1. Italy to Help Russia to Dispose of its Decommissioned Submarines
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The Russian government has approved and will submit to the State Duma for ratification an agreement signed with the government of Italy on cooperation in the field of the disposal of Russian nuclear submarines decommissioned from the Navy and in the field of the safety of handling radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.
As the press service of the Russian government reports, the respective resolution was signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.
The agreement was signed on November 5, 2003 in Rome.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Kislyak and deputy head of the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy (Rosatom) Sergei Antipov have been appointed as official representatives of the Russian government in the State Duma and the Federation Council during the discussion of the issue of the agreement's ratification.
"Italy intends to spend 300 million euros on the disposal of nuclear submarines," Sergei Antipov told RIA Novosti.
He added that Italy had not signed the agreement on multilateral nuclear and environmental program in Russia, which had been ratified in 2003 by some European countries, Russia and the USA.
This program deals with the handling of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste and the disposal of nuclear submarines in the northwest of Russia.
"Italy has prepared a bilateral agreement with Russia, which basically repeats all the approaches of the multilateral nuclear and environmental program in Russia towards the solving of problems of nuclear and radiation safety. However, owing to the fact that it contains the rules differing from the Russian legislation, the Russian government has introduced it into the State Duma for ratification," Antipov noted.
According to a Rosatom representative, "after the agreement is ratified, eight Russian-Italian projects that have already been prepared, can be launched."
1. Chemical Weapons Agreement with Canada Submitted to Duma
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A Russian-Canadian agreement on cooperation in disposing of chemical weapons and nuclear submarines has been submitted to the Russian Duma for ratification, chamber sources told Interfax on Wednesday.
"The agreement is aimed at promoting cooperation between Russia and Canada in the framework of the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and providing a legal foundation for non-repayable financial and technical assistance from Canada,' one of the sources said.
The agreement between the Russian and Canadian governments on cooperation in disposing of chemical arms and decommissioned Navy nuclear submarines and safeguarding nuclear materials and radioactive substances was signed on the sidelines of the G8 Sea Island summit on June 9, 2004.
The government's plans to convert bomb-grade plutonium into commercial reactor fuel cleared a bureaucratic hurdle Wednesday when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave the go-ahead for construction of a new facility at the Savannah River site.
The $1 billion facility, scheduled for construction beginning this year, is designed to dispose of 34 tons of surplus bomb-grade plutonium by combining it with uranium oxide to create a mixed-oxide fuel called MOX. The fuel will be burned in commercial nuclear power plants to produce electricity.
Hauling all of the nuclear material ï¿½ including the MOX, the plutonium and the wastes that the project will generate ï¿½ will require 1,500-3,500 truck shipments to and from the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C., according to a government study. Many of those truck routes will run through Georgia.
The construction permit was issued to Duke Cogema Stone and Webster, the Charlotte-based company that will build the new plant.
A company spokesman said land-clearing, grading and excavation will begin this year, with full construction starting next year.
A second facility will be built at the site to process most of the nuclear wastes, which will be stored at the site or shipped to disposal facilities in New Mexico, Nevada and other states. The government, however, has not said when it will be built or at what cost.
The Department of Energy also plans a third Savannah River Site facility to disassemble components of nuclear bombs to remove the plutonium that will be used in MOX production.
An NRC environmental impact study in January said that in making MOX, the plant will generate thousands of cubic feet of nuclear wastes and 6 million gallons of low-level wastes during its expected 10-year operation period.
Russia has pledged to embark on a similar project to dispose of 34 tons of plutonium from its decomissioned warheads, but U.S. officials fear that Russia is far behind this country in developing a MOX program.
Environmental groups oppose the MOX project. "It will further undermine global efforts to halt proliferation of nuclear materials," said Tom Clements of Greenpeace.
Nuclear terrorism, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Anan observed recently, is still often treated as science fiction. But he warned the global summit on terrorism in Madrid on March 10 that denying terrorists access to nuclear materials was vital.
"Unfortunately we live in a world of excess hazardous materials and abundant technological know-how, in which some terrorists clearly state their intention to inflict catastrophic casualties," he said.
Asia and the Pacific are far from immune from this threat. Radioactive sources, some of them highly dangerous, are widely dispersed in the region, as they are in other parts of the world.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, has said repeatedly that the world is racing against time to prevent a terrorist attack involving a nuclear explosive device or a radiological bomb that uses conventional explosives to disperse radioactive poison. Al Qaeda and affiliated transnational terrorist groups have shown interest in acquiring both types of weapons. Meanwhile, trafficking in nuclear and radiological materials is on the rise. ElBaradei has described a long-established smuggling network headed until early 2004 by Pakistan's now disgraced chief nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan as the "Wal-Mart of private sector proliferation".
The complex procurement, manufacturing, financing and trading network set up by Khan and his associates stretched across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. It supplied nuclear technology to Libya and probably to Iran and North Korea as well.
Underscoring the danger of nuclear smuggling, the New York Times reported recently that looters systematically removed tonnes of equipment from Iraqi weapons facilities, including some with components for making parts for nuclear arms, in the weeks after Baghdad fell in 2003.
The newspaper quoted Iraq's Deputy Minister of Industry, Sami al-Araji, as saying he had no evidence of where the equipment had ended up, but the black market or foreign Governments were possibilities.
William Potter, director of the non-proliferation centre at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, told a meeting of nuclear experts in Sydney in November that given the significant quantities of radioactive material outside regulatory control around the world, a radiological or dirty bomb attack by terrorists was "all but inevitable".
Since the 1950s, millions of radioactive sources have been distributed worldwide for medical treatment, food processing and a wide-array of industrial and commercial applications. This has yielded many benefits.
But some of these radioisotopes - including Cesium-137, Strontium-90, Cobalt-60 and Iridium-192 - emit high levels of radiation and can be dangerous if mishandled. The IAEA estimates that thousands of radioactive sources have been "orphaned" - abandoned, lost, misplaced or stolen.
It has found that more than 100 countries may have inadequate control and monitoring programmes to prevent or even detect the theft of radiation sources.
The radioisotopes have been produced by civilian nuclear research reactors, which are typically much smaller than the reactors used to generate electricity. There are about 280 research reactors operating in 56 countries, according to the World Nuclear Association. It says that in 2004 over 60 of these reactors operated with highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel, typically with the U-235 isotope content raised to 20 per cent but in some older reactors to 93 per cent. The latter is potentially bomb-grade.
Mr Potter's estimate of the number of HEU-fuelled research reactors is higher than the WNAs. He said that about 130 nuclear civilian research reactors in nearly 40 countries used the fuel.
As concern about transnational terrorism has risen in the past few years, so have worries about HEU fuel at research reactors, since many are in universities and other civilian locations with much lower security than military weapons establishments.
The IAEA has listed 10 countries in Asia and the Pacific with research reactors that run on HEU fuel. They include Australia, China, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Pakistan, Taiwan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Australia has suggested that Asia-Pacific countries consider ways to improve the sharing of experience on nuclear security.
The US and Russia, which supplied most of the research reactors using HEU, are leading efforts to take the fuel back and replace it with low-enriched uranium that cannot be used for bomb-making. But this programme will not be completed before 2013.
1. Russia: Fewer Trespasses Reported from Nuke Plants as Danger Persists in Coal Mines
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"The number of trespasses committed in Russian-based nuclear power plants is shrinking, somewhat. 46 were registered last year-five less than the year before," Andrei Malyshev, Federal Environmental, Technological and Nuclear Inspection Service acting chief, said to a Novosti news conference.
His very next sentence dampened the hopeful statement, however: "Trespasses in other nuclear energy fields are mounting, on the contrary." Mr. Malyshev went on with alarming statistics for last year. 31 instances were reported from nuclear research installations-five more than in 2003; 22 from nuclear-propelled icebreakers-one more; 39 from economic projects presenting nuclear danger-nine more; and 29 from nuclear fuel projects-an increase by four.
The inspection boss came back to his reassuring tone to say that all those were only minor trespasses, at a zero level on international standards, and did not threaten overall nuclear safety. "In that sense, we as monitoring and regulation agency are satisfied with developments in nuclear energy use. Russian nuclear plants are on the world's top three for exploitation, immediately following Germany and France."
As for the worst headaches, the speaker highlighted depleted nuclear fuel and radioactive waste storage and disposal. "Certain plants have stocked up more than standards envisage. That will be bad if an accident breaks out. We can't put an end to it, for now. We have licensed dry depleted fuel depository construction in Zheleznogorsk near Krasnoyarsk, in Siberia's east-but the Nuclear Power Agency is marking time. The building efforts are not yet on full scale."
Mining, gas supplies, petroleum production, and underground project exploitation are in a far worse situation than nuclear power industry, warned Mr. Malyshev. 242 occupational accidents were registered in those industrial spheres last year-29 more than the year before. The accidents took a total 410 lives. Coal mining remains the most dangerous industry, with 148 deaths in 2004, and a hundred in 2003. This year, too, has seen a tragedy-a marsh gas blast killed 25, February 8, in the Yesaulskaya mine, Kuznetsk coal basin in South Siberia's Kemerovo Region.
2. Russia's Nuclear Weapons Facilities are Well Protected - Commander
BBC Monitoring and Interfax
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Protection of the nuclear facilities of the Strategic Missile Troops is being improved in line with the threats to them, Strategic Missile Troops Deputy Commander for Armaments Lt-Gen Vitaliy Linnik told Interfax-AVN.
"The Strategic Missile Troops personnel are currently taking all the necessary measures to protect their facilities from unauthorized entry and possible sabotage. These measures are being improved and increased commensurate to the threats from terrorists," Linnik said.
He said that the protection and defence of nuclear weapons facilities is organized as part of the Strategic Missile Troops' general system of alert duty and is carried out by specially designated guard units as duty shifts for protection and defence.
"Every nuclear weapons facility has engineering and technical systems providing warnings and timely detection of unauthorized access to them, as well as electric and other barriers," Linnik said.
According to him, anti-sabotage formations are kept on constant alert in order to strengthen protection and defence.
According to open-source information, the Strategic Missile Troops are currently made up of 15 missile brigades and divisions. At the end of 2004, the Strategic Missile Troops grouping possessed 596 intercontinental ballistic missiles.
1. Cruise Missiles Were Smuggled to China and Iran by Citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Australia ï¿½ Foreign Ministry
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The twelve 18 X-55 cruise missiles, also known as Kh-55s or AS-15s, were smuggled to China and Iran by an international criminal group of traders in arms, including citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Australia.
Ukraine Foreign Ministryï¿½s deputy speaker Dmytro Svystkov has said this commenting on the illegal export of cruise missiles from Ukraine during 2000-2001.
According to the press-service of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, D.Svystkov has noted that in 2004 the Ukrainian Security Service revealed and stopped the activities of the international criminal group of arms traders.
The investigation established that these people, under the guise of export from Ukraine to Russia, smuggled 12 cruise missiles to China and Iran during 2000-2001.
A number of criminal cases have been brought on these facts.
According to D.Svystkov, the investigation has established that in the beginning of 2000, Russian citizens, using counterfeit documents, with assistance of a Ukrainian citizen, smuggled 6 missiles of X-55 CM type to China. Upon the deal, the Ukrainian party received a counterfeit certificate of missile delivery to the Russian Federation. During May-June of 2001, citizens of Ukraine and Australia, using the similar counterfeit documents, on behalf of ï¿½Rosvooruzhenieï¿½ Russian state-owned company, illegally exported another 6 missiles of the same type and a KNO-120 complex of land equipment for their control to Iran.
D.Svystkov has stressed that the missiles were smuggled without warheads, and they can be used only with special jets.
At present the Appeal Court of Kyiv Oblast is examining the criminal case brought against one of the accomplices of the contraband to Iran, the investigation on this case was finished as early as in August of 2004.
Another accomplice of the contraband to China, a Russian citizen, was suspected of masterminding the sale, was arrested in Prague last July and was under an extradition request since that time.
Another two citizens, who took part in the contraband, perished in traffic accidents in 2002 and 2004 yy..
As reported earlier by UNIAN, on March 18 the Financial Times reported that 12 cruise missiles were smuggled from Ukraine to Iran and China. The Financial Times quoted the U.S. embassy in Kiev as saying it was "closely monitoring" a Ukrainian government investigation into the case and wanted the findings of the secret trial made public.
The United States accuses Iran of trying to secretly develop a nuclear weapons program. Tehran denies the charge, saying its nuclear program is only for power generation.
Prosecutor General Piskun was quoted as saying he understood Japan was concerned that the missiles delivered to China could have ended up in North Korea although there were no grounds to suspect such a transfer.
2. Nuclear Material Protection Pact to Be Strengthened
Global Security Newswire
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An international treaty on the protection of nuclear materials will be strengthened this year to require additional safeguards against diversion of substances by terrorists, the Kyodo news agency reported yesterday (see GSN, March 21).
The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials now only requires its 110 signatories to take measures to protect nuclear materials such as plutonium during international shipments. The revised policy would require safeguards for substances that are being used, stockpiled or shipped within a nationï¿½s borders, sources told Kyodo.
The proposal also calls on governments to develop response scenarios for the potential theft of nuclear material, or damage to such material. Members would be required to protect nuclear facilities, even in the absence of atomic material.
Representatives from the member countries are set to meet in July in Vienna to approve the revisions. The leading nations support the proposal, Kyodo reported. The United States and Russia are among the pactï¿½s members (Kyodo/BBC Monitoring, March 29).
Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant project conforms to Russian and international safety standards, acting chief of the Federal Service for Environmental, Technological and Atomic Supervision (Rostekhnadzor) Andrei Malyshev said at a press conference Wednesday.
"All our first generation power units at Bushehr meet international safety requirements. Regarding the standards, no claims can be laid against our stations," Malyshev said.
"Our specialists are cooperating with Iran in assessing the instruction manuals and arriving equipment and helping in supervising the power unit's assembly," he said.
According to Malyshev, Russian nuclear power facilities are among the best three in the world, but safety presents problems that must be dealt with.
"One [problem] is the handling of spent nuclear fuel," Malyshev said.
Earlier, head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency Alexander Rumyantsev said that the first unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant is scheduled to begin operating in late 2005 or early 2006.
Russian specialists in Iran are building the first unit of the Bushehr 1,000-megawatt facility.
1. New Russian Arms Program to Finance Nuclear Cruiser Admiral Nakhimovï¿½s Upgrade
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The money for upgrade and re-design of nuclear cruiser Admiral Nakhimov will be included in the new state arms program.
ï¿½We are applying for the financing of the new state arms program from 2006 to 2015. And the navy strongly demands about the need for the cruiser repairsï¿½ the head of shipbuilding department rear admiral Anatoly Shlemov said to Interfax. But he added that it is hard to say when the cruiser is back in service ï¿½as we are talking not about fregate or corvet, but a nuclear ship, therefore we need here significant fundsï¿½. ï¿½We believe the ship must be repaired and stay in the navy for a long periodï¿½ Shlemov underlined.
Russia plans to expand its cooperation with NATO, but in a limited and cautious manner in light of certain areas of disagreement, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told Argumenty i Fakty.
Many Western military and political leaders are still influenced by Cold War mentalities even though it is generally accepted that Russia, as the Soviet Union's successor, is no longer NATO's geopolitical adversary. Russia also no longer sees NATO as an enemy, as it did 20 years ago.
NATO deployed temporary bases to the CIS, which it coordinated with Russia and was in Russian interest, in connection with the Afghan counter-terrorist operation.
Ivanov noted that Russia no longer faces the threat of an all-out war, but the global situation is becoming more and more unpredictable. Top-grade mobile forces are the only way to defend such a huge country as Russia with a relatively small population.
According to Ivanov, Russia also plans to develop its nuclear forces in a well-balanced manner. New Russian nuclear weapons are currently being developed, prioritizing standardized nuclear weapons. Russia has started testing the Bulava (Mace) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), an interchangeable version of the Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The Soviet Union spent 70% of its defense budget on military-development programs during the 1980s. Another 30% was used to pay servicemen. These spending patterns drastically changed in the 1990s. Russia is slowly rectifying the situation. Moscow now spends 60 percent of its defense budget on the upkeep of Russia's Armed Forces. Military development gets the remaining 40%. Ivanov seeks a fifty-fifty balance by 2010.
Ivanov said Russia plans to introduce 12-month conscription service beginning in 2008, with plans to recruit more professional soldiers. There will be 114,000 sergeants and soldiers serving on contract by 2008.
1. World's Leading Countries Struggle to be the First to Use Nuclear Power in Space
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Modern scientists give a lot of consideration to the question of nuclear power in space nowadays. The necessity to develop systems of space nuclear energy is based not only on economic or technical interests, but on geopolitical reasons too. The country, which comes first in the development of the nuclear power in space, will rule the human civilization.
The concept to develop a high-performance missile engine on the base of a special nuclear reactor had been prepared by the middle of the 1960s. The traction of the new engine would surpass the capacities of best fuel-powered engines, scientists presumed. A specialized research reactor complex, known for the Russian initials as IVG-1, was built with a view to conduct experiments to check the suppositions. The construction was started in 1964 on the territory of the nuclear range ground in Kazakhstan. The new engine was launched in March of 1975. Russian specialists obtained reliable information about the practical use of the nuclear power in space by 1988. The experiments proved that the nuclear power could provide compact and powerful sources of power for engines and supply energy to space-stationed objects.
Russia is the world's leader in the development of nuclear technologies for space objects. Russian scientists have created over 30 nuclear reactors capable of producing electric power by means of the direct power conversion.
On the other hand, the human civilization is already facing a whole bouquet of severe ecological problems, which the nuclear power has caused. However, the need in the power production grows every year on the planet: it will reach the highest point by the middle of the current century already. Moving the basic energy production into space could be a way out of the problem. There will be certain ecological restrictions imposed too, because of the traffic from Earth to build power-generating systems in space. Scientists believe that people will subsequently start using space resources for the purpose: all necessary mineral resources can be found on the Moon, for example.
Experts of the Russian space corporation Energia think that nuclear power for the Moon and other planets would be the most efficient way to build permanent settlements and productions there. The conquest of space is unthinkable without the use of nuclear power nowadays. A 20-40 kilowatt nuclear plant would be optimal for a lunar station; small stations could also be assembled into large modules, if necessary.
In addition, a nuclear missile engine is the only option that can be used to explore distant space. Large traction nuclear engines will allow to cut the duration of a flight from Earth to Mars: the flight will become 1.5 times shorter. It will take a spaceship 460 days to fly to Mars, if a spaceship is outfitted with an engine system comprised of several 7-ton traction nuclear engines.
The Russian Federation can boast of having the complete infrastructure to start working on the projects of using nuclear power in space. Russia has the prototype of a nuclear missile engine, which possesses the necessary performance to impalement the projects.
It is noteworthy that the list of countries that evince their interest in the nuclear space problem is extending. The USA, the European Union and China are taking efforts to develop nuclear space technologies. The world's leading states compete for the future leadership and industrial orders in a very lucrative technological field. For the time being, Russia has very good chances to become the technological leader during a new space exploration stage.
2. Russia to Help Develop Nuclear-Powered Spacecraft
Andrei Kislyakov, RIA Novosti
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Russia that has developed state-of-the-art rocket engines is ready to use them within the framework of the international space program. Consequently, Russia is quite eager to explore deep space with the rest of the world.
In Moscow's opinion, such is the gist of international accords that were approved by 21 countries and 15 international organizations in the United States late this March. The concerned parties discussed interplanetary space-flight plans that were suggested by national space agencies. A document would be expected to formalize the discussion's results by August 2005.
Russia suggests that those involved in the Martian program use its nuclear rocket engines and propulsion units, Academician Nikolai Ponomarev-Stepnoi, vice-president of the Kurchatov Institute national research center, noted in early March. He made this statement at an international conference in Moscow that discussed nuclear-powered spacecraft.
We would develop such an engine and propulsion unit by 2017, if the relevant international decision was adopted today, Vladimir Smetannikov, chief designer of the Dollezhal R&D institute, believes. Consequently, it would be possible to launch a manned space ship toward Mars by that time.
According to Ponomarev-Stepnoi, the world's countries understand that long-range space flights are impossible without nuclear propulsion units. Incidentally, nuclear engines can be used to accelerate spacecraft, also serving as their power-supply systems.
It should be mentioned in this connection that the Energomash science-and-production association (NPO) had developed the first Russian nuclear rocket engine back in 1981. However, its comprehensive tests never took place because of tougher nuclear environmental-safety requirements in space research. The United States also conducted similar experiments, failing to test even a prototype version.
Nonetheless, theoretically nuclear-powered rocket engines cannot be called something entirely new. For its own part, the R&D institute of space systems near Moscow is busy developing a perpetuum mobile (perpetual-motion engine), of sorts. This engine that will have a virtually unlimited service life could be used on Earth and in outer space.
Our institute's staffers have been developing a non-jet propulsion unit for several years in a row, Valery Menshikov, who heads this institute, said in mid-March. A liquid or solid-state propulsive mass moves along a preset tornado-shaped trajectory inside this engine, thereby ensuring sustainable propulsion. Quite possibly, we are witnessing a hitherto unknown interaction between the propulsive mass and little-studied fields, including the gravitation field, Menshikov explained.
This unique solar-powered engine will have a service life of at least 15 years, developers claim. And it can be switched on 300,000 times, or so.
The institute's scientists believe their invention can play the part of an attitude-control engine or thruster. It can also be installed on aircraft and ground vehicles.
However, dependable engines are only one aspect of long-duration space flights. Radiation is the main hazard facing space crews. In this connection, the Russian Institute of Medical-Biological Problems has decided to conduct a special experiment, whose results will help shield space crews from radiation during long-range missions.
We intend to launch an experiment aboard the International Space Station (ISS) this year, Vladislav Petrov, who heads one of this Institute's departments, noted. This experiment will aim to assess the influence of the so-called secondary radiation on the human body. Cosmonauts streaking toward Mars and other planets may be subjected to such radiation. According to Petrov, the ISS will receive two neutron detectors that were developed at the Institute of Medical-Biological Problems. Such equipment has similar principle of operation as another Russian-made device now orbiting the Red Planet aboard NASA's Odysseus probe. One device will register neutron radiation inside the station; and another one will register external radiation. We will take into consideration Odysseus data on the Martian situation, while analyzing all aspects of this problem, Petrov stressed.
1. Russian Govt Urged to Provide Customs Houses with Radiation Control Facilities
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Russian defenders of consumersï¿½ rights have urged the government to fully provide customs houses with radiation control facilities.
ï¿½We demand, in the first place, the tightening of radiation control over Ukrainian rolled metal, which is often made of the scrap metal coming from the Chernobyl area,ï¿½ Mikhail Anshakov, chairman of the Public Control Society, which defends the rights of consumers, told Itar-Tass.
According to Anshakov, ï¿½metal products, which are dangerous for peopleï¿½s health and for the natural environment, are imported to Russia from Ukraine across the border, which is more than transparent.ï¿½
Under the rules existing in Russia, only scrap metal is subjected to radiation control, which is not extended to finished products, made of radioactive scrap metal, he continued. In the opinion of Anshakov, one of the reasons for it is ï¿½a shortage of radiation control equipment at customs houses. The number of control facilities they have is only 55 to 70 per cent of what they really need.ï¿½
Anshakov explained that last Monday the Public Control Society brought an action at the Cheryomushki District Court of Moscow, demanding the banning of the import to Russia of metal products, made of Chernobyl scrap metal. Their total amount exceeded 100,000 tons last year alone.
Radioactive beams, angle pieces, channels, pipes and reinforcing bars, marketed mostly in Moscow and the Moscow Region, were used in the construction of apartment houses, cultural facilities, entertainment and sports complexes.
In the opinion of specialists in nuclear and radiation security, ï¿½metal products, made of Chernobyl scrap metal, are potentially dangerous for peopleï¿½s life and health, as well as for the natural environment.ï¿½ At present specialists do not know about effective methods of fully removing radioactivity from metal products.
According to the information of the Federal Customs Service, Russian customs officers stopped some 300 attempts to illegally transport from Ukraine to Russia the cargoes with radiation higher than the normal level.
2. Sweden Grants Russia 6 Million Dollars for Nuclear Safety
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The Swedish government has decided to grant nearly $6m during 2005 for nuclear safety cooperation with Russia, Radio Sweden reported.
The money will be transferred to Russia through the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate and the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute. The cooperation covers four main areas: reactor safety, waste management, radiation protection and preparedness. Among the projects that will receive financing are a number of security enhancement initiatives at the Kola and Leningrad nuclear power plants. The support also includes a preliminary study for managing radioactive waste, initiatives to facilitate monitoring and control of radioactive discharges and Nordic coordination with Russian authorities in issues of preparedness.
Much of the work will take place in consultation with the European Union and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
3. Environmentalists Welcome Ratification of Vienna Treaty
The St. Petersburg Times
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Russia's ratification of the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage this month is a positive step that will lead to progress in nuclear waste handling, international environmentalists said last week.
Under the treaty, Russia is committed to allocating $60 million that will be used as insurance that would be paid out in compensation if a nuclear accident occurs.
Environmental organizations say that while the sum is not in line with estimates of the harm done by such accidents, it is better than nothing.
"I'd say the insurance is quite a virtual thing," Vladimir Chuprov, Greenpeace's nuclear energy expert said Friday in a telephone interview from Moscow. "The Federal Nuclear Power Agency is obliged to somehow set aside $60 million in case an accident happens."
"This is a small amount of money when the sums being paid in compensations for Chernobyl disaster, which are estimated at more than $200 billion, are taken into account," he added..
The treaty was originally opened for signing on May 21, 1963, and came into force on Nov. 12, 1977. Thirty countries have joined the treaty before Russia signed it on May 8, 1996.
A law to ratify the treaty was passed by the State Duma in the beginning of this month year. It was approved by the Federation Council and signed by President Vladimir Putin.
Chuprov said Russia is already paying $1.5 billion a year in compensation for the damage to the health of people who cleaned up after the Chernobyl disaster.
"For the big problems that are the result of the existence of nuclear energy, this insurance money is just a fig leaf, but at least we now have a fig leaf," he said.
But Bellona, an environmental organization based in Oslo, Norway, said the impact of the ratification of the treaty will be extremely positive for Russia, especially in relation to the program to dispose of the radioactive material in old submarines in northern Russia.
"We welcome this decision because this shows Russia recognizes international rules for nuclear responsibility; it significantly eases, among other matters, assistance and cooperation of other countries with Russia in projects to provide nuclear safety and the clean -up of nuclear submarines in particular," Interfax quoted Bellona spokesman Igor Kudrik as saying Wednesday.
Within the next few years, members of the G-7 group of leading industrial countries will transfer up to $20 billion to Russia to finance nuclear safety measures, environmentalists said.
Sergei Antipov, deputy head of the Federal Nuclear Power Agency, said Friday it will take from 15 to 20 years to tackle the harmful consequences of the activity of Russia's nuclear fleet.
"We estimate that it will take until 2010 to clean up decommissioned nuclear submarines," Interfax quoted him saying.
"But that is just for the submarines. Regarding the liquidation of all the harmful consequences of the nuclear fleet's activity, it will take at least 15 or 20 years."
The main problem for Federal Nuclear Power Agency is to clean up coastal navy bases that have big amounts of liquid and solid radioactive waste from nuclear submarines stored on their territory, Antipov said.
Of the 250 nuclear submarines built by Russia and the Soviet Union, 195 have been decommissioned. All radioactive materials have been removed from 111 of these. It is expected that more submarines will be decommissioned off in the near future, according to Federal Nuclear Power Agency.
"But these will be single vessels. There won't be such a fast rate of decommissioning as there was before," Antipov said.
1. Russia Facing Acute Shortage of Able-Bodied Men
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Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev said on 30 March that up to 60 percent of Russian males today are either underage, elderly, or handicapped, ITAR-TASS reported. Of an able-bodied male population of about 20 million, nearly 1 million are in prison; about 4 million are serving in the military, Interior Ministry, Emergency Situations Ministry, or Federal Security Service (FSB); some 4 million are alcoholics, and about 1 million are drug addicts. Moreover, mortality among men is about four times the rate it is for women. "In the very near future, we will simply have no labor force at all, as the losses among the male population are comparable to those the USSR suffered during World War II," Yakovlev said.
2. Russian Draft Collects `Bums, Real Scum' As Most Defer Dangerous Military Posts
Mark McDonald, Knight Ridder Newspapers
(for personal use only)
A certain amount of panic will take hold of Russia on Friday, when the country begins its annual military draft.
Generals will be panicked that they'll end up with another crop of druggies, convicts and misfits. Mothers will be terrified at handing over their sons to a military that's notorious for its brutal hazing of new recruits.
And tens of thousands of draft-age young men will fear for their lives as they face two years of menial labor, sadistic senior officers, and, worst of all, a possible deployment to Chechnya. Many will wangle phony deferments, fail to report or simply flee.
"What (the military) ends up with are the social fallouts, trigger-happy people, bums, the homeless, the real scum," said Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst in Moscow. "And they've all got guns."
Shootings of officers, desertions, suicides, alcoholism, torture in the barracks and drug abuse are rampant in today's Russian military, according to Felgenhauer and other experts.
Even the chief of the Russian general staff has said the military situation in Russia is "beyond critical" - not an encouraging comment given the country's huge nuclear arsenal, long-range missiles, and biological- and chemical-weapons depots.
All of which makes the annual draft critical to Russia's national security - and perhaps the world's.
"An unsound or unstable Russian military populated with dissolute officers and destitute troopers would be a global liability," said a senior U.S. official who asked for anonymity because he didn't wish to be seen as meddling in Russian affairs.
"Nobody should want to see any further degradation in the military here."
President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia, with its million-man military, can't afford an all-volunteer army, though planners are aiming for an equal mix of conscripts and volunteers by 2007.
Calls for young men to join are countered by an outcry over what many parents feel are the brutal conditions of Russian military life.
"I'm really stunned by the attitude of so many of our Russian women," said Maria Fedulova, whose son was drafted 10 years ago and sent to Chechnya. "The mothers of these boys are hypnotized. How can they let their sons go to the army? How could anyone?"
Fedulova works for the Soldiers' Mothers Committee, an anti-draft group that opposes Russia's use of military force in Chechnya. The Mothers are trying to start their own political party, and with a new draft season starting, they're busier than ever.
"The most terrible thing is that parents still believe the government propaganda," said Valentina Melnikova, the head of the Mothers committee.
"The adults still say that all kids should do military service. They bring them (to the recruiting station), hold a farewell party and they all drink vodka. Then three weeks later, when their kid has been beaten in the barracks, they show up in our office saying, `How could we know such an awful thing could happen?'"
The military's target this year is about 150,000 draftees, and recruiters are angry that once again they'll have to scrape the bottom of the social barrel to meet their quotas.
Senior military planners complain there are so many legal deferments that only 11 percent of draft-age men ever get inducted. And of those, only 30 percent are physically fit enough to get through boot camp.
In the 2003 draft, for example, 17 percent of draftees had various "psychic disorders." Another 14 percent were alcoholics, 7 percent had police records and 40 percent were high-school dropouts.
The ritualized hazing of recruits in their barracks kills several hundred young soldiers every year and traumatizes countless others. Closely held army reports say that a fourth of all non-combat deaths are suicides, and dozens of soldiers die each winter after overnight punishment sessions outdoors.
Draftees make about $5 a month, and many will find themselves doing menial chores or manual labor, such as building summer houses for senior officers. Many also sell their blood to get extra money.
So it's little wonder that draft-dodging is epidemic every spring.
An estimated 22,000 young men won't answer their draft notices this week - it's called a "summons" here - and tens of thousands of others will use phony medical exams, fake university enrollments or bribery to avoid serving.
When Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov recently floated the idea of ending student deferments, student groups immediately took to the streets in protest. Ivanov quickly backed off, although a major curtailment of deferments is being drafted in the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament.
Some young men hurriedly join police forces or fire brigades to get deferments. Quickie "marriages" to single mothers aren't uncommon: Men with dependents also receive deferments. (Young women aren't subject to the draft.)
Andrei Nikolayev, a former army general and Duma member, said no more than 500 people ever tried to evade the draft in a given year during the Soviet era. Now the rate is 44 times higher.
Alternative service exists in Russia, but the term is three years, a year longer than the regular military hitch. Young men seeking alternative service also can be assigned to work as civilians - cleaning latrines or painting barracks - in the military units they were trying to avoid.
Maria Fedulova's zeal to stop the draft stems from her memories of her son, Denis, as a 19-year-old draftee. Denis had fired a weapon only three times in boot camps before he was sent to Chechnya. He worked mostly as a driver, collecting injured soldiers from battlefields, but she remembers him talking about hearing and feeling the crunch of bones as he drove over bodies.
When he was kidnapped by separatists in Chechnya, no one in the military told her. She learned it for herself after his letters stopped and she traveled to southern Russia to find him. An American journalist gave her the news, she said.
Eventually, her son was swapped for a rebel fighter in Russian hands and he came home. But the experience left him scarred. He didn't speak for two months, and he couldn't get a job.
"He's still like a time bomb, ready to go off," she said. As for her son, "he'd go to prison before he'd ever go back into the army."
1. Canada and the United States Cooperate to Shut Down One of the Last Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production Reactors in Russia
U.S. Department of Energy
(for personal use only)
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew and United States Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman today announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to assist with the permanent closure of one of the final operating weapons-grade plutonium production reactors in Russia.
Under the MOU, Canada will contribute $9 million Canadian (U.S. $7 million) to the U.S. Department of Energyï¿½s Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production (EWGPP) program. The Canadian contribution to this initiative is part of its $1 billion pledge under the G8-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.
The goal of the EWGPP program is to permanently shut down three Russian nuclear reactors and replace them with fossil energy plants. These reactors, which provide necessary heat and electricity to two regions in Siberia, also generate a significant amount of plutonium that could be used to make nuclear weapons. The Russian government has agreed to permanently shut down the reactors once replacement energy is provided.
ï¿½This agreement is key to halting the production of nuclear weapons materials,ï¿½ said Minister Pettigrew. ï¿½We are pleased to be able to cooperate with our U.S. partners on this important security initiative.ï¿½
ï¿½Ending the production of weapons-grade plutonium is a non-proliferation priority for the United States and the international community,ï¿½ said Secretary Bodman. ï¿½The signing of this MOU with our Canadian partners is another key step toward meeting this priority.ï¿½
The Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction is a critical initiative for preventing terrorism relating to weapons of mass destruction. Canada is currently contributing to projects in all four of its priority areas: dismantlement of nuclear submarines; destruction of chemical weapons; re-employment of former weapons scientists; and disposition of fissile materials. The United States pledges approximately US$1 billion annually for activities under the Global Partnership.
2. Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Depositaries Joint Statement on 30th Anniversary
U.S. Department of State
(for personal use only)
On the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), the United States, United Kingdom and Russian Federation, as Depositary Governments, reaffirm their strong support for the Convention. We seek practical realization of all Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention obligations. Our Governments will continue to work to strengthen the Convention by participating fully in the current three-year work program, by encouraging its universality, and by pressing for full implementation of, and compliance with, the Convention by all its States Parties.
In particular, we stress the necessity of adoption by all States Parties of relevant penal legislation for violations of the Convention. The Sixth Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Review Conference in 2006 will give all States Parties an opportunity to review steps taken to counter the biological weapons threat since the last Review Conference and to renew their commitment to the Convention and its full implementation, to their compliance, and to strengthening further the Convention.
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