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Nuclear News - 1/7/2005
RANSAC Nuclear News, January 7, 2005
Compiled By: Samantha Mikol

A.  Biological Weapons
    1. Technical Hurdles Separate Terrorists From Biowarfare , John Mintz, Washington Post (12/30/2004)
B.  Nuclear Terrorism
    1. Al-Qaida's Nuclear Ambitions Said Unattainable, Anwar Iqbal, United Press International (12/29/2004)
    2. Attack With Dirty Bomb More Likely, Officials Say , Dafna Linzer, Washington Post (12/29/2004)
    3. Nuclear Capabilities May Elude Terrorists, Experts Say , Dafna Linzer, Washington Post (12/29/2004)
C.  Cooperative Threat Reduction
    1. Cut in funds for securing nuclear materials rejected, Bryan Bender, Boston Globe (1/7/2005)
    2. White House proposes cuts in nuclear dismantling program, Amy Klamper, CongressDaily (1/6/2005)
    3. Bush failing at nuclear security, Lawrence J. Korb, Boston Globe (1/2/2005)
D.  Nonproliferation Diplomacy
    1. Iran officially demands EU3 deliver uranium, UF6, and nuclear equipment , Mehr News Agency (1/5/2005)
    2. World needs to limit making of nuclear fuel - UN watchdog chief, AFP (1/5/2005)
E.  US-Russia
    1. 'Loose nukes' fear spurs US-Russia action , Gordon Corera , BBC News Online (1/5/2005)
F.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Uranium prices are set to climb , Matt Chambers , Bloomberg (1/5/2005)
G.  Nuclear Safety
    2. Some Progress Made in Halting Spread of Nuclear Materials in Russia, say Analysts, Bill Gasperini, Voice of America (12/29/2004)
H.  Official Statements
    1. Proliferation Security Initiative Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Department of State (12/27/2004)
I.  Links of Interest
    1. Terrorism and National Security: Issues and Trends, Raphael Perl , Congressional Research Service (12/21/2004)
    2. Radiological Dispersal Devices: Select Issues in Consequence Management, Dana A. Shea, Congressional Research Service (12/7/2004)

A.  Biological Weapons

Technical Hurdles Separate Terrorists From Biowarfare
John Mintz
Washington Post
(for personal use only)

Hoping to hasten the doomsday their leader foretold, scientists who were members of Japan's Aum Shinrikyo cult brewed batches of anthrax in the early 1990s and released it from an office building and out the back of trucks upwind of the Imperial Palace.

But the wet mixture kept clogging the sprayers the Aum Shinrikyo scientists had rigged up, and, unbeknown to them, the strains of anthrax they had ordered from a commercial firm posed no danger to anyone. Frustrated by their failure at biowarfare, they turned to a less arduous method of mass killing -- chemical attack -- and in 1995 killed 12 Tokyo subway riders by releasing sarin gas in the tunnels.

The cult's experiences demonstrate just a few of the myriad technical obstacles that terrorists who might try to manufacture biological weapons could face, problems that would confound even skilled scientists who tried to help them, biological warfare experts say.

Locating virulent anthrax specimens with which to brew an attack-size batch would be difficult given the medical community's caution about suspicious buyers. Smallpox could be next to impossible to obtain because it is thought to exist in only two secure sites, in Russia and in the United States.

Creating aerosolized microbes also requires expertise in many arcane scientific disciplines, such as culturing and propagating germs that retain their virulence and "weaponizing" them so they float like a gas and enter the lungs easily.

But specialists also say it is all but inevitable that al Qaeda or another terrorist group will gain the expertise to launch small-scale biological attacks and eventually inflict mass casualties. Information on the mechanics of creating bioweapons is easily accessible on the Internet and in technical manuals, and the equipment to do the job is readily found. Many brew pubs, for example, have fermenters that can cook up deadly germs.

Advances in bioscience, and the rapid dissemination of this knowledge worldwide, are making it easier for even undergraduates to create dangerous pathogens. Creating microbe weapons is more challenging than producing the simplest implements of terrorism -- conventional explosives or chemical weapons -- but much less difficult than the most technically daunting -- nuclear weapons -- experts say.

Richard Danzig, a former Navy secretary and now a biowarfare consultant to the Pentagon, said that while there are 1,000 to 10,000 "weaponeers" worldwide with experience working on biological arms, there are more than 1 million and perhaps many millions of "broadly skilled" scientists who, while lacking training in that narrow field, could construct bioweapons.

"It seems likely that, over a period between a few months and a few years, broadly skilled individuals equipped with modest laboratory equipment can develop biological weapons," Danzig said. "Only a thin wall of terrorist ignorance and inexperience now protects us."

Some agents are simpler than others to weaponize. Toxins such as botulinum, which is not contagious and unlikely to cause mass casualties, are the easiest to turn into weapons, particularly for a food-borne or water-borne attack. Bacterial agents such as anthrax, which also is not contagious, are more difficult to manufacture. Viruses such as smallpox, which is contagious and could kill millions, are tougher still.

The most challenging are some of the new 21st-century bioweapons that scientists contemplate being created in the future -- but experts believe even these compounds are fast becoming easier to produce.

In 2002, a panel of biowarfare experts concluded in a report co-published by the National Defense University (NDU) that while terrorists could mount some small-scale bioattacks, larger assaults would require them to overcome many technical hurdles. Some key biotechnologies would be achievable only three to four years from then, the panel found.

"When we sent out the report for review to [hands-on] bench scientists, we got the response, 'What do you mean we can't do this? We're doing it now,' " said Raymond Zilinskas, a co-author of the report who heads biowarfare studies at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, a California think tank. "It shows how fast the field is moving."

Those skeptical of the prospect of large-scale bioattacks cite the tiny number of biological strikes in recent decades. Members of the Rajneeshee cult sickened 750 people in 1984 when they contaminated salad bars in 10 Oregon restaurants with salmonella. Among the few others were the 2001 anthrax attacks through the U.S. mail that killed five people.

One reason for the small number of attacks is that nearly every aspect of a bioterrorist's job is difficult. The best chance of acquiring the anthrax bacterium, Bacillus anthracis, is either from commercial culture collections in countries with lax security controls, or by digging in soil where livestock recently died of the disease -- a tactic Aum Shinrikyo tried unsuccessfully in the Australian Outback.

Once virulent stocks of anthrax have been cultured, it is no trivial task to propagate pathogens with the required attributes for an aerosolized weapon: the hardiness to survive in an enclosed container and upon release into the atmosphere, the ability to lodge in the lungs, and the toxicity to kill. The particles' size is crucial: If they are too big, they fall to the ground, and if they are too small, they are exhaled from the body. If they are improperly made, static electricity can cause them to clump.

Making a bug that defeats antibiotics, a desired goal for any bioweaponeer, is relatively simple but can require laborious trial and error, because conferring antibiotic resistance often reduces a bioweapon's killing power. Field-testing germ weapons is necessary even for experienced weapons makers, and that is likely to require open spaces where animals or even people can be experimentally infected.

Each bioagent demands specific weather conditions and requires unforgiving specifications for the spraying device employed. "Dry" anthrax is harder to make -- it requires special equipment, and scientists must perform the dangerous job of milling particles to the right size. "Wet" anthrax is easier to produce but not as easily dispersed.

Experts agree that anthrax is the potential mass-casualty agent most accessible to terrorists. The anthrax letter sent in 2001 to then-Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) contained one gram of anthrax, or 1 trillion spores.

In a 2003 report for the Pentagon, Danzig estimated that if terrorists released a much larger amount of skillfully made anthrax particles under optimal weather conditions in a large city, 200,000 people in an area 40 miles downwind of the release would be infected, and, if untreated, 180,000 of them would die. Smaller numbers would die as far as 120 miles away.

Government officials would probably realize that an attack had occurred a day or two later, when victims began to show up in emergency rooms with flulike symptoms. Guessing the geographical spread of the attack, officials would then order emergency distribution of ciprofloxacin or other antibiotics, which would probably save many lives -- although experts agree the public health response would be likely to be chaotic and possibly ineffective.

For most experts, the most frightening anthrax scenario is an antibiotic-resistant bug, which many say is not far-fetched. It is "one of the big things we're worried about," Philip K. Russell, a top bioterrorism adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services, said in an August interview in the trade journal Biosecurity. "It's my view that we have about three or four years to come up with a solution to multidrug-resistant anthrax. . . . We haven't taken anthrax off the table as a threat that can create a very big disaster."

Government officials also said they accept a Danzig theory that terrorists probably would launch bioattacks against various cities simultaneously or sequentially, using a tactic he calls "reload." Danzig said it would be designed to overwhelm government responses and undermine public confidence in officials.

"Our national power to manage the consequences of repeated biological attacks could be exhausted while the terrorist ability to reload remains intact," he wrote in the Pentagon report.

The 2002 NDU study -- led by Zilinskas and Seth Carus, a biowarfare expert at the university -- concluded that at that time, large-scale bioweapons were less likely to be fashioned by terrorists than by nations such as Iran, or by disgruntled bioscientists. The report also detailed the skill levels necessary to accomplish various biowarfare-related tasks. A "junior scientist," for example, could use genetic engineering to weaponize both bacterial and viral pathogens.

Experts say that since then, the spread of knowledge and the increasing availability of sophisticated equipment have placed more and more complex tasks within the ability of less-skilled people. Some experts expressed concern about the easy availability of inexpensive biological "kits" from commercial catalogues that streamline cloning and other once-daunting tasks.

The Zilinskas-Carus report said it is "chancy" to estimate which weapons terrorists could make after 2005 because of scientists' increasing ability to synthesize and manipulate biological material such as DNA.

"Novel DNA sequences are being designed and inserted into living cells by undergraduates," said Roger Brent, a biowarfare expert who is president of the Molecular Sciences Institute, a leading research group in Berkeley, Calif.

Some scientists doubt terrorists will master genetically altered superbugs. But Brent and other experts raise the specter of terrorists' hiring scientists who can insert a toxin into, say, a bioengineered SARS virus, which would then be as contagious as severe acute respiratory syndrome and as fatal as the toxin inside it.

Last year, Brent told a study panel convened by the CIA that current biological capability resembles the capacity of computers in 1965, or English cotton mills in the 1800s -- technologies on the cusp of explosive growth. He said the day is coming when not only terrorists but "garage hackers" will be able to assemble bioweapons.

The CIA panel's late 2003 report, "The Darker Bioweapons Future," said that "the same science that may cure some of our worst diseases could be used to create the world's most frightening weapons. The know-how to develop some of these weapons already exists."

Even banned viruses such as smallpox might be employed one day by terrorists who sidestep the difficulty of obtaining them by synthesizing agents that resemble them, Brent told the panel. "Once synthesized," he said, they "can be grown in indefinite quantities."

"The Rubicon has already been crossed and the process of creating novel genetically engineered orthopoxviruses [diseases including smallpox] is irrevocable," Ken Alibek, a former Soviet bioscientist who defected to the United States, wrote recently in a scholarly journal. "It is just a matter of time before this knowledge will result in the creation of super-killer poxviruses." He added: "If a threat, no matter how small, of a smallpox attack exists, it must be addressed" by developing smallpox detection systems and medicines.

"The alternative," Alibek wrote, "is to remain as helpless as the millions of people who died of smallpox over previous centuries."

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B.  Nuclear Terrorism

Al-Qaida's Nuclear Ambitions Said Unattainable
Anwar Iqbal
United Press International
(for personal use only)

Although Osama bin Laden has received the blessing of a Saudi cleric to acquire nuclear weapons, it will be difficult for al-Qaida to put together a useable device, says an article published in The Washington Post Wednesday.

The article - first of a three-part series, quotes former CIA agent and now author Michael Scheuer as saying that in May 2003 an unidentified Saudi cleric authorized bin Laden to use a nuclear bomb against the United States.

For bin Laden, the religious ruling was a milestone in a long quest for an atomic weapon. For U.S. officials and others, it was a frightening reminder of what many consider the ultimate mass-casualty threat posed by modern terrorists, says the article.

Even a small nuclear weapon, according to the article, detonated in a major American city could have devastating consequences, potentially rivaling the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But senior U.S. officials The Post interviewed for the article said they considered the danger more distant than immediate.

U.S. officials and nuclear experts told the newspaper that neither al-Qaida nor any other terrorist group appears to have the capability to overcome the enormous technical and logistical obstacles involved in making a nuclear bomb.

I would say that from the perspective of terrorism, the overwhelming bulk of the evidence we have is that their efforts are focused on biological and chemical weapons, John R. Bolton, undersecretary of State for arms control and international security, told The Post.

But other experts, such as Daniel Benjamin, a former National Security Council staff member and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, warned that groups like al-Qaida do have highly motivated and intelligent people willing to overcome the difficulties involved.

Experts interviewed by The Post named two countries from where terrorists may want to acquire a nuclear weapon or materials for making one: Russia and Pakistan.

Al-Qaida would probably seek to buy a nuclear device from Russian gangsters, rather than build its own, said the article although it also acknowledged that the nature and scope of nuclear caches are among the most tightly held national security secrets in Russia and Pakistan.

Besides, the article points out, it would be very difficult for terrorists to figure out on their own how to work a Russian or Pakistani bomb.

Newer Russian weapons, according to the article, are equipped with heat- and time-sensitive locking systems that are extremely difficult to break without help from insiders.

You don't get it off the shelf, enter a code and have it go off, says Charles D. Ferguson, science and technology fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Older Russian nuclear weapons, however, have simpler protection mechanism and could be easier to obtain on the black market, experts say. But even the simplest device has some security features that would have to be defeated before it could be used, the article says.

The Post also points out that most of the ready-made bombs that could be stolen are made with plutonium, which emits a very high level of radiation.

That's why experts told the newspaper that terrorists would prefer to obtain highly enriched uranium rather than a ready-made bomb and then use it for making a gun-type device used in the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima.

But not all the experts who spoke to The Post were convinced that terrorists could actually make a bomb even if they were to somehow acquire uranium.

They say that terrorists would need at least 50 kilograms of bomb-grade uranium even for making a bomb smaller than the one dropped over Hiroshima.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, in the past 10 years, there have been 10 known incidents of HEU theft, and the stolen goods total less than eight kilograms.

Even this material could not be easily combined because of varying levels of enrichment, says the report.

Besides, the thieves failed to find a buyer and were all arrested while trying to sell their goods. None of them was connected to al-Qaida.

Although such enormous difficulties make it unlikely for al-Qaida to make a nuclear bomb, the Congressional Research Service recently warned that terrorists could obtain HEU from the more than 130 research reactors worldwide. Greatest concern as potential sources of weapons or fissile material are widely thought to be Russia and Pakistan, the congressional report said.

The Post says that the terror group that came close to making a nuclear bomb was the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo, which launched a clandestine plan in 1993 to mine and enrich uranium for making a nuclear bomb.

The group, according to the article, had all the means to achieve its target: money, expertise, a remote haven in which to work and, most important, a private uranium mine. Yet it failed.

The Post concludes that al-Qaida has been on the run since December 2001, when the United States defeated the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and is not in a position to undertake such an ambitious plan.

But even a depleted group could do it if they got the right breaks, warns Benjamin.

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Attack With Dirty Bomb More Likely, Officials Say
Dafna Linzer
Washington Post
(for personal use only)

Often called a weapon of mass disruption, not destruction, a dirty bomb -- which uses conventional explosives to spread radioactive material -- causes far fewer casualties than a nuclear explosion. But because such devices are easier to assemble and the ingredients are readily available, government officials and terrorism experts consider a dirty-bomb attack more likely than a terrorist nuclear strike.

"You would need a stick of dynamite and the kind of radioactive source you find in a common smoke detector," said Charles D. Ferguson, co-author of "The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism."

There have been several alleged attempts to carry out a dirty-bomb attack.

In June 2002, U.S. authorities arrested Jose Padilla, a former gang member from Brooklyn, on charges of plotting a dirty-bomb strike in the United States on behalf of al Qaeda. Last December, the Department of Energy dispatched scores of nuclear scientists with sophisticated detection equipment to scour several major cities for radiological bombs. In September, British police arrested four men suspected of plotting to set off a dirty bomb in London.

"Any person who could build a car bomb or suicide bomb, like the ones we've seen in Iraq or other places, could couple that to radioactive materials and that is it," Ferguson said.

Such an attack can be carried out by detonating a small conventional bomb that spews the radioactive material and radiation across a small area.

John R. Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, said in an interview that the availability of radiological sources presents a significant risk, and that both the United States and the rest of the world "have not paid enough attention to this question. Everybody needs to do more work on that."

Americium, which is found in smoke detectors, is one of eight types of radioactive sources suitable for bombs. Four sources cause external injuries to skin and eyes, and three others, plus americium, can cause extensive internal damage, as well.

Terrorists would need less than a gram of any one of the sources to build a dirty bomb, but the trace amounts found in everyday products are so minuscule that plotters would need more than 1 million smoke detectors to get enough americium for a weapon. Even if a terrorist was able to assemble, plant and detonate a dirty bomb, officials and experts agree the damage would be more psychological than lethal.

"The real effects would be economic shutdown due to contamination, as well as the social and psychological fear created," Ferguson said.

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Nuclear Capabilities May Elude Terrorists, Experts Say
Dafna Linzer
Washington Post
(for personal use only)

Of all the clues that Osama bin Laden is after a nuclear weapon, perhaps the most significant came in intelligence reports indicating that he received fresh approval last year from a Saudi cleric for the use of a doomsday bomb against the United States.

For bin Laden, the religious ruling was a milestone in a long quest for an atomic weapon. For U.S. officials and others, it was a frightening reminder of what many consider the ultimate mass-casualty threat posed by modern terrorists. Even a small nuclear weapon detonated in a major American population center would be among history's most lethal acts of war, potentially rivaling the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Despite the obvious gravity of the threat, however, counterterrorism and nuclear experts in and out of government say they consider the danger more distant than immediate.

They point to enormous technical and logistical obstacles confronting would-be nuclear terrorists, and to the fact that neither al Qaeda nor any other group has come close to demonstrating the means to overcome them.

So difficult are the challenges that senior officials on President Bush's national security team believe al Qaeda has shifted its attention to other efforts, at least for now.

"I would say that from the perspective of terrorism, the overwhelming bulk of the evidence we have is that their efforts are focused on biological and chemical" weapons, said John R. Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. "Not to say there aren't any dealings with radiological materials, but the technology for bio and chem is comparatively so much easier that that's where their efforts are concentrating."

Still, the sheer magnitude of the danger posed by a nuclear weapon in terrorist hands -- and classified intelligence assessments that deem such a scenario plausible -- has spurred intelligence and military operations to combat a threat once dismissed as all but nonexistent. The effort includes billions of dollars spent on attempts to secure borders, retrain weapons scientists in other countries and lock up dangerous materials and stockpiles.

"The thing to keep in mind is that while it is extremely difficult, we have highly motivated and intelligent people who would like to do it," said Daniel Benjamin, a former National Security Council staff member and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Each type of weapon of mass destruction -- nuclear, biological and chemical -- presents special challenges for the groups seeking to acquire them, but also opportunities that can be exploited by people determined to unleash their awesome destructive powers. This is the first of three articles aimed at exploring those risks and challenges.

Difficult Course

Without sophisticated laboratories, expensive technology and years of scientific experience, al Qaeda has two primary options for getting a bomb, experts say, both of which rely on theft -- either of an existing weapon or one of its key ingredients, plutonium or highly enriched uranium.

Nuclear scientists tend to believe the most plausible route for terrorists would be to build a crude device using stolen uranium from the former Soviet Union. Counterterrorism officials think bin Laden would prefer to buy a ready-made weapon stolen in Russia or Pakistan, and to obtain inside help in detonating it.

Last month, Michael Scheuer, who ran the CIA's bin Laden unit, first disclosed in an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" that bin Laden's nuclear efforts had been blessed by the Saudi cleric in May 2003, a statement other sources later corroborated. As early as 1998, bin Laden had publicly labeled acquisition of nuclear or chemical weapons a "religious duty," and U.S. officials had reports around that time that al Qaeda leaders were discussing attacks they likened to the one on Hiroshima.

A week after his CBS appearance, Scheuer said at breakfast with reporters in Washington that he believed al Qaeda would probably seek to buy a nuclear device from Russian gangsters, rather than build its own.

There were as many as a dozen types of nuclear weapons in the hands of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, but Russian officials have said that several kinds have since been destroyed and that the country has secured the remainder of its arsenal. The nature and scope of nuclear caches are among the most tightly held national security secrets in Russia and Pakistan.

It is unclear how quickly either country could detect a theft, but experts said it would be very difficult for terrorists to figure out on their own how to work a Russian or Pakistani bomb.

Newer Russian weapons, for example, are equipped with heat- and time-sensitive locking systems, known as permissive action links, that experts say would be extremely difficult to defeat without help from insiders.

"You'd have to run it through a specific sequence of events, including changes in temperature, pressure and environmental conditions before the weapon would allow itself to be armed, for the fuses to fall into place and then for it to allow itself to be fired," said Charles D. Ferguson, science and technology fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "You don't get it off the shelf, enter a code and have it go off."

The strategy would require help from facility guards, employees with knowledge of the security and arming features of the weapons, not to mention access to a launching system.

Older Russian nuclear weapons have simpler protection mechanisms and could be easier to obtain on the black market. But nuclear experts said even the simplest device has some security features that would have to be defeated before it could be used.

"There is a whole generation of weapons designed for artillery shells, manufactured in the 1950s, that aren't going to have sophisticated locking devices," said Laura Holgate, who ran nonproliferation programs at the Pentagon and the Energy Department from 1995 to 2001. "But it is a tougher task to take a weapon created by a country, even the 1950s version, a tougher job for a group of even highly qualified Chechen terrorists to make it go boom."

Transporting a weapon out of Russia would provide another formidable obstacle for terrorists.

Most of the ready-made bombs that could be stolen would be those made with plutonium, which emits far higher levels of radiation and is therefore more easily detected by passive sensors at ports than is highly enriched uranium, or HEU.

"I wouldn't rule out plutonium altogether, but if one were a terrorist bent upon demonstrating a nuclear explosion, the HEU route is technically much easier," said William C. Potter, director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California.

Building a Bomb

Such difficulties have led some nuclear experts to believe bin Laden would be more likely to try to build an improvised nuclear weapon using a combination of uranium and conventional explosives. That design, known as a gun-type device, was used in the atomic bomb over Hiroshima.

While the technology is relatively simple and has been described in dozens of published scientific studies and policy journals, the path to development is filled with technological and logistical challenges -- the most significant of which is obtaining at least 50 kilograms of bomb-grade uranium. That amount would yield a slightly smaller device than "Little Boy," the code name for the Hiroshima bomb, but would be enough to obliterate any life or structure within a half-mile radius of the blast zone.

"If they got less material than that, it would be really dicey that they could build such a bomb," said Ferguson, at the Council on Foreign Relations.

According to a database maintained by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, there have been 10 known incidents of HEU theft in the past 10 years, each involving a few grams or less. Added up, the stolen goods total less than eight kilograms and could not be easily combined because of varying levels of enrichment. Most important, the thieves -- none of whom was connected to al Qaeda -- had no buyers lined up, and nearly all were caught while trying to peddle their acquisitions.

"Making the connection between buyer and seller has proved to be one of the most substantial hurdles for terrorists," said Matthew Bunn, a senior researcher at Harvard University's Project on Managing the Atom. Of the few known attempts by al Qaeda to obtain HEU, each allegedly stumbled because there was either no seller or the material on offer was fake. "Each time they tried, they got scammed," said Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at the Rand Corporation who has tracked al Qaeda for years.

A September report on terrorism by the Congressional Research Service warned that terrorists could "obtain HEU from the more than 130 research reactors worldwide that use HEU as fuel." The report noted that the nations of "greatest concern as potential sources of weapons or fissile material are widely thought to be Russia and Pakistan."

The largest stocks outside the United States are in Russia and around the former Soviet Union, some in facilities with notoriously weak security and safety procedures.

"Once you have the fissile material, it's a matter of basic chemistry, basic machinery and a truck," said Holgate, now a vice president at the nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative.

"You have to have some technical capability, but once you have those skills, it's certainly within the grasp of the kind of sophisticated, planning-capable terror organizations out there."

Even so, there are a great many steps between obtaining the material and setting off an explosion. That may account for why such an attack has not materialized, despite intelligence warnings.

The uranium would have to be smuggled out of the facility and then transferred, possibly across several borders, seaports and airports, to a location where the device could be assembled. As described in unclassified literature, the gun-type bomb works when one mass of uranium is shot into another inside a tube. Such a device would be small enough to hide in a corner of a shipping container, but that would mean getting it to a port, onto a container and probably bribing a shipper or cargo crew to transport it.

An oil shipment would be optimal for a ready-made device, according to the congressional report, because the "size of the supertanker and thickness of the steel, especially with the use of double hulls," renders some detection equipment unusable.

But HEU emits low levels of radioactivity anyway, and that could be masked with lead shielding. A primitive device could be assembled in a small garage using machine tools readily available at an auto shop and concealed in a lead-plated delivery truck about the size of a delivery van, experts said.

It is also unclear how a terrorist group would know if its weapons development effort was on the right track. Nations with nuclear bombs conduct tests, including explosions that can be detected by scientists and governments. Bunn, who has published two studies on nuclear terrorism, said terrorists would not necessarily need to conduct such tests, but doing without them would increase chances that human error would foil plans or delay progress.

The most elaborate known effort by a terrorist group to develop a nuclear program was undertaken by the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, which instead of stealing enriched uranium planned to mine and enrich the material itself.

Members of Aum Shinrikyo, intent on world destruction when it began its 1993 quest for a nuclear weapon, had all the means to pull it off, on paper at least: money, expertise, a remote haven in which to work, and most important, a private uranium mine.

But the group made dozens of mistakes in judgment, planning and execution. It shifted course, launching its chemical attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

"There are valuable lessons in Aum's experience, and there are false lessons," said Benjamin, co-author of "The Age of Sacred Terror." "The valuable lesson is that WMD terrorism is hard to do," he said. "But given that they didn't try what would be the most efficient way to put together a nuclear bomb, we shouldn't overrate their example as a reason why it's not going to happen."

Al Qaeda has been on the run since the United States deprived it of a haven in Afghanistan, making it more difficult for the group to operate on such an ambitious scale.

"At this moment, they are less capable of carrying out an operation like this because it would require so many different experts and operatives," Benjamin said. "But even a depleted group could do it if they got the right breaks."

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C.  Cooperative Threat Reduction

Cut in funds for securing nuclear materials rejected
Bryan Bender
Boston Globe
(for personal use only)

In a rare disagreement over Pentagon spending priorities, the White House has overruled a proposal that would cut funding to secure the former Soviet Union's nuclear materials, according to budget documents and government officials.

To free up money for the Iraq war, the Pentagon recommended late last month that funding for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, or CTR, be cut by $46 million next year, about a 10 percent reduction in the military's post-Cold War efforts to destroy excess Soviet weapons of mass destruction, lock up other deadly materials, and help find civilian work for weapons scientists.

But President Bush campaigned for reelection on a pledge to make the safeguarding vulnerable stockpiles around the world his highest national security priority. And officials said yesterday that the White House Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, has assured backers of the program that it will maintain the Pentagon's annual level of spending at about $400 million.

The proposed cut, approved by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz in a Dec. 23 memorandum, demonstrates the squeeze that the Iraq war has placed on Pentagon coffers.

It also points to a continuing lack of support inside the bureaucracy for projects designed to help the Russians and other former Soviet republics reduce their stocks of weapons sought by terrorist groups.

"It makes you wonder whether the Pentagon was watching the presidential debates," said William E. Hoehn III, Washington director of the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, a nonprofit organization. "President Bush said nuclear terrorism is the number-one national security threat."

White House officials declined to comment on the proposed cuts yesterday, saying they do not publicly discuss internal budget deliberations until the full federal budget request is completed. But other officials said OMB already has told the Pentagon that the cut would not be tolerated.

"It has been rejected by the White House," said a senior government official who asked not to be named. "We have been assured by a number of people that it is not going to happen."

Still, Hoehn and others said the squabble between the White House and Defense Department underscores how the CTR program, which receives about $1 billion a year across the Defense, State, Energy, and other departments, remains a black sheep at the Pentagon, where some leaders have long been critical of international arms-control programs.

"There is a general skepticism among the neo-conservatives of the value of these programs," Hoehn said. "Their emphasis is much more on killing terrorists than keeping weapons from the hands of terrorists." Additionally, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz think Russia should take more responsibility for the problem.

The White House's rejection of the Pentagon cut "is a hopeful sign that the White House is taking charge and responsibility to ensure that nuclear weapons and materials do not get into the hands of terrorists," said Charles Curtis, president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit organization.

Bush was criticized by Democratic challenger Senator John F. Kerry last year for shortchanging programs to secure Russia's hundreds of tons of nuclear material, biological weapons, and chemical weapons stocks -- much of it stored in facilities that lack sufficient security safeguards.

Only 6 percent of Russia's estimated 600 tons of potentially vulnerable nuclear materials has been secured, leaving enough to make thousands of nuclear bombs. And Russian officials have reported that some facilities have been cased by suspected terrorist groups. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has said he received approval from a Saudi cleric to use nuclear weapons against the United States, and intelligence reports indicate that he has long sought to gain access to weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

According to the current schedule, the former Soviet Union's excess materials will not be secured or destroyed for 13 more years.

John Wolfsthal, deputy director of the nonproliferation project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said Pentagon skepticism of the program is growing stronger amid ominous signs that President Vladimir Putin of Russia is tightening his grip on government institutions and undercutting democratic progress in the country. Wolfsthal noted that top policy makers at the Pentagon worry that the program may be helping "a potential enemy."

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White House proposes cuts in nuclear dismantling program
Amy Klamper
(for personal use only)

The Bush administration is proposing to trim funds for a program designed to curb the spread of nuclear and catastrophic weapons.

According to a draft of the fiscal 2006 budget proposal, the Pentagon wants to cut $46 million from its Cooperative Threat Reduction program, initiated in the early 1990s to dismantle and secure the former Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal. The total cost of the CTR program is slightly more than $400 million.

"This is classic Bush," said Charles Fant, spokesman for House Budget Committee ranking member John Spratt, D-S.C. "He touts programs like CTR in the rhetoric, then he cuts them in the budget. We've seen this kind of thing all throughout the Bush budget, in programs like veterans' health care and education."

Chris Hellman, director of the Project on Military Spending Oversight at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, lamented the proposed cut, noting that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was one of the few topics both Bush and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., agreed on during the 2004 presidential campaign. "This sends the wrong message from a president who says countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a priority for his administration," said Hellman. "It may seem like a small amount of money, compared to other Pentagon programs, but when you look at the CTR program, it's a significant reduction of nearly 10 percent."

Hellman said the proposal pushes a considerable amount of funding toward homeland security programs, including chemical and biological agent detection and other programs to deal with the consequences of a WMD attack. But he criticized the administration for putting too many resources in one basket.

"Instead of getting at the root causes, they're dealing with the effect, building higher fences instead of going out and dealing with the problem of proliferation," he said. Hellman also noted that while such a small funding cut might be devastating to the CTR program, it would do little to boost other areas of the budget in need of additional funding.

A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment.

Congressional aides from both parties assert that the Pentagon's proposal lacks detail and that it remains to be seen whether the cut is warranted. Last year the program lost $50 million in funding because the Pentagon simply did not spend it. Critics of the program note that the schedule for a number of CTR programs is beginning to wind down, and that the United States increasingly has trouble gaining access to former Soviet Union facilities associated with the program.

Others say that despite the potential for legitimately reducing CTR funding, lawmakers are likely to be concerned with the trend line. "There are other things that we could be doing that could pay down the proliferation risk beyond the programs that the Defense Department is running currently," one congressional aide said. "There are very legitimate reasons to be concerned about these cuts."

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Bush failing at nuclear security
Lawrence J. Korb
Boston Globe
(for personal use only)

In the recent presidential campaign, President Bush and Senator John Kerry disagreed on most foreign policy issues. However, both agreed in their second debate that the single gravest national security threat facing the United States is the prospect of a weapon of mass destruction (particularly a nuclear weapon) falling into the hands of a terrorist. As evidence of their success, the Bush administration cites several achievements -- but each of these achievements are revealed to be marginal victories at best when examined more carefully.

First, the administration applauds itself for negotiating the Group of Eight Global Partnership against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Under this arrangement, the United States has agreed to spend $10 billion over the next 10 years to safeguard and dismantle weapons of mass destruction and related materials in the former Soviet Union, while the other seven members agreed to raise another $10 billion. However, what they don't mention is that this agreement does not obligate the United States to spend any funds beyond what it has already spent annually since the end of the Cold War. Similarly, the other G-7 nations are allowed to count the funds they had previously allocated for clean-up in the former Soviet Union as part of their $10 billion contribution. More important, most of the pledged funds have not been allocated, and in any case are woefully short of what is needed: Securing the nuclear materials of Russia (not to mention the other states of the former Soviet Union) will cost $30 billion.

The second accomplishment that the Bush administration touts is its establishment of the Proliferation Security Initiative. Under this program, more than 15 nations will work together to board ships believed to be transporting weapons of mass destruction.

Yet, the administration fails to note that it has undermined the legitimacy of the Proliferation Security Initiative by refusing to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This treaty -- negotiated more than 20 years ago -- has been ratified by 145 nations, including the other members of the Proliferation Security Initiative (who insist that it provides the only legitimate international framework for the initiative). Even Republican Senator Richard Lugar -- chairman of the Armed Services Committee and a Bush supporter -- has repeatedly criticized the administration for failing to ratify the treaty.

Finally, the administration speaks frequently of its support for the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which assists the states of the former Soviet Union in safeguarding and dismantling their enormous stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, delivery systems, and related materials. However, the Bush administration actually requested a decrease in funding in fiscal 2005 for the three major threat reduction programs in the State, Energy, and Defense budgets. If the Bush administration receives the $919 million it has requested for fiscal year 2005, this will be a decline from fiscal 2004 of $72 million, or more than 7 percent. By way of contrast, in fiscal year 2005 the Bush administration will spend close to $100 billion on the war on Iraq, $500 billion on the Department of Defense, and more than $10 billion on missile defense alone.

While the Bush administration overstates the case for its positive contributions, it remains silent on those policies that have actually undermined the ability of the international community to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Since coming into office, the Bush administration has rejected the Enforcement Protocol of the Biological Weapons Convention (which would have established a formal regime to ensure that nations were living up to their commitment to destroy and not produce, stockpile, or transfer these weapons), withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, announced its opposition to inspections and verification as part of the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty, thus killing a decades-long effort by the international community to ban the production of enriched uranium and plutonium, and refused to submit the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification or to commit itself categorically to halting all future tests.

The Bush administration's misguided policies on an array of nuclear issues have further undermined the world's efforts to halt proliferation. The administration has begun development of two new nuclear weapons; adopted a strategy that authorizes the use of nuclear weapons in a preemptive attack against nations that are close to acquiring nuclear weapons; and increased funding for conducting research and upgrading US nuclear capabilities to $6.8 billion, twice the amount the US spent a decade ago. Its message to the rest of the world in the area of nuclear proliferation is "do as we say, not as we do."

If the president means what he said in the second debate about the gravity of this threat, he must change his policies immediately. If not, the consequences of an attack on the United States or its interests by a group armed with a weapon of mass destruction will be catastrophic.

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D.  Nonproliferation Diplomacy

Iran officially demands EU3 deliver uranium, UF6, and nuclear equipment
Mehr News Agency
(for personal use only)

An official close to the Iranian nuclear negotiations on Wednesday confirmed statements by Mohammad-Javad Zarif, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, that Iran would be making nuclear demands of the European Union.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official told the Mehr News Agency that the process of nuclear negotiations with the Europeans should be based on the commitments the EU made to Iran, which Europe has failed to fulfill, and Zarif’s remarks were only part of what the Iranian delegation told the Europeans.

Tehran expects its demands to be fully addressed and has raised the point of its rights, which London, Paris, and Berlin have ignored over the years, at the negotiations, he added.

Speaking on the Kankash program of Iran’s Jam-e Jam television, Zarif did not specify what Iran asked the EU to do, but the list is thought to include the manufacture of two power plants in Dar Khoein, Khuzestan Province, each with the capacity to produce 900 megawatts of electricity, the delivery of 50 tons of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) from Iran’s share of the production of the Eurodif nuclear plant in France, the delivery of 775 tons of uranium that Iran bought from South Africa which London later forced Pretoria to sell to Britain, and also the delivery of equipment for the Bushehr nuclear power plant that Iran purchased from Germany but which Berlin has withheld since it withdrew from the Bushehr project.

“We will certainly demand our rights. Europe’s actions are not only in breach of mutual obligations but also a breach of the NPT. Therefore, we will demand our rights, and we believe that Europe is obliged to fulfill the commitments that it has failed to implement, both bilateral commitments and NPT commitments toward all signatories,” the source said.

Zarif also said on Tuesday that the European Union should fulfill all the commitments in regard to Iran’s nuclear program which it has failed to implement.

He stated that in order to establish mutual confidence, the EU is obliged to live up to mutual commitments and respect the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which apply to all signatories.

Pointing to the lack of confidence between Iran and the European Union, Zarif said, “Currently, we also don’t trust the West and we are in the process of testing the waters to see how much confidence and cooperation can be established.”

Zarif said that the Europeans say that Iran must give guarantees that it will observe the terms of the NPT, but the Europeans and other Western countries have not fulfilled their commitments with regard to the implementation of Article 4 of the NPT, and Iran has been saying this at negotiations with the Europeans since October 2003.

The equipment and materials which have not been delivered to Iran for over 20 years include 50 tons of uranium hexafluoride from France, 775 tons of uranium from Britain, and the equipment for the Bushehr nuclear power plant from Germany.

MNA has learned that Iran will demand delivery of a part of this equipment and these materials at the upcoming Iran-EU nuclear working group talks despite the failure of the two sides to reach an agreement in this regard at the previous negotiations.

The legal dispute over these demands, including the demand that Paris build two 900-megawatt plants in Khuzestan Province, has still not been resolved.

France has refused to give Iran its share of over 50 tons of UF6 from the Eurodif plant for 25 years.

During this time, Britain has also prevented the delivery of 775 tons of uranium which Iran had bought from South Africa and in an illegal manner bought this nuclear material from Pretoria.

Germany broke the contract to build the Bushehr nuclear power plant by discontinuing construction work on the plant, withholding equipment that Iran purchased, and revoking the license for the export of the purchased equipment for phase 2 of the project.

Reports indicate that in negotiations between the diplomatic delegations, Tehran has not made any demands for the EU trio to implement any new projects in Iran but has only demanded that the commitments these three countries made by signing agreements with Iran over the past 25 years be fulfilled.

The Iran Atomic Energy Organization already has a research reactor and currently does not need a light water reactor.

MNA has learned that the Islamic Republic is not demanding construction of a light water reactor but Europe is insisting on selling the reactor to Iran.

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World needs to limit making of nuclear fuel - UN watchdog chief
(for personal use only)

The world cannot continue allowing countries to develop the ability to make nuclear fuel that can be used to make atomic bombs, UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei told AFP Wednesday.

"We just cannot continue business as usual that every country can build its own factories for separating plutonium or enriching uranium.

"Then we are really talking about 30, 40 countries sitting on the fence with a nuclear weapons capability that could be converted into a nuclear weapon in a matter of months," ElBaradei said.

He said the international regime mandated by the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is facing a "major challenge" as countries like Iran acquire nuclear fuel cycle capabilities in what are ostensibly peaceful, power-generating programs.

The problem is that the same technology used to make fuel for nuclear reactors can also be used to manufacture the explosive material for atomic bombs.

This leaves countries free to pull out of the NPT and develop weapons, as North Korea has apparently done.

ElBaradei said that "nuclear weapons are still looked at as a weapon of choice" which countries want to obtain in order to have international clout and to protect themselves in their regions.

ElBaradei said "we just need to take the bull by the horns and address these issues," noting that he would bring this up at an NPT review conference to be held in New York in May.

The UN atomic watchdog chief said: "We need to make sure that we create a global security system that does not depend on nuclear weapons. We need to make sure that the technology is contained, controlled much better than we have it now."

ElBaradei said his International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must have "the required authority to be able to detect early on any efforts for proliferation" by making the additional protocol to the NPT that allows for tougher inspections the "standard for verification."

But even this was not perfect.

"I would like to show our strengths but also our limitations. I do not like to mislead people into believing that we are the ones who can do it all," he said, pointing out that the IAEA's mandate is to make sure that nuclear materials are not being diverted to make weapons.

"If a country is doing computer studies on simulation for a nuclear test and if I am not able to discover that, don't come to me and say you have failed, because my mandate is very much linked to nuclear materials.

"While I can show a program through nuclear materials, I cannot stop countries from doing preparatory work independent of nuclear materials," ElBaradei said.

He said he was building on lessons learned in verifying nuclear programs in Iraq, North Korea, Iran and Libya.

One lesson was that security issues must be addressed, as is happening with six-party talks with North Korea and with the EU's efforts to get Iran to permanently abandon uranium fuel enrichment.

"In addition to fixing loopholes in the non-proliferation system, you need to address the security concerns (of countries) which continue to be the driver behind the effort to develop nuclear weapons," ElBaradei said.

"There is a need for a structural adjustment to the system. I don't think you can just think around the edges."

He said he would propose a moratorium on countries developing the nuclear fuel cycle in return for their getting guarantees of delivery of nuclear fuel for peaceful production of electricity.

This moratorium would be for "five years until we develop a better system," ElBaradei said.

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RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

The West should not regard the modernization of Russia's nuclear potential as a threat, announced Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an interview with a leading German newspaper.

"The modernization of our defensive potential is necessary to maintain Russia's Armed Forces in combat readiness and to ensure the security of the Russian state," he underlined.

He also said, "there are plenty of processes under way around Russia that we can also consider as potential threats to the security of the Russian state."

"We are partners with NATO, although we do not see any particular reason for NATO's expansion. We are partners with the U.S., although we do not see any particular reason for development of a missile defense program. We just want these processes to be transparent," the Russian foreign minister stressed.

He pointed out that Russia, respecting the right of countries to create their own alliances and partnerships, was nevertheless surprised with the way the NATO expansion had been conducted.

"Practically on the same day of the announcement of the expansion, NATO commenced the flights of AWACS planes along the Russian borders and deployed combat aircraft on Lithuanian airfields. NATO was in such a hurry that it looked as if something was about to happen there, although the situation in the region had never posed a security threat to the Alliance," Mr. Lavrov emphasized.

He said that during the latest meeting of the Russia-NATO Council, Russia suggested developing a common system of monitoring and administering the air space.

"Creation of such a system would not only be a practical evidence of mutual trust, but would also prevent crisis situations created either by natural causes or technical errors," the Russian foreign minister stressed.

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E.  US-Russia

'Loose nukes' fear spurs US-Russia action
Gordon Corera
BBC News Online
(for personal use only)

Just days before Christmas, a secret flight took off from the Czech Republic heading for Russia.

Until it touched down amid tight security, the details of the flight were kept highly classified for fear of terrorists intercepting the cargo - four specialised transport canisters containing 6kg of highly enriched uranium which could be used for nuclear weapons.

The flight marked a further step in an increasingly aggressive programme to secure nuclear material by Russia and the US amid continuing fears that gaining nuclear material is a priority for al-Qaeda.

Meeting in London on 4 January were the two top officials involved in the US-Russian efforts - US Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and Director of the Russian Federal Atomy Energy Agency Aleksandr Rumyantsev.

They told the BBC news website that they were accelerating their protection programme and expanding the scope of co-operation between their two countries to try to ensure that no nuclear material could fall into the wrong hands.

"If terrorists somehow managed to get hold of fissile material then the consequences would be devastating," Mr Rumyantsev said.

And he warned that even if the number of casualties was low, the psychological impact of something like a dirty bomb would compare with the impact Chernobyl had on the Russian psyche.

Long-standing target

After the end of the Cold War, the biggest concern was so-called "loose nukes" in the former Soviet Union where there were more than 27,000 nuclear weapons.

The fear was that poorly secured nuclear weapons could be stolen by criminals or terrorists.

Since then major efforts have been undertaken jointly by the US and Russia to try to prevent this by destroying weapons and improving security at sites.

But while securing such weapons remains a priority, there is now increased concern that nuclear materials rather than a fully developed weapon might become the target for terrorists.

Al-Qaeda's desire to get hold of nuclear material is longstanding and was recognised by British intelligence at least as early as 1998, although some of Osama Bin Laden's early attempts to secure such material proved amateurish and unsuccessful.

However, recent reports suggest Osama Bin Laden's desire to get hold of some kind of nuclear material is undimmed, and concern will only have been heightened by news that in 2003, he sought and received approval from a Saudi cleric for the use of a nuclear weapon against the US.

However, most experts believe that a dirty bomb - involving the dispersal of radiological material by an explosion - is a far more plausible threat than the detonation of a nuclear warhead.

The former requires far less technical know-how, merely the combination of a traditional bomb with whatever material terrorists can lay their hands on.

To counter this, the US and Russia are placing a growing emphasis on a "global clearout" that reaches beyond the two nations and beyond just nuclear weapons by covering things like nuclear fuel held at research reactors in third countries.

So far, as well as the 22 December Czech flight, there have also been deals with Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Libya and Uzbekistan to return materials from reactors back to either the US or Russia where the technology was developed.

"The significance of this can't be overestimated," Spencer Abraham told the BBC news website.

Changing threat

The task, though, is huge - more than 100 research reactors around the world run on weapons grade highly enriched uranium and the hope is to convert many of them to use lower enriched uranium fuel which is less dangerous.

America's Global Threat Reduction Initiative aims to remove or secure all high risk nuclear and radiological materials around the world but one of the biggest tasks is simply trying to make an inventory of what materials are out there.

The close co-operation between the US and Russia and between Mr Abraham and Mr Rumyantsev has achieved much, but for those worried about nuclear proliferation and terrorism, the biggest challenge may come not from Russia, but from states which have more recently sought or achieved nuclear capability.

These would include Pakistan, where some scientists are thought to have been in contact with al-Qaeda, and also North Korea, where there are long-standing concerns about the passing on of technology.

As more states try to acquire nuclear weapons, the challenge to stop nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands is likely to grow more and more demanding.

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F.  Nuclear Industry

Uranium prices are set to climb
Matt Chambers
(for personal use only)

Prices for uranium, used to generate 16 percent of the world's electricity, may rise by a quarter this year as stockpiles of the nuclear fuel decrease and demand is set to rise from reactors being built in China and India.

"You have gone from a buyer's to a seller's market," said Bob Mitchell, who holds physical uranium worth more than $26 million for Adit Capital Management in Portland, Oregon. "Most reactors under construction haven't secured long-term supply and there is no inventory left among utilities."

Commercial stockpiles of the fuel dropped 50 percent between 1985 and 2003 because mine output could not keep up with demand, according to a September report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mine expansions may not meet demand, pushing up prices for uranium at miners such as Cameco, the world's biggest, and Energy Resources of Australia.

Cameco shares rose 68 percent last year and Energy Resources of Australia, which is 68 percent-owned by Rio Tinto Group, surged 94 percent. Paladin Resources, an Australian company that plans to mine uranium in Namibia, rose ninefold.

China is preparing to award an $8 billion contract to build four reactors in the world's biggest nuclear power construction program. The country plans to build 27 plants to meet a target of raising nuclear energy output fivefold by 2020. India aims to build 17 reactors to triple nuclear power capacity by 2012.

"Uranium prices will advance in 2005," said Mitchell at Adit Capital, who also owns Cameco shares as part of the $200 million he helps manage at another fund, Touchstone Investment Managers. "In China, they'll have to build a couple more reactors a year."

Concern about supply shortages helped increase spot prices of uranium to $20.50 a pound as of Dec. 31, according to Metal Bulletin. That is the highest since 1984, according to a report by Jeff Combs, president of Ux Consulting, based in Roswell, Georgia, which publishes spot uranium prices.

The spot market, which makes up about 12 percent of uranium sales, according to the World Nuclear Association, sets a price reference for long-term contracts between miners and utilities. Uranium prices rose to a record of more than $40 a pound in the late 1970s, according to Combs at Ux Consulting.

Contract prices paid by power companies may rise to $27 a pound this year from $20 a pound last year, a National Bank Financial analyst, Ian Howat, said in a Nov. 24 report. Long-term prices may rise to $26 a pound, a Goldman Sachs JBWere analyst, Ian Preston, said in a Dec. 14 report after attending a uranium conference in Sydney.

"It looks like current prices are here to stay and possibly rise significantly," Craig Kinnell, acting chief executive of Energy Resources of Australia, the world's third-biggest uranium miner, said in an interview Dec. 31.

"Inventories are falling and there has been little response to that in the way of more mine supply. Our contract prices have risen to reflect the spot price rises."

China aims to double total power generation capacity by 2020. It needs to add two reactors a year by then to meet a target of generating 4 percent of its power from nuclear plants.

Demand from China may help uranium prices double in the next two years and may triple demand for nuclear power by 2020, said Quinton George, managing director of Trinity Asset Management. The company owns 18 percent of Afrikander Lease, which holds South Africa's biggest uranium deposit.

"The supply deficit will affect this market for at least the next 10 years," Geroge said. "In the next two years we could well see uranium touching historical highs, at least doubling current prices."

China has begun talks with Australia, which holds the world's largest uranium reserves, to enable the fuel to be exported by Rio Tinto, the world's third-biggest miner, and WMC Resources, which owns the biggest deposit of the radioactive metal.

"We're working with the Australian government to get the ability to sell uranium to China," Bruce Brook, WMC's chief financial officer, said in an interview in November. "These guys have announced 32 nuclear power stations to be developed over the next 16 years."

The Melbourne-based WMC in November increased its long-term uranium forecast to $30 a pound and said that its Olympic Dam deposit could become the world's biggest uranium mine if a 4 billion Australian dollar, or $3 billion, expansion is approved. Cameco plans to increase production 18 percent at McArthur River in Canada, now the world's biggest uranium mine.

"We've got customers who are highly-concerned about the supply chain of uranium," said Brook at WMC, who is also in charge of the company's uranium marketing. "I can assure you the pricing that they have in mind is not going backward. Our expansion and one planned by Cameco won't fill the gap" between supply and demand, he said.

World demand will outpace supply by 11 percent in the decade ending in 2013 as inventories decline, the World Nuclear Association estimates.

The decline in stockpiles has been hastened by the decision of Russia, the world's biggest uranium exporter after Canada, in October 2003 to limit its exports to conserve fuel for 25 plants it wants to build by 2020.

Reactor fuel made from former Russian nuclear weapons powers one out of every 10 U.S. homes, according to the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute trade group.

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G.  Nuclear Safety

RFE/RL Newsline
(for personal use only)

The Federal Atomic Energy Agency on 5 January accounted for its 2004 results, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, a series of non-nuclear explosive tests were carried out at the Novaya Zemlya testing ground in 2004 that "proved the reliability and security of Russia's nuclear arsenal."

Agency Director Aleksandr Rumyantsev reported that the country's program to scrap decommissioned nuclear submarines is proceeding on schedule and that 874 cubic meters of liquid radioactive waste and 1,588 tons of solid waste were reprocessed last year. He said that the agency stresses safety in all of its activities: "Our duty to the public and the international community is to prevent even the mere possibility of the development of hazardous situations in the nuclear industry." Asked about his agency's counterterrorism measures, Rumyantsev said on 22 December in Rostov-na-Donu that "we devote major attention to all imaginable and unimaginable scenarios," "Priazovskii krai" reported on 23 December. He said that his agency's priority for the next decade will be the "rapid development" of nuclear-power generation in European Russia. "We need to build roughly eight more units by 2020," Rumyantsev said.

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Some Progress Made in Halting Spread of Nuclear Materials in Russia, say Analysts
Bill Gasperini
Voice of America
(for personal use only)

The security of nuclear material has long been an issue of concern in Russia and other former Soviet republics. For 10 years the United States has funded a program dealing with the problem, and experts say progress is being made. Nonetheless the potential proliferation of some kinds of "loose nukes" remains a serious concern.

Earlier this year a man was arrested in central Russia after police found several canisters in his backyard that contained nuclear waste.

The man said he found the canisters at a local dump and decided to move them to his yard "for safekeeping." The case is still under investigation.

This was one recent example of what some call "loose nukes," material which is unlikely to be suitable in making a nuclear bomb. However if packed together with conventional explosives, it could be used in a so-called "dirty bomb" with potentially serious consequences.

Preventing such material from falling into the hands of terrorist groups or rogue states has been a concern since the end of the Cold War.

And much of the focus for this has been on Russia and other former Soviet republics, which have many nuclear installations ranging from power plants to laboratories.

In the northwestern Murmansk region near the border with Norway, dozens of Soviet-era nuclear submarines sit in a bay waiting to be dismantled.

An old ship serves as a waste dump, posing not just a nuclear threat but an environmental one as well.

Military officials themselves say that tons of nuclear material sit out in the open, and have called for more funding to deal with the problem.

While most installations have security guards and surveillance cameras, experts say this is no guarantee that radioactive material is secure.

Yevgeny Volk, an analyst with the Heritage Foundation in Moscow, says that low salaries and low morale in the Russian military add to the problem.

"Due to the increased level of corruption, the increased level of mismanagement and fraud in the armed forces and in general in defense-related industries, the risk of nuclear proliferation is surely high," he said.

Mr. Volk adds the threat is not limited to nuclear materials, but also to the scientists, bomb experts and others with nuclear know-how.

He says many Russian nuclear experts have gone abroad to places like Iran, where a Russian nuclear power plant has been under construction for many years.

Both Iran and Russia insist the project is exclusively for peaceful purposes.

But others are not so sure, and the issue has been a sore point in relations between Moscow and the United States for the past decade.

However cooperation with Russia has provided a genuine success story concerning "fissile" nuclear material, which is used to make bombs.

In 1993 Russia and the United States started the "Megatons to Megawatts" program to convert highly-enriched uranium from Soviet nuclear warheads into low-grade nuclear fuel for use in American power plants.

So far 225 metric tons of material, enough to make 9000 nuclear warheads, has been turned into fuel; the goal is to reach 500 tons within the next decade.

Charles Yurlish is a senior official with the global energy company USEC, which is carrying out the program.

He says nuclear material from what were once Soviet warheads now provides 10 percent of all electric power in the United States.

"There's an exquisite symmetry to the fact that Soviet missiles with nuclear warheads that were once aimed at American cities are now providing light and power to those very same cities," he said.

Mr. Yurlish adds that the "Megatons to Megawatts" program is the largest nuclear disarmament program in history, and can serve as a model for other programs in some of the world's other nuclear powers.

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H.  Official Statements

Proliferation Security Initiative Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Department of State
(for personal use only)

Question: What is the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)?

A: The spread of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related materials represents a fundamental threat to global stability, security, and peace. n December 2002, the United States released its "National Strategy To Combat Weapons Of Mass Destruction," which called for a comprehensive approach to counter the threat of these weapons getting in the hands of hostile states and terrorists.

In this context, President Bush announced on May 31, 2003, the Proliferation Security Initiative, which is an effort to enhance and expand our efforts to prevent the flow of WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials on the ground, in the air and at sea to and from countries of proliferation concern.

This initiative reflects the need for a more dynamic and active approach to the global proliferation problem. It reflects the reality that proliferators are actively and aggressively seeking WMD using techniques that thwart export controls and enforcement measures.

It envisions partnerships of states working in concert, employing their national capabilities to develop a broad range of legal, diplomatic, economic, military and other tools to interdict shipments of such items.

Question: Who determined the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles?

A: The Statement of Interdiction Principles was agreed among the original eleven PSI countries (now fifteen) on September 4, 2003. We believe the SOP is a straightforward set of principles that countries should support, and in fact, responses worldwide indicate this is the case.

As a practical matter, it would not have been possible to develop the PSI in a way that allowed it to come forward quickly yet still involve all interested states.

While the Principles have been agreed, the PSI is a dynamic initiative. If countries have ideas that are not reflected in the SOP that would contribute to a more robust, effective initiative, we want to hear from them. In that way, the PSI is an initiative open to contributions from all states that want to support interdiction efforts.

Question: How were the founding PSI countries chosen?

A: The original eleven founding states have all demonstrated strong support for nonproliferation; have been involved in efforts to prevent proliferation, including active interdiction efforts; and are located in geographically important locations in relation to proliferation pathways. In order to commence the initiative, meeting with a small group of states proved efficient and productive.

Question: What are the criteria for "joining" the PSI (i.e., can states outside nonproliferation regimes join)?

A: The PSI is not an organization that has "members." It is an activity under which countries around the world will cooperate and coordinate more closely on efforts to prevent shipments of WMD, delivery systems, and related materials.

The U.S. welcomes the support of all states for the PSI, particularly flag, coastal, or transshipment states, or those likely to have suspect flights in their airspace, that may have an especially important role to play in preventing such shipments.

Question: What does the United States want from other countries?

A: The U.S. wants other countries to support PSI and more proactive and deliberate actions to impede and stop shipments of WMD, delivery systems, and related materials going to or from states or non-state actors of proliferation concern.

The U.S. seeks other states' support for the Statement of Interdiction Principles and their thoughts on the contributions they will be able to make, and how they might contribute to further operationalizing the initiative.

If states have the necessary legal authority to take the steps outlined in the SOP, the U.S. hopes that they will agree to support the PSI and cooperate in interdiction efforts. If states do not have all or any of the needed legal authorities, the U.S. hopes that they will take the steps to improve their national legal authority so that they can assist in interdiction activities.

If states have capabilities they can contribute to interdiction efforts, such as operational or Informational assets, the U.S. hopes that they will be willing to use these capabilities in support of PSI efforts.

Ultimately, the United States wants countries to establish the, practical basis to cooperate on interdiction efforts. It may well be that a state that indicates interest in the PSI is never asked to help on interdictions, simply because a case requiring that state's help does not arise. However, states should be ready for quick and effective action in the event they can be helpful in preventing a shipment of proliferation concern.

Question: What steps should be taken to express interest in the PSI? Would expression of interest mean an invitation to PSI meetings?

A: Countries that support the PSI and the Statement of Interdiction Principles are encouraged to make that known officially. Countries with the ability to make effective contributions that are interested in participating in PSI activities should also make that known. Since the inception of the initiative, more than 60 nations have indicated their support.

Rather than view PSI meetings as the key, we encourage states to consider PSI as a series of activities, based on concrete and practical cooperation and coordination between and among states.

Question: How should states endorse the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles (SOP)?

A: The preferred means of conveying explicit support for the PSI SOP is through diplomatic note or another form of official correspondence, accompanied by a public statement of support, if possible. Some foreign officials have first made public or private remarks noting their support for the initiative and SOP, however, these verbal announcements should preferably be followed by written documentation.

Question: What concrete steps can a state take to contribute to the PSI?

A: States are encouraged to:

Formally commit to and publicly endorse, if possible, the PSI and its Statement of Interdiction Principles and indicate willingness to take all steps available to support PSI efforts.

Undertake a review and provide information on current national legal authorities to undertake interdictions at sea, in the air or on land. Indicate willingness to strengthen authorities where appropriate.

Identify specific national assets that might contribute to PSI efforts (e.g., information sharing, military and/or law enforcement assets).

Provide points of contact for PSI interdiction requests and other operational activities. Establish appropriate internal government processes to coordinate PSI response efforts.

Be willing to actively participate in PSI interdiction training exercises and actual operations as opportunities arise.

Be willing to consider signing relevant agreements (e.g. boarding agreements) or to otherwise establish a concrete basis for cooperation with PSI efforts (e.g., MOU on overflight denial).

Keeping the above steps in mind, we do not expect every country to contribute at the same level to PSI activities, exercises, or meetings. However, we do expect that states serious about the PSI will undertake a considered evaluation of their capabilities and strengths and offer what they can in support of building the initiative.

Question: Will the PSI affect legitimate dual-use commerce?

A: PSI is not aimed against legitimate commerce, dual-use or otherwise. It seeks to address efforts by states or non-state actors of proliferation concern to ship or receive WMD, delivery systems, or related materials. If we have adequate information that a shipment is destined for an end-use of proliferation concern, we will work to stop that shipment.

PSI does not envision stopping and inspecting every shipment that might involve items that could be used in a proliferation program; rather our intent is to take action based on solid information on shipments that we believe are destined for states or non-state actors of proliferation concern.

Legitimate dual use commerce will very rarely be affected by PSI.

Question: What constitutes a "country of concern?" Would failure of a state to join a nonproliferation regime automatically qualify it as a state of concern?

A: Paragraph one of the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles contains a definition of "states or non-state actors of proliferation concern", which is: "States or non-state actors of proliferation concern" generally refers to those countries or entities that the PSI participants involved establish should be subject to interdiction activities because they are engaged in proliferation through: (1) efforts to develop or acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and associated delivery systems; or (2) transfers (either selling, receiving, or facilitating) of WMD, their delivery systems, or related materials."

We believe this is as far as it is necessary to go in defining what constitutes a "state of proliferation concern" for PSI.

The basis for considering a state "of proliferation concern" is not whether or not a state has joined or abides by multilateral nonproliferation treaties or regimes.

Question: How does the PSI fit with the Container Security Initiative?

A: The PSI and the CSI are complementary, in that both seek to enhance our ability to prevent shipments of problematic cargo. However, the Container Security Initiative is limited to maritime cargoes that are going to be sent to the United States; PSI seeks to address cargoes at sea, in the air, and on land anywhere in the world. CSI is focused on ensuring adequate capabilities exist at major ports to screen cargo containers and ensure they do not contain problematic items. PSI efforts would include action against shipments en route, not only when they might arrive in a port.

Question: How does PSI relate to other "interdiction" efforts, such as counternarcotics?

A: To the extent that efforts in other areas - such as the prevention of trafficking in narcotics - have developed procedures that may be useful models for PSI efforts, we are considering how they can be adapted to support our efforts.

Question: What is the relationship between PSI and formal nonproliferation structures (e.g., MTCR, OPCW, NPT)?

A: The PSI is an activity, not an organization. PSI activities will be consistent with domestic and international legal frameworks, many of which, in turn, implement existing nonproliferation structures.

For example, the PSI will build on existing nonproliferation export control regime efforts to identify and prevent the export of certain commodities to WMD and missile programs of proliferation concern. It seeks to complement and work within the limits of established domestic and international law, including nonproliferation treaties.

Question: How does PSI relate to other nonproliferation treaties or regimes?

A: We have a robust toolbox to prevent proliferation - nonproliferation treaties, multilateral export control regimes, national export controls and enforcement measures.

The PSI will build on these existing tools to prevent the proliferation of WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials. It does not replace other nonproliferation mechanisms, but reinforces and complements, them.

Question: What is the relationship between PSI and International Organizations, such as the UN?

A: The PSI is not envisioned as a formal organization with a budget and headquarters, but rather a collection of interdiction partnerships among interested states taking steps consistent with their respective national legal authorities and international law and frameworks.

While PSI activities may be informed by efforts in other fora, the statement of principles does not establish any mechanism for formal cooperation with the UN or any other multilateral or international bodies.

Notwithstanding, it is noteworthy that the United Nations' High-level Panel in its December 2004 Report to the Secretary General recommended "that all States should be encouraged to join this voluntary initiative" (PSI).

Question: Will there be a formal mechanism for coordination with the UN?

A: PSI activities will be undertaken by states consistent with their national legal authorities and we do not see a need to create any new type of formal mechanism for regular coordination with the United Nations. That said, we believe that it will be useful to keep international bodies such as the UN informed of PSI developments. It is, of course, true that states may report to the UN or other international bodies appropriate information about actions that they take if they believe they should do so.

Question: Is there intent to use UN Security Council resolutions on terrorism as an international legal basis for PSI actions?

A: The PSI SOP states that activities will be undertaken consistent with national legal authorities and relevant international law and frameworks. If an activity is authorized under a UNSC resolution, then it could be cited by a PSI participant as authority for its participation in an interdiction.

Participation in the PSI is voluntary. If a state believes it does not have the legal authorities to act in a specific action, it can decline to participate.

Question: What is the relationship between the PSI SOP and UN Security Council Resolution 1540?

A: UNSCR 1540 and the PSI SOP are mutually reinforcing and are legally and politically compatible.

The April 2004 unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 recognizes the threat to international peace and security posed by the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and outlines concrete actions states can take to counter this threat.

Amongst other steps, operative paragraph 10 of UNSCR 1540 calls upon all states - in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law - to take cooperative action to stop, impede, intercept and otherwise prevent the illicit trafficking in these weapons, their means of delivery and related materials.

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and its Statement of Interdiction Principles (SOP) identifies steps that can produce the kind of cooperation called for in UNSCR 1540. Accordingly, PSI is completely consistent with the UNSC Resolution.

Furthermore, UNSCR 1540's decision under Chapter VII of the UN Charter that all states shall develop effective border, national export, transshipment, end-user and physical protection controls to prevent proliferation is consistent with and, in fact, bolsters the SOP's call for nations to "review and work to strengthen their relevant national legal authorities where necessary ... (and) international law and frameworks in appropriate ways to support these commitments."

Question: Can a party to the NPT (Nuclear or Non-nuclear Weapons State) join in seizing nuclear materials without violating its NPT commitments?

A: Yes, NPT parties can be part of an effort to seize nuclear materials in appropriate circumstances. As part of a PSI action, other partners may be called upon to provide technical, security, or legal assistance in particular cases. Such states would, of course, then need to abide by their obligations under the NPT with respect to disposing or safeguarding of such materials.

Question: What legal authorities exist for interdiction actions?

A: PSI actions will be consistent with existing national legal authorities and international law and frameworks.

There already exists a large body of authority for undertaking interdictions, such as those involving actions by coastal states in their territorial waters, or by flag states against vessels operating on the high seas under their flags. There is of course also authority under international law for states to take actions with respect to their land and airspace.

States also have a range of authorities under their domestic laws that can be used to help achieve the goals of the PSI. In the case of the United States, for example, our export control laws contain "catch all controls" that could provide a basis under U.S. domestic law for the U.S. to detain and prevent shipments of WMD, delivery systems, and related materials from the United States, if such shipments are destined for end users or end uses of proliferation concern.

Indeed, PSI anticipates a large role for national export control and law enforcement agencies; states' ability to prevent proliferation starts with their national legal authorities and ability to enforce those authorities.

Question: What changes are contemplated to existing law?

A: We are working first to understand the range of international and collective domestic authorities currently available to states for interdiction actions. This will help us better assess what actions might be useful, and how they might be implemented, to support the objectives of the PSI. We are also working to identify actions that can be taken within the structure of existing laws, such as in connection with the boarding agreements we are planning to pursue with flag states that will strengthen the legal basis for acting to stop the flow of WMD-related items as cases arise.

Certain countries, in responding to our approach on PSI, have already made clear that they will be seeking to make changes to their own national legal authorities to allow them to better support PSI efforts. We encourage such actions, and are ready to assist countries to put in place stronger laws in place to support nonproliferation efforts.

Question: Does the initiative alter how participating countries implement international law?

A: PSI actions will be taken consistent with existing international law and frameworks. The PSI statement of principles specifically highlights this point.

Question: What are the full ramifications under international law of air and sea interdictions in international waters and airspace?

A: There are a variety of circumstances under which states may cooperate to prevent transfers, including most notably cases in which a flag state is cooperating in efforts to prevent use of its flag vessels for transfers or enforcing its domestic law in its territory, territorial sea and airspace. The PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles is explicit that PSI activities will be undertaken consistent with national legal authorities and relevant international law and frameworks.

Question: What are modalities and legal ramifications in cases of interdiction of vessels flying "flags of convenience?"

A: PSI actions will be taken consistent with existing national legal authority and international law and frameworks. This includes relevant international legal principles relating to boarding of vessels on the high seas. In the case of interdiction of vessels flying flags of convenience, the consent of the flag state would ordinarily provide a clear basis for a boarding on the high seas under international law.

Question: Which nation leads and/or coordinates a PSI action?

A: Each interdiction case will evolve differently. In general, a country will provide tip-off information about an interdiction that may be needed, and seek help from others in acting to investigate and if warranted stop a shipment. Those states that need to be involved will coordinate among themselves on action needed.

Question: Will there be mechanisms to verify reliability of intelligence used for interdictions?

A: As is currently the case, the United States only pursues interdiction efforts where we believe there is a solid case for doing so. This is a judgement that must be made by senior level leadership in each PSI participant's government.

Question: How will information used be transmitted among PSI participants?

A: Each state that seeks to cooperate with PSI will be asked to identify an appropriate point of contact for sharing of information, in the event a specific interdiction effort requires their active efforts/support.

However, sensitive information on specific interdiction cases will ordinarily be shared only with those states involved in the actual interdiction effort. There is no intent to make such intelligence information available to other PSI countries.

Question: Is there a plan for multilateral intelligence sharing to facilitate PSI efforts?

A: No. We do not envision multilateral sharing of specific intelligence.

Question: Will PSI entail new channels of communication or will existing channels suffice?

A: To the extent that channels of communication exist to pass or receive information, we envision that those channels will continue to be used. Where no effective channels for communication exist, they will need to be established.

Question: What data sharing and data privacy protection will be put in place to coincide with national data privacy laws?

A: The U.S. has not identified any such changes needed under our laws, though each state would, of course, be free to modify its own laws if it thought doing so was necessary.

Question: Will there be regular, organized meetings on PSI to raise policy issues of concern and refine details?

A: The United States does not envision or support regular meetings of PSI participants. That said, it may be useful or necessary to have various PSI participating states meet periodically, at different levels and including regionally, to exchange information or to refine details about the initiative. In addition, the U.S. expects regular meetings of expert working groups (operational, intelligence, legal), including through regional meetings and activities.

Question: What is the definition of "good cause?"

A: In cases involving suspected shipments of WMD-related items to states and non-state actors of proliferation concern, the SOP calls upon states to take action to board their flag vessels or deny transit rights to aircraft over its airspace at the request of other states and with "good cause shown". In responding to such a request, each state will of necessity need to decide for itself whether good cause has been shown; i.e., each state will need to decide for itself whether the information provided by the requesting state warrants acceding to the request.

Question: When and how are operational activities planned for the future?

A: PSI operational activities - including training exercises and relevant workshops - evolve through discussions among respective nations' operational experts. In general, future training events are proposed at periodic Operational Experts meetings, and an exercise schedule promoting maximum, sustained participation is developed on a one-two year horizon.

Question: How will PSI efforts be funded?

A: Each country will be responsible for funding its own efforts in support of the PSI. That said, the U.S. wants to make sure that countries have the capacity to take effective action, and would not rule out the possibility of offering assistance to certain countries to help them develop more effective law enforcement or other such capabilities in support of PSI action -just as the U.S. and other countries are already doing.

Question: Are provisions being made to provide technical assistance to countries that currently lack capabilities to contribute fully to PSI efforts?

A: There are no formal provisions within PSI being made to provide training and assistance to countries in order to improve their capabilities to support PSI actions. That said, we would consider such requests on a bilateral basis in the context of existing assistance and cooperation programs.

Question: What is the status of cargoes following seizure? How will determination on final disposition of seized cargoes be made?

A: Disposition will depend on the precise circumstances of particular cases.

Question: What would be the step by step process of boarding and seizing vessels in international waters? Would flag states be consulted first? Would PSI participants offer blanket allowances boardings?

A: Paragraph 4(c) of the PSI statement of principles specifically contemplates boardings based on consent. Different states could arrange modalities for providing that consent (e.g., on a case-by-case basis, on a blanket basis, or on some other basis) as they best see fit.

As with all PSI actions, ship boardings and seizures would be carried out in accordance with national legal authorities and international law and frameworks.

Question: Would non-PSI countries be subject to boardings and seizures?

A: PSI is not focused on countries but on shipments. Vessels of any state would be boarded only to the extent consistent with international law, e.g., upon gaining the consent of a state to board one of its flag vessels on the high seas. Any case involving a vessel carrying WMD, delivery systems, or related materials to states or non-state actors of proliferation concern could be a potential candidate for our seeking such consent, regardless of whether or not the flag state is a PSI member.

Question: Can interdictions occur on the high seas?

A: Yes. International law recognizes several bases under which PSI activities may be taken against vessels on the high seas. For example, consent of a flag state could provide a clear legal basis to allow the boarding of vessels being used to transport WMD, delivery systems, or related materials to states or non-state actors of proliferation concern.

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Department of Energy
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Six kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) that could be used for nuclear weapons were safely returned to the Russian Federation from the Czech Republic in a secret mission completed early Wednesday morning, U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced today.

The mission was a joint effort between the United States, the Czech Republic, Russia, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and is another accomplishment of the Bush Administration’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI).

“The recovery, return and eventual elimination of this highly enriched uranium is an important milestone in our efforts to reduce this dangerous nuclear material worldwide”, Secretary Abraham said. “We applaud the strong leadership of the Czech Republic for taking measures to secure this material and working cooperatively with the United States, Russia and the IAEA to successfully return it to Russia.”

According to Secretary Abraham, the highly enriched uranium was airlifted under guard from an airport near Prague, Czech Republic to a secure facility in Dimitrovgrad, Russia. There, the highly enriched uranium will be down-blended to low enriched uranium.

The nuclear fuel was originally supplied to the Czech Republic by the Soviet Union for use in the Soviet-designed 10 megawatt LVR-15 multi-purpose research reactor, located in Rez near the Czech capital, Prague. In 2000, NNSA and the Czech Nuclear Research Institute completed a joint project to upgrade security of the nuclear material at Rez until it could be returned to Russia. Earlier this year, Secretary Abraham and Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director Alexander Rumyantsev signed a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Russian Federation governments to facilitate the repatriation of Russian-origin HEU research reactor fuel to Russia.

During the one-day mission, approximately six kilograms of HEU were loaded into four specialized transportation containers. IAEA safeguards inspectors and NNSA technical experts were present in Rez to monitor the process of loading the fuel into canisters. The facility in Russia that received the material has worked closely with the NNSA to implement security upgrades.

The mission of the GTRI is to identify, secure, recover and/or facilitate the final disposition of high-risk vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials around the world that pose a threat to the United States and the international community. The initiative will comprehensively address vulnerable material and radiological materials throughout the world and secure and/or remove these materials of concern as expeditiously as possible.

This is the sixth successful shipment of HEU being returned to Russia. In the past two years, NNSA has repatriated a total of 51 kg of HEU to Russia from Romania, Bulgaria, Libya, and Uzbekistan. And in August 2002, 48 kg of Russian-origin HEU were repatriated from a research reactor near Belgrade, Serbia.

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I.  Links of Interest

Terrorism and National Security: Issues and Trends
Raphael Perl
Congressional Research Service
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Radiological Dispersal Devices: Select Issues in Consequence Management
Dana A. Shea
Congressional Research Service
(for personal use only)

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