1. West not fulfilling obligations undertaken with regards to disposing of chemical weapons – legislator
Russia & CIS Military Newswire
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The timeframe of constructing a chemical weapons disposal facility in Shchuchie, the Kurgan region, has been disrupted due to the fact that western partners have failed to fulfill their obligations of funding the work, Nikolai Bezborodov, a member of the State Duma Defense Committee, says.
"In 1999-2002 the Americans suspended financial assistance to the Shchuchie construction project in particular, and the entire Russian chemical weapons disposal program in general. As a result, the timeframe was disrupted and we had to shift the deadline to the right," Bezborodov said in an interview with the Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie newspaper, published on Thursday.
According to him, plans on completing the Shchuchie facility in 2006 were based on the expected assistance from the U.S. "We expected the U.S. to earmark 40% of the necessary funds, with the remaining 60% to be provided by Russia," Bezborodov said.
He noted that as the result Russia had to postpone the in-service date until July 2008.
Bezborodov pointed out that the U.S. had undertaken a commitment to finance the Shchuchie facility construction, as well as establishing the production facility infrastructure.
According to Bezborodov, there were no reasons for the U.S. to suspend its financial assistance.
"Although, U.S. Congress had just one justified claim - Russia was to have earmarked at least $25 million for the chemical weapons disposal program," Bezborodov said.
According to Bezborodov, there are problems with regards to other western partners. Germany, the U.S., Italy, the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Poland, Switzerland, and the EU are co-sponsors of the program. The overall assistance promised amounts to about $1.8 billion, but in fact only $264.8 million were provided.
"The UK promised over $120 million, but allocated only $8 million, Germany: $244.7 million and $80.6 million respectively, Italy: $464.2 million and $6.8 million, Canada: $31 million and $2.9 million, and the U.S.: $819.2 million and $139.3 million respectively," he said.
Bezborodov emphasized that western states' failure to comply with their commitments hindered fulfilling long-term chemical weapons disposal projects.
"Only three of seven chemical weapons disposal facilities are constructed with the foreign financial assistance. Such assistance does not exceed a third of the total coast at two of such facilities. For instance, in the village of Gorny the foreign financial assistance amounted to only 24%, while in Kambarka to 27%. In Shchuchie such assistance is to amount to 40%," he said.
2. Russia Prepares Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility in Kambarka
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At the chemical weapons destruction plant in Kambarka (Udmurtia), specialists have begun readiness checks of systems for launch, which is scheduled for the last ten-day period of January. Journalists were told about this today by the head of the department of conventional problems of the government of Udmurtia, Aleksandr Perunov. In December 2005, during a trial launch of the detoxification installation, over 1.7 tonnes of Lewisite was destroyed here.
"The state commission, which signed the commissioning documentation for the system, noted all shortcomings pointed out earlier had been taken into account and eliminated. Over 50 installations built in Kambarka are 100 percent ready. These include waste treatment facilities of the production building, dual-use installations, fire fighting station for six vehicles, boiler houses, working area for international inspectors and social sphere facilities," Perunov stressed. All the necessary specialists have been recruited. "At the moment people on the site are waiting for the arrival of a group of international inspectors, which will carry out checks on the adherence to the technology and international safety norms of the detoxification process," he said.
Kambarka is one of the five storage depot of chemical weapons located on the territory of Volga Federal District. Here, over 6,400 tonnes of Lewisite, which is a first category highly dangerous poisonous substance, are being stored. This accounts for 15.9 percent of the total amount of the stockpiles of poisonous substances stored in Russia. The entire stockpile of Lewisite in Kambarka should be destroyed within three and half years.
1. Norwegian participation in AMEC could be dissolved
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In a surprise development, the Arctic Military Environmental Co-operation (AMEC) group—long seen as the environmental conscience of US, Norwegian and Russian nuclear dismantlement efforts in Russia, providing safe temporary storage of spent naval nuclear fuel—may no longer include Norway, AMEC representatives from that country said.
The situation is apparently undecided as yet, but discussions within AMEC say Norway “will end the programme” upon the completion of dismantlement of a dilapidated Russian project number 291 November class nonategic sub, the K-60, ensuring its safe conveyance via a so-called “heavy-transport vessel” from the semi-operational Russian naval base of Gremikha on the eastern Kola Peninsula to the Polyarny Shipyard in the Murmansk inlet. The project is expected to take place over the summer.
Within AMEC, Norway is seeking funds for the transportation of the submarine while the UK is funding another task, the development of pontoons. The transportation of the K-60 is estimated at $3.5m. The UK and Norway both intend to share 50-50 on the subsequent submarine dismantlement, which is estimated at $5m. But Norway maintains the technical lead on the project and is, according to the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment Thor Engøy, technically ready to go in accordance with AMEC’s best practice policy.
The next task is to prepare a detailed transport plan including a risk and environmental impact assessment before the K-60 is hauled from Gremikha in July.
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds purse strings
But an apparent squabble between Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), which allocates the funding for the project, and Norway’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) which will receive the funding and which runs AMEC—has apparently surfaced, according to Norwegian AMEC representatives. The delay, said Engøy in an interview with Bellona Web, is threatening the timely execution of the project in the Arctic region.
“There is an urgency to start work because we have to hit the right weather conditions for navigation in the [Northwest Russian] region, which come mid summer,” he said.
The whys behind the protracted negotiations between Norway’s MOD and MoFA, however, are hard to pin down. Some observers have suggested that MoFA wants to hinder the funding—if not withhold it outright—as MoFA wants to dictate Norway’s nuclear policy in Russia, bringing a political charge to the delay in funding.
These observers have also suggested that competition between the MOD and MoFA raise the competitive bar: While AMEC can accomplish highly complicated dismantlement operations, MoFA has so far stuck with easier projects on submarines that are in much better shape. It is therefore a matter of honour for MoFA, which holds the purse strings in any case, to be at the forefront of Norwegian nuclear clean-up efforts in Northwest Russia.
But Ingjerd Kroken, AMEC Norway’s co-chairperson, characterised the funding talks between the MOD and MoFA saying: “We have a constructive dialogue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
She further described drawn out discussions as “normal.”
Responsible parties at MoFA could not be reached for comment despite several telephone messages left by Bellona Web.
As for the broader topic of whether Norway would remain in AMEC, she told Bellona Web that: “The future of AMEC was discussed my AMEC principals in Plymouth last year.”
“We are discussing the future of AMEC—no decision has yet been taken.”
She added however that such a decision would be “political” and taken at a ministerial level. Kroken also maintained that military to military dismantlement projects were running out and that the blossoming number of civilian government to government nuclear clean up projects have made AMEC something of an anachronism in this new landscape.
“We have been involved in AMEC for 10 years and this is a good milestone for us to evaluate what we have accomplished and what we could accomplish in the future,” she said.
In the view of the Bellona Foundation and other AMEC watchers, however, Kroken’s words give short-shrift to the number of Russia’s nuclear surface vessels that are also languishing in ports, still loaded with spent nuclear fuel (SNF) that are also in dire need of dismantlement.
The respective militaries of Russia and Norway have furthermore developed a culture of trust between one another that cannot be easily supplanted by civilian contract work from the West. Bellona and observers therefor feel that AMEC has far from exhausted military to military co-operation with Russia.
What AMEC has done
AMEC was, until the 2003 joining of the UK, a three country consortium created by the respective defence agencies of the United States, Russia and Norway in order to address military-related environmental problems, primarily submarine dismantlement, in the fragile Arctic ecosystem.
AMEC’s underlying philosophy is that it should be easier to discuss military environmental problems through a military co-operative effort than through civilian channels. The programme also emphasised the need to leave behind an infrastructure for Russia to use after US led Co-operative Threat Reduction (CTR) and Norwegian programmes have come to an end.
AMEC’s efforts include a number of specific activities geared toward both nuclear and non-nuclear environmental security concerns in Russia and to complement related projects that are underway in Russia pursuant to the objectives of CTR and Norwegian government policy.
The cask, AMEC Project 1.1, is Russia’s first “dual use”—transport and storage cask—while the pad, AMEC Project 1.1-1, reduces the SNF de-fueling from nuclear submarines from 3 months to 3 weeks.
Recent conversations with AMEC officials indicated that the programme was planning to develop safer pontoon systems for hauling decommissioned submarines to dismantlement points. If approved and implemented, this could go a long way toward helping Russia's poor safety record for transporting dismantled submarines, the most disturbing example of which was the sinking of the K-159 in August, 2003.
This was a Russian dismantlement programme, and almost no safety precautions were taken to keep the sub afloat, beyond manning it with a crew to clog holes during towing and fitting it with a set of rusty pontoons. Nine of the 10 sailors aboard the K-159 were killed when it sank.
In order to avert similar catastrophes, the Norwegian project for the K-60—which is absolutely un-seaworthy according to AMEC Norway’s Engøy— will employ a heavy lift vessel to convey the sub to its dismantling point.
Moving the K-60
The K-60, by all accounts, represents one of the most dilapidated submarines in the Northern Fleet. Rusted throughout, it cannot be transported on its own hull, even with the support of pontoons. Therefore, according to project director Engøy, it will be transported ina heavy transport vessel. The vessel has been secured by Norway for use from the Dutch firm Dockwise.
According to Engøy, the heavy transport vessel has the ability to submerge its specially fitted deck beneath the K-60 and then blow its ballast tanks and rise again to the surface with the K-60 secured in special above-water cradles for its fragile hull. The transport vessel will then continue from Gremikha to Polyarny near Murmansk were it will be de-fueled and dismantled.
All that remains is a final detailed environmental impact study so that the western contractors and Russia can put the plan of the vessel’s removal together. Time is therefore of the essence as the MOD petitions MoFA for funding the project.
But Engøy could not speculate as to when he thought the funding would come through.
“This is a political question—I know only that deciding on the funding is of the essence,” he said.
NDEP and MNEPR—the obsolesence of AMEC?
Kroken said that the Northern Dimensions Environmental Partnership (NDEP)—a fund for environmental renewal in Northwest Russia held by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and burgeoning with more than EUR 160m—as well as the 2003 signing of the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme in the Russian Federation (MNEPR) accord , have made bilateral nuclear remediation projects with Russia easier.
“The number of donor nations now involved and the transfer of responsibility of the nuclear legacy waste from the Russian Navy to Rosatom, may therefore make it harder for some of the AMEC nations to justify expenses, if the nuclear problems can be solved by these means,” said Kroken.
1. Global Cleanout: Reducing the Threat of HEU-Fueled Nuclear Terrorism
Alexander Glaser and Frank N. von Hippel
Arms Control Today
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The greatest opportunity for would-be nuclear terrorists or countries seeking a quick bomb or two are poorly secured sites that contain significant quantities of highly enriched uranium, (HEU)—uranium containing a high percentage of the chain-reacting isotope uranium 235. HEU is the material of choice for terrorists or for states that seek to proliferate clandestinely without testing their weapons.
Unlike plutonium, HEU can be worked without special protections. It can also produce a full-yield explosion in a simple gun-type design in which one subcritical mass of HEU is fired into another. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, built with about 60 kilograms of 80 percent enriched HEU, used this design. Today, there is little disagreement that a terrorist group could design a workable gun-type device. It is therefore critical to make current stocks of HEU as inaccessible as possible.
The most effective approach in the long term to the risk of diversion or theft of HEU is to eliminate it from as many locations as possible and blend down excess HEU to low-enriched uranium (LEU). In contrast to HEU, LEU contains less than 20 percent U-235. It is considered non-weapons-useable primarily because the amount of uranium needed to set off a sustained nuclear chain reaction—about one critical mass—is so large.
The United States and Russia have already slimmed down their stockpiles of weapons HEU somewhat. At the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States together had about 2,000 metric tons of HEU, enough for about 35,000 gun-type or more than 100,000 implosion-type bombs. Other countries had an estimated 60 tons. Most of this material was in weapons. Due to the downsizing of their nuclear stockpiles, Russia and the United States declared, respectively, 500 and 174 metric tons of HEU as excess. Most is being blended down to LEU for use as power-reactor fuel.
Outside of its use in weapons, HEU also is used as a fuel for naval and research reactors and for the production of certain medical isotopes. Recently, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman announced that an additional 200 tons of excess U.S. weapons uranium will be reserved for future use as naval reactor fuel (160 tons) and space-reactor and research-reactor fuel (20 tons) and blended down to LEU for use as research and power reactor fuel (20 tons).
The size of the reserve for the nuclear Navy indicates that the naval-reactor fuel cycle will be a major challenge to the goal of reducing global stockpiles of HEU. This issue has been explored elsewhere. We therefore focus here primarily on uses of HEU in land-based civilian reactors.
Although the current global HEU stockpile for land-based reactors (50-100 metric tons) is much less than the quantities of HEU in nuclear weapons and reserved for naval reactor fuel, it is still enough for at least 1,000 gun-type devices. The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) estimated in 2004 that there were 128 research reactors and associated facilities worldwide with at least 20 kilograms of HEU. Many of these facilities are in urban locations with only modest security, presenting potential targets to would-be nuclear terrorists. A large fraction are in Russia, which has yet to give adequate priority to cleaning out facilities containing HEU that is no longer needed. At several sites, there is enough HEU to make more than 10 gun-type weapons.
Decommission Excess Reactors
Whereas power reactors are fueled with uranium that is less than 5 percent enriched, HEU is still widely used to fuel civilian research reactors. During the 1950s and 1960s, as part of their competing Atoms for Peace programs, the United States and the Soviet Union built hundreds of research reactors domestically and for export to more than 40 other countries. In response to demands for longer-lived fuel and maximum reactor performance, exports restrictions were relaxed, which resulted in most of these reactors being fueled with weapons-grade HEU enriched to more than 90 percent.
Figure 2 shows the countries that have or have had HEU-fueled reactors. Fortunately, according to our research, 13 of these countries no longer have HEU because of international efforts to convert research reactors to LEU and to return their irradiated HEU-containing fuel to its country of origin.
Most of the world’s aging HEU-fueled research reactors are no longer needed. Two International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) research-reactor experts put it this way at the 2003 international Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR) conference: “Only reactors with special attributes (such as a high neutron flux, a cold [neutron] source, in-core loops to simulate power reactor conditions) or with commercial customers (such as radioisotope production or silicon doping) are adequately utilized.” Eliminating excess reactors would reduce the total number of research reactors worldwide from hundreds to tens. In some cases, research reactors could be replaced by accelerator-driven neutron sources. A few years ago, the United States decided to build such a neutron source at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The laboratory had first proposed building a powerful new research reactor but ran into opposition because it was to be fueled with HEU.
Just shutting down an HEU-fueled reactor, however, is not sufficient. To eliminate the danger of diversion or theft, the HEU fuel must be removed, i.e., the reactor must be “decommissioned.” In 2000 the IAEA’s International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group urged consideration of proper decommissioning of 258 shutdown research reactors worldwide. In a follow-up analysis, one reason cited for these reactors not being decommissioned was “the hope that the reactor will be returned to operation.”
To make a decommissioning program attractive in Russia and elsewhere, it might be necessary for concerned countries to invest in strengthening the surviving research-reactor centers. Such assistance should be conditioned, however, on the management being willing to allow research groups from decommissioned facilities to become “users groups” on a nondiscriminatory basis. Such arrangements are standard in the United States and western Europe but are still foreign to Russia, where a group does not have an opportunity to do experiments if it does not have its own reactor.
Reactor Conversion and Fuel Takebacks
So far, the United States has shied away from promoting the decommissioning of reactors. Instead, it has focused on converting facilities to less-risky fuels. Both the Soviet Union and the United States launched efforts in the late 1970s to convert HEU-fueled research reactors to lower-enriched fuel. By 1991 the Soviet Union had converted most of the foreign research reactors that it supplied from 80 percent to 36 percent enriched fuel. The collapse of the Soviet Union halted the program, however, and also created a new group of independent countries with HEU-fueled reactors. The Energy Department estimates that Soviet-designed research reactors inside and outside Russia today use a total of about 350 kilograms of HEU fuel per year. In 1993 the United States began to work in Russia to revive the Russian program with the objective of converting all Soviet-designed research reactors to LEU. The first such conversion, in the Czech Republic, was completed in October 2005.
The United States began its own efforts to convert HEU-fueled reactors to LEU in 1978. The original purpose of the U.S. RERTR program was to convert to LEU foreign reactors to which the United States was supplying HEU fuel. In 1986 the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission required that the nongovernmental research reactors that it licenses in the United States (mostly located at universities) also convert to LEU if such fuel is available and if the Energy Department makes available the funding for the conversion. By the end of 2005, the program had converted or partially converted 31 foreign and 11 domestic reactors. These research reactors had previously required together annually about 250 kilograms of fresh HEU.
The bulk of the task, however, remains to be done. The Energy Department’s list still contains 120 operating HEU-fueled reactors, and this list is incomplete. The Energy Department also estimates that the world’s remaining HEU-fueled research reactors consume about 1,000 kilograms of HEU per year. About 500 kilograms of this HEU is for Western-designed reactors, mostly supplied by the United States, and the remainder provided by Russia and China. The RERTR program estimates that 41 of these reactors can be converted using existing LEU fuels. However, of the Western-designed reactors, 10 that consume the bulk of the HEU cannot be converted until advanced LEU fuels are developed.
These 10 research reactors have compact, high-powered cores designed to maximize neutron intensity for testing reactor fuels and materials to high irradiation levels and for neutron-scattering measurements used to probe the arrangements of atoms in complex materials.
Because a high concentration of U-235 is needed for compact cores, HEU is an ideal fuel. To achieve a similar density of U-235 in an LEU-based fuel has been the primary challenge for the conversion program.
The approach of the RERTR program has been to develop 20 percent-enriched LEU fuels that make up for the lower level of enrichment by increasing the relative concentration of uranium vis-à-vis other elements in the nuclear fuel. In 20 percent-enriched LEU, unlike HEU, each gram of U-235 is diluted with 4 grams of uranium 238. So, the uranium density in the LEU fuel must be about five times higher than in the HEU fuel. Fortunately, the densities of the HEU fuels that have to be replaced are mostly quite low, between 3 percent and 9 percent of the density of solid uranium. The most advanced LEU fuel commercialized thus far has a uranium density of 25 percent of solid uranium. A higher uranium density fuel, which was to be commercialized this year, has not fared well. Because of its unexpected poor irradiation performance, the availability of fuels with the densities required to convert the research reactors into those with compact, high-powered cores has slipped to approximately the year 2010. The most promising fuel currently under development—solid uranium alloyed with molybdenum—has a uranium density of 84 percent of that of solid uranium and could be used to convert all remaining high-powered research reactors.
The residual uranium in spent HEU fuel is also still potentially usable for weapons. It typically contains about half of its original U-235. HEU that was originally weapons grade is of special concern because it is still near weapons grade. For some years after discharge from the reactor, the spent fuel is considered “self-protecting” by the IAEA because the radioactive fission products it contains emit highly dangerous gamma rays as they decay.
As this radiation field dies down with time, however, the spent fuel becomes a greater proliferation concern. Typically, research-reactor fuel elements are no longer self-protecting 25 years after discharge.
In 1996, therefore, the United States invited foreign countries that had received U.S. HEU fuel to ship back two common types of spent HEU fuel and began to work in 2002 with Russia similarly to retrieve Soviet/Russian-origin HEU fuel from outside Russia. As of the end of 2005, however, only about a ton of the U.S.-origin fuel had been returned to the United States. Progress in returning Russian HEU is at an even earlier stage. About 122 kilograms of HEU in un-irradiated fuel had been shipped back to Russia, but as of November 2005, fuel originally containing approximately 2,000 kilograms of HEU that had been shipped from Russia to 17 countries remained abroad. The United States in 1999 also established a Materials Consolidation and Conversion (MCC) program to acquire excess Russian civilian HEU and blend it down to 20 percent-enriched LEU. This low-profile program has made steady progress. As of the end of 2005, about 7 tons of an estimated 17 tons of excess Russian civilian HEU had been blended down, but as yet, not a single site has been completely cleaned out.
Overall, therefore, although programs to reduce the number of locations where HEU can be found are in place, they have achieved only a small fraction of their objectives, despite the additional impetus given by the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Post-September 11 Developments
In 2004 the Energy Department responded to congressional concern about how slowly the HEU cleanout programs were moving by combining its reactor-conversion and spent HEU fuel takeback efforts into a Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) program. Then-Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham committed that the GTRI would help Russia repatriate all Russian-origin fresh HEU fuel by the end of 2005—which has since slipped to 2006—all Russian-origin spent HEU fuel by 2010, and all U.S.-origin HEU spent fuel by 2014. Abraham also pledged to convert all U.S. civilian research reactors to LEU by 2013—now 2014—and to convert all other research reactors “throughout the world.” All told, Abraham promised that the United States would spend about $450 million on this effort.  That comes to about $45 million per year over 10 years, which is about the current level of effort. These are laudable goals. Unfortunately, Russia, which accounts for about one-third of the world’s HEU-fueled reactors and more than half of the world’s civilian HEU, has yet to make a commitment to convert or decommission any of its own HEU-fueled research reactors. President George W. Bush took pressure off of Russia to do so at a February 2005 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders agreed to limit to “third countries” U.S.-Russian cooperative efforts to deal with the danger from HEU-fueled reactors. Russian government officials have reportedly used this agreement as a reason for suspending further discussions with the United States on the conversion of Russia’s own HEU-fueled reactors. Fortunately, as discussed below, Russia’s nuclear institutes still appear open to cooperation in this area.
Toward a Comprehensive Program
Current efforts also largely exclude reactor types that make up about half of the world’s HEU-fueled reactors: critical assemblies and pulsed reactors. Worldwide, there are at least 38 HEU-fueled critical assemblies and 19 HEU-fueled pulsed reactors. Most are among the 59 HEU-fueled research reactors listed in the 2004 RERTR Program Execution Plan as “research reactors using HEU fuels that are not part of the RERTR Program.” These reactors do not consume fuel, but their cores often contain huge quantities of HEU.
Critical assemblies are used to determine the physics properties of proposed reactor-core designs. Most pulsed reactors were designed to determine the effects of neutron bursts from nearby nuclear explosions on nuclear warheads and other objects. The fuel of both types of reactors is only slightly radioactive—orders of magnitude less than required for self-protection.
Once again, most of these reactors could be decommissioned. Most critical assemblies are obsolete because their mission can be accomplished today by inexpensive and highly accurate computer simulations. Indeed, Russia has more than 60 percent of the world’s HEU-fueled critical assemblies because it has decommissioned so few. An effective program needs to be mounted to help it do so. In 2002 the Moscow-based Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy, which has 12 HEU-fueled critical assemblies, requested U.S. assistance to decommission most of them. The Energy Department’s MCC program has recently begun discussions with Kurchatov about this proposal.
Likewise, most pulsed reactors are no longer needed because the effects of their neutron bursts can be simulated with computers. In 2004 Abraham cited this as a reason to shut down one of the Sandia National Laboratory’s two HEU-fueled pulsed reactors: “[A]fter operations of three years or perhaps less, the Sandia Pulsed Reactor will no longer be needed, since computer simulations will be able to assume its mission.… When its mission is complete, this reactor’s fuel will be removed from Sandia National Laboratories, New Mexico, allowing us to reduce security costs at Sandia and further consolidate our nuclear materials.”
For those facilities that will be kept, steps should be taken to convert them to LEU or at least to reduce significantly the enrichment of their fuel. An indication that this is possible is provided by two Russian facilities with huge HEU inventories:
One critical facility at the Institute of Physics and Power Engineering in Obninsk contains 8.7 tons of HEU, as well as 0.8 tons of plutonium, mostly in the form of tens of thousands of disks less than 2 inches in diameter. Some of the HEU is at a 36 percent-enrichment level, while some is weapons grade (90 percent). It appears that the safer 36 percent-enriched uranium should be sufficient for mocking up large breeder reactor cores, which is the main mission of the facility.
A pulsed reactor at the Institute of Experimental Physics in Sarov ( Russia’s counterpart to the Los Alamos National Laboratory) contains 833 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium, enough for 15 Hiroshima bombs. The GTRI program recently committed to fund a proposal from the institute to do a feasibility study on converting this reactor to LEU. The MCC program could potentially help fund the conversion.
Other HEU-Fueled Reactors
There are also other types of civilian HEU-fueled reactors that should be addressed. For example, Russia has a fleet of seven civilian nuclear-powered icebreakers whose 11 reactors currently annually require HEU fuel containing about 225 kilograms of U-235.
The Moscow-based Bochvar Institute, which develops Russia’s nuclear fuels, began in the late 1990s to develop LEU fuel suitable for a floating nuclear power plant whose reactor design is derivative from one used to power Russia’s nuclear icebreakers. The privately funded Nuclear Threat Initiative is negotiating with the Bochvar Institute to build on this work and develop LEU fuel that could be used to convert the nuclear icebreakers.
Russia also has dedicated HEU-fueled isotope-production reactors. Two high-powered isotope-production reactors at the Mayak Chemical Combine in the Urals are reportedly fueled with weapons-grade uranium. During the Cold War, they consumed an estimated 800 kilograms of HEU per year, mostly for the production of tritium for weapons.
Today, given Russia’s smaller number of operational nuclear warheads, the primary use of these reactors is probably to produce radionuclides for medical and other civilian purposes. They might therefore be appropriate targets for a cooperative conversion effort.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The recently launched GTRI hopes to achieve complete elimination of HEU-fuel shipments to research reactors outside Russia by 2014. Few of the critical assemblies and pulsed reactors that collectively contain huge quantities of barely irradiated HEU have been targeted yet, however, and Russia has not yet agreed to convert or decommission its own HEU-fueled reactors.
What is needed is a broader international effort to decommission HEU-fueled research reactors that are no longer needed, accelerate the conversion of operating research reactors for which replacement LEU fuel is available, and assure that fuels are developed as soon as possible to convert the remaining HEU-fueled research reactors that are still needed.
The key countries whose cooperation is required are those that have built and exported or that operate large, high-powered, HEU-fueled research reactors, large critical assemblies, or pulsed reactors. China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States account for more than 90 percent of the global civilian HEU inventories and demand. Their joint engagement in an accelerated conversion and cleanout effort would likely bring along the other countries that receive or have received fuel from the major HEU suppliers.
The reluctance of Russia’s government to give this effort high priority domestically at the same time that the leading Russian nuclear institutes have been asking for U.S. funding for projects to convert or decommission their HEU-fueled reactors illustrates the importance of working directly with the institutes as well as on a government-to-government level. This bottom-up approach, in which U.S. programs engage the Russian institutes directly and the institutes help get their government’s approval, has been key to virtually all successful U.S.-Russian cooperative nuclear security initiatives.
More serious engagement by high-level U.S. officials is also required. The recent acceptance by the White House of a limitation to U.S.-Russian cooperative efforts on HEU cleanout to “third countries” illustrates the types of misstep that can occur when high-level officials are not adequately informed.
Finally, consideration needs to be given to ways to make it more attractive to decommission or shut down little-used HEU-fueled reactors. In particular, consideration should be given to facilitating the concentration of research-reactor or accelerator neutron services in regional centers of excellence open to all appropriate scientists.
If the international community takes its responsibility to prevent nuclear terrorism and to support nonproliferation efforts seriously, a global cleanout of civilian HEU could be achieved within the next five to eight years.
Ending LEU Use in Medical-Isotope Production Alexander Glaser and Frank N. von Hippel
Some medical-isotope production reactors use highly enriched uranium (HEU) as a “target” for neutron bombardment to produce the fission product molybdenum-99. The decay product of this isotope, Technicium-99, is used annually in tens of millions of medical procedures. There is currently no domestic producer of this material and the Department of Energy estimates that a total of 85 kilograms of weapon-grade HEU are used for this purpose annually in reactors in Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and South Africa.
Argonne National Laboratory has developed a means of substituting low-enriched uranium (LEU) for the more dangerous HEU in this process. Two smaller producers have converted to LEU and another is in the process of doing so. But the largest producers do not want to incur the cost of conversion. Two of them, Nordion of Canada and Mallinckrodt, which produces in Europe, backed a successful lobbying effort to include a provision in this year’s Energy Policy Act. This provision suspends the application of a 1992 law that conditions exports of U.S. HEU to foreign users on their willingness to convert to LEU as soon as LEU fuel or targets become available.
1. See A. Glaser, “About the Enrichment Limit for Research Reactor Conversion: Why 20%?” International Meeting on Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (hereinafter referred to as RERTR conference), Boston, November 2005.
2. See David Albright et al., Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium 1996 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
3. See Laura Holgate, “Accelerating the Blend-Down of Russian Highly Enriched Uranium,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, June 2005.
4. See Wade Boese, “ U.S. Trims Nuclear Material Stockpile,” Arms Control Today, December 2005, p. 29.
5. Chunyan Ma and Frank von Hippel, “Ending the Production of Highly Enriched Uranium for Naval Reactors,” Nonproliferation Review, Spring 2001, p. 86.
6. David Albright and Kimberly Kramer, “Civil HEU Watch: Tracking Inventories of Civil Highly Enriched Uranium,” Institute for Science and International Security, August 2005. The estimate of 165-184 tons includes 123 metric tons of excess U.S. weapons HEU and 10 tons of BN-350 spent fuel in Kazakhstan not included in our estimate. Also, we believe that their range of 15-30 tons for civilian HEU in Russia may be low.
7. U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Nuclear Nonproliferation: DOE Needs to Take Action to Further Reduce the Use of Weapons-Usable Uranium in Civilian Research Reactors,” GAO-04-807, July 2004, p. 28.
8. Pablo Adelfang and Iain Ritchie, “Overview of the Status of Research Reactors Worldwide,” RERTR conference, Chicago, October 2003.
9. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “Safety of Research Reactors,” Topical Issues Paper No. 4, p. 10.
10. Office of Nonproliferation, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), “RERTR Program Project Execution Plan,” February 16, 2004.
11. NNSA, “NNSA Completes Czech Research Reactor Conversion,” November 4, 2005.
12. Bieniawski, Statement, RERTR conference, Boston, November 2005.
13. NNSA, “RERTR Program Project Execution Plan.”
14. Pure uranium metal is not suitable as a reactor fuel because it swells seriously under irradiation at only a fraction of the desired fuel life.
15. The enrichment of a high-burn-up fuel that was originally 93 percent would still be above 75 percent. The critical mass of the 75 percent HEU would be only about 30 percent higher than that of the original material.
16. The IAEA considers a spent fuel element self-protecting if the dose rate one meter away exceeds one Sievert (100 rems) per hour. Five Sieverts over a period of less than two weeks is a median lethal dose for an adult. See IAEA, “The Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities,” INFCIRC/225/Rev. 4, June 1999.
17. Michael Dunsmuir, interview with author, September 2005. About 13.7 tons (80 percent) of the 17.5 tons of HEU reported as still abroad in 1993 was in the European Union (EU), within which much of the material was traded between facilities and some reprocessed. U.S. officials believe that 2 tons of 35 percent-enriched HEU exported to the EU was blended down there to LEU. See Albright, Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium 1996, pp. 245-253.
18. Andrew Bieniawski, Presentation, RERTR conference, Boston, November 2005.
19. Tom Wander, interview with author, November 2005.
20. IAEA, “Remarks Prepared for Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham,” Vienna, May 2004.
21. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “U.S.-Russia Joint Fact Sheet: Bratislava Initiatives,” February 2005.
22. Table B8 of the RERTR Program Project Execution Plan includes 21 reactors identified as critical assemblies and 10 identified as “fast burst,” “prompt burst,” or pulsed.
23. In the case of critical assemblies, this is because they release fission heat at an extremely low rate, typically only about 100 watts instead of millions. Pulsed reactor fuel accumulates only trace quantities of fission products for a different reason: they operate at high powers but mostly in infrequent pulses for less than one-thousandth of a second.
24. “Remarks Prepared for Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham for the Security Police Officer Training Competition,” May 7, 2004.
25. The core of Russian’s BN-600, which is HEU fueled, has a peak enrichment of 26 percent. See O. M. Saraev, “Operating Experience With the Beloyarsk Fast Reactor BN600 NPP,” Technical Committee Meeting on Unusual Occurrences During LMFR Operation, IAEA, Vienna, November 1998, p. 103. Thirty-six percent-enriched fuel therefore should be more than sufficient. See also Frank von Hippel, “Future Needs for HEU-Fueled Critical Assemblies,” RERTR conference, Boston, November 2005.
26. The MCC program pays the Elektrostal Fuel Fabrication Facility and the Dimitrovgrad Scientific Research Institute of Atomic Reactors to acquire and blend civilian HEU down to 20 percent LEU and dispose of the LEU. Part of the payment is passed on to the organization that is releasing the excess HEU. This incentive payment could be used to defray much of the cost of the core conversion, and some of the blended-down material could be used to fuel the converted core.
27. Oleg Bukharin, interview with author, September 2005.
28. “Lyudmila” and “Ruslan” are reportedly light-water reactors, each with a 1000 thermal-megawatt capacity. Oleg Bukharin, “Analysis of the Size and Quality of Uranium Inventories in Russia,” Science & Global Security, Vol. 6 (1996), p. 59.
Congress in December granted the president permanent authority to annually waive restrictions on the use of funds for threat reduction activities in the former Soviet Union. However, a Senate provision that would have eliminated those restrictions outright was removed in talks between House and Senate negotiators.
A temporary waiver authority, granted in 2002, expired at the end of September 2005.
The legislation that created the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program bars the disbursement of funds unless the president annually certifies that the recipient state is committed to meeting several criteria, including compliance with all arms control agreements.
The certification requirement became a major hurdle to threat reduction activities in Russia and other former Soviet states in 2002, when President George W. Bush refused to certify Russia’s commitment to complying with treaties banning chemical and biological weapons. That refusal, the first since the program began in 1991, triggered a freeze of CTR and some other threat reduction funds, stalling projects aimed at securing and dismantling surplus weapons and their fabrication facilities.
Congress responded by including authority to waive the certification in an annual bill authorizing spending for the Pentagon and the Department of Energy. With this waiver authority expiring at the end of fiscal year 2005, lawmakers debated whether to extend the temporary waiver authority for another two years, to make the authority permanent, or to remove the restrictions entirely.
In a June 3 letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and long-time CTR sponsor Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice endorsed the removal of the CTR restrictions but also stated that the administration was “willing to consider other alternatives,” such as permanent waiver authority. A Lugar amendment to the fiscal year 2006 defense authorization bill that would have eliminated the CTR restrictions was adopted by the Senate July 21 by a vote of 78 to 19. That language was not adopted by the House, and in negotiations between the two chambers on the final authorization bill, it was removed.
Under the 2002 legislation, the president was required to explain why any certification could not be granted and justify any waiver on national security grounds. In making the waiver authority permanent, Congress did not alter these requirements.
Last month, many students across America received report cards assessing their performance. On Dec. 5, the president also got his. It was not refrigerator material.
The members of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission gave the U.S. government failing grades on efforts to protect America from terrorists seeking nuclear weapons and materials. Chairman Thomas Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton cited “insufficient progress” in the race against time to prevent the world’s most dangerous people from getting the world’s most dangerous weapons.
In the words of Commissioner Timothy Roemer, “If my children were to receive this report card, they would have to repeat a grade.
” We do not lack the programs needed to prevent nuclear terrorism. The problem is that the programs in place are not being implemented quickly or aggressively enough. As Kean, Hamilton and their colleagues note, “the size of the problem still dwarfs the policy response.” We are failing in three critical areas.
• Too little has been done to secure and eliminate nuclear materials in Russia and the former Soviet Union. Though progress has been made in recent months — getting U.S. officials greater access to Russian nuclear facilities and resolving a liability dispute that was blocking a program to eliminate enough plutonium for roughly 6,000 atomic bombs — we are still behind the curve.
Kean and Hamilton reported that less than half of Russia’s nuclear material has received security upgrades. This means that more than 300 tons of loose nuclear material remains unguarded in Russia and the former Soviet states. That is enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium for tens of thousands of crude nuclear bombs.
In the past year, moreover, security improvements were completed more than twice as slowly as expected. Locking down nuclear material in the former Soviet Union is an essential front in the war on terror. We must progress at a faster rate.
• Some 40 states around the world possess weapon-usable nuclear material. The most vulnerable sites are research reactors fueled by HEU. Roughly 100 of these reactors contain enough HEU for a bomb.
Though the Department of Energy founded the Global Threat Reduction Initiative in May 2004 to secure these facilities, clean out the exorbitantly dangerous HEU fuel and convert the reactors to safer low-enriched uranium, current plans don’t call for the program to be completed for another decade. The 9/11 commissioners agree that this timetable is far too long.
• There is too little public discussion of this issue. In February 2004, President George W. Bush publicly identified nuclear terrorism as the gravest threat to American national security. Since then, the president has been largely silent. Addressing the Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference in Washington Nov. 7, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman commented, “There can be no excuse on our part not to think of nuclear issues in terms of a very real terrorist threat.” Despite these statements, there has been no national debate about the importance of securing nuclear materials.
In a public statement Nov. 14 with the release of the commission’s third interim progress report, Chairman Kean put it succinctly: “Why isn’t the president talking about securing nuclear materials? Why isn’t the Congress focused? Why aren’t there more hearings and debate? What about the media? Why aren’t the airwaves filled with more commentary if everyone agrees this is the most serious threat?
” Kean has it right. We are currently coming up short, but we are not predestined to fail. In their progress report, the 9/11 commissioners highlight a series of steps that can be taken to significantly reduce, if not eradicate, the threat of nuclear terrorism.
The United States and Russia must strengthen and extend the agreement to secure Moscow’s loose nukes and materials. The existing agreement is set to expire in mid-2006. If it is not renewed, much of this crucial work will be suspended.
Just as importantly, the president should accelerate the timetable for securing all weapon-usable nuclear material no matter where it is in the world. He must request enough funding from Congress to get the job done. In turn, Congress should fully fund any such request. Experts at the Carnegie Endowment believe that the Global Threat Reduction Initiative could be completed by 2010 rather than 2015 with adequate personnel and resources.
Above all, the 9/11 commissioners argue, President Bush should publicly make preventing nuclear terrorism his top national security priority. The necessary programs are in place. The challenge now is one of focus and implementation. That is a challenge of leadership. The president must lend a sense of urgency to these ongoing efforts.
3. Lugar and Obama press administration to secure loose weapons
Office of Senator Obama
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U.S. Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Barack Obama (D-IL) Monday asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to take steps to better intercept stolen weapons of mass destruction and to secure conventional weapons like those used in Iraqi roadside bombs. "A thorough, multi-faceted non-proliferation strategy is essential to fully defend the American people," Senators Lugar and Obama wrote in a joint letter to Secretary Rice.
"We urge you to keep these critical initiatives foremost in importance and funding allocation." Late last year, Senators Lugar and Obama introduced legislation to secure conventional weapons and detect and interdict stolen weapons of mass destruction. The Lugar-Obama Program is based upon the Nunn-Lugar concept which has proven successful in eliminating weapons of mass destruction. "Our bill would . . . seek to get rid of artillery shells like those used in the improvised roadside bombs that have proved so deadly to U.S. forces in Iraq," the letter states.
"In many circumstances, these are the weapons of choice of today's terrorists." Unsecured caches of conventional (non-WMD) weapons are emerging as a major threat to American security. Improvised roadside bombs fashioned from old artillery shells have become the leading cause of death for American troops in Iraq. In addition, there are up to 750,000 shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles around the world. Since the 1970s, these weapons have hit more than 40 civilian aircraft, killing more than 600. The U.S. government's efforts to secure vulnerable weapons stockpiles are underfunded and unfocused. "The other part of the Lugar-Obama legislation would strengthen the ability of America's friends and allies to detect and intercept illegal shipments of weapons and materials of mass destruction," the letter states. The U.S. does not have an effective means to assist allies in improving their ability to detect and seize stolen weapons of mass destruction.
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed 650 cases of illegal trafficking of nuclear materials worldwide between 1993 and 2004. As little as four kilograms of plutonium - about the size of a soda can -can potentially be enough for a nuclear bomb. Since 1991, the Nunn-Lugar program has deactivated 6,760 Soviet nuclear warheads and helped employ 58,000 former nuclear scientists. In their letter to Secretary Rice, Senators Obama and Lugar said that the Nunn-Lugar program is a successful model that should be expanded to better secure conventional weapons caches that have fueled insurgencies across the globe and to better intercept and seize smuggled weapons of mass destruction. "The Nunn-Lugar program has provided a solid foundation, valuable experience and measurable results," the letter states. "We intend the Lugar-Obama legislation to take the next critical step forward to reshape, refocus and reinvigorate our country's non- proliferation mission." The letter presses Secretary Rice to expand and reorganize these important programs as part of her budget request for the upcoming year. Secretary Rice is currently preparing the State Department's budget request, which reflects the administration's priorities and will provide critical guidance to Congress as it establishes a spending plan for 2007.
1. U.S. Signs Agreements With Three Countries on Radioactive Material Smuggling Defenses
Global Security Newswire
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The United States has signed agreements with Honduras and the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan to install radiation detection and communications equipment at border crossings, airports and seaports to help guard against smuggling of nuclear or radiological materials, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration announced last month (see GSN, Dec. 19, 2005).
“It is through agreements with willing partners … that we will be able to keep nuclear weapons beyond the reach of terrorists,” NNSA Principal Deputy Administrator Jerry Paul said in a press release (National Nuclear Security Administration release, Dec. 21; NNSA release, Dec. 15).
1. Iran's removal of IAEA seals legitimate - Lavrov
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The removal the UN's nuclear watchdog's seals at Iranian nuclear facilities is not a violation of international law, the Russian foreign minister said Thursday.
"The seals were removed in the presence of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who must accept an invitation from a country to be present at such operations," Sergei Lavrov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station.
Iran announced Tuesday that it was resuming nuclear research after a two-year hiatus and had removed the seals at its nuclear facilities. The international community reacted with caution to the move with several countries expressing alarm.
Russia, which has previously consistently defended the Islamic Republic's right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and is helping to build an $800-million power plant in the country, said it was disappointed with the step.
Lavrov said Russia had never ruled out referring the Iranian "nuclear file" to the UN Security Council, although Moscow believed "it was necessary to use every opportunity under the IAEA format."
Iran's resumption of nuclear research will be discussed next week during a London meeting between a trio of European Union nations - France, the United Kingdom and Germany - Russia, the United States and China, the minister said.
The U.S. has long suspected Iran of pursuing a secret weapons program and has insisted that the country's "nuclear file" be referred to the UN Security Council, which has the right to impose sanctions if it finds Iran to be in breach of its international commitments.
Echoing international concerns, the minister said the Iranian problem was very acute.
"We must not forget that Iran has a fairly developed missile program, [with] medium- and long-range missiles," he said, adding that Iran's consistent criticism of Israel had only exacerbated the problem. At the end of last year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped from the face of the map," and then suggested it be moved to either Europe or North America. He also said the Holocaust was a myth.
"It provides those who believe that it is possible to speak with Iran only through the UN Security Council with additional political arguments," the Russian diplomat said.
Lavrov said Russia would attempt with the other countries to persuade Tehran to resume the moratorium on its nuclear programs.
"This will be the key issue of the discussion during a meeting under the IAEA Board of Governors," Lavrov said.
The minister said that, while acknowledging Iran's right to develop peaceful energy, the overwhelming majority of members of the global community, including Russia, believed that Iran must fulfill certain obligations related to this right before realizing it. In particular, he said that these obligations included a detailed report from Iran to the IAEA on what it was doing.
Lavrov said that it was important that Iran maintained a moratorium until these issues had been clarified.
Iran has so far refused to re-impose the moratorium and at least one senior official has dismissed the West's concerns as the results of a "colonial taboo" in relation to poorer countries seeking to use nuclear energy.
2. Russia's Rosatom Chief Pins Hopes on Political Settlement of Iran Issue
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The Rosatom (Russian Atomic Energy Agency) chief, Sergey Kiriyenko, believes that the Iran nuclear problem can be settled by political means and describes Moscow's proposal that a uranium-enrichment joint venture should be built in Russia as Moscow's contribution towards that end.
"We still believe that political methods of settling the situation have not been exhausted," he told journalists, having reminded them about the statement on Iran issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry recently.
"We believe that Moscow's proposal on setting up a uranium-enrichment joint venture on Russian territory is Russia's serious contribution towards efforts to elaborate a possible procedure for a political settlement of the situation," Kiriyenko pointed out.
According to Kiriyenko, relevant proposals have been submitted to Iran.
"This is a good opportunity to solve many problems. This is up to Iran now," the Rosatom chief said.
"As regards the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, it is proceeding according to plan. We were planning that the schedule for the commissioning of the station will be adjusted and its final date set in February," Kiriyenko said.
Replying to the question on whether the construction of the Bushehr power plant will be finalized if Iran does not accept the proposal on setting up the joint venture, Kiriyenko said: "These are two totally separate issues".
He also pointed out that contacts between Russia and Iran were regular enough and there was no need to hold an extraordinary meeting of the intergovernmental commission.
"I am planning to go to Iran since I have been vested with the powers of head of the Russian part of the intergovernmental commission," Kiriyenko said. However, the date for the trip has not yet been set, he added.
"I will go there anyway, depending on the state of readiness, however. The main thing is to have proposals ready rather than go there empty-handed," Kiriyenko said.
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Why has the United States been failing to persuade Russia to take a tough line on Iran's nuclear program?
As the administration of President George W Bush insists on taking the issue to the United Nations Security Council should Tehran fail to resume negotiations on limiting its nuclear ability, Russia continues to engage openly with Iran. Both US Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice and the acting assistant secretary of state for arms control, Stephen Rademaker, have been rebuffed by Moscow.
Even the call by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad for Israel to be "wiped off the map" does not seem to have made Russia move closer to the US position. In the interest of greater realism about US-Russia relations, it is important to clarify Moscow's views of its stake in the issue.
Russia considers cooperation with Iran, as well as Syria and some other "dangerous regimes", in its national interests. Although Western pressures are felt by Russia, especially as it strives to gain greater recognition from the West, the suggestion that the Kremlin could withdraw its support of the Iranian regime because of Ahmadinejad's anti-Israeli statement is premature.
Russia's financial gains from cooperation with both Iran and Syria stand to be very considerable, and this may be just a beginning of future cooperation. Politically, Russia's position of working through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)and developing an international mechanism for verifying Iran's nuclear program remains credible, particularly if the alternative is to take the matter to the UN and then to rely on the use of force out of dissatisfaction with the IAEA's decision. The memories of the Iraq issue continue to be fresh across the world.
In addition, there is an important angle of economic competition over Iranian resources and access to Iranian markets. Russia continues to believe that Western concerns about nuclear proliferation merely reflect commercial interests to drive Russia out of competitive markets. In September 2003, for instance, in his interview with Western journalists, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated: "According to our information, many Western European and American companies cooperate with Iran either directly or through intermediary organizations in the nuclear sphere."
To substantiate the Kremlin's claims about the commercial nature of Washington's pressures, some Russian analysts argued that, even in the absence of official contracts, US-Iranian trade turnover was about US$1 billion, which was higher than that of Russia, despite the Russia-Iran strategic partnership agreement. The analysts also pointed out that immediately before the Islamic revolution in Iran, Washington and Tehran had signed a contract worth $24 billion, which provided for US assistance in constructing eight nuclear power plants in Iran within 10 years.
For Russia, it is a balancing act between gaining recognition by the West and developing commercial ties with regimes that Western nations consider "dangerous". At this point, it does not seem that Moscow has exhausted its political resources and is ready to surrender to Western demands. As long as Russian-Western cooperation in a number of other important issues of non-proliferation, as well as intelligence sharing and energy supplies, continues to progress, the balance may still be preserved.
Statements about "wiping out" Israel are, of course, entirely unacceptable, whatever Ahmadinejad's hardline politics in Iran, Iraq or the wider Middle East may be. Nor is it acceptable that Syria does not comply in the inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. However, one can well imagine that Russia's new stance will be to condemn such politics while continuing to develop economic ties.
Focusing on Russia as a key obstacle to strengthening the non-proliferation regime, as some Western observers and politicians tend to do, is misleading. A more promising way to address the problem of proliferation is to look closely at all the leading nuclear powers and their credibility in the world.
It is quite clear that an important reason so many "dangerous" regimes feel compelled to develop their own nuclear programs has to do with the absence of adequate security assurances, particularly from the US.
One can hardly speak of such assurances when the US Defense Department implies that the United States can use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. Recently more than 470 physicists, including seven Nobel laureates, signed a petition to contest the proposal. Developing a comprehensive plan, which would include steps in the direction of disarmament by all involved parties, is a far more productive and responsible way to address the problem than merely to put Russia, Iran or North Korea on the spot.
4. Russian Duma Official: IAEA Should Control Iran's Every Step in Nuclear Sector
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Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the State Duma International Affairs' Committee, finds it imperative that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) closely monitor all of Iran's steps in the nuclear sphere.
"It is crucial that all of Tehran's actions in the nuclear sphere be strictly controlled by the IAEA and authorized by its inspectors," he said in a Tuesday interview with Interfax.
"So long as the IAEA does not have grounds to accuse Iran of breaching the treaty on the Nonproliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the international community can only monitor Tehran's moves and must urge it to demonstrate restraint and refrain from steps that may provoke the fears of the international community," he said.
The subject was discussed on Monday in Tehran. Russia also reaffirmed its offer to enrich uranium on Russian territory at the meetings, he said.
The IAEA should thoroughly check an Israeli statement claiming that Iran could be in possession of a sufficient amount of components to make a nuclear bomb by the end of February. "Israel's statement must be taken very seriously, but the international community must respond only to conclusions drawn by the IAEA, not the statements of individual nations," he said.
Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio on Tuesday, Kosachyov said: "I don't understand many of the actions of the Iranian leadership, President Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad."
"I am getting the impression that the Iranian president is deliberately provoking the international community trying to plunge his country into international isolation, because any tough regime feels comfortable having an outside enemy as it always consolidates the nation around the regime and makes it more controllable," he said.
"The patience of the international community cannot be stretched for long," Kosachyov said. "First there will be the reaction of the IAEA, then the U.N. Security Council and I suspect that if provocations continue, Russia's stance will not be different from the stance of other permanent member-countries of the Security Council," he said.
5. RUSSIAN PUNDITS, OFFICIALS COMMENT ON IRAN'S NUCLEAR POLICY
BBC Monitoring International Reports
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Excerpt from report by Russian Ekho Moskvy radio on 9 January. Subheadings have been inserted editorially
[Presenter] There is increasingly more talk about a military solution to the conflict [over Iran's nuclear programme], and this is also commented on by senior Russian officials.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov, when commenting on the possibility of an armed conflict between Iran and the Western alliance, said: "I hope it will not come to this".
The head of German Foreign Ministry warned Iran about the consequences, should it resume its nuclear research - the latest statements by Iran about its nuclear policy are being regarded as an extremely alarming signal, and this is being linked to the failure of talks with Moscow on uranium enrichment.
But in Moscow itself, this is not the view that is being taken, and it has been announced that many views of Russia and Iran about the developments in the region coincide. Deputy Secretary of the Security Council Valentin Sobolev said Russia would continue to take part in joint projects and programmes.
Markov: Russia's policy towards Iran moderate
A political analyst and chairman of the National Civil Council on International Affairs, Sergey Markov, described Russia's policy towards Iran as moderate:
[Markov] One should not react hysterically and not go for a conflict with the leadership of Iran but one should retain a firm line of stick and carrot - one could call it that - of rewarding positive actions and attempting to hold back the expansion of the still totalitarian regime in Iran. Russia, in this sense, is closer to the European troika, which supports more moderate positions, than to the USA, which supports a harsher position.
At the same time, most countries also hope for large contracts with Iran and therefore they prefer not to quarrel with Iran. In addition to this, Iran is also connected to Russia by the fact that they are both certain guarantors of stability in this region. Let's not forget that the Caucasus is, broadly speaking, located between Iran and Russia.
Pukhov: No legal grounds for Security Council resolution
[Presenter] For his part, the head of the Centre for Analysis of Strategy and Technology, Ruslan Pukhov, described the latest statement by the head of the IAEA as substantially narrowing the scope for finding a political solution to the problem.
[Pukhov] The prospect for voting in the [UN] Security Council when the Iranian dossier is forwarded there - which would include the condemnation of Iran and imposing sanctions of some kind - the likelihood of this happening is not high. Not only because Russia and China would most likely veto any decision on Iran, but also other countries, which will vote on the Iranian dossier, should always check how this case would apply to themselves. This is because there are no legal grounds - say, on the basis of the presumption of innocence - for dragging the Iranian dossier to the Security Council. Simply, the Americans are insisting on this and therefore it seems to me that one should be looking for some diplomatic opportunities for settling this crisis using not only pressure -which is what is happening at the moment - but also some kind of carrot, so to speak.
[Presenter] In Pukhov's view, some countries of the third world, despite pressure from the USA, would also vote against imposing sanctions against Iran.
Kosachev: IAEA criteria should be compliance with NPT
Generally speaking, the issue of Iran's nuclear strategy should be discussed on the basis of the IAEA having or not having complaints, the head of the State Duma international affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachev, told Ekho [Moskvy]:
[Kosachev] All the categories that are currently being used by the head of the IAEA are somewhat vulnerable. From the legal point of view we should not discuss the Iranian situation using categories like whether we have sufficient amount of patience or not. This issue could only be discussed in terms of the IAEA having or not having complaints about Iran from the point of view of Iran fulfilling its obligations within the regime of the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty [NPT]. And in this sense, perhaps, we should now organize and monitor the work of IAEA inspectors in the most attentive manner. And only on the basis of their conclusions regarding legality and legitimacy of Iran's actions in the nuclear sphere, one could take a position on a possible response in respect of Iran.
Everything else is from the area of political conjecture and not of professional work.
Dorenko: Iran not listening to "friendly" Russia
[Presenter] Russia should facilitate the maintenance of peace in the Middle East but it is also necessary to take into account one's own interests. This opinion was voiced on Ekho Moskvy radio by journalist Sergey Dorenko.
[Dorenko] Taking into account our Chechnya and the North Caucasus, I think it is generally undesirable to encourage aggressive actions in this region, it would be extremely unwise. On the other hand, if this game goes too far - and it is already going far - one could play an exchange with Iran. To be friendly, friendly, friendly in order to influence it in the necessary direction, in the direction which is being mentioned by the head of International Atomic Energy Agency, Muhammad Al-Baradi'i, for example. And we would say - we are universal people, we are being listened to in Iran, in Iran they heed to what we say. Say, Muhammad Al-Baradi'i cannot stop the nuclear research and uranium enrichment in Iran but we can - we are Moscow, we command respect there, we are being listened to.
But now, after they [Iran] wiped they feet on us, in a very friendly manner, by announcing that no, they will not listen to us, first; and secondly, they will open these nuclear centres and they do not want to set up joint enterprises for uranium enrichment on the territory of Russia for Iran; the effectiveness of this kind of friendship and the benefits from this kind of friendship are being called to question.
[Passage omitted: Presenter notes many observers have said Iran sharply changed its position also because of pre-election threats from Israel to attack Iran's nuclear sites]
Top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, boasted several times last year that Russia’s future nuclear arsenal will be unrivaled. Russia’s recent nuclear activities suggest this is more of a long-term goal rather than a short-term possibility.
To be sure, Russia conducted its first flight test of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and reportedly a second successful test of a new warhead. Still, Moscow’s new weapons may be years from deployment, and Russia is retiring aging missiles faster than it is deploying new ones because of limited budgets. This downward trend also coincides with U.S.-Russian arms reduction agreements.
Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces released a Nov. 30 statement touting that all of its 2005 missile flight tests had been successful. All but two of the experiments, however, involved Soviet-era delivery systems. Such tests have been needed because Russia has extended the service of some missiles, such as the 10-warhead SS-18, beyond original deployment plans in order to preserve some parity with U.S. strategic force levels.
The two tests breaking new ground occurred Sept. 27 and Dec. 21. They involved the launch of a Bulava missile, or RSM-56, by a modified Soviet-era Typhoon submarine. Moscow has not publicized the solid-fuel missile’s payload, but general speculation is that it can carry up to 10 warheads.
When the Bulava will finish testing and be ready for service is also unknown. Two new Project 955 Borey-class submarines are undergoing construction to be outfitted with the missiles, but the operational date for the first vessel was recently postponed by one year to 2007.
Meanwhile, Russia, as part of its 1991 START reporting obligations, revealed in July that it removed 20 SLBMs and their 200 nuclear warheads from service during the previous six months. Data for the rest of 2005 has not yet been publicly released.
Moscow also noted that it eliminated 26 ICBM launchers with some 150 warheads over the first six months of last year. A Department of State official told Arms Control Today Dec. 13 that Russia continued reductions through the end of the year, including scrapping its last rail-based SS-24 systems. Together, the ICBM and SLBM reductions left Russia with approximately 4,350 deployed warheads by START’s terms.
Along with the United States, Russia is bound by the May 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) to lower its strategic arsenal to 1,700-2,200 deployed strategic warheads by the end of 2012. Russia’s force levels are widely projected eventually to drop below the bottom limit.
Still, Russia is slowly fielding some new ICBMs. Since 1997, Moscow has deployed some 40 silo-based SS-27 Topol-Ms. The Kremlin also completed flight-testing of a road-mobile version of this missile at the end of 2004, and deployments of it might begin this year.
Although the SS-27 is envisioned as the mainstay of Moscow’s future strategic forces, Russian production has remained modest, at roughly a half dozen per year. No indications exist that Russia plans to ramp up production.
Russian officials have mentioned the possibility of adding warheads to the single-warhead SS-27 to maintain a higher number of deployed warheads in light of the new missile’s slow production rate. But START limits the SS-27 to a single warhead because it is a variant of the single-warhead SS-25. Moscow’s options if it decides to arm the SS-27 with more warheads, therefore, are to modify the SS-27 so it is a different type of missile than the SS-25 or wait until START expires in December 2009.
More ambiguity surrounds Russia’s exploration of what Russian and Western media have identified as a “maneuverable warhead” but what could also be a re-entry vehicle. A re-entry vehicle shrouds a warhead to enable it to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere.
Putin last September said that Russia was developing “new strategic high-precision systems” that can alter “course and height.” The purpose behind such capabilities is to make a warhead a more elusive target for anti-missile systems, such as those the United States is pursuing, a point Russian officials repeatedly emphasize.
The system reportedly has been flight-tested in early 2004 and this past November. The Washington Times implied Nov. 21 that U.S. officials confirmed that the latest test involved a vehicle that “can change course and range.” Russian officials have not specified when the system might become operational.
Although Russia is actively exploring ways to enhance its arsenal, Moscow has also expressed interest in negotiating lower strategic arms limits with the United States.
But Bush administration officials, who have expressed no anxiety about Russia’s strategic nuclear developments, have dismissed the prospect of negotiating additional limits. (See ACT, July/August 2005.)
National security is a crucial task for Russia, a country so greatly endowed with territory and natural resources. Our military strategy is, therefore, focused on creating the ability to respond to the external, internal and cross-border challenges of the 21st century.
We have seen a steady trend pointing at a broader scope of use of military force recently, not least because more challenges to national security have emerged. Chief among them is interference in Russia's internal affairs by foreign states -- either directly or through structures that they support -- and the attempts of some countries, coalitions and extremist terrorist organizations to develop or gain access to weapons of mass destruction. We must also be prepared for the possibility of a violent assault on the constitutional order of some post-Soviet states and the border instability that might ensue from that. Arms and drugs trafficking and other kinds of cross-border criminal activity must be closely watched.
None of these threats shows any sign of abating. Everyone knows that when it comes to war and conflict-prevention, Russia always goes first for political, diplomatic, economic and other nonmilitary means. But maintaining a robust military capability is clearly in our national interests.
The primary task for the armed forces is to prevent conventional and nuclear aggression against Russia. Hence our firm commitment to the principle of pre-emption. We define pre-emption not only as a capability to deliver strikes on terrorist groups but as other measures designed to prevent a threat from emerging long before there is a need to confront it. This is the guiding principle of the profound and comprehensive modernization of our armed forces. The actual level of combat readiness and effectiveness hinges on how successful this upgrade will be.
Russia is not itching for a future war. War is never by choice. Right now, there is no conflict or dispute outside the country that could be seen as a direct military threat. However, to ignore the future is irresponsible. We need to look several moves ahead -- on all levels, from future military planning to a strategic vision of the future of armed conflict. We need to consider the implications of the so-called "uncertainty factor" as well as of the high level of existing threats. By uncertainty we mean a political or military-political conflict or process that has a potential to pose a direct threat to Russia's security, or to change the geopolitical reality in a region of Russia's strategic interest. Our top concern is the internal situation in some members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the club of former Soviet republics, and the regions around them.
What would a modern fighting force look like? Our best option is a mobile force in which the air, and probably space, component will be a decisive factor in success. What is also clear is that the winner in a future war will be capable of forming an integrated, real-time intelligence picture and be able to adjust plans for the use of military power in real time in accordance with a rapidly changing environment. In short, Russia needs a military ready to deal with an armed conflict of any conceivable kind and prevent any aggression or power play against us and our allies. We understand that solving all problems related to the modernization of the armed forces will take time. The Military Development Plan for 2006-2010 is being devised right now, but the top priorities are already clear.
-- The first is to maintain and develop a strategic deterrent capability minimally sufficient for guaranteed repulsion of contemporary and future military threats. At the end of last year, we deployed another strategic missile regiment armed with silo-based Topol-M (SS-27) systems; more road mobile Topol-Ms (SS-X-27), currently unmatched by world rivals, this year; and the Project 955 Borei Yury Dolgoruky strategic nuclear-powered submarine armed with the Bulava-30 (SS-NX-30) sea-launched ballistic missiles within several years. And this is just the top of the list. Needless to say, these are not aimed at any particular target. We have always honored our commitments and will do so in the future, including those made in line with treaties and agreements made with the U.S. on reductions and limitations of strategic offensive weapons, which stipulate a reduction of our nuclear capability to 1,700-2,200 warheads.
At the same time, Russia does not intend to give up its nuclear capability as it is still a key deterrent and a crucial instrument in protecting our national interests and achieving certain political objectives.
-- The second priority is the development of conventional forces -- high-alert units in the army, air force, navy and airborne force, manned only by professional soldiers, that will form the backbone of deployable task forces. These are being upgraded with airlift capabilities. All this explains the need for rearmament, new military acquisitions, support for R&D projects, and the optimization of the national defense industry to find a balance between a commitment to arm the Russian military and an opportunity to export arms to countries not subject to U.N. sanctions.
-- The third priority is the development of combat training. In the Russian armed forces, the number and level of large-scale exercises has grown to more than 50 this year. The most significant were tactical and theater-level exercises in the Russian Far East, Central Asia, China and India that enabled our military to network with foreign counterparts in simulating counterterrorist and other peacetime operations. We will continue to hold joint exercises with countries interested in global stability, including partners from the Atlantic Alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. We are also ready to run peacekeeping operations mandated by the UN or CIS.
We are not saber-rattlers. Russia's political and military leaders perceive the use of force as a last resort, to be used only when and if all other channels are hopelessly congested. Cooperation with international institutions helps promote a foreign policy agenda, though unfortunately it does not provide absolute security guarantees. For those, a state needs a highly effective military capability. Russia deserves a fighting force of the 21st century, a force that will look into the future but will at the same time continue its glorious military tradition.
Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan will work to rebuild the type of nuclear energy ties that existed among them in Soviet times, President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian and Kazakh counterparts said in Astana on Thursday.
But unlike the Soviet nuclear power ministry, the cooperation will be along market lines.
In sharp contrast to Russia's tough stance toward Ukraine over gas, Putin called advances in nuclear cooperation between Moscow and Kiev "nothing but promising."
"Aside from energy and gas issues, which our colleagues have been so involved in recently, ... there is another, complicated issue," Putin said. "I am convinced that we can make a serious step forward in this direction."
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who a day earlier had talked with Putin about his country's controversial gas deal with Gazprom, on Thursday described the nuclear power project as "fairly complex."
"In the next three to four months, documents detailing cooperation between [Russia and Ukraine] will be presented at the presidential level," Yushchenko said, the Federal Atomic Energy Agency reported on its web site.
Speaking during a visit to the Kazakh capital, where he attended the inauguration of President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Wednesday, Putin said that Russia would tap into a new source of uranium ore later this year through a joint venture with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
The Zarechnoye mine in southwest Kazakhstan will start producing ore in the second half of the year, a spokesman for the Federal Atomic Energy Agency said on Thursday.
Russian state companies have a 45 percent stake in the Zarechnoye venture, the same as Kazakhstan, with the remaining 10 percent held by neighboring Kyrgyzstan. The mine is estimated to hold 19,000 tons of uranium and is expected to produce 500 tons per year.
Although Russia inherited roughly 80 percent of the Soviet nuclear industry, it currently mines only half the 6,000 tons of uranium it needs for its power stations, according to researchers at the Natural Resources Ministry.
In Soviet times, the Russian nuclear industry was largely dependent on Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for its uranium, and the Russian nuclear industry suffered as fuel supply routes between uranium mines and nuclear power plants were severed in the early 1990s.
Nearly all of Russia's uranium ore is now mined at the Priargunsky Combine in the Chita region town of Krasnokamensk, near the Chinese border.
Industry analysts in Moscow said Thursday that the Kazakhs were most likely seeking cash from Russia to finance the construction of new nuclear power stations in Kazakhstan, in return for help in accessing the country's rich uranium resources that are processed as fuel for nuclear plants.
No financial details of the nuclear power cooperation between Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan were disclosed Thursday.
Sergei Kiriyenko, the new head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, or RosAtom, who traveled with Putin to Astana, said Russia was prepared to consider "any proposal that is profitable to our partners as well as ourselves," in order to "rebuild the Minsredmash complex." Minsredmash was the abbreviated name of the Soviet nuclear power ministry.
Kiriyenko will present a plan for RosAtom's cooperation with Kazakhstan at the CIS summit in St. Petersburg on Jan. 25 and visit Kiev for talks on cooperation with Ukraine by early February, a spokesman for the agency said Thursday by telephone.
"Kiriyenko's goal is to discuss concrete ways to work with Ukraine in the nuclear sector and to bring various industry members from both countries together," the spokesman, Sergei Novikov, said.
One venture thought to be under discussion concerns Ukraine's Kharkiv-based TurboAtom, a maker of turbines for nuclear facilities. In the meantime, Ukraine is eager to consider uranium mining joint ventures and more business links to plant fuel suppliers, Yushchenko said at the meeting in Astana.
Russia's 10 nuclear power plants currently provide 12 percent of the country's electricity, said Gennady Pshakin, an expert on the nuclear industry who heads a nonproliferation analytical center in Obninsk, near Moscow.
"For the size of our country, that is very small. Something like 30 percent to 40 percent would be more appropriate," Pshakin said. To achieve that, the industry would require investments of $15 billion to $20 billion over the next five years, he said.
The large costs and dangers associated with the nuclear industry mean that nuclear power plant construction is nearly always decided at a senior governmental level, said Gianguido Piani, an Italian-based expert on the Russian power industry.
"Nuclear plants are so expensive as to be practically impossible to finance with common market tools, and require active policy support," he said in an e-mailed response.
While Western countries have been stuck in ethical quagmires, trying to decide whether nuclear energy was worth the investment, rapidly growing economies like China have seized on it as having great medium- to long-term prospects, Piani said.
"The new decision by Russia and its allies is a plus for the countries involved, where the only practicable alternative is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity generation," he said.
Cooperation among Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan could be a shot in the arm for the countries' nuclear industries, which have in recent years made headlines over safety and ecological concerns, as well as money embezzlement and corruption charges.
The shock after the Chernobyl accident "is starting to disappear," Pshakin said. "This project is a very positive step. It won't quite be like EuroAtom, but it will be very big. The scale will not be that of the Soviet Union, ... but things will be put on a market basis. There is no other way now."
The tie-up makes commercial sense, Pshakin said, as Kazakhstan currently cannot sell uranium on the world market due to competition from Australia and Namibia, while Russia and Ukraine require more fuel as both countries look to build new nuclear power stations in the coming decade.
2. Russia to Start Construction of Floating Nuclear Power Plant in 2006
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The practical implementation of the floating nuclear power plant project will start in 2006, read an official statement of the Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Energy — Rosatom — that was published on Thursday, Jan. 12.
“In 2006, the Rosenergoatom (Russian state concern for the production of electric and heat energy at nuclear plants) will start the practical implementation of the project of a pioneer floating nuclear heating and power plant of small capacity (NHPP of SC) in Severodvinsk,” a Rosatom representative was quoted by the Itar-Tass agency.
“Before New Year’s Eve, a directorate of floating nuclear power plants under construction was set up in Rosenergoatom, which is the concern’s subsidiary and which will be overseeing the work to build the first NHPP,” Rosatom noted. The former deputy presidential representative in the Volga Federal District, Sergey Obozov, has been appointed director of this department and deputy director-general of the concern.
Rosatom stressed that the project of the pioneer NHPP of small capacity based on a floating generating set (FGS) with KLT-40S reactor blocks “has been completed and is ready for practical implementation”. The project will be implemented according to the federal targeted-development program called “Energy-efficient economy for 2002-2005 and in the long term up to 2010”. It is planned to station standard models of the plant at platforms at the Vilyuchinsk closed administrative-territorial entity in the Kamchatka region, as well as in the town of Pivek in the Chukotka Autonomous Area, Rosatom specified.
Rosatom explained that the plant’s life cycle, including its construction, use, major repairs of the floating generating set, its recycling and training of personnel, “will be fully ensured by the current infrastructure of the Russian nuclear industry”. The floating generating set will be built at a shipbuilding enterprise and will be commissioned fully ready for use. It will be serviced by way of shifts which will be changed every four months. Work needed to reload nuclear fuel and store spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste will be carried out on board the NHPP. The major repairs of the floating generating set will be carried out at a shipbuilding enterprise. Rosatom also specified that “the personnel will be trained at the navy training centre in Obninsk in the Kaluga region, where study rooms and a training machine have now been reserved”.
Rosatom noted that “the projects of reactor blocks for floating NPPs (FNPP) of 3 to 40 MW capacity for work in the conditions of the extreme north, Kamchatka and Far East have been developed” at the Afrikantova experimental design office of mechanical engineering in Nizhniy Novgorod. The cost of building a floating NPP with a capacity of 3 MW amounts to just $20 million. The service life of such a floating NPP is 50 years. Fuel is reloaded once every 10-12 years.
Rosatom noted that “the [degree of] enrichment of uranium in fuel for such floating NPPs is less than 20 percent, which meets the IAEA’s [International Atomic Energy Agency] requirements on non-proliferation and ensures the possibility of export use of such plants by Russia”.
1. Russia sets up group to tackle Urals nuclear plant's problems
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Russia's Agency for Nuclear Power said Tuesday that it had set up a working group to address environmental problems at a nuclear processing plant in the southern Urals and raise awareness of people living near the plant. A criminal investigation was opened against the plant, Mayak, in April 2005 after breaches of environmental protection regulations were found during an inspection that revealed the plant had released more than 10 million cubic meters of radioactive waste into the nearby Techa River.
The working group, which comprises Mayak executives and members of local environmental organizations, as well as others, will involve companies and foreign experts in the search for solutions to the problem.
Agency head Sergei Kiriyenko said in late 2005 that the problems with Mayak had accumulated over decades. A major accident happened in 1957 when an explosion of radioactive sludge produced a toxic plume that contaminated people in nearby towns and villages.
Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said in November 2005 that the river's open-air reservoir had accumulated more than 200,000 curies of radioactivity.
Russian environmentalists have called for the plant to be shut down.
The Nuclear Power Agency maintains that the plant is important for the country's economic development, and Kiriyenko has said the agency will allocate 250 million rubles ($8.7 million) in 2006, or more 2.5 times more than in 2005, to improve environmental protection at Mayak.
However, experts have suggested that this will not be enough to address all the problems.
1. Press Release Regarding Announcement by Teheran of Its Decision to Resume Uranium Enrichment Research
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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We are deeply disappointed by the Iranian side's announced decision to resume uranium enrichment research. It had been suspended as part of Iran's voluntary moratorium on all the enrichment-related work in response to the appeals from the IAEA Board of Governors. Such a moratorium is an essential confidence-building measure to deal with the questions still to be answered on the Iranian nuclear program.
Unfortunately, our Iranian partners took this step even after the Russian-Iranian consultations held in Teheran on January 7-8, during which we had insistently advised them not to do so. We urge Iran to return promptly to the moratorium, and full-fledged cooperation with the IAEA in compliance with the resolutions of the Agency's governing board on its nuclear program.
The Russian side in Teheran reconfirmed its readiness to help it find mutually acceptable solutions in the context of resolving the situation around Iran's nuclear program by politico-diplomatic methods. In this connection the Russian representatives explained our proposal to establish within Russia a joint nuclear fuel facility with Iran for the needs of its nuclear power industry, which with a continuing moratorium would be capable of reliably meeting the country's nuclear energy requirements in years ahead.
We count on Teheran responding with the utmost seriousness to the concern of the international community at its decision to resume uranium enrichment research.
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