1. Barents Sea shipyard begins sub decommissioning
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ST. PETERSBURG - Workers at a shipyard in the town of Severodvinsk on the Barents Sea have begun the process of decommissioning the Volgograd nuclear submarine, the enterprise said Wednesday.
This is the fourth Viktor-3 class submarine whose decommissioning has been funded by Canada under the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction program, which was approved by the Group of Eight industrialized nations at the 2002 summit in Kananaskis, Canada, and, among other problems, addresses nuclear security issues.
Under the program, the Zvezdochka shipyard is expected to decommission 12 more multi-purpose nuclear-powered submarines.
The decommissioning of the Volgograd sub, which is currently in the docks, will be completed in about six months, according to the enterprise.
The Volgograd was phased out of Russia's Northern Fleet after 25 years in service.
2. CIS states to coordinate radiological, chemical security
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MOSCOW - Member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the loose alliance of nations that replaced the Soviet Union, will coordinate the work of their militaries in the field of radiological, chemical and biological security, the Russian defense minister said Wednesday.
"We agreed to coordinate the actions of military formations in radiological, chemical and biological security," said Sergei Ivanov, who is also a deputy prime minister, at a CIS ministerial meeting in Moscow.
Ivanov said the matter had a "clear anti-terrorist aspect."
The reporting that allows Washington officials to set the agenda for journalism--derided in the trade as stenography--was condemned by Bill Moyers in a widely acclaimed address last May. The press is led "all too often simply to recount what officials say instead of subjecting their words and deeds to critical scrutiny," he told the National Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis. "Instead of acting as filters for readers and viewers, sifting the truth from the propaganda, reporters and anchors attentively transcribe both sides of the spin, invariably failing to provide context, background or any sense of which claims hold up and which are misleading."
This critique contains a paradox thatï¿½s worth examining: the journalism that does not simply recount "what officials say," or that does not transcribe "both sides of the spin," can also do grave disservice to the public. Consider just one story--albeit one that concerns the survival of the planet--in which the basics of reporting official statements, and following up, could have made all the difference.
The cold war is long over, and the United States and Russia are at peace. Yet together they have approximately 4,000 nuclear warheads on hair-trigger alert--weapons with a combined destructive power nearly 100,000 times that of the atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima are armed and fueled at all times. Their targets--Washington and New York, Moscow and St. Petersburg--have been programmed by internal computers. In the U.S., they will launch on receiving three computer-delivered messages. Launch crews--on duty 24-7--will send the messages on receipt of a single computer-delivered command.
On May 23, 2000, presidential candidate George W. Bush embraced National Missile Defense in a speech in Washington. The mainstream press reported this. In the same speech, however, Bush also said:
"The United States should remove as many weapons as possible from high-alert, hair-trigger status--another unnecessary vestige of cold war confrontation . . . For two nations at peace, keeping so many weapons on high alert may create unacceptable risks of accidental or unauthorized launch. So, as president, I will ask for an assessment of what we can safely do to lower the alert status of our forces."
Bushï¿½s commitment to Star Wars was utterly predictable. His concern about "unacceptable risks of accidental or unauthorized launch" was a highly newsworthy surprise. For one thing, Bush was implicitly repudiating the longstanding acceptance of the status quo by his fellow Republicans in Congress. For another, he was taking the lead on an issue that President Bill Clinton and the Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore had ignored. The mainstream press told voters none of this.
The neglect of candidate Bushï¿½s stand on high-alert nuclear weapons would prove to be only a prologue to five years of sustained journalistic neglect of the issue. Here are highlights of what the press ignored:
Bush did in fact request the assessment, or nuclear-posture review, and received it in early 2002. Soon thereafter, the president reversed the course heï¿½d set as a candidate, accepting upon entering the White House the very risks heï¿½d found "unacceptable" while campaigning.
Bruce G. Blair, who heads the World Security Institute and is widely considered the nationï¿½s foremost authority on nuclear command and control, and others at the institute have warned frequently that ready-to-fire nuclear weapons are susceptible to unauthorized launch by heavily armed terrorists, who might either capture a missile or electronically hack into a missile launch control system. In 2002, for example, Blair cited a "super-secret Pentagon study" that concluded that terrorists could hack the U.S. submarine communications network and "actually transmit a launch order to the Trident fleet."
Two years and a day after his Washington speech, President Bush and Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia signed the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions. But they were silent about the thousands of warheads on hair-trigger alert. The press was silent about the silence. Nor did it remind the public of candidate Bushï¿½s view that too many warheads were ready to fire.
Two months after Bush and Putin met in Moscow, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the treaty. Two longtime experts on strategic nuclear arms, former Senator Sam Nunn, co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and Eugene Habiger, former commander in chief of the Strategic Command, testified. Nunn said that progress toward removing weapons from higher alert status "may well be more important to stability and security than the number of nuclear weapons." Habiger warned, "There is only one thing that can destroy the United States of America today -- and that is Russian nuclear warheads." Major news organizations reported the testimony of neither Nunn nor Habiger.
All this information was readily available to journalists if not always staring them in the face. NBCï¿½s Tim Russert recognized the peril by making "the threat and prevention of nuclear terrorism" the subject of Meet the Press on May 29, 2005. Among Russertï¿½s guests that day were Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who co-authored the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.
Russert to Nunn: "What about each side having their nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert?"
Nunn: "Well, that makes no sense . . . particularly from our security point of view . . . because the Russiansï¿½ radar system and their warning systems have deteriorated substantially, so thereï¿½s more chance of an accident now. Here again, youï¿½ve got to have presidential leadership. These changes are not going to bubble up from the bottom. Theyï¿½ve got to come from the top."
Earlier in the program Lugar said: "Every time I call President Bush, he says, ï¿½Well, Iï¿½m going to call Condi Rice right away,ï¿½ or Don Rumsfeld. And he does, and they call people. But if somebody like us around the table was not calling them -- you know, thatï¿½s why our government really works, checks and balances."
Lugarï¿½s plain--and newsworthy--implication was that Bush does not assign a high priority to reducing the nuclear threat. Yet I could find no U.S. news coverage on any aspect of this survival-of-the-planet edition of Meet the Press. Seven days after the Meet the Press program, a newspaper reported that former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara had told a conference earlier in the week, "If I were to characterize U.S. and NATO nuclear policies in one sentence, I would say they are immoral, illegal, and militarily unnecessary." Once the overseer of 30,000 nuclear warheads but now an advocate of disarmament, he described nuclear weapons as "very, very dangerous in terms of the risk of inadvertent or accidental launch."
The newspaper was The Sunday Times. Of London.
U.S. journalism is rightly criticized these days for its broad failure to get beyond the spin, to adjudicate factual disputes, to challenge the official version of truth. This story, though, required none of that. It was simply a matter of reporting what the officials said, and following up.
Morton Mintz, a senior adviser to Niemanwatchdog.com, was a Washington Post reporter for nearly thirty years. He has written about the hair-trigger alert for The American Prospect.
1. Russia takes another step towards scrapping its chemical weapons
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MOSCOW--On December 1, a second Russian facility to destroy stocks of chemical warfare agents will go on line in the village of Kambarka in Udmurtia.
At the time when the convention on banning chemical weapons was concluded (1993) Russia had the world's largest quantity of such chemicals - 40,000 tons, followed by the United States with 36,000 tons. Kambarka stores 6,349 tons of lewisite, a blister agent, in huge rail tanks embedded in concrete. These stocks are to be eliminated by the end of 2007.
The facility's detoxicating capacity of over 2,500 tons of lewisite a year is enough to achieve the planned destruction without much effort. Especially since Russia has ample experience of safe and effective disposal of chemical agents gained at the first facility in the village of Gorny in the Saratov region, which stored 1,143.202 tons of yperite and lewisite. All these chemicals are to be demolished by the end of this year. The yperite, as Viktor Kholstov, deputy head of the Federal Agency for Industry, told the fall session of the International Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, is practically destroyed, while the remaining 241.3 tons of lewisite will be detoxicated by the end of this December.
Additionally, Russia has abolished all third-category chemical weapons - unarmed chemical ammunition and devices for using it, including powder charges - a total of 330,024 units - as well as second-category chemical weapons - for example, phosgene. The third category embraces chemicals that are not so toxic as yperite, lewisite or nerve gases such as sarin, soman or VX gases but are no less harmful.
Also abolished are seven of 24 declared facilities, which in the Soviet years produced chemical weapons. The remaining eighth will be torn down before April 29, 2007. The rest, as agreed between Moscow and The Hague, are being converted to civilian production. Twelve of them have already obtained civilian output certificates, while four more are in the process of receiving them.
By the end of the current year the first stage of a chemical destruction facility is to go into operation in the village of Maradykovsky in the Kirov region. It is designed to detoxicate chemicals loaded in artillery ammunition and the warheads of tactical and shorter-range missiles. Warehouses in this village also store 6,089 tons of VX gases. And by April 29, 2007, as Kholstov assured RIA Novosti, about 4,300 tons of these agents will be destroyed.
Combined, the three facilities will demolish more than 8,000 tons of chemical weapons by April 2007. Moscow will be able to report to the world community the fulfillment of the second stage of the abolition of its toxic stocks.
Considering that chemical destruction plants are now being built in other places of storage - Kizner in Udmurtia, Shchuchye in the Kurgan region, Pochep in the Bryansk region and Leonidovka in the Penza region - there are grounds for hoping that by 2009 Russia will fulfill its obligations concerning the third stage - it will destroy 45% of its stocks. By 2012, it will fully dispose of its entire stock of "battlefield chemistry."
This has become possible because recently the Russian government has paid particular attention to the process. It is regularly allocating the required funds - which make up a total of 171 billion rubles or nearly $6 billion. For 2006 alone the required sum is 18 billion rubles or $600 million. The hope for overseas aid, which so inspired Russian officials in the previous years and was actually promised by the world community, did not materialize.
Especially graphic is the example of the chemical facility at Shchuchye in the Kurgan region, with the U.S. promising to finance the entire project. It pledged Russia a minimum of $888 million, but allocated only 10% of the sum promised. Also, for a number of years, Washington has been refusing to contribute a single cent under specious pretexts. This made the Kremlin revise its program, and focus on other facilities rather than Shchuchye, which contains 5,456 tons of sarin, soman and VX gases - a total of 9,382 carloads. Otherwise Russia would have defaulted on its international obligations.
Actually, not all countries have acted like the U.S. Germany contributed a sizeable amount of resources for the construction of facilities in Gorny and Kambarka. Britain is a big donor by helping to build the facility at Shchuchye. Help comes from Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, the European Union, Canada, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Poland and Switzerland. Good prospects, Kholstov said, exist concerning understandings with Sweden, Finland, France and Ireland. At the same time, he said, foreign aid is helping to build only three of seven facilities. And cooperation with overseas partners in chemical disarmament is mainly in the form of equipment deliveries, creation of elements of industrial and engineering infrastructure, assembly work, adjustment and start-up operations, and specialist training.
Foreign states are unwilling to finance capital investments in construction proper, but these costs make up 40% of all construction expenses involved. Also, they refuse to finance the provision of social infrastructure, which is being built in the interests of the regions and to facilitate the operation of the facilities. These expenditures account for 10% of the total cost of the facilities.
But all this no longer plays the decisive role, believes the deputy head. By opening another plant at Kambarka, Russia has eloquently proved that even with limited foreign aid it is able to honor its international commitments to destroy its stocks of toxic chemicals.
1. Wrap: Russian general talks NATO, nuclear, missile proliferation
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MOSCOW - During an extensive news conference in Moscow, the Chief of the Russian General Staff covered a number of issues concerning relations with NATO and the U.S., proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies and Russia's defense capabilities.
Colonel General Yury Baluyevsky questioned the efficiency of existing missile defense systems by saying that Russia has the technology for a strategic ballistic missile that could get around any existing or future systems, but said the country does not regard any particular state as a potential enemy.
"We have long stopped preparing for large-scale nuclear and conventional wars," he said. "We will continue to prepare for the defense of our territory, but we will not be preparing for a war on foreign land."
He said Russia and NATO should avoid conflicts in their relations caused by "the remnants of old-thinking among certain politicians and the military."
"A war between Russia and NATO is not the path we should be seeking," the general said.
Speaking about the domestic situation in a number of former Soviet states, Baluyevsky said CIS member states had the right to determine their destiny without foreign influence and pointed to Russia's right to defend its interests in the post-Soviet space.
He condemned the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for turning into a surveillance organization by overseeing the observation of democratic principles in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Baluyevsky also addressed Russian-American military cooperation, saying it had an "impulsive character".
"Military contacts between our countries sometimes work impulsively. When there is a problem, there is an increase in activity. When the problem is gone, the activity gradually subsides," he said.
The general outlined cooperation between Washington and Moscow in the fight against terrorism and terrorist financing, the increased control over the proliferation of portable air-defense complexes and the timely exchange of information on terrorist groups.
"Although Russia and the U.S. share views on key issues, we do not feel that everything in our relations is going smoothly," Baluyevsky said.
The general offered sharp criticism of what he considered to be a case of double standards in how the United States approached nuclear security issues.
"The U.S. has made demands that a number of countries' nuclear programs should be completely transparent, " he said. "On the other hand, the U.S. turns a blind eye to the fact that Israel has for a long time ... had a significant nuclear arsenal."
Baluyevsky pointed to similar double standards in U.S. cooperation with Russia in other spheres, including control of missile technologies. According to Baluyevsky, the U.S. not only uses its arsenal to defend its interests, but also as a form of leverage to put pressure on rivals on the market for this form of weaponry.
He said the Russian Defense Ministry had a serious approach to bilateral and multilateral cooperation with the United States against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Baluyevsky said documents describing technologies of 'dirty' radioactive, chemical and biological weapons have been found in Chechnya.
"Terrorism is seeking ways of creating weapons of mass destruction, which forces us to take preventive steps," he said.
The general also said the possible deployment of U.S. anti-missiles in Poland and other countries may lead to serious environmental consequences.
"These are not simply my words, this could really happen," Baluyevsky said. "This is the assessment of experts."
1. Russian missile force: all test launches in 2005 successful
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MOSCOW - All missile test launches in 2005 in Russia were completed successfully, and showed the strong professional level of personnel, and the reliability of the missiles, the Strategic Missile Force press service said Wednesday.
"The Strategic Purpose Missile Force is combat-ready and capable of solving set tasks in any conditions," the service said in a press release.
The press statement said the force had formed two missile divisions and over 20 new units in 2005. "We managed to keep up to 70% of officers whose posts had to be cut. Over 82% of officers now say they want to prolong their contracts," the service said.
"In the conditions of a dynamically developing military and political situation, the force is an effective guarantor of nuclear deterrence against possible threats to Russia's security," the press service said.
MOSCOW - The Russian Federal Agency for Nuclear Power said Thursday that it would re-enrich 450 tons of France's depleted uranium.
The agency denied Greenpeace reports that the Russian vessel Kapitan Kuroptev would illegally transport spent nuclear fuel or radioactive wastes to Russia.
The agency said only Russian technologies could ensure proper re-enrichment of depleted uranium.
On Thursday, French police detained some 20 Greenpeace activists from France, Austria and Russia attempting to prevent the loading of the French cargo onto the Kapitan Kuroptev, a French radio station reported.
French company Areva, which owns the cargo, confirmed that depleted uranium would be returned to France after re-enrichment.
2. Liquid waste treatment plant at Kola NPP to be completed by December 30
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Last month the Kola NPP welcomed the representatives of the German firm RWE NUKEM, a supplier of a number of systems for the newly constructed Liquid Waste Treatment Plant.
The scientists suggest to treat nuclear waste by tempering it, i.e. to transfer it into safer forms, convenient for all stages of handling: storage, shipment and final disposal. This approach assumes different methods of treatment.
After all methods were thoroughly studied, Russian and German specialists developed the one that is the most adequate for the plant. At the moment finishing and main equipment mounting works are in progress inside the huge LRWT building: ventilation, cabling, piping and installation of radionuclides purification system.
The main purpose of RWE NUKEM visit to the Kola NPP was negotiating on warranty services of the supplied equipment, so called A1/A4 facility (radioactive substances extraction plant) and A2 (conditioning system). The Kola NPP informed their German partners on the coming comprehensive tests of the system on December 22, 2005. LRWT plant commissioning terms is December 30, 2005, the Kola NPP press department informed. The TACIS program and the Rosatom Company sponsor the project.
1. 70% of nuke plants upgrade spending just to ensure compliance
Rashid Alimov, Bellona
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Russian nuclear power plants operator admits that some 70% of spending during modernisation for extending a reactor's life went on bringing the reactor into line with current safety norms and rules.
Last week's seminar on "The Future of Nuclear Energy" in Murmansk brought together civil society organisations, Russian state nuclear power plants operator, or Rosenergoatom, and representatives of the Kola nuclear power plant.
Civil society organisations taking part in the meeting--Bellona, Ekozashchita!, Nature and Youth, and Gaia--took the position that extending the working life of dangerous reactors is a dangerous practice. The Kola NPP's reactor blocks nos. 1 and 2 were meant to be taken out of service in 2003 and 2004, having come to the end of their 30-year working life. Work on extending their service lives was carried out without the state environmental expert assessment mandated by law. Documents on the illegal extension were sent by the Murmansk Region Prosecutor's Office to the Prosecutor General Office in Moscow at the beginning of November.
"If the General Prosecutor decides that the extension was carried out illegally, we will not contest the decision," Arkady Khessin of Rostekhnadzor, the body that granted permission for the extension to the Kola NPP, said at the seminar.
According to the Rosenergoatom report, some $201m was spent on extending the working life of reactors at Russian NPPs in 2003, $193m in 2004, with some $208m and $261m earmarked for 2005 and 2006, respectively.
Kola NPP and Rosenergoatom representatives admitted that some 70% of spending during modernisation for extending the reactor's life went on bringing the reactor into line with current norms and rules.
"Before the modernisation we didn't meet these rules, and kept records of malfunctions," said Vladimir Volsky, head of the technical support service at the Kola NPP.
Scientists from the Russian Energy Technology Scientific Research Institute (VNIPIET) had previously also talked about similar expenditure to bring RMBK-type reactors at the Leningrad NPP into line with current norms during modernisation and life time extension of reactors.
Rosenergoatom representatives said that technical help under international programs made up 15.3% of total spending on the modernisation of the Kola NPP. This sum takes into account only long-term assets on the balance sheet--for example, consulting services of Western experts paid with Western money are not included. Of these funds, 4% came from Norway, 2.8% from the U.S., 1.3% from Sweden, and 0.3% from Finland.
In the middle of the 1990s, Russia signed an agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as part of the Nuclear Safety Account programme that fixed the country's obligations regarding decommissioning of first-generation reactors. However, after the financial resources under this programme were received, the Russian authorities refused to fulfill the agreement. In 1991-1995, spending on the TACIS nuclear safety programme ran to about half a billion dollars.
The decision to extend the reactors' working lives compared two groups of expenditures: "Extending the working life of the NPP reactor block," and "Constructing replacement generating power & decommissioning the NPP reactor block."
The comparison ignored the fact that after the extension the blocks would still have to be decommissioned, which would require new expenditure.
One factor in favour of the extension, according to Rosenergoatom, was the "conservatism of the accepted basic calculation of the 30-year service life of working NPPs."
"The projected service life of the reactors being extended today was fixed at the same time as the Chernobyl NPP was being planned," Bellona representatives said. "As we know, the Chernobyl NPP blew up: therefore, we cannot consider the assessments made then to be either to harsh or too conservative."
At the seminar, Rosenergoatom's Andrei Noskov outlined one option for the Kola NPP after closure for the first time. The suggested solution is a "brown lawn," i.e., a burial ground on the site of the plant where the Kola NPP's equipment will be buried under layers of clay for at least 300 years after it is closed.
"Unfortunately, the closure of the dangerous reactors at the Kola NPP is actually being hampered by a lack of political will," said Vitaly Servetnik, who runs the anti-nuclear programme of Nature and Youth. "Therefore, the nuclear scientists are not getting ready for the closure, and therefore wind energy is not developing in the region."
2. Plutonium could be missing from lab; 600-plus pounds unaccounted for, activist group says
San Francisco Chronicle
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Enough plutonium to make dozens of nuclear bombs hasn't been accounted for at the UC-run Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and may be missing, an activist group says in a new report.
There is no evidence that the weapons-grade plutonium has been stolen or diverted for illegal purposes, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research said. However, the amount of unaccounted-for plutonium -- more than 600 pounds, and possibly several times that -- is so great that it raises "a vast security issue," the group said in a report to be made public today.
The institute, which is based in Takoma Park, Md., says it compared data from five publicly available reports and documents issued by the U.S. Energy Department and Los Alamos from 1996 to 2004 and found inconsistencies in them. It says the records aren't clear on what the lab did with the plutonium, a byproduct of nuclear bomb research at Los Alamos.
A spokesman for UC, which manages the national laboratories at Los Alamos and Livermore for the Energy Department, did not address the report's specifics but said the New Mexico lab tracks nuclear material "to a minute quantity."
The report says there are several possible explanations for what happened to the plutonium. They include:
-- It was discarded in unsafe amounts in landfills at the Los Alamos lab. It is legal to discard weapons-grade plutonium in landfills, one of which is 40 feet deep, as long as the substance is sufficiently diluted. However, if a landfill holds too much plutonium, the material can eventually contaminate the environment -- for example by leeching into groundwater or being absorbed by the roots of plants -- study co-author Arjun Makhijani said in an interview.
-- It was shipped to an Energy Department burial site in a New Mexico salt mine, without accurate records of such shipments being kept.
-- It was stolen or otherwise shipped off site for unknown reasons.
"If it has left the site, then it obviously has the most grievous security implications," Makhijani said. "I cannot say that it has left the site, but the government has the responsibility to ensure that it has not.
"And the University (of California) obviously has a responsibility in this. It should be a grave embarrassment for the university to be sitting on numbers like this and discrepancies like this, and not have resolved them."
UC spokesman Chris Harrington said Los Alamos "does an annual inventory of special nuclear materials which is overseen by (the Energy Department). These inventories have been occurring for 20-plus years. Special nuclear materials are carefully tracked to a minute quantity."
The report concludes that at least 661 pounds of plutonium generated at the lab over the last half-century is not accounted for. The atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945 contained about 13 pounds of plutonium.
"The security implications . . . are extremely serious, since less than 2 percent of the lowest unaccounted-for plutonium is enough to make one nuclear bomb," the report said.
The problem of plutonium accounting began worrying lab critics in the mid-1990s, when Energy Department officials released lab records as part of the Clinton administration's openness initiative.
Critics found they had trouble determining exactly what the lab was doing with the plutonium waste that is generated during the manufacture of spherical plutonium "pits," the fissile triggers of nuclear bombs.
Makhijani said he and colleagues from two other activist groups hoped the problem would be resolved in August 2004, when they sent a letter of complaint to then-Los Alamos Director G. Peter Nanos. Nanos was trying to reform lab operations after highly publicized scandals over UC management of Los Alamos.
Nanos and lab officials did not respond, though, and nine months later Nanos left for a different job. Makhijani said he and associates had decided to make their report public to dramatize federal officials' failure to resolve the puzzle of the missing plutonium.
Makhijani received his engineering doctorate at UC Berkeley with specialization in plasma physics and nuclear fusion. The institute is funded by sources including the Ford Foundation and San Francisco's Ploughshares Fund.
UC has joined Bechtel National and other industrial partners in a bid to retain its contract to run Los Alamos, in a competition against a consortium consisting of Lockheed-Martin, the University of Texas, several New Mexico universities and various industrial partners.
Makhijani says he isn't taking sides in the competition but that he would prefer the weapons labs be run by industrial contractors rather than universities. The reason, he said, is that university connections to the weapons labs tend to lead to restraints on free inquiry and speech within the universities.
3. Radiation rehabilitation programme adopted in Chelyabinsk region
(for personal use only)
CHELYABINSK, November 30 (Itar-Tass) -- The rehabilitation programme of radiation-affected territories has been adopted in the Chelyabinsk region. The programme will be implemented till 2010, regional minister of radiation and ecological security Gennady Podtesov said at the public hearings on Wednesday. According to him, "dozens of millions of roubles are assigned for the implementation of the programme from the regional budget and from revenues of the chemical plant Mayak."
Meanwhile, it was stated at the hearings that the implementation of such large-scale project may drag out without funds from the federal budget.
The minister recalled that in the first years of the Mayak activity several crashes occurred at the plant that resulted in the radiation contamination of five modern districts of the Chelyabinsk region and several districts of the Kurgan and Sverdlovsk regions. The population of 42 settlements were evacuated. "More than 250,000 people live in the affected districts in the Chelyabinsk region, but the previous federal programmes for the rehabilitation of people and territories were not completed over the lack of financing," it was stated at the hearings.
The strict secrecy regime that was imposed in the region inflicted the significant damage to people for several decades. People kept using the water of rivers and lakes, fishing in them, picking mushrooms and berries, not suspecting that all this is dangerous for health and even for life, it was stated at the hearings. Now people know practically all dangerous places. The rehabilitation works have been done in some areas.
Russian company Aspect-Konversia (Rosatomï¿½s daughter company) signed a contract on implementation of Lepse storage ship dismantling.
The Lepse is a floating storage facility for spent nuclear fuel, and liquid and solid radioactive wastes from the Russian icebreaker fleet.
It is expected that the other party of the project, TACIS program, will sign the program in the nearest future, Interfax reported with the reference to the sources in the Atomflot management.
According to the contract, the projectï¿½s preliminary stages will be carried out during 18 months. In particular, it concerns the development of the best alternative of the facility dismantlement, working out of the chosen alternative, paper work for the tender. The Lepse managing committee has been established and headed by the NEFCO representative Magnus Rystedt.
The technical support vessel Lepse presents the biggest nuclear and radiation risk of all retired nuclear service ships in Russia. In 1988, the vessel was taken out of service, and, in 1990, it was assigned the category of "laid-up vessel." The Lepse's spent nuclear fuel storage holds (in casks and caissons) 639 spent fuel assemblies (SFAs), and a significant portion of them is severely damaged. Extraction of the SFAs from storage holds would present a radiation risk and be a complex technical operation, the framework for which has still not been worked out. The ship is presently laid-up at Atomflot, which carries out service on nuclear powered icebreakers. Atomflot is located in the Kola Bay, two kilometres from the boarder of Murmansk city, which has population of 400,000. The ship is operated by joint stock company Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCo).
1. INTERVIEW: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice With Barbara Slavin and Ray Locker of USA Today, November 28, 2005, Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of State/Bureau of International Information Programs
(for personal use only)
MS. SLAVIN: You seem to have more leverage, though, on some issues. I don't know if this is just because it's second term. Chuck Hagel said at the Council on Foreign Relations the other week that Colin Powell was succeeding in absentia and he pointed to some of the changes he'd made on policy toward North Korean, Iran in particular.
SECRETARY RICE: I think that the changes are overstated. The six-party talks come out of policies that the President and Colin Powell pursued and that six-party framework was really solidified in that period. We've been able to press it forward and perhaps to do some things with it that were not done before, but that structure has been in place and was working well before -- when I was National Security Advisor, well before I became Secretary.
MS. SLAVIN: Right. But certainly if you look at positions on civilian nuclear power, there's an acknowledgement that North Korea can have it at some point, and Iran there's been quite a substantial shift. I recall talking to you just on the trip a month or so ago, where you were very leery of the notion that Iran could continue converting uranium into uranium hexafluoride. Now, my understanding is the U.S. is supporting a Russian proposal that would allow Iran to continue to convert.
SECRETARY RICE: I think, Barbara, on that trip I remember precisely what I said. I think I said that the fuel cycle, in total, is a difficult -- is a problem, but that everybody recognizes that the real problem is uranium -- enrichment and --
MS. SLAVIN: You talked about stockpiles of UF6.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, I said that if there were a proposal that would allow the Iranians access to large stockpiles of UF6, that that would be a problem, on their territory, that that would be a problem. So we'll see where the Russian proposal comes out. We're prepared to see if the Russians can explore something that may bring the Iranians around to the recognition that they cannot enrich and reprocess on their territory, that they have a credibility problem with the international community as to the fuel cycle. We'll see whether it works. But we do have the votes for a referral to the Security Council at a time of our choosing.
MS. SLAVIN: It wasn't of our choosing last week.
SECRETARY RICE: No, we decided there was time for the -- that there should be time for the Russians, who wanted the opportunity to explore this, to have a chance to explore it. So "at a time of our choosing" means at a time of our choosing.
2. Press Statement: Under Secretary Burns to travel to Slovenia and Russia
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns will travel to Russia on December 1-2 for meetings of the U.S.-Russia Counterterrorism Working Group, and to Slovenia on December 4-6 for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europeï¿½s (OSCE) annual Ministerial.
Under Secretary Burns will represent the United States in the 14th session of the U.S.-Russia Counterterrorism Working Group in Moscow December 1-2, 2005. Over two days the Working Group, comprised of American and Russian officials and headed on the Russian side by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak, will discuss a broad range of topics, including Afghanistan, counter-narcotics, transportation security, terrorist financing, and law enforcement.
In Slovenia, the Under Secretary will head the U.S. delegation to the OSCE Ministerial to deliver a message of strong U.S. support for the OSCE and recognize its vital role in expanding democracy, security, and human rights in Europe and Eurasia in the 30 years since the signing of the Helsinki Final Act.
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