1. Aleksandr Rumiantsev Decides to Make Money on the Nuclear Submarines
Alena Kornysheva and Ivan Safronov
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Aleksandr Rumiantsev, the head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), said yesterday in an interview with the RIA Novosti news agency that he was considering the possibility of developing a new line of activity ï¿½ dismantling foreign nuclear submarines. If the project is supported by the G8, Rosatom will be assured of financing for many years to come. But these plans are unlikely to be realized, because NATO members will not want to give Russian specialists access to the secrets of their nuclear submarines.
Four companies under the jurisdiction of the Federal Industry Agency are involved in dismantling nuclear submarines in Russia ï¿½ the Nerpa Shipyards (Murmansk), the Zvezdochka and Sevmash shipyards (both in Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk Region), and the Zvezda Shipyards (Fokino, Primorye Territory). In addition, four other shipyards under the Navy's jurisdiction are also capable of dismantling submarines ï¿½ the 10th and 35th (Murmansk), the 30th (Chazhma Bay, Primorye Territory), and the 49th (Vilyuchinsk, Kamchatka Region). However, at present, the naval shipyards are involved mainly in salvaging diesel submarines and have almost nothing to do with nuclear vessels.
ï¿½For foreign partners [the United States and Great Britain], salvaging their nuclear submarines using existing facilities in Russia would allow them to save substantial amounts of money on the construction of similar infrastructure in their own countries,ï¿½ Rumiantsev said, although he stressed that there was no specific project at the moment, but only a political sense.
Specialists estimate that dismantling nuclear submarines in Russia would cost NATO members two to three times less that decommissioning them in their own countries. Especially since the infrastructure of the Russian companies was built mainly on money received as aid from the G8 countries. According to Rumiantsev, Russia currently receives $100 million each from foreign partners for dismantling its own submarines. ï¿½Nearly 120 submarines are now being dismantled, and there are about 80 left. The submarines are being dismantled at the rate of about 15 per year. We will be finished in five or six years,ï¿½ the agency reports, quoting Rumiantsev.
Rumiantsev's intentions to provide Russian shipyards with dismantlement orders after 2010, when the facilities constructed with Western aid start becoming idle, are also understandable. However, in reality, the circle of potential customers is not that large. The United States has its own technologies and facilities for dismantling submarines; these are also used by Great Britain, which has a small fleet of nuclear submarines. France dismantles its own submarines itself. That leaves only China, but, in the near future, only its first Han class submarines (design 091), which were armed in 1974, are likely to need dismantling in the near future. The remaining Chinese nuclear submarines were commissioned between 1987 and 1998, and there is no prospect of dismantling them in the short term.
One should also not forget the matter of classified defense technology. Rumiantsev believes that all confidential components can be removed from the vessels, leaving only the common, traditional mechanisms. The problem of spent nuclear fuel could be solved in the same way. First, spent nuclear fuel from foreign submarines could be unloaded in countries owning their own submarines. According to a process developed in Russia, the spent fuel is first unloaded from the submarines, the nuclear reactor is cut out, and then the reactor compartments are cut out and dismantled separately.
However, as a source in Russia's Ministry of Defense reminded Kommersant, even after the instrumentation and weapons are stripped from the submarines and the spent nuclear fuel is unloaded, Russian specialists will be able to study the nuclear reactor setup and obtain samples of the metal used in the submarine's hull, which also falls under the category of top secret information. Finally, one very important secret is the construction of the propellers, which directly affects on the main characteristics of submarines ï¿½ noise reduction. There are unlikely to be any countries in the world prepared to give the Russians the chance to obtain these secrets easily and, what is more, use their own money to pay for this.
2. Russia Offers to Dismantle Foreign Nuclear Submarines
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The head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, Alexander Rumyantsev, said on Sunday that Russia wanted to start dismantling foreign nuclear submarines. Russia does have the capacities to do this, Gazeta writes, but the question is: Where will the spent nuclear fuel from submarine reactors be stored?
Russia is currently dismantling only its own nuclear submarines, and doing so with foreign aid. Rumyantsev said Russia received $100 million a year for these purposes. In the space of five to six years, all of the remaining 80 Russian nuclear submarines will be scrapped, he said. Following that, the agency head said Russia would be ready to take U.S., British, and French submarines, which would save foreign partners considerable sums and bring in earnings for Russia.
Experts say this cooperation will keep the already existing plants used to dismantle submarines in work. Russia is currently scrapping vessels built between 1960 and 1970. This done, the capacities will be freed, says Ivan Safranchuk, director of the Center for Defense Information's Moscow office. There may be foreign demand for this service. But since the dismantling plants were built with foreign assistance, the interested countries, in Safranchuk's view, may demand a hefty discount when it comes to scrapping their submarines, which means Russian is unlikely to enjoy a windfall.
However, the main issue is, where to process and store spent nuclear fuel. Rumyantsev says as an initial arrangement it "should be unloaded in the countries that own the submarines." In other words, the idea is, when dismantling a foreign submarine, to keep radioactive waste in Russia in the future, believes Alexei Yablokov, head of the Center for Ecological Policy. But Russia does not need an excess radiation load, he says.
When a law was adopted in 2001 to allow Russia to store spent nuclear fuel, environmentalists also feared that it would be the first step toward turning Russia into a global nuclear dump. At the moment Russia only accepts and recycles spent fuel from reactors it itself built abroad.
1. US and Russia Look for International Aid to Shut Down Russiaï¿½s Production Reactors
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In what has becoming an increasingly unpredictable, expensive and far overdue programme, the US Department of Energy (DOE) and its Russian counterparts are seeking international donations in their project to shut the last three remaining weapons-grade plutonium production reactors in Russia.
The weapons-grade plutonium producing reactors, two of which are located in the central Siberian city of Seversk, near Tomsk, and the other in Zheleznogorsk, near Krasnoyarskï¿½are the last three of Russiaï¿½s 13 production rectors to be shut down. The United Statesï¿½ 14 production reactors have all been halted.
The reactor shut-down program which was originally part of the US Department of Defenseï¿½s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programme efforts in 1997, was in 2002 reassigned to the US Department of Energyï¿½s (DOE) National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA), which spearheads DOE threat reduction efforts with Russia. The programme is currently known as the Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production programme, and will replace the reactors with fossil fuel plants.
Both the original and current programmes have experienced cost overruns that are equal to more than 100 percent of their respective anticipated costs. The joint US-Russian effort has now taken its troubles, hat in hand, before the international community to solicit further funding for the project.
The DOE has requested $132 million for the program in its fiscal year 2006 budget request, a 200 percent increase over the 2005 allocation. NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks, in a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee March 2, said that the budget request was ï¿½fully adequateï¿½ to shut down the two nuclear reactors at Seversk, the web-based Arms Control Today reported.
But shutting down the third Russian plutonium-producing reactor in Zheleznogorsk entails constructing a new fossil fuel plant, a venture that, according to the DOE, requires at least $100m from international donors to meet its completion target date of 2011, said the web site.
The DOEï¿½s budget request for fiscal year 2006, if it is approved by US Congress, will de-emphasise funding for activities at Zheleznogorsk compared to the fiscal year 2005 allocation because of the current emphasis on closing the two reactors at Seversk, and in anticipation of heightened international support for the Zheleznogorsk.
The DOE, which in 2002 estimated project costs for building replacement fossile fuel plants at less than $470m, revised its position in 2003 after re-auditing cost projections to accommodate Russian inflation, rising labor costs, and contractor fees. Though the project baseline cost will not be determined by Moscow and Washington until June, reported Arms Control Today, nuclear officials on both sides of the ocean interviewed by Bellona Web have estimated that cost could skyrocket to nearly $1 billion.
Cash begins to drip in
On February 8th and 9th, the United States took its first steps toward soliciting outside help by holding a conference in Spiez, Switzerland in an effort to convince attending states like Canada, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Slovakia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom to pony up with donations, Arms Control Today reported.
The conference, primarily sponsored by the Swiss government, discussed how to shift these communities away from the nuclear industry. Russian officials asked for aid in cleaning up decommissioned sites and creating new employment opportunities for thousands of nuclear workers who will be left jobless when the reactors are shut down.
So far, the United Kingdom has pledged $20m to the effort, to be spread over a three-year period, and Canada has offered US $7m, spokesmen for both governments told Bellona Web.
The history of the shut down agreement
Agreement to shut the reactors down was reached by the Gore-Chernomyrdin commissionï¿½a lose confederation between Clinton-era Vice President Al Gore and then Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdinï¿½in 1994. The agreement stipulated that the reactors would no longer be producing weapons grade plutonium by ï¿½no later than 2000.ï¿½
That agreement has overshot its deadline by several years, and according to accounts given by both Russian and DOE officials who have spoken to Bellona Web on the condition of anonymity, there is as yet, not even a blueprint as to how to begin decommissioning the three reactors.
The joint effort, according to the Russian and US officials, employs at least 17 contractorsï¿½each of which has its own set of subcontractors, and all of whom are waiting for clear marching orders that have yet to be hammered out by US officials. A US General Accounting Office (GAO) report indicated in June 2004 that the sheer number of entities involved in the shutdown process, and the upwardly spiraling costs, threatened to collapse the programme under its own bureaucratic weight.
The new official date for their closure was estimated in 2003 by another former Russian prime minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, and his US counterparts to be 2008 for Tomsk and 2011 for Zheleznogorskï¿½a figure many in the DOE consider to be overly optimistic.
CTRï¿½s handoff of the shut down programme
The main shift in emphasis between the CTR programme and the DOE programme is the disposition of the reactors themselves. Both reactors provide heat and power for the approximately 400,000 residents of the closed cites, plus a portion of residents on Tomskï¿½s power grid.
Originally, CTR had planned on a so-called core conversion project for the reactor. Core conversion in theory changes a reactorï¿½s physics and makes it less likely to catch fire in the event that it looses coolant. It also allows reactors to run at reduced power levels, allowing for a margin of error should an emergency arise.
But the US core conversion processï¿½originally estimated to cost $80mï¿½had numerous fundamental and dangerous engineering flaws, say US physicists who were involved with the erstwhile project.
Addressing these basic oversights soon ballooned the cost of core conversion to $800m.
Soon thereafter, US government audits suggested the most effective means of shutting down the reactors while still maintaining heat and power for the concerned communities was to build or refurbish fossil fuel plants that are located nearby Seversk and Zheleznogorskï¿½at the previously anticipated cost of some $470m.
The bomb-grade plutonium keeps coming
As the reactors themselves have been kept running for the stated purpose of heating and powering their respective communities, it follows that the estimated 1,200 to 1,500 kilograms of weapons-grade plutoniumï¿½enough to make some 300 warheads a yearï¿½ that they produce would be rendered ï¿½surplusï¿½ as per the 2000 US-Russia Plutonium Disposition agreement.
This agreement signed by former US president Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin, stipulated that each country will dispose of 34 tonnes each of weapons-grade plutonium declared surplus to its military need. The primary method for disposing of the fuel was mandated by the Bush administration to be via the use of MOX, or mixed uranium and weapons-grade plutonium fuel in specially retrofitted commercial reactorsï¿½despite the significantly lower costs of immobilization.
But the MOX programme hit a brick wall in late 2003 when the US State Department refused to renew an earlier 5-year-long research and information exchange agreement signed in 1998 between the two countries. The State Departmentï¿½s refusal to renew the programme was its insistence that 1998 agreement be renegotiated to include all stipulations in the CTR ï¿½Umbrella Agreement,ï¿½ which was designed to exempt US nuclear dismantlement efforts in Russia from all liability. The Russians remain opposed to the ï¿½Umbrella Agreement.ï¿½
Originally, the Russia side had agreed to incorporate at least that plutonium produced at the Seversk and Zheleznogorsk reactors, which is stored in oxide form on site at the respective plants. But the head of Russiaï¿½s Federal Agency for Atomic Energy (Rosatom)ï¿½the defunct Ministry of Atomic Energyï¿½s successorï¿½Alexander Rumyantsev has in recent months issued ambiguous statements about the fate of the plutonium produced in Seversk and Zheleznogorsk, largely, say Russian nuclear regulatory officials, out of frustration with the hard line US policies on liability and the uncertainty that the 2000 Plutonium Disposition agreement will ever reach the stage of implementation.
The US and Russia have also turned to the international community for donations toward building Russiaï¿½s industrial scale MOX fabrication plant, which carried an estimated price tag of $2 billion. So far, only $800m has been forthcoming and few G-8 member countries have expressed interest in donating to the project.
Even if the plan were built, though, it will require millions of dollars more for Russia to retrofit and build new reactors capable of handling the fuel in order to meet the 2000 agreementï¿½s stipulated weapons-grade plutonium disposition quota of 2 tonnes per year.
Meanwhile, Russiaï¿½s plutonium stocks, thanks to the Zheleznogorsk and Seversk reactors, will have increased by at least 3 tonnesï¿½enough for an estimated 3000 warheadsï¿½beyond the original shut down date of 2000 by the project shut down date of 2008.
1. International Experts Play Down Threat of Terrorists Acquiring WMDs
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Terrorist groups and organizations have neither the capacity nor the ambition to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and other experts said at a conference in Helsinki on Thursday.
"I'm as concerned about global warming and its long term effects" as about the immediate threat of terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction, said Blix, a former Swedish diplomat who was charged with searching for such weapons ahead of the US-led invasion of Iraq.
"Support and coordination from states would be needed for terrorists to produce WMDs," he insisted, speaking at a conference here entitled "WMD terrorism: how scared should we be?".
Blix acknowledged however that "there is a small but not zero risk" of terrorists laying their hands on weapons of mass destruction, and called for more preventive measures.
"Material and technology are now widespread and an ability to create WMDs is also greater," he said.
John Parachini, a political analyst with the California-based Rand Corporation, agreed that the current threat of terrorists gaining access to such weapons had perhaps been exaggerated.
"WMDs are not easy to produce," he said, adding that "the mix of terrorism and WMDs becomes really dangerous if a group or groups form a sort of connection with a state and get knowledge from states how to produce WMDs".
"WMDs used by Al-Qaeda is much further off than we think," agreed Thomas Sanderson of the Strategic and International Studies' Transnational Threats Project.
He cautioned however that the attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001 showed that "the intention of terrorist groups to cause major damage is there".
"You don't need to kill thousands of people in order to cause a terrible effect on a country, as anthrax showed," he added, referring to a scare soon after the 2001 attacks.
According to Parachini, there have been only four known cases in recent history of non-state actors using non-conventional weapons to wreak havoc: the Rajneeshee sect's salmonella poisoning of an Oregon town in 1984, the chlorine attack on the Sri Lankan air force carried out by the Tamil Tigers in 1990, the Aum sect's release of deadly sarin gas on a Tokyo subway train in 1995 and finally the deadly anthrax letters, believed to be of domestic origin, that terrorized the United States in 2001.
At the end of last week, the House Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held hearings on the subject ï¿½Nuclear Terrorism Prevention.ï¿½ The scope of discussions in Congress was limited to three countries which could present the threat in nuclear terrorism in U.S. soil. Russia was mentioned more times than, for instance, North Korea or Iran.
The hearings were proposed by Rep. Edward Royce. James Woolsey, former CIA director; Laura Holgate, vice president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative Foundation; Michael Levi, Brookings Institution expert; and Ariel Cohen, Heritage Foundation expert.
Cohen stated specifically that the Kremlin is still looking at the U.S. as an enemy. He supported his sensational statement by mentioning some unnamed retired Kremlin official. This official told Cohen that ï¿½Putin, after analyzing the Russian-American relationship, came to the conclusion that the USA is not a partner.ï¿½ Emphasizing among the others this message, Cohen named to the Congressmen five possible scenarios of how nuclear components or nuclear ï¿½suit-case bombsï¿½ from Russia could fall into the hands of terrorists: ï¿½Anti-Americanism that has soaked through the Russian political elite from a top to the bottom; corruption in the Russian Army and security services; bad guarding of nuclear objects and labs; increasing influence of Vakhabism and organized crime.ï¿½
As an example of the uneasy partnership, Cohen named the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which is aimed at dismantling Russian weapons and is paid by the American government. Woolsey is also worried by the Nunn-Lugar Program. Speaking with Kommersant, Woolsey said that ï¿½according to the information that he possesses the , Russian side tries to tax the funds coming from the USA as part of afinancing program.ï¿½ Richard Lugar, chairman of U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, also complained about Russian tax services. The co-author of the Nunn-Lugar Program asked Robert Joseph, future deputy of Secretary of State on International Security and Arms Control, to help him to resolve the tax issue with the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Explaining to Kommersant his point of view, Woolsey noted, that the ï¿½USA has to be friendly to a maximum with Russia and cooperate with it on the issue of control for nuclear materials and components. The only thing that we donï¿½t have to ask Russia is to contact to us.ï¿½ When he was commenting on Cohenï¿½s statement that the ï¿½Kremlin considers US as an enemy,ï¿½ Woolsey said: ï¿½The Kremlin is nothing more than a building, bricks and the Canon. The main thing is what the people think.ï¿½ But, Woolsey finally made a remark about the current head of the Russian State, pointing out that ï¿½if Putin will start moving toward democracy, then everything will be OK.ï¿½ Then, he made a pause and added: ï¿½So far itï¿½s clear that Russia moves in the reverse direction.ï¿½
Other speakers on the hearings said that the USA must cooperate with Russia at any cost to prevent possible nuclear terrorism on US soil. Holgate stated that ï¿½G7 countries did not keep their promises to give about one billion dollars, mostly designated to Russia to reduce level of the nuclear threat.ï¿½ Michael Levi said that the ï¿½USA needs to be more flexible when it is persuading Russiaï¿½ to cooperate in the nuclear field. Levi asked Congressmen to think over Washingtonï¿½s possible reciprocal steps if ï¿½Moscow will be agreed to provide a necessary access to its nuclear arsenal.ï¿½
Leviï¿½s proposal was supported by Democrat Brad Sherman who said that ï¿½it will a disaster, if a nuclear bomb will explode in an American city just because we stuck our hand into Kyrgyzstan or Chechnya.ï¿½ He also noted:ï¿½My voters in California lived all their lives not knowing where these republics are located.ï¿½ In the conversation with Kommersant, Sherman said that ï¿½in life it is important to establish the priorities.ï¿½ ï¿½Chechnya is no East Timor, and Russia is no Indonesia.ï¿½
The hearings were finished quite fast. According the opinion of some American observers, if the Kremlin really considers the White House as an enemy fortress, then during the U.S. Presidentï¿½s visit to Moscow on May 9 (the Victory Day Celebration of the Great Patriotic War), Bush should behave himself very accurately with Putin and shouldnï¿½t bother him with too many difficult questions. But, as Kommersant was informed, such approach is not coinciding with the point of view of the Department of State and the National Security Council. Secretary of State Condoleezza Riceï¿½s visit to Russia, which starts tomorrow, will clarify a lot of things.
1. Ukraine's Yushchenko Involved in Missile Sales to China, Iran: Opponent
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Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko played a role in the illegal sale of nuclear-capable cruise missiles to China and Iran, a deputy for the country's opposition said.
"This deal (...) took place when Yushchenko was prime minister," Interfax-Ukraine news agency cited member of parliament Taras Chornovil as saying.
"The transaction could only take on such dimensions after arrangements with the prime minister who knew" about it, he added.
Yushchenko headed the Ukrainian government between December 1999 and April 2001 before joining the opposition to then president Leonid Kuchma and becoming president late last year.
He has admitted that nuclear-capable cruise missiles were sold illegally to China and Iran under Kiev's previous regime but said the X-55 missiles were exported under a forged contract that had Russia as the country of destination.
No nuclear warheads were sold with the missiles, made in 1987, which have a range roughly of 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) and were poorly maintained, according to a Ukrainian source familiar with the investigation.
According to Ukrainian public prosecutors the sales were illegal and could not be considered Ukrainian exports.
Six missiles were sold to Iran in 2001 and six to China, they have said.
The deputy said press reports that the president's brother, Petro Yushchenko, was involved in the weapons smuggling were alarming.
Yushchenko's press department could not be reached for comment.
Iran has denied that Kiev delivered missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
1. U.S./Russia: Analysts Say Nuclear Issues Likely To Top Riceï¿½s Agenda In Moscow
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As Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to receive U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Moscow tomorrow, Russian observers are speculating on the likely agenda of the discussion. The United States is likely to raise concerns about Russiaï¿½s eroding democracy. But Russian analysts say Washington will prefer this time to focus on nuclear issues.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected in Moscow tomorrow for a two-day visit, during which she is due to meet with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Officially, Rice will be in Moscow to prepare for U.S. President George W. Bushï¿½s upcoming visit. Bush will be in Russia for the 9 May ceremony commemorating the end of World War II. U.S. officials have not provided any further details on the agenda for Rice's talks in Moscow.
Rice, who is a Russia specialist, told reporters before her visit that she would press on with the U.S. campaign to encourage democracy and a free market in Russia. The United States has repeatedly voiced concern over the Kremlin tightening its grip on politics and the media. Bush criticized Putin during a meeting in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, in late February.
Most analysts, however, speculate that the United States will soften its criticism during this weekï¿½s talks. Viktor Kremenyuk is the deputy head of the U.S.A. and Canada Institute at Russiaï¿½s Academy of Sciences. He told RFE/RL that security issues are likely to eclipse U.S. concerns over democracy in Russia.
ï¿½It is a deal. Concerning Iran, Russia can show more understanding for the U.S. concerns. Despite the harsh tone of the American president in Bratislava, ideological conflicts sometimes have to be put aside in favor of partnership on more important questions, such as security, terrorism, or the threat of nuclear proliferation,ï¿½ Kremenyuk said.
The United States has long tried to talk Russia out of building a nuclear plant in Bushehr, in the south of Iran. Together with some European countries, the United States fears that Iran could upgrade nuclear fuel to produce nuclear weapons. Washington also increasingly fears that terrorists might steal nuclear material to manufacture weapons. Russia, however, has always dismissed these fears as unfounded and maintains that Iranï¿½s nuclear program is peaceful. "There is a problem of anti-Western sentiment among conservative elites. There is a lot of resentment towards what is regarded as the meddling of the West and the U.S. in the Ukrainian electoral crisis." - Lipman
Masha Lipman, a Moscow-based independent political analyst, agrees that nuclear issues will take center stage at this weekï¿½s talks in Moscow. She says that the United States will most likely tone down its criticism of Russiaï¿½s poor democratic credentials.
ï¿½My cautious guess is that the tone will probably be softer. One of the reasons may be that there is not much America can do about Russiaï¿½s democratic record unless the Russian people feel the urge to change the political situation in Russia and demand more democracy,ï¿½ Lipman said.
Lipman, however, said that anti-American sentiment remains strong in Russia even though Russian and the United States call themselves friends and strategic partners. ï¿½There are all sorts of signals coming from rather high-ranking Russian officials talking vaguely about certain forces in the West seeking to weaken Russia," she said. "There is a problem of anti-Western sentiment among conservative elites. There is a lot of resentment towards what is regarded as the meddling of the West and the U.S. in the Ukrainian electoral crisis.ï¿½
From Moscow, Rice is scheduled to travel to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, where she will attend a regular NATO meeting. She will also meet Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq.
International Relations and Security Network Security Watch
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NATO officials said on Thursday that the alliance had no plans for a joint anti-missile defense system with Russia. The denial comes just a day after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said his country would work with NATO to develop a theater anti-missile system.
ï¿½We plan to create an effective battlefield anti-missile system in Europe. This system will protect all the areas on the European continent that can be attacked by missiles,ï¿½ Ivanov told journalists in Yaroslavl, Russia on Tuesday.
But NATO military experts said such claims did not represent the real level of relations and military cooperation between the alliance and Russia.
Sources say both sides are conducting lower-level preparations for cooperation in future crises situations using joint technologies and common command structures.
ï¿½NATO and Russia are working together to develop procedures and structures to conduct theater missile defense (TMD) activities in a crisis response operation outside NATO and Russian territory. But it is premature to suggest that the cooperation will result in a joint TMD system,ï¿½ an alliance air defense expert told ISN Security Watch on Thursday.
Two years ago, NATO and Russia agreed to conduct joint operations in third countries when necessary, and to cooperate against various military threats, including terrorism.
Alliance officials said that preparations and tests were needed to see if both sides could successfully and effectively create command structures to coordinate and conduct joint operations, because of the different types of military terminologies, concepts, and technologies used.
Last year, those tests began under the aegis of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), and the Theatre Missile Defence Ad Hoc Working Group conducted the first exercise in March 2004 at the Joint National Integration Center (JNIC) in Colorado Springs in the US. The second exercise in March this year took place at De Peel Airbase in the Netherlands. Russia has also offered to host a TMD Command Post Exercise (CPX) in the second half of 2006.
Over 50 participants from 10 NATO nations and the Russian Federation took part in last monthï¿½s exercise, with additional support and personnel provided by the NATO Military Authorities (NMAs) and the tri-national Extended Air Defense Task Force (EADTF).
The CPX is a computer-assisted, real-time event that focuses on command and control of forces. It is one program that is expected to provide the basis for future procedures for joint operations in the area of theater missile defense.
Over ï¿½3 million has already been committed to the Interoperability Studies and Exercise program.
Russia and Iran on Monday began consultations on Tehran's nuclear program and its cooperation with the international nuclear watchdog ahead of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's two-day visit.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak, in charge of non-proliferation issues, and Iranian Supreme National Security Council Deputy Secretary Hussein Musavian began talks on the nuclear issue, media reports said.
Russia's assistance to Iran in building Bushehr nuclear power plant has been under permanent US scanner and Rice is expected to again raise this issue with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Moscow has repeatedly said that its nuclear cooperation with Iran, a signatory of Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), is strictly in line with its international commitments.
However, over the international concerns about Tehran's alleged clandestine nuclear weapons programme, Russia has linked the progress in nuclear ties with Iran's willingness to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Official spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry Hamid Reza Assefi refuted reports by Western media on Russia allegedly deciding to postpone delivery of nuclear fuel for the first unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.
"There are no problems with fuel deliveries; I have heard nothing like this," Assefi told a Sunday press conference.
Earlier, some Western mass media distributed information that the terms of nuclear fuel deliveries for the NPP being built by Russian specialists in the northern part of the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf were postponed.
The construction of the first unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, whose commissioning is due in 2006, is being completed. According to fixed norms and agreements reached earlier between Russia and Iran, nuclear fuel delivery will be carried out 6 months prior to the plant's physical launch, scheduled for late 2005.
1. Nuclear Icebreakers to Reach Lifetime Limit in 2010
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Advisor of Marine and River Transport Federal Agency Alexander Ushakov stated this at the round table meeting on actual problems of the Russian sea ports and the stateï¿½s role in their solution organised by the Rosbalt agency.
According to Alexander Ushakov, the last nuclear icebreaker entered service in 1991. It was built in Finland and received the Russian equipment. The construction of the ï¿½50 years victoryï¿½ nuclear icebreaker began in 1989 and is still unfinished. ï¿½It never happened before, as it usually took from 5 to 6 yearsï¿½ he said. Today it would take from 10 to 11 years to design and build a nuclear icebreaker. The nuclear icebreakers lifetime will be over by 2008-2010 and ï¿½ice pauseï¿½ is possible. ï¿½When the resources of the nuclear icebreakers are exhausted, many Russian ports would not be able to work in winterï¿½ believes Ushakov, Rosbalt reported.
1. Transnational Nuclear Cooperation a Must: Rumyantsev
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Russia needs to join efforts with the USA, Europe, Japan and China in the nuclear sphere, Alexander Rumyantsev, Rosatom (Federal Nuclear Energy Agency) chief, stressed in a Novosti interview.
"However paradoxical you may find my opinion, I am sure Russia won't retain its position in the world unless it establishes the closest possible ties with countries advanced in nuclear power industry and research-such as the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan and China," he said.
At present, Russia is dynamically integrating into the world in the nuclear field. IAEA activities and work on transnational contracts are of great help here.
If the Rosenergoatom concern shifts to shareholding arrangements, overseas and domestic capital investments will amply flow into Russian-based nuclear industry, Rumyantsev is sure. The concern reform promises government control fully retained, while a newly established joint-stock company will get hold of commercial produce and a part of property thus to open the doors to tentative investors.
The way things are now, Russia merely cannot afford to finish power unit construction if it takes up more than two at a time, our informant went on.
If we have no investments coming in, our resource for building nuclear power stations in Russia is much inferior to what we have for similar construction in other countries, he pointed out.
At present, Russia is building five nuclear power units-in Bushehr, Iran; Tianwan, China; and Kudankulam, India.
The Iranian-based project deserves special mention. Bushehr construction was launched back in the mid-1970s by West Germany's Siemens concern. The project was suspended under US pressure in 1979, following the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The Russian and Iranian governments signed an agreement, August 1992, to resume construction. At present, Atomstroiexport Co. is building Unit One, at a thousand megawatt. A physical start-up is scheduled for this year's end, and commissioning for late in 2006. Construction costs are estimated at a billion US dollars. Close on 300 Russian-based companies are engaged in equipment supplies. Such concerns are prominent among the exporters as Siloviye Mashiny and United Engineering Works.
Project Bushehr has been in the global limelight ever since it was launched. IAEA experts are frequently checking it. The US Administration has repeatedly expressed alarm with Russia sharing its nuclear technologies with Iran, even if those are civil-oriented technologies and know-how. But then, it was the United States who built Iran's first research reactor. More than that, it intended to build roughly twenty nuclear power plants in Iran under the Shah-the years when America regarded Iran as central pillar and chief promoter of US interests in the Middle East.
1. Mayak Plant Operates Without Deviations from Process Regulations
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The Mayak chemical plant, the firstling of the domestic nuclear industry, operates in full conformity with the established process regulations, without any deviations or breaches, a plant press service official told Itar-Tass on Thursday.
This has been stated in view of the arrival of a special operational investigative group of the prosecutor's office and the Federal Security Service at the plant to inquire into the fact of impact of the hydraulic facilities of the Mayak production association, including those of the Techa river series of water reservoirs, on the environment.
The plant's press service maintains, "The current operation of the enterprise does not affect the radiological situation that developed in the catchment area of theTecha river as a result of the Mayak's original activities".
2. Nuclear Waste Site Threatened by Huge Mudslide in Kyrgystan
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A huge mudslide has hit an area near nuclear waste sites in the vicinity of Mailu-Suu, a town in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.
The mudslide has blocked a mountainous river causing water to pour into the territory of a nuclear waste processing plant, a spokesperson for Kyrgyzstanï¿½s Ministry for Environmental and Emergency Situations Emil Akmatov said.
Experts said the mudslide had moved about 300,000 cubic meters of rock and rubble, Interfax reported. Rescue teams from the emergencies ministry could not approach the site due to the threat of a further mudslide.
The nuclear waste processing plant has been closed for years but there are more than 20 nuclear waste storage facilities in the area.
Due to a lack of financing the stores have seen no repairs since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Environmentalists fear that the damage done to the area could trigger a disaster that would affect not only Kyrgyzstan but the entire region.
3. Russiaï¿½s Oldest Nuclear Plant Under Investigation
International Relations and Security Network Security Watch
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After decades of warnings from ecologists and denials from authorities, a criminal investigation has been launched into the extent of ecological damage caused by Russiaï¿½s oldest nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, Mayak.
Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov ordered the investigation earlier this week, and a team of experts from his office and the Federal Security Services (FSB) arrived on the site on Thursday.
The Mayak facility stores and reprocesses spent nuclear fuel from Russian atomic power stations and nuclear submarines. It is also planned that Mayak will reprocess fuel returned from Iranï¿½s Russian-built Bushehr atomic power station.
The criminal case against Mayak was launched after prosecutors checked radiation levels and concentrations of toxic agents in the rivers around the plant, which is located in the Ural mountains. Inspectors found that the radiation level in the river Techa exceeds the allowed level by an order of several hundredfold. In 2004 alone, Mayak was found to have dumped more than 60 million cubic meters of toxic waste into the Techa.
Mayak officials deny any wrongdoing, saying that the plant operated in line with all safety requirements. If convicted, the plantï¿½s managers face up to five years in prison.
In 1957, Mayak was the site of a major ecological disaster that many ecologists said was second only to the Chernobyl catastrophe.
A highly radioactive liquid waste spilled over from Mayakï¿½s storage pools, contaminating thousands of square kilometers. Hundreds of thousands of local citizens have been affected by the disaster, which the Soviet government attempted to cover up.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mayak became a major target for Russian ecologists who have persistently demanded that the plant be shut down and the people living in the contaminated zone be resettled.
Russian ecologists have also frequently reported new leaks at the plant, with authorities consistently denying those reports.
On Thursday, Russiaï¿½s chief ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, sent a letter to Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov outlining a program to solve the problems arising from radioactive leaks at Mayak.
Greenpeace will also launch an international campaign to bring global attention to the situation, the coordinator of the Russian branch of the ecological watchdog, Vladimir Chuprov, said on Thursday.
1. Statement by Alexander Yakovenko, Spokesman, Concerning the Adoption by UN General Assembly of an International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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On April 13 the UN General Assembly adopted an International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
The convention is the first treaty passed in the UN at Russia's initiative. For the first time an antiterrorist Convention was worked out by the international community for preemption, that is before the commission of terrorist acts involving nuclear material and other radioactive substances. This is the first universal treaty aimed at preventing terrorist acts of mass destruction.
The Russian Federation, which introduced the Draft Nuclear Terrorism Convention in the UN in 1997, is especially pleased with the successful conclusion of the longstanding intense work on the problem, which we pinpointed almost ten years ago. Greatly important to us also is the fact that, despite what had at times seemed insurmountable differences, a consensus approval of the text of the Convention ultimately was arrived at.
The Convention's adoption creates a firm basis for international cooperation in counterterrrorism and in the struggle against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The provisions of the new legal document ensure antiterrorist protection for both the peaceful and military atom, aim at the suppression of acts of terrorism involving self-made nuclear devices, and call for inevitable punishment for persons found guilty of committing acts of nuclear terrorism under the principle of "either extradite, or try." The Convention establishes a mechanism for the return of stolen radioactive materials, nuclear devices or substances.
This treaty will be implemented in close cooperation with the IAEA.
We hope that after its opening for signature on September 14, 2005, on the day Summit 2005 will commence its work, this unique international treaty will quickly gather the 22 ratification instruments it needs to come into force and will add to the list of the antiterrorist conventions already in effect.
The Convention lays down an important element of the strategy for combating new challenges and threats that the Russian Federation has proposed creating under the aegis of the UN. It is an important contribution to the further development of antiterrorist engagement, which, in its turn, will impart a new impulse to the process of the development of a comprehensive convention against international terrorism.
In addition, the fact of its adoption evidences the resolve and ability of the UN member states to adapt the Organization to present-day realities and the requirements of security and to rally in the fight against new challenges and threats.
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