U.S. and Russian officials have agreed on terms for a seven-year extension of programs that provide U.S. money and expertise to secure and destroy Soviet-era caches of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
The agreement resolves legal disputes that threatened to derail the programs, which send hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Russia for "cooperative threat reduction" efforts. It will be signed by week's end, according to Frederick Jones, a spokesman for President Bush's National Security Council.
"The agreement ensures that critical cooperation with Russia continues to combat the proliferation threat posed by large quantities of Soviet legacy weapons of mass destruction and missile(s)," Jones says.
The cooperation programs, initiated in 1992, comprise a broad range of initiatives meant to reduce the risk that old Soviet weapons of mass destruction will fall into the hands of rogue states or terrorists. Projects include constructing facilities to lock down nuclear material and warheads; strengthening security at labs storing dangerous biological pathogens; developing special facilities to destroy chemical weapons; and dismantling long-range missiles and bombers.
President Bush has hailed the programs as an important part of the administration's efforts to keep terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. But the programs' future has been in flux since 2004 due to a U.S.-Russian dispute over liability protections for U.S. companies, workers and government personnel working at Russian weapons sites.
The original agreement governing the projects gave U.S. workers blanket protection from liability for damages in case of an on-site accident. That might include, for example, the accidental release of nerve gas at a chemical weapons disposal facility. But Russia was reluctant to continue that arrangement based on concerns that it would indemnify U.S. workers even for intentional acts of sabotage.
The new pact essentially retains the same blanket protections for U.S. workers involved in projects already underway. For new projects, the countries will develop liability protections that are not as sweeping as the current agreement.
William Hoehn, a non-proliferation expert at the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, said the new agreement would ensure that old Soviet weapons stocks are properly secured and disposed of.
The simplest way to produce an atomic explosion is to slam together two sizeable chunks of high-enriched uranium (HEU) in what is commonly called a "gun-type nuke". The approach might sound crude, and it is. No country currently uses this design for its nuclearweapons.
But it is worth remembering two things. First, that it was an HEU gun-type nuclear weapon that killed more than 70,000 people at Hiroshima. Second, that terrorists tend to be less focused on elegance of design than on results. This brings us to a critical question: after nearly five years of living under the threat of sophisticated terrorism - and with clear signs of terrorists trying to acquire nuclear material through criminal networks - why are we still moving so sluggishly to get rid of global HEU stockpiles and to minimise civilian uses of HEU?
Much attention is currently being given to the control of uranium enrichment technology, and rightly so. If all enrichment operations were brought under multinational control, it would become far more difficult for any country to divert enriched uranium for use in weapons. But it makes equal sense to protect - or, better, eliminate - the bomb-grade HEU that already exists.
Experts say there are about 1,850 metric tonnes of HEU in global stockpiles, enough to make tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. The great bulk of this is in military use. On the civilian side, the numbers are much smaller - but the level of security is uneven. Nearly 100 civilian facilities around the world operate with small amounts of weapon-grade HEU - that is, uranium that has been enriched to 90 per cent or greater. These facilities, primarily research reactors, provide important benefits. The isotopes they produce are vital to medical treatments, industrial productivity, water management and many other humanitarian uses. Research conducted at these facilities has greatly enhanced our quality of life.
But most if not all of these benefits could also be achieved using low-enriched uranium (LEU). As far back as the late 1970s, the US and other countries began efforts to convert such facilities from HEU to LEU, to reduce the proliferation risk. In recent years, good progress has been made. Many research reactors have been converted. Large quantities of HEU reactor fuel, both used and unused, have been removed from vulnerable locations and returned to the countries of origin.
Civil society has become involved, raising awareness of the problem and supporting change. A good example is the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Just last year it completed a project with the government of Kazakhstan that successfully "downblended" nearly 3,000kg of fresh HEU fuel to LEU and placed it in secure storage.
But more successes such as these are needed. Many vulnerabilities remain. We need to ratchet up the sense of urgency. We need more coherent global action. First, the countries involved should join forces to minimise and eventually eliminate the civilian use of HEU. Joint research should be conducted to address the remaining technical hurdles involved in converting from HEU to LEU operations. The commercial interests of the companies concerned should be protected. Financing should be made available where needed to assist countries with conversion operations. The HEU fuel should be sent back to the countries of origin for downblending and reuse.
Second, all countries should agree to stop producing fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. The elements are already in place for such an agreement, in the form of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. It is high time to negotiate and conclude such a treaty.
Third, to build trust, countries with civilian and military HEU stockpiles should be encouraged to release clear inventories of those stockpiles and to publish a schedule under which the remaining HEU will be verifiably downblended.
By investing in these straightforward measures, we could reduce substantially the risk of nuclear terrorism. The work could be done jointly, as an international community; this is one initiative in which all countries - nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states alike - could play a role and from which all would clearly benefit.
In the two years since Spencer Abraham, then U.S. Secretary of Energy, announced the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to secure high-risk vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials worldwide, the International Atomic Energy Agency has intensified its support for programs to convert research reactors to use low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel instead of high-enriched uranium (HEU) fuel, and also to facilitate the return of both fresh and irradiated HEU fuel to their countries of origin. Most research reactors were built to operate on HEU (sometimes weapons-grade) fuel. Hence the focus on conversion to use LEU, "aiming to reduce and eventually eliminate civilian use of HEU worldwide," Pablo Adelfang, the overall technical coordinator of the IAEA's research reactor activities, told Nuclear News.
On the HEU fuel return side, Adelfang said that practically all the HEU research reactor fuel was produced in Russia or the United States. Other producers, such as China, France, and the United Kingdom, altogether have exported only a tiny amount, and none as yet has a take-back program in place. With the United States having its own program, the Foreign Research Reactor Spent Nuclear Fuel (FRRSNF) acceptance program, IAEA involvement is focused on the return of Russian fuel under the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return (RRRFR) program, initiated under the tripartite (IAEA, Russia, and the United States) agreement.
Two developments announced in April highlight recent activities. The first was the return -- by rail through Kazakhstan -- of some 63 kg of HEU spent fuel from Uzbekistan's Institute of Nuclear Physics in Tashkent to Russia (NN, May 2006, p. 18). The second was the award, after an extensive international bidding process, of a (euro) 4-million (about $ 5-million) contract to the Czech manufacturing company, Skoda, to build up to 10 high-capacity casks for the transport of Russian-type HEU spent fuel under the RRRFR program, Adelfang said.
The Uzbek consignment was the first spent (as opposed to fresh) fuel to be returned under the Russian take-back program. It was a bilateral activity between Russia and Uzbekistan, with Kazakhstan also involved, but IAEA transport and safety standards, as well as safeguards, were applied at all the appropriate stages. The assemblies were packaged in TK-19 spent fuel transportation casks, and the job was completed in four shipments: The first lot involved 9.5 kg of spent fuel in 64 assemblies in January; the second, 12.6 kg in 64 assemblies in February; the third, 14.8 kg in 64 assemblies in March; and the final one, 25.6 kg in 60 assemblies in April.
Adelfang said there are about 4000 kg of Russian-origin research reactor fuel (fresh and spent) in 16 countries: Belarus, Bulgaria, China, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Libya, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Vietnam, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. "So far," he noted, "112 kg of fresh HEU fuel from seven of them -- Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Latvia, Libya, Romania, Serbia, and Uzbekistan -- have been returned to Russia."
Meanwhile, the FRRSNF acceptance program of the United States was recently extended until 2016. "So far, 27 countries have participated in the program, returning a total of 6783 spent nuclear fuel elements to the U.S., most of this being HEU fuel. But, as of October 2005, there were more than 15 000 fuel assemblies eligible to be returned under this program stored outside the U.S. The scope of the program includes an estimated 5000 kg of HEU that the United States exported to research reactors in 34 countries, as well as an estimated 15 000 kg of LEU," Adelfang said.
Noting that the Uzbek operation had been repeatedly delayed because of the need for an ecological/environmental impact analysis in Russia, Adelfang said that the IAEA is developing a workshop activity to glean "lessons learned" from the shipment to help in crafting guidelines for similar shipments in the future. The workshops will be funded and managed by the agency's technical cooperation department (TC), under a TC umbrella project called Repatriation, Management and Disposition of Fresh and/or Spent Nuclear Fuel from Research Reactors (RER/4/028).
A preliminary meeting involving Uzbek, Kazakh, and Russian officials was held in February. According to RER/4/028 project manager Arnaud Atger, the spent fuel repatriation from Uzbekistan had been six years in preparation. "One clear lesson was that these are very complex and sensitive operations for which every single organization involved has to be assigned clear responsibilities and rules, including regarding confidentiality."
The workshops will result in a document setting concrete step-by-step guidance on essential administrative paperwork, procedures for obtaining authorizations and licensing, requirements that must be met to ensure smooth transition across national borders of such sensitive cargo, and anything else that needs to be in place in advance. Atger said a number of fuel repatriation operations are planned, including some this year. "More than 40 shipments of spent fuel are expected between now and 2012 from 13 different countries (Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Libya, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Vietnam, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan), and other potential cases within Europe are Greece, Portugal, and Turkey."
Adelfang said the scope of agency assistance is to be extended. "For future spent fuel shipments under RRRFR, the IAEA will help with pre-transport activities, such as environmental impact assessment, contracting the supply of transport casks, assessment of transport routes, and also advice in respect of handling deteriorated research reactor fuel," he said, explaining that currently the agency provides technical advice and training in areas such as contract drafting and negotiations, along with safeguards inspections and the application of safety standards.
Adelfang said that a key issue in research reactor conversion from HEU to LEU is that the LEU fuel used in the converted reactor be qualified. He said that there are different approaches to qualifying fuel and that there is a lot of information on LEU research reactor nuclear fuel (RRNF) in various pieces of literature, including regulatory documents prepared for the qualification of LEU silicide fuel. But so far there is no comprehensive document addressing the justification for RRNF qualification, and so a key ongoing agency activity is to prepare a guideline document that will set down definitions, processes, and requirements to be used in RRNF supply negotiation, as well as help in the orientation of fuel development activities.
Adelfang said that an IAEA guideline document, "which will also include case studies on the Canadian, Russian, and 'Western' approaches for qualifying research reactor fuel," is now in preparation, with the aim of sending it for publication by the end of 2006. He said this followed a meeting that was held in March involving two consultants each from Argentina, France, and the United States, and one each from Canada, South Korea, and Russia, along with agency experts from several divisions.
Asked to elaborate on the need for it, Adelfang said that several national and international efforts are under way to develop, qualify, and license LEU RRNF. "Different Russian-designed types are being developed to allow for the conversion of an important number of Russian-designed research reactors, both in Russia and in former Soviet Union customer countries. A coordinated international effort is seeking to qualify high-density fuel based on gamma-phase U-Mo alloy, either dispersed in aluminium or monolithic, for application in plate-type reactors of Western design, tube-type reactors of Russian design, and pin-type reactors of Canadian design.
"This development work has been undertaken to provide fuels with the higher densities needed to extend the use of LEU to those reactors requiring higher densities than currently available in silicide dispersions and to provide a fuel that can be more easily reprocessed than the silicide," Adelfang continued. "Given increasingly critical concern about security of HEU in RRNF, conversion of research reactors is acquiring strong momentum worldwide. This in turn implies a surge in commercial operations involving LEU RRNF in the near future. So, comprehensive international guidelines on fuel qualification are urgently needed."
About the conversion of two small research reactor designs, Canada's Slowpoke-2 and China's Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR), Adelfang said it seems to present less of a problem and more of an opportunity to establish an international research reactor operators group to exchange information and collectively address common issues. There are five Slowpoke-2 reactors in operation and nine MSNRs, four in China and five abroad. One Slowpoke-2 has been converted already, and another started up on LEU fuel. The China Institute of Atomic Energy has studied conversion of MNSRs.
"The two types have similar operational, utilization, and spent fuel management practices, most [units] have cores of less than 1 kg HEU (90 percent or more), and some are considering converting to the use of LEU fuel," Adelfang said. With the possibility in mind of forming a Slowpoke/ MSNR users group, a technical meeting was convened in May 2005, with Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, and the United States participating, in addition to IAEA staff.
The issues discussed included operation, utilization, and fuel performance experiences of the two; ongoing programs and future plans for them; experience of Slowpoke-2 reactor operation on LEU; possible technical solutions (including a qualified fuel available for conversion of the HEU-fueled reactors); spent fuel management plans; and possibilities for shared procurement of LEU fuel.
"The meeting agreed that conversion to LEU has been clearly demonstrated for the Slowpoke-2, and, based on initial analysis, appears to be feasible for the MNSRs," Adelfang said. "But it was agreed that additional analysis, including various calculations, would have to be made in order to confirm that the MNSRs can be converted. All the MNSRs represented at the meeting expressed interest in conversion, provided external funds are available to pay for the cost of the conversion."
One of several resolutions of the meeting was that the U.S. Department of Energy's Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors program be expanded to include MNSRs. The IAEA is arranging a further meeting of the group to finalize a technical document. That meeting should also consider the initiation of a coordinated research project (CRP) later this year specifically on MNSR conversion and repatriation of spent fuel, he explained.
Adelfang said that another ongoing activity, initiated following a technical meeting last October, is focused on the use of LEU in accelerator-driven subcritical (ADS) systems. This is organized as a sub-CRP within a more comprehensive existing CRP on ADS systems. The sub-group meets independently, doing its own calculations and preparing separate papers for publication, Adelfang said. "As far as I know," he added, "this is the first time that using LEU in ADS is evaluated in an international coordinated manner." He said that the main purpose of the technical meeting was to address nonproliferation concerns related to the use of HEU in ADS systems by exploring the technical feasibility of using LEU instead of HEU as the fuel material.
A number of TC projects related to conversion to LEU are ongoing in several countries, including Kazakhstan (to convert the WWR-K reactor); Libya (to enhance the safety system of the Tajoura reactor); Portugal; Bulgaria; Ukraine; Uzbekistan (to improve the operational safety of the Institute of Nuclear Physics research reactor); Romania (for a full conversion of a 14-MW Triga); and China (production and irradiation qualification of fuel elements). New project proposals are being analyzed for several other member states, including Jamaica and Poland.
Asked about activities to be launched in the near term, Adelfang said, "pretty soon we will have a consultancy meeting to prepare guidelines for research reactor water quality management, and a technical meeting [to be held in Delft, Netherlands] on research reactor refurbishment and modernization. Right now we are completing terms of reference for a meeting, to be held July 25-28, on national experiences in shipping spent fuel to country of origin."
Noting that the transportation topic is important given that almost two-thirds of the U.S.-origin spent fuel abroad has yet to be shipped, Adelfang said that the meeting is intended to be a forum for those who have already shipped fuel to communicate their experiences to people who are potential shippers, "not only to exchange information but to have it recorded, because otherwise the information tends to be lost."
Issues to be covered would include national legislation and the impact of the shipping, political and legal aspects, public acceptance, safety, radiation protection, quality assurance, logistics and supporting infrastructure (both internal to the reactor and external), and a description of the transport activity itself.
"We will also soon have a meeting on research reactor support," he said, "moving towards advanced fuel cycle and power reactor concepts, which is a real necessity given the widespread view that we are at the edge of a nuclear revival. We have new concepts for improving efficiency, safety, security, proliferation resistance. These advanced concepts require expensive research, because we are talking about higher and higher temperatures and higher and faster fluxes. There is need to research new materials and interaction between these materials -- for example, in very difficult environments and very extreme conditions.
"All this will require extensive new research facilities," Adelfang explained. "Some work can be done in existing research reactors, but some cannot. So the time is right to start thinking about how these new facilities are likely to look." He suggested that now may be the time to think in terms of regional centers that would be able to carry out frontier research with state-of-the-art machines available for the world community, in which all countries can do their research and the nuclear materials are secured by international organizations.
During a visit to the Limerick plant in Pottstown, Pennsylvania on 25 May, US president George Bush praised the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), saying it was a "smart way to reduce our storage requirements for nuclear waste by up to 90%. It's a good way to work with other nations that are spending money on research and development, as well." He continued to say he hoped Congress would follow through with his budget request.
However, the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has approved funding of only $120 million for GNEP in fiscal year 2007 (FY2007), almost $130 million below the funding requested by the US Department of Energy (DoE).
The House bill would see FY2007 funding for the Yucca Mountain repository at $544.5 million, which includes $156.4 million for civilian nuclear waste disposal and $388 million for defence nuclear waste disposal. The committee's bill provides an additional $30 million for interim storage of spent fuel. The committee also approved the termination of the mixed oxide (MOX) plant and the pit disassembly and conversion facility at the Savannah River Site (SRS). Funding for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would increase by $40 million to $808.4 million in anticipation of an increase in reactor licence applications.
House Energy and Water Subcommittee chair David Hobson said he believed that GNEP was moving too quickly, with inadequate detail available on waste streams and lifecycle costs. On the decision to stop funding the SRS MOX project, Hobson noted that Russia has not signaled any intention to proceed with its own MOX project; the two projects are part of a bilateral agreement to dispose of surplus weapons plutonium as MOX fuel in both countries.
A defeated amendment would have seen the DoE forced to stop using the Yucca Mountain Johnny cartoon character to educate children about the project. Shelley Berkley of Nevada contended that the character would mislead children into thinking Yucca would be safe.
During his well-received speech at Limerick, Bush said he believed Yucca was "scientifically sound" and that his country "must aggressively move forward with the construction of nuclear power plants." Bush said that the nuclear industry is over-regulated and that had made building nuclear plants risky in the past. That was why, he said, incentives were included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to "give investors confidence that this government is committed to the construction of nuclear power plants."
1. Importance of Bush-Putin Meeting in Runup to G8 Summit Stressed - "So Help Us Bush"
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Vladimir Putin is going to meet with George Bush in the run-up to the G8 summit. According to Gazeta.Ru's information, the idea to hold a bilateral meeting came from the Kremlin. With his presence Bush is supposed to quench at least partially the wave of criticism of Russia raised by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.
It is one month until the G8 summit in St. Petersburg. But as the effort to primp St. Petersburg for the arrival of high-level guests is in full gear, the situation with the summit's substantial facet is much worse. Criticism of Russia has been voiced increasingly often, especially on the declared topic of "energy security." On condition of anonymity, Kremlin source close to the organization of the St. Petersburg G8 summit has admitted to failure. According to him, this is exactly what prompted a decision to invite George Bush to Russia earlier.
A reply came from the U.S. President on 6 June, when his press service officially announced that Vladimir Putin and Bush would meet on a bilateral basis shortly before the summit.
This meeting will look particularly expressive amid calls that have been voiced by some U.S. politicians and officials for President Bush to decide not to attend the summit altogether. In their opinion, the attendance of Bush will support anti-democratic tendencies displayed by the Russian authorities.
In the opinion of experts, relations between the United States and Russia have worsened noticeably following a speech by Vice President Dick Cheney in Vilnius (Lithuania), where he declared that Russian democracy is in jeopardy. On the days when the U.S. official made his declaration in the former Soviet Republic, a Russia-EU summit was held in Russia. Commenting on Cheney's statement, Putin said that methods used by the United States to protect its interests are not always democratic either but they do not incite any complaints in the world.
Following the exchange of this kind of statements, it became clear that at the summit the Russian and U.S. sides may not want to talk with each other about any issue at all. As Russia is not just hosting the G8 summit this year but it also presides over this club, the Kremlin decided to mend relations with the White House.
The bilateral meeting, scheduled for 14 July in St. Petersburg, is being prepared at a level of the expert community.
Almost two weeks ago, Tom Graham, special assistant to the U.S. President for Russia and the CIS, visited Moscow and met with several Russian political analysts.
He could not understand how relations between Russia and the United States can be worsening and observers talking about a new Cold War at a time when there are no formal reasons for that. "Cheney did not say anything new. Graham, as well as to some extent Bush are clearly not interested in a confrontation (with Russia -- Gazeta.Ru), although it sometimes may come about not because a specific side wants it but due to certain logic. The rhetorics are stacked up on each other and it is somehow escalating," political analyst Fedor Lukyanov, chief editor of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine, told Gazeta.Ru.
The importance of the upcoming meeting between the presidents is recognized by both sides. In fact, it is the only way of resolving practically all disputable issues and misunderstandings. "Experience shows that they find a common language at personal meetings better than at general ones," Lukyanov expressed his opinion. "Intensive preparations are continuing in Moscow for a meeting between the Russian and U.S. presidents shortly before the G8 summit, from which we are expecting serious signals on further deepening of Russian-U.S. partnership both in bilateral terms and in interests of strengthening strategic stability as a whole and settling regional conflicts," Sergey Prikhodko, assistant to the Russian president, confirmed it to journalists. "For our president, this meeting is a very important opportunity to strengthen mutual contacts in various areas," U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Burns emphasized the meeting's significance in equally veiled terms.
It is not entirely clear what the politicians are going to discuss. Burns supposes that they will talk about Iran, economic contacts, and the G8 summit itself. Undoubtedly, the discussion will address energy security -- Russia declared it as the main topic. "Iran, too, is a perennial bilateral topic. The United States views Iran's nuclear program as a major threat to American national security. Therefore, their (U.S.'s) entire behavior should be conceived based on this. Russia, too, is not burning with the desire to see a nuclear Iran even though it does not consider this threat all that acute. And what to be done next will be discussed," Lukyanov said. Yet, the summit will hardly clear up anything on the Iranian issue. "Basically, whatever declarations may be made, the main thing all the participants agree on is: It is not very clear what to do with Iran. Which, being a conciliatory position, and the U.S. offensive position has not produced any direct effect. For now, Iran is playing games with the international community and continuing to do what they are doing," the political analyst is convinced.
The G8 meeting will also address relations on the post-Soviet territory, Russia's energy relations with EU countries and the United States. Negotiations on Moscow's cooperation in this sphere have continued practically at all international meetings, and supplies for and construction of the North European gas pipeline were discussed at the Russia-EU summit as well. However, as both Russia and Western observers have repeatedly declared, core decisions will be made specifically at the G8 summit.
2. Russian Nuclear Weapon Advances Poses Threat To U.S.
The Evening Bulletin
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Given America's focus on the Iranian nuclear program and the ongoing dispute with North Korea, the threat of nuclear terrorism remains a major U.S. concern. According to a study released today from the Cato Institute, the danger posed by Russia's inadequately secured stocks of nuclear weapons and fissile material should also be considered a major national security issue for the United States.
In "Reappraising Nuclear Security Strategy," Rensselaer Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and author of Smuggling Armageddon: The Nuclear Black Market in the Former Soviet Union and Europe, claims that current non-proliferation efforts are not enough. The various cooperative U.S.-Russian programs aimed at securing nuclear materials, weapons and design intelligence can be circumvented by determined adversaries, including terrorists, and there's some reporting that this has happened.
"There are no easy ways to close the nuclear proliferation window," writes Lee. "A proactive and intelligence-based nuclear security policy, one that complements existing programs while enabling authorities to do a better job of targeting and preventing proliferation damage, is needed to counter this threat." He adds that even if implemented, such programs require a high level of interest and cooperation by Russian authorities, and these efforts might still be undermined by regional conflict, domestic political instability or major geopolitical changes. Accordingly, a comprehensive nuclear security strategy must focus more attention and resources on the demand side of the proliferation equation.
More money is not necessarily the answer, the author explains. Securing fissile material at the source should be the most immediate priority, offering greater promise of success than preventing cross-border trafficking of such material or clandestine transfers of nuclear weapons expertise.
Lee concludes that the United States cannot conduct nonproliferation work effectively in a vacuum, without reference to adversaries' WMD programs and procurement aims. Collaboration with Russian and other former Soviet security organizations needs to be strengthened.
"Ideally, a nuclear security policy should also embrace the concept of demand-reduction - influencing the motivations of adversary states and sub-national groups to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons capability," Lee says.
Iran was not on the agenda of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Shanghai, but summit participants could not avoid discussing it. Russia, China and the other SCO members had to put forth their opinion of the Iranian nuclear fuel problem, because Iran is aspiring to the SCO membership.
To cut a long story short, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who attended the summit as an observer, has been advised to accept the 5+1 proposal of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany. Iran has not yet made public its attitude to the proposal, although it has hinted that it contained some positive elements.
President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Russia's stand at his meeting with Ahmadinejad. He said: "All countries, including Iran, have a right to implement their plans in the high technology sphere to benefit their development." But their moves towards this end should not spur "the international community's non-proliferation concerns."
Putin invited the Iranian president to discuss the six powers' proposal on Iran's nuclear fuel program, and reminded him about Russia's offer to create a joint uranium enrichment venture and the global initiative regarding a network of such international centres.
China's stand is similar. President Hu Jintao expressed the hope in Shanghai that Iran would "take a positive view on the six powers' proposal."
But there is little time left to ponder it. Iran is being encouraged to announce a moratorium on uranium enrichment for the duration of a thorough inspection to be held by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to lift the remaining questions regarding its program.
Will Tehran accept the package of incentives that are complemented with penalties, or will it again announce at the top level that it "will not discuss its fundamental rights," and thus put out the flicker of hope for the resumption of talks?
The media report that the United States is looking for a site in Europe to deploy air defence systems for intercepting Iranian missiles. The Israeli prime minister has hinted that his country would not allow - though he did not say how - Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
In the past few days, Tehran has taken such a firm stand on the issue of uranium enrichment that it looked more like an attack. The report of IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei on Iran, prepared for its Board of Governors, says that Iran has resumed uranium enrichment. Moreover, it loaded uranium hexafluoride into a cascade of 164 centrifuges on June 6, when the six powers made their proposal.
It was most probably a coincidence and should be disregarded as such. But the resumption of enrichment was apparently Iran's response to Washington's harsh demands. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said before the visit of EU High Commissioner Javier Solana to Tehran that the U.S. would join talks with Iran only if it "fully and verifiably" stopped uranium enrichment.
Tehran gave its reply to the Secretary in an article by Iranian journalist Parviz Esmaeili, who wrote in the English-language Tehran Times: "Contrary to some viewpoints, the Islamic Republic will not reject an unopened package."
Reputed for his good connections in Iran, the journalist explains the statements by Iran's top officials that are often mutually exclusive by their aspiration "to maintain national interests through peaceful cooperation with the world."
In other words, Iran firmly intends to get the right to enrich uranium for research purposes for the duration of IAEA inspections, or to accept a full moratorium on uranium projects if the timeframe is strictly stipulated and complied with.
In principle, it may agree to a moratorium. The Russian and Chinese leaders, who talked with Ahmadinejad in Shanghai, as well as the IAEA director general have said more than once that Iran may be allowed to enrich uranium for research purposes during the IAEA inspections, if it guaranteed the absence of military components in the program. They might lobby this option in the UN Security Council and in the 5+1 group. But will Iran justify their hopes and act consistently?
2. JV with Iran not the only key to settle nuclear problem - Lavrov
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied the claims on Friday that the Russian proposal to set up a joint uranium enrichment venture with Tehran was made "as the only key to the settlement of the Iranian nuclear problem."
"We are never tired to explain that the context of the Russian proposal is quite different. The European Union was also making proposals. Russia came up with the initiative to set up a JV as a contribution to these proposals," Lavrov said.
"The case in point is a complex approach to the issues related to the Iranian nuclear program," the diplomat said "this is what we said when we were making this offer."
"For some reasons, everybody developed an impression that it's a magic wand, and if the proposal is accepted everything will be well, and if not, everything will be quite bad. But this is not so at all," he went on to say.
Russia's proposal to set up a joint uranium enrichment venture with Iran remains on the negotiating table, Lavrov explained, "it became part of the package coordinated by the six countries." "Iran is continuing to consider this package," he said.
3. Putin says Iran 'ready to negotiate' over nuclear stance
Gareth Smyth, Geoff Dyer and Roula Khalaf
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Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday struck an optimistic note on Iran's nuclear crisis, saying Tehran had responded positively to the six-nation package of incentives designed to persuade it to curb its nuclear programme.
After meeting Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, his Iranian counterpart, in Shanghai, Mr Putin said Iran was "ready to negotiate" with world powers over the proposal.
However, it was far from clear that Tehran had in fact accepted the conditions for talks - the suspension of uranium enrichment.
Mr Putin, who was attending a summit of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, a central Asian security group of which Iran is an observer, said Tehran would soon set a date for the start of talks. "The Iranian side responded positively to the six-nation proposal for a way out of the crisis," Mr Putin said.
The international proposal, which includes a package of incentives, was made at the beginning of June by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany.
"It is not what the Russians say that is going to be decisive," said an EU diplomat. "The response that really matters is the Iranian one."
European officials also caution that the Iranian response is likely to be a "fudge" that will require clarification in further talks.
Tehran says it is closely studying the package and preparing a counter-proposal. One official considered a regime insider told the FT that Iran would reply in one or two weeks but this response would be "general rather than specific". It would say it was ready for talks but not with preconditions, he added. "There is no chance whatsoever of Iran stopping enrichment."
Saudi Arabia this week joined the diplomatic effort to persuade Iran to accept the suspension of uranium enrichment and begin negotiations on the incentives package.
Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister, met Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader and the ultimate decision-maker. Saudi sources indicated the mood in Tehran was in favour of negotiations and that a formula to resolve the uranium enrichment condition might be found.
Nuclear experts say Iran could justify a short suspension as a necessary technical break and allow negotiations to start.
Iran's leaders are also still assessing Washington's decision to reverse earlier policy and agree to talk to Tehran about the package, albeit under conditions.
According to an official in Tehran, the leadership was puzzled as to whether the US was ready for a "dignified solution" to its stand-off with Tehran.
Alternatively, he said, the US could merely be manoeuvring to persuade Russia and China to back UN sanctions.
Still, he said, Iran did not feel under the kind of pressure that would force it to back down over its enrichment policy.
Some western banks had reduced their operations with Iran, but the high price of oil was boosting Iran's foreign exchange earnings, he said.
Nevertheless, it did not compare with the pressures Tehran was under in the 1980-1988 Gulf war, when western and Arab governments were supporting Saddam Hussein's regime.
Iran's largely conservative media, meanwhile, has in recent days argued that the US has acted from weakness rather than strength, particularly because of its problems in Iraq.
The Kayhan newspaper said that the west "hadno more cards to play", that Russia and China had "maintained their opposition to a military attack or sanctions" and that Monday's statement from the Non-Aligned Movement supporting Iran's right to peaceful atomic energy had "inserted a large spanner in the US works".
4. Putin Says Russian-Iranian Uranium Joint Venture Still on Agenda
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Setting up of a Russian-Iranian joint venture for uranium enrichment is still on the agenda, Russian President Vladimir Putin told correspondents here early Friday morning.
"It's still on the agenda, as the Iranians haven't rejected the project so far," Putin said.
He indicated, however, that President Ahmadinejad of Iran and he did not discuss the joint-venture issue in detail at their talks here.
"But I don't simply air for the mass media what we discussed," Putin said. "We really coordinated it with Mr. Ahmadinejad. It's their position and it was declared and only time will show how things will develop in reality."
"A real move forward has been made thanks to the efforts of the six countries that took part in the solution of the (Iranian nuclear) problem or, I'd rather say, seven countries considering Iran itself, too," he said.
At the end of the meeting with Ahmadinejad, Putin said Iran was ready to begin talks on the proposals from the six negotiator countries regarding the Iranian nuclear program.
"The Iranian side gave a favorable reaction to the proposals on way out of the crisis," he said.
"Iranian partners are ready for talks," Putin said. "Iran will formulate its position on the dates for those talks shortly."
5. RF hopes Iran reacts constructively on six states' proposals
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Russia hopes that Iran will constructively react on the six countries' proposals and be involved in the talks to work out a decision, which will allow Iran to have the right to developing a nuclear power industry for peaceful purposes and guarantee the non-proliferation regime, said Ambassador Grigory Berdennikov, Russian permanent representative to international organisations in Vienna.
Speaking at a session of the IAEA Board of Governors on Thursday, Berdennikov said, ``Russia's position remains unchanged - it is necessary to solve Iran's nuclear problem by peaceful and diplomatic means. Under these circumstances, an important moment came.''
In his words, certain countries put forth several proposals to Iran that were made public by EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak on June 6. ``At this sensible moment the countries, which are co-authors of this initiative, agreed not to disclose the details in order to give them an opportunity to calmly consider them,'' the Russian ambassador stressed.
Berdennikov expressed hope for comprehensive cooperation between Iran and the IAEA in order to solve all problems as soon as possible. According to the ambassador, irrefragable answers to these questions ``have great significance to remove concerns of the international community and allow Iran to carry out its nuclear plans.''
1. Russia does not spread missile technology - Ivanov
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Russia will not sign any contract with another state if it sees in its terms a threat to the international regime of non-proliferation of missile technology, Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said at an international economic forum in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.
``If Russia sees even the smallest threat to the non-proliferation regime, we will not accept a single contract,'' he stressed.
At the same time, Ivanov called on Western partners ``to clearly differentiate the export control from purely commercial proposals''.
He dismissed as untenable accusations of Russia of the alleged spread of nuclear technology.
1. Russia's 'floating Chernobyls' to go ahead despite green fears
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Russia is to press ahead with the world's first floating nuclear power station despite environmental concerns. The first "floating Chernobyl" could be ready in four years.
The Kremlin has approved the project and a shipyard in the far north of Russia, used to build nuclear submarines, will begin work next year. Rosenergoatom, the country's nuclear power agency, says it intends to build up to six mobile power stations, costing pounds 182m each, the first scheduled for use in 2010.
Sergey Kiriyenko, the head of Rosenergoatom, said: "There will be no floating Chernobyl," referring to the 1986 nuclear disaster. Sergey Obozov, a senior official at the agency, said they would be "reliable as a Kalashnikov assault rifle, which are a benchmark of safety."
But environmentalists warned that the power stations could sink in stormy weather, and could become a target for terrorists. A report from Bellona Foundation, an independent Norwegian research group, claims the floating power stations are "a threat to the Arctic, the world's oceans, and the whole concept of non-proliferation."
The structures will supply heat and electricity to far-flung corners of Russia's far east and far north where it is difficult and expensive to ship coal and oil. Russia also wants to sell the structures to other countries, including China and India.
The structures will have a service life of 40 years, require a crew of 69 people, and could power a medium-sized town. The first power station will be moored in the White Sea off the town of Severodvinsk in Russia's northern Archangel region.
2. Russian Official Guarantees Safety of Floating Nuclear Power Plant
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A contract to build the world's first floating nuclear power plant was signed here on Wednesday.
Head of the Rosatom Federal Agency for Atomic Energy Sergei Kiriyenko said after the signing ceremony that "the construction of the first floating NPP is part of the strategy to develop the country's nuclear industry which was discussed at a recent meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin in Novo-Ogaryovo."
"It is the use of unique technologies of small reactors which have been in operation for many years on icebreakers and submarines," Kiriyenko said answering an Itar-Tass question about reliability and safety of floating NPPs.
"It's not just about a floating NPP, but a mobile reactor which can be delivered to any point as a unit ready for operation," he noted.
"At present, there are prospects for building seven to ten such mobile plants. Exports are not at issue because so far, it's been a purely Russian project. A floating NPP should pay back in ten to 11 years given the current prices of electricity and heat," the Rosatom director said.
According to Rosenergoatom director Sergei Obozov, the construction will begin in 2007. The first floating NPP will be commissioned in 2010 and supply electricity and heat to Sevmash.
The cost of the project is 9.1 billion roubles, which is much cheaper than building a ground-based NPP, because of the use of modules. This technology was perfected during the batch production of submarines and icebreakers.
The project has been approved by all the expert examinations and coordination between ministries and departments, envisioned by the legislation, including the State Environmental Expert Examination.
Obozov compared floating NPPs - in terms of reliability - with the Kalashnikov assault rifle, a world example of faultless performance.
"The safety of the future floating NPP is confirmed by a considerable - almost 40-year successful experience in the operation of Soviet nuclear-powered icebreakers," Obozov said.
In the future, floating NPPs may be used in outlying districts of far North and the Far East.
Rosenergoatom emphasized the importance of creating "a reference /standard/ reactor for a floating NPP, because there are foreign customers in the Asian-Pacific region." Such technologies can also be used for desalination of seawater. Specialists claim freshwater shortages in the world will soar by six times by the year 2025.
Rosenergoatom specified that a floating NPP will have a displacement of 21,000 tonnes, and its length will be 140 meters. Its service time is 36 to 40 years, with refueling to be done in two- to three-year intervals.
1. Beginning of Meeting with the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
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PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Mr President, please allow me to welcome you.
This time we are meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation session in Shanghai, an organisation in which Iran has recently become an observer. I remember Iranï¿½s position when Russia declared its willingness and desire to become an observer at the Organization of the Islamic Conference.. Today we have yet another forum, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, where Iran has the status of observer. This forum provides us with the opportunity to discuss both international and bilateral issues.
Iran is our long-standing and, without any undue exaggeration, historical partner. Over the past few years our countriesï¿½ relations have developed increasingly quickly. Of course, our trade and economic relations still lag far behind those with your partners such as the European Union, the Peopleï¿½s Republic of China and Japan. But nevertheless since 2000 we have tripled our volume of trade. This is quite a good rate and a good indicator. Our cooperation has many promising areas. They include energy, communications and information technology. And our experts are working intensely in all of these areas.
I hope that today we will be able to discuss our bilateral relations, if even for a short while, as well as discuss the proposals the six countries put forward with respect to resolving issues connected with the nuclear dossier. Russia has always been Iranï¿½s consistent, responsible partner. I am confident that you have no doubts on this account. And we would very much like to hear your opinion, dear Mr President, regarding the proposals that were made. In the second half of 2006 our colleagues will again meet within the intergovernmental commission and this is a further step towards resolving the tasks that stand before our countries.
PRESIDENT OF IRAN MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: We had a very good meeting in New York during which we discussed the basic issues concerning our bilateral relations. You were absolutely right when you said that our two countries are linked by close historical ties. Both geography, history and politics link us very closely. And from our point of view our relations with Russia are long-term solid relations that are going to develop in all areas.
There is undoubtedly a huge potential for the development of economic growth. And I must point out that we have only just embarked on this process.
The basic directions of Iranï¿½s foreign policy concern the East and Iranï¿½s neighbours. And as we discussed in New York, we must both make a maximum effort to remove all the obstacles that stand in the way of the development of our bilateral relations.
We have enormous potential for cooperation in regional issues, in the Caspian, in the Middle East and in the Islamic world as a whole. And naturally, in many areas we do not see Russia as our competition. Even in those cases when we, if only a little bit, compete, our competition must serve the interests of our bilateral relations.
And if we are going to cooperate effectively in the energy sector than we should gain more significant results from this cooperation, for example in the gas sector. We can cooperate closely with a view to defining the gas price and ensuring gas flows, all in the interests of global stability.
Our cooperation in politics and security can have a serious influence on peace and security in the region. Of course the situation in the region is very unstable and has been under constant threat for many years. And these threats which affect the region also affect the countries outside of the Persian Gulf. And if our countries did not cooperate as closely as they do then serious threats would have destabilized the region already a long time ago.
We can also cooperate closely in Iraq, in the Persian Gulf, in Central Asia and in the Caucasus. In any case our cooperation will be in interests of the global peace and security.
I would especially like to thank you for supporting our candidature to obtain the status of observer at the SCO and your position in the settlement of the Iranian nuclear dossier.
I think that you are completely up to date with respect to the nuclear dossier. Mr Ivanov and Mr Lavrov are in constant consultations with my colleagues. And we also discussed this issue in New York. We talked about it once over the phone. I think that our positions are very clear and quite close to one another.
Supporting each other is an integral part of our countriesï¿½ policies.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Mr President, in connection with this I would like to point out Iranï¿½s very constructive role in resolving all the problems concerning Afghanistan. We have been cooperating on this issue for a long time. And I know from my colleagues that Iran is really doing a great deal to normalize the situation in the country.
You are well aware of our position on the nuclear issue. Today we are probably the only country that cooperates actively and openly with Iran in the sphere of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and completely assumes its obligations. Moreover, we consider that all the countries in the world including Iran have the right to implement their plans in the field of high-tech and to use new technologies to promote their own development. But of course this must be done in such a way so that the international community has absolutely no worries about weapons proliferation. And in connection with this we discussed Russiaï¿½s initiative whereby we would join forces with you, and even create joint ventures. I consider that we must continue even further in this direction.
In practice we already formulated our proposal about creating a network of international centres to oversee enriching uranium, to ensure that all countries have access to modern technologies, and that all of the countries who want to use these technologies be able to do so under strict international control, first and foremost, under IAEA control. I think that we can examine the problem from this perspective. And that access to these technologies must be equitable, free, nondiscriminatory and that supervision must be effective.
I know that our companies are negotiating the prospect of consolidating their efforts in the oil and gas sectors including the possibility of creating joint ventures. We support our Iranian partnersï¿½ initiatives in this area.
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