1. U.S. Squirrel Expert is Unlikely Patron in Iraq
(for personal use only)
In the Baghdad night, awakened by the rumble of car bombs and the thump-thump of attack helicopters, Peter Smallwood lies in a sandbagged trailer counting his trees. In his mind's forest, the University of Richmond ecologist zigzags through a dark maze of Appalachian hardwoods until he finds specific specimens, unmarked among thousands.
His favorite tree back home in Virginia is a majestic white oak that sprouted before Thomas Jefferson was president. Somehow it escaped the logger's blade. Now it soars 100 feet into the sky; one slice off its thick, scaly trunk could make a dinner table.
His bedtime ritual may not be as soporific as counting sheep. If anything, it only reminds him of the Johnny Appleseed life he left 6,000 miles behind.
``When I'm in the woods I feel at home,'' Smallwood says. ``And right now, I am far away from any kind of deciduous forest.''
Indeed, Smallwood, 43, is one of the more unlikely Americans in embattled Iraq.
He is no warrior. He can't build a power plant, a hospital or a school. He speaks virtually no Arabic.
He has spent decades studying forests and the animals that live in them - chiefly how squirrels' constant reburying of their acorns alters the forest's growth.
Yet he willingly traded security and academic freedom for a yearlong job that is unusual and dangerous even by Baghdad standards: He recruits idle scientists and engineers who staffed Saddam Hussein's secret weapons laboratories and factories, and tries to find them peaceful livelihoods.
The State Department launched the idea last December with an initial $2 million grant. It is seeking $20 million over the next two years to substantially expand the program.
Questions over weapons of mass destruction seem like ancient history in the 20 months since the U.S.-led invasion and the rise of the insurgency. But even harsh critics of the Bush White House acknowledge the former Iraqi dictator once had a large research apparatus, known as the Military Industrial Commission, that oversaw development of chemical, biological and radiological weapons. Even if no weapons stockpiles were found, the brains behind the operations remain.
Some were Baathist Party elites and informers. Hundreds more are typical physicists, chemists and engineers from Iraq's once-admired university system. Saddam started stripping their labs and pressing them into military research beginning with the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Saddam's top weapons advisers now are in custody, including Rihab Rashid Taha, known as ``Dr. Germ'' for making anthrax weapons, and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, a biotech researcher dubbed ``Mrs. Anthrax.'' Taha is the wife of Amer Mohammed Rashid, Saddam's missile expert who was no. 47 on the most-wanted list.
A haggard-looking Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as ``Chemical Ali'' for directing poison gas attacks against the Kurdish minority, already has been interrogated in a secret preliminary hearing before a tribunal of judges.
Smallwood's job is to run what amounts to a science dating service, creating matches. The scientists' most eligible suitors? Fledgling environment and energy ministries in a suspicious interim government.
The number of recruits on his payroll has nearly tripled in six months. Among them are the workforce of a ``pesticide company'' that made sarin nerve gas and biologists who brewed botulism and ricin.
Until he makes a match, Smallwood pays the researchers what he describes as a ``living wage'' of under $1,000 a month.
The program started slowly last summer. Many scientists were hiding or had been imprisoned by Saddam, while others surrendered when the regime fell and were confined. Some disappeared - perhaps they crossed the border to Iran or joined the anti-Coalition insurgency. Others live in exile.
He also offers access to the new Iraqi International Center for Science and Industry, which operates like a scientific halfway house. Among the perks: Internet access, lab equipment and potential collaborations with Western scientists.
``I've got 116 guys so far,'' Smallwood says in a telephone interview. ``I expect to have many more in the new year.''
Smallwood's program is modeled after one the State Department launched in Russia in 1992. Since then, the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow has funded more than $569 million in grants to more than 50,000 former Soviet weapons scientists at about 700 different institutions.
Now, supporters want to expand it to include machinists and other skilled workers who could fabricate weapons for terrorists.
Critics dismiss the effort as ``diplomatic welfare'' that has produced no commercial products. But supporters say a few prototype technologies appear close, such as an underground explosives detector and a navigational gyroscope for oil and gas drilling.
Other proposals are more fanciful, such as the tomato that bioweapons scientists in Novosibirsk are engineering to be an edible HIV/AIDS vaccine.
``They found a way to survive without selling their know-how to proliferators,'' said Jon B. Wolfsthal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace In Washington, D.C. ``It's not a perfect program. But if it keeps them at home, it's money well spent.''
Iraq is much smaller than Russia, but bleaker. And the strategic stakes in its reconstruction are high.
Smallwood's agenda is pretty basic: a desalination plant for fresh water, modern science curricula in Baghdad classrooms and laboratories to assist in the cleanup of war debris and pollution.
Smallwood encourages his recruits to apply their skills beyond science, too. For example, the director of a former missile factory wants to re-employ his old workforce to manufacture household products.
One problem: The factory was looted.
Smallwood is paying the director a monthly stipend to support him while he develops a business plan that calls for $8 million in venture capital for new equipment. ``The product is being imported by the hundreds of thousands,'' said Smallwood, who declined to identify the product to protect the director's business idea. ``But it's very complicated. The factory and its workers are still a state-owned company, and the government isn't ready to talk about privatizing its factories.''
Most of Iraqi's weapons experts probably won't be so flexible or immediately useful. For one thing, they are scientists, not merchants.
And, their initiative was straitjacketed by Saddam's regime for a generation. The younger researchers, especially, have spent their careers doing only what they were told.
But Wolfsthal and other analysts believe the program is good insurance.
``Compared to the cost of the war, what's a few tens of millions to make sure these guys don't relapse?'' Wolfsthal said. ``These people won't go directly from being head of the nuclear centrifuge lab to the head of water purification. But when Iraq is rebuilt, it will be using every bit of its technological capability.''
That day probably won't come during Smallwood's hitch, which ends next summer.
Like other foreigners, he lives and works inside the Green Zone, a four-square mile downtown fortress encircled by 12-foot high blast walls and wrapped in razor wire. His desk is located in Saddam's former Republican Palace on the west bank of the Tigris River. Its cavernous marble reception halls are inscribed with proclamations in Arabic.
He takes meals in a converted auditorium where in 1979 Saddam infamously read off the names of 75 rivals, who were escorted outside and executed.
Sometimes he eats with soldiers just back from patrolling Baghdad's powder-keg neighborhoods. They are the same age as his Richmond students, some even younger.
``They talk about getting shot at, RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and roadside bombs, `` he says. ``It's a jarring juxtaposition.''
Just then, gunfire crackles in the background. Smallwood pauses to determine it's direction, then resumes the conversation.
``Hear that?'' he asks. ``Everything about Baghdad is surreal.''
Smallwood does little personal recruiting. Nor can he visit weapons experts in their homes to make sure they are staying straight. In most cases, it is simply too dangerous for both sides.
He meets regularly with his Iraqi staff inside the Green Zone. Once a week, Smallwood ventures out to visit the program's advisory committee of Iraqi scientists and engineers at other locations in the city.
He straps on body armor and a helmet to ride the few miles each way in an armored Humvee. He is escorted by a dozen troops riding in three or four vehicles commanded by a young officer.
Smallwood was offered the job after serving for a year as an environmental policy fellow on Capitol Hill. He is not married and has no children, an appealing combination for such a post.
``I'm sure the applicant pool would not have been large,'' he said.
Another rumble interrupts. He scans the Green Zone rooftops. Nothing. Then another rumble.
``Hey, that's real thunder,'' he marvels. ``It's actually starting to rain.''
Which again reminds Smallwood of his trees. Their autumn colors would've peaked just before Thanksgiving. Now the damp, cold forest is flecked with muted reds and golds. He'll miss spring, too.
Smallwood is convinced that most Iraqi weapons scientists feel a similar attachment to their desert homeland. He wants them to feel that tug while they wait together for Iraq to rebuild.
``When somebody in a neighboring country offers them ten times the money to go, what will they do?'' Smallwood says. ``I can't protect them from getting those offers. I only can make it easier for them to say no.''
1. Albania's Chemical Cache Raises Fears About Others
The Washington Post
(for personal use only)
Near the end of his 40 years in power, Enver Hoxha prepared his tiny country for an invasion he warned was sure to come. The Marxist dictator built 750,000 concrete bunkers in the 1970s and 1980s and imported large quantities of weapons to repel an expected attack by Americans, Soviets, Yugoslavs or perhaps all three at once.
But his most prized weapons acquisition was a state secret known only to the Albanian leader and his closest advisers -- a secret that only now is coming fully to light.
In the mid-1970s, U.S. and Albanian officials now believe, Hoxha arranged the purchase of several hundred canisters of lethal military chemicals to be used in weapons against invading armies. The chemicals included yperite, or sulfur mustard, one of the chemicals used by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to slaughter thousands of Kurdish civilians in the 1980s, as well as lewisite and adamsite, which are based on arsenic.
This deadly stockpile was hidden in one of Hoxha's bunkers, then forgotten after Hoxha died in 1985. The communist regime fell in 1991. The current Albanian government's surprise discovery of the canisters, acknowledged to U.S. and U.N. officials several months ago, has also led to the disclosure of the country that apparently supplied the chemicals: China.
Albanian officials recently allowed a reporter from The Washington Post to view the stockpile, a move that comes as there are ongoing efforts by the fledgling democracy to renounce the country's past and bolster its international standing. While the stockpile is small compared with the vast chemical weapons holdings of Russia and the United States, it is worrisome to U.S. officials because of what it represents: one of scores of undocumented or poorly secured weapons caches worldwide that could be exploited by terrorists with deadly effect.
"The threats turn up in the darndest places," said Joseph Cirincione, a weapons expert and director of the Non-proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "It illustrates the problem we face with Cold War arsenals, which are still deadly and still large. Just as you have to worry about what a crazy man is thinking in a cave in Afghanistan, you also have to worry about what happens to these weapons in places like Albania and North Korea. It's not that the Albanians would use them, but a terrorist group could learn of them and then try to pick the low-hanging fruit."
Although Albania moved quickly to secure the stockpile after its discovery, the chemicals had little or no protection for more than a decade, at a time when the country was roiled by social and economic upheaval internally and civil war across the border in Kosovo, U.S. officials in Washington said.
The 16 tons of chemicals theoretically contain enough poison for millions of lethal doses. In practical terms, casualties from an attack using mustard or lewisite would greatly depend on how and where the chemicals were dispersed. Weapons experts say a well-designed release of chemicals in a crowded, indoor setting could potentially kill hundreds or perhaps thousands of people.
The discovery also is significant because it appears to confirm something that U.S. intelligence analysts have long suspected: China's past role as a purveyor of chemical weapons technology. While China is believed to have halted such exports long ago, the discovery of Chinese-made yperite in Albania has fueled concerns about the possible existence of similar forgotten or abandoned stockpiles in other countries.
U.S. officials note that China also provided military aid to Romania, to what was then Yugoslavia and to several Middle Eastern countries in the 1970s and 1980s. China has never acknowledged transferring military chemicals abroad, and no stockpiles traced to China are known to have turned up until now. If they existed in the past, U.S. intelligence analysts say, the chemicals might have been destroyed, hidden away or -- as in the case of Albania -- forgotten.
It is theoretically possible, intelligence analysts say, that more undiscovered chemicals could yet be found in Albania. However, Albanian defense officials, who now are preparing to destroy the yperite with help from U.S. and U.N. agencies, say they are confident that all of Hoxha's canisters are safely locked away.
"We have searched everywhere, and I can declare to you that Albania has no more such weapons," said Albanian Lt. Col. Muharrim Alba, a senior arms control specialist with the Albanian Defense Ministry.
But Alba also acknowledged that Albania had been unable to find a shred of documentation describing the original purchase by Hoxha three decades ago. The investigation has turned up no letters, receipts or inventories, or even a single officer of the former government who is willing or able to recall how the chemicals were obtained.
"It was the height of the Cold War," said Alba, shrugging. "Communist countries helped each other. And they didn't always leave documents to show what they did."
'Ready to Be Used'
The small army outpost that serves as a holding cell for Albania's chemical stockpile is less than 25 miles from Tirana, the dusty capital of this mountainous country of 3.4 million people. But reaching it requires a treacherous journey over steep mountain roads better suited for goats than the four-wheel drive vehicles and ancient microbuses that regularly ply them.
Asphalt quickly gives way to narrow dirt trails hewn into the sides of the scrub-covered hills. Finally, a rutted path branches sharply to the right to reveal a cluster of bunkers, some of them cut into the mountain itself. The largest bunker, a flat-roofed brick structure no bigger than a volleyball court, is surrounded by a double curtain of wire fences, the inner one newly installed with U.S. aid and festooned with various sensors and cameras. It is here that Hoxha's chemicals are stored.
On a recent afternoon, a small cluster of young army guards, wearing green fatigues and toting Kalashnikov rifles, kept a wary eye on visitors to the compound while some of their comrades scoured the brush for firewood to ward off the December chill. Standing just outside the largest bunker, Albanian Lt. Col. Fadil Vucaj pointed out the multiple layers of security and explained, in the matter-of-fact language of a career military officer, why such unusual protections were needed.
"These chemicals stored here could be used as weapons of mass destruction," said Vucaj, a chemical weapons expert. "You could spray them from an airplane or use them in a bomb. They are ready to be used, just as they are."
Inside the building are row after row of containers and bottles of various colors and sizes. Most are red cylinders roughly the size of a propane tank. Numerals and, in some cases, Chinese characters are clearly visible on the outer casing. The Chinese writing identifies the contents of each container but not the origin. Altogether, the bunkers hold nearly 600 vessels containing about 16 tons of what is known in military jargon as "bulk agent."
The chemicals inside the canisters are products of an early generation of chemical weapons engineering. Yperite, a colorless or brown liquid with a garlicky odor, was the chief cause of death and injury from chemical warfare during World War I. Lewisite was the result of a U.S. attempt to improve on Yperite's lethality, but its invention in 1918 came too late for its use in the Great War. Other chemicals in the stockpile include a yperite-lewisite blend sometimes known as HL, as well as other chemicals designed to incapacitate, rather than kill.
The Albanian chemicals aren't nearly as deadly as more modern nerve agents, such as sarin and VX. But if released in a crowded stadium or subway car, they could cause scores or perhaps hundreds of casualties, U.S. and Albanian officials say. And, before their rediscovery by the Albanians, they would have been an easy target for thieves.
"The tanks are in good condition, they don't leak, and they are portable," Vucaj said. "To terrorists, they would have been very attractive."
A History of Isolation
Hoxha's intentions in acquiring the chemicals can be reliably deduced from his record as Europe's long-serving communist autocrat. After taking control of the country in 1944, the xenophobic Hoxha (pronounced HOE-djah) alienated one powerful ally after another as he led his impoverished country into extreme isolation.
An admirer of Joseph Stalin, Hoxha broke with the Soviet Union in the late 1960s after denouncing Nikita Khrushchev for straying from Marxist principles. He publicly applauded Mao Zedong's brutal Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s, a move that briefly earned Albania special status as China's proxy at the United Nations and its chief ally in Europe. China rewarded Hoxha with massive amounts of economic and military aid, including large quantities of arms.
It was during this period, probably in the middle 1970s, that Albania acquired the chemicals, U.S. and Albanian officials say. To analysts, the Chinese pedigree of the chemicals is self-evident, given the Chinese labels on the canisters and the close military ties that existed between the two countries. China has acknowledged producing chemical weapons in the past, although it now says its stockpiles and production facilities have all been destroyed.
The Albanians are less willing to point fingers. "Where the material came from is a question for technicians to answer," said Pandeli Majko, Albania's 37-year-old defense minister and a former prime minister. "For us, the important thing is that it is being destroyed."
The arms pipeline between Albania and the Chinese military machine went dry in the late 1970s when Hoxha soured on his new partners, publicly scolding the Chinese for seeking to normalize ties with the West. By 1979, Albania was virtually friendless in the world, with a plummeting standard of living that already was the lowest in Europe.
To keep control over his population, Hoxha stoked fears of an imminent invasion by any of a number of foreign armies said to be plotting together to destroy what he called his "workers' paradise" -- a favorite phrase among communist leaders. He drafted legions of laborers for Albania's most ambitious public works project: the construction throughout the country of 750,000 military bunkers, one for every four Albanians living at the time.
The purchase of the chemicals suggests that Hoxha might have believed the invasion threat was real.
"It would be typical of him, given his mind-set at the time," said one U.S. intelligence analyst who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. "It's the same mind-set that produced three-quarters of a million bunkers and such large numbers of conventional weapons. If Russia, the United States and Yugoslavia are all planning to attack you, you do whatever you can to defend the motherland."
Destruction to Begin in 2006
If all goes according to plan, sometime in 2006 a custom-made mobile incinerator will arrive in Albania from the United States to begin the process of physically destroying Hoxha's chemical stockpile. Trucks will haul the machine across the steep mountain roads to the very door of the bunker where the chemicals are now stored.
Albania signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993. The treaty, signed by 167 nations, required disclosure and destruction of chemical weapons by 1997, although many signatories have failed to meet the deadlines. Albania's discovery of the chemicals last year meant that it was out of compliance with the treaty; destruction of them will bring it back into good standing with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international chemical arms watchdog agency.
Already, Albania has garnered international praise for immediately disclosing the existence of the stockpile, then moving quickly to secure the chemicals in preparation for their destruction.
"Anytime a country comes clean about a chemical weapons stockpile and then moves to destroy it, it reinforces the norm against these weapons and reduces the potential for a diversion," said Jonathan Tucker, a chemical weapons expert and senior researcher at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
For its efforts, Albania is to receive $20 million in U.S. aid to pay for the physical destruction of the stockpile. As a country with ambitions to someday join NATO and the European Union, Albania also gets a chance to strengthen ties with Western nations and to burnish its credentials as a partner in the global effort against terrorism. Majko, the defense minister, said his country's actions reflect a "psychological" break with the past.
"After the Cold War, we have passed from a phase of irresponsibility and entered a phase of responsibility and transparency," Majko said. "Transparency means not only saying, but doing."
With the planned destruction of the chemicals, the United States also is crossing a threshold, though one less heralded. The $20 million set aside for Albania by the Bush administration is the first U.S. money earmarked for eliminating unconventional weapons anywhere outside the former Soviet Union.
While the United States has spent billions helping Russia destroy missile warheads and retrain weapons scientists, government regulations have for years blocked the use of federal funds to eliminate similar threats elsewhere in the world. Two years ago, State Department officials had to turn to a private organization, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, founded by Ted Turner and former senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), to fund a plan to remove weapons-grade uranium from a nuclear reactor in the former Yugoslavia.
Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), who has proposed legislation to lift the spending restrictions, argues that destroying weapons stockpiles such as the one in Albania should be near the top of the nation's defense priorities.
"The president has argued, quite correctly, that the most important security problem in the world is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," Lugar said. "Yet to this day, there are some people who oppose spending this money -- people who say that the Russians and the Albanians should take care of their own problems.
"But given how these weapons are already dispersed, there's a real possibility that one could be stolen and used to kill a lot of people," Lugar said. "To me, you can't do enough to make sure the American people are spared from that sort of thing."
As a House Appropriations Committee member, it is my responsibility to know about programs that need funding, their cost and, most important, why they are needed.
In recent months, there has been considerable debate on funding decisions regarding certain nuclear weapons initiatives funded through the fiscal 2005 omnibus appropriations bill. Since becoming chairman of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee two years ago, I have worked hard to educate myself on the needs of the agencies and programs funded through my bill. This has included visits to Energy Department labs and weapons plants, and many Army Corps of Engineers projects across the country.
We made some news last November, when we cut funding for three nuclear weapons research programs, including the Modern Pit Facility, the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (also known as the "bunker buster"), and Enhanced Test Readiness. Some critics have wrongly assumed this was against the will of the majority of the House and Senate, which is simply inaccurate.
The reductions in the fiscal 2005 omnibus bill were included in the House bill that was passed overwhelmingly by the subcommittee and the full committee and finally passed the House of Representatives in a 370-16 vote. Unfortunately, my Senate colleagues were unable to pass an energy and water development bill last year, so neither the administration nor the public had any idea where Senate appropriators stood on these issues before conference negotiations.
In my position, I have a responsibility to the House and to American taxpayers for due diligence on all aspects of the administration's budget request for energy and water development. No program, even those submitted under the umbrella of "national defense," should get a free pass.
Consider the Modern Pit Facility. Contrary to the charges I refused to allow the United States to begin the 15-year process of building a new facility for pits, the bill includes $7 million for planning and conceptual design of the Modern Pit Facility. I support the eventual design and construction of a pit facility - a manufacturing plant for the so-called "nuclear triggers." However, we won't need to have such a facility operational for another 15 years (i.e., 2020). It is premature to site such a facility now until we know how large it must be.
The facility's size is a function of two variables - the total size of our nuclear stockpile and the expected life of the plutonium pits in that stockpile. What the Energy Department proposed was a pit facility with a production capacity designed to support a Cold War-sized nuclear stockpile, rather than the much smaller stockpile reflecting reductions the president proposed last year.
Further, the plutonium aging experiments that will tell us how long the pits will last and (therefore how often they need to be re-manufactured) will not be complete for several more years.
There are compelling arguments why the budget requests for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator and Enhanced Test Readiness also did not withstand scrutiny. Not only are these initiatives an unwise and unnecessary use of limited resources, they also send the wrong signal to the rest of the world. When we want countries such as Iran and North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons development, it is hypocritical for the United States to embark on new weapons and testing initiatives.
The U.S. needs to lead by example. These new initiatives might actually risk rather than enhance our national security by encouraging other countries' nuclear weapons initiatives.
Some people contend that, unless the policy outcomes in the fiscal 2005 bill are overturned, the United States will be condemned to an obsolete nuclear stockpile. That claim is simply inaccurate. None of these three initiatives deal directly with the Energy Department's responsibility to certify the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
Our nuclear arsenal remains an important component of our overall national security program. And, let me make clear my support for maintaining our current stockpile.
However, there are many other pressing demands, including the cost of safeguarding existing weapons and materials in the U.S. and the former Soviet Union and providing armor for our troops overseas. Next to such pressing, immediate needs, the desires of Cold War fighters for new weapons and facilities pale.
1. South Korean to Appear in Russian Court over Nuclear Trade
(for personal use only)
A South Korean suspected of smuggling radioactive materials into the Russian Far East will go on trial in a Russian court at the end of January, an official at Seoul's Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
In late December, Itar-Tass news agency reported, citing prosecutors in the Pacific city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, that the man, identified as Kim Jong-hon, worked for a South Korean firm suspected of illegally trading sensitive materials.
"The government is in talks with Russia to speed up the process and ensure he has not been receiving unfair treatment there," a Foreign Ministry official told Reuters by telephone.
"Without any knowledge about Russian rules, he appears to have tried to bring to the country material that was supposed to be used for resources exploitation," he added.
Another Russian news agency reported that Kim's detention followed the seizure of 13 devices containing radioactive material in early December in the port of Korsakov, across the sea from Japan's Hokkaido island.
RIA-Novosti also said the devices contained low-enriched uranium-238 -- a highly toxic material mainly used in ammunition and armour plating. Experts say it can theoretically be used to make a nuclear "dirty bomb".
"In January, Russia has a number of holidays so the case could be put on trial around the end of January," the ministry official said.
Preventing the illegal trade in radioactive materials in Russia has become a big issue for the West after this year's discovery of a global nuclear black market run by the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan that supplied technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Russia, with its vast nuclear arsenal and dozens of atomic sites scattered across the country, has vowed to do more to prevent radioactive materials falling into the wrong hands, but the West says much more needs to be done.
There is also speculation that individual Russian nuclear scientists, underpaid since the Soviet collapse, may be secretly selling sensitive technology to what Washington calls "rogue" states. Russia denies such activity is taking place.
1. Defense Minister on "Working Visit" to the United States
(for personal use only)
Only Russian military observers will be invited to monitor an April nuclear-safety exercise in the U.S. state of Wyoming, Interfax reported, quoting Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. "This is the first time that only representatives of the 12th Main Department of the Russian Defense Ministry are invited as international observers," Ivanov told reporters. Ivanov was en route to the United States for a four-day working visit, during which he is expected to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush, U.S. national security adviser and Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Ivanov described the trip as a working visit, and said that no documents will be signed during the trip and that it is not connected with the Bush-Putin summit that is scheduled to take place in Bratislava, Slovakia, on 24 February. In addition to Washington, Ivanov will visit New York, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 January.
Iran intends to continue cooperation with Russia in different spheres in 2005, said the Iranian government's official spokesman Abdullah Ramazanzade.
"We maintain a good level of cooperation in the political, economic and other spheres and intend to continue interaction in the new year, as well as to carry out scheduled projects," he said yesterday in an interview with RIA Novosti.
"There are no problems in Russian-Iranian relations," he said.
One of the crucial projects of Russian-Iranian cooperation in economic and scientific-technical spheres is construction of the first unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, now being completed. The physical launch of the 1,000 MW plant is scheduled for the end of 2005, and it is expected to be put into operation in early 2006.
A deal that would clear the way for Iran to start up its Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant has been delayed over Moscow's fee for taking back Russian-made spent fuel, Russia's nuclear chief said.
"We have told them they have to pay for spent fuel, just like fresh fuel," Alexander Rumyantsev, head of Russia's Atomic Energy Agency, said after an informal meeting with U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.
Rumyantsev rejected earlier reports that said the Iran agreement could be signed as early as January, adding Russia and Iran had until midyear to finalize the agreement.
Russia's civilian nuclear industry has commercial agreements to re-import and dispose of spent fuel sold to foreign clients, mostly former Soviet bloc states with Moscow-built nuclear power plants.
3. Iran Will Resume Nuclear Fuel Production if Europe Breaches Commitments, Wastes Time
Mehr News Agency
(for personal use only)
Mohammad Saï¿½idi, the deputy director for planning and international affairs of the Iran Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO), said in Mashhad last week that maintaining possession of the nuclear fuel cycle is the Islamic Republic of Iranï¿½s main strategy, the Tehran daily Qods reported on Thursday.
In a speech at a conference entitled ï¿½Nuclear Dossier, Victory, Defeat or Withdrawalï¿½, Saï¿½idi stressed that if Iran concludes that the European Union intends to waste time, it will immediately resume nuclear fuel production.
Pointing to Iranï¿½s nuclear strategy, which was officially formulated in 1988 at the Supreme Council for Technology under the supervision of the president, he said that Iran would enjoy advanced technology and industry in the fourth decade after the Islamic Revolution in view of its current nuclear energy potential.
Saï¿½idi also referred to Iranï¿½s 1992 uranium hexafluoride (UF6) contract with China, saying that the Chinese refused to cooperate with Iran due to U.S. pressure.
ï¿½After losing hope in China, we approached Russia, but the Russians also refrained from cooperation after nine months of delay.
ï¿½In 1988 we had no other choice but to make use of our own potential and the few nuclear experts in the country.ï¿½
Iranï¿½s nuclear experts have an average age of 25-27, he said, emphasizing that except for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Iran has not used foreign experts in any of its nuclear projects.
This year 3.5 tons of UF6, which is the most strategic nuclear material, and 20 tons of UF4 were produced in Iran, he noted.
He also announced that the Russians have set new conditions for Iran concerning the two countriesï¿½ earlier contract on returning Iranï¿½s spent nuclear fuel to Russia.
ï¿½Unfortunately, the new conditions have led to problems for the country, but we have tried to facilitate the process in order to maintain Iranï¿½s interests,ï¿½ Saï¿½idi stated.
Asked about Europeï¿½s proposal to sell Iran a light water reactor, he said, ï¿½What is important for Iran now is a heavy water research reactor. Besides, buying a light water research reactor from Europe would be problematic for the country,ï¿½ he stated.
The only guarantee Iran will give Europe is that it will not pursue a nuclear weapons program, the IAEO deputy director stated.
Saï¿½idi noted that in its agreement with Europe, Iran announced that it would continue the suspension only until June, adding that uranium enrichment activities would resume from that date onward.
On the arrest of three nuclear spies said to have been members of the IAEO, he stated that the spies were three low-level IAEO employees.
He stressed that Iran would not accept anything beyond the terms of the additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
ï¿½When they saw our indigenous nuclear capabilities, the Westerners realized they couldnï¿½t take a stance toward Iran similar to the one they took against Libya. They transferred all of its nuclear equipment to Washington on one plane,ï¿½ Saï¿½idi said.
Referring to threats to attack Iranï¿½s nuclear installations, the IAEO deputy director stated, ï¿½We are not worried at all.ï¿½
If an attack is made, Iran will be capable of reconstructing all its nuclear installations in a year, he added.
ï¿½But in that case, we will not allow any inspections of our nuclear assets anymore,ï¿½ Saï¿½idi said in conclusion.
1. 70 Indian Nuke Engineers Pass Out from Russian Training Centre
Press Trust of India
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Seventy Indian nuclear engineers have successfully passed out of a Russian training centre ahead of their posting in Kudankulam atomic power station in Tamil Nadu. After the training at Russian Nuclear Power Agency's "RosEnergoAtom" centre in Novo-Voronezh in southern Russia, the engineers are to undergo a six-week practical training at Kalinin nuclear power plant in Tver region north of Moscow, where a VVER-1000 nuclear reactor was recently commissioned.
Kudankulam power plant, being constructed with Moscow's assistance, is to have two similar light-water nuclear power units. First among them with 1000 mega watt capacity is to be commissioned in 2007.
"These are highly qualified engineers, all of them with higher education, which they received from various Indian universities," chief of the training centre, Alexander Ivanchenko, was quoted as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency.
In all 150 Indian specialists are to be trained in Russia to work as operators and maintenance engineers at Kudankulam power plant which would have 2000 megawatt capacity after completion in 2008.
The centre in Novo-Voronezh has the most modern training facilities including simulators allowing the future nuclear reactor operators to gain experience in managing crisis situations similar to the Chernobyl disaster.
1. Russian Navy Command Pledges to Complete Kursk's Replica Belgorod Nuclear Submarine
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Sevmash shipyard informed Interfax news agency on December 31 after the Russian Defence Ministry Commission headed by deputy head of the armaments agency of the Defence Ministry lieutenant general Vladimir Mikheyev had finished inspection at the navy shipyard.
The hull of the Oskar-II class nuclear submarine Belgorod is completed but the technical equipment and the missile tubes are not installed. The submarine is 80% completed and requires $100m to finish the construction but only $200m were spent on Belgorod last year. The submarine can be ready not later than 2007 if enough financing is provided the Sevmash representative said to Interfax.
The Oskar-II class nuclear submarine Belgorod was laid down in July 1992. At present all the Russian Oscar-II class submarines are in the reserve after the Kursk tragedy.
1. Russia Needs Uranium from Former Soviet Republics
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Russian nuclear power minister Alexander Rumyantsev expressed his interest in uranium deliveries from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
Alexander Rumyantsev said at the Russian Government meeting in November last year that Russia should pay attention to the uranium deliveries from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, while these countries prefer to export it to the west, Fuel Energy Policy site reported. The minister said it is necessary to pay attention not only to gas and oil deliveries from the former Soviet republics, but also to the uranium deliveries for the Russian nuclear industry. He also raised concerns regarding the uranium mines developed in Soviet time. A program on uranium mines development should be drafted for many years ahead like it was during Soviet times, the minister added.
Prices for uranium, used to generate 16 percent of the world's electricity, may rise 25 percent this year as stockpiles dwindle and demand rises in China and India.
"You have gone from a buyers to a sellers' market," said Bob Mitchell, who holds physical uranium worth more than $26 million for Adit Capital Management in Portland, Ore.
Commercial stockpiles dropped 50 percent between 1985 and 2003 because mine output couldn't keep up with demand, according to a September report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mine expansions may not meet demand, boosting prices for miners such as Cameco Corp., the world's biggest, and Energy Resources of Australia.
Cameco shares rose 68 percent last year and Energy Resources surged 94 percent. Paladin Resources, an Australian company that plans to mine in Namibia, rose ninefold.
China is preparing to award an $8 billion contract to build four reactors. The country plans to build 27 plants to meet a target of boosting nuclear energy output fivefold by 2020. India aims to build 17 reactors to triple capacity by 2012.
Spot prices of uranium rose to $20.50 a pound as of Dec. 31, according to Metal Bulletin. That's the highest since 1984.
Contract prices paid by power companies may rise to $27 a pound this year from $20 a pound last year, National Bank Financial analyst Ian Howat said in a Nov. 24 report.
"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. "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."
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.
Fund manager Tim Barker at BT Financial Group in Sydney said potential increases in supply from dismantled nuclear weapons makes it hard to tell the extent of supply shortages.
Reactor fuel made from former Russian nuclear weapons powers one out of every 10 U.S. homes, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.
"We've ... have heard stockpiles are running down so many times I've lost count," said Barker, who helps manage $30 billion. "I'm not sure the ultimate size is very well known. I suspect there's a fair amount of self-interest in the information that's available."
1. Russia Ships Spent Nuke Fuel Through Soya Strait Near Hokkaido
The Asahi Shimbun
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Japanese nuclear experts fear the vessel and its containers are not up to international standards.
Russia has been using a Soviet-era ship to transport spent nuclear fuel near Hokkaido and through the Sea of Japan, raising concerns about possible radioactive contamination in northern Japan, nuclear industry officials said.
Despite the risks of moving such highly radioactive material, Moscow is under no legal obligation to inform Tokyo of such shipments, Japanese government officials say.
But Russian authorities provided a map of the ship's route to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) in autumn 2003. Until now, the route of the Russian vessel was not known.
The spent fuel is taken from dismantled nuclear-powered submarines at a plant in a suburb of Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The fuel is then loaded on a ship which passes through the Soya Strait, the narrow strip of water that separates Hokkaido and Russia's Sakhalin, according to JAIF officials.
The ship crosses the Sea of Japan and docks in Vladivostok to keep the fuel at a nearby temporary storage facility. From there, the fuel is carried by train to reprocessing plants.
``We have been informed by the Russian side that they transport spent nuclear fuel in containers placed in the vessel's storage area,'' said a Foreign Ministry official in charge of the issue. ``But we have not been told of the detailed transportation methods, the routes taken or the frequency of the transportation.''
The lack of information from Russia has added to Japanese fears about the spent nuclear fuel being transported so close to Japan.
A researcher at the Nuclear Safety Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences said Moscow currently has no other route to get the spent nuclear fuel to the railway network. But even Russian scientists are concerned about possible hazards of transporting such a dangerous cargo by sea, the Russian researcher said.
Russian nuclear-powered submarines usually carry uranium fuel enriched by 20 percent or more. Some levels reach as high as 90 percent, about the same as for weapons-grade fuel, experts say.
In comparison, the level of enrichment of fuel used at Japanese nuclear reactors is about 3 percent.
There is also the issue of volume. Spent nuclear fuel from a single decommissioned submarine fills about a dozen 40-ton containers, according to nuclear industry sources.
Spent nuclear fuel from reactors in Japan is transported in double-hull cargo ships and special containers that meet international standards. But about the only detail known about the Russian vessel is that it was built in the mid-1980s.
``The containers are heavy, and I believe that the Russian ship would not withstand the weight if it carries many of them,'' said Kunihiko Uematsu, an adviser to JAIF and former vice president of what is now the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute. ``There is also the possibility that the containers do not meet international standards.''
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