1. First trial over Libya's nuclear bomb plan collapses
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The international effort to get to grips with the world's worst nuclear proliferation racket suffered a serious setback today when the first criminal trial of an alleged top figure collapsed.
A judge in the south-west German town of Mannheim threw out the prosecution case against Gotthard Lerch, a German engineer, four months into his trial on charges of helping Libya clandestinely build a nuclear bomb. Judge Peter Seidling said there was a danger of Mr Lerch not receiving a fair trial as the prosecution had withheld evidence.
The collapse of the proceedings is a major setback to the international attempt to close down the proliferation network of disgraced Pakistani metallurgist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who was exposed in 2003-4 as the supplier of nuclear technology, bomb blueprints and scientific expertise to Libya, Iran and North Korea. The outcome is a disaster for the German prosecution service, and came as the climax to a series of prosecution blunders.
Mr Lerch, 63, had been charged with violations of Germany's arms and exports laws for allegedly trafficking components for centrifuges for enriching uranium to Libya for Muammar Gadafy's since abandoned nuclear bomb programme.
The prosecution alleged Mr Lerch was paid €8m for the contracts. He faced up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
The state prosecutor, Peter Lintz, said that Mr Lerch was among Mr Khan's four main associates, also said to have included British businessman Peter Griffin - who testified in May against Mr Lerch.
Mr Griffin has denied any witting role in the scheme to turn Libya into a nuclear power. Mr Lerch also denied the charges.
Judge Seidling has yet to rule on whether there will be a retrial. The accused has been in German custody for more than a year and his defence team, which maintains that he was a fall guy for a western intelligence plot, is demanding his release.
The defence team has regularly complained it was denied access to evidence, including German intelligence material.
The Lerch case was being closely monitored by international investigators since it was the first time that any suspect from the Khan network had been put on trial. Mr Khan admitted running the nuclear racket in February 2004 and was instantly pardoned by the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf.
1. South Asia's choice of plutonium over growth is dangerous
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Nuclear terrorism is perhaps the most important threat the world faces today. Few countries carry greater risks of allowing terrorists to get their hands on illicit nuclear materials than India and Pakistan, notwithstanding the safety records of these south Asian nuclear powers. Pakistan's case is particularly troubling.
In a poor country of 166m, there is not enough money to build schools for educating Pakistan's largely illiterate population or feeding its undernourished children. But there is enough, it seems, to build a modern plutonium reactor that will churn out 15 to 20 times more plutonium for bomb-making than the country can ever use.
The danger for the rest of the world lies in radical Islamists - of which there are many in Pakistan - getting hold of a growing and readily available source of radioactive materials that can be easily transported and shaped into less detectable, miniaturised configurations. To maintain Pakistan's support in its war on terror, the Bush administration has looked the other way while this dangerous nuclear development took place. That its man in Islamabad, Pervez Musharraf, was an assassin's bullet away from handing Pakistan's future to the very radicals the US is trying to eradicate does not seem to have mattered much in Washington.
Satellite photos show that a new 1,000 megawatt plutonium reactor is being built adjacent to the existing 50 megawatt Khushab district reactor that will produce enough plutonium (about 200kg) for 40-45 weapons per year, or about 15 to 20 times what is produced today. Construction on the reactor appears to have begun in 2000. It is still a few years from completion, hindered by the dismantling of the illicit black-market nuclear network run by Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan's atomic father, several years ago.
The drive for nuclear cores that can be more easily fashioned into complex warhead designs may be Pakistan's overarching military objective, but it brings with it a plethora of dangerous scenarios that brittle governments, such as Gen Musharraf's, are ill-equipped to handle. The most troubling is one in which Islamabad's political manoeuvring to keep its neighbour, Afghanistan, in check by supporting a resurgent Taliban spirals out of its control. Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and others who hopscotch across the Afghan-Pakistan border are as capable of transporting processed plutonium into the wrong hands as they are of running guns and heroin.
Pakistan has successfully walked the anti-terror tightrope since September 11 2001 because Gen Musharraf has sought to be all things to all people. But what if he is gone tomorrow? Who insures the world against Islamists wresting control of a nuclear programme that is populated with some of the brightest, most radicalised minds in the Muslim world who still deeply resent the US dethroning of A.Q. Khan?
The new reactor also raises serious questions about the underlying motivations of the US-India civilian nuclear arms pact - passed by the US House of Representatives last week - that will bring American nuclear technology to India's atomic power industry. Improving India's civilian nuclear safety standards and transparency of operations is a laudable goal in providing for that country's energy needs and renovating its decrepit reactors. But if Washington thinks giving India nuclear technology is appropriate compensation for looking the other way while Islamabad builds its mega-plutonium plant - enabling India to build 40-50 nuclear weapons a year to match Pakistan - it risks dangerously escalating a regional arms race and destroying economic growth in the process.
If his army hawks insist on finishing Khushab II, Gen Musharraf can at least ensure that it starts up operations with full international safeguards in place that match those agreed to by New Delhi under the US-India nuclear pact. These include inspections that ensure fissile materials are safeguarded and accounted for at all times. He can change the dynamics of south Asia's arms race by championing a new fissile materials cut-off treaty - forbidding the production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium - and prodding George W. Bush and Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, to do the same.
Pakistan's erroneous decision to build Khushab II - and the US plan to fuel India's nuclear power plants as a counterbalance - should not be permitted to put the rest of the world at risk at the hands of extremists.
The writer, a New York financier, assisted US authorities in discovering activities tied to the illicit nuclear network of A.Q. Khan in 2000-2001
PAKISTAN will soon be able to strike every city in India using a new arsenal of plutonium warheads developed with Chinese help, according to senior generals and defence analysts.
Lieutenant General Talat Masood, a former Pakistani defence minister, said this weekend that his country's enhanced nuclear capability exposed a "secret arms race", triggered by rivalry between India and China.
The scale of Pakistan's nuclear ambitions was revealed last week in a report by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, which published satellite pictures of a plutonium production site at Khushab in Punjab.
Analysts said the plant included a reactor capable of producing enough plutonium for 50 warheads in a year, more than doubling its current strength. China has an estimated 450 warheads and India has about 100.
The disclosure came as the US House of Representatives ratified President George W Bush's deal to supply nuclear fuel and technology to India, which could allow it to boost its own production of plutonium warheads.
Plutonium makes lighter, more compact and deadlier weapons than uranium.
Pakistan's new capability will alter the military balance in the region by giving it a "second strike" capability.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they were separated at independence in 1947. In 1987, AQ Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan's programme, announced that any future conflict could be nuclear. Khan is now under house arrest after helping Iran and Libya to develop nuclear programmes.
Masood said that Indian attempts to keep up with China's increased nuclear production were causing anxiety in Pakistan and generating pressure to increase its capability. Distrust between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and terrorism made it likely that the arms race would intensify, he added.
"It means self-reliance for Pakistan, which is now more important because the United States is favouring India (in nuclear co-operation)," he said. "It means we can make smaller weapons which are easier to fire at longer range."
Dr Anupam Shrivastava, director of the Centre for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia and an adviser on proliferation to the American, Indian and Chinese governments, said: "Unlike Pakistan, India has a no first strike policy. It completely changes India's military planning because having plutonium gives Pakistan the option of deploying from land, sea or air.
"For Pakistan it's a quantum leap. It gives them options to target all of India."
1. 'There were four beautiful mushroom clouds a week. Nobody told us they were dangerous' For 42 years, more than a million Kazakhs were exposed to nuclear test fallout. Now a new generation is suffering too.
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As a small girl Maria Tokasheva would sit on the doorstep of her family's home watching enraptured as mysterious mushroom-shaped clouds filled the sky.
At the time, in the 1960s, the Soviet Union was embroiled in a fierce arms race, but the endless nuclear bomb tests in the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan seemed nothing more to her than a pretty light show.
"I liked to be there,'' said Mrs Tokasheva, 49, a mother of one. "I remember atomic mushrooms. My friends and I, we couldn't understand how dangerous it was because we had seen this mushroom and then something like a rainbow. It was amazing for us.''
Only years later, when she and her friends started to feel exhausted for no apparent reason, did they become concerned. Then her hair started falling out. Now six of her nine siblings have died. And they were not alone.
Sixteen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, hundreds of thousands of inhabitants from this area south-east of Astana, Kazakhstan's new capital, are still reeling from the deadly legacy of being a nuclear test site.
In the post-Second World War battle for global dominance, the development of a nuclear arsenal became a priority for Joseph Stalin's regime - and Semipalatinsk was chosen as the test centre.
The welfare of the inhabitants became immaterial as, between 1949 and 1991, an estimated 500 nuclear weapons were detonated in the region - 68 in one year alone. Atmospheric nuclear tests were conducted at a rate of four per week across an area the size of Sussex.
Melis Meitov, a so-called "Atomic Soldier'' who participated in the experiments, was told nothing about the dangers he faced when he joined up to do his military service in Kazakhstan. "In 1962, there were four explosions a week that we observed, through dark glasses, from a distance of two miles,'' he said. "An hour after the explosions, we would visit the 'test fields' dressed in safety uniforms. I was there for 40 days - you can imagine how much radiation I got.''
Scientists tried to ensure the fallout did not affect Kurchatov, the regional capital, but Mr Meitov remembers that things did not always go to plan.
"An unplanned explosion went off on August 7, 1962,'' he said. "A black cloud was moving towards where all the military services were based. The waves of the explosion hit Kurchatov. People were told that a hurricane was coming.
"All the people and soldiers became guinea pigs. We were told it wasn't dangerous and we believed it. These were Soviet times.''
Now Mr Meitov is one of only 10 survivors from a 250ong company, none of whom has been able to claim compensation since the collapse of the USSR.
His pension does little to cover the cost needed to treat his exposure-related ailments. He says that when he phoned the authorities for advice he was told to stop complaining, and be happy just to be alive.
In 1992, the Kazakhstan government recognised that 1.6 million people were affected by radiation. In a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the government identified 67,000 people living in the 19 villages closest to the site as having been seriously affected. Only 27,000 have survived.
Nor is it just the people who were directly exposed who are suffering - a new generation of Kazakhs is feeling the effect of genetic mutation and mental illness blamed on the nuclear testing.
Kaisha Atakhanova, a biologist in the Kazakh town of Karaganda who is researching the human toll of the tests, has identified levels of mental retardation and birth defects up to seven times higher than average in a normal population.
In an orphanage in the city of Semey, 100 miles west of Kurchatov, children abandoned by traumatised parents have developed elephantine features including grotesquely enlarged heads.
Others emerged from the womb paralysed from the waist down, or without joints in their knees or elbows.
The problem is compounded as farmers bring their livestock to graze on the lush grassland, which is rich in radioactive material. The meat later finds its way on to the menus of the region's restaurants.
With tears in her eyes, Maria Tokasheva shakes her head. "The only thing that gives me the will to survive is my child,'' she said referring to her one-year-old son. "I will myself not to give up, nor to commit suicide, just fight for life.''
2. Congress members question the need to modernize weapons facilities, citing trouble with management.
Los Angeles Times
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The sprawling nuclear weapons laboratory here is just starting construction of a $1-billion plutonium research center, part of an ambitious plan to modernize its outdated facilities.
But congressional analysts and outside watchdogs are calling it a boondoggle — a facility that will be obsolete less than eight years after it opens. A congressional report this spring called the plan "simply irrational," and House lawmakers are trying to kill the project.
"It is stupid to put money into a limited-life thing like this," said Rep. David L. Hobson (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees energy. "We are resisting spending that money."
It was a tough — but increasingly routine — rebuke for the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, a vast enterprise of labs and factories from South Carolina to California that has thrived in the post-Cold War era.
The federal government has spent more than $65 billion on the complex over the last decade, and experts agree the United States has nuclear weapons that are reliable for use in war, safe from accidental detonation and secure from terrorists.
But Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as outside analysts, have grown increasingly concerned about what they see as sloppy management by the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Among other things, they cite scientific mistakes and cost overruns on projects at the nation's two nuclear weapons design centers — an X-ray machine at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a laser at Lawrence Livermore in the Bay Area.
"It has been one problem after another," said Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "The current administrator should be fired."
Not surprisingly, that administrator, Linton F. Brooks, who was the chief U.S. arms control negotiator in the early 1990s, sharply disagrees. He calls the program to maintain the reliability of aging bombs "a rousing success."
Bomb scientists say the extra spending on nuclear weapons is necessary because the U.S. stopped underground nuclear testing in 1992. Maintaining the reliability of the weapons — something the industry calls "stockpile stewardship" — requires a massive, and expensive, scientific effort.
And even though the last nuclear weapon rolled off the assembly line in the early 1990s, the complex has until recently received nearly every big-ticket item it has requested. Much of that money has been poured into scientific research, advanced computers and massive physics instruments at the Los Alamos and Livermore labs.
The most successful part of the program has involved advanced computation. Livermore has the world's fastest supercomputer, the Blue Gene L, which can perform 280 trillion mathematical operations per second. The sleek black computer sits in a refrigerated, high-security vault.
Late last year, the lab first simulated the detonation of a nuclear bomb in three dimensions, a long-standing goal critical to maintaining aging weapons.
But other parts of the scientific program have not gone as well, including the construction of a massive X-ray machine at Los Alamos known as the Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility.
It was originally designed to photograph a simulated nuclear trigger as it implodes under the tremendous forces of high explosives. But the machine evolved into a much more sophisticated device that could take four time-lapsed photographs within less than a millionth of a second.
When it was finally assembled, though, one of the device's two X-ray arms did not work because of instability in a high-energy electron beam. The defect forced scientists to take the arm apart and modify it at great cost. What began as a $10-million project is now estimated to cost $360 million when it is finally completed.
Meanwhile, Livermore also has had serious problems building the world's most powerful laser, intended to simulate the thermonuclear detonation that occurs in a hydrogen bomb. The laser, called the National Ignition Facility, is intended to ignite fusion in a test chamber by aiming 192 high-powered laser beams at a tiny fuel target.
That proved to be harder than anybody realized, said Thomas D'Agostino, the nuclear weapons chief at the NNSA. The cost grew from below $1 billion to about $3.4 billion.
"We ran into technical problems that we couldn't imagine," D'Agostino said.
Lab officials argue that both the X-ray machine and the laser will eventually pay huge dividends for scientific research. The technical setbacks reflect their groundbreaking challenges and constitute the kinds of scientific risk the public must accept for advanced research.
D'Agostino added that many of the problems were rooted in the past and that the NNSA, which is part of the Energy Department, was doing a better job managing its activities, including dismantlement of surplus nuclear weapons and the overhaul of existing ones.
But congressional leaders say the department has hardly solved its problems.
"We have a lot of frustration," said Hobson, who held a series of tough hearings on the department's failures. "We have frustrations with cost and we have frustrations with progress. They are on a better track, but they have a long way to go."
The agency's highly technical problems in recent years were accompanied by other basic breakdowns. Audits and investigations by the Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, and the Energy Department's inspector general have uncovered management problems, loose financial controls and weak internal security.
In June, it was disclosed that hackers had broken into Energy Department computers and stolen data on 1,500 employees, possibly including sensitive information used in their government clearances. The breach wasn't disclosed to employees, senior department officials or members of Congress for nine months.
Barton was furious, saying Brooks should have personally notified Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. Amid calls for Brooks' resignation, Bodman ordered an investigation by the inspector general.
"If the agency can't protect the Social Security records of its employees, how can it protect large quantities of plutonium?" Barton said.
These problems are occurring just as the agency wants to begin an ambitious multibillion-dollar effort to modernize its research and production system in the next 25 years.
The agency wants to restart the production of nuclear weapons, replace existing weapons with new warheads and build new production facilities. Eventually, the U.S. would be able to produce more than 125 nuclear weapons per year.
It has not offered a price tag for the effort, but an advisory committee put the cost at $10 billion in extra spending over the next 10 years.
Congressional critics point out the agency lacks a cohesive and affordable agenda: It wants to maintain the high-cost stockpile stewardship program and build new facilities to restart weapons production.
"I do not believe we have the proper approach," said Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Energy Department. "It is not my job to maximize spending on this program."
The subcommittee voted this spring to kill the Los Alamos plutonium research facility, and the full House backed the move.
The Senate wants to keep funding the project, though it also has serious problems with plans for the facility, known formally as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement complex.
The facility, expected to be completed by 2017, is so expensive because it requires sophisticated security to safeguard the plutonium from potential terrorist attacks. But its key role in plutonium research would end by 2024, when all plutonium in the nation is supposed to be put in a centralized facility for better security.
D'Agostino said the $1-billion investment would still be worthwhile because the laboratory would continue research into chemistry and metallurgy after the plutonium is transferred.
But Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C., watchdog group, called the investment "worse than a boondoggle." The program would delay plans to centralize plutonium, leaving a potential target for terrorists, she said.
Some retired nuclear weapons scientists also are dismayed by a culture that puts too high a priority on spending.
"I am a strong believer in maintaining a nuclear deterrent," said Bob Peurifoy, a retired vice president at Sandia National Laboratory who pioneered the security systems that prevent unauthorized use of nuclear bombs. "But I would like to have some integrity within the labs and management. They'll do anything for a buck."
Between July 19 and 20, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov had a working visit to the north of the country where he visited shipyards of Severodvinsk and inspected Object-700 or central nuclear testing range on Novaya Zemlya archipelago, the closest testing range of the Defense Industry. Experts noticed that the visit of Ivanov to Russia's only nuclear technical testing range occurred almost immediately after the G8 summit participants of which also discussed issues of nuclear security in the world. At any rate, judging by the statements of Ivanov it was possible to say that his visit to Novaya Zemlya was hardly dedicated to this problem alone. According to the Defense Minister, the visit was conditioned by interests of defense of the country and, evidently, by the need to check ability of the testing range to continue the tests. For example, answering a question related to this topic, Ivanov said, "We proceed from the existing realities and maintain the testing range in permanent readiness observing all undertaken obligations."
Incidentally, visiting the testing range in summer of 2002 Ivanov was less frank. Then he refused to recognize the fact of Russia's preparation for full-scale nuclear tests. However, Alexander Rumyantsev, who was Nuclear Energy Minister then, and Igor Valynkin, director of the 12th main department of the Defense Ministry responsible for storage and operation of nuclear ammunition, spoke about the need for such tests frequently at that time. At celebration of the 50th anniversary of the testing range in September of 2004, Major General Yury Sokolov, incumbent head of Object-700, spoke about the task set being set for maintenance of forces and means "in permanent readiness for full-scale underground nuclear and other tests." Now the Defense Minister does not hide the far-reaching plans of Russia to improve nuclear weapons. Speaking at a meeting on Novaya Zemlya, Ivanov has remarked that Russia stringently observes the treaty on nuclear tests ban but "this does not mean that we are not working on improvement of our nuclear potential." According to Ivanov, "non-nuclear explosive experiments are currently conducted in the country and they enable researchers make sure of reliability of existing nuclear ammunition and to develop future projects."
Meanwhile, Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, former director of the fourth research institute of the Defense Ministry (this institute is occupied with strategic planning), told WPS, "Russia needs full-scale nuclear ammunitions tests" but will do this only after the US or other large nuclear countries lift the moratorium on these tests. Dvorkin stressed that the US did not ratify the treaty on comprehensive prohibition of nuclear tests and did not rule out that proceeding from the defensive tasks the US might organize such tests in the future, "At any rate, so far they confine their efforts only to non-nuclear explosive experiments and modeling of explosions with assistance of computer."
In turn, experts connected the increased interest of the military leadership of Russia in the nuclear testing range with plans of the US and its allies for deployment of a global antimissile defense system in Europe and in the world and, as a consequence, with new approaches of the Kremlin to defense. These directions of the defense policy were voiced in the presidential message to the Federal Assembly for 2006. Sergei Kirienko, head of the Federal Nuclear Agency who visited Novaya Zemlya too, reported that a consultation held by the President on June 9 was dedicated to this issue too. For instance, Kirienko mentioned significant increase of financing of the nuclear armament projects.
Vladimir Popov, member of the Academy of Military Sciences and air defense expert, believes that the visit of Ivanov to Novaya Zemlya may be connected with possible problems that have appeared in the course of G8 summit between Russia and the US with regard to deployment of a global antimissile defense system by Pentagon in Europe and in the Far East in cooperation with Japan. Popov pointed out that a group of American specialists already arrived to the Czech Republic to find a suitable place for a possible location of an object of the American antimissile defense. According to Popov, Hungary and Poland will be the next countries in such military plans of the US.
Thus, the visit of Ivanov to the north has shown that the Defense Ministry is seriously concerned about further strengthening of the strategic nuclear forces of Russia. In this aspect the nuclear testing range on Novaya Zemlya, as well as strategic nuclear submarines of the North Fleet play one of the main roles in defense of the country.
2. Russian Commander Upbeat in Navy Day interview to Russian Agency
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Russia is entering a new era of naval shipbuilding, with the emphasis on multirole vessels and a new generation of nuclear-powered submarines, Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Vladimir Masorin has said. In an interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti issued on 29 July, the day before Navy Day, Masorin said that the use of aircraft carriers continued to be the most effective way of tackling strategic tasks, but that Russia would be cutting back on the number of different types of aircraft in service.
Masorin pointed out Korvet (Corvette) class warships were already being built, and there were plans for 20 of them in all. The Admiral Gorshkov frigate is being built at St Petersburg's Severnaya Shipyard, work is under way on designing destroyers and new assault ships are being built. These ships, Masorin said, are multipurpose for combat at sea and capable of operating alone or as part of a group.
"Developing standardized missile systems with vertical launch facilities was a priority in designing these ships. We have made a leap forward in this towards switching to multifunctional information systems using fixed arrays. New means of radioelectronic combat have emerged, including illumination of the situation above and below the water and a new generation of combat information and control systems. Aviation systems on board ship have been improved. The reliability, security and usefulness of the future warship fleet have been enhanced," Masorin said.
Russia's long-term naval shipbuilding programme "aims to use the minimum sufficient nuclear potential, the latest achievements of scientific and technical progress in weapons development and targeted programme planning in order to create qualitatively new ships of all classes, subclasses and types, but above all to formulate a system of all-round back-up support throughout their life cycle," Masorin said.
This will make it possible to ensure "balanced development of fleets, combat and weapons support systems" and the rational replenishment, use and scrapping of fleets.
Now, after a decade, naval shipbuilding is forging ahead, with state trials of three escort vessels currently under way, and the five new support vessels and the Gepard nuclear submarine joining the fleet in the last five years, the admiral said.
New nuclear submarines
Masorin said the new-generation nuclear submarine currently under construction would be joining the Northern Fleet soon. "It is expected to join the Northern Fleet rather later than we would like, but it will do so in the near future."
He added that the new diesel-powered submarine Sankt-Peterburg was also currently undergoing dock and sea trials. The new Russian nuclear missile submarines Yuriy Dolgorukiy and Aleksandr Nevskiy will join the Northern and Pacific Fleets, which currently include Russia's strategic nuclear forces.
Admiral Masorin said there would be a radical cut in the number of types of naval aviation, with a switch to multirole craft. In the future, he said, the navy will use only four main types: patrol aircraft, multirole shipborne aircraft, helicopters and shipborne drones.
"The main role will be played by the new multirole shipborne aircraft being developed through a major upgrade of the Su-33," Masorin said. "He pointed out that this shipborne aircraft is designed to replace the fighter, assault, reconnaissance and marine missile-carrying aircraft currently in use."
"Russia has trodden a difficult path building up its national aircraft carrier fleet," Masorin said. "Huge material and intellectual resources have been spent and the state should earn political dividends from this investment."
In line with Russia's naval doctrine up to 2020, the navy is called upon to defend Russia's sovereignty on inland and territorial waters and defend the freedom of the open sea, the admiral recalled
"The naval fleet creates and maintains conditions for the safety of economic entities on the world's oceans, ensures the Russian Federation's naval presence on the oceans, shows the flag and military force, carries out visits of naval warships and vessels, and takes part in military, peacekeeping and humanitarian actions which meet the interests of the Russian Federation," Masorin said.
"He underlined that these tasks can be tackled most effectively in the open sea and in far-flung regions only with the use of aircraft carriers."
Touching briefly on personnel issues, Masorin said that "this year the combat personnel of the submarines of the Northern and Pacific fleets, all commanders of submarine crews and also part of the Caspian Flotilla shore troops should be staffed with professionals".
3. Ecologist doubts russian navy's reports on submarine leak
BBC Monitoring and Interfax
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Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Adm Vladimir Masorin has said that the incident at a nuclear submarine at Vidyayevo presents no danger in terms of radioactivity.
"There is no radioactive pollution at the Northern Fleet's Vidyayevo base, where radioactive water leaked from a nuclear submarine," Masorin told Interfax-AVN.
"The leak was quickly discovered; a special commission is investigating the causes of the leakage from the nuclear reactor's circuit," Masorin told Interfax-AVN.
He urged "not to overdramatize the situation; the background radiation level is normal". "Similar accidents happened before; however, they had no tragic consequences," the commander-in-chief said.
Former Chief of Staff of the Russian Navy Adm Viktor Kravchenko told Interfax-AVN that at present the background radiation level near the submarine is 25 mR.
"During work inside the submarine, a dripping leak was discovered and quickly eliminated," the admiral said.
He totally ruled out the possibility that radioactive water could have reached the outer environment because, he said, "a small leak of radioactive water happened inside the submarine and the only place it could have reached was the inside of the inner hull".
Kravchenko reminded the agency that the reactor compartment is hermetically sealed and separated from other compartments by strong partitions.
Earlier, aide to the naval C-in-C Capt 1 Rank Igor Dygalo told Interfax that on 26 July, during a scheduled switch-off of the generator, a small amount of feed water escaped at one of the Northern Fleet nuclear submarines.
For his part, former commander of the Northern Fleet and Federation Council member Adm Vyacheslav Popov said that "this is a question of radioactive water, which is used to cool the nuclear reactor".
A special commission of the Northern Fleet is already working at the site of the accident.
Meanwhile, the international ecological organization Bellona has expressed its concern over the accident at a Northern Fleet submarine.
"We are concerned that reports and commentaries contradict each other," head of Bellona's St Petersburg office, former submarine officer Capt 1 Rank of the Northern Fleet Aleksandr Nikitin told Interfax today.
He noted that "feed water and water which is used to cool the nuclear reactor are two different things". [passage omitted] "If it is a matter of the water which is used to cool the reactor, the situation is more serious. This is the water of the reactor's first circuit, and it's radioactive. Even a small leak will cause [an increase in] radioactivity," he said. [passage omitted]
[In a separate Interfax report at 1523 gmt on 27 July, Nikitin was quoted as saying: "A leak of feed water, which fills the non-radioactive circuit of a reactor is not an emergency." "If the navy's press service reports about the accident, this is most likely to be about water from the first circuit which cools the reactor. This is radioactive water and its leakage is regarded as a radioactive emergency," he continued, according to the agency.
The same Interfax report quoted former submarine division commander of the Northern Fleet Rear Adm Mikhail Kuznetsov as saying that the leakage had probably been caused by the wear-and-tear of the equipment: "A ship, just like a car, must undergo tests and scheduled maintenance. But we haven't recovered since 1990, and instead of doing this, we just extend the equipment's service life."]
4. Russia to build Kazakhstan's first nuclear power plant
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Russia is to build a nuclear power plant for Kazakhstan, the first in the former Soviet republic, Russian nuclear construction company Atomstroyexport said on Wednesday.
The company, responsible for building nuclear plants outside Russia, said it and the Kazakh national nuclear company, Kazatomprom, had on Tuesday signed an agreement creating a joint venture to develop the project.
"Two other memorandums were also signed to create joint ventures for cooperating in the extraction of uranium in Kazakhstan and its enrichment in Russia," Atomstroyexport's press office said.
Russia's state atomic energy agency, Rosatom, said the two countries would cooperate in particular "on the development of a new uranium field, Budennovskoye", in the south of Kazakhstan.
Uranium from this field "will probably be enriched in Angarsk" in southern Siberia, Rosatom said in a statement.
Russia is also building a nuclear power plant in Iran and has offered to enrich Iranian uranium on Russia soil as a way to ease Western concerns that Tehran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
1. Iran given a month to comply or face UN sanctions
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THE diplomatic campaign to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb came to a climax yesterday when the UN ordered Tehran to halt all uranium enrichment activities and threatened sanctions if it failed to do so by August 31.
Previous appeals to Iran to suspend its enrichment work were made mandatory in the Security Council's first resolution on the nuclear stand-off, depriving Tehran of its right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop the nuclear fuel cycle.
The council voted 14-1, with support from Russia and China for the first time and only Qatar against. It expressed its intention to adopt "appropriate measures" if Iran failed to comply by August 31, but worded the resolution to avoid any threat of military force.
US officials say that Washington's next step may be to seek UN sanctions banning Iranian imports of dual-use items, limiting Tehran's access to technology and restricting travel by Iranian officials.
Iran has remained defiant, rejecting the resolution in a commentary on state run radio on Sunday even before the vote.
Javad Zarif, Iran's Ambassador to the UN, said that the resolution was "destructive and totally unwarranted".
"This approach will not lead to any productive outcome and, in fact, it can only exacerbate the situation," he told the Security Council.
Margaret Beckett, the British Foreign Secretary, welcomed the resolution as a sign that the world was "united and determined to see that Iran does not acquire the means to develop nuclear weapons".
She said that the EU, backed by China, Russia and the US, was ready to give Iran everything it needs to achieve its stated ambition of a civil nuclear power industry. "We are deeply disappointed that Iran has given no indication that it is ready to engage seriously on these proposals, nor taken the steps necessary for talks to begin," she said. "The proposals remain on the table and I urge Iran to take the positive path on offer."
Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, also urged Iran to heed the resolution. "We wanted to get this one passed and see if the Iranians wish to change course. I am quite confident that if this continues and if on August 31 there is not a positive answer, then we will be able to come to agreement on the next resolution under Article 41, Chapter 7," she said, referring to sanctions.
International concern about Iran's suspected nuclear weapons programme has been building since August 2002 when an exiled opposition group reported the existence of a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy-water plant at Arak.
Negotiations between Iran and the EU's "big three" -Britain, France and Germany - broke down a year ago when Iran abandoned its voluntary moratorium on uranium enrichment work.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors voted on February 4 to refer Iran to the Security Council. On March 29 the Security Council adopted a non-binding statement calling on Iran to freeze uranium enrichment work. But Iran ignored the appeal. The next month President Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had, for the first time, enriched uranium to the level used in power stations and declared that his country had joined the "nuclear club".
To enlist Russian and Chinese support, the EU three and the US agreed to offer Iran incentives to abandon enrichment, including a light-water reactor, an atomic fuel storage facility and the prospect of Washington joining the EU's direct talks with Tehran. Iran said that it took the offer seriously but needed until August 22 to respond -ignoring a deadline set by the six powers.
The resolution also reiterated IAEA calls for Iran to reconsider building its heavywater reactor, answer outstanding questions and allow spot inspections by the IAEA.
The resolution calls on all states "to exercise vigilance and prevent the transfer of any items, materials, goods and technology that could contribute to Iran's enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and ballistic missile programmes".
It was the second time in a month that the Security Council had adopted a resolution aimed at a member of President Bush's "axis of evil", after a vote to crack down on North Korea's missile tests.
Mr Zarif, the Iranian envoy, compared attempts to stop Iran developing nuclear power to US and British objections to the 1951 nationalisation of its oil industry, which led to a coup.
But John Bolton, Washington's Ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council that Iran had "consistently defied the international community".
Russia and China backed the resolution as part of a strategy with the EU and the US to offer Iran a clear choice between co-operation and isolation. Vitali Churkin, Russia's Ambassador, said that the next step could be sanctions.
2. Iran president rejects U.N. Security Council deadline
Ali Akbar Dareini
(for personal use only)
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday rejected a U.N. Security Council resolution that would give his nation until Aug. 31 to suspend uranium enrichment.
Instead, Ahmadinejad insisted Tehran would pursue its nuclear program.
"My words are the words of the Iranian nation. Throughout Iran, there is one slogan: 'The Iranian nation considers the peaceful use of nuclear fuel production technology its right,'" Ahmadinejad said.
The Security Council passed a resolution Monday calling for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment by the end of August or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.
Ahmadinejad said Iran will not give in to threats from the United Nations, referring to the resolution though he didn't not specifically mention it.
"If some think they can still speak with threatening language to the Iranian nation, they must know that they are badly mistaken," he said in a speech broadcast live on state-run television.
"Our nation has made its decision. We have passed the difficult stages. Today, the Iranian nation has acquired the nuclear technology," Ahmadinejad added.
Iran's ambassador to the United Nations on Monday also rejected the Security Council's action, saying the resolution would make negotiations more difficult surrounding a Western incentives package offered in June to Iran in exchange for suspending enrichment.
Because of Russian and Chinese demands, the resolution's text was watered down from earlier drafts that would have made the threat of sanctions immediate. The resolution now requires the council to hold more discussions before it considers sanctions.
It was passed by a vote of 14-1. Qatar, which represents Arab states on the council, cast the lone dissenting vote.
Iran has said it would formally respond on Aug. 22 to the incentives package, but a top Iranian lawmaker said Tuesday the Security Council resolution has effectively killed the package.
"Response to the proposed package is null and void since the Security Council resolution means the package is of no use," said lawmaker Hamid Reza Haj Babaei.
U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday praised the resolution and said it sent a message to Iran that "the world is intent on working together to make sure that they do not end up with a nuclear weapon or the know-how to build a nuclear weapon."
The United States has accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied the allegation and maintains its program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.
3. Iran's Ahmadinejad signals hardening of nuclear stance
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Iran's president signalled Sunday that Israeli attacks against the Palestinian territories and Lebanon were causing Iran to harden its stance in the international row over its nuclear programme.
"We are examining the package, considering our interests and definitive legitimate rights and will announce our views at the appointed date," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said of an international offer of incentives in exchange for a halt to sensitive atomic work.
"But the incidents in Lebanon and Palestine have influenced our examination," said the president, whose country is a major supporter of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement as well as the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Ahmadinejad also asserted that "the government is determined to fully exploit the rights of the Iranian nation," signalling Tehran's continued unwillingness to freeze its controversial uranium enrichment programme.
Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to the levels needed for reactor fuel and that this is a right enshrined by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"Nuclear energy is clean and renewable, and all nations have the right to use it," said Ahmadinejad, who was speaking at a joint news conference with visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Enrichment can also be extended to make weapons, and lingering questions over the nature of Iran's work has prompted a series of demands for a moratorium.
Iran had also threatened Sunday to bin the international proposal -- which was drawn up by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany -- if the UN Security Council passes a draft resolution demanding that Tehran freeze enrichment by the end of August.
Iran had said it will take until August 22 to reply the offer that was handed to Tehran on June 6, prompting the Security Council to reinforce demands for an enrichment freeze.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Tehran could "revise" its policies, implicitly warning that future access for UN inspectors could end. He also said the proposed UN resolution would "worsen the crisis in the region".
"By putting pressure and trying to intimidate Iran, no country will achieve anything. On the contrary, the situation will worsen," Asefi said.
"If tomorrow they pass a resolution against Iran, the package will not be on the agenda any more," he said of the proposal, which offers Iran the prospect of multilateral talks on trade, diplomatic and technology incentives if it complies.
"Issuing this resolution will worsen the crisis in the region."
When asked to elaborate on what specific measures Iran might take, Asefi replied: "They know what I am talking about."
Iranian leaders have already warned they could halt cooperation with inspectors from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and even quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
They have also played up Iran's regional clout and oil wealth.
A text of the proposed UN resolution was distributed to the 15 council nations on Friday, and US ambassador John Bolton told reporters that a vote could be held early in the week.
If Iran continues enriching uranium, "the next step will be the consideration of sanctions in the Security Council, and it would be our intention to move forcefully to get those sanctions adopted," Bolton said.
The first stage would be political and economic sanctions, diplomats stressed, pointing to a vote within a few days.
"My hope is that we will be able to adopt it by Monday," said French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, whose country holds the rotating council presidency for July.
The United States and its allies believe that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, and US President George W. Bush said Friday Tehran "will not be allowed" to achieve its wish.
Russia and China have led opposition to any mention of sanctions in the UN resolution.
Moscow's ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, stressed the new resolution would not threaten sanctions and that it was "an invitation to dialogue" with Iran.
1. US mulls reimposing economic sanctions on N Korea over missiles
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The US is considering the reimposition of a full suite of bilateral economic sanctions against North Korea following its recent missile tests, a senior US official has said.
The sanctions - including a travel ban, a broad trade ban and restrictions on investment and remittances - were lifted in 2000 after Pyongyang agreed to a missile test moratorium.
Stuart Levey, under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the US Treasury, told the Financial Times: "We are thinking about what measures we should impose in response to the missile tests."
Reintroduction of the sanctions lifted six years ago was "one of the things being considered", he said.
The US launched a crackdown last year on suspected counterfeiting and money laundering by Pyongyang, beginning with action against a bank in Macao, Banco Delta Asia (BDA), where Dollars 24m (Pounds 12.9m) of North Korean money has been frozen since September.
The campaign led to North Korea's decision in November to pull out of six-party talks on its nuclear programme. The US stance has hardened further since Pyongyang's widely condemned test-firing of long-range missiles in July.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Levey, who is in charge of the Treasury's investigations into Pyongyang's illicit financing operations, said the US believed that North Korea's leaders might be hiding "significant amounts" of money derived from suspect activities in banks around the world, including Europe.
He said the US would "encourage financial institutions to carefully assess the risk of holding any North Korea-related accounts". He added: "Given the regime's counterfeiting of US currency, narcotics trafficking, and use of accounts worldwide to conduct proliferation-related transactions, the line between illicit and licit North Korean money is nearly invisible."
Mr Levey praised China for the recent move by Bank of China, the country's second largest bank, to freeze North Korean accounts in its Macao branch.
However, he expressed concern over the potential for money-laundering by North Korean and other entities through the casino industry in Macao. "Macao's casino sector has been a real concern," he said. "It still is."
The Treasury under-secretary said China had acted "responsibly" in freezing accounts.
He hailed the recent UN Security Council resolution on North Korea for taking what he said was a "historic step" requiring all nations to put in place financial controls to prevent dealings with entities linked to Pyongyang's proliferation efforts.
He said these measures would "completely isolate from the financial system and cut off from all financial resources entities involved in North Korea's WMD programme and its missile programme".
He refused to put a timeframe on the US investigation into BDA.
Mr Levey also dismissed reports that he had asked South Korea to suspend Kaesong and Kumgangsan, its two landmark commercial projects in the North, saying he had simply urged Seoul to be "vigilant" that they were not used to advance Pyongyang's illegal activities.
The US yesterday rallied Asian support for a tough stance on North Korea's recent missile tests at a regional security forum, while it faced criticism for its apparent refusal to press Israel to accept an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East conflict.
The Asian Regional Forum (ARF) expressed concern over the recent tests and urged Pyongyang not to conduct further launches. It ignored a threat by North Korea to quit the organisation if the issue was addressed.
The ARF, which includes most Asian countries, the US and EU, is the only security-related international group outside of the United Nations to which North Korea belongs.
Syed Hamid Albar, the Malaysian foreign minister who hosted the conference, played down suggestions that North Korea would storm out, saying the statement did not imply a complete consensus among ARF members.
The statement came after North Korea refused to resume six-party talks.It walked out of thetalks in November in protest at a US crackdown onsuspected drug-smuggling and counterfeiting by Pyongyang.
The US, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, present at ARF, have been trying to negotiate a solution with North Korea on its nuclear weapons programme for several years.
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, faced strong criticism at the forum over the US stance that a ceasefire between Israel and Hizbollah could only be implemented if it included conditions that addressed long-standing problems.
Most US allies support a quick end to the fighting, which would allow humanitarian aid to reach Lebanon.
Mr Syed Hamid said a long-term solution could not be expected to be found while the fighting continued. His comments were underscored by the fact that Malaysia allowed a rare protest march condemning Israel and the US led by the son-in-law of the prime minister.
Malaysia may host an emergency meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference next week to discuss the crisis. It is currently chairman of the group.
Ms Rice said she planned to return to the Middle East to help arrange a ceasefire, but only when conditions seemed right to reach an agreement.
A likely deal would include a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping force that would help the Lebanese army secure its territory along the Israeli border, where Hizbollah has been firing rockets at Israel.
Ms Rice also suggested the US would seek a UN Security Council resolution to condemn Burma for its poor human rights record.
ARF called on Burma's military leadership to show "tangible progress that would lead to peaceful transition to democracy in the near future", while urging it to release political detainees, such as Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader.
However, the statement added that Burma "needs both time and political space to deal with many and complex challenges", which includes long-running ethnic conflicts.
Ms Rice praised the Association of South-East Asian Nations for making "an important evolution" by issuing a statement this week criticising Burma, one of its 10 members.
Mr Syed Albar added a note of caution that Asean was unlikely to support a UN Security Council resolution against Burma.
"There is no consensus within Asean to say that (Burma) is a threat to international peace and security", as defined by the UNCharter, he said.
3. N. Korea considering quitting Asia security forum: Japan
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North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-Sun warned his country may consider withdrawing from Asia's top security forum after being criticised here Friday, Japanese officials said.
His comment came after the North was condemned for its missile tests and nuclear program at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), one of the few diplomatic forums it attends, a Japanese foreign ministry official said.
"North Korea may reconsider whether it should stay in ARF," Paek told the closed-door session of the 26-nation gathering, the official told AFP.
The North has shunned diplomatic efforts led by China and South Korea aimed at getting it to attend an informal session here of stalled six-nation talks on its nuclear programme, which it has boycotted since November.
Instead there will be 10-nation talks without North Korea Friday on the sidelines of the main meeting, bringing together the United States and Asian powers, which are expected to focus on Pyongyang's activities.
Paek also said North Korea's missile tests were part of its preparations for self-defence, a senior Southeast Asian foreign ministry official said.
The North Korean minister said Pyongyang was not bound by international treaties, said the official, who asked not to be named.
"They said the big powers should not be threatening them," the source said.
"They said everything they are doing, their missile tests, are part of their preparations for self-defence ... Their main contention is that they are not bound by international treaties and they have the right to self-defence."
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was also at the meeting in the Malaysian capital, said North Korea should not impose any conditions for returning to the six-party talks.
The United Nation Security Council is about to pass a resolution, which would impose sanctions against Iran in response to its refusal to reconsider the nuclear program and suspend its nuclear activities. The resolution was backed by six nations - five permanent U.N. Security Council members - the United States, China, France, Russia and Great Britain, plus Germany. Talks over the document lasted for several weeks.
The draft resolution does not imply using force against Iran, but it provides economic and political sanctions if Iran does not impose a long- term moratorium on uranium enrichment until the end of August. The moratorium would let the International Atomic Energy Agency investigate into Iran's enrichment-related activities.
Contradictions between Moscow and Washington over the content and style of the resolution seem to be settled. Moscow made it clear it would vote for the sanctions, if Iran would not agree to compromise.
Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the draft resolution contains the reference to the Article 41 of the U.N. Charter, which provides economic penalties and the severing of diplomatic relations. Actions under the Article 41 will be taken if Iran does not reply by August 22 to a western package including economic incentives and a provision for the United States to offer Iran some nuclear technology, lift some sanctions and join direct negotiations.
The United States and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran states its program is purely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.
2. Former Russian Atmoic Chief Says Iran can Have Nuclear Bomb in 3 to 5 years
BBC Monitoring and Itar-Tass
(for personal use only)
Iran can create a nuclear bomb within three to five years. This opinion was expressed today by the former head of the Atomic Energy Ministry, Yevgeniy Adamov. "Any country that possesses a certain spectrum of technology could create a nuclear bomb like the one dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in three to five years maximum," he said.
"Iran has the capabilities to create nuclear weapons and therefore if it sets itself this task, it can accomplish it in the period indicated," he noted, speaking live on Ekho Moskvy radio station.
"I think that, under its current circumstances, Iran has the right to think about creating a nuclear weapon, like India and Pakistan thought before it. However, unlike Iran these countries did not sign a treaty on non-proliferation and thus did not violate anything," Adamov said, noting that Iran is a participant in the treaty and therefore must take its [the treaty's] requirements into account.
1. India's nuclear chance Delhi must prove it is serious about non-proliferation
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Opponents of nuclear proliferation were pulling out all the hyberboles yesterday to describe Wednesday night's overwhelming vote by the US House of Representatives to allow shipments of nuclear fuel and technology to India.
Ed Markey, Democratic co-chair of a House taskforce on nuclear non-proliferation, called it a "historic failure" that "pours nuclear fuel on the fire of an India-Pakistan nuclear arms race".
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about a deal that allows one country - even a stable, democratic, responsible nuclear power such as India - a special exemption from the global rules that govern the nuclear trade. India has refused to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
But if the Bush administration has its way - and if the legislation makes it through the Senate and past other hurdles before full enactment - then India will no longer be paying the full price of staying out of the NPT. And that sends the wrong message: if Delhi can break the rules, why should Pyongyang be expected to obey them?
But the deal is not completely without merit: there is a strong realpolitik rationale for a deal that recognises that India is a nuclear power, and imposes at least some international oversight of its fissile operations. India is not giving up its bombs any time soon - no matter what Washington does.
And it is not, after all, Iran or North Korea: so far, Delhi has used its power responsibly.
Bringing India in from nuclear isolation would also have one added benefit: it would give Delhi access to modern nuclear power generation equipment that would help reduce the country's contribution to global warming, which can only worsen as this massive economy grows.
But the demon is, as always, in the details that must still be thrashed out with the Nuclear Suppliers Group (nations that export nuclear material) and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The US Senate must still pass the legislation. The NSG must change its rules to allow nuclear transfers to India and Delhi must negotiate a deal with the IAEA for inspections of its civilian nuclear facilities.
With all this still to play for, there is plenty of time to negotiate a deal that has more bite.
Now the onus is on the Indians to prove they are ready to compromise. Yesterday saw a lot of bombast out of Delhi: Manmohan Singh, prime minister, insisted that there would be no concessions. He cannot be allowed to get away with that any longer.
Washington must make sure that the deal includes tight controls on fissile materials - to prevent terrorists, not unknown on Indian soil, from stealing them - and that India's fast-breeder reactors are put on a list of civilian facilities that come under IAEA safeguards. India might walk away from such a deal. But nothing less is acceptable.
2. Islamic rebels planning strike on India's nuclear facilities: official
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India has been warned by its intelligence agencies that a Pakistan-backed Islamic rebel group could target its nuclear installations, National Security Advisor M K Narayanan said Friday.
Describing it as a "very serious threat," Narayanan identified Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) as the group planning the strike.
"There is information that maybe one of our atomic energy installations could be the target," he told CNN-IBN news channel.
"It's (an) LeT operation... it is a very serious threat," he said.
India has pointed a finger at the LeT -- a rebel group active in the restive Himalayan region of Kashmir -- for a series of bomb attacks on commuter trains in India's financial hub of Mumbai on July 11 that killed 183 and wounded more than 800.
The group however has denied responsibility for the Mumbai blasts.
New Delhi also blames the LeT for a deadly attack on its national parliament complex in December 2001 that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of their fourth war.
New Delhi blames Pakistan for arming and training Islamist rebels fighting Indian rule in the Himalayan region, which has triggered two of the three wars between the nuclear-armed rivals.
3. India couldmake 50 warheads under nuclear deal with Bush
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The US House of Representatives was set to vote yesterday on a nuclear deal with India that threatens to fuel a nuclear arms race in Asia. The deal, a centrepiece of the Bush administration's foreign policy, comes as the US is pressuring Iran and North Korea to halt their nuclear programmes.
Under the deal, the US will sell India nuclear fuel and technology for civilian purposes, in exchange for India putting most of its reactors under international safeguards. But a former head of Indian intelligence has said publicly the deal will allow India to produce 50 more nuclear warheads a year than it can now, by freeing up existing uranium reserves for military use.
The vote in Washington comes days after satellite photographs revealed Pakistan is building what analysts believe is a large reactor capable of producing enough plutonium for 50 warheads a year, a discovery which has led to fears of an intensified nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan.
US congressmen were yesterday trying to attach last-minute conditions to the deal with Delhi to prevent India from using it to enlarge its nuclear arsenal. But the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said his country would accept no new conditions.
There were angry scenes in the Indian parliament as opposition parties said the existing deal already gave up too much control over India's nuclear programme.
The deal is at the heart of attempts by George Bush to forge a strategic alliance with India as a counterweight to the rising power of China.
It has also been touted as a major environmental initiative, since it will enable India to shift away from reliance on fossil fuels to satisfy the growing energy demands of the world's second fastest growing economy.
But observers are now warning that behind the environmental claim lies a deal that will allow India massively to increase its nuclear arsenal.
India currently produces most of its electricity from coal power stations, and its demand for oil is expected to rise. Delhi wants to invest in nuclear power, but India has very limited sources of uranium to fuel its reactors, and has been barred from buying nuclear fuel from other countries because it developed the nuclear bomb in defiance of international calls for non-proliferation.
Under the new nuclear deal, the US will exempt India from its own laws banning any nuclear dealings with countries that do not submit to international inspections, and sell it nuclear fuel and reactors. In return, India is to place 13 of its existing reactors under international safeguards.
India said Thursday it would not accept any changes by the US Senate to a controversial US-India nuclear energy agreement, a day after the US House of Representatives approved the deal.
"The US legislative process is still on. There is the Senate bill," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told India's upper house of parliament after the US House of Representatives cleared the deal by a 359-68 vote.
"If the US legislative process leads to an end product not consistent with what we have commited to, that will be the determining factor of what we do next," he said.
On Wednesday Singh said India would "never compromise in a manner which is inconsistent with the provisions of the joint statement" that he and US President George Bush signed in July 2005 to share civil nuclear technology.
Indian lawmakers have voiced concern that the Senate will attach riders to the agreement that would impose more curbs on India's nuclear program in addition to those agreed during negotiations.
The foreign ministry said in a statement that the final legislation "must not deviate" from the agreement.
Singh told lawmakers that he had asked the US administration for assurances that the "goalposts are not tampered with."
The United States has withheld its civil nuclear know-how from India since 1974 when it conducted its first nuclear test.
India tested nuclear weapons in 1974 and 1998 and, as a result, is banned by the United States and other major powers from buying fuel for atomic reactors and other related equipment.
Democratic and Republican leaders in both houses of Congress have expressed strong support for the bill.
Supporters see the deal as a sign of a geopolitical re-alliance following the Cold War, one which allows India to jump-start its quest for alternative energy, as its economy booms. New Delhi relies on imported oil for some 70 percent of its energy needs.
But some US politicians have expressed doubts about extending civil nuclear technology to India, which is not a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, without first putting the most stringent safeguards in place.
Although attempts to pass amendments that would place further restrictions on India's nuclear program failed in the House, the Senate is expected to take a tougher stance.
"The next step will be much trickier for us," C. Raja Mohan, a strategic analyst, told Indian news channel NDTV.
"The Senate bill has some objectionable components to it and for us now the challenge is to make sure the language gets diluted or removed."
India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has said it is concerned the agreement would make the country "perpetually dependent" on the United States for all its nuclear energy initiatives.
1. US BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM: NOW WHAT?; Who needs the missile umbrella and what for?
Defense and Security
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It is not an exaggeration to assume that the situation in the world is mostly determined by the relations between Russia and the United States. Moreover, the relations between these two countries have determined it for almost a century now. Some profound changes took place when the Cold War became history. Rosy illusions of the early 1990's, gave way to pragmatic understanding of national interests at the turn of the century. Vectors of bilateral cooperation are contained within some specific boundaries. First and foremost, the matter concerns the joint Russian-American declaration of new strategic relations our presidents adopted in Moscow on May 24, 2002, simultaneously with the signing of the Russian-American Treaty on Strategic Offensive Potential Reduction. The documents in question confirm that the "era when Russia and the United States regarded each other as enemies or a strategic threat is over."
In the meantime, certain trends in the policy of the US Administration undeniable nowadays cannot help worry Moscow and raise certain questions. One of these trends takes shape in Washington to ensure its absolute supremacy in the military sphere and its undue reliance on brute force in dealing with complicated international issues.
The document titled "Review of the condition and prospects of the US nuclear forces" adopted in 2001, became what essentially is the American nuclear strategy. This is the first document that does not recognize national ballistic missile defense systems as a destabilizing factor. More than that, the document in question sets the task to make a transition to a new triad that comprises nuclear and conventional strike forces (1), system of defense and first and foremost a ballistic missile defense system of several echelons (2), and a versatile defense infrastructure (3).
Presenting the new national security strategy in March 2006, US President George W. Bush proclaimed America's determination to use both "offensive" and "defensive" "crushing strikes" as a principal instrument of preventive action against potential enemies. It makes the ballistic missile defense system a key element of "deterrent of America's enemies and illegal formations of its enemies as well."
What follows is essentially an expert evaluation of some factors that accompany deployment of the American national ballistic missile defense system.
Possibility of appearance in Iran and North Korea of a missile capable of delivering warheads to the territory of the United States is viewed in the latter as the principal missile threat. Analysis of missile programs in these countries, however, makes it plain that their actual capacities are thoroughly limited. Iran and North Korea are using outdated technologies, mostly restricted to modernization of Scud missiles and improvement of their parameters. Extension of their range is no longer an option. To master sophisticated missile technologies on the other hand, a number of factors has to be present including the most important of them - availability of expertise from abroad, sufficient financial resources, and test launches. Where technologies are concerned, control regimes are being stiffened to the extent where they put modern missile technologies out of reach of Iran and North Korea. (The part Russia has played in it should not be underestimated, either.) As for the financial capacities of the countries the United States views as its prime enemies, they are fairly restricted too.
The following conclusion is inevitable then: the United States is working on its ballistic missile defense system on the basis of some other information concerning missile strikes and deductions from these data. It is Russia and China that are apparently the only countries that possess this ability. No wonder The Foreign Affair, a prominent American journal, ran a piece not long ago whose authors stated that US policy in the sphere of strategic arms led to a situation where "in the near future already the United States may find itself capable of destroying Russia's and China's strategic nuclear potentials with the very first strike." In other words, the world is essentially back to square one - that latter being the situation of America's nuclear monopoly of the 1940's.
When the United States withdrew from the Ballistic Missiles Defense System Treaty, the Russian leadership pronounced the Russian deterrent potential immune to whatever Washington was doing by way of deployment of a national ballistic missile defense system. These days, however, the situation is changing. Deployment of components of the US ballistic missile defense system cannot help worry Moscow.
Appearance of killer missiles with the necessary infrastructure in Alaska and involvement of radars of the missile attack early warning system in the ballistic missile defense system mount tension in the region. Particularly alarming are the reports that the components of the ballistic missile defense system built in Japan may be included in the regional command contour too. All these factors compel countries of the region to revise their views on missiles and the uses they ought to be put to.
There is one other aspect of realization of the American plans concerning a global ballistic missile defense system that worries Russia. The US is considering deployment of early warning radars and killer missiles of the ballistic missile defense system in Central and East Europe in 2010-2011. According to General G. Obering of the US Agency for National Ballistic Missile Defense System, the 2007 draft budget of the Agency (the 2007 financial year begins on October 1, 2006) includes $119 million to be used to procure whatever materials and gear are necessary to build such a base. Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria are viewed as potential sites. As the pretext, Washington uses the alleged necessity to protect its NATO partners from the hypothetical missile threat posed by Iran.
Moscow's opinion (and not exactly ungrounded) is that fulfillment of the American plans may result in deployment near the Russian borders of the weapons that will disrupt the existing Russian-American parity in strategic delivery means. Washington claims that all these systems are not targeted at Russia or China but its words do not check with its deeds. Not to mention the fact that the ballistic missile defense system in Europe will become an additional stimuli to the missile arms race in the Middle East and North Africa.
What worries Russia?
First, silos of the ballistic missile defense system may be easily converted for ICBMs that will reach targets in European Russia wherever they are. Effective control over the use of silos is a sheer impossibility. As a matter of fact, any such control is going to be impossible even for central governments of the countries where the silos will be built.
Second, deployment of active components of the American national ballistic missile defense system in European countries may be interpreted as an attempt on the part of the US to leave Europe facing the music i.e. consequences of a conflict where ballistic missiles were used. Europe will essentially become an advanced line of defense of US territory. From the military standpoint, the logic is impeccable - bring the troops (and therefore the hostilities) as close as possible to the positions of the potential enemy and set up several more lines of defense. The world nowadays is so complicated and interdependent, however, it is so exposed to terrorism as to make these advanced outposts or whatever you might want to call them the prime targets for terrorist attacks. Russia cannot be blase about it because it itself is a part of Europe.
Third, intercept of ballistic missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, germ, chemical) will cause ecological catastrophes in the European countries above whose territories the ICBMs will be killed. Fragments of the missiles and killer missiles may even fall on the territories of neutral countries (or at least the regions that are not involved in the conflict under way). Russia is particularly concerned by vulnerability of the Kaliningrad region to this threat.
It is necessary to understand that evaluation of actual combat efficiency of any ballistic missile defense system will always be an approximation at best. It is guesswork, in other words.
Let's say the national ballistic missile defense system the United States is out to build will live to its designers' expectations and kill about 95% of the inbound missiles. I.e. its reliability will be 95%, which is extremely good for a system of this complexity from the purely technical side. When 1,000 missiles are launched, at least 50 of them will then reach their targets. When 100 are launched, 5 have a fighting chance of reaching them. It follows that the system is only good for single launches.
It means that whenever a mass launch is to be dealt with, the system becomes pretty useless because no sane leader of the state will appraise even several "Hiroshimas" on the territory of his country as an acceptable result. And yet, development of a system like that requires decades of effort and hundreds of billions of dollars - as we see from America's example.
Not even a full-scale ballistic missile defense system guarantees absolute protection from strikes, including strikes with weapons of mass destruction. Why? Because the whole system is geared for dealing with ICBMs only. This state of affairs may reactivate the efforts to come up with "asymmetric counter-measures" and that may even include attempt to smuggle weapons of mass destruction to the target country. As a result, technologically less complicated, financially less expensive, but considerably more reliable ways and means of delivery (guided missiles, aircraft, and ships) may come to pose a worse threat. Consider what was done to America on September 9, 2001, and how it was done.
When national ballistic missile defense systems are designed, it is of utmost importance to define the nature of threats the future system is supposed to counter or negate. When local threats or single (even perhaps terrorist) missile strikes are concerned, it is necessary to think about how these threats may be thwarted by adequate means. Adequate is the key word here because it will be like crushing a fly with a steamroller otherwise.
The Russian leadership and general public wouldn't have been so worried had the United States been content to build its ballistic missile defense system alone without all other elaborate military preparations. Washington, however, wouldn't resort to the ballistic missile defense system alone. We see its resolve to build the system even though it is already sadly behind schedule. These plans will be implemented to some extent or other, and that will disrupt the Russian-American strategic offence arms parity and compel Moscow to revise its approach to reduction of these weapons.
Russia should be prepared for the worst possible turn of events when all its worst fears and suspicions become a hard fact of life. It is therefore necessary for Russia to be ready with the necessary academic and technological solutions that will at least minimize negative consequences of these actions on Washington's part.
In the meantime, the Russian defense industry has vast potential that is being developed. Russia has already tested some sophisticated strategic arms capable of piercing the existing defense systems and the ones foreign countries may come up with in the foreseeable future. We are convinced therefore of Russia's ability to thwart all and any attempts to compromise its security.
What particularly upsets Moscow is that deployment of the American national ballistic missile defense system may spark a new round of the arms race and reroute colossal resources from where they should be used in dealing with the problems faced by Russia and the United States and, incidentally, by the rest of the international community. That is why the Russian Defense Ministry calls for advancement of a dialogue with all interested countries over national ballistic missile defense systems. This is a dialogue where its participants should abandon declarative transparency for the sake of bona fide mutually beneficial cooperation and search for solutions to potential conflicts. Interests of partners in the dialogue must be respected. Cooperation in the sphere of ballistic missile defense system is not supposed to be a separate problem. On the contrary, it should help the international community remove the existing discord and maintain strategic stability and security in the world.
1. Russian FM against bilateral problems at six-nation talks on North Korea
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North Korea's bilateral problems with the United States and Japan should be kept off the agenda of the six-nation talks on the Korean peninsula's nuclear problem, Russia's foreign minister said Friday.
"We believe such problems as blocking North Korean accounts in the Macao bank and the kidnapping of Japanese nationals should be resolved in direct bilateral talks between North Korea and the relevant states. I don't believe these things should be foisted on the package of six-nation talks," Sergei Lavrov said on his way back from Kuala Lumpur hosting the Asean Regional Forum.
Six-nation talks involving North and South Korea, Russia, China, Japan and the United States on resolving the problems around North Korea's controversial nuclear programs opened in 2003 but a round has not been held for over six months.
Iran and its nuclear impasse was also on the agenda of the security forum and Lavrov said the Islamic Republic was expected to study proposals put forward by the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany and give a positive answer as soon as possible.
The six countries have drafted a package of incentives to persuade Iran to halt work on enriching uranium, which could be used in both electricity generation and weapons production. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana presented the offer to Tehran during a visit to Iran June 6.
1. Congress persuaded of need to pursue plutonium programme
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The US Department of Energy insistently persuades Congress of the need to continue the earlier begun programme of disposal of excess weapons-grade plutonium, a key component of which is an agreement with Russia.
Under Secretary for Energy and Nuclear Security Linton Brooks said at a hearing in the House of Representatives' committee on armed services that the agreement was certain to be fulfilled ahead of schedule. Moreover, Russia will be able to begin the actual disposal of plutonium by 2010, or five years earlier that the US plans on its side.
The programme of cooperation of Russia and the US on this important track was begun in 2000. It has been criticised in Congress recently because its progress is slow, spending on its permanently grows and the partners are at odds over technical, juridical and financial problems.
In these conditions, one of subcommittees decided to stop the further funding of the programme.
Brooks tried to persuade the lawmakers that such approach was mistaken.
He said that the Russian and US presidents had reaffirmed at the summit in St. Petersburg the commitment to goals of the programme, and chiefs of the US Department of Energy and the Russian Federal Agency of Atomic Energy had even made a special joint statement on the issue.
Washington and Moscow are also successfully resolving the contradictions that sometimes arise, Brooks said.
He stressed that a main interest of the US in the programme was non-proliferation.
The sole way to exclude the theft or misuse of this material for good is to dispose of it, Brooks said.
1. Nigeria takes "major step towards acquisition of nuclear technology"
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Text of report by Madu Onuorah entitled "Nigeria moves to acquire nuclear technology" published by Nigerian newspaper The Guardian website on 1 August
Nigeria took a major step towards the acquisition of nuclear technology yesterday with the inauguration of the board of Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC).
The commission was established in August 1976 to create an agency, which would provide the requisite institutional framework and technical pathway to explore, exploit and harness atomic energy for peaceful application in all its ramifications for the socio-economic development of the country.
Describing the acquisition and use of nuclear technology as a pivotal element in any nation's path towards the attainment of scientific and technological maturity, [President] Obasanjo, who chairs the commission, said nuclear energy uses are multifarious and multidisciplinary. He noted: "In addition to the generation of electricity, nuclear energy finds ready peaceful applications in agriculture and food security, medicine, industry, and in basic and applied scientific research."
With the inauguration of the NAEC Board, Obasanjo said Nigeria's quest for self-sufficiency in energy has begun and "the NAEC will now be centrally placed to play its role for the eventual deployment of nuclear power plants for electricity generation, among other uses in Nigeria. We have (by the inauguration) activated the focal point and specialized agency of government, which will serve as the vehicle mandated by law to promote, coordinate and streamline the implementation of our national nuclear energy programme. It also further confirms the strong belief that with sustained consistency, the frontiers of development are within the reach of any determined and committed society driven by science and technology, and imbued with the vision to uplift its citizenry to a state of prosperity."
He noted that the global picture on the utilization of nuclear energy for the generation of electricity is becoming brighter and holds lots of promise for the developing world, including Nigeria. "This technology will enable us to diversify our electricity generation base beyond oil and gas and hydro, to include nuclear and coal," the president said.
The new posture of the Nigerian government, he emphasized, is in line with the new policy initiative of the US government on nuclear energy tagged "The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership" which seeks to popularize and expand the generation and use of nuclear electricity in the world, and yet make it more nuclear weapons-proliferation-resistant.
The president therefore directed the ministers of science and technology and power and steel to develop the requisite framework for Nigeria to tune into this new policy perspective on nuclear energy development, and derive optimal benefit from it.
He anchored the nation's new race for nuclear energy on the "imminent energy crisis we face as a result of decades of neglect of the nation's electricity generation and supply system. The nuclear power industry is highly regulated and governed by a myriad of laws. I have therefore directed NAEC to work with all other stakeholder agencies and the Ministry of Justice to develop the requisite legal framework for the consideration of the National Assembly. Acquisition of nuclear technology is a sensitive and delicate issue. As such it requires cooperation and support from the international community".
In February 2001, the federal government established the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NNRA) as a monitoring regulatory framework for monitoring the security, and safety issues inherent in the operations of a peaceful nuclear industry in the country.
The president added that the establishment and "other related actions of government have also presented Nigeria as a credible and reliable player within the international community; in particular, earning the confidence of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and guaranteeing unimpeded technical cooperation with all other countries within the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which we are signatory. Nigeria's aspirations for the acquisition of nuclear technology are for purely peaceful applications and that we are unequivocally committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty".
Last week's shutdown of the Forsmark nuclear power plant in Sweden, north of Stockholm, reportedly could have resulted in a meltdown.
The emergency -- called by some the most dangerous international nuclear incident since the destruction of the Russian Chernobyl plant 20 year ago -- occurred when two of four generators shut down, officials said.
"It was pure luck that there was not a meltdown," nuclear expert and former Forsmark director Lars-Olov HĂglund told The Local. "Since the electricity supply from the network didn't work as it should have, it could have been a catastrophe."
He said without power, the temperature would have been too high after 30 minutes and within two hours there could have been a meltdown.
Ingvar Berglund, head of safety at Forsmark, disagreed. He told The Local there wasn't a risk of a Chernobyl-like accident.
"We know exactly what happened and it was an incident that could have been serious ... but that it could have been the most serious incident since the nuclear power incident at Chernobyl is totally wrong," he said.
Forsmark went into operation in 1980 and now supplies one-sixth of Sweden's electricity.
1. Nuclear waste should be 'entombed', say experts
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Britain's stockpile of 470,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste, enough to fill the Albert Hall five times, should be "entombed" in deep underground silos, a committee advised the Government yesterday.
But the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management warned Tony Blair that its report should not be regarded as a "green light" to build a new generation of 10 nuclear power plants.
Experts estimated it would cost at least pounds 10bn to build the silos between 200 metres and a kilometre under the ground.
The committee said that the waste dumps should not be imposed on communities. But it admitted that fears of nuclear catastrophes from accidents or terrorism could make it impossible to find areas willing to take the stockpiles. It urged the Government to immediately begin evaluating which parts of Britain would be unsuitable for underground nuclear silos, either because of the geology or nearby towns.
Ministers should adopt a system used in Finland and Sweden, which offers cash to encourage communities to volunteer to take the waste, the committee said.
Professor Gordon Mac-Kerron, the group chairman, denied it would amount to "buying them off". He said by allowing communities to veto the storage plans, the Government could gain their confidence.
Some committee members have privately said giving communities a veto over storage silos would create tensions over plans to streamline planning regulations.
The committee refused to name potential sites, but existing plants, such as Sellafield, where 92 per cent of Britain's highly radioactive waste is stored, are likely to top the Government's list. The committee considered a range of alternatives to underground storage, including the futuristic option of firing nuclear waste into space - an option deemed unsafe. Underground storage was seen by most as the safest way of combating the threat of terrorist attack, but the report said it could take 35 year s to build a silo, and 65 years to fill it.
Greenpeace warned last night there was "no solution to nuclear waste". It said that the UK should not create more nuclear waste by building a new generation of nuclear power stations.
A spokesman said: "Deep disposal is unacceptable. There is a lack of technical certainty about the reliability of the barriers used to contain the waste. The packaging is liable to corrode, the materials used to backfill the chambers may be porous, and the integrity of the surrounding geology may be undermined by excavating the repository." David Ball, of Middlesex University, who resigned from the committee, said its findings were based on opinions rather than science. "The CoRWM experience has been the antithesis of good decision making, having been infused throughout with political, commercial and self interests," he said.
2. Scientists develop a better way of dealing with nuclear waste
Xinhua News Agency
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A group of physicists at Ruhr University in Germany have developed a technique that could render nuclear waste harmless in just a matter of decades, rather than thousands of years, the August issue of Physics World said.
The technique involves embedding the nuclear waste in metal and cooling it to ultra-low temperatures, thus speeding up the rate of decay of the radioactive materials.
"The method we are proposing means that nuclear waste could probably be dealt with entirely within the lifetime of the people who produce it," the group leader Professor Claus Rolfs said.
"We would not have to put them (the nuclear waste) underground and let our great-great-grandchildren pay the prices for our high standard of living," he added.
The physicists claimed that using this technique could reduce the half-life of nuclear waste to 100 years and at best to as little as two years, which would avoid the need to bury it in deep repositories - a huge, expensive and difficult process.
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