1. Russia’s Last Plutonium Reactor to be Stopped in Three Years - Rosatom
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Russia’s last reactor producing weapons-grade plutonium will be shut down in three years’ time, the Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) told Tass.
“Currently there are three weapons-grade plutonium reactors – two in Seversk, the Tomsk Region, and one in Zheleznogorsk, the Krasnoyarsk Territory.
One reactor in Severask will be shut down in 2007, and that in Zheleznogorsk – ADE-2, in 2008, the source said.
Rosatom recalled that the USSR Council of Ministers fifty five years ago today, on February 26, 1950 made the decision to create a unique nuclear facility – a mining and chemical combine - ten kilometers away from Zheleznogorsk at a depth of 250 meters.
The combine has already stopped two of its weapons-grade plutonium reactors, AD and ADE-1. Both had been cooled with water from the Yenisei river. The ADE-2 reactor, commissioned in 1964, had a closed circuit cooling system.
The ADE-2 reactor, apart from producing plutonium, is a source of electricity and thermal power for the classified research center nearby.
“The reactor must keep working until an alternative source of thermal and electric power has been created,” Rosatom said.
The agency’s specialists said the forthcoming shutdown of the plutonium reactors would not affect the strength of the nation’s nuclear forces, because the amount of accumulated plutonium is big enough for the production of the required amount of nuclear arms.
Each of the three reactors at Zheleznogorsk produced 1.5 tonnes of plutonium a year, a Rosatom specialist said.
The light-water graphite-moderated water-cooled reactors, stopped at Zheleznogorsk are identical to the now idle plutonium reactors at Hanford, Washington.
Under a Russian-US treaty the United States pledged to finance the construction of thermoelectric power plants in both Zheleznogorsk and Seversk. The estimated cost of the project is 350 million dollars. The first tranches were disbursed in 2004, Rosatom said.
The classified town of Zheleznogorsk (formerly Krasnoyarsk-26) is located on the Yenisei river, 50 kilometers away from Krasnoyarsk. It has a population of 100,000, including eight thousand employed at the nuclear complex. Zheleznogorsk’s other major industrial facility is the Reshetnev research and production association, a producer of communication satellites. About seventy percent of Russia’s satellites were created in Zheleznogorsk.
2. Countries Discuss Aiding Efforts to Shut Down Three Russian Plutonium-Producing Reactors
Global Security Newswire
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The United States and Russia are seeking international aid for efforts to shut down three Russian nuclear reactors that produce weapon-grade plutonium, a U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration official said today (see GSN, Jan. 28).
The topic was the focus of a conference held Feb. 7-8 in Switzerland, which was attended by representatives from 11 countries, as well as the European Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The three Russian reactors — two located in the closed city of Seversk and one in the closed city of Zheleznogorsk — have been estimated to produce more than 1 metric ton of weapon-grade plutonium per year. To reduce proliferation concerns, the United States is assisting the shutdown of the three reactors by constructing a new fossil-fuel electricity plant at Zheleznogorsk and by refurbishing an existing fossil-fuel facility at Seversk to replace the electricity and heat provided by the reactors.
Construction of the new fossil-fuel plant at Zheleznogorsk is expected to be completed by the end of 2011. The Seversk refurbishment project is set to be fully completed by 2009.
In its fiscal 2006 budget request, the Bush administration requested a net 200-percent increase in funding for the reactor shutdown project, from $44 million to $132 million. The Energy Department has requested the increased funding ahead of expected increased construction activities at Seversk, according to an analysis prepared by the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council.
During this month’s conference, officials discussed finding international funding for a number of proposals put forth by Russia to aid in restoring the environment around the reactors and to provide jobs for the “highly skilled scientists and technicians that will be displaced” when the reactors are closed, according to a National Nuclear Security Administration press release.
“This conference is an historic call to action for the international community to support our collective global nonproliferation objectives,” the agency’s principal deputy administrator, Jerry Paul, said in the release. “Continued funding and support will be critical to our joint efforts to shut down these deteriorating reactors and provide replacement facilities for the two closed cities and their inhabitants.”
The National Nuclear Security Administration official said there had been “concrete interest” in the projects proposed by Russia, especially concerning proposals related to the decommissioning of the reactors, transport of spent fuel away from the sites and environmental remediation of open nuclear waste storage reservoirs. During the conference, four potential donor countries expressed interest in aiding the Russian proposals and plan to further discuss the issue with Moscow bilaterally, the official said.
The official declined to identify the potential donor nations. Representatives from the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, South Korea, Italy, Slovak Republic, Canada, Russia, Switzerland and the United States attended the conference.
The agency official also said that discussions are under way between the United States and other countries to solicit aid for the construction of the planned Zheleznogorsk fossil-fuel plant. Last month, the United Kingdom announced it would provide $20 million for the project.
1. Former Los Alamos Chief Urges Tighter Global Security for Nuclear Materials
American Association for the Advancement of Science
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Siegfried Hecker, one of the world's foremost experts on nuclear weapons, warned that terrorists could steal or purchase sufficient weapons-usable materials to build a crude nuclear weapon and devastate a large city. Speaking at a AAAS lecture, he listed the most likely sources of such nuclear materials as Pakistan, followed by North Korea; highly enriched uranium-fueled research reactors around the world; Russia; Kazakhstan; and Iran.
International cooperation, especially with Russia, is required to tighten security of fissile materials around the world to prevent them from getting into the hands of terrorists, said the former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
"The likelihood of terrorists getting hold of such materials is not great, but it's not zero," Hecker said in comments after the talk. "And since the consequences are so devastating, each country that possesses fissile materials must do everything to secure them."
The highest-probability nuclear threat posed by terrorists is the detonation of a radiological or "dirty bomb," he said. The radioactive materials for creating such a weapon are ubiquitous and are typically used for scientific, medical, agricultural and industrial purposes. But there would be no mushroom cloud—the dispersal would be limited and the radiation might not be lethal on a massive scale. A dirty bomb is "a weapon of mass disruption, not destruction," he said at the 3 February talk organized by the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy.
Still, he said, it could cause "severe" fear, panic and economic disruption. Even as homeland security officials and scientists work to thwart the terrorists, Hecker said, they could do much to prepare the public and the news media for the possibility of such an attack.
Though intelligence experts have warned that terrorists are likely seeking to obtain a nuclear device, such a bomb would be difficult to obtain and difficult to detonate. But a "dirty bomb" is much different. It would typically combine a conventional explosive with readily available radioactive material, with the blast used to disperse that material. While it may not contain enough of a concentrated radiation dose to kill many people or make them sick, it could contaminate an area of perhaps several square blocks of a city.
Hecker said the U.S. could counter the threat by doing more to protect the sources and reduce the supply of low-grade radioactive materials around the world. He stressed that it is critical to prepare the public and media for one of these events, "which will happen," by educating them that radiological threat is very different than a nuclear bomb.
Hecker explained the evolution of the changing nuclear threat as having begun with the devastating bombing of Japan near the close of World War II. The magnitude of the destruction in Japan showed the world that the use of nuclear weapons could end civilization as we know it. Thus, in the ensuing decades, the U.S. has used its nuclear capabilities as a deterrent in containing the expansion of the former Soviet Union, which had developed its own nuclear program.
Since the Soviet collapse, the United States has been working to help secure the materials and the nuclear know-how in chaotic Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union. Today, the goal of such activity is to prevent a nuclear weapon or related materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.
He believes that the terrorists who unleashed the havoc of 9/11 would show no restraint should they acquire nuclear weapons or the materials necessary for their manufacture. "The key is to keep weapons-usable materials out of the hands of terrorists," he said.
Hecker has long been concerned about the proliferation of nuclear weapons. As the director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1986 to 1997 and now a senior fellow at the lab, he is recognized as one of the world's experts on plutonium. He was the last U.S. scientist able to visit North Korea's nuclear program in 2004. North Korea is one of nine countries — the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel are the others — that currently possess, or are suspected of possessing, nuclear weapons.
Hecker explained that the proliferation of nuclear materials was a natural consequence of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace program, initiated in 1953. Eisenhower saw the potential dangers of nuclear weapons and tried to strike the bargain of having countries forego the development of these weapons in return for help in developing peaceful uses of atomic energy, such as energy production, medicine and research. Although much good has come out of the program, such as having almost 20 percent of the world's electricity provided by clean nuclear power, Hecker said, "the United States and Russia put many nuclear facilities and reactors in places in the world that today we wish we wouldn't have."
Though catastrophe and full-blown chaos have largely been avoided following the collapse of the Soviet Union, he said, Russia's large and inadequately secured stock of weapons-usable materials — plutonium and highly enriched uranium — poses a "clear and present danger."
But Hecker said that U.S. nonproliferation efforts continue to be focused in making sure that places where nuclear materials exist are well protected and secure.
"Dr. Hecker's experience with U.S. nuclear weapons and the U.S. weapons program is invaluable in helping the U.S. address nonproliferation challenges as varied as those presented by the states of the former Soviet Union and North Korea," said physicist Benn Tannenbaum, senior program associate at the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy.
1. US, Russia Seen Lagging on Securing Weapons Stocks
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President Bush and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia pledged last week to work together to lock up vulnerable nuclear material, biological agents, and other deadly weapons.
But even before their meeting in Slovakia was complete, the agreement to expand US-Russian cooperation that was begun in 1993 rang hollow to many leading nonproliferation specialists. Virtually nothing has been done, they said, to overcome the legal liability disagreements, US and Russian refusal to open up some of their facilities, and other red tape that has kept tons of weapons at risk of theft since the end of the Cold War.
''I still worry whether there is enough of a management structure in place to make this happen," said Graham Allison, director of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and author of ''Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe." ''This is not something you can do simply by signing a piece of paper."
Indeed, the dozens of projects that make up the Cooperative Threat Reduction program -- securing nuclear facilities, destroying stocks of chemical weapons, and safeguarding bioweapons labs -- remain mired in bureaucracy in both the United States and Russia.
The Russians have not been forthcoming on many aspects of their vast weapons complex, while US legal restrictions have delayed many of the efforts, specialists said.
There have been nettlesome conflicts over the liability of US personnel given access to Russian weapons sites, delaying many programs. ''Failure to resolve this legal issue has prevented construction of key facilities in the United States and Russia to dispose of 68 tons of weapons-grade plutonium," according to the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, a Washington think tank.
At the same time, some of Russia's most prized nuclear and biological research centers, where the Soviets are believed to have genetically engineered the most deadly and resistant pathogens, remain off limits to international nonproliferation specialists.
''It is unfortunate that there were no major breakthroughs on the impediments that are hobbling the realization of their nuclear security goals," Ken Luongo, executive director of the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, said of the Bush-Putin meeting. These include ''the disputes over access to facilities, transparency, and liability protections," he said. ''Deadly terrorists are seeking [weapons of mass destruction] and they are not waiting."
Meanwhile, despite repeated calls to name a nonproliferation chief on each side to oversee and coordinate the efforts, successive US and Russian administrations have failed to give the undertaking the high-level attention it deserves, according to a variety of specialists on the subject.
In the United States, the result has been a collection of overlapping threat reduction programs spread across a variety of agencies.
The Government Accountability Office reported last month that five federal departments -- Defense, Energy, State, Homeland Security, and Commerce -- all implement a variety of threat reduction programs.
The Defense, Energy, and State Departments, the study found, run programs with similar missions in three areas: securing warheads, finding work for unemployed former Soviet weapons scientists, and improving border checks for radioactive material.
Bush and Putin, meeting in Slovakia's capital, Bratislava, pledged to ''bear a special responsibility for the security of nuclear weapons and fissile material, in order to ensure that there is no possibility such weapons or materials would fall into terrorist hands."
They agreed to share ''best practices" for improving security at nuclear facilities; lock up nuclear reactors and material around the world that were initially designed by US and Russian scientists; create joint response plans in the event of a nuclear or radiological incident; and work to ensure that portable, shoulder-fired missiles that can shoot down civilian aircraft are kept away from terrorists.
The two leaders also set up a ''senior interagency group" to oversee implementation of cooperative efforts and to report back on a regular basis on their progress.
But while welcoming the high-level attention given to the problem in Slovakia on Thursday, many specialists fear the momentum will quickly dissipate unless strong action is taken to break through the many obstacles that have held some of the efforts hostage.
Former Democratic senator Sam Nunn, who along with Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, authored the legislation that began the $1.6 billion Cooperative Threat Reduction program, said a variety of issues that remain ''missing in action."
He said liability and access obstacles must be removed. ''There must be an increased measure of reciprocal transparency on both the US and Russian side and an enhanced effort to foster a true partnership to achieve this imperative security agenda," said Nunn, now cochairman of the nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington.
Retired Army Lieutenant General Robert Gard, a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said a major shortcoming has been the failure to appoint threat reduction chiefs whose sole job would be to manage each nation's efforts and report directly to Bush and Putin.
''Both presidents should designate top officials to be accountable to them for leading these efforts to keep nuclear weapons and the materials out of hostile hands, and to ensure that their new commitments are implemented effectively," he said.
Bipartisan pressure is building in Congress to elevate and accelerate the efforts. At least four bills are pending -- including one authored by Lugar -- that would lift some of the legal restrictions and allow the United States to spend some of the threat reduction money more freely.
Representative Heather Wilson of New Mexico, chairwoman of the House Republican Policy Committee's national security and foreign affairs subcommittee, coauthored a report last month calling for a dramatic increase in US efforts and creation of a single set of goals and priorities to be used by all the threat reduction programs.
''Treaties alone will not protect us from this threat," she said.
An agreement on new steps to keep nuclear materials from falling into terrorist hands that President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday won praise from arms control experts.
"If both leaders follow through this commitment energetically and consistently, they have an historic opportunity to lead a fast-paced global coalition to lock down the world's nuclear stockpiles before terrorists and criminals can get to them," said Matthew Bunn, a Harvard University researcher who directed a secret study on the issue for President Bill Clinton.
The Bratislava Initiatives, named for the Slovakian capital where the two leaders met, were lauded for giving new momentum to an issue many experts say has received far too little attention for years.
The two countries agreed to upgrade security at Russia's nuclear facilities, and to cooperate in devising emergency responses to potential nuclear or radiological attacks by terrorists.
They also agreed to jointly develop low-enriched uranium fuel for use in U.S.- and Russian-designed research reactors in other countries. The low-enriched fuel would replace high-enriched uranium that could be used to make weapons.
"We bear a special responsibility for the security of nuclear weapons and fissile material, in order to ensure that there is no possibility such weapons or materials would fall into terrorist hands," the leaders said in a joint statement.
The Soviet Union's collapse in 1990 raised fears that the former superpower's estimated 35,000 nuclear weapons and radioactive materials could be stolen or bought by terrorists or criminals.
Congress responded in 1991 by creating the so-called Nunn-Lugar Program, providing millions of dollars to finance the destruction of Soviet nuclear weapons and related materials. The program was named for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., who left the Senate in 1997.
Additional programs were created later. One provides funds to secure Russian nuclear facilities. Another helps Russian nuclear scientists find new work so they won't sell their knowledge and skills on the black market.
Some Cold War hardliners remained skeptical of Russia, however, worrying that money spent to dispose of Moscow's old weapons would allow the Kremlin to spend its own money on new ones. Congress imposed conditions and certifications that slowed the Nunn-Luger program.
Over the years, Congress also underfunded the programs because "there's a tendency, if something isn't an immediate problem that you can perceive, you give it lower priority than you should," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Gard of the Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation, a Washington advocacy group.
When Bush came into office in 2001, his administration froze the programs and appointed a commission to study the issue.
The panel, led by former Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., and Lloyd Cutler, former White House counsel to President Jimmy Carter, concluded that $30 billion over 10 years was needed to keep Russian nuclear materials safe.
Instead, Bard said, "We've been spending about $1 billion a year." The Bush administration's proposed fiscal 2006 budget for such programs remains at that level - $1.033 billion.
During last year's presidential campaign, however, both Mr. Bush and challenger Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., declared that the greatest threat facing the nation after the 9-11 attacks was the possibility of nuclear materials falling into terrorist hands.
New intelligence reports on the threat of nuclear terrorism appear to have added to the Bush administration's desire to act on the issue. CIA Director Porter Goss testified to Congress last week that enough material already is missing from Russian facilities that "it would be possible for those with know-how to construct a nuclear weapon."
As Bush went to Bratislava to meet Putin, two of the top issues on his agenda were sources of tension in U.S.-Russian relations: concern over Moscow's proposed sale of nuclear fuel to Iran and steps Putin has taken, such as doing away with the election of governors, that critics see as a retreat from democracy.
The initiatives on securing Russian nuclear materials were seen as a way to offset possible friction between the two leaders.
"When you get to a summit like this, you want to get something positive done," noted Bard.
Even so, he said, "This is certainly a worthy issue to be addressed by the leaders of both countries. If you don't get the presidents involved in something this ticklish, the bureaucrats will disagree with each other for years."
Lugar said the agreement was "good news," and Nunn also praised the agreement.
"Each of the steps Presidents Bush and Putin announced today are important," Nunn said in a statement. "Taken together, they indicate that the presidents are now beginning to take personal charge and responsibility for advancing this urgent work."
1. US Inspections of Russia's Nuclear Facilities to Start Before December
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At the end of last week the official website of the Russian president (www.kremlin.ru) posted the text of a joint Russian-American statement on cooperation in nuclear security, which was signed on Thursday in Bratislava by Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush. It looks as if Moscow has agreed to American inspections of all key Russian nuclear facilities, including military ones, writes Kommersant.
The penultimate paragraph of the document, which is present in the Russian version but not on the White House site, is the most interesting. It says that by the end of 2008 all work to upgrade security systems on facilities run by Rosatom and the Defense Ministry of Russia will be finished, and "by July 1, 2005 the Defense Ministry of Russia will determine all the remaining facilities that need improved security systems" and "visits" to these facilities operated by Rosatom and by 12 GU MO (12th main directorate of the Defense Ministry in charge of all Russian nuclear arsenals) will start before December 2005.
Responsibility for inspections has been vested in the joint commission for nuclear security, headed by Rosatom head Alexander Rumyantsev and US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.
"The work to implement the Defense Ministry instructions is already under way," said a source in the Russian military establishment.
It is not clear, however, why the last but one paragraph cannot be found on the White House site. Perhaps Washington has found it better not to publicize Russia's agreement to allow American inspectors to its nuclear facilities, since that might put the Kremlin in an awkward position.
The Russian leadership probably decided to do a deal. Moscow made a concession on the principled issue of nuclear control in Bratislava in a bid to settle other problems to its advantage. Above all, this meant the second-priority issue for the US - democracy in Russia. Mr. Bush refrained from harshly criticizing Mr. Putin and said that he believed in Russia's democratic development.
2. Experts Praise U.S.-Russian Nuclear Security Enhancements, Say More Must Be Done
Global Security Newswire
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While praising the nuclear security measures agreed to yesterday by U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, nonproliferation experts said the two leaders failed to make progress on a number of important bilateral nonproliferation issues (see GSN, Feb. 24).
During a summit yesterday in the Slovak capital of Bratislava, Bush and Putin approved a number of measures designed to enhance U.S.-Russian efforts against nuclear terrorism. They include efforts to improve the nuclear “security culture” in both countries and to share best practices information on improving security at nuclear sites, the establishment of a senior-level bilateral interagency group, improving capabilities to respond to acts of nuclear or radiological terrorism, and continuing efforts to repatriate U.S.- and Russian-origin fresh and spent highly enriched uranium fuel from research reactors around the world and develop new low-enriched uranium for use as replacement fuel.
“We bear a special responsibility for the security of nuclear weapons and fissile material, in order to ensure that there is no possibility such weapons or materials would fall into terrorist hands,” Bush and Putin said in a joint statement.
The so-called “Bratislava Initiatives” were announced amid increasing concerns about the security of Russian nuclear facilities and materials. Earlier this month, CIA Director Porter Goss told the Senate intelligence committee that enough Russian nuclear material was unaccounted to develop a nuclear weapon, and that he could not be certain that terrorists had not obtained some of the material. Goss’s warnings followed a CIA report prepared late last year that expressed concern over the likelihood of undetected nuclear smuggling of Russian nuclear materials.
Senior Russian officials, however, have repeatedly denied allegations that Russian nuclear weapons or weapon-grade materials have been lost.
The measures agreed to by Bush and Putin are “a potentially historic step to reduce the danger of nuclear terrorism,” said Matthew Bunn, senior research analyst at Harvard University’s Managing the Atom project.
“If each of them follows through with the needed commitment, by May, when they meet again in Moscow, we can expect real progress toward forging a fast-paced global effort to lock down the world's nuclear stockpiles and keep them out of terrorist hands,” he said in a statement.
Among the “key” developments stemming from yesterday’s meeting was the creation of the Senior Interagency Group and the new emphasis on developing a nuclear security culture, said Ken Luongo, executive director of the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council.
“The true test,” though, “is whether they [Bush and Putin] can make good on the commitments and promises in the obligatory post-summit statement,” Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl Kimball said today.
Experts, however, also decried the lack of progress made at yesterday’s summit on several bilateral issues, including increased access to Russian facilities and the resolution of a lingering dispute centering on liability protections for U.S. nonproliferation work conducted in Russia.
“It is unfortunate that there were no major breakthroughs on the impediments that are hobbling the realization of their nuclear security goals,” Luongo said in a statement. “Deadly terrorists are seeking WMD and they are not waiting,” he added.
While saying it was a “positive sign” that Bush and Putin discussed the need to improve nuclear security efforts, Kimball described the summit as an “opportunity for serious progress that was not fulfilled.”
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informed Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) on Feb. 14 that the United States had recently sent a proposal to Moscow to resolve the liability dispute. The Washington Post reported yesterday, though, that despite last-minute meetings in Moscow and London, U.S. and Russian officials could not reach a final agreement on the issue, which has blocked a U.S.-Russian project to jointly eliminate 68 metric tons of weapon-grade plutonium.
Yesterday’s summit could help the United States and Russia move forward on several other nonproliferation issues, said Nuclear Threat Initiative Co-Chairman Sam Nunn. They include removing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons from hair-trigger alert status, increased transparency for U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons, accelerated destruction of Russian chemical weapons and increased cooperation against biological terrorism, he said.
“There must be an increased measure of reciprocal transparency on both the U.S. and Russian side and an enhanced effort to foster a true partnership to achieve this imperative security agenda,” Nunn said in a statement.
3. Putin, Bush Summit Fails to Reach Any Binding Nuclear Conclusions
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In spite of broad yet hushed expectations among the US non-prolieration community, President George Bush and President Vladimir Putin’s Bratislava summit produced little in the way of breaking current liability impasses and cutting through other miles of red tape to advance America’s nuclear threat reduction goals for Russia.
It was something of a surprise, said many State Department and US government officials who spoke to Bellona Web Thursday evening following the summit’s close, as non-proliferation was one common talking point the two presidents could have made binding progress on at this otherwise often prickly summit.
Hazy nuclear agreement reached
Bush, however, spoke favourably, if vaguely, of the nuclear issues he discussed with Putin, saying at the presidents’ joint press conference: "We agreed to accelerate our work to protect nuclear weapons and materials both in our two nations and around the world."
In the end, a sideline deal was inked to improve security at Russian nuclear sites where material enticing to terrorists is stored. Both presidents also agreed that Iran and North Korea should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, though neither outlined clear steps toward achieving this goal.
"We agreed that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. I appreciate Vladimir's understanding on that," Bush said. "We agreed that North Korea should not have a nuclear weapon."
Indeed, Putin remained steadfast in Russia’s commitment to aiding Iran’s growing civilian nuclear infrastructure, and he said he still believed the Islamic Republic was incapable of producing nuclear weapons, press reports said, even though mounting evidence contradicts the Russian President’s assertion.
Furthermore, the nuclear agreement drafted at the summit has clear limitations. Much of it is a reaffirmation of longstanding policy—such as the US Deparment of Energy’s Materials Protection, Control and Accounting (MPC&A) programmes, and a similar programme run by the US Department of Defence. And while the agreement it proposes accelerating security upgrades at nuclear facilities, it does not mandate completing the work before both men's terms expire in 2008, as American officials had hoped.
"It is welcome news that Presidents Bush and Putin are talking about how to prevent nuclear terrorism," Ken Luongo, executive director of the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, an NGO that advises Washington and Moscow on nuclear policy, said.
Luongo added, though, that "it is unfortunate that there were no major breakthroughs on the impediments that are hobbling the realisation of their nuclear security goals—the disputes over access to facilities, transparency, and liability protections. Deadly terrorists are seeking WMD and they are not waiting."
Intelligence community sounds alarm on nuclear terrorism
The Presidents met against a backdrop of new and urgent warning signals on the danger of nuclear terror and in the face of increasing consensus in the US Congress that more aggressive action must be taken to expedite bilateral threat reduction programs.
Last week, the Director of Central Intelligence Agency Porter Goss testified in a Capitol Hill hearing that it "may only be a matter of time" before terrorists acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, US press reports said. During questioning, Goss stated that enough material was missing from Russian facilities, "so it would be possible for those with know-how to construct a nuclear weapon." These revelations follow a November 2004 report by the National Intelligence Council, which found that undetected nuclear smuggling has occurred at Russian facilities and that missing material may not have been recovered.
One workable initiative that did arise from the meeting of the leaders was the US-Russian "Senior Interagency Group," which will meet jointly to monitor progress and report on the implementation of cooperative security programs, and the Presidents' emphasis on developing a "security culture" in Russia as key new developments.
But that was cold comfort for US officials back home who had pushed for stronger initiatives prior to the summit.
Another let down for MOX may lead to problems with other US programmes
The biggest disappointment was the failure of the two countries to agree on liability language for the US-Russian plutonium disposition program and other important nuclear agreements, which a US government official told Bellona was being drafted and would be present at the summit.
At issue is the State Department’s refusal to renew the five year 1998 Technical Agreement on plutonium disposition, which provided for research and development exchanges between the two government. With this agreement halted, the programme cannot move to its implementation phase, as stipulated under the 2000 Plutonium Disposition agreement, signed by former US President Bill Clinton and Putin.
The State Department scrapped the renewal because the 1998 agreement did not contain liability language of the so called Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Umbrella Agreement, which, if ever adopted by the Russian Duma, would place responsibility for any accidents during US driven nuclear dismantlement projects—including sabotage and terrorism—squarely at Moscow’s feet.
Failure to resolve this legal issue has prevented construction of MOX facilities in the United States and Russia to dispose of 68 tonnes of US Russian weapons-grade plutonium in MOX form. The MOX initiative, driven by the US Department of Energy, has been a source of heated debate between environmental groups, including Bellona, and the Russian and American governments since its 1994 inception because of the dangers posed by the untested use weapons-grade plutonium in the hybrid fuel which has only been used on industrial levels with reactor-grade plutonium. It is also more expensive than other methods espoused by environmentalists. Current estimates put a $7 billion price tag on just getting the MOX effort off the ground.
Moreover, as RANSAC argued in a recent article, the US-Russian dispute over liability language could potentially derail the extension of the CTR Umbrella Agreement governing all CTR programs. Bellona has been a staunch critic of the MOX plan, and has urged both governments to take other disposition methods into account. The legal deadlock, in as much as it slows the progress of the program, however, should not, in Bellona’s opinion, be allowed to threaten any other CTR driven programmes. The CTR programme faces renewal hearings in US Congress next year.
Many possible reasons for winding down the MOX programme and letting it suffocate under a mountain of paper work have been suggested by various US and Russian government officials in the past months, who mainly say that the inter-governmental agencies involve are simply tired of dealing with the programme’s continual cost over-runs, red-tape, shaky science, and the nagging sense that cheaper alternatives are available.
Just prior to the summit, the Marketing and Consulting Russian news agency reported that the US administration was reconsidering the option of immobilization, which is by the DOE’s own estimates cheaper and safer.
The Bush administration in 2003 actually removed immobilization—a process which, generally speaking, encases weapons-grade plutonium and highly radioactive glass in special self defending containers—as an option and decided to pour its energy into hastening the MOX programme.
But according to Marketing and Consulting, Bush wants to reconsider his stance on immobilisation. Indeed, the White House budget request to Congress for the DOE’s nuclear remediation project budget for 2006 includes a $10m budget line item for immobilisation related projects—a line item absent in last year’s budget request.
The democracy at hand
Recent months have seen backsliding in Russia’ progress toward democracy, accentuated by the Kremlin’s clamp-down on the media and the Yukos affair, which the US regards as a move toward neo-Soviet re-centralisation of the Russia economy.
For its part, Russia is feeling more isolated as the US develops relationships with other former republics of the Soviet Union, and has chosen—as illustrated by the recent “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine—to back more authoritarian governments in these countries. Ukraine backfired as massive election fraud, and the apparent assassination attempt on the non-Kremlin backed presidential candidate, back-fired, casting much of the buck-shot on the Kremlin.
Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhaur also noted that the United States and Russia are no longer united in their conception of the war on terrorism—a seeming hallmark of friendship between the two nations that has gone to tatters since the US occupation of Iraq. As long as the Bush administration agreed to keep its opinions on brutal human rights violations in Chechnya to itself—unlike the previous administration—Russia would dampen its public response to US military action against “rogue states,” government officials from Moscow and Washington have told Bellona Web in interviews since the 9/11 attacks.
“The war on terrorism is no longer a unifying factor: The American campaign to install democracy in Iraq and the Russian war to enforce its will in the North Caucasus are as far apart ideologically as the United States and Russia are geographically,” Felgenhauer wrote in his weekly column for The Moscow Times.
Televised reports of the joint press conference show an ebullient Bush, and a stone faced Putin, who rarely smiled and confined his body language to occasional terse nods, suggesting a more heated discussion about Russia’s commitment to democracy had taken place. The leaders met for nearly three hours—and over an hour alone with only interpretors—at a medieval castle overlooking Bratislava.
Bush said he talked with Putin at length of his "concerns about Russia's commitment in fulfilling these universal principles" common to all democracies — such as the rule of law, protection of minorities and viable political debate.
Putin was somewhat recalcitrant when pressed by reporters on Russia’s recent back-peddaling on Western-style democracy.
"Russia has made its choice in favor of democracy. It has done so for the past 14 years and requires no help from the outside,” he said with thinly disguised irritation. “This is our final choice and we have no way back. There can be no return to what we used to have."
What does Russia have in terms of democracy and environmental rights?
Last Spring saw a vertically structured power shift that stripped Russia’s nuclear regulatory body, now part of a body known as The Federal Service for Ecology, Techology, and Atomic Energy (FSETAN in its Russian acronym).
The head of FSETAN’s nuclear division is Andrei Malyshev, a recruit from the former Ministry of Atomic Energy—known after the spring shake-up as the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy (Rosatom). Rosatom’s mandate—like FSETAN’s—is still unclear, but it has stepped in to fulfil the roll played by its predecessor, even though many of these responsibilities do not legally fall within its realm.
It is safe to say, therefore, that Russia has neither an independent nuclear regulatory body, nor the democratic soil from which such an organisation must spring.
President Bush ended his goodwill tour of Europe with a crucial agreement - working with Russia to keep its nuclear material out of terrorist hands.
The Bush-Putin summit in Bratislava lacked the taut drama of U.S.-Soviet negotiations in the edgy days of the Cold War.
But Thursday's agreement between the American and Russian presidents could be as critical if, as some analysts believe, it proves to be a major step toward neutralizing a lingering - and perhaps more likely - danger: nuclear terror. The threat of mutual total annihilation that marked the late 20th-century era of nuclear brinkmanship ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. What did not disappear with the old Soviet borders, though, was the Soviet nuclear arsenal.
During his re-election campaign, Bush identified the potential for Russian nuclear material falling into terrorists' hands as the greatest security threat the United States faces.
After years of effort to secure this material, CIA Director Porter Goss told Congress last week, Russia cannot account for all of its arsenal. The CIA is guessing at least some material was stolen. No one is willing even to guess by whom.
Bush traveled to Europe this week determined to criticize President Vladimir Putin for the curbs he has put on freedom in his Russian-style "democracy." And that criticism is amply justified.
More important, though, than Bush's rhetoric of freedom was the president's welcome show of pragmatism in engaging Russia as an ally to work more closely with the United States on a matter critical to the security of both nations.
Russia agreed to move faster to secure poorly protected nuclear facilities and weapons stockpiles, with U.S. assistance. The two nations will set up a program to replace highly enriched uranium, which can be used to make weapons, with low-enriched uranium at research reactors in other countries.
And the two nations will work together to develop emergency responses to a nuclear or radiological terrorist attack.
To avert the need to implement them, remaining issues - like how to dispose of 68 tons of weapons-grade plutonium - need to be resolved.
The Cold War arms race was built on a strategy of mutually assured destruction - the assumption that neither state would actually use its weapons in the knowledge that to do so would bring retaliation and almost certain annihilation.
It was MAD, yes, a monumental risk.
Nonstate terrorists would not have even this safety, though, on a nuclear trigger. They want nuclear weapons to use them. They must never get the chance.
1. Fuel Will Be Supplied to Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant Strictly in Accordance With Regulations
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Nuclear fuel will be supplied to the Bushehr nuclear power plant in strict accordance with the technological regulations, head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency Alexander Rumyantsev stated at the press conference in RIA Novosti on Monday.
"We signed with the Iranian side a confidential protocol on the procedure for supplying nuclear fuel, and it will appear there not earlier than it (the fuel) is needed there, in strict accordance with the technological regulations of the plant's construction," Mr. Rumyantsev said.
"Following the intergovernmental agreement we and the Iranian side signed a change to the fuel contract," Mr. Rumyantsev noted.
According to him, in keeping with this contract, Iran will pay all the expenses for the nuclear fuel transportation at the cost of prices that shape up on the world market by the moment of its transportation.
Mr. Rumyantsev also noted that during his visit to the nuclear power plant's construction site in Bushehr he had been pleasantly surprised at the "acceleration rate of the construction." "I visited the site and left it in very high spirits. The end of the construction is visible," Mr. Rumyantsev said.
According to him, the first power-generating unit of the nuclear power plant in Bushehr will be put into operation in 2006.
Mr. Rumyantsev also does not rule it out that in the future Russia and Iran will conclude a new agreement on cooperation in the field of the peaceful use of atomic energy, but its expansion can be discussed only after the first unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant is put into operation.
"We are turning out the first nuclear unit at an accelerated rate, helping Iran in this, and will return to the question of further broadening of cooperation after the first unit becomes operative," Mr. Rumyantsev said.
Russia has been building the first power unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in accordance with the intergovernmental agreement. Atomstroiexport is the general contractor.
2. Nuclear Power Plant in Bushehr 80 Percent Complete
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The construction of a nuclear power plant in Bushehr that is being built by Russia is 80 percent complete, Elgudzha Kokosadze, Director General of "Orgenergostroi" Institute, that is responsible for the assembly of the power plant, told Tass. “The nuclear plant is 80 percent complete. Routine assembly jobs, including mounting electrical equipment, are continued,” he said.
"The first nuclear reactor of the Iranian nuclear power plant will be commissioned by the end of 2006," Chief of the Federal Nuclear Power Agency Alexander Rumyantsev earlier told Tass. "We have been planning a" physical" launching at the end of 2006, and approximately six months before the station is launched nuclear fuel will be delivered," he said, adding that around 100 tons of nuclear fuel would be supplied.
Meanwhile, Vice-President of TVEL concern Anton Badenkov said that the concern was planning to deliver enough fuel to Bushehr so as to ensure a full initial load. Badenkov declined to give the exact amount of the fuel needed and the date of the fuel delivery. “It is common practice that the date of the delivery remains confidential for security reasons, and we make the date public only after the delivery is carried through,” he said.
Speaking in Bushehr, the Russian Nuclear Power Agency chief said that Russia would do everything possible so as to meet the coordinated schedule of launching the nuclear power plant. Nevertheless, Rumayntsev admitted that there were both obvious progress and drawbacks in the construction process. He characterized a storage site for newly delivered fuel as a perfect example that should be shown in aids teaching how a similar storage should be arranged. Rymyantsev also praised the condition of the nuclear reactor zone. "Nevertheless, operations for laying concrete there should be urgently completed, that is realized by our construction workers who will do that properly," Rumyantsev said.
He mentioned a few more problems that aroused concern, including equipment supply shortages, saying it were "Achilles heel". Nonetheless, he assured that the Russian side would fulfill all of its obligations in full.
For its part, the Iranian side expressed satisfaction with the pace of the construction of the nuclear power plant in Bushehr.
3. Rumyantsev Knows Where Other Nuclear Power Plants Can Be Built in Iran
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Alexander Rumyantsev, the head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, named the sites where more energy units for the nuclear power plant can be built in Iran.
"Bushehr is an appropriate place, it is located in a seismologically safe area. Another 4 or 6 energy units can be built in Bushehr, and 4 or 6 units can be built in the city of Ahafaz where relevant exploration has been done," Mr. Rumyantsev told a press conference at RIA Novosti on Monday.
These make up Iran's current demand for electric power, and it is approaching the world for relevant assistance. "These are the two possible sites for building power plants," said Mr. Rumyantsev.
Mr. Rumyantsev said Russia intended to take part in and win tenders for building nuclear power plants abroad, particularly in China, Slovakia, and Bulgaria.
"We will try to win about 60% of those tenders," he said.
In terms of China, Mr. Rumayntsev said the Agency expected to "win the tender for building the third and fourth energy units."
The first unit has been completed and will be commissioned shortly, while the second unit will be put into operation in late 2005, according to Mr. Rumyantsev.
4. Iran, Russia Ink Deal for Bushehr Fuel That Includes SNF Return, But West Still Jittery
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Russia and Iran signed a nuclear fuel supply deal long opposed by Washington on Sunday, paving the way for Iran to start up its first atomic reactor next year in the Persian Gulf port city of Bushehr.
The deal includes a provision to repatriate the Russian produced spent nuclear fuel (SNF) so that plutonium cannot be reprocessed from it in Iran for nuclear weapons purposes, and Iran has bridled for more than years against that specific clause, delaying time and again signing a deal that would provide for the SNF’s return to Russia.
But the point of returning the spent fuel to Russia became somewhat academic after Iran announced in 2003 its intentions to revive it nascent uranium mining infrastructure—meaning the Islamic Republic will soon be capable of manufacturing its own fuel and enriching uranium even more highly in its complex of hexaflouride gas uranium enrichment centrifuges.
It is therefore something of a mystery as to why Iran has stalled on returning its future SNF, which will add to the some 15,000 tonnes of SNF Russia is already barely managing. But Tehran Sunday did finally agreed to send the spent fuel back, though both sides still disagree on who should pay for its return.
The governments said Sunday they had agreed on details of the shipment, but said the timing and the costs were confidential Both sides refused to discuss further details of shipping the nuclear fuel to Iran and the spent fuel back to Russia, but insisted that the agreement conforms to international nuclear regulations.
"This is a very important incident in the ties between the two countries and in the near future a number of Russian experts will be sent to Bushehr to equip the power station," Alexander Rumyantsev, head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) was quoted by the Reuters as saying.
"Iran observes all the regulations on the prohibition of the spread of nuclear weapons."
In 2002, Bellona Web and other environmental news agencies revealed that Russia’s deal with Iran included no provisions for return of the fuel, which ratcheted up heat on the Kremlin from Washington which believes Iran is building a clandestine nuclear arms program.
Iran, OPEC's second largest oil producer, denies the charge and has received strong backing from Moscow, which is keen to play a major role in expanding Iran's nuclear energy program.
Is Iran gunning for nuclear weapons?
But strong evidence, revealed last month by The New Yorker magazine, suggests that the United States is refocusing and revising its current military deployment in Iraq toward Iran and that the gathering of intelligence by special forces units and remote controlled aircraft on the locations of Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges is already underway.
So far, say Iranian dissident groups and US Defence Department sources, Iran has amassed some 1000 centrifuges, some of them purchased from Pakistan, which, when fully operable, will be capable of producing some two to four nuclear warheads a year.
Washington and many European nations have long pressured Moscow to abandon it civilian nuclear co-operation with Iran, and has pressed hard for the Russians to at least gain some surety that the spent nuclear fuel will be returned to Russia for storage, most likely in Zheleznogorsk, the closed central Siberian nuclear city that has the country’s only facility for storing spent fuel from VVER-1000 light-water reactors of the type Moscow is building in Bushehr.
Storage options for the Iranian fuel
But Zheleznogorsk has troubling security problems, and in 2001, former State Dume Deputy Sergei Mitrokhin and a television camera crew followed a well-worn foot path through a hold in wall surrounding the closes city and posed for pictures in Zheleznogorsk’s RT-2 SNF storage site unhindered by any of the sentries meant to be guarding the facility.
Frustrated by this lapse in security, agents of the Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB)—the KGB’s successor—planted without hindrance by Interior Ministry guards a paper mache bomb at the RT-2 facility in early 2003. The bomb lay in the facility unnoticed for several days, and the incredulous officers re-entered the site, again unhindered, to retrieve the mock-up explosive. A sweeping re-evaluation of security in Zheleznogorsk, which is home to one of three remaining plutonium reactors. All are being shut down with American funding.
Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh and Rumyantsev signed Sunday’s fuel delivery and return agreement at the $800 million Bushehr nuclear power plant after Aghazadeh showed Rumyantsev Bushehr's nuclear fuel storage house and the reactor core, expected to be operational by late 2005 or early 2006.
"What I saw was much better and more than I had expected. Assembling operations in the past three to four months have been expedited," Rumyantsev said, according to news reports. Referring to the process to complete the plant, he added: "I can't say the situation is excellent, but it's very good."
Aghazadeh said the fuel storage area was built to international standards. "This storage house is ready to receive nuclear fuel," he said.
Fuel repatriation unlikely to settle Washington’s stomach
Moscow hopes the SNF repatriation clause in the fuel deal will allay U.S. worries that Iran may use the spent fuel, which could be reprocessed into bomb-grade plutonium, to develop arms. But it is likely to be cold comfort for the Bush administration. On Thursday Bush voiced his concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continued support of Teheran’s nuclear programme at a summit between the two leaders in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Iran doesn’t need Russian fuel in the long run
Iranian efforts to produce its own fuel rather than importing it have been a bigger concern in the international community than the deal with Russia. That's because the enrichment process can be carried further to produce material for nuclear weapons.
France, Britain and Germany are trying to secure an Iranian commitment to scrap enrichment plans in exchange for economic aid, technical support and backing for Tehran's efforts to join mainstream international organisations. Iran has suspended enrichment-related activities during the talks with the Europeans, which both sides have said were difficult, but insists the freeze will be brief.
Bush has expressed support for the European efforts. But documents being circulated among International Atomic Energy Agency board members in Vienna ahead of a board meeting Monday, and seen by The Associated Press there, indicated Washington would try to increase pressure on Tehran by the next agency board meeting in June should the European talks fail.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been probing Iran's nuclear programme for over two years, said it would also keep a careful eye on Tehran's use of the fuel.
Spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in a statement Sunday that inspectors would "monitor closely the use of the fuel and where it goes" as part of agency safeguards monitoring aimed at ensuring no nuclear materials are diverted to any covert weapons activities.
Bushehr to open in late- to mid-2006
Rumyantsev said Bushehr would start operating in late 2006.
"We are planning the physical launch at the end of 2006. About half a year before this the first delivery of fuel will take place," the Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying.
Iranian officials put the plant's launch about six months earlier in mid-2006. Diplomats in Tehran said they may have been referring to the reactor's initial test phase, Reuters reported.
Rumyantsev said the first batch of enriched uranium fuel was in Siberia ready to be shipped.
Once operational, Bushehr will generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity. Initiated before Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution and badly damaged during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the project was later revived with Russian help.
5. Iran, Russia At Odds Over Nuclear Plant Opening Date
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Russia and Iran again delayed the signing of a controversial contract to supply the Islamic republic with fuel for its first nuclear power station, amid a new dispute over the plant's opening date.
Iranian officials said more talks were needed after they rejected a proposal from Moscow to delay the opening of the plant in the Gulf port of Bushehr until June next year.
"The Russians proposing bringing the Bushehr power station on line in June 2006. We rejected this proposal," Iranian Atomic Energy Organization vice president Mohammad Saidi told state television.
"Discussions will need to continue in Bushehr tomorrow for us to reach agreement."
Russia's top atomic energy official Alexander Rumyantsev and his Iranian counterpart Gholamreza Aghazadeh had been poised to sign the agreement earlier Saturday, but reporters were told that instead negotiations were still "dragging on".
"We do not know when they will conclude," said a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation, Yaghoub Jabarian. He added that a rescheduled press conference would "maybe" take place on Sunday.
It was the latest and most spectacular hitch to a contract that the United States -- which accuses Iran of using an atomic energy drive as a cover for weapons development -- has been trying to convince Russia not to sign.
In a concession to the United States, Moscow had refused to provide fuel for the Bushehr plant in southern Iran unless spent fuel -- which potentially could be reprocessed and upgraded to weapons use -- was returned.
Iran agreed to this condition after close to two years of talks that had already pushed the plant's opening back to next January.
Saidi said he was still hopeful the deal could be signed during Rumyantsev's visit to Bushehr on Sunday.
The deal would cap an 800 million dollar (606-million-euro) contract to build and bring on line the Bushehr reactor.
Bushehr was raised during a summit between US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bratislava on Thursday, where both publicly agreed that Iran should not develop nuclear weapons.
According to Russian diplomats, the United States has been lobbying against Moscow's involvement in Iran's nuclear programme "on a daily basis" -- and right up until the Bratislava meeting.
But they also point out that the huge contract has "virtually saved Russia's atomic energy industry", and emphasise that there is no way Bushehr -- also under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) scrutiny -- could constitute part of a weapons programme.
Russia is also examining the option of building a second reactor at Bushehr along with plants at other locations.
But the United States argues Iran -- a member of President Bush's "axis of evil" -- has no need for nuclear energy because of its massive oil and gas supplies.
Tehran counters that it needs to free up its fossil fuels for export and meet increased energy demands from a burgeoning population. It also denies allegations that it is seeking a bomb, or even the option to build one.
Iran also intends to produce its own nuclear fuel for future plants -- hoped to produce 7,000 megawatts of electricity by 2020 -- a drive at the centre of the current stand-off with the international community.
As a gesture of good faith, Iran agreed last year to suspend enriching uranium used for nuclear fuel, and is currently engaged in negotiations with Britain, France and Germany on a package of trade, security and technology incentives.
But Iran has also insisted that its suspension of fuel cycle work is only a temporary measure.
Both Russia and the United States proceed from the premise that Iran must not possess nuclear weapons, while discussing that country's nuclear programs.
This was disclosed to correspondents today by State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, who attended the fourth annual winter-time OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Parliamentary Assembly session.
Russia, which proceeds from the premise that Iran does not develop its own nuclear weapons, cooperates with Tehran. Among other things, this concerns the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Gryzlov told his audience.
According to Gryzlov, Russia renders assistance to Iran in the nuclear-energy sphere. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors such assistance all the time. Nor does such cooperation violate all the main provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
We and IAEA experts (who are conducting serious inspections with regard to Iranian nuclear programs) must make sure that Tehran's nuclear-energy technologies have nothing to do with high-enriched uranium production, and that such technologies cannot be used for developing nuclear weapons, which has not been proved yet despite statements by certain IAEA Board of Governors member countries, the State Duma Speaker noted in conclusion.
7. ROSATOM Head to Discuss Nuclear Cooperation in Iran
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On February 25 Alexander Rumyantsev, the director of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power (Rosatom), will leave on a two-day working visit to Iran. On the eve of his visit, Mr. Rumyantsev told journalists, "I regularly visit the construction site of the Bushehr nuclear power plant's first unit and this trip is the latest of its kind. We will also sign a protocol on returning spent nuclear fuel to Russia."
However, this is not a routine visit. Russia and Iran were previously divided over a protocol to an international agreement on the construction of the Bushehr plant. The protocol should regulate the return of spent (irradiated) nuclear fuel to Russia. Now the issues have been settled, Alexander Rumyantsev and Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also heads Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, should soon sign this important document.
Abiding by non-proliferation logic in federal legislation, Moscow strictly adheres to the rules that dictate the return of spent nuclear fuel to its country of origin. The Bushehr plant is no exception. Spent nuclear fuel is not ordinary trash that can be dumped anywhere or recycled accordingly. Heat-producing elements become irradiated inside nuclear reactors, uranium decays and weapon-grade plutonium forms as a result. The protocol on returning the spent fuel obviously aims to eliminate the international community's concerns that Iran, a non-nuclear power, may obtain weapon-grade nuclear materials.
The initial construction agreement signed in 1992 did not stipulate the return of spent fuel, so neither did it include payments for these services. This omission had to be corrected. Iran did not object to the return of spent nuclear fuel when this issue arose, but the commercial aspects had to be analyzed. It took some time to eliminate the financial problems. However, Tehran protracted this period for so long that opinions emerged that the contractorplanned to freeze and even stop the construction project under US pressure.
Russia immediately rejected these allegations and officially announced that it would honor its contractual obligations. "I do not see any obstacles that can limit our cooperation with Iran, as it is under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is governed by international law and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," Mr. Rumyantsev said. He consistently stuck to this position. His current visit to Tehran shows that Russia is keeping its word rather than being dishonest.
The protocol on returning the spent fuel is designed to remove a serious obstacle to the Bushehr construction project. The concerned parties will also sign a supplement to the contract on nuclear-fuel deliveries to the plant (the contract itself was concluded about two years ago). The documents allow "fresh" fuel to be delivered to Bushehr.
The first fuel batch, 180 fuel elements (total mass, about 90 tons), is already ready. However, under technical regulations, this batch cannot be shipped earlier than six months prior to the trial commissioning of the Iranian plant in early 2006.
Future bilateral cooperation will also be discussed during the visit. Russia's ambassador to Iran, Alexander Maryasov, has announced that Iran has already received a feasibility study on the construction of a second power unit. However, Tehran has not yet officially requested its construction.
Russia plans to launch three new commercial nuclear reactors over the next five years and upgrade existing ones to higher standards, including stronger protection from possible terror attacks, top nuclear officials said Thursday.
U.S. officials have warned repeatedly about the dangers of poor security at Russia's nuclear plants and other facilities — and the possibility of international terrorists either getting their hands on weapons material or staging an attack at a poorly guarded facility.
In December, Russia started up its 31st nuclear reactor, at the Kalinin nuclear power plant in western Russia. By 2010, the nation will have 34 reactors, said Oleg Sarayev, the head of the state-controlled Rosenergoatom consortium in charge of Russia's nuclear power plants.
"We aren't going to take any of the currently operating reactors off duty during that period, and work has already started to modernize the reactors approaching the end of their designated lifetime," Sarayev said at a news conference.
During recent years, Russia has overcome a public backlash against nuclear power that followed the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and supported an ambitious program to develop its nuclear industry.
Sarayev said the two latest nuclear reactors put on line since 2001 have upgraded security systems for stronger protection against possible terror attacks and other risks. He said security at other reactors would also be tightened.
"We are paying increased attention to strengthening the physical protection of our plants," Sarayev said. "New threats have emerged, which made that necessary."
Sarayev said Russia's security services have conducted regular exercises imitating terror attacks on nuclear power plants that helped enhance their security.
"That doesn't mean that we have such a level of protection that completely satisfies us. We will continue to make improvements," Sarayev said.
He said living conditions have been improved for the Interior Ministry troops guarding the Rostov nuclear power plant in southern Russia, about 300 miles north of Chechnya.
The U.S. Nunn-Lugar program has spent billions of dollars to improve security at weapons storage sites in Russia and other former Soviet republics, but U.S. officials say many of Russia's nuclear sites still don't have sufficient safeguards in place.
1. Sweden Allocated $6 Million for Nuclear Security Coop with Russia
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The Swedish government has allocated 40 million crowns (nearly $6 million) for developing nuclear security cooperation with Russia in 2005. Official sources in Stockholm reported on Saturday that the cooperation embraced four main areas: the security of nuclear reactors, the utilization of nuclear waste, protection from radiation and readiness to emergency situations.
Part of the funds will be spent on strengthening nuclear security at the Russian nuclear power stations in Sosnovy Bor and the Kola Peninsula. Various options for recycling spent nuclear fuel will be tested in the vicinity of Andreyev Bay. This and other projects are implemented jointly with the European Union and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
2. On-Shore Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility in Murmansk to Start Operation in April 2006
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The Murmansk Shipping Company is positive about the development of the Russian-British project on construction of the on-shore container storage facility for spent nuclear fuel at the nuclear icebreaker’s base Atomflot in Murmansk.
The British party was presented by the Crown Agents Company, the Murmansk Shipping Company and the Federal State Unitary Enterprise, Atomflot presented Russia. According to Interfax news agency, the complete contract for the construction part of the facility was signed in the end of January with the price-tag £4.6m. Earlier a £2.6m contract for non-standard equipment delivery had been signed. According to the project the facility should be ready in April 2006. At the moment all the environmental evaluations concerning the construction are completed.
This is the first project sponsored by the western donors in the North of Russia, which passed the public environmental evaluation conducted by Bellona-Murmansk. Unfortunately, most of the companies continue to work in the old way and do not trust NGOs, treating them as an obstacle. However, all the donor countries stipulate participation of the non-governmental organisations in the decision-making process when the interests of the society could be disturbed during implementation of some state or business projects. No double standards should be used in Russia. All the western experience regarding interaction of the business and the NGOs should be applied in Russia, of course, taking into consideration local legislation and mentality. Bellona has been always in favour of the dialog between the donor country representatives and the Russian authorities on all levels, especially concerning the projects on nuclear and radiation safety. “I am glad that the British representatives known in Russia as conservative people were the first to make such a step. I think, I will express the common opinion of the participation in the first stage of the project: we are satisfied with the joint work” said in an interview to Bellona-WEB director of Bellona-Murmansk Sergey Zhavoronkin.
The Great Britain might also fund the construction of 50 universal containers TUK-120 for spent nuclear fuel storage and shipment. “The positive decision of this issue has a principal meaning for us as no state commission would accept our facility without storage containers for the spent nuclear fuel” an Atomflot representative said to Interfax.
Spent fuel at the moment to be kept on board the nuclear fuel service ship Lotta, which can contain 16 active zones, but the place for two zones is just available at the moment. Once land storage is complete it can be offloaded, freeing the vessel to collect waste from even more submarines. The ship's efficiency will be improved as well as removing the hazard of a ship full of SNF from the Arctic waters. Crown Agents is working with the UK Department for Trade and Industry, the Murmansk Shipping Company and The Federal State Unitary Enterprise, Atomflot to oversee the construction project. The United Kingdom under the G8 Global Partnership, which amongst other issues counters the proliferation of nuclear material and promotes nuclear safety in the former Soviet Union states, made funding available. Completion is expected in 2006 at a cost of £16.2 million.
1. Transcript of Replies to Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov (excerpted)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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Question: At the meeting with PRC Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing you discussed resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, didn't you? What is your impression? Can we expect the date to be set for the next round of six-party talks?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: We, of course, are all waiting when the date of the next round will become known. For this to happen it is necessary to make efforts. I can say that all the other five parties are actively working for that round of talks. The Chinese representatives have had contacts with the DPRK leadership. We are also in touch with our colleagues from North Korea. Our common assessments with the Chinese friends are such that the chances for a resumption of the six-party process are real.
This topic was discussed in Bratislava at the meeting between the Russian and US Presidents. Our feeling is that US President George W. Bush is interested in this. The Japanese and the South Koreans have the same interest. So the most important thing now, I think, is to carry on efforts precisely in the political mainstream. I note that none of the participants of the six-party process are threatening any sanctions; for this would be counterproductive. It is very important not only to consider the need, and it is an absolutely imperative need, to prevent a violation of the nonproliferation regime, not only to ensure the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but also to take into account the lawful interests of Pyongyang, both in terms of its economic development, including energy supplies and from the viewpoint of its security. I think that there is a common realization that that's what a package of agreements should be, for a start - understandings - on the basis of which the talks will be resumed and then agreements will be reached.
“There is no greater danger to America’s security than the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists, which is why I have called for a comprehensive strategy to meet this threat.
“I applaud President Bush and President Putin for putting this back on their agenda, but more remains to be done to turn today’s promises into actual security. We can and we should unambiguously commit to securing nuclear weapons and materials in Russia and around the world in the next four years. There is no greater or more urgent task.
“The President must then act on the broader agenda to end the production of new fissile material for use in nuclear weapons, to reduce the existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons and materials, and to end nuclear weapons programs in hostile states like North Korea and Iran.
“Meeting these challenges requires sustained leadership and urgent action by President Bush to remove remaining obstacles to progress, and I call on him to rise to that challenge. America’s security demands no less.”
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dick Lugar, and co-author of the Nunn-Lugar program, praised the announcement made today by Presidents Bush and Putin to expand the Nunn-Lugar program to provide more protection of Russia’s nuclear stockpile against potential terrorist acquisition and an additional agreement to stem proliferation of shoulder-fired rockets that are sought by terrorists.
“Steps agreed upon today should lead to the largest ramping up of Nunn-Lugar funding since the beginning of the program. This is good news and underscores the need for expanding the Nunn-Lugar program and eliminating the Congressionally-imposed conditions and certifications that have consistently slowed down program implementation,” Lugar said in a prepared statement. He was traveling and unavailable for additional comment.
Lugar’s new legislation, S. 313, would streamline and accelerate Nunn-Lugar implementation and also grant more flexibility to the President and the Secretary of Defense to undertake nonproliferation projects outside the former Soviet Union. The bill 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 the U.S. government that hinder effective responses to nonproliferation opportunities and emergencies.
To assist in securing and destroying conventional weapons, such as shoulder weapons called man portable air defense systems (MANPADS), Lugar is also offering a conventional disarmament bill modeled on the original Nunn-Lugar Act. Its would 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 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, “Preventing the proliferation of [weapons of mass destruction] warrants a maximum effort—by strengthening counter-proliferation efforts, expanding the Proliferation Security Initiative and supporting the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.” The Report went on to say that “Nunn-Lugar … is now in need of expansion, improvement and resources.”
“Through all the ups and downs of the U.S.-Russian relationship since the end of the Cold War, the Nunn-Lugar program has remained a constant, and that was clear again today,” Lugar said.
The latest Nunn-Lugar Scorecard shows that the program deactivated 312 Russian nuclear warheads in 2004, bringing the total since 1991 to 6,564. The Scorecard is a running account of nuclear weapons dismantled and destroyed in the former Soviet Union under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. It can be found at: http://lugar.senate.gov/nunnlugar/scorecard.html
In 2004, the Nunn-Lugar program reduced threats to the American people by:
Removing 312 warheads from Russian missile systems; Destroying 41 SS-18 Satan missiles, each capable of delivering 10 independently-targeted warheads to cities in the United States; Destroying 22 missile silos housing SS-18 missiles; 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 aimed at the United States. Beyond the scorecard’s 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, of which the United States is the leading sponsor, 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 secure 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. 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.
The Nunn-Lugar budget has averaged about $400 million a year, and President Bush has proposed a 2006 increase to $416 million from $409 million in 2005. It represents about one-tenth of one percent of the Department of Defense budget. More information is available at: http://lugar.senate.gov/nunnlugar.html.
4. Transcript of Remarks and Replies to Questions by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov and Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Sergey Ivanov Following Russia-US Summit, Bratislava (excerpted)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)
Defense Minister Ivanov: Indeed, as Foreign Minister Lavrov said, a number of questions on which our Presidents reached an agreed decision, concern security in the broadest sense of the word. One of its aspects is nuclear security. Our leaders and the governments of the United States and Russia well understand and realize that they are major nuclear powers. On the United States and Russia lies primary responsibility for keeping our potentials under reliable control. Aware of this, the Presidents agreed that we will cooperate in upgrading security at our nuclear facilities. But I would like to stress that it is stated that the nuclear storage facilities in Russia and the United States are under reliable control. This is straightfowardly and unambiguously referred to, and there can be no speculations on that point.
I would like to note that we look to the future and understand that terrorists will always seek to get access to fissible material, technologies, and so on. Therefore we agree to cooperate in the exchange of experience. Last year, Russia for the first time invited NATO countries to an unprecedented training exercise involving the security of nuclear ammunition transportation on Russian territory. This year, bilaterally, not multilaterally though, a similar exercise will be held within the United States territory. The last point which I would like to stress in this part is that it involves no mutual visiting of the facilities of each other, and even less so a mandatory visit. Here there should be a full understanding, despite all the speculations that were afoot on that score previously.
Question: The presidents were saying that they had discussed issues related to the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. Was Russian-Iranian cooperation in the nuclear field discussed?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: The theme was discussed. There was stated a full identity of the positions. Moreover, US President George W. Bush, probably I will not disclose a great secret, thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for the leading role which Russia plays in ensuring the observance of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and recognized as completely justified our approach that peaceful development of nuclear power under IAEA control and with the fulfillment of all the international obligations is absolutely normal. This concerns Russian-Iranian cooperation among other things.
Defense Minister Ivanov: There were no complaints presented to Russia with regard to nonproliferation generally and in particular. Moreover, you probably know that the day after tomorrow in Teheran the head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency of Russia, Alexander Rumyantsev, will sign with the Iranian side an agreement on the return of spent nuclear fuel from the Bushehr station after this station starts operating.
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Preliminarily we agreed on March 1, on the sidelines of the London Conference, to hold a meeting in the framework of the European Troika, Russia and the US on agreeing further our actions with regard to the Iranian nuclear program. This will be for the first time. It is very important that the US joins in the efforts of Russia and the European Troika.
Question: At what level will this meeting be held?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: The London meeting will be held at the Foreign Ministers level.
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