1. Iran: U.S., Russia Agree That Iran Should Not Enrich Uranium
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today calmed U.S. concerns that Moscow was proposing a compromise on Iran's nuclear program, which Washington opposes. At a Washington news conference with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Lavrov denied reports that Russia had suggested allowing Iran to enrich only a small amount of nuclear fuel on its own soil while Russia takes over the vast majority of such processing on its own territory. During the briefing, both Lavrov and Rice seemed to be in agreement on this issue, as well as several others.
Russia and the United States seemed to be united on Tuesday on Iran, with both Rice and Lavrov saying Iran knows what it has to do to avoid United Nations sanctions.
"I think the United States has been very clear that [uranium] enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian soil is not acceptable because of the [nuclear] proliferation risk," Rice said.
Lavrov agreed, and said his ministry is still trying to persuade Iran to accept a proposal under which Russia would conduct all plutonium enrichment in an effort to keep Tehran from develop nuclear weapons. And he dismissed the idea of a rift between Washington and Moscow over reports that Russia had suggested a compromise.
"This [Russian uranium enrichment] initiative is not a new one. It was welcomed by all participants of the process, and there is no compromise proposal, and there could not be any compromise proposal."
Still Time For Iran To Avoid Sanctions
The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is meeting in Vienna to decide whether to report Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions because it has resumed nuclear processing.
At the Washington news conference, Rice said it is not too late for Iran to avoid sanctions. "There is still time, of course, for the Iranians to react [to developments], but we have been very clear that we did not think that, as a first matter, we would try to move to sanctions in the first step of the [UN] Security Council."
Lavrov and Rice also discussed the so-called "road map" for peace in the Middle East, which is backed by Russia, the United States, the UN and the European Union -- known as the Quartet. There has been concern in Washington after Russian officials met with members of the militant Palestinian group Hamas in Moscow recently.
The United States and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist group and have expressed regret over their victory in last month's elections for the Palestinian parliament. But Lavrov said today that it was important that a Quartet member tell Hamas leaders face-to-face that they must recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce violence.
Lavrov said Hamas' response was encouraging.
"We did hear from them that they would respect the authority and competence of [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas. We also heard from them that they would be ready to express their position on the 'road map,' and to hopefully endorse the 'road map' as drafted by the Quartet without any reservations to be added to this 'road map.' "
Russia-U.S. Rift Denied
Lavrov's visit to Washington follows the release of a report on U.S.-Russian relations by the Council on Foreign Relations, a leading think tank. The document says that under President Vladimir Putin, Russia is becoming increasingly authoritarian and that its foreign policy too often is at odds with the West.
Rice was asked about the state of relations between Washington and Moscow.
"I want to say that we continue to enjoy good relations with the Russian Federation. We continue to work together on a number of global problems."
Rice said she and Lavrov candidly and cordially discussed Washington's concerns about domestic issues in Russia. Still, she said, the concerns aren't so great as to keep Russia out of the World Trade Organization.
Russia belongs in the WTO, Rice said, and the United States is negotiating for its accession. She said the administration of President George W. Bush is negotiating a way to bring it into the organization in a way that will please not only the WTO, but also the U.S. Congress, which must approve accession.
After their briefing, Lavrov and Rice had a half-hour meeting with Bush at the White House. Afterward, Lavrov was asked if Russia would vote for the Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran. He replied that the idea of sanctions was still hypothetical.
The meeting of IAEA board of governors began at Vienna’s U.N. headquarters March 6, 2006 to finally decide whether to refer Iran’s nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council. Russia will defend the right of Iran for carrying out some minimal research of uranium enrichment, insisting Iran wouldn’t be able to finally master the technology. Another concern of Moscow is to persuade the world community against considering the nuclear file of Iran in the U.N. Security Council.
As usual, Russia will be standing for Iran at this meeting of governors’ board of IAEA, saying it is not easy to deal with that country’s negotiators even without referring the nuclear files to the U.N. Security Council.
When defending Iran, Russia will be recalling negotiations held over the latest weeks, never minding their almost abortive results. The sole achievement of such talks obviously regarded by Iran as the instrument to avoid the U.N. Security Council as long as possible was Iranian consent to admit IAEA inspectors to its nuclear facilities.
The second compromise was Iran’s agreement to set up a joint venture that would enrich uranium on Russia’s soil but on behalf of Iran. The tricky point is that the additional provisions put forward by Iran will hardly please the world community at large. Iran insists on the two-year duration of such venture so that it could transfer the process to its own territory on expiration of that period and calls for the right for own research of uranium enrichment.
3. They will not abandon it; Nuclear program is Iran's national idea. Tehran will possess the complete nuclear cycle sooner or later.
What the Papers Say
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An interview with Rajab Safarov, General Director of the Center of Studies of Modern Iran.
Question: Why did Russia and Iran fail to reach an agreement?
Rajab Safarov: The latest round of Russian-Iranian negotiations were essentially a failure. The principal discord remained, immune to all attempts to settle the matter. Russia insists on Iran's return to the moratorium. All work is supposed to be under way only on the territory of Russia itself. Iran in its turn maintains that it wants at least some of the work to be done on its own territory, but that is precisely what Russia and the international community perceive as violation of the moratorium. That is why the negotiating parties cannot come to an agreement.
Iran is convinced that the moratorium announced two years ago is a voluntary step. Tehran expected that in the course of the moratorium IAEA inspectors would find answers to all the questions they had and clarify the situation with the nuclear program. Iran went out of its way to set up maximum favorable conditions for it. It announced right away, however, that the moratorium was not eternal. Iran does not intend to cast away its inherent rights declared in the international documents - the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty, IAEA Provision, and Provisions of the additional protocol to the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Enrichment of uranium is the legitimate and unquestionable right of every IAEA member. Not one norm of the international law forbids Tehran to develop its own nuclear program. It is the position of the international community that is the only cause of the conflict. Consider the United States, which has just signed an accord on nuclear cooperation with India which is not even an IAEA member. The Americans make it plain - quite cynically - that they do not give a damn about the non-proliferation regime and promote specific political objectives.
Iran does not understand it. If there are suspicions, then they should be handled by the IAEA, the authorized body. Iran has already demonstrated openness and its readiness to cooperate. In fact, the Iranian nuclear program is the best transparent in the world.
Question: But why does Tehran attach so much importance to the nuclear program? It makes the international community suspicious.
Rajab Safarov: Its nuclear program is too important for Tehran to abandon it. As things stand, the nuclear program is inseparable from the national idea. It is a national project. It is a matter of status. It is not a desire of some specific leaders or some faction or the Iranian establishment. The idea is deeply rooted in public conscience, so deeply in fact that no Iranian leader can afford abandoning the nuclear program. Because he will not survive the people' wrath, you know. He will be immediately swept away. Iran aspires for the role of leader of the Islamic world and a regional leader, and nuclear technologies are what it needs to substantiate its claims.
Question: And what then did the sides agree on only recently in Tehran?
Rajab Safarov: It was announced after Kirienko's trip to Tehran that the sides had reached a principal accord. Unfortunately, however, nobody succeeded in explaining what it was that they had agreed on.
As for the Iranian delegation that visited Moscow, it came with the following suggestions. Access of Iranian specialists to the process of uranium enrichment on Russian territory is the principal demand. Iran is not interested in pure enriched uranium as such. This is something Tehran can easily buy on the world market. It is knowledge and technologies of enrichment that Iran is after. Russia objects. It claims that the technologies are classified and that it does not want to share them with another country.
Next. Iran wants a part of the process of enrichment to take place on its own territory. The matter concerns research and preparations for enrichment. Even had Moscow and Tehran agreed to set up a joint venture, it would have been but a provisional solution to the problem. Iran is bent on developing its own nuclear energy industry. It will possess the complete nuclear cycle sooner or later. It does not want to be the eternal buyer of enriched uranium and therefore wants the joint venture established for 3 to 5 years only. That's another point Russia does not agree with.
The third nuance Tehran insists concerns involvement in the joint venture of a third country. Like China, for example, or some European country if Beijing is not willing. It will make the joint venture more reliable. Iran will not depend on the goodwill of one foreign country only. After all, we all know of the instances when treaties and accords are signed and never fulfilled for political motives.
Question: Was there a chance to reach at least some compromise at the Russian-Iranian talks?
Rajab Safarov: Russia could agree with at least minimum involvement of Iranian specialists in uranium enrichment on its own territory. Say, 5 or 10 specialists only. Russia could agree to move a part of the process to Iran. There are about 3,000 nuclear energy specialists there, and the employees in related industries number 10,000. Just imagine all these specialists out of jobs! In return, Tehran was prepared to forsake its demand for third country participating in the joint venture. Another major concession on Tehran's part would have taken the form of its consent to having Russian and perhaps even foreign specialists in uranium enrichment on its territory. It would have thus accepted international control over the processes taking place in Iran.
Question: There is the opinion that the conflict over the Iranian nuclear program is but an excuse, not the reason. And that this latter boils down to Iran's attempts to play a more important part in the global political and economic systems. Specifically in the Middle East, of course.
Rajab Safarov: That's right. As a matter of fact, the Iranian nuclear program does not worry the Americans. They know that nobody can forbid Iran's continuation of work in this sphere. Their eagerness to compel Teheran to abandon its nuclear program is dictated by the desire of the West to prevent development of Iran. To prevent it from boosting its status in international affairs.
Question: There are two options left Iran at this point. It may make its stand on the matter clear and try to reach an agreement with the West. Or it may pursue its policy regardless of everything and everyone else. The last several months left the impression that agreements with Iran are impossible...
Rajab Safarov: That many rounds of the Russian-Iranian talks ended with nothing to show for it does not mean that Iran has chosen the latter option. I do not think that it is so uncompromising in the long term. This is a reasonable and adequate state with a clear policy and clear values. That's a country prepared for a compromise but the compromise has to be reasonable. As far as Tehran is concerned, this compromise should take into account its sovereign interests, interests of its national security, and status. Nuclear program is inseparable from all of them and that is why Iran will never cast it away. Even had the West offered Tehran the sky - membership in the World Trade Organization, no more sanctions, the most favorable trade partner regime, access to advanced technologies, and so on - I do not think that Iran would have bartered it all for the national nuclear program.
Original source: Ekspert, No 9 (503), March 6 - 12, 2006, pp. 28 - 29.
4. Russian Official: Iran Far From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons
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Iran will not be able to acquire nuclear weapons in the near future, Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Yevgeny Primakov said.
"I disagree with those who believe that it (Iran) can obtain (nuclear) weapons within the next half a year or two years. This is unrealistic," Primakov said at an annual assembly of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council (SVOP) think tank on Saturday.
Primakov, who formerly headed the Russian foreign intelligence service and was a foreign minister and a prime minister, suggested that there is no unanimous position on the nuclear issue in the Iranian leadership. "What they want is to find a face-saving solution," he said.
Such a solution can be Russia's proposal to establish joint ventures for uranium enrichment in countries of the nuclear club, he said.
"Iran expects that the U.S. would relax its stance on Tehran's nuclear program because the U.S. is interested in Iran's assistance in Iraq," Primakov said. He suggested that the U.S. expects Iran to influence the Shiite movement in Iraq, which could help normalize the situation.
5. Russian Think-tank: Iran May Get Nuclear Weapons Within Five Years
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Experts of the Moscow-based think-tank Council for Foreign and Defense Policy (CFDP) believe that Iran may get nuclear weapons within five years, Russian news agency Interfax reported late on Friday, 3 March.
Interfax quotes the CFDP report as saying that "Iran is keen on getting nuclear weapons and is to get it sooner or later". According to the report, most of the CFDP experts believe that Iran will be able to build its own nuclear weapons within a period of "up to five years".
The experts warn that "acquisition of the nuclear weapons by Iran may encourage other countries of the region (Saudi Arabia, Egypt) to get their own 'Arabic bomb'", Interfax reports.
In the same report the CFDP experts criticize Russia's policies in the Central Asia, Interfax says. "The Russian Federation's approach (to the Central Asian countries) is characterized by lack of strategic vision, spontaneousness, poor coordination and often haughtiness towards the Central Asian countries," the report says according to Interfax.
The CFDP warns that in spite of the "apparent stability" of the Central Asian regimes many of them may be "easily destabilized and even ousted" whereas the only "organized opposition" to the Central Asian rulers, according to the CFDP experts, are "Islamists".
The experts are also quoted as saying that any "negative transformation" in Central Asia may lead to similar disturbances in Russia.
The CFDP recommends that Russia make its Central Asian policies better coordinated, build up its military presence in the region and increase the influence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
"Russia should discreetly but insistently persuade the Central Asian regimes that a political modernization is necessary," the CFDP experts recommend, according to Interfax.
6. Iran to discuss Russian idea at final round of talks with European Trio
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The Moscow round of Russia-Iran talks on the creation of a joint uranium enrichment venture on Russian territory has failed to bring results, although reports from Tehran during the visit by Sergei Kiriyenko, Federal Agency for Nuclear Power (Rosatom), said the sides had agreed in principle on the issue.
There is growing belief that Tehran's policy will eventually bring its nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council. It will be a pity, especially because Russia and the European Union, as well as China and, to a degree, the Untied States have done their best to preclude this variant at the forthcoming planned session of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
According to Ali Larijani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, minor details prevented the formalization of the agreement in Moscow, though Russia's idea of enriching uranium on Russian territory to preclude economic and political sanctions against Iran was welcomed.
"The Russian idea can be promoted, and Iran proceeds from the belief that positive steps have been taken toward the implementation of the Russian initiative," Larijani said at the final news conference in Moscow. "However, a package approach to this project, as suggested by Iran, should include the implementation of Iran's right to peaceful nuclear research and allay the concerns, both real and imaginary, of the United States. The Russian initiative and Iran's package approach should lead to the creation of a concrete project through diplomatic efforts."
Iran and Russia have agreed to continue consultations to solve the Iranian nuclear problem "diplomatically within the framework of the IAEA," Larijani said. They also decided that "such talks, in view of the comprehensive nature of the problem, should be also continued with other countries."
The "other" countries will be the European Trio (Britain, Germany and France), which are discussing the problem with Iran on behalf of the European Union.
An emergency meeting of the Trio is set for March 3. It will be held at the request of Iran, an official spokesman of the British Foreign Office said on March 2. Ali Larijani will speak on behalf of Iran. We will listen what Iran has to say but we do not have any new proposals for it, he said.
The spokesman said the foreign ministers of the European Trio expect to receive new proposals from Iran. Will they change the situation?
The European Trio and Iran's main opponent, the U.S., regard the Russian initiative as the only possible way out of the deadlock. If Iran accepts it, this might stop the IAEA Board from transferring the Iranian nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council, the U.S. and Western Europe say.
The IAEA Board will meet on March 6, which leaves Iran barely a few days to make a decision. The situation can be saved if Iran resumes the moratorium on uranium enrichment and returns to the regime of the additional protocol to the nuclear safeguards agreement. However, Tehran does not seem ready to do this.
IAEA General Director Mohamed ElBaradei pins his hopes on the Vienna meeting of Iran with the European Trio. He has called on the sides to use the opportunity to create conditions for resuming negotiations.
In principle, ElBaradei spoke rather benignly regarding Iran. Perhaps Larijani will convince his European colleagues of the need to continue discussing the Russian initiative jointly with Iran's package approach within the IAEA framework and on a multilateral basis.
7. Carte Blanche: The United States Is Not Letting Moscow Reach Agreement With Iran
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On the eve of the crucial IAEA meeting, Washington is throwing out negative predictions. "To be honest, I do not know of any agreement," that is how Adam Ereli, an official representative of the US State Department, responded on Monday to the results of negotiations by Sergey Kiriyenko, the head of Rosatom (Federal Atomic Energy Agency) in Tehran. And once again, emphasizing his sincerity, he expressed the opinion that the Iranians are "muddying the waters" on the eve of the session of the IAEA Board of Governors set for 6 March.
As is known, the talks that Kiriyenko held in Tehran are supposed to be continued in Moscow this week. They deal with the proposal to enrich uranium for Iranian AESs (nuclear power plants) at a joint venture in Russia. Essentially that could guarantee the peaceful character of the Iranian nuclear program. The outcome of these talks is so important that world markets and the mass media react instantly to any advances made in them.
That was the case this time too: reports on progress made in Kiriyenko's talks with the Iranians produced a drop in oil prices on the world market and optimism in the mass media.
This global euphoria of responses made Washington wary. The American administration at first responded with evasive words by the US president's national security assistant, Stephen Hadley. He said that so far he had not seen anything but press reports on this topic. On Monday a representative of the State Department was able to report: "We talked with the Russians a little." Ereli, however, had not read the report on this conversation.
Nonetheless the State Department representative already has a ready-made evaluation. According to Ereli, the talks are being used by the Iranians as a "disorientation maneuver in the spirit of the past actions focused on distracting the world's attention from the fundamental issue -- Iran's conducting uranium enrichment on its territory."
"But if the negotiations are continued and agreement is reached, will you support it? Say 'yes'"! "We have always supported the Russian proposal in the broader context of diplomacy of the European Big Three."
"What can you say about the Russians' efforts? Are they participants in this show or are they acting out of good motives and Iran is leading them by the nose?"
"They are acting out of good motives and they are being led by the nose -- that is how I would put it." The dialogue is remarkable if you take into account that Washington has repeatedly, and at the very top level too, expressed official support for the Russian plan. Notably, US President George Bush did this -- in a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin -- as did Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But now an official State Department representative is passing off the talks as some original kind of disinformation, although not deliberate as applies to Moscow's participation in them.
Can these words be considered a display of pessimism similar to the way that a person considers a glass that is half full to be half empty? Most likely not, it is not simply pessimism or diplomatic caution. After all, the session of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency will take place in Vienna in less than a week with one question on the agenda -- Iran's nuclear program. Against this background Ereli's statements seem like a preliminary work-up for actions at that same IAEA session and thereby serve as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is known that the report that IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei will present in Vienna is already prepared. At the start of the week, the text was delivered to the representatives of the countries participating in the Board of Governors' work for preliminary perusal.
Western information agencies are citing certain provisions of the report, which was compiled, as in fact should be expected, in the spirit of previous IAEA documents: it combines a critical approach toward Iran's actions with cautious wording. The opinion that Iran so far has been "unable to convince" the IAEA that it has no intention of creating nuclear weapons is one of these cautious evaluations.
Such an evaluation that contains no categorical accusation can provide grounds for different interpretations and occasions for altogether dissimilar proposals on the future course of action. Among other things there might be desires expressed to give diplomacy additional time to continue the talks. But that apparently is not part of the plans of those who are trying, ahead of time, to insert a strictly negative evaluation of the negotiation process into public opinion.
Meanwhile the Russian-Iranian talks have become so intense that the attempts to represent them strictly as a "show" seem inappropriate. The very logic of diplomacy means that the efforts to find solution to the problem have received the support of the international community. And not only in the form of particular evaluations.
It is no secret that the problem of the Iranian nuclear program affects a whole set of questions at once. Above all Iran's right to peaceful atomic power engineering. I must say that if it is adopted, the Russian plan is capable of solving the question of providing Iranian AESs with fuel, and that ensures the peaceful nature of the Iranian atom.
But there are other concerns of Iran that neither Moscow's bilateral talks with Tehran nor even the four-party talks -- with the European Big Three -- can eliminate. Above all there is the question of guarantees of Iran's security, perhaps the most important issue of those that did not become part of the discussion in the formats indicated.
As is known, the topic of security guarantees was one of the central ones at the talks on the nuclear program of a different country -- the DPRK. Only after the United States began to discuss it did the talks begin to move forward and ultimately lead to the adoption of a statement on the main areas for resolving the problem of the North Korean atom. All this has not been put in the form of final agreements yet, but has encountered difficulties. In the process it has become obvious that serious decisions regarding stopping work in the nuclear field can be resolved only taken as a group and with the presence of sufficient incentives.
If we compare the negotiation process with Tehran and with Pyongyang, it becomes clear that emphasizing the threat of applying sanctions or even force, which is often made in the dialogue with the Iranians, is not productive as a means to resolve the problem. Meanwhile, diplomacy can still have a notable impact, if it is not regularly showered with negative evaluations and it is given additional time.
The latest round of Russian-Iranian talks in Moscow has ended in failure. The Iranian delegation is flying out of Russia without a treaty on a nuclear joint venture. Although the Iranians are prepared to continue talks, there is no time left to settle the crisis. Next week the IAEA decides the question of referring Iran's nuclear dossier to the UNSC.
The third round of talks between Russia and Iran on the creation of a joint venture to enrich uranium did not produce the expected results. The consultations began at 1600 hours in the Vladimir Room of the Zolotoye Koltso (Golden Ring) Hotel, which is located opposite the Foreign Ministry building in Smolensk Square. The Russian delegation at the talks was headed by Igor Ivanov, head of the Security Council. The Iranian delegation included Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, and Gholamreza Aqazadeh, vice president of the Islamic Republic and head of the nuclear department.
The consultations continued for about five hours, but the Iranians used up an hour of this time on prayers. Right after the talks the head of the Iranian delegation, Ali Larijani, declared that Iran has no intention of abandoning uranium enrichment, since it regards this as its sovereign right.
Sergey Kislyak, deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, pointed out that the talks were of "a constructive nature, but a number of unsolved questions remained." No other official statements were made on the results of yesterday's meeting. Nor did the expected final news conference of Igor Ivanov, the chief Russian negotiator, take place.
The meager comments on the results of the talks were ascribed Wednesday evening to the fact that the consultations might be continued Thursday (2 March) morning. Instead of a new round of talks, Larijani's final news conference took place this morning in the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Moscow. During the briefing the head of the Iranian negotiators made several sensational statements on the subject of yesterday's talks in Moscow and on the settlement of the Iranian crisis with the West.
Larijani declared, in particular, that the United States helped to wreck the talks in Moscow. According to Larijani, "Washington's persistence in the matter of referring the Iranian 'nuclear dossier' to the UNSC destroys the Russian proposal to set up a joint venture to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory." "I believe that the Americans are actually creating obstacles to the Russian proposal," the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council added.
Larijani also announced during today's press briefing that Tehran intends to hold talks with the "Eurotroika" on the question of the nuclear program in the very near future. Larijani emphasized that these talks will take place before 6 March (the date of the IAEA Board of Governors session). A report has just been received through Reuters channels that the leadership of France, Britain, and Germany, which make up the "Eurotroika," have accepted Tehran's proposal to hold emergency talks during the next few days, before the key session of the IAEA Board of Governors. According to the reports, these will be held at ministerial level in Vienna. According to Reuters' information, the "Eurotroika" will not advance any new proposals relating to the Iranian crisis during the talks in Vienna. In other words, the EU is waiting for concessions from the Iranian side on the eve of the key IAEA Board of Governors session.
Be that as it may, observers and experts have already announced that the third round of talks in Moscow was a failure. The main argument -- the question of creating an Iranian-Russian joint venture -- was not resolved, despite statements by both sides that the details of the deal had been agreed in principle. The Iranians made it clear that there simply was not enough time to conclude the final deal with Moscow. "We must weigh all the points spoken of in Moscow and study the matter carefully. This will take time," Ali Larijani told journalists late yesterday evening.
Western commentators draw attention not so much to the lack of a breakthrough in the talks on the Russian-Iranian joint venture as to the Iranian leadership's statements about its intention to enrich uranium on its own territory. Larijani declared even before the Moscow talks: "However the consultations end, Iran will not abandon uranium enrichment in its own country, despite any criticism on the part of third countries." It is obvious that Iran's position did not change during yesterday's consultations. This circumstance has already elicited a negative reaction in the United States. Adam Ereli, deputy chief of the US Department of State Press Service, called Iran's refusal to reinstate the moratorium on uranium enrichment "a negative signal." According to him, Tehran's position ignores appeals by the IAEA and a number of international intermediaries. Commenting on the course of the talks between Moscow and Tehran, Ereli stated that "there is no evidence at present, quite frankly, of Iran agreeing to the terms of the Russian proposal to set up a uranium enrichment joint venture."
The Iranians' rejection of the Russian anticrisis proposals significantly complicates Iran's position ahead of the key IAEA session on the Iranian nuclear program, which will take place in the middle of next week. Observers are saying today that the chances of the Iranian dossier being referred to the UNSC, with the prospect of anti-Iranian sanctions being scheduled, have now increased significantly. The Iranian side seems to be ready for any turn of events at the upcoming session in Vienna but is expecting a fair and reasonable decision from the UN monitoring organ. "It is necessary to look for a just way out of the present situation. If a fair assessment is made of Iran's actions, then Iran is ready to cooperate. But I would caution against speaking with Tehran in the language of threats," Ali Larijani declared in this connection yesterday evening.
1. Program to turn plutonium bombs into fuel hits snags
Scripps Howard News Service
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As President Bush seeks to ensure that other countries wanting to use nuclear energy do so without creating weapons-grade material, the United States' plan to reduce its own stock of bomb-quality plutonium is behind schedule and has more than tripled in cost.
The program, referred to as MOX for the mixed oxide blend that would be converted into energy, has been slowed for a host of reasons, including partner Russia's unwillingness to agree to U.S. terms on liability as well as delays and cost overruns in the design phase of the plant at the Savannah River Site in Aiken County, S.C.
There is likely to be a several-year gap between the end the ongoing and first-ever test of MOX at Duke Energy's Catawba nuclear plant at Lake Wylie, S.C., and the time the utility can count on using the mixture for 40 percent of its electricity output, because the United States won't be producing the mixture for nearly a decade.
"My optimism has been in a steady state of decline," said William Hoehn, Washington office director for RANSAC, an independent organization that promotes a threat reduction agenda between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
The United States and Russia settled on the non-proliferation program in 2000, agreeing to simultaneously reduce the amount of plutonium they have from dismantled bombs by 34 metric tons each.
They would do so by blending the plutonium with uranium that commercial nuclear power plants use to generate electricity. MOX blends have been used for decades in countries such as France, but never before using weapons-grade plutonium.
To ensure that the mixture would work safely and effectively, the United States asked a company in France to create a blend with U.S. weapons plutonium. The Catawba nuclear facility began testing it in June, and it is working as predicted, said Rita Sipe, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy in Charlotte, N.C.
Of the 193 "lead assemblies" in the Catawba reactor, only four are using MOX. The test is scheduled to run a normal fuel cycle of three to four years. Afterward, Duke had hoped to gradually add more MOX until about 40 percent of its assemblies contained the uranium and plutonium mix scheduled to be fabricated at the Savannah River Site.
But Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told lawmakers last month that the planned fuel manufacturing facility in Aiken County, a 310-square-mile site near the Georgia border, isn't likely to begin producing MOX before 2015.
Bodman's letter to Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said his department would "continue to explore ways to accelerate its schedule for this important mission."
Construction on the Savannah plant had been scheduled to begin this May, but the National Nuclear Security Administration wouldn't verify the timing last week, saying only that it would begin "in 2006."
U.S. officials blame the delay primarily on Russians' reluctance to take on any liability associated with their MOX plant that the Americans plan to help them build and finance.
"We have had two years delay on that while we have argued over the terms of liability and we finally have resolved that matter last summer," Bodman told a Senate committee last month. "I do not have a signed piece of paper that says the Russians have signed off on this, but I'm hopeful."
"Until we get that done, I'm a little bit of a doubting Thomas on it," Bodman added. "So we continue to work with them."
Former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said he thinks the MOX program will continue to progress with "diplomacy" with the Russians.
"It's certainly a very important priority for the non-proliferation objectives of both the United States and Russian republic," Abraham said in a phone interview.
"The notion of having large quantities of weapons-grade-level plutonium is obviously not desirable to either side," said Abraham, who last week signed on as chairman of the board of Areva Inc., which fabricated the MOX in France that is being used at Catawba.
The Russian delay is only a small part of the problem with the MOX program, according to a scathing audit by the Department of Energy's inspector general released in December. The report indicates the MOX program has been plagued with huge cost overruns, mismanagement and lack of oversight.
The original budget estimate in 2002 was for $1 billion. Less than four years later, the cost has climbed to $3.5 billion, and the plant won't be producing MOX until 2015, six years after initially anticipated.
"As of July 2005, NNSA had spent $453 million _ nearly half of the $1 billion design and construction budget, on just design activities, and had only completed 70 percent of the design work," the audit said.
"We found that weaknesses in project management and limited administration of the contract contributed to the cost growth," it added.
Bodman told lawmakers the cost increase was due in part to a "huge run-up in steel and concrete" prices.
"That's not the totality but in significant measure the reason for the up-tick in costs," he said. "Each time we delay one of these big projects, it's a billion-dollar decision."
Bodman said that by year's end, he'd submit a revised cost and schedule update to Congress.
In the meantime, the Savannah River Site, already a steward of the nation's nuclear stockpile, has been collecting more of the nation's plutonium reserves.
One of the community's biggest concerns had been that the plutonium would get shipped to South Carolina but never be disposed of as planned.
Aiken County has filed a lawsuit to stop the Department of Energy from shipping more plutonium to the site, which was built in the 1950s to create materials needed to make bombs.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., as a House member co-authored a measure that would force the federal government to pay penalties to the state for having to store the plutonium longer than expected. But when the Russian liability delays surfaced, he agreed to give the department an additional three years to process the fuel before it has to pay the state $1 million a day until it removes the plutonium it transferred to Savannah.
The new effective date for the fines is Jan. 1, 2014, at least a year before Bodman says the planned plant will produce fuel.
Hoehn, of RANSAC, said he was surprised by the deadline being moved because it was "the one stick to wield against" the federal government that the state had.
"It's important to have the accountability mechanism," he said.
The delay will also mean a slower startup of fuel MOX usage by Catawba, which will have to revert back to 100 percent uranium after the test is complete while it awaits MOX production from Savannah, said Julianne Smith, a spokeswoman for the nuclear security administration.
The developments come at a time when nuclear energy has begun to emerge as a more viable energy option in Washington as well as abroad due to growing concern that the world is too reliant on oil from unstable nations as well as heightened concern about environmental emissions from coal and oil.
President Bush last week was in India settling a deal that would allow that country, which has nuclear weapons technology, to buy nuclear fuel and commercial nuclear technology in return for international inspections of its civilian reactors.
Bush also recently announced the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which he envisions as a plan for the United States to essentially lease nuclear energy to countries that need it for power, and then retrieve the spent fuel so there would be less risk that it be turned into weaponry.
Though nuclear fuel is emissions free, serious questions remain about its long-term disposal at Nevada's Yucca Mountain or any other repository.
Continuing the shift in emphasis of U.S. threat reduction efforts toward programs with global reach, the Bush administration’s fiscal year 2007 budget request includes cuts to a number of traditional threat reduction programs in the former Soviet Union and modest increases to those with broader regional scope.
The flagship Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program within the Department of Defense is marked for a 10.6 percent cut, while similar Department of State programs received slight across-the-board increases. Nonproliferation projects within the Department of Energy received mixed support in the request, with a large increase for disposition of U.S. fissile material and cuts slated for several programs operating in the former Soviet Union.
Department of Defense
The president’s fiscal year 2007 budget request for the Defense Department includes $372 million for the CTR pro gram, a $44 million cut from current spending. The Pentagon has not yet released a programmatic breakdown for the proposed funding. The CTR program works to secure, dismantle, and dispose of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their fabrication facilities in the former Soviet Union.
In an e-mail to Arms Control Today, Andy Fisher, a spokesperson for CTR champion and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), played down the significance of the cut to the CTR program, noting that additional funds are included in a pending fiscal year 2006 sup plementary budget request for the Defense Department. The added $44 million for warhead storage security in Russia would bring total CTR funding up to current levels.
But an aide to Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and ranking member on the House Budget Committee, told Arms Control Today Feb. 16 that “cutting the funding for CTR in the base budget is the wrong way to go.” Con cerning the inclusion of funds for warhead storage security in the budget supplemental, the aide said, “[P]articularly given that this is for urgent security upgrades, it does beg the question, why is the funding in the supplemental and not the base budget?”
Fisher also noted that the reduced request for CTR programs reflects that the administration has yet to spend funds Congress has already allocated for delayed construction projects, such as a chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuchye in Russia, slated to come on line in 2008. In addition, several other costly weapons destruction programs are winding down, Fisher said.
Department of Energy
The president’s request for the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would increase funds for disposition of U.S. surplus fissile materials and cut a number of Russia-oriented programs.
The budget request includes $28.5 million for the Global Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program, which seeks to redirect the expertise of former weapons scientists in Iraq, Libya, and the former Soviet Union toward civilian pursuits. The request is 29 percent below current spending of $39.6 mil lion. NNSA says the lower total reflects diminished program activity in the Russian cities of Sarov and Snezhinsk.
The budget request for the Interna tional Nuclear Materials Protection, Control and Accounting (MPC&A) program, which seeks to secure vulnerable nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials, is $413.2 million, a 3.3 percent reduction from the 2006 appropriation of $427 million. Within the MPC&A request, a significant increase is slated for the Second Line of Defense program in order to accelerate the installation of radiation detectors in the Caucasus region. Mean while, cuts are proposed for programs providing physical protection upgrades at Russian weapons fabrication sites as well as civilian nuclear sites.
The request calls for $206.7 million for the Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production program, an increase of 17 percent from the previous year’s appropriation of $176.2 million. The program aims to shut down the last three Russian weapons-grade plutonium-producing power reactors and replace them with fossil fuel-burning plants.
A 9 percent increase to $106.8 million is requested for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which seeks to repatriate Russian- and U.S.-supplied weapons-grade reactor fuel from around the globe, convert reactors fueled by highly enriched uranium to the use of less vulnerable fuel, and secure radioactive sources worldwide.
A large increase of $169 million is requested for the Fissile Materials Dispo sition program, which works to dispose of U.S. and Russian bomb material. How ever, the vast majority of the $638 million requested for the program, including virtually the entire increase, is allocated to programs within the United States. Furthermore, the $34.7 million request for plutonium disposition efforts in Russia is to be paid out of prior year balances and appropriations, with no additional appropriations requested.
The parallel fissile materials disposition efforts in Russia and the United States have been delayed because of outstanding issues regarding liability protections for foreign contractors in Russia. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told the House Armed Services Committee Feb. 16 that the long-running disagreement over liability will soon be resolved. Calling the negotiations of a liability protocol “successfully completed,” Bodman told committee members that “senior Russian government officials have assured the United States that this protocol will be signed in the near future.”
The NNSA, in an email to Arms Control Today , said that a total of $283 million within their budget request will support implementation of the Bratislava Nuclear Security Initiatives, a February 2005 agreement between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin to enhance and accelerate cooperation on nuclear weapons security.
Department of State
The administration requested $139 mil lion for the threat reduction activities of the State Department, a 4.3 percent increase from the previous year’s $133.5 million appropriation within the Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining and Related Programs budget line.
The Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund, a unique pool of funds designed to allow for quick responses to unforeseen nonproliferation contingencies, received $38 million in the request, a 1.3 percent increase from the previous year.
The budget request calls for $45 mil lion for the Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance (EXBS) pro gram, a 3.8 percent increase from the 2006 level of $43.4 million. In 2007 the State Department seeks to make the EXBS program “increasingly global,” working with 47 countries to improve border security.
The largest increase for the State Department’s threat reduction programs goes to the Nonproliferation of WMD Expertise program, which is slated to receive $56.2 million, up 6.4 percent from the 2006 appropriation of $52.6 million. This program aims to redirect former weapons scientists into peaceful pursuits.
1. Nuclear Is Back in Fashion And Not Even the Sky Is the Limit
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On June 26, 1954, 60 miles away from Moscow at Obninsk, a 5-megawatt nuclear reactor was connected to an electricity grid to provide power for the surrounding area. Less than a decade after the first nuclear weapons were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear power was put to civilian rather than military uses for the first time, and the Soviet Union scored a technological victory over the United States in the Cold War.
Over half a century later, Russia’s nuclear infrastructure – both civilian and military – is one of the most developed in the world. After widespread fear and skepticism in the wake of the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters, nuclear power is becoming respectable again, and is even seen as a source of national pride. At his annual press conference, President Vladimir Putin immediately brought up the nuclear issue when asked if Russia really deserves a place in the G8 group of leading industrial nations. “The G8 is the place where global problems are discussed,” said Putin. “Can anyone imagine, for example, solving the problem of international nuclear safety without the participation of the biggest nuclear power in the world – the Russian Federation?”
Nuclear power currently accounts for around 16 percent of Russia’s electricity production and the nation has plans to embark on an ambitious program of construction to increase this share to 25 percent by 2030. A recent announcement from Rosatom, the Federal Atomic Nuclear Agency, stated that a total of 40 new reactors are planned, with two to be constructed every year, beginning in 2012. With ever-increasing global demands for energy, rapidly diminishing fossil fuel resources, and the economic inefficiency of many alternative energy sources, it seems that nuclear energy is back in vogue.
“The scientific communities and leadership of all countries are beginning to admit that the energy problem cannot be solved without the use of nuclear energy,” Valery Volkov, head of a Russian research project into non-fissile nuclear energy, said at a Moscow press conference. “Without nuclear energy there is no future for humanity.”
While Volkov admitted that Chernobyl had left a scar on the Russian nuclear psyche, he also pointed out “three years before Chernobyl, the more responsible scientists among us warned that such an event was likely to happen.”
Vladimir Orlov, the director of the Moscow based PIR Center, a think tank that deals with nuclear issues, agrees that nuclear technology is the way forward. “Things have changed a lot since Chernobyl. We have new generations of nuclear reactors and much more advanced safety measures,” he said. “If you compare the current nuclear technology with other energy options, such as coal, I think nuclear is safer and has less potential for accidents. Moreover, advanced nuclear technology is highly proliferation resistant.”
Proliferation issues aside, one thing that worries anti-nuclear campaigners is the issue of radioactive waste, a byproduct of nuclear energy. However, Orlov feels that the vast size of Russia is an advantage. “Russia is well equipped in terms of -facilities for storing waste. There are always risks involved in the transportation of waste, but again, I feel that they are relatively low.”
The main development on the nuclear front for early 2006 was an indication of renewed cooperation between Russia and other former Soviet countries on nuclear issues. Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Rosatom, spent January undertaking an active program of visits, including meetings with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yury Yekhanurov. In the immediate aftermath of the “gas row” between Russia and Ukraine, the two announced that Russia had suggested to Ukraine that the two countries should engage in the joint construction of atomic energy stations in third countries. At the Eurasian Economic Community summit in St. Petersburg, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan joined the alliance. While most of the activities of the Soviet nuclear program took place in what is now the Russian Federation, essential elements were located in other parts of the Soviet Union – uranium is mined intensively in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, while automated control systems, pumps and turbines are produced in Ukraine. “Everything on the territory of Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan is part of a single complex,” Kiriyenko told journalists in the Kazakh capital Astana after meeting President Nazarbayev. “My task is to revive that complex under market conditions.”
In late January, Putin went into more detail. “There should be international centers carrying out the nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment, which would operate under the control of the IAEA and provide free access for all countries,” he said. “Russia has already suggested this kind of initiative, and is ready to create this kind of international center.”
Putin said that this plan would be presented by Russia at the G8 summit in July in St. Petersburg. U. S. President George W. Bush has already spoken out in favor of the idea, and suggested that the United States should be another venue for such a center. He also announced the allocation of major funds for nuclear research in his proposed budget, announced in February.
“In the list of the international projects Russia has prepared for its chairmanship of the G8 this year, this is one of the most attractive,” said the PIR Center’s Orlov. “It is practical, emphasizes technological and scientific strengths that Russia already has, serves the economic interests of a number of players, and may solve urgent non-proliferation problems.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency Press Office in Vienna declined to comment directly on the proposal, but pointed out that it was in line with recommendations that the agency’s director general, Mohammed El-Baradei, had made in the past.
The impetus for the development of international centers seems to have come from the frenzied debate over Iranian nuclear ambitions in recent months. Russia’s proposal to enrich uranium in-country and then transport it to Iran is seen by many as the only possible exit route from the current standoff between Tehran and the West. But, while this is the current burning topic, Orlov feels that eventually the initiative could be put to much broader use. “We shouldn’t think of this as being about only Russia and Iran. This will also involve at least two countries that Putin himself has mentioned – Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan – and could turn into a genuinely international project.”
To cope with all this up-scaling, 2006 should also see structural changes in Rosatom, with plans afoot to incorporate the government department and turn it into a state-owned company along the lines of Gazprom. Business daily Kommersant reported that the specifics of the assimilation of private-owned and Gazprom-owned enterprises that would be part of the new “Atomprom” had yet to be worked out, but that Rosatom would not be privatized due to the national security issues involved.
The most promising new technological initiative is the plans for the BN-800 fast breeder neutron reactor. Estimates are that $1.59 billion will be required in investment to make the reactor, earmarked for the Beloyarskaya power station in the Sverdlovsk region, near the Ural Mountains, a reality. Sizeable funds have been allocated from the 2006 federal budget, which Kiriyenko has described as “better than before, but less than what we need.”
“We are not that close to a fast breeder reactor,” said Orlov. “It will be a project that will consume a lot of time and finances. But there is a need for this technology, and a market for it, both in Russia and in other countries.”
Even further on the nuclear horizon, one idea worth bearing in mind is the use of helium-3 in thermonuclear reactions to produce energy. While the fast breeder reactors in development go a long way to solving the problem of proliferation, they still come with the thorny issue of radioactive waste.
“Helium-3 is the only source of nuclear energy that does not come with the production of radioactive materials,” said Erik Galimov, director of the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry in Moscow. “However, there is also a problem here. There is almost no helium-3 on our planet.” However, major reserves of helium-3 are to be found a giant leap away, on the moon. Not as much of a problem as it might sound, according to some.
Nikolai Sevastyanov, head of Energiya Space-rocket Corporation, released a report recently stating that by 2015 Russia should have a permanent base on the moon, and by 2020 the country plans to start the industrial mining of the helium-3 isotope. “Whoever gets to grips with helium first will win the race for leadership in the world energy stakes, ” he said.
The Bush administration hopes emerging nuclear fuel-cycle tech nologies will help meet U.S. and global energy needs and reduce dangers that civilian nuclear programs might be corrupted for nuclear weapons. But even administration officials indicate that the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), an initiative to promote such technologies, is by no means assured of success.
In his Jan. 31 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush argued the United States had to break its “addiction” to oil by investing in alternative energy sources. GNEP is the nuclear component of a multi-pronged approach that also includes boosting solar and wind power. The administration is seeking $250 million in seed money for GNEP in its fiscal year 2007 budget request.
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman unveiled GNEP Feb. 6. The initiative’s aims, Bodman explained, were to “extract more energy from nuclear fuel, reduce the amount of waste that requires permanent disposal, and greatly reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.” Speaking at the same event, Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell framed the initiative as part of “a nuclear renaissance, which we greatly need.”
GNEP rests on devising new ways of treating spent nuclear fuel so it can be used again and again, a process referred to as recycling, before being discarded as waste. Currently, the United States only runs nuclear fuel through a reactor once before disposing of it.
The United States abandoned commercial fuel recycling in the 1970s because of high costs and concerns about the dangers associ ated with chemical reprocessing, the current method for separating uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for reuse. Because plutonium can be used to build nuclear bombs, Washingtondeclined to embrace an approach that created large quantities of bomb-ready material susceptible to misuse or theft. Despite U.S.apprehensions, France adopted a civilian spent-fuel reprocessing program, and Japan is on the verge of implementing one.
Administration officials envision GNEP as mooting past U.S. concerns by employing new reprocessing approaches, called UREX+ and pyroprocessing, that they say will not yield pure separated plutonium but a mixture, including plutonium, that is less applicable to making bombs. GNEP further calls for construction of new ad vanced burner reactors to make use of the reprocessed fuel.
But the new reprocessing technologies have yet to be proven on an industrial scale, and the new reactors must still be designed. En ergy Department officials seemed to acknowledge the many chal lenges facing GNEP by repeatedly couching it in qualified terms.
Bodman noted, “If we can make GNEP a reality…,” while Sell said, “Ultimately, we hope to be in a position to make a judg ment about the commercial viability of this approach in the coming years.” Sell also added that “the scale of what we are proposing is substantial and the level of [research and develop ment] and demonstration funding that would be required of this country is significant.”
Still, a Feb. 6 Energy Department press release quoted Bodman as declaring, “GNEP brings the promise of virtually limitless energy to emerging economies around the globe in an environmentally friendly manner while reducing the threat of nuclear proliferation.”
The International Aspect
The United States is aiming to get other advanced nuclear powers, such as France, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom, involved in GNEP. Participating countries would seek to develop new small-scale reactors that would operate their entire lifetime on one load of nuclear fuel, minimizing the risk that the fuel could be used for bomb purposes. GNEP countries would also work to devise new safeguard mechanisms to make it more difficult for nuclear materials and technologies in the civil sector to be di verted to building arms.
If the novel reprocessing approach pans out, Washington sees it as enabling GNEP participants to offer other countries a reliable supply of nuclear fuel and fuel services at an attractive price while limiting proliferation dangers. “We hope to develop an interna tional regime…so that fuel can be leased to a country interested in building a reactor and taking fuel, but then the fuel can be taken back to the fuel cycle country,” Sell explained.
Eligibility for this offer would depend on potential recipients forswearing acquisition of their own reprocessing or uranium-en richment capabilities. Uranium enrichment can be used to produce low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel or highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.
In February 2004, Bush called for a halt to the spread of reprocessing and enrichment capabilities. (See ACT, March 2004.) Washington , Moscow, and several European capitals are trying to persuade Tehran to give up its fledgling enrichment program. The United States says Iran’s stubborn refusal is evidence of its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Russia and International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei have advanced concepts similar to GNEP intended to stymie the diffusion of enrichment and reprocessing technologies. Currently, 15 countries, including Iran, have such capabilities.
At a July 2005 Moscow conference, Kremlin officials floated the possibility of organizing a network of global nuclear-fuel supply centers based in Russia and other advanced nuclear powers, and Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated the proposal in January. ElBaradei has advocated establishing a guaranteed nuclear-fuel supply regime that would eventually evolve into multilateral management of all nuclear fuel facilities.
ElBaradei and Putin have said their proposals would be open to any government. Putin said Russia would provide “access without discrimination for all who desire it,” while ElBaradei has recommended a supply regime based on apolitical, objective criteria. The United States has not made similar statements, raising questions as to whether GNEP services would be available to governments not in Washington’s favor.
Sell indicated that reactions to GNEP by other capitals have been mixed. Although saying it had been “enthusiastically received” by some, he also admitted, “[T]here are different perspectives and different angles, and there are many details to be worked out.”
The reaction of U.S. lawmakers has fallen along party lines. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Feb. 9 that the “recycling technologies that are discussed under GNEP are exciting.” Similarly, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the initiative Feb. 16 “visionary.” Alternatively, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) said the same day that GNEP “has serious problems.” She cited potential costs of up to hundreds of billions of dollars, proliferation dangers, and doubts that recy cling would reduce nuclear waste.
The handling of nuclear waste is politically divisive in the United States, and the GNEP proposal to bring back spent nuclear fuel from foreign countries could prompt more objections to the initiative. Indeed, public opposition has stalled the U.S. government’s plan to open a long-term spent nuclear-fuel and waste repository at Yucca Mountain.
3. U.S. Agency Works To Thwart Efforts To Steal, Make Nuclear Weapons - Nuclear security administration chief says threat detection programs a priority
U.S. Department of State/Bureau of International Information Programs
(for personal use only)
Because terrorists and rogue states are pursuing nuclear weapons, effective nuclear threat detection programs must be developed at top speed, according to a senior Energy Department official.
"The pursuit of nuclear weapons by terrorists and states of concern makes it clear that our threat detection programs are urgently required, must be successful, and must proceed on an accelerated basis," said Ambassador Linton Brooks in prepared testimony March 1.
Brooks, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), detailed his agency's $9.3 billion budget request for the fiscal year that begins October 1 to the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.
Brooks said that the NNSA has three fundamental national security responsibilities:
• Reducing the threat posed by nuclear proliferation;
• Assuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile while simultaneously transforming it and the infrastructure that supports it, and
• Providing reliable and safe nuclear reactor propulsion systems for the U.S. Navy.
Brooks told the subcommittee that NNSA's defense nonproliferation programs are comprehensive and multilayered. The agency works with more than 70 foreign governments, he said, to secure nuclear and radioactive materials, stop production of fissile material, detect illegal trafficking or diversion of nuclear material and dispose of surplus weapons-usable materials.
Plus, Brooks said, NNSA cooperates with international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and with less formal bodies such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group to strengthen nuclear safeguards and improve nuclear export control regulatory regimes in other countries.
Brooks said much of NNSA's work focuses on emerging issues such as detecting clandestine nuclear supply networks, monitoring efforts by more countries to acquire nuclear weapons and preventing the spread of nuclear fuel cycle technology.
NNSA is cooperatively developing and deploying radiological and nuclear detection equipment at key border crossings, airports and major seaports around the world, Brooks said.
The agency also is assisting and training customs officials domestically and internationally to detect illicit traffic in nuclear and radiological material, as well as in dual-use items that could be used in weapons of mass destruction programs, he said.
NNSA’s KEY INITIATIVES
Expanded efforts also are under way to secure and transform global inventories of weapons-usable material, Brooks said, such as:
• The Global Threat Reduction Initiative to reduce and secure fissile and radioactive material worldwide;
• The International Material Protection and Cooperation program, which has accelerated efforts to improve the security of weapons-usable material in Russia and elsewhere; and
• Efforts by the NNSA to convert research reactors throughout the world to the use of low-enriched uranium over the next decade.
NNSA AND THE NEW GLOBAL NUCLEAR ENERGY PARTNERSHIP
In February, President Bush announced the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. The partnership is a comprehensive strategy aimed at increasing U.S. and global energy security, encouraging clean development around the world, reducing the risk of proliferation and helping resolve nuclear waste disposal issues.
Fundamental to the energy partnership is "a new approach to fuel cycle technology," Brooks said. Countries with secure, advanced nuclear fuel-cycle capability would offer reliable access both to fresh nuclear fuel and to the recovery of spent nuclear fuel at market prices to other countries that pledge to forgo development of their own nuclear fuel-cycle capability.
"Since the signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [in 1970], the world has sought to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons while expanding the benefits of nuclear technology," Brooks said. "I believe that [the energy partnership] takes us closer to that goal by allowing us to move beyond abstract discussions to tangible actions that will benefit directly those who join us in this partnership."
The government plans to restructure the nuclear energy industry into a vertically integrated holding, a move that would simplify management in the sector and attract the cash necessary for its further development, a top official said Monday.
Federal authorities are reviewing the creation of a fully state-controlled umbrella company, under which several major holdings will be formed, embracing all enterprises operating in the nuclear sector, said Victor Opekunov, chairman of the State Duma subcommittee for nuclear energy, part of the Energy, Transport and Communications Committee.
The restructuring of the industry would involve "privatizing" all Russia's nuclear enterprises -- in other words, incorporating them into joint-stock companies -- with the state becoming their only shareholder, Opekunov said.
In spite of nuclear sector companies being state-owned, their management would be allowed to run the business much like a private enterprise, making operational decisions and attracting corporate financing, Opekunov said.
At present, only 15 percent of Russia's energy needs are served by nuclear power. President Vladimir Putin has called for that figure to rise to 25 percent in 15 years, a target that will require the construction of 40 new nuclear reactors and investments to the tune of $60 billion, according to calculations by Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency.
A working group set up by the atomic agency to draft a strategy on how to restructure the industry and meet these targets has proposed that the new vertically integrated holding, provisionally called Rosatomprom, include three smaller holdings, Vedomosti reported Monday.
The first holding would operate power stations, the second would unite all companies operating in mining and enrichment of uranium, and the third would be in charge of the manufacturing of machinery for the nuclear sector.
Sources close to the Federal Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that state nuclear fuel monopoly TVEL was the most likely candidate to serve as a platform for the new holding.
Opekunov noted, however, that the working group's proposals were far from being rubber-stamped. "What you see are conceptual sketches. A bill for this has not been written yet," he said.
Russia's main nuclear enterprises include Rosatomenergo, which runs all power stations; TVEL; Atomstroiexport, which builds nuclear power stations abroad; and Tekhnabexport, the export arm trading in nuclear machinery and fuel. All are currently supervised by the Federal Atomic Energy Agency.
Most of Russia's nuclear companies are so-called federal state unitary enterprises, which means they are controlled by the state but their capital is not divided into shares.
By becoming joint-stock companies, nuclear firms would gain the possibility to attract strategic investors, borrow cash on the debt market, float shares on the stock market or apply for bank loans.
While some industry insiders said the document for reform would allow the possibility of private investment, including foreign investment in individual projects, the Federal Atomic Energy Agency denied this was the case.
"No one is planning to sell anything," an agency spokesman said.
2. Nuclear Waste Storage To Be Built In Russia's Northwest
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An international seminar of nuclear safety experts is discussing a project to build a long-term radioactive waste storage facility in Russia's northwestern federal district.
Taking part in the seminar, held in St. Petersburg under the aegis of the Rosatom Federal Agency for Atomic Energy, are experts from Russia's nuclear society and nuclear safety specialists from Sweden and Germany.
"The Radon storage in Sosnovy Bor has exhausted its rated service life, and its further operation is viewed as unsafe," officials from Rosatom's regional center told Itar-Tass.
In selecting the location for the nuclear storage facility, Russia will take into account the experience of European countries and Scandinavia. The new facility will fully conform to the international standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency and radiation and ecological safety norms. The project envisions the storage of radioactive waste of "low- and medium level of activity."
3. Russia to Hoist Prices for the Spent Fuel Processing - Ukraine is ready to keep its spent nuclear fuel
(for personal use only)
Russia and Ukraine are on the verge of another atomic energy conflict. Ukraine deems the price offered by Russia to remove, process and store spent fuel from Ukraine's atomic power stations to be too high. Russia is determined to charge 60 percent more. Russia’s atomic energy authorities claim that talks on the matter are still in progress. Both Ukraine and Russia admit that the price that Ukraine mentioned is half as much as world’s one.
Yury Nedashkovsky, the president of Energoatom, Ukraine’s national atomic energy-generating company, reported that Russia had raised the price for the storage and processing of spent fuel from Ukrainian atomic power stations by 62.8 percent in 2006 to drive it to $720 per 1 kg. Ukraine has refused to remove the fuel at this price and is intent to keep it at cooling ponds near stations, Mr. Nedashkovsky said. “Talks are still underway,” he noted. Yet, he agreed that Russia’s price for the service is times lower than that on the world market. The world’s price for the processing of 1 kg of spent fuel reaches $1200-$1400.
Obviously, Ukrainian energy authorities did not like the fact that Russia had offered bordering Bulgaria to pay less, $610 per kilo, and Mr. Nedashkovsky did not fail to mention it.
The Federal Atomic Supervision Service would not elaborate on the growing conflict. “We are now negotiating and the final price has not been fixed yet,” the agency reported.
4. Government Approves Draft Agreement with Russia for Spent Nuclear Fuel from Research Reactor
(for personal use only)
The government approved at its regular meeting on Thursday (2 March) a draft agreement with Russia on the export from Bulgaria and import from Russia of spent nuclear fuel from a research reactor, the Government Information Service said.
The project has been developed by the Institute for Nuclear Research and Nuclear Energy of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, which operates the research nuclear reactor.
The agreement refers to operators of experimental N-reactors which use as fuel enriched uranium-235, Russian production, spent nuclear fuel containing highly radioactive plutonium and other elements, artificially established in the process of burning, which are suitable for production of nuclear weapon. Conditions for building a reliable mechanism for cooperation with Russia for safe transportation of highly radioactive products are established, the press release added. Thus the risk to divert them to third countries is reduced to minimum.
Bulgaria will fulfill the requirements for full interaction with the manufacturing country for returning the spent nuclear fuel according to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) of July 1, 1968 and the Additional Protocol to the Agreement between Bulgaria and the International Atomic Energy Agency for applying warranties in regards to NPT, which is in force as of October 10, 2000, the press release also said.
1. ANDERS ASLUND: THE G7 DOES NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE, Washington's policy on Russia may change before the G8 summit
What the Papers Say
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An interview with Anders Aslund, a leading Russia specialist in the United States, who attended the conference on Russia that US Vice President Dick Cheney convened in January. "The whole G7 doesn't feel comfortable about the upcoming summit in St. Petersburg on July 15-17."
Question: The US has become noticeably more critical of Russia these past few months. What do you think of the state of democracy in Russia nowadays?
Anders Aslund: The era of democracy is over. Russia is now under a mildly authoritarian regime. This assumption is supported by Freedom House data, for example, and in "Democracy Derailed in Russia," a new book by Steven Fish. In fact, Russia is the only country that plummeted from the "partially free" into ""non-free" category on Freedom House rankings last year.
Question: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said three weeks ago that the relations between Russia and the United States "are probably better now than they have ever been in the past." American newspapers reported the other day that the Bush Administration is considering expediency of a new policy on Russia. The signals Moscow is getting from Washington are certainly different. How should they be interpreted? Is the US Administration split over Russia, or what?
Anders Aslund: There is always some discord in the US Administration over a number of issues. It wouldn't be wrong, however, to single out a powerful faction of neo-conservatives who insist on the importance of democracy in Russia. They maintain that Russia's slide into authoritarianism is one of the worst failures for US policy. The second faction may be described as the cynical realists. They don't think that Russia's domestic politics, or democracy in Russia, have anything to do with the United States. This faction maintains that the only thing that really counts is whether Moscow assists the US with its policy on major international issues, primarily WMD nonproliferation and Iran's nuclear program. I'd like to point out here that the balance between these two approaches in the US Administration depends directly on the current agenda.
Three issues are viewed as priorities at this point. First, democracy itself in Russia in the lead-up to the G8 summit in St. Petersburg. The Americans are anxious to decide what should be done so as not to look foolish in St. Petersburg.
Second, the presidential election in Belarus on March 19 and the parliamentary election in Ukraine on March 26. Russia and the United States are sure to be on different sides in these matters.
Third, the problem of Iran. This is precisely where Moscow may salvage its relationship with the United States.
Question: Is it possible to say that these two factions in the US Administration - promoters of a realistic approach and advocates of tough measures - are headed by Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney?
Anders Aslund: In my view, Cheney is way too busy to pay that much attention to Russia alone. He has certain views, of course. As for Rice, I'm under the impression that where Russia as such is concerned, she relies on the opinions of others rather than her own. Particularly active in this regard are Thomas Graham, director of the National Security Council, who supports Putin and concentrates on security issues, and Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, who stresses the importance of democracy in Russia. Rice is somewhere in between. Everything depends on the specific political objective at hand.
Question: Which approach to Russia do you think will prevail - pragmatic or hardline?
Anders Aslund: It depends on the international situation - and, of course, the situation in Russia itself. In fact, it's easy for Moscow to influence Washington's policy on Russia. First and foremost, importance is attached to Moscow's behavior in the former Soviet Union, where Ukraine - and probably Georgia - are particularly problematic areas. There's not much the West can do about Belarus; hence the attention it has focused on Moscow's behavior in that country. And of course, incidents like the recent "gas war" have an impact as well.
Question: Should official Washington decide to change its policy on Russia, how serious would these changes be, and when should we expect them - before or after the G8 summit?
Anders Aslund: It could happen before the summit. There is a strong impression that something has to be urgently done about it.
The US Administration is trying to find answers to three questions now. First, how it can promote democracy in Russia and throughout the former Soviet Union. Second, how it can support sovereignty in post-Soviet countries. And third, how to ensure its own energy security.
Question: What do you think of Russia's new law on non-governmental organizations?
Anders Aslund: It enables the state to move against any NGO at all. What the law means is that there are no rules to observe at all, so the executive branch can act as it sees fit.
Question: American newspapers have said that one way Washington can express its concerns over the state of affairs in Russia is by bringing together the human rights community, promoters of democracy, and other representatives of civil society. A conference could take place either in Russia or abroad. What do you think of this idea?
Anders Aslund: I'd say that something like that is needed, or America will look foolish. I'd even say that holding the conference abroad will be best. Say, somewhere in another post-Soviet country. If it's held in Russia, the conference could be shut down - citing security considerations, for example. And nobody would be able to object.
Question: Senator John McCain urges the United States to boycott the St. Petersburg summit. Do you think the G8 summit could really be disrupted?
Anders Aslund: I think it unlikely. Too late for that, you know. Besides, a boycott is not what I'd call a really effective measure. And by the way, what McCain actually argued was that Bush and his G7 counterparts should discuss the possibility of shifting the summit elsewhere. He certainly chose his words carefully.
In fact, the whole G7 doesn't feel comfortable about the upcoming summit in St. Petersburg on July 15-17. Energy security is the only serious issue that Russia intends to discuss. Being aware of that, France insists on a serious discussion of the subject. Paris also wants Russia to ratify the energy charter to safeguard export of energy to Europe. As for other issues on the agenda (infectious diseases, education), they are not what I'd call matters of paramount importance. It means that the summit is being only arranged to celebrate successes of the authoritarian regime in Russia.
Question: Bush said recently that democratic revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan were just a beginning, and that liberty's triumphant march throughout the world would continue. What will be its next stop, do you think? Belarus? Russia?
Anders Aslund: I'm pessimistic about the prospects of a revolution in Belarus. President Alexander Lukashenko controls everything, all spheres of activity. Along with everything else, there are no independent forces in Belarus capable of challenging the regime. It's difficult for the West to do anything about Belarus that depends on Russian subsidies to the extent it does. Lukashenko's fate is in Putin's hands and Putin is clearly reluctant to act against his Belarusian counterpart.
Question: You said that Russia and the West are on opposite sides regarding democracy in the former Soviet Union. Why is that?
Anders Aslund: Because Russia itself is not a democracy. Its leaders feel more comfortable when they are surrounded by non-democratic neighbors.
Question: Active debates over who may succeed Putin as president are under way in Russia. The names of Sergei Ivanov and Dmitri Medvedev are frequently mentioned, more frequently than any others. Are there any such debates under way in America, among analysts and in government? Which names are mentioned?
Anders Aslund: Medvedev, Mikhail Fradkov, and Ivanov are being mentioned as potential successors. However, all of them seem too weak for presidency. The question is whether Putin really intends to step down in 2008.
Original source: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 7th, 2006, pp. 1, 10.
2. The Upcoming G8 Summit in St. Petersburg: Challenges, Opportunities, and Responsibility
Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)
At the beginning of 2006, Russia assumed the G8 Presidency. We understand very well that this requires serious work and implies a great deal of responsibility. It is not the organizational activities alone that lie ahead. More importantly, we will need to discuss and jointly determine the priorities and substantive areas of work for this highly respected forum, which has served as a key mechanism for coordinating approaches to meeting the most significant challenges of world development for more than thirty years.
We have suggested to our partners that we should focus on three serious and pressing issues: global energy security, combating infectious diseases, and education. These three priorities are oriented towards achieving an objective which we hope is clear to all our partners, namely improving the quality of life and living standards of the present and future generations.
The establishment of a reliable and comprehensive system of energy security is clearly one of the strategic goals for the G8 and the world community as a whole. Today, global energy is an important and true engine of social and economic progress. This is why it directly affects the well-being of billions of people around the globe.
During the Russian Presidency, not only will we seek to develop fundamental approaches to meeting current challenges in this field but also outline our coordinated policy for the long term.
Today, the lack of stability in the hydrocarbon markets poses a real threat to global energy supply. In particular, the gap between supply and demand continues to widen. The apparent increase in energy consumption in Asian countries is caused not only by market fluctuations but also by a host of other factors related to policy and security. In order to stabilize the situation in this field, coordinated activities of the entire world community are needed.
The new policy of the leading world countries should be based on the understanding that the globalization of the energy sector makes energy security indivisible. Our common future in the area of energy means common responsibilities, risks and benefits.
In our view, it is especially important to develop a strategy for achieving global energy security. It should be based on a long-term, reliable and environmentally sustainable energy supply at prices affordable to both the exporting countries and the consumers. In addition to reconciling the interests of stakeholders in the global energy interaction, we will have to identify practical measures aimed at ensuring sustainable access of the world economy to traditional sources of energy, as well as promoting energy-saving programmes and developing alternative energy sources.
A balanced and fair energy supply is undoubtedly a pillar of global security at present and in the years to come. We ought to pass on to the future generations a world energy architecture that would help avoid conflicts and counterproductive competition for energy security. This is why it is essential to find common approaches to creating a solid and long-term energy base for our civilization.
In this connection, Russia calls on the G8 countries and the international community to focus their efforts on developing innovative technologies. This could serve as an initial step in creating a technological basis for energy supply of mankind in the future, when the energy potential in its present form is exhausted.
Global energy security will also benefit from an integrated approach to enhancing energy efficiency of the social and economic development. The G8 made important progress towards elaborating it last year in Gleneagles, including, in particular, the adoption of the Plan of Action aimed at promoting innovation, energy saving and environmental protection. We find it crucially important to engage non-G8 countries, especially fast-growing and industrializing economies, in participating in the G8 initiatives and, particularly, in implementing the document adopted at Gleneagles.
The way most people see it, energy security has mainly to do with the interests of industrially developed countries. It should be kept in mind, however, that almost two billion people in today's world do not enjoy modern-day energy services, while many of them lack access to even electricity. Their access to many benefits and advances of civilization has been virtually blocked.
Needless to say, energy alone would not solve the poverty problem. At the same time, lack of energy resources throughout different regions significantly hinders economic growth while their unsustainable use may result in an ecological disaster on a global rather than local scale.
Lately, experts have been actively discussing ways of increasing energy use in developing countries through a more intensive development of non-conventional energy sources. And this is where assistance rendered by the G8 in developing and introducing alternative power facilities becomes ever so important.
Generally speaking, all of us should recognize and admit that “energy egoism” in a modern and highly interdependent world is a road to nowhere. Therefore Russia's attitude towards energy security remains clear and unchanged. It is our strong belief that energy redistribution guided wholly by the priorities of a small group of most developed countries does not serve the goals and purposes of global development. We will strive to create an energy security system sensitive to the interests of the whole international community. Basically all it takes is for the mankind to create a balanced potential in order to provide every State with sustainable energy supply, and international cooperation opens all avenues for that.
* * *
Throughout its history, the human race finds itself fighting against a genuine threat to its survival – that of the spread of infectious diseases. The progress made might seem encouraging: smallpox was eliminated once and for all throughout the world while fight against poliomyelitis is drawing to a close. Yet our times are also plagued by the outbreaks of both known and new and highly dangerous diseases such as AIDS, exotic viral hemorrhagic fever, microplasma infections, and bird flu. Today, infections account for every third death in the world. According to experts, in the years to come there is a high probability of a new strain of pandemic influenza that would claim millions of lives.
Russia would like to suggest the reactivation of efforts in this regard, including the adoption of a strategic action plan of the G8 to fight bird flu and prevent new human flu pandemics.
In general, the Group should not and must not stay indifferent to such enormous challenges as combating infectious diseases. The uneven development of health systems as well as unequal financial capabilities and scientific potential required to fight epidemics lead to uneven distribution of global resources allocated to the fight against infections.
Marked by a different degree of intensity in different regions, infectious diseases, working as a litmus test, expose social and economic problems, aggravate social inequality and contribute to discrimination. Thus, people infected with HIV and other dangerous diseases find themselves in an alarming situation as they are essentially marginalized and have to cope both with their disease and the difficulties of adapting to a full life in society.
There is another fundamental aspect. In recent years, our world has suffered the devastation of earthquakes, floods and tsunamis with increasing frequency. Urbanization, wider transport networks and industrial infrastructure make us much more vulnerable to these emergencies than before. They cause damage not only to the economy and social sphere; their heaviest toll is the outbreaks of infectious diseases, which claim thousands of lives. Therefore we view as another priority the establishment of a global system for natural disaster warning and mitigating their epidemiological consequences.
Thought might also be given to the possibility of creating a unified infrastructure capable of responding to the emergence and spread of epidemic in a prompt manner. This infrastructure must include a monitoring, information and scientific methodology exchange system that can promptly respond to emergencies.
The so-called humanitarian crises, in particular related to military conflicts, are the root cause of many large-scale diseases. As a result, the threat of effective disease area spread is increased many times over. I am convinced that the G8 will be able to consolidate international efforts in dealing with such emergencies and give a strong impetus to multilateral interaction in this area.
Of course, the G8 should continue to promote scientific capacity-building and pool together intellectual and material resources of the world community for the development of new safe vaccines and promising highly sensitive means to diagnose infectious diseases, as well as for the implementation of education and prevention programmes.
* * *
Our common tasks in the area of education deserve serious attention. In a post-industrial information society, education becomes a prerequisite for success in the daily life and a major input into the economic development. It is one of the most important elements of a growing social identity, moral values and stronger democracy. Moreover, as technologies improve, labor market favors higher-skilled specialists, and education requirements are constantly increasing as a result. Its goals and content are consequently changing. Today, possessing a certain amount of knowledge and skills is not enough; one has to be ready to constantly upgrade and adapt them to new requirements.
Access to global wealth of information dramatically changes education methodologies themselves. Transfer to continuous education is taking place now. Preconditions are in place to form a common education space. Certainly, these trends are gaining momentum, primarily in developing countries. At the same time, many nations and regions still face an acute problem of accessibility of even the basic education. We view this as a true "humanitarian disaster", as a serious threat to the world community. Widespread illiteracy is a breeding ground for the advocates of inter-civilizational strife, xenophobia and national and religious extremism, and in the final analysis for international terrorist activities.
In this context, it is important to formulate a wider and more systematic approach to education in both developing countries and the world at large. In particular, if the employment problem is to be successfully resolved, the notion of education must, as it seems, include not only general education but also vocational and technical training encompassing all levels of education, from basic to higher one.
In the conditions of growing mobility of world population and steady increase in migration, the problem of integration into a different cultural environment acquires special importance. Obviously, it is education that makes possible mutual social adaptation of various cultural, ethnic and confessional groups. Hence, special attention should be paid to upgrading education systems for the attainment of these goals both in developed and developing countries.
Many developing countries experience serious difficulties with introducing advanced education methods and information technologies. In this respect, it is necessary to make more efficient use of the most advanced resources, including the Internet and other newest means of information and knowledge distribution, in the field of education. A fruitful debate on this subject took place last November in Tunisia during the second stage of the World Summit on Information Society; we have been carefully reviewing the Summit outcomes and intend to use them.
Russia stands ready to assist in mobilizing the world community's efforts aimed at raising the quality and compatibility of requirements to professional education as a key condition for the use and propagation of innovations. All stakeholders in global economic development and the international labor market in general are interested in this. The responsiveness of educational institutions to the demands of high-tech sectors is a necessary precondition for the competitiveness of national economies.
* * *
Along with the three priorities on the agenda of the Russian Presidency mentioned above, the G8 will continue in 2006 its work on such key issues as the fight against international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Group will remain focused on the problems of development assistance as well as the prevention of environmental degradation and critical issues of the world economy, finance and trade. And certainly, as before, our efforts will remain focused on the settlement of regional conflicts, primarily in the Middle East and in Iraq, and on stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan.
We fully realize that not a single Presidency is capable of offering comprehensive solutions to the problems of the modern world being discussed by the G8. At the same time, from summit to summit, the Group is getting a better vision of these problems and strives to find the most workable approaches to their solution through its joint efforts.
Russia is ready to contribute actively to further progress in this direction. Continuity and evolution these words are the motto of the Russian Presidency that has commenced.
1. Ukraine, Russia Sign Contract To Extend RS-20 Service Life
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Ukraine and Russia have signed an agreement extending the service life of the RS-20 Voyevoda missile system (SS-18 by the NATO classification), Ukrainian National Space Agency General Director Yuri Alexeyev said on Friday.
The Russian Strategic Missile Forces adopted RS-20 in the end of the 1980s. The missiles were designed and produced in Ukraine. Their service life was initially set at 15 years, and extended for another five years later.
START-1 treaty provides for the disposal of such missiles, but some of them will remain in the forces for several years. "There are newer and older RS-20 missiles. The older ones will be used until 2007-2010, while the newer ones will be used until 2014-2016," Strategic Missile Forces Commander Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov said.
The Bulava advanced intercontinental ballistic missile will soon become a key component of the Russian nuclear triad. It was designed at the Moscow Thermal Machinery Institute.
2. Generals Dreaming of Cuban Missile Crisis. Sergey Ivanov's Subordinates Are Prepared To Withdraw From INF Treaty
(for personal use only)
Russian generals are again raising the issue of deploying so-called ground-based medium-range missiles. The grounds for this conclusion were provided by a statement (which passed virtually unnoticed) by Major General Vladimir Vasilenko, chief of the Russian Federation Defense Ministry's 4th Central Scientific Research Institute, that "the deployment of a group of ground-based medium-range missiles may be considered as an additional means of ensuring national security." In Russia and abroad the 4th Central Scientific Research Institute is known as one of the most closed establishments within the defense department that are engaged in nuclear missile planning.
Generals do not make statements of this sort on their own initiative. They are always preceded by unpublicized decisions in the top echelons of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff. According to Vasilenko, he replied to Interfax's questions (it was for Interfax that the general made his sensational statement) in writing, in other words in a deliberate fashion, checking every word, and his words were cleared by the censor and passed via the Russian Federation Defense Ministry press service to a representative of the agency.
In accordance with the Treaty on Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF) signed by the USSR and the United States in 1987, medium-range missiles were destroyed back in 1991. As the USSR's successor, Russia is obliged in accordance with this document not to test or deploy ground-based ballistic or cruise missiles of medium range (1,000-5,500 km) or shorter range (500-1,000 km). Moreover, as Vasilenko points out, "the INF Treaty is of unlimited duration, although each side has the right to exercise its state sovereignty by withdrawing if it decides that exceptional circumstances linked to the content of the treaty would jeopardize its higher interests." He focuses attention on the fact that "Russia has retained a technical and technological headstart in the creation of ground-based medium-range missiles and the corresponding production base." A year ago there was discussion in the press concerning Russia's possible withdrawal from the treaty, under which a whole class of missiles was destroyed. In March 2005 published an article maintaining that during a January (2005) meeting in Washington Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov broached the possibility of the Russian Federation's withdrawal from the INF Treaty to his US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld. Later, however, the Russian Federation Foreign Ministry officially confirmed Russia's commitment to observing the INF Treaty.
All issues concerning this problem seemed to have been resolved. But then Russian Federation Defense Ministry representatives suddenly started talking about it. Maj Gen Vasilenko yesterday (28 Feb) confirmed to that the statements cited by Interfax were correct, pointing out that there are several reasons for the reappearance of the INF topic in the media, among which he named the Russian defense industry complex's interest in increasing the state defense order. He shifted the blame, so to speak.
At the same time, the general pointed out that his statements in no way contradict the position of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Vasilenko's argument is that his institute has not yet given practical consideration to the possibility of deploying medium- and shorter-ranger missiles and believes that in the current circumstances it will be necessary to conduct a comprehensive military-economic analysis when considering the deployment of a group of medium-range missiles. "In the course of that analysis, account will inevitably have to be taken of the fact that, given their ability to be used over a wide variety of ranges, ICBMs are a more adaptable deterrent than medium-range ballistic missiles," Vasilenko said.
The contradictoriness of the Defense Ministry representative's position is obvious. And the question of why he, who is responsible for strategic nuclear planning, had to publicize this position at this particular time remains unanswered. This looks more than anything like a sounding of public opinion, an attempt to establish how the public would respond to an attempt to renew the arms race.
"The creation of the United States' national missile defense system will inevitably provoke a nuclear missile arms race," Colonel General Varfolomey Korobushkin, first vice president of the Academy of Military Sciences, said the other day. Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, professor, former head of the 4th Central Scientific Research Institute, and now chief research associate at the Russian Academy of Sciences IMEMO (World Economics and International Relations Institute) Center for International Security, believes that Russian withdrawal from the INF Treaty is possible in the future. "Withdrawal from the Treaty is possible, but not obligatory," he said, using those precise words, and declining to comment further. "Vasilenko is my colleague, I am not going to oppose him."
1. Russia: Director Of Mayak Nuclear Reprocessing Plant Removed From Office
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Moscow Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostey WWW-Text in Russian at 1305 GMT on 2 March reports that the director of the Mayak nuclear reprocessing plant in the Russian Urals has been removed from office.
Vitaliy Sadovnikov is facing charges of violating environmental protection regulations and the regulations on the movement of environmentally harmful substances and waste, the agency recalled. "Investigators reached the conclusion that it was necessary to remove him from the position he held," an official from the Urals Federal District branch of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office said.
The charges relate to actions that resulted in the years 2001-2004 to several 10s of millions of cubic metres of liquid radioactive waste being discharged into the river Techa, the agency said. The investigator believes Sadovnikov took no real steps to tackle environmental safety issues even though he had the funds to do so.
Russia's plans to have a floating nuclear power plant operational by 2009, with five or more to follow, have brought fears of nuclear contamination to the people and marine life of Arctic regions.
Six to seven nuclear reactors housed on barges in the Arctic Sea will generate electricity for remote Northern areas, Stanislav Antipov, head of the state nuclear energy consortium Rosenergoatom, announced Tuesday.
Environmental groups like Greenpeace Russia and Norway-based Bellona say accidents are likely, and would cause contamination of water, marine life, harm the indigenous population, as well as sending a radioactive cloud into the air.
"Any accident would lead to the pollution of sea as well as air, affect very fragile marine eco-systems, and the indigenous population, whose lifeblood is fishing," Bellona's Charles Digges told edie.
"The weather in these areas is extraordinarily unpredictable, in the winters waves can go up to 10 or 20 metres," he added.
Floating reactors will be smaller than land-based units, generating around 70 MW of power - around triple the size of a naval reactor - compared with thousands of MW for conventional reactors. They will be placed on barges, transported by sea and moored by the coast to generate electricity.
Environmentalists question the project's economic sense, pointing to wave and wind energy as cheaper and safer ways of powering Russia's remote regions.
"But Rosenergoatom likes its gizmos," said Charles Digges.
Stanislav Antipov dismissed environmentalists' concerns, saying that the floating reactors would be made to high safety standards.
The floating reactors are part of a wider expansion programme for Russia's nuclear power industry, announced this week. Two new reactors are to be built each year until 2030, with a target of increasing the share of nuclear in Russia's electricity generation from 16 to 25%.
Russia also wants to sell floating nuclear reactors to Southeast Asian countries. The proposition has met with keen interest from China, Thailand and Indonesia.
Greenpeace Russia has criticised the project, saying it would bring an increased terrorism risk.
"Exploitation of floating nuclear power plants in Southeast Asian countries without intensified security measures (...) creates a serious threat of terrorism and piracy on the high seas", Greenpeace Russia wrote in an address to the FSB.
The Russian cabinet will be discussing detailed plans for the nuclear expansion in March or April.
1. Dedication Ceremony for First Stage of Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility in Kambarka, Udmurt Republic (Russia)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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A dedication ceremony for the first stage of the chemical weapons destruction facility in Kambarka, Udmurt Republic, took place on March 1. In December 2005 about 1.8 tons of lewisite, which belongs to the category of extremely hazardous blister agents, had been destroyed here on a test basis. President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin sent the ceremony participants the following message of greetings:
"I congratulate all the project participants on the fulfillment of a major state task, that of creating a complex production facility for the destruction of chemical weapon stocks.
"This extensive work, performed in a short space of time, is the result of much effort and painstaking work by leading scientific, design and construction organizations of Russia, a serious step along the path of implementing important international agreements and commitments. It is important that in the work on the project, use was made of most up-to-date achievements of technical progress, advanced technologies, and high ecological standards permitting its reliable operation.
"I am certain that the built facility will serve to solve the topical problem of chemical disarmament."
Those attending the ceremony were the representatives of the Russian Presidential Administration, of the Federal Industry Agency, of the Defense and Foreign Affairs Ministries and other Russian agencies, and numerous foreign guests.
The facility in Kambarka is the second plant built in Russia as part of the implementation of the Federal Goal-Oriented Program "Destruction of Chemical Weapon Stocks in the Russian Federation." It is meant to destroy 6,360 tons of lewisite. The aim of the federal program is destruction of all chemical weapons stocks (40,000 tons) by 2012, as provided by the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The facility has been built with the technical assistance of Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and also the European Union.
Russia is committed to its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and intends, within the timeframe set by this treaty, to complete the destruction of its chemical weapon stocks.
1. Russian Expert Warns Bird Flu Could Be Used as Biological Weapon
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The virus of bird flu could well be used as a biological weapon, according to a leading researcher at the center of health of wild animals of the All-Russian Nature Protection Research Institute of the Rosprirodnadzor (Federal Service for Regulation of the Use of Natural Resources), Yevgeniy Kuznetsov.
"Flu is listed in the fourth group of diseases that could be used as biological weapons," he said. According to Kuznetsov, nowadays it is not necessary to artificially create a virus and spread it. "To introduce a virus of bird flu is easy: for this, one could scatter dry droppings of birds in the form of powder anywhere," Kuznetsov said.
"The virus survives very well: It will survive in water at low temperatures for a long time," he added. "In the view of the expert, "one gramme of droppings, broadly speaking, is sufficient for infecting one million chickens."
2. Plagued by Errors: New Approach Needed to Tackle Proliferations Threats from Anti-Plague System
Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley
Arms Control Today
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The former Soviet anti-plague system stands today as a little-known but profoundly important proliferation challenge facing the international community. The Soviet Union managed this unique system, consisting of more than 80 facilities, to control deadly endemic diseases and to prevent the spread of exotic pathogens. Until recently, however, the anti-plague system’s other role—contributing to the Soviet biological weapons program—has been overlooked.
Today, the anti-plague system retains the raw material and knowledge highly sought after by bioterrorists. What’s more, more than a decade of fragmentation has resulted in lax security, severely underpaid staff, and virtually no accounting system for highly lethal strains of viruses and bacteria. While international donors have taken some steps to contain the system’s physical security threats, existing and prospective nonproliferation efforts are not substantial enough and somewhat off the mark. Such efforts will not be truly effective until they rein force the important public health benefits these facilities offer.
Created by the tsars in the 1890s to respond to numerous outbreaks of plague, the anti-plague system, then composed of 11 laboratories, experienced a dramatic expansion under Soviet rule. By the late 1970s, the system was composed of 87 facilities engaged in disease surveillance, research, production and testing of vaccines and laboratory equipment, and training of civilian and military personnel. The system employed a staff of 14,000, includ ing 7,000 scientists whose expertise broad ened beyond plague to other endemic zoonotic diseases, such as anthrax, bru cellosis, tularemia, and Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever. Most importantly, the anti-plague system stretched beyond Rus sian borders into Central Asia, the Caucasus, Ukraine , and Moldova, with facilities strategically located in 11 republics. In the early 1960s, the system, until then primarily engaged in defending the coun try against endemic and exotic diseases, experienced a profound turning point: it was enlisted to support the Soviet biologi cal weapons program. Initially, anti-plague facilities contributed to the defensive biological weapons program by providing the military with samples of dangerous pathogens, conducting research, training military scientists, and producing vaccines for mobilization purposes. Rapid response teams were also created at anti-plague facili ties and were trained to deploy rapidly to an outbreak location in order to determine whether the disease occurred naturally or was the result of a biological attack. In the 1970s, the anti-plague system’s involve ment in the Soviet biological weapons program went a step further, when selected facilities started contributing to the offen sive biological weapons program. This also led to the system’s rapid militarization, with military officers appointed to head key anti-plague facilities.
Three degrees of involvement in the Soviet biological weapons program ex isted within the anti-plague system. The first, and probably the largest, consisted of a “blind” contribution, where scientists’ research was used for the biological weapons program unbeknownst to the researchers. This happened through military monitoring of the work of anti- plague facilities. This process was facili tated by the centralization of research and disease surveillance findings in a central database, and the review of their research findings at two anti-plague institutes in Saratov and Rostov headed by military officers.
The second level of involvement consisted of small teams of researchers work ing on secret programs in various anti-plague facilities, with only the research team leaders aware of the work’s purpose.
A third type of research, concentrated at major anti-plague institutes such as at Saratov, Rostov, and Volgograd, consisted of a more active role in the offensive and defensive programs.
In spite of their biological weapons work, anti-plague facilities preserved their original public health mission of protecting against endemic and imported dangerous diseases. Even at sites that were actively involved in the biological weapons program, civilian and biological weapons work was conducted in parallel but separately. In most cases, biological weapons activities did not adversely affect public health activities. Post-Soviet Fragmentation
On the eve of the Soviet Union’s dis solution, the anti-plague system had 89 facilities, including six central institutes, 29 regional anti-plague stations, and 53 field stations located in 11 republics of the former Soviet Union. The system employed about 10,000 personnel, including 2,000 scientists. After the Soviet Union’s dissolu tion, anti-plague facilities were reorganized as independent national networks in each newly independent state, with one facility taking the role of the new network’s center. Yet, the anti-plague system lost its organizational cohesion. Soon after 1992, most ethnic-Russian personnel working at anti-plague facilities in non-Russian former Soviet republics returned to Russia to work at Russian anti-plague facilities or other research institutes. The loss of personnel continued steadily as economic circumstances worsened in the newly independent states.
To make matters worse, conflicts arose in several of these states over the control of the anti-plague system. Some officials favored preserving anti-plague facilities because of their unique experience and knowledge while others sought to integrate anti-plague facilities into the Sanitary Epidemiological System (SES), a network of facilities with more traditional public health responsi bilities such as vaccination and sanitation. These conflicts subsided after a 1999 plague outbreak in Kazakhstan made clear the value of the anti-plague facilities. Plans to integrate the anti-plague and SES systems were shelved.
Nevertheless, this tumultuous period exacerbated the anti-plague facilities’ already precarious financial situation. On average, they lost about 50 percent of their budgets and 40 percent of their staff. The scientists that remained received low salaries and irregular payments, which in 2004 ranged from $20 to $100 per month for senior scientists with 25-30 years of experience. With salaries often lower than the regional average, anti-plague facilities have been unable to replace lost personnel with a new generation of specialists.
The resulting proliferation danger is palpable. Foremost is the high risk of brain drain. Considering the undocumented outflow of personnel that began soon after 1992, it is quite possible that some leak age has already occurred. According to anti-plague system directors and veterans, most of the “lost” personnel were technicians and support staff. Fortunately, facili ties have generally been able to preserve their scientific personnel, many of whom have passed retirement age. None theless, even personnel still employed by the anti-plague facilities may continue to pose a proliferation threat. These include scientists and technicians with biologi cal weapons knowledge, as well as other scientific personnel who may not have, at least knowingly, worked on the biological weapons program but who possess experience and knowledge of biological weapons relevance. More particularly, anti-plague scientists are accustomed to working with low-technology equipment and are trained to isolate pathogens in harsh field conditions, often finding their way to natural foci of dangerous diseases just using their memory. These qualities would be of great interest to criminal or terrorist groups who wish to preserve the secrecy of their activities.
The Soviet Union’s dissolution also gravely affected the implementation of security measures at anti-plague facili ties. In Soviet times, the sophistication of the anti-plague facilities’ security systems depended on their degree of involvement in the biological weapons program. The systems ranged from on-site KGB officers, Ministry of Interior troops guarding facil ity perimeters, and fences topped with barbed wire to police communication lines and alarm systems with motion detectors on doors and windows, particularly in the pathogen collection rooms.
There were also strict regulations on the storage and transportation of dangerous pathogens. For instance, pathogens were either transported by a special service with armed guards or transferred by at least two members of the scientific staff by car, train, or plane. Strict safety regulations were also imposed for labora tory work with dangerous pathogens. Even though the governments of the newly independent states adopted Soviet-era regulations on safety and security, funding and personnel shortfalls severely affected their implementation. The security systems have collapsed in most facilities. Ministry of Interior and police protection are no longer available; barbed wire on fences are often stolen and sold as scrap metal; alarm systems no longer work due to frequent power cuts and lack of maintenance; and fences have collapsed due to lack of repairs, leaving the territory of these facilities essentially open to intruders.
The low level of physical security together with an inadequate accounting system also put at risk anti-plague facilities’ collections of pathogens. These constitute a unique historical database of hundreds of strains from various regions of the former Soviet Union assembled over several decades. Although most strains have been isolated from nature, some possess features making them ideal raw materials for biological weapons: high virulence and inherent antibiotic resistance. Yet, pathogens are typically stored in kitchen refrigerators secured with simple locks or wax seals, making them highly vulnerable to diversion or theft. Moreover, vials con taining the pathogens are typically labeled, facilitating their identification by intruders. In addition, accounting of pathogens is done on paper logs that are generally stored on bookshelves and could become acces sible to intruders.
Another security risk is the absence of background security checks. Without the support of police or security services, most anti-plague facilities abstain from conduct ing such checks. Many facility directors admit that the only job requirements today for new applicants are “scientific qualifica tions and good health.”
Diversion of pathogens could also occur during pathogen transfers from the natural foci where they are isolated to a field or regional station or during later transfers to central institutes for long-term storage. Neither reliable communications nor any position-location technology exists should emergencies arise. For instance, in the late 1990s an epidemiological team monitoring a plague focus in Kazakhstan’s desert got lost and had a serious car accident. Out of radio contact range and without any bear ing, several team members succumbed to injuries before their extended absence led to rescue operations. Should incidents oc cur during transfers, whether they are acciden tal or malevolent, there is a high probability that the chain of pathogen custody will be broken.
Roughly 60 anti-plague facilities are lo cated in Central Asia and the Caucasus, which concentrate the largest and most active natural disease foci. This area, however, is the meeting point of all the proliferation chain components: suppliers, established trafficking networks, and potential buyers. It is also a region where borders remain largely unprotected.  Many anti-plague facilities are located on or near the trafficking routes for drugs, small arms, and weapons of mass destruc tion-related material that cross Central Asia and the Caucasus and proceed northwest through Turkey into Europe.
Several terrorist groups are also active in the region, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which seeks to overthrow the Uzbek president and install an Islamic regime. The wars in neighboring Afghani stan and Iraq have only exacerbated the problem. Moreover, since the Soviet Union’s dissolution, political unrest and civil wars have fostered regional instability, as demonstrated by the recent revolutions in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan and public protests in Uzbekistan. This potentially explosive mixture puts anti-plague facilities at greater risk of being caught in factional entanglements and makes them more susceptible to intrusion or theft, with unpredictable proliferation consequences.
To be sure, there have been no indica tions to date that local terrorist groups have demonstrated an interest in or the capability to use biological weapons. Although there have been numerous outsider facility intrusions over the years, most often they involved intoxicated individuals or people interested in stealing scrap metal. Anecdotal accounts about the theft or attempted insider diversion of pathogens have not led to any known arrests because facility management preferred solving these problems without local police.
Nevertheless, more effective security measures at anti-plague facilities are im perative. In present conditions, dangerous biomaterials, as well as the knowledge and skills of system personnel, are at risk. More particularly, anti-plague specialists’ ability to work in a low-technology environment and in field conditions makes them attrac tive to terrorist groups or states with limited access to high-technology bioequipment. Revelations about Iraq’s use of calutrons for electromagnetic separation of uranium isotopes in the 1980s, a technology declassified by the United States in 1949, should serve as a reminder that technologies regarded as obsolete may still pose threats.
International Assistance Wanting
At present, the anti-plague system receives little assistance from the international community. Perhaps the most significant contribution, however, has come from the United States through its Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program.
The CTR program currently supports security upgrades at three facilities in Ka zakhstan , Uzbekistan, and Georgia. Security upgrades at the anti-plague institute in Almaty, Kazakhstan, transformed a facility with no security features into a secured area with a high fence topped with barbed wires, armed guards, motion detectors, and rein forced doors, among other things. Similar upgrades are planned or are under way at the anti-plague institutes in Tashkent, Uz bekistan , and Tbilisi, Georgia. With the recent signature of agreements with Ukraineand Azerbaijan, similar programs will be implemented at two anti-plague facilities in these countries.
To prevent brain drain, CTR has funded five scientific cooperative projects at the same facilities thus far: three at the Almaty institute, which also involves personnel at regional stations, and one each at the Tashkent and Tbilisi institutes. Together, these projects employ 52 scientific personnel and deal with dangerous pathogens of public health and security relevance.
Long-standing CTR intentions to implement a Threat Agent Detection and Response (TADR) system also appear to be making some progress. The TADR sys tem aims to create a disease surveillance network composed of central strain re posi tories and several sentinel laboratories in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia to furnish early detection of a possible malevolent release of pathogens causing human or animal diseases. State govern ments, in cooperation with the Depart ment of Defense, will decide which facilities to include in the TADR network. To date, the anti-plague institutes in Almaty, Tashkent, and Tbilisi have been chosen to be central strain repositories in each country, and one anti-plague station in Georgia was selected as a sentinel station. It is not clear yet how many other facilities will be chosen as sentinel laboratories.
CTR Program Effectiveness
Despite its positive results, the CTR program remains insufficiently comprehensive to address the system’s proliferation threat. CTR-funded biosecurity upgrades, as well as cooperative research projects, reach only three anti-plague facilities while dozens of facilities still require support.
Although the TADR system is a model project because it addresses both security and public health concerns of national and international importance, it only superfi cially benefits the anti-plague system. Anti-plague facilities account for only a small number of TADR facilities, which include veterinary institutes, the SES, and epide miological hospitals. It is at once surprising and mystifying that a program resting on disease surveillance to detect and prevent the malevolent use of dangerous pathogens does not exploit the very system with the best skills and experience in the field. The fault, however, does not necessarily lie with the CTR program. In some countries, revived conflicts between supporters of the anti-plague system and the SES have thwarted the inclusion of anti-plague facilities in the project.
Even assuming that the CTR program will eventually expand to include a greater number of anti-plague facilities, it may still fail to address the system’s proliferation threats because of a conceptual flaw in the U.S. approach. In the biological weapons area, the CTR program aims to consolidate dangerous material at a small number of sites to facilitate their protection. This approach makes sense with former biological weapons facilities that were, in Soviet times, primarily en gaged in military work because many have struggled unsuccessfully to find a new civilian or commercial mission.
When applied to the anti-plague sys tem, however, this approach negatively impacts the system’s public health mis sion because it ignores the nature of the anti-plague system’s work. The prevention of outbreaks necessitates the constant monitoring of natural foci and the isola tion of natural strains. Funding limits and the loss of qualified personnel have already decreased anti-plague facilities’ disease surveillance activities by 60 percent since 1992. As a result, whole areas endemic for plague, anthrax, and other dangerous diseases have remained un monitored, some for more than a decade. In this context, consolidating facilities or closing them will only exacerbate the public health threat, and ignoring them will increase the proliferation threat.
A More Comprehensive and Nuanced Approach
Addressing threats associated with the anti-plague system requires a more comprehensive and nuanced policy composed of measures that simultaneously grapple with security and public health chal lenges. CTR-funded projects, because they concentrate on a narrow set of security threats, constitute only a small part of this approach. Other agencies in Canada, Europe, the United States, and other Group of Eight members must become engaged to deal with the other security and public health challenges posed by the system. Newly independent state governments must also be involved to ensure that pro grams funded by the international com munity will be useful and sustainable in the long term.
Given the current state of the anti- plague system, priority should go to improving security to prohibit unau thorized access to dangerous pathogens. Unlike the traditional one-size-fits-all approach used thus far in the CTR program, tailored security solutions should be implemented depending on a facility’s location and size, the character of its pathogen collection, and the activity level of the natural foci it monitors. All anti-plague facilities have collec tions of pathogens, but some house temporary collections while others retain permanent ones. Central anti-plague facilities in each country serve as national repositories, housing large and permanent collections. These require a complex security system, involving fences, alarm system, guards, video cameras, outside lights, and secured refrigerators to store the pathogens. Ac counting system modernization is also essential; a computerized system would provide fewer opportunities to conceal the movement of pathogens. The use of bar codes to replace the existing labels on vials would reinforce the system by making it more difficult for intruders to identify the pathogens.
Regional anti-plague stations, which store pathogens for six months to a year before transferring them to an anti-plague institute, require a lower level of security, primarily composed of secured refrigerators and alarm systems. A computerized accounting system might be useful but not necessary. If the facility is not located in an area that presents specific security concerns, introducing an access-restrict ing system such as magnetic card access and secure storage for accounting logs will be sufficient.
An even lower security level may be envisioned for stations located at driv ing distance from the central institutes by providing vehicles and allowing more frequent transfers. Field stations, which store pathogens from a few days to a few weeks, primarily need equipment to secure the pathogens for short periods and during transfers. Local governments may also find innovative solutions to reduce the threat associated with pathogen collections.
In Kazakhstan, for instance, all danger ous pathogens will be consolidated at the central institute. Regional stations will receive simulants instead to conduct their research work. Such an approach, however, means more frequent transfers of pathogens from regional sites, making secure transfer imperative.
The location of a facility will also affect the type and level of security upgrades. One located in an area where major illicit trafficking occurs regularly, such as in the south of Kazakhstan, or with terrorist activity nearby obviously requires a higher level of security. Similarly, facilities monitoring particularly active natural foci also require a higher degree of security, as they isolate and store a larger number of strains each year.
Reinforcing the chain of pathogen cus tody during field work and transfers is also an essential task. This can be achieved by providing Global Positioning System receivers, satellite phones, and all-terrain vehicles to enhance secure transportation and foster continuous communications be tween teams in the field and their facilities.
A second priority is the prevention of brain drain. In this regard, it is important to involve anti-plague specialists in inter national cooperation projects that will not only support them financially but also use their knowledge to benefit the international community. It is important to engage scientists and technicians who have contributed to the Soviet biological weapons program as well as other anti-plague specialists who, without working on biological weapons programs, still have years of unique knowledge and experience working with dangerous pathogens.
Disease surveillance is also vital. Euro pean countries in particular should contribute to such efforts since an epidemic in these states would most likely spread to Europe, as shown by the avian flu and SARS out breaks recently. In addition, European countries could strengthen the alert and response system by establishing telephone lines to reach local hospitals and doctors in isolated areas. Supporting information campaigns for the local population living on natural foci and training local doctors to recognize the symptoms of endemic dangerous diseases would also improve disease surveillance. These activities were in Soviet times part of the anti-plague system’s duties. Today, however, very few facilities have maintained such activities because of the lack of funding.
Using the experience of Soviet-era rapid response teams would also help in the fight against bioterrorism. Their training in identifying the source of an outbreak quickly and deploying an appropriate response would certainly improve the level of preparedness for such events whether in the United States, Europe, or the former Soviet states.
Besides security upgrades and brain drain prevention, improving laborato ry equipment is essential in order to miti gate the consequences of laboratory incidents. Ventilation systems at anti-plague facilities conducting research on danger ous pathogens—regional stations and anti-plague institutes—are desperately needed, especially those located in resi dential or urban centers. Today, researchers sometimes work with open windows due to the absence of ventilation or air con ditioning systems. Upgrades, however, should not lead to excessive reliance on technology. Soviet-era methods, empha sizing rigorous and technique-driven training, should be maintained and encouraged to ensure biosafety.
In these three priority areas, the defini tion of each anti-plague facility’s needs should be the result of discussions among anti-plague representatives; their supervising agency, usually the Ministry of Health; and donor countries. The involvement of health organizations from donor countries in the process is critical to inject a dose of realism in host government expectations, by discussing sustainable options that address both security and public health concerns. Particular national requirements should also be taken into account while identifying present and future needs.
To reinforce security, steps should be tak en to establish systems for managing back ground security checks. anti-plague spe cial ists should also be educated on proliferation issues and ethics. The Department of State Bio Industry Initiative sponsors such training programs for scientists employed at facilities with Bio Industry Initiative-funded projects; these programs could be extended to anti-plague specialists.
Finally, it is essential to engage Russian anti-plague facilities that still remain closed to international cooperation. Europe and Canada may be better suited to do this because the Defense Department sharply decreased its biological weapons nonproliferation programs in Russia due primarily to failure to sign an implementing agreement with Moscow.
In the end, implementing cooperative threat reduction measures to deal with the former Soviet anti-plague system is necessary but not sufficient to cope with the system’s complex dual-use nature. From the outset, the U.S. CTR program has acted in a fireman capacity by trying to put out the most urgent proliferation fires. To be sure, the system merits the CTR program’s attention with respect to securing and consolidating dangerous pathogens, preventing their diversion, and forestalling brain drain. Yet, the anti-plague system differs fundamentally from other threat reduction challenges in that it has had and still assumes a critically important public health role. This capac ity desperately needs to be sharpened if the international community is effectively to cope with the prospects of future and perhaps global epidemics.
1. Animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
2. The exception being the Volgograd Institute, which worked exclusively on the biological weapons program.
3. In many cases, the facilities were given new names and sometimes merged with other public health organizations. For simplicity’s sake, we will refer to them here as anti-plague facilities.
4. Sonia Ben Ouagrham, “Proliferation Threat From Former Biological Weapons Facilities in the FSU,” The Liechtenstein Institute for Self-Determination, Princeton University, 2003.
5. A natural focus is considered “active” when strains have been isolated during the previous monitoring campaigns. The activity of a natural focus is cyclical; the bacteria or virus may appear as dormant for several years and then become active again. It is therefore important to consider the data for a number of years to determine the activity level of a focus.
1. Russian Shipyard Preparing Storage Facility For Scrapped Submarines
(for personal use only)
The first batch of seven single-compartment units of scrapped nuclear submarines will be delivered to the Sayda-Guba long-term reactor unit storage facility, situated in Murmansk Region, in May-June.
The Nerpa shipyard is one of the contractors, constructing the Sayda-Guba storage facility under the contract signed with Germany, head of the Nerpa press service Boris Martynov told Interfax-Military News Agency.
According to him, Nerpa is responsible for preparing reactor units for long-term storage and transporting them to Sayda-Guba.
For instance, under the contract, the first batch of seven reactor units is to be delivered to the storage facility in May-June. "At the moment the work is proceeding to schedule. Experts have started forming the first single-compartment units to be stored at the facility," Martynov said.
Another team of German inspectors completed its work at the Nerpa shipyard last week. According to Martynov, the German experts inspected facilities, signed acceptance reports and receipts for the work done.
2. Russia, Norway Sign Contract for Scrapping Nuclear Submarine K-367
(for personal use only)
A contract for the scrapping of another nuclear submarine - the K-367 of the Project 671 series - has been signed at the Norwegian consulate in Murmansk.
Boris Martynov, a spokesman for the Nerpa ship repair yard (at Snezhnogorsk), where the submarine will be cut up, told Interfax after the ceremony that the contract is scheduled for completion in autumn 2006.
The submarine is already at the yard and "all preparations for scrapping have already been carried out on it", Martynov said.
The value of the contract is not being divulged, but work of this kind is known to cost 5m-6m euros. The K-367 is a Yersh-class nuclear submarine (Victor I in the NATO classification). An extraordinary situation - an accident in the emergency shutdown system - developed aboard the submarine during an exercise in the Barents Sea in 1985. Thanks to the professional actions of the crew, nobody was hurt.
Not one submarine of this design is still in combat service with the navy.
Fifteen "nonstrategic" submarines of this class were built at the Admiralty yard in St Petersburg between 1965 and 1974 - 13 for the Northern Fleet and two for Pacific submariners.
All the Northern Fleet's abandoned submarines are kept in the waters of the Nerpa ship repair yard and at Severodvinsk (in Arkhangelsk Region).
The Project 671 submarines were designed at SKB-16 Malakhit (special design office).
1. Remarks With His Excellency Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation After Their Meeting
U.S. Department of State
(for personal use only)
SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. I'm delighted to welcome to the State Department Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov. We have had an opportunity to talk about a wide variety of issues: our global concerns, like Iran, the Middle East. We've had an opportunity to talk about what we sometimes refer to as frozen conflicts like Nagorno-Karabakh, the issues concerning South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We have talked also about our bilateral relations. And I want to say that we continue to enjoy good relations with the Russian Federation. We continue to work together on a number of global problems.
Russia will, of course, be in the presidency of the G-8 this year where we will go to St. Petersburg, or at least the presidents will go to St. Petersburg for those meetings, and so the G-8 agenda which will be very full, including issues of energy. We will continue to discuss and prepare the G-8 agenda.
We also have had an opportunity to talk about concerns that the United States has expressed to the Russian Government on a number of domestic developments in Russia, and I appreciate the candid and good spirit in which we discussed those issues and in which our questions have been answered. I had the opportunity to have dinner with the Minister last night and with Steve Hadley. We then had an extended bilateral session with our aides and we will go on later on this afternoon to meeting with the President. So Sergey, welcome and it's been a very good set of discussions.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Thank you. I would like to fully share the evaluation of our extensive talks we have had yesterday night during the dinner as well as today, as very important for the promotion of our partnership.
I should also say that the list which has already been enumerated by the State Secretary is understood by us as an important set of matters for the resolution of those acute problems which exists in the modern world within the format of the G-8 and other interactions by Russia with the United States through peaceful ways so that we should be able to avoid the creation of new hotbeds in the world.
Despite the fact that our methods in achieving the goals are not usually -- not necessarily coincide or identical, however, the goals which there are in our cooperation are identical and are shared. We are unanimous in our aspirations towards the -- in acceptance of the proliferation of the WMDs in a country of international terrorism, organized crimes, the drug trafficking and also we believe it is necessary to develop our cooperation in the fields of trade and economic relations.
We have -- as it has been said by Ms. -- the Secretary discussed and responded to a number of questions which were raised by our American colleagues, and in our turn, we have expressed certain concerns of the Russian side with regards to the slow process of Russia's WTO accession since the United States is the only country of today which has not yet signed the protocol on Russia's WTO accession.
As we also said we have also raised our concerns with regards to the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which is still on the agenda, despite the fact that everyone knows this as a notorious issue. And also we have been discussing the matter of competition on a nondiscriminatory basis in the international markets in the world markets between our companies.
We have also expressed our preparedness to develop our work in the fields of energy and nuclear security inline with those initiatives, which have been in parallel put forward by the presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States. And we have agreed that it is necessary to develop the cooperation on the level of experts so that we would be able to come to significant arrangements and agreements preferably before the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg.
We have also agreed that we need to actually cooperate with the United States in the field of the United Nations reform and especially in the field of increasing the role of the military and staff committee.
I'm grateful to the Secretary and all our colleagues for hospitality and very fruitful work we've had.
MODERATOR: The ministers have to go to meetings at the White House right now so we're going to limit it to two questions a side. The first question goes to Ann Gearan from the Associated Press.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Iran has reportedly told the Russians that it is willing to suspend large-scale uranium enrichment while preserving some small-scale enrichment. Did the Foreign Minister ask for U.S. support for such a compromise during your meetings? Could the U.S. accept any level of enrichment on Iranian soil at any time? And does this potential compromise represent a threat to the united international front that you hope to present at the Security Council?
And if I could just also ask one to the Foreign Minister.
SECRETARY RICE: Sure.
QUESTION: If the Iran case moves to the Security Council, is Russia prepared to support any form of economic penalty for Tehran at any time, either now or later in the Security Council review process?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, Anne, let me make a comment on both of your questions and then the Minister can do the same. First of all, we did discuss Iran in great detail and we are both operating from the February 4th resolution that the IAEA Board of Governors passed which has a number of requirements for Iran. The most important is to suspend the current activities that they began after they walked out of the Paris Accords and to return to a moratorium and then to begin negotiations.
I think the United States has been very clear that enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian soil is not acceptable because of the proliferation risk. And I will let the Minister speak for himself, but the Russians did not tell us of any new proposal that they have made to the Iranians concerning anything but the February 4th resolution. We still hope that this can be resolved in a -- through negotiations, through the IAEA, but it's going to require the Iranians to suspend their activities, to reenter the moratorium and to do a number of other steps which are outlined in that February 4th resolution, which built on the London agreement.
As to what we do when we get to the Security Council, we've been very clear that we are -- we've now reported the February 4th resolution to the Security Council. We've reported -- we will report the March 6th through 8th proceedings to the Security Council and then we will see what is necessary to do in the Security Council. There is still time, of course, for the Iranians to react. But we have been very clear that we did not think that as a first matter, we would try to move to sanctions in the first step with the Security Council.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: Thank you very much. I can reiterate what Dr. Rice said. There is no compromise, new Russian proposal. All our contacts with Iran, with European Troijka, with the United States, with China and with others, including the Director General of IAEA were about finding a way to implement the February decision by the Board of Governors of IAEA. It is only in that context that our well-known suggestion to have a joint venture to enrich uranium on Russian territory to provide for the fuel needs of Iran was made and we repeatedly stated that it's only in this context that this joint venture initiative is available. This initiative is not a new one. It was welcomed by all participants of the process and there is no compromise proposals and that could not be any compromise proposal. We will be discussing the situation on the basis of the report of IAEA. And this report would be made available to the Security Council as we agreed in February.
As for the question you addressed to me, we are members of the Security Council, not to support any proposal at any time as you have formulated your question. We will have to consider each situation at its merits. And in the issue of Iran, what is crucial is not who does what, and whether you elevate the level of discussion or keep it where it is. What is crucial is to make sure that the international community clarifies all questions related to the past problem of Iran, while at the same time not allowing the risk of violation of the nonproliferation regime. How to achieve this, I assume, would be discussed in the next few days.
In our view, any solution should take into account the desirability, very high desirability to continue to investigate into the past problem of Iran, so that all the questions, which the international community has could be answered by the experts.
QUESTION: The question to Secretary Rice is does the United States still consider the proposal by the Russian side to establish a joint venture with Iran as a possible solution to the Iranian problem?
SECRETARY RICE: We have been supportive of the Russian proposal, which would be a joint venture with enrichment and reprocessing on Russian soil, and in which there would be an effort, or we believe minimal proliferation risk because the enrichment and reprocessing would be on Russian soil with fuel provision to Iran and then a fuel take-back provision. This is, by the way, very comparable to what the President mentioned when he was at the National Defense University, which is the country should have civil nuclear power, that it's not an issue of Iran's right to civil nuclear power. It is that there needs to be a way to provide for civil nuclear power that does not have a proliferation risk. And we think that both in the way that Russia has structured the Bushehr reactor deal and in this new proposal that this could be achieved.
QUESTION: Do you think that other Quartet members should have direct contact with Hamas and what do you think you achieved in your meetings with Hamas? And also do you believe that funds should be given directly to Hamas after having your discussions with them on Monday?
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: I cannot speak for other Quartet members. One of them is here, so you can address the question, not through me, but directly. We wanted to talk to Hamas in order to make sure that the Quartet position does not remain on paper because somebody should start imposing upon Hamas the need to listen to the international community. And we did so together with some Arab capitals where Hamas visited before coming to Moscow. We conveyed to them our commitment to the Quartet position and explained that this would be in the interest of the Palestinian people if the Quartet position is accepted by Hamas. We didn't happen the Hamas to do this overnight. I assume there would be more efforts to send the message to them. I hope this would not take too long. But we did hear from them that they would respect the authority and competencies of President Abbas.
We also heard from them that they would be ready to express their position on the roadmap and to hopefully endorse the roadmap, as drafted by the Quartet, without any reservations to be added to this roadmap. They also stated their readiness to consider joining the well-known Arab initiative, which was adopted at the proposal by Saudi Arabia at the Arab League Summit in Beirut. And they assured us that the assistance to Palestinians would be spent in a transparent manner for social infrastructural and other projects and even said that they would be prepared to receive and to install international monitoring mechanism to guarantee that there is no diversion of funds.
As for Russia, we intend to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinian people in accordance with our past practice, using the channels existing under the United Nations and World Bank auspices.
QUESTION: The question I'm asking is whether we can have hope that finally in 2006 we'll see the arrangements between Russia and the United States with regards to Russia's WTO accession signed. Can we have some words of hope from Ms. Secretary?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. You did not plant that? All right. All right.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: This question. No, no, no. I swear.
SECRETARY RICE: You confirmed that you did not, right? We would like to see Russia accede to the WTO. The United States has been supportive of that. The President has spoken out about the importance of Russian accession to the WTO. Russia is a growing economy. We know that it wants to be a diversifying economy. And so it should be in the WTO. There are rules for accession to the WTO and we negotiate on the basis of those rules. I've mentioned to the Minister on a number of occasions that, of course, this agreement, the agreement -- accession agreement has to pass the scrutiny, not just of the administration, but also of the Congress. And so we want to be sure that it is an agreement that can meet that test. We have some issues that are outstanding in areas of agriculture and in the services. But our negotiators are working hard. I think that Mr. Gref and Mr. Portman worked very hard. The presidents have talked about this and it's our great hope that we can achieve accession of Russia into the WTO because it would be good for Russia and it would be good for the international economy, but it needs to be done on the basis of rules that are --WTO rules and that the United States must certify have been met, when we take any agreement to Congress. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: I want fully to support the need to base our negotiations on WTO accession on the existing rules, not going beyond the existing rules. So I support this (inaudible) of the Secretary and hope this would be also reflected in the negotiator's position.
2. HEARING OF THE ENERGY SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: GLOBAL NUCLEAR ENERGY PARTNERSHIP
Federal News Service
(for personal use only)
SEN. DOMENICI: (Sounds gavel.) Hearing please come to order.
Senator Reed has indicated that I should start. He may or may not be able to come, but we're going to proceed.
Good morning to you, Mr. Secretary.
First of all, as many of you may know, Clay is returning to this subcommittee where he served as clerk for four years. I'm not sure that he wanted me to brag or comment about that, but it's a reality, so we might as well say it.
I'm very pleased to have you here today, and to have you where you are. I'm sure you're going to do an excellent job in this very difficult arena, and I compliment you on the subject matter that you're going to present to us today.
This is one of many of the president's new programs to break America's dependence on foreign oil and build America's competitive edge, and DOE is the focal point for these initiatives.
Good afternoon, Senator Craig.
First, I commend the secretary and the deputy secretary for setting forth a comprehensive global nuclear strategy that promotes nuclear nonproliferation, the goals of that, and helps to resolve our nuclear waste issues at the same time.
In the '70s the United States decided to abandon its leadership on nuclear recycling and let the rest of the world pass us by. With the creation of this new global nuclear energy program we are going to get back into the ballgame.
Now it's not so easy to play catchup from such a far long distance behind. It means you've got a lot of hard work. It means you've got to have a big vision. It means you've got to be willing to put up some resources. And then you've got to decide that what you're trying to do is really worth it, that it is -- it has the potential for solving some big, big problems in the future.
So based on the current projections, global energy demand is expected to double by the year 2050. We must act now to ensure that we have a reliable energy source without increasing air pollution and without increasing greenhouse gases.
Passage of the energy bill last year created a new future for nuclear power in this country, and it's interesting to note that the rest of the world is aware of the same thing that we are aware of. We finally changed our policy, but they, the rest of the world, has finally decided to change their modus operandi, and they are also moving rather quickly into nuclear power reactors as sources of energy for their countries -- and that's China and many others, Larry, as we know.
In the year 2006 energy outlook, the Energy Information Agency has included in its estimates, believe it or not, a growth in nuclear power as part of the domestic energy picture. Now that's a simple statement to make and, for many, it doesn't mean much. But when the Energy Information Agency looks out there and assesses what is going on, they usually come up with some pretty objective findings. And they have made a decision, a determination, that nuclear power is going to come on board in the United States by way of nuclear power plants.
With the GNEP, we began to close the cycle on nuclear waste in ways that prevent proliferation and reduce both the volume and the toxicity of waste. By recycling the spent nuclear fuel, we can reuse the uranium, which is 96 percent of the spent fuel, and we can separate the most toxic radioactive material to be burned in advanced burner reactors. By reusing the fuel and burning the transuranic material, we can reduce the amount of waste that would be placed in a Yucca Mountain by 100 times. In other words, a Yucca Mountain will hold the waste from 100 times as many -- as much nuclear power as it will today putting the spent fuel rods in as we would put them in under current law and current policy.
So I'm pleased that the president has focused on the importance of solving the energy needs. I don't want to lose sight of the importance of implementing the Energy Policy Act, which contains many important incentives that will support deployment of clean-coal technology, advanced nuclear power plants, biomass and other renewable products.
Mr. Secretary, it is my pleasure to welcome you back. And then, after yielding to Senator Craig, I'd ask you to summarize your statements. Your statement, it'll be made a part of the record.
SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R-ID): Well, Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
Clay, welcome before the committee.
I'm sitting here listening to you, Mr. Chairman, and saying, gee whiz, a year ago this time we didn't know if we were going to get an energy bill. There were no incentives for new nuclear plants -- no risk insurance, no tax credits, no loan guarantees. A year ago there were no real plans for any new nuclear plants to be built in the United States. A lot of need, a lot of concern, utility industry was looking in the out-years to base load, wanting to do nuclear.
But today we believe there are 19 new reactors on the drawing boards of America's industries. So it is a phenomenal transition, Mr. Chairman, from where we were to where we are, and how we keep that going is going to be awfully important not only for the future of our country, but literally for the future of the world.
The president, with his India nuclear deal of 14 reactors just in the last 24 hours, is a big deal. It's an important deal as it relates to proliferation and our ability to get our collective and the world's collective arms around spent fuels and all of that type of thing.
And I applaud you, Clay, for the work you've done on GNEP, or the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. It is a very important component in where we head as a world into resolving the waste stream issue, and a concern that may exist still by some, as there is legitimacy to it, of proliferation.
As you know, I and others have worked awfully close on, and with you, on a new generation concept beyond GNEP, and we actually legislated it into the policy.
And these are policies that fit well together, and should be looked at in that context I would hope.
And I say that because clearly the technology is there not only for nuclear, but the president's initiative is a bold step, very early on the administration, to link hydrogen to the ability of the nuclear industry; led me this past week to go downtown to NEI R&D summit and challenge them and say, why don't you get outside this big new box you're in. It's an exciting box: building new reactors, building new base load, bringing in the efficiencies of clean non-emitting energy. At the same time you're still thinking of it in the context of nuclear generation alone. Maybe we ought to think beyond that, to not only nuclear generation but hydrogen production, not unlike what the folks in the coal industry are doing with FutureGen. And so it's not that I coin a phrase, but I said, why don't we talk about FreedomGen? Why don't we get this country up off its knees and start running?
You know, I was one of those, and Pete and I -- the problem we've got in this committee is that we think we know so much about energy -- and we collectively do, thanks to people like you who used to be with us and other great staff people -- and when somebody says, you know, this nation could be energy independent, we all step back and say, whoa, whoa, whoa; I don't think we could ever get there.
I think how exciting it is for this president -- and we almost got him there in the State of the Union -- to challenge this country to get well beyond where it ever thought it could go. It's those kinds of challenges that really have made this country great.
It is not impossible from an electric standpoint with coal, new technology, nuclear, new technology, to be independent there, that's for sure, and then to start adding other components to it. The energy bill that we passed in July that was signed in August does just that.
And because many of us were concerned about where we went with other world initiatives out there that related to climate change, we challenged this president. You all met the challenge. He went out and started talking about an Asia-Pacific initiative. It makes an awful lot of sense, and fits into the GNEP concept beautifully well.
So there are an awful lot of exciting things happening out there, and I think this committee has done what oftentimes in Congress we really don't get done. We've actually created -- thanks to your leadership, Mr. Chairman -- a significant and powerful new national policy that is now moving and driving. And we need to strengthen it where we can; we need to add new to it where we will. Your leadership at the Department of Energy with this secretary will help us a great deal. So I'm anxious to hear your presentation as it relates to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, and then let's see how we can blend it with other initiatives under way to see if there is an economy of scale and a value that can be created by all of these things converging together into our budgets and into the technology and capability of America's mind-set.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DOMENICI: Mr. Allard, first let me say -- (comes on mike) -- Mr. Allard, first let me say I'm very pleased that you're with us. You're not brand new; I didn't mean that. But you know, haven't had you around very long, and you're going to find this is a very fun subcommittee with lots of work to do, and some of the things that you have been working on are here, and you will have a lot more opportunity to work on them because you fund them here. So if you'd like to make a few opening remarks, I will let you.
SEN. WAYNE ALLARD (R-CO): Well, I'd love to, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DOMENICI: Make them as brief as you can because of the 3:00 o'clock vote.
SEN. ALLARD: I'll do that, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I'm absolutely thrilled to be a part of this committee, and was glad I had the opportunity to serve on it, because you've been such a leader on meeting our energy needs of this country, and I want to join you in that effort.
You know, there's no doubt in my mind that we need to have an ample source of energy to meet the security needs of this country, primarily but also just to meet consumer needs also, and for us to be competitive throughout the world.
I have a couple of pages here of comments. I'm just going to ask that they be inserted into the record, in addition to what I've just stated. And I look forward to working with you, Secretary Sell, because I do want to give my colleagues an opportunity to say a few remarks also.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DOMENICI: Before I call on Senator Murray, let me say to the senators that are here, I understand we have a 3:00 -- two votes at 3:00, and the energy committee, just the two of us, we have a 3:30 meeting.
Senator Allard, is there any -- by any chance could you use part of your afternoon to wrap up these hearings if we have to?
SEN. ALLARD: I believe I can, but let me check my schedule. Hang on. I'll get back to you in just a minute.
SEN. DOMENICI: Would you, please?
Senator Murray, would you like to make a few opening remarks?
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): I would, Mr. Chairman, thank you. And I understand the time limitations.
But I did want to say, Secretary Sell, first, thank you and good afternoon. It's good to see you back on the Hill.
I do have significant reservations, I have to say, about the department's GNEP. Energy security in our nation is a top priority for me like everyone, and we have to do more to wean ourselves off foreign imports of energy sources and replace them with some secure domestic sources. But I strong question whether GNEP is the answer.
I'm not opposed to nuclear energy. All sources of energy have to be explored and utilized if we're to find the best mix for the U.S. to achieve energy independence. That requires taking a very hard look at possible sources and considering several factors, including availability, technical feasibility, environmental impact, and the economics of developing that new resource. And we also have to look for solutions to our energy problems now in using those criteria. That's why I think this proposal falls short.
From what I can tell it has not gone through the necessary peer review, it's without strong economic cost analysis, and it does nothing to address our energy needs in the near or mid-term.
But before we go further, I have to point out that this proposal seems to gloss over the difficulty this country has in managing our nuclear waste. And I want revisit quickly another proposal on cleanup offered by DOE. Accelerated cleanup was sold as a plan to focus on one contaminated site, and once that site was cleaned up and focused, the funds would then be redirected to other sites to accelerate cleanup.
The good news, of course, is Rocky Flats was closed this year. But the bad news is is the EM budget request is cut by 762 million (dollars) 2007. DOE broke that deal with the states and the Congress, and rather than addressing the nuclear waste legacy, DOE has shifted focus to other areas and left our communities holding the bag.
I'm particularly disturbed by comments made by Undersecretary Garman when he spoke to the Energy Facility Contractors Group last month. He called for us to get honest about the cleanup projects left around the country. The context of those comments is the cleanup agreements between the government and the states. The government -- (audio break) -- back, and DOE officials are telling our states to get on it. DOE signed these agreements, and should be not -- not be looking to break them.
It's another example of the mixed messages that DOE sends on its cleanup responsibilities. Last year I had to fight very hard for funding for the vit plant on the Hanford site. I was told by Secretary Bodman and by you that DOE stood behind the project. I found that hard to believe when the only DOE funds offered up for rescission was the 100 million (dollars) from the vit plant.
In the president's 2007 budget proposal there is 690 million (dollars) for the vit plant, and I'm relieved the budget request is finally where it should be. But the funds for the tank farm activities are down by $52 million, which includes a zeroing out of both vit plant. That was proposed by the administration as the way to get the (tank waste ?) treated faster, and now the request is zero. So let's get honest: DOE has a poor record when it comes to managing nuclear waste. GNEP will add the waste inventory, while doing nothing in the near term to help achieve energy independence.
Today there is no place to permanently store spent nuclear fuel. The request for GNEP is $250 million, while the request for EM funds is down. It's striking to me that DOE has proposed a project that will create the same type of waste that we are struggling to retrieve and treat at the Hanford tank farm. I have many concerns, and I am eager to hear your presentation and to address them during the appropriations cycle.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DOMENICI: Thank you very much.
Mr. Secretary, please proceed.
MR. SELL: Thank you very much, Mr. --
SEN. DOMENICI: Don't worry about that.
MR. SELL: Well, I don't want to lose my audience too quickly. (Laughs.)
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Reed, Senator Craig, Senator Allard, Senator Murray, it is truly an honor and a great pleasure for me to have this opportunity to come back before this subcommittee to discuss the administration's proposed Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or what we call GNEP.
Thank you for allowing my written statement to go into the record, and I would like to make some summary comments. And I will try to do that in five or seven minutes.
In many respects I believe it is appropriate that the first public hearing on GNEP occur here, before this subcommittee. From Chairman Domenici's 1997 Harvard speech, calling for a broad reconsideration of nuclear policy and reprocessing, to this committee's role in funding plutonium disposition, to this committee's role in funding a great breadth of nonproliferation initiatives, even to the creation of the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative under the chairmanship of then-Chairman Reed in 2002, this committee, along with your counterparts in the House, has always provided great bipartisan leadership on nuclear matters within our government. So it is a pleasure to be here today to discuss GNEP.
I would like to tell you today why we are proposing GNEP. I'd like to elaborate on what it exactly is and how we propose, with the support of this subcommittee, to get started.
The president has stated a policy goal of promoting a great expansion of nuclear power here in the United States and around the world. The reasons for this are obvious. As the chairman said, the Department of Energy projects that total world energy demand will increase -- will double by 2050. And looking only at electricity, projections indicate an increase of over 75 percent in the next 20 years -- 75 percent increase in electricity demand over the next 20 years. Nuclear power --
SEN. DOMENICI: That's worldwide?
MR. SELL: That's worldwide.
SEN. DOMENICI: Worldwide.
MR. SELL: Nuclear power is the only mature technology of significant potential to provide large amounts of completely emissions-free base load power to meet this need. It will result in significant benefits for clean development around the globe, reduced world greenhouse gas intensities, pollution abatement, and the security that comes from greater energy diversity.
But nuclear power, with all of its potential for mankind, carries with it two significant challenges. The first: What do we do with the nuclear waste? And the second one: How can we prevent the proliferation of fuel cycle technologies that lead to weaponization?
GNEP seeks to address and minimize these two challenges by developing technologies to recycle the spent fuel in a proliferation- resistant manner, and support a reordering of the global nuclear enterprise to encourage the leasing of fuel from what we'll call fuel- cycle states in a way that presents strong commercial incentives against new states building their own enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.
Regarding our own policy on spent nuclear fuel, the United States stopped the old form of reprocessing in the 1970s, principally because it could be used to produce plutonium. But the rest of the major nuclear economies -- in France, in Great Britain, in Russia, in Japan, and in others -- continued on without us.
The world today has a buildup of over 250 metric tons of separated civilian plutonium. It has vast amounts of spent fuel, and we risk the continued spread of fuel-cycle technologies.
If we look only for a moment at the United States, we are on the verge of a U.S. nuclear renaissance, in many respects due to the provisions enacted in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. New plants will be built. But if we want many more built -- and we need them -- I believe the United States must rethink the wisdom of our once-through spent fuel policy. We must move to recycling.
This administration remains confident that Yucca Mountain is the best location for the United -- for a permanent geologic repository. And getting that facility licensed and opens -- opened remains a top priority. Whether we recycle or not, we must have Yucca Mountain. But the capacity of Yucca Mountain as currently configured will be oversubscribed by 2010. If nuclear power remains only at 20 percent for the balance of the century, we will have to build the equivalent of nine Yucca Mountains to contain once-through spent fuel.
The administration believes --
SEN. DOMENICI: Could you make that statement again?
MR. SELL: If we continue to have nuclear generation at 20 percent for the balance of the century, because of our once-through spent fuel policy, we will have to build the equivalent of nine Yucca Mountains.
The administration believes that the wiser course is to recycle the used fuel coming out of the reactors, reducing its quantity and its radiotoxicity, so that only one Yucca Mountain will be required by the balance of this century.
So what exactly is, then, GNEP? GNEP really is --
SEN. DOMENICI: May I interrupt you?
MR. SELL: Yes, sir.
SEN. DOMENICI: And that one Yucca Mountain, under that scenario, would not be filled with the kind of waste we plan on putting in it now, right?
MR. SELL: It would be filled. We still have a significant amount of defense waste in Senator Murray's home state and in Senator Craig's home state that will go to Yucca Mountain.
SEN. DOMENICI: I'm speaking of the domestic side.
MR. SELL: And on the commercial spent fuel, we believe that up to 90 percent of commercial spent fuel could be recycled before going to Yucca Mountain.
SEN. DOMENICI: Which means it would be a different spent fuel.
MR. SELL: It would be in a condition with a very low -- with a peak dose occurring in year 1,000 versus year 1 million.
It would be in a more stable glacious form, and it's the radiotoxicity of the waste which really drives capacity size. And by reducing the radiotoxicity you could fill Yucca Mountain with this glacious stable waste, and that would -- we think would be enough for this century.
SEN. DOMENICI: Excuse me for interrupting. Thank you.
MR. SELL: GNEP is really about identifying the policies, developing the technologies, and building the international regimes that would manage and promote such a growth in nuclear generation in a way that enhances -- in a way that enhances our waste management and nonproliferation objectives. The program in its full detail is laid out in my prepared statement, but I would like to focus on a few of the key engineering and development efforts that are key to GNEP's success.
First, the Department of Energy seeks to greatly accelerate its work in the demonstration of advanced recycling. This effort builds on the advanced fuel cycle initiative initiated by this -- or by Congress, and specifically this committee, several years ago.
We have developed in the laboratory recycling technology that does not separate plutonium like the current reprocessing technologies that are used around the globe. Rather, it keeps the actinides together, including plutonium, so that they can be made into fuel to be consumed in fast reactors that will also produce electricity. By not separating plutonium and building in the most advanced safeguard technologies, recycling can be done in a way that greatly reduces proliferation concerns.
Another key objective of GNEP would be to demonstrate at engineering scale an advanced burner reactor that can be used to consume plutonium and other actinides, extracting energy potential out of recycled fuel, reducing the radiotoxicity of the waste in repeated cycles so that the waste that comes out of the reactor requires dramatically less geologic repository space.
These technologies come together in the reliable fuel services framework. GNEP will build and strengthen a reliable international fuel-service consortium under which fuel supplier nations which choose to operate both nuclear power plants and fuel production and handling facilities, while providing reliable fuel services to user nations that choose to only operate nuclear power plants. This international consortium is a critical component of the nonproliferation benefits of the GNEP initiative.
The notion is, in exchange -- as indicated on the first chart over here, in exchange for assured fuel supply on attractive commercial terms, user nations that are interested in bringing the benefits of nuclear power to their economies would suspend any investments in enrichment and recycling. Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty they have a right to do that. They have a sovereign right. And what we are trying to provide is attractive commercial incentives that would discourage them from acting on those rights.
There are two other key elements of GNEP from a technology development standpoint. We would hope to work in partnership with other nations to develop small, proliferation-resistant, perhaps modular or factory-built reactors that are appropriate for the grids of the developing world. And in fact, many of the technologies, Senator Craig, being developed as part of the next generation nuclear plant are appropriate -- particular the gas reactor technology -- are appropriate candidates for these types of small-scale reactors. And in all cases we will work to develop and incorporate in the most advanced safeguards technologies, and ensure and emphasize best practices for handling of nuclear materials worldwide.
So how do we hope to begin? In fiscal year 2006 and 2007, the department proposes to concentrate its efforts on technology development to support a 2008 decision on whether to proceed with these demonstrations. In general terms, our $250 million request for '07 funding is to initiate work on separations and advanced fuels technology development, transmutation engineering, systems analyses and planning functions to support the demonstration of a UREX plus recycling plant, and to support over a 10-year period the demonstration of an advanced burner reactor.
In conclusion, we need to pursue all energy technologies to address the anticipated growth in demand for energy. But clearly the growth of nuclear energy is vitally important for the United States and for the world. Our country can choose to continue down the current path, or we can lead the transformation to a new, safer and more secure approach to nuclear energy -- an approach that brings the benefits of nuclear energy to the world while reducing vulnerabilities from proliferation and from nuclear waste.
We believe that we are in a stronger position to shape the future if we are part of it, and if we are leading it. And in many respects, as it relates to the fuel cycle, the United States has yielded our leadership position over the last 30 years. We think we need to reclaim it.
Challenges remain in demonstrating the GNEP technologies. But without GNEP there will be more plutonium throughout the world for generations to come. There will be more spent fuel. There will be greater proliferation risk. There will be more greenhouse gases emitted into the environment, and less energy here at home and abroad.
The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership is not a silver bullet, but it is part of a broad strategy that, when combined with advancements in renewables, clean coal and other technology developments, can and will make a difference in the security, environmental and energy challenges that we face. I ask and I seek the committee's support for this initiative.
I look forward to your questions, and I look forward to working with you as the year progresses. I'm pleased to take any questions you have.
SEN. DOMENICI: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. That's a very succinct and understandable presentation. We're going to have to learn to use some words that I'm going to start with today and see if I can get them fixed in my own mind.
Europe recycles or reprocesses now, do they not?
MR. SELL: That's correct.
SEN. DOMENICI: And they use a rather well-known process called PUREX?
MR. SELL: They do.
SEN. DOMENICI: Tell me -- let me ask. That process -- we're going to go one step further or one step better if our -- if this program is adopted and carried out because the PUREX process doesn't -- separates out plutonium in a liquid form as it proceeds through its process. Is that correct?
MR. SELL: Yes, that is correct.
SEN. DOMENICI: Therefore, it is -- go ahead and get some water --
MR. SELL: Thanks.
SEN. DOMENICI: Therefore, it has some proliferation problems that are pretty obvious. Is that not correct?
MR. SELL: That's correct.
SEN. DOMENICI: Now, the president in his proposal has chosen to go to next technology, which is UREX-plus. I think you've stated to us the difference, but let me just put in the context of the difference between what's going on in the world now and what we would be doing.
In our process, as it proceeded, what would come out when you run the spent fuel through would not be pure plutonium. It would never separate out. It would come out in a compound attached and never be liquid and never be separate. Is that correct?
MR. SELL: That's correct.
SEN. DOMENICI: And then that -- what you get as a result of that is reused -- is that correct? -- and re-burned, so that you make more energy and use up the energy we were going to throw away when we were going to lock it up in Yucca Mountain?
MR. SELL: The products streams out of the UREX-plus process produce uranium. They produced an actinide stream, which is plutonium bound with the other actinides, and then a fission product stream.
The fission product stream would be disposed of, the actinides would be made into fuel that would burned in the advanced burner reactor, and the uranium could be either re-enriched or used in a light-water reactor or it could be disposed of as low-level waste.
SEN. DOMENICI: Now, where are these processes at this point? And what will the $250-plus million that you're asking for of this committee be used for?
MR. SELL: The UREX-plus technology has been demonstrated at a laboratory scale.
SEN. DOMENICI: Where?
MR. SELL: In Argonne National Lab.
SEN. DOMENICI: Right.
MR. SELL: And it is our intent, and we think it is important, to move to demonstrate that technology on an engineering scale. It is our hope and it our expectation in order for an approach like GNEP to work, that technologies need to be commercialized. But there is significant engineering and development work that needs to be done. And so a great majority of the amount of money that we are requesting for fiscal year '07 would be used to support the design work, the environmental work and other development work that needs to be done to support a decision to construct a demonstration facility in 2008.
And if I could go back, you mentioned PUREX. You know, PUREX was actually developed here in the United States --
SEN. DOMENICI: Correct.
MR. SELL: -- as part of our weapons program, so that we could produce plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. And it was -- we used it here in the United States on the commercial side, and it was in the mid-'70s that we decided for proliferation reasons -- and I think perhaps correctly -- we decided that we should stop doing that. We hoped when we made that decision -- when President Carter made that decision in 1977 -- that the rest of the world would follow, but they did not. And the rest of the world has deployed PUREX on a commercial scale, resulting 250 metric tons of plutonium that is now in commerce around the world today. And that presents, in our judgment, a significant generational proliferation concern. And we want to develop technologies that will stop the production of plutonium, and also technologies that can be used to burn down plutonium stockpiles, plutonium inventories, over the coming decades.
SEN. DOMENICI: Thank you for that explanation. That -- I failed to mention that is our technology. We did do it, we did use it, and then it was commercialized.
I'm going to yield now to Senator Craig. And the vote's not yet up, incidentally.
SEN. CRAIG: Mr. Chairman, let me go for a few moments, but my guess is that we ought to get out of here in five, hadn't we, if we're going to catch that vote.
SEN. DOMENICI: Is it up now, the vote?
SEN. CRAIG: The vote is on now.
SEN. DOMENICI: I'm very sorry. I didn't see it. Yes, we should.
SEN. : Yeah, the vote is on now.
SEN. DOMENICI: Senator, why don't you proceed and then, Senator Allard, you want to go vote and come back?
SEN. ALLARD: Yeah, that's what I plan to do.
SEN. : Well, we have two votes, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DOMENICI: Right, and we'll just remind the secretary to wait just a while while we have two votes. He's going to come back and complete the meeting. I'm going to wait until the last minute here.
SEN. CRAIG: Okay.
Secretary, in GNEP, the initial phase that you're talking about, the engineering scale demonstration phase, proliferation-resistant spent fuel processing, how long -- you said construction by '08. When do you think that plays out? And we're looking at a price tag for totality of upwards of --
MR. SELL: Just for the UREX-plus plus demonstration facility, we would anticipate, even though it would be sized somewhere probably in the 10 to 25 metric ton per year size -- so relatively small -- but on order, we would expect that facility -- our best estimates on the cost would be between 700 million (dollars) and one-and-a-half billion (dollars). And we would hope to begin construction in 2008 and have construction complete in four years thereafter to go into operations.
SEN. CRAIG: And then the next phase is what, the advanced fuel cycle?
MR. SELL: The next phase would be the -- within 10 years we would like to build a demonstration advanced burner reactor.
SEN. CRAIG: Burner reactor, okay.
MR. SELL: There are a number of potential technologies that could be used for that, and we want to do a substantial amount of work in conjunction with our international partners in determining the appropriate technology. But we would hope to build, to construct and operate that within 10 years. The key R&D challenge -- the biggest R&D challenge -- we've done UREX-plus in the lab. We've built certainly fast reactors can that be modified for a burner role. The biggest challenge is in developing and qualifying an actinide-based fuel. And so that will require significant laboratory work to develop that fuel.
As today, we are doing small-scale actinide fuel tests in partnership with France and their fast reactor, as well as in partnership with Japan. But that's going to require a significant amount of development work over the next five to 10 years.
SEN. CRAIG: And in this whole concept, the exportable modular reactor is the last phase. Is that where the effort to contain -- to offer up but contain?
MR. SELL: That is -- Undersecretary Bob Joseph and I, we went to a number of capitals in the United Kingdom, France. We saw Dr. ElBaradei in Vienna, Moscow, Beijing and Tokyo to talk about this idea. And the ideas were well-received and the objectives of GNEP were well-received. But there was a tremendous amount of interest in not just those countries, but other countries -- South Korea and others, Canada perhaps -- joining together with us in developing advanced reactors for deployment in the developing world. And so that is something that we would seek to move in parallel with the other technology development efforts, and it is something that we would hope to have significant international participation in as well.
SEN. CRAIG: Okay.
I suspect, Mr. Chairman, we ought to --
SEN. DOMENICI: Could I just follow up on your last one and you wait on it?
The one thing I keep hearing, and I want to stress it a little bit in the context of Larry's last question, we talk about the internalization of this issue and the partnershipping. I hope that as you talk about the costs for these various demonstrations and moving from a small one to the next level, that you are talking about the possibility or even the probability that we can get our partnership countries to come into that ballgame, too, of helping develop those kinds of experimental projects because they will be costly.
I'm not sitting up here saying I'm against things of this type because they are costly. I'm excited that America might be considering a major new program of this type. This is what we used to be about, but we've gotten so fearful we won't do anything like this. So I'm on board.
But it seems to me the benefits are not going to be just to us, right?
MR. SELL: That's correct. There is -- when we think about it in the international context, I mean, on the first order, as I said earlier, in some ways we have yielded our leadership role in the fuel cycle. The French, the British, the Japanese and the Russians have gone on without us for 30 years, and they have significant capabilities, in some cases, that are better than ours.
SEN. DOMENICI: Right.
MR. SELL: And so we are seeking to work in partnership with them to accelerate -- to take advantage of the advances we have each made, to accelerate the development, the demonstration and the deployment of these technologies as quickly as possible. So they bring talent and expertise to the table.
But one of the other things that has been quite encouraging is that they also seek full partnership, which means in-kind contributions and, we would expect, significant financial contributions. This is -- we really seek to pursue these technologies in partnership.
And that has -- in addition to the benefits that I've laid out, we think it also has other significant benefits in that it will allow us to accelerate, working in partnership with these other countries, the phaseout of the current PUREX technologies that are used around the world today, and the phase in of more advanced proliferation- resistant recycling technologies.
SEN. DOMENICI: That's why I asked. It would seem to me that the benefits are for them, too. Indeed, the benefit to the world is that we might all be engaged in the most nonproliferation-active formulation of machinery, rather than what we've got now. And they ought to be beneficiaries and ought to help pay for it.
MR. SELL: Mr. Chairman, we really believe that through these technological advancements, we can make it commercially attractive to recover the economic value of spent fuel. And once we can do that, then that allows a(n) international fuel-leasing regime to work.
SEN. DOMENICI: I'm going to just close by saying, when we talk about the dollar numbers, we have never talked about how much value added there is going to be in this process. And that might be the subject matter of maybe your doing some research and submitting to us, if this works, what is all that extra energy that we're going to have for sale, what is its value going to be? Because it's going to be somewhere, isn't it?
MR. SELL: There will be a tremendous value to the electricity produced, and a tremendous savings by avoiding the cost of building nine Yucca Mountains over the course of the century. And quite frankly, the engineering and the packaging required to dispose of hot spent fuel is much greater than that that would be required to dispose of the more stable, glacious waste form.
SEN. DOMENICI: We get a whole lot more fuel to burn.
MR. SELL: That's correct.
SEN. DOMENICI: That's the kind of value added that this process is going to yield, right?
MR. SELL: That's correct, and right now --
SEN. DOMENICI: It's going to be very, very large, huge amount.
MR. SELL: It's a significant amount. Right now, spent fuel that is headed towards Yucca Mountain still has over 90 percent of its energy value. And by developing recycling technologies, we think we can recover a great portion of that energy value and produce electricity with it.
SEN. DOMENICI: (Sounds gavel.) We're going to be in recess. The secretary is going to wait. Probably going to finish at 4:00 or a little after 4:00, if that's all right with you. But I won't be coming back, Mr. Secretary. The senator from Colorado will preside. Thank you very much.
MR. SELL: Thank you.
SEN. ALLARD: (Sounds gavel.) I call the committee to order.
And just for the record, I'm Senator Allard that's now presiding at the request of the chairman, Senator Domenici.
And I'd like to again welcome you, Mr. Secretary. And we were starting into the question part of the committee, and I left early to go down to vote, and have now returned to wrap up our deliberations here on the committee.
I've had an opportunity to go and tour facilities in France, as well as in England, and what they do to reprocess nuclear fuel, which you indicated in your opening remarks, is that it is technology we had here in the United States, and then they adopted that technology. And frankly, I'm excited about the prospects of moving to UREX-plus instead of PUREX. They use the PUREX technology. Am I correct on that?
MR. SELL: That's correct.
SEN. ALLARD: And so I'm excited about the PUREX-plus (sic) policy.
And it's my understanding also that with that now -- I just wanted to make that show on the record -- is that it does take away the proliferation risks with that completely if we process that, or is there still some proliferation risk?
MR. SELL: I think from a public policy standpoint, Senator Allard, we must always be mindful of the proliferation risk anytime we are dealing with nuclear materials and nuclear technologies. And so I would be reluctant to suggest that any technology removes all risk.
But we --
SEN. ALLARD: But this lessens the risk, then. Is that your understanding?
MR. SELL: The UREX-plus technology prevents -- it increases substantially the proliferation resistance of the material to a point where this government should be quite comfortable.
And we would also build in the most sophisticated safeguards technologies into the UREX-plus point plant. So not only do we have a much more proliferation-resistant stream of material coming out, but it would be -- have the most advanced safeguards. And all of these plants would only be built under our conception in existing fuel-cycle states. So we think this is -- offers substantial nonproliferation benefits.
And there are two other nonproliferation benefits. By developing and deploying advanced burner reactors, and developing and deploying UREX-plus, we can begin to slow the accumulation worldwide of inventories of separated civilian plutonium, and we can build the capability that allows us to burn down and dispose of that plutonium.
And then, thirdly, we can develop, we believe, an international regime -- or we would seek to develop an international regime -- that would discourage the investment and construction of enrichment and recycling facilities in countries that do not have them today. So the --
SEN. ALLARD: Now -- go ahead.
MR. SELL: So in sum, we think there are -- from a systems standpoint, there are substantial nonproliferation benefits and substantial nonproliferation enhancements that would flow from the GNEP proposal.
SEN. ALLARD: And I understand that right now, under UREX-plus technology, we are working with two other countries, and that's France and Japan. Is that correct?
MR. SELL: We have -- through existing relationships that the United States has, we have been conducting tests and experiments and development work through funding provided by this committee. And we would seek to broaden the work to also include Russia, the United Kingdom if they choose, Japan and China. Those are the nations were well in excess -- or around 70 percent of the world's nuclear reactors exist.
Those are the nuclear economies of sufficient scale to justify significant investments in advanced fuel-cycle technologies, and we would look to work with those countries in developing these technologies on an accelerated time scale.
SEN. ALLARD: Now Iran is on everyone's mind because they have decided to build and operate a uranium enrichment plant in direct violation, actually, of the nuclear proliferation treaty. And with this capability they could not only produce fuel for civilian purposes, but also weapons activity as well.
And you have a plan that calls for a uranium fuel leasing plan that would provide fuel to countries interested in developing a civilian nuclear program. Do you believe that other countries -- we've already kind of -- it sounds like you've already begun to kind of form a coalition, but do you believe that these countries would be willing to contract for enrichment services instead of developing their own domestic capabilities?
MR. SELL: We do, Senator Allard. And this is occurring now on a -- on a smaller scale around the globe. Many countries with significant nuclear power investments, like South Korea, have not made their own investments in enrichment and recycling.
And the hope is -- I mean, really from a world energy supply standpoint and if we really want to address environmental concerns, pollution concerns, with nuclear power, the world is going to need a significant expansion of nuclear power, and that's going to occur in many countries. And we think we could -- a system could work where states that have already made, or have economies that would justify significant investments in enrichment and reprocessing technologies, that we could lease fuel -- so a country like the United States could lease fuel to a country and that fuel would then -- would be burned in a reactor, but then taken back to be recycled and disposed of in the fuel-cycle country.
We think that can be offered on attractive -- we would propose that we could offer that on attractive commercial terms, so there is a real incentive for a country who is only interested in bringing the benefits of nuclear power to their economy of leasing the fuel. And only those countries that are really seeking to -- we would suggest that countries that choose not to go the more economic route, and instead choose to make investments in their own enrichment or recycling or reprocessing capability, it would suggest that perhaps they have other motivations.
SEN. ALLARD: And so that's basically your plan. You're going to try to incentivize them with some economic alternatives you hope that they will not be able to refuse because we would then have the original reprocessing plants constructed here. We'd do that for them at a reasonable price so that they'll use our facilities.
MR. SELL: And it wouldn't just be here. It would also be in France or Japan or China or elsewhere. And it's -- that diversity of suppliers to potential consumer nations would also give them the security, which I think countries would seek, in having a diversity of enrichment services suppliers.
SEN. ALLARD: And have you gotten any firm commitments from any of these countries willing to come on with this program at this point? Or are you aware of real strong support for that way?
MR. SELL: A few weeks ago I, with Undersecretary Bob Joseph from the State Department, traveled to London and to Paris, to Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, and we also stopped to see Dr. ElBaradei at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. And we laid out our ideas and sought their consultation. And there was broad agreement on the objectives that the world needed a dramatic increase in nuclear power; that we should work together to develop advanced recycling technologies that did not separate plutonium; that we should do this in international partnership; and that we should work to facilitate an international regime of fuel leasing so that we could discourage the proliferation of enrichment and reprocessing technologies. There was broad agreement on all of those issues, and a great interest expressed by those governments in continuing to discuss with us how we could further the partnership.
SEN. ALLARD: Now the GNEP program is a very comprehensive research and development program that includes work on advanced reactor technology, fuel recycling, waste reduction and global nuclear fuel services, small reactors and enhanced nuclear safeguards. And when we look at the budget, it seems to focus on large-scale engineering demonstrations of fuel recycling capability with minimal involvement outside the Office of Nuclear Energy. And it's unclear, at least to me, from this budget, when the department will undertake research reliable fuel services, small scale reactors, the enhanced nuclear safeguards and basic research and development that could address a number of concerns related to our national security, particularly in the earlier phases of the program.
My question is, why has the department elected to minimize the direct and immediate engagement of the NNSA and the Department of State at the onset of GNEP?
MR. SELL: With the greatest level of respect, Senator Allard, I have to disagree with the premise of your question. The National Nuclear Security Administration has been heavily involved, as has the State Department, as have other elements of the interagency policy formulating bureaus within the administration. They -- so they have been involved. I think we have their -- I know for a fact we have their strong support in moving forward on this.
There is an emphasis in our budget request for 2007 on moving forward on the first key demonstration facility, which is the demonstration of the UREX-plus. That has been demonstrated at a laboratory scale. We think it is important, as quickly as possible, to demonstrate it on an engineering scale. And so that is -- that does receive a significant portion of our -- of the $250 million budget request for fiscal year 2007.
SEN. ALLARD: I'd like to move on to the MOX program. When I was chairman of the strategic subcommittee of Armed Services, we had some discussion with the MOX program, where we have the recycling facilities in Savannah, Georgia. And you know, it's -- like was mentioned earlier, it's basically American technology that's been modified some, perhaps, by both the French and the Germans. But it basically was originally American technology.
I'm concerned about some reported overruns on the efforts down there. The AG did a report that said that cost increases may amount to 3.5 billion where we were planning on $1 billion in the budget. Can you address that? It seems to me we need to have somebody riding herd a little closer over the operation down there and I'm wondering if perhaps maybe you could give us some insight on what's happening with the MOX Facility in Savannah, Georgia.
MR. SELL: Several years ago, after our country had made an agreement with the Russians to dispose of plutonium, we did make a decision to build facilities, MOX Fuel Fabrication Facilities as well as other processing facilities at the Savannah River site. And early on it was suggested at the time that the cost of those facilities would be in total of, I mean I have the numbers exactly right but in rough order, $2 billion. That was not a very good number obviously. And it is old, commodity prices have increased significantly since that estimate was made. There was a failure by the department and its contractor team to fully appreciate the cost that would be required to build that French MOX technology here in the United States. And there were other problems with the estimates. The department is working to correct those. I take seriously your counsel to keep a tighter reign on activities down there, but the Plutonium Disposition Program remains an important U.S. objective and we intend to move forward and accomplish that in as economically feasible way as possible. Mar 03, 2006 18:09 ET .EOF
SEN. ALLARD: I do, I think that is very important and you know, I -- you indicated it was the cost of commodities was one of the factors in you know, what goes into the construction of it was one of the -- what other factors did we have that might have added to the cost of it and the rest of this question is did we have an incentive driven, do we have incentive driven contracts with the contractor down there?
MR. SELL: We -- if I may, let me, I would like to give a more complete answer on exactly what the contract provisions that we have. I believe as a general statement that the contract does have significant incentives in it for contractor performance, but I would like to answer, give you a more complete answer on the record, if I may.
SEN. ALLARD: Yeah, that'd be fine.
ME. SELL: The other elements of the cost growth, and part of it was commodity, the increase price of commodities, part of it was simply that the $2 billion number was a 2000 year number, not a 2005 number. And there was also a failure quite frankly of the department and our contractors to fully appreciate how costly it would be to build the French technology plant here in the United States. We made assumptions that we shouldn't have made and those are costing us now.
SEN. ALLARD: What, what specific assumptions -- how did you -- I mean, where were you wrong in your assumptions? I'm going to press you a little bit here.
MR. SELL: I will -- I can't, unfortunately, I'm not prepared today or I don't have in my mind today, Senator Allard, the exact things that we missed on this.
SEN. ALLARD: Maybe you can get a memo to the committee on that.
MR. SELL: But we will follow-up --
SEN. ALLARD: Yeah.
MR. SELL: -- in written detail on that issue, if I may do that.
SEN. ALLARD: Yeah, we'd appreciate that so we fully understand the issues down there and I'm one that would like to see these things carried forward in a timely manner because I think when you start running into delay problems and accelerated costs, you tend to lose support within the Congress and this is an important program, I hate to lose that support.
MR. SELL: The --
SEN. ALLARD: Go ahead.
MR. SELL: The delays, you know, even though this, the agreement was made to do this many years ago, it has taken a number of years to get the appropriate agreements in place with the Russians. And when Secretary Bodman got to the department about a year ago and realized that we still did not have the agreements that we'd been trying to get with the Russians that would allow this project to move forward, he and Secretary Rice engaged the Russians and we were able to make significant progress on resolving issues as to liability, which had prevented, which had really left this project in a stall for several years. So we feel like we have finally made progress on that. The department broke ground finally on the facility last fall, and we look forward to moving forward with it, but it unfortunately will be at a higher cost.
SEN. ALLARD: Let me move on to our transportation fuels. I think we're all quite aware of, that the transportation sector's a huge consumer of energy in this country and there's some concern about the high temperature reactors that are effecting and producing hydrogen for transportation. And where are we in the efforts by the department to produce these kinds of reactors that will allow for the production of hydrogen or is it just assuming that we're not far along on nuclear hydrogen research to, at this point in time to be funding it, you have dropped, reduced your '06 funding levels, and that's what's prompting this question.
MR. SELL: It is our judgment at the department that over the long term, the president's hydrogen fuel initiative that he laid out in his State of the Union of three years ago offers significant promise for getting our transportation sector off of the internal combustion engine and on to electricity based fuel cells. And we are, we have a broad program to develop those technologies, the storage technologies, the fuel cell technologies, the automotive technologies, as well as the question of how will we produce all of this hydrogen. Today the only economical way to produce hydrogen or the principle economical way of producing it is through reforming natural gas. But we think in the future as hydrogen demands increase significantly, we can produce it with coal and we can, and other technologies, and we think hydrogen will be -- I mean, nuclear hydrogen will be -- nuclear power plants will be a significant technology for producing hydrogen.
It is our judgment, I believe and I will leave my statement to be revised by the technical experts, that the most promising nuclear technology for producing hydrogen is a very high temperature gas reactor. And a technology such as that I believe was authorized in the Energy Policy Act Of 2005, it's referred to as the next generation nuclear plant, and we have requested $23 million as part of our Fiscal Year 2007 budget to continue developing that reactor so that it can be demonstrated, built and demonstrated on a timescale consistent with that called for by the Energy Policy Act. We think that technology can still be developed and is moving along consistently with other portions of the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative.
SEN. ALLARD: So why was there a reduction in your funding level for '06?
MR. SELL: If I may, that's another question I'll need to --
SEN. ALLARD: Okay.
MR. SELL: -- take to the record.
SEN. ALLARD: Very good.
I don't have any other questions. I have another committee meeting I've got to get to, and so I'm going to request that the record remain open until close of business Friday for member statements and questions. And I also hope the department will respond to these questions that were left open in a timely manner. Most committees I've been a part of have asked to response within 10 days, if that's a balance of time period, if you can get your responses back to us within 10 days, we'd appreciate it --
MR. SELL: We will do so.
SEN. ALLARD: -- so we can move forward with our deliberations. And without any more questions, I now declare the committee in recess.
3. HEARING OF THE STRATEGIC FORCES SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: FISCAL YEAR 2007 BUDGET REQUEST FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY'S ATOMIC ENERGY DEFENSE ACTIVITIES
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REP. EVERETT: The meeting will come to order. Our committee meets today to receive testimony on the Department of Energy's fiscal year 2007 request for atomic energy defense activities. Thank you all for coming.
Welcome Ambassador Linton Brooks, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration; Mr. Jim Rispoli -- good Italian name -- assistant secretary of Environmental Management at the Department of Energy; and Mr. Glen Podonsky, director of the Department of Energy Office of Security and Safety Performance Assurance.
Ambassador Brooks will cover the NNSA budget request for fiscal year 2007. The NNSA request is for $9.3 billion.
Assistant Secretary Rispoli will provide testimony on the Department of Energy's request for defense environmental cleanup. That request is for $5.4 billion.
Mr. Podonsky will address department-wide safeguards and security policies.
We have a lot of ground to cover today, and I want to allow each of our members as much time as possible to ask questions, so I'll be brief. Likewise, I would ask our witnesses to please be brief with their prepared remarks. The entirety of your written testimony will be entered into the record.
This session is open and under Rule 9 of the committee. I would ask members for their cooperation in keeping their line of questioning unclassified. I have scheduled a separate classified subcommittee briefing session for tomorrow, Thursday, March the 2nd, at 12:00, to go into certain classified issues related to the Reliable Replacement Warhead Program.
I will also highlight for other subcommittee members the opportunity to join me and Ambassador Brooks on codel March 19 through the 22nd to visit NNSA facilities in Nevada and New Mexico.
Ambassador Brooks, I would like to highlight a few areas I am specifically interested in hearing about today: progress being made on the RRW program; your thoughts and recommendation on how to reform the Nuclear Weapons Complex to achieve the responsive infrastructure required for the future. I am specifically interested in your thoughts on both the consolidation of nuclear materials and the Overskei task force report on the Nuclear Weapons Complex infrastructure and the status of finalizing the resolution of the liability agreement with Russia on the mixed-oxide fuel facility project the assistant secretary is proposing.
I am specifically interested in hearing the following -- hearing about the following: your vision of environmental cleanup since you assumed your current position as assistant secretary last year; what works well and what does not work well; what all parties have learned from the technical and design problems, costs increase and schedule delays from the waste treatment plant at Hanford. I must tell you, I was dismayed to see the December '05 estimate at completion at just under $9 billion for this project.
Mr. Podonsky, I believe this is the first time the committee has asked you to testify. Thank you for coming. I would like to hear your thoughts on federal oversight on security at the NNSA sites. Are we making progress? Your thoughts on how the department approaches and implements the nine basic -- (inaudible) -- criteria. Are we doing enough in the area of risk analysis to have ensured that taxpayers are getting good return on each dollar invested for security?
And we now turn to my ranking member, Mr. Reyes, for his comment.
REP. SILVESTRE REYES (D-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I join you in welcoming our NNSA administrator, Ambassador Brooks, assistant secretary for Environmental Management, James Rispoli, and the director of DOE's Office of Security and Safety Performance Assurance, Mr. Glen Podonsky.
The National Nuclear Security Administration is responsible for maintaining our nuclear deterrent and is a key player in reducing the spread of nuclear weapons and materials throughout the world. Many people do not realize this, but the NNSA has a budget for non- proliferation that is about three times the size of the more widely known Nunn-Lugar program in the Department of Defense. In today's world, non-proliferation is the front line of our nation's defense and Ambassador Brooks and his organization are manning that line.
Secretary Rispoli has the formidable task of managing the cleanup of millions of gallons and hundreds of tons of highly radioactive waste throughout the country. He has one of the toughest and probably most thankless jobs in Washington.
Mr. Podonsky's office is responsible for setting the department's security policy and is the department's principal evaluator of performance in the areas of safeguards and security, cyber security, emergency management and environment and safety and health. As a veteran DOE career official, he has a uniquely informed perspective on security and safety within this important agency.
I want to thank all of our distinguished witnesses for taking time from their very busy schedules to be with us today and I look forward to their testimony.
In deference to our chairman and his desire to limit opening statements, I want to go right into three topics that I consider to be particularly important.
First, like Chairman Everett, I remain concerned about the security of the Department of Energy.
Ambassador Brooks, I know we've had these discussions before and I hope you will update us on the steps that are being taken toward (growth?) security within NNSA. How are you doing at improving the federal oversight of contractor security? Where do you stand on implementing the new design basis threat? Improving security was a primary reason that Congress established the semi-autonomous NNSA and this must continue to be priority one for NNSA.
Secretary Rispoli, how is the environmental program doing at implementing the DBT?
And finally, MR. Podonsky, I hope you will tell us where you think NNSA and the rest of the department should focus to make further progress. Specifically, how is the department doing in improving its special police forces through implementing its elite forces initiative? Second, I am interested in the status of NNSA's efforts to modernize the Nuclear Weapons Complex and also to develop a Reliable Replacement Warhead, or RPW. How does the NNSA intend to respond to the recommendations of the secretary of Energy Advisory Board Task Force on the future of the Nuclear Weapons Complex? How will the RRW program influence modernization plans? What milestones should we expect from RRW program during the next fiscal year? Will it lead to changes to any of your current delivery schedules?
In our authorizing language enacted last year, as you recall, Mr. Secretary, the Congress clearly signaled that RRW should further reduce the likelihood of the resumption of underground nuclear testing.
But what are the chances that RRW may require this kind of testing nonetheless?
Finally, where does the department stand on efforts to consolidate nuclear materials? While these efforts are intimately related to improving security, it is notably important to note that the department efforts to develop and implement consolidation plans have been slow in developing.
For you, Mr. Secretary Rispoli, your deputy has been tapped to lead the department's consolidation task force. What can we expect from the department during the next year on these efforts to reduce our vulnerability to terrorism and hold down DOE security costs? When can we anticipate all nuclear materials will be removed from Hanford, as just one example?
Ambassador Brooks, what are NNSA's current plans for nuclear materials consolidation? And for you and Mr. Podonsky, what do you think are the major hurdles to making progress in this very critical and vital area of this important agency?
So with that, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for convening this hearing. The Department of Defense budget request is far greater than the $15.8 billion being requested for the Department of Energy's national security programs. But the NNSA and DOE programs are critical to our national security; and therefore, it is important that we not overlook them. And I appreciate the opportunity to express some of my views.
REP. EVERETT: And I thank my friend from Texas.
Mr. Ambassador, if you will.
MR. BROOKS: Thank you, sir. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss our budget request and I appreciate the past support we've gotten from this committee.
But before I discuss that, however, I'd like to note the presence of the new deputy administrator for the defense programs, the honorable Tom D'Agostino. Mr. D'Agostino was confirmed by the Senate last Friday and sworn in by the secretary of Energy two and a half hours ago as a replacement for Dr. Ev Beckner, and I'm sure that the committee will enjoy working with Tom and be impressed with him --
MR. EVERETT: Can we not give him a baptism of the fire and get him at the table? (Laughter.)
MR. BROOKS: Well, he'll tell me later how I did, sir. If you don't see me next year, you'll know I didn't do well. (Laughter.)
The president's budget supports the three main NNSA missions -- a safe, secure, reliable and effective stockpile, nuclear nonproliferation, and reliable and safe nuclear reactor propulsion systems.
My written statement goes into nonproliferation and Naval reactors and with one exception, I'd like to confine my oral remarks to the weapons program. I do want to say a word or two, however, about the MOX effort. We have solved the liability problem, which we briefed this committee on before. The actual protocol is not yet signed. Every Russian official at every level, up to the cabinet, has told us that the delay is entirely due to internal bureaucratic processes, and I have some experience that suggests that that's not uncommon there. We are in a position to begin construction on our MOX facility later this year, and in the question period I can go into more detail if you wish. This is is relevant, I believe, not just to nonproliferation, but to the question of material consolidation.
I need to start, as I always do with this committee, by assuring you that the stockpile remains safe and reliable. This estimate is based on experiments, computation, analysis, (flight ?) tests, laboratory tests, but as a we have discussed previously, as we continue to draw down the stockpile, we have to consider the long-term implications of successive warhead refurbishments. Each refurbishment takes us a little farther from the tested configuration. And that raises concern over the very long term about our ability to ensure stockpile safety and reliability.
To manage this risk, we need to transform the nuclear weapons stockpile and we need to transform the supporting infrastructure. Now concepts for doing so depend on the Reliable Replacement Warhead. This concept would relax Cold War design constraints and maximize yield-to-weight ratio and will let us design replacement components that are easier to manufacture, safer and more secure, eliminate such environmentally dangerous materials as beryllium and increase design (margin ?). This will do two things: it will ensure long-term reliability, but it will also dramatically reduce the chance that some future administrator will sit before some future committee and say that we need to consider resuming nuclear testing.
Two independent design teams from our nuclear weapons laboratories -- the two physics laboratories, Los Alamos and Livermore -- each paired with one of the two Sandia laboratories -- are exploring competitive RRW designs. The process is, among other things, giving us a unique option to train some of the next generation of weapons designers in real work starting from a genuine challenging problem. Both of the teams are confident that their designs will meet our requirements and be certifiable without nuclear testing. Preliminary designs will be provided this month and then there will be a very extensive period of peer review leading to the selection of a preferred design later this year.
We're also looking heavily at understanding and establishing our vision for the future nuclear weapons complex and how we get there. We have reviewed in great detail the recommendations from the secretary of Energy advisory board, the so-called Overskei report. And our challenge is to find a path that gains some of the advantages from that report, that is affordable and that lets us continue to support the Department of Defense while we do it.
We expect to be prepared to report in more detail on our thinking later this spring. And as I told you privately, Mr. Chairman, I'm committed to making sure the committee knows where we think we want to go well before you have to markup.
Let me highlight two or three other challenges in the budget that is before you. In the long term, I continue to believe that the United States needs to reestablish the ability to manufacture pits, the plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons. And we were disappointed last year that there were no appropriations for that facility.
We have, however, not asked for funding for a modern pit facility in this budget and what we're going to do instead is emphasize the interim capability at TA55 at Los Alamos. We will work toward being able to produce 30 to 40 pits by early in the next decade and those will become the pits for Reliable Replacement Warhead, if in fact it turns out to need new pits as I expect it will.
Over the long term, however, we need to work with the Congress and I think once we have submitted to you our overall vision, we will be in discussion with you about an agreed approach to the long-term pit production.
Secondly, in 2006, congressional reductions for warhead life extension programs have challenged our ability to meet DOD requirements. There was a seemingly modest reduction in the W76, but that is our most numerous and important system and that just increases risk. There was an over 27 percent reduction in the W80, the warhead for the cruise missile and that will delay deployment and increase costs and it will delay introduction of some important use control and safety features to our security features. So I hope that this committee, which has always been supportive of a life extension, will continue to be strong supporters of it.
Finally, last year, the Congress reduced by almost 50 percent the president's request for the Facilities and Infrastructure Recapitalization Program. This is the program which is helping to eliminate the backlog and deferred maintenance that we got into in the '90s. It's intended to be a temporary program to get us out of the hole, after which we would undertake to not fall in that hole again. The Congress had previously directed that the program be completed by 2011. I think with a combination of reductions that we took in earlier years and this large reduction, that is not attainable, and I anticipate submitting legislation requesting Congress consider changing that date to 2013. I'm committed to this as a temporary program. It's just going to be -- I think it needs to be a somewhat longer temporary program than we had hoped.
Finally, let me say a couple of words about security. I will be very blunt. I have been asked what are you going to do about suicide terrorists. Mr. Chairman, (anybody ?) who comes to our facilities is a suicide terrorist; they just don't know it yet, and we are quite confident in the security today. That's not the same thing as saying that there's not more to do.
By the end of this year, we will have met the requirements of the 2003 Design Basis Threat at all of our facilities. That's an extremely robust standard that was established following 9/11. Last fall, the department revised a longer-term standard, which we aim at meeting by 2008. We will meet that at Pantex, with the secure transportation asset, almost certainly at Livermore, and at Sandia we won't have any (special low point?) material by then. But at the other sites, we're still working on when we will be able to meet that.
With regard to consolidation, our efforts been primarily been consolidating within facilities. We are instructing the highly enriched uranium facility at Y12 which will replace a number of separate storages. It's designed to be terrorist-resistant and, of course, by consolidating it, you have one building rather than a series of buildings spread out through what is essentially a small village.
We have eliminated all category one and two -- the material of most concern from the TA18 area in Los Alamos. Half of that material is now in Nevada. The rest is temporarily up at TA55, our plutonium facility.
We are conducting the last campaign using the Sandia pulse reactor and when that is done, we will be in a position to eliminate special nuclear material use at Sandia.
In my view, however, until we look at the long-term range of the complex, Pantex, Y12, Nevada and Los Alamos absolutely have to retain special nuclear material, and we're simply going to have to improve the security there; and for the near term, so does Livermore because we need it for the science. I mean, it is our long-term goal to find a way to get the benefits of two labs working on plutonium physics without two labs actually having to guard plutonium, and that will be part of the plan that we will be discussing with you later.
You specifically asked what we have done to improve security. In addition to the broader department initiatives, such as elite force, which we are supporting, I've taken a number of steps over the last two years. People are what matter. We have upgraded the senior security professionals at a number of our sites. We have changed the involvement of the senior federal official, the site manager at our sites to make sure that security is being given an adequate emphasis. We have started a series of reporting metrics so we can keep track on how the complex is doing. We are working with Mr. Podonsky on improving training. We have fielded a number of improved weapons from the multi-operated weapons system at Y12 to a new, extremely impressive Gattling gun, essentially at Livermore. We are continuing to investigate the use of technology that's going a little slower than it might, but it's going generally well.
And finally, I have established a new organization to provide an assist capability so that we can help improve the performance of federal oversight. In the long run, our new Security Intern Program will revitalize the core of security professionals, but that's in the long run. The other things are what we're doing now.
Mr. Chairman, our budget will continue transforming the stockpile and the infrastructure. It will reduce the dangers from proliferation. It will ensure that the Navy has what it needs and I certainly hope the committee will support. And I look forward to your questions.
MR. EVERETT: Mr. Rispoli.
MR. JAMES RISPOLI: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Reyes, members of the subcommittee. I am pleased to be here today to answer your questions on the fiscal year 2007 budget request for Environmental Management. I want to thank you all for your -- and your subcommittee -- for your support. This is my first time to appear before this subcommittee, and as the ambassador just indicated, I guess if I'm here next year that means that I'm doing okay as well. We'll see.
MR. EVERETT: Mr. Rispoli -- sir, we can hear better if you pull the mike up a bit.
MR. RISPOLI: Yes, sir.
REP. EVERETT: Thank you.
MR. RISPOLI: Over the last four years, Environmental Management has made major strides in achieving results. To our credit, the program has made significant progress in shifting the focus from risk management to risk -- in other words, just caretaking and watching over things -- to actual risk reduction and cleanup completion, an achievement not possible without the strong support and leadership of this committee.
During 2006 we expect to complete regulatory actions associated with the Rocky Flats closure and complete cleanup and another eight sites to include the Fernald, Mound, Columbus and Ashtabula sites in Ohio -- noting that at the Mound site, we will still be working on OU- 1 probably into the middle of '07 as a result of the 2006 directions from the Appropriations Committee -- which, by the way, that work is already under way -- the Lawrence Livermore National Lab main site and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab site in California.
With this budget request, achieving our short-term completion goals for risk reduction and cleanup are achievable with the attention to complete cleanup of eight more sites by 2009 to include the Pantex plant in Texas, the East Tennessee Technology Park in Tennessee and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab site 300, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and Energy Technology Engineering Center in California.
As with many complex and diversified programs, the challenges behind achieving these results are not always apparent up front. I think EM -- it's fair to say EM foresaw some of these challenges, but other challenges were unexpected and obviously, some of the opening comments you had, Mr. Chairman, reflect those. We are taking steps to regain momentum on these projects, but we are realistic and recognize that overly optimistic assumptions, statutory and legal issues and unrealized technology advancements that are not here yet have led us to setbacks.
One of the most visible projects on which our progress has slowed is the waste treatment plant at Hanford. The waste treatment plant project -- perhaps the largest, most complex environmental construction project in the nation -- has encountered design and construction setbacks. We remain committed to fix the problems, complete the project and begin operations to treat the radioactive tank waste at the site.
And if I may, just for a moment, address some specific concerns that you mentioned, Mr. Chairman. We've had there -- we've had technical issues, such as hydrogen buildup in tanks and pipes -- of course, hydrogen being explosive. We've had liquids that don't pump, and so we have to find ways to get liquids to pump out of tanks and, of course, I think most are very familiar with the correction to the design to incorporate the seismic requirement. We've had project management issues. Because of improper use of standard project management tools, the cost overruns that were happening were not visible to oversight, such as the headquarters, and that has resulted in, obviously, some of the significant issues that we face. And we've had institutional issues. For example, we realized that we did not have the right mix and numbers of some key federal people that provide oversight, and we've taken action to correct those types of things. And obviously, I'm certainly expecting to answer questions from this subcommittee on that project as we go forward.
The investment we have requested in our fiscal year 2007 budget for defense environmental activities totals about $5.4 billion and consists of one defense appropriation, the Defense Environmental Cleanup account. With that investment, we will focus in three areas. First, we have to -- simply have to -- ensure that safety is number one. The budget request continues to place the highest priority on protecting workers, the public and the environment. We are introducing new fervor in the integration of safety and project management -- safety essential to superior performance.
Secondly, we will ensure the appropriate level of safeguards and security at our sites. It's crucial that we maintain vigilance in our security to protect our citizens. The Environmental Management Program is responsible for tons of surplus nuclear material. There is an overall increase in the Safeguards and Security budget in the 2007 budget to the tune of some $11 million for Environmental Management.
I might just again digress to mention at Savannah River, we're well on track to meeting the 2003 Design Basis Threat by 2006, and we have actions under way to address the 2005 DBT and to attain that in the 2008 time frame as required by the 2005 DBT. I'd also point out that that particular security force at that site is tested regularly, and I think Mr. Podonsky would agree is a very superlative security force.
At the Hanford site, we are working on the 2003 DBT right now with a view toward meeting the main requirements with the exception of one provision of the annex, which we can address if you would like, and also what the long-term plan is.
I would point out, Mr. Reyes, that it is tied really to the consolidation issue, obviously, and we do not consider the facility at Hanford to be what we would call an enduring facility. We envision getting out of that business there as part of our thinking. And I'd be, again, happy to address questions you may have in that regard.
And thirdly, we will continue to push on risk reduction and cleanup completion. This requires a pragmatic approach to cleanup and occurs in various stages which involve the elimination, prevention or mitigation of risk. Because safe disposal of many materials will take a number of years to complete, our major focus on risk reduction is stabilization of high-risk materials through validation and adherence to cost and schedule baseline, effective identification and management of risk and the design of contracts that drive outstanding performance.
Just a few of our planned activities and milestones for 2007 are at Hanford -- to ramp up construction of the waste treatment plant, the pre-treatment and high-level waste facilities within that plant; to maintain the radioactive waste tank farms in a safe, compliant condition and continue with tank retrievals -- tank material retrievals at that site; the complete containerization and consolidation of the K-East and K-West Basin sludge in the K Basins.
At Idaho, to complete design and initiate construction of the sodium bearing waste treatment facility to treat radioactive tank waste. This is part of the trilogy at our three large sites that have tank waste issues.
At Savannah River, the complete consolidation of on-site plutonium to the K area and to continue to stabilize radioactive liquid tank waste from underground storage tanks, and to complete shipment of drummed legacy transuranic waste to the waste isolation pilot plant.
Significant results and emerging challenges went hand in hand this last year. This budget request supports a critical portion of the department's environmental stewardship responsibilities. It will build on our successes at completing the EM mission in a manner that is protective of the environment and the public while demonstrating fiscal responsibility.
I'm committed to work with all interested parties to resolve issues and work with this subcommittee and the Congress to address any of your concerns or interests. The House Armed Services Committee and this subcommittee, in particular, are key supporters of the nation's cleanup efforts. I look forward to a continuing dialogue with you and this subcommittee.
This concludes my formal statement. I'd be happy to answer any records (sic). And of course, as you mentioned, my complete statement is in the record.
Thank you, sir.
MR. EVERETT: Thank you.
MR. PODONSKY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the subcommittee. Thank you for inviting me to testify regarding the status of the department's energy security programs and the efforts to implement our revised Design Basis Threat.
My colleagues at the table have a benchmark that said if they're here next year, that's a success. I, unfortunately, have been in the department for 22 years and nine secretaries so I'm not sure what that metric means. (Laughter.)
The department and my office remain firm in our commitment to rigorously protect vital national security assets in our custody. Secretary Bodman, Deputy Secretary Sell, as well as Ambassador Brooks and Assistant Secretary Rispoli here today continue to support our efforts in this area.
In these challenging times punctuated by increasing threat levels, changing perceptions of adversary capabilities and the evolving configuration of the department's Weapons Complex, we are faced with the need to make significant and, in some cases, radical changes to our protection strategies. In particular, in our multi- year efforts to improve the effectiveness and the efficiency of our protection systems, we are emphasizing the benefits of deploying security technologies in conjunction with increased capabilities of our protective forces. These changes will reduce our long-term security costs, we believe; however, they require front-end funding.
Before I discuss the department's Design Basis Threat and our assessment of the current safeguards and security of the department, I'd like to just take a brief moment to talk a little bit about our office since this is the first time I have testified in front of you.
As a direct report to the office of the secretary, we're responsible for several major functions which affect programs department-wide. These are divided into two very distinct functional areas -- the independent oversight of security and safety program implementation through performance-based testing and a wide spectrum of operational security-related functions, such as policy, training, security technology, deployment, field assistance, classification, declassification, nuclear material control and accountability.
The department's Design Basis Threat, which I will move to now, is a critical part of our policy development. The policy of the Design Basis Threat is the source document upon which the long-term protection system planning must be based. Under this policy, assets are categorized in one of four threat levels based on general consequences to their loss or the possible impact of their loss or destruction on the health and safety of employees and the public and the environment.
This policy identifies a range of potential threats and categories of assets in the department's possession and requires that sites implement protection systems capable of defending against the appropriate threat level. Developing and updating the Design Basis Threat policy for the secretary's approval involves the participation of all departmental elements as well as other federal agencies.
Current intelligence estimates are essential in the development of the Design Basis Threat. The department's office of intelligence, along with other federal intelligence agencies, provides information used in this process. The Defense Intelligence Agency's postulated threat, a national-level intelligence estimate of the threat against critical U.S. assets located in the U.S. and worldwide, is the starting point for our policy development. The combination of the postulated threat and the department's intelligence assessments provide the basis of judgments concerning adversary capabilities and objectives. The department then applies its risk management process to incorporate the results of this cooperative intelligence effort and determines the appropriate Design Basis Threat policy.
The department implements the Design Basis Threat Policy through its foremost security planning process, which includes site- and target-specific vulnerability assessments, computer simulations, performance testing and several layers of review.
And finally, my Office of Independent Oversight, through its inspections, evaluates the progress towards implementation and validates the effectiveness of individual protection system enhancements as they are implemented.
Now, on the current status according to the independent oversight of safeguards and security in the department, I will now address in a general nature from our independent oversight, given that this is an open hearing. I'll first address by talking about the status of physical security programs followed by the status of cyber security programs.
As you know, the department has custody of large quantities of national security assets in the form of information assets and physical assets, such as special nuclear materials and weapons and weapons components. We're now engaged in a significant effort to transition to protection system configurations that more effectively and efficiently address our latest understanding of the threat spectrum.
The deployment of new security technologies, introduction of the elite forces at some facilities and revision of protection strategies are part of this process as efforts to reduce the number of targets by consolidating special nuclear materials as well.
Based on the results of independent oversight activities, supplemented by evaluation activities conducted by the line management, we can report with confidence that the department is adequately protecting its national security assets in its custody. I don't mean to imply that the systems are not without deficiencies or that the protection posture at our sites is as capable as we want it to be. There's no question that our highly complex protection programs do exhibit deficiencies at times and we are engaged in efforts to modify and upgrade elements of those programs to meet the requirements of the Design Basis Threat. Although some of our protection programs sometimes reveal deficiencies, by design those programs consist of multiple protection layers, and even a significant weakness in a single layer does not equate to failure of the protection system.
Even before 9/11, the department senior management had been committed to improving safeguard and security programs. As a result, following 9/11, the department has pursued and continues to pursue a number of actions and initiatives aimed at increasing protection effectiveness, which I have already mentioned, such as the elite force, consolidation of nuclear material, the addition of security technologies.
While all these efforts and others continue to bear fruit, the department's overall security program has steadily improved as well. In recent years, from an oversight perspective, the improvement process is slower than what we would like.
I'd like to move now to the cyber security. The department maintains large volumes of sensitive information, both classified and unclassified, on computer networks and individual computer systems. From a security standpoint, damage to this information can occur as a result of loss of confidentiality integrity or availability of the information or information resources -- computers themselves. The department is very aware of and concerned with the growing cyber threat, which includes sophisticated adversaries targeting our information systems. Both external threat sources and the potential insider are capable of compromising or otherwise doing significant damage to our information systems.
The results of our independent oversight activities indicate that the department faces significant challenges in its efforts to implement and maintain a comprehensive cyber security program across its vast array of unclassified information systems. Our assessments have repeatedly identified weaknesses in both the management processes and the operational controls relied upon to protect confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information systems vital to department operations.
In contrast, the unclassified programs, the department's information security program for classified, provides sufficient assurance that those systems are providing adequate level of protection.
The department has made cyber security a priority. Secretary Bodman has just recently appointed the new chief information officer, and my office is hopeful that with this renewed management attention on information systems, both classified unclassified, will be adequately protected, consistent with the established requirements. This management attention, however, is needed at all levels with the department in order to maintain effective performance today.
In closing, I want to emphasize that the national security assets in the department as far as our independent oversight assessment is concerned is being adequately protected. While we believe we can and must continue to improve the effectiveness and efficiencies of our protection programs and are working to do so, all of the information at our disposal indicates that none of our national security assets are susceptible to unacceptable risk. Under the leadership of Secretary Bodman and Deputy Secretary Sell, we are confident the department and the NNSA will continue to emphasize our security programs, and we'll seek and obtain and distribute the resources necessary to fully implement the protection program enhancements aimed at effectively entering the increasing and evolving threat.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. EVERETT: Thank you. We're going to begin questions. I'm going to ask members to adhere to the five-minute rule. We'll have second and third rounds up until the time that four of us on the committee have a markup in Armed Services at 6:30.
With Mr. Reyes' permission, I'm going to yield my initial time to Mr. Thornberry as Mr. Thornberry, Mr. Reyes and I also have a 5:30 intel meeting, which Mr. Reyes and I will miss, but Mr. Thornberry will be able to attend.
So, Mr. Thornberry, you're recognized for five minutes.
REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll do my best to be there for both of you.
And welcome to all of you.
Mr. Ambassador, I'd like to repeat a concern that I have expressed to you personally, but I do so for the benefit of your new deputy, if no one else.
I am concerned that the original hopes and goals of the -- in creating the NNSA are not being fully realized. And specifically, I hope, if he hadn't already, that he goes back and reads the -- (inaudible) -- report that led to the creation of the NNSA, which emphasized the importance of having one chain of command, one line of accountability and responsibility for the Nuclear Weapons Complex. That was not the case then -- they called it a dysfunctional bureaucracy incapable of reforming itself -- and we have made significant progress. I don't mean to suggest that we have not, yet I worry that we still don't have the kind of accountability which Congress and the Department of Defense are going to demand as we try to navigate through some very challenging times ahead. And I'm not looking for a response, but I do want to emphasize that concern.
Mr. Secretary, I do want to ask you this: You start out, as you mentioned, as you often do, saying stockpile stewardship is working. And then you go on to point out that our nuclear weapons are getting older and our body of knowledge is improving because of all the money and programs we've spent together. My question is, are we keeping up? I worry that every year the aging -- the further we get away from any sort of nuclear test, the greater the uncertainties are in our stockpile. And I'm just not sure that as smart as all these people are who are working on it that the amount we're gaining is keeping up with the amount of uncertainty that may be increasing. Are you confident that we're keeping up, at least, if not improving on what we don't know about weapons that we can no longer test?
MR. BROOKS: I'm confident that we're keeping up. I would be delighted in a classified setting to give you a couple of very specific examples of things that we now believe we understand about the functioning of nuclear weapons that we did not understand over the last half century. And that's the first -- that's some of the results of the efforts that we've put into science-based stockpile stewardship.
We look at this quite rigorously with three independent looks by the laboratory directors, a separate look by a panel under the U.S. Strategic Command who -- he's a customer; he has no reason to make me happy -- and then independent review. And the secretary has actually asked the prospective undersecretary of science to look independently as well since the secretary is new. So I don't think there's any question that we're keeping up now.
I think the unanswered question is how much do these uncertainties grow. For example, it is widely believed that plutonium changes as it ages because it is a radioactive material. It is not clear whether that's an important fact or just an interesting one. Right now, our best estimates are that somewhere between 45 and 60 years -- and that sounds like a long time, but remember the last pit we made was made in the '80s -- the properties have changed to the point where you lack confidence that what you saw when you were testing is what you would see now. On the other hand, it may turn out to be that it's 60-plus. We're doing accelerated aging tests to find that out.
The reason that I'm so enthused on the Reliable Replacement Warhead, I think it's entirely possible that I could sit here or my successor sit here 15 years from now and say exactly what I've said about the stockpile and still have confidence. But why should we take that risk? Because if there were a problem, then we're faced with either an unreliable stockpile or what would be a hugely dramatic event after 20 years of resuming nuclear testing.
The Reliable Replacement Warhead idea is to drive us farther away from those margins so that we have less concern. At the same time, through a process called the quantification of margins and uncertainty, we're trying to really understand at the level of fundamental science just how much the margins are and just how much the uncertainty around those margins are, because what you want is the uncertain to be smaller than the margin.
We're putting a lot of good science at this, sir -- I'm confident.
REP. THORNBERRY: I appreciate it. Let me ask you one other -- on the facilities, you mentioned that Congress did not fully fund administration's request last year.
MR. BROOKS: I should -- that was not this committee.
REP. THORNBERRY: In previous years, other administrations have not put much money into facilities; we are where we are. But my question is when you come to us with your facilities plan based on the secretary's report, will you include what it takes to not only build but to keep up, to maintain the facilities that we need to have? Because I think part of our problem is we haven't, in the past, put in what it takes just to keep stuff operating, and so then we're going back and repairing and we get into a cycle.
MR. BROOKS: Sir, that's how we got into the hole.
REP. THORNBERRY: Yes, so you're going to tell us what it takes to keep it up.
MR. BROOKS: Yes, sir, we are, and we're also going to try to look -- and just as I believe that one can design warheads that are easier to maintain, one can design facilities that are easier to maintain.
Our vision, for example, for the Y12 plant is to match this storage facility with a processing facility that is next door to us and is designed with modern technology, and modern technology includes the ability to do modern maintenance. At the Pantex plant, we're automating a number of things so we can keep good track of maintenance.
Where we will need the Congress' help is it's not that previous administrations weren't interested in maintenance, it's that there's always a top line, and you're making trade-offs. I think that we may -- in the past -- people I know and admire have over-emphasized near- term mission and under-emphasized long-term maintenance, and we're going to have to make sure we don't fall into that trap again. Tom and I are convinced we're not going to fall in that trap while we're here.
REP. THORNBERRY: Good. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. EVERETT: First of all, to correct myself, all six of us will be gone before 6:30 to the full committee hearing. And secondly, neither the yellow light nor red light is working -- (laughter) -- so maybe I'll throw something at you at 4:30. But we'll try to give you tip off that you've got like 30 seconds left or something like that.
So, Sil, if you will, go ahead.
REP. REYES: And I'll be brief because most of the things that I'm really concerned about we'll do in the classified or the closed hearing. But I did want to piggyback on my colleague's question to you about the pit facility -- the pit production facilities.
And I was thinking that it would seem to me that planning for the new pit production would be contingent on resolving some of the uncertainties about the future size and composition of whatever our nuclear weapons arsenal is going to be, which would include whether or not we're going to produce the RRW and what that shape and composition might require in terms of facilities to produce and to maintain it.
The two questions I have is have we -- has the Stockpile Stewardship Program established dates with pits in the current stockpile or become unreliable? That's number one -- the reliability of the current stockpile. The second one is, are you certain that the Reliable Replacement Warhead will not reuse any of the existing pits that are currently in inventory? Just those two.
MR. BROOKS: Yes, sir. Let me take the second one first.
Whether it's the Reliable Replacement Warhead or simply re- manufacturing existing warheads, if you melt down the plutonium and re-form it into a new pit, you start over. The physical method of damage from the radioactive decay is tiny bubbles of helium. The question of how, whether those aggregate or not is one of the important questions in understanding whether this matters. And then some displacement in the lattice from the actual radioactive decay and you essentially -- I'm oversimplifying because of my own limitations, not because I don't think the committee can follow it -- you start over. So whether we go RRW is, in that specific sense, less important.
Where RRW ties into the requirements for the modern pit facility is, if I'm right, that the Reliable Replacement Warhead will help me get a truly responsive infrastructure, then I don't need to keep the quite large quantity of spare weapons that I've got in bunkers someplace as a hedge because I can't do anything if a problem arises. I'll have that hedge capability in the production capability.
When you need the modern pit facility depends on pit lifetime. We do look at that pit design by pit design. There is no pit for which we believe that a problem occurs sooner than 45 years, but we're still not completely sure because we don't completely understand all the effects of aged plutonium, and there is healthy intellectual discussion on that within the scientific community.
Requirements for a modern pit facility depend on when you build it, how big the stockpile is and how long plutonium lifetime is. What I continue to believe is that it is unlikely that the stockpile will go down so low and the lifetime will extend so long that we'll be able to get by with what we now think we can do at Los Alamos, which is -- in environmental impact, the need for analysis, we said the upper limit at Los Alamos was probably 50 pits. We intend to ramp up to between 30 and 40 by 2012 in order to be able to produce warheads for the Reliable Replacement Warhead. We intend to take our first pit produced at Los Alamos and put it in the actual war reserve stockpile in '07 and to be up to 10 pits a couple of years later.
REP. REYES: The only other thing I want to mention is we did get -- Mr. Podonsky, we did get the answer to the letter that I sent the secretary.
So with that, Mr. Chairman, I'll yield back the time.
REP. EVERETT: Ms. Tauscher.
REP. ELLEN O. TAUSCHER (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Brooks, Mr. Secretary, Mr. Podonsky, thank you so much for being here. Congratulations to you, Tom. I'm very proud to represent both Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory -- (inaudible) -- California.
Ambassador Brooks, I want to commend you for your continuing progress on the construction of the National Ignition Facilities that are known as the NIFs. I'm very happy the president's '07 budget request seeks to not only restore the $10 million that we were nicked last year by the Appropriations Committee -- but gives us full funding that we requested. So, congratulations. I'm very happy we don't have to spend our time this trying to get those monies put together.
Can you just talk briefly about how the restoration of the funds that we were missing from last year -- the $10 million -- how it moves through the process, and does it permit us to keep the project on track? And how are we going to meet the requirements?
MR. BROOKS: We are on track. And I need to phrase my words very carefully because we're trying to do something that's never been done in human history, which is cause fusion ignition to occur someplace other than inside a nuclear weapon around the surface of the sun. We are confident that we will conduct the first ignition experiment in 2010, and the independent review by the JASONs confirms that they are confident in the high probability that we will conduct that experiment. They are less confident that the first time will be a success, and we will know in 2010. I would not regard that -- if you never undertake a scientific effort that doesn't run into problems the first time, you're not reaching for the kind of great science that our labs do. But we are confident that we will undertake the experiment in 2010.
The performance of the project continues to be spectacular. I've lost track -- 4 million hours without lost time or accident was the last number I saw, which is really a remarkable accomplishment. Things that we had equated multiple shifts for are fitting together in single shifts. And the general performance of the facility is good, as you note. The most powerful laser in the world now at (full ?) beams out at 190 -- (inaudible).
The number it will let us do, not all of which require ignition, are really very important. There are regimes and temperature and pressure that can't be accessed outside of a nuclear explosion (or ?) the NIF. so it's a very important tool. It's on track and it's being well run.
Since this is the last year where we have to put big money at it, I would not expect that this would be a significant issue in future years unless something goes spectacularly wrong, which I -- there are things I worry about, and something going spectacularly wrong with that project isn't one of them.
MS. TAUSCHER: Thank you very much. I agree with you that we've had, you know, after some hiccups some fabulous management out at Livermore and terrific people working very hard. And I think that the untold story is the ancillary science, not just ignition, which obviously is a big deal -- very, very big deal. But the ancillary science is, I think, going to be very impressive and accrue to the American people tremendous science that will not only help protect them, but I think will advance science generally. And that's always important.
I'm impressed by -- I guess it's maybe a little over a year since ROW became something that we talked about with a name. And I'm impressed that in your testimony your -- the language about it is much more concise and much more even appealing. And I think we're all looking forward in the classified setting to hear more.
My particular interest, as you're not surprised, is about the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And you know, I think our continued conversations about testing being a goal of the program intrinsically -- not just an effect and not just a nice-to-have, but in my position a have-to-have. That we actually are really considering the fact that one of the reasons to do ROW is that it gives us much more of the sense of satisfaction that we will not have to test, that we will get a less complicated, safer -- including environmentally -- weapon and one that is much more reliable, I think, is something I'd like to hear more about when we have the classified setting.
Mr. Chairman, I don't have any other questions, but I want to thank our panelists for -- (off mike).
REP. EVERETT: Thank you, ma'am.
REP. JOE SCHWARZ (R-MI): Ambassador Brooks, you have two paragraphs in your testimony about the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, GNEP. Would you expand on that a little bit? Tell me precisely what it does. I mean, you say pretty much what it does and you're going to try to get other countries involved in using nuclear technology -- using technology used by countries who are already advanced in nuclear technology. Does this involve any reprocessing of spent uranium, power-plant uranium? And if so, maybe we could expand on that a little bit.
MR. BROOKS: Certainly, sir. Let me walk you through the logic.
There's going to be a massive increase in energy demands worldwide over the next several decades and that's a good thing, because energy correlates with prosperity and prosperity correlates with security and stability. That energy demand as a practical matter will primarily come from either more use of nuclear power or from more use of fossil fuels.
More use of fossil fuels is undesirable because it puts more carbon in the air. More use of nuclear power, however, causes you to face up to the problem of, what do you do with the waste? It's already well known, I think, that Yucca will essentially -- Yucca is essentially full. The stuff just isn't there yet. Therefore, if you can take spent fuel and reprocess it, you get more energy content out of it and reduce what ultimately has to go to a geologic repository.
The traditional objection to that and the reason it deserves mentioning in my statement -- this is -- the program itself is the responsibility of the Office of Nuclear Energy and not mine -- is that traditionally the United States is opposed to reprocessing because it led to separated plutonium. What we propose to do under GNEP is do demonstration scale projects to show that you can reprocess with a new form of reprocessing that doesn't separate plutonium. And then you can take that plutonium plus actinides and turn it into fuel for an advanced burner reactor.
That will still require some kind of safeguards regime, but we believe that that will be relatively easy, because in our scheme, all of this would be done only essentially by the countries that have enrichment and reprocessing now. What we would offer countries that don't have enrichment reprocessing now is essentially fuel leasing. We would offer guaranteed fuel supplies, and Secretary Bodman in September announced that we're going to take 17 tons of former weapons material and blend it down to be our contribution to that guaranteed fuel supply so that a state that wanted the benefits of nuclear power would not have to invest in expensive and dangerous technology but could look to somebody who would not only give them fuel but take it back when it was done. And that way, we can gain the economic benefits of an expansion of nuclear power without the proliferation benefits. My niche on that is the proliferation aspects, which is why it's mentioned, but only briefly.
REP. SCHWARZ: Thank you. And my question had to do with the plutonium as the byproduct, and you answered.
Can I ask one quick additional question, Mr. Chairman?
REP. EVERETT: You have time.
REP. SCHWARZ: What is your thought -- what are the thoughts that the department has -- as we know, we need to build new nuclear power generating plants in the United States. Is there any thought or has there been discussion about some way to grant some sort of legal immunity to the entity that says, sure, Con Ed or Consumers Energy or someone is going -- we'll build the plant but you've got to grant us some sort of immunity that every antinuclear organization in the world doesn't come out of the woodwork and get in the way of building this plant. Is there some sort of talk -- has there been any talk of granting some immunity to American power generation companies if someone bites the bullet or if several of them bite the bullet and say, we're going to do it now, now's the time to build?
MR. BROOKS: I'll get you a more complete answer for the record, because I am not aware of that. I think we believe that the regulatory reform in the Energy Policy Act last year removes many roadblocks, and we have seen a great increase in the number of at least three licensing applications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. So we think that this is a case where industry is willing to go forward. We need to give them a regulatory regime that makes it easier. I'm not aware of any provisions on liability, but I'll find out and get back to you, sir.
REP. SCHWARZ: Thank you, sir.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. EVERETT: Mr. Spratt.
REP. JOHN SPRATT (D-SC): Thank you very much. And thank all of you for your testimony and statements.
I have a number of questions and let me put them into three different sections. First of all, as you all know, we are the host in South Carolina of 35.4 million gallons of highly radioactive liquid waste. We are also the host of 34 million -- 34 tons, metric tons, of plutonium. I'll come to that second.
But first, with respect to the liquid waste: We provided in Section 3116 of the Defense Authorization Bill a couple of years ago the authority for DOE to proceed with the removal of liquid waste in these tanks and even to proceed with grouting this waste. But at the same time, we called for a NAS study, because we wanted to make certain that we had the best possible technology being used so that we maximized the waste removed, the heel removed and so that we made the heel remaining assuredly stable.
So we asked the NAS to undertake that study, and they have come forward with the interim report and should have the final report within a matter of months. I'd like to ask you some questions that follow up the NAS report. First of all, they said that DOE should decouple tank waste removal and tank closure actions on a case-by-case basis where there are indications that near-term techniques could become available to remove the tank heels much more effectively, safely and even at lower cost. They also recommended research and development.
Now, I would like to know if there's any such funding included in the bill for '07 to look at, one, in tank and downstream processing consequences of chemical tank cleaning options; two, technology is to assist in tank waste removal, including robotics; three, studies of the projected near- and long-term performance of tank-fill materials such as grout raises a question -- the question raised in my mind is, grout may be a temporary expedient; just how permanent a solution is grout to the problem?
Secondly, the National Academy has effectively suggested that DOE can clean up tanks and leave them in lay-up status -- that is, cleaned out but not yet grouted -- while we wait for short-term/near-term R&D to make sure that we've really gotten as much waste out of the tanks as possible. DOE has expressed its skepticism, if not its opposition, to this particular proposal. And we'd like to know why it's not a workable or a strategy you can pursue.
And finally, when we developed the language in 3116 a couple of years ago, much of the urgency for it was due to the fact that DOE felt that we were going to run out of usable tank space in 2008 and that drove the urgency of the Salt Waste Processing Facility, which was supposed to alleviate this problem. Since that time the Salt Waste Processing Facility has been pulled; it's being redesigned. The onset of its technology is going to be delayed probably until about 2011, which leaves the tank space problem unsettled.
So to that end, I'd like to ask: Are we about to run out of tank space? Do we still have that crisis to deal with? What are DOE's plans for continued treatment of waste while we wait on the Salt Waste Processing Facility to be built? And are there new plans to build new storage tanks? And is that a good idea, since they would eventually become waste itself that would have to be disposed of?
That's a lot to put on your plate, but there are a lot of questions on the agenda for Savannah River site right now. If you could respond to those, I would appreciate it.
MR. RISPOLI: Yes, sir, thank you. Let me address those in turn.
The National Defense Authorization Act was actually passed in November -- or signed in November of 2004. We began the process formally by submitting our package for consultation to the NRC in February of 2005. And as I'm sure you know, we concluded that consultation process in December of 2005, and the secretary issued his waste determination and that very first one has to do with grout. In other words, one of the questions that you referred back to later -- we're basically talking about this waste determination, the first one out of the box being for the Salt Waste disposition and the Salt Waste facility that already exists at Savannah River. So that has moved along.
And in all honesty, I think it took a little longer than we thought -- that the consultation process took a little longer than we thought we should see from February until December. And at Savannah River, for example, in September we submitted the second consultation package to NRC and that's on tanks 18 and 19, and we expect to have their responses on that by June, which will let us proceed with the actions for closing those two particular tanks.
The issue you bring up with the National Academy -- I've talked with the chairman of that group, Dr. Frank Parker from Vanderbilt. We do await the final report. He indicated to me that there will be some changes in that report, but he was not able to share what those changes or adjustments might be. So we await that final report shortly, but as you know --
REP. SPRATT: Do you have any money requested in the '07 request for the research that they have recommended?
MR. RISPOLI: Yes, sir, I do. What we have going is that some of the research, like you talked about robotics and things of that nature -- we actually have money being spent on research in a -- like a mock- up of a tank at Hanford with surrogate material to look at the operation of robotics to break up material that has already become in a solidified form. So that type of research is going on, and we do share that research between the Hanford site and the South Carolina site. So yes, we have, I believe it's somewhere to the tune of $10 million for research in this arena.
But the work -- most of that work is being done at the Hanford site.
You also asked about the 3116 urgency and running out of tank space in 2008 and what is our plan given that the Salt Waste Processing Facility operational date is delayed by several years, that you correctly pointed out. We have an interim plan, which the regulators are aware of, to install two other processes that can deal with the lower activity tank waste, so that we can actually begin to process lower activity tank waste for the same purpose as the major project, but nearly as capable. In other words, the interim processes are very limited as to which tank waste they can handle. And meanwhile, as you know, we are pressing on with the design of the large structure -- the Salt Waste Processing Facility.
I'd like to point out, also, that the decision to upgrade the requirements was driven entirely by safety for both the workers and the community. The issued raised by the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board was one of, is the facility going to be seismically robust enough to withstand any concerns? And as I indicated in my statement, safety has to be number one in what we do. So even though we recognize that there would be some dates that we would not obtain, we felt it was more important to design it and build it right and, therefore, address the issue of beginning processing with the interim steps that I mentioned, that are not quite as capable but they can at least get us on the road to handling that tank waste.
REP. SPRATT: One final question that I asked, the separation of radioactive material to the greatest extent possible out of the tanks but not grouting until you've determined whether or not grouting or some variation thereon -- some better technology was available.
MR. RISPOLI: Yes, sir.
I think that our position today is that we want to retrieve the material out of the tanks and then close them as quickly as we can because of the safety perspective of leaving them in a state that is not closed. In other words, if we don't add the grout, we would basically have tanks that are almost empty; they are subjected to the forces of age and just physics and they have like a cap over the top. And we believe that the safest way to address that is to close them as soon as we can. And I believe I'm fairly safe in saying that the regulators in the state of South Carolina endorsed the concept that we should get on with the actual closure of those tanks -- not just the retrieval of tank waste, but actually closing those in as expedient a way as we can.
REP. SPRATT: Thank you. I have further questions, but I'll wait until next round.
REP. EVERETT: Mr. Larsen.
REP. RICK LARSEN (D-WA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Rispoli, on the issue of Hanford and so on, one of the issues that we have is the transportation of true waste to the WIPP in New Mexico. Your testimony and comments in the staff memo says you've completed the first year there of retrieval. Is that facility open and operating?
MR. RISPOLI: The facility?
REP. LARSEN: In New Mexico.
MR. RISPOLI: Yes, sir. That facility is quite impressive. It's been operating now for a number of years. I visited it about two months ago.
REP. LARSEN: So last year when you all were before the committee, there was some discussion about legal limitations moving material from Hanford down to the WIPP. Is there material moving from Hanford down to the WIPP?
MR. RISPOLI: I believe that the material that you are -- first let me say that the permit that we have to operate the WIPP is in effect but it has to be renewed every so many years.
REP. LARSEN: The mike, yeah.
MR. RISPOLI: It has to be renewed every so many years. The WIPP facility today is taking transuranic waste that is derived from defense purposes that can be what is called contact handled. We have a hearing shortly, very eminently, where we are requesting the state of New Mexico for the authority to place what is called a remote handle transuranic waste in that facility. And I suspect that's what you're referring to as far as what the status is. We have that -- that hearing is scheduled to happen in Carlsbad. We're prepared for it and we've received the support of the state, to this point, to process that request so that we can indeed.
Now, I'll also mention that physically, the facility is ready to accept this waste. The configuration is there. In fact, we want to begin accepting this waste in 2007. We'd like to get going as soon as we can -- or is it -- '07. So I was correct. We'd like to get going on that as quickly as we can, because the configuration of WIPP for maximum optimization of space requires us to begin bringing that waste in.
REP. LARSEN: Thank you.
On the issue of the cost increases of the construction at Hanford, what kind of timeline does that put that completion out to? And will that have any impact on the tri-party agreement, in your current estimation of the TRA?
MR. RISPOLI: Well, if I may, let me just mention that the document -- the new estimate that Bechtel has given to us, our contract, is 87 loose-leaf binders, but we got a 20-page summary that we believe was shared with the committees. And what they indicate is that the new estimate is about 8.77 billion (dollars) -- that does not include any profit, which we call fee, going forward. And we recognize that some of the events that caused the change will require us to renegotiate that contract to provide for profit. So that 8.77 will likely go -- almost certainly go over 9 billion (dollars). And also, that figure is based upon funding that did not happen in 2006.
So Bechtel owes us a new estimate by the completion of the end of May of this year, which the Army Corps of Engineers will then review to enable us to validate it and validate it and then negotiate. It also includes a schedule extension of five years from 2011 to 2016 for actual commencement of operation. So we're looking at both a significant cost as well as a significant schedule --
REP. LARSEN: Can I try to understand something? You say the $8.77 billion number estimate included an assumption that there was funding this past year?
MR. RISPOLI: The 8.77 billion (dollars), and then if you add the allowances, that pushes it over 9 billion (dollars). When they began that and were pretty much like halfway or more through that estimate, it assumed that they would get the original funding request of 626 million (dollars) for fiscal '06, which did not happen.
REP. LARSEN: Which did not happen.
MR. RISPOLI: And so now they're in the processing of adjusting that to further look at schedule -- what are the impacts, obviously, on schedules and what will that adjustment be. And they owe us that new figure by the end of May.
REP. LARSEN: So we'll get a new figure by the end of May that will include the adjustment because there were zero dollars last year --
MR. RISPOLI: Well, there were --
REP. LARSEN: There were fewer dollars than expected.
MR. RISPOLI: There were fewer dollars than expected.
REP. LARSEN: Fewer dollars than expected last year.
MR. RISPOLI: That's right.
REP. LARSON: And that will -- it will include their fee?
MR. RISPOLI: Well, we would then add to that figure that they give us a presumption on what that fee might be. But in the figures that I'm using, we're assuming it would be somewhere like 300-plus million (dollars) going forward as a rough order of magnitude of profit, because otherwise, you would have to expect that a contractor would be willing to work from now until 2016 with no hope of profit at all. And we have to have a way to incentivize them going forward to keep the best people on the project, to keep progress going.
REP. LARSEN: This is sort redux for me. I remember asking this next question last year as well. If that is the case, then -- expect it by the end of May -- do you then expect, as we move to the appropriations process, to make adjustments in your request?
MR. RISPOLI: Well, what we have done this year is we've asked for $690 million in the '07 request. There is a provision in the contract that actually, for contractual purposes, tells the contractor to plan on annual budget authority of 690 million. And it goes on to say in '07, '08 and '09 in the out years that the requests for those years, which is '07, '08, '09 and further, will be determined based upon the waste treatment plant baseline and cannot exceed 690 million (dollars).
REP. LARSEN: Okay.
MR. RISPOLI: So we've told the contract, for the purpose of their estimate, to assume 690 million (dollars), because obviously, the baseline did not go down; it went up. And the solution, therefore, is not less commitment of resources, but actually, we've told them to plan on a stable funding of resources for the out years.
REP. LARSEN: Okay, thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. EVERETT: I believe it's my time.
Mr. Podonsky, in the past committees -- can I get the green light?
In the past, the committee's had some concerns about the ability of NNSA's federal workers to effectively oversee security of NNSA sites. Are you making any progress in this area? And if you have, please tell us; and if not, please tell us why.
MR. PODONSKY: Mr. Chairman, we've -- my independent oversight office has also had similar observations, and I'm certain that Ambassador Brooks recognizes the shortcomings of the staff technical competence at the offices as he sponsored the Admiral Chiles and Meese report that validated some of Admiral Brooks' concerns.
Through our oversight process, we have seen in the last year a vast improvement in terms of the capabilities out in Ambassador Brooks' sites. So we are guardedly optimistic that this improvement will continue. We've seen this through the performance of Ambassador Brooks' sites and all of our inspections, be they safety or security.
So we, again -- I iterate, we're guardedly optimistic that they're on the road to the right direction with getting the right talent at the site offices to oversee the contractors.
REP. EVERETT: You've been around the Design Basis Threat formation now for some time. In your opinion, does the DBT formulation and implementation process work well? And if it doesn't, now would you improve it?
MR. PODONSKY: Yes, sir.
The DBT process in the department, I would describe it as a very robust process which annually gets reviewed and is complemented, as I said in my testimony, with the intelligence reports and assessments. And each year I think what we have found with each successive administration is that more and more line empowerment is taking place. And that's the one area in the whole process that we would like to see more of. And as you heard, Assistant Secretary Rispoli and Ambassador Brooks' testimony, they are looking for more accountability in line.
And we are looking for a way that the line will incentivize their site managers to come up with more effective ways to implement security at lower cost -- and that's why I also said in my testimony, in employing technology and the elite force that we mentioned. But we think the department has a very robust process and we've compared that with the NRC, Ambassador Brooks' chief of security and myself and Undersecretary Garmond's (sp) security member. We meet on a quarterly basis with a commission of the NRC, and we think -- we're very comfortable that DOE's DBT is a very solid process.
REP. EVERETT: Thank you very much.
I would mention to members, we have a -- I don't know if everybody wants a second round, but we will need to get out of here about 6:20, and it's 6:00 now.
And Mr. Reyes, I believe it's your time.
REP. SPRATT: Can we go to 6:30?
REP. EVERETT: Well, we have another -- as you know, we have another meeting --
REP. SPRATT: At 6:30.
REP. EVERETT: A markup at 6:30.
REP. SPRATT: What time is that?
REP. EVERETT: At 6:30.
REP. SPRATT: Well, that's what I mean. Can we go to 6:30?
REP. EVERETT: Well, I'll give it -- how about 6:25? I'll split it with you, Mr. Spratt, since you got nine minutes out of your last five minutes of questions. You're very good at that, by the way.
REP. REYES: Mr. Chairman, I'll yield my time to Mr. Spratt.
REP. EVERETT: Oh, good. Thank you. (Laughter.) I bet it's another nine minutes now.
REP. SPRATT: Just settle in, Mr. Chairman.
Let me go back to the liquid waste, and then I want to the plutonium that's to be there processed in the MOX fuel.
I outlined a lengthy series of things that the NAS has tentatively recommended. You've got the Salt Waste Processing Facility to deal with, production of the throughput at the Defense Waste Processing Facility -- a full agenda for liquid waste there. And the department announced, I think it was in December, that in letting the next contract for the operation at Savannah River Site you intend to divide it into, I believe, and M&O contract and a liquid waste contract. And I believe you've indicated that the two might not be let at the same or bid at the same time, that RFP fees would out at different times and the liquid waste might be deferred for as much as year. Given the agenda of things that need to be done in the realm of liquid waste disposal, all the research and development that the NAS has recommended, wouldn't it make sense to do the liquid waste first or at least to do them both on a parallel concurrent schedule?
MR. RISPOLI: Sir, may I mention that we are working on both at the same time. The reality is that the liquid waste RFP is much more complex and the evaluation criteria will be much more complex because of the nature of the liquid waste work. And that's why, as you mentioned, we expect that we would be able to wrap up what you might call the site M&O contracts first, because it's a more straightforward contract. It would include the national lab. It would include support to the NSA, for example, which has activities at Savannah River. And we believe that that one we can accomplish in a nearer term than we can the liquid waste one. So that's the driver is basically the complexity.
As you, I'm sure, know, we in the Office of Environmental Management have had significant challenges with procurement. And we are systemically rebuilding a capability to do these better. And given the importance of the liquid waste one, we feel that we just have to do it right and it's not as straightforward as the base --
REP. SPRATT: Well, I want to see it done right for sure, but I thought maybe getting the contractor in place who'd be primarily responsible for doing it and doing it right -- the sooner the better. I know you want to pick the very best contractor.
MR. RISPOLI: Yes.
REP. SPRATT: I don't have a preference. I don't have a dog in the fight, but still, given all that needs to be done, it would seem to me that the contractor that's going to be there for the intermediate haul, if not the long haul, ought to be picked now and allowed to begin.
MR. RISPOLI: Yes, sir. I don't disagree at all. I would also point out that we are very well satisfied with the performance of the incumbent and that we don't really have any concern about that contractor performing during the period of the RFP and the length of time that it takes. That may not necessarily be true in all cases, but it is true in this case.
REP. SPRATT: You mention as one of your successes the placement of the plutonium in the K-Area, which I guess means the K-Reactor.
MR. RISPOLI: Yes, sir.
REP. SPRATT: As you know, I'm sure, the Nuclear Facilities Safety Board wrote a letter warning that that facility was suitable for short-term storage, perhaps, but not for extended storage over a period of years. Are all 34 tons there now?
MR. RISPOLI: No, we are in the process right now. And in order for us to meet the DBT, the 2003 DBT, we have to complete -- it's an on-site relocation, as you know, from the F-Area.
But no, it's not all there yet. We're still in the process of --
REP. SPRATT: Is the actual number classified?
MR. RISPOLI: I believe it is.
REP. SPRATT: We made an agreement because we were concerned about the placement of that plutonium in our state for some period of time to come. We agreed that it could be put there. A lot of it was generated there in the first place. Forty percent of the weapons- grade plutonium in the country was processed at Savannah River site. But we wanted to see the MOX fuel plant achieve a certain throughput within a certain period of time consistent with your plan so that we would get it there and get it out. And part of our concern was that the complex to handle the MOX fuel processing had been shrunk for budget reasons. For example, there was to have been an actinide receiving and storage facility instead of the K-Reactor.
But in light of the fact that it was not an ideal complex of facilities, we wanted to see the MOX fuel processing plant down to a certain throughput so that we could be assured at that rate that this plutonium within a foreseeable period of time would be out of there. And to make the agreement a little stiff, we agreed upon liquidated damages. It was a handshake. I don't blame you for it. Congress did it -- slipped the liquidated damages. I didn't think it was a good- faith thing to do. A deal is a deal and we made a deal on liquidated damages. I thought the amount was a little high at the time.
But now we're told that the date the liquidated damages will apply is 2014, that's the law, but the secretary of Energy has apprised us that the plant will not achieve the throughput required to avoid liquidated damages until 2015.
Is the department still committed to the payment of liquidated damages per existing law and per the original agreement?
MR. BROOKS: The department is committed to following the law in this and as in everything. The law gives us three options: meet the MOX production objective, which, as you correctly note, the secretary's letter suggests we will not do; pay liquidated damages; or take an equivalent amount of material out of the state. And I know how to do that and I know where to put it. It's not a good use, to be blunt, of the taxpayers' money, and I think there'll come a time when we'll want to have a discussion about how to adapt to the practical realities, but I don't think the administration has wrestled through how to have that discussion, and I frankly would not think that it would be appropriate for us to have it until you actually see me building this plant, which you will see later this year.
REP. SPRATT: Can I ask two more questions?
REP. EVERETT: Mr. Spratt, in an effort of bipartisanship, I am going to agree to your 6:30 time limit on this committee, especially since the full committee markup's been put off till 6:45. (Laughter.)
REP. SPRATT: I was about to thank you for your magnanimity, Mr. Chairman.
Given the recent controversy about port security -- and it's a widespread concern in Congress because we've all sat through briefings where very imaginable and very scary circumstances can evolve at our seaports -- why is it that this budget calls for a reduction of -- from 73 million (dollars) in '06 to 40 million (dollars) in '07, while the Megaports program, which, as I understand it, would fund radiation detection equipment around the world -- it's also my understanding that less than 50 percent of our ports have this radiation detection equipment at this particular point in time.
MR. BROOKS: Yes, sir.
Let me make sure that -- as you said, our ports. The Megaports program doesn't do anything in the United States. The Megaports program is based on the premise that if you're going to intercept something, it's better to intercept it overseas. And it piggybacks on the Customs and Border Service Container Security Initiative.
Right now we have an agreement with 14 -- we have five facilities in operation, another nine for which we have agreements. Mr. Spratt, there are two reasons: first, the Congress chose to increase funding for this program last year -- and while I'm very grateful, that somewhat wasn't the sense of urgency for me trying to increase funding for it this year. And within the constrained total, I needed to increase the funding for plutonium production reactor shutdown. The long-term solution to the problem of nuclear material coming to the United States is to have less nuclear material. And so the increases go to stop making it in the Russian Federation and increase funding for MOX to start getting rid of it here and in the Russian Federation.
It's not a reduction in emphasis or -- I'm sorry, it's not a lessening of our enthusiasm for Megaports program; it's a simple trade-off within fiscal reality.
REP. SPRATT: Well, and that line, if you look at CTR, or Cooperative Threat Reduction, and your nonproliferation programs, they're about flat. They really haven't increased significantly over time. In fact, I think there's a small cut -- 44 (million dollars), 45 (million dollars), $39 million this year, I believe, in nonproliferation programs.
MR. BROOKS: No, sir.
REP. SPRATT: I stand corrected.
MR. BROOKS: I'm going to cheat and look at my notes, but -- you can argue -- there's a little bit of dispute about what you count. Some people want to focus entirely on what goes directly to the Russian Federation under the global partnership. We're committed to spending $1 billion a year. And if you do that, you don't, for example, count the money we spent on the MOX plant. But the nonproliferation appropriation in this budget is almost -- is a major increase over the last several years.
We have, in fact, collectively -- because you and I both know some of us at this end of the street did significantly increase funding. The budget for nonproliferation in this budget is about $110 million above the nonproliferation enacted in '06. That goes primarily to plutonium production reactor shutdown and to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which is both dirty bombs and highly enriched uranium, which goes up by about 10 percent, and then the rest of it goes to an increase in MOX.
The Megaports Second Line of Defense Program increases; the Megaports decreases, and those are programmatic trade-offs.
REP. SPRATT: Let me give you one curiosity, and it may have an explanation. Security upgrades to Russian civilian nuclear sites was $86 million '05; it dropped to $46.8 million in '06, and then is requested at $21.2 million in '07. Now the curiosity comes in that the president in his supplemental is asking for 44.5 million (dollars) CTR program funds for, quote, "urgent activities to secure nuclear warheads at storage sites in Russia." Well, I guess that's not a civilian site.
MR. BROOKS: No, sir, that's not. The reason the civil site numbers go down is we're essentially done. We will -- we have established a goal of completing the upgrades at all the facilities we're working with by 2008. We will complete all the Russian Navy sites this year. We will complete the upgrades at Rosatom civilian sites by 2008. Most of the actual civilian sites are done; that's why the number trails off. And we will complete the new strategic rocket forces work by the year 2008. In fact, that's more rapid than we told you -- again, we told you last year.
With greatest respect, sir, I'm really proud of what we're doing there. CTR -- different committee -- I mean, different shop. And I just -- I don't have enough knowledge to know where they are now. It is also true that the Congress increased funding for nonproliferation in '06 and that lets us move in faster. And in some of those cases, we're --
REP. SPRATT: What about research reactors -- foreign research reactors -- not in Russia, but in --
MR. BROOKS: Yes, sir. That's done on the Global Threat Reduction Initiative. The good news here -- I'm going to give you a concrete example -- we have now accepted two shipments of spent fuel from Uzbekistan. It's the first time we have brought the Russian origin spent fuel back. We've brought fresh fuel back fairly regularly. And so that's continuing -- that's a regulatory breakthrough in Russia.
So we're working on moving that program. We continue to believe that 2014 we will have all research reactors converted to low-enriched uranium, or -- (inaudible) -- all fresh fuel returned to the United States, Russia -- or there are one or two special cases; there are some Chinese mini-reactors -- and all fresh fuel returned. Right now there are -- the numbers are approximate. There are about 40 reactors where that work's done globally, another 40 where it's in progress, and about 25 where we need to develop the replacement fuel.
We call these research reactors, but in many cases what they actually do is produce medical isotopes. And they're short-lived medical isotopes. It means they sort of have to be produced in the country in which they're being used, and in some cases, the specific replacement fuel for the particular isotope production hasn't been designed yet. But we are increasing the funding for that.
It is an important program, because it's unrealistic to expect the same level of security at a research reactor, as you can expect at a Russian weapons facility. So the solution is to get rid of that stuff.
It's, I think, fair to say that generally, research reactor fuel -- especially in the reactor -- is not a particularly easy target, but it also lacks some of the advantages of power reactors and tends not to result in --
REP. EVERETT: John, if you don't mind, let's -- although I have an idea I know what's coming -- let's move onto Ms. Tauscher.
REP. SPRATT: One last question.
REP. EVERETT: MS. Tauscher will have to give to you --
REP. SPRATT: But it's been softball. He's been able to hit every one of them out of the park.
REP. EVERETT: Okay, you're at 16 minutes out. One last question.
REP. SPRATT: Yesterday there was an AP story to the effect that there's been in circulation a memorandum from OMB and the White House to Labor Department and the Energy Department in regard to the settlement of claims by those who worked -- civilians who worked in nuclear production facilities, the implication being that OMB has ridden pretty tight herd on these claims. I couldn't tell -- I haven't seen the report.
Are you aware of this alleged report, of its contents, or do you know anything about it that would shed like on it? Or would you care to --
MR. BROOKS: I may be -- and I hate people who use acronyms and then can't define them -- but it's called the EEOICPA. The Energy Occupation -- it's the claims act. That was transferred to the Department of Labor, and so I think if there is such a report, we're the wrong department to ask. I am certainly the wrong person to ask because I've now told you everything I know about it.
REP. SPRATT: You're not aware of it yourself?
MR. BROOKS: I am not aware of it myself.
REP. SPRATT: Thank you, sir.
REP. TAUSCHER: I am, because I helped move it over to the Department of Labor.
I just had a quick question, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate questions by Mr. Spratt --
REP. EVERETT: And I might add, Ms. Tauscher has been a leading -- has had long-time interest in this subject.
REP. TAUSCHER: Thank you. Thank you.
You know, the American people have invested well over a dozen years and hundreds, if not billions, of dollars on MPC&A programs in Russia, to great success. It's phenomenally successful. We don't probably even understand what we prevented or stopped from happening. You know, guards with no guns, gates with no locks -- all that's changed.
We're going to (tail ?) down our investments in fiscal year '08, and Mr. Spratt's numbers are right -- pretty significantly, down to a third. But how do you gauge the Russia sustainability, investment, temperament, commitment? I mean, I think it would be a shame if they don't kind of pick up where we left off and maintain what we've done.
Are you satisfied that they are going to keep up our good work? Are there things that we need to do to guarantee that?
MR. BROOKS: Let me first tell you where we are and give you my assessment.
We have formed the sustainability working group under the general rubric of the Bratislava process to talk about how we can help them with continued sustain ability. We've been working for at least as long as I've been involved to help create the kind of regulations -- how do you invent a Glenn Podonsky? How do you invent an NRC that has teeth, which -- (inaudible) -- does not? And so we've tried to put (in places ?). We have a security culture project -- and I know that sounds touchy-feely, but it's really not. It's trying to -- how do you create at the sites the understanding that this is really important?
We have a project called Missions Operations Monitory and the acronym is MOM. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
REP. TAUSCHER: I'm one.
MR. BROOKS: And the idea is to provide some "remoteability" for Rosatom for the Federal Agency for Atomic Agency and actually, at least for a little while for us, to make sure that things are being maintained at the individual sites. But the part about providing the data to us is still a little contentious with my Russian counterpart.
I met with Mr. Kirienko, the new head of the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy. He, in his initial discussion with me and his initial telephone call to Secretary Bodman, said that the security of nuclear materials was one of his highest priorities. We are working with no discernible success to try and encourage the Duma to establish -- you know, the Russian budget is like -- the budget for me in Russia would be four lines or something -- to establish a fifth line that says security so that as we take the very slow process of creating legislative oversight. We've been helped by some members who have encouraged that on the Russian counterparts. And to the extent that any of the members of this subcommittee are involved in those, that would be -- you know, we've got to move toward oversight somewhere. This seems to be an important area.
And finally, the truth is, that fueled in part by the worldwide spike in oil prices, the Russian Federation is not the economic disaster that it was a few years ago. All of those are hopeful signs. I have been observing Russia. I don't pretend to be a Russian expert, but I've been observing Russia for a while. They have a tendency to be better at creating edifices than at maintaining them. I'm a little sympathetic to that. I have invented a large number of really brilliant filing systems. I just don't ever file things.
REP. TAUSCHER: (Laughs.)
MR. BROOKS: And there's a little of that there.
So I think -- I'm hopeful, but I'll be candid: my two highest priorities in nonproliferation for the rest of the time I'm here is get the plutonium disposition effort back on track and work sustain ability. I don't know -- I've commissioned three or four -- I've got some really smart people. I've had them do some think pieces. There's some kind of interesting ideas about using the growing business sector. I mean, if I decided to stop doing security at Y-12, among other things, Wackenhut would be contacting Mr. Wamp and then we'd get to chat.
Well, there's an analogous process in Russia, if we can figure out how to -- I'm not saying I'm going to try to teach them how to lobby, but we're looking at lots of spurs. At the end of the day, I think, it will depend on the Russian leadership's belief that this threat is real. And as you know, at very high levels we've had discussions with them about that. And that's another -- I mean, the good things about authoritarian systems is if the president decides he wants to do something, it sort of tends to happen over there. And so we're trying to do that.
So I share your concern. That's what we're doing. I don't know whether there's enough.
REP. TAUSCHER: Is there a role for the IAEA?
MR. BROOKS: Well, there's a role, perhaps, but you know, I don't want to -- the IAEA sets appropriate global standards for nuclear materials, whether they set the kinds of standards that a weapon state should occur -- you'd not be very happy if Mr. Podonsky came up and told you that his oversight showed that we were fully meeting IAEA standards and that's all, because our concept of Design Basis Threat are a little more robust than that.
So I'm not sure that -- there may be a role -- oh, the other thing that we're doing is this series of exchanges trying to exchange best practices in security. And that's going -- I mean, given the inherent difficult of those sorts of things in sensitive areas -- going a little better than I feared. So I don't know, ma'am; we're trying.
REP. TAUSCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. EVERETT: Thank you.
John, you're awfully quiet.
REP. SPRATT: Thank you very much.
REP. EVERETT: Listen, I want to thank everybody for being here today. I certainly thank the panel.
1. Historian asking for end to nukes - H-bomb expert gives 50th anniversary speech at Sandia Laboratory
(for personal use only)
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Richard Rhodes is an unabashed advocate of technology, especially nuclear energy, and he pulls no punches. Critics of food irradiation are as medieval in their thinking as those who fought pasteurization at the turn of the century, and opponents of expanding nuclear power as an answer to global warming and economic disparity are not "simply misinformed and elitist" but "immoral," he said.
Nuclear weapons made world war so costly that their invention, he said, brought a drop in manmade death from tens of millions during World War II to 1 or 2 million a year since 1945 — fewer today than deaths from tobacco use and "clear evidence that the epidemic had been brought under control."
"Who can doubt that the United States and the Soviet Union would have come to fullscale armed conflict — a horrific third world war — had nuclear deterrence not restrained them?" Rhodes said Tuesday at Sandia National Laboratories-California.
But standing before nuclear bomb scientists celebrating the founding 50 years ago of Sandia as a weapons lab, the author who poignantly brought their life's work out of the shadows and into dramatic light in "The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun" gently proposed an end to all nuclear arsenals worldwide.
The Cold War is over, he said, and it is time for the world's major nuclear powers to make good on their promise in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to reduce and eliminate their nuclear arms as soon as possible. At the least, the United States needs a debate over what its weapons are for and who they are meant to deter, he said.
"The U.S. has not taken a profound look at its nuclear arsenal. That one may be too hot to touch," he told Sandia's weaponeers. "The question is what we really need and why."
Suicide terrorist bombings and Sept. 11-style attacks are horrific but incomparable with the threat of annihilation posed by the former Soviet Union and its nuclear forces, Rhodes said.
"We are not in a position to be threatened by anyone who is deterrable," he said. "I can see the arms aren't going to be terribly useful with the terrorist groups."
The spread of nuclear weapons to India, Pakistan, North Korea and perhaps in a few years Iran are worrisome developments but perhaps not as dire, he suggested, as seeing weapons developments in the estimated 30-40 nations that have the capability, as President Kennedy predicted in the early 1960s.
"The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is probably the most successful national-security treaty in the history of the nuclear arms race, and we should do what we can to support it," said Rhodes, now an associate at Stanford's Center for International Security and Arms Control.
"It may be time for an American Gorbachev to step up to the plate," he said, referring to the former Soviet president who proposed an end to the U.S.-Soviet arms race. That also might be unlikely, "but everyone has their dream."
Sandians gave him ringing applause that, according to Sandia-California chief Mim John, ran longer than anyone invited to speak at the lab in years.
Under the Moscow Treaty, President Bush promised steep cuts in active, deployed nuclear warheads, to no more than 2,100 fielded strategic weapons from roughly 7,000 today. He has ordered dismantling of nearly half the fielded arsenal by 2012, to levels last seen in the 1950s.
But the treaty leaves untouched thousands of nuclear weapons that the United States stores in reserve, in case of new threats or unpredicted failure of a weapon design. In order to cut that reserve, the Bush administration is proposing to design new, more age-resistant thermonuclear weapons to replace the entire arsenal and to build at least one factory capable of turning out newly designed weapons on demand.
At Sandia, where scientists are working with colleagues at two other designs labs on designing the first of the new "reliable replacement warheads," Rhodes said the idea of building new, longer-lasting warheads was an "imprudent" step away from the United States' promise to reduce and eliminate its arsenal.
"If the world eliminated all nuclear weapons, the U.S. still would be militarily stronger than it ever has been," he said in an interview.
Nuclear nations still would have the materials and the knowledge to reconstitute their arsenals in a matter of weeks or months, Rhodes said, and that would serve as a check on any other nation stockpiling weapons.
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