1. Software helping insurers plan for terrorist attacks
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LONDON - Terrorists do not strike at random, and now a computer programme can calculate the risk of an attack on behalf of the business sector with a particular vested interest in the issue: insurers.
According to RMS, the six top European "hot spots", representing the risk of maximum pay-outs following a terrorist attack, are all in central London. After these, the seventh highest on the list is the second arrondissement, or borough, of central Paris.
Worldwide, Manhattan ranks among the most high-risk places, containing five of the locations most prone to attacks.
RMS estimates there is a 3.5 in 100 chance of a chemical, biological or nuclear attack somewhere in the next 12 months.
The organisation began in 1989 at Stanford University, San Francisco, with the idea of using computer technology to quantify earthquake risks by combining data on the position of fault lines, materials resistance and population density.
This first "risk model" was then adapted to hurricanes, cyclones, floods and other natural disasters.
In the weeks following September 11, 2001, RMS received its first requests from US insurance companies faced with a bill of 32 billion dollars following the terrorist attacks. A year later, the first "US Terrorism Risk Model" was ready.
RMS has a cooperation agreement with Jane's, the British defence and information specialists, and holds an annual seminar of terrorism experts from institutions such as the Rand Corporation, Saint Andrews University in Scotland and the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore.
"It's the underwriting process. And portfolio analysis: how much money do I need to have in store to be able to pay for the claims?" Coburn said.
"We don't predict where the attacks will happen, but we suggest the kinds of targets."
A chemical weapons disposal facility in the Udmurtia Republic of Russia is more than 90 percent finished, ITAR-Tass reported today.
Work has begun on a lewisite destruction line and on a furnace that will be used to burn waste at the Kambarka facility.
German companies are providing needed equipment and German specialists helped to design and construct some buildings in the industrial part of the plant, according to ITAR-Tass.
A Russian official said international inspectors, who have visited the site during construction, controlled the assembly of the site. They also monitored safety.
"Representatives from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, who visited Kambarka in September, spoke very highly of the measures taken there to guarantee ecological safety," said Valery Malyshev, deputy chief of the conventional problems department.
The site stores more than 6,000 tons of lewisite, which is slated to be destroyed in the next 3 1/2 years, ITAR-Tass reported.
The border guards at Perm airport had their orders, even if it meant detaining the high-ranking visitors from the United States against their will. The American delegation led by Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was locked into an airport lounge while border guards demanded to search the visitors' DC-9 military jet. After a three-hour stand-off and little in the way of explanation, the guests were finally allowed to leave.
The incident was reminiscent of Cold War tensions, but took place just two months ago, as Lugar and Senator Barack Obama were wrapping up a visit under the U.S.-Russian Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, the bilateral framework agreement for securing Russia's nuclear weapons.
After meeting Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in Moscow, the senators inspected a nuclear warhead storage site in Saratov and visited a missile disposal site in Perm. All went according to plan -- until the unexpected delay at the airport.
The episode illustrates the state of U.S.-Russian relations in a telling way: a lofty partnership between old rivals still often hits snags on the ground.
Despite talk of Moscow's vast resources feeding the United States' hunger for energy, Russia supplies less than 2 percent of U.S. oil imports today. The volume of bilateral trade is modest on a global scale, with U.S. investors investing as much into Russia as they do into Costa Rica.
It is Moscow's inheritance from its superpower days -- nuclear know-how and the attendant permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council -- that still largely determines the agenda of bilateral relations.
Nuclear security -- at least in theory -- is a key shared priority between Russia and the United States.
Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush pledged to expand cooperation on the issue at their Bratislava summit in February. But nonproliferation experts on both sides of the Atlantic say that in reality, that partnership is far from ideal.
The arrest of Moscow's former nuclear power minister Yevgeny Adamov in Switzerland in May set off a six-month extradition tug of war. A Swiss court's decision earlier this month to extradite Adamov to the United States -- and not to Russia -- outraged Moscow's political elite, who said Washington would seek to squeeze nuclear secrets out of him.
Washington has also been at pains to convince Russia that its development of Iran's nuclear program could one day backfire in the form of an atomic bomb. Despite intense diplomatic pressure, Moscow has held up U.S. efforts to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council for its nuclear program.
At the core of recent disputes is a difference in the way Moscow and Washington view the role and threat of nuclear weapons, said Celeste Wallander, a nonproliferation expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
In a forthcoming report, Wallander argues that despite bilateral agreements such as the Cooperative Threat Reduction Initiative and the Group of Eight's $20 billion program to recover weapons-usable material in the former Soviet Union, "the United States and Russia have not been able to cooperate meaningfully on terrorism, nonproliferation, and the intersection of the two threats."
While Washington is focused on keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists and countries it deems state sponsors of terrorism, Wallander says, Moscow sees U.S. nonproliferation efforts "as likely to be based on containing and weakening Russia as on genuine security vulnerabilities."
In the case of Iran, many Westerners have interpreted Russia's opposition to Security Council referral as being motivated by commercial interests. State-owned Rosatomstroi has $1 billion in contracts to build Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, and Iran is a major buyer of conventional arms and other technologies from Russia.
Wallander, however, contends that Russia sees nuclear arms in terms of geopolitical balance rather than as an immediate security threat, making Iran's potential nuclear ambitions far less alarming to Moscow than to Washington.
"Many in Moscow believe Iran has less interest in developing nuclear weapons than it did 15 or 18 years ago," said Vladimir Orlov, director of the Moscow-based Center for Policy Studies in Russia.
Iran's nuclear ambitions date back to the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, Orlov said, when Iran endured chemical weapons attacks and lacked support from either superpower. Now, he said, Iran is primarily interested in "the Japan option" -- demonstrating to the world it has the ability to produce nuclear weapons if it wants to.
Orlov also said that Washington's failure to put public pressure on nuclear-armed Pakistan on security issues weakens the Bush administration's credibility over Iran.
But Alexander Pikayev, a defense analyst at the Kremlin-funded Institute of World Economics and International Relations, said that Moscow's comfort level on Iran should not be overstated.
Russia insists on Iran's right to develop a peaceful nuclear program, but "no one wants to see a nuclear-armed Iran," Pikayev said.
The Bush administration's diplomatic campaign to bring Tehran to account before the UN shows the extent of U.S. anxiety over that possibility.
In recent weeks, both U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley have traveled to Moscow to pressure the Kremlin to lift its opposition -- to no avail.
Averting the threat of nuclear terrorism would seem, on the face of it, a less divisive issue.
But a recent report from Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs details how "many thousands of bombs' worth of Russian bomb uranium" remains unsecured. One reason for that, the report says, is the lack of "genuine Russian commitment -- a sense in Russia that cooperation on nuclear security is not just a favor to the Americans but essential for Russia's own security."
"In general, the United States sees Russia as putting too low a priority on action to prevent nuclear terrorism," said report co-author Matthew Bunn. "Russia is putting remarkably little of its own money into maintaining and upgrading the nuclear security systems" at sensitive sites, he said.
Within the framework of the G8's Global Partnership program, the U.S. has pledged $10 billion over 10 years to secure weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to Russia's pledge of $2 billion.
In terms of percentage of GDP, however, the Russian pledge is significantly higher. "Only U.S. people who engage in 'nuclear tourism' think that we haven't made dramatic progress in securing nuclear materials" in recent years, Orlov said.
The furor over the Adamov case has revealed just how sensitive such funding issues can be. The U.S. District Attorney's Office has indicted the former nuclear power minister on charges of embezzling $9 million of U.S. funds meant to improve Russian nuclear security during his 1998-2001 tenure.
State Duma deputies in turn have accused the United States of wanting to steal Russian nuclear secrets through him. Further complicating the case, Adamov was involved in early planning for the Bushehr power plant. The Swiss Supreme Court is expected to rule in early November on Adamov's appeal of the extradition decision.
Orlov doubted that Adamov's extradition would put big secrets at risk, or that intelligence-gathering was even the main goal of the U.S. case. "The United States wants him not for secrets, but for a big showcase," he said. "It's a clear message to all those involved in using U.S. assistance for nuclear security."
Despite recent disagreement over nuclear issues, however, the context of bilateral relations has changed radically since the Cold War.
"People in the U.S. who think of and worry about Russia's nuclear weapons are a fraction of what they were during the Cold War," said Jon Wolfsthal, a nonproliferation fellow at CSIS. "That interest or anxiety is simply not something that drives U.S. policy any more."
2. GM hires Russian nuclear scientists to develop new auto technology
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General Motors Corp. is using Russian nuclear scientists put out of work by the end of the Cold War to help develop new automotive technologies, the world's largest automaker said.
A new research and design center is planned for Moscow which will focus on the development of batteries, fuel cells, hybrid and electronic controls.
"The government encourages US companies to do business there and to fully utilize the scientific talents there," GM spokeswoman Angele Shaw told AFP. "They have a vast talent pool."
A number of the scientists involved in the project had been working on military and nuclear arms programs for the former Soviet Union.
GM is looking to take advantage of US and European Union programs that provide financial incentives to Russian scientists to develop peaceful projects, including automobile propulsion systems.
The US Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Programs provides grants and other funding from the government for companies to utilize Russia's vast scientific network for peaceful purposes, while also preventing Russian nuclear experts from being lured by rouge regimes.
GM says its initial project at the Moscow center will encompass emissions control catalyst development, lightweight metal processing, hydrogen storage for fuel cell applications and engine control technology.
"About three years ago we began to explore the possibility of conducting research in the former Soviet Union," Alan Taub, executive director of science at GM's research and development laboratories said in a statement.
"In a very short time, working with universities, academies and scientific institutes, we saw world class results in key technologies."
GM planted its roots in Russia in 2002, when it began working with Moscow State University and the St Petersburg State Institute of Information Technology and Optics.
1. Moscow's position on Iran not affected by Tehran's statement
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AMMAN - The Iranian president's tough statements about Israel have not influenced Moscow's position on the Iranian "nuclear dossier", Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters during his visit to Jordan on Thursday.
"Our position on Iran remains unchanged. We favor cooperation through the IAEA in dealing with problems related to the Iranian nuclear program," he said.
2. Russia Condemns Iranï¿½s Statement on Israel, Warns of Consequences
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Russia condemned Thursday a call by Iranï¿½s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Israel to be "wiped off the map," warning Tehran the comments provided grounds for sending the dispute over Iranï¿½s nuclear program to the UN Security Council, RIA-Novosti news agency said.
"I cannot fail to recognize that those who favor transferring the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council now have an additional argument" for doing so, the agency quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying in Amman, where he is on a visit.
Meanwhile, Russiaï¿½s chief rabbi, Berl Lazar, said Iranï¿½s appeal to wipe Israel off the international map undermines confidence in the Iranian nuclear program.
"The statement by the Iranian ruler shows that elementary norms of morals and civilized co-existence are alien to him. Thus, attempts by the Tehran regime to gain access to nuclear technologies look alarming, and their claims of an allegedly peaceful nuclear program can hardly be trusted," he was quoted by Interfax as saying.
"It seemed in recent decades that the world was close to making tolerance a fundamental principle of international relations. Alas, we can see that this is not so," he added.
Lazar hopes that "the Russian administration will take a new look at the danger and condemn the position of the Iranian administration" following this statement.
3. Russia is ready to expand cooperation with Iran - Fradkov
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MOSCOW - Russia is ready to continue its political dialogue with Iran and expand cooperation in all areas, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said at a Wednesday meeting with Iranian First Vice President Parviz Dadwoodi in Moscow.
"We are convinced that under the new Iranian leadership, we will maintain and advance our friendly relations," he said.
"Relations with Iran rely on a solid legal groundwork and have developed into a multifaceted partnership," he said.
KYRGYZSTAN may be in one of the more unstable regions of the world but it has one big plus for any would-be uranium miner: no state Labor governments to block mine development.
This is clearly one of the attractions for recently listed Monaro Mining, which has locked up several uranium deposits abandoned by the Soviet Union in this central Asian republic 30 years ago.
The market agreed, sending Monaro shares up 7c to 61c - already a substantial gain on the issue price of 20c last month.
Monaro chairman Warwick Grigor said it could take up to five years to get through state and federal approval processes in Australia for a new uranium mine but as little as two years to get a uranium mine in production in Kyrgyzstan.
"They treat uranium like any other metal," he said.
And Monaro is not worried about the political risk in a country that ousted its president this year after an uprising and shares borders with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Mr Grigor takes comfort from the recent decision by Santos to commit $28 million to the country in a joint venture with Caspian Oil and Gas.
Mr Grigor, who also runs investment house Far East Capital and has been an enthusiast for uranium, decided on the move after his latest visit to Kyrgyzstan last month.
He saw that country delivering results more quickly than the NSW projects on which Monaro based its $3 million initial public offering - a mix of gold, tin, tungsten and base metals projects.
Known uranium in a country favourably disposed towards its exploitation - especially when that uranium is hosted in several different geological settings over a wide area - was more likely to propel the fledgling Monaro.
"The world's our oyster," Mr Grigor said.
Kyrgyzstan, also known as the Kyrgyz Republic, was part of the former Soviet Union and was the first source of uranium mined by communist authorities, starting in the 1930s and continuing until the 1970s.
These mines were abandoned when the Soviets discovered larger, more easily mined deposits in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
The first task for the new owner of the Kyrgyz properties is to trawl through translated Russian records of the mining.
The sellers of the property will be the first people to get shares in Monaro for vending in properties.
Mr Grigor said he and other directors all paid the full 20c a share price for their stock - no one involved in the float got vendor shares or cheap ones in return for seed capital.
"I've got my shares because I paid cash for them," he said.
2. India, Russia agree to develop energy cooperation
Press Trust of India
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MOSCOW -- Giving a new dimension to their strategic partnership, India and Russia today agreed to bolster trade and economic cooperation with the focus on developing energy sector, including nuclear, diamond trading and joint ventures in high technologies.
India will also go beyond large investment in Sakhalin-1 oil field, visiting External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh announced here after the 11th meeting of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission.
"India is technically equipped and financially capable and willing to jointly work with Russia to make our energy cooperation an important and mutually beneficial dimension of our strategic partnership," the Minister said, adding that it has decided to invest more in Russia's oil and gas sectors.
He said that political decisions have been made and specifics will be worked out by the Indo-Russian summit in early December when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to visit Moscow.
"Two economies are consistently growing, offering new opportunities on both sides," he said.
The Minister, who arrived here yesterday on a four-day visit, said that such areas including Information Technology, bio-technology, commercialisation of Russian or jointly developed technologies and some frontier areas of science and technology deserve greater substantive joint action.
The External Affairs Minister said that India and Russia intended to sign soon an agreement on the visa-free regime for business people of both countries.
He said that India was willing to support Russia's joining of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, who co-chaired the Commission meeting with Singh, expressed hope that all problems connected with the signing of an agreement on Russia's joining of the WTO would be settled before the December visit of the Indian Prime Minister here.
Singh also spoke in favour of boosting cooperation between the two countries in banking and transport sector.
At the meeting, Zhukov said, the two countries outlined measures to be taken for facilitating the access of Russian crediting institutions to the servicing of foreign trade deals with India.
1. Minister warns about radioactive river and ocean pollution
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MOSCOW -- Russia's emergency situations minister has proposed setting up a government commission to deal with the radioactive dumping in the Techa River in the Chelyabinsk region, southern Urals, to prevent the pollution of the Ob River and the Arctic Ocean.
"This problem has long been overdue," Sergei Shoigu told the Federation Council, Russia's upper house of parliament, Wednesday.
Shoigu said the river's open-air reservoir had accumulated more than 200,000 curies of radioactivity.
"I am not talking about evaporation; it is all in the sludge," he said. "I am talking about a possible dam breach and pollution of the entire river, and [radioactive] penetration into the Ob River and ultimately into the [Arctic] Ocean."
The problem requires an immediate and thorough solution, Shoigu said.
A criminal investigation was launched against the local Mayak chemical plant in April after breaches of environmental protection regulations were discovered during an inspection.
"Radiation background in the area of the Techa River has deteriorated in the past four years," Yury Zolotov, deputy prosecutor general in Russia's Urals Federal District, said. "Radiation levels are far above the norm."
Zolotov also said inspections had shown Mayak had released more then 60 million cu m of industrial waste into the river last year, causing environmental damage worth more than 30 million rubles ($1.05 million).
Russia's Criminal Code stipulates up to five years in prison for this kind of offense.
A major release of radioactive waste into the Techa occurred after an accident at Mayak in 1957.
2. Russian Health Ministry against upping compensation for Chernobyl victims
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MOSCOW, October 26 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Ministry of Health and Social Development has turned down proposals to significantly increase the amount of monthly monetary compensation paid to victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
In a report prepared for the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, the ministry said the victims of the world's greatest nuclear accident had already been receiving up to $891 and various medical benefits.
"The proposal to significantly increase the amount of monthly monetary compensation for disabled by Chernobyl appears to be ungrounded," the report said. "Besides, such a measure will give them even more special privileges compared to other categories of the disabled."
Maxim Topilin, Head of the Labor and Employment Service of the Russian Federation, said the construction of new radiological centers for treatment of Russian citizens who received excessive dozes of radiation would be considered in the framework of a national project called Health.
2. Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation with the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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The heads of state discussed pressing questions of bilateral cooperation and international affairs, and the implementation of agreements reached at a meeting between the two heads of state in New York on September 15, 2005. The President pointed out that further development of Russian-Iranian relations is in both countries' interests and supports regional and international stability.
In light of the upcoming session of the Board of Governors of the IAEA at the end of November 2005, issues surrounding the Iranian nuclear file were addressed during the conversation.
The necessity of solving all available legal issues with the IAEA through political means was emphasized. The President of Russia supported further increasing Iranian cooperation with the Agency, including in the interests of renewing the negotiation process.
The conversation took place at the initiative of the Iranian side.
3. Text: U.S., China Team Up To Enhance Nuclear Material Security; Weeklong training in Beijing involves civilian experts from both countries
U.S. Department of State/Bureau of International Information Programs
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Hundreds of civilian nuclear experts from China and the United States are gathered in Beijing for a weeklong technology exposition on nuclear material security and international safeguards.
Ambassador Linton Brooks, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and Qin Sun, the chairman of China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA), presided over the opening events on October 24. The China Institute for Atomic Energy is hosting the event.
The hands-on training seminars and exercises that will be offered throughout the week are designed to promote the adoption of modern security practices and technologies at civilian nuclear facilities, according to a DOE press release. The ultimate goal is to prevent nuclear material theft, diversion and sabotage.
DOE called the event "a model for successful cooperative projects," that "marks an important step in continued collaboration between the United States and China in the area of nonproliferation, nuclear security and safeguards."
DOE and CAEA intend to continue bilateral consultation on best security practices and continue technical exchanges in the area of nonproliferation related technologies, the news release said.
The next event planned is a regional training course on "Facility Systems of Accounting and Control" that will be implemented in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency in early 2006.
For more information on U.S. policy, see The United States and China (http://usinfo.state.gov/eap/east_asia_pacific/china.html).
Following is the text of the DOE news release:
U.S. Department of Energy For Immediate Release Bryan Wilkes 202-586-7371 October 24, 2005
U.S. and China Jointly Host Technology Exposition on Nuclear Material Security and International Safeguards
Collaborative Approaches to Enhancing Nuclear Material Security
BEIJING - Ambassador Linton Brooks, administrator of the Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Mr. Qin Sun, the chairman of China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA), presided over the opening of the joint U.S.-China 2005 Integrated Nuclear Material Management Technology Demonstration on Monday, October 24th in Beijing, China. The China Institute for Atomic Energy (CIAE) is hosting the demonstration.
Representatives from the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Departments of Energy and State toured the facility today with Chinese representatives from CAEA and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). Approximately 100 representatives from civilian nuclear facilities and research institutes throughout the Chinese complex will participate in hands-on training seminars and exercises throughout the week.
The purpose of the demonstration is to promote the adoption of modern security practices and technologies at civilian nuclear facilities by demonstrating established physical protection, nuclear material control and accounting, and international safeguards technologies that provide a first line of defense against nuclear material theft, diversion and sabotage. Planning activities for the demonstration included joint technical work on hardware and software, system design and installation, and topical workshops on vulnerability assessment and nondestructive assay, exchange of technical personnel, training, and site visits.
NNSA and CAEA are the government sponsors of the event, which is being conducted under the auspices of the DOE-CAEA Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology Agreement (PUNT). Experts from the CIAE, the Fourth Institute of Nuclear Engineering of CNNC, and Los Alamos, Livermore, Sandia and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, provided the technical expertise to support the planning and implementation. Both the U.S. and China provided the required technical and financial resources.
Additional cooperative activities related to nuclear material security will follow the demonstration. Near term plans include the execution of a regional training course on "Facility Systems of Accounting and Control" that will be implemented in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency in the Spring of 2006. In addition, the DOE and CAEA intend to continue bilateral consultation on best security practices and continue technical exchanges in the area of nonproliferation related technologies. The teamwork between the Chinese and the American representatives in organizing this demonstration is a model for successful cooperative projects and marks an important step in continued collaboration between the United States and China in the area of nonproliferation, nuclear security and safeguards.
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