1. Ratification of Vienna Convention to Improve Environmental Rehabilitation in Murmansk Region
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Ratification of the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage will influence positively on the implementation of the international programs on the environmental rehabilitation of the nuclear facilities on the Kola Peninsula in Russia.
The chief engineer of the Nerpa shipyard Rostislav Rimdenuk in Snezhnogorsk, Murmansk region, said this in an interview to the Interfax news agency. He reminded that construction of the onshore storage facility for empty submarine reactor compartments begins in Sayda bay. Germany sponsors the whole project. The project also includes upgrade of the tug boat for reactor compartments shipment to the Sayda bay. Besides, a separate customs department has been to carry out custom clearance of the foreign equipment established in the Sayda bay, Rimdenuk said to Interfax.
The Energiewerke Nord GmbH (EWN) based in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany, was commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour to function as project co-ordinator. Energiewerke Nord GmbH, or EWN, represents Germany and chooses all the subcontractors for the project. Russia will carry out all construction works, or 60% of the project. German companies will implement 40% of the project, mostly design works and production of the modern equipment.
In the presence of Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schrï¿½der and President Vladimir Putin State Secretary Dr. Alfred Tacke and Sergey V. Antipov, Vice Minister for Nuclear Energy of the Russian Federation, on 9 October 2003 signed an agreement concerning the safe disposal of approximately 120 nuclear-powered submarines of Russia's Northern Fleet. Germany contributes 300 million ï¿½ to the financing of this project, which is planned to be carried out over a period of six years; it is part of the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction agreed on at the 2002 G8 World Economic Summit in Kananaskis. Until 2012, Germany will contribute funds totalling up to 1.5 billion euro to the projects of the G8 Global Partnership.
2. Russian Nuclear Sub Scrapped Using Canadian Funds
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The first of several multirole nuclear-powered submarines, project 671, which was decommissioned from the Northern Fleet, has been scrapped at the Zvezdochka naval shipyard in Severodvinsk, the enterprise's press secretary, Nadezhda Shcherbinina, has told an ITAR-TASS correspondent.
She said the scrapping of the submarine, manufacturer's number 608 (K-438), had been finished at the shipyard. "In compliance with the recycling procedure, a floating unit was formed of a reactor compartment and two adjacent compartments, which will be sent to the temporary storage base on the Kola peninsula," the spokeswoman said.
She also said that Zvezdochka was currently recycling two more multirole nuclear-powered submarines using Canadian funds. An agreement was signed on the recycling of another four such submarines. "Canada intends to finance the recycling of a total of 12 Russian multirole nuclear-powered submarines (three submarines a year) at Zvezdochka as part of the 'Global Partnership' programme which was adopted by the G8 countries in 2002. Ottawa will allocate about 100m dollars for that purpose," Shcherbinina said.
The project 671 submarine (Victor-1, according to NATO classification) was designed and built in St Petersburg. A total of 15 such submarines were commissioned between 1965 and 1974.
3. Canada To Allocate $25 Million for Disposal of Russian Nuclear Submarines
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Canada will assign $25 million for continuation of the disposal of Russian decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines at the Zvezdochka ship-repairing plant in Severodvinsk, the Canadian ambassador told Arkhangelsk Governor Nikolai Kiselyov on Friday.
Canada has already assigned $8 million for Zvezdochka under the Global Partnership program a G8 summit adopted in 2002, a source in the regional administration told Itar-Tass. A Canadian delegation visited the plant on Friday, and the ambassador said they had signed an agreement for financing the second phase of the project. The money will be spent on unloading nuclear fuel from reactors of eight decommissioned submarines and their disposal.
Three multifunctional submarines 671 (Victor by NATO classification) are being disposed at Zvezdochka with Canadian funding. The ambassador said Canada would finance the disposal of 12 decommissioned submarines (three a year) within four years. Canada will spend about $100 million on the project, he said.
Fifteen submarines 671 were built at the Admiralty shipyard in St. Petersburg from 1865 through 1974. The submarines have two nuclear reactors, a length of 94 meters and a displacement of 4,750 tonnes.
1. Progress, Foreign Aid in Russia's Chemical Disarmament
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The intense publicity surrounding Russia's chemical disarmament subsides periodically. Meanwhile, the first plant for the destruction of toxic agents is already operating in Gornyy, a settlement in Saratov Oblast, and other facilities of this type will be operating soon. After requesting the postponement of the deadline for the implementation of the international Chemical Weapons Convention a year and a half ago, Russia has been unable to procrastinate any longer or request any more extensions and has consequently made every effort to destroy its 40,000 tonnes of toxic agents on schedule. The methods currently being used to eliminate chemical warfare agents, the importance of foreign assistance in this process, and the progress of Russia's main partner, the United States, in this work, were discussed by participants in the complex and controversial process.
The international aid to Russia in the destruction of chemical weapons has been quite uneven. Our Western partners have not been equally active in this sphere. Germany agreed to participate in the construction of the chemical weapons destruction facility (CWDF) in Kambarka, a city in Udmurtia. The Russian side estimated the cost of the project at about 7 billion rubles and 360 million euros. The Germans also plan to continue assisting in the construction and operation of the facility in Gornyy, a settlement in Saratov Oblast. Total annual aid is close to 30 million euros.
Italy was asked to help in building a facility for the detoxification of chemical weapons in Pochep, a city in Bryansk Oblast. The cost was estimated at about 9 billion rubles and 390 million euros. After lengthy negotiations, an international agreement was signed on the allocation of 360 million euros over a period of five years. Italy previously had decided to increase the amount of aid for the establishment of the infrastructure for the facility in Shchuchye--approximately $6.9 million.
Great Britain was asked to help in building a facility for the detoxification of chemical agents in Maradykovskiy, a settlement in Kirov Oblast, with an estimated cost of about 6.6 billion rubles and 380 million euros. The English have not responded to this proposal yet. Within the confines of the 2001 intergovernmental agreement, which envisaged the allocation of 12 million pounds sterling, an arrangement was made for the allocation of an additional $10 million for the infrastructure of the facility in Shchuchye. Pursuant to that same agreement, Norway plans to allocate about $2 million for purchases of equipment for the power substation of the Shchuchye facility.
Canada was requested for assistance in the construction of a facility for the detoxification of chemical weapons in Leonidovka, a settlement in Penza Oblast, with an estimated cost of 6.3 billion rubles and 330 million euros. Canada has not responded to this request yet, but it did allocate an additional $20 million for the infrastructure of the Shchuchye facility and the modernization of the security system of the chemical waste storage site in Leonidovka.
France and Russia have no agreements in the sphere of global partnership. During negotiations, the French said they might allocate 10 million euros for the improvement of the environmental monitoring system in Gornyy and the safe storage of chemical weapons in Kizner. This agreement has not been recorded in an official document yet, however.
The European Union was requested to join Great Britain in participating in the construction of the facility for the detoxification of chemical weapons in Maradykovskiy, the settlement in Kirov Oblast. The European Union has shown no interest in this project. Earlier, however, it did assist in the construction of the plant for the destruction of chemical weapons in Gornyy, allocating 5.8 million euros. Outside the confines of intergovernmental agreements, the European Union participated in Russian projects for the development of the environmental monitoring system in Gornyy (4 million euros) and the conversion of the chemical weapons production facility in Dzerzhinsk, Nizhniy Novgorod Oblast. An agreement was reached on the attachment of the European Union to the arrangement between Russia and Great Britain on the contribution of 2.1 million euros for the construction of the infrastructure of the Shchuchye facility. No larger projects for global partnership in the destruction of chemical weapons are being negotiated now.
Russia will need about 30 billion rubles and 1.5 billion euros in all for the four facilities (Kambarka, Maradykovskiy, Leonidovka, and Pochep)--on the condition that the work is done by Russian organizations and companies. If foreign companies are involved in the construction and operation of the facilities, expenses will be at least three times as high--due to differences in the cost of the services of Russian and foreign contractors. These expenses do not include U.S. expenditures on the construction of the Shchuchye facility and on the transport of chemical weapons.
The United States is known to have assumed responsibility for the Shchuchye construction project. The announced amount of aid between 1993 and 2004 is in excess of $700 million, but the amount paid to Russian contractors is no more than $70 million. The situation deteriorated somewhat in 2004, and the allocations were made conditional upon several considerations. They are mainly of a political nature, requiring Russia to produce complete and precise records of Russia's accumulated chemical weapons, access for American experts to facilities not named in the Chemical Weapons Convention, etc. The construction work on the CWDF in Shchuchye could be suspended at any time. There have been no new proposals from the American side to date.
Japan is not participating in the chemical disarmament process at this time, and it does not plan to participate in the future. The aid offered by all of the countries of the "Big Eight" in the destruction of chemical weapons within the framework of the global partnership program amounted to less than $100 million in 2003 and about $120 million in 2004. Even these amounts are overstated, however. That is the reason for the Russian Government's decision on a sizable increase in its own budget funding.
The government appointed the Federal Industry Agency to serve as the national agency responsible for commitments stemming from the international Chemical Weapons Convention. Its duties include the organization of international oversight of Russia's facilities for the storage of chemical weapons, their production, and their destruction, and facilities with some connection to the chemicals listed in the convention. A team of inspectors from the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague was assigned permanently to the first chemical weapons destruction facility in Gornyy after it began operating on 19 December 2002. The cost of inspecting facilities connected with chemical weapons is covered by the inspected state. The cost of other inspections is covered by the OPCW.
One of the main issues is the reasonable sufficiency of verification. After the convention was signed in 1993, the cost of the international oversight of Russian facilities was estimated at $500 million for the next 10 years. Inspection procedures were defined more precisely in 1997, when the convention was being ratified, and the projected cost was reduced to $220 million. The monitoring of one chemical weapons destruction facility now costs close to $1.5 million a year. Seven teams of inspectors, with 7-9 members each, visited Russia's storage facilities in 2004. Expenses were substantial, although they easily could have been reduced. Modern instruments and systems are being used more frequently, facilitating the reduction of the number of inspectors. The team in Groznyy, for example, now consists of five people instead of eight. More efficient inspection procedures on construction sites are being negotiated with the OPCW technical secretariat. The European Union announced the allocation of about 2 million euros for purchases of modern verification systems for the facility.
The OPCW also plans to inspect the reaction mass produced by the detoxification process, although this is simply a mixture of organic substances not categorized as chemical weapons in the convention. More extensive verification will increase the expenses of states party to the convention appreciably. The Russian side cannot agree with this. The savings could be applied to the construction of chemical weapons destruction facilities. This would reduce the amount of time required to meet convention commitments considerably.
The facility in Gornyy, the settlement in Saratov Oblast, was used for the storage of about 1,200 tonnes of toxic agents. The amount is small in comparison with the amounts stored at other Russian depots, but all types of blister agents were concentrated there: lewisite, mustard gas, lewisite mixed with mustard gas, lewisite mixed with mustard gas and dichloroethane, and a solution of mustard gas in diesel fuel. The lewisite destruction equipment at the plant is experimental and can handle up to 90 tonnes a year. The mustard gas destruction equipment is in the industrial-test category, with productivity of 300 tonnes a year. The same equipment will be used to destroy the mustard gas-lewisite compound.
Russia met its international commitments for the first phase of the convention in Gornyy, destroying 1 percent of its toxic agents. Lewisite is now being destroyed in Gornyy. The facility is operating at projected capacity. Operations have been halted only three times: two shutdowns for preventive maintenance according to the approved schedule and one for remodeling to support the intensification of the destruction process. Thousands of analyses of the reaction mass, air, and sewage have been performed. Lewisite in excess of the permissible residual content has not been detected in the reaction mass. A method of enhancing productivity has been discovered.
The facility began operating according to the new system on 25 October 2004. Productivity should increase to 150 tonnes a year. The facility now has a system to monitor the safety of service personnel, the population of adjacent territories, and the environment. The facility has 67 devices for the automatic monitoring of air quality and the safety of vented gases and 90 permanent stations for the collection of air and vented gas samples. The efficiency of air purification systems is monitored with the aid of 184 sample collection probes in the air ducts.
The United States has already destroyed more than 10,110 tons of toxic agents. This is more than 32 percent of the original quantity. Chemical weapons are now being destroyed at four facilities: in Tooele (Utah), Aberdeen (Maryland), Anniston (Alabama), and Umatilla (Oregon). Furthermore, more than half of the stockpiles have been destroyed at the first two disposal facilities. Two other facilities--Pine Bluff in Arkansas and Newport in Indiana--are almost ready for operations. Besides this, mobile systems for the destruction of non-stockpile chemical materiel are operating successfully. The environmentally safe Johnston Atoll chemical agent destruction system will be shut down this spring because it will have completed its mission. Plans call for the destruction of 45 percent of the American toxic agents by December 2007.
The explosive destruction system is being used for the elimination of accidentally discovered chemical munitions. Eight unidentified 75-mm reactive artillery shells were destroyed at the Aberdeen proving ground, for example, 22 recovered chemical munitions were destroyed on the Dugway proving ground in Utah, and an unidentified 4.2-inch mortar round was destroyed in Camp Sibert, Delaware. Plans call for the elimination of all former chemical weapons production facilities in the United States by April 2007.
Great Britain will chair G8 in 2005. In this capacity, we will continue assigning priority to the prevention of the proliferation of weapons and systems of mass destruction. Within the global partnership framework, we will discuss progress in meeting commitments. In our opinion, there are three areas in which the Russian Government could be more accommodating to donors. First, donors must see a clear, realistic, and comprehensive plan for Russia's fulfillment of its obligation to destroy chemical weapons. It has become increasingly apparent that the current Russian chemical weapons destruction program, approved in 2001, is unrealistic. We have heard that a new one is anticipated.
Donors expect the Russian side to be as forthcoming as they are. In particular, they expect to be apprised of the Russian program, funding requirements, and expenditures on the destruction of chemical weapons. Donors want precise descriptions of the projects for which their funds are being solicited. This transparency will convince the donor countries' finance ministries and parliaments of the need for new or additional funding. Great Britain tried to set an example by issuing two reports on its contributions to the global partnership framework.
Finally, donors will have less difficulty funding projects with fewer bureaucratic hurdles. This applies to the rules and regulations and the postponements of negotiations in bilateral relations. Donors are still having difficulty obtaining visas and gaining access to facilities for inspections. In the absence of these excessive obstacles, donors could offer assistance on a broader scale and more quickly. The Russian chemical weapons destruction program has gained more trust from the international community in recent years. This has promoted increased funding.
Russia must destroy about 4.5 million artillery and aircraft munitions containing mainly nerve agents. There are also stockpiles of blister agents, stored in large-capacity stationary containers and drums. We must now meet our commitments for the second phase of the convention, destroying 8,000 tonnes (20 percent of our stockpiles) by 29 April 2007. Budget allocations of 11.16 billion rubles will cover the cost of the work planned for 2005. Priority has been assigned to the construction of chemical weapons destruction facilities in Kambarka, a city in Udmurtia, and in Maradykovskiy, a settlement in Kirov Oblast.
The depot in Kizner, Udmurtia, is also part of the network of chemical weapons destruction facilities. According to the initial plans, the chemical munitions were to be moved from Kizner to the plant in Shchuchye and destroyed there. The construction of this facility will not be completed until approximately 2008, however. As a result, we will not fulfill our convention obligations. Besides this, transporting the chemical agents will require strict precautions and will cost more than the construction of a plant near the storage site.
We are relying on foreign assistance in the implementation of our chemical weapons destruction plans. To date, the Russian side has signed 28 intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements. On the strength of these, we can expect to solicit additional contributions in excess of a billion dollars in the next five years. We have to proceed from the realities of the present day, however. Existing agreements envisage contributions of about $1,346,800,000, but we have received only $216,030,000. The total cost of building the chemical weapons destruction facilities is about $3 billion. In other words, the nonrefundable aid we have received represents only 7 percent of the amount required. The offer of aid by our foreign partners on a yearly basis is another problem. This is complicating our long-term planning.
The president of Russia recently pointed out the need for civil oversight of military and law enforcement agencies. The experience of the commissions of public advisers in the area of chemical weapons destruction includes elements of this oversight. The commission members are representatives of political parties, businessmen, residents of the regions where chemical weapons are stored, and representatives of public organizations, expressing different points of view. They participate in making decisions or recommendations, and the administration appreciates the dialogue with them.
We invited the leaders of both houses of the Russian parliament and the heads of the pertinent committees to a dialogue on chemical disarmament at the end of last year. None of them attended the forum, however, or even sent an aide to the meeting. For the residents of six regions in our country, however, the destruction of the chemical warfare agents stored there might be the biggest problem in their lives. Members of the American Congress and Senate flew across the ocean to attend the forum. The governments of Switzerland, the United States, and Great Britain gave us money to hold this meeting. Canada has promised to join in the effort next year. We must admit, however, that the efforts of the State Commission on Chemical Disarmament have led to the allocation of Russian money as well for informational work with the population.
1. Disarmament: U.N. Goes After Nuclear Terrorists
Inter Press Service News Agency
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After seven long years of negotiations, the United Nations has finalised an international convention against nuclear terrorism.
"It's a major achievement," Rohan Perera, chairman of the U.N. Adhoc Committee on Terrorism, told IPS Thursday, just hours after the 191 member states approved the draft treaty by consensus.
"I am sure that it is the shared sentiment of all delegations that this is indeed a significant and commendable step forward" in the global fight against terrorism, he added.
The treaty comes nearly eight years after Alexander Lebed, a decorated Soviet war hero and a former national security chief under President Boris Yeltsin, told a U.S. television network that there were about 100 suitcase-sized Russian nuclear weapons missing and unaccounted for.
The Russian secret intelligence agency, the KGB, is said to have acquired an unspecified number of small nuclear weapons, each weighing less than 75 pounds, that were never included in any post-Cold War inventory on global disarmament.
There have been continued fears that some of these weapons, still deemed missing, may fall into the hands of terrorist groups.
The proposed treaty -- titled the Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism -- calls on all member states to help track down "loose nukes" and thwart potential nuclear terrorists.
"It is vital that we deny terrorists access to nuclear materials," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in his 62-page landmark report on the restructuring of the United Nations, released last week.
"Our strategy against terrorism must be comprehensive and should be based on five pillars: it must aim at dissuading people from resorting to terrorism or supporting it; it must deny terrorists access to funds and materials; it must deter states from sponsoring terrorism; it must develop state capacity to defeat terrorism; and it must defend human rights," he added.
The international community has been warned of the possibility of either an armed attack on a nuclear installation or the abuse of nuclear materials.
The Russian Federation, which was the lead player in the new treaty, was primarily responsible for preparing the draft convention. The Russians believe the convention would pre-empt potential acts of nuclear terrorism.
In February, U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the early adoption of the nuclear terrorism convention. This was part of a joint statement on nuclear security cooperation.
The newest treaty -- the 13th in a series of U.N. conventions against terrorism -- will be ready for signature during the high-level summit meeting of world leaders at the General Assembly sessions in September this year. But it needs 22 ratifications before it becomes international law.
The last two treaties against terrorism were the 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombing and the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
The 14th -- and perhaps the last -- of the treaties, titled a Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism, which will encompass elements of all 13 previous treaties, is expected to be finalised in mid-2006.
But that treaty remains deadlocked primarily over definitions relating to "terrorists," "freedom fighters" and "state terrorism."
"I strongly urge world leaders to unite behind it and to conclude a comprehensive convention on terrorism before the end of the 60th session of the General Assembly next year," Annan said last week.
He also said that transnational networks of terrorist groups have global reach and make common cause to pose a universal threat.
"Such groups profess a desire to acquire nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and to inflict mass casualties. Even one such attack and the chain of events it may set off could change our world forever," he warned.
Although the world's five declared nuclear powers -- France, Britain, the United States, China and Russia -- have pledged to curb the proliferation of the deadly weapons, they have not agreed to eliminate them completely from their military arsenals. All five countries are also veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
The undeclared nuclear powers include India, Pakistan, Israel, and possibly North Korea.
The continued existence of some 30,000 nuclear weapons long after the end of the Cold War still poses a grave danger to humanity.
This is further worsened by the fact that 5,000 of these weapons are on alert status -- meaning they are capable of being fired on 30 minutes' notice.
Since nuclear technologies were developed, the world community has also encountered cases of "leakage" of nuclear components.
A 1997 Hollywood movie titled "The Peacemaker" -- partly shot outside the United Nations -- dramatised the story of a disgruntled Bosnian diplomat who acquires a backpack-sized nuclear weapon and brings it to New York to blow it outside the U.N. headquarters.
1. UK Agreement to Strengthen Nuclear Security in Russia
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The UK Government in March agreed a contract to undertake an upgrade of physical security at a key Russian Nuclear Research Centre.
The contract, to be managed by experts from British Nuclear Group, will focus on the Nikiet Institute in the centre of Moscow. It is one of Russia's leading nuclear research centers. The project is worth up to 2 million euro and will focus on the provision of physical protection upgrades on fencing, lighting, CCTV and access control systems.
Trade and Industry Minister Nigel Griffiths commented: ï¿½This is the first major contract under the DTI Global Partnership Nuclear Security Program. We believe this work will play a vital role in ensuring top level protection for nuclear materials, which are based at the Nikiet Institute. Prevention of the proliferation of nuclear materials is one of this Government's highest international priorities, and this project represents a significant landmark in our co-operation with the Russian Federation to address this threat."
Welcoming the UK assistance, Nikiet Institute Director, Dr Gabaraev said: ï¿½We regard this as a vital step in improving security at the Institute. We are pleased to be able to work with UK experts in this area and look forward to successful project implementation."
The UK Nuclear Security program is part of the UK Global Partnership program against the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction agreed at the Kananaskis G8 summit in Canada in June 2002. The Global Partnership program aims to support specific co-operation projects, initially in Russia, to address non-proliferation, disarmament, counter-terrorism and nuclear safety issues.
1. Expert Warns of Risk from Leftover Soviet Arsenal
The Daily Princetonian
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Prominent experts addressed international and local stability at the Coalition for Peace Action's 25th anniversary dinner on Friday.
"The most dangerous threat is terrorists plus nuclear weapons plus any state arsenal, including ours," nonproliferation scholar Joseph Cirincione said at the meeting.
Cirincione, a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recently returned from a five-day tour of nuclear facilities in Iran. He attacked the Bush administration's claim that "Axis of Evil" regimes could provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.
"If you're Osama bin Laden and you want a nuclear weapon, where are you going?" Cirincione said. "You're not going to Iraq, they don't have nuclear weapons. You're not going to Iran, they don't have nuclear weapons. You're not even going to North Korea. Even if they had them, are they going to give them up?"
Al Qaeda will attempt to obtain nuclear weapons from a "weak link," which is likely to be in the former Soviet Union, he added.
"Where is Osama bin Laden going to go? He's going to go to where the weapons are. To the Soviet Union, where there are 17,000. Where there's enough highly enriched uranium and fissile material for 40,000 more . . . protected by a padlock and a guard that works during the day," Cirincione said.
Cirincione argued that bin Laden does not care about the "political orientation" of a state with nuclear materials, but rather about that state's security. While Cirincione criticized the Bush administration's approach to nuclear nonproliferation, he emphasized that the threat of nuclear attack was very real.
"[Terrorists] are interested in having a nuclear weapon that can destroy a city," he said. "If one of these groups ï¿½ al Qaeda or the like ï¿½ get it, they will use it. I am convinced of this."
The Coalition also honored former Governor James Florio for his successful campaign to enact a strict assault weapons ban in the state.
"We engaged the people of the state behind the common sense proposition that the interest of the state was not advanced by providing more access to Uzis or AK-47s," Florio said.
Florio praised the Coalition for its quarter century of work toward peace, yet reminded the activists that they have a duty to engage in constructive dialogue with the opposition. The former governor, a Democrat, also delivered a succession of partisan blows against the Bush administration and its policies.
"I can remember when preemptive war used to be described of as a war of aggression. We fought two world wars against nations that initiated wars of aggression. And here it is we've gone to war [in Iraq] for reasons that don't exist," Florio said.
Florio concluded his speech by asserting that America's soft power exceeds its military might in some respects. The former governor urged those in the audience to spread American ideals at home and abroad.
ï¿½Democracy is not a spectator sport. It's time for all of us to get off the bench and into the game," Florio said.
U.S. Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), whose congressional district includes the University, also attended the Coalition for Peace Action dinner.
The war on terror is now firmly in its second stage, as the international world is beginning to make wake up to the credibility of the threat of a nuclear attack by terrorists. Concerted efforts by international organisations to make sure nuclear materials aren't taken from one country to another are only now beginning to make consistent headline news. Years and years of painfully slow progress in Russia - where mainly US proliferation experts have been involved in tidying up WMD since 1991 - shows just how worrisome the situation has become.
Russia is host to the biggest portion of the world's most dangerous nuclear arms. And it is likely that it is also the country that has them stored in the poorest, most risky conditions, making them likely the number one threat to international security. It is difficult to get a clear picture on just exactly how many weapons there still are in Russia, even though this is one of the most transparent countries around when it comes to information about nuclear weapons, thanks mostly to US efforts.
Reports in the press frequently draw attention to Russian nuclear devices having gone 'missing', having been sold to foreign countries and even so-called nuclear-free ex Soviet Republics are still scaring the rest of the world from time to time when news emerges that parts of nuclear devices have surfaced, despite memberships to stringent international non-proliferation treaties.
People making informed guesses as to what kind of weapons are still freely available in Russia or the global black market tend to come up with wildly differing estimates, but there's no doubt that Russia has one of the most poorly guarded storage facilities in the world. In 1991, the US began to make an inventory of and dismantling plans for the nuclear arms available in Russia and its surrounding states - in a 10 year plan, the so-called Nunn-Lugar framework for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program.
Now in its 13th year, the program's work is not even half done, even though all of the nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus have been removed under its provisions. This involved the deactivation of 6,252 nuclear warheads and the reemployment of more than 20,000 scientists in other jobs. Russia was estimated to host some 20,000 nuclear warheads, stored in 120 facilities in 2003. Russian nuclear material amounted to some 40,000 tons - most of it stockpiled in unsafe housing. It is common for Russian tactical nuclear devices not to be equipped with electronic locks. In 2003, only about 20% of Russian nuclear materials have security systems that meet U.S. standards and most of these were funded by the CTR.
Many of the Russian weapons are also unsafe because of production faults, which means that there's no guarantee that one of them might just detonate at any given point in time. Their error margin is frighteningly high, in the hundreds, according to estimates by the CIA. This alone makes Russia's arsenal a more serious threat to the world than Iraq's ever was or would be. US and Canadian officers involved in the dismantling say that when they visited storage barns in 2002 in Shchuchye, which accounts for 17% of the total Russian stockpiles, they made sure they used flashlights rather than electric light for fear they accidentally trigger a detonator. They went into Russian facilities under the provisions of the infamous market fund that was set up to finance the CTR. The initial financing for it was $6 billion.
Building on this effort, which came under a lot of criticism because of Russian misuse of large parts of the financing, the G8 three years ago launched its still largely elusive Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. A total of $20 billion was reserved for the next 10 years to support cooperation projects globally, but with an initial focus on Russia. The recent initiatives have yielded contested results and the support of the countries signing up so far have since been less enthusiastic than US support. President Bush pledged $1 billion per year, but other G-8 members didn't want to pay the contribution fees they originally pledged. When Russia signed the agreement last August, it was the 15th country to join the PSI initiative.
Even as media and public attention in the United States and South Asia has focused on the issue of nuclear-capable F-16 fighter jets going to Pakistan, there has been a series of interesting developments within the US regarding policy toward Pakistan's nuclear program.
Publicly, Bush administration officials have been remarkably guarded, and even nonchalant, about Pakistan's leaky nuclear program, even as one revelation after another came out regarding nuclear proliferation from Pakistan to Iran, Libya, North Korea and other unnamed countries. After exerting pressure behind the scenes on Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, the US has quietly accepted his explanation that all proliferation acts were the responsibility of one man, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, and lent its blessings to Khan being pardoned and kept under house arrest in Pakistan.
The official Washington spin is that the administration of President George W Bush has persuaded Pakistan to end its nuclear trade once and for all and that it is better to move forward than dwell on the past.
Despite this public posture, many experts and former government officials in Washington and elsewhere are not so sanguine. Virtually every report on nuclear security from major US and Western think-tanks, such as the Carnegie Endowment, the Monterrey Institute and the Cato Institute, consistently raise the issue of the leaky nature of Pakistan's nuclear assets. The Congressional Research Service, the advisory arm of the US Congress, has issued numerous reports on Pakistan's nuclear program highlighting the need to do something. However, until recently, Bush administration officials had in effect stonewalled on this issue and avoided talking about it on or off the record, other than a few cryptic remarks on occasion.
That has slowly begun to change.
The curtain lifts?
In testimony to the Senate on March 17, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, who is the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, spoke at length about the fragility of Pakistan. After the usual platitudes about Musharraf's virtues, Jacoby noted in his submitted statement, "Our assessment remains unchanged from last year. If Musharraf were assassinated or otherwise replaced, Pakistan's new leader would be less pro-US. We are concerned that extremist Islamic politicians would gain greater influence."
Interestingly, it was former presidential candidate Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts who was one of the first to talk about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal openly. In a January 2004 debate with other contenders from his Democratic Party, Kerry said that if he were elected president, he would get tough with Pakistan on nuclear safety, noting that past Pakistani leaders had lied to him and the US quite blatantly on the nuclear issue. Kerry added that failing to protect Pakistan's nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands was "one of the most glaring weaknesses in this [Bush] administration's entire foreign policy". More curious, Kerry said the US should work with India to make a plan for taking out Pakistan's nukes in case of an emergency. Another Democratic senator, Barack Obama of Illinois, went a step further and said the US should launch surgical strikes on Pakistan in a nuclear leak eventuality.
After the re-election of Bush, it was Kerry who once again raised the issue. During the Senate hearing to confirm Bush's appointment of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Kerry had a fiery exchange with Rice, which needs to be quoted in full for readers to appreciate its significance.
Kerry: And what about any initiatives or discussions with President Musharraf and the Indians with respect to fail-safe procedures in the event - I mean, there have been two attempts on President Musharraf's life. If you were to have a successful coup in Pakistan, you could have, conceivably, nuclear weapons in the hand of a radical Islamic state automatically, overnight. And to the best of my knowledge, in all of the inquiries that I've made in the course of the last years, there is now no failsafe procedure in place to guarantee against that weaponry falling into the wrong hands.
Rice: Senator, we have noted this problem, and we are prepared to try to deal with it. I would prefer not in open session to talk about this particular issue.
Kerry:Okay. Well, I raise it again. I must say that in my private briefings as the nominee I found the answers highly unsatisfactory. And so, I press on you the notion that, without saying more, that we need to pay attention to that.
Rice: We're very aware of the problem, Senator, and we have had some discussions. But I really would prefer not to discuss that.
In essence, Kerry noted that as a presidential candidate, the US "secret plan" for Pakistan's nukes as conveyed to him was unsatisfactory. But Rice hinted that while the plan might not be perfect, the administration was working on it. There are some signs that this may already be happening.
Follow the money
In Washington it is said that all plans stay on paper until Congress appropriates funds for them. There are a variety of agencies and bureaus in the US government that deal with various aspects of the nuclear cycle. One such agency is the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
The official budget presented by the NRC for the upcoming 2006 fiscal year includes US$800,000 for "initiatives supporting nuclear safety cooperation with India and Pakistan". One Washington insider noted that while the NRC's cooperation with India was in the realm of providing advice on emergency procedures, fire safety issues and the safety of ageing plants, as well as collaborative nuclear research, the initiatives with Pakistan were likely focused on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and its safety.
"American non-proliferation laws and international treaty commitments may severely restrict direct assistance to the safety of Pakistan's warheads and fissile material, you can wager good money that the Bush administration is not going to let global treaties to compromise American security interests," noted the insider.
The source insisted that it is highly likely that such cooperation is already under way behind the covers, but the NRC budgeting makes it possible on a larger scale with congressional oversight. One possible option is the provision of Permissive Action Links (PALs). A PAL is basically a box with sophisticated cryptography electronics inside that prevents unauthorized access to a nuclear weapon by disarming or disabling the triggering mechanism if the wrong code is entered or if the box is tampered with in any manner. PAL locks could make a nuclear warhead unusable in the wrong hands.
Interestingly, after the two successive assassination attempts on Musharraf in December 2003, NBC News reported that the US had installed PAL locks on Pakistani nuclear warheads. The report quoted former US ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley confirming the cooperation behind the scenes. About this time Bush was asked in a press conference whether Pakistan's nukes were secure. Bush replied, "Yes, they are secure," and changed the subject immediately.
However, not everyone agrees that providing PAL locks to Pakistan is a wise choice. Leonard Weiss, a prominent non-proliferation expert and former Senate staffer who helped author many US non-proliferation laws, feels that it is a "hoary idea" and compared it to "providing clean needles to drug addicts, thereby making proliferators seem like helpless victims of uncontrollable physiological appetites". He cautions that PALs may make it easier for a Pakistani leader to consider using a nuclear weapon. Despite this, the Washington insider tells Asia Times Online that PALs and other safety devices are likely to be in the cards for guarding Pakistan's nuclear weapons, if they are not in place already.
It is a known fact that foreign governments use seminars and sponsored studies by private and quasi-government think-tanks to explain or elaborate on their country's policies. In recent months, many serving and retired Pakistani military officials and diplomats have launched a seemingly coordinated campaign in the US and Western strategic-policy circles. The goal of this campaign seems to be to reassure the power brokers and academics who often go on to become key players in the US and Western governments that Pakistan's nuclear estate is safe and that Pakistan will take its nuclear non-proliferation commitments seriously, after the Khan scandal.
One such effort was by retired Pakistani army Major-General Mahmud Ali Durrani at the Sandia Labs in New Mexico. It is to be noted that Sandia Labs is owned by defense contractor Lockheed Martin and is affiliated with the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. Durrani states in his report titled "Pakistan's Strategic Thinking and the Role of Nuclear Weapons" that he was able to tour many sensitive Pakistani nuclear facilities and found the safety procedures to be credible, though there was room for improvement in certain security aspects.
But not everyone who read the Durrani study was convinced. One former US security official, who did not want to be identified, told Asia Times Online that he had more questions about Pakistan's nuclear safety procedures after reading the Durrani report than before. He noted that Durrani highlighted the claim that Pakistan has a "three-man rule" for nuclear-weapon safety that it claims is superior to the "two-man rule" in practice in the US. What that means in essence is that three people are supposed to enter codes before a nuclear weapon can be deployed, but he pointed out that the three people can sometimes be at a lower level in the military hierarchy, such as the base commander and unit commander. He wondered whether that was really a safe procedure, given that Pakistan has already acknowledged that al-Qaeda has penetrated lower levels of the military forces.
The expert also highlighted that the Durrani report's stated exception to the "three-man rule" is in the case of a Pakistani air force pilot who can solely be given the full weapon-arming code in certain situations. "This is not comforting to anyone [who] does not know what those 'special situations' are and what if any fail-safes are there to prevent a rogue pilot from taking off with a nuclear weapon," the expert cautioned. It is to be noted that the Durrani report includes a sobering note about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear installations, while dismissing the possibility of Islamist radicals being on the inside. "There is an urgent need to improve the technical skills of personnel charged with the security of [Pakistan's] nuclear installations and develop an institutional security culture," the report warns. Coming from a Pakistani insider, this must be alarming to some within the US government, the expert surmised.
Making the plan
Soon after September 11, 2001, American investigative reporter Seymour Hersh wrote in The New Yorker magazine of a supposed secret US-Israeli plan to take control of Pakistan's nuclear facilities in the case of an Islamist coup there. In a book by Washington Post's Bob Woodward, President Bush is quoted as telling Musharraf that "Seymour Hersh is a liar" after the Hersh story came out. Whether the US had a secret plan for Pakistan's nukes in 2001 or not, there is evidence that the US government and Congress are beginning to accept the reality that a US military action plan is needed to prepare for taking over and managing a state-failure situation in a country that possesses mass-destruction weapons.
In a public hearing in March conducted by the US Senate's Armed Services Committee on plans for the US Army's transformation, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut raised the question of whether the US military was ready for a "contingency" situation in Pakistan or Iran. In response, General Richard A Cody, the US Army's vice chief of staff, said that such questions were the ones US Army leaders "grapple with every day", without going into details. The timeframe for these plans mentioned a requirement to be ready by as early as 2007.
The US Military Force Structure Review Act of 1996 directed the secretary of defense to conduct a Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) of the strategy, force structure, force modernization plans, infrastructure and other elements of the defense program and policies with an intent of establishing a revised defense program. It is therefore interesting to note that the next QDR, planned to be released this autumn, reportedly includes plans for scenarios such as a rogue commander getting hold of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. "The more the scenarios hit a nerve ... the more I know I am onto something," a Pentagon official working on the QDR 2005 was quoted as saying in the Wall Street Journal recently.
The significance of these hearings and the QDR plans is that the normally secretive US Defense Department does not make its ideas public for the purposes of public relations. These plans are made public to pressure Congress into releasing massive funds to the US military to be able to realize the plans. They also signify that the US considers the eventualities being planned for in the QDR to be realistic enough to happen in the next four years. Previous QDRs had plans for a conventional combat operation against the likes of Iraq. It may very well turn out that the US State Department, always sensitive to Pakistan's concerns, steps in to force the Pentagon to omit any references to Pakistan in the public QDR version, but if the Pentagon wants debate on the matter, a well-timed leak could do the trick.
Islamabad must be watching these developments with a wary eye, but any protestations it might choose to express are unlikely to deter the US from making plans to slowly yet deliberately cast a net around Pakistan's nuclear estate.
President Viktor Yushchenko confirmed Thursday that nuclear-capable cruise missiles were illegally sold to Iran and China under Ukraineï¿½s previous government. In an interview with NBC News, Yushchenko offered the highest-level acknowledgement that the sales, which have alarmed the U.S. intelligence community, indeed took place.
"I confirm this, though I do so with bitterness," the president said.
Yushchenko spoke on the eve of his first visit to the United States since leading a wave of democratic protests last year that overturned an election won by Yushchenko but rigged by his rivals.
Yushchenko said the X-55 missiles, called AS-15s by NATO, were exported under a forged contract that listed Russia as the destination country. A copy of the contract viewed by NBC News appears to bear necessary clearance stamps for the export of 20 missiles to the Russia, which has denied any role in the sale.
U.S. intelligence officials said that China and Iran each took delivery of six missiles. Ukrainian officials have offered conflicting accounts of the number of rockets delivered.
The missiles were sold without nuclear warheads. They were manufactured in 1987 and poorly maintained, if at all, according to a Ukrainian source familiar with the investigation.
Reverse engineering possible
Still, the U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the rockets could propel Iran's quest for nuclear weapons several steps forward.
Tehran could reverse engineer the missiles, and double the range of its most powerful rocket, the Shahab-3. The X-55s have a range of roughly 2,000 miles. If the Iranians were successful in duplicating the technology, they could target U.S. military bases and assets in the Middle East ï¿½ and Iranï¿½s archenemy Israel.
And while the missiles were sold without nuclear warheads, they provide Iran with a model for designing its own.
"It's not the physical item itself that is valuable to the Iranians," one official said. "It's the updated technology they were after."
The "integration of the warhead with the missile" is the key "learning exercise" that the Iranians could gain from the acquisition, the same official said.
Japanese officials have protested to Ukraine over the sale of the missiles, saying that they could also enhance rival Chinaï¿½s weapons delivery capability.
Ahead of his trip to the United States, perhaps anticipating what is expected to be a main theme of discussions in Washington, Yushchenko said he had asked his government for a definitive report on the sale of the X-55s.
"A few days ago, I received report that the sale took place though a series of false individuals," Yushchenko said.
Ukraineï¿½s ï¿½banditï¿½ days gone
In an interview in an ornate government mansion near his office in the center of the Ukrainian capital, the president insisted that Ukraine would become a transparent state that fully embraces democracy, in contrast to the "bandit government" of his predecessor Leonid Kuchma.
Meantime, the Ukrainian leader said his health continues to improve from a poisoning that has disfigured his face, the result of an attack he blames on political opponents.
"I feel much better than I did five months ago when it happened," he said. "And itï¿½s very important that we now know more about what kind of poison it was, how it got into me and most importantly, how to fight it."
1. Kazakhstan Aiming to be World Leader in Uranium Production
(for personal use only)
Kazakhstan has launched a program designed to make it the world leader in uranium production.
The state-owned National Atomic Co., or Kazatomprom, has started a program to reduce the expected shortage of uranium in the world market, Central Asia Newsline reported.
Officials said Kazatomprom plans to develop seven new uranium mines by 2010 By 2007, Kazakhstan hopes to produce more than 7,500 tons of uranium.
The country is said to have 1.5 million tons, or nearly 20 per cent of the world supply of uranium.
Officials said the European Union and the United States would hold a stake in the project. They said Kazakhstan's leading clients for uranium include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has forecast a shortage in the uranium market by 2010.
The IAEA said the market supply would decrease and reach a deficit of 16,000 tons by 2015.
Kazatomprom president Mukhtar Dzhakishev said a uranium shortage could harm Kazakhstan. Dzhakishev said such a shortage could prompt an international effort to develop alternative sources to nuclear energy.
The company has assessed that the uranium mining project would recover its expenses by 2013. By then, uranium profits would total US$830 million.
1. Status Report: RTGs Still an Underestimated Foe in Securing Loose Nukes in Russia
Charles Digges & Rashid Alimov
(for personal use only)
A low profile joint US-Russian meeting on the subject of bilaterally dismantling Russiaï¿½s dilapidated and largely untended Radioactive Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs)ï¿½long viewed by both countries as fertile hunting ground for potential ï¿½dirty bombï¿½ nuclear terroristsï¿½was held for a small group of specialists, and passed almost completely unnoticed by the Russian public.
Bellona Web has meanwhile published an update to its 2003 working paper ï¿½Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators.ï¿½
The joint effort to dismantle Russiaï¿½s estimated 1000 RTGs falls under the common goals of the Group of Eight industrialised nationsï¿½ Global Partnership programme to lock down Russiaï¿½s proliferation hazards entirely over the next eight years. The US Department of Energy (DOE) got on board with the RTG dismantlement effort along the Eastern part of Russiaï¿½s Northern Shipping Route in 2004, to the tune of some $40m.
American support has already jump-started the building of a site for interim storage garnered from decommissioned RTGs in the Russian Far Eastï¿½the DalRAO site near Vilyuchnisnk created in 2000 to handle radioactive waste from Russiaï¿½s rusted out Pacific Fleet submarines.
It is something of a mystery, therefore, as to why the March 14th to 15th conference, held at the St Petersburg branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, was kept under such wraps, as US-Russian non-proliferation efforts are usually the stuff of big press in Russia.
The conference dealt with several accidents in dismantling RTGsï¿½the most recent of which occurred in Northeast Russia where the DOE is concentrating its funding. The incident, which occurred in September, was only recently made public by Russian nuclear authorities. The conference also publicised the unacceptably high incidence of theft of precious metals and vandalism of RTGs, leading to the abandonment of the highly active nuclear sources that power them.
Furthermore, the conference raised the question about how strictly governmental regulations on removing RTGs are being observed, especially now that foreign money is funding much of the activity. It also posed hard questions to donor governmentsï¿½especially the US governmentï¿½about how well their money was being handled, even though no ties have been established foreign funding and mishandled RTG dismantlement procedures.
In mid-February, a similar seminar on RTGs decommissioning was held in Oslo, organized by the Contact Expert Group of the International Atomic Energy Agency. At this conferenceï¿½which was similarly closedï¿½Deputy Head of Russiaï¿½s Federal Agency for Atomic Energy (Rosatom) Sergei Antipov announced that Russia, with long-standing help from Norway, and new-found support from the United States, has decommissioned some 200 of 920 operable RTGs, according to Rosatomï¿½s official web site. More than a hundred of those are simply unaccounted for.
By Russian nuclear regulatory accounts, the bulk of these devices, located along Russiaï¿½s Arctic and Pacific coasts, have not been visited by the relevant maintenance authorities for years. Most of these batteries by admission of Russian nuclear officials, are untended, falling apart and have long surpassed their engineered life-spansï¿½a point underscored by Antipov in Oslo. Hardly any of the devices are protected by fences or even signs indicating radiation hazards. Meanwhile, as evidenced by two incidents in Norwest Russia in 2003, the unguarded devices are pillaged by metal scavengers for the valuable metals used to protect the radioactive batteries.
In Oslo, Antipov stumped for a united structure and system in Russia that would coordinate the decommissioning of RTGsï¿½something akin to Rosatomï¿½s Master Plan for nuclear clean-up in Russiaï¿½s Northwest. Antipov said that different organisations from different countries try to make contact with Russian authorities to help in the RTG dismantlement effort, but have no idea where to start, causing confusion and delays.
Rosatom, Antipov said in Oslo, was now working on the blueprints for such a structure, but insisted that all activities must be overseen by Rosatom.
In addition to the DalRAO site, Rosatom officials insisted in Oslo that RTG dismantlement sites be created in the Far East to avoid the financial and proliferation strain of bringing the to Moscow for dismantlement at the Institute for Technological Physics and Automatisation, and the further shipment of their strontium cores to Russiaï¿½s Mayak facility in the southern Urals.
According to Antipov when he spoke in Oslo, the DOE promised to examine the possibility of funding the construction building a special dismantlement chamber at the DalRAO site.
Norway will clean up more RTGs
At the Russian-Norwegian meeting, Russian and Norway signed an agreement to dismantle the remaining 110 nuclear powered lighthouses in the Murmansk and Arkangelsk regions of Russia by 2009ï¿½with the total elimination of all Russian RTGs by 2012ï¿½replacing them with renewable energy sources, and to transport the radioactive waste to Mayak. At an estimated $30,000 to $35,000 per RTG unit dismantled, the effort can be estimated to carry a price tag of more than $3.5m, though no official figures have been released.
Most recent accident only publicised months after the fact
The most recent known RTG accident occurred when two RTGs were being dismantled on September 10th 2004, but no information was released about it until four months later, even though substantial gamma radiation was measured above the accident site. The two RTGsï¿½Nos. 4 and 5 of the ï¿½Efir-MAï¿½ model produced in 1982ï¿½were being transported from the ï¿½New Siberiaï¿½ island lighthouse off the Northeastern arctic coast of Siberia.
They were suspended from a helicopter by cables for transport to the Russian polar station at Bunge. When the helicopter ran into heavy weather the crew was forced to jettison the two RTGs from a height of 50 meters on the tundra at Zemlya Bunge island, 112 kilometres from another Russian polar station, Sannikova. They have not yet been recovered.
Questions have been raised as to whether any of the newly-found US funding financed this misadventure. Bryan Wilkes, spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration for the DOEï¿½which manages the DOEï¿½s nuclear remediation effortsï¿½said in a recent interview with Bellona Web that he was unaware of the September mishap, adding that the DOE had tighter controls over how its money was spent and the criteria that govern that spending.
"If something like that had happened with any funding from the DOE we most likely would have heard about it,ï¿½ said Wilkes by telephone from Washington.
ï¿½We don't just contract out to the lowest bidder. We want to make sure that each project is fulfilled in a safe manner, which is why we examine environmental impact studies before the project is carried out.ï¿½
The question of whose funding goes were, and how it is spent, is especially pertinent on the European front after an environmental assessment blunder by Norway in 2003 when the country dismantled two Victor-II class submarines. Just prior to when the EUR10m dollar deal was inked, a derelict submarine called the K-159 sank in heavy weather with 800 kilograms of highly enriched uranium and 9 crew members on board while it was being towed to a dismantlement point.
No foreign funding was involved in the K-159 accident. But Bellona investigations later revealed that the two submarines whose dismantlement Norway was financing had been towed to their respective dismantlement points in the same slipshod manner as the K-159. The revelation released an uproar in the Norwegian government and a broad reassessment of its donation policies toward Russian nuclear remediation.
Radioactive Contamination from the RTGs
Both RTGs were the legal responsibility of the Russian Transportation Ministryï¿½s State Hydrographic Facility. According to information eventually released by Russiaï¿½s Federal Service for Energy, Technology and Atomic Oversight (FSETAN in its Russian abbreviation), the impact compromised the RTGsï¿½ external radiation shielding. At a height of 10 meters above the impact site at Zemlya Bunge island, the intensity of gamma radiation was measured at 4 milliSieverts per hour.
Visible radioactive pollution on the RTG casing was not detected. No radioactive contamination of the surrounding was observed and no one was exposed to radiation, according to FSETAN. Still, a scenario in which strontium-90 from these RTG's cores could leak into the environment became imminent after experts in July 2004 confirmed a leak at an RTG located on Cape Navarin in Chukotka. The leak was chalked up by the experts to ï¿½an unknown inner thermo-physical process.ï¿½
Earlier theories indicated that destruction of the capsule and resulting leaks were impossible, provided no powerful explosives or industrial equipment were used. To read about these and other incidents, see Bellona's newly updated working paper ï¿½Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators.ï¿½
The Commission for Incident Investigation has initiated work on verifying the exact location and condition of the RTGs.
According to Sergei Lukovnikov, acting representative of the Northern European interregional territorial district of FSETAN, the spot were the RTGs crashed to the ground will only be accessible, due to weather conditions, in the summer, perhaps as late as July.
Nuclear safety record in tatters after accident
Had it not been for this incident, Northern Russiaï¿½s annual incident statistics in would have been headed for satisfactory marks from regulators. But the Northern European regional FSETAN report for 2004 notes that ï¿½the condition of radiation security at facilities of national production under observation are evaluated as being satisfactory and, on the whole, meet the demands of rules and norms [...] The exception is the Hydrographic Facility, whose activities resulted in deterioration of radiological situation of the environment.ï¿½
The accident was a result of violations by Hydrographic Facility of the Conditions for Licensing, which are spelled out in FSETANï¿½s regulation CE-04-209-1482, issued August 19th 2004. According to Lukovnikov, those conditions stipulate that every phase of dismantlement be supported by corresponding documentation and approved by FSETAN.
Following the violation of FSETANï¿½s licensing conditions, authorities issued a September 22nd protocol on administrative violations and submitted it for evaluation by the St Petersburg and Leningrad Region Arbitration Court. Representatives of the Hydrographic Facility failed twice to appear in court and could not prove or disprove that they had received a summons the hearings. The court fined the Hydrographic Facility $1000 (30,000 rubles).
The Hydrographic Facility appealed this decision to the Northwest Regional Court of Arbitration saying they had never received their summons, and the case will likely be a retrial with legal representatives of the Hydrographic Facility in attendance. If they are not able to prove that they never received their first summons, the original court ruling will likely stand.
"The Hydrographic Facility needed to produce technical documentation including proof of secure transportation and how it would be realized," said Lukovnikov in an interview with Bellona Web. ï¿½Only the first phase, initial site investigation, had been approved.ï¿½
Lukovnikov added that skirting these demands led to ï¿½the inadequate transportation of RTGs and the accident. There were no transport containers. Transport took place violating norms and rules.ï¿½
Several other RTGs have already been removed this year, but under the conditions spelled out by FSETANï¿½s regulations.
Hydrographic Facility Director Victor Medvedev had scant comment on the incident when Bellona Web finally reached him after two weeks of phone calls.
ï¿½I have no comment,ï¿½ he said, but then went on to add impatiently that he didnï¿½t ï¿½understand, why any article should written about the fallen RTGs or about the Arbitration court. All of that has nothing to do with the environment. A lot of people are calling me.ï¿½
He then demanded, in violation of Russian mass-media legislation, that Bellona web show him its article, after which he would decide ï¿½whether itï¿½s worth commenting on.ï¿½
Russian journalists are guarded from having to demonstrate need for requested commentary by article 39 of Russiaï¿½s law on mass media.
So how well is the Hydrographic Facility Handling its responsibilities?
The Hydrographic Facilityï¿½s deputy director, Yevgeny Klyuev, was equally reluctant to speak on the issue, initially referred all questions back to Medvedev. But he did point out that the facility safely removed 15 RTGs from the Yakutiya region in far Northeastern Siberia in the Summer 2004 and transported them to Atomflot in Murmansk. From there, they were taken to Moscow for salvage by the Federal Science Research Institute of Technical Physics and Automatisation.
For the whole of last year, Klyuev said that ï¿½sixty nine RTGs were removed from various municipalities throughout Russia for salvage and dismantling. Plans are underway to salvage another 50 RTGs in 2005.ï¿½
Another source within FSETAN, who asked that his name not be used, supported the Hydrographic Facilityï¿½s position and cited lack of funding as the principle cause of the September mishap. Overall, the source said, the Hydrographic Facility, despite its unfamiliar mandate within the government, has a good record with decommissioning RTGs for last year.
2. Nuclear Clean-Up Works at the Russian Navy Sites Can Take 20 Years
(for personal use only)
Sergey Antipov, deputy head of the Federal Nuclear Power Agency, said on March 25 it would take from 15 to 20 years to tackle the harmful consequences of the activity of Russia's nuclear fleet.
"We estimate that it will take until 2010 to dismantle decommissioned nuclear submarines," Interfax quoted him saying. "But that is just for the submarines. Regarding the liquidation of all the harmful consequences of the nuclear fleet's activity, it will take at least 15 or 20 years." The main problem for Federal Nuclear Power Agency is to clean up coastal navy bases that have big amounts of liquid and solid radioactive waste from nuclear submarines stored on their territory, Antipov said.
Of the 250 nuclear submarines built by Russia and the Soviet Union, 195 have been decommissioned. All radioactive materials have been removed from 111 of these. It is expected that more submarines will be decommissioned off in the near future, according to Federal Nuclear Power Agency. "But these will be single vessels. There will not be such a fast rate of decommissioning as there was before," Antipov said.
1. A New Century Agenda for the Ukrainian-American Strategic Partnership: A Joint Statement by Pres. Bush and Pres. Yushchenko (excerpted)
Office of the Press Secretary, The White House
(for personal use only)
We are initiating an energy dialogue to cooperate in the restructuring and reform of Ukraine's energy sector to encourage investment, diversify Ukraine's energy supplies, reduce its energy dependence, bolster commercial competition in Eurasian energy sectors and promote nuclear safety. To advance this dialogue, we are establishing an Energy consultative mechanism between our Energy Ministries. United States Secretary of Energy Bodman will travel to Ukraine in the near future to initiate the consultative mechanism and to promote our energy and nonproliferation cooperation.
Building on our cooperation through the G-8 Global Partnership, the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program and the Proliferation Security Initiative, we pledge to begin a new chapter in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. We will deepen our cooperation on nonproliferation, export controls, border security and law enforcement to deter, detect, interdict, investigate and prosecute illicit trafficking of these weapons and related materials; enhance the security of nuclear and radiological sources; and dispose of spent nuclear fuel. We also agree on the importance of addressing the growing threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles. In this regard, we will explore how we can work together on missile defense, including beginning negotiations on a framework to facilitate such cooperation and closer industry-to-industry collaboration.
2. Statement by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov Regarding Adoption of International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)
On April 1, in New York, the Ad Hoc Committee of the UN General Assembly finished the work on the Draft International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. The Convention is the first treaty adopted in the United Nations on Russia's initiative. For the first time an antiterrorist convention has been developed by the international community for preemption, that is before the commission of terrorist acts with the use of nuclear material and other radioactive substances. And generally this is the first universal treaty, aimed at preventing terrorist acts of mass destruction.
In the conditions when Al Qaeda and other terrorist structures seek to possess nuclear capability, the adoption of this treaty is of exceptionally great importance, primarily for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Speaking of the content characteristics of the Convention, it aims in the first place:
- to provide a legal basis for effective counteraction against acts of nuclear terrorism, including their suppression and the elimination of consequences;
- to ensure the antiterrorist protection of both the peaceful and military atom, and to suppress terrorist acts involving the use of self-made nuclear devices;
- to ensure the inevitability of persons guilty of acts of nuclear terrorism being brought to justice, on the basis of the "either extradite or try" principle.
The adoption of the Convention has crowned the complicated negotiating process that had stretched out nearly eight years. We are grateful to all the countries which have shown an understanding of the importance of the issues governed by the Convention and made far from simple compromises for themselves. This enabled achieving the consensus adoption of the treaty, which is particularly important.
I am convinced that the new Convention will facilitate rallying states in the struggle against the challenges terrorists have been throwing down to our civilization. Its adoption is opening up additional possibilities for the building-up of UN-led antiterrorist cooperation, including the speediest agreeing on the Draft Comprehensive Convention Against International Terrorism, initiated by India.
In the coming days the Convention will be adopted by the UN General Assembly. It is borne in mind to open it for signature during Summit 2005, the meeting of leaders of the UN member states in New York, timed for the 60th anniversary of the Organization.
3. Energy Secretary Bodman Commends Key Milestone In MOX Program
Department of Energy
(for personal use only)
In response to the Nuclear Regulatory Commissionï¿½s (NRC) authorization of the construction of a U.S. Mixed-Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Department of Energyï¿½s Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman today released the following statement:
ï¿½Issuing the permit for construction of a MOX facility in South Carolina is the crucial next step in the MOX program. It is a key milestone in our efforts to dispose of surplus weapons grade plutonium in the U.S. and Russia,ï¿½ Secretary Bodman said. ï¿½We look forward to proceeding with this nonproliferation program that will ultimately eliminate enough plutonium for thousands of nuclear weapons in both countries.ï¿½
The United States and Russia are scheduled to begin site preparation activities for the U.S. and Russian MOX facilities this spring, with full construction of both facilities to begin in fiscal year 2006. More than 30 nuclear reactors currently use MOX fuel in France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.
The facility will fabricate nuclear reactor fuel using surplus U.S. weapon-grade plutonium. Once the fuel is irradiated in existing commercial power reactors, the plutonium can no longer be readily used for nuclear weapons. A similar facility will also be built in Russia to implement the U.S.-Russian Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, which commits both countries to dispose of 34 metric tons each of surplus weapon-grade plutonium.
The next step for licensing the U.S. facility will be for NNSAï¿½s contractor, Duke, Cogema, Stone & Webster, to submit an operating license application in Fiscal Year 2006.
Earlier this month, the NRC issued a license to authorize Duke Powerï¿½s use of four MOX fuel lead assemblies at its Catawba nuclear power station near Rock Hill, S.C. Before MOX fuel can be used in significant quantities, the lead assemblies must be irradiated in a reactor to confirm they will perform predictably. Irradiation of lead assemblies is a step towards permanent licensing for use of MOX fuel.
4. Russian MFA Information and Press Department Commentary Regarding DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesman's Statement of March 31, 2005
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)
In relation to the statement made by the spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry on March 31, 2005, the Russian side notes that its position on the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula is well known and remains unchanged. We have consistently advocated and will continue to advocate the speediest resumption of the six-party process in its previous format and with due regard to the results of the three rounds of talks already held. As before, the Russian side believes that the appearance of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula will only complicate the search of ways to reinforce security and stability in the region.
We intend to continue our efforts directed to solving the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula in the framework of the six-party process based on consideration for all the parties' interests and presuming that the present format of talks enables the participants to raise and tackle all the issues of concern to them.
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