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Nuclear News - 10/13/2005
RANSAC Nuclear News, October 13, 2005
Compiled By: Julia Myers

A.  Submarine Dismantlement
    1. Expert: "We need a Strategic Master Plan for the Far East" , Grigory Pasko , Bellona Foundation (10/13/2005)
    2. Russia Tests Submarine-Launched Missile, Global Security Newswire (10/11/2005)
B.  Cooperative Threat Reduction
    1. Moscow's OK for Cooperative Security Liabilities Deal Expected Soon , Inside the Pentagon (10/13/2005)
C.  Nonproliferation Diplomacy
    1. Putin advisor hails Nunn film on nuclear terror, Jeff Nesmith, Cox News Service (10/13/2005)
    2. Britain set to end funding for army re-training programs , RIA Novosti (10/12/2005)
D.  Russia-Iran
    1. Bushehr power plant to start operation in 2006 , Bellona Foundation (10/12/2005)
    2. Russia ready to help resume Iranian-EU talks on nuclear program - Foreign Ministry , RIA Novosti (10/12/2005)
    3. EU3 look to Russia to influence Iran on nuclear talks, Gareth Smyth , Financial Times (10/11/2005)
E.  Russia-North Korea
    1. Kim Jong-il confirms renunciation of nuclear weapons program, Interfax (10/12/2005)
F.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Murmansk Shipping Company to manage new nuclear icebreaker , Bellona Foundation (10/12/2005)
    2. U.S. energy establishment expresses interest in Iran-Armenia pipeline , Gamlet Matevosyan, RIA Novosti (10/12/2005)
G.  Nuclear Safety
    1. Hunting Loose Nukes in Eastern Europe: 'Nightline' Gains Exclusive Access to Search for Nuclear Material, Cynthia McFadden, ABC News (10/13/2005)
H.  Official Statements
    1. PRESS RELEASE: Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov Speaks to Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran Manuchehr Mottaki by Telephone, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (10/12/2005)
    2. Transcript of Remarks and Replies to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Press Conference Following Talks with Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, Moscow, October 12, 2005, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (10/12/2005)
I.  Items of Interest
    1. In Caspian, US-led security workshop targets 'Purple' menace , Simon Ostrovsky , Agence France-Presse (10/13/2005)

A.  Submarine Dismantlement

Expert: "We need a Strategic Master Plan for the Far East"
Grigory Pasko
Bellona Foundation
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW - Grigory Pasko interviews Ashot Sarkisov, head of the scientific group developing the Strategic Master Plan for decommissioning nuclear submarines in Northwest Russia.

September 28th saw the first celebration in Russia of Nuclear Industry Workers' Day. The Interfax Russian news agency reported the results of a poll carried out by the Russia Public Opinion Research Centre for the day, which showed that most Russians consider that the use of nuclear energy should be increased--even while they accept the possibility of another accident similar to the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986.

What do these data tell us, apart from seeming to confirm the myth about the mysterious Russian soul? In my opinion, they reflect the lack of complete and reliable information that people have regarding problems of nuclear energy as a whole, and safe usage of it in particular.

From personal observation, mainstream, non-specialised media rarely print any analysis of the current state of affairs regarding the decommissioning of nuclear submarines, recycling of nuclear fuel, or the ecological reclamation of Rosatom installations that formerly belonged to the Navy. The lack of reliable information not only slows down the problem-solving process in this sector, but also leads to differing opinions regarding its effectiveness.

Meanwhile, this process is not only ongoing, but actually gathering speed. This is probably most obvious in the Northwest region, where from the time that decommissioning of nuclear submarines became a relatively open issue things have gone better than in the Russian Far East. This has been due in no small measure to the Nunn-Lugar programme.

In 2003, the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP) and the Atomic Energy Ministry (now Rosatom)jointly initiated a Strategic Master Plan (SMP) to decommission and dismantle in an environmentally friendly manner retired nuclear submarines and other nuclear Russian naval vessels and installations that have been taken out of service in Northwest Russia.

The Strategic Master Plan was drawn up by a team from the Nuclear Safety Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for Problems of Safe Nuclear Energy Development (IBRAE). The plan was drafted under the leadership of Ashot Sarkisov. More than 50 experts from IBRAE, the Kurchatov Institute and the Dollezhal Scientific Research and Design Institute of Energy Technologies (NIKIET) were involved in the development of the plan.

During hearings in Moscow, Murmansk, and Severodvinsk following ratification of the Master Plan in December 2004, positive feedback was gained from social organisations, in particular Bellona, for almost the first time.

Bellona's representative in St. Petersburg, Alexander Nikitin, said that the SMP was of great strategic ecological value and had been drawn up fairly objectively.

As a journalist who has been writing in almost total isolation for many years about the social discussion of decommissioning of nuclear submarines in the Pacific Fleet, I could not but be interested in the Strategic Master Plan for the Northwest. And, obviously, I had to ask when a similar plan would be drawn up to deal with the problems in Russia's Far East.

I put this question to Ashot Sarkisov. Here is what he had to say:

Ashot Sarkisov: We began talking about the lack of international attention being given to ecological problems in the Far East two years ago.

We cited the Strategic Master Plan for the Northwest as a good example of consolidated efforts to solve large-scale tasks. This conceptual plan is unique because it takes into account all facilities in need of ecological reclamation: decommissioned nuclear subs, surface ships with nuclear installations, technological service ships, former technical shore-bases ... right up to solving problems with spent nuclear fuel, radioactive waste, and dangerous chemical substances. In addition, questions of the public's safety, as well as the safety of personnel and the environment, were taken into account. Also included was the creation of a monitoring system in the region, as well as special crisis centres to react in case of emergency. The safety programme includes all projects dealing with protection of nuclear materials, because non-proliferation today is a hot topic not just for the international community but for us [Russia] as well.

Many countries do not have such an integrated approach to solving urgent problems. The depth in which the project has been developed is also unprecedented: from the condition of reclaimed installations to the complete solution of problems with all waste materials. Of course, some problems require additional research. But as a whole, in our view the strategy has been chosen correctly.

Grigory Pasko: What additional projects are we talking about here?

A.S. : For the moment there are five of them. No. 1 is to create safe conditions for storage of spent nuclear fuel from Alpha-class submarines. No. 2 is to develop a conceptual project to move spent nuclear fuel and solid waste from open storage. No. 3 is a project to ensure secure storage of spent nuclear fuel from pressurized water reactors in existing storage facilities. No. 4 is to improve physical protection systems, and no. 5 is to improve radiation monitoring systems and emergency reaction systems in the Murmansk Region (stage 1).

These projects concern Gremikha and Andreeva Bay. Contracts are now being concluded under these projects, and they are now being implemented.

In addition, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has proposed defining several more obvious "burning" projects, which we are working on now.

G.P. : What is the theme of these projects?

A.S. It is still too early to say for sure, but I can say that we are currently talking about the surface ship Admiral Ushakov, about the reclamation of solid nuclear waste at Zvezdochka, and so on. 18 months have been set aside for this work, and work is continually ongoing.

G.P. : How does our beloved Far East look against this apparently quite successful North-West background?

A.S. : There is nothing like this in the Far East. I am trying to use every international forum possible to attract attention to the problems there [in the Far East]. They all listen carefully, agree with me, nod, but nothing more happens. For example, at a summer conference in Tokyo the deputy head of Rosatom, Sergei Antipov, gave a presentation, and there was my special report on the problems of the Far East. The report visibly made an impression. But our main most likely partner in the region, Japan, made no expression of interest. I think that there were some political motivations behind this. They understand that there is serious pollution going on in the Far East, that there are potential risks with fuel transfers, incidents at facilities, that there are real dangers ... but there are real political obstacles. In all probability, these are territorial claims and the absence of a peace treaty [the Soviet Union and Japan never signed a peace treaty after World War II, and Russia and Japan have yet to rectify this].

On the other hand, the Americans are our allies in these questions. They support us and help us. And not just the Americans, but also the Norwegians, Australians ...

It is obvious that the Far East now needs a comprehensive approach, like in the North-West. It needs a Strategic Master Plan. Therefore, decisions need to be taken on an international level with the involvement of all interested parties.

To start this work, we planned to hold a special conference this year. Unfortunately, we were unable to do so due to a lack of financing. Of course, we will keep working in this area.

G.P.: I wish you success!

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Russia Tests Submarine-Launched Missile
Global Security Newswire
(for personal use only)

Russia over the weekend tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile, and is planning to test a silo-based missile before the end of October, ITAR-Tass reported.

A submerged submarine launched the RSM-54 missile, which flew more than 6,000 kilometers and hit a target at the Kura training range in Kamchatka. "This is the sixth sea-based ICBM launch this year," the Russian Defense Ministry said.

A land-based ICBM is to be test-fired this month from the Baikonur space center, ITAR-Tass reported. "The ICBM is in one of the silos at the cosmodrome. Strategic rocket crews are checking the missile and the launching system," an official said (ITAR-Tass, Oct. 10).

Meanwhile, Russia is destroying another rail-based missile launcher, Interfax reported yesterday. "The process of scrapping should be complete by the end of the week," a source said.

This is the eighth of nine rail launch pads set to be destroyed in 2005, Interfax reported.

Japan on Friday agreed to help fund disposal of five Russian nuclear submarines, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi are scheduled to sign the agreement when they meet next month in Japan.

Japan will contribute millions of dollars to an international fund for Russian disarmament to pay for the submarine project, which could begin this year, Yomiuri reported. Russia is expected to conduct the work (Yomiuri Shimbun/Daily Yomiuri, Oct. 8).

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B.  Cooperative Threat Reduction

Moscow's OK for Cooperative Security Liabilities Deal Expected Soon
Inside the Pentagon
(for personal use only)

Russian officials notified the U.S. State Department this week that a major liabilities agreement the two countries reached "in principle" over the summer for cooperative security programs could clear Moscow's interagency review process within a few days, sources told Inside the Pentagon Oct. 11.

A longstanding dispute over liability protection for U.S. personnel working on these programs in Russia has hampered a host of nonproliferation projects between the two countries.

Once approved by Russian government agencies, the liabilities agreement must also be green-lighted by other high-level government officials to complete Moscow's approval process.

Russian leaders could clear the deal for signature within the next few weeks, ITP has learned.

Formal adoption of a liabilities protocol is expected to open the doors for talks on the extension of the Cooperative Threat Reduction umbrella agreement with Russia, which expires next year.

Under the CTR program, the United States helps Russia destroy and safeguard its Soviet-era stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Earlier this year, U.S. officials began suggesting that Moscow and Washington begin CTR extension talks, submitting two draft extension protocols to Russian officials in May and during the summer.

But Moscow -- dissatisfied with the far-reaching liabilities protection included in the original CTR umbrella agreement -- insisted that the two countries first negotiate a new liability policy for the two countries' plutonium disposition agreement before moving forward on CTR extension, sources say.

Plutonium disposition plans were worked out by the Clinton administration with former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and the planning continued after Vladimir Putin succeeded Yeltsin. Those deliberations led to a U.S.-Russian agreement in which both countries pledged to eliminate 34 metric tons of plutonium each from their respective stockpiles, enough for thousands of nuclear weapons.

When the two countries restarted liabilities talks at the beginning of this year, Washington officials demanded blanket liability protection for U.S. workers, while Moscow envisioned a deal resembling the level of liability offered to European countries through the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme in the Russian Federation.

That program, signed by many European countries in 2003, provides assistance to Russia in areas of spent nuclear fuel safety and radioactive waste management. The legal protocol to the agreement states that Russia does not have the right to sue personnel from the contributing nations, "with the exception of claims for injury or damage against individuals arising from omissions or acts of such individuals done with the intent to cause injury or harm."

One of Moscow's concerns was that a blanket liability agreement would clear the United States of any accountability should a U.S. worker intentionally cause harm.

Washington, in turn, was reluctant to submit U.S. personnel to the Russian court system, which could lead to "either political or economical harassment from either individuals in Russia or the Russian government," a State Department source told ITP March 29
But negotiators from both countries came to terms during the G-8 summit in Scotland over the summer, according to a July 19 statement released by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM)

In the liabilities agreement reached then, the United States gave up its claim for blanket protection, and the two countries set up a process for handling a situation in which an individual deliberately causes damage in the country in which he is working, sources told ITP this week.

Representatives from both countries could talk as early as next week about a date for starting CTR extension talks -- possibly in late October or early November, sources told ITP this week.

Depending on the status of the Russian approval process for the liabilities protocol, such a meeting could also serve for both parties to formally ink the liabilities deal, ITP has learned.

The liabilities protocol must be approved by a number of government agencies in each country. In the United States, it already has cleared the National Security Council, thereby completing the interagency review process, a government official told ITP Oct. 7.

Russia has a similar body to the NSC, but its powers are more limited, and the protocol must also make the rounds in various ministries, a Russian source said the same day.

The agreement is likely to be signed on the deputy minister level on the Russian side, and the under secretary level on the U.S. side, sources say.

Ultimately, the Russian Duma must ratify the liabilities deal. It does not have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate because it is an executive agreement that can enter into force solely through presidential authority.

With the new liabilities agreement serving as the legal framework, the CTR extension talks could be a straightforward, relatively easy process, some sources maintain.

Besides CTR and plutonium disposition, a number of other dormant projects could gain momentum through the new liabilities agreement.

Since June 2000, for example, plans for a Joint Data Exchange Center outside Moscow, which would house equipment that would allow the sharing of satellite information on missile launches, have been on hold because of the dispute.

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C.  Nonproliferation Diplomacy

Putin advisor hails Nunn film on nuclear terror
Jeff Nesmith
Cox News Service
(for personal use only)

WASHINGTON -- "Last Best Chance," a short movie about efforts by al-Qaida terrorists to obtain nuclear weapons to use against the United States and Great Britain, has drawn applause from a senior Russian official despite its portrayal of weaknesses in the security of Russia's stockpile.

In the opening scene, gangsters offer an underpaid Russian scientist a bribe to help them steal a warhead from a poorly secured weapons site.

"I think this movie should be distributed all over the world," Sergei Karaganov, foreign policy adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Tuesday night after watching a screening of the 45-minute film. "I disagree with some of the elements, but it's a great movie."

The film, a fast-paced drama about the frantic efforts of an American president to stop the terrorists, was produced by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit organization headed by former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn and businessman Ted Turner.

The film, in which former Sen. Fred Thompson plays the president, is to be aired Monday night on HBO. The network has also scheduled four additional showings.

Scripted as a fast-paced "techno-thriller," its purpose is to stimulate public concern about nuclear terrorism, one of the chief concerns of the organization.

As writer Hendrik Hertzberg observed in The New Yorker, the film has "no sex scenes, no car chases and no wisecracking sidekicks" but "lays out a frighteningly plausible narrative of how terrorists might buy or steal the makings of a nuclear bomb."

In addition to trying to buy a warhead in Russia, al-Qaida has agents working to secure weapons-grade uranium and plutonium in other countries.

The movie cuts rapidly from "Oval Office" scenes to a warehouse in Poland, a crude weapons factory in Sudan, and a lonely crossing point on the U.S.-Canadian border as Russia, the United States and other countries race to stop the terrorists.

It has previously been screened in Atlanta and other cities and the group has given away more than 52,000 DVDs to people who asked for it on a Web site,

Nunn and Karaganov talked about nuclear terrorism and the Russian-U.S. relationship in a short panel discussion following the Tuesday screening here.

They agreed that the two countries should be able to "walk and chew gum at the same time," Nunn's term for cooperating on efforts to secure nuclear weapons, even while they differ in many other areas.

Nunn has for the past decade cajoled both American and Russian officials to take more decisive action to lock down nuclear weapons and weapons-grade nuclear material. He also lobbies for both countries to relax the Cold War "quick response" strategies each still maintains in the event of a possible attack by the other.

The former Georgia senator confirmed in an interview that making the movie -- with $1 million from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York -- was his idea.

"If we spent $1 million on newspaper advertisements and television commercials about this problem, we wouldn't even make a ripple," he said.

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Britain set to end funding for army re-training programs
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

YEKATERINBURG - Britain will stop financing re-training programs for retired Russian military personnel this year, a member of the British government told a news conference Wednesday.

Minister of State for the Armed Forces Adam Ingram said the program was entering a new stage and Britain hoped that the Russian Defense Ministry would take over the project's financing next year.

The British government has invested more than 150 million pounds in the program, which has been implemented in Russia since 1995. About 25,000 retired servicemen graduated from five re-training centers and more than 80% found jobs in the civilian sector.

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D.  Russia-Iran

Bushehr power plant to start operation in 2006
Bellona Foundation
(for personal use only)

Russia and Iran have confirmed that they intend to commission the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant by the end of 2006, a spokesman for Russia's Federal Agency for Nuclear Power said on September 12.

The agency's head, Alexander Rumyantsev, and Gholamreza Aqazadeh, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, met in Moscow on September 12 to discuss the construction of the first power unit at the Bushehr NPP and confirmed they planned to commission the plant by the end of 2006, the spokesman said. Russian experts are currently on the final stages of the construction of the first power unit with capacity of about 1,000 Megawatt. Earlier reports indicate that Russia is planning to build six power units at nuclear power plants in Iran within the next decade, RIA-Novosti reported.

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Russia ready to help resume Iranian-EU talks on nuclear program - Foreign Ministry
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW - Russia is ready to help Iran and the European troika (Britain, Germany and France) resume talks on the Iranian nuclear program, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the issue with his Iranian counterpart, Manuchehr Motaki, during a telephone conversation.

Lavrov said Russia wanted Iran and the European troika to resume the talks as soon as possible, to achieve a political-diplomatic resolution of the problem.

Motaki reaffirmed Iran's readiness to continue the talks.

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EU3 look to Russia to influence Iran on nuclear talks
Gareth Smyth
Financial Times
(for personal use only)

Teheran -- With time ticking away to next month's crucial meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency the European Union is looking to Russia, China and domestic Iranian opinion to persuade Tehran to revive talks over its controversial nuclear programme.

Iran has given no indication to the EU3, Britain, France and Germany it will accept last month's IAEA resolution that found Tehran in "non-compliance" with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, a first step towards referral to the UN security council and possible sanctions.

Iran has dismissed the resolution's call to give up converting raw uranium into fuel, a demand the EU has made a condition for restarting talks.

The Tehran ambassadors of the EU3 have not even met Ali Larijani, Iran's top security official, since the resolution was passed.

"At the moment we have no interlocutor," said a senior European diplomat. "We are talking through [press] interviews."

Tony Blair, the British prime minister, on Tuesday told a London news conference "the position of Europe and America ..[is] �the same� we will continue the pressure." Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, will later this week visit Europe to co-ordinate policy.

Meanwhile, Iran's diplomacy has been muted. Since taking office in August, new president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad has appointed officials who show little appetite for compromise.

"These people are more like interrogators than negotiators," said the European diplomat, referring to the background of many new officials in the Revolutionary Guards.

The Europeans have identified Mr Larijani as the man with whom they need to talk, but are discouraged by his performance.

On Sunday, Mr Larijani gave mixed signals in a speech to staff and students at Tehran's Sharif technical university.

On one hand, he said for the first time that Iran might accept some of the conditions of the IAEA resolution.

But he also complained of "fascism" and of Iran being treated "worse than North Korea," which claims to have nuclear weapons.

Europe still wants to avoid referring Iran to the security council, said the diplomat: "Our hope is that as the deadline approaches, more moderate elements in Tehran will have more sway."

Both former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and reformist figures have begun publicly to question whether confrontation is in Iran's best interests.

A second EU hope is that Russia and China, who abstained on the IAEA resolution and who have vetoes in the security council, can influence Iran.

"We certainly need outside help," said the diplomat. "Russia's red line is the same as ours, they do not want Iran to have the full nuclear fuel cycle."

A third hope is that Iran might give some positive signs to the IAEA delegation that arrived in Tehran on Monday, apparently to complete research for a report to November's meeting.

But there are increasing signs of the Iranian leadership preparing public opinion for referral to the security council.

Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation (AEO), on Tuesday claimed "credible" opinion polls showed 80 percent of Iranians supported the country having the full nuclear cycle.

Mr Saaedi said the AEO was working on details of the proposal made by Mr Ahmadi-Nejad to the UN last month for "international involvement" in Iran's nuclear programme.

The European diplomat said this idea was 'old hat.'

"This could come later once confidence is established, but it's not the way forward now. Iran's new team is still at the stage of showing how their predecessors got it all wrong.

"But what we need are clear signals they want to comply with the IAEA resolution. It's not up to us to initiate, Iran has to move."

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E.  Russia-North Korea

Kim Jong-il confirms renunciation of nuclear weapons program
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has confirmed the understandings reached at the fourth round of six-sided talks to settle the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula, Russian Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern federal district Konstantin Pulikovsky told Interfax on Wednesday.

"I met Kim Jong-il and the North Korean leader clearly confirmed his country's renunciation of the development of nuclear weapons," Pulikovsky said on his return from festivities marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean Workers' Party.

"Kim confirmed all the understandings reached at the six-nation talks. In his opinion, one should already be speaking of the implementation of these commitments by all sides," Pulikovsky said.

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F.  Nuclear Industry

Murmansk Shipping Company to manage new nuclear icebreaker
Bellona Foundation
(for personal use only)

Murmansk Shipping Company (MSC) will get nuclear icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy, or 50th anniversary of Victory, under trust management until 2008, the MSC press department reported with reference to the order by the Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov on September 30.

According to the press-release, the Russian government decided to buy the nuclear fuel for the nuclear icebreaker at the expense of MSC's revenue received from icebreaker assistance in the North Sea Route. Earlier it was expected that the fuel will purchased by the state. The price tag of the fuel is $14m.

The Russian state budget is allocating $5.7m in 2006 for the icebreaker construction when $26.6$ is needed. Icebreaker 50 years of Victory's completion was originally scheduled for 1995, but financial difficulties led to the numerous delays and this year Russia already celebrated 60th anniversary of Victory, but the icebreaker is still not finished.

The keel of the icebreaker was laid in 1989 and it was put into the water at the end of 1993. But due to the lack of financing, construction was suspended. Partial financing was renewed in the late 1990s. A contract for completing the ship was signed by Baltiysky shipyard and the government in February 2003. It will join the other nuclear icebreakers run by the Murmansk Shipping Company in Murmansk.

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U.S. energy establishment expresses interest in Iran-Armenia pipeline
Gamlet Matevosyan
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

YEREVAN - U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said Wednesday that the United States would be interested in contributing to the Iran-Armenia natural gas pipeline project.

Bodman met with his counterpart Armen Movsisyan in Armenia's capital to discuss the pipeline, as well as to consider the possibility of holding a U.S.-Armenian energy forum for private companies and financial institutions in order to boost Armenia's energy sector, the Armenian Foreign Ministry reported.

Movsisyan said Armenia's only nuclear power plant could be shut down only if there were other energy-generating facilities available to replace it. He said Armenia expected the U.S. to help it in ensuring the plant's safety and developing alternative energy sources.

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G.  Nuclear Safety

Hunting Loose Nukes in Eastern Europe: 'Nightline' Gains Exclusive Access to Search for Nuclear Material
Cynthia McFadden
ABC News
(for personal use only)

The top-secret operation began before dawn at an old Soviet reactor outside the eastern European capital of Riga, Latvia. Inside an unmarked truck was some of the most dangerous material in the world: highly enriched uranium -- the basic ingredient for a nuclear bomb and a prime target for terrorists.

Under a full moon and guarded by police cars and a Latvian SWAT team, the truck headed toward Riga International Airport. Dr. Igor Bolshinsky of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration is charged with ensuring that the nuclear material is put where terrorists can't steal it.

"When there is a danger of these materials to get in the hands of terrorists, it makes sense just to eliminate this material -- to eliminate highly enriched uranium," Bolshinsky said.

A Ukrainian-born scientist who now is an U.S. citizen, Bolshinsky has become a one-man wrecking crew for potential weapons of mass destruction. His goal: to remove material that can be used for a nuclear or dirty bomb from vulnerable research reactors in the former Soviet Union.

Once the highly enriched uranium is removed, Bolshinsky sends it to a secure facility in Russia, where it is processed -- or down-blended -- into a less-dangerous fuel.

"I think we are smart enough to realize bad things may happen -- and we are smart enough to prevent it," he said.

Nukes on the Loose
Since 2002, Bolshinsky has almost single-handedly removed 269 pounds of fresh highly enriched uranium from seven countries -- enough to make about five nuclear bombs. And he's just getting started. By 2010, his goal is to remove 2 tons of highly enriched uranium from 14 countries, including his homeland. That's enough for about 80 nuclear bombs.

Ambassador Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration that oversees the Energy Department's effort to secure nuclear material around the world, said the task is huge. "This is an effort which is a thousand small victories rather than one galactic one," Brooks said.

A report released this year by Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government says that there is enough material in the former Soviet Union to build 80,000 nuclear weapons -- and only half of it is secured.

"There's certainly a huge amount of material," Brooks said. "The Cold War produced in both sides exceptionally large quantities of material."

At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union sent nuclear material to 17 Soviet republics and allies -- including a reactor in Latvia.

But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was neither the money nor the political will to support these reactors. Today, the Latvia reactor's control room is covered with dust -- it was shut down seven years ago. But the nuclear fuel remained, protected by only by a rickety gate, a few guards and some dogs.

Other sites in Russia were protected by simple locks or just wax and some string -- the same technology used to seal official letters hundreds of years ago. The Energy Department says the United States has upgraded security in about half of the sites in the former Soviet Union. But the only failsafe protection is to remove the material and take it to a secure location.

That's where Bolshinsky comes in.

An Expensive, Time-Consuming Project
For two days in May, ABC News had exclusive access as Bolshinsky and the U.S. team, along with Russian scientists and the International Atomic Energy Commission, painstakingly measured and recorded every ounce of fresh, weapons-grade highly enriched uranium from the Latvia reactor.

"You can pick it up with your bare hands," Bolshinsky said. "I use gloves just to protect my hands, but yeah, it can be handled with just your bare hands. That's why it's so attractive to terrorists and other bad guys."

Each fuel rod was carefully wrapped in paper and cloth, labeled, then placed into two specially built metal casks supplied by Russia.

"After we remove this material, this country going be free of fresh HEU," Bolshinsky said, using the acronym for highly enriched uranium. "So we, we cleanse the country. We remove all fresh HEU which was stored here."

Ultimately, only about 6.5 pounds -- a fraction of what is needed to build a nuclear bomb -- was removed from Latvia. At a cost of $340,000 for the operation, that's about $51,500 a pound. In the next five years, the United States expects to spend more than $500 million to reduce the nuclear threat worldwide, including in the former Soviet Union.

But critics say that's nowhere near enough, and that hundreds of millions more are needed. Brooks disagrees.

"Our problems are not primarily money," he said. "Our problems are access in the Russian Federation. Our problems are convincing other countries that they need to take the threat as seriously as we are, and we keep working through that. The greatest incentive in the world is to understand that we're all in the cross hairs, and therefore we want to take away the bullets."

Brooks added that the process will not be quick, despite the urgency that is noted by critics. "It's a cooperative effort," he said. "It involves other countries. And so, if they think other countries should have greater urgency, don't tell me, tell them. And secondly, some of this just simply takes time."

Preventing Catastrophe
But critics say we don't have time and point to 18 confirmed incidents of nuclear smuggling in the last decade.

Nuclear physicist Peter Zimmerman said not enough is being done to protect America. "All of our recovery efforts are fragmented," he said. "They're under-funded. The United States can afford to spend the money to recover this material ... a lot more than it can afford to replace a city."

He stressed that the threat is serious. "You seen the pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki lately?" Zimmerman said. "It's that serious."

It is in part the fear of failure that keeps Bolshinsky going. Before he left Latvia, he went to a former Nazi concentration camp not far from the reactor. Tens of thousands of Jews were murdered there during World War II, including 7,000 children.

"When we trying to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons, we actually trying to prevent another nuclear war," he said. "And you see how many people was killed, how many people died, during the Second World War. And you realize that the third World War can be much bigger than that. Much more people will die. And it's what keeps you running."

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H.  Official Statements

PRESS RELEASE: Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov Speaks to Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran Manuchehr Mottaki by Telephone
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)

On October 12, a telephone conversation between Sergey Lavrov and Manuchehr Mottaki took place at the Iranian side's initiative. The Russian side expressed the wish that the negotiating process between Iran and the European trio (Britain, Germany, France) on the Iranian nuclear program should be speedily restarted with a view to achieving a politico-diplomatic settlement of this problem. The Russian side also voiced readiness to actively facilitate this process.

Manuchehr Mottaki, citing the Iranian Foreign Ministry statement of October 11, affirmed Teheran's willingness to continue talks with the European trio on nuclear problems.

During the telephone conversation, the sides also discussed the question of further bilateral contacts between official representatives of the two countries.

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Transcript of Remarks and Replies to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Press Conference Following Talks with Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, Moscow, October 12, 2005
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)


Question: The United States, Britain and Romania wish to model the status of the Black Sea on the status of the Mediterranean. Do you agree that ships sailing under the British or Romanian flag would freely move in the Black Sea for a fight against terrorism?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: The navigation regime in the Black Sea is governed by the Montreaux Convention. It is all written down there on what terms military ships of non-Black Sea countries can be in the Black Sea.

As far as the struggle against terrorism and WMD proliferation is concerned, this is an important task. We actively support Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean, which is being carried out under NATO auspices. There is the organization Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Force (Blackseafor) in the Black Sea. It was set up to maintain security in this water zone. A year ago it was decided to amend the mandate of this organization exactly for the purpose of combating terrorism and WMD proliferation. Through experts and the representatives of the naval forces the Foreign and Defense Ministries are currently agreeing the practical modalities of these additional tasks, which the Blackseafor nations unanimously endorsed. These nations have all the necessary manpower and resources to do the appropriate patrolling, and if necessary, intercept violator ships. I am certain that we can do that in coordination with the operation which NATO is carrying out in the Mediterranean, by establishing an exchange of information in order to increase the effectiveness of both the NATO operation and that which the Blackseafor countries will be conducting in the Black Sea.


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I.  Items of Interest

In Caspian, US-led security workshop targets 'Purple' menace
Simon Ostrovsky
Agence France-Presse
(for personal use only)

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