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Nuclear News - 4/14/2005
RANSAC Nuclear News, April 14, 2005
Compiled By: Jeffrey Read

A.  Plutonium Disposition
    1. MOX Fuel Yet to Arrive at Catawba, Jason Cato, The Herald (4/13/2005)
B.  Nuclear Terrorism
    1. Anti-Terrorist Exercise Held at Russian Nuclear Facility, BBC Monitoring and Interfax  (4/13/2005)
C.  Cooperative Threat Reduction
    1. Nuclear Terrorism is Greatest Threat to Global Security, Author Asserts, Catherine Marquis-Homeyer, The Current Online (4/11/2005)
D.  Nonproliferation Diplomacy
    1. UN Adopts Anti-Terrorism Convention on Russian Initiative, Sergei Ryabikin, RIA Novosti (4/14/2005)
E.  US-Russia
    1. Moscow's Dick Lugar on the Hill, Peter Savodnik, The Hill (4/13/2005)
F.  Missile Defense
    1. U.S., Russia Continue Joint Efforts to Improve Missile Defense, RFE/RL Newsline (4/14/2005)
G.  Russia-Iran
    1. Iran Values Russian Stance on its Nuclear Program: Foreign Minister, RIA Novosti (4/13/2005)
    2. Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant to be Launched Before Year-End 2006, RIA Novosti (4/13/2005)
    3. Iran Accused of Illicit Nuclear Activity, Angelique van Engelen, Global Politician (4/13/2005)
    4. Iranian FM Rules Out Negligence Towards Bushehr Power Plant, Islamic Republic News Agency (4/13/2005)
H.  Russia-North Korea
    1. Moscow Speaks for Resumption of Hexalateral Talks on North Korean Nuclear Problem, RIA Novosti (4/13/2005)
I.  Nuclear Industry
    1. Uranium Prices Up As Nations Build More Nuclear Plants, Associated Press (4/13/2005)
    2. New Generation Nuclear Power Plant May Be Built in Armenia, If Funds Are Allotted, RIA Novosti (4/12/2005)
J.  Nuclear Safety
    1. Atomic Energy Agency Head Approves Environmental Policy, Interfax (4/14/2005)
    2. New Agency Established To Monitor Health, Safety in Nuclear Sector, ITAR-TASS (4/12/2005)
    3. Russian Nuke Plant Officials Accused of Dumping, Reuters (4/12/2005)
K.  Official Statements
    1. Answers by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov to Questions from the Argumenty i Fakty Weekly (excerpted), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (4/13/2005)
L.  Links of Interest
    1. Spent Nuclear Fuel to be Burned in Disarmament Plan, Christopher Joyce, National Public Radio (4/14/2005)

A.  Plutonium Disposition

MOX Fuel Yet to Arrive at Catawba
Jason Cato
The Herald
(for personal use only)

Gregg Jocoy was ready and waiting Tuesday morning.

His "Stop Plutonium" sign stretched along the side of S.C. 274, across from the turn-off to the Catawba Nuclear Station.

Elsewhere, observers reported at least seven cargo trucks capable of carrying a controversial nuclear fuel left the Charleston Naval Base Tuesday, possibly headed toward York County. Jocoy was ready to greet the shipment of mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel when and if it arrived -- which it never did.

"It does feel like a bit of vindication that the shipment took longer than people expected it to," Jocoy said.

No timetable has been set for the MOX fuel to be delivered to the Catawba plant. A spokesperson for Duke Power, which operates the plant, would say Tuesday only that the fuel would be delivered in time for the plant's refueling, which is expected in the next few weeks.

MOX fuel mixes a small amount of plutonium with uranium, the fuel most commonly used in nuclear reactors.

The Catawba plant will be the first in the United States to use MOX fuel and the first in the world to use MOX with weapons-grade plutonium. At least 30 nuclear plants in Europe use MOX fuel, but the plutonium is not weapons-grade.

Fuel arrived in Charleston on Monday

Two transport ships arrived in Charleston sometime before midnight Monday with four French-made MOX fuel rods. Rita Sipe, a Duke spokesperson, said the fuel was unloaded and is now in the possession of the U.S. Department of Energy, which will deliver the fuel to Catawba.

Tom Clements of Greenpeace International -- a group opposed to nuclear power -- was part of a convoy that followed the first three cargo trucks up Interstate 26 from Charleston toward Columbia, where he was stopped by security officers.

He expected the trucks to take Interstate 77 north to York County. Instead, he believes they got on Interstate 20 and headed to the Savannah River Site near Aiken.

It was reported over the weekend that NRC officials said some federal security requirements had not been satisfied at Catawba. Sipe would not say whether the conditions had been met Tuesday.

The State Law Enforcement Division is in charge of homeland security in South Carolina, but spokesperson Lt. Mike Brown would not comment on the shipments.

Cotton Howell, the emergency management director for York County, said he still has not been contacted by anyone regarding the shipment although he has made numerous requests for information from Duke Power and Energy Department officials.

"It concerns me a great deal," Howell said. "We do not have a plan to cover an accident with MOX during the shipment. There needs to be a plan."

An Energy Department spokes-person could not be reached for comment.

The four MOX units will be tested for about three years to determine whether the material can be used safely as fuel. When the test is completed, Duke Power plans to apply for a larger program, which would use about 40 assemblies.

The MOX program is part of an agreement between the United States and Russia to each dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium from nuclear warheads.

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B.  Nuclear Terrorism

Anti-Terrorist Exercise Held at Russian Nuclear Facility
BBC Monitoring and Interfax
(for personal use only)

An anti-terrorist exercise was held at the Novosibirsk chemical concentrates factory (nuclear fuel manufacturer) today, the information group of the Federal Security Service [FSB] regional directorate said.

The exercise was conducted by regional units of FSB, Interior Ministry and Emergencies Ministry in collaboration with the factory's administration, branch No 8 of the Atomokhrana state unitary enterprise, Novosibirsk Region executive bodies and Novosibirsk city government.

The exercise's scenario has it that a group of armed people penetrated the facility led by the head of security guards, took hostages and demanded talks with a factory representative. Having considered the threat to the lives of the hostages and local people, the HQ decided to begin an assault. As a result of the assault, the terrorist were captured and the hostages were released.

Upon the completion of the exercise, the HQ gave a positive estimate of its results and of the actions of all those taking part.

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C.  Cooperative Threat Reduction

Nuclear Terrorism is Greatest Threat to Global Security, Author Asserts
Catherine Marquis-Homeyer
The Current Online
(for personal use only)

"Inevitable" and "preventable" were the key words from Graham Allison's "Nuclear Terrorism" lecture to a packed house on Thursday in the Century Room of the Millennium Student Center on the UM-St. Louis campus.

The lecture was the third annual Political Science Academy Lecture on Public Affairs, sponsored by the Political Science Department at UM-St. Louis.

Dr. Graham Allison was the founding dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and was instrumental in building that institution into the prestigious school it is today. He is now director of Harvard's Belter Center for Science and International Affairs and Douglas Dillon Professor of Government. He served under President Reagan and President Clinton. His latest book, "Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe," was the basis of his lecture.

Dr. Allison divided his book and his lecture into two parts: the dangers and the solution. He said he regularly cautioned people against reading only the first half of the book, which describes the threat. "Do not read just part one. You will be depressed," he said. Nonetheless, Allison described himself as an optimist about the situation because he believes a nuclear terrorist attack is preventable.

Allison spent the first part of the lecture describing the threat of nuclear terrorist attack.

The U.N., in a report on global security released late last year, focused on the greater danger posed by nuclear bombs as compared to biological or chemical weapons threats, or even a "dirty bomb" made with radioactive materials. As Allison also noted, biological or chemical threats, or a radioactive "dirty bomb" could kill thousands in a single attack or may cause longer term disruption of government or commerce, as happened following the anthrax attacks after 9/11. However, a real nuclear bomb attack would kill millions, not thousands.

Other foreign policy and security experts have focused on the danger of unsecured nuclear power facilities or waste materials. Nuclear threats include unprotected nuclear power plants, where dropping a conventional bomb could trigger a nuclear explosion, in addition to concerns about waste materials. Nearly four years after 9/11, U.S. nuclear facilities remain unprotected from this danger. However, Allison focused only on external sources for nuclear materials and only on the threat of actual nuclear bombs, not the far less deadly "dirty bomb."

Allison started the lecture by displaying a map of the campus with a big, multicolored bulls-eye target superimposed on it. Allison told the audience that the target represented the area that would be affected if a small 10 kiloton nuclear bomb, a bomb smaller than his podium, exploded in the MSC. In the inner ring of one-third mile radius, everything would be vaporized and at the outer ring of one mile radius, the area would look like a conventional bomb had been dropped. This was without considering the effect of the radioactive fallout.

Allison told the crowd that shortly after 9/11 an intelligence report from a source called "Dragonfire" reported that al-Qaeda had a nuclear bomb of just this size, obtained from the former Soviet Union, in the U.S. that they intended to detonate. The report led to the evacuation of Vice President Dick Cheney and a "shadow government" of officials to a secure location, where they remained for weeks. The report turned out to be false but it underscores the reality of the threat.

Building a bomb with nuclear materials is surprisingly easy but obtaining or creating the fissile nuclear materials is not.

A nuclear bomb requires highly enriched uranium or plutonium, both of which do not occur naturally and are difficult to produce.

However, the greatest threats come from the former Soviet Union, where there are many already-built nuclear weapons, some small and portable, and poor security coupled with wide-spread economic incentives and corruption.

Small portable nuclear bombs have the greatest appeal to terrorists. Allison told the audience that both the U. S. and the former Soviet Union produced small nuclear bombs, some small enough to fit in a briefcase, and there were a number of them in the Soviet Union.

"We are living on borrowed time," Allison said. Right now, he asserted, a nuclear terrorist attack on the U.S. is inevitable. "If our government, and Israeli and European governments continue to do what they are doing now, it is more likely than not, maybe fifty-one percent, that a nuclear attack will happen," said Allison.

But, he adds, we can reduce this possibility to "almost zero" if we "take simple, do-able steps now."

He said that the key to this was for governments to act now, in advance of an attack and to use his three "No's." Allison's three "No's" were: no loose nukes, no new nukes and no new nuclear states.

For his "no loose nukes" step, he said that the world needs to cooperate to secure in place, or move to a safe place, all nuclear bombs and bomb-making materials.

Next, "no new nukes" would mean stopping the creation of facilities that have nuclear fuel production capacity. The already-nuclear nations could supply this fuel material to nuclear power plants in other nations, rather than having each nation produce its own. This step would be more difficult and would require that we promise not to attack nations on the verge of nuclear weapons, like Iran.

For the last step of "no new nuclear states," Allison recommended that we make this the only priority in negotiating with a nation like North Korea, setting aside all other goals. He recommended that we offer a combination of "carrots and sticks," but with more carrots, to entice a nation like North Korea to comply.

Graham Allison's talk to the packed room provided a wide ranging and accessible look at a looming danger that all Americans need to be talking about, especially with their elected officials who are in a position to put these simple, direct steps into action, before another 9/11 takes us by surprise.

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D.  Nonproliferation Diplomacy

UN Adopts Anti-Terrorism Convention on Russian Initiative
Sergei Ryabikin
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

The convention against nuclear terrorism, adopted at Russia's initiative by the UN General Assembly, is an important element of the global strategy of opposing the new challenges and threats, Russian first deputy foreign minister Yuri Fedetov told RIA Novosti in the interview.

In a comment on the convention, he spoke of it as a momentous event. "We are very glad that the Russian initiative, advanced eight years ago, has been embodied in this document by consensus", he noted.

"It is the first international covenant adopted in the United Nations system at the Russian initiative. We are very glad that all the states have given it support", Fedotov stressed.

It is a new, 13th antiterrorist convention, the interviewee said. "The importance and the unique nature of this document, in distinction from the preceding ones, consist it its being preemptive, forestalling the nightmare scenarios of terrorist acts with the use of nuclear materials. This makes it possible to prevent such acts of terrorism by pooling the efforts of all the states", Fedotov said.

In his opinion, it is very important that the convention as an international treaty "intends the inevitability of punishment for the planning and committing of terrorist acts with the use of nuclear materials on the basis of the 'extradite or put to trial' principle". Moreover, close cooperation in the process of carrying out its clauses with the International Atomic Energy Agency is intended.

The convention will be open for signing in September, when the heads of state and government gather in New York to mark the 60th birthday of the United Nations.

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E.  US-Russia

Moscow's Dick Lugar on the Hill
Peter Savodnik
The Hill
(for personal use only)

A leading Russian lawmaker yesterday called on President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin to work together to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and AIDS and to launch a �new Marshall Plan� to rebuild war-ravaged Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sen. Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia�s Federal Council � the Russian equivalent of U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee � also called for greater economic cooperation between the U.S. and Russia, and said Congress and the Federal Council must forge closer ties.

�We are here for a very honest dialogue,� Margelov told The Hill. Referring to some of his counterparts in the U.S. Senate, the Russian added: �We agreed that sometimes we have to lock the door, roll up the sleeves and say the unpleasant things, if there are unpleasant things.�

Margelov and Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) first conceived of the U.S. Senate-Russian Federation Council Interparliamentary Group in 2002, when Lott was still majority leader, and it was formally created in 2003.

The group first met in Moscow last March. While Margelov attended Bush�s inauguration in January at Lott�s invitation, this week�s meeting is the first official U.S. gathering, according to Lott spokeswoman Susan Irby.

Margelov also warned the United States against lifting the Jackson-Vanik trade barrier from Ukraine but not Russia, as has been discussed by foreign-policy makers on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in Washington. The Jackson-Vanik amendment to the 1974 Trade Act prohibits most former Soviet republics from achieving most-favored-nation status. While the United States annually grants waivers to Russia, the measure remains a symbolically potent issue.

Lott said that he, too, would oppose lifting Jackson-Vanik from Ukraine but not Russia. And he said he opposes a proposal by Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to eject Russia from the G-8, the group of leading democracies.

�We need their involvement,� Lott said of the Russians. �We need them in the G-8. We need them working with us in Iran and the greater Middle East.� Next year, St. Petersburg is scheduled to host the G-8 summit.

Lott stressed that while the Americans and Russians had discussed a range of issues � including nuclear weapons and the Middle East � they had only agreed in writing on a joint effort to fight drugs.

Margelov said he welcomes a meeting with Lieberman and McCain, who, like many in the U.S. government, fear that Russia is slipping back into authoritarianism.

A spokeswoman for Lieberman said Margelov was not on the senator�s schedule while the Russian was in Washington. A McCain spokeswoman said she was unaware of whether her boss would meet with Margelov.

Fears of Russian authoritarianism have been exacerbated in recent months by the Kremlin�s moves to dismantle Yukos Oil, end gubernatorial elections in Russia�s 89 regions and quash debate at the Federal Council and the legislature�s lower body, the Duma.

Russian Sen. Yuri Sharandin, who chairs the Federal Council�s Constitutional Legislation Committee and traveled to Washington with Margelov, conceded that there has not been �real partisan rivalry� in the legislature but added that �we are beginning to witness this rivalry.�

U.S. foreign-policy makers have attacked Russia for, they say, helping Iran build a nuclear-weapons program and trying to sell conventional arms to Syria, which U.S. authorities regard as an enemy of the United States and Israel.

Many in the United States also have raised questions about Russia�s protection of religious freedom. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), chairman of the Helsinki Commission, a human-rights panel, will hold a hearing tomorrow on religious persecution in Russia.

Margelov countered that, disagreements between the United States and Russia aside, his country continues to play a critical role in fighting terrorism. He said Russian intelligence and �data and transit support,� particularly in Afghanistan, had helped the United States.

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F.  Missile Defense

U.S., Russia Continue Joint Efforts to Improve Missile Defense
RFE/RL Newsline
(for personal use only)

Russia and the United States will conduct joint theater missile-defense exercises in the spring of 2006, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 April, citing a Defense Ministry statement. "The exercises are expected to develop an effective ballistic missile defense system in the territory of greater Europe that would protect key facilities from likely missile attacks," the statement said. "No single country is capable of developing such a system on its own. NATO and Russia's leadership are working on it together." The joint exercises will involve computer modeling of missile attacks and will take place in the United States in March or April 2006.

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G.  Russia-Iran

Iran Values Russian Stance on its Nuclear Program: Foreign Minister
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

Kamal Kharazi, Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs, greets a principal Russian stance on his country's nuclear program.

"Russia is confronting the USA on the Iranian nuclear programs issue. It staunchly keeps on its stance," said the minister as he was answering Iranian parliamentarians' questions.

"We do not expect whatever problems to come up in Iran-European Union negotiations concerning the Bushehr nuclear plant Unit One, now under construction," he reassured.

"However, we are not to expect one country to come up for all the interests of another-in particular, Iran.

"If Iran snatches at trifling matters to give up contacts and partnership with Russia, then we shall have to put an end to our links with all countries," warned the Foreign Minister.

Russia is a reliable partner, and can be trusted. Mr. Kharazi has no doubts on that point.

"Every country has its national interests, and is to take a realistic and adequate view of how to guarantee those interests. Economic sanctions against Iran are valid to this day. In this situation, our country has special problems as it is choosing its commercial, economic and industrial partners," the minister said as his audience wondered about the extent to which Russia could be relied on.

"Whatever of cutting-edge civil-oriented technologies Iran has received comes as fruit of its realistic standpoints, and proves it has made the right choice. It all has helped us to upgrade our technological development. Everything that concerns our partnership with Russia is right, and there is frankness underlying it all."

As far as the Foreign Minister knows, "the Islamic Republic is to spend an approximate one billion US dollars on Bushehr nuclear power plant Unit One construction. Russian experts and workers are finishing the job, and the unit is scheduled for commissioning toward next year's end."

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Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant to be Launched Before Year-End 2006
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said he hoped for the first stage of the Bushehr nuclear power plant to enter operation before year-end 2006.

"All problems with completing the nuclear power plant have been resolved, and, hopefully, the first stage will have been commissioned before the end of 2006," Kamal Kharrazi said in the Iranian parliament on Wednesday. "During the meetings with various Russian officials, we made provision of all possible delays under the program."

According to Mr. Kharrazi, Russia "carries on working on the installation despite the fact that western specialists refused to complete it after the Islamic revolution of 1979".

The Iranian foreign minister attributed the complexity of the Bushehr program and its slipping behind schedule to the construction being launched by one country, which supplied equipment and design, and the bulk of work being completed by another country, Russia, that has its own technologies for building so sophisticated installations.

"There was also the problem with providing nuclear fuel for the power plant, but it has been resolved several weeks ago," the Iranian foreign minister said.

"With only 10% of the program implemented, Russia was the only country to agree to complete the power plant. It has done 80% of the work and completing the first stage as fast as it can," he emphasized.

During the February 27, 2005 visit of Federal Atomic Energy Agency chief Alexander Rumyantsev to Iran, a protocol on amendments to the Bushehr nuclear power plant construction agreement was signed. The amendments determined the future of spent fuel of the Bushehr plant. According to Russia, Iran "is entitled to develop a uranium deposit from the economic standpoint". Nuclear fuel to stoke the first stage of the Bushehr power plant is to be supplied in August or September 2005. June will see a simulation lead batch shipped to Bushehr.

Iran's nuclear energyprogram provides for producing 7,000 megawatt at nuclear power plants by 2025. The Iranian Atomic Energy Council took the decision on that in August 2004. According to the parliamentary national security and foreign policy commission's chairman, A. Boroujeri, Iran ponders construction of 20 nuclear units. Such a large-scale program would call for heavy investment and is hardly feasible without reaching an agreement among Iran, the EU and the United States. Russia is for maintaining its cooperation with Iran in the nuclear field, with China and Japan showing interest too.

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Iran Accused of Illicit Nuclear Activity
Angelique van Engelen
Global Politician
(for personal use only)

Iran looks more and more set to become another Iraq. In the current circumstances it takes about three credible sources to say it is doing something suspicious and the international news headlines will be flushed with reports indicating Iran to appear in serious breach of the Non Proliferation Treaty it is a signatory to. The validity is unquestionable- there's very likely some activity going on in Iran's nuclear facilities which officially are temporarily closed- yet what exactly is almost equally obscure as the many similar situations from pre-war Iraq.

The fact that we still almost daily can read reports in newspapers on whether the Iraqis might have transported their deadly weapons elsewhere, whether they perhaps sold them on the black market, whether the Russians have helped transport them, whether they are in Syria, indicate just how the nuclear issue is still offering potential news value. It feels as if the issue hasn't been resolved somehow. And now the apparent unresolved Iraqi nuclear issue is rich feeding ground for speculation as to what really is happening in Iran. The US government can't exactly be credited with having gained an awful lot of experience in dealing with such precarious situations.

That's why recent developments in Iran are almost by nature bound to resemble pre-war Iraq, where reports of the authorities' supposed obstructions toward international inspectors often heightened tensions with the US and on occasion led to strikes, but not a lot else until the new invasion.

However, Iran is quite different. The urgency of the situation is more pronounced because it has what some deem to be near-operational facilities to complete the cycle of fuel. The inspections in Iraq never yielded any of such exciting developments. Another difference is that the US is not directly involved, but is very likely to be so by the time a solution is agreed to. The way in which this will likely be achieved will be vastly different than the US way of dealing with Iraq.

The news of the International Atomic Energy Agency's plan to start collating an inventory of what the country has managed to manufacture should be seen in this light. Officials are refusing any comment on the allegations that Iran is apparently messing around with the stuff quite actively made by 'an international intelligence agency' -who else but the CIA-, but it did tell Reuters that it is making an inventory of processed uranium in Iran. If it turns out that a significant portion of the material is missing -as diplomats are claiming- the interpretation that the authorities have shipped it to another location is going to be frighteningly plausible. Two IEAI officials have confirmed they fear this is the case, as well as one US official.

Yet, as so often in pre-war Iraq's nuclear status- the world is told this is no reason for instant panic, because the amount that might be missing is judged too small to produce any dangerous bomb. Also, experts in the know say that the transfer of any sizeable amounts of uranium would have hardly been possible. Apparently the monitoring cameras at the disputed factory, based in Isfahan, are not 100% fool proof however and issues like this are keeping the international experts on tenterhooks, also because the activity would mean that Iranians are breaching their promise to the EU to hold off manufacturing. That would be quite serious, not least because it would show just how intent Iranians are on sticking to their plans. Which raises the question of what makes Iran so willing to risk being further isolated by the international world.

Comments by the Iranian U.N. Ambassador Javad Zarif fit in the scenario that Iran is quite intent on speeding its program up considerably for no apparent reason whatsoever. He told the Washington Post last month that Iran is seeking to aggressively expand its nuclear energy program as soon as it reaches some conclusion with the European negotiators. This is because it fears the United States could persuade suppliers such as Russia, China and Ukraine to stop shipping nuclear components to Iran. This apparently also was the reason why the Iranian authorities were not quite as forthcoming with information about the nuclear plant in Natanz a few years hence and which stirred international furore.

"You don't expect Iran to sit still. We don't have any confidence that two years down the road, the pressure by the United States may or may not work on our suppliers. We have to create a source of self-sufficiency, which will include a fuel cycle program," according to Zarif. The US has been less enthusiastic about Russia's help to Iran, but it hasn't been too much of a hot issue, certainly not so much so that Russia might have been persuaded to change its stance.

Meanwhile, the Russians said Monday they are planning on supplying Iran with uranium they have stored in Siberia in about six months' time. Iranian officials say that its production of enriched uranium, under IAEA supervision is at 5 percent. To create weapons, this would have to be at least 90%. The Russian 'yellow cake' material helps this process along. IAEA officials have however been quoted as saying the program is way further advanced than it previously had thought. But their estimates vary wildly with those of others. For instance the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center says that the spent fuel from the Russian built Bushehr facility alone would be capable of producing 50 to 75 bombs.

The Iranians later this month will have talks again with the Europeans who have intercepted Iran's referral to the United Nations and are discussing an agenda which includes an Iranian proposal to allow it its program to create its much cited 6,000 megawatt worth of energy. One official said that the Iranians are hoping the EU lifts its sanctions against Iran. "Then we would be ready to sign the Additional Protocol," the French newspaper Le Monde quoted this high ranking Iranian as saying.

Even though the Iranians maintain they are only using the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, its population is pretty much expecting a US strike and the way it has set up its program is entirely defensively. It has dug underground tunnels to some of its facilities in case either Israel or the US attacks and has admitted that much publicly after its Natanz facility was discovered.

Whether Iranians are right in expecting an attack is a question the US officially won't even answer. Perhaps the Israeli's think differently. It is frequently being flown over by unmanned Hezbollah drones, something it will feel uncomfortable with to say the least. The repeated calls for the destruction of Israel, that leaders in Iran have made in past decades and in recent speeches however partially inspire the fear that is so real in this country that the Israelis might attack its nuclear facilities much the same way it bombed the only Iraqi nuclear plant in Osirak in 1981. This is also believed to Iran's reason for spreading its program over several facilities throughout the country.

Iran is arming its military to the teeth. It has reworked its Shahab-3 ballistic missile so it can carry more sophisticated bombs, weapons experts say. This weapon can reach Israel and the US troops that encircle Iran quite easily. It was derived from the 1,300-1,500 kilometer range North Korean No Dong missile a few years ago and is capable of carrying a 1,000-760 kilogram warhead. At the moment pictures are circulating over the internet of its most feared 'black box' upgrade. According to a report in the Asian Wall Street Journal, US experts believe the black box is almost certainly a nuclear warhead.

Ironically, the Iranian risk assessment leads to different risks because any hiding of intelligence data on locations, defenses around them, and equipment out of fear of Israeli strikes creates exactly the kind of intransparency and uncertainty that led to the US intervention in Iraq.

However, US officials won't be wanting to make the same mistake twice and last month's damning report of US intelligence on WMD threats ordered by the White House, included a lengthy classified section which people say detailed serious gaps in US knowledge of Iran's programs.

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Iranian FM Rules Out Negligence Towards Bushehr Power Plant
Islamic Republic News Agency
(for personal use only)

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on Wednesday ruled out any negligence towards Bushehr power plant in southern Iran, describing any claim to this effect as 'baseless'.

"The power plant in Bushehr was a taboo. The Russians and the Americans had disagreement (over this issue) but their stances have changed over the past one year," he responded a question raised by MP Nooreddin Pirmoazen from the northwestern city of Ardebil in the Majlis.

"At last, The Russians resisted the pressure exerted on them by the US."

In the open session of the Majlis, Pirmoazen noted that apparently there has been no concern about Bushehr power plant and the concerns are only about Natanz and Arak.

Responding to another question raised by the same MP on the time of construction of Bushehr power plant, Kharrazi stressed that Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) has signed the agreement and the foreign ministry has cooperated in connection with the political aspects of the issue.

Iran and Russia began negotiations on construction of Bushehr ower plant in 1992, he said, adding that the negotiations went on until 1995 and a contract was drawn up in that year but the contract went into effect in late 1997.

Based on an attachment to the deal, the power plant was scheduled to be completed within a 5-year period. Besides, the Russians have announced that the power plant will be completed by the end of 2006, said Kharrazi.

Pirmoazen asked the reason for a 30 year delay in the implementation of the project and the person who is responsible for the damages cased by such delays.

"In our meetings with the Russian officials, we have complained about the delays but they have their own reasons," Kharrazi replied.

He went on to say that the Bushehr power plant plan was originally a western one drawn up by Germans and some of its equipment were already sent to Iran.

He added, "They refrained from implementing the project after the Islamic Revolution and we had to refer to the Russians and this caused numerous problems." The Russians have explained that that if they had been told to disregard the plan (the German-designed project) then they would have started from the beginning and delivered the power plant sooner.

Shifting to the financial problems and the fuel of the power plant, he stressed that the fuel-related problem has been resolved and the Russians are duty-bound to deliver fuel on time according to a deal signed by the two sides.

Kharrazi underlined that when the Russians undertook to construct the power plant, 10 percent of the work had been carried out but at present, 80 percent of the construction work has been done.

"After the Islamic Revolution, only Russia announced its readiness (to complete the power plant). However, every country takes into consideration its national interests in a realistic attitude," Kharrazi made the remark in response to a question asked by Pirmoazen on whether the Russians could be trusted.

"Given the sanctions imposed on Iran, it is important to recognize that which source could meet our needs" he said, adding that based on a realistic attitude, the Islamic Republic of Iran has so far upgraded its technologies.

He underscored that Russia cannot be expected to overlook its interests and only regard Iran's interests alone.

The IAEO does know the details of the financial expenses of the power plant but according to the information the foreign ministry has received, the cost has so far reached dlrs one billion.

Elsewhere, MP Pirmoazen criticized the Russians and reiterated that Russians consider Iran as a temporary necessity for the time being so that they have not defended Iran wholeheartedly anywhere.

"The world is fast changing and we cannot expect any country to defend all the principles of other country. Besides, the very principle of the Islamic Revolution is based on independence," Kharrazi stressed.

"If we mar our relations with other countries over every tiny issue, we will finally have to severe our ties. It is important to get our rights." Pirmoazen termed the responses made by Kharrazi as general and said, "I expected the details of the issue would be revealed." The MP from province of Ardebil, northwestern Iran, was not convinced by Kharrazi's remarks and his questions were referred to Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission to be further studied.

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H.  Russia-North Korea

Moscow Speaks for Resumption of Hexalateral Talks on North Korean Nuclear Problem
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

Moscow speaks for resuming hexalateral talks on the North Korean nuclear program and seeking a mutually acceptable solution to the problem, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev stated at a reception in the North Korean Embassy to Moscow on the occasion of the 93th anniversary of Kim Il Sung.

According to the diplomat, Russia will carry on efforts to enhance ties with the friendly Korean people and stabilize the situation in the region.

Moscow is interested in the development of bilateral relations with North Korea and does its best for this purpose, Alexeyev said. He noted that Russia believes hexalateral talks on the adjustment of the nuclear problem in the Korean Peninsula are the only means to solve the problem.

The groundwork for the development of bilateral relations is an agreement, which was signed in 2000 and which determines lines of cooperation in policy, economy and other sectors, including on the regional level.

"Russia knows what contribution Korean leader Kim Il Sung made to the development of our relations and enhance our friendship. And we know that incumbent Korean leader Kim Jong Il is ready to follow this line," Alexeyev was quoted as saying.

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I.  Nuclear Industry

Uranium Prices Up As Nations Build More Nuclear Plants
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

The rough and rocky terrain of southwest Colorado is once again luring miners with its promise of yellow wealth - not gold but uranium.

Three uranium mines, shuttered in the mid-1980s, were reopened in the past two years. The revival of another two is on the anvil this year. And many prospectors are scoping out the Colorado Plateau in hopes of striking rich ore deposits.

This resurgence in uranium mining is being triggered by skyrocketing prices brought on by soaring global demand for the radioactive mineral.

From trading at about $9 per pound in 2001, the price of raw uranium has nearly tripled and currently trades at about $25 a pound. Industry experts predict prices will climb to between $30 and $35 a pound during the next few years.

The raw material is called yellowcake, a coarse reddish-yellow powder made up of oxidized uranium that is milled from mined ore. It contains scant radioactive elements and is put through various milling processes and eventually turned into fuel rods, which are used in nuclear power plants.

The price spike in the mined uranium is attributable to a shrinking supply of yellowcake as European and Asian countries switch to nuclear reactors for power generation in the face of rising oil prices and global warming.

In the United States, 103 nuclear reactors in 31 states provide electricity to one of every five homes and businesses.

World demand for uranium will be 185 million pounds in 2013, estimates the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington But supply likely will be significantly lower, at about 130 million pounds, said Clifton Farrell, NEI's senior project manager.

"With this impending shortage, the outlook for the uranium market is very positive," Farrell said. "I think we are going to see reactivation of mines in the U.S. in the next few years."

The uranium ore grade mined in Colorado is much lower than the ore grades mined in Australia or Canada, Farrell said, which is partly why production stopped following the 1980s. Given the prices, it makes more sense to open previously shuttered mines in Montrose County along the Western Slope.

The Cotter Corp., which owns Colorado's four operating uranium mines in Montrose County - near the town of Naturita - is set to produce 525 tons of ore per day. That would be nearly five times the 110 tons a day it produced in 2004.

Another company, Little Maverick Mining Co., recently submitted a plan to mine 500 tons of uranium per month from a site near Gateway. The Bureau of Land Management is reviewing its application.

Based in Lakewood, Cotter is a subsidiary of San Diego-based General Atomics. It employs 126, 37 of whom work at the mines. The majority work at Cotter's mill in Canon City, and the remaining people are employed at its corporate office.

The mined ore, covered in canvas and marked, is trucked by highway to the mill, where it is processed to separate the uranium and the vanadium from other minerals. Vanadium, which is used to harden steel, is shipped for further processing and distribution.

The ore is put into 55-gallon drums and trucked to ConverDyne, a uranium enrichment company in Metropolis, Ill. In Illinois, it is converted into uranium hexafluoride, a form that makes it easier to further enrich the uranium for nuclear reactors at power plants.

The Bush administration's push to include nuclear power in the debate on the looming energy crisis also is helping give the uranium mining industry a second lease on life.

"As our energy needs increase, we need to diversify our fuel mix and maximize the use of uranium for nuclear energy, along with the use of coal, natural gas and other energy fuels," said Stuart Sanderson of the Colorado Mining Association. "That only makes sense."

Preliminary data show the nation's nuclear power plants produced a record 786.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2004, surpassing the previous high of 780 billion kwh in 2002.

And nuclear plants are extending their lives.

Thirty reactors received 20-year license extensions, 18 reactors have filed for license renewals and another 22 are likely to seek renewal in the next six years, the NEI reports.

Three industry consortia have applied to the Energy Department to design and test new nuclear power plants, although they have not committed to build one.

Globally, India has 14 reactors and is planning to add 24 more. South Korea has 19 and has plans for another eight, while China - which has nine reactors - is proposing to build 18 more. Mexico is seeking to reactivate its nuclear energy program.

Responding to this bullish outlook, Cotter plans to hire more workers this year, bringing its work force to 157. Still, U.S. production won't be enough to satisfy demand.

At the height of the nuclear arms race in the 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission was paying about $40 a pound for yellowcake, making uranium mining and milling a profitable business. Until 1968, only the federal government could buy or sell uranium, then designated as a strategic mineral.

In 1968, the U.S. market was deregulated by Congress so that uranium could be bought and sold in the open market. Buoyed by demand from nuclear power reactors, the price of yellowcake jumped to $50 a pound by the late 1970s; however, it slid dramatically in the following years, falling to about $9 a pound in 2001.

The decline in uranium prices was the result of a couple of factors. The meltdown at the Three Mile Island reactor in Middletown, Pa., in 1979 and the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl plant in what is now Ukraine stunted the growth of new nuclear power plants across the United States.

In addition, the end of the Cold War stopped the nuclear arms race. The United States and Russia agreed to dismantle their nuclear stock piles, and the domestic market saw a supply glut.

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New Generation Nuclear Power Plant May Be Built in Armenia, If Funds Are Allotted
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

Armenian President Robert Kocharyan admitted that a new modern technology nuclear power plant can be built in Armenia, while meeting with students of Yerevan State University.

"The only currently operating nuclear power plant in Armenia will be stopped with time. Talks with the EU on this problem are under way," the president said.

Speaking on the prospects for the energy sector, the head of state noted that the development of alternative power is vital today.

In particular, the construction of a hydropower plant on the Arax river is a major project in the hydro energy sector. Besides, about 70 small hydro plants are being built, Kocharyan said.

Also, the president said that late 2005 will witness the start of the reconstruction of the Yerevan thermoelectric power station, which will make it possible to save fuel.

The construction of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline is expected to start this month, which Kocharyan believes "will become a guarantor of safety and stability of Armenia's energy system."

The Armenian nuclear power plant was put into operation in 1980 and stopped in March 1989. Then it was again activated in 1995, when an acute energy crisis occurred in the country.

Equipped with a VVER-440 Russian first-generation reactor, the plant's second unit produces the average of 30-40% of the total Armenian energy. Experts estimate the plant is able to operate until 2016.

In September 2003 the nuclear power plant was handed over to the INTER RAO UES close corporation, an affiliate of RAO UES of Russia and the Rosenergoatom concern, for trust management for five years.

The European Union insists on conserving the plant and is ready to allocate 100 million euros for that purpose. However, according to Armenian experts' estimates, at least a billion euros is necessary to develop alternative energy generating capacities in the country.

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J.  Nuclear Safety

Atomic Energy Agency Head Approves Environmental Policy
(for personal use only)

Federal Atomic Energy Agency head Alexander Rumyantsev has approved a new set of amendments to the agency's environmental policy and regulations for the Agency's Environmental Protection Council, the agency's public relations center reported.

Research must be broadened to resolve environmental problems in the atomic energy industry, the report says.

The agency will upgrade the environmental safety of its enterprises and solve problems stemming from the handling of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.

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New Agency Established To Monitor Health, Safety in Nuclear Sector
(for personal use only)

The newly set up Federal Medical and Biological Agency (FMBA) will see to it that medical safety measures are taken during the destruction of chemical weapons and that the health of employees in the nuclear and space industries is protected, the agency head, Valentin Uyba, told an ITAR-TASS correspondent today. "The new agency will develop and improve specialized sanitary and epidemiological inspection procedures and the provision of medical and sanitary services to the employees of enterprises with particularly harmful working conditions," he said. "In particular, these are enterprises of Rosatom (Federal Atomic Energy Agency), Rosprom (Federal Industry Agency) and Roskosmos (Federal Space Agency)," Uyba said.

"The structure of FMBA, which is subordinate to the Ministry of Health and Social Development, will include, in particular, departments of state sanitary and epidemiological inspection and social development, provision of medical aid, medical and hygienic problems related to the destruction of chemical weapons, and medical backing for the implementation of manned space flights, underwater operations, and scientific research," he said.

"Rendering medical aid to the population of individual regions will also be within the remit of FMBA," Uyba said and added that "first and foremost, these are restricted access administrative and territorial entities accommodating enterprises of Rosatom, municipal entities accommodating nuclear power stations, as well as the town of Baykonur, the Baykonur complex, etc."

Along with preventing, diagnosing early, and treating illnesses caused by specific physical, chemical, and biological factors, the agency's subunits will also render specialized first aid during radiation, chemical, and other accidents at the above enterprises and on the above territories, Uyba said.

"The agency's work is based on the current Russian legislation, as well as international treaties and recommendations, for example the norms set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) rules," Uyba said. At the same time, he stressed that "Russia's hygienic norms for destroying chemical weapons are up to 50 times more stringent than respective US standards".

The Federal Medical and Biological Agency will replace the Federal Department for Medical, Biological and Extreme Problems under the Health Ministry. The Russian government approved the FMBA regulations today.

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Russian Nuke Plant Officials Accused of Dumping
(for personal use only)

Russian prosecutors accused officials at the country's oldest nuclear processing plant of dumping radioactive waste in a criminal case ecologists hope leads to its eventual closure, media reported on Tuesday.

The Mayak plant in the Urals has been the site of various accidents since it was opened in 1949, including a radioactive waste tank explosion in the 1950s.

Tens of thousands of Russians living near the facility have been treated for the effects of radiation exposure for years.

Yuri Zolotov, deputy prosecutor general in the Urals region, told NTV television that an investigation showed that liquid radioactive waste had continuously been dumped from Mayak into the Techa river, which eventually flows into Siberia's major Ob river and on to the Arctic Ocean.

Vremya Novostei daily newspaper quoted Zolotov as saying radiation in the area exceeded safe levels by more than 200 percent. A formal criminal investigation was launched on Monday.

A similar investigation in 2003 led to Mayak's shut-down, but the plant was later reopened.

Ecology groups have long urged the government to shut the plant and welcomed the latest criminal investigation.

"But the main question now is whether this case would be seen through to a conclusion, whether the guilty would be punished and the plant's licence withdrawn," Vladimir Slivyak of EcoDefence ecology group said in a statement.

"Otherwise it would be a waste of time."

Mayak is one of Russia's biggest plants where nuclear waste generated by atomic power plants is processed to extract plutonium and prepare it for storage.

Spent atomic fuel from a Russian-built nuclear plant in Iran -- a source of diplomatic friction between Moscow and Washington -- was also expected to be processed there.

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K.  Official Statements

Answers by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov to Questions from the Argumenty i Fakty Weekly (excerpted)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)


Question: President Bush does not rule out the use of force against Iran. Iran looks to us for protection. Will Russia "dump" it, like it did Iraq, or will it face up to America?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: The key participants in the talks on settling the Iran nuclear problem favor a political solution to it, and there are real opportunities for this. Three European states -- France, Britain and Germany -- have reached agreement with Iran on freezing the uranium enrichment program and on continued close cooperation between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. We support this accord because we ourselves are engaged in parallel and closely coordinated contacts with the Troika and with Iran. So, I would rather not discuss, even hypothetically, a situation when someone would decide to use force.

Of late an informal mechanism of coordination of moves between the Europeans, Russia and the US has been taking shape, and we welcome Washington's movement in this direction. On the one hand, it marks the recognition that there is no alternative to multi-polar diplomacy (at a minimum, in the context of Iran, but it is the first step that is important, especially since Iraq, Afghanistan and, indeed, Kosovo, require a similar approach). On the other hand, it attests to the responsibility of the key powers for ensuring compliance with the regime of non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons. I can assure you that Russia's position on the issue is as firm as anyone's.


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L.  Links of Interest

Spent Nuclear Fuel to be Burned in Disarmament Plan
Christopher Joyce
National Public Radio
(for personal use only)

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