1. Russia, Japan to Scrap Five Nuclear Submarines in 2005
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Russia and Japan intend to start scrapping five Russian nuclear submarines in 2005, Sergei Antipov, the deputy head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Energy (Rosatom), stated.
In his words, the decision on this was made on Thursday at the 24th meeting of the board of the
Russian-Japanese committee on cooperation in disposing of Russia's nuclear weapons subject to reductions.
Russia and Japan agreed to cooperate in mothballing three Victor-III-class nuclear submarines phased out of the Russian Navy in the Far East, a Victor-I-class submarine and a Charlie-class submarine. At present, these four Victor-class submarines are based near Vladivostok, and the Charlie-class submarine in Kamchatka.
According to preliminary information, Japan's financial participation is estimated at about $40 million.
"Russia has the technological potential of plants for scrapping nine nuclear submarines a year. Regrettably, it has no funds. For the time being, we are planning to mothball five nuclear submarines gradually, one by one, so as to accumulate a joint experience of cooperation with the Japanese side," Antipov noted.
"In the course of 2005, the Russian-Japanese committee is planning to sign an executive agreement with Rosatom on disposing of nuclear submarines, to study related technological and financial issues, as well as security aspects, and then, proceeding from the results of this work, sign a financial contract with the bodies recommended by Rosatom.
In Antipov' words, foreign specialists will not directly participate in the scrapping effort and confine themselves to environmental monitoring.
The dismantling of the phased out nuclear submarines is provided for in the Russian-Japanese plan of action signed during the visit of Japanese Premier Junichiro Koizumi to Russia in January 2003.
The scrapping of Russian nuclear submarines is seen as one of the areas of the global partnership of the G8 countries in the non-proliferation of the WMD and the materials used to create them. The agreement to this effect was reached by the G8 at the summit in Kananaskis (Canada) in 2002.
The first project implemented by the Russian-Japanese committee was the dismantling of a Victor-III-class nuclear submarine in December 2004.
2. Russia Scrapped 17 Nuclear Powered Submarines in 2004
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The head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency Alexander Rumyantsev stated this at his press conference in the end of December 2004.
The empty reactor units of the dismantled submarines were placed afloat for temporary storage, the minister said. Besides, ï¿½The special trains carried out 12 shipments of the spent nuclear fuel unloaded from the submarines to the Mayak plant in 2004ï¿½ he added. ï¿½Two nuclear service ships were prepared for temporary storage afloatï¿½ Rumyantsev said. In 2004, Zvezda and Zvezdochka shipyards reprocessed 874 cubic meters of the liquid radioactive waste and 1,588 tonnes of solid radioactive waste, which was placed in the temporary packages, ITAR-TASS quoted the Russian nuclear power minister.
1. "Make or Break" Year for Nuclear Non-Proliferation
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This year will be "make or break" for the international treaty designed to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, as the gulf between the "haves" and the "have-nots" grows ever wider.
So says a report by the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) based in London and Washington and the UK-based Oxford Research Group. They warn that without a breakthrough in May, when the 188 signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are due to meet "the NPT may be declared bust".
Non-nuclear states argue that the weapons states, particularly the US, have failed to live up to their commitment to disarm. Last year's preparatory meeting ended in disarray without even agreeing an agenda for reviewing the treaty (New Scientist, 15 May 2004, p 5).
For the last eight years the UN "hasn't even managed to arrange the chairs around the conference table" to discuss disarmament, the report says.
There are even signs that the Bush administration is preparing to abandon disarmament promises it made at the last NPT review five years ago on the grounds that the security situation has changed in the light of 9/11. This is "disturbing to say the least", says BASIC's Nigel Chamberlain.
Today's tale of how Washington really works (and often doesn't) begins, for a change, with some good news to report - and even some praise for the Bush White House.
Quietly but decisively, President Bush's top White House national-security and budget officials took a major step forward in the name of America's homeland security. They did it by just saying no to the Pentagon neo-cons who - with costs of the un-won Iraq peace still soaring - had recommended a step backward in funding the program to secure Russia's nuclear-weapons materials that remain vulnerable to terrorists.
In a Dec. 23 memo, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz approved a 10 percent cut in the budget of the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, more commonly known by the names of its authors, former Sen. Sam Nunn and Sen. Dick Lugar. The Wolfowitz memo and the White House decision were first reported by the Boston Globe.
In budget terms, the cut was small stuff - just $46 million. But in homeland-security terms, it is big-time, because this is the program under which the United States has been safeguarding itself by paying to secure and often destroy weapons of mass destruction that were left virtually unprotected when the Soviet Union collapsed.
It is also one of the few defense programs that became a 2004 campaign controversy. Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry charged repeatedly that the Bush administration had under-funded efforts to secure Russia's still-vulnerable weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, for one year after al Qaeda attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration had frozen those Nunn-Lugar program funds. Even though al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden had declared it was his "religious duty" to seek to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
But eventually, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Lugar, R-Ind., convinced Bush to re-fund the program in a lengthy conversation aboard Air Force One. And in his 2004 campaign, Bush declared on several occasions that securing the vulnerable weapons in Russia and throughout the world was his top priority.
So you'd think Bush's firm declarations that the Nunn-Lugar effort is his No. 1 priority would have ended the schemes of those in the Pentagon who can't bear to see defense dollars spent on arms control. Maybe you also think everything in Washington works smoothly and logically.
Here is what really happened behind the Washington curtain.
Last fall, according to knowledgeable sources, White House officials decided that the defense budget had to be cut by $10 billion to pay for the soaring cost of war and peace in Iraq. Defense budgeters got to work. Some big cuts, such as $5 billion for missile defense, were easy. But some of those irrepressible Pentagon planners could not resist taking a whack at the Defense Department's already small share of the Nunn-Lugar CTR program (which also has portions funded by Energy and State department budgets). So they slipped in a measly $46 million cut of the program their president had called his top priority, sent it upstairs to the deputy defense secretary - and waited. Wolfowitz signed off on the cuts and the memo was sent over to the Office of Management and Budget.
Meanwhile, as always happens, the Pentagon folks who favor the Nunn-Lugar program got word of what was happening and - you will be shocked to hear this - they passed the word to Lugar's office in the first days of the New Year. A Lugar aide telephoned a White House National Security Council aide, who passed the word to his boss, Bush's newly named national security adviser, Steven Hadley.
Apparently, Hadley understood that it is not good to cut the program that the president told Americans was his top priority. Hadley returned the budget memo, telling the Pentagon that cuts in the Nunn-Lugar CTR program were not acceptable. "It's written all over the paper," said one source.
So here's where we are: We are in a race against terrorists who are seeking to buy or steal a nuclear weapon or nuclear material to make their own crude bomb. We are racing to secure the vulnerable WMDs before the terrorists can get to them. At the pace we are going, it will take 13 years to secure all of the sites in Russia alone. So we need to double our funding, double our pace - and Bush needs to double his pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to do so, too. Then we need to secure the vulnerable WMDs in other countries.
One step backward and one step forward is hardly a reason to cheer. But it's good to know that the Bush White House has just said no, for once, to the Pentagon's last remaining recalcitrants. For we are in a race that we cannot afford to lose.
1. Russia to Participate in U.S. Nuclear Security Exercise
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Russia will participate in the U.S. nuclear security exercises, announced Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov at a press conference at the Russian embassy in Washington.
"I believe that the times of pure declarations are over and we take increasingly specific actions. In April, as part of bilateral Russian-U.S. cooperation in the sphere of security, Russian military personnel will participate in the U.S. nuclear security exercises aimed at perfecting the procedures for transporting and handling nuclear weapons," the Russian defense minister stated.
He pointed out that similar exercises were conducted last year on the Russian territory. Forty-nine observers from 17 NATO countries attended the exercises.
"As to our cooperation in the fight against terrorism, we created a working group, which mainly includes military personnel of both countries," Mr. Ivanov said.
He also underlined that he did not want to create an impression that Russia and the U.S. have similar views on all issues. "That is not true," he said.
Mr. Ivanov noted that Russian and US positions on certain issues do not coincide. "And we are not afraid to admit it," he said. In his opinion, the solution is to find compromises and effective approaches, which would satisfy interests of both countries.
As if confirming the statement about different views on certain global issues made by the Russian defense minister, the U.S. State Department issued a warning about "possible sanctions" against Russia in case it decides to deliver Russian-made Iskander (SS-26) missile complexes to Syria.
"We saw the reports about the possible sales deal, and the U.S. policy in that respect is absolutely clear. We are against the sales of armaments to Syria. We are against the sales of deadly weapons to Damascus because Syria is a known sponsor of terrorism," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told journalists at a press conference in Washington on Wednesday.
"We consider such arms sales inappropriate and the Russians know about our attitude. They are well aware of our point of view," Mr. Boucher underlined. At the same time, he refused to answer directly a question about specific sanctions against Russia in case it goes ahead with arms sales deal with Syria.
"We will act according to U.S. laws, but these sanctions will be introduced only if the deal goes through," the U.S. State Department official said.
2. Defense Minister to Discuss No Nuclear Control Issues in U.S.
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Yesterday, the Russian defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, arrived in the US on a working visit until January 15. The Russian minister's agenda includes meetings with top US officials.
During his stopover at Shannon airport in Ireland, Mr. Ivanov suddenly corrected his agenda, Vremya Novostei reports. He said he was not connecting his meetings with the February summit [Vladimir Putin and George Bush are due to meet in Bratislava on February 24].
This statement probably came after numerous Western reports and experts said that Mr. Bush would try to persuade Mr. Putin to agree to international control over "potentially dangerous facilities on Russian territory." These are nuclear power stations, arsenals of chemicals weapons and nuclear stockpiles that have not been destroyed yet.
This paradoxical and dangerous idea, many experts say, has long been mulled by the US authorities and could be implemented as part of the fight against international terrorism, cooperation in nuclear security or both.
The newspaper's source in Russia's military and diplomatic top brass believes that the US initiative may be implemented in the form of joint security measures at potentially dangerous facilities in both countries. However, the Russians will only be let into the US at the beginning as a confidence building measure and then the plan will assume a unilateral character under some plausible excuse. It is hard to predict what effect the US proposal might have should Russia accept it.
Mr. Ivanov echoed the military diplomat in saying that nuclear security training was due in Wyoming this April. For the first time, the only observers at the exercises will be officers of the 12th Main Department of the Russian Defense Ministry responsible for the country's nuclear arsenal.
3. Russia Was Invited to Watch Nuclear Security Exercise
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The United States has invited Russia to attend the exercises in the sphere of nuclear security, due in Wyoming in April 2005, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters following talks with his American counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld.
"We are glad to accept the invitation," said Mr Ivanov. He said Russia would be the only observer at the exercises.
Speaking about Russian-Iranian cooperation in the nuclear energy sphere, Mr Ivanov said Russia would only export nuclear fuel to Iran when an agreement on the return of the spent fuel to Russia was signed. The Russian minister made the above statement following talks with President George W. Bush in the White House.
"The nuclear energy unit has been almost completed in Iran's Bushehr. Russia's position is invariable - fresh fuel will start being supplied only after the agreement of the return of the spent fuel to Russia is signed," said Mr Ivanov.
Mr Ivanov said Russia was involved in the International Atomic Energy Agency's efforts to settle what was known as the Iran problem. He added that Russia's position on the matter actually coincided with the European Union's position.
Mr Ivanov noted that President Bush was well informed on Russia's technological level and its contribution to global intellectual and human potential, rather than solely on the country's revenues from energy resources exports.
"My impression is that Mr Bush is intent at consolidating cooperation with Russia in the defense sphere, as well as in the economic, humanitarian and energy areas," said Mr Ivanov.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in a recent meeting with US President George W Bush said the construction phase of the nuclear units of Bushehr Atomic Power Plant has been completed, ISNA reported on Wednesday.
"Russia's fundamental stance is that nuclear material will be delivered to Iran when Iran and Russia sign a contract for returning spent nuclear fuel to Russia," he said.
The Russian Defense Minister also said that the stances of Russia and European Union are almost identical with regard to Iran's nuclear dossier in the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Ivanov noted that Russia accepted America's invitation to participate as an observer in nuclear security operations slated for April 2005.
1. Moscow Emphasizes Quality of its Nuclear Potential
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The increase of the number of nuclear weapons in Russia is out of the question, announced Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov during a press conference in Washington.
"Russia has always been and will be a great nuclear power. We will develop, improve and deploy new types of nuclear weapons. We will make them more reliable and accurate, although we are not doing it coming form the logic of the "cold war," and we do not plan to increase the number of nuclear weapons - that is out of the question," the minister said.
"Russia does not need the same amount of nuclear weapons at present as it used to have during the Soviet era," the Russian minister underlined.
He said that Russia concluded test launches of a new land-based missile complex Topol-M, including its mobile version in 2004. Mr. Ivanov also announced that Russia would start the testing of a sea-based missile complex Bulava in 2005.
"I can also inform you that we are conducting the development of more advanced systems. However, I would like to reiterate that all these measures are not aimed against any particular country," the minister said.
Mr. Ivanov believes that there is a hypothetical possibility of cooperation between Russia and the U.S. in the sphere of missile defense.
"Hypothetically, such a possibility does exist, although we must protect our intellectual property and ensure confidentiality of information," the Russian minister emphasized.
Stating that the work in this direction continues, he did not specify concrete dates for its conclusion.
"In principle, military-technical cooperation between Russia and the U.S. existed before, and we do not have fundamental objections against the expansion of such cooperation," Mr. Ivanov underlined.
He said that the development of a project on Russian-U.S. military-cooperation had started a while ago. "It is a complicated agreement and we will not be able to conclude it in a few months, " he stressed.
Mr. Ivanov also underlined that it was a framework agreement, which would open possibilities for the development of technical cooperation between various Russian and U.S. enterprises and the military-technical cooperation between the two countries in general.
1. Uranium To Be Supply Driven Rather Than Inventory Driven
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At the inaugural Uranium Mining Conference held in London on January 10th by stockbrokers Hargreave Hale in conjunction with LM Associates and at which six uranium producers or explorers / developers presented (of which more later this week), the Keynote address concerned the changes in and outlook for the uranium market itself.
The paper was delivered by Dustin J. Garrow, President of International Nuclear Inc., and a seasoned member of the market, with over thirty yearsï¿½ experience in the uranium and nuclear power industries. His primary conclusions were that the international uranium market is in transition from being inventory-driven to production-driven.
Demand is set to outstrip supply by a considerable margin, the inventories built up during the period of excess (effectively from 1945 to 1986) will not be sufficient to supply the developing shortfall and the uncertainty over potential uranium supply through to 2010 suggests the development of shortages. He contends that the future price trend will accordingly be determined by the price necessary to support new production centres and that a term uranium price at or above US$30 per pound (of U3O8) is not unreasonable.
He also stressed that it is important, when looking at the market, to consider the long-term contract prices that are being struck rather than the spot price, as not much more than 10% of uranium transactions are concluded at spot with the rest in term contracts.
Secondary uranium sources are rapidly declining, notably the US-Russian highly-enriched uranium programme, which has been delivering uranium to the market at the rate of 24m lb per annum and this level is not thought to be viable for the future. In addition China is in transition from being a uranium exporter to importer. And critically, of course, the collapse in market prices through the 1980s and 1990s following record levels at the end of the 1970s (reminiscent of another highly-priced metal) has meant that there was a dearth of exploration during the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s. This was a key feature of some of the producersï¿½ presentations as a number of them have picked up cheap properties and are now looking to develop or joint venture (see separate piece later this week).
As a consequence of market developments, uranium mine production dropped significantly in the first half of the 1980s from approximately 150M lb at the start of the 1980s, when it just exceeded demand, to below 100m lb per annum during the 1990s, while consumption was rising from roughly 150M lb towards 175M lb per annum.
Nuclear power generation has been on the increase over the past decade although during the 1990s there was little freshly commissioned greenfield capacity. This has been due to improved reactor performance, increased fuel burn-up (i.e. the amount of energy recovered from the fuel bundles), extended fuel cycles, and capacity increases of between 5 and 15% at existing plants. The average load factor in the United States has risen from approximately 65% in 1990 to roughly 90% by 2000, while the extension of the fuel cycle now means that the period between refuelling the core in the reactors has extended significantly and now runs at between 18 and 24 months, whereas in the 1970s it could be as short as twelve months. In addition, the average capacity factor for nuclear plants stood in 2003 at 89.6%, compared with 70.6% for coal, while the natural gas-fired plants were operating at only approximately 40% of the time ï¿½ and renewable, wind-powered plants only operated for one-third of the time.
These increases in efficiency have resulted in considerable cost reduction and in the US nuclear power is now competitive with coal and natural gas ($31-46/MWh post absorption of early plant costs, against $33-41/MWh for coal and $35-45/MWh for batural gas). This is one of the factors that have led to a renaissance of the industry. The present picture shows increases in capacity underway internationally.
China has plans to increase its nuclear capacity and India has several reactors either planned or under construction. Russia is now completing plants whose construction was halted when the old Soviet regime was disbanded. Finland has just ordered its fifth nuclear reactor while France, which uses nuclear sources for 78% of its energy supplies, has agreed to build the prototype for the European Pressurised Water Reactor. Meanwhile in the United States, 27 reactors are under construction, with 37 planned, thus adding to the 143 reactors already in place. Over and above this, a number of plants are receiving 20-year extensions to their licences. Between March 2000 and October 2004, 30 reactors were granted 20 year extensions to their original licences of 40 years; a further 16 renewal applications have been filed with another 22 expected, meaning that just under half of the installed reactors are expected to receive licence extensions.
All of this points to a sustained shortfall in supply and clear scope for fresh mine production. Given that, as one of the presenting companies pointed out, uranium comprises only 1% of nuclear reactorsï¿½ costs, the fundamentals of the market point to sustainable higher prices and a recent academic study suggested that $30-40/lb is not unrealistic for the medium term. Clearly there are other issues at stake given that the market remembers Mount St Helenï¿½s and Chernobyl, but the political will appears to be strong enough for the market to support fresh mine production.
1. Abraham Calls on Global Community to Aggressively Address Nuclear Nonproliferation
Department of Energy
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In a lunchtime speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham called on the global community to join in implementing a comprehensive nuclear nonproliferation strategy to address 21st century challenges.
Outlining his vision for dealing with constantly evolving proliferation threats in an age of terrorism, Secretary Abraham said the international community must play a greater role in future efforts.
ï¿½Terrorists have struck not just Washington, New York, Moscow, and Beslan,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½The challenge of confronting terrorism falls to every nation. ï¿½ A global threat demands global participation.ï¿½
He also called on the global community to take steps to ensure the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NMT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ï¿½ the two principle agents of the international nonproliferation regime ï¿½ can function effectively in the 21st century.
Secretary Abrahamï¿½s remarks detailed the many significant strides taken by the Bush Administration to safeguard against proliferation threats, particularly since the attacks of September 11, 2001. He noted in particular the implementation last year of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which provides international support in dealing with nonproliferation efforts.
Secretary Abraham concluded his speech by discussing four broad areas the global community must address in order to construct a workable 21st century nonproliferation strategy:
The United States Must Fund And Finish Programs We Have Committed to Doing.
Secretary Abraham cited the Megaports initiative as an example of means for deterring trafficking of nuclear and other harmful materials, not just for cargo entering the U.S., but cargo moving through the international trading system.
The Russian Government Must Increase Its Global Leadership Role.
Secretary Abraham argued that Russia must increase its share of nonproliferation responsibility by increasing the money it devotes to domestic and international efforts and upgrading security measures within its nuclear and radiological sites, particularly providing greater access to facilities for security specialists.
Other Nations Must Increase Involvement In Confronting Terrorist Threats.
Secretary Abraham insists the task of combating nonproliferation must elicit an international effort, from participating in nonproliferation programs that address bomb- grade materials to developing safer ways for distributing fuel for nuclear plants. The task cannot merely fall to the United States, Russia and the IAEA, but to all nations of the civilized world.
The IAEA and Nonproliferation Treaty Must Be Effective Nonproliferation Tools.
Secretary Abraham indicated the effectiveness of the IAEA and NPT have been called into question by developments in North Korea and Iran, making it clear that the process of the IAEA must be revamped and the NPT reevaluated to ensure they are effective vehicles for our nonproliferation aims.
2. Interview Granted by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov to the German Newspaper Handelblatt (excerpt)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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Question: Should the West take the statement of President of the Russian Federation Putin on the modernization of its nuclear potential as new aggression and threat?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I do not think that such assessments have any foundation beneath them. A modernization of our defensive power is necessary in order to keep our armed forces in a state of battle readiness and in a state when we are able not to fear for our security. Different processes are taking place around us, which can also, should one like to, be interpreted as making us worry about our security. We are partners with NATO, but we see no point in the NATO enlargement. We are partners with the US, but we see no point in the creation of a missile defense system. We want that all these processes should develop transparently. When NATO was enlarging, we, while recognizing the right of the countries of the world to determine their alliances, their partnerships themselves, were surprised by the way this was accomplished. For practically on the day of the declaration of the enlargement AWACS aircraft immediately began to fly along the Russian borders, and combat aircraft were deployed in Lithuania. Moreover, this was done so hastily as if something was bound to happen there, although this region from the point of view of security presents no threats at present.
Let alone the fact that the Baltic states at the turn of the 90s said they had no plans to join NATO, and that's why these countries and their territories were not included in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. Although now they are ready to join it. This is a positive commitment. It is only necessary that this adapted Treaty should enter into force for all. We have already ratified it, as have a number of other countries, but the western partners so far are dragging their feet over this. When immediately after the NATO enlargement all this military activity along our borders began, we asked our partners: What's the need for that? Should consultations not be held as to how we could transparently ensure control over the borders from our side and from the side of NATO respectively? Initially our proposal was not heard, but later all of a sudden our NATO colleagues themselves began saying that you know, we are flying here, it's a meandering border, there might be all kinds of unintentional incidents, accidental crossings of the border line, so let us consider how to avoid any such incidents. We recalled that we had long since been saying it would be better to first agree on a system which would render an unintentional dangerous military activity avoidable and only then to deploy aircraft and start border patrolling. But better late than never. We are holding such consultations with NATO at present, including those on the basis of the mechanisms which were formulated in the framework of the OSCE. We are visiting the bases, territories, airfields. We are satisfied with the fact that NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer reaffirmed officially that the alliance has no intentions to violate the agreements which exist between us in the sphere of military restraint, including the nondeployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of the Baltic states and nonstationing of any substantial troop contingents there. But it is also necessary to move further. We suggested at the last meeting of the Russia-NATO Council that a joint system of control over the airspace and airspace management should be worked out. This would be not only a practical confidence-building measure, but will also really help avert a situation where for reasons of a natural or technical character some dangerous incidents might occur in the sphere of military activity.
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