In September of 1987 a Brazilian scrap yard worker in the town of Goiaina pried open a canister that had been dumped in the junk yard he worked in. Inside the container was a mesmerizing, sparkling, blue powder. Soon the residents of Goiaina who lived near the yard caught wind of the workerï¿½s mysterious discovery. The canister began making its way from block to block, house to house. Residents touched the blue powder, ran it through their fingers and marveled at its phosphorescence. A six year old child played with it and rubbed it into her hair. It made her hair glow.
What none of Goiainaï¿½s residents knew at the time was that the beautiful blue dust they were passing around; that sparkling azure powder that made a young girlï¿½s hair glow, was deadly radioactive Cesium.
The canister containing the Cesium had been looted from an abandoned nearby cancer treatment facility. Within a few days four people, including the child whose hair had glowed, were dead. Within weeks the Brazilian authorities demolished 85 contaminated homes in order to contain the radiation that had been unleashed by the deadly curiosity of Goiainaï¿½s residents.
If a similar amount of Cesium fell into the hands of modern terrorists, was fashioned into a so-called ï¿½dirtyï¿½ bomb and detonated in a major Western city, the event would make the incident in Goiaina pale in comparison.
A dirty bomb is relatively easy to construct. It is made by packing low-grade radioactive material around a conventional explosive charge. When the charge is detonated, the radioactive material packed in and around it pulverizes into dust and spreads through the air. Anything this dust contacts becomes radioactively contaminated.
People in the immediate area of a detonating dirty bomb would likely be killed or injured by the conventional explosion itself and not by exposure to radiation, though exposure to the radioactive dust in high enough concentrations could also cause death. More likely, the radioactivity released by a dirty bomb would cause an increase in cancer rates among those who survived the conventional explosion but came into contact with the radioactive dust.
Though the cleanup of a dirty bomb attack would be time consuming and expensive and the damage inflicted by one more economic than physical, the most devastating effect on a society in which one is detonated is likely to be psychological.
The words ï¿½nuclearï¿½ and ï¿½radioactivityï¿½ elicit strong negative reactions from most people even when mentioned in a benign context. Thoughts of invisible particles wafting through the air emitting radiation and silently wrecking the ability of human cells to properly replicate rightly terrify Americans. It is for this reason that the dirty bomb is a dream weapon for terrorists-it has the ability to cause maximum psychological terror for a small investment in time and materials. It is also in keeping with what, so far, has been the Islamistï¿½s affinity for parlaying the use of low-tech objects and devices into maximum psychological terror.
This week, journalist Joseph Farah sparked intense discussion by asserting that not only had Islamist terrorists procured conventional nuclear weapons in the form of so-called suitcase bombs, they were close to detonating them in major U.S. cities. Echoing earlier similar assertions by writer Paul Williams, Farah laid out a scenario describing the inevitability of a conventional nuclear attack on the U.S. using such bombs. Though Farahï¿½s scenario is possible, there are many daunting technical difficulties involved in procuring viable suitcase bombs, maintaining them, and preparing them for use. The nature of these difficulties makes great the possibility that terrorists planning a suitcase bomb attack will be discovered before they can carry it out.
A conventional nuclear weapon is a highly complex, tight-tolerance piece of machinery. It is nearly impossible to build one without highly specialized facilities, a quantity of fissionable material (which is almost impossible to procure), and an impressive knowledge of physics coupled with prodigious engineering skills. It is an extremely dangerous process to manufacture and assemble one.
On the other hand, constructing a dirty bomb is relatively simple. Any radioactive material ground up to maximize its dispersion will do, and a crude explosive charge is sufficient to disperse that material. The maker need only shield himself from an overdose of radiation and avoid blowing himself up while preparing the explosive charge.
Simply put, radium from an obsolete watch-dial duct-taped to a hand grenade makes a crude (though not very effective) ï¿½dirtyï¿½ bomb
In the U.S., more than 2 million radioactive sources are possessed by 157,000 licensed users. Approximately 400 of these sources are lost or stolen every year. The situation is far worse in the former Soviet Union, where large quantities of radioactive material routinely slip past the Russian government.
It is reasonable to assume that some of this material has ended up in the hands of Islamists, who have a long history of attempting to procure it.
There is only one reason for them wanting to possess it. And it is a reason they hope will frighten us into both appeasing them and accepting their murderous agenda.
1. Russia to Check Facilities for Recycling Nuke Subs - Executive
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Russia plans to inspect all its facilities for recycling decommissioned nuclear submarines in order to allay the fears of Western investors after an accident on August 1 killed two workers during a recycling operation, a senior executive said.
An 18-year-old worker was killed at the Zvyozdochka plant in Severodvinsk as fuel and lubricant fumes exploded inside a submarine that was undergoing recycling. Another worker, aged 22, died in intensive care afterwards.
"We intend to shake up all the units that have anything to do with hazardous operations," Rostistav Rimdenok, chief engineer of the Nerpa 1 ship repair plant, told Interfax.
Nerpa 1 is recycling two multi-role Project 671 (Victor 33) nuclear submarines with funds provided by Britain and Norway.
"The tragedy that took place at Zvyozdochka is something for everyone in the industry to think about," Rimdenok said. "It proves yet again that all risks should be taken into account during the recycling processes," he said.
Rimdenok said Britain and Norway might "set stricter standards for security rules" after the incident.
Recycling at Zvyozdochka is financed by Canada as part of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, a program approved at a 2002 summit of the Group of Eight industrialized countries (G8).
2. Canadian Experts Want To Visit Zvyozdochka Shipyard
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Canadian experts have applied for permission to visit Severodvinsk's Zvyozdochka shipyard, where two workers were killed in an explosion on August 1, a source in the Canadian Embassy in Moscow told Interfax.
Canada is financing the disposal of nuclear submarines at Zvyozdochka under an agreement signed as part of the G8 Global Partnership program against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The program was approved at the G8 summit in 2002.
The Canadian government is seriously concerned about the incident, the source said.
Canadian officials want to visit the shipyard soon to analyze information about the cause of the explosion, which occurred at the plant's recycling facility, and steps being taken to avoid similar incidents in the future.
1. Cardiologist Urges Govts To Keep Nuke Arms Away From Terrorists
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A prominent Russian cardiologist, Academician Yevgeny Chazov, urged the governments of nuclear powers to make sure that nuclear weapons and nuclear materials do not fall into the hands of international terrorists.
A founder of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War movement, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Saturday, Chazov said the movement "was created in the midst of the Cold War when Reagan proclaimed the Soviet Union an evil empire, and the Soviet Union continued, just as the U.S. did, to build up its nuclear arsenals."
At that time "high-ranking politicians spoke more and more often about the possibility of using nuclear weapons for resolving political disagreements," he recalled.
"My colleague and friend, Professor Bernard Lown proposed to create an international movement of physicians against nuclear weapons. We decided to focus on raising public awareness of the medical consequences of the use of nuclear weapons in order to show the horror of such war to the world," Chazov said.
"There were already over 50,000 nuclear warheads on the planet, and their combined yield was equivalent to more than one million bombs like the one that was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II," he said.
"Experts from our movement calculated that the explosion of a one-megatonne bomb over a city with a population of one million can instantly kill 300,000 people, and 400,000 more will die later from irradiation," the academician added.
Data published by the movement were used by major politicians like Olof Palme. "A powerful anti-nuclear movement started. The physicians were joined by lawyers, and culture and art people. In 1985, the movement was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize," Chazov said.
He believes that the goals and objectives of the movement have changed since then. "It is necessary to do everything to ensure that nuclear weapons and nuclear materials do not fall into the hands of international terrorists."
The Cold War "left more than 600 tonnes of weapon-grade nuclear materials in the world. If terrorists get hold of them, they can use these materials in so-called 'dirty nuclear bombs'. If even such a primitive bomb explodes, large areas will be contaminated and a large number of people will be affected," he warned.
Chazov said he was encouraged by the fact that more and more people in the world understand how serious this threat is and are ready to counter it.
"At the 16th Congress of the movement in Beijing in 2004, I was inspired by reports presented by officials from the Asia Pacific Region - physicians from Pakistan, India, and China - the countries that have gained access to nuclear weapons and nuclear materials in recent years and that fully support the goals and objectives of our movement," he said.
Sixty years ago Saturday, the United States ushered in the nuclear age, launching the world's first atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, incinerating the Japanese city and killing 140,000 people.
The bomb, and the one that followed three days later over Nagasaki, hastened the end of World War II but opened the most terrifying chapter in the long history of warfare.
And the fear continues.
Over the past decade, the state of nuclear weapons has changed dramatically and for the worse, as global nonproliferation efforts have frayed, nuclear arms have spread and a global black market has evolved to facilitate illicit trade in bomb parts.
Four years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, fears are mounting of a possible nuclear 9/11.
With countries like Pakistan and North Korea joining the nuclear club, and others like Iran apparently trying to, the United States is facing the grim prospect that al Qaeda or a similar group might one day buy or steal a softball-sized amount of highly enriched uranium and use it to build a bomb that could kill tens of thousands.
Yet another possible bomb fuel source: Russia, where thousands of nuclear weapons and tons of plutonium and enriched uranium are stored under security that is spotty.
"We live in a world where the most deadly materials created by man are more widely available than ever before," the White House commission reviewing U.S. intelligence on weapons of mass destruction warned in March. "It is the misfortune of our age to witness the globalization of trade in the ultimate weapon of mass destruction."
Thousands will gather Saturday at Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park ï¿½ ground zero on Aug. 6, 1945 ï¿½ around 8:15 a.m. to commemorate the moment when the bomb struck. There they will mourn the dead, pray for peace and launch small candlelit floats down the Motoyasu River in front of the skeletal ruins of the domed building in the city's center.
"Today, many people have forgotten the horror, and most people, in this country and around the world, really believe the nuclear danger is over," said former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington research and advocacy group.
"That's absolutely wrong," he added.
For decades after Hiroshima, only the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council ï¿½ the United States, France, Britain, China and the Soviet Union ï¿½ had nuclear weapons. The nuclear genie was kept in the bottle by global efforts to prevent the proliferation of the weapons.
But over the past decade, though, those efforts have begun to wear thin.
Israel has never acknowledged being a nuclear power, but it is widely thought to have such weapons.
Pakistan and India, neighbors burdened by ethnic and border tensions that have sparked repeated skirmishes over the years, both have nuclear arms.
Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are among as many as three dozen other countries that have the technological know-how to build nuclear weapons on short notice.
Even North Korea, which can't feed or house its impoverished masses, has nukes.
One nation thought to be seeking nuclear weapons is Iran, which is run by an opaque and unelected clique of Islamic clerics who have long supported groups the U.S. government regards as terrorists.
Both the CIA and FBI have warned that terrorist groups such as al Qaeda could seek and ultimately use nuclear material in a bomb against a U.S. target.
As daunting and dangerous as the nuclear proliferation problem is, there are ways to reduce the risks and limit the spread of the weapons, said George Perkovich, vice president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.
First, he said, the nearly $1 billion a year the United States spends to help secure Russian nuclear materials needs to be increased with help from U.S. allies around the world. The program should be expanded to help destroy or secure the world's known stores of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, he said.
"It's technologically and economically possible," Perkovich said.
1. Raytheon Awarded Defense Threat Reduction Agency Contract Potentially Worth $82.1 Million to Provide Mission Support in the Former Soviet Union
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A subsidiary of Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) has been awarded a task order with a potential value of $82.1 million by the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to provide Mission Support in the former Soviet Union (FSU).
Through this six-year task order, which has a base year and five one-year options, Raytheon Technical Services Company LLC (RTSC) will provide comprehensive logistics integration support, including equipment support and services, program support services, infrastructure services, an enterprise information management system, and program management. Work will be performed in FSU countries, primarily in the Russian Federation.
This effort is part of the U.S. government's Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program that assists successor states of the FSU in reducing their stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and the infrastructure supporting them. Work on the task order, under DTRA's IDIQ (indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity) CTR Integrating Contracts (CTRIC) Program, is expected to be completed by July 2011.
"Since 1994 Raytheon has provided Mission Support to cooperative threat reduction projects involving logistics, transportation, storage, dismantling, safeguarding and destroying weapons of mass destruction in the FSU," said Dan Schultz, RTSC vice president and general manager of one of RTSC's Reston, Va.-based business units. "RTSC is proud of its historic CTR performance, and we look forward to continuing our successful partnership with DTRA to prevent the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction to make the world a safer place."
RTSC has been helping DTRA enhance global security since 1988, supporting the Department of Defense's cooperative efforts with countries of the former Soviet Union. RTSC also provides DTRA with: elimination of strategic bombers and air-to-surface missiles in Ukraine; elimination of SS-25 missiles and launchers; assistance in the transportation of nuclear warheads in Russia to safe, secure storage sites; monitoring of an intercontinental ballistic missile final assembly plant in Russia; logistics services to CTR equipment; and transportation of CTR cargo via air and sea to the former Soviet Union.
DTRA safeguards America's interests from weapons of mass destruction by controlling and reducing the threat to the United States and its allies and providing quality tools and services for the warfighter. This Department of Defense combat support agency is located at Fort Belvoir, Va., and operates field offices worldwide.
RTSC provides technology solutions for defense, federal and commercial customers worldwide. It specializes in Mission Support, engineering product solutions and engineering service solutions. Mission Support-Raytheon's integrated approach to providing total life-cycle support, predicting customer needs, sensing problems and proactively applying solutions-enables Raytheon to maintain readiness and deliver operational capability on demand, enhancing customer mission success.
Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN), with 2004 sales of $20.2 billion, is an industry leader in defense and government electronics, space, information technology, technical services, and business and special mission aircraft. With headquarters in Waltham, Mass., Raytheon employs 80,000 people worldwide.
Sixty years to the day after a cloud of nuclear fire rose above Hiroshima, the shadow remains.
For all the ambivalence of this anniversary, the atomic bomb's influence on modern life is undeniable. It shaped the foreign policy of the world's two superpowers for 50 years. Terrified of what they created and what lay waiting in their submarines, bomb bays and silos, the giant nations avoided repeating the devastation wrought on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
"This is one of the most horrible events in all of human history," said U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "It was horrible enough that people haven't done it again in 60 years."
Fear of nuclear weapons still hangs heavy over the United States, more than a decade after the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended. Now, it's not about one foe with thousands of nuclear weapons. It's thousands of foes and the fear that one might have the bomb.
"The idea of a nation-state using a nuclear weapon has now pretty much been allayed by the certain devastating retaliation that would occur," said Lugar, R-Indiana. "There is a return address. You know who did it and where they are.
"The issue now for many observers -- and I'm inclined to be one -- is the dilemma ... of the proliferation of these weapons, and their possible theft by small (terrorist) cells."
In June, Lugar released a survey of 85 national security and nuclear proliferation experts who put the risk of a nuclear attack by terrorists in the next five years at 16.4 percent, on average. Extend the time frame over the next decade, and the risk increases to 29.2 percent, according to an average of the responses.
They're not the only ones worried.
Fifty-three percent of U.S. residents think a nuclear terrorist is likely to strike in the next five years, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted in March. In 1983, when there were thousands more nuclear weapons than there are today and U.S. and Soviet forces were ramping up warhead production, fewer than 40 percent of people thought a nuclear war was likely to happen in 10 years, according to a Gallup poll conducted in November of that year. Both polls had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Nuclear watchdogs such as Lugar and Linda Rothstein, former editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, have trouble saying whether nuclear weapons pose more of a threat today than during the Cold War. Part of the problem, Rothstein said, is that so much changed so quickly. Fifty years of an East vs. West dynamic ended in December 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
In the 10 years that followed, India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons; Pakistani metallurgist Abdul Qadeer Khan sold nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea; Palestinians began an intifada against Israel, which is considered a nuclear power; former Soviet republics emptied their silos; analysts suspect Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Syria developed nuclear weapons aspirations; Osama bin Laden declared war on the U.S.; and al Qaida terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center.
What's more, the nations that had nuclear weapons before the Soviet collapse still have them.
"The threat of nuclear weapons use is global," Rothstein said.
Nuclear terrorism isn't high on her list of concerns, however. Buying or stealing enough nuclear material for a bomb almost is impossible, she said, and building a small, "suitcase" nuclear weapon is even harder. Crude nuclear weapons are large and easily detectable, Rothstein said. Her worries revolve around accidents caused by the U.S. and Russia keeping their weapons on high alert, and the growing number of small nations building bombs.
The Russian military almost launched a nuclear attack on the U.S. in 1995 after air defense officials mistook a weather satellite launch over the North Pole for a preemptive strike, Rothstein said.
U.S. and Russian missiles are "on a hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched in 15 to 20 minutes," she said. "There's no good reason for that. No rational reason."
That nations such as Pakistan were allowed to develop nuclear weapons is "mind-blowing," she said.
"The classic theory is that people get nuclear weapons, and then they get really smart. They become awed by the power they posses," she said. "You can test that theory five or six times, but can you test it 20 or 30 times?"
Lugar and Rothstein agree the only long-term solution is to secure and eventually get rid of nuclear weapons. Lugar teamed with then-Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., in 1991 to create a program to help pay for securing all the nuclear material in Russia and the former Soviet republics. The United States spends about $1 billion a year on global nonproliferation, Lugar said.
The first step is to take inventory of every nuclear weapon and every bit of nuclear material on Earth, Lugar said. Radioactive material in terrorist hands, even if it's not enough for a nuclear weapon, could be used to make a "dirty bomb" that uses a conventional explosion to spread radiation. It wouldn't kill as many people as a nuclear blast, but it could make a major swath of New York, such as Manhattan's financial district, uninhabitable for many years.
"That's a much more likely prospect" than a nuclear attack, Rothstein said. "Apart from scaring people -- and I would be the first to be scared -- it's the economic damage."
Dozens of nations posses radioactive material, but, "this is not an indefinite group that is beyond survey," Lugar said. "I think it's a reasonable approach, but it's expensive and it involves many sovereign governments."
Since the Nunn-Lugar program began in Russia, "I've been asked to go to places we didn't even know existed," Lugar said.
That takes trust on the part of those governments, Lugar said. They need to see the U.S. commit to disarmament before they buy into it. The Pentagon initiative to study the creation of new "bunker-busting" tactical nuclear weapons could weaken that trust, he said.
"I'm skeptical of the development of the bunker buster," Lugar said. "For the moment, I'm not convinced it's a useful idea."
The ultimate goal, Lugar said, is to "bring about a world in which no other people would want to develop these weapons." It's unfamiliar territory after spending decades averting nuclear war by building massive arsenals, he said.
Perhaps the best symbol of that uncertainty is the Doomsday Clock, created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947 to symbolize how close the world is to a midnight of nuclear Armageddon. Depending on the world situation, scientists periodically move its hands forward or backward.
Right now, it's set at seven minutes to midnight -- exactly where it was when the clock debuted almost 60 years ago.
Sixty years ago, the United States triggered the nuclear arms race with the former Soviet Union by dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Now America and its former foe are engaged in a sometimes-clandestine and always-expensive effort to prevent terrorists from getting the stuff that bomb was made of.
"We are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe and the threat is outrunning our response," former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn said in a recent speech.
The Hiroshima bomb, which killed more than 100,000 people on Aug. 6, 1945, used highly enriched uranium as its explosive, unlike the plutonium bomb tested three weeks earlier at the Trinity site in New Mexico or the bomb dropped on Nagasaki three days later, on Aug. 9, 1945.
The Hiroshima bomb was a simple "gun" device that fired one block of uranium at another block of uranium. Weapons-control experts say this is the type of atomic bomb that is within the means of a terrorist group like al Qaeda to make, if its operatives could steal or buy about 55 pounds of highly enriched uranium.
Fortunately, that's still a big if.
"It's not a trivial amount of material," said Doris Ellis, director of International Security Programs at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. "And it's particularly deadly to deal with and essentially unusable if it's been irradiated for a long period of time."
Still, the world is a target-rich opportunity for terrorists seeking bomb-grade uranium. The United States saw to that - and the Russians, the French, the British and the Canadians.
Six decades ago, it took a crash program and thousands of workers at Oak Ridge, Tenn., to enrich enough uranium for scientists at New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory to fashion into the Hiroshima bomb.
But in 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower announced that the United States would donate reactors and bomb-grade uranium to other countries.
Eisenhower's advisers mistakenly believed there was only a small amount of uranium in the world that could be mined. So he reasoned that giving it away for peaceful purposes would actually limit the uranium available for bombs.
The Atoms for Peace program distributed research reactors and uranium to more than 40 countries, including Iran.
Not to be outpaced, the former Soviet Union gave away uranium to its client states. Canada sent a research reactor to India, which used it in a weapons program. France sent a research reactor to Iraq, the one Israel bombed in 1981.
In the last decade, the United States has helped convert 40 research reactors to low-enriched uranium, like the kind used in nuclear-power plants.
But 150 research reactors in the world still use highly enriched uranium, including at eight U.S. universities. After 9/11, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordered the universities to upgrade their security.
The University of Florida and Texas A&M will convert their reactors to low-enriched uranium in 2006. The Senate Appropriations Committee added another $7 million to President Bush's budget to speed up conversion of reactors at Purdue, Oregon State, Washington State and the University of Wisconsin.
But two other university reactors, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and the University of Missouri in Columbia, cannot stop using highly enriched uranium until a new type of low-enriched uranium fuel is developed, according to the Energy Department. Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois is working on the problem.
And under the energy bill the president is expected to sign in Albuquerque, N.M., on Monday, the United States will continue exporting highly enriched uranium rods to plants in Canada and Belgium that make radioisotopes.
Companies representing the makers and users of radioactive dyes told Congress that those rods are the only source for the solutions injected by U.S. medical professionals into patients an average of 34,000 times a day for brain scans, bone scans and other diagnostic tests.
But it's the uranium behind what used to be the Iron Curtain that has U.S. experts most worried. All of the 10 thefts or attempted thefts of bomb-grade uranium tracked by the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1993 to 2003 involved Russia, former Soviet states or Eastern Bloc countries.
The Soviet Union was so unconcerned about the risks of terrorist-created bombs in the '50s and '60s that it used strontium-90, a dangerously radioactive isotope, to power lighthouses and plutonium in navigation buoys.
The Soviet navy stored uranium fuel for its nuclear submarines in 20 different locations across 11 time zones, said Sandia's Ellis.
"If I was a terrorist, I would have gone there first," said Ellis. "We've removed all that fuel into two hardened facilities where it's protected around the clock."
The National Nuclear Security Administration has claimed other victories after usually secret missions. The United States has repatriated more than 238 pounds of uranium to Russia from seven countries - Libya, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Uzbekistan, Latvia and the Czech Republic.
It's also brought back more than 2,600 pounds to the United States for conversion.
The Department of Energy is budgeted to spend almost $1.5 billion on non-proliferation activities this year. But experts say a lot more needs to be done.
"The most urgent need is to make sure it's all safe and secure," said Laura Holgate, vice president for Russia/New Independent States Programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a group co-chaired by Nunn and CNN founder Ted Turner.
One-third of the research reactors using highly enriched uranium cannot convert to low-enriched uranium and some countries, like Pakistan, are unlikely to convert, she said.
While uranium is the most likely terrorist option for a nuclear bomb, they could use even small amounts of plutonium or other radioactive isotopes like cobalt-60, which is used to irradiate food products, in combination with conventional explosives to make a so-called "dirty" bomb.
Dirty bombs do not cause a nuclear explosion, but people could develop cancer if they breathe the particles. Experts say the major problem is the psychological fear of radiation and the cost and disruption of cleaning up contamination.
If a dirty bomb had been used in the London tube attacks, "boy, would you have a mess," said Ellis.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave orders to sign the UN International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the Kremlin press-service said Monday.
The document is the 13th UN convention on combating terrorism. It was drafted by Russia in 1998 and became the first convention passed by the UN at the initiative of post-Soviet Russia.
The convention will be presented for signing on September 14 at the UN Summit 2005, the 60th session of the UN General Assembly, in New York.
Although the convention becomes effective with 22 ratifications, a foreign ministers' session of the 55-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) decided to ratify it unanimously.
The convention, the first international treaty on preventing nuclear terrorism, provides for civilian and military application of nuclear materials, the prevention of terrorist attacks involving homemade nuclear devices, and the prosecution of those responsible for terrorist attacks, either via extradition or by domestic courts.
The convention includes legal procedures for the retrieval of stolen nuclear materials, devices, and substances.
The treaty is designed for close coordination with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr ï¿½will be commissioned in June 2006,ï¿½ Iranian Ambassador to Russia Gholamreza Ansari told Itar-Tass on Friday.
According to him, ï¿½under the schedule that the sides have recently agreed on, the nuclear power plant will be commissioned in June 2006, and it will begin generating power for the Iranian national power grid by the end of 2006.ï¿½ At present nuclear cooperation of the countries ï¿½is limited to the construction and the commissioning of the first line of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.ï¿½ ï¿½Prospects of partnership depend on who it will meet interests of our country and how Russia will be ready to cooperate with Iran to expand the peaceful use of atomic energy,ï¿½ the ambassador went on to say.
ï¿½There is possibility of cooperation with European countries. But, naturally, there is probability of cooperation development with Russia that is our partner in this field for many years, and it is quite logical,ï¿½ he pointed out. The Russian side ï¿½has always stated about the readiness to develop relations with Iran in the peaceful use of atomic energy, build new nuclear facilities in Iran and participate in new tenders,ï¿½ Gholamreza Ansari remarked. Considering this, ï¿½Iranian and Russian experts have begun talks on the construction of new power units in Iran,ï¿½ the ambassador indicated. ï¿½There is the legal basis for this. The agreement signed in 1992 accurately and clearly outlines directions of cooperation,ï¿½ he believes. The ambassador recalled that the Iranian parliament ï¿½has approved the law in June 2004 that obliged the government to provide the country with peaceful nuclear technologies under the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.ï¿½ ï¿½This will make it possible to produce 20,000 megawatts of power in the atomic energy industry,ï¿½ he said.
2. Russian Official Sees No Threat in Iranian Nuclear Program
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Russia sees no reason to take the Iran issue to the UN Security Council, as its nuclear programme poses no threat to other countries, a high-ranking foreign policy expert in Moscow has told the Itar-Tass news agency.
ï¿½The Security Council deals with issues that pose a threat to the international community,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½Iranï¿½s nuclear programme does not contain such a threat. There is no evidence that Tehran is in breach of anything, and its actions in this sphere are transparent.ï¿½
ï¿½Nobody has demonstrated that Iran has a military nuclear programme,ï¿½ the source said. ï¿½Iran has now sent a note to the IAEA informing it that it is resuming the conversion of nuclear fuel. The IAEA recommended that monitoring be stepped up, but this mainly concerns equipment,ï¿½ the expert said. ï¿½Iran is currently holding talks with the IAEA on installing additional equipment that would help to persuade people that there is no military side to it.ï¿½
However, announcements of Russian officials do not confirm that Tehran has given up an idea of uranium enrichment programmeï¿½s restart. Moreover, on Tuesday a source in Russiaï¿½s atomic agency Rosatom said that Russia will continue to support Iranï¿½s nuclear program no matter what decision it will take.
Rosatom employees still refuse to comment the issue officially, but repeat that Iran has a right to the peaceful use of atomic energy.
Russia is building a nuclear power station for Iran at Bushehr on the Gulf, despite Washingtonï¿½s concern that Tehran could use Russian know-how to build an atomic bomb, and Iran regards Moscow as a possible partner for building 20 more nuclear power plants.
3. Russia Has Trained Hundreds of Specialists for Iranian Power Plant
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Training of the last group of specialists for the first Iranian nuclear power plant in the town of Bushehr has begun in the [Russian government-owned atomic energy concern] Rosenergoatom's training centre in [the town of] Novovoronezh. Director of the training centre Aleksandr Ivanchenko told the ITAR- TASS news agency correspondent this is the last group of Iranian nuclear energy engineers to be trained in Novovoronezh before starting to work in their native country.
Ivanchenko said that " some 700 engineers for the nuclear power plant in Bushehr will have been trained by the end of the year 2005". The Iranian specialists attended a theoretical course and practised their skills on the special nuclear power unit operation simulator in Novovoronezh. Besides that, the Iranian specialists were attached for practice to Russian nuclear power plants equipped with the nuclear power unit with the VVER-1000 reactor tank. A power unit with such a reactor tank is being built in Bushehr with the help of Russian experts.
Iranian specialists in Novovoronezh are accommodated in private flats because the training lasts up to six months. Some of the students came to Russia with their families.
Rosenergoatom's Novovoronezh training centre is the only training ground in Russia where students are trained to work with the VVER- 1000 reactor tanks. Along with the Iranian and Russian students the centre is attended by trainees from China, India and Bulgaria. Nuclear power stations were built or are being built in these countries with Russia's help.
1. Russia Optimistic Over North Korean Nuclear Talks
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The Russian Foreign Ministry says discussions during the fourth round of six-nation talks on the North Korea nuclear program were useful and is hopeful that a compromise will be reached in the future. The discussions were focused on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The delegations have agreed on the greater part of the final agreement. However, the parties have not reached a consensus on some matters of principle and the talks were put on hold August 7 to give the delegates time to look for acceptable solutions.
The countries involved have agreed to resume talks late August-early September, the ministry said.
The first stage of the fourth round of six-nation talks involving North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia were held in Beijing from July 26 - August 7.
Soviet-manufactured SS-18 ICBMs, the heaviest missiles in the Russian nuclear arsenal, are expected to remain in service for another 10 to 15 years, the Associated Press reported yesterday (see GSN, July 29).
Most of the missiles have already served more than twice their designated lifetime, according to AP. However, Moscow maintains that the missile remains reliable.
ï¿½Although more than 80 percent of missile systems have exhausted their designated lifetime, the existing maintenance and operation system of the Strategic Missile Forces allow reliability and technical readiness of missile systems to remain on the necessary level,ï¿½ said Strategic Missile Forces chief Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov.
He added that missiles that have been stored empty of fuel would gradually replace SS-19 nuclear missiles, deployed since 1980. The replacement missiles would then remain in service through the 2020s.
Solovtsov denied criticism that the upgrades were moving too slowly.
ï¿½Russia doesnï¿½t need to compete with anyone in building up numbers of missiles and their nuclear warheads,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½We have a sufficient nuclear potential to protect ourselves and our alliesï¿½ (Associated Press/Pravda, Aug. 2).
Meanwhile, the last of Russiaï¿½s SS-24 rail-mounted missile launchers is set to be removed from service this month, Solovtsov told Interfax.
ï¿½It is unacceptable to deploy missile systems whose overhaul life has expired. One should not play with nuclear weapons as this could cause trouble,ï¿½ he said (Interfax/BBC Monitoring, Aug. 2).
Four SS-24 launchers and 18 SS-25 missile launchers are scheduled to be destroyed before the end of the year, Solovtsov said.
ï¿½Five rail-based missile launchers have been scrapped in Bryansk this year and four others are to be scrapped before the end of the year. Nine [SS-25] missile launchers have been destroyed in Pibanshur and 18 others will have been destroyed by yearï¿½s end,ï¿½ Solovtsov told Interfax.
ï¿½Rail-based missile launchers and [SS-25] mobile missile complexes have been drawing increased attention from the USA,ï¿½ because of the terms of the Soviet-U.S. START Treaty, he said.
He added that SS-19 and SS-18 silo-based liquid fuel missiles are being eliminated without U.S. supervision (Interfax/BBC Monitoring, Aug. 3).
The commander of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces (RVSN), Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, has set out the military command's views on the RVSN's role in providing strategic deterrence and its future development in an interview with Interfax.
The commander particularly emphasized that the RVSN, as a component of Russia's strategic nuclear forces, can fulfill its purpose as a strategic deterrent.
"We have the confidence that the RVSN, as part of the Russian strategic nuclear forces, can guarantee strategic deterrence," Solovtsov said.
To this end, the RVSN uses an adaptive principle, modernizing its missile systems, upgrading the combat equipment of its intercontinental ballistic missiles, and building cutting-edge missile systems, Solovtsov said. This approach guarantees a proper response to existing and potential threats with minimum costs and risks, he said.
"With this end in mind, the RVSN's striking power will retain two components, preserving stationary missile systems, or silos, boasting a high combat preparedness for immediate action, and highly-survivable mobile systems," he said.
"At the same time, I would like to emphasize that Russia doesn't need to compete with anyone in increasing the number of missiles and warheads. We have an adequate nuclear potential to defend our own country and our allies," Solovtsov said.
The RVSN will remove its last rail-mobile ballistic missile system from combat duty in August due to the expiration of its service life, Solovtsov said. "Nuclear weapons are not something to trifle with, or otherwise you might get into trouble. Therefore, however sorry we might feel about it, we have to say goodbye to the rail-mobile missile system," Solovtsov said.
The RVSN will put a fifth regiment armed with Topol-M mobile ground-based missiles into combat duty in 2005, he said.
"Four regiments of the Tatishchevo missile unit have been rearmed with silo-based Topol-M systems. The modernization of another regiment is continuing now to put it into combat duty in 2005," Solovtsov said.
The comprehensive rearmament of military units with Topol-M will begin in 2006, he said.
"Speaking about the mobile component of the RVSN, its rearmament with the ground-based Topol-M missile systems is planned to begin in 2006. Nearly all objectives set for flight tests of the system have been reached," Solovtsov said.
The transition to experimental duty, which is the next stage in the new system's service tests, is in full swing in military units, he said.
Solovtsov claimed that Topol-M systems do not have any foreign analogues.
"Compared to its predecessor, the Topol, the new system's combat and operational specifications have been greatly improved," Solovtsov said.
In particular, the system's combat elements have been adjusted to anti-missile defense conditions and its mobility and stealth capabilities have been improved, as well, he said.
"Other measures aimed at improving the system's security, including from potential peacetime terrorist threats, have been taken as well," he said.
The commissioning of the new missiles is taking place alongside the reconstruction of older systems, so that it will initially be possible to operate both Topol and Topol-M missiles, he said.
The RS-20 Voyevoda heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles (Satan according to Western classification) may remain in service for another 10-15 years, Solovtsov said.
"An analysis of the principal characteristics of the system has proven that it is feasible to operate such ICBMs for another 10-15 years, and also use them for launching spacecraft under the Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr program," Solovtsov said.
RS-20s feature a considerable safety margin, which has made it possible to extend their service life 2.5 times compared to the initially calculated figures, he said.
Working together with Russian industry experts, the RVSN has carried out programs to extend the service lives of fourth-generation missiles two-fold or more, he said.
"Although more than 80% of missile systems have exhausted their nominal service lives, the maintenance and operation procedures developed by the RVSN preserved their reliability and technical readiness at a high level," he said.
As for the RS-18 system, Solovtsov said it "has operated safely for 25 years."
In the future, RS-18s expiring their service life will be replaced with reserve missiles, which were manufactured a long time ago, but have been stored in depots without fuel, he said.
"Their service life will expire in the 2020s - 2030s," he said.
Solovtsov also commented on the future of decommissioned rail-mobile strategic missiles.
"Five rail-based missile launchers have been scrapped in Bryansk this year and four others are to be scrapped before the end of the year. Nine Topol missile launchers have been destroyed in Pibanshur and 18 others will have been destroyed by the end of the year," he said.
Solovtsov also said the RVSN's arsenals, including missiles and missile launchers, are included in the Soviet-U.S. Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the START Treaty).
"Rail-based missile launchers and Topol mobile missile systems have been drawing increased attention from the U.S.," he said.
The destruction of rail-mobile missile systems in Bryansk and of Topol missile systems in Pibanshur in Udmurtia has been proceeding under control by U.S. inspectors, Solovtsov said.
"The missiles intended for these launchers are being scrapped at industrial enterprises in Perm and Votkinsk," the commander said.
Solovtsov also announced that RS-18 and RS-20 silo-based, liquid-fueled missiles are being scrapped without U.S. inspectors' supervision.
The facilities available in Russia are sufficient to cope with the workload, Solovtsov said. He added that the scrapping of the missiles is proceeding with strict observance of technological and environmental safety regulations. The technologies used have been tested for their compliance with world standards and have proven to be absolutely safe, he said.
1. Nuclear Waste From Urenco and Eurodif Left Behind In Russia ï¿½ Ecodefence!
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The Russian environmental group "Ecodefence!" on August 2nd presented its research on one of the dimmest areas of the nuclear businesses ï¿½ import of radioactive waste from EU to Russia for enrichment.
"Although this business is flourishing in Russia, there is no access to information about it. According to the ecologists, since 1996 European companies Urenco and Eurodif have been sending radioactive waste (so-called uranium tailings) for reprocessing. The result of the process is uranium, similar to the natural one, which is sent back to the Western Europe. Radioactive waste generated during the reprocessing remain in Russia," the ecologists state in their news-release.
According to the research data, the decisive reason for sending nuclear waste to Russia for re-enrichment is that Rosatom and its plants are ready to leave uranium tailings in the country. If Urenco and Eurodif were decommissioning nuclear waste themselves, the cost of their product would become approximately 5 times higher.
Such costs are unacceptable for the German branch of "Urenco", as they would make up nearly one half of their profit from reprocessing business. That is the reason why "Urenco" so readily gets rid of its uranium tailings by sending them to Russia. Otherwise the company wouldn't survive in the market.
According to "Ecodefence!", this business involves three Russian plants: the Urals Electrochemical Integrated Plant near Ekaterinburg, the Siberian Chemical Combine (Tomsk-7) and Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Combine in the Irkutsk district.
The "Ecodefence" news-release provides the following facts about the outcome of Rosatom's activities:
From 1996 to 2001 9740 tonnes of nuclear waste arrived in Russia from Germany alone. In the period from 2001 to 2005 radioactive waste imports continued at approximately the same level, but the precise information remains unpublished.
Consequently, the volume of nuclear waste accumulated during enrichment from 1996 to 2005 makes up approximately 14 to 15 thousand tonnes. Western European countries pay only for the enrichment service at prices that are much lower than world standards.
"We have been dealing with the enrichment of imported uranium for a long time, there is no secret about it," Nikolai Shingaryov,director of the Rosatom information center, said to Bellona Web. "There is nothing illegal in this business."
According to Shingarev, the imported uranium tailings are not classified as nuclear waste, as they are subject to further reprocessing and do not need to be stored. The outcome of this technological process is triuranium octaoxide (U3O8), which is safe for storage and can be used in fast neutron reactors. Therefore, according to Shingaryov, what Russia receives is not waste but precious reprocessing material.
The "Ecodefence!" group expressed another opinion: "Nuclear waste enrichment is another dirty secret of Rosatom, which finally became known to public. The nuclear industry keeps using Russia for the storage of radioactive garbage. The profit from the enrichment goes to the foreign companies and high-ranking officials of Rosatom, while nuclear waste becomes a burden for the taxpayers."
"Ecodefence!" will fight to put an end to the foreign nuclear waste enrichment in Russia by all possible means," said "Ecodefence!" co-chairmen Vladimir Slivyak.
On August 6th, "Ecodefence!" opens its 6th Antinuclear Camp near the Urals Electrochemical Integrated Plant. The camp will be open for one week.
"Ecodefence!" is also planning to address the Prosecutors' Office in hopes that it will interfere to stop the allegedly illegal activity of Rosatom. "At the moment we are gathering the necessary papers," Slivyak told Bellona Web.
1. EBRD Grant To Help Rehabilitation of Former North Fleet Base
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The Russian Atomic Energy Agency will sign a grant agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on Friday. The grant will be spent on environmental rehabilitation of the former North Fleet base Gremikha on the Kola Peninsula.
"There will be three grants, including those extended to the Murmansk regional administration and SevRAO," head of the Agency's department on decommissioning nuclear and radiation facilities Viktor Akhunov told Interfax.
Akhunov said that the Gremikha base will be tested for radiation, the spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste will be moved to a safer storage facility, and a regional radiation monitoring system will be developed.
Gremikha is the second largest coastal storage facility for North Fleet spent nuclear fuel and the largest facility for the docking of decommissioned submarines, mostly of the first generation.
The base has about 800 spent fuel assemblies with approximately 1.4 tonnes of fuel, six active zones with nuclear reactors from Alfa class submarines, 19 nuclear-powered submarines and 38 unloaded reactors on its premises.
1. Concerning the Fourth Round of Six-Party Talks on Resolving the Nuclear Problem of the Korean Peninsula in Beijing
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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On July 26 the fourth round of six-party talks on resolving the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula began work in Beijing, with the representatives of the PRC, Russia, the DPRK, US, Republic of Korea, and Japan in attendance. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Alexeyev headed the Russian delegation.
The participants' focus was mainly on issues related to achieving denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. By and large the parties managed to agree on a considerable portion of a joint final document on principles and approaches to a comprehensive solution of the questions on the fourth round agenda. Still, on a number of principled problems no consensus could be reached.
In this connection in order to find mutually acceptable solutions on the still outstanding issues on August 7 it was decided to declare a recess in the work of the fourth round. Agreement was reached in principle to resume the talks at the end of August - the beginning of September 2005.
The Russian delegation expressed profound gratitude to the Chinese side for the irreproachable organization of the work of the fourth round and especially noted that all the delegations had striven to make their constructive contribution to its work. The discussions held and the exchange of opinions were very useful and there remains hope for a successful completion of the fourth round in the near future.
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