1. Former Russian Bioweapons Scientists Visit U.S.
Global Security Newswire
(for personal use only)
Four former Russian bioweapons scientists visited the United States this year to receive training on putting their expertise to peaceful uses, the Sacramento Bee reported Sunday (see GSN, Feb. 25).
The scientists are attending courses on topics such as conversational English and nonproliferation and biosecurity at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. Their trip is funded by the United States through its BioIndustry Initiative, which aims to put weapons experts to work in areas such as vaccine and drug development, the Bee reported.
The program aims to help the Russian scientists improve their collaboration with their U.S. counterparts after learning English and making contacts here.
ï¿½Itï¿½s a complete win-win situation,ï¿½ said Raymond Zilinskas, a biological weapons experts at the Monterey Instituteï¿½s Center for Nonproliferation Studies. ï¿½We occupy them, keep them from the bad guys and at the same time, we get good stuff out of them.ï¿½
The visitorsï¿½ eight-week term at Monterey ends Friday. Institute officials hope more scientists will follow, according to the Bee.
At least 40 scientists who once worked at the Russian State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology are now living in the United States, Zilinskas said.
He estimates that up to 10,000 Russian scientists once worked on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons (Edie Lau, Sacramento Bee, March 20).
1. Fuel Made From Weapons-Grade Plutonium Heads to South Carolina
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Two ships outfitted with naval guns set sail for the United States early Wednesday loaded with a special commercial nuclear fuel made from U.S. weapons-grade plutonium, officials said.
The four rods of MOX, as the transformed fuel is known, left this English Channel port at 3:05 a.m. for Charleston, S.C., said a statement from Areva, the company that transformed the plutonium.
The shipment was loaded aboard the Pacific Teal and the Pacific Pintail, specially rigged for transporting nuclear materials. Outfitted with naval guns, the vessels also are protected by specialized armed forces for the journey home, Areva said.
The highly radioactive material, which was brought to France in October, was transformed into MOX, a mixture of plutonium oxide and uranium oxide, at a factory in southern France.
It was the first time that France has transformed weapons-grade plutonium into MOX, which can be used in commercial reactors.
The U.S. Energy Department had to ship the plutonium - 275.5 pounds - overseas for conversion because no plant in the United States can do it.
The plutonium was taken from nuclear warheads to be transformed into a commercial fuel to help fulfill the terms of a September 2000 U.S.-Russia disarmament accord in which both countries promised to destroy 34 tons of military plutonium.
The environmental group Greenpeace has protested the shipment as risky. It also objects to the overall project of transforming excess weapons-grade plutonium into commercial fuel.
On Monday, a Cherbourg court forbid Greenpeace from getting closer than 100 yards to the convoy as it traveled to the port on Tuesday under threat of a heavy fine.
The MOX is to be used at South Carolina's Catawba Nuclear Station - a test run to confirm that the fuel works there. A MOX factory would then be built with French help at the Savannah River Site, near Aiken, S.C., to dispose of the rest of the plutonium the United States agreed to destroy. Another MOX factory would be built, likely with Areva help, in Russia.
1. Radioactive Goods Prevented From Crossing Russia's Border
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Some 200 cases of goods and transport with an increased level of ionizing radiation traveling across the Russian border were revealed in 2004. This was reported on Wednesday by the press service of the Federal Customs Service.
According to a press service official, 80% of such cases dealt with importing goods with increased radiation to Russia, while 20%, with exporting.
"There is positive dynamics in detecting such cases. Thus, for example, in comparison with the present figure, in 1995, when efficient technical means were lacking, only four cases of goods and vehicles with increased ionizing radiation traveling across the border were revealed," he said.
The source said the detection technical means reveal 95% of cases of illegal movement of goods and vehicles with increased ionizing radiation; the remaining 5% are revealed when considering documents and data.
"The following facts speak about the efficiency of fissionable radioactive materials' customs control organization. If in 1996 there were 9 cases of return to the Russian Federation of goods and vehicles with increased ionizing radiation, then starting from 2002 until now, there were none," said the official.
Recent stories about the alleged sale of 12 former Soviet nuclear-capable unarmed air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM) to Iran and China - six to each nation - by Ukraine advance a long unfolding slow-motion scandal, but still leave many questions unanswered.
Allegations of Ukranian arms sales to Iran and other countries have been around for years. For example, in November 2002 lawmaker Hryhoriy Omelchenko, a former reserve colonel in the Ukranian intelligence service, promised to lay out "proven facts" of Ukraine's arms sales "not only to Iraq, North Korea, China and Iran", but even other states, according to his office. Omelchenko is the same legislator who went public last month in letters to President Victor Yuschenko and the prosecutor general, Svyatoslav Piskun, with allegations of the smuggling operation.
The 2002 charge came at the same time that Ukraine was in the news for a scandal over the alleged sale of Kolchuga air-defense radars to Iraq. It was then feared that the radars could be used to track Western aircraft in Iraq's no-fly zones.
Former president Leonid D Kuchma himself was implicated several years ago in the sale of a highly advanced radar system to Iraq during Saddam Hussein's regime. On secret recordings made by a former bodyguard in the president's office, likely in the summer of 2000, a voice resembling Kuchma's approved of the sale of the Kolchuga radar system through a Jordanian intermediary.
The United States, as well as outside experts, authenticated the controversial tapes, which also suggested Kuchma's complicity in the murder of an opposition journalist. Kuchma has repeatedly denied any role in those crimes.
While there is no definitive smoking gun that Iraq received the Kolchuga systems, the presumption is that it must be considered likely, according to a report by a joint US-United Kingdom team.
Interestingly, this was at the same time that US Special Operations Forces had been ordered to launch operations against arms supply lines to terrorists and the three rogue nations referred to by President George W Bush as the "axis of evil" - Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
But apparently they did not know about the missile sale to Iran or were not authorized to conduct an operation against it. The larger point, however, is that Ukraine, under Kuchma, was widely known as a willing supplier of weaponry.
Since taking office in January after the "Orange Revolution", Yushchenko has promised to investigate illicit weapons-dealings, including the allegation that election rival Kuchma approved the Kolchuga radar sale to Iraq.
Ukraine's intelligence agency, the State Security Service (Sluzhba Bespeky Ukrayiny - SBU), launched its investigation of the case involving Iran and China on February 14, 2004, during Kuchma's presidency. It announced last year that it had "exposed and curtailed the activities of an international criminal group of arms traders who intended to export from Ukraine 20 air-launched cruise missiles".
But the probe was not publicized until this February, when lawmaker Omelchenko wrote Yushchenko asking him to pursue a full investigation.
According to Omelchenko, in 2000 Russian national Oleg Orlov and a Ukrainian partner identified as E V Shilenko, also a Russian national, exported 20 Kh-55 cruise missiles through a fake contract and end-user certificate with Russia's state-run arms dealer and with a firm called Progress, which is a daughter company of Ukrspetseksport, Ukraine's weapons-exporting agency.
Orlov and Shilenko used the Ukrspetseksport state company to convey to Progress a forged contract on behalf of the Russian federal state arms company Rosvooruzheniye and an end-user certificate purporting to be from the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation for the delivery of 20 Kh-55 cruise missiles to that country.
Omelchenko's letter says the cruise missiles were concealed in the arsenals of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, although in documents signed by senior ministry officials they were listed as having been destroyed.
Ukrainian weapons dealers ferried missiles to China through a Ukraine-based cargo company run by a former secret service agent, according to Omelchenko. He also said that in 2001, weapons dealers sent ground targeting systems, maintenance equipment and missile technicians to Iran. Profits from the sales were estimated at US$2.1 million or more.
Reportedly, Sarfraz Haider, an Australian businessman of Afghan-Iranian origin, said to be part of the arms trafficking gang, was killed, according to his family and a Ukrainian police report. He lived in Canberra and Sydney before moving to London and then Cyprus in 2000.
His family originally believed his death in Cyprus last year was the result of a motorbike accident. But after an autopsy on Haider's body, the family now believes he was murdered. His neck had been broken and his aorta split, and there were signs of a struggle. The family claims Iranian agents paid Cypriot police to eliminate Haider because he knew too much.
It still is not clear exactly what kind of missiles were sold to Iran and China. Press reports say it was the Kh-55 Granat. But according to GlobalSecurity.org there are actually three versions; the Kh-55, Kh-55-OK and the Kh-55SM.
Production of the stretched-range version, the Kh-55SM, began in 1986. This was fielded in the 1990s. The modification provided for increased range, giving it an estimated reach of 3,000 kilometers. The Kh-55 has been in Russian service since 1984 as a nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile and can carry a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead. It is the Soviet counterpart to the US AGM-86 ALCM. It was originally deployed with strategic bombers Tu-95 MS and Tu-160.
Yet according to the SBU, some of the ALCMs were of the Kh-55 as well as the Kh-55SM types. Who the Kh-55 missiles went to is unclear.
Iran does not operate long-range bombers, but it is believed Tehran could adapt its Soviet-built Su-24 strike aircraft to launch the missile. The missile's range would put Israel and a number of other US allies within reach.
After the collapse of the USSR some of the missiles and their carrier aircraft remained beyond the limits of Russia, in particular, in Ukraine and in Kazakhstan.
Yet according to Bohdan Ferents, the lawyer for Volodymyr Yevdokimov - director of a cargo company, Ukraviazakaz, and one of at least six arms dealers secretly indicted in January for the missiles sale - the missiles were a far cry from being operational.
In an article in the March 5 issue of the Ukrainian newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli, he says: In the first place, they were items made in 1987. Their service life is eight years. According to the technical specifications and instructions, their service life can be extended only if the factory designers are directly brought in - in other words, if there is a technical inspection, involving either a visit to the place where the missiles are stored or an inspection at the factory itself. Since 1992, the storage of these missiles has not, unfortunately, matched the requirements. The technical and process documentation for the missiles was removed from Ukraine to Russia - which makes it impossible to sell them for their original purpose. All the warheads - let's regard them as the weapon's main component - were sent off to Russia. Not a single warhead remains on Ukrainian territory.
This raises the intriguing possibility that what actually transpired was not a sale but a con.
Ferents said: "We call them 'items'. The evidence presented in the case material and tested in court enables one to talk about a typical swindle with regard to the intentions of Iran and China, which are trying to obtain weapons. In other words, the negotiations were about cruise missiles, but what was exported was mere junk."
2. Speaker of Ukrainian Parliament on Illegal Sale of X-55 Missiles to Iran and China
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Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament Vladimir Litvin calls illegal sale of X-55 missiles "an attempt to tarnish the image of Ukraine." He spoke on "direct line" with readers of the Ukrainian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.
"I met today with director of Yuzhmash and he told me that the rumors of the sale are complete nonsense because without planes capable of carrying these missiles they are totally useless." According to the speaker, such missiles can be carried only on board Tu-160 bombers, and those who allegedly purchased them should have been aware of it."
Litvin believes that the illegal deal "is simply another loud scandal that might damage the image of Ukraine." "God forbid the rumors will be confirmed! It is another shady affair," the speaker exclaimed.
The scandal around the alleged sales of several missiles by Ukraine to Iran and China in 1999-2001 broke out after former Ukrainian Security Council official and former head of the parliamentary committee on the fight against corruption Grigory Omelchinko made an announcement about the prevention of an attempt to sell additional 14 X-55 missiles abroad.
The X-55 missile (according to US classification - AS-15 Kent) is a strategic cruise missile developed in the 1970s and adopted by the Russian Air Force in 1983. Carriers of X-55 air-to-surface missiles are strategic bombers Tu-95MC and Tu-160.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, part of the arsenal of these missiles remained on the territory of Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
Ukraine is investigating what became of its cold war nuclear arsenal in response to revelations that at least 18 unloaded cruise missiles were smuggled to Iran and China in 2001.
Petro Poroshenko, secretary of Ukraine's National Security Council, said he had ordered the Defence Ministry and SBU secret police to make a full account of the arsenal, which was supposed to have been destroyed or transferred to Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Mr Poroshenko also promised an "objective, unprejudiced and transparent" investigation of the smuggling case and a review and strengthening of arms-export controls "in order to rule out any recurrence".
However, he said it was up to the judge to decide whether to lift a secrecy order on the trial of one of the smuggling suspects.
Two men were arrested and accused of smuggling the missiles last year, but the case was kept secret until after the pro-western government of Viktor Yushchenko took power in January. One of the men, Russian businessman Oleg Orlov, was arrested last July in the Czech Republic, where he is being held in prison pending a hearing on Ukraine's extradition request.
Mr Poroshenko stressed that the missile sales were not official policy. "We're not talking about a crime carried out by the state of Ukraine. There's no evidence that this sale was sanctioned," he said.
Kishichiro Amae, Japan's ambassador to Ukraine, said the case was "stunning" because he thought Ukraine had completely disposed of its former nuclear arsenal. The only known exceptions were a well monitored programme in which inter-continental ballistic missiles were converted into commercial satellite launch vehicles and a small number of missiles turned into museum pieces.
The X-55s missiles allegedly exported to Iran and China are considered particularly dangerous because they can fly up to 3,000km and avoid detection by most radar. They were designed to carry a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead. These were stripped out and handed over to Russia years before the smuggling incident, according to Ukraine's prosecutor general.
The X-55 has been converted to carry conventional warheads by Russia but most nuclear bombs, especially primitive ones, would be too big for its payload.
A Defence Ministry spokesman said 483 X-55s had been destroyed under a US-funded disarmament programme but declined to say how many were in the arsenal Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union or how many were left.
According to a member of the Ukrainian parliament who first publicised the case last month, the Defence Ministry reported that it had destroyed the missiles but had actually turned them over to the state arms export company, which sold them to the smugglers.
Ukrainian specialists were sent to Iran to help install the missiles, according to the MP.
1. Georgian Opposition Leader Says Russia Helping Iran Make Nuclear Weapons
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The leader of Georgiaï¿½s right-wing opposition, David Gamkrelidze, has said that Russia is helping Iran produce a nuclear bomb, Russiaï¿½s Rosbalt news agency reported on Wednesday.
Gamkrelidze was criticizing Kakha Bendukidze, Georgiaï¿½s minister of economic reforms who is also the head of the Russiaï¿½s Atomstroiexport corporation ï¿½ the company building the Iranian nuclear plant at Bushehr.
The opposition politician said Russian secret services had sent Bendukidze to Georgia. Gamkrelidze also added that Bendukidze held a stake in Atomstroiexport ï¿½ ï¿½the company that is helping Iran build a nuclear power plant, but in reality is helping Iran to make a nuclear bombï¿½.
Gamkrelidze went on to say that Bendukidzeï¿½s business was created with the help of Russian security services, as he claimed it was impossible to do business in Russia in any other way.
Russian business tycoon Kakha Bendukidze was appointed Georgiaï¿½s minister of economic reforms in mid-2004 after President Mikhail Saakashvili granted him Georgian citizenship by special decree. The main thrust of Bendukidzeï¿½s economic policy is large-scale privatization, something that has earned him many enemies among the nationï¿½s political elite.
2. Iran Pursuing Nukes Program Not Related to Bushehr - Israeli Official
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Iran is carrying out a secret program to obtain nuclear weapons, which is not connected with the construction of a nuclear power plant in Bushehr and Russia's role in this issue, said a high-ranking official from the Israeli general staff.
"There is a nuclear armament program in Iran, but it is not related to Bushehr," the official said while meeting with Russian members of the press on Wednesday.
"In everything concerning Bushehr, Russia is playing a positive role by toughly insisting that spent nuclear fuel be returned," the official said.
Iran is pursuing a special nuclear program for which the country's Defense Ministry is responsible, the Israeli official said. "There are mines where uranium is being extracted, and there are centrifuges belonging to the Defense Ministry," he said.
1. Equipment Supplies for Indian Nuclear Plant to Finish in 2006
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Obyedinyonnye Mashinostroitelnye Zavody (United Machine-Building Works), or OMZ, plans to finish the supply of equipment for the Indian Kudankulam nuclear power plant in 2006, OMZ's press release reads.
OMZ and the Atomstroiexport company signed a contract in 2002 to produce equipment for two units with VVER-1000 reactors for Kudankulam.
The Atomstroiexport close corporation is general contractor of the construction of Kudankulam in India.
According to the press release, the check assembly of a VVER-1000 reactor for the second unit of the power plant has been finished.
The reactor vessel for the second unit will be delivered in the second quarter of 2005.
OMZ is to provide the Indian atomic energy corporation with equipment weighing 21,000 metric tons and exceeding $300 million. So far it has delivered over 8.6 metric tons of equipment to the plant.
OMZ is Russia's largest heavy machinery company, specializing in the engineering, production, sale and maintenance of equipment and machinery for the atomic energy and mining industries. OMZ enterprises are located in Russia and Czechia.
1. Siberian Chemical Combine Keeps On Contaminating Underground Waters
Rashid Alimov, Bellona
(for personal use only)
April 6th is the tenth anniversary of the accident at the Siberian Chemical combine in Tomsk County. Today people from Tomsk continue bringing actions against the Combine. They demand the Combine should stop dumping liquid radioactive waste into underground waters.
In several days people living in Siberia will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Tomsk nuclear accident of 1993, which was caused by violations at the Siberian chemical combine (SCC), also known as the Siberian Group of Chemical Enterprises. Today, when ten years have almost passed, SCC is still neglecting environmental regulations.
The trial started against SCC by inhabitants of the contaminated village of Georgievka is over. But trials initiated by people from another villages go on. All the people demand the combine should pay compensation for damage, caused by the accident of 1993.
But indemnity is not the sole object of the trials against SCC. One of the demands of people living in Georgievka in Tomsk county was that combine should stop dumping liquid radioactive wastes into underground geological formations. Regretfully, this demand, based on the combine's lack of the required license, was rejected by the court.
Now environmentalists and ordinary citizens of Tomsk are trying again to put an end to the underground dumping of liquid radioactive waste.
On March 17th 2003, the Tomsk County Court started considering a claim against the Russian Nuclear Regulatory, or GAN. Persons, who brought suit to the court, want to revoke a radioactive dumping licence, which was granted to SCC by GAN in July 2001. The claimants think GAN had no right to issue such licence, because SCC dumps radioactive waste into underground waters in hazardous proximity to the city's water wells.
The ban on dumping radioactive waste into geological formations was one of the demands at the trial of Georgievka inhabitants against SCC. The suit was lodged by 26 people of the village of Georgievka, which suffered severely from the nuclear accident in April 1993. 14 of the 26 claimants died since the suit was filed.
Nuclear accident of 1993
According to the official data, on April 6th 1993, an explosion ruptured the spent fuel reprocessing shop of the SCC radio-technology plant. A tank containing uranium, plutonium and niobium was destroyed. The blast ruined two storeys of the building. The radioactive gas release was carried by the wind north-east, causing radioactive contamination of 200 square kilometres. The accident was ranked four on the INES scale. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the release was caused by French spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, under the contract with the French company Cogema.
The accident could easily turn into disaster for the cities of Seversk and Tomsk, should the wind direction have been different. Population of the closed city of Seversk, former Tomsk-7, amounts to 177,000. The population of Tomsk is 500,000. All the samples made in the contaminated area, show hot particles with activity of 12 kBq ï¿½ dangerous for human health. The contamination was 'spotty'. Gamma-radiation in the area exceeded natural background radiation in 20 folds. Ministry for Nuclear Energy, or Minatom, admitted beta-contamination of the region only when local specialists, engaged by a non-governmental environmental organization, carried out an independent research.
Decontamination in Georgievka was carried out during four months. Signs have been erected near the village to warn people against mowing grass and picking mushrooms and berries in the area.
ï¿½ But people need to live somehow. Many of them gathered berries anyway, many of them fed cows and sheep with contaminated grass, ï¿½ Konstantin Lebedev tells Bellona Web. Lawyer Lebedev is a consultant of the Tomsk Ecological Law Centre, who is demanding today that SCC stopped dumping radioactive waste. Seven years ago he initiated the trial 'Georgievka vs the Siberian Chemical combine.'
Only after the 1993 accident people of Georgievka learned, how dangerous is the combine. They learned that SCC had suffered 22 accidents, four of them were ranked the third level on the INES scale. They also learned that under normal operation the combine releases 10 grams plutonium into the atmosphere annually, whereas one millionth of a gram may cause serious diseases if consumed by humans. Before Georgievka lodged the suit, all this information had been kept secret.
Georgievka vs SCC
Konstantin Lebedev tells about the beginning of the trial:
ï¿½ In November 1995, I went to Georgievka and met its inhabitants. I asked them, what measures took the county administration to compensate the damage of the accident.
The first indemnity payment equalled $300, whereas the second was $500. The officials said the poor sums were not meant to cover the relocation from the contaminated area to another place. The money was paid only to compensate the time period when it was not possible to use small private farms in 1993. But people wanted to leave the village for good.
ï¿½ One of my then acquaintances from Georgievka told me: 'I think every morning, should I go outdoors or not, I can't forget the disaster. I can fall asleep only when I'm drunk', ï¿½ Konstantin Lebedev says.
Before the accident Georgievka's population was 52, including 11 children. Families with children left the village soon after the radioactive release and moved to the neighbouring Naumovka. The cattle born after April 1993 either died or lacked futility. Lebedev suggested that inhabitants should lodge a suit against the Siberian Chemical Combine. The 26 persons, who still lived in the village in 1995, because they had no other place to go, signed the suit.
ï¿½ The old men used to say there would be no result. But because the amount of the suit due was small, we had nothing at risk, ï¿½ Konstantin Lebedev says.
At that time it was the first trial of the kind. Georgievka demanded indemnity for moral damage, the accident accounted for. The claims were grounded at the fact that contamination is proved by the environment protecting bodies and SCC did not deny it. Violations of the safety regulations at SCC were also officially confirmed.
Also the claimants demanded that SCC stopped dumping radioactive wastes into the underground waters, pointing out that the accident did not have the major significant impact on the radioactive and chemical contamination of the area. The accident only partly lifted the veil of secrecy, surrounding the SCC activities.
No health damage suit was filed: the poor medical care in the village did not let to prove at the court that illnesses of the inhabitants were caused by SCC's activities. No material charge was lodged either: the state due for such cases would have been too high, and there was little hope the court would agree on that.
ï¿½ One of the Georgievka dwellers was a farmer. He had six cows, half a dozen pigs and large plough-lands. After the accident he had to do away with the pedigree livestock, because the cows were stricken with leukaemia. But it is too difficult to prove the disease was induced by radiation.
The farmer signed the suit too, even though he was a SCC's employee. He told Lebedev, that right after the nuclear release, the combine sent its workers with gamma-radiation counters to decontaminate the adjacent areas. The state committees measured damage only after these preliminary decontamination works had been conducted, seemingly aimed at concealing the real nuclear harm. Shortly after the accident they found hot particles, and removed levels of snow and earth, woods, sometimes even roofs of country houses. The farmer had been a claimant for several years, but later SCC pressured him into refusing from his claims.
During the seven years of court sessions, a part of plaintiffs died, and a part left Georgievka. No special medical checkups had been carried out. The only medical care centre was located in a neighbouring village.
The court verdict: SCC pays indemnity, but keeps on dumping radioactive waste The county court admitted that the accident was a serious moral injury, as it caused radioactive contamination of Georgievka and its outskirts. The documents read: "after the accident measurements were taken resulting in farms being decontaminated, signs indicating radioactive danger were put up at the village boundaries; pasture and harvesting were banned."
The court made SGCE pay each claimant an indemnity of $850. The Tomsk administration was not found responsible. At the same time however, the court permitted the combine to continue underground disposals of liquid radioactive waste, which had been carried out since 1963.
Tomsk citizens' attempt to halt dumping of the waste
Simultaneously with the Georgievka trial, a group of Tomsk inhabitants sought after waste dumping ban, contesting a license, granted to SCC by the Russian Geological Committee and Tomsk county administration.
According to the legislation, for liquid waste dumping SCC needs three licences: for use of the bowels of the earth, for use of water and a license for radioactive dumping.
The last document mentioned is issued only by GAN. The Geological Committee alone and Tomsk county administration had no right to grant the combine such a license. Their permit 'For use of the bowels of the earth for dumping of liquid radioactive waste into underground waters' could not substitute for the required document from GAN.
Tomsk inhabitants and lawyer Lebedev insisted SCC had no authorized license, but during four years of the trial, the Tomsk county court rejected the suit twice. And twice the Supreme Court sent the suit back for a new trial.
On March 17th 2001, the contested license expired, and at the third trial the court rejected the suit finally, because the point at issue was no longer in place.
The current trial
On July 19th 2001, GAN granted SCC the required licence. The Combine proudly announced that it was the first to obtain such licence of the three other Minatom's enterprises, which conduct similar dumping.
But environmentalists and citizens of Tomsk say that dumping into underground waters is not permissible. And having permitted the dumping, GAN violated the legislation. Russian laws prohibit dumping radioactive and toxic substances into water (Water Code, article 104, Environmental Protection Law, article 51.2).
GAN's representative at the court Sergey Konkov says SCC had all the necessary documents to get the license, but he admits, 'nobody knows what's happening with the waste pumped underground.'
At a session on March 19th 2003, the claimants found that the required environmental impact study was wrongly composed and actually contained neither positive nor negative conclusion.
The slow court
ï¿½ We filed our suit in September 2001. The law stipulates the application should be considered in ten days. But, as you can see, half a year passed from the application to the first court session. Legal foot-dragging in Russia usually exceeds the term of the license contested, ï¿½ Konstantin Lebedev says.
SCC faces another suits
The Georgievka trial is finished, the trial against liquid waste dumping continues. Inhabitants of the neighbouring villages of Naumovka and Chernaya Rechka brought actions against SCC as well.
Georgievka was officially declared as contaminated, whereas Naumovka, laying only eight kilometres from Georgievka, was not. But the radiation level in this village is the same as in Georgievka, a genetic research showed. The research was carried out by Nikolay Ilyinskikh, head of the biology and genetics department at the State Medical University in Tomsk. The suit, filed by Naumovka, was similar to the Georgievka's one. But the claimants found no understanding in courts, which refused to take the results of the research into consideration. Recently, the inhabitants of Naumovka sent their suit to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is quite possible SCC would have to pay them an indemnity anyway.
In the middle of April, a new suit against SCC will be considered. It was lodged by people from a remote taiga village Chernaya Rechka, with population of 200 people, which also suffered from the Tomsk nuclear accident. Dirt road to the village, passing through swamps, complicated the decontamination in that area. It seems like a symbol, that in 1993 the radioactive trace crossed the roads, connecting villages of Georgievka, Naumovka, and Chernaya Rechka and the city of Tomsk.
Ten years after the explosion
It is difficult to say, that something changed to the better at the Siberian Chemical Combine during the past 10 years. In June 1999, another accident contaminated the plant, and two workers were exposed to a radiation dose exceeding the annual three permitted level three folds.
According to the recent US-Russian agreements, two plutonium-breeding reactors of SCC would be shut down by 2005. The combine representatives insist that a nuclear plant must be built to employ the workers. But the Seversk NPP, if built, would seriously complicate the radioactive waste problem and aggravate the harm to the environment and people's health.
Dumping of liquid radioactive waste into underground waters continues in violation of environmental legislation. And that is why the Tomsk nuclear accident remains a topic that should not be taken off the agenda.
2. Lithuania Found Place for Underground Repository for Spent Nuclear Fuel
(for personal use only)
The specialists found the proper geological horizon for the construction of the underground reporsitiry for spent nuclear fuel from the Ignalina NPP.
The Lithuanian and Swedish experts from SKB concluded in the 4-year research project that construction of the repository and placing the spent nuclear fuel would cost Lithuania about $3.4 billion. The press-secretary of the Lithuanian Radioactive Waste Management Agency Ruta Jarasuniene said to Baltic News Service (BNS), that the Swedish specialists believe the proper place for the facility is the territory around Ignalina NPP and Lithuanian towns Varena and Alytus. There are no specific plans regarding construction or financing at the moment.
The SNF is stored in the containers at the Ignalina NPP since 1999, where it can be stored temporarily, but no longer than for 50-60 years. Lithuania has to know for certain how this waste will be disposed of afterwards. Currently, three options are under consideration: the waste could be buried in Lithuania, transported to other states or Lithuania could cooperate with other countries and build a regional repository.
It is estimated that about 2.5 tonnes of the SNF will be collected by 2010, BNS reported.
Lithuania pledged the EU to decommission the Ignalina second unit in 2009. Despite millions of dollars invested in the safety of the Chernobyl-type reactors at Ignalina, they are still considered dangerous. The first Ignalina reactor was shut down on December 31, 2004, the second one is in operation.
3. Russian TV Shows Super-Container for Carrying Spend Nuclear Fuel
BBC and Russia TV
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(Presenter) Russian nuclear energy specialists are prepared to commission a container for carrying spent nuclear fuel. Scientists have been working on this container - the largest in the world - for about 10 years. The new super-container is environmentally safe. Tests have proved that it remains airtight in the most difficult conditions. Here is Aleksey Ponomarev with the details.
(Correspondent, over video of a huge tube falling down from a height) This video footage is being shown on television for the first time - tests of a transport and storage container for spent nuclear fuel. The container falls from 9 m, which simulates a collision between two trains at a speed of 100 kph. If the container breaks, the spent nuclear fuel will contaminate the soil, air and water. The container falls and the fastening blocks break off, but the container remains airtight.
The transport and storage container, the biggest in the world, is designed to carry spent nuclear fuel. It is nearly 16 m long and about 1.5 m in diameter. It weighs 77 tonnes and can carry 9 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel.
Nuclear scientists and specialists from the Chemical Machine-Building Plant in the Urals have been working on the super-container for 10 years. First, reinforced concrete installations were tested but concrete proved to be too fragile. So the following packaging technology had to be used: a sheet of metal is wrapped 38 times around a burnt-up fuel assembly from a nuclear power station, making a flexible steel case. The container can be used not only for carrying fuel but also to store it for 50 years.
(Georgiy Rykovanov, director of the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre of the Technical Physics Research Institute, town of Snezhinsk, Chelyabinsk Region - caption) The container has passed all International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tests, it complies with all IAEA requirements. This is a very important detail which allows us to consider using it for carrying fuel not only in Russia, let's say.
(Correspondent, over video showing a nuclear power station, captioned "Town of Zarechnyy, Sverdlovsk Region") Tens of tonnes of irradiated fuel in the so-called long-length fuel assemblies, 15m-long, have amassed at Russian nuclear power stations. All of them are kept in the stations' cooling pools. But these cooling pools are not designed for long-term storage. So the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy has decided to move the fuel to a mining-and-chemical combine in Krasnoyarsk. At the Beloyarskaya nuclear power station, spent nuclear fuel assemblies have already started breaking down.
(Nikolay Oshkanov, director of the Beloyarskaya nuclear power station) We have found traces of rust, corrosion has started. We still have some time and we must use it wisely to build a container and remove them.
(Correspondent) The new container has already become a commercial success. The Urals nuclear specialists have received an order from Kazakhstan to build a special railway train with 10 containers to transport spent nuclear fuel. The project is worth about 3m dollars.
1. Agreement Between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) Organization Signed
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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The signing of an Agreement Between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization on Measures Regarding International Monitoring System Facilities, envisaged by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty, took place in Vienna on March 22. Anatoly Mazurkevich, the Head of the Chief Directorate for International Military Cooperation of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, signed the Agreement for the Government of the Russian Federation, and Wolfgang Hoffman, the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO PrepCom), for the Preparatory Commission.
The conclusion of this Agreement creates a reliable legal base for expanding cooperation with CTBTO PrepCom as well as will help to accelerate the work on the creation of a Russian segment of the International Monitoring System (IMS), the key element of control over the observance of the CTBT, and to ensure its operation in the period till the entry of the Treaty into force.
In accordance with the provisions of the Treaty the Russian segment of the IMS includes 6 primary and 13 auxiliary seismic stations, as well as 4 infrasound stations, 8 radionuclide stations and 1 radionuclide laboratory (32 IMS facilities in all).
This Agreement is subject to ratification by the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.
The signing of the Agreement is one more proof of the invariable adherence of Russia to the Treaty and to ensuring its speediest entry into force and of our support of the ongoing and well-balanced construction of the verification mechanism being established in its framework, tied to the real situation evolving around the CTBT.
2. Grittiths Announces More Funding For Nuclear Clean-Up in North West Russia
Department of Trade and Industry of the United Kingdom
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Nigel Griffiths, Trade and Industry Minister today announced further funding of over ï¿½1 million for a joint study with Sweden to look at the future management of spent nuclear fuel at Andreeva Bay in North West Russia.
The expenditure is part of the UK's contribution to the G8 Global Partnership against the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction in the Former Soviet Union. It will examine future management of spent nuclear fuel, including solid radioactive waste and liquid radioactive waste activities at Andreeva.
Nigel Griffiths commented:
"The UK is engaged in major programmes across the Former Soviet Union to help tackle the Cold War legacy. I am delighted that we can undertake this vital study in collaboration with our Swedish and Russian partners to contribute to this vital programme and play a full part in addressing these crucial issues."
Andreeva Bay is located in the Zapadnaya sea inlet at the extreme North-West of the Kola Peninsula (Russian Federation) and some 40Km from the Norwegian border. Andreeva Bay is a former coastal navy base that was established in the early 1960's for refuelling nuclear powered submarines and for storing SNF from submarines and nuclear powered ice-breakers. The base was also used as an interim storage of the solid and liquid radioactive wastes arising from nuclear submarine operations and maintenance.
The site is effectively derelict but some 22,000 spent fuel nuclear assemblies still remain stored under poor conditions. Andreeva Bay is considered to be one of the largest nuclear fuel repositories in the world. An international effort is now underway to assist Russia to clean up this site and make all SNF there safe and secure.
The objective of the comprehensive study, known also as the 'OBIN' and translated from Russian broadly means 'Justification of Investment' is to deliver a comprehensive and integrated plan for the provision of facilities and infrastructure to support the safe management of SNF, Solid Radioactive Waste (SRW) and Liquid Radioactive Waste (LRW) liabilities at Andreeva Bay. The study is expected to last twelve months, followed by a further twelve months obtaining expert reviews, approvals and endorsements by the necessary Russian regulators and local authorities.
Andreeva Bay is a key focus of DTI's commitment to make SNF safe and secure in conjunction with other international donor countries currently: Norway, Sweden UK and the Russian Federation through the Andreeva Bay Coordination Group. Other organisations have agreed to provide financial support to future Andreeva Bay projects e.g. the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP) which is administered by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The aim of the Coordination Group will be to implement a long-term coordinated strategy for the remediation of Andreeva Bay.
The study will be undertaken by Management Consultants, RWE NUKEM Ltd on behalf of the DTI.
3. President Vladimir Putin Signed the Federal Law ï¿½On Ratification of the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damageï¿½
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The Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (hereafter referred to as the Convention) was opened for signature on May 21, 1963 and came into force on November 12, 1977. More than 30 states are parties to the Convention to date.
The Russian Federation signed the Convention on May 8, 1996, in Vienna.
The Convention is the basic international-legal document setting out the provisions regarding liability, procedures, deadlines and principles for compensating damage caused by incidents at civil nuclear facilities.
Under the terms of the Convention, the state responsible for the nuclear facility, or the stateï¿½s appointed operator, must pay compensation in all cases where an incident has been established by a court of the state where the incident took place. The Convention allows each state to set the maximum payable compensation and sets a current minimum compensation of $55 million. The compensation is intended to meet the claims of those who suffered from the incident, both inside and outside the stateï¿½s borders.
The Convention is in Russiaï¿½s interests and joining it will enable Russia to take a more active part in international cooperation in nuclear energy use.
4. NRC Licensing of Fuel Assembly Process Advances MOX Program
National Nuclear Security Administration
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The National Nuclear Security Administrationï¿½s (NNSA) plutonium disposition program today moved another step forward after a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announcement that it has issued a license to authorize Duke Powerï¿½s use of four mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel lead assemblies at its Catawba nuclear power plant near Rock Hill, S.C. The assemblies are currently being fabricated in France.
ï¿½The NRCï¿½s decision is clearly an important step toward advancing our nonproliferation goals and meeting our milestones in the program,ï¿½ NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Paul Longsworth said. ï¿½We look forward to beginning site preparation activities for the U.S. MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site later this spring, and starting construction next year.ï¿½
NNSAï¿½s plutonium disposition program aims to eliminate 34 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium both in the United States and in Russia, and is based on a 2000 nonproliferation agreement between the two countries. Both countries will dispose of their plutonium by converting it to MOX fuel for use in existing nuclear reactors. Once the MOX fuel has been irradiated, the plutonium can no longer be readily used for nuclear weapons.
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