As the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this week mark the 61st anniversary of the first atomic bombings in human history, the world faces the likelihood of the further spread of nuclear weapons. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and of Nagasaki, three days later, caused the immediate deaths of about 140,000 and 74,000 people, respectively.
These events were not just tragic episodes in the closing days of World War II; the killing and injuring of hundreds of thousands of people also heralded the advent of an age in which the annihilation of countries and civilizations by nuclear weapons has become a possible reality.
A report by the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, an independent panel of international experts funded by the Swedish government and headed by former United Nations chief weapons inspector Mr. Hans Blix, offers a bleak picture. Humankind has accumulated some 27,000 nuclear weapons, with more than 12,000 of them deployed. These figures are "extraordinary and alarmingly high" in themselves, yet the "existing nuclear powers" - the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain - continue modernizing their nuclear arsenals.
Under the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), to which nearly 190 states are parties, these five states are supposed to take initiatives toward cutting their nuclear arsenals and to refrain from developing new nuclear weapons. But the world still waits to see such moves.
India, Pakistan and Israel, which have remained outside the NPT regime, are considered "gray" states in possession of nuclear arsenals. In addition, suspicion is mounting that North Korea and Iran are pushing programs to produce nuclear weapons. The 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, aimed at prohibiting all nuclear-test explosions, has not yet entered into force due to inaction or refusal by several states. For the treaty to go into effect, ratification by 44 named states is necessary. India, Pakistan and North Korea have not signed the treaty, while eight other states, including the U.S., China, Iran and Israel, have signed but not ratified the treaty.
Last September a clue to breaking the impasse over North Korea's nuclear development appeared to emerge when North Korea and five other nations issued a joint statement in Beijing: The North pledged to abandon its nuclear programs and return at an early date to the NPT and to IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards while the U.S. asserted that it had no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and no intention of attacking or invading North Korea with either nuclear or conventional weapons. Yet North Korea has refused to resume the six-nation talks since November, citing the U.S.-imposed financial sanctions against it.
To make matters worse, North Korea test-fired seven ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on July 5. The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution condemning the North's missile tests and urging it to return to the six-nation talks without preconditions. The missile launches prompted several Japanese politicians to talk about whether Japan should consider arming itself with the capability to carry out a preemptive attack on an enemy missile base. Some foreign media took these thoughtless and shortsighted remarks as an indication of Japan's desire to possess nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, the international community's suspicion of Iran's nuclear-related activities is so strong that the Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing by Aug. 31 or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.
Both North Korea and Iran have rejected the resolutions directed at them, but they should act quickly to clear away the clouds of suspicions about their activities.
In March the U.S. and India signed an agreement in which the U.S. will provide civilian nuclear-energy technologies and fuel to India. Although India has agreed to declare 14 of its 22 reactors as commercial facilities and to open them up to international inspectors, the deal is likely to undermine the basic NPT tenet, which entitles all member states, other than the five recognized nuclear-weapons states, to the use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes if they give up the right to possess nuclear weapons. Other countries might cite the U.S.-India deal as an excuse for pursuing the development of nuclear weapons as well as commercial nuclear-power generation.
As momentum appears to favor further growth of the nuclear-weapons club, members have a heavy responsibility to spearhead efforts to halt it, especially by reducing their own arsenals. Japan must renew its resolve to play a unique and leading role in pushing for a nuclear-weapons-free world.
1. Pakistan sets up tri-command nuclear force: officials
Japan Economic Newswire
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Pakistan has set up three commands in its armed forces equipped with nuclear weapons and missiles and capable of retaliating for any first nuclear strike by India, Defense Ministry officials, strategists and nuclear experts have revealed.
The Armed Strategic Force, or ASF, is comprised of special commands in Pakistan's army, air force and navy that store nuclear weapons and nuclear-capable missiles in semi-knocked-down condition in peacetime for assembly and deployment during periods of high tension with India.
"We have an Army Strategic Force Command, we have the Air Force Strategic Force Command and the Naval Strategic Force Command...They are being controlled by responsible people," Defense Ministry spokesman Shaukat Sultan told Kyodo News in a recent interview.
"The strategic force in the army is headed by a three-star general and they have various missile groups under them," he said.
The army component, set up in 2003 under Lt. Gen. Ghulam Mustafa, forms the backbone of the combined strategic force and its silos and warehouses, mostly underground, dot the map of Pakistan, according to officials and experts interviewed by Kyodo.
"There might be up to 100 facilities where missiles and nuclear weapons and their parts are stored in peacetime," said a source well-versed with developments on the nuclear front.
Sultan refused to divulge the number of people involved in the storing, security and possible deployment and operation of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, but independent inquiries reveal the army's strategic force has nearly 6,000 "appropriately trained and skilled people."
It is equipped with medium-range Shaheen missiles along with long-range Ghauri missiles with a range of up to 2,500 kilometers, capable of striking almost anywhere in India, with which Pakistan has fought three wars since independence in 1947.
The air force component of the ASF has F-16 fighters, supplied by the United States in the 1980s to support Pakistan's frontline role during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and French-made Mirage aircraft, both modified to deliver nuclear weapons.
In what has been hailed as an impressive technological feat, Pakistan rewired the F-16, reprogrammed its computer and fitted it with under-wing carriages to carry a nuclear device, the shell of which was reconfigured for the purpose.
"It is poetic justice that the nuclear device fitted on the F-16 aircraft resembles an American conventional bomb," remarked an official source.
As for the navy's strategic force, defense analysts said Babar, a newly developed cruise missile, is the best candidate for induction, though Pakistan has yet to follow India in test-firing such a nuclear-capable missile from a naval platform.
Both Pakistan and India carried out nuclear tests in May 1998, triggering international sanctions and calls for them to desist from weaponization, namely miniaturizing nuclear devices for placement on surface-to-surface missiles. Neither, however, has discontinued their weaponization and missile development programs.
Shireen Mazari, head of Pakistan's Institute of Strategic Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank, said it would be "ludicrous" to do otherwise. "If you develop weapon capability, you are going to weaponize," she said.
Sultan confirmed that Pakistan has indeed been carrying out an India-specific modernization and weaponization program, but he said its nuclear weapons and related missiles have never been deployed.
Likewise, India has carried out a weaponization program but without moving to deployment, according to P.R. Chari, a former Indian Defense Ministry official who is currently a research professor at the Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies in New Delhi.
As a precaution against theft or misuse, Pakistan's nuclear devices and nuclear-capable missiles are stored in partially knocked-down condition, nuclear warheads are not mated with delivery systems, and the weapons require codes to operate, Sultan said.
"The launch mechanism, the device and various other mechanisms, they are kept at different places. To launch them, you have to first put them together," he said, adding that the codes are available to very few, even among strategic force personnel.
Despite having been sanctioned for their 1998 nuclear tests, India and Pakistan have both engaged in dialogue with developed countries like the United States and Japan to introduce safeguards against pilferage, theft and accidental use of nuclear weapons.
"We are in touch with the International Atomic Energy Agency, we are in touch with the U.S. authorities, and they fully know what kind of command and control system we have...There is no chance that there is any pilferage or any accidental use," Sultan said.
The defense spokesman said that while the three strategic force commands remain affiliated with the respective services -- army, air force and navy -- they take orders from the Nuclear Command Authority headed by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf with representatives from the government and the military.
Musharraf, who came into power in October 1999, set up the NCA in February 2000 to decide on nuclear weapons deployment.
The NCA's secretariat, known as the Strategic Plans Division, is located in the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, adjacent to Islamabad, and headed by three-star Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai.
The division oversees the activities of all the nuclear and missile-related organizations, including the ASF, with the assistance of two committees that respectively decide about the size of the minimum nuclear deterrence and their deployment.
The creation of the ASF was hastened by the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States, which exposed Pakistan's vulnerability to a preemptive strike by India or forces hostile to Pakistan's nuclear program.
At the time, India had offered bases to the United States for operations against the Taliban and al-Qaida positions in Afghanistan that would involve overflying Pakistan, which was then one of only three countries recognizing the Taliban government.
Pakistan responded by also joining the coalition against international terrorism and offering bases to the United States.
Sultan said one reason Pakistan acted as it did was because failure to do so would have endangered its strategic assets. "Had we not taken the decision, had we not joined the coalition, probably, yes, there could have been a strike," he said.
The spokesman said that with the setting up of the ASF, Pakistan is now in a position to retaliate if India were to opt for a preemptive strike against Pakistan.
"One can say that Pakistan would be able to survive any kind of strike and will be able to respond," he said. "But let me put on record that this is only an academic discussion. Normally, no two countries should talk about these serious matters. It is not only dangerous for one country, it is dangerous for the whole world."
2. Pakistan for legislation against nuclear weapons use
The Nation (Pakistan)
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Pakistan on Friday called upon the 65-member Conference on Disarmament to start negotiations for drafting a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument to guarantee that all nuclear weapon states would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
Addressing the conference held at Geneva, Ambassador Masood Khan said that Pakistan, for its part, had made a solemn pledge that it would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states, said a press statement issued here.
"Developing a law to give security assurances to nuclear states was not merely a moral imperative but a legal obligations", Ambassador Khan stated. He said that, all along, Pakistan had been trying to build consensus around the negative security assurances for the non-nuclear states. He reminded the conference that it was due to the efforts of Pakistan and several other CD members that an Ad Hoc Committee on NSAs was established in 1998, which regrettably could not continue its work.
In the CD, he said, extensive groundwork had been done to developing a legally binding instrument on the NSAs. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, while addressing the Conference on Disarmament in June, had said that Non-Proliferation Treaty was facing a twin crisis of compliance and confidence. Ambassador Khan said that the crisis of confidence stemmed partly from the absence of progress in codifying negative security assurances.
By elaborating and codifying unconditional NSAs, he said, the CD would help create a climate of confidence between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states in the present tense international environment, and provide incentives for disarmament and non-proliferation. The Ambassadors of China, Nigeria, Russia, India, Morocco, Kenya, Nigeria, Germany, Algeria, Senegal, Morocco, Germany and Switzerland also called for an early actions on negative security assurances for the non-nuclear states.
3. US says Pakistan's new nuclear reactor not very powerful: press
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The nuclear reactor being built in Pakistan is much smaller than a private arms control group has claimed and could simply be a replacement for the Khushab reactor that makes two nuclear warheads a year, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
The US government's intelligence data shows that the new reactor is roughly the same size as the one functioning in Khushab, and not 20 times larger as the Institute for Science and International Security said in a technical assessment, goverment officials told the newspaper.
International observers reacted with alarm after the Washington Post on June 24 reported the reactor's existence, citing the US-based private arms-control group.
The group said satellite photos showed the heavy-water reactor could produce more than 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds) of weapons-grade plutonium a year. This would be enough to make 40-50 nuclear weapons every year.
"We have consulted with our experts and believe the analysis is wrong," National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones told the NYT. "The reactor is expected to be substantially smaller and less capable than reported."
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior intelligence official said the United States has been tracking the new reactor for years.
"This has been looked at for a long time and hasnt generated a lot of hand-wringing," the official said. "It could be a replacement," of Pakistan's existing nuclear reactor at Khushab.
Institute president David Albright said he was "confident in our evidence and calculations," and reminded the daily of the US government's poor track record in analyzing its own intelligence, inviting it to present "the reasons it thinks we're wrong."
The Times noted that the US government's more modest assessment could be in deference to Pakistan's role as a key US ally in the war against terrorism.
Pakistan remains at the heart of an investigtion into a nuclear blackmarket headed by its disgraced chief nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, who confessed in 2004 to passing atomic secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri recently said the new nuclear reactor five years in the making was not a threat and would not spark an arms race with rival India.
"It's nothing new, the world knows about it, the world knows that it's safe in our hands," Kasuri told AFP in an interview Friday at Asia's top security forum in Kuala Lumpur.
Missile defense won't render nuclear missiles obsolete as Reagan envisioned. But even a limited defense system is a better strategy than offensive deterrence, whose time has come and gone.
During the old days, the threat of annihilation formed the backbone of American foreign policy and was effective in making our nemesis, the Soviet Union, think twice about using nuclear weapons against the United States or its allies.
Nowadays offensive deterrence through mutually assured destruction seems to go unheeded. As North Korea and Iran have shown, the United States will need a more defensive strategy that is up to date with the realities of a nuclear world no longer strategically balanced or easily defined.
The problem with offensive deterrence is that it only works when country leaders are rational.
During the Cold War, the Soviets were many things, but they weren't crazy. They knew that the losses they would suffer from a retaliatory strike would far outstrip any gains they could hope to achieve from a pre-emptive nuclear attack. As much as they disliked the West, they cared more about their survival.
Today's global miscreants are anything but commonsensical.
Let's start with North Korean President Kim Jong Il. He already possesses nuclear weapons and has threatened to attack with a relentless annihilating strike if we try to prevent him from test-firing his long-range missiles.
His reasons for nuclear weapons are economic. His country is starving for natural resources and food, and he is trying to use his weapons as a bargaining chip. What is frightening is that he knows the United States can bomb North Korea, a country smaller in size than New York, a thousand times over with our nuclear weapons. Is he deterred? No, because without food, oil and other concessions from the West, his country will implode.
Then there is Iran's leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a case study in irrational behavior. He has said publicly and repeatedly that Israel should be wiped off the map and that the Holocaust never happened. Does this sound like a rational person who wants to acquire nuclear power for benign reasons?
Iran's desire for nuclear weapons is not economic, as in the case of North Korea. It is religious, which is just as dangerous.
The most frightening prospect is Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and giving them to Hezbollah or some other terrorist organization to use against Israel. The current upheaval between Israel and Hezbollah is confined to the Middle East. But through our support of Israel, the United States could well become a target for attacks. Imagine if, instead of rockets and suicide bombers, Hezbollah had medium- and long-range missiles tipped with nuclear warheads.
Hezbollah has shown countless times that it is willing to die for its cause. Again, this is where the concept of deterrence breaks down.
There is no way to stop a suicide bomber if he is prepared to die. Similarly, it is almost impossible to deter an organization that promotes suicide bombings from launching a missile with a nuclear weapon. Whether the organization blows up a crowded cafe or a city of 2 million people, if it doesn't care about the consequences of doing so, it won't be deterred.
Missile defense won't render nuclear missiles impotent and obsolete as Ronald Reagan envisioned more than 20 years ago. But even a limited defense system is a better strategy than offensive deterrence, whose time has come and gone. The world is far too dangerous to assume that political leaders who possess nuclear weapons are rational people.
1. Portugal's Azores islands to have nuclear monitoring station
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A nuclear monitoring station will be built next year on Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores archipelago as part of a global network to detect nuclear explosions, an official said Monday.
The station on Flores island, one of the group's nine volcanic islands, will help enforce the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear explosions, the head of the island's science foundation, Joao Gaspar, told the Lusa news agency.
It will also be used to monitor seismic activity in the archipelago, he said.
Flores was chosen because it has plains and dense vegetation which can protect the station's equipment, he addded.
The monitoring station will be one of more than 300 already in place in over 80 countries which use a variety of technological means, including infrasound, seismology and hydroacoustics, to track potential violations of the treaty.
The stations collect data for a Vienna-based organization that monitors adherence to the treaty.
More than 100 countries have endorsed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, but to take effect it must be signed and ratified by 44 states that participated in a 1996 disarmament conference and possessed nuclear power or research reactors at the time.
Only 34 have done so. Holdouts include China, Israel and North Korea.
2. Virginia Inventors Develop Nuclear Weapon Detection System
U.S. Fed News
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Kevin J. Kofler and Mark J. Derksen, both of Bristow, Va., and Scott M. Maurer of Haymarket, Va., have developed a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapon detection system that comprises array of spatially-disparate sensors.
According to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office: "A chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons detection system is disclosed that comprises an array of spatially-disparate hazardous material sensors that all feed into a centralized system control center. This enables the embodiment to receive and coordinate in one place all of the hazardous material sensors spread over a wide area, and, therefore, enables an alarm to be quickly issued in the event of a real attack."
An abstract of the invention, released by the Patent Office, said: "The illustrative embodiment also incorporates a mechanism to reduce the probability that a false alarm will be issued. In particular, the illustrative embodiment requires that at least two stations report an alarm for the same hazardous material within an interval of time. This prevents a false alarm from one hazardous material detection station from issuing a false system-wide alarm. This is based on the assumption that a real attack is more likely to be detected by stations that are near each other than by stations that have no proximity."
The inventors were issued U.S. Patent No. 7,084,753 on Aug. 1.
1. India's concerns on N-deal debated at Rood nomination hearing
The Press Trust of India
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India's objections to certain sections in the Senate bill on the Indo-US nuclear deal came up for discussion at the nomination hearing of John Rood, the US Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation.
The Bush administration told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee it prefers prohibitions on export of enrichment, reprocessing and heavy water production technology as well as an end-use monitoring system to track nuclear technology exports to India to stay in the realm of policy as opposed to a "matter of law".
But Senate Panel chairman Richard Lugar said some Indian government officials argued that this prohibition in the Senate bill moves the goalpost set by the original July 2005 agreement.
"... Did New Delhi not understand United States policy, which you've enunciated again this morning? If they did understand the policy, please give us your opinion on why they opposed placing the prohibition into law but can accept the existence of the policy," the Indiana Republican asked Rood.
In his reply, Rood said that this was an important feature of discussions that led up to the July 18, 2005 joint statement which included language under which "the Indian government agreed to work with us to limit the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies internationally." "We look forward to civil nuclear cooperation with India, but we've told the Indian government we don't envision that cooperation involving enrichment and reprocessing technologies or the technology for the production of heavy water" Rood said.
Rood pointed out that the Bush administration has been clear throughout its dealing with India on the US policy on enrichment and reprocessing technologies. When asked by Lugar on why the administration objected to the Congress placing these policy prohibitions into law, Rood said that such a statutory prohibition would single India out.
"As a matter of policy, we currently don't provide enrichment or reprocessing technologies to any country. We've so testified that we don't intend to provide these technologies to India, or the technology for the production of heavy water either" he said.
"We would prefer to maintain this practice as a matter of policy as opposed to a matter of law and the reason is that such a statutory prohibition, a flat ban that singles out sales to India we think singles India out, and since we don't apply similar statutory bans on trade and enrichment and reprocessing to other nations" Rood added.
Lugar argued that his Foreign Relations Committee provided the administration with the ability to waive these prohibitions for cooperation in Section 106 with India to the global nuclear energy partnership.
"Do not these waivers give the administration the flexibility it needs to carry out future cooperation? And under what other circumstances would the US consider exporting these technologies to India?" the lawmaker asked Rood.
Rood said that this was a subject of discussion during the markup of the bill and the administration appreciated the willingness of the committee to provide these provisions that allow for a waiver authority.
"We would have preferred to have maintained our policy, as a matter of policy, that the US would not export enrichment, reprocessing or heavy water production technology to India" he said.
Rood also cited the GNEP, the global nuclear energy partnership, as a good example for this. "A year ago, we would not have envisioned the need for a waiver to allow for this type of cooperation because this hasn't been conceived of yet. Part of our desire to retain this as a matter of policy is that... Five years from now we'll be in similar circumstances for subjects we just hadn't thought of today," Rood said.
Turning to Section 107 of the Senate panel's Bill on the civilian nuclear deal, Lugar noted that a proviso requiring US to establish an end use monitoring system to track nuclear technology exports to India was not without precedence.
"A similar requirement exists with China. In your opinion, why does India see this provision as a moving of the goalpost from what was agreed upon in July 2005?" Lugar asked.
In his reply, Rood said the administration would have preferred to use existing verification procedures operated by agencies like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Energy Department and the Commerce Department.
"We would have preferred to rely on these existing mechanisms as opposed to creating an additional end use verification procedure for India. We did not discuss creation of such a framework with the Indians during our discussions with them.
"The reason we have some concern about it is that the Indian government sees the creation of end use verification procedures as implying a lack of trust in them and so, naturally, they have some concerns about that," he said.
In his opening remarks before the panel, Rood said that while the US faces challenges from countries like Iran and North Korea, the Bush administration has also sought to take advantage of opportunities in places like India to build a new strategic partnership with the world's largest democracy. "The civil nuclear cooperation initiative is an important means of building this strategic partnership and also serves our nonproliferation goals by bringing India into the international nonproliferation mainstream," said Rood, who has served as President George W Bush' Special Assistant on counter proliferation since 2005.
"We look forward to Congress completing action on legislation to implement this initiative," he added.
The India-U.S. deal to cooperate in civil nuclear energy signed in New Delhi in March now appears set to be approved by the U.S. Congress. This will end India's nuclear isolation, which began in 1998 when the country first tested nuclear weapons.
The U.S. Congress must amend American law to OK this pact. It seems that it will do so. U.S. President George W. Bush can then waive some provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, paving the way for civil nuclear cooperation with India, even though New Delhi has never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
In India the agreement has been criticized by government allies and opponents, nuclear scientists and analysts. India Left, a partner in India's coalition government, headed by the Congress, wants such important pacts to have parliamentary approval. At present, this is not required.
The communist parties are also angry that the nuclear bill to be tabled in the U.S. Congress has a provision seeking that India help restrain Iran's nuclear program. Iran is considered an old ally of India, and the country's large Islamic population is an important vote bank.
India's nuclear scientists fear that the deal could provoke a nuclear-arms race in the region. Homi Sethna, a former chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission, has said that New Delhi would be better off signing the NPT.
In the United States, experts are livid that this accord is about to sail through Congress at a time when the world is trying to stop North Korea and Iran from pursuing their nuclear ambitions.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says that the nuclear pact will help the country's energy needs. But his detractors argue that nuclear energy will contribute a mere 4 percent of India's total needs even by 2020. They see an American ploy here to garner contracts for its nuclear industry.
Bush is certain that the agreement is good for global warming, for friendship with the world's largest democracy and for jobs in America. Well, these points are debatable. But Bush's contention that the deal will help fight nuclear-weapons proliferation is hard to believe. The NPT has helped prevent a number of states from going nuclear, and encouraged some that tried (Argentina and Brazil) and others that had succeeded (South Africa) to turn back.
The NPT rests on a very fundamental issue: Only those countries that have given up their nuclear-weapons program can hope to get civilian nuclear help.
India, which has not joined the NPT but has built nuclear bombs, is now about to succeed in getting American cooperation on civil nuclear energy. Nobody can deny that New Delhi, once the leader of the non-aligned movement and still professing to follow Mahatma Gandhi's loft ideals of peace and non-violence, is setting a bad example. Now other countries, such as North Korea and Iran, can cite the Indian example.
Admittedly, India is a democracy with a history of stable government leadership. But does that still make it eligible to have bombs and get civil nuclear pacts at the same time?
India has agreed to separate its civil and weapons program, and this will be supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But critics point out that it will not be very difficult for India to divert civil nuclear technology to expand its bomb arsenal. New Delhi did precisely this when it was taking the steps that led to its first nuclear explosion in 1974.
The U.S. Congress understands all this and is even worried about it. But it will still OK the pact: India's rapidly expanding market, fueled by a swelling middle class with growing money power and disposable income, is too attractive for American industry to overlook. Markets in most other parts of the world are saturated, with income levels falling and populations graying.
In the final scheme of things, New Delhi may think that it has played its cards well to clinch the pact. But this pact will be to the detriment of a world where states are looking for every opportunity to make nuclear bombs or sell material for those wanting to build nuclear arsenals. No doubt, India stands guilty on this count.
America, which fancies itself as both the world policeman and judge, deserves even more criticism. By agreeing to this accord it has thrown open the door to further nuclear proliferation. What will prevent China, for instance, from helping Pakistan and even North Korea to pursue their nuclear-weapons programs?
Will the U.S. Congress have the nerve to turn around and reject the nuclear deal with India?
With deadlines approaching, the State Department on Tuesday said it has seen no indications that Iran plans to comply with U.N. demands that it suspend enrichment of uranium, a key step in making nuclear weapons.
Defiance could trigger efforts by the United States and European allies to impose economic or political sanctions on Iran in the Security Council.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, due in New York this week to oversee U.N. attempts to bring about a cease-fire in the Mideast, will also confer with foreign ministers about how to deal with Iran, said the State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
"There have been a variety of public statements from the Iranians, but we haven't seen any evidence yet that they are complying with the demand and requirement of the international community," McCormack said.
World powers in June offered Iran a package of incentives to curb its enrichment program. These included the United States supplying Iran with some nuclear technology for civilian projects.
Iran denies that is developing nuclear weapons, describing its enrichment and related activities as civilian in nature.
The U.N. Security Council on July 31 passed a resolution giving Iran until Aug. 31 to suspend enrichment or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.
Iran has promised a response by Aug. 22, although it vowed last Sunday to expand uranium enrichment "where required."
2. Western envoys find IAEA chief "too lenient" with Iran - Dutch report
BBC Worldwide Monitoring
(for personal use only)
Text of report by "md", entitled "Al-Baradi'i partisan in Iran conflict'", published by Belgian newspaper De Standaard website on 7 August
According to European and US diplomats, Muhammad Al-Baradi'i is too lenient with Iran in the dispute over its nuclear programme, reports NRC Handelsblad's monthly magazine M.
Al-Baradi'i, head of the UN agency for atomic energy [International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA], attracted criticism owing to his speech at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague, for example.
Addressing the international institute, he said that the outside world must understand the reasons why a country wants nuclear weapons. "Give such a country security guarantees so that it has no reason to develop a nuclear weapon." He also referred to other countries in the region that have nuclear weapons.
"The Iranian ambassador who was in the audience at Clingendael nodded his head in agreement. But civil servants from EU countries who are negotiating with Iran, and the Americans, could scarcely believe their ears. They believe Al-Baradi'i is giving Tehran an excuse for continuing to play for high stakes," said the NRC Handelsblad correspondent to the United States in Geneva.
In particular, "the three European countries that have been trying to get Iran to see reason since 2003 (Great Britain, France and Germany) believe that Al-Baradi'i is not following the rule book. They believe he is acting like a politician and not an 'independent technocrat' as laid down in his job description," says the in-depth report by Caroline de Gruyter on the Vienna-based IAEA and the activities of Al-Baradi'i who last year was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as the head of the organization.
Al-Baradi'i's predecessor, Hans Blix, also found his comments unfortunate. "A director-general must not make any statements that can be interpreted as partisan," he said.
As regards any understanding of Iran's motivations, there is, according the article, "no longer any question of this among the Europeans. They are convinced that Iran has been stringing them along for the past three years - or treating them with contempt - so as to be able to become a nuclear power."
"Some attribute Al-Baradi'i's stance to the fact that he is a Muslim," says the article. The IAEA director says that tensions in the Middle East are "90 per cent" attributable to the lack of a "fair solution for the Palestinians".
Earlier criticisms accuse him of not taking enough account of the Persian-Arabic, Shi'i-Sunni and inter-Arab oppositions that led to the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-1988 and the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait (1990-1991).
Last month a well-known German investigative journalist cited internal criticisms by IAEA inspectors that Al-Baradi'i "humours the mullahs and leaves us standing in the rain". According to Bruno Schirra's sources, the experienced Belgian inspector Chris Charlier was removed from the Iran dossier following pressure from Tehran.
The IAEA was set up to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons but also to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
3. Iran threatens to use 'oil weapon' in nuclear standoff: Energy crisis would leave people 'shivering in cold': UN deadline looms for Tehran to accept deal
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Iran warned Britain and the US yesterday that the international community could face a new oil crisis if the United Nations security council imposes sanctions on Tehran over its alleged attempt to acquire a nuclear weapons-making capability.
Speaking in Tehran, Ali Larijani, the country's chief nuclear negotiator and head of the supreme national security council, said Iran would be reluctant to cut its oil exports. "We do not want to use the oil weapon. It is them who would impose it upon us."
But Mr Larijani added that if the west did decide on sanctions, "we will react in a way that would be painful for them . . . Do not force us to do something that will make people shiver in the cold."
Iran is the world's fourth largest oil ex porter and is estimated to have the second largest oil and gas reserves.
Global energy prices could be expected to reach new highs if Tehran's threat is carried out - although analysts point out that one of the first economic casualties might be Iran itself.
Urged on by Britain, the US, France and Germany, the UN security council passed a resolution last week imposing a deadline of August 31 for Iran to accept a western package of incentives in return for suspending uranium enrichment at its Natanz facility, or face the prospect of political, economic and financial sanctions.
Mr Larijani rejected the resolution as "illegal" and said Iran would not abide by the deadline. He reiterated Tehran's argument, repeated during the course of three years of largely fruitless negotiations with the "EU three" (Britain, France and Ger many), that Iran was legally entitled to pursue uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes under the terms of the 1970 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
"We won't accept suspension. Such resolutions will not have any impact on our behaviour," he said. He went on to warn that Iran was prepared to further expand its nuclear research activities "if required". That could include building additional cascades of centrifuges at Natanz for enrichment purposes.
Iran has built a cascade of 164 centrifuges and announced plans to build 3,000 this year. Experts say it would need more than 50,000 centrifuges for industrial production of low-grade enriched uranium, a process that could take years.
Tehran insists its aim is to increase Iran's ability to generate electricity for domestic use. The US and others believe the technology could be used to enrich uranium to atomic weapons grade.
Mohammad Saeidi, vice-president of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said yesterday that Iran needed to find alternative energy supplies because its fossil fuel resources would run out in 25-30 years' time. "In the 21st century, the only way for any country to provide electricity is nuclear power." This was the same conclusion that Britain, France, the US and many others had reached, he added.
Mr Saeidi said Iran's nuclear facilities and future power stations would continue to be open to inspection by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under the terms of the NPT. If an agreement was reached with the western countries, short-notice challenge inspections under the "additional protocol" could be resumed, he said. It was "impossible" for Iran to divert materials for bomb-making purposes under such an intrusive inspection regime, he added.
Iranian officials said yesterday there would be a formal response to the west's nuclear offer on August 22, as previously announced by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While Tehran was likely to reject demands that it suspend enrichment immediately, the officials said the government would offer to resume negotiations on all outstanding issues without preconditions.
But pressure from hardliners in parliament is increasing. They are demanding that if sanctions are imposed Iran should discontinue cooperation with the IAEA and suspend its NPT membership.
A huge shipment of smuggled bomb-making uranium, uncovered by customs officials in Tanzania, was headed for Iran, a United Nations report says.
The uranium came from the same central African mining area in Congo that produced the Hiroshima bomb, the Sunday Times of London reports.
The disclosure, coming on the same day Iran said it would defy a U.N. Security Council resolution and expand its uranium enrichment, has heightened Western fears that Iran will use enriched uranium to make atomic bombs.
A senior Tanzanian customs official told the newspaper the illegal uranium shipment was found hidden in drums of coltan, a rare mineral used to make chips for cellphones.
The shipment was destined for smelting in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, delivered through Bandar Abbas, Iran's biggest port, the United Nations report says.
Security officials at a port discovered the uranium 238 during a routine Geiger counter inspection to measure radiation.
In a nuclear reactor, uranium 238 can used to breed plutonium used in nuclear weapons.
5. Iran Press Editorial Says US, UK Pushing Iran to Revise Nuclear Policy
BBC Monitoring International Reports
(for personal use only)
Text of editorial by Mohammad Kazem Anbarlu'i: "Need to revise nuclear policies" published by Iranian newspaper Resalat on 22 July
On Thursday [ 20 July], the Supreme National Security Council of the Islamic Republic issued a declaration that explicitly addressed some of the members of the UN Security Council that have added fuel to the crisis over Iran's nuclear case.
The declaration specifies that if the Security Council members want to resort to confrontation instead of talks, Iran will inevitably revise its nuclear policies.
- The Islamic Republic of Iran has stressed many times that it is bound to its commitments in the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty].
- The Iranian nation has declared many times that nuclear energy is its inalienable right, and therefore the Islamic Republic cannot deprive itself of producing nuclear fuel and possessing the nuclear fuel cycle.
The members of the triangle of evil in the world, that is, America, England, and Israel, have fabricated a case against Iran and have deceitfully declared that the "global community" is concerned about Iran's nuclear activities.
After creating obstacles for Iran's case in the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], they referred Iran's file to the Security Council. The Islamic Republic of Iran patiently stopped its nuclear activities for more than three years and cooperated with the IAEA inspectors. All of the agency's reports verified that Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful. Iran even succeeded in breaking the untruthful global consensus and proving it false.
Some time ago, in a declaration issued in Malaysia, 116 foreign ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement member countries stressed the Islamic Republic's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. In Azerbaijan, 57 Islamic countries, members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, stressed this point. This right was even recognized in the final declaration of the G8, and the untruthfulness of the global consensus against Iran was proved. However, America and England have not stopped their evil measures and still insist on misleading the path of Iran's nuclear case. Now is the time to set a deadline for Iran's patience. Behind the diplomatic efforts of America and England and the obstacles they are creating in path of Iran's nuclear progress, there are ominous intentions that are undoubtedly serious threats against Iran's national interests.
In its clever declaration, the Supreme National Security Council has set forth the problem of Iran's nuclear case, as well as its solution. It seems that we are getting close to a solution, which is the revision of the Islamic Republic's nuclear policies. The only important point is who determines the deadline for the Islamic Republic to make its decision? Iran, or the evil rivals that have not refrained from plotting against the sacred order of the Islamic Republic over the last 27 years?
1. Swiss court allows release of evidence in Libyan nuclear probe
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Switzerland's supreme court on Thursday cleared the way for legal assistance to German authorities investigating alleged smuggling of material for Libya's nuclear weapons programme in 2001 to 2003.
In a ruling released Thursday, the Federal Tribunal rejected an appeal by the owners of a South African company, who had sought to block the transfer of Swiss banking documents to Germany.
The couple, who were not named, were suspected of transferring funds to Swiss bank accounts after being commissioned to make parts for gas centrifuges to enrich uranium, according to the ruling.
They had received a one million euro (1.3 million dollars) advance payment in Dubai, the Swiss federal prosecutor's office charged.
The case is related to the trial in Germany of a 63 year-old German engineer, Gotthard Lerch, on charges of helping Libya's attempts to develop nuclear weapons.
Lerch, who was arrested last year in Switzerland, where he lived, has denied the accusations.
The network involving Lerch is alleged to have been part of the smuggling ring used by the disgraced father of Pakistan's nuclear programme, Abdul Qadeer Khan. Khan has been under house arrest in Pakistan since 2004.
Swiss prosecutors said Khan named the South African company when he admitted passing nuclear secrets to other states, according to the Swiss court documents.
The Pakistani scientist, who was identified as "Dr. Z" in the ruling, is alleged to have become involved in Libya's nuclear programme after he met a Libyan minister in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1997.
The German magazine Der Spiegel magazine reported in March that the United Nations nuclear watchdog suspects that Iran also obtained centrifuges through the Khan network.
Libya announced shortly after a shipment of equipment was intercepted in 2003 that it was giving up efforts to build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
1. China wants US, North Korea to be flexible on stalled nuclear talks
BBC Worldwide Monitoring
(for personal use only)
Text of report in English by South Korean news agency Yonhap
Seoul, 4 August: China wants both the United States and North Korea to be more "flexible, sincere and responsible" to help resume stalled international talks on the North's nuclear weapons programme, a visiting Chinese official said Friday [4 August].
"China hopes North Korea and the US should show flexibility and take measures favourable to the reopening of the six-party talks," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a meeting with South Korean reporters here.
Liu is on a four-day visit to South Korea as part of regular exchange programmes between the foreign ministries of South Korea and China.
"For the resuscitation of the six-party talks, North Korea and the United States should take flexible, sincere and responsible stances," Liu said, speaking in Chinese through an interpreter.
"In the previous rounds of nuclear talks, North Korea and the US held contacts that could be construed as bilateral talks, so the differences on the contact's formula is only superficial."
Ties between North Korea and the US have worsened since the North conducted multiple missile tests on July 5, despite repeated international warnings not to do so.
North Korea proposed holding bilateral talks with the US to resolve the missile dispute, but the US responded that the issue should be dealt with within the framework of the six-party nuclear talks.
China, the North's main benefactor, hosted several rounds of six-nation talks aimed at coaxing Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons programme. The talks, which included the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan, have been deadlocked since November, as North Korea boycotted them, taking issue with US financial sanctions.
2. New North Korea missile bases target US military in Japan: report
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North Korea has been building new underground missile bases along its east coast, targeting Japan and US military facilities in Japan, a report said Thursday.
Some 200 Rodong missiles with a range of up to 2,200 kilometers (1,360 miles) and 50 SSN-6 missiles with ranges of 2,500 to 4,000 kilometers are at the new bases, the state-run Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security (IFANS) said in the report carried by Yonhap news agency.
"The new bases clustered along the east coastal line are for medium- and long-range missiles targeting Japan and US military bases in Japan," read the report by Yun Deok-Min, an IFANS arms control expert.
"Combined with its nuclear weapons, North Korea's ballistic missiles provides it with a powerful deterrent."
North Korea has also constructed new underground missile bases deep in mountains near its border with China, to avoid outside attacks, it said.
The communist nation set off new alarm bells in the region with its July 5 test-firing of seven ballistic missiles which splashed in the Sea of Japan (East Sea). In 1998, it test-launched a missile over Japan.
The UN Security Council unanimously condemned the latest missile tests and adopted a resolution imposing weapons-related sanctions on Pyongyang.
North Korea is said to have a large stockpile of short-range Scuds and medium-range Rodong missiles. It has also tested long-range Taepodong missiles which are in theory capable of hitting US soil.
Sales of missiles and missile technology were believed to be a main source of hard currency for impoverished North Korea, the report said.
North Korea has earned 150 million dollars a year from its missile business, according to the report which cited no sources.
Pyongyang has allegedly sold a total of 500 Scuds to Iran, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Yemen; a small number of Scuds also to Vietnam and Sudan; and 50-100 Rodong missiles to Iran, Pakistan and Libya, it added.
A Scud missile is said to sell for two million dollars, a Rodong for four million dollars, and a Taepodong-2, the most advanced type, is expected to sell at around 20 million dollars, it said.
Nort Korea is locked in a standoff with the United States and its allies over its nuclear weapons development which Pyongyang says is for self-defense.
Pyongyang's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Thursday warned against Japan's recent US-backed military buildup which it said "is aimed to mount a preemptive attack" on North Korea.
"The Japanese reactionaries had better behave with discretion, bearing in mind that reinvasion of Korea is as foolish an act as jumping into fire with (a) faggot on one's back," Rodong said.
Japan invaded Korea in 1910 and occupied it until the end of World War II in 1945.
The Kremlin warned Monday of possible retaliation against the United States for sanctions imposed on two major companies in the Russian defense industry.
"We cannot rule out certain negative consequences for bilateral relations" between Russia and the United States, presidential administration spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday. "This was an unfriendly act toward Russia, and it was not done in a spirit of cooperation."
Rosoboronexport chief Sergei Chemezov suggested Monday that a proposed deal for U.S. companies to deliver up to $1 billion in Russian military hardware to Afghanistan and Iraq could be jeopardized by the sanctions, Interfax reported.
Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. trade officials said that the United States was reviewing whether to withdraw longtime trade benefits for Russia and 12 other advanced developing countries, Reuters reported.
"You should not turn a blind eye to the possible detriment to U.S. companies," Peskov said. The Kremlin spokesman declined to speculate on the motivation for the sanctions, but added that if they had come in response to Russia's recent $3 billion arms deal with Venezuela, "this would not cast the United States in a good light."
Political and defense analysts said Russia's retaliation would be limited and phased in gradually, however, while the Kremlin would continue to pursue its strategic partnership with Washington on such global issues as nuclear nonproliferation.
The United States announced two-year sanctions against state arms trader Rosoboronexport and jetmaker Sukhoi last Friday, though they took effect July 28. The sanctions, imposed under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, bar U.S. government agencies from dealing with blacklisted foreign firms. They also apply to U.S. companies trading in military and dual-use technologies.
Both Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi have denied the allegation that they had sold weapons of mass destruction or dual-use technologies to Iran.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov asserted with "full certainty" Monday that the sanctions "had nothing to do with the nonproliferation issue."
His views were echoed by both of the companies involved.
"The sanctions imposed by the U.S. State Department are purely political in nature, and they are an example of unfair competition," Rosoboronexport's Chemezov said Monday, adding that the sanctions would have no impact on his company's bottom line. "We have no contracts in the United States," he said.
Last December, Rosoboronexport and Tehran signed a $1 billion arms contract that included 30 short-range TOR-M1 air defense systems.
Sukhoi has also denied the U.S. allegations, claiming that it has shipped nothing to Iran in the last eight to 10 years.
Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee, said Monday that the sanctions discriminated against Russian companies and called for a strong response to U.S. pressure.
"These sanctions diminish the trust between Russia and the United States, and will complicate dealings between the two countries," said Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-connected political analyst.
Ruslan Pukhov of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies said the sanctions could jeopardize Boeing's bid to supply $3 billion worth of new planes to Aeroflot.
Russia could also refuse to take part in joint military exercises with the United States and use the sanctions as an excuse to increase exports of military hardware to regimes hostile to the United States, said Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy on Geopolitical Affairs and former head of the Defense Ministry's main directorate for military cooperation.
"We can use these sanctions to expand our presence in the arms market by exploiting anti-American feeling in many countries around the world," Ivashov told Interfax on Monday.
"The United States was the first to break the unspoken agreement that the former Soviet republics are within Russia's exclusive sphere of influence, just as Washington considers Latin America to be," Pukhov said, referring to active U.S. involvement in Georgia.
Moscow would not overreact to the sanctions, however, said Fyodor Lukyanov, a political analyst and editor of Russia in Global Affairs magazine.
"Under Putin, the Russian elite has developed a broad notion of competition that ranges from business to politics," he said. "These sanctions will be regarded as part of the game, and the response will be calculated accordingly."
Lukyanov and Markov said that despite the overall cooling in U.S.-Russian relations and a number of aggressive foreign policy initiatives on both sides, cooperation continues at a high level on nuclear nonproliferation, a view echoed in a recent interview by Rose Gottemoeller, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center and a former senior official at the U.S. Department of Energy.
It is now obvious that Russia and the United States are moving in different directions in their foreign policies, Lukyanov said.
"There is no strategic partnership and there is no strategic confrontation," he said. "This means that we can talk, but on most issues negotiations will have to start from scratch, not from a basis of shared foreign policy interests."
Russian support is crucial to Washington's efforts to resolve the escalating conflict in Lebanon and to build a united international front aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Russia could continue to resist U.S.-backed resolutions on Iran and the Middle East in the UN Security Council, analysts said.
2. Officials dispel charges over uranium ignition at Urals plant
(for personal use only)
Russia's nuclear agency said Tuesday environmentalists' claims that they had been barred from taking measurements near a nuclear plant in Urals after a fire broke out there in early July were untrue.
Ecodefense, which comprises environment activists from several countries, and Norway-based Bellona said Monday that they had been barred from conducting soil tests in the town of Lesnoi, home to the military plant Elektrokhimpribor, where an incident of uranium self-ignition occurred July 3.
Plant managers and the Federal Service for Nuclear Power said the fire was extinguished in two hours and one worker was hospitalized, but he returned to work after medical examination. Authorities also said the local population had nothing to be concerned about.
But independent experts said at least 200 kg of uranium-238 caught fire and it took two and a half hours to extinguish the blaze. Given the amount of the substance, they said, the fire could have led to major radioactive emissions.
Sergei Novikov, agency press secretary, said the agency made a proposal to Ecodefense head Vladimir Slivyak in mid-July, after receiving complaints from the two organizations, to organize a trip to Lesnoi to measure background radiation.
Novikov said he had warned environmentalists that soil tests were out of question because of the Lesnoi facility was off-limits.
"The agency is interested in cooperation with environmental organizations: somebody has to perform an alarm function, but we disapprove of an irresponsible alarmism," Novikov said.
Novikov added that environmentalists had not even bothered to measure radiation, which he said was a further proof that it was within the norm.
But Ecodefense's Web site says alpha-ray, rather than gamma-ray, radiation was to be measured as uranium-238 emits weak gamma rays, but its alpha particles, although they are less penetrating than other forms of radiation, pose increased health risks if inhaled or ingested. Uranium, they said, is also chemically toxic.
The organization also accused the nuclear agency and plant officials of barring its experts from talking to workers and claimed the worker remained in hospital.
3. Colonel Accused of Stealing Fuel at Secret Arms Facility
(for personal use only)
Military prosecutors in the Far Eastern region of Khabarovsk are investigating the possible theft of about $50,000 worth of diesel fuel from a secret nuclear weapons storage facility.
Colonel Yury Navrotsky, the commander of a military unit at the facility, is being accused by the unit's chief accountant, Major Yury Shashkov, of stealing the fuel in 2004 and 2005, Kommersant reported late last week. The top secret facility stores nuclear warheads and is informally known as Korfovsky Obyekt.
Shashkov alerted the facility's commander, Colonel Alexander Velikanov, after he first learned that the fuel was being stolen in 2004, but Velikanov decided to cover up the theft, Kommersant said. Velikanov forced personnel to accept responsibility and to chip in to pay from 5,000 rubles to 15,000 rubles ($187 to $560) each for the missing fuel. He also purportedly ordered that several of the facility's vehicles be sold to help cover the 1.3 million ruble cost of the fuel.
The Federal Security Service's local branch received Shashkov's complaint and sent the case to the local branch of the Military Prosecutor's Office in December 2005, but it was only on Aug. 3 that prosecutors began to investigate the allegations.
Calls to the military prosecutor's office in Khabarovsk went unanswered Friday.
Shashkov complained in his statement that Navrotsky had threatened him with physical harm and promised to transfer him to an even more far-flung unit because of his accusation.
Asked about the allegations, Navrotsky was quoted by Kommersant as saying that the investigation would "sort out who is guilty and who is right."
4. Russia's Ex-Nuclear Minister: "IT WAS A SUCCESSFUL ARREST"
(for personal use only)
On July 21, Russia's Supreme Court ordered the release of former Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov from custody. He was arrested on May 2, 2005 in Switzerland on an extradition request from the U.S. Department of Justice. The Americans accused him of embezzling $ 9 million that Washington had sent to Moscow to help fund nuclear safety projects. On May 3, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office also initiated criminal proceedings against the former minister on charges of fraud and abuse of office (according to the prosecution, he caused a loss of about a $ 100 mln to the state treasury). In one instance, Adamov issued an illegal order to Tekhsnabeksport, Russia's state-controlled uranium supplier and provider of uranium enrichment services, whereby GNSS, a joint Russian-U.S venture, had its $ 113 mln debt for nuclear material supplies from Russia written off.
On October 6, 2005, Adamov, incarcerated in a Bern prison, wrote a letter to President Vladimir Putin, begging him to do everything to prevent his extradition to the United States. According to Adamov, in the event of extradition, "U.S. special services" could acquire secret and especially sensitive information from him. In the end, the Swiss court decided to honor a Russian extradition request, and Adamov was returned to Russia on Dec. 30. He was placed in a special isolation ward at the Matrosskaya Tishina detention center on Dec. 31. In an interview after his release, Yevgeny Adamov denied all charges against him, citing, among other things a 2001 report by the Audit Chamber saying that no evidence of wrongdoing had been found in the Tekhsnabeksport-GNSS case. Adamov has said earlier that some "high level manipulators" were behind his problems in Russia after the extradition, refusing, however, to name them before the trial. Now the former minister has indicated that he referred to Tekhsnabeksport executives (former CEO Revmir Fraishtut was fired in 2002 and is now under investigation).
The lawsuit at the Stockholm arbitration court that Adamov mentions was filed by GNSS against Tekhsnabeksport over the refusal by the company's new management to supply low-enriched uranium to GNSS at prices agreed earlier. The Prosecutor's Office says that GNSS - essentially, an intermediary between Tekhsnabeksport and the world's uranium consumers - was also controlled by another Russian defendant in the case, Vyacheslav Pismenny.
Yevgeny Adamov granted an interview to Moskovskie Novosti.
On July 20, the Prosecutor General's Office sent the criminal case looking into your alleged offenses to court. What is your outlook for the trial?
It will be as the ruling authorities decide. The court will duly formalize its decision.
Soon after you were released from custody, you said that you would ask the court to lift their travel ban so you could go to the United States to prove your innocence. Is this not a rather risky move considering the fact you were privy to state secrets?
You are misquoting me. I only said that I intended to be present at a U.S. trial. It seems that the trial in Pittsburgh will not start before the spring of 2007. By that time, the trial in Russia should be over and therefore I will no longer be under a restraining order. Although, for example, Mark Kaushansky (charged in the U.S. alongside Adamov.-Ed.), who is also under a restraining order in the United States, has already received preliminary consent from American prosecutors: If he is asked to testify as a witness at the trial in Russia, he will be allowed to travel to Moscow, accompanied by his U.S. lawyers, at their own risk and responsibility.
As for the risk of disclosure of state secrets, even before my arrest in Bern, the relevant U.S. and Russian authorities held talks to agree procedures to eliminate this danger. I believe that the "Bern precedent" should be a subject of greater concern not only on my personal account. Hundreds of people, who are no longer in government service but are also bearers of state secrets, regularly travel abroad. No lessons have been drawn from my case. The first and foremost lesson is that such persons should be granted immunity, which conforms to the rules of international law. They should only travel abroad on diplomatic passports for the rest of their lives. After all, they cannot always be provided with bodyguards. On the other hand, it would be unfair to ban them from traveling abroad forever.
Do you believe that you might not be allowed to travel to the United States?
This would be unreasonable.
I think that this trial is an excellent opportunity to prove that not all state and government officials in Russia are corrupt, as the U.S., as well as the Russian, public has been led to believe. It is also a very good opportunity to explain to U.S. society the real motives behind the prosecution of some Russian state and political figures.
When the Prosecutor General's Office opened a criminal case against you last May, Russian Ambassador to Switzerland Dmitry Cherkashin assured you that this had been done to prevent your extradition to the United States. But the charges leveled against you in Russia turned out to be far more serious than the U.S. charges. How do you explain this?
I suppose that those to whom I earlier referred as "high level manipulators" saw my arrest in Bern as an amazing piece of luck for themselves. Alongside the task that Russia's Foreign Ministry had been set - to prevent my extradition to the United States, they must have proposed to the Prosecutor General's Office a rather unsubtle method of fighting fire with fire in order to attain their own goals. Consider: in just two days, May 13 and 14, the Prosecutor General's Office opened a new criminal case, reopened the one that was closed in 2001, unified the two cases into one, put me on an international wanted list, asked a Moscow borough court for a restraining order, and obtained a court ruling. In the normal course of things, it usually takes months to do this.
And then on May 16, even before a formal extradition request was sent to Switzerland, Tekhsnabeksport notified the Stockholm arbitration court that it might ask for the consideration of its dispute with GNSS to be adjourned. And it did this in September, by using case materials that may not be divulged before the trial. This is very much in the spirit of Russia today. It is what raiders often do at our national courts to achieve their goals. It only remains to be seen how international arbitration differs from Russian arbitration. They have already succeeded in deceiving the Russian president.
In your previous interview with Moskovskie Novosti, you spoke about "high level manipulators" using your case to "solve their business problems." Are these people still attempting to influence the Prosecutor's office and the court?
They certainly are. Otherwise the Prosecutor General's Office would have closed the case long ago because it is without merit - "for lack of criminal activity." I know that if it had, many PGO officials would have heaved a sigh of relief.
Is there a chance that you might return to the civil service or go into politics?
I do not have such intentions.
I have never been interested either in the civil service or in politics. In 1986, Vladimir Ivanovich Dolgikh, a secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, considered my candidacy for nuclear power minister. At that time it was a highly prestigious position, and many were stunned by my refusal. By contrast, in 1998, being a government minister was in the public's mind tantamount to being involved in embezzlement, graft and other abominations and "unhealthy practices."
But I made a well-thought - through decision to become the minister . The fate of the nuclear industry was at stake. Wages were not being paid for months; people were holding mass rallies; production and research activity had come to a standstill, while some company directors committed suicide out of despair. I am proud that I, together with my colleagues, revived the industry, and consider this a major achievement showing that I did the right thing.
Your case will be heard behind closed doors albeit by a regular court. Do you believe special courts are needed to hear cases that involve state secrets?
I see no reason for the trial to be held behind closed doors. No secret documents are involved in the case. The absurdity of the situation, in which matters falling within the purview of top-level state officials are considered by a borough court, is obvious to all.
I believe that such cases should be within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
After you were released from custody, you mentioned some new business projects. Could you elaborate?
I have been involved in projects to develop the nuclear power industry based on natural safety technology. They underlay the president's initiative put forward at a 2000 summit. We worked actively until late in 2001. Now these issues are all but frozen. Shortly before my arrest, I attempted to provide conditions which would facilitate the export of Russian electricity. I was a leading expert on the use of plasma technology in various spheres of industry. It has yet to be determined whether the situation is hopeless or can still be rectified.
5. Russian TV given access to "inner sanctum" of TOPOL Missile System
BBC Monitoring International Reports
(for personal use only)
Excerpt from report by Russian Channel One Europe TV on 4 August
[Presenter] In Arkhangelsk Region, where the test launch of a Topol missile has been carried out, our film crew was allowed into the inner sanctum of the Strategic Missile Troops. For the first time, journalists have been able to get inside a mobile complex where the missile control panel is located. Aleksey Zotov reports on the secret Russian weapon which is capable of outwitting any defence system.
[Correspondent, reporting from Plesetsk cosmodrome] These cadets are just learning to launch Topol mobile ballistic missiles. Since the mid-80s up to the present day, these have been the only missiles which cannot be shot down - our asymmetric response to the enemy, the military say.
At 1338 Moscow time the Topol lifted off from the launch pad, and within a few seconds it had already disappeared behind the clouds. Less than four minutes had passed when the Kura test range in Kamchatka, 6,500 km from Plesetsk, reported that the test warhead had successfully separated - that means, the missile had hit its target.
This missile had been on combat duty for 20 years. One of its developers, Konstantin Valyayev, has observed many such launches. At one time, engineers were convinced that the Topol would become obsolete within 10 years, by the middle of the 1990s, but no-one in the world has managed to develop a nuclear weapon on wheels which is easily capable of deceiving complex antimissile systems.
[Valyayev] Our technology is made with the long-term in mind, so 15 years is guaranteed, and beyond that we are now in the process of confirmation, but today's launch has already extended it by six years.
[Correspondent] By carrying out test launches the state and the military budget are saving tens of millions of roubles. The transition to new weapons systems is proceeding steadily.
This is the first time that journalists have been given access to the cabins where the missile control panel is located - after all, the Topol is still our top-secret weapon.
The wheel chassis is from Minsk, the aiming system is from Kiev, the body of the missile is from Udmurtia, and the design is from Moscow - in the 1980s Topol missiles were assembled by the entire country [USSR], but the Topol-M, which is going to replace it, will be not only purely the brainchild of the Russian military-industrial complex, it will also be invulnerable to antimissile defence systems for at least the next 20 years.
The new-generation missile systems - the Topol-M - are already undergoing tests, also here at the Plesetsk cosmodrome, and will start to enter combat service in December. The military have decided to rely on young officers for maintaining the country's renewed nuclear shield, and their retraining has already begun. This year Plesetsk is expecting the most substantial reinforcements - 200 graduate lieutenants at once. [Passage omitted]
1. US, Russia start fulfilment of tasks to expand nuke cooperation
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The United States and Russia have already embarked on the road of fulfillment of the tasks set by two country's presidents to expand bilateral cooperation in the atomic energy industry sphere, US Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dennis Spurgeon confirmed this to Itar-Tass at a briefing for reporters. Other specialists commented on his statements later.
Spurgeon recalled that in accordance with decisions of the St. Petersburg Group of Eight summit, Russia and the United States should begin talks on the development of a new bilateral agreement on cooperation in the sphere of peaceful uses of nuclear power. According to the US Department of Energy official, it is planned to conclude this agreement in the near future.
Besides, Russia has been recently admitted to the international forum for the creation of the fourth-generation nuclear reactors. This Generation IV International Forum - Gen-4 or GIF, was founded on the US initiative back in 2001 for coordinating scientific and research and development work in the sphere of modern reactors.
Finally, several interdepartmental groups of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) and the US Department of Energy have been created for making cooperation plans on specific spheres of the American Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) and Russia's initiative on the creation of multilateral centres for providing services in the sphere of nuclear fuel cycle.
Thus, both sides are taking specific steps for raising the level of cooperation in the nuclear sphere, the US assistant secretary for nuclear energy said. He added that he thought this cooperation would continue.
French nuclear tests in the Pacific caused an increase in cancer on the nearest inhabited islands, a study by a leading scientific body has concluded.
Inserm, an official French medical research body, found a "small but clear" increase in thyroid cancer among inhabitants of islands within a 1,000 mile radius of the Polynesian atolls where France conducted its nuclear tests between 1969 and 1996.
The results are likely to prompt a deluge of compensation claims from civilians and former French military personnel involved in the tests.
Florent de Vathaire, an expert on cancer epidemics at Inserm, said: "We have established a link between the fall-out from French nuclear tests and an increased risk of cancer of the thyroid."
He called upon the French government to finance more studies, including on military personnel who worked on the tests.
France conducted 193 tests between 1966 and 1996 at Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls in the Pacific (46 in the atmosphere and 147 underground.) France was later forced to admit that some of these explosions caused dangerous levels of radiation on nearby islands, though it has never acknowledged any impact on human health.
After two tests within 17 days in 1966, radiation at five times the permitted annual dose was measured on the Gambier islands. After three tests in 1974, radiation equivalent to the entire permitted annual dose was measured in Tahiti.
France has since abandoned its nuclear tests.
The full results of the Inserm study are to be published shortly in a scientific journal, but the principal findings were released in advance. The French Ministry of Defense has refused to comment until the official publication.
Statement of J. Barnie Beasley Jr. President Southern Nuclear Operating Company
Committee on Senate Energy and Natural Resources
August 3, 2006
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, my name is Barnie Beasley. I am President and Chief Executive Officer of Southern Nuclear Operating Company. I also serve on the Executive Committee of the Nuclear Energy Institute. I have attached a brief resume to my testimony as Exhibit 1. Thank you for this opportunity to express the nuclear energy industry's strong support of S. 2589, the Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act. I will also address additional provisions that we believe would strengthen the legislation's role to enhance the management and disposal of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, to ensure protection of public health and safety, to ensure the territorial integrity and security of the repository at Yucca Mountain.
Southern Nuclear is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, and is a subsidiary of Southern Company. Southern Company is a public utility holding company with its principal office in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to Southern Nuclear, Southern Company is the corporate parent of five electric utilities: Alabama Power Company, Georgia Power Company, Gulf Power Company, Mississippi Power Company, as well as Southern Power Company and Southern Company Services, Inc. Southern Company's subsidiaries provide reliable and affordable electric service to 4.2 million retail and wholesale customers across the southeastern United States.
Southern Nuclear is the licensed operator of the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant and the Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant, which are both two-unit nuclear plants partially owned by Georgia Power Company, and the Joseph M. Farley Nuclear Plant, which is a two-unit nuclear plant owned by Alabama Power Company. The six nuclear units operated by Southern Nuclear comprise over 6000 megawatts of generating capacity and represent approximately 17% of the total annual generation of the Southern Company system. Both Plants Hatch and Farley have extended their operating licenses for 20 years. The application for the extension of Plant Vogtle's operating license will be filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) next year. These plants provide our customers with reliable and reasonably priced electric energy.
Southern Nuclear will file an application for an Early Site Permit this month in order to determine the suitability of the Vogtle site for potentially two additional nuclear units at Plant Vogtle and is on a schedule to submit an application for a Combined Operating License ("COL") by early 2008.
In keeping with the scope of this hearing, I will focus my testimony on the following key issues:
The Department of Energy (DOE) must make visible and measurable progress in implementing an integrated national used nuclear fuel management strategy. The Yucca Mountain, Nevada, repository is a critical component of any such integrated strategy. This progress will help ensure that the expanded use of nuclear energy will play a key role in our nation's strategy for meeting growing electricity demand.
The key role that S. 2589 can play in establishing a solid basis for making the necessary progress towards addressing the challenges facing the Yucca Mountain project, as well as helping set the stage for new nuclear plants.
Additional legislative provisions that we urge the Committee to consider supplementing the solid foundation established in S. 2589. The federal government must initiate actions that will lead to beginning to remove used fuel from commercial nuclear plant sites as soon as possible.
Nuclear Energy Must Play a Key Role in Our Energy Future
In the 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush affirmed the nation's commitment to "safe, clean nuclear energy" as part of a diverse portfolio that will meet America's future electricity needs. A long-term commitment to nuclear energy will make the United States more energy independent and energy efficient. The Administration and Congress demonstrated strong leadership by enacting the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which encourages diversity of energy sources, including emission-free sources of electricity, such as nuclear energy.
Based on many years of experience in operating nuclear power plants, I am convinced that nuclear power offers a clean and cost- effective answer to many of our nation's current and future energy needs. Although our nation must continue to employ a mix of fuel sources for generating electricity, it is important that nuclear energy maintain at least the current 20 percent contribution to U.S. electricity production. Maintaining that level of production will require construction of a significant number of new nuclear plants beginning in the next decade.
There is strong, bipartisan support for a continuing significant role for nuclear power. More than two thirds of the public supports keeping nuclear energy as a key component of our energy portfolio. The industry appreciates the recognition of nuclear energy's importance that Congress and the Administration demonstrated in the last year's comprehensive Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Recently, a new coalition of diverse organizations and individuals has been formed to educate the public on nuclear energy and participate in policy discussions on U.S. energy issues. The Clean and Safe Energy coalition, co-chaired by Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, includes business, environmental, labor, health and community leaders among its more than 200 members.
The Need for Legislative Action.
In order to fully realize the benefits that nuclear power offers, however, a solution for the problem of disposal of used nuclear fuel must be found. Since the enactment of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the customers of Alabama and Georgia Power Companies have paid over $ 897 million into the Nuclear Waste Fund. In total, rate payers across America have paid over $ 27 billion into the Nuclear Waste Fund, and continue to pay an additional $ 750 million each year. Yet, no used fuel has been removed from reactor sites as required by the NWPA. Moreover, those same customers have had to finance costly on-site storage facilities. Southern has had to construct two such facilities to date.
The causes for the failure of the federal used nuclear fuel program to date are well documented. The fundamental problem with the failure of the federal government to remove used fuel from our plant sites has not been the lack of authorizing legislation. It has been the failure to implement the legislation that has been enacted for almost 25 years by appropriating sufficient funds and by a consistent commitment to execute plans to develop the repository. While new legislation to amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act is important, it is even more critical that the federal government commit itself to the implementation of existing law.
The nuclear industry is encouraged by the ambitious schedule announced by DOE on July 19, 2006, for submission of the license application by June 30, 2008, and the "Best-Achievable" construction schedule that could have the repository begin receipt of used fuel in March 2017. The industry encourages DOE to submit the application as soon as possible so NRC review can begin.
While DOE's announcement of a schedule for licensing the repository is a significant development, past experience suggests that the schedule will be difficult to achieve without congressional action in a number of areas:
-- The Congress providing appropriations consistent with Administration requests;
-- An NRC construction authorization decision consistent with the timelines contained in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act;
-- Obtaining any necessary Federal or state authorizations or permits for the repository and the transportation system; and
-- The DOE achieving a nuclear culture consistent with that needed to be a successful NRC licensee.
Enactment of the Nuclear Fuel Management Disposal Act, S. 2589, will help advance several of these important objectives.
S. 2589 Supports the Future Role for Nuclear Power in our National Energy Strategy
Waste Confidence Is Affirmed
The nation's policymakers must be confident that policies are in place to ensure the safe and secure storage and disposal of used nuclear fuel. This waste confidence determination is reflected in NRC rules that support various licensing actions. Section 9 of S. 2589 takes the very important step of codifying the waste confidence rule. This will help to avoid potential contentions in individual plant licensing proceedings over the timing and certainty of the performance by DOE of its responsibilities under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. We strongly support this important step in creating certainty for major new investments by the nuclear industry in response to Congress's Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Managing the nation's used fuel is a firmly established federal obligation and, as such, is a matter of broad national policy. There is solid scientific and technical justification to affirm waste confidence. In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed four decades of international scientific consensus that geologic disposal is the best method for managing used nuclear fuel. Congress approved a geologic disposal site at Yucca Mountain in 2002.
In the Energy Policy Act, Congress included provisions that encourage the construction of new nuclear power plants, illustrating confidence in the nation's ability to manage used reactor fuel in the future. In addition, DOE has safely operated a geologic disposal site for transuranic radioactive waste near Carlsbad, N.M. - the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP).
Issues regarding the timing and certainty of performance by DOE of its used fuel management obligations should be resolved in proceedings on the repository, or in Congress. Litigation of such issues in individual plant licensing proceedings is neither efficient nor appropriate. NRC has long recognized that individual plant licensing proceedings should not be burdened with debates over DOE's development of the repository. Congress should codify "waste confidence" as called for in S. 2589, so that the NRC need not address this broad public policy matter in routine licensing proceedings.
Artificial Constraints on Repository Operations Are Eliminated
Currently, there is a statutory limit of 70,000 metric tons (MT) on the amount of nuclear waste materials that can be accepted at Yucca Mountain. The Environmental Impact Statement for the project analyzed emplacement of up to 105,000 MTs of commercial used fuel in the repository. Additional scientific analyses suggest significantly higher capacity could easily be achieved with changes in the repository configuration that use only geology that has already been characterized and do not deviate from existing design parameters. Advanced nuclear fuel cycle technologies could provide significant additional capacity for disposing of waste products in Yucca Mountain.
Decisions on licensing and operations of a deep geologic repository at Yucca Mountain should be based on scientific and engineering considerations through DOE technical analyses and the NRC licensing process, not on artificial constraints. Given the decades of study and the billions of dollars invested in Yucca Mountain, it makes sense that we fully and safely utilize its potential capacity, rather than developing multiple repositories when there is no technical reason to do so. S. 2589 will allow the nation to do just that by lifting the artificial 70,000 MT capacity limit.
S. 2589 Includes Key Provisions for Yucca Mountain Progress
Offsetting Collections Reclassification Will Enhance Funding Predictability
Congress established the Nuclear Waste Fund to cover costs associated with disposal of commercial used nuclear fuel. This fund is paid for by a one-tenth-of-a-cent-per-kilowatt-hour fee on electricity used by consumers of nuclear energy. Congress has routinely failed to appropriate to the repository program the total fees paid into the Waste Fund in that year. Further, restrictions on the federal budget have prevented fees collected, but not appropriated, in one year from being appropriated in subsequent years.
As a result, Yucca Mountain budget requests have been cut by more than $1 billion over the last decade. Program funding requirements are forecast to increase substantially over the next few years. If overall spending totals remain flat, even more significant delays could result, not because nuclear power consumers have not provided the funds necessary to support the program, but because of inappropriate federal budget accounting.
To date, consumers of nuclear power have committed more than $27 billion in fees and accrued interest into the fund, and continue to pay at a rate of $750 million each year. However, only some $9 billion has been spent on the project, leaving a balance in excess of $18 billion. In recent years, fee income has been five times as high as annual spending from the fund.
It is my understanding that S. 2589 would reclassify prospective annual fees so that appropriations up to the full amount of fee revenues for any year would not be limited by discretionary spending caps. While this approach would be a major step forward, we believe that the Congress should also reaffirm the compact with ratepayers in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and provide that any appropriation for the program could be offset by balances in the Nuclear Waste Fund whether derived from prospective fees or past fees and interest.
In addition, we believe it is important for the Congress to act to maintain the integrity of the Nuclear Waste Fund. We support amending S. 2589 to clearly define that only activities that directly contribute to meeting the federal government's obligation under the NWPA can be supported from the Nuclear Waste Fund. This includes expenditures related to transportation, storage, and disposal of used fuel and high-level waste.
Advanced research on energy technologies has consistently been funded through general revenues, and there is no reason research on advanced fuel processing nuclear technologies - such as those contemplated under the President's Global Nuclear Energy partnership program - should be financed any differently.
Also, Congress should reaffirm its authority over any changes in the Nuclear Waste Fee by requiring such changes be made by statutory amendment.
S. 2589 will Enhance Clarity and Stability in the Licensing Process
The NRC repository licensing process should be restructured to ensure that the proceedings are prioritized. First, there must be a reasonable, but finite, schedule for review of the authority to "receive and possess" fuel that would follow approval of the construction license. This would be consistent with an established schedule for the initial review of the construction license application and could avoid dilatory procedural challenges that would undermine the government's ability to meet its contractual obligations and avoid the significant costs of delay.
Second, clarification must be provided as to what activities are authorized to develop used fuel management infrastructure prior to the NRC granting a construction license, including the construction of a rail line to connect the Yucca Mountain site with the national rail network. Regulatory authority for the transportation system needs to be clarified as well.
Third, the hearing process for the authorization to receive and possess fuel should be simplified to provide for clear and concise decision making.
Finally, clarification is needed with respect to land management, what regulations will apply to repository construction and operations, and which agencies will administer those regulations.
S. 2589 addresses each of these issues to increase the prospect that the "best achievable" schedule announced by DOE can be met.
Congress Should Consider Additional Steps to Promote Comprehensive Used Nuclear Fuel Management
While industry fully supports S. 2589 and believes its enactment would be a major milestone in implementing our national strategy for managing used nuclear fuel, we believe there are a number of additional issues that Congress should consider in comprehensive legislation.
DOE Should Move Used Nuclear Fuel from Reactor Sites As Soon As Possible
The industry's top priority is for the federal government to meet its statutory and contractual obligation to move used fuel away from operating and decommissioned reactor sites. The government already is eight years in arrears in meeting this obligation, and it will be at least another decade before the repository is completed. That failure is the subject of more than 60 lawsuits. These lawsuits potentially expose the federal government to billions of dollars of judgments and settlements.
Further delays in federal receipt and movement of used nuclear fuel and defense waste products will only add to utility damage claims, and, according to DOE, will increase taxpayer liability for defense waste site life-cycle costs and Yucca Mountain fixed costs.
While DOE moves forward to license, construct and operate the Yucca Mountain repository, the government must take title to used fuel and move it to secure federal facilities as soon as practicable. A number of proposals have been made to address the issue of "interim storage."
The best approach would be for the federal government to begin to move fuel in proximity to the planned repository. Both House and Senate appropriations bills for FY 2007 have provided direction on this issue. While there is clear interest in looking at options for early movement of fuel, none of the options has yet demonstrated that it is politically and technically workable and could be accomplished in a timely manner. A cooperative and supportive host site is critical to meeting these criteria.
It appears that one or two interim storage sites that provide benefits desired by the host state and community are the appropriate approach. Industry experience demonstrates that such facilities can be sited, licensed, and constructed on an expedited schedule. We are encouraged that DOE has advised the Congress, in its solicitation for prospective sites for nuclear fuel recycling facilities, that there will of necessity be some interim storage of used nuclear fuel involved. A number of communities have expressed initial interest in participating in such a project. We believe Congress should work with DOE, industry and potential host sites to determine what steps will best facilitate the movement of used fuel from utility sites, and incorporate appropriate provisions into S. 2589.
The industry does not believe that the "take title" approach suggested in S. 2099 either meets the federal obligation or provides any benefit. The requirement in that legislation that all used fuel at reactor sites be moved immediately into dry cask storage could add up to $800 million a year over five years to the costs of producing nuclear energy. Regardless of the interim storage strategy chosen, it is critical that those activities not divert attention and resources from repository development.
New Reactor Waste Disposal Contract Issues Need to Be Addressed
As utilities prepare to license and construct new nuclear power plants, it is important that appropriate changes be made in the Standard Contract for Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and/or High- Level Radioactive Waste originally established by rulemaking (10 CFR, Part 961) to reflect developments since these contracts were originally drafted in the 1980s. While the language in both the NWPA and disposal contracts allows for an existing contract to be amended adding new plants, DOE's failure to perform, and the subsequent litigation, has created a situation where this option may be difficult to execute. Instead, the preferred path forward would be to enact legislation directing DOE to enter into new disposal contracts for new nuclear plants that are consistent in form and substance with the existing disposal contracts, but which take into account the schedule for the operation of new plants. In particular, the 1998 deadline in the existing contracts should be revised in contracts executed for new plants.
The Congress should also consider steps that could facilitate early resolution of future claims by utilities against the federal government for its continuing failure to meet its obligations under the NWPA.
The Yucca Mountain Licensing Process Should Provide Flexibility to Address Future Developments
As provided by existing regulations, Congress should direct DOE to incorporate features into its repository development plans that maintain flexibility for future generations to make informed decisions based on operational experience, changing energy economics, and technological developments. It should be made clear that it was always the intent that the repository design retains the ability to monitor and, if needed or desired, retrieve the used fuel.
The nuclear energy industry supports enhancements to the Yucca Mountain repository that would provide greater long-term assurance of safety and permit DOE to apply innovative technology at the repository as it is developed. These enhancements include:
extensive monitoring of the used nuclear fuel placed in the repository and its effects on the surrounding geology for 300 or more years;
the ability to retrieve the used nuclear fuel from the facility for an extended period; and
periodic review of updates to the repository license that takes into account monitoring results and ensures that the facility is operating as designed.
DOE already has committed to facilitate the use of these elements in its repository planning For a period of 50 to 300 years, the federal government will "collect, evaluate and report on data" to assess the performance of the repository and the ability to retrieve the used fuel within the facility, if desired. In addition to monitoring material within the facility, DOE will conduct tests and analyses to ensure that the repository is constructed and operated according to strict guidelines. Although DOE is pursuing these elements, Congressional direction on the proposed enhancements would provide greater certainty on the scientific and regulatory oversight of long-term repository operation and the condition of the material stored there.
Doing so would require no modification to the existing federal statutory or regulatory framework. DOE could include these enhancements as part of its "receive and possess" application and the commitment to complete them should be incorporated as a condition of the NRC license.
This direction will offer greater assurance to the public that long-term stewardship of used fuel at Yucca Mountain will be carefully monitored throughout repository operation. It would also allow DOE to take advantage of future technological innovations to improve the repository or provide for the potential reuse of the energy that remains in the fuel.
Used Nuclear Fuel Recycling
The nuclear energy industry has shown consistent and strong support for research and development of advanced fuel cycle technologies incorporated in the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (AFCI). In anticipation of a major expansion of nuclear power in the United States and globally, it is appropriate to accelerate activities in this program. The resurgence in development of nuclear energy is expected to require advanced fuel cycles. However, a repository will be necessary to handle defense wastes, legacy commercial used nuclear fuel, and waste by-products regardless of which fuel cycle is ultimately developed.
President Bush has presented a compelling vision for a global nuclear renaissance through the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). This initiative provides an important framework to satisfy U.S. and world needs for an abundant source of clean, safe nuclear energy while addressing challenges related to fuel supply, long-term radioactive waste management, and proliferation concerns. It may be possible that currently available technologies could be used creatively to jump-start the development of the needed advanced nuclear fuel cycle technologies.
We recognize that the Congress has important questions regarding this program. DOE's near-term focus for GNEP is to determine, by 2008, how to proceed with demonstration of advanced recycling technologies and other technological challenges. Consequently, the industry fully supports increased funding for AFCI in fiscal 2007. However, neither AFCI nor GNEP, reduces the near-term imperative to develop the Yucca Mountain repository.
A Constructive Role for Nevadans
The nuclear energy industry supports an active and constructive role for Nevada in the development of Yucca Mountain to help ensure the safety of its citizens. The industry also supports compensation for the State to account for the program's socioeconomic impact, as called for in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. This model is consistent with the siting and operation of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
The industry is encouraged by the steps DOE has taken to work with affected local governments in the State, and we further encourage DOE to expand its interactions with Nevadans interested in constructive engagement in the project. The industry urges the Congress to include provisions in S. 2589 to foster these developments.
We must never lose sight of the federal government's responsibility for civilian used nuclear fuel disposal, as stated by Congress in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. The industry fully supports the fundamental need for a repository so used nuclear fuel and the byproducts of the nation's nuclear weapons program are safely and securely managed in a specially designed, underground facility. World-class science has demonstrated that Yucca Mountain is an eminently suitable site for such a facility.
A viable used fuel management strategy is necessary to retain long-term public confidence in operating existing nuclear power plants and in building new nuclear power plants to meet our nation's growing electricity needs, and to fuel our economic growth. The public confidence necessary to support construction of new nuclear plants is linked to successful implementation of an integrated national used fuel policy, which includes a continued commitment for the long-term disposition of used nuclear fuel. This requires a commitment from the Administration, Congress, and other stakeholders to ensure that DOE makes an effective transition from a scientific program to a licensing and construction program, with the same commitment to safety. New waste management approaches, including interim storage and nuclear fuel recycling, are consistent with timely development of Yucca Mountain.
Enactment of S. 2589 is the critical pre-requisite to implementing our national policy for used fuel management.
Statement of The Honorable David Wright Commissioner South Carolina Public Service Commission
Committee on Senate Energy and Natural Resources
August 3, 2006
Good Morning Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Bingaman, and Members of the Committee.
My name is David Wright. I am an elected Commissioner of the South Carolina Public Service Commission. I also serve on the Subcommittee on Nuclear Issues and Waste Disposal of the Electricity Committee of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). That Subcommittee focuses directly on the issues that are the subject of today's hearing; I am testifying today on behalf of NARUC. In addition, my testimony reflects the views of the South Carolina Public Service Commission. On behalf of those two organizations, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning. The issues that you are addressing in this hearing are very important to NARUC's membership and my State, and I am grateful to have this opportunity to present our point of view concerning the disposition of spent nuclear fuel currently stored at nuclear power plant sites that is intended for ultimate disposal at the Yucca Mountain geologic repository.
I would like to summarize my testimony and have my full statement entered into the record.
NARUC is a quasi-governmental, non-profit organization founded in 1889. Its membership includes the State public utility commissions serving all States and territories. NARUC's mission is to serve the public interest by improving the quality and effectiveness of public utility regulation. NARUC's members regulate the retail rates and services of electric, gas, water, and telephone utilities. We are obligated under the laws of our respective States to ensure the establishment and maintenance of such utility services as may be required by the public convenience and necessity and to ensure that such services are provided under rates and subject to terms and conditions of service that are just, reasonable, and non-discriminatory.
NARUC's goals in the nuclear waste area are well known and have been stated before this and other Congressional committees on a number of prior occasions. NARUC believes that the federal government needs to meet its obligation under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as amended, to accept spent nuclear fuel from utilities and other nuclear generators in a timely manner. NARUC further believes that the nation's ratepayers have upheld their end of the bargain struck in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act by providing, either directly or through income generated on prior payments, over $25 billion for use in constructing a nuclear waste repository. Finally, NARUC believes that the Nuclear Waste Fund should only be employed for its intended purpose and that the monies in the Nuclear Waste Fund should be utilized, along with appropriations from the Department of Defense budget, for the sole purpose of supporting the opening of the Yucca Mountain facility in a timely fashion. The basic principles underlying NARUC's approach to the nuclear waste issue provide a solid foundation for future policy decisions concerning the nuclear waste program.
Two years ago, the repository program seemed to be very close to having the repository license application completed for submittal to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during 2004, but was further delayed due to the need for the Environmental Protection Agency to revise the radiation standard to be used in the license review. In addition, there were some difficulties between DOE and the NRC in meeting the documentation certification requirements of the Licensing Support Network (LSN) that many of us outside the government did not fully understand. And there was the revelation that there may have been some records falsification by some employees of the United States Geologic Survey who had worked on the project. Since then, EPA has issued their proposed revised radiation standard and has concluded the public comment period. We don't know the status of the LSN documentation but the USGS and DOE records investigations seemed to be concluded, with the program scientific work reaffirmed.
NARUC's primary concern with the civilian radioactive waste management program is for Congress to reform the way the Nuclear Waste Fund is managed and the way in which appropriations are made from the Fund. Reform of the Fund appropriations process is necessary to provide a stable financial footing so that the government can fulfill its statutory and contractual obligation to provide safe disposal of spent nuclear fuel and other high- level radioactive waste as was the intent of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Although the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted favorably on H.R. 3981 in the previous Congress, the bill never made it to a floor vote and no action was taken in the Senate. We did not consider that a perfect bill (it was only for a five year period) but it would have helped ensure that more of the fee revenue collected by the Fund would actually be appropriated for its intended use. While the FY 2006 budget referred to the Administration's remaining interested in pursuing a similar proposal for reclassification of NWF fees as offsetting collections and discussing it with Congress, no legislation was developed that year.
NARUC's and State utility regulator's prime concern for the repository program remains to reform the Nuclear Waste Fund appropriations process. It is difficult for us to see how the repository program can ever shift into an implementation phase when funding requirements would need to increase by orders of magnitude compared with the pre-licensing phase. Simply put, the repository cannot be built without a more stable financing arrangement. Without the repository, spent nuclear fuel continues to accumulate and be stored in places that were never designed or permitted for indefinite storage. Spent fuel would be stored at 72 locations along rivers and lakes in 34 States instead of in a more secure, well-designed repository. Although we see many favorable signs for investment in new nuclear power plants, including provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, we also continue to hear that lack of a clear path towards disposal of spent nuclear fuel may hold back that investment.
We also need reform of the Nuclear Waste Fund because we owe it to the ratepayers who pay the fees in their electric bill. For the past five years, three quarters of the fees collected for nuclear waste disposal have gone to other unrelated federal purposes. In the current fiscal year total fee payments into the Nuclear Waste Fund are expected to be $750 million. That compares with $99 million appropriated for the repository program. All that we as utility regulators can show ratepayers is a financial report from the Department of Energy that there is an account in the Treasury called the Nuclear Waste Fund that supposedly has $18 billion in it for the repository program. It is a cruel fact of life that for all practical purposes those funds are inaccessible or already spent. All the ratepayers want is for the government to remove the spent fuel for disposal as they were promised over 24 years ago would already have begun by now.
We are grateful for the leadership of House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee and its unwillingness to simply do nothing last year while the repository license application was delayed and no reform to the Nuclear Waste Fund was in the works. In the markup of the FY 2006 budget, Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman David Hobson sought to add $10 million to initiate an interim storage program using DOE sites that are presumed to already have the security and other support that could accommodate spent fuel from commercial reactors. DOE would take title to and ship utility waste to the unspecified locations that already store similar government radioactive waste. We had many questions about that approach, but it could have been a step in the right direction, especially for spent fuel now stored at 14 shutdown reactor sites. We doubt that any significant quantity could have been moved in FY 2006, as the Subcommittee report indicated, or that much could be done for the $20 million the bill would have appropriated. Of course, when the Senate did not include similar provisions or equal funding, the proposal did not survive in conference.
For FY 2007, the House again took up an interim storage proposal in the appropriations bill, this time adding $30 million, not from the Nuclear Waste Fund, for development of some undetermined amount of interim storage of spent fuel at "integrated spent fuel recycling facilities" that could be serve as a vanguard for demonstration of spent fuel reprocessing under the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative being pursued within DOE as part of the broader Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP.) There was a stipulation in the bill that authorization be obtained for interim storage, since DOE has maintained that it lacked authority to establish interim storage.
Then this Committee released its proposal, which later became Section 313 of the Senate Appropriations Committee markup of the FY 2007 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill (Senate Report 109- 274), that calls for DOE to propose "consolidation and preparation facilities" for interim storage of spent fuel in each State with a commercial nuclear reactor or, alternatively, regional CAP facilities. We understood Chairman Domenici wanted to stimulate a dialogue on interim storage and to get States involved. I have been surprised at the muted reactions from many States, who may be tending to more pressing matters like wildfires, budget crises and other issues. I will say this, however: States are involved in nuclear waste storage at reactors. In my State, we have utilities expressing great interest in building new nuclear plants to provide emissions-free reliable baseload power for forecasted energy demand. Yet, the utilities indicate they may have difficulty raising capital without greater certainty on nuclear waste disposal. State utility commissioners are also involved in another way: those utilities making payments into the Nuclear Waste Fund, pass those costs on to their ratepayers. Since 1983, over $900 million has been paid into the Fund from South Carolina.
We have many questions about the CAP proposal. Unless DOE is better staffed than I suspect they are, it would seem unlikely that DOE could undertake a delicate site search concurrently in 31 States within the 270 day timeline. There are environmental impact considerations and the potential for litigation that could slow the process. Are we even sure that every State has a storage deficiency? It is my understanding that once it was apparent that DOE would not meet the 1998 waste acceptance mandate, many utilities resigned themselves to the necessity to develop dry cask storage on-site to supplement pool storage. There is litigation over recoupment of those expenses, but for the active reactors, there has been a steady increase (over 38 so far) of separately licensed dry cask facilities and more are planned. The shutdown plants had little choice but to put their fuel in dry cask storage and some of those sites could stand some relief from continuing to store spent fuel.
Governors will want to know how the site search process within their States will proceed. Some States have restrictions on developing new nuclear facilities within the State and, although the factual record on nuclear waste transportation safety is superb, there is nonetheless public concern over transportation and unease over siting that is not likely assuaged by assurances that the CAP storage would only be for 25 years.
NARUC has supported interim storage away from reactor storage sites for some time, whether by the government or at private facilities provided by the utilities themselves such as proposed at Skull Valley, Utah. In our view, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act does not permit government interim storage to be financed by the Nuclear Waste Fund (Section 302.d.). Some of the expenses relating to waste shipping casks and transportation might be permitted since they could be interpreted as needed for the permanent repository. However, there is a broader question of equity: why should the Nuclear Waste Fund, which is supposed to be used to develop a permanent repository be used for expenses that could have been avoided had DOE met its statutory and contractual obligations to begin spent fuel acceptance in 1998? This is at the heart of the ongoing litigation by numerous utilities against DOE and it is not anticipated that the Nuclear Waste Fund will be used to make damage payments that may be awarded in those cases.
Also relevant to the use of the Nuclear Waste Fund is the 2002 decision by the Eleventh Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals (Alabama Power, Carolina Light and Power, et al. v. Department of Energy) ruling that the Nuclear Waste Fund may only be used for disposal and an expenditure for interim storage is not an act of disposal.
Last year, the House Appropriations Report (109-086) called for DOE to initiate a plan to begin spent fuel reprocessing (or re- cycling) in FY 2007. Members of the Committee are familiar with the history of reprocessing in this country and the experiences in other countries. We know the 2001 National Energy Plan recommended that the subject be re-visited, and that DOE has an Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative as part of a research effort to look at what to many is an intuitively appealing goal of 'recycling' used fuel. Yet technology, economics, environmental and proliferation concerns remain. Testimony by industry and academic experts before the House Science Committee last July also suggested there are many economic and other questions to be addressed. We will leave that for others to sort through, but I want make a single point here: There is no known reprocessing method in use today or possible in the future that does not result in some quantity of high-level radioactive waste that will require disposal in a repository. Therefore, whether we reprocess in this country or not we will still need a repository like Yucca Mountain. Put another way, reprocessing is not an alternative to building a repository, as much as some might wish it to be. There may be less waste if we reprocess and it may be of different toxicity, but it still must be isolated from the human environment. All of the countries that reprocess know this and are planning long-term disposal.
Moreover, the repository design that is being proposed for Yucca Mountain does not preclude a future decision to retrieve any or all spent fuel emplaced in it for reprocessing (or other reasons) until the decision is made to seal the repository, which, according to DOE, could be anywhere from 50 to 300 years in the future. If spent nuclear fuel is indeed an energy asset, Yucca Mountain will be an ideal place to store it until needed.
With the FY 2007 Department of Energy Budget, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman announced the initiative called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP.) It has many dimensions and purposes, but one that we are interested in is the suggestion that if advanced forms of reprocessing and recycling of spent nuclear fuel were to be developed under the GNEP vision, that the amount of nuclear waste requiring disposal might be greatly reduced and its radiation characteristics would be hazardous over a much shorter period of time. Naturally, we are interested in learning more about the proposal and its feasibility in terms of achievable technology, economics, environment and non- proliferation considerations. It is too new for us to take a position on the matter until we learn more, but our existing policy remains current. In 2000, we revised our Nuclear Waste Guiding Principles to include: "Reprocessing of spent fuel may be worthy of research, but, even if feasible, does not eliminate the need for a permanent repository."
Accordingly, we support the research proposed for GNEP and the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative in the FY 2007 DOE budget request. It appears to be a worthwhile investment that could pay dividends down the road while investigating the feasibility of proliferation-resistant reprocessing.
We have been troubled by the legislative proposal to have the Department of Energy take title to spent nuclear fuel at commercial reactor sites and manage it there for some unspecified time, as in S. 2099. We see press reports that the scheme would be financed by the Nuclear Waste Fund and we also interpret the real objective is to somehow with no clear terminating point keep the spent fuel where it is instead of building the repository. Obviously, to abandon the repository would require amendment or possibly repeal of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Proponents of this proposal seem to forget the finding in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that "Federal efforts during the past 30 years to devise a permanent solution to the problems of civilian radioactive waste disposal have not been adequate." Instead, they would have us revert to that Square One posture.
We have been careful to avoid any suggestion that continued spent fuel storage at reactor sites is not as safe and secure as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which regulates it, maintains that it is, but let us at least suggest that the proposal to have DOE take title and manage spent fuel at present reactor storage sites is not consistent with the "compelling national interests" that former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham referred to when he recommended Yucca Mountain as a suitable repository site to the President and Congress in 2002. He said, and we agree, that the repository is important to homeland security.
We strongly oppose the suggestion that the government take title to spent fuel which would remain at 72 reactor sites instead of going to a repository. That is not what was promised in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and reaffirmed by joint resolution in 2002 and it is most certainly not what ratepayers have paid $25 billion in fees and interest over the past 22 years to achieve.
Before I conclude, there is one other item to discuss. We urge strong leadership on the part of the Department of Energy and its support contractors to keep this much-delayed repository program moving forward. We have expressed our frustrations in the past with the chronic underfunding and series of delays that have troubled the program. DOE needs to work its way through whatever else needs to be done to put the repository licensing back on course. We commend the positive spirit and determination of Mr. Edward Sproat, the new director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, when he announced the revised schedule last month and we wish him and the repository team well in meeting that schedule. We appreciate EPA meeting the challenge of responding to the court remand with its proposed revised radiation standard. Although we disagreed with extending the regulatory period to one million years, EPA did meet the mandate of the court and it is time to issue the final rule. We have been aware that during the license application delay, DOE has been conducting a re-examination of repository plans. We saw some of the results of what is termed "program re-direction" in a press release last October. A change in approach was described as being "simpler, safer and more cost-effective," mostly as a result of a shift to standardized spent fuel canisters that will allow significant changes in fuel handling at the receipt facilities at Yucca Mountain. We certainly applaud cost savings, improved safety and the prospect of reducing the licensing complexity, but we have two concerns that we want to pursue:
1. Will these changes further delay the license application and how will that affect eventual repository operational dates? The schedule announced last month showing initial waste disposal in 2017 is predicated on a number of variables including adequate funding.
2. How will DOE and the utilities be able to ensure that all spent fuel presently stored at reactor sites (up to the current planned amount of 63,000 metric tons) will be able to be transferred into the standardized canisters? Spent fuel is increasingly being stored in sealed canisters in dry casks that will either have to be accepted as is or have the contents transferred to the standard canisters.
Finally, NARUC has not taken any strong position on the other elements of the proposed Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act, aside from our support for the Nuclear Waste Fund reclassification proposal. In general, we find the other provisions to be helpful for the overall goal of licensing, building and operating the repository. We agree that the 70,000 metric ton statutory limit on the repository capacity is arbitrary and the proposal to have the capacity be among the elements of the license review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission makes sense. We have always urged DOE to plan and eventually conduct the spent fuel transportation in cooperation with other federal, State, tribal and local governments and, to the best of our knowledge the Department is planning to do that as required by the NWPA and as has been done successfully in previous nuclear waste shipments.
Let me summarize what we support:
1. Reform of the Nuclear Waste Fund so that collected fees are available for their intended purpose, as proposed in S. 2589.
2. DOE needs to press on with licensing the Yucca Mountain repository.
3. Central interim storage away from reactor sites that does not interfere with developing the repository.
4. Research of advanced reprocessing and further study of all aspects of the GNEP initiative.
5. Infusing a sense of urgency in spent fuel repository development.
And, let me summarize what we are strongly oppose:
1. Continued diversion of the Nuclear Waste Fund fee payments.
2. Having DOE take title of spent fuel at reactor storage sites and to retain it there.
3. Use of the Nuclear Waste Fund for interim storage, certainly not so long as appropriations for interim storage would come at the expense of adequate appropriations for the repository
4. Putting as many as 31 States through a concurrent site search for interim storage before the costs and benefits of the proposed "consolidation and preparation" facilities have been determined.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. I look forward to your questions.
Statement of Edward F. Sproat, III Director, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management U.S. Department of Energy
Committee on Senate Energy and Natural Resources
August 3, 2006
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss S. 2589 entitled the "Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act." Enactment of this bill would significantly enhance the Nation's ability to manage and dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high- level radioactive waste. I thank the Chairman and Senator Inhofe for taking up the critical issue and introducing the legislation.
Over the last 50 years, our country has benefited greatly from nuclear energy and the power of the atom. We need to ensure a strong and diversified energy mix to fuel our Nation's economy, and nuclear power is an important component of that mix. Currently more than 50,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel is located at more than 100 above-ground sites in 39 states, and every year, reactors in the United States produce an additional approximately 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel. In order to ensure the future viability of our nuclear generating capacity, we need a safe, permanent, geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain.
Recently the Department announced its plans to submit a License Application for the repository to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by June 30, 2008, and to initiate repository operations in 2017. This opening date of 2017 is a "best- achievable schedule" and is predicated upon enactment of the pending legislation. This proposed legislation addresses many of the uncertainties that are currently beyond the control of the Department that have the potential to significantly delay the opening date for the repository, and I would like to briefly summarize the bill's provisions for the Committee.
First, the most important factor in moving the Yucca Mountain Project forward is the ability of the Department to have access to the Nuclear Waste Fund to support the cash flows needed to implement the Project. By making a technical budgetary scoring change, the proposed legislation would correct a structural budget problem that currently prevents use of the Fund as it was intended. This change would allow the Fund to be used to provide consistent and sufficient funding for the construction and operations of the repository. Funding for the Program would still have to be requested by the President and Congressional appropriations from the Fund would still be required.
Second, to meet NRC licensing requirements it will also be necessary for Congress to approve the permanent withdrawal of the lands needed for the operational area of the repository. The bill would withdraw permanently from public use approximately 147,000 acres of land in Nye County, Nevada. The Department is confident that the permanent withdrawal of land would meet the NRC licensing requirement for the Yucca Mountain repository and would help assure protection of public health and the environment.
Third, to promote efficient management and disposal of the current and projected future inventories of commercial spent nuclear fuel located at reactors throughout the United States, the proposed legislation would eliminate the current statutory 70,000 metric ton cap on disposal capacity at Yucca Mountain and allow for maximum use of the mountain's true technical capacity. By eliminating an artificial statutory limit and allowing NRC to evaluate the actual capacity at Yucca Mountain, this provision would help provide for safe isolation of the Nation's entire commercial spent nuclear fuel inventory from existing reactors, including life extensions, and may postpone the need for a second repository elsewhere until the next century.
In addition the proposed legislation includes a number of provisions that would promote prompt consideration of issues associated with the Yucca Mountain repository or would address other matters that have the potential to cause delays in moving forward with the Yucca Mountain Project.
First, the proposed legislation contains provisions that would provide for a more streamlined NRC licensing process by amending the licensing process in several respects. In particular, it would make clear that an application for construction authorization need not include information on surface facilities other than those facilities necessary for initial operations. The bill would also establish an expedited one-year schedule and a simplified, informal process for use by the NRC to consider the license amendment for the Department to be able to receive and possess nuclear materials as well as applications for other future license amendment actions. The bill would also direct that the NRC, consistent with other provisions under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, need not consider in its environmental review any actions taken outside of the geologic repository operations area; this will help focus the licensing process.
Second, the proposed legislation would permit early initiation of infrastructure and pre-construction activities at the Yucca Mountain site for utility, communications, and safety upgrades, and the construction of a rail line to connect the Yucca Mountain site with the national rail network. Construction of repository surface and sub-surface nuclear facilities would still require a construction authorization from the NRC.
Third, the proposed legislation includes additional provisions that would simplify the regulatory framework for the repository. In particular, the legislation would designate the Environmental Protection Agency as the appropriate agency to issue, administer, and enforce any air quality permits required in connection with the Yucca Mountain repository. Material owned, transported and stored in NRC-licensed containers and NRC-licensed materials at Yucca Mountain would also be exempt from Federal, State, and local environmental requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Fourth, the proposed legislation would address the use of water needed to carry out the authorized functions under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. This legislation would allow the Department to be treated like a private business in requesting water access, resulting in a non-discriminatory treatment of the Department. The State of Nevada would still review and administer water allocation to the Department under this provision.
Fifth, the proposed legislation would address transportation and ensure the expedited movement of shipments to Yucca Mountain. In this regard, the legislation would provide the flexibility for the DOE to regulate the transport of spent nuclear fuel and high- level radioactive waste to the repository in the same manner that we currently move nuclear weapons. The Department has been transporting such nuclear materials safely for many years. In addressing this issue, we are not proposing to change in any way our route planning activities with State, Tribal and local authorities or how we work with them on emergency planning, training and education. This provision would not affect our longstanding commitment to transporting nuclear material in a manner that meets or exceeds NRC and Department of Transportation requirements for transportation of comparable material. Likewise, it would not affect our longstanding practice of working with State, Tribal and local governments, transportation service providers, and other Federal agencies to utilize their resources and expertise to the maximum extent practicable.
Finally, the proposed legislation would promote the licensing of new nuclear facilities by addressing the need for a regulatory determination of waste confidence by the NRC in connection with proceedings for those new nuclear facilities. This provision directs the Commission to deem that sufficient capacity will be available to dispose of spent nuclear fuel in considering whether to permit the construction and operation of a nuclear reactor or a related facility.
Nuclear power has been demonstrated to be a safe, reliable, and efficient source of power. Enactment of the proposed legislation is necessary to allow the Yucca Mountain Project to move forward and to advance the Nation's energy independence, energy security, and national security objectives. Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you and the Members of this Committee on this legislation to facilitate the construction and operation of the repository and ensuring the continued development of safe, clean, and efficient nuclear power in this country. I would be pleased to answer any questions at this time.
Statement of Robert R. Loux Executive Director, Nevada Agency For Nuclear Projects Office of The Governor
Committee on Senate Energy and Natural Resources
August 3, 2006
I am Robert Loux, Executive Director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects. The Agency was established in 1985 by the Nevada Legislature to carry out the States oversight duties under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.
We have reviewed the provisions of the bill S. 2589 entitled ANuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act. It is a most extraordinary piece of proposed legislation, even when viewed in the highly politicized and conflict-laden context of the past nineteen years of this nations high-level nuclear waste disposal program. During that time we have witnessed the unraveling of the scientific screening and characterization of candidate repository sites, as set out in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, to be replaced with the unabashed, politically driven naming of Yucca Mountain, in Nevada, as the only potential repository site to be studied.
We have seen Congress prohibit the study of crystalline rock sites for a potential repository in order to avoid the brewing political turmoil over siting a second repository in any of the populous states of the northern mid-west and the eastern seaboard, where a large number of the nations nuclear power reactors are located.
The 1992 Energy Policy Act was Congress rescue vehicle for the Yucca Mountain repository site when it was discovered that Yucca Mountain could not meet the EPAs general safety standard for repositories. EPAs subsequent standard, aimed at protecting the viability of the Yucca Mountain site, was thrown out by the court, and its proposed replacement, if adopted, will likely meet the same fate.
DOEs site recommendation guidelines and NRCs licensing rule were adjusted to assure the site would not be disqualified for specific technical safety deficiencies.
And, in 2002, the Secretary of Energy recommended, the President approved, and Congress designated the Yucca Mountain site for development of a repository despite the fact that the Department of Energy was unprepared to submit an acceptable license application to NRC. Just last month, Congress was told that a license application is planned to be submitted in 2008, six years later than the Nuclear Waste Policy Acts required 90 days after site designation by Congress.
Now you have before you a bill that attempts, like a cowcatcher on a locomotive, to anticipate and sweep aside every potential health and safety obstacle that could upset the relentless drive to begin receiving highly radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain in 2017 - eleven years from now. (Ironically, in 1987, when Congress singled out Yucca Mountain, in an attempt to anticipate and fix the burgeoning waste program problems, the planned opening date also was then eleven years in the future - in 1998.) The bill is so dismissive of American democratic values that it is not worthy of this Committees or the Congress consideration.
Removal of potential health and safety obstacles to expedite licensing and operation of a Yucca Mountain repository does nothing to advance the primary safety finding of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act: Ahigh-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel have become major subjects of public concern, and appropriate precautions must be taken to ensure that such waste and spent fuel do not adversely affect the public health and safety and the environment for this or future generations. (Sec. 111(a)(7)). Each of the historical actions noted above has resulted in incremental reductions of safety (and increased risk) in the national nuclear waste program. This bill before you today is a continuation of that trend to the extent that it weakens or eliminates regulatory processes and controls, both for the repository and in the nuclear waste transportation arena.
Exempting waste transportation, storage, and disposal from the requirements of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and relying, instead, on regulations adopted under the Atomic Energy Act is an unprecedented compromise of well-understood, long-held and accepted protection of the public from the risks of hazardous materials in the environment. This is a step backward, away from the accepted policy. The Department of Energys activities associated with hazardous materials are currently subject to external environmental regulatory oversight, more comprehensive in scope than that afforded under the Atomic Energy Act. This bills provision would allow the unprecedented release of hundreds of millions of pounds of hazardous chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, and nickel into the currently potable groundwater supply without any regulatory review. The amount of hazardous metals released would vastly increase if the repository's nuclear waste capacity limit was lifted, as proposed by this bill.
The Secretary of Energy should not be permitted to exempt waste transportation to the repository from external regulation. Also, the Secretary should not be given the ability to take the initiative in preempting State, local, and Indian tribal transportation requirements Airrespective of whether the transportation otherwise is or would be subject to regulation under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act of 1994. These provisions severely compromise these entities ability to be informed and knowledgeable of sources of risk passing through their jurisdictions and take measures required of public officials to protect public safety. They constitute an unnecessary and undesirable trading of public safety for an unspecified increase in convenience for the Department of Energy. They also ignore a recent National Academy of Sciences study that found, in part, that nuclear waste transportation can be acceptably safe if all existing regulatory requirements are rigorously enforced.
NRC Licensing and EIS
The bill mandates both substantive and procedural measures for the NRC license application and review process that curtail the existing rights of parties to review a complete application and take part in an adjudicatory hearing of the entirety of the proposed project. Permission to limit the information in the application for construction authorization to Asurface facilities necessary for initial operation of the repository, coupled with the elimination of formal proceedings for license amendments following the construction authorization, greatly inhibits the ability of parties to participate in a comprehensive safety review of the facility.
Furthermore, any Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) written to accompany a construction authorization decision will be insufficient in its required description of the project and evaluation of potential impacts if the complete planned surface facility and its operations are not available for analysis. The surface facility design concept is currently undergoing a major revision because of operational safety concerns that could not be mitigated. This provision allowing the complete surface facility design and operation to avoid full formal safety review during initial licensing proceedings invites unknown future safety and operational issues to arise, putting the public and workers at increased risk.
State Delegated Authorities
Nevada exercises lawfully-delegated authority to regulate emissions affecting air quality. This bill would usurp that authority for any activity or facility associated with the Yucca Mountain project, which according to provisions of the bill, could include construction and operation of a 319 mile-long new rail line to Yucca Mountain. Effective air quality management relies on familiarity with local conditions, and the public benefit of this valuable experience, especially related to construction in essentially pristine areas, would be lost under this bill.
State Groundwater Authority
The bill usurps the States traditional authority to administer its waters by commandeering the State to grant extraordinary rights to the Department of Energy. The State's constitutional authority and implementing laws, under which the State Engineer makes water appropriation decisions, are ignored when the bill declares that the Departments use of any amount of water it decides is necessary for the Yucca Mountain project is beneficial to interstate commerce, and not detrimental to the public interest. The commandeering of the State Engineers authority would extend to water needed for the proposed rail line which, in some places, passes through basins where the safe yield of the groundwater is already fully appropriated. The Department, under this bill, would have no obligation to protect the water resources of the State
Land Withdrawal, Land Use and Air Space Issues
The proposed withdrawal of 147,000 acres (approximately 230 square miles) of land for the Yucca Mountain project, which could include land for the 319 mile-long rail access to the site, is premature. Without a construction authorization by NRC, which the Department does not expect until at least 2011, there is no need or basis for the withdrawal. In order to receive a repository license, the Department must demonstrate ownership and control of the repository site, but this is not necessary prior to submitting a license application. DOE could simply agree to a condition that, if construction authorization is granted, a land withdrawal will be accomplished.
The proposed withdrawal unnecessarily limits public entry and use of current Public Land for at least the next five years, a period during which the Department has not demonstrated a need for the Public Land portion of the withdrawal.
The bill also gives the Secretary of Energy the authority to close airspace over the repository withdrawal area, despite any objection from the Secretary of the Air Force, whose aircraft currently use the airspace for thousands of training missions each year, with the frequency of use expected to increase in future years. The Air Force Secretary already has objected to any Yucca Mountain associated activity that would compromise the national defense mission of the Air Force.
And, the withdrawal would give the Department authority to exchange land within the withdrawal for federal land outside the withdrawal. With the various limitations for use of withdrawal lands, if exchanges were made to acquire land for the rail access line, this could greatly disrupt, without recourse, public use and access to lands currently used for grazing, mining and mineral exploration, and recreation.
The bills provisions for infrastructure improvement and construction prior to NRC construction authorization are also premature and imprudent. The Department recently has released for review and comment, an Environmental Assessment outlining the six new buildings and many miles of new road and electrical power line construction and replacement, it plans over a two year period prior to construction authorization. In the EA, the Department claims the approximately $100 million worth of new and replacement construction is not intended to support repository construction and operation, yet the bill gives a green light for just that purpose, even though, according to the Departments recently announced plans, the anticipated construction authorization is just five years away. Without a construction authorization from the NRC, the proposed new and replacement construction is not needed, not authorized by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and certainly not prudent, despite the thin claims in the EA that it will improve safety for workers, visitors, and regulators, and support continuing scientific work and testing.
Opening the annual receipts of the Nuclear Waste Fund as discretionary offsetting collections to fund the program is not an entirely new concept. Well over a decade ago, then Energy Secretary Hazel OLeary made the plea to Congress, AUntie my hands, when seeking full access to the Nuclear Waste Fund. Since that time, we all have come to see that full access to the waste fund would not have been the solution to the problems that the program has inflicted on itself, and are beyond the scope of the anticipated and potential problems that this bill seeks to sweep aside.
Throughout its history, the inability of the program to implement a satisfactory quality assurance program has been chronicled by the General Accounting Office (now Government Accountability Office) and the NRC, yet to date the problems persist. But, according to Department managers, as always, they are on the verge of being solved. Quality assurance failures were at the core of the now infamous e-mail incident whose fallout has caused millions of dollars of expense and immeasurable loss of credibility that still is ongoing. Open access to the Nuclear Waste Fund would not have provided an obvious solution to the persistent quality assurance failures. Instead, the Department sees it as a Aculture issue and is now (after more than 20 years) claiming to be implementing measures to make individual managers more accountable for their work and the work they supervise. In the licensing proceeding, the Department must demonstrate that it has management systems in place and functioning that would support an NRC finding that the Department would be a qualified and competent licensee. The Department itself does not seem to believe that it yet passes this test, but is confident that it will by the time of license application.
The many provisions of this bill that are aimed at eliminating administrative and regulatory requirements the Department perceives as obstacles to meeting its latest schedule for opening a Yucca Mountain repository have the appearance of being a litany of excuses for continued poor performance. Virtually all of the issues raised in the bill involve actions that are outside of the control of the Department. Yet the real obstacles that the Department must deal with are of it own making. A most telling example was the Departments inability to comply with the NRCs requirement to provide an adequate and acceptable documentary record to support its then-anticipated 2004 license application. The Departments recently announced fantasy schedule calls for its next effort to provide such a record to take place on December 21, 2007, providing just a few days more than the required six months prior to submitting a repository license application, which is scheduled by the Department for June 30, 2008.
None of the provisions of S. 2589 are needed by the Department of Energy to carry out the primary task at hand - prepare a complete, high quality license application and submit it to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for review and hearing. This bill gathers the powers of numerous federal and state agencies, local authorities, and Indian tribes into the hands of the Department of Energy, probably the most distrusted federal agency in the human health and environmental arena. It boldly does this for the sole purpose of attempting to force a faltering Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository into becoming a reality.
I want to thank the Chair, the Ranking, and other members of the Committee for the opportunity to present testimony on S.2589, the Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act.
I find the stated purpose of the bill to be outrageous - considering its content. The stated purpose of this bill is to enhance the management and disposal of nuclear fuel and high level radioactive waste, to ensure protection of public health and safety, and to ensure the territorial integrity and security of the repository at Yucca Mountain. This bill fails on all three fronts.
First, this bill doesn't enhance the management and disposal of nuclear waste - it simply expedites it. The bill tries to legislate around the scientific and safety flaws of Yucca Mountain because supporters of the project know that it will never be opened if current laws and regulations remain in place. Congress has heard repeatedly from experts who acknowledge that the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository will never be built because of the numerous and insurmountable scientific, safety, and technical problems with the site. In addition, nearly three decades of poor management and oversight have demonstrated that the vast body of scientific and technical work done by the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors, is incomplete or moot due to constantly changing repository designs and plans which do not meet scientific standards.
This legislation does nothing to correct those problems; it merely attempts to circumvent them. In fact, the bill changes the funding mechanism to remove Congressional control and eliminates much needed oversight of how taxpayer dollars are being spent on this project. It also scales back NRC licensing requirements and eliminates regulations with the idea of getting nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain as fast as possible, regardless of the potential consequences. With all the flaws apparent in the project to date, I believe it is disingenuous to claim that management and disposal will be enhanced by cutting corners and taking a "make it work" approach to the nations' most hazardous waste.
Second, this bill doesn't ensure protection of public health and safety - it erodes it. It undercuts safeguards for both the transportation and storage of nuclear waste, leaving the public more vulnerable than ever. It removes all Department of Transportation (DOT), Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Surface Transportation Board, and state authority over nuclear waste transport so that DOE has sole control over a nuclear transportation scheme of unprecedented magnitude. Shipments of waste would be exempt from present and future DOT safe-routing regulations, from DOT safety regulations, and from NRC safeguards regulations.
Furthermore, the bill would exempt material that is transported or stored in NRC-licensed containers or located at Yucca Mountain from federal, state, and local environmental requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). This would eliminate the requirement that hazardous non-nuclear contaminants mixed with the nuclear waste be identified and treated according to RCRA. Clearly this evasion of RCRA could serve as a precedent that would impact future transuranic waste shipments to the WIPP facility, as well as DOE environmental clean-up and legacy management sites across our nation.
In February of this year, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its report on the dangers associated with transporting nuclear waste and advocated that states and local governments have a central role in any successful waste transportation program. This legislation directly contradicts that recommendation. It abolishes state, local, and tribal government transportation authority and circumvents involvement from other federal agencies, such as NRC, DOT and the Department of Homeland Security, which is currently called for under exiting law. According to DOE, 45 states, 700 counties, and 50 Native American tribes will be affected by the transport of nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. Common sense would dictate that giving away all transportation authority to DOE, rather than the agencies and communities directly affected, does not protect the almost 11 million people within a half mile of the transportation route.
Third, this bill does not ensure the territorial integrity and security of Yucca Mountain. Instead, it jeopardizes national security by withdrawing land currently controlled by the Air Force and the Nevada Test Site. One of the premier test and training sites in the country, Nellis Air Force Base has a varied mission portfolio that is met only by the size and diversity of its ranges and capabilities. Similarly, the Nevada Test Site is the only location that offers safe, secure, and remote testing for defense systems and high-hazard operations. Not only does this legislation call for a land withdrawal from these two sites, it also hands DOE the rights to the airspace, giving a non- defense agency the right to dictate what missions and operations can be conducted. This is not a zero-sum game. Withdrawing land to ensure the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain meets NRC licensing guidelines would erode the integrity of Nellis and the Test Site. It is not prudent to risk our national security by limiting the ability of these unique assets for a project like Yucca Mountain, which remains riddled with problems and questions and is doomed for failure.
We need to find another solution to our nuclear waste problem and this legislation is not it. Instead, we need to amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to require the title to all spent nuclear fuel, stored in dry casks, to be passed to the DOE upon on-site transfer from storage pools to casks. Senator Reid and I introduced legislation to allow the DOE to assume liability of the waste onsite before it is transferred to Yucca Mountain. Conveying the title means that the DOE will have full responsibility for the possession, stewardship, maintenance, and monitoring of all spent nuclear fuel. The DOE would also be made responsible for various maintenance and oversight that would be associated with implementation.
The fact remains that if Yucca Mountain was a workable, safe, and scientifically sound plan, it would not require legislation to move it forward. This bill only makes Yucca seem workable on paper by rolling back the many laws and regulations designed to protect the public health and safety of all Americans.
Statement of Martin J. Virgilio Deputy Executive Director, Materials, Research, State and Compliance Programs Office of The Executive Director For Operations
Committee on Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, it is a pleasure to appear before you today to discuss S. 2589, the Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act, which has several provisions that affect the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
It is important to make clear at the outset that, because of the NRC's licensing and adjudicatory role in the national repository program, the NRC is not taking a position on most of the provisions in the legislation, which appear to be aimed at facilitating eventual operation of the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain.
However, some of those provisions, if enacted, could adversely impact the NRC's ability to meet its statutory obligations with respect to radioactive high-level waste. The Commission offers the following comments on provisions in the bill that would affect the timing of the Commission's review of a Department of Energy (DOE) application for a license to receive and store waste at the proposed Yucca Mountain high-level waste repository. These provisions are the subject of a letter we sent the Committee on June 30, 2006, and the points we are going to make here today are the points that we made in that letter.
Time Needed for Adequate Review
The Commission fully understands the importance of addressing the storage and disposal of high-level radioactive waste in a manner that is both safe and timely. The Commission has a record of moving responsibly and promptly to meet its obligations under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. We continue our preparations for conducting an independent safety review of a Yucca Mountain application. We are confident that we will be ready to receive an application that DOE now says it will submit to us in 2008. We are also confident that we will reach a decision on the application within the time constraints set forth in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act assuming DOE submits a high-quality license application.
At the same time, our long experience in dealing with applications for major nuclear projects has made us keenly aware of the level of effort required to conduct a thorough licensing review that meets our statutory obligations to protect public health and safety, and to promote the common defense and security. Our main concern here is that the NRC be given sufficient time to conduct a comprehensive review of DOE's applications.
Accordingly, we are concerned with Section 4(b) because it appears to give the NRC insufficient time to review an application to license receipt and possession of waste at the proposed repository. Section 4(b) imposes a 1-year limit (with the possibility of a six-month extension) on the NRC's licensing decision. This deadline does not appear achievable to us for at least three reasons.
First, the NRC staff's technical, environmental, and legal reviews are likely to take more than a year, particularly because the staff is almost certain to ask questions about the application, and to ask for additional information in support of the application. Even the staff's reactor renewal reviews, which are widely recognized as efficient, have required about two years for each application (22-30 months, depending upon whether a hearing is requested and granted), and yet those reviews focus on a relatively narrow range of issues at facilities we have regulated for several decades.
Second, even the informal adjudicatory proceeding called for in the bill would contain certain necessary processes that cannot be carried out quickly. For example, the bill provides for limited discovery; add to this the Commission's own default proceedings, which, though less formal than trial-type proceedings, nonetheless call for written testimony, allow for questioning by the presiding officer, and allow for appeal of the presiding officer's decision to the Commission. The NRC cannot complete, in one year, both the staff's safety review and the adjudicatory proceeding.
Third, another provision in Section 4 might increase the scope of the licensing decision, and thus the time needed to make the decision: Section 4(a) of the bill provides that an application for construction authorization "need not contain information on surface facilities other than surface facilities necessary for initial operation of the repository." This provision might be read simply to place certain surface facilities outside the NRC's jurisdiction, in which case the provision would reduce the time licensing might take; on the other hand, the provision might be read to provide for staged consideration of surface facilities. Under this latter interpretation, the NRC would review certain facilities as part of its decision on construction authorization, but review others during the later receipt and possession phase, with the result that Section 4(a) would increase the scope of the receipt and possession review, and yet Section 4(b) would decrease the time allowed for that review. The intent of this provision needs to be clarified. Section 4(b) also should be revised to make clear whether the use of informal proceedings in hearings is intended to apply to the multiple amendments to the license to receive and possess that are envisioned with a phased approach for the potential repository.
For these reasons, the NRC would urge that the time for deciding on the application to receive and possess waste be increased to two years after the docketing of the application, with the possibility of an extension of six months.
We appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today, and the Commission looks forward to continuing to work with the Committee on this proposed legislation. We welcome your comments and questions.
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