1. Rosatom Report: Moscow plans new private nuke plants across Russia
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A document obtained by the Russian environmental organisation Ekozashchita! reveals that the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) is engaged in negotiations with regional authorities and investors on the construction of new nuclear power plants that will be owned by private hands across the country, including one near St. Petersburg.
Meanwhile, atomic lobbyists in the Russian parliament are paving the way toward nuclear industry privatisation.
“We received this document from a deputy with the State Duma, who is sympathetic with our work, but wished to remain anonymous,” Ekozashchita! co-chairman Vladimir Slivyak told Bellona Web.
The document is a report written jointly by Viktor Opekunov, a deputy of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, and a Rosatom representative, Anna Belova.
The report, which was disclosed at an October 10th hearing of a select circle of Duma deputies, says that Rosatom is holding talks with regional administrations and investors to build new nuclear power plants (NPPs) near Kaliningrad, Chelyabinsk, Tomsk and in the Far East, and to build a second NPP in the Leningrad Region and St. Petersburg.
The report also outlines a draft bill for the privatisation of the atomic industry.
“Control over the NPPs, nuclear materials and repositories for radioactive waste may in time end up in the hands of private citizens and organisations that lack competence in nuclear safety and security issues,” Slivyak said. Nuclear power plants are, indeed, “dangerous, unpopular, economically unprofitable without (state) budget subsidies and vulnerable to terrorist attacks,” he said.
Bellona’s St. Petersburg office legal counsel, Nina Popravko, explained: “The state may lose what levers of control it has left over the nuclear field. What is suggested in this draft bill qualifies completely for the definition of privatisation spelled out in the Federal Law on Privatisation.”
She added that until recently, privatisation of sites related to the nuclear industry has been forbidden by a presidential decree No.2284 of December 24th 1993.
To own a nuclear plant
The gist of the suggested reform is to give Russia’s legal commercial entities the opportunity to acquire and own nuclear materials, waste and nuclear industrial sites, while making such sites joint stock companies.
These plans are detailed in the proposed bill entitled “On the particularities of disposition and management of property and stock by organisations engaged in the field of application of atomic energy (…).”
The report specifies that the bill, which is being lobbied by Rosatom through the Duma Subcommittee for Atomic Energy, chaired by Opekunov, “creates the legal conditions necessary for the nuclear materials, nuclear installations and repositories to be held (…) not only in federal ownership, but also in ownership of legal persons.”
Nuclear power plants a big political stick
But environmentalists fear that nuclear sites may become tools of influence in the hands of their owners both at a regional and the federal levels.
For instance, those regional leaders or so-called oligarchs who will be able to ensure that the legal entities associated with them make it into a cherry-picked presidential list, will have enough to gain a solid political footing – in fact, they will be nearly untouchable.
Such a reform will also make it possible to attract credits for the construction and operation of an NPP, while the state will be able to sell the stock at a later point – in such cases, for instance, when credit obligations have grown through the roof, as has happened in Great Britain.
“The whole plan is dubious not only from the political, but also from the economical point of view, especially when one takes the specifics of the Russian reality into account,” said Slivyak.
Indeed, one wonders whether, in the context of the weak state environmental supervision bodies and a legislative initiative to dismantle the institution of public environmental impact assessments, new Russian Mr. Burnses – the owner of the nuclear power plant on “The Simpsons” - will want to channel any money into ecological programmes intended for their nuclear plants.
The report frankly states that “where providing measures of nuclear, radioactive, anti-terrorist and environmental safety and security is concerned, there is a large volume of unattended problems solving which requires a systemic and complex approach.”
However, none of these problems would seem to preclude construction of new NPPs in the minds of atomic brains and their lobbying muscle in the Duma.
Nor would the fact that there is yet to be developed a completely safe technology for the disposal of nuclear waste, though research work has been in progress in over 50 years – a point that seems to be vaguely conceded by report authors, but that rings as a flat-out warning with Slivyak. At present, Russia has accumulated over 18,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel, as well as several dozen million cubic metres of radioactive waste.
“When the whole world applies huge efforts to developing alternative energy sources, Rosatom wants to force Russia to follow the old path, all too familiar from the example of Chernobyl,” concluded Slivyak.
2. Colloids in Russia: Have Plutonium, Will Travel
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Among the list of environmental disasters created by Soviet central planning, Mayak must rank high. Commissioned as a plant in southern Russia to manufacture plutonium for bombs in 1948, it soon segued into a long life as a reprocessing center for nuclear material from reactors and decommissioned weapons. But Mayak, or "beacon" in Russian, created its own radioactive waste as well--uranium, plutonium and other actinides--and, at least in the beginning and possibly well into the 1950s, dumped them into surrounding waterways, including the now dry Lake Karachai as well as two adjacent rivers: the Techa and Mishelyak. "If you need a well-contaminated site, it's a dream come true," deadpans Rod Ewing, a nuclear materials scientist at the University of Michigan. "They put a lot of actinides right into the groundwater."
Ewing's Russian colleagues, led by Alexander Novikov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, sampled the groundwater taken from wells up to four kilometers from the scene of original contamination, where radioactivity levels reach roughly 1,000 becquerels (nuclei decaying per second) per liter. Even at that distance, the researchers still measured 0.16 becquerel per liter. Because uranium and plutonium are heavy elements and have low solubility in water, some scientists had expected such contamination to be relatively immobile. Yet, at Mayak, the contamination had spread at least three kilometers in just 55 years. How?
Ewing and his American colleagues used imaging to confirm that the radioactive materials were hitching a ride on colloids--nanoscale particles smaller than one micrometer--specifically, iron oxides present in the groundwater. "These are actual mineral fragments carried in the water," Ewing explains. They are grabbing onto "the uranium and plutonium and carrying it some kilometers away." These iron oxide particles--and other colloids--typically have a negative charge, and the positively charged actinides simply attach to their surfaces electrostatically. And the actinides don't dissolve off the particles, either: "It stays with the solids and travels with them even though the concentrations in solution are low enough that if it was a plutonium solid you would have expected it to dissolve," Ewing notes.
Confirming that actinides can travel on colloids is but a first step. "It further corroborates our understanding of plutonium in the subsurface: it is colloidal, it does move, it's not immobile," says Annie Kersting, a geochemist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "If you found it there, that's not the endpoint that's just where they put their well. It would be nice to come up with some boundaries on transport concentrations." That work remains critically important for determining how any kind of nuclear repository, such as Yucca Mountain in Nevada, might behave over time as well as for assessing contamination at sites in the U.S. and worldwide.
And iron oxide particles may just be the first transporting colloid that has been clearly identified. Humic acid--an organic complex--and a host of other colloids might serve a similar purpose, as recent research at Rocky Flats in Colorado has shown. "This is a dilemma because it's really difficult; in groundwaters, colloids are ubiquitous," Ewing notes. "It's bad luck that they can be transportation vectors for some of these actinides." In that case, Mayak may serve as a beacon--albeit one of warning--after all. "It's important to look at the geochemistry of the environment to help us in our understanding of what exactly is going to move that plutonium," Kersting adds. "But we need to get away from this idea that plutonium doesn't move, because it does."
3. Ex-nuclear head will not ask court for dismissal of his case
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Russia's ex-nuclear power minister, charged with embezzlement and abuse of office, said Thursday he will not ask the court to close his case because the statute of limitation has expired.
Yevgeny Adamov, 67, has been accused of leading an organized criminal group that inflicted damage worth over 3 billion rubles (about $110 million) on the Russian budget, enterprises and organizations.
"I will not use the expiration of the statute of limitations [to ask for a dismissal], because it would imply an indirect admission of guilt," Adamov told journalists in the Zamoskvoretsky District Court, where the retrial of his case was to start Thursday, but has been delayed until November 8.
"The hearings have been adjourned because Adamov's lawyers have not appeared in court, and one of the defendants has been hospitalized," a source in the courtroom said.
Adamov was originally arrested in Switzerland in May 2005 at the request of the United States, where authorities accuse him of misappropriating $9 million given to Russia for nuclear safety projects. If convicted in the U.S., Adamov would have faced 60 years in prison.
He was extradited to Russia in early 2006 to face charges, but was released by the Russian Supreme Court July 21, after a total of 15 months in prison, to await trial.
Adamov, who served from 1998 to 2001 as Russia's nuclear power minister, said he will insist on a trial in a U.S. court, although the U.S. authorities have accused him of a crime they said was committed in Russia.
"It is surprising that Russia's jurisdiction has been transferred to another state," Adamov said. "I think proceedings in the U.S. will be adjourned until the process is completed here [in Russia]."
On October 16, the Moscow City Court canceled the Zamoskvoretsky District Court's decision to send Adamov's case back to the Prosecutor General's Office to correct shortcomings in the investigation and clarify the charges.
The city court thereby upheld an appeal by prosecutors against the district court decision. Prosecutors demanded that the case should instead be sent for retrial in the district court.
4. Bulava missile self-destroyed after deviation from path
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A sea-launched Bulava ballistic missile was self-destroyed several minutes after the launch due to a deviation from the preset trajectory, the Navy press service told Itar-Tass on Wednesday.
“A Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile was test-launched from the submerged nuclear-powered strategic underwater cruiser Dmitry Donskoi in the White Sea today. The crew of the submarine fulfilled the set task. However several minutes after the launch, the automatic self-destruction system was activated as a result of the missile’s deviation from the designated trajectory. The causes of the abortive launch were determined by a commission consisting of representatives of the missile designers and manufacturers,” the press service said.
Earlier, Yuri Solomonov, chief designer of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering which had developed the missile, said the sea-based missile system, together with the ground-based Topol-M system would make the backbone of Russia's future strategic nuclear forces up to 2040 or 2045.
Russia has to carry out at least 10 tests of Bulava missiles between 2006 and 2008 before it can be added to the Navy's arsenal, Solomonov said.
Bulava is designed as a ship-borne missile compatible with two types of strategic submarines of Project 941 “Akula” and Project 955 “Borei”.
Sevmash Company, based in Severodvinsk, is building three nuclear submarines of Project 955, designed by the Rubin Bureau - the Yuri Dolgoruky, the Alexander Nevsky, and the Vladimir Monomakh.
Each submarine will carry 12 inter-continental solid fuel ballistic missiles of the Bulava class with multiple warheads.
The submarine, 170 meters long, 13.5 metres wide and with a diving depth of 450 meters, carries a crew of 107.
Sevmash plans to build five submarines of Project 955 before 2015.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)'s 2005 Yearbook, Russia had 192 intercontinental ballistic missiles with 672 self-homing warheads on its strategic nuclear submarines as of early 2006.
The fifth launch of a Bulava missile from underwater by the nuclear submarine Dmitry Donskoi of the Russian Northern Fleet on September 7 was unsuccessful. The missile deviated from the preset trajectory and fell into the sea. The four previous tests of Bulava were successful.
On September 8, Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov expressed concern about a slow pace of the projects to build the newest submarines and Bulava intercontinental sea-based ballistic missiles. “I already expressed my concern over a lack of progress at a conference I chaired at the Sevmash enterprise and the Krylov institute in the summer. The Bulava test has shown that measures should be taken in a number of directions in order to meet the deadline for creating these submarines without fail,” he said.
5. New strategic nuclear subs to join Russian fleet soon - Putin
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New strategic nuclear submarines will join the Russian fleet in the near future, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during Wednesday's televised question and answer session on Wednesday.
"We will put the new nuclear submarines Vladimir Monomakh and Yury Dolgoruky and a number of other facilities into operation in the near future. We have a program for the construction of naval vessels valid until 2030. It reflects all the needs of the Russian Navy. I have no doubt that this program will be put into effect," he said.
6. Transport of nuclear materials requires more public awareness and legislation
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St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly Deputy Natalya Yevdokimova said earlier this week that it is essential to adopt a federal law that will end confusion over the transportation of nuclear materials, some 50,000 tonnes of which roll through the city of 4.5 million inhabitants each year.
“It is impossible to work in a legislative field where one act follows another, and either abolishes it, or leaves it in place. This is even more dangerous in a field where the health and life of tens of thousands of people depend on these changes,” Yevdokimova told a round table discussion organised by Bellona and the environmental group Ecozashchita!.
Alexander Shishkin, the general director of Izotop, a state enterprise that handles the transport of nuclear materials, confirmed in a statement to Bellona Web that his organisation handled some 50,000 tonnes of nuclear cargo through St. Petersburg, but he pointed to Izotop’s safety record in an effort to calm residents.
“We have been involved in transportation of nuclear materials for 50 years, and our work has been quite successful – in all this time we have not had a single accident,” Shishkin’s statement read.
But environmentalists did not share his optimism.
The round table brought together officials from the nuclear sector – Izotop and Tekhsnabeksport – the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, the Inter-Regional Environmental Prosecutor's Office, and the environmental organisations Greenpeace, Russia, Germany’s SOFA and Aktionsbuendnis Muensterland gegen Atomanlagen, and Norway’s Nature and Youth. Unfortunately, Russian Railways, port authorities, and Rostekhnadzor – all of which are directly involved with transportation of nuclear cargoes – declined to take part in the discussion.
The environmentalists' main concern were the absence of clearly defined safety norms and rules, insufficient control over observance of the law, and also a regime of secrecy that prevents residents of the regions from gaining access to information about radioactive cargoes that pass through their respective areas.
“More and more nuclear materials are being transported across Russia, and specifically through railway junctions and the port of St. Petersburg,” said Alexander Nikitin, director of St. Petersburg’s Bellona office.
“We would like to be certain that we have sufficient legislation to ensure that these transports are safe; secondly, that these norms are strictly followed; and third, that the controlling bodies also guarantee to observe these norms. Civil society organisations do not currently have this confidence.”
Guarding the trains
“If we believe the documents from oversight bodies, then it is crystal clear that trains carrying radioactive substances often travel without any security,” said Ecozashchita! Co-chairman Vladimir Slivyak. “There are also cases when a guard is mounted, but these are first-year conscripts, who are not even told what they are guarding. In our opinion, companies involved in the nuclear business, and firstly Rosatom, should pay more attention to securing radioactive cargoes.”
According to Shishkin, under current legal norms, only uranium oxides are required to have an armed guard during transportation. Other nuclear materials – such as strontium, caesium or reactor-grade plutonium - can be transported across Russia accompanied only by officials from the companies sending and receiving the cargo.
“This rule should undoubtedly be re-examined. Such cargoes … particularly at railway stations, must be guarded, because the threat of terrorism is quite high,” Shishkin said.
In July 2006, activists from Greenpeace's St. Petersburg office discovered several unguarded trains containing uranium hexafluoride at the station at Kapitolovo in the Leningrad Region, where Izotop is based. The train cars were parked directly next to passenger platforms. Moreover, Greenpeace measured the radiation dose on the platforms where passengers were standing at 800 microrontgens per hour, or more than 40 times the normal background radiation level.
“Nuclear and radiation safety is at a level such that transportation of nuclear materials presents no danger to the public,” Shishkin said. “A person would have to stand on the platform at Kapitolovo for 400 hours to receive the maximum yearly dose that would cause no harm to his health.”
Dmitry Artamonov, head of Greenpeace's St. Petersburg office, disagreed with Shishkin’s reasoning.
“This sort of transportation could be a great present for terrorists, either as a source of nuclear materials, or as a direct target for an attack,” he said. “Such an attack could lead to very serious consequences, since it would not be too difficult to destroy the containers. And even without terrorists, an 'everyday' accident could produce an effect just the same.”
Informing the public
The issue of telling people about trains carrying nuclear waste passing through their city produced lively debate.
“As a specialist, I can say that informing [the public] increases the number of unforeseen situations by four times,” said Vitaly Dovgusha, director of the Industrial and Maritime Medical Research Institute at the Federal Medical and Biological Agency.
But deputy Yevdokimova said that telling people about upcoming transports is essential.
“I think that if a person is informed, he is already 50 percent safe,” she said. “From my point of view, we don't have to announce it through a megaphone, but there should be open sources where anyone who wants can find this information. Who will see this source is another question, but I am absolutely convinced that citizens have the right to know about such transports.”
The experience of Ekozashchita!
“We think, as a matter of principle, that citizens of Russia have the right to know about dangerous activities,” said Andrei Ozharovsky of Ekozashchita!
A few months ago, Ekozashchita! carried out an experiment by using media outlets to tell people about a planned route for a train carrying uranium hexafluoride.
“This experience showed, first, that people are interested in this topic, and second, that people are prepared to receive this information in an appropriate way, without panicking,” Ozharovsky said. “The issue now is a small one – to get the public informed.”
Uranium hexafluoride imports
Matthias Eickhoff of the German organisation Aktionsbuendnis Muensterland gegen Atomanlagen set out the position of German environmental organisations on imports of uranium “tailings” to Russia.
“The international trade in radioactive waste must stop. Every country should reprocess the dangerous waste that it produces,” he said.
Since 1996, the German division of uranium manufacturer Urenco has been sending the waste from its uranium-enrichment process – that is, unusable uranium hexafluoride and uranium “tailings” – to Russia. Up to 90 percent of the imported waste remains at Russian enterprises for final storage. The total quantity of waste imported into Russia over the past decade is somewhere near 100,000 tonnes. If Urenco did the reprocessing itself, its products would cost five times as much as they do.
“Sending uranium hexafluoride to Russia is based not on technological necessity, but on economic gain for Urenco,” Eickhoff said.
In addition, private nuclear transportation increases the risk of terrorist attacks and accidents during transport by sea and rail, environmentalists said. Uranium hexafluoride is sent from the German port of Gronau by train to Rotterdam, and then loaded onto a boat and sent by sea to St. Petersburg. Further, it goes by train to facilities in the Novouralsk and Sverdlovsk Regions as well as the Seversk, Tomsk, Angarsk, Irkutsk Regions.
“Since no-one can guarantee complete safety for these loads, they should be stopped,” Eickhoff said.
1. Russia rejects Europe's UN draft resolution on Iran
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Russia has rejected a draft UN resolution put forward by European powers targeting Iran's nuclear programme, saying the proposed measures did not advance objectives agreed on earlier by major world powers.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the resolution put forward Wednesday by Britain, France and Germany would not be effective in containing Iran's programme and contradicted the consensus reached by the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany.
"I think that in this respect the draft resolution that has been presented clearly does not further the objectives that the six powers agreed on earlier," Lavrov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency Thursday.
Those goals, Lavrov said, included preventing proliferation of "sensitive technology" while also keeping open "all necessary channels of communication with Iran."
One of Lavrov's top deputies, Sergei Kislyak, said separately that Russia was "carefully studying" the draft resolution. However, a "long negotiating process is required" to find a mutually acceptable decision.
Lavrov later stated that Russia was ready to discuss ways of preventing deliveries of "sensitive technologies connected to uranium enrichment and processing of spent fuel," in comments quoted by RIA Novosti.
Russia has long resisted the West's push for tough sanctions, partly due to a lucrative contract to construct Iran's first nuclear power station at Bushehr.
The draft resolution, which proposes "necessary measures" to prevent nuclear and missile technology from reaching Iran, does not directly mention Bushehr.
The United States has called on Russia to halt nuclear cooperation with Iran, but France's UN ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, said the Europeans favoured exempting the Bushehr project.
Kislyak told Interfax: "There are much bigger problems there than the construction of the Bushehr station."
In comments released Saturday, Lavrov repeated Russia's insistence that Iran respect international demands on its nuclear programme, but added: "We cannot support, and will actively oppose, any attempt to use the Security Council to punish Iran or to use Iran's nuclear programme in order to promote the idea of regime change."
De la Sabliere, who played a key role in drafting the proposed sanctions, said they invoked Article 41 of Chapter Seven of the UN Charter which calls for sanctions not involving the use of force.
The draft warns that the Security Council would "consider further measures" if Iran still refused to comply with a demand that it freeze uranium enrichment, a process used to produce fuel for nuclear reactors but which, if extended, can also provide the raw material for bombs.
De La Sabliere told reporters that the text also contained a freeze on assets related to Iran's nuclear and missile programs as well as travel bans on nuclear and weapons scientists.
He said the draft would be discussed Thursday among envoys of the council's five veto-wielding members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.
He added that the punitive measures were needed to respond to Tehran's defiance after the failure of negotiations between the European Union and Iran.
Russia's stance against the draft resolution was played down Thursday by a French foreign ministry spokesman, Jean-Baptiste Mattei, who said it was not surprising at this stage.
"We are in a normal process of elaborating a UN resolution with the aim of reaching an agreement and ensuring the unity of the international community," Mattei said.
"Everyone announces their positions... We have noted the Russian declarations," he said.
Russia has long been closely involved in Iran and in addition to building the Bushehr power station supplies hi-tech conventional weapons to Tehran.
Repeated delays in completing the Bushehr power station have prompted speculation that Moscow is quietly heeding Washington's warnings.
On Wednesday Sergei Shmatko, the head of the Russian company that is heading the project, Atomstroiexport, announced further delays, insisting that the reasons were technical in nature.
Meanwhile in Beijing, French President Jacques Chirac and Chinese President Hu Jintao presented a united front, issuing a joint communique on the separate nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.
The communique called on Tehran to finally abide by a Security Council resolution that had set an August 31 deadline for Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program or face sanctions.
"The two sides call for respect of Security Council resolution 1696 and agree to pursue their joint efforts for a resolution of the nuclear issue to maintain a close permanent contact on this matter," the statement said.
2. What to do before Tehran gets the bomb: Apply the lessons of North Korea
San Francisco Chronicle
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The threat to American and global security posed by nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Il has dominated international headlines following Pyongyang's test of a nuclear bomb. A nuclear North Korea represents a severe danger to the United States, South Korea and Japan, and will further complicate global efforts to stop the spread of nuclear arms -- especially if other Asian states follow Pyongyang's lead. Moreover, the risk that North Korea may sell a nuclear weapon or material for a bomb is real, given Kim Jong Il's record of selling arms to support his ailing economy.
North Korea, however, is not the hardest nuclear problem we face: that award goes to Iran. While Iran has yet to produce nuclear material for a bomb, it is on a path that will inevitably get there -- sooner rather than later -- in defiance of the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency; and while the problems of rolling back Pyongyang's nuclear arms program are daunting, it will be even harder to turn back the nuclear clock in Tehran.
Unlike North Korea, Iran has cleverly hid its nuclear arms ambitions under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy project -- an argument that carries weight with many nations who want to pursue civilian nuclear power or partake in the market. Also, while North Korea has no leverage other than the threat of force and -- bizarrely -- regime collapse, Iran's oil exports give it great pull. Finally, while the vagaries of Pyongyang's leadership are real, it may be easier to cut a nuclear deal with Kim Jong Il than navigate the multiple power centers that exist today in Tehran.
If we are to stop Tehran's nuclear arms ambitions, America and the international community will have to learn from the lessons of our so far unsuccessful experience with Pyongyang.
Lesson One is we need to close ranks with others before Tehran gets the bomb. In the case of North Korea, the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia failed for years to coalesce behind a unified strategy -- in particular, what specific positive incentives to offer Kim Jong Il in exchange for dismantling his nuclear program, and when to offer them. Additionally, the United States was unable to enlist the support of China -- the state with the greatest ability to punish North Korea -- in any meaningful disincentives. Only after Pyongyang carried out its nuclear test has a strained unity among these nations emerged. In the case of Iran, while there has been some movement over the past two years in the direction of defining carrots, Europe and the United States have been slow to agree on significant benefits to dissuade Iran from going nuclear -- and more important, Russia and China remain opposed to meaningful sanctions.
We should expect Tehran to follow Pyongyang's lead and exploit these divisions unless the international community can present a more united front to Iran. Progress is needed now on a clearer set of "carrots and sticks," so that Tehran knows what it stands to gain -- and lose -- from forgoing nuclear arms. Specifically, America should state clearly and convincingly that if Iran refrains from producing enriched uranium, the United States is prepared to end sanctions and normalize relations with Tehran -- and guarantee Washington will not attack Iran (because, like North Korea, Iran will not forgo nuclear arms if it fears regime change). The U.N. Security Council should also make clear that, in the event Tehran proceeds with its program to enrich uranium (consistent with reports Monday that Iran is now testing a new enrichment device, another thumb in the eye of the United Nations), the Security Council is prepared to impose sanctions that, among other things, will hurt Iran's oil sector, as was done with Libya following the Pan Am 103 bombing.
Lesson Two is we cannot make empty threats to Tehran. Arguably the crucial turning point with North Korea was the Bush administration's decision not to enforce a Clinton administration "red-line" that there would be severe consequences if Pyongyang unfroze its plutonium production program. Once North Korea threw out inspectors, restarted its nuclear reactor, reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods and made more plutonium -- without any penalties -- the horse was out of the barn, and North Korea raced to become the ninth nuclear weapons state, something Washington had deemed "unacceptable." If we don't want Iran to be the 10th, America and the international community must follow through with any threatened sanctions -- or other action -- against a recalcitrant Tehran.
Lesson Three is we need direct dialogue between Washington and Tehran -- sooner rather than later. The Bush administration's refusal over the past six years to enter into direct, bilateral, high-level talks with North Korea on an issue vital to America's security was a mistake. We should not repeat that error with Iran, nor demand that Tehran make all the concessions up front before talking.
Finally, we need more focus from our own government. The war in Iraq sapped the ability of the Bush administration to deal with North Korea; indeed, Pyongyang took advantage of Washington's preoccupation with Iraq to build and test a nuclear device. The Bush administration must move Iran to the front burner now; otherwise, the next administration might be faced with the spread of nuclear arms throughout the Middle East.
The launch of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran has been delayed for technical reasons, the head of Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly Atomstroiexport said Wednesday.
In September, senior Russian officials rejected a claim that Moscow could stop construction work if the UN imposed sanctions on the Islamic republic over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment or if it expelled IAEA inspectors.
"All launch delays of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran are of a technical or management nature," Sergei Shmatko said, adding that the Bushehr project is unique in terms of technology and construction techniques.
Atomstroiexport is building Bushehr's first power unit under a $1 billion contract signed by Russia and Iran in 1995. The NPP is being constructed under the supervision of the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog.
Russia's nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko said last month the plant will be commissioned in September 2007, with the power generating launch to take place two months later.
The plant was originally scheduled to be commissioned at the end of 2006.
Iran has been at the center of an international dispute this year over its nuclear ambitions. Some countries suspect the Islamic republic of pursuing a covert weapons program, but Tehran has consistently denied the claims and says it needs nuclear energy for civilian needs.
The U.S. and other UN Security Council members have pushed for sanctions against Iran, but have met with resistance from veto-holding members Russia and China.
The UN adopted a resolution on Iran July 31 demanding that the country suspend uranium enrichment by August 31 or face sanctions. But Tehran, which denies that its nuclear project is aimed at producing weapons, refuses to comply.
The United States and Britain renewed calls for sanctions against a defiant Iran when negotiations between the country's key nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana failed to produce any breakthrough.
Iran's student news agency ISNA has fueled more fears around the country's controversial nuclear program, quoting on Wednesday an informed source as saying Tehran has installed a second cascade for uranium enrichment and will start injecting uranium gas into it within days.
Kiriyenko, who is the head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power and co-chairman of a Russian-Iranian intergovernmental commission, is set to visit Iran in December to discuss bilateral relations.
On September 13 2006, Vladimir Putin envisioned for the first time the possibility of limited sanctions against Tehran. Nonetheless the Russian position on this question remains highly ambiguous. In the case of an escalation of the confrontation which would bring Tehran into conflict with Western countries, a clarification of the Russian position is possible, but remains unlikely.
Russia remains hostile to all military intervention against Iran. This position is already conveyed by the sale of large amounts of military equipment, like the TOR M1 antimissile system, which could be used by Iran in the case of an American or Israeli attack on its nuclear infrastructure. Even if sanctions were adopted by the Security Council under Western pressure, Moscow could bypass them without great difficulty. Moscow has an interest in maintaining the status quo. In effect, Russo-Iranian interests still converge on a certain number of subjects such as regional security, commerce in conventional arms and nuclear energy, and indeed the rejection of the hegemonic will of Washington in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus. Nevertheless, cracks in the Russo-Iranian partnership could soon manifest themselves.
Tehran’s trust in Russia has never been this fragile. Negotiations surrounding the completion of the nuclear power station in Bushehr are dragging on; the next meeting between officials from Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency, RosAtom, and the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, was planned for September 25 2006 in Moscow. The power station was initially to become active in 2005 and 90% of the work had already been completed in 2003. These delays are due not exclusively to technical difficulties, which are officially proffered by Moscow, but more so to political reasons. For the time being Moscow cannot offer Iran a success with its nuclear program at a moment when negotiations are at an impasse in the Security Council. In effect, the price Moscow has to pay is at risk of being increased: an immediate deterioration in its relations not only with the United States, but also with the European states. Tehran’s rejection of Russia’s proposition to enrich Iranian uranium on Russian soil deprived Moscow of a major diplomatic success on the international scene. Without a doubt, the proposal’s adoption would have contributed to the acceleration of the power station’s construction in Bushehr and to the reinforcement of trust between the two powers.
However, Tehran still has arguments to advance this stalled issue. Gazprom is interested by investments in the Iranian energy sector. Furthermore, Moscow and Tehran, who respectively dispose of the first and second largest natural gas reserves in the world, are discussing a project to create a natural gas OPEC. A proposition Iran made to Russian businesses to construct new power stations involves costs of several billion dollars although contracts could not be signed until after the power station in Bushehr has begun to function. In this game however, Iran must not forget its isolation on the international scene and the absence of a commercial alternative in the civilian nuclear sphere. Other than Moscow, no other state appears to be ready to invest in Iranian civilian nuclear energy, at least until the disagreement between Iran and Western countries is resolved.
Prevent an intensification of the confrontation between Iran and the Security Council
Moscow’s approach vis-à-vis the Iranian nuclear question is based not only on considerations of short-term commercial interests. The strategic dimension of the relationship remains. From Tehran’s point of view, Moscow’s support in the Security Council is vital. In effect, with the increase of Western pressure, Tehran’s dependence on Moscow has grown. Furthermore, Tehran must conform with Russian regional interests in the implementation of its policy towards states in the Caucasus and Central Asia. For Moscow, the maintenance of good relations with Tehran is also of great importance. Therefore, the change of the political majority in Tehran has not modified the Russian perception of Iran’s regional role. Russian diplomacy continues to favor the participation of Iran in the resolution of security problems in the Middle East and in the Caspian region. This serves to preserve the gains of a Russian policy initiated by the former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov who sought the establishment of a multi-polar world and the affirmation of independent Russian policy on the international scene. During these reformist times Iran was Russia’s trump card in the Middle East, a card which is more difficult to play today.
Moscow has likewise favored a religious dialog between the Orthodox Church and the Shiite clergy. In 1997, a joint Russo-Iranian commission was put in place. It meets on a rotating basis in Tehran and Moscow. According to the Russian patriarch, Alexei II, it’s goal is to define areas of agreement, such as opposition to “values of secularization imposed from the outside in contradiction to religious values” (Declaration of Alexei II in the course of a December 2005 visit to Moscow by the president of the Iranian parliament, Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel; the last meeting of the committee was from the February 27 to March 4 2006 in Tehran with the theme “eschatology from the point of view of Orthodoxy and Islam.”) The commission also permits Moscow to show its openness and aspirations to dialog with the Muslim world, with which its relations are complicated by the pursuit of war in Chechnya.
In a hypothetical escalation of the conflict between Tehran and Western countries, it is unlikely that Moscow will sacrifice its relations with Western countries in order to offer Tehran unconditional support. The future of Russo-Iranian relations is conditional upon Tehran’s capacity to maintain dialog with Western countries and upon that of Moscow to prevent the confrontation between Iran and the Security Council from intensifying. The failure of the first Russian mediation confirms that Moscow does not have the means to demand concessions from Iran which go against what Tehran estimates to be its “inalienable right” to acquire nuclear capabilities. The memory of a conflicted Russo-Iranian history naturally does not contribute to the reinforcement of trust between two powers in search of independence in the international system.
Prime Minister Olmert did not bring back good news from Moscow on the nuclear front, which was the main reason for his trip. President Putin promised him that Russia is indeed concerned about the possibility of Iran arming itself with nuclear weapons and will continue to act towards preventing this from taking place, but the demand to "do something Iran will be scared of" met a chilly response at the Kremlin.
This should not come as a surprise; Russia has limited interest in maintaining good ties with Israel, because of the influences attributed to it regarding US decision makers and public opinion. The Russians also know that alienation towards Israel will turn them into an irrelevant player in the Mideast arena.
However, these considerations are not enough to prompt Moscow, which views itself as a superpower, to change its global policy or even its Middle Eastern policy. What could not be achieved by President Bush and EU leaders will not be achieved by the Israeli PM.
The warm reception Olmert received at the Kremlin and the personal connection he created with Putin should not be taken lightly. It can't be bad and may even prove useful in curbing the transfer of Russian-made arms to Hizbullah and Hamas.
Yet on the issue of the Iranian nukes, it was clear to Olmert and his entourage that Russia has does not intend to change its policy. It will continue to assist Iran build the Busher reactor and develop nuclear technology; it will also continue to thwart any initiative for sanctions that will make Teheran to think twice whether it is worthwhile for it to continue with its uranium-enrichment efforts.
The issue of striking Iranian nuclear sites cannot even be discussed with the Russians.
The question is why? What leads Russia to position itself on Iran's side and confront the West, while its leaders declared more than once that they do not wish to see another country going nuclear on their border?
The standard Russian answer to this question is long and complicated, and the gist of it is as follows: If we do not stand by Iran and won't be partners to its nuclear program, India, Pakistan, and North Korea, who are hungry for cheap oil will inevitablu do so. These countries will not monitor the Iranians and won't use their influence in Teheran as we do in order to moderate its regime.
This answer is baseless, if only because Iran has already received from Pakistan the critical know-how it needed for uranium enrichment while the Russians were building the Busher reactor.
The Russians are well aware of this, but they continue to use the same argument, and even expand it to a proposal to build additional reactors for Iran that would allow it to acquire plutonium as well. These are odd considerations, and an even odder policy on the part of a superpower that insists on claiming that it is concerned by the possibility that its neighbor, with its radical leadership, would possess nuclear capabilities.
'They're threatening you, not us'
I recently heard from German experts and a Russian figure familiar with the president's considerations a possible explanation for the contradictions between the official Russian position and the policy pursued by the Kremlin in practice. The people I spoke with were united by the opinion that in contradiction to official declarations, Moscow is not really concerned by an Iranian bomb.
Officials in Teheran know that nearby Russia has enough nuclear weapons and missiles that can wipe out the whole of Iran, if it only dares make threats, while Iran is only able to inflict limited damage on Russia. In addition, Russia learned to live with a nuclear threat during the years of the Cold War, and it coexists comfortably with additional third-world nuclear nations: China, North Korea, India, and Pakistan.
Another country with limited nuclear capability, as Iran will become, does not change the level of security threat on Russia according to the same school of thought. What's more, Russia has good ties of all kinds with Iran, and the diplomatic assistance currently granted by the Kremlin minimizes even more the probability of a threat.
"The Iranians threaten you and the Americans in the Persian Gulf, not us," the Russian expert told me. And this is in fact the whole story. Russia is not overly concerned by Iran's nuke program and believes this is a problem for Israel and the US, and to a lesser extent for European countries. In any event, it is not a Russian problem.
Russia's partial cooperation with Western efforts to bring about an end to uranium enrichment in Iran matches perfectly the level of threat Russia feels on the part of a nuclear Teheran, and also stems from an additional consideration: The hope of benefiting from the proposed compromise solution to the crisis, according to which Iran will enrich uranium on Russian soil. Put simply, Russia is holding both hands of the stick and is trying to take advantage of all possibilities.
European officials believe that the Russian policy can be changed, and that this is only a matter of a price tag. Russia is angry in the face of the NATO and EU expansion eastward to countries that in the past were Soviet allies and satellite states. For Russia this constitutes a strategic threat 10 times more severe than Iran's nuclearization.
In addition, Russia is upset by the fact that Washington is assisting "hostile" parties and politicians to gain power in countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union and are perceived by Moscow as being in its "backyard" – Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, and more.
American intervention is those countries is perceived in Moscow as a direct attempt to undermine it and its influence. There are also economic interests, such as the oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Europe, which the US is attempting to place through areas and countries that do not belong to Russia; Moscow wants this piece of the pie for itself.
All this shows that if the West seeks Russian assistance on the Iranian issue, it will have to recognize Moscow as a superpower with interests and areas of influence – no longer a poor relative in the dignified group of the eight industrial nations. Washington will also have to lower its profile in Eastern Europe and stop slamming Russia in matters related to human rights and democracy, as Vice President Cheney recently did.
Israel has an interest in seeing such change in American policy, but it is doubtful whether it will happen during the Bush era. Therefore, we can assume that in the next two years at least, Russia will continue to show consistent support for Iran, who on its part will continue to enrich uranium uninterruptedly.
The South Korean military believes North Korea possesses about 50 kilograms of plutonium, enough to make six to seven nuclear bombs, a lawmaker said yesterday.
The North is proceeding with a nuclear weapon design that would be small and light enough to mount atop a missile, Rep. Song Young-sun of the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) said.
Those analyses were made during a hurriedly arranged meeting of generals on Oct. 10, a day after North Korea detonated a nuclear device, defying the international community, according to a Defense Ministry document submitted to the legislator.
Pyongyang is believed to have been accumulating plutonium for a bomb since the mid-1980s. It froze the program in 1994 under an agreement with the United States, but the accord broke down in late 2002, and North Korea is believed to have ramped up production after that.
During the meeting of top military brass, intelligence that Pyongyang is deploying 82 Russian IL-28 bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons in air bases in Uiju and Changjin was reported to Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung, the document said.
The military leaders stressed the importance of a stronger U.S. nuclear umbrella to cope with the North’s nuclear threat, it said.
They also agreed on the need to revise a joint contingency plan with the U.S. military in case of instability in North Korea, such as the collapse of the communist regime and mass defections or a revolt, the document said.
When International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei called for dialogue between the United States and North Korea after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday, he said, "I think in all these issues, dialogue is indispensable. I think we have to move away from the idea that dialogue is a reward; dialogue is an essential tool to change behavior."
The Bush administration bases its refusal to engage in bilateral talks with North Korea on the breakdown of 1994 Agreed Framework. Charging the communist state with violating that agreement, the United States has been seeking to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through the six-nation talks involving South Korea, the United States, Japan, China, Russia and North Korea. Since the North Koreans walked out on the talks almost a year ago, protesting U.S. financial sanctions that were imposed over allegations of counterfeiting activities, there have been no talks at all between the United States and North Korea.
Washington's position is that the United States would talk directly to North Korea only within the context of the six-party talks. The test of a nuclear device by North Korea on Oct. 9, however, has changed the stakes. The Kim Jong-il regime has clearly demonstrated that it is a nuclear power with a very real potential to proliferate weapons of mass destruction.
In light of the changed security environment, the Bush government's stated reason for refusing to meet with Pyongyang bilaterally does not seem to be very convincing. Granted, bilateral talks between the two countries failed once before, but a failure does not mean that it cannot be attempted again, especially given the changed conditions.
The North Koreans have backed down from their initial position that it would carry out further nuclear tests. According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Kim Jong-il gave assurances that there were currently no plans for a second nuclear test when he met with Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan in Pyongyang last week.
Kim is also said to have expressed his willingness to return to the six-nation talks if financial sanctions imposed by the United States are first lifted. The United States insists that a return to the stalled talks should be unconditional. This has been a long war of nerves, one in which the two sides with the most influence on the eventual outcome have refused to meet half way.
Curiously, Rice last week dismissed reports of North Korea's somewhat conciliatory mood. On the result of Tang's visit to Pyongyang, Rice said, "I would say there wasn't anything particularly surprising." Instead, she seemed to take great relief in the fact that China, which the United States initially thought would present the greatest challenge in being persuaded to fully commit to the U.N. Resolution 1718 imposing sanctions on North Korea, proved to be very supportive.
Her lightning tour had Rice talking with all the parties to the six-nation talks - except North Korea. North Korea is the country which holds the key to defusing the nuclear crisis in the region. If the communist state calls for direct talks with the United States, the Bush administration should now reconsider its position. Sitting down to talks does not mean you are trying to appease the other party.
3. China and US closing ranks over North Korea issue: US
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The US and China "have never been closer" in the wake of North Korea's nuclear test earlier this month, US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said.
Hill, who has responsibility for East Asia and the Pacific, has been travelling recently with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in East Asia to try to ensure a united front on the application of UN sanctions against North Korea after its nuclear test on October 9.
"In China we felt we were speaking with one voice on this issue," Hill told journalists on the sidelines of a meeting of Pacific Island Forum leaders.
"At no time have we felt closer together than we have felt in the wake of these North Korean provocations."
"I think the Chinese understand that the North Korean provocations, the decision to proceed with a nuclear weapons programme is really something quite beyond the pale and something we need to all speak with one voice about," Hill said.
"It always used to be that the Chinese would ask for more patience and we'd ask the Chinese for less patience but I think today we are really working better together."
"Ultimately the proof of the pudding will be if we can get North Korea back to the negotiating table and out of these programmes."
China is Pyongyang's closest ally and Beijing's foreign ministry said Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il had told Chinese envoy Tang Jiaxuan last week that a second nuclear test was not currently planned.
However, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman added that increased international pressure could trigger more action.
4. N. Korea threatens war if South joins sanctions
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North Korea warned South Korea on Wednesday against joining U.S.-led sanctions against Pyongyang and said it would take action after any such move by Seoul.
South Korea’s participation in sanctions would be seen as a serious provocation leading to a “crisis of war” on the Korean peninsula, a North Korean spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
“South Korea, forced by the United States, has already halted inter-Korea humanitarian projects and is moving to stop cooperation in other areas. The South is even revealing an intention to join U.S.-led military operations aimed at blockade against us," the spokesman was quoted as saying.
“South Korea’s participation in the U.S. racket to put pressure upon the North ... is a serious provocation leading to a crisis of war on the Korean peninsula,” the spokesman reportedly said.
“If South Korea joins the U.S. ploy to pressure us, we will consider it as a declaration of a showdown and take corresponding actions,” the spokesman added.
The North issued a similar warning in September before it conducted a nuclear test earlier this month, prompting the U.N. Security Council to impose financial and arms sanctions on North Korea.
Asia-Pacific powers are trying to pin down the details of U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea for its Oct. 9 test that Pyongyang blamed on Wednesday on U.S. “double standards” on nuclear issues.
Putin: Don't back North Korea into a corner
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that North Korea should not be backed into a corner over its nuclear test.
Referring to the six-party talks, Putin said one of the reasons Pyongyang had resorted to conducting the test was that “not all participants in negotiations were able to find the correct tone...”
“You must never push one of the participants in talks into a corner and place it in a situation from which it can find no way out other than boosting tension,” he said answering questions on live television.
The U.N. Security Council voted on Oct. 14 to impose financial and arms sanctions on North Korea after it staged the nuclear test, but just what those sanctions meant and how they would be implemented was still a matter of debate.
A South Korean task force met on Tuesday and was drawing up an implementation report to complement work in the Security Council this week to draw up lists of banned goods and identify targets of financial sanctions, the foreign ministry said.
Luxury goods were banned by the resolution, as was most trade, travel and financial transactions related to the arms trade. Interdiction — stopping ships or trucks to and from North Korea for inspection — was voluntary and still under discussion.
Tokyo: Onus is on United States
Japan’s Defense Ministry could not confirm media reports that Tokyo was considering deploying several destroyers and patrol aircraft to its western and southern coasts to conduct warning and surveillance activities.
Japan’s defense minister, Fumio Kyuma, indicated it all depended on the United States.
“Japan must keep a close eye on what America decides to do and if it goes ahead must cooperate in various ways or carry out activities of its own,” Kyuma told a news conference.
The United States, which as one of the five recognized nuclear states maintains a massive nuclear arsenal, has promised that it has no nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula and has also said it has no intention of attacking North Korea.
The U.N. sanctions were aimed at punishing North Korea for its test, which the world body called a “clear threat to international peace and security.” But they were also aimed at bringing the country back to talks that have been stalled since last year.
A senior Japanese government source said foreign ministers from the five countries besides North Korea — the United States, Japan, China, South Korea and Russia — might meet in Hanoi in mid-November on the sidelines of the APEC summit.
China voted in favor of the sanctions but both Beijing and Seoul fear that if they squeeze the impoverished North too tightly it could ruin ties and risk the North’s collapse, sending waves of refugees into China and threatening regional turmoil.
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon was due to visit China on Friday where he would meet President Hu Jintao and China’s envoy to North Korea, Tang Jiaxuan, followed by trips to Russia and France.
1. Moscow opposed to tough measures against North Korea
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"We have urged the North Koreans to show maximum restraint and to return to the negotiating table," announced Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on October 24.
"It is important that all participants in the six-party talks take a similar stand and refrain from steps that could aggravate the situation," he said.
There should be no doubt that Moscow will oppose any tough measures related to the North Korean nuclear problem, which was exacerbated by Pyongyang's recent nuclear test. At the very least, Moscow will continue to support six-party talks involving North Korea, the United States, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan. At most, it will press for direct American-North Korean negotiations.
This position is based on Moscow's view of the developments and what brought them about.
Russia believes that the situation deteriorated after the U.S. accused North Korea of having resumed its uranium enrichment program in October 2002, an allegation that was not supported by any evidence. When America suspended construction of two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea, despite their bilateral framework agreement, Pyongyang responded by officially withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. What followed is well known.
The situation in the autumn of 2002 could have been salvaged. With that goal in mind, six-party talks commenced in Beijing in August 2003. Two years later they managed to agree on a joint statement, whose crucial points were North Korea's commitment to abandon nuclear weapons and return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the IAEA, while the U.S. announced it was ready to improve relations with Pyongyang and to discuss supplying the ill-fated light-water reactor to North Korea within an acceptable period of time.
After the adoption of the statement, the parties were expected to start working on a roadmap that would clearly lay out future steps to settle the crisis, i.e. to implement the agreements outlined in the statement. No such luck.
Washington violated the principle agreed upon during the Beijing talks: a promise for a promise, an action for an action. In September 2005, the U.S. initiated restrictions against North Korean accounts with the bank Delta Asia in Macao, accusing Pyongyang of laundering profits from missile exports, counterfeiting U.S. dollars and pirating goods. Although these allegations have not been proved, there is no sign that America intends to lift financial restrictions against North Korea. On the contrary, it seems determined to further toughen them.
Since Pyongyang's nuclear tests, the U.S. has been trying to involve other countries in these efforts, arguing that the money North Korea receives from "illegal operations" could be deposited in any lending institution in the world. Japan and Australia have already introduced unilateral sanctions against North Korea.
Of course, Pyongyang has reacted negatively to these moves, viewing them as an attempt to introduce a financial and economic blockade to "stifle" the country's regime and thereby topple it. In fact, as Moscow sees it, the country's defiant missile tests last July and recent nuclear tests were its response to increasing pressure from America.
Russian officials and independent experts alike say that negative developments around the North Korean nuclear problem were to a large extent provoked by Washington.
Mikhail Titarenko, director of the Institute of the Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said, "North Korea has been cornered largely due to U.S. policy, and now it is important to give it an opportunity to edge out with dignity."
A well-informed source in Moscow close to the talks gave the following outline of the Russian position:
"Russia unequivocally denounces North Korea's nuclear move, which undermines the international non-proliferation regime. It demands that Pyongyang take immediate steps to return to the NPT and resume six-party talks. It would be a good idea for the U.S. and North Korea to hold negotiations to settle bilateral differences."
This is the stand Russia is sticking to in the UN Security Council as well. At the same time, it believes that it is important to take measures that will persuade Pyonyang to adopt a more sensible position.
By cooperating with the other parties involved, Russia will do its best to avoid a worst-case scenario and to bring the matter back to the negotiating table.
1. N-deal key element in non-proliferation policy: Rice
Indo-Asian News Service
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The US views the civilian nuclear deal with India as a key element of a comprehensive policy to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime in the context of North Korea's nuclear explosion.
"The goal of our diplomacy is and must be to create an international environment that presses North Korea to make better decisions than it has made and that holds it fully accountable for the decisions that it takes," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.
Pyongyang's claims that US policies are hostile are simply excuses for its refusal to make constructive choices and to stick with them, she said declaring that the US has no intention of attacking or invading North Korea.
"To help elicit those constructive choices, the United States has a comprehensive policy," Rice said reflecting on America's foreign policy in Northeast Asia in her Annual BC Lee Lecture at the Heritage Foundation.
The US and its partners are joining together to preserve the continued vitality of the global regime to prevent and counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, she said outlining the strategy "to strengthen and renew this important pillar of international stability and to modernise it".
"We are bringing India from the outside to the inside of the non-proliferation regime for the first time, with a pioneering agreement between Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh and President (George W) Bush that gives India access to civil nuclear power and gives the International Atomic Energy Agency access to India's civil nuclear facilities" Rice said.
US is rallying the nations of the world behind a UN Security Council resolution that requires all countries to criminalise proliferation activities. Along with Russia, it has launched a global initiative to combat nuclear terrorism.
"We are also helping countries to acquire civil nuclear power without the need for enrichment and reprocessing facilities through the establishment. We believe, we hope, of an assured access to nuclear fuel and the development of new proliferation-resistant technologies under the president's global nuclear energy partnership," Rice said.
To be sure, the greatest challenge to the non-proliferation regime comes from countries that violate their responsibilities under the Non-proliferation Treaty, she said describing North Korea and Iran as two such cases.
Offering "some perspective" to the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear test, Rice said that as North Korea publicly froze its plutonium programme in 1994 following a bilateral agreement with US, the leaders in Pyongyang were secretly developing another programme to build more weapons.
This time they were using uranium enrichment and drawing support from the shadowy proliferation network of Pakistani scientist AQ Khan, she added.
Apart from strengthening the global non-proliferation regime, other key elements of US policy include strengthening strategic relationships in northeast Asia, isolating North Korea from the benefits of participation in the international system, expanding measures to defend against North Korea's proliferation efforts and six-party talks.
"South Korea must be part of the solution as should Japan, China and Russia. These countries all share an interest in a denuclearised Korean peninsula. They all have leverage to help bring it about and they must all accept their share of the responsibility to help."
"This is the strategic logic of the six-party talks and in this regional framework, the United States is playing a full and active role," Rice said.
The FBI is focusing on a subcontractor at the Los Alamos National Laboratory as the possible source of classified information from the nuclear-weapons facility discovered during the arrest of a New Mexico man on drug charges.
Federal authorities said yesterday that the subcontractor, Jessica Quintana, was questioned after Los Alamos police discovered the classified data during a search for evidence of a drug business after the arrest of Justin Stone, 20, Friday.
Miss Quintana, who authorities said shared the mobile home with Mr. Stone, has not been charged in the case.
"This appears to be a new low: Even drug dealers can get classified information out of Los Alamos," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, a watchdog that has exposed seven incidents involving the mishandling or loss of classified information at nuclear-weapons facilities since 2002.
Authorities said the Los Alamos information was located on a computer flash drive, a portable flash memory card that plugs into a computer's Universal Serial Bus, or USB, port and functions as a hard drive. Flash drives have been banned from the Los Alamos laboratory for the past two years.
Linton F. Brooks, chief of the National Nuclear Security Administration, said yesterday that "extraordinary efforts" have been made in the past three years to put strong security procedures in place at Los Alamos and other national laboratories to ensure that sensitive information is not compromised.
"Our job now is to assess what happened at Los Alamos, to determine whether procedures have been diligently observed, and to decide whether additional steps need to be taken," he said, adding that the agency's chief of defense nuclear security will "personally investigate the facts at Los Alamos."
Los Alamos Police Department Sgt. Chuck Ney said the classified information was located Friday at a trailer park in the city after officers responded to a domestic disturbance call. Police also found hazardous methamphetamine lab components.
Police then notified the FBI, and federal authorities began a separate investigation.
FBI Special Agent Bill Elwell in Albuquerque said a now-sealed search warrant was served in the case by agents, but he declined to discuss details of the ongoing investigation. He said the U.S. attorney's office in Albuquerque is "evaluating the information."
Los Alamos has a long history of security breaches. In December 1999, Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwanese-American scientist who worked at the laboratory, was accused of stealing secrets on the U.S. nuclear arsenal for China. After investigators dropped a 59-count complaint, Mr. Lee pleaded guilty to improper handling of restricted data.
In June, the government and five news organizations -- The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, ABC News and the Associated Press -- announced a $1.6 million settlement with Mr. Lee over accusations that government leaks violated his privacy.
In 2004, Los Alamos was shut down after an inventory found that two computer disks with nuclear secrets were missing. A year later, the lab concluded the disks never existed.
Nuclear materials have a wide range of characteristics. Enriched uranium or plutonium have awesome explosive potential. Cesium emits deadly radiation, while isotopes of some radioactive substances, such as thallium, can be safely injected into patients undergoing medical procedures. Any kind of nuclear material in the hands of terrorists could have serious security implications.
Nuclear energy is a double-edged sword. Contained in the controlled environment of a nuclear power plant, it can generate electricity to run entire cities. Unleashed in a bomb blast, nuclear energy can destroy a metropolis.
The catastrophic consequences of such an explosion have prompted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to call nuclear terrorism one of the most urgent threats of our time. "Even one such attack could inflict mass casualties and change our world forever. That prospect should compel all of us to do our part to strengthen our common defenses," says Annan.
Last year, 91 nations signed the U.N. International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. The convention prohibits individuals from possessing radioactive material with the intention of causing death or serious bodily injury. But some countries have weak nuclear safeguards.
Paul Leventhal, founder of the non-governmental Nuclear Control Institute in Washington, D.C. says terrorists could exploit such weakness. "The states today that we're most worried about in terms of assisting terrorist organizations are Iran and North Korea," says Leventhal. "If they were able to acquire fissile material, not necessarily from the state apparatus itself, but one or two entrepreneurial physicists like A. Q. Khan of Pakistan, and I think you also have to include Pakistan also as a potential supplier of terrorist organizations."
A.Q. Khan, or Abdul Qadeer Khan, is the developer of Pakistan's nuclear bomb. He is under house arrest in that nation for selling nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran. Pakistan denies any prior knowledge of the transfer, but Khan remains a national hero. A member of Pakistan's Cabinet, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, said last year that the scientist would not be sent to a third country for prosecution.
"I support the idea that the government should tell the people about these sensitive matters, no matter what the effect of that will be. I am not a spokesman for a cowardly nation. Yes, we supplied Iran with the centrifuge system. Yes, Dr. Qadeer gave Iran this technology. But we are not going to hand over Dr. Qadeer to any one. We will not," says Ahmad.
A centrifuge is used in a costly and complicated industrial process to concentrate uranium as fuel for nuclear power plants. Further processing creates fissile material for bombs.
Paul Leventhal of the Nuclear Control Institute says that kind of material is very difficult, but not impossible to obtain. "One can assume that a group would either have a very sophisticated operation to steal or otherwise acquire the material without the knowledge of a nation or a corporation, or they would have people on the inside". Leventhal says about five kilograms of enriched uranium or plutonium are needed for an atomic bomb.
Ivan Oelrich, a physicist with the Federation of American Scientists, says that assembling a bomb is easier than obtaining the fissile material. "You need to have machinists, people who can do computer models and mechanics, people who can actually make the components of the bomb and operate machinery," says Oerlich.
A "Dirty Bomb"
Terrorists could also spread fear with a so-called "dirty bomb," in which radioactive material would be dispersed by conventional explosives. Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent Russian military analyst, says corrupt elements in former Soviet republics could sell nuclear material for such bombs. "The fact that these materials have been spreading out from the former Soviet Union and the fact that terrorists do get their hands on such kind of materials or can do that, the facts exist. And maybe we just don't know all of the story at all," says Felgenhauer.
Physicist Ivan Oelrich says highly radioactive material would create a genuine physical threat, but it could also kill the terrorists before they had a chance to explode the device. He says low-grade radioactive contamination also could spread psychological terror.
"To be honest, the health dangers would be virtually zero. But people would know, 'Oh, they've put radioactivity into the building, I'm not going to work there.' It might be that because of the reaction, you know, we're human beings and not always rational, and from reaction of people you might have to abandon a building, not because it's actually dangerous, but because people think it is," says Oelrich.
A Power Plant Attack
Another example of nuclear terror would be an attack on a nuclear power plant, turning it, in effect, into a huge dirty bomb. But Ivan Oelrich says such facilities have numerous safeguards against that.
"Nuclear containment vessels are supposed to be able to withstand a crash from an aircraft, for example. It's not going to be easy for a terrorist to disrupt the operation of a nuclear power plant. There is, or course, the question of somebody on the inside who wants to betray the plant. That's another question, but there are ways to deal with that -- two man rules, you have background security checks, etc.," says Oelrich.
Given that benefits of nuclear technology are tied to the potential for nuclear terrorism, experts underscore the constant need for security. Some, such as Paul Leventhal of the Nuclear Control Institute, even call for development of alternative energy sources to avoid disaster at the hands of nuclear terrorists.
India seeks a fresh assessment of nuclear energy as a clean and safe source of energy to give developing countries the freedom to choose policies that best suit their energy needs, Indian delegate Rahul Gandhi said here.
"Developing countries must have the policy space to address their energy needs in light of their individual circumstances," Gandhi said, participating in a UN committee debate on Sustainable Development on Wednesday.
All significant energy sources - whether conventional or advanced fossil fuels based, or renewable, or civilian nuclear power - must remain in policy reckoning to address energy needs for sustainable development, he said, "In particular, there needs to be a fresh assessment of nuclear energy, as a clean and safe source of energy."
Many developing countries, including India, still rely on traditional sources of energy for a significant part of their energy needs. However, traditional technologies are inefficient, insufficiently versatile and have major health, gender, and environmental impacts, Gandhi said.
"Energy is critical to development. In developing countries, a rapid increase in energy use per capita is imperative to realising national development goals and Millennium Development Goals," he said.
Noting that at the Johannesburg Summit, the international community had collectively agreed to significantly reduce the current loss of biological diversity by 2010, Gandhi stressed the importance of an international regime to protect and safeguard the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge.
The international community has not lived up to its commitments for technology transfer he said putting critical technologies beyond the reach of developing countries because of prohibitive costs under the existing Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) regime.
"We need to revisit the IPRs regime to ensure that technologies necessary for pursuing the global imperative of sustainable development are placed in the limited public domain and made accessible to developing countries," Gandhi said asserting that these regimes must represent the tradeoffs between innovator incentives and wider human societal imperatives.
The international community should also explore the possibility of establishing a Clean Technology Acquisition Fund to enable developing countries to access critical technologies, he said as it would encourage the use of clean technologies, and significantly impact the realisation of sustainable development goals.
As a result of globalisation, external factors contribute to the success or failure of developing countries to a greater extent than before, Gandhi said noting that developing countries are caught between intellectual property rights and trade regimes, as well as the conditionalities imposed by the World Bank and IMF, all of which erode their autonomy and flexibility.
However, these countries need that autonomy and flexibility to evolve policies and strategies for economic growth and sustainable development, which is so critical to eradicating poverty and achieving Millennium Development Goals, he said.
Expressing concern at the current impasse in the Doha round of trade negotiations, Gandhi noted that when agriculture was brought into multilateral trade negotiations, developing countries had clearly been given to understand that trade distorting agriculture subsidies would be phased out in a definite timeframe.
However, gains expected from agricultural reform by developed countries continue to elude developing countries, he said.
"Minimizing the vulnerability of poor farmers must be our collective priority. Reducing agricultural tariffs and subsidies is not enough: there must be exceptions to allow developing countries more space to pursue their pro-development strategies and policies aimed at protecting their poor," Gandhi said.
Special and differential treatment for developing countries, to enable them to meet food security, livelihood security and rural development needs, remains a categorical imperative, he said.
In his speech at the 15th Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference in Sydney, Australia in mid-October, John Ritch, director-general of the World Nuclear Association set the cat amongst the pigeons by intimating that without additional nuclear power, the world is facing an environmental apocalypse. Naturally, this was vehemently opposed by the environmentalist organisations.
Widely reported on in the international Press, Ritch said that up to twenty times more than the existing nuclear power availability throughout the world would be necessary if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy plants that threaten to accelerate global warming.
Ritch said his statement was based on the growing demand for energy in rapidly developing economies like China and India. Over the next 4-5 decades these countries would require far more energy than they do now and consequently would contribute even higher and more dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Ritch told the Conference, "At least 8 880 reactors will be needed to cope with voracious power demand from fast-developing countries such as India and China by mid-century."
Currently, one-fifth of the world's total population (around 1,4 billion people) uses about 80% of the energy produced in oil- and coal-fired power plants. "If we want to prevent a future scenario that is quite literally apocalyptic then we would need 20 times more nuclear reactors than the 440 that are currently being used," Ritch said, implying that the developing countries could outstrip the West in greenhouse emissions.
Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are blamed for increasing global temperatures which in turn disrupt weather cycles, cause floods, droughts, reduction in arctic sea-ice mass and outbreaks of diseases.
If global temperatures continue to rise at their current rate, in about five decades they could reach devastating levels. Ritch warned that that could mean death of not just millions, but billions of people, and the destruction of much of civilisation on all continents.
At the same Conference, Greenpeace's Australian chief Steve Shallhorn said that at least one out of three countries that had nuclear power industries was using these resources covertly to develop weapons.
"The uranium and nuclear power industries pose unacceptable risks of contributing to the proliferation of nuclear weapons," Shallhorn said. "North Korea is the latest example that developing nuclear power for 'peaceful purposes' just cannot be guaranteed."
More than 20 of the 60 countries that have nuclear power or research centres have used those facilities for covert weapons research, and the environmental benefits from uranium and nuclear power industries were insignificant compared to the risks they posed by contributing to nuclear weapons proliferation, Shallhorn said.
The proponents of nuclear power say it is a cleaner alternative than burning coal or natural gas because it produces fewer greenhouse gases. Other environmentalists believe energy efficiency measures would help minimise the risks. They also recommend that renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, be tapped and explored for long-term solutions to global warming.
Scientists predict an average increase in global temperatures of just two degrees Centigrade could cause increasingly severe weather patterns, droughts, flooding, species extinction, rising sea levels, widespread disease and famine.
However, at the recent Summit meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) countries in Russia, nuclear power was endorsed as an energy source, much to the consternation of the environmentalist organisations.
This new stance was particularly surprising, given that both Germany and the UK reversed their previous policies of opposing the acknowledgement of nuclear reactors as a legitimate energy source, although France, Japan, Canada and Russia had been pushing this view for some time.
In a statement issued at the Summit, the G8 Group stated, "Those of us who have or are considering plans relating to the use of safe and secure nuclear energy believe that its development will contribute to global energy security."
Germany's turn-around on this issue could have been forecast from the statement on 17 September by the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who proposed setting up uranium enrichment centres under UN control to end nuclear disputes like the one over Iran.
Steinmeier said such centres could be used by several nations and placed under control of the UN's nuclear watchdog - the International Atomic Energy Agency. "Interested countries like Iran could in this way obtain nuclear fuel for civilian use under strict control," he said, "and it could be financed by countries that claim the right to buy nuclear fuel."
"We need to have an international supply of nuclear fuel to stop countries feeling the need to build their own installations," he said. The Vienna-based IAEA had the right to build and run nuclear installations, he added.
Belarus wants to develop atomic power engineering and plans to launch the first reactor in 2015 with Russian assistance, the Russian Rosenergoatom Company said on Thursday quoting Chief Engineer of Belenergo power utility Alexander Sivak.
“Permanent growth in prices for natural gas, which is the main source of electricity in Belarus, does not strengthen the economy of the state,” Sivak was quoted as saying during a visit to the Russian Kalinin nuclear power plant (NPP) this week.
Belarus suffered most from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in neighboring Ukraine in 1986 and Sivak said the opinion of the residents of the territory, where the plant is planned, will be taken into consideration. However, he quoted a poll by the national Academy of Sciences as showing “there is a trend of change in the negative attitude of the people… to the construction of nuclear power plants”.
Sivak admitted Belarus has no necessary scientific, technical and production capacities to build an NPP. “Therefore, we shall eye all potential suppliers of equipment, assembly and engineering services. It must be clear to everyone that priority will be given to the Russian Federation,” he said.
2. Kazakhstan eyeing three venues for low-capacity reactors JV
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The Russian-Kazakh joint venture on producing state-of-the-art low and medium capacity nuclear power installations of the new generation will be built either in the remote Kazakh town of Kurchatov, in western Kazakhstan or in central Kazakhstan, Prime Minister Danial Akhmetov said at a meeting with Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko on Thursday.
“Under instructions of the two countries’ presidents, we are holding talks with Rosatom. Kazakhstan has all conditions for this, including cadres potential,” he said.
“We are to submit a report on the pace of these talks and the implementation of such projects to the two countries’ presidents by November 15,” Akhmetov said.
3. Russia to open intl. nuclear center in Siberia by year-end
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An international uranium enrichment center constructed by Russia and Kazakhstan in eastern Siberia will start operating by the end of 2006, the head of the Russian nuclear agency said Thursday.
"Russia and Kazakhstan are planning to finish preparations for opening an international uranium enrichment center in Angarsk, and it will start operating by the end of the year," Sergei Kiriyenko said.
President Vladimir Putin had proposed the idea of international uranium enrichment centers at the beginning of the year, as a means of calming international tensions over Iran's nuclear problem.
Earlier in October, Russia and Kazakhstan established their first joint venture to enrich uranium in Angarsk, near Irkutsk, about 5,000 km (3,100 miles) east of Moscow.
The city "has always been connected with the nuclear sector's civilian side. The enterprise in Angarsk can be put under IAEA control, and it has additional reserve capacities," Kiriyenko said then.
Kazakhstan holds 15% of the world's uranium reserves and has an expanding mining sector, which aims to hit at an annual production of 15,000 tons of uranium by 2010. Under the Soviet system, Russia and Kazakhstan shared a nuclear power infrastructure under the Ministry of Medium Machine Building.
4. Russian-Kazakh JV to mine first ton of uranium in early Dec.
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A Russian-Kazakh joint venture will mine its first metric ton of uranium in Kazakhstan in the first week of December, Russia's nuclear chief said Thursday.
The joint venture was set up in 2004 and is exploring a uranium ore deposit with estimated reserves of 19,000 metric tons of uranium in Zarechnoye, near the border with Central Asian neighbors Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
"In early December, we are going to celebrate the production of the first ton of uranium at the Zarechnoye JV," said Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency.
Techsnabexport, Russia's state-controlled uranium supplier and a provider of uranium enrichment services, holds a 49.33% stake in the joint venture.
Kiriyenko said earlier that Russia, which accounts for 8% of the world's uranium output, should replace its non-renewable gas resources with nuclear energy.
Russia's reserves of coal and natural gas will be depleted in 50 years, and in response Russia is planning to expand its nuclear energy sector and meet 60-70% of its uranium demand domestically by 2015.
He said that uranium production was not profitable earlier in Russia, when the average price for one kilogram was $40. However, with the price now at $100 per kilogram, production has become profitable.
Kiriyenko said Russia intends to extend its cooperation with all uranium-producing countries.
He said that in Soviet times, Russia produced a considerable amount of uranium for military purposes, which could last the country for many decades.
But he added that the current increase in uranium production was necessary for the full-scale development of Russia's nuclear sector.
5. First reactor of Tianwan NPP in China to reach full capacity in Dec. - 1
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The first reactor of the Tianwan nuclear power plant in China will reach full capacity in December, the head of Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly Atomstroiexport said Wednesday.
Russia is building the Tianwan NPP in eastern China's port city of Lianyungang, featuring improved VVER-1000 reactors and K-100-6/3000 turbo-generators, under a Russian-Chinese agreement signed in 1992.
Sergei Shmatko said, "We plan to reach bring the first unit of the Tianwan NPP up to 100% capacity in the second half of December this year, and in the first half of December we plan to bring the power unit to 90% of capacity," having obtained permission from the Chinese authorities.
"We are likely to postpone the commercial launch of the second power unit from April 2007 until fall 2007," he told journalists.
Atomstroiexport is currently building five nuclear power plants in China, India and Iran, on contracts worth $4.5 billion, and is also bidding to build a plant in Belene, Bulgaria.
Shmatko also said his company is planning to build new NPPs in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.
"I do not rule out the emergence of new commercial NPP construction projects in China," he said.
"We are waiting for the results of a tender to build the Belene NPP in Bulgaria, and also know that Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary have plans to modernize and develop their nuclear power industries. We refer these countries to our traditional markets," he said.
Shmatko said he is convinced Atomstroiexport will obtain orders to build new NPPs in these countries.
Speaking about plans to build new NPPs in Asia and Africa, Shmatko said "very interesting talks with Turkey" are underway.
He also said talks could be held with Morocco, Vietnam, Egypt and the South African Republic.
Pakistan has adopted a vast system of checks and balances in its military nuclear program to prevent nonproliferation abuses such as the nuclear black market run by top scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, a senior Pakistani military official said yesterday.
The official, in an unusually detailed background briefing for reporters at the Pakistani Embassy, also warned that the proposed U.S.-India nuclear-cooperation pact was a "one-sided deal" that could prove "counterproductive for U.S. strategic objectives" in South Asia if Islamabad was not offered a similar deal.
The Pakistani military official, who has extensive familiarity with the country's nuclear bureaucracy, could not be quoted by name under the ground rules of the briefing.
But the session reflected Pakistani concerns that its nuclear-proliferation failings were in the spotlight again after this month's nuclear test by North Korea.
The network run by Mr. Khan, still a revered figure in Pakistan for his role in developing the country's nuclear arsenal, "cast a long shadow over Pakistan's image," the official said. "We have years of baggage to shed."
Mr. Khan, who is under house arrest, traveled to Pyongyang often before his nuclear-smuggling ring was exposed in 2003. His network is thought to have provided North Korea with designs, parts, and working models of centrifuges needed to manufacture nuclear fuel. The Pakistani researcher also provided centrifuges for Iran's clandestine nuclear programs.
Many nonproliferation specialists fear that Pakistan is the world's greatest cause for worry, with the government of President Pervez Musharraf facing challenges from within and without.
But the Pakistani military official said that nearly a decade ago, the country began a thorough revamping of its nuclear bureaucracy, increasing the levels of oversight, implementing new controls on the production and transfer of nuclear materials and establishing "reliability tests" for Pakistani nuclear researchers.
He confirmed that U.S. nuclear specialists had been providing technical advice and some "off-the-shelf" basic equipment to aid Pakistan's nonproliferation efforts, but stressed that Pakistan had total say over what help it accepts.
"We have a good system now down to the grass roots," he insisted.
Islamabad still prevents investigators from the U.S. and the United Nations from directly interviewing Mr. Khan about his nuclear dealings, and the official said Mr. Khan remains "a hero" to Pakistanis.
The official said he saw little hope of derailing the U.S. nuclear deal with rival India.
The accord, strongly backed by the Bush administration and being considered by Congress, would open up major cooperation and trade between the United States and India on civilian nuclear projects, while allowing India to keep its nuclear military programs free from international monitoring. Pakistan and many U.S. critics fear the deal could allow India to bulk up its own nuclear arsenal and overwhelm Pakistan's smaller deterrent.
The official said the United States should make it clear that Pakistan would be eligible for a similar nuclear-cooperation deal in the future.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has completed security enhancements to protect against theft or terrorist attacks at 50 Russian navy nuclear sites two years ahead of schedule. This achievement signifies the completion of nuclear material protection, control and accounting upgrades at all Navy-affiliated sites in the Russian Federation that contain nuclear materials or warheads.
“Denying terrorists access to nuclear material is our top priority. These upgrades to Russian navy sites make it that much harder for terrorists to get their hands on dangerous nuclear material,” said NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks. “The fact that we have done this a full two years ahead of schedule shows the importance the administration places on securing nuclear weapons and material at the source and for nonproliferation work in general.”
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NNSA’s effort to upgrade Russian military sites was greatly accelerated. The work was conducted under NNSA’s International Materials Protection and Cooperation program in cooperation with the Moscow-based Kurchatov Institute and the Russian Ministry of Defense.
NNSA personnel, including technical experts from NNSA’s Sandia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, designed and oversaw the upgrades with the goal of protecting the nuclear sites against the risk of theft or attack by terrorists. Examples of security upgrades include the installation of physical protection systems, such as intrusion detection sensors, access controls and hardened defensive positions.
“We are also working closely with Russia to ensure that the upgrades we provide are sustained and maintained. Just last year, the Kola Technical Center was opened to train Russian guard forces and provide the technical infrastructure needed to make certain the upgrades are effective for the long term,” said Brooks.
NNSA is also cooperating with the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces to upgrade security at 25 nuclear sites, which will be completed by the end of 2007. Additionally, NNSA just recently completed contract negotiations and has begun upgrades at the Russian military storage sites assigned to it pursuant to the 2005 Joint Presidential Statement made by Presidents Bush and Putin at the Bratislava Summit.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the government of Belgium today held a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the first phase of installation of radiation detection equipment at Belgium’s Port of Antwerp – one of Europe’s largest seaports. Under NNSA’s Megaports Initiative, specialized radiation detection equipment will help to identify smuggled or illicit shipments of nuclear and radiological materials.
“This joint collaboration with Belgium at one of Europe’s largest seaports will not only enhance security in Belgium, but also help to secure the entire global shipping network. The Megaports program is crucial to preventing terrorists from using shipping channels to smuggle illicit nuclear and radiological material,” said NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks.
Since 2004, NNSA has been cooperating and working closely with Belgium’s Ministry of Finance to install the equipment and train operators. The Megaports design and installation, which covers 10 container terminals across 13,348 hectares (approximately 33,000 acres), will allow the monitors to screen a significant amount of container traffic that transits the port.
NNSA’s Megaports Initiative is aimed at preventing smuggled shipments of nuclear and radioactive materials through the global shipping network. It enhances capabilities at international ports to detect, deter and interdict illicit materials. NNSA works with international partners to install specialized radiation detection equipment and provide training to appropriate law enforcement officials.
The specialized radiation detection technology deployed under the program is based on technology originally developed by NNSA’s national laboratories as part of the U.S. government’s overall efforts to guard against the proliferation of weapons materials. The Megaports program is currently operational in six countries, and is at various stages of implementation and negotiations with approximately 30 other countries around the world.
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