1. Russia hopeful Iran will accept new incentives on nuclear crisis-1
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Russia believes Iran will accept a raft of incentives drafted by six nations leading efforts to diffuse a long-running crisis around the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Lavrov, currently in the Austrian capital for talks with his counterparts from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, said the far-reaching proposals covered three key areas, and were the result of the joint efforts of all the parties involved, including the United States, which has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979.
"The range of proposals includes three spheres - Iran's nuclear program, economic and trade cooperation, and security guarantees," he said, without giving details.
"Nobody will enter into details now. Proposals should first be sent to Iran. Then we will look at the reaction of the Iranian authorities," he said. "We believe that a signal with detailed proposals to be sent to Iran in few days will be heed."
Iran has come under heavy international pressure to re-impose a moratorium on its nuclear research program, which some countries say is being used as cover to develop a nuclear bomb. The Islamic Republic has vehemently denied the allegations, and says it is interested only in nuclear power for civilian purposes.
Lavrov said the new package for Iran, agreed on in Vienna Wednesday by Russia, China, the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany was well balanced and met interests of all the parties involved.
"We believe that all the parties at the negotiating table will be able to reach decisions that
will ensure Iran's legitimate right to civilian nuclear energy and at the same time will guarantee compliance with the [international nuclear] non-proliferation regime," Lavrov said.
He said the Vienna meeting had resulted in a "very serious" proposal to resume stalled negotiations if Iran suspends uranium enrichment in compliance with decisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog.
Following Iran's refusal to stop uranium enrichment and the announcement by the country's president that the Islamic Republic had managed to enrich uranium to the level needed for use in nuclear power plants, the United States, France and the United Kingdom have been pushing for a new draft UN Security Council resolution providing for tough sanctions against Iran, including the use of force. Russia and China say the issue should be resolved through diplomacy and have called for the IAEA to play the main role.
The Islamic Republic says it is enriching uranium for use in nuclear power plants to generate electricity, and that it has the right to do so under international treaties.
2. Russia: Analyst Expects No Positive Results From Vienna Meeting on Iran
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No positive results should be expected from a Vienna meeting of the foreign ministers of the UN Security Council's five permanent members and Germany, which will be devoted to the Iranian nuclear program, Director for the Moscow-based Research Center for Modern Iran Rajab Safarov said "This will be a regular round of talks on the Iranian nuclear program, but any positive results other than an exchange of opinions is unlikely," Safarov told Interfax on Thursday.
Commenting on the recent statement by U.S. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice that Washington was ready to join the talks, he said the American initiative "bears nothing new", describing it as "propaganda and a political trick verging on provocation."
By voicing its readiness to enter the talks, but simultaneously demanding that Iran suspend its nuclear program as the main condition for the move, Washington has not changed its position, he said.
"Such talks will never happen because the demand is unacceptable to the Iranian leadership," he said.
Despite pronouncing itself prepared for diplomacy, Washington "still has the whip in its hands", Safarov said.
Initiatives on the Iranian nuclear problem are doomed unless the international community realizes that nuclear research in Iran has entered an irreversible phase, he said.
3. Russia searching for common ground on Iran, N. Korea
Russia & CIS Military Newswire
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Russia is seeking to bridge the gap between various suggestions for a solution to the impasse over the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, Anatoly Antonov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's security and disarmament department, told Interfax on Wednesday.
"Key nonproliferation problems facing the region, primarily the need to resolve the controversy surrounding the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, remain on the G8's agenda," he said.
"Vigorous processes are taking place in the area, making us tackle new and evermore serious tasks on a day-to-day basis," Antonov said.
"In its dialogue addressing these issues, Russia is trying to bridge the gap between the positions of its partners, to find common ground and to reach agreements that will help sort out these acute problems through political and diplomatic methods," he said.
Russia has proposed a system of "so-called 'positive incentives' that will be provided to states willing to dismantle their programs to develop weapons of mass destruction or to stop technological processes that are sensitive from a non-proliferation standpoint," he said.
"We noted long ago that the need for various states to display restraint in their trade in high technologies and dual-purpose materials -products that can be used both for civilian and military purposes - tends to draw a mixed response worldwide, to say the least," the diplomat said.
"Most developing countries believe that this principle comes as a follow-up to some policy by 'the developed north' to discriminate against 'the developing south' in order to preserve its economic dominance," he said.
"In an effort to lay such concerns to rest and to secure broader support for the G8's efforts, Russia is focusing on these positive incentives which will be offered to states willing to abandon weapons of mass destruction programs and sensitive technological processes," Antonov said.
1. WMD commission urges U.S., Russia to launch arms-cut talks
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An international commission on weapons of mass destruction has called on Washington and Moscow to open negotiations on slashing their strategic arsenals by at least half.
A report presented by commission chairman Hans Blix to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said an arms reductions treaty should include a legally binding provision on the destruction of dismantled missile warheads, and also that the United States and Russia should agree on mutual steps to de-alert their nuclear forces.
Speaking at a news conference at UN headquarters after a meeting with Annan, Blix expressed regret that the United States preferred to pursue military options against alleged violators of the international nonproliferation regime, instead of pressing for effective enforcement of existing agreements.
"While the reaction of most states to the treaty violations was to strengthen and develop the existing treaties and institutions, the U.S., the sole superpower, has looked more to its own military power for remedies," he said, adding that as a result "the nuclear-weapons states no longer seem to take their commitment to nuclear disarmament seriously."
The 200-page report contains 60 recommendations on reducing the global WMD threat, including accession of all countries to the Nonproliferation Treaty, an obligation by nuclear powers not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, and termination of all plutonium-production and uranium-enrichment programs.
The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission was set up in late 2003 by the Swedish government to revitalize international disarmament commitments. An independent commission, it was headed by Blix, a former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, best known for his work heading a UN arms-inspection team to Iraq.
American nuclear policy produces a lot of initiatives. Does the latest and greatest have what it takes to become reality?
The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) proposed by US president George Bush in February 2006 has received a great deal of publicity, much of it centred on the apparent change in US strategy towards reprocessing used fuel, rather than continuing on the march towards repositories (see NEI May, p18). There is, however, much more to the initiative than this and it is worthwhile to examine the obvious ways in which it addresses many of the awkward issues currently faced by the nuclear industry. But at the same time, there are undoubtedly some serious difficulties on the road ahead to ensuring the concepts become a serious reality.
There is some debate as to where the real motivation for GNEP lies in the US administration as its announcement seemed somewhat sudden and there are accusations (in common with the new initiative on nuclear trade with India) that not enough consultation, both within and outside the USA, had taken place first. It is possible, however, to see a gradual move in thinking within the country since about 2001 towards the advantages of reprocessing and GNEP merely makes this explicit. For several years, there has been interest in new forms of reprocessing which do not separate plutonium from uranium (in fact recovering both together), and which segregate other actinides from fission products, enabling the actinides to be burned. Indeed, the US budget for 2006 already includes $50 million to develop a plan for "integrated spent fuel recycling facilities." Nevertheless, the GNEP announcement can certainly be depicted as a major shift in official US policy, which has been wedded to the ´┐Żonce-through´┐Ż fuel cycle since the Carter Administration of the late 1970s.
The two most important areas addressed by GNEP are the concerns about proliferation of nuclear weapons and the difficulties the industry continues to experience in developing coherent policies for used fuel management.
The challenges of new countries using nuclear technology and the variability of political will when confronted with situations such as Iran´┐Żs suggest that moving to some kinds of intrinsic proliferation resistance in the fuel cycle is timely. One key principle is that the assurance of non-proliferation must be linked with assurance of supply and services within the nuclear fuel cycle to any country embracing nuclear power. Impetus had already been given to this by Mohammed ElBaradei, director general of the IAEA, who pointed to the need for better control of both uranium enrichment and plutonium separation at the UN General Assembly in October 2005. "We should be clear," he said, "that there is no incompatibility between tightening controls over the nuclear fuel cycle and expanding the use of peaceful nuclear technology. In fact, by reducing the risks of proliferation, we could pave the way for more widespread use of peaceful nuclear applications." This echoes the rationale of the NPT because as well as constraining the 'do-it-yourself' inclinations of individual countries, "multilateral approaches could offer additional advantages in terms of safety, security and economics," he said.
There remains the issue of who runs these multilateral initiatives ´┐Ż certainly Russia or the USA can be the inspiration but it seems preferable for the process to be under IAEA control or co-ordination so that they might guarantee the supply of nuclear fuel and services for bona fide uses, thereby removing the incentive for countries to develop indigenous fuel cycle capabilities. It is clear that GNEP must work within existing international arrangements.
There are already several approaches under discussion by an expert group convened by the IAEA including: developing and implementing international supply guarantees with IAEA participation, for example with the IAEA as administrator of a fuel bank; promoting voluntary conversion of existing facilities to multinational control; including the non-NPT signatories (such as India and Pakistan) and creating new multinational, possibly regional, fuel cycle facilities for enrichment, reprocessing and used fuel management, based on joint ownership. A further idea is to reinforce existing commercial market mechanisms of long term fuel supply contracts, possibly involving fuel leasing and the take-back of used fuel, so obviating the need for fuel cycle facilities in most countries.
The other important matter addressed by GNEP is used fuel management. A significant part of the incentive of advanced reprocessing technologies is to reduce volumes of high-level wastes and simplify their disposal. This does not, however, mean that waste repositories such as Yucca Mountain will never be needed ´┐Ż they must still be planned for and developed, but the quantities of material destined for them will be much reduced. The difficulties encountered with establishing Yucca as an operating repository have undoubtedly influenced the move towards GNEP. The likelihood of having to establish several Yuccas in the USA alone, if there is a significant boom in nuclear power in the 21st century, has obviously concentrated a lot of official thinking. Thinking expansively, Yucca may no longer now be seen as a repository for the used fuel currently in storage at reactor sites throughout the USA, but as a facility for the receipt of the final wastes from future reprocessing activities. In other countries too, there also seems to be a shift in attitudes about the value of used fuel that could eventually have repercussions for many national waste management programmes. Some facilities currently envisaged as final disposal repositories may only be used for interim storage of spent fuel that will eventually be reprocessed and recycled, hence the trend to retrievability. But this is running some way ahead ´┐Ż the current plan in the USA remains to get Yucca Mountain licensed as a repository for the used fuel as it currently exists, as without this end solution it will be hard to license new reactors.
"If we're going to have an energy world fuelled largely by hydrogen, we need to create a better link between today and the future"
In moving towards longer term storage of used fuel with the expectation that it will eventually be reprocessed, it is important to demonstrate that the industry is not just passing the buck to the next generation. Used fuel must begin to be somehow presented as an asset, as a key foundation for fuelling the next generation of reactors, without the need to mine greater quantities of the finite uranium resource than necessary. Over 2 million tonnes of uranium have been mined since 1945, both for military and civil nuclear programmes. It makes sense in the future to use as much as possible of what were formerly regarded as wastes from previous nuclear operations as true fuel assets in new reactor types.
This leads to a further important part of GNEP, which is the link with the Generation IV programme and other advanced reactor initiatives. Reactor systems with full actinide recycling as part of a closed fuel cycle will produce very small volumes of fission product wastes without the long-lived characteristics of today's used fuel, and will have high proliferation resistance. The ´┐Żclassic´┐Ż closed fuel cycle with aqueous (Purex) reprocessing and recycling of plutonium into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel is not intrinsically proliferation resistant. There are, however, already significant quantities of separated civil plutonium, reprocessed uranium and depleted uranium in inventory and these may well be used when the new reactor designs become reality. Although it is almost certain that fresh uranium will still have to be mined, the quantities will be much lower than required by the current generation of reactors. Although the nuclear industry is convinced that there are more than adequate uranium reserves and resources to fuel any conceivable growth path of nuclear energy this century, the higher uranium prices which are likely to be necessary to develop all the new mines will make recycling uranium and plutonium from used fuel relatively more attractive in an economic sense. When uranium prices were depressed by the ready availability of secondary supplies, there was a widespread perception that uranium would be very cheap forever, making recycling hard to justify. There is now recognition that new uranium mines require substantial capital inputs which must be recovered by adequate prices, also giving a fair return to the mining company. So despite the recent tend towards higher uranium prices, it is possible to look forward to an even lower fuel price element in the economics of the next generation of reactors. Low and relatively stable fuel prices are already a significant advantage of the current generation of evolutionary reactors against alternative fossil fuel generating modes, but the future looks even better.
Finally, it can be argued that GNEP makes a contribution to the idea, explicit within the NPT, of the leading nuclear nations spreading the benefits of nuclear technology to other countries. After the provision of many research reactors in the early days, the USA and the other nuclear weapons states have done relatively little in this regard. It may also be argued that the economies of scale in enrichment and reprocessing plants and eventually waste repositories, suggest that there should be only a small number of facilities worldwide. Although developing national facilities may appear to meet some immediate local objectives, in the long run it would be better from the economic standpoint to re-deploy the resources elsewhere and buy, with guarantees, from abroad. The current national repository solutions that are posed certainly make little sense either economically or politically. But moving to an international regime requires substantial changes to the rules of nuclear commerce as they currently stand.
This leads to the first of the difficulties in getting GNEP up and running. Some will argue that it is very ambitious on several counts ´┐Ż the new technology required, the timescales quoted and particularly the wholesale changes to the current international arrangements. Yet these are clearly in need of reform ´┐Ż they have worked rather well in the early days of nuclear power, but if a much more expansive future is foreseen, with thousands of reactors being built to satisfy the world´┐Żs need for cheap power, potable water and hydrogen, some fundamental reforms are needed. Tinkering with the existing arrangements will not be enough.
There are also some concerns about the extent to which following GNEP will upset existing nuclear research programmes in particular countries, and also the current plans for the fuel cycle. There are always strong vested interests in continuing along the same path. In Japan, for example, there are fears that having just re-established their nuclear programme on a twin platform of new reactor construction combined with the reprocessing of used fuel at Rokkasho and subsequent recycling of plutonium in light water reactors, GNEP may prove to be a diversion. Having struggled to obtain public acceptance for reprocessing and subsequent recycling, the implication within GNEP that a much superior reprocessing technology is just around the corner may pose local difficulties. That it may eventually bring foreign used fuel to Japan is a very hot political potato.
On the other hand, some have claimed that GNEP really doesn´┐Żt go far enough. If we´┐Żre going to complete a ´┐Żonce per century´┐Ż reform in international nuclear arrangements, GNEP may look too closely at present day proliferation and waste concerns, rather than the challenges of reaching a more expansive nuclear future. Its concentration on ´┐Żburner´┐Ż rather than ´┐Żbreeder´┐Ż reactors fits in with the proliferation concerns, but does less to promote the vision of thousands of future reactors. If we´┐Żre going to have an energy world fuelled largely by hydrogen, we need to create a better link between today and the future, but GNEP only goes a limited distance in this.
One barrier to the creation of multinational fuel cycle facilities, with attendant guarantees of supply in exchange for strict adherence to safeguards, is the view held by some countries that they ought to develop full fuel cycle facilities because of security of supply or import-saving reasons. Transport of nuclear fuels from continent to continent has also become difficult, to add to concerns about the reliability of various suppliers, so there is some argument for developing facilities ´┐Żat home´┐Ż. For example, countries possessing significant uranium resources are inclined to develop them and then think about developing other areas of the fuel cycle too. Hence Brazil´┐Żs involvement in uranium and enrichment, to fuel its own reactors and, less obviously, the views now regularly expressed in Australia that it should ´┐Żadd value´┐Ż to its uranium sales by converting and enriching too. Becoming regional fuel cycle centres under full IAEA safeguards may cover these aspirations as the number and location of these is yet to be specified. The economic case with economies of scale suggests, however, that there should be relatively few large facilities worldwide.
An alternative view of GNEP may see it as somewhat discriminatory and potentially anti-competitive. By restricting parts of the fuel cycle to particular countries, albeit with fair rights of access to nuclear materials, there is a risk of maintaining or even reinforcing the existing NPT arrangements that have always upset certain nations, notably India and Pakistan. Similarly, by maintaining a market stanglehold on, for example, enrichment facilities in the existing countries, it can be argued that the market will be uncompetitive and lead to excessive profits being achieved by those who are so favoured. The more expansive nuclear vision surely needs it to become a more ´┐Żnormal´┐Ż business as far as public acceptance is concerned, with as few special provisions and restrictions as possible. So somehow a reasonable balance has to be established, which hits many possibly competing objectives.
Finally, it is clear that GNEP must overcome a number of difficulties of coordination in both the USA itself and also internationally. Nuclear policy within the USA often gives the impression of ´┐Żtoo many initiatives and too little action´┐Ż and it is not surprising that Congress sees fit to allocate or withdraw funding in seemingly inconsistent ways. The overall nuclear programme needs to be made more coherent, with full integration of the plans for new reactors, used fuel management and the more visionary goals of GNEP. The full funding requested for GNEP has unfortunately already been cut, which doesn´┐Żt bode well. Similarly, on the international stage, GNEP must be integrated with what is happening under IAEA auspices and also the plans announced by president Putin for international fuel cycle facilities located in Russia. Although it is good that several parties are thinking along the same lines, it is necessary for the plans in so important an area to be properly coordinated without national interests holding too much sway.
1. Russia's Atomstroiexport May Built Third, Fourth Units of Tianwan Nuclear Plant
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Russia's exporter of nuclear power equipment and services Atomstroiexport may acquire the right to build the third and fourth units of China's Tianwan nuclear power without taking part in a tender, Atomstroiexport President Sergei Shmatko said on Wednesday.
"China says Russia may get this order if it provides the commercial launch of the first power generating unit in time and ensures its trouble-free operation," he said.
"We've already started talks with China over this issue. Our Chinese partners made no mention of a tender on construction of new power-generating units in Tianwan," Shmatko said.
Atomstroiexport is building the first and second units of the Tianwan plant. Russia and China sealed this deal back in 1997.
"The Tianwan plant is Russia's first full-value order on building a nuclear power facility abroad after a ten-year lull," he said.
It is the largest project within the framework of Russian-Chinese cooperation. Around 150 Russian organizations were engaged in the construction of the plant's first and second units, he said.
"We've used state-of-the-art technologies in this project and China continues to express its satisfaction," Shmatko said.
"The commercial launch of the first power-generating unit is scheduled for November," he said. The unit's lifecycle will be 60 years and not 30 years as was reported earlier.
China plans to build 40 new nuclear power plants in 15 years to come.
2. Russia's Vneshekonombank To Invest in Nuclear Plants in China, India
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Vneshekonombank and Russia's monopoly exporter of nuclear power equipment and services Atomstroiexport have inked a deal on financing nuclear power plants and generating units construction projects.
Vneshekonombank CEO Vladimir Dmitriyev and Atomstroiexport President Sergei Shmatko put their signatures to the agreement.
Under the agreement, the two parties will finance and translate into reality projects on building generating units in India's Kudankulam nuclear power plant and China's Tianwan nuclear plant.
At present, Atomstroiexport builds nuclear power plants in China, India, Iran and five power-generating units in other foreign countries. "At the first stage, Vneshekonombank will invest hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars into these projects," Dmitriyev said.
Vneshekonombank will finance Atomstroiexport's projects and extend loans for their implementation.
The bank will also invest into construction of nuclear power facilities in Russia to increase the share of nuclear power in the total electric energy generation to 24 percent, Prime-Tass said.
1. Intercept at All Costs. Warsaw, Budapest, and Prague Are Entering a Nuclear Arms Race
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Russian military development plans take into account the creation of bases for U.S. Air Defense interceptor missiles in countries neighboring Russia. This is how Deputy Prime and Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov commented on reports that Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are ready to offer their territory for U.S. antimissiles. The bases are expected to appear no later than 2011.
"We know of plans to establish bases for antimissiles in Poland," Sergey Ivanov declared during his recent meeting with his German counterpart Franz Josef Jung in St. Petersburg. "We are very seriously concerned by these plans." The German did not agree: "The deployment of air defense system in some Eastern European countries will have no other purpose but antiterrorist."
Not so long ago, Polish Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski "declassified" a scenario of World War III developed during staff exercises in 1979, which provided for an exchange of nuclear strikes between the USSR and NATO. They transformed Europe into a lunar desert. Concerned by the perfidy of the eastern neighbor, the Polish minister was extremely distraught by how easily Warsaw could have been dragged unknowingly into a nuclear conflict -- and glad that thanks to NATO membership such a thing would never happen again. It seems that the minister is mistaken once again.
Deployment of antimissile bases in Eastern European countries is viewed by these countries as an effort to create defenses against a terrorist threat. Which may come from Iran, for example. Yet, Tehran does not have and will not have in the immediate future any ballistic missiles representing a threat to Europe, Moscow says. Even if it receives them, why not establish the interceptor missile bases in countries closer to the possible threat, such as Turkey, Greece, and Israel? Armed Forces General Staff Chief Yuriy Baluyevskiy is confident: "The planned deployment of a vanguard line of the U.S. Air Defense in Eastern Europe is intended to neutralize Russia's strategic potential."
"The idea to deploy in Europe a U.S. air defense system designed to counter threats coming from missiles launched by rogue states, such as Iran, stems from, to put it mildly, poor geographical knowledge," Yuriy Baluyevskiy stresses.
But the Americans do know perfectly well that new Russian silo intercontinental Topol-M systems are deployed near the settlement of Tatishchevo, Saratov Oblast. In addition, they will be deployed in the settlements of Teykovo and Vypolznovo, respectively, Ivanovo and Tver Oblasts. Our strategic missiles are also deployed in Kozelsk, Kaluga Oblast. All of them represent a direct threat to the United States. This threat can only be removed by placing interceptor missile silos as near as possible. Then, the Americans will be able to conduct interception at the initial trajectory section. The military believe that it is the only moment when an air defense system actually "sees" the target and stands is most likely to destroy it. Notably, losses would be reduced to a minimum for the defending side because missile debris and warheads would fall on hostile territory, not on its own, which would be the case if the whole thing took place over the defender's head. It seems that Warsaw, Budapest, and Prague have actually decided that it is possible.
Yet, experts say, there are some nuances, the main one being that it is technically impossible to perform a "safe" interception of a launched Topol-M over Russian territory from bases in Poland, the Czech Republic, or Hungary. To do it, the antimissile must have a velocity several times higher that of the Russian missile to be able to travel 1,000 km or even more within a unit of time. I know it first-hand: Even when standing on the Topol-M launching site in Plesetsk during missile exercises and knowing the precise launching time (the launch countdown is fed through loudspeakers), I could not take a single normal picture of the missile: a clack, a shaft of fire, and the missile is already barely seen in the skies.
The only comforting thing about it is that in his annual Message to the Federal Assembly Vladimir Putin called for not repeating mistakes made by the Soviet Union in the Cold War era: "Take into consideration plans and development directions of the Armed Forces in other countries but not go for quantity indicators, 'burning' money for no good reason." Russia's responses to external challenges and threats "should be based on intellectual superiority." These responses are already in place. It is the aforementioned Topol-M, the latest Bulava naval ballistic missile, and the Iskander operational and tactical missile system. All of them guarantee that Russia will overcome NPRO (National Missile Defense) systems. Including those to be deployed in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
2. Russian Defense Industry Commission To Discuss Draft State Armaments Program Until 2015
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The draft state armaments program for 2007-2015 will be discussed by the Russian Defense Industry Commission on Friday.
A commission spokesman told Interfax-Military News Agency that the program is expected to receive 4.939 trillion Russian rubles ($182.6 billion), with about 4 trillion rubles ($148 billion) to be allocated directly to the Defense Ministry.
Deputy Prime Minister/Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said at an earlier meeting with President Vladimir Putin that the program was primarily drafted by the Defense Ministry, which had taken into account the national defense policy, the Armed Forced development plans, and the military cooperation program.
"While the previous program focused on research and development, the new one focuses on large-scale arms procurements," he emphasized.
According to Ivanov, over 63% of assets earmarked will be allocated for armaments procurements. According to him, the program envisions development of strategic nuclear and general-purpose forces.
He pointed out that whole units would be re-equipped with new arms starting in 2007.
Commenting on the state defense order, Ivanov stressed that priority would be assigned to manufacturers, supplying the Armed Forces with the necessary systems, first and foremost, hi-tech products.
3. Defense Minister Ivanov: "I Am Not Thinking About Myself, But About the Armed Forces"
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Russia remains the champion when it comes to postponements. Speaking before State Duma deputies on Wednesday, Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov proposed his plan for structuring the Armed Forces over the time frame prior to 2010...
Appearing before the State Duma, Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov, a possible contender for succession to the presidency, presented a secret report. However, he never did tell journalists whether or not he intends to advance his candidacy in the presidential election. Deputies did not pay Ivanov the attention he deserves and in some instances openly showed a preference for his rival, Dmitriy Medvedev.
Sergey Ivanov, head of Russia's defense department, addressed the State Duma in closed session on Wednesday, delivering a report on the military threats which confront Russia in today's world. The defense minister, deputy prime minister, and contender for succession to the Russian presidency was received with some ambivalence. For example, an exhibit of portraits of modern political figures was opened at the same time on the second floor of the building on Okhotnyy Ryad.
Ivanov's portrait did not appear anywhere. But that of First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev, reported to be Ivanov's rival for the honored title of successor to the president, was there.
Organizers of the exhibit explained that it is dedicated to people who have been exerting an influence on the modern historical process. Moreover, in the middle of Ivanov's presentation, a sizable group of deputies shamelessly went to the dining room for lunch. This group included Aleksandr Moskalets, one of the principal United Russia representatives responsible for legislation on state structuring, and Sergey Reshulskiy, CPRF (Russian Federation Communist Party) coordinator. One could hardly expect that they would be dining with such relish if they were convinced that Vladimir Putin's successor had come to visit the deputies.
In the meantime, Ivanov was entirely candid in his closed session presentation to the deputies. The address was declared off limits to journalists, since it was assumed that the subject entitled "Structuring of the Armed Forces in 2006-2011" may in fact contain information comprising military secrets.
"I have nothing to tell you," Lyubov Sliska shouted to Gazeta.Ru as she left the auditorium. Sliska is first deputy speaker of the State Duma. "This was a secret session, and I do not divulge secrets."
But the cloak of secrecy was soon cast aside by the defense minister himself as soon as he left the hall and approached the television cameras. "Defense Ministry plans prior to 2011 are well-known. The Armed Forces must undergo intensive, advanced-technology development" -- Ivanov asserted. One could infer from Ivanov's words that the military had in principle resolved some basic problems. For example, the minister promised that by 2011 the military will have been reduced by 34,000 individuals in all, the reductions being made exclusively by virtue of auxiliary unit personnel. In particular, 300 generals and admirals will be discharged in the very near future in order to maintain the ratio "one general officer to every thousand military servicemen." "Over the past five years, the military has already been reduced by 200,000," Ivanov explained, letting it be known that there is no point in effecting further troop reductions.
After all, judging from the minister's speech, Moscow still has enemies. "There are many threats, and they include global threats. The threats which confronted us during the Cold War are trifling compared to the threats we face today," the minister said. At the same time, the likelihood of thermonuclear war is minimal. "But this does not mean that we need not develop our missile forces," the defense minister stipulated. The minister sees the most specific threats in "countries adjacent to Russia, beset with conflict." "New dangers have emerged today, nontraditional dangers not limited to terrorism," the minister noted. Moreover, Ivanov cautiously expressed his opposition to NATO plans to deploy American anti-missile systems in Poland. "We are aware of these plans, and they alarm us," he noted.
The minister's statement on global threats contradicted somewhat another of his statements given to the deputies. Vladimir Vasilyev, chairman of the State Duma's Security Committee, told journalists that Ivanov had informed the deputies in the hall that Russia requires a mobile army, a force capable of dealing with several regional threats simultaneously, and that for this reason the Armed Forces will be divided based on the territorial principle. In other words, regional groups will be established which will include all branches of service.
Ivanov himself promised that budget outlays for the military will increase in order to accomplish these tasks. The military budget for 2007 will amount to 800 billion rubles (R).
The deputies who remained in the hall and listened to Ivanov emerged with mixed impressions. "I do not know why we came here," said Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin, member of the Security Committee from the CPRF, throwing up his hands as he spoke with our Gazeta.Ru correspondent. "This is either incompetence or indifference." Ilyukhin criticized the territorial principle as ineffective. "We are not protected today from threats from outer space. The air defense system is in ruin. But Ivanov said nothing about this. Everything is fine with him" -- the Communist said scathingly.
"The report leaves one with an ambiguous impression," stated Aleksey Mitrofanov, State Duma deputy from the LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), in conversation with Gazeta.Ru. "On the one hand, military requisitions have increased and new armament is being developed. On the other hand, however, it is not enough. According to my information, for example, only six-eight Topol-M missiles are being delivered each year to the military. This is nothing." "We will have just 100 missiles by 2010 -- 60 times less than during the early Yeltsin era. And we will have four floating submarines," Mitrofanov predicted. "The military should be divided into a nuclear strategic portion and a tactical portion for executing local missions, with personnel strength not exceeding 100,000. Why have a million-man army if the applicable threats do not exist?" -- the deputy believes.
United Russia Deputy Nikolay Kovalev, former director of the FSB (Federal Security Service), stated in turn to Gazeta.Ru: "We shifted to a sensible policy with respect to the Armed Forces, a proper determination of the threats. Ivanov noted, for example, that a large quantity of tanks is not necessary given today's conditions. There is virtually nowhere to employ them."
During his appearance before the Duma, Ivanov declined to answer the main political question, that of his possible nomination as a candidate for president. The deputy prime minister evaded a response in his conversation with journalists: "I am not thinking about myself, but rather about the Armed Forces." We note that just a few years ago, Ivanov bluntly ruled out the prospect of running for president. Today his replies are not as definitive.
4. Russians split 50/50 on country's defensive capabilities - polls
Russia & CIS Military Newswire
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The opinions of Russians polled by the All-Russian Center of Public Opinion on whether the defensive capabilities of Russia are sufficient split 50/50. The results of the May poll were handed over to Interfax on Wednesday.
A total of 46% of the polled are quite sure they are, while the same 46% disagree with them. Mention should be made that there are more optimists among the supporters of the United Russia party (54%) than among those who support the Communist Party (37%) and Liberal Democrats (39%), not to mention the opposition where the optimists make only 30%.
Among the measures to enhance the defensive capabilities of the country, the most vital, according to the people polled, are the re- equipment of the armed forces with new and modernized weapons (43% said so), transformation of two-thirds of the strength into a volunteer force by 2008 with the conscription term reduced to 12 months (36%) and the increase in wages of the military and social benefits for them (34%).
As for other priority measures, named were the improvement of physical training and patriotism education of the youth (31%), increase in spendings on defense and security (30%), struggle against WMD proliferation jointly with leading world powers (24%), and personnel reduction to one million (21%).
The concept of reforming the Armed Forces set off heated debates and split the polled into two almost equal groups. For instance, 41% of the polled think that Russia should restore its military might to be able to repel the aggression of any potential adversaries in the world, even if additional expenses are to be incurred. A little larger group (47%) is for a smaller, but more combat-ready force, primarily effective in local wars and conflicts.
The traditional Soviet concept of having a large force is favored by elderly population of 60 years and over (48% against 39%). In other age groups compact professional force is considered to be the best variant.
Mention should be made of the interpretation Russians make of the phrase voiced by President Vladimir Putin in his annual address tot he Federation Council, i.e. "the wolf that eats all, but listens to nobody." Among those polled who knew of the address, 26% think that Putin meant the U.S. (either the Americans in general or U.S. President George W. Bush in particular). There are those who think that this phrase hints at bureaucrats (5%) and corruption (3%). Another 3% believe that this "gray wolf" is the big business. Some of the polled also mentioned the government, the State Duma, local authorities and NATO in this regard. Every second polled (52%), who knew of the presidential address, found it difficult to give a clear definition to the allegory.
The poll was held on May 20 and 21, 2006, and involved 1,594 persons from 153 localities in 46 regions of Russia.
1. Finland Seizes Russian Military Goods Bound for China
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Finnish customs services said on Wednesday (31 May) they had seized a large amount of military goods probably stolen in Russia or Ukraine and destined for China and Serbia-Montenegro over recent months.
Several Russians had been arrested since last autumn as they tried to smuggle spare parts for Sukhoi military aircraft, according to a customs official who declined to be named.
"One shipment was destined for Serbia-Montenegro, two for China and one for the United States, although we have good reason to believe that the latter really was also meant for China," the official said.
Russian authorities had told Finland that the material had been stolen in Russia and the Ukraine. It included navigations instruments, radars and a catalyst including beryllium, a metal used in the nuclear and aerospace industries.
Finnish President Tarja Halonen, who visited the Finnish-Russian border Wednesday, said she was concerned by the reports.
"We will use the Finnish presidency of the European Union (starting July 1) to strengthen our cooperation with Russia" in the areas of security and border controls, she said.
1. Russia: NGO Delegates Discuss Nuclear Security at St Petersburg Forum
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An international conference on nuclear security and the protection of 'those who speak the truth' began in a St. Petersburg suburb on Thursday.
The conference organizers are the U.S.-based Government Accountability Project, the Bellona international environmental organization's St. Petersburg human rights center, the Russian Movement for Nuclear Safety, Green World, and the Russian Ecological Policy Center.
"The conference will focus on energy security and the protection of 'those who speak the truth' - people who honestly and publicly speak of security, health care and environmental problems," Bellona member Rashid Alimov told Interfax.
"Delegates from the United States, Europe and Russia will discuss strategies and the growing interest of corporations and governments in nuclear and energy projects," he said.
"This is especially topical, as the G8 St. Petersburg summit on July 15-18 has been chosen by the heads of developed states as a forum for the promotion of new energy projects," he said.
2. Radiation Safety Seminar Held in Kolontayevo - Assembly Line
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This latest gathering of the sector's leading specialists in Kolontayevo was a logical extension of the two previous seminars, which focused on the compilation of engineering assignments for the design of nuclear power plants of the new generation (the so-called AES-2006 and AES-2009) and a new technological platform (including fast-neutron reactors to complete the fuel cycle). The internal logic of the process of planning a new strategy for the development of the nuclear sector required the resolution of problems in handling radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel in addition to plans for the broad-scale construction of new power plants. These were the main topics of the latest seminar, which has now become a permanent institution and has acquired the features of an effective format for strategic decisions by the new Rosatom leadership.
The nine groups that were formed at the third seminar worked on topics connected with the nuclear legacy -- the recycling and storage of the radioactive waste accumulated during the development of nuclear weapons, a medium-range strategy for guaranteed nuclear and radiation safety, the techniques of handling radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, the regulatory, legal, and scientific bases of the nuclear and radiation safety program, the compilation of a federal targeted program, the technological readiness of enterprises to undertake practical measures within the confines of this program, and methods of interaction by state governing bodies for the guarantee of nuclear and radiation safety.
The most controversial topics were the so-called deferred problems, including the Mayak Production Association. These were accumulated during the work on the sweeping Soviet nuclear project to build a nuclear shield for the country, which was launched in the 1950s. These problems are so big that Rosatom alone cannot hope to solve them without state support. According to the estimates of one expert, nuclear and radiation safety precautions at Mayak alone would cost $1.15 billion by 2015, and that group of measures has been singled out as a separate global objective.
Incidentally, a plan to build a South Urals Nuclear Power Plant with a gigawatt reactor was unexpectedly proposed as one way of solving the "deferred problems." According to this plan, the energy from this plant could be used for the evaporation of the Techinskiy cascade and the subsequent recycling of the dry waste. Until recently, most experts regarded this option as an excessively utopian plan. Now there appears to be a commercial need for an additional source of energy in this region in view of the rapid industrial growth there, however, and the demand will be equivalent to at least 800 megawatts, which would make the project economically sound.
In general, the problem of the "nuclear legacy" is of a global nature and has been tackled with varying degrees of success in the United States and Great Britain, where it is just as acute as it is in Russia. Many speakers stressed that the work in this area will necessitate concerted effort with the world community and a collective search for answers.
Another group of problems to be solved as quickly as possible will entail bringing the current regulatory and legal base into conformity with the requirements for the dynamic development of Russian nuclear power engineering, combined with the proper consideration for international recommendations. That is the reason that the measures proposed at the seminar included the compilation of a law on nuclear and radiation safety following an inventory of the entire group of regulatory instruments and the correction of any contradictions in them.
Virtually all of the participants in the seminar agreed that our country still does not have a single set of standards governing the handling of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. A system does exist in the Rosatom network and it is being implemented successfully at the existing nuclear power plants and enterprises of the fuel and raw materials cycle, but this does not include some research reactors and other facilities performing work with fissionable materials. This does not mean that they are not being regulated, but the single set of national, rather than sectorial, standards is long overdue.
It is also needed because the broad-scale construction and startup of nuclear power units will require fundamentally different approaches to the handling of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel on the new technological platform: The old one would compound the amount of waste under these conditions.
The new approach to nuclear and radiation safety presupposes the compilation of scientific and practical recommendations in the event of nuclear terrorism, especially in megalopolises. As Deputy Chairman V. Ivanov of the Russian Scientific Commission on Radiation Defense, the deputy director of the Radiology Center in Obninsk, pointed out, we have to know how to respond to, for example, the dispersion of radioactive materials in a big city. The simulation of this kind of terrorist act in Munich recently in Germany revealed the possibility of grave consequences, primarily of a psychological nature, as well as an abrupt rise in cases of cancer in children. The appropriate Rosatom services should have detailed instructions and regulations and should develop the necessary skills in training exercises.
The reciprocal exchange of opinions on these matters led to the consolidation of views on some urgent unsolved problems, such as the recycling of the graphite in the lining of uranium-graphite reactors (RBMK) and weapons-grade plutonium, the planning of a strategy and technology for handling non-removable waste and fuel with a high burn-up rate, the treatment of "unconventional" types of spent nuclear fuel, and others. The very fact that these problems were detected and were proposed for discussion within the framework of the common vision of sectorial development, within the boundaries of a single complex, aroused the optimism of seminar participants.
Many of them, incidentally, recommended the assignment of priority to the informational support of the new strategy for sectorial development. It will be difficult to attain these objectives without purposeful efforts to influence public opinion and surmount various phobias in the population and in regional governing bodies.
All of the topics discussed and the work performed at the seminar will be reflected in a federal targeted program of nuclear and radiation safety, which has already been outlined in fairly precise terms, including the basic amounts of funding required. The creation of a special fund, which would be managed by a company established specifically for this purpose, was proposed for the actual implementation of the program. All of the groups submitted graphs to illustrate their proposed solutions.
Strict deadlines were set for the attainment of objectives. The creation of a single set of state standards governing the handling of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel and the resolution of urgent problems, including the problems at the Mayak Production Association in particular, were proposed for the first phase in 2007-2015. The establishment of a complete infrastructure to secure the development of nuclear power engineering and the nuclear defense complex was proposed for the second phase, covering the period from 2015 to 2030.
The head of Rosatom, S. Kiriyenko, participated in this work. He summed up the results of the seminar and reported the steps the agency's top officials had taken pursuant to the results of earlier seminars. In particular, he said that the projected amounts of funding for the federal targeted program, clarified during the three days of work by the sector's "aktiv" in Kolontayevo, would be discussed at a cabinet meeting in a few days.
Just as in the past, working groups consisting of seminar participants will be set up at the request of Rosatom officials (four groups in this case). They will compile more detailed and more specific versions of the proposed solutions for the medium range and will submit the final product to the head of Rosatom in two months (the schedule, the results of economic feasibility studies, the chosen procedure for competitive bidding sessions, suggestions with regard to regulatory instruments, etc.), which will serve as the basis for strategic decisions to be made on the state level. The groups working on the results of the first seminar will be submitting these materials within the next few days. This efficient approach is turning the new form of work into a single process, creating a new image for the sector, with a view to the consolidated opinion of many experts and a high level of credibility.
Director P. Shchedrovitskiy of TsNIIAtominform, who directed the seminar, came up with this new form of sectorial work and set the tone for this work. Several more seminars on key issues, including the development of small-scale power engineering, are to be held before summer. The results of this half-year of work will include a common sectorial stance on the solutions to the sector's main problems and schedules, financial documents, and technical, scientific, and organizational decisions for the attainment of the state objective of bringing the proportional amount of energy contributed by nuclear power plants to 25 percent of the total by 2030.
1. Russia: Scrapping Of Chemical Weapons In Kirov Region May Begin In Time
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The scrapping of chemical weapons at the "Maradykovo" complex in Kirov Region may begin within the fixed time limits. The experts of the International Chemical Weapons Prohibition Commission, who came there from the Dutch capital, have arrived at this conclusion after inspecting the enterprise.
"Eight international inspectors, representing Argentina, Belarus, Britain, U.S.A., Ukraine and France, have visited the industrial installations of the first section of the complex, which is being readied for commissioning, to see how the construction jobs were proceeding. They examined the engineering systems of the complex, as well as its safety arrangements, technology lines, working places for international controllers, and the sanitary- protection zone. The inspectors arrived at the conclusion that the complex could be put into operation within the fixed time limits (the second half of 2006)", Head of the Information and Analysis Centre Lyubov Cherezova told Itar-Tass on Thursday.
The last pre-start jobs are all but completed now at the first complex of the first section of the plant, she said. It is almost ready and is waiting for the arrival of a working commission, after which a special state commission will come to sign the acceptance certificate and to give the start. The management of the complex is now hiring highly skilled workers.
"The complex ranks among the most highly dangerous enterprises. Therefore, it employs only highly qualified and disciplined specialists," Chief of the Conversion Department of the Regional Administration Mikhail Manin told Itar-Tass. Engineering jobs are being primarily offered to specialists, who had worked at the chemical weapons scrapping plant in the town of Gorny (Saratov Region), he stressed.
Maradykovo is one of the seven Russian chemical weapons arsenals, where more than 6.9 thousand tons of particularly dangerous toxic nerve substances were stockpiled, starting from the forties of the past century. Stuffed with them were more than 40.8 thousand aviation bombs and missile warheads. In accordance with the federal program to scrap chemical weapons on the territory of the Russian Federation, it is planned to demolish more than four thousand tons of toxic agents before April 29, 2007. The entire Maradykovo stockpile of chemical weapons is to be scrapped before 2010.
[Interfax-AVN reported that the Maradykovsky stockpile included some 40,791 air bombs and missile warheads, as well as 6,936 tonnes of toxic agents, totalling 17.4% of Russia's entire chemical weapons stock. Its destruction is scheduled to be completed by 2012. Source: "Russia: Maradykovskiy Chemical Weapons Disposal Facility Meeting Deadline," Interfax - Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostey, June 1, 2006]
2. Russia earmarks $678 million for chemical disarmament in 2006 - official
Russia & CIS Military Newswire
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Russian expenditure on chemical disarmament has grown from 500 million rubles ($18.53 million) in 2000 to 18.3 billion rubles ($678.38 million) in 2006, Anatoly Antonov, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's department for security and disarmament, told Interfax on Wednesday.
"The main emphasis of the Chemical Weapons Convention is the unconditional elimination of all stocks of toxic substances in the world," and such arsenals must be scrapped by April 2012, he said
Speaking of Russia's nonproliferation priorities during its presidency in G8, Antonov said that Russia is working intensively to prevent the spread of other dangerous types of weapons of mass destruction, biological weapons in particular.
"The main emphasis of G8 is on biological security, on discovering and responding to outbursts of infectious diseases that may be caused by instances of biological terrorism," he said.
"Unlike previous years, the Russian presidency will pay special attention to resisting dangerous infections," Antonov said.
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