1. United States to Increase Support for Russian Chemical Weapons Disposal Site at Shchuchye
Global Security Newswire
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The United States this year plans to increase its financial aid to a chemical weapons destruction facility set to be built in the Russian town of Shchuchye, Interfax reported Friday (see GSN, Jan. 19).
Russian Federal Industry Agency deputy chief Viktor Kholstov said that work on earlier signed contracts totaling about $95 million would continue this year with U.S. aid. Additional contracts worth a total of $150 million are also expected to be reached in 2005, he said.
The new money is set to support ï¿½additional contracts on construction and installation work, including direct equipment and materials supplies,ï¿½ Kholstov said.
The Shchuchye facility is scheduled to begin operation by 2008 (Interfax, Jan. 28/BBC Worldwide Monitoring, Jan. 29).
1. Russia No Longer Funding Bioterrorism Countermeasures Research, Scientist Says
Global Security Newswire
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The head of a Russian scientific research center said Moscow has ceased to fund research into biological terrorism countermeasures, Interfax reported yesterday (see GSN, Nov. 18, 2004).
ï¿½Russia has effectively wound up its program to develop protection against pathogens. From 2005 onwards this program is not being funded,ï¿½ said Lev Sandakhchiyev, director general of the Vektor State Science Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Novosibirsk.
Sandakhchiyev also said there are no ï¿½real, constructive programsï¿½ among Russia, the United States and Europe for cooperating to counter the threat of biological terrorism (Interfax/BBC Worldwide Monitoring, Feb. 1).
1. Canada Financially to Help Russia Eliminate Chemical Weapons
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Russia and Canada intend to cooperate in the elimination of chemical weapons and in the scrapping of decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines, as well as in the stocktaking, control, and physical protection of nuclear materials and radioactive substances. The sides intend to ratify a respective agreement. Russia's Cabinet is to consider a ratification bill at its meeting here on Thursday, an official in the government press service has told Itar-Tass.
The source said the leadership of Canada had decided to assist Russia in eliminating the stockpiles of chemical weapons and scrapping nuclear-powered submarines within the framework of a G8 arrangement for Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. The decision subsequently found reflection in an agreement to this effect signed on Sea Island in June 2004.
Notwithstanding the fact that the text of the Agreement does not contain indications about a specific scope of financial assistance, a letter by Canada's senior coordinator of the Global Partnership programme confirmed the Canadian government's funding commitments concerning the allocation of up to 300 million Canadian dollars for respective projects in the elimination of chemical weapons and a similar amount for the scrapping of nuclear-powered submarines.
In the event of ratification of the Agreement, Russia is expected to exempt this assistance from customs duties, profit tax and other taxes and dues.
The Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction was established in the Canadian city of Kananaskis in June 2002.
The Russian government approved an agreement with Canada on cooperation in disposing of nuclear submarines Thursday.
The agreement envisages Canada's rendering gratuitous aid of up to $1 billion within a decade to dismantle atomic submarines and construct appropriate capacities for this purpose in Russia.
"The Canadian government has reported it is ready to allocate $300 million for disassembling the subs and $300 million to support the construction of capacities," Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said. The site where the atomic submarines would be dismantled is in the settlement of Shchuchye in the Kurgan region of Western Siberia. Both sides have already agreed to allot $65 million under the first contract, Mr. Kislyak specified.
He noted that Russia plans to dismantle three nuclear submarines with Canada's assistance in the near future.
Canada is demanding that Russia provide guarantees that the allocated funds will be used accordingly, Mr. Kislyak said. All the purchases necessary to carry out the contracts will be free of taxes and customs duties, he said
The draft agreement has been coordinated by all the departments concerned and approved by the Russian President's State Legal Department. The State Duma will ratify the Agreement, Mr. Kislyak said.
3. Russian Cabinet to Consider Agreement on Canadian Aid for Submarine, Chemical Weapons Destruction
Global Security Newswire
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The Russian Cabinet is expected today to consider ratifying an agreement under which Canada would financially support a number of nonproliferation projects, including the destruction of chemical weapons and decommissioned submarines, according to ITAR-Tass (see GSN, Nov. 16, 2004).
Canada would provide its aid through the Group of Eight Global Partnership ï¿½ an effort launched in 2002 by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States to provide $20 billion over 10 years for nonproliferation projects. Canada has decided to allocate about $240 million each for chemical weapons disposal and nuclear submarine destruction, ITAR-Tass reported.
Canada is also expected to support the registration, control and protection of Russian nuclear and radioactive materials (ITAR-Tass/BBC Worldwide Monitoring, Feb. 2).
1. Auditors Chide Coordination of Threat Reduction Programs
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U.S. programs to prevent the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are poorly coordinated, congressional auditors have found.
Five federal departments - Defense, Energy, State, Homeland Security and Commerce--implement a range of threat reduction and nonproliferation projects overseas. The efforts suffer from the lack of an integrated strategy, according to the Government Accountability Office.
In a report (GAO-05-157) released Friday, GAO notes that Defense, Energy and State run programs with similar missions in three areas - security warheads, re-employing weapons scientists and controlling borders. Both Defense and Energy have programs to improve the security of sites where Russian warheads are stored. Defense, Energy and State have programs to find peaceful pursuits for former biological weapons scientists and to help countries secure their borders against smuggled weapons.
Because the work is spreading beyond the former Soviet Union and beginning to involve multiple agencies, the auditors recommend a synchronized approach. "In the absence of guidance for coordination, agency officials question the other agencies' roles and responsibilities," the report stated.
GAO said State and Defense officials acknowledged their border security programs are similar, and that State officials questioned whether some countries targeted by one Defense program still need the assistance.
The report calls for a governmentwide plan that addresses all threats and ensures effective coordination. Programs addressing border security and jobs for scientists need special attention from the National Security Council, GAO added.
The NSC is supposed to coordinate Defense and Energy threat reduction and nonproliferation programs. The State Department's Nonproliferation Bureau is supposed to do the same for border security programs. Defense and Energy officials told the auditors they were not aware of any guidance and that State's working group did not hold regular meetings. State remedied its problem, GAO said, by scheduling meetings every two months in 2005.
Threat reduction and nonproliferation programs have evolved from a $400 million Defense program in 1992 to about $1.8 billion in Defense and Energy programs in 2004.
Congress established the Defense Department's Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in 1992 to help secure and destroy weapons remaining after the breakup of the Soviet Union. One of the newest CTR projects is the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation Prevention Initiative to help former Soviet states deter, detect and interdict illicit trafficking of WMD and related materials. Expanding its reach, Defense will use CTR funds to help Albania eliminate its chemical weapons stockpile.
Energy has been helping to secure weapons-grade nuclear materials and employ former Soviet weapons scientists and engineers since the early 1990s, first with Defense and State funding, and later with its own. Through the National Nuclear Security Administration, Energy's mission to detect, deter and reverse proliferation has expanded to more than 70 countries, including Iraq.
The State Department manages its own nonproliferation programs and coordinates U.S. assistance to the former Soviet Union.
The Homeland Security and Commerce departments implement related programs, such as the Container Security Initiative at 34 foreign seaports, sponsored by Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection bureau.
For the audit, GAO reviewed four border security projects: WMD-PPI, Energy's Second Line of Defense Program, Defense's International Counterproliferation Program and State's Export Control and Border Security Program. SLD provides detection equipment to combat nuclear smuggling in the former Soviet Union and other countries. ICP is a coordinated effort with the FBI and the Coast Guard that provides training and equipment to detect, deter and prevent WMD smuggling. EXBS develops training materials and provides technical assistance and export control support.
A senior legislator called yesterday for Ukraine's prosecutor general to investigate alleged sales of nuclear-capable cruise missiles to Iran and China in violation of international nonproliferation treaties.
The appeal, by Hrihory Omelchenko, follows allegations he made in a letter to new President Viktor Yushchenko. Omelchenko is a Parliament member allied with Prime Minister-designate Yulia Tymoshenko and is a reserve colonel in the intelligence service.
Yushchenko, who succeeded Leonid Kuchma, has promised a thorough investigation of corruption and misdeeds that allegedly flourished during his predecessor's 10 years as president. Kuchma allegedly sanctioned the sale of sophisticated radar systems to Iraq in 2002, contravening United Nations sanctions.
''I want him to begin his mandate with a clean record," Omelchenko said of Yushchenko.
In his letter to Yushchenko, Omelchenko said an investigation launched last summer ''proved that some 20 air-launched Kh-55 and Kh-55M cruise missiles with nuclear capability were exported to third countries" in contravention of international treaties.
''Six missiles destined for Russia ended up in Iran . . . six missiles destined for Russia ended up in China," the letter said. It said the sales occurred in 2000-01.
Vyacheslav Astapov, a spokesman for Ukraine's prosecutor general, said the office began an investigation into the alleged sales last summer and ''this year, we received new information."
Astapov also said a top-ranking Iranian diplomat in Ukraine met with Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun, but he didn't elaborate.
Iranian diplomats in Kiev were not available for comment.
Omelchenko also alleged that businessmen from several enterprises -- including state-run weapons exporter Ukrspetseksport and related companies in the United States, Cyprus, and Iran, as well as individuals from the Ukrainian security service -- shared hefty profits from several illicit defense deals that included sales of radar equipment to Eritrea.
Yesterday, Omelchenko said Ukrspetseksport director Valeriy Shmarov and other officials involved in the alleged sales should be arrested. ''All officials, despite their connections, should be held responsible," he said.
Officials from Ukrspetseksport and Ukraine's Security Service were not available for comment.
The Kh-55, known in the West as the AS-15, has a range of 1,860 miles and is designed to carry a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead. The United States, among others, says Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapons production program.
The Kh-55 is designed for use on Russian-made Tupolev long-range bombers. Iran's Air Force does not operate such planes, but some military analysts have suggested its Soviet-built Su-24 strike aircraft could be adapted to use the Kh-55. China operates about 120 H-6 medium-range bombers.
In the early 1990s, Ukraine renounced the nuclear armaments it inherited in the breakup of the Soviet Union and said it shipped its nuclear warheads to Russia for decommissioning under US control.
The country remains a sizable producer of weapons, including missiles, aircraft, and tanks. Exports are largely to other former Soviet republics, Asia, and Africa.
1. U.S., Russia Must Unite Efforts to Fight Terror - Vershbow
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U.S. ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow said the U.S. and Russia have common goals in the struggle against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and in controlling man-portable missile systems, the ambassador told an international conference on Russia-U.S. experience in fighting terrorism on Tuesday.
Weapons of mass destruction must not get into the hands of terrorists, Vershbow said. Together, the U.S. and Russia could attain greater security and become stronger in the 21st century, he said.
Control over shoulder-fired missiles is evolving into an extremely important problem, he said.
1. Iran Says Ready to Sign Key Deal with Russia on Nuclear Plant
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Iran said it will sign a key deal with Russia on the return of spent fuel that will finally let Moscow launch the Islamic state's first nuclear power plant, despite new saber-rattling from Washington.
Iran's ambassador Gholamreza Shafei told reporters that an agreement on the return to Russia of spent nuclear fuel may be reached during a visit to Iran by Russia's atomic energy chief Alexander Rumyantsev later this month.
"Rumyantsev will visit Iran at the end of February to discuss this question," Shafei said.
"Tehran is ready to sign a commercial agreement on this issue," he said in reference to the return of the nuclear fuel.
Such statements have been issued by both sides in the past, only for the project to be delayed still further under pressure from the United States. The Russian-built plant at Bushehr -- whose construction had been launched by Germany in the 1970s -- was initially due to go on line last year.
But now Russian officials also say that the signing of the spent fuel agreement is imminent, and the comments appeared to be the most concrete to date concerning Bushehr's actual launch.
The fuel's return has remained the key impediment to the 800 million dollar project.
Russia and the West both fear that Iran could reprocess the spent fuel delivered from Russia by upgrading it through centrifuges to either make a weak "dirty bomb" or an actual nuclear weapon.
Tehran has in the past used various arguments to avoid signing the agreement. It has said the material was too volatile and dangerous to transport back to Russia and also that Moscow was charging too much for the fuel itself.
The United States and Israel had jointly launched an international campaign against Russia's Bushehr project but Moscow has countered that it would make sure the plant remained harmless to protect its own security interests.
The Bushehr deal appears closer to fruition just weeks after the US administration said it could not rule out the use of force if Tehran fails to drop its nuclear ambitions.
But Shafei said that Iran needed several more nuclear power plants -- hinting that the contracts will go to Russia -- and said that Moscow and Tehran were also negotiating new arms deals.
"Nobody doubts the need of building new nuclear power plants" in Iran, he said.
Washington officials said that Iran will once again come up for discussion during US President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s February 24 summit in Bratislava with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin (news - web sites).
The West has argued that Iran has no need for nuclear energy because of its oil reserves.
Tehran counters that its oil is far removed from densely populated regions and that international sanctions have prevented the country developing a proper infrastructure for delivering oil to the needed areas.
Ambassador Shafei said Iran was prepared to admit foreign inspectors to any of its nuclear sites on demand.
Iran's Parliament is currently studying proposals on the construction of 20 new nuclear power plants and rejects American and European concerns Tehran is secretly building a nuclear arsenal, said a parliamentary leader.
National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Aladdin Borujerdi told an Iranian news agency his committee is looking into proposals that he claims were offered to Iran before Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei took power during the lslamic Revolution in 1979. He said at the time Iran had several agreements with European contractors to build 23 reactors and that those agreements are still in effect.
Borujerdi sidelined American and EU charges that Iran is seeking to obtain fuel to construct nuclear bombs, claiming the irradiated material his country is seeking is needed for 20 new "peaceful" nuclear plants Tehran may construct. Iran has said it needs nuclear fuel for "civilian energy purposes."
In talks last month with Britain, Germany and France, European leaders told Iranian leaders the country's plan to obtain nuclear fuel is not economically justifiable and is unnecessary for the current number of nuclear facilities Iran maintains.
Borujerdi said he would agree with the EU assessment if Iran only had one or two reactors, but since he says the country now requires several more plants, nuclear fuel is essential to develop the capacity to make the proposed plants fully functional.
Borjurdi also said Parliament will hold a special session next week in hopes of approving a bill requiring the country to forge ahead with its plans to obtain access to nuclear technology, which he said is Iran's "inalienable right" according to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran is a signatory of the NPT and has obligated itself to random inspections supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The treaty allows Iran to produce nuclear material as long as it can plausibly claim the production is for "peaceful purposes."
Experts warn Iran can build the infrastructure needed to construct nuclear weapons while telling inspectors they need material for "energy and nuclear medicine research," and later kick out the inspectors, renounce the treaty and quickly assemble a nuclear arsenal, as did North Korea, which is now said to have ten nuclear warheads.
The U.S. has been holding talks with Russia, the main provider of Iranian nuclear technology, in hopes of reducing Russian help to Iran, which it accuses of developing a secret nuclear weapons arsenal.
Sources say Russia has embarked on a government-sponsored nuclear and missile technology transfer program that could provide Iran with the ability to produce nuclear bombs in one to three years. They say Russia is contemplating providing Tehran with rods that are able to enrich uranium, a deal that was first reported last September.
Earlier this month, Russia reportedly installed a mobile radar system to protect Iran's Russian-built Bushehr nuclear reactor, and similar systems allegedly are in the works for other Iranian nuclear facilities, including a facility in central Iran. The portable units are designed to detect low, medium and high altitude incoming missiles, and would complicate any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Sources told WND operators of the Beshehr plant arrived earlier this month at a nuclear training center in Novovoronezh, Russia, where they have been receiving instruction on facility operation.
1. Russia Hopes to Win Bulgarian Nuclear Power Plant Contract
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Russian specialists are extremely interested in a contract to complete the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria. "We are bidding for the tender and very much hope to win it," Igor Klochko, the head of Atomstroiexport, Russia's exporter of nuclear technologies and services, has said.
The Russians' confidence is based on the fact that Parsons Europe Ltd., which is acting as a consultant for the Bulgarian government in designing and supervising the construction of the Belene facilities, called the Russian version "the most appropriate."
After the Bulgarian government decided in May 2004 to resume construction on the Belene site, seven models of construction, which differed in the types and quantity of the reactors, were considered. Three international consortiums displayed interest in the project. The first includes the Czech Republic's Skoda engineering company and Komercni Banka, as well as Italy's Unicredito bank. The second one involves France's Framatome ANP and Russia's Atomstroiexport. And the third one unites Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Italy's Ansaldo Nuclear, America's Bechtel, and Japan's Hitachi.
The Bulgarian side believes Russia could complete the projects for 2.68 and 2.63 billion euros, whereas the other models to complete construction come in at 3.5 billion euros. About a billion dollars has already been invested in the Belene infrastructure and a considerable amount of Russian equipment is already on site. Before the project was mothballed, the reactor section of the first generating unit was completed, the main equipment delivered, the turbine room was 40% ready and a construction site for the second unit of the power plant prepared. All this logically makes Russia's advantages indisputable.
At present Russia is the only country to have been building five generating units overseas, and it is continuing to develop nuclear power engineering at home as well. The VVER-1000 reactors (water cooled reactors with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts) are considered to be the best in the world, according to their servicing characteristics and safety standards. The most important component of Russia's nuclear services is that this country provides the complete cycle - from a plant's design to recycling spent fuel.
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