. Following Trubnikov's transfer to another job - as is known, he is appointed Russia's ambassador to India - Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Kislyak will head up the Russian part of the Working Group. We expect the Group to meet even before the end of the current year, and that by way of rotation this meeting will be held in Moscow. We count on the fruitful Russian-American partnership in the field of counteraction against the threat of international terrorism receiving its further development.
The BioIndustry Initiative's mission is to counter the threat of bioterrorism through targeted transformation of former Soviet biological weapons research and production capacities.
The U.S. Department of State BioIndustry Initiative (BII) is a nonproliferation program authorized in the Defense and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for FY 2002 (Public Law 107-117). BII focuses on two objectives:
-- The reconfiguration of former Soviet biological weapons (BW) production facilities, their technology and expertise for peaceful uses.
-- The engagement of Soviet Biological and Chemical Weapons scientists in collaborative R&D [research and development] projects to accelerate drug and vaccine development for highly infectious diseases.
BII focuses on peaceful, transparent and ultimately self-sustainable redirection of biological research and production facilities in the former Soviet Union. BII facilitates partnerships between U.S. pharmaceutical companies and their Russian counterparts; utilizes consultation of both western and Russian marketing, business and engineering experts to assess and characterize core capabilities and strategic planning for the institutes; and develops skills and infrastructure required for a viable biotech sector in Eurasia. BII is a unique U.S. Government program providing patenting, commercialization, training, and business and market development for both the research institutes and large-scale production facilitates in the former Soviet Union.
Targeted Transformation of BW Capacities
By fostering new partnerships and diversifying funding sources, BII hopes to achieve its long-term goal of transforming former BW facilities into viable research and production institutions. BII engages specific institutes, assesses their core capabilities as well as the appropriate domestic and international market, then pairs Russian laboratories with American researchers in both academic and industrial sectors. BII may also fund projects in support of U.S. and Russian partnerships where promising technologies offer alternative routes to research and development. BII brings intensive partnering and facilitation through marketing, legal and business expertise to both the institute and the individual scientist. This strategy allows the institute to decrease the reliance on nonproliferation funding sources while increasing transparency on a defined pathway toward greater self-sustainability.
The BioIndustry Initiative's initial funding was authorized in the Department of Defense and Emergency supplemental appropriations for Recovery from and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States Act, 2002 (P.L. 107-117), Division B - Fiscal Year 2002 supplemental appropriations, Chapter 3. This appropriation transferred $30,000,000 to the Department of State, Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs "for the purpose of supporting expansion of the Biological Weapons Redirect and International Science and Technology Centers programs, to prevent former Soviet biological weapons experts from emigrating to proliferant states and to reconfigure former Soviet biological weapons production facilities for peaceful uses."
BII also receives annual funding through the U.S. Department of State's Office of Proliferation Threat Reduction, which supports both the Science Centers and Bio-Redirect nonproliferation programs working in Eurasia. BII works as part of a coordinated effort with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
-- The Center for Innovative Medicine and Integrated Technology (CIMIT);
-- The Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF); and
-- The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC).
Accelerating Vaccine Development
In close cooperation with the Biotechnology Engagement Program (BTEP) of the U.S. DHHS [Department of Health and Human Services], BII identified a novel vaccine platform technology, currently being validated through a BTEP sponsored project at the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR (Koltsovo, Novosibirsk region). BII organized an independent technical validation of the HIV-1 vaccine in collaboration with Dr. Jeffrey Gelfand of Massachusetts General Hospital/CIMIT, Dr. Barton Haynes of Duke University Medical Center's Human Vaccine Institute, and Dr. Richard Markham of Johns Hopkins University. Initial in vitro testing supports Vector's data, indicating broad reactivity to HIV-1. In addition to these initial results, BII has organized contact between the inventor and Wyeth Vaccines as well as Aventis Pasteur, both leading the race to develop a vaccine against the AIDS virus. Based upon positive technical and market feedback, BII has supported a strategic patent filing to extend Vector's proprietary approach beyond applications for HIV to include infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C and Influenza.
This work represents a model activity for BII's accelerated drug and vaccine program. BII continues to support a variety of such activities, including a extensive program on multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in Russia.
A major challenge to Russian institutes attracting an international, commercial clientele for contract research and testing services is meeting internationally recognized standards of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP). The goal of the Russian -- American BioIndustry Initiative, Integrated Toxicology Testing (RABIITT) program is to ensure sustainability of the Russian research institutions by: a) developing an international client base for certified toxicology testing services, b) building institutional pre-clinical toxicology capacities, and c) validating data to U.S. Government regulatory agencies. BII staff performed initial assessments of five target institutes in July 2003. Currently, BII is selecting vendors to provide GLP validation and auditing services to these institutes. Based upon the audit results, specific upgrades, training and other remedial actions will be undertaken in cooperation with participating institutes to make them compliant with GLP and other international standards.
'Graduation' for RCMDT
The Research Center of Molecular Diagnostics & Therapy (RCMDT) is a multidisciplinary research institution specializing in molecular medicine. It is the first institute to be engaged by the BioIndustry Initiative with the specific goal of graduating into transparent, sustainable research through a mixture of academic and commercial partnerships.
Applied research: With BII support, RCMDT is undertaking a drug discovery program to identify and develop new methods of treatment of drug resistant tuberculosis based upon drug-loaded polymeric nanoparticles. RCMDT is working in collaboration with the Moscow Medical Academy to improve the treatment of MDR TB and also potentially extend this technology to other drug resistant infections.
U.S. Industry Partners: RCMDT has established a relationship with a U.S. biotech company to develop new drug delivery systems for the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis and cancers.
Academic Funding: RCMDT was recently included in an NIH grant to receive funding for a collaborative research project on the development of novel approaches to disease research.
BII at Vostok
Joint Stock Company (JSC) Vostok was first established as a biologics manufacturing facility utilizing large-scale fermentation under the auspices of Biopreparat. It recently became a joint venture between private investors and Biopreparat. Currently, Vostok's major activities include production and sale of medical infusions, pharmaceuticals, and industrial enzymes. BII learned that Vostok is underutilizing its fermentation manufacturing capacity due to insufficient downstream manufacturing capabilities. To achieve long-term sustainability of this facility, BII and Vostok began a joint effort to analyze the marketing environment to determine how to best utilize its manufacturing capabilities and resources. Collaboration with Vostok began in March 2003 with a market assessment of the fermentation products industry in Eurasia. In late April 2003, BII and Vostok began planning a workshop to conduct a market analysis for the microbiological business of the plant, to include a thorough assessment of the fermentation products market opportunities in Russia and Europe. Vostok is currently working towards a production line upgrade to address the results of the market study.
BII continues to support Vostok's redirection to commercial, transparent and ultimately profitable activities.
Russian Biotech Presence at BIO 2003
BII sponsored over a dozen Russian researchers from former BW institutes and supported the Russian booth at the Biotechnology Industry Organization's (BIO) 2003 trade show. Visitors to the BII booth often noted that they did not realize that there was a world-class biotech capability in Russia. An important outcome of the BioIndustry Initiative's presence at BIO 2003 was the establishment of a partnership with the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, which will visit Russia in September 2003 to leverage the Initiative's access to TB drug and vaccine developers in Russia.
BIO 2003 represents a model activity for BII in that it fosters both new partnerships as well as new exposure of world-class Russian research and production.
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