The government moved a step closer Friday to gaining approval to dispose of 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium by turning it into a less dangerous fuel for commercial power reactors.
The staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended that the commission approve licenses for building a plant at the federal Savannah River complex in South Carolina where the plutonium would be processed into a mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel.
Some environmentalists and nuclear nonproliferation advocates have opposed the conversion plans, arguing plutonium should not be used to make commercial reactor fuel and that, instead, the weapons-grade material should be encased in glass and buried.
While the NRC staff acknowledged a severe accident at the proposed facility could cause additional latent cancer fatalities among workers and the public, it said "the likelihood of such an accident occurring is expected to be very low, highly unlikely."
"The overall benefits of the proposed MOX facility outweigh its disadvantages and cost," the NRC staff concluded in a final environmental impact report on the proposed project. The commission is expected to decide in the coming months whether to issue a construction license - and later, an operating permit - for the facility.
The conversion to mixed-oxide fuel is a key part of the Bush administration's effort to safeguard the tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium held by both the United States and Russia and reduce the risks of the material being obtained by terrorists or a rogue state.
Under an agreement with Russia, the United States plans to blend 34 tons of U.S. plutonium no longer needed for warheads with depleted uranium so it can no longer be used in a bomb and can be used in a commercial power reactor. Russia would also build a conversion plant for 34 tons of its excess plutonium.
The Energy Department had hoped to begin building the conversion plant at Savannah River later this year, but construction has been held up because of complications that have delayed construction of a facility in Russia.
Tom Clements, an adviser to Greenpeace International on nuclear issues, called the NRC staff report "woefully inadequate" and criticized its dismissal of health and environmental risks should there be a release of radiation.
"They have to plan for the eventuality that there is some kind of accident," said Clements. "Basically the have just waved it off as something being acceptable."
The NRC staff report said the primary benefit of the conversion program would be the reduction in the amount of excess plutonium under storage. It concluded that converting the material to a reactor-suitable mixed-oxide fuel is safer than continued storage of surplus plutonium.
The report said the routine operation of a conversion plant and proposed support facilities would pose virtually no radiological risk to people or the environment within 50 miles of the complex.
But it acknowledged an accidental release of radioactive tritium from a plutonium disassembly facility to be built as part of the project could cause between three and 100 additional latent cancer fatalities, with higher estimates if contaminated food is eaten.
"However, it is regarded as highly unlikely that such an accident would occur and the risk to any population, including low-income and minority communities, is considered to be low," concluded the NRC staff report.
1. Russian Scientists Ready to Help Proliferators, Claims US Expert
The Daily Times
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Russiaï¿½s 600 nuclear scientists are a danger to the world since, according to a survey, 21 percent of them are willing to work for anyone if paid the right price, including North Korea, Iran and Syria.
This was stated by Prof Michael Nacht of the University of California, Berkeley, at a meeting organised by the Woodrow Wilson Centre on Thursday.
According to the professor, who worked for the Clinton administration in a senior advisory capacity, the motives of some Russian nuclear scientists may not be entirely monetary, since they believe that by contributing to nuclear proliferation, they would weaken the unchallenged power of the United States. Russia still considers itself a major player in world affairs and would like to regain the position it had before the collapse of the communist state. Some Russians believe that to make the world safe from proliferation is to make it safe for the United States. Helping another state acquire nuclear capability would amount to ï¿½sticking it in the eye of America,ï¿½ the University of California academic said, adding, ï¿½They see America as king of the hill and they would like to bring the king down for a host of reasons.ï¿½
Prof Nacht said the US must think of ï¿½real incentives for real peopleï¿½ to discourage non-nuclear states from wanting to join the club. He said the Bush administration considered Russia as a ï¿½waste of timeï¿½ when it came to its vast nuclear arsenal and underemployed corps of scientists. The US believed that Moscow ï¿½would do what it would do.ï¿½ There is ï¿½great cynicismï¿½ about Russia in Washington, he added, which was why the danger from Russia in terms of proliferation is not quite appreciated here or even much cared about. He also claimed that millions of people around the world want ï¿½World Trade Centre II to go down.ï¿½
Turning to Pakistan, Prof. Nacht accused America of having ignored Islamabadï¿½s march towards nuclear capability because of other policy interests. During the 1980s, it was the role that Pakistan was playing in Afghanistan that made America ï¿½look the other way.ï¿½ He claimed that 20 years ago, the Dutch authorities told CIA about the Dr AQ Khan network, but were told that the CIA would like to ï¿½follow the trailï¿½ and see where it led. That, the speaker added, was gathering intelligence for its own sake and then filing it away. He said Gen Pervez Musharraf was the ï¿½key figureï¿½ for America today and would continue to be supported even though he was delivering far less than what he was promising. The thinking in Washington was, ï¿½He is Jeffersonian; donï¿½t put him in the slammer.ï¿½ He said he himself was present during the Clinton presidency at a briefing where graphic evidence was shown of Chinese M-11 missiles arriving in Pakistan. There was absolutely no question about the authenticity of the evidence but America ignored it because of ï¿½higher policy considerations.ï¿½ The fact was that Washington was not prepared to impose sanctions against China, as it would have been obliged to do, had the information been made public and acted upon. He said the reason Dr AQ Khan was ï¿½off limitsï¿½ to the United States was because Gen Musharraf was useful in other ways and Washington did not want to push him too hard.
Prof Nacht agreed that the US response to Indiaï¿½s ï¿½peaceful nuclear explosionï¿½ in 1974 was weak. It was hoped in Washington that India being a democracy would eventually ï¿½come aroundï¿½ despite its close ties with the Soviet Union. He recalled a meeting in New Delhi with K Subramanium, Indian security expert, during which the Indian told him, ï¿½We missed the Industrial Revolution. We are not going to miss the Nuclear Revolution.ï¿½ He added that Subramanium brought ï¿½his nose close to mine and said that even if you stand on your nose, India would not be turned away from the road it has taken.ï¿½
The University of California security expert said it was his belief that there would be a major terrorist incident involving a ï¿½mushroom cloudï¿½ which would make the world sit up and act. So far, he said, a comprehensive plan to deal with the enormous threat that exists has not been drawn up. As for Iran, it was his opinion that it is Iraq that is holding Washington back, indicating that once the situation in Iraq improves and the US involvement has scaled down, America would move against Iran. As for Vice President Dick Cheneyï¿½s recent remark about Israel taking out the Iranian nuclear programme, Prof Nacht said those most surprised by this announcement were the Israelis who had no intention of carrying out the American assignment. Since Israel had destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, every country had learnt its lesson. Nuclear facilities and installations were now scattered around and built deep under the ground.
2. Program Links Russian Scientists with U.S. Firms
The Dallas Morning News
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Problem: Obsolete offshore oil platforms need to be removed. Solution: Use shock waves from explosive charges on the sea floor to cut through the thick steel feet with minimal environmental disturbance.
Problem: Siberian oilfields are laced with corrosive materials that can eat through steel pipes in months. Solution: Inject the fields with engineered molecules dissolved in solvents to protect pipes for decades.
These are examples of Texas Oil Patch ingenuity, but not the way you think. The inventors once worked on Soviet nuclear and biological weapons.
Today these Russians are working from home with researchers at Halliburton Energy Services in Alvarado and Nalco Energy Services in Sugar Land under a federal program aimed at stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Nalco Energy Services is teamed with a group that includes researchers at the State Research Center for Applied Microbiology in Obolensk, Russia, where scientists once engineered strains of anthrax and plague.
"When the military funding stopped, the talent at the institute was waiting to work," said Dave Giddings, Nalco Energy Service's vice president for research.
Nalco sells its own line of anti-corrosion fluids around the world, but "getting a local Russian invention would be a very big and important distinction for us in the Russian market," Dr. Giddings said.
Since 1992, about $600 million of U.S. tax money has been spent to fund peaceful research by 58,000 scientists at weapons labs in the former Soviet Union. Former weapons scientists in Iraq and Libya are also starting to get help.
No brain drain
The programs aim to prevent a "brain drain" of weapons experts who no longer have economic security.
"The fear we had in the early 1990s was of top Russian scientists ending up in Syria, Iraq, North Korea, Libya ï¿½ all the scary places that had desires for weapons programs," said Laura Holgate, a former federal nonproliferation specialist now with the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington public interest group.
The Russian scientists stayed put. It was a rogue Pakistani scientist, A.Q. Khan, who used his bomb-making knowledge to create a nuclear bazaar that sold to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
Still, it's helped scientists who lost their jobs to nonproliferation. And after a decade of research grants and cooperation, some are making money.
The U.S. Department of Energy and a corporation called the United States Industry Coalition have chaperoned more than 150 commercial efforts between Russian weapons scientists and U.S. companies, including Nalco and Halliburton, under a $25 million-a-year program called Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention.
Of the 30 or so that have a product ready for market, revenues exceed $20 million. They employ more than 1,100 workers in the former Soviet Union and nearly 240 in the United States.
"Our goal is sustainable jobs for Russian scientists and for Americans," said Victor Alessi, president and chief executive of the United States Industry Coalition. "We're not closing a factory in Detroit to put one in Russia. We're creating businesses."
Halliburton Energy Services is negotiating for commercial rights to the explosives technique developed with the Russian Federal Nuclear Center in the closed city of Sarov, said Halliburton technology manager James Barker. Halliburton's office in Aberdeen, Scotland, thinks it has a market for the technique, and Mr. Barker also sees a market in the Gulf of Mexico.
Moving weapons employees into businesses is becoming more important as Russia and the United States try to shrink their nuclear weapons labs. Most of Russia's weapons labs are one-industry towns in remote Siberia, and economic hardship could tempt not just a scientist but even a janitor with access to bomb-grade materials to make a deal with outsiders.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Ms. Holgate said, nonproliferation specialists began realizing that terrorists undeterred by the threat of retaliation might pose an even greater danger than weapons in the hands of rogue nations.
"It's not the bomb design that is most desirable. The Hiroshima design is well known, and a terrorist group isn't going to want an untested design," she said. "What is really the thing to worry about is the [weapons-grade radioactive] materials."
That means finding new work for the janitor as well as the lab director. And if it grows the global oil industry in ways friendly to the environment, so much the better.
1. Customs Service Seizes Depleted Uranium in Russia Region
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The customs service in a Volga region has seized more than 37 kilograms of depleted uranium.
A spokesman at the Federal Customs Service told Itar-Tass on Friday that workers of the Orenburg customs service spotted the dangerous cargo on Wednesday during examination of a car with a radiation detector.
The radiation-emitting object was a cylindrical protective container intended for remote manipulation with radioactive substances.
It contained 37.5 kilograms of uranium-238, which is a depleted form.
An owner of the container described it in a customs declaration as a ï¿½dumb-bellï¿½. He said he had found it at a dump and used it for exercise and sometimes straightened nails with it.
Specialists are looking for the origin of the container.
A criminal case on an attempt of contraband of a radioactive substance has been opened.
Specialists of the Russian Agency of Atomic Energy told Itar-Tass that neither a conventional nor ï¿½dirtyï¿½ bomb could be made from the confiscated amount of uranium.
Uranium-238 is one of the most available elements in the earth crust. About 60,000 tonnes of uranium a year is extracted in the world.
1. Nunn-Lugar and Bush-Lincoln On World-Saving Responsibility
The Bluffton News Banner
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The new Nunn-Lugar scorecard is in, and that bi-partisan program de-activated another 312 Russian nuclear warheads in 2004.
Begun in 1991 at the very time this editor was in the Kremlin as the Soviet Union came to an end, the bi-partisan action led by Democratic Senator Sam Nunn and Republican Senator Dick Lugar now has dismantled and destroyed a total of 6,564 such warheads.
The potential prevention of a gigantic nuclear disaster has been an incredible achievement, even though the task is not over.
However, by stepping up at the very start of real access to the Soviet Union in its December of 1991 end, Lugar and Nunn have led one of human-kindï¿½s greatest ever achievements for preserving this planet and its inhabitants.
When President Bush proclaims in his start of a new term that leading freedomï¿½s cause throughout the world is Americaï¿½s need and vision, he is recognizing how dangerous and irresponsible it would be for America to walk away from the responsibility of world leadership on that freedom course.
And this reflects the highest tribute also to those who have served and do serve the nationï¿½s armed forces, especially those with great sacrifice in their lives and families.
It is very significant that in the early period of the Civil War, as the Union was enduring reverses and seeming costly blunders at times, there were mighty political elements for packing it in and walking away -- also blaming President Lincoln.
But when President Lincoln focused on the need to end the evil of slavery and stand for real freedom, he stood up to the tent-folders and summer soldiers. He saw this nationï¿½s need and role.
In 1991, Senators Nunn and Lugar picked up this torch to act instead of walking away with so-called ï¿½peace dividends.ï¿½
More of the scorecard for 2004 shows that in the 13th anniversary year of an effort extending through presidential periods of both the first George Bush and the second George Bush plus all the years of President Clintonï¿½s administration, the Nunn-Lugar action in 2004 alone:
-- Removed 312 warheads from Russian missile systems.
-- Destroyed 41 SS-18 Satan missiles, each capable of delivering 10 independently-targeted warheads to cities in the United States.
-- Destroyed 18 Backfire bombers in the Ukraine. Each was capable of carrying 3 nuclear air-launched cruise missiles.
-- Destroyed 93 AS-4/Kh22 long-range nuclear air-launched ballistic missiles in Russian that were carried by Bear and Blackjack bombers.
-- Destroyed 81 SS-N-23, SS-N-20, and SS-N-18 submarine-launched ballistic missiles in Russia that were carried aboard Typhoon, Delta III and Delta IV submarines.
-- Destroyed 9 SS-24 mobile intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, each capable of carrying 10 independently-targeted warheads to targets in the United States.
Not even counted in this scorecard are the Nunn-Lugar eliminations of chemical and biological weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. further had led through Nunn-Lugar the engaging of 58,000 former weapons scientists into peaceful work and has funded 750 projects employing 14,000 such scientists in peaceful pursuits. The Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan are now nuclear weapons-free.
In 2004, for the first time Nunn-Lugar funds went outside the ex-Soviet Union as chemical weapons in Albania were destroyed.
Sen. Lugar aims to reintroduce this year his 2004-proposed legislation to refine and expand the Nunn-Lugar weapons reduction efforts to reduce dangers of Al Qaeda acquisitions.
What Senator Lugar realizes is the U.S. cannot leave to chance or mere hopes for actions by others, the issues of U.S. and world safety, and that the U.S. Secretary of State must pursue this country-by-country, as his measure would authorize her doing.
This writer expects to return to Russia this summer after much great progress, despite problems and shortcomings there, since those hectic times of 1991 -- that progress greatly enhanced by Nunn and Lugar.
2. Senate Bill Would Boost Nonproliferation Measures
Global Security Newswire
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U.S. Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.) proposed this week to re-establish U.S. efforts to convert Russian nuclear weapons production sites to civilian use (see GSN, Jan. 14).
The proposal was contained in a massive counterterrorism bill introduced Wednesday by Biden, the Targeting Terrorists More Effectively Act of 2005. The bill would re-establish the U.S. Energy Departmentï¿½s Nuclear Cities Initiative, which once sought to reduce the Russian nuclear weapons complex but was allowed to expire in 2003, according to a Biden press release. His legislation would authorize $60 million to be appropriated to the Energy Department for the effort (see GSN, Sept. 22, 2003).
The bill also would require the Defense and Energy departments to work with Moscow to consolidate and dismantle Russian tactical nuclear weapons. Each department would be authorized $25 million for the effort.
In addition, the bill would authorize an additional $40 million for the Defense Department in fiscal 2006 for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which seeks to secure and dispose of Soviet-era weapons of mass destruction. Of that money, $15 million would support efforts to accelerate security upgrades at nuclear weapons sites located in Russia and other former Soviet states; $10 million would be used to accelerate security upgrades at warhead storage sites outside the former Soviet Union; and $15 million would go toward accelerating biological nonproliferation efforts in Kazakhstan, Georgia and Uzbekistan.
The bill would also enact into law a measure proposed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) to remove restrictions placed on aid provided through the CTR program to both projects within the former Soviet Union and in other countries (see GSN, Nov. 15, 2004).
Last year, the CTR program deactivated more than 300 Russian nuclear warheads, bringing the total deactivated since the effort began in 1991 to more than 6,500, Lugarï¿½s office announced yesterday.
The program last year also resulted in the destruction of 41 Russian SS-18 ICBMs and 22 SS-18 missile silos, 18 Backfire strategic bombers in Ukraine; 93 AS-4/KH-22 long-range nuclear air-launched cruise missiles; 81 SS-N-23, SS-N-20 and SS-N-18 submarine-launched ballistic missiles; and nine SS-24 ICBM mobile launchers.
Bidenï¿½s bill would authorize $10 million in fiscal 2006 aid to Pakistan for nonproliferation programs. The assistance would be part of a broader $800 million aid package.
Under Bidenï¿½s bill, however, the president would be required to certify that no U.S. economic or military aid to Pakistan was being passed on by the Pakistani government ï¿½to a person that is opposing or undermining the efforts of the United States government to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons.ï¿½
Pakistanï¿½s commitment to nonproliferation has come into the question following the confession in early 2004 of former top nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan to having orchestrated the transfer of nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
The bill contains a finding of Congress that ï¿½Pakistanï¿½s maintenance of a global missile and nuclear proliferation network would be inconsistent with Pakistan being considered an ally of the United States.ï¿½
Russia plans to install next generation air defense and powerful tactical missile systems later this year, strongly upgrading the country's defenses, Interfax reported Friday.
Russia plans to procure two missiles which have been in developing stages for years: the S-400 anti-missile weapon with a range of up to 400 kilometers (240 miles) and the Iskander system which is an upgrade of the Soviet-era Scud used in the Gulf War.
The Iskander came under attention earlier this month amid unconfirmed reports that Moscow was willing to sell the weapon to Israel's arch-rival Syria, with Russia denying the charges.
Oleg Belousov, Russia's deputy defense minister, said the armed forces would purchase six S-400 systems this year. He did not disclose the price, where these would be stationed or whether they might be put up for sale.
The Iskander -- also known as the SS-26 -- is the updated version of the Soviet-era Scud missile used by Saddam Hussein's Iraq against Israel during the Gulf War.
It was first tested by Russia in 1996, has a range of just under 300 kilometers (180 miles), and reportedly can easily overcome existing air defense systems.
Each missile has two 480-kilogram (1,055-pound) warheads that in tests hit targets with an accuracy of 20 meters (yards).
The missile has no NATO equivalent. It is extremely effective because its launch pad is mobile and the missile can be guided through bad weather by satellite or plane radar, according to the Federation of American Scientists arms watchdog group.
1. Russia, US Partnership Under Threat of Terrorism is a Must
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Under the threat of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction Russia and the United States should not neglect their partnership, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at the Russian-US business partnership council.
The outline of his speech is available at the official web site of the Foreign Ministry.
"Under the growing threat of terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other global challenges, our countries cannot neglect their partnership for the sake of someone's ideological prejudices or narrow selfish interests," Mr. Lavrov noted.
According to him, Russia values "the firm position of US President George Bush who has often claimed readiness to fight shoulder to shoulder in our common war against terrorism".
"We assign priority to cooperation with the US in the sphere of disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. An important track of joint work is the promotion of mutual contacts at the level of civil society involving non-governmental organizations and ordinary people," the Russian Foreign Minister noted.
However, Russian-US relations have not always been smooth, he added. "We have different approaches to crisis situations in the world which is normal for world powers with their national interests," Mr. Lavrov said.
In his words, sometimes we face backslides to the past and attempts to act in accordance with 'playing with the zero sum' principle.
"In particular, this concerns some aspects of the US activities on the post-Soviet space, the use of double standards towards the election processes when the conformity of voting results with the principles of openness and democracy is determined by the political expediency," Sergei Lavrov noted.
"It is not a secret that certain forces in the States demand the administration [White House] to change its policy towards Russia and provoke the aggravation of the controversy on the Ukrainian situation, the Yukos case or the situation in the democracy and human rights sphere in Russia," Mr. Lavrov said.
According to him, Russia and the United States learned to separate important aspects from secondary ones. "The experience proves that any problems can be solved by good will, openness, predictability, mutual trust and respect of each other's principles," Russian Foreign Minister stressed.
1. N. Korea Has Bought Complete Nuclear Bomb - Report
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North Korea appears to have bought a complete nuclear weapon from either Pakistan or a former Soviet Union state, a South Korean newspaper said on Thursday quoting a source in Washington.
Seoul Shinmun quoted the source as saying the United States was checking the intelligence.
The purchase was apparently intended to avoid nuclear weapons testing that could be detected from the outside, the source was quoted as saying.
North Korea is believed to have one or two nuclear weapons and possibly more than eight.
U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon said after a visit to the North this month that its second-ranked leader had told his delegation that it possessed nuclear weapons.
Pyongyang has declared that a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, sealed under a 1994 agreement with the United States, had been restarted. Spent nuclear fuel from that reactor could be converted to weapons-grade material.
North Korea has never officially declared that it possessed atomic weapons, speaking instead of its "nuclear deterrent."
U.S. experts who visited the Yongbyon facility said spent plutonium previously stored there had been removed.
North Korea is suspected of running a separate program based on uranium enrichment technology, assisted by a former top Pakistani nuclear scientist.
Russia plans to add two new submarines and seven Topol-M ICBMs to its strategic arsenal, First Deputy Defense Minister Col.-Gen. Alexander Belousov said Friday (see GSN, Jan. 6). The two planned submarines are set to be armed with the new Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile, he said (Vladimir Radyuhin, The Hindu, Jan. 30).
Meanwhile, Russia last year dismantled two Oscar-class nuclear submarines from its Northern Fleet with British financial assistance, the head of the facility where the work was conducted announced Friday (see GSN, Jan. 20; Interfax/BBC Monitoring, Jan. 29).
2. Two Nuclear-Powered Subs to be Added to the Russian Navy in 2005
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In 2005, the Russian Navy will be supplied with two strategic nuclear-powered submarines "Yury Dolgoruky" and "Dmitry Donskoy" carrying on board the newest sea-based missiles systems "Bulava", says First Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Belousov.
"Allegations that all our technology is outdated do not hold water. The performance of our technology is not inferior to that in any other industrialized country," he added.
He also reported that the Russian armed forces are to adopt in 2005 a battalion of new T-90 tanks (40 pieces), two battalions of APC-80s (90 machines) and a battalion of BMP-3s (24 infantry combat vehicles). There are plans to buy two strategic bombers of the TU-160 type, two wings of the modernized SU-27 and a wing of MI-28M helicopters, said Belousov.
This year will also see a battalion of S-400 "Triumph" anti-aircraft missile launchers (six pieces) being put on combat duty, continued Belousiv.
The space troops are to accept nine new vehicles while the missile troops of strategic designation will be supplied with seven rockets and five rocket carriers.
In 2005, the Russian army's 29 units will be brought to strength on a contract-based scheme.
"First, the barracks will be refurbished to act as hostels and we have got a certain experience in doing this. Secondly, we shall build barracks of the boarding hotel type as well as premises for studies and training," said Belousov.
The first deputy defense minister reported about 20 units to assume a contract-based scheme in 2006 and 11 in 2007.
1. Will Lukashenko Be Able to Build Nuclear Power Station?
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A prominent Belarussian opposition leader, Vladimir Parfenovich, has sensationally announced that the country's leadership has endorsed a program to build a nuclear power station in the republic. Mr. Parfenovich warned that if President Alexander Lukashenko were to get his hands on nuclear energy, Belarus would become the North Korea of Europe, Gazeta writes.
Mr. Lukashenko's desire to see a nuclear power station in the republic can be indirectly confirmed by his speeches: he did not rule out this possibility at a January 21 session on the country's energy security. The president also said that he had refused to sign an additional protocol to the agreement on the non-proliferation of nuclear technologies with the IAEA.
Belarussian scientists are convinced that there is no alternative to the construction of a nuclear power station from the viewpoint of the energy sector's strategic development. They believe a station could be built within five to eight years. However, Belarus does not have the money to build a $3 billion ,1280-megawatt plant.
Apart from building its own station, Belarus is also considering the joint construction of a unit with Russia at the latter's stations in Smolensk or Kursk, which would be 1.5 times cheaper.
Russian experts do not believe that Belarus has any real reason for its plans. The possibility that Russia will build a nuclear power station in Belarus using an inter-government loan as, for example, it is building in India or China, cannot be considered even hypothetically.
Theoretically, not only Russia, but also France or the US could build a unit in Belarus. But a serious political question arises: would they want to do that? A Russian expert close to the Federal Atomic Energy Agency doubts they would.
Meanwhile, Mr. Parfenovich has already started setting up a committee of the Belarussian anti-nuclear front.
2. Russian Nuclear Industry Earned $3.5 Billion on Export in 2004
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The head of Russian nuclear agency Alexander Rumyantsev informed about the last year results and mentioned that the export revenues were $0.5 billion higher than in 2003 at a press-conference last year, daily Kommersant reported.
According to Rumyantsev, it can be explained by the higher prices for the nuclear fuel and uranium products in 2004. The Russian-American HEU-LEU contract generates a stable annual income equal $450-470m, TVEL corporation earned $1 billion, he added. HEU-LEU contract was signed about 11 years ago and stipulates down-blending of the weapon grade plutonium into the low enrichment uranium, which could be used as fuel at the US nuclear plants.
Alexander Rumyantsev complained that no new contracts for nuclear power plants construction abroad has been signed in 2004, but in 2005 China might announce a tender for construction of two reactor units. The head of Rosatom also mentioned that all the technical problems (cracks on the steam generator pipes) at the first reactor unit of Tianwan nuclear power plant, are solved. ï¿½The first reactor is practically ready for start-upï¿½ he added. Rosatom representatives are hoping to launch the second reactor at the Tianwan nuclear power plant in the end of this year, Kommersant reported.
Concerning India, Rumyantsev said there are ï¿½factors for delay in the construction scheduleï¿½ again due to the equipment faults, but it could be solved as well. Cooperation with Iran did not raise big concerns and reactor in Bushehr is to be launched in the end of this year, and connected to the grid in 2006, Rumyantsev said. ï¿½It goes well with foreign cooperation as we manage to build five units simultaneously, but we are building to little homeï¿½ complained the head of the Russian Nuclear Agency.
On December 16, 2004, unit no.3 was launched at the Kalinin NPP. The completion of the resumed reactorï¿½s construction turned out to be more expensive than construction of a new reactor abroad ï¿½ the price-tag for the new third reactor at the Kalinin NPP reached $1.3 billion. Rosatom specialists have not decided yet which unit should be completed next. There are three unfinished reactors in Russia: the unit no.2 at the Volgodonsk NPP, unit no.5 at the Balakovo NPP, and unit no.5 at the Kursk NPP, Kommersant reported.
On January 19, 2005 the Kola NPP finalised SAT (Site Acceptance tests) for low active radwaste compactor supplied by the firm CPC (USA).
The compactor was delivered in the frames of the international technical co-operation project financed by the Swedish International Project (SIP) in the frames of technical assistance to the East-European countries program, reported Kola NPPï¿½s website.
Implementation of compactor into the plant process will allow to substantially reduce the quantity of low active incombustible wastes that will help to get more storage areas. Industrial rubbish will be packed into the special metal barrels by means of the high-powered press, then sealed and sent for storage. Application of compactor will make the work of the Waste Treatment Department personnel significantly easier that, in its turn, will facilitate to reduce the radiation burden on personnel. The new compactor will replace the worn-out and obsolete press of much lower capacity previously used at the plant. The price of the compactor is $120 thousand.
1. Alexander Yakovenko, the Spokesman of Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Answers a Russian Media Question Regarding "DPRK Nuclear Charges Acquisition" Reports
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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Question: There have again appeared reports in some media alleging that the DPRK has acquired several nuclear charges in ex-Soviet countries. How likely is this in actual fact?
Answer: Information of this kind does not correspond to reality. As is known, after the breakup of the Soviet Union nuclear weapons are only in Russia, and under reliable control. None are to be found in all the other CIS states, for a long time now; for they are all parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Thus, there are no nuclear weapons in these countries.
2. Speech of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the meeting of the Security Council, Moscow, Kremlin
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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Good afternoon, dear colleagues.
At this, our first Security Council meeting of this year, we have on the agenda our cooperation in the security area with our partners throughout the world in general and in the CIS. I am thinking primarily of partners such as NATO and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.
This subject covers many different areas, concerns key aspects of our foreign policy and security strategy and influences the outlook for integration processes underway in Europe and in the post-Soviet area.
I would like to say right from the start that we think the choice made in favour of dialogue and cooperation with NATO was the right one and has proved fruitful. This choice has clearly strengthened the Russian Federationï¿½s international position and has given us additional, in many ways new, possibilities for reaching our national objectives.
In just a very short time we have taken a gigantic step from past confrontation to working together and from mutual accusations and stereotypes to creating modern instruments for cooperation such as the Russia-NATO Council.
I believe it is of principal importance that we have been able to concentrate our work together with NATO on areas that correspond to Russiaï¿½s long-term interests. This concerns above all our security interests ï¿½ the possibilities we have for countering terrorism, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and fighting drug trafficking and organised crime.
I remind you that in Afghanistan we were able to deal a serious blow to international terrorism and in so doing could strengthen the CISï¿½ southern borders. To a great extent it was the unprecedented close cooperation between Russia and NATO, Russia and individual NATO member countries, that made this possible.
I would like to note that relations between Russia and NATO have already become a real factor in ensuring international stability. As partners we are able to hold frank discussions and work out solutions for settling crisis situations. It has now also become normal practice for us to hold joint military exercises.
Today we are ready to move on to a new level of cooperation in a number of military and military-technical areas. There are plans to work through the questions of operational compatibility between Russiaï¿½s and NATOï¿½s armed forces and joint participation in liquidating man-made and natural disasters.
It is also clear that Russia and NATO do not share the same views on every point. We remain convinced that there is no real justification for NATOï¿½s geographical expansion. Historically our country has had and, objectively still has today, a significant and already established role in maintaining regional stability throughout the territory of the Commonwealth of Independent States. We have already achieved much in this area and have gained unique experience. But it is not enough to depend on this capital alone.
We have already discussed this issue many times before. Russiaï¿½s cooperation with its traditional partners must be attractive and give our neighbours and allies tangible benefits and advantages. We must be able to offer them more effective and competitive solutions to our common problems ï¿½ economic, political, humanitarian and security problems. This includes help in settling regional conflicts, protection from common threats, strengthening the borders, technical modernisation and training personnel for their national armed forces. These are not areas where we can allow ourselves to simply make use of the leftovers, as it were, and skimp and save on means and resources that are not really so substantial. We are not wasteful in this area.
I have said many times before that work in the CIS is a priority element in our foreign policy doctrine. This approach should be the principle behind the governmentï¿½s work and that of all the agencies concerned. We already discussed this point at the Security Council meeting that examined Russiaï¿½s policy in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Now a few words on the reserves we can draw on to build up our cooperation with NATO. And this is in both our interests and those of NATO itself.
I think that one new area we could work in would be to establish direct working contact between NATO and integration organisations the CIS countries participate in such as the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. This organisation after all, like NATO, is a mutually complementary element of the global and regional security system and to combine their respective potential would have a considerable positive effect.
Overall, we need to be able to offer our NATO partners well-grounded initiatives for intensifying our cooperation and achieving concrete, practical results on an ongoing basis.
It is also extremely important not to lose sight of another point, which is that in building our relations with NATO today, we must take into account the ongoing transformations that organisation is undergoing. I am referring here to the still ongoing internal discussions between the NATO member countries on the models to follow and the prospects for further transformation.
Modern Russia has already proved on more than one occasion that it can be a reliable strategic partner, a responsible partner able to take on a significant share of commitments for maintaining regional security and stability in the world in general.
In this aim we are ready to continue actively developing our dialogue with NATO and making our relations as beneficial as possible not only for Russia but also for its allies.
Regarding our relations with the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, you know the latest decisions ï¿½ concerning personnel training and selling our arms at domestic Russian prices. Our partners have reacted very positively to these decisions. We must continue to study our alliesï¿½ needs attentively and react in the right way. Not to our own detriment, of course. But in some areas there is cause to establish a certain preferential regime and I think that in this area it is fully justified.
Today we will discuss these two questions that I have just set out. I would like to ask Igor Sergeyevich [Ivanov] to include on our agenda in the future the subject of our relations with our European partners in the security area. We know that serious consolidation processes are underway there in this area. Even more so than in NATO, the European security system is in a state of change and transformation and decisions are being taken. We keep up an ongoing dialogue with our partners, but for this dialogue to be productive, carefully considered, justified and systemic, we need to give it our constant attention.
Destroying 18 Backfire bombers in Ukraine, each was capable of carrying 3 nuclear air-launched cruise missiles;
Destroying 93 AS-4/Kh-22 long-range nuclear air-launched cruise missiles that were carried by Bear and Blackjack bombers;
Destroying 81 SS-N-23, SS-N-20, and SS-N-18 submarine-launched ballistic missiles in Russia that were carried aboard Typhoon, Delta III, and Delta IV submarines; and,
Destroying 9 SS-24 mobile intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, each capable of carrying 10 independently-targeted warheads.
Beyond the scorecardï¿½s nuclear elimination, the Nunn-Lugar program secures and destroys chemical and biological weapons, and employs former weapons of mass destruction scientists in peaceful research initiatives. The International Science and Technology Centers have engaged 58,000 former weapons scientists in peaceful work. The International Proliferation Prevention Program has funded 750 projects involving 14,000 former weapons scientists and created some 580 new peaceful high-tech jobs. Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan are nuclear weapons free as a result of cooperative efforts under the Nunn-Lugar program.
In 1991, Senator Lugar (R-IN) and former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) authored the Nunn-Lugar Act, which established the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. This program has provided U.S. funding and expertise to help the former Soviet Union safeguard and dismantle its enormous stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, means of delivery and related materials. In 1997, Lugar and Nunn were joined by Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) in introducing the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, which expanded Nunn-Lugar authorities in the former Soviet Union and provided WMD expertise to first responders in American cities. In 2003, Congress adopted the Nunn-Lugar Expansion Act, which authorized the Nunn-Lugar program to operate outside the former Soviet Union to address proliferation threats.
In October 2004, Nunn-Lugar funds were used for the first time outside of the former Soviet Union to destroy chemical weapons in Albania. Senator Lugar traveled to Albania on August 27 and 28, 2004, to meet with Albanian leaders and visit the chemical weapons storage facility that has already received US assistance to enhance the security surrounding the stockpile. In meetings with Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Foreign Minister Islami, and Defense Minister Majko, Lugar discussed the need for Nunn-Lugar to assist Albania in destroying its chemical weapons stockpile. The project is expected to take approximately two years to complete at a cost of approximately $20 million to eliminate 16 tons of chemical agent.
Lugar also plans to reintroduce legislation from the 108th Congress to further strengthen U.S. nonproliferation efforts.
The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Act of 2004 would underscore the bipartisan consensus on Nunn-Lugar by streamlining and accelerating Nunn-Lugar implementation and grant more flexibility to the President and the Secretary of Defense to undertake nonproliferation projects outside the former Soviet Union. It also would eliminate congressionally-imposed conditions on Nunn-Lugar assistance that in the past have forced the suspension of time-sensitive nonproliferation projects. The purpose of the bill is to reduce bureaucratic red tape and friction within our government that hinder effective responses to nonproliferation opportunities and emergencies.
The Conventional Arms Threat Reduction Act of 2004, or CATRA, is modeled on the original Nunn-Lugar Act. Its purpose is to provide the Department of State with a focused response to the threat posed by vulnerable stockpiles of conventional weapons around the world, including tactical missiles and man portable air defense systems, or MANPADS. Such missile systems could be used by terrorists to attack commercial airliners, military installations and government facilities here at home and abroad. Reports suggest that Al Qaeda has attempted to acquire these kinds of weapons. In addition, unsecured conventional weapons stockpiles are a major obstacle to peace, reconstruction and economic development in regions suffering from instability.
This bill declares it to be the policy of the United States to seek out surplus and unguarded stocks of conventional armaments, including small arms and light weapons, and tactical missile systems for elimination or safeguarding. It authorizes the Department of State to carry out an accelerated global effort to destroy such weapons and to cooperate with allies and international organizations when possible. The Secretary of State is charged with devising a strategy for prioritizing, on a country-by-country basis, the obligation of funds in a global program of conventional arms elimination. Lastly, the Secretary is required to unify program planning, coordination and implementation of the strategy into one office at the State Department and to request a budget commensurate with the risk posed by these weapons.
The bills Lugar will reintroduce would strengthen the Nunn-Lugar program and other nonproliferation efforts and provide greater flexibility to address emerging threats.
The 9/11 Commission weighed in with an important endorsement of the Nunn-Lugar program, saying, ï¿½Preventing the proliferation of [weapons of mass destruction] warrants a maximum effortï¿½by strengthening counter-proliferation efforts, expanding the Proliferation Security Initiative and supporting the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.ï¿½ The Report went on to say that ï¿½Nunn-Lugar ï¿½ is now in need of expansion, improvement and resources.ï¿½
At a press conference in Washington today, U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, unveiled a comprehensive, four-pronged approach that will enable the United States to more effectively prevent and root out international terrorism.
Bidenï¿½s bill, the first bill he has introduced in the 109th congressional session, seeks to beef up U.S. efforts to tracks down terrorist cells, dry up their financial networks, and take away their ability to obtain nuclear weapons.
ï¿½Since 9/11 we have confronted the threat of international terrorism, but there is much more we can and should do,ï¿½ said Senator Biden. ï¿½The 9/11 Commission reported we are safer, but we are not yet safe. This is not just a military struggle against a new enemy, but a test of our resolve as a nation as well as a test of our military, diplomatic, and intelligence agencies and expertise. At its core it is a struggle for the hearts and minds of millions around the world who are open to Americaï¿½s ideas and ideals and we will have to do much more to reach them.ï¿½
The bill aims to deal with the threat of terrorism on several fronts simultaneously: military; intelligence; diplomatic and homeland security, and has an accountability measure to ensure the broad range of our anti-terrorism efforts are effective. A breakdown of the billï¿½s provisions follows:
Increases the U.S. Special Forces capability by 2,000 personnel over the next several years in an effort to enhance our ability to track down and eliminate international terrorist cells;
Replenishes the National Security Education Program to help address shortfall of trained foreign language experts in the U.S. government, thereby ensuring that our troops and security personnel receive timely information;
Prescribes a more reasonable and clear policy regarding the treatment of detainees, prohibiting the torture of detainees, and creates a national commission to review U.S. policies relating to detainee treatment.
Drying Up Breeding Grounds that Produce Terrorism
Expands funding for basic education and democracy promotion overseas and establishes a ï¿½Middle East Foundationï¿½ located in the region designed to be the center for research and scholarship of democracy, civil society and rule of law;
Increases assistance to accelerate progress in Afghanistan by offering $2.4 billion in economic assistance;
Provides $800 million in assistance to Pakistan, but requires that funds go to entities that support U.S. efforts to halt proliferation.
Seeks a strategy report on counter-terrorism cooperation with Saudi Arabia.
Bolsters border and port security by adding 1,200 Immigration and Customs agents over a five year period;
Authorizes $3 billion over four years to ensure that maritime security standards are met and increases funds available for port security grants.
Creates a new, $5 billion Homeland Security grant program to which cities and counties across the U.S. can apply to directly for first responders, including equipment and training.
Reauthorizes Senator Bidenï¿½s COPS bill and restores the funding for local law enforcement agencies that was dramatically cut by the Bush Administration.
Reduce the Possibility of Terrorists Acquiring Nuclear Weapons
Re-establishes the Nuclear Cities Initiative in Russia, assisting the Russian government in its efforts to close down or downsize several of its nuclear weapons facilities. Also expands funding to accelerate non-proliferation programs throughout the former Soviet Union.
ï¿½We have to be smart when we it comes protecting our nation from terrorist attacks,ï¿½ said Senator Biden. ï¿½We have to do all we can to drain the swamp and ensure that terrorism no longer has a breeding ground. It will take more than American military might. It will take a comprehensive national and international effort at every level; and it will take the collective strength of a nation united in its resolve to succeed.ï¿½
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