Norway will continue participating in dismantling multi-purpose nuclear submarines phased out of the Northern Fleet. This is what Jan Petersen, Norway's foreign minister, said to RIA Novosti.
"In my opinion, Russia-Norway joint efforts to scrap nuclear submarines are proceeding well," the Norwegian foreign minister said.
"This is a very important effort for Norway and Russia alike, because it is essential for us to solve environmental issues in northern Europe through concerted efforts," stressed Petersen.
"I'm hopeful that we will soon be able to continue this work within another project," he said.
According to Alexander Gorbunov, the director general of the Nerpa plant, the project at issue is to dismantle a multi-purpose second generation submarine of the Viktor-3 class (according to Nato's classification).
"The project is under discussion, and a group of Norwegian experts will arrive at the plant in early February to consider the details of the project," said Gorbunov.
The sides are due to sign a contract on the project this spring and implement it in 2005-2006. According to preliminary estimates, the cost of the project will total 5-odd million euros.
Gorbunov also stressed that Nerpa had already worked with the Norwegian side.
"In 2003-2004, the Norwegian government helped dismantle the first and still unique phased out multi-purpose submarine of the Viktor-2 class," said Gorbunov.
Jan Petersen is on his first two-day visit to the Murmansk region bordering on Norway.
2. Norway To Scrap Another Russian Sub, But Two Previous Efforts Ignored Spent Nuclear Fuel Safety
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As Norwayï¿½s Foreign Ministry undertakes the $6.3 million dismantlement of a third nuclear submarine in Russiaï¿½s Northern Fleet, an independent report on two past projects completed by Oslo reveal that many safety practices were overlooked during the earlier efforts, and that authorities hindered access to observers to determine whether several other environmental safeguards were adhered to.
Chief among these concerns voiced in the reportï¿½performed at Norwayï¿½s behest by the UKï¿½s Enviros Consulting group to review the previous two dismantlement projects, which began in June of 2003ï¿½is the storage of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) extracted from the decommissioned vessel at Zvyozdochka shipyard, and that the current outdoor storage methods for intermediate level radioactive waste are ï¿½unsatisfactory.ï¿½
At issue in the Enviros report are the environmental impact assessments (EIAs) that had been performed by the Nerpa and Zvyozdochka shipyards on the dismantlement work and their neglect of how to handle the spent fuel that would be unloaded from the submarines.
Norway pushes CEG to help restructure future nuclear aid programs to Russia
Several European government officials told Bellona Web during a meeting of the of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) associate group, the Contact Expert Committee (CEG) in Murmansk that officials from the Norwegian government had promoted safety regulations for nuclear dismantlement projects sponsored by western donors at this international gathering.
This should be especially poignant for Norwegian authorities, who have championed rigorous EIAs for nuclear dismantlement projects in numerous international forumsï¿½particularly through the Contact Expert Group (CEG) of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
ï¿½The risk analyses performed by the shipyards were too limited because they did not include what would become of the fuel,ï¿½ said Nils Bï¿½hmer, Bellonaï¿½s Russian Programme Director.
ï¿½The technical aspects of dismantlement, such cutting up the vessel, are easy to deal withï¿½the focus of such studies should be on finding safe storage for the spent nuclear fuel, which is the most environmentally dangerous aspect of submarine dismantlement and that was not done in this case.ï¿½
Foreign Ministry reportedly had doubts
Sources close to the submarine dismantlement project within the Norwegian Foreign Ministry expressed doubts about the results of the project, NRK television reported on its website. But according to the same report by NRK, both independent experts and the Foreign Ministry officially stated that the dismantlement projects had been carried out in a satisfactory manner by both Russian shipyards.
Responsible parties at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs were unavailable to comment to Bellona Web either by telephone or via emailed requests for reaction to the Enviros report, and whether its findings would influence how it handles its third submarine dismantlement project in Russiaï¿½s Northern Fleet.
Ingar Amundsen, a senior advisor at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA)ï¿½which co-commissioned the Enviros report along with the Norwegian Foreign Ministryï¿½said that the Enviros report, which included site visits by Enviros staff, ï¿½did not find any insurmountable obstaclesï¿½ to obtaining information, but that some elements of the project ï¿½required more information.ï¿½
ï¿½We are dealing with those lacks of information now and they will be taken into considerationï¿½ in future projects, he said in a telephone interview with Bellona Web.
He said that the NRPA was engaged in intensive dialogue with the Nerpa shipyardï¿½where the next Norwegian sponsored submarine will be dismantledï¿½in order that NRPA officials have greater access to where the submarines spent fuel will be unloaded.
ï¿½This is a requirement, in fact,ï¿½ said Amundsen. He said that a thorough environmental impact study analyzing the environmental risks posed by the fuel and its subsequent planned transportation to Russiaï¿½s Mayak spent fuel reprocessing facility in the Southern Urals will be conducted before dismantlement of the submarine begins.
ï¿½Nothing will happen before these questions are answered,ï¿½ he said.
The Enviros reportï¿½s findings
A proper EIA, as envisioned by Norwayï¿½s delegation during a CEG meeting held early in 2003 in Murmansk, would have detailed each element of dismantlement, from moving decommissioned vessels to dismantlement ports to the storage disposition of SNF.
But neither of the two Victor I class submarinesï¿½ EIAs took further storage of intermediate waste beyond leaving it essentially in the open. Higher level wastes, according to information furnished to Enviros, is stored in dedicated buildings. But, notes Enviros, ï¿½there are questions about the robustness of and security of these buildings and about their capacity to continue to accommodate future arisingsï¿½ of the unloading of future high level waste, the report read.
Conditions are even more precarious for intermediate level waste, especially at the Zvyozdochka shipyard in Severodvinsk in the Arkangelsk region.
ï¿½Exposed to the elements, it is likely some drums [of intermediate activity nuclear waste] will begin to leak (if they have not done so already) and some activity will be released into the environment via drains, soil or by direct washing into the sea,ï¿½ the Enviros report read.
ï¿½Apart from the current practice being ï¿½poor housekeeping,ï¿½ minor incidents of this nature could easily be blown out of proportion so as to reflect very poorly on the overall running of the shipyard.ï¿½
The other Norwegian sponsored dismantlement effort was carried out at the Nerpa shipyard on the Kola Peninsula in the Murmansk Region. Nerpa, according to Enviros, is to ship its SNF in 3-compartment hulls to Sayda Bay. Though Enviros acknowledged that the management of Sayda Bay was beyond the scope of its report, it nonetheless said this method was ï¿½also likely to be unsatisfactory as anything other than a short term arrangement.ï¿½
Though the report concluded that, from information available, Norwayï¿½s dismantlement projects ï¿½had been undertaken in compliance with applicable regulations,ï¿½ it noted that full documentation had beenï¿½even a year after the dismantlement procedures had been completedï¿½hard to access.ï¿½
In fact, he Enviros report indicates that its auditors received ï¿½no information at allï¿½ or information that was sketchy at best on 11 of the 12 key points governing the dismantlement of the submarines. What little information was furnished came from the Norwegian Ministry of foreign affairs.
The twelve key points for which Enviros requested information regarded:
*Transport of the submarines to the shipyards for docking, for which Enviros received no information
*Preparatory work before de-fuelling for which Enviros received incomplete information from Nerpa.
*Removal of SNF, radioactive waste and other waste materials, including an assessment of possible accidents, for which Enviros received no documentation from Zvyozdochka
*Loading of SNF into transport cask, information about which was furnished by neither shipyard
*Removal of bow and stern sections, on which Enviros received data from Zvyozdochka only after the operations has occurred. Nerpa send information both before and after. But both shipyards have yet to furnish any information on the environmental impact of these operations.
*Enviros received information on preparations of 3-compartment hulls from Nerpa, including an assessment of materials released into the air during welding and painting operations. Zvyozdochka has supplied no such information.
*Information on transport of SNF for long term storage/disposal from Nerpa has indicated that SNF flasks have left the shipyard, but nothing more.
*Zvyozdochka supplied detailed information about on sight storage and packing of low and intermediate waste was supplied by Zvyozdochka. Nerpa also supplied some information in this regard, but neither yard supplied risk assessments of the storage. No information at all was supplied about the planned storage of Nerpaï¿½s waste at Sayda Bay.
*Neither shipyard supplied any detailed information about the recycling of salvageable materials.
*Nerpa has given no information, namely risk assessments, associated with towing the 3-comparments to Sayda Bay.
*Both Nerpa and Zvyozdochka gave complete information regarding the packaging and storing of chemically hazardous substances.
1. Russian, U.S. Experts Discuss Chemical Disarmament Cooperation
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Deputy head of the Federal Industry Agency Viktor Kholtsov has met with a delegation from the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency to discuss bilateral cooperation in chemical disarmament.
"We highly value the level of confidence and cooperation between the Federal Industry Agency and the U.S. Department of Defense and other agencies in matters of chemical disarmament," Kholstov told Interfax on Monday.
1. Japan Finds Use for Scrapped Russian Ballistic Missles
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Japanese companies intend to use Russian ballistic missiles scheduled for destruction to launch civil satellites.
According to a Mainiti article on Sunday, after numerous failed attempts to launch an H-2A carrier rocket, Japanese companies started to search for cheaper ways of launching their commercial satellites into orbit. Their choice has finally fallen on ballistic missiles left after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which Russia must destroy by the end of 2020, according to the treaty with the United States.
The Sumitomo corporation reached a preliminary agreement with international space company Kosmotras, formed by space agencies of Russia, Ukraine and Khazakhstan, to convert outdated Dnepr ballistic missiles into commercial carrier rockets.
The launch of converted missiles is supposed to be conducted from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.
A Dnepr missile is capable of carrying a medium- or small-size satellite, weighing several hundred kilograms, to the orbit. The cost of a launch is 1 billion yen (about $10 million), which suits the Japanese companies perfectly.
At the same time, the Mainiti newspaper reports, such companies as Mitsui Bussan Aerospace opted to use rockets made by the German Eurorocket company, which can carry up to a ton of load to the orbit. This gives the opportunity to carry up to three satellites at one time, although the cost is twice as high as that of the Dnepr launch.
"Recently, the demand for commercial satellites capable of monitoring the consequences of natural disasters, conducting scientific research to prevent them and monitoring the agricultural plantations has been growing steadily," the Japanese newspaper explains.
2. Ivanov Stands For Reduction of Strategic Offensive Weapons and Against Deployment of Missle Defense Systems in Eastern Europe
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Strategic stability in the modern world is closely related to the reduction of strategic offensive weapons, announced Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov speaking at the meeting of non-governmental Council on international relations in New York.
"Russia strictly and fully meets its obligations according to the Treaty on the reduction of strategic offensive potentials and the Treaty on further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive weapons," the Russian minister stressed.
He noted that the United States did not show the same attitude, and the work of a bilateral committee created under provisions of the SOR treaty might have been more fruitful if the sides could have worked out a more effective mechanism of control over the implementation of the treaty.
"Naturally, Russia continues to update its strategic deterrent potential. However, our efforts are limited to its modernization and perfection. We have never desired to increase the quantity of strategic weapons," Mr. Ivanov emphasized.
He said that test launches were conducted in the framework of the existing treaties with application of all necessary mechanisms of control. Mr. Ivanov also noted that Russian and American experts continued to cooperate on the issue of missile defense.
He underlined that the U.S. decision to deploy missile defense systems in Eastern Europe might affect negatively the entire system of European security.
"We are concerned about alleged deployment of U.S. silo-based anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe," the minister stated.
He said that the choice of location for the deployment of such systems considering the protection of the US territory against incoming missiles is rather questionable.
"If the United States finally decides to deploy such complexes, it might seriously undermine the work conducted in the framework of the Russia-NATO Council on theater missile defense, and have a negative effect on the entire system of European security, the minister stressed.
1. Russia Defends Iran Nuke Stance After Bush Threat
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Russia defended its nuclear partner Iran Tuesday, saying Tehran's nuclear program was entirely peaceful, a day after Washington said it would not rule out military force against the Islamic Republic.
Russia and the United States are at odds over Moscow's construction of a nuclear power plant in southern Iran. Washington believes Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons and could use Russian technology to acquire an atom bomb.
President Bush said Monday he would not rule out military action against Iran if it was not more forthcoming about its suspected nuclear arms program.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed worries that Iran -- a key nuclear energy market for Russia in the Middle East -- had a secret nuclear arms program.
"I have no grounds to believe that the situation will get out of control and that the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program will be changed," he was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency Tuesday.
"Russia and Iran have a specific dialogue going on to make sure Iran's nuclear program stays entirely peaceful and raises no questions," he said.
Russia started building the Bushehr nuclear reactor for Iran in the early 1990s but the $1-billion project has dragged on for more than a decade for technical and political reasons.
1. Iran Engineers Begin Training at Novovoronezh Centre
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A group of Iranian engineers has begun training on Monday at the Novovoronezh training centre of the concern Rosenergoatom. The group includes operators of the Busher nuclear power plant, Vice-President of the company Atomic Energy - - Iran Salekh Bekhbudi, who is a permanent representative of this Iranian company in Russia, told Itar-Tass.
According to Bekhbudi, in 2005, the Novovoronezh centre will conclude training of engineers for the work at the first nuclear power plant of Iranian. Over 600 engineers have already undergone training here, and a total of over 700 specialists will be trained. ï¿½This is actually all personnel of the station,ï¿½ Bekhbudi said. After training at the centre Iranian engineers also do practical work at Russiaï¿½s nuclear power plants.
Iranian specialists live in flats in Novovoronezh. Many of them came to Russia with their families. During their days-off Iranian specialists leave for Voronezh situated 40 from Novovoronezh to go museums and theatres.
Bekhbudi believes that Iran is interested in continuing cooperation with Russia in the field of building objects of peace atom. ï¿½We hope that specialists of other nuclear power plants of Iran will train in Novovoronezh,ï¿½ he stressed.
2. Russia May Pay Reparations for Delay of Nuclear Project
Mehr News Agency
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Russia will pay reparations to Iran if it is proved to be responsible for delaying the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Russian ambassador to Tehran Alexander Maryasov said here on Friday.
Maryasov, in an interview with the Iranian satellite television network Jam-e-Jam, rejected the claims that Russia intends to prevent the completion of the Bushehr power plant under U.S. pressure, saying the delays caused in the construction process were due to technical rather than political issues.
The ambassador stated that Russia has presented technical and economic documents as well as an explanatory report on the construction of unit 2 of the Bushehr power plant to Iran.
He added that Russia will start construction activities as soon as the two countries reach an agreement.
Maryasov stated that the Bushehr power plant would be completed and ready to be made operational in January 2006, according to the schedule designed by the Iran Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) and the Russian Atomic Energy Agency.
He went on to say that the construction process had been delayed due to inconsistencies between the Western and Russian projects.
Germany broke a contract it had signed with Iran before the Islamic Revolution to build the Bushehr nuclear power plant, despite having received 8 billion marks and having completed 90 percent of the plant.
Asked why Russia had agreed to complete the Western project in the first place, the ambassador noted that Iran had requested it, but added that maybe Russia was wrong to begin completing the Western project instead of constructing a Russian plant.
He stressed that the agreement signed between the two countries on returning spent nuclear fuel from Iran to Russia was not politically motivated.
When Russia and Iran signed a nuclear fuel agreement in 1992, no decisions were made in regard to returning the spent nuclear fuel, but after a law was passed in Russia that stipulated that the spent fuel from foreign nuclear plants supplied by Moscow had to be returned to Russia, an agreement was made with Iran for this purpose, he explained.
Maryasov said that Iran and Russia are still negotiating the price for the return and reprocessing of the spent fuel.
ï¿½The agreement will be signed as soon as Iran agrees with our proposed price,ï¿½ he stated.
The ambassador said that Russia must dispatch 90 tons of fuel (in two separate stages of 30 and 60 tons) to Iran in order to complete the construction of the Bushehr power plant by the end of the year 2005.
He added that Russia prepared the fuel a long time ago and is only waiting for the finalization of financial agreements and then it will send it. However, he refused to reveal the asking price for the power plantï¿½s nuclear fuel.
He noted that Iran had not officially asked Russia to construct any other nuclear power plants in the country, but added that the matter would be discussed if such a proposal were made.
On Iranï¿½s complaints about delays in the construction of the Bushehr power plant and its influence on bilateral ties, Maryasov said, ï¿½Constructing a nuclear power plant is not an easy job, particularly in view of the sensitivities surrounding the Iranian nuclear issue.ï¿½
The Russian ambassador to Seoul said in an interview with the Joong-Ang Ilbo, that even if the six-party talks fail, Russia would be against the North Korea nuclear issue being referred to the UN Security Council.
Teymuraz Ramishvili, 49, Russia's top envoy to South Korea, said, "Putting pressure [on the North] does not solve the nuclear problem but only aggravates it," adding, "Russia is against the idea of presenting the nuclear issue to the Security Council as a sanction against North Korea."
Mr. Ramishvili said, "We need to clearly draw a picture for North Korea that shows there will be economic gains from international society if it gives up its nuclear programs, and to elucidate that the United States is not seeking regime change. If we do this, then we can find a solution to the nuclear problem."
He warned that if any hasty measures were taken on the North Korean nuclear issue, it could make the Non Proliferation Treaty unstable.
As for the possibility that North Korea might collapse and thousands of refugees would flee the country, Mr. Ramishvili said that this was "almost impossible."
He noted, "Unless there is consent and support from the North Korean people, there can be no change in the regime by outside powers."
Mr. Ramishvili expressed interest in a Northeast Asian-style multinational security system such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
"If the six-party talks bear fruit, then this can become the basis for discussion on a security cooperative council in the Northeast Asian region," he said.
Mr. Ramishvili has been ambassador to Seoul since May 2001. After joining Russia's Foreign Ministry in 1981, he served in diplomatic posts at the UN headquarters in New York and Geneva, and considers "multinational negotiations" to be his expertise.
2. North Korea's Withdrawal from NPT Contradicts International Efforts in This Sphere - Ivanov
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"We view the recent events concerned with the statement by North Korea on its withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as contradicting international efforts in this sphere," Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations here.
"We must do everything possible to return that state into the framework of the treaty," he said. This calls for searching for compromises, above all within the ongoing six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear problem.
"North Korea has a common border with Russia, and so the use of pressure is unacceptable for us, as this can provoke a regional conflict," the minister said.
Strict compliance by all countries with the provisions of international conventions on the prohibition of chemical and biological weapons, Mr. Ivanov said. "Russia has joined the core of the initiative on non-proliferation security because it is vital for it to rule out the illegal delivery of WMDs and their components from outside the country," Sergei Ivanov said.
1. Belgium To Be In Nuclear Cooperation With Russia
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The government of Belgium has approved Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht's tentative bill on ratification of the framework agreement on the multilateral nuclear ecological program in Russia and the attendant protocol.
The government of Belgium says in the press communique that these documents fix the legal framework for international cooperation with the Russian Federation in the nuclear field.
The agreement on the multilateral nuclear ecological program in Russia with the attendant claims protocol was signed in May 2003 in Stockholm by another nine countries of the European Union (Belgium included), and the United States.
The agreement intends to dispose of Russian discarded nuclear submarines and provides for the building of a storage pit for radioactive waste and reactor units on the Kola peninsula.
1. Russia Gives Priority to Construction of Two New Generation Nuclear Subs
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The priority of the Russian state defence order for the navy in 2005 is completion of the hulls of the new generation nuclear submarines, deputy chairman of the defence and security committee of the Federation Council Vyacheslav Popov said, Gzt.ru reported.
Admiral Vyacheslav Popov used to be a Northern Fleet commander until 2002, but was fired after the Kursk tragedy and got the job in the Federation Council, upper chamber of the Russian parliament. He said in the end of last year that completion of strategic Yury Dolgoruky and multipurpose Severodvinsk submarines is the priority. The former commander also underlined that the main budget resources of the navy in 2005 would be spent on research and development.
Back in the 1980s there was a school of U.S. strategic analysts referred to as "NUTs" -- Nuclear Use Theorists. They argued that it was important to prepare for the limited use of nuclear weapons in order to maintain the U.S. deterrent against the Soviet strategic threat.
NUT thinking seems to have resurfaced in Moscow over the past year. There has been a reactivation of Russian strategic forces on a scale not seen since the demise of the Soviet Union . This new strategic assertiveness is connected to broader trends: the feeling of strategic encirclement as the Baltic countries joined NATO, the Central Europeans joined the European Union, and U.S.-friendly "revolutions" spread from Georgia to Ukraine .
Last February saw the largest naval strategic exercises since 1982, with the embarrassing failed launch of an RSM-54 missile, witnessed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The same month, Putin talked of new weapons "capable of hitting targets deep inside continents at hypersonic speed and change the altitude and direction of their flight" (Interfax, February 17, 2004). In April 2004 a test of the new mobile version of the Topol-M missile was sent to a target near Hawaii instead of the usual site near Kamchatka . In October "protection against air/space attack" was stated as the main task in the draft statement of military policy introduced by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.
In November Putin boasted of a new weapon "of the kind that other nuclear powers do not and will not have." Experts surmised that he was referring to the maneuvering warheads on the Topol M, which has been deployed since 1998, or perhaps the new solid fuel sea-launched Bulava missile, tested in September (AP, November 18, 2004). In November, an aging 53-TS anti-missile system was test-fired at Sary-Shagan. On December 4, a story on TV Center showed a computer simulation of missiles attacking the United States . It said such missiles could only be shot down during their 10-20 second launch phase -- meaning that Washington will seek anti-missile bases near Russia. December 23 saw the first test launch of Russia 's main ballistic missile, the SS-18 (Satan), since 1991. Such launches had previously taken place from Baikonur, now in Kazakhstan , and the missiles themselves had been built in Ukraine (Kommersant, December 22).
These steps are an extrapolation, rather than a departure, from previous policy. In 1999 the Zapad-99 (West-99) exercise supposed a blockade of Kaliningrad followed by a "preventive" Russian nuclear strike. In May 2003, the navy simulated sinking an aircraft carrier and attacking the U.S. base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean .
One problem with this strategy is that Russia 's nuclear capacity is eroding fast. Eighty percent of the missiles are beyond their warranty. The SS-18's life is being extended from 10 up to 25 years. Konstantin Makienko estimates that nuclear forces will receive about half the money earmarked for procurement in the 2005 defense budget, which stands at 187 billion rubles ($6 billion), a 27% increase on 2004 (Interfax, December 10; Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, December 24; Vedomosti, December 23; Vremya novostei, December 30).
The new emphasis on the nuclear deterrent is presumably driven by a feeling that affirmations of friendship with the United States have failed to produce the desired results. Washington only respects the strong, and Russia 's main claim to great power status is its nuclear arsenal. Russia is still the only power that could destroy the United States within hours. But in practical terms, such reasoning is counter-productive on three counts. (Has anyone in the Kremlin heard of the security dilemma?)
First, it triggers negative reactions among Russia 's neighbors. The stepped-up activity reminds them about the potential threats from their neighbor: everything from nuclear accidents to nuclear blackmail. This will cause them to take counter-measures, such as drawing closer to NATO.
Second, Washington still has its own NUTs. Russian nuclear posturing only strengthens their case for more spending on ballistic missile defense, research on a new generation of mini-nukes, etc. It also bolsters congressional critics who are trying to cut the $400 million annual budget for helping Russia decommission and secure its nuclear warheads.
Finally, it wastes money that could be more usefully spent on building a professional army to meet the real security threats facing Russia . (Throughout the 1990s there was a running feud between Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, who wanted to modernize the nuclear deterrent, and Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin, whose priority was conventional forces.)
The primary benefit of this saber rattling seems to be symbolic: it eases the wounded psyche of the Russian politico-military elite. It is a reminder of past grandeur, like the cavalry who clatter across Horse Guards Parade in London . More charitably, the Carnegie Endowment's Rose Gottemoller suggested in a December 14 briefing that Putin was using nuclear strategy to communicate with the public, to assure them that he is looking after the Russian state.
The space and rocket forces were a colossal achievement of the Soviet Union . And they still have some practical value: from commercial space launches to substituting for the U.S. shuttle in helping keep the International Space Station alive. The Military Space Forces were making $30 million through commercial satellite launches, but this was discontinued in 2001 (Kommersant, December 22). Promoting such peaceful applications is the most productive use for the legacy of the Soviet nuclear deterrent, not hyping non-existent strategic threats.
1. Nuclear Arm of Russiaï¿½s Gazprom Faces Back Tax Claim ï¿½ Paper
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The nuclear unit of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom has been presented with a 1-billion ruble ($36 million) claim for back taxes for 2001-2003, Vedomosti newspaper reported Monday.
The worldï¿½s biggest gas company is at the centre of President Vladimir Putinï¿½s campaign to regain control over Russiaï¿½s strategic energy sectors and took over nuclear fuel giant Atomstroieksport last October, Reuters news agency reports.
Atomstroieksportï¿½s key project is the construction of a $1 billion nuclear power plant in Iran, a major irritant in Russia-U.S. relations. The United States accuses Iran of seeking weapons of mass destruction and says Tehran can use Russian know-how to make nuclear arms.
Vedomosti quoted sources close to the company as saying Russiaï¿½s tax authorities presented their tax claim at the end of last year. It said most claims were linked to the companyï¿½s export activity.
Officials at the company, Russiaï¿½s Atomic Energy Agency and Gazprom were not immediately available for comment.
Before Gazpromï¿½s takeover Atomstroieksportï¿½s controlling stake changed hands several times among a number of private and state-linked investors. The company is the successor to a nuclear export monopoly set up in Soviet times to assist Moscowï¿½s allies in building nuclear reactors.
Apart from Iran it is also building two nuclear reactors in China and one in India.
A legal attack on oil firm Yukos has left many analysts and investors nervous that the Kremlin might continue using back tax claims to boost state control and install Putinï¿½s closest allies as heads of strategically important companies.
2. Russia Might Build More Reactors in China, Iran, India and Bulgaria
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The Russian nuclear power minister Alexander Rumyantsev expects to get orders for nuclear plants construction in other countries in the nearest years.
Alexander Rumyantsev stated this at his internet press-conference in the end of last year, ITAR-TASS reported. He believes Russia will get the opportunity after China, Iran, India and Bulgaria announce the international tenders for nuclear plants construction. ï¿½In China ï¿½ several nuclear power units on the south of the country. Iran ï¿½ the second power unit at the Busher. India ï¿½ 40 power units. Bulgaria ï¿½ a unit at the Belina NPPï¿½ Rumyantsev said. He said two Russian reactors would be put in operation in China this year and two more reactors are currently under construction in India. The co-operation with Iran depends on the settlement of its nuclear program with the world community, the head of Rosatom said.
He also added that the further co-operation with India depends whether this country puts the nuclear plants construction activities under the IAEA control. Russia had begun construction of the two nuclear power units before it was banned to cooperate with India, ITAR-TASS reported.
1. Nuclear Weapons in Russia Are Well Protected - Ivanov
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Nuclear weapons and their components are well protected in Russia, announced Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov at the meeting of the Council on international relations in New York.
"One of the myths that persist in the United States is that, first, nuclear weapons and their components are poorly guarded in Russia and even the so-called 'Russian mafia' has easy access to them. Secondly, the conservative military, representatives of secret services and defense industry secretly supply Iran or Iraq with nuclear weapons components and technologies forbidden for export. I can assure you it is pure rubbish," the minister stressed.
He said that such myths about Russia are spread not only in movies and pseudo-analytical articles disseminated by Western media, but also used by unscrupulous adventurers to achieve financial gains.
"Here is an example: there were some cases in Afghanistan when the 'black market' offered potential buyers containers allegedly filled with weapons-grade uranium that carried technical markings in Russian," Mr. Ivanov announced.
"Ever since the creation of the Russian Federation as an independent state, we have never registered a case of disappearance of even a single gram of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium," the Russian defense minister underlined.
Mr. Ivanov also shared his opinion in regard to the so-called "black list" of countries.
"Russia, participating in various international mechanisms of export control, stands for an approach that envisions the elimination of 'double standards' and the so-called 'black lists' of countries," Mr. Ivanov stated.
He said that none of the participants of international agreements should be exempt from observing their provisions.
"Mechanisms of export control must not serve as a pretext for conducting unfair competition and pushing rivals from arms markets," the Russian minister emphasized.
Mr. Ivanov noted that the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty would advance the creation of a new system of international relations, and it would certainly become an additional obstacle on the way of nuclear proliferation.
"In that respect, we are still concerned about the US position in relation to the ratification of this treaty. Besides, the recent decision of the U.S. government to conduct research in the sphere of sub-small nuclear weapons makes us believe that the future of the treaty is not so bright," the Russian minister stressed.
1. Confirmation Hearing of Secretary of State Designee Condoleezza Rice before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (excerpted)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
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Lugar: Last year, I introduced legislation intended to relieve the burdens placed on the Nunn-Lugar program by the Congress in the form of conditions, certifications, reporting requirements. These have occurred over many years and many were points well taken at the time as there was gross distrust of the Russians and, likewise, reason for progress sought through these restrictions.
Nevertheless, they have inhibited substantially in some years the amount of work that could be done to actually work with the Russians in cooperative threat reduction, to take warheads off of missiles, to destroy the missiles, destroy the aircraft that might fly over our country, even on the Shchuchye project, to move toward a neutralization of the chemical weapons.
So I simply ask -- the goal of my legislation is to provide President Bush with more flexibility and utilization of this program in achieving nonproliferation and dismantlement goals. Does the administration support this legislation?
RICE: Thank you, Senator Lugar.
Yes, we do.
And I want to start by saying thank you very much for the tremendous leadership that you have given and that earlier Senator Nunn gave to this. And I know that a number of senators on this committee and other committees have been stalwarts in this extremely important initiative.
RICE: I'm an old student of the Soviet Union and of the Soviet military, and I really can think of nothing more important than being able to proceed with the safe dismantlement of the Soviet arsenal, with nuclear safeguards to make certain that nuclear weapons facilities and the like are well secured, and then the blending down -- as we are doing -- of a number of hazardous, potentially lethal materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons as well as, of course, you mentioned Shchuchye and the chemical weapons.
So this is an extremely important program.
I want to be clear that we do pay attention, in our relationship, to the progress or lack thereof of democracy. We pay attention and push the Russians on questions of accounting fully for their chemical weapons stockpiles, for permitting an understanding of their biological weapons programs.
But flexibility in being able to administer the program would be most welcome. And it is just an extremely important program that I think you know that we continue to push.
LUGAR: I appreciate that statement very much. And we will be working with you and the department, likewise continuing with the Department of Defense, and DITRA and the cooperative threat reduction groups who have been so helpful.
The future of U.S.-Russian cooperation on nonproliferation and dismantlement of weapons of mass destruction as contingent also upon the continuation of the Nunn-Lugar umbrella agreement that undergirds all of our efforts in this area. To date, the Kremlin has not submitted the agreement reached in 1999 to the Duma for approval.
What are your views on the prospects for the United States and Russia reaching agreement on such things as liability, tax-free status and the other issues that are covered by the umbrella agreement?
RICE: Senator Lugar, the president has raised with President Putin the issue of ratification in the Duma of the umbrella on a number of occasions, including most recently when they were at Sea Island. I'm sure that he will raise it when he sees President Putin in the next several weeks.
And we are ourselves reviewing what we may want to do about the liability procedures here.
It is extremely important that this work go forward. And to the degree that there are bureaucratic logjams that need to be broken, we've simply got to break them.
The other possibility, which is that you leave materials unsecured and you don't take as full initiative as you can under these very important programs, is simply not acceptable.
RICE: And so we are working to see how we can move this forward with the Russians. We had discussions just recently with the Russian defense minister when he was here about moving forward. So you can be assured that we're looking to break whatever bureaucratic logjams have emerged over this period of time.
LUGAR: I appreciate that response. And I'm hopeful that you will work with the president so that will be on the agenda of his meeting with President Putin. Because, clearly, President Putin is cognizant of all of these programs, but bureaucracy in Russia sometimes moves slowly, as it does in our country. To the extent that we can expedite this, this will be helpful. Because, as the president has pointed out, weapons of mass destruction or materials of mass destruction, improperly secured, are the basis for many of the terrorist threats, whether it be Al Qaida or the Russians' fear of the Chechens or whoever. It is there to be picked up and to be utilized without research and difficulty.
So these are critical items that I see and I know that you see.
Let me also mention that the G-8 meeting, the so-called 10-plus-10-over-10 program, attempted to enlist our allies in matching the effort of about $1 billion a year that we are putting into these programs:
Defense, State and Energy Departments. It's been difficult for them to do that because they do not have satisfactory umbrella agreements in most cases either.
So while the president is visiting with President Putin in behalf of the bilateral, perhaps likewise he could mention our seven allies with the G-8 that we really badly need to enlist in this type of work.
RICE: I agree completely, Senator. In fact, the president has talked to President Putin about the difficulties that others are having extending money.
I think one of the really great breakthroughs was when we came up with this Global Partnership Initiative, because it permitted to us multiply the resources that the United States was putting in by resources from Japan and Italy and Great Britain and other places. And it's important that those resources get spent.
This is one part, an extremely important part, of a broad nuclear nonproliferation initiatives agenda that we are pursuing with our allies to try and deal with this very nettlesome, difficult problem.
LUGAR: And, of course, also, as the president visits with the German leadership and perhaps the French leadership and what have you, they are parties to this.
RICE: They are.
LUGAR: And are hopefully eager to be a part of it.
RICE: In fact, I think the nonproliferation story is a quite remarkable story of cooperation among the major allies. We have outstanding cooperation with France and Germany and our other allies.
We have been working, for instance, in something called the Proliferation Security Initiative, which 60 countries are now party to and a number of others have expressed interest, to try to interdict -- consistent with international law to try and interdict suspicious shipments.
This has given us new means of intelligence cooperation, law enforcement cooperation, naval cooperation. And these are very important. We work best when we're putting the alliance to use and to work on difficult problems together.
LUGAR: And this is a great way to do so.
I would add in agreement, this is also important, the AMEC agreement. We have enlisted the support of Norway and friends who want to work in that area, particularly on the submarine issues and the pollution of nuclear material that may have been dumped or could be dumped without activity on our part.
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