1. Russia set to dismantle 5 nuclear submarines by 2010
(for personal use only)
Russia will scrap five nuclear submarines decommissioned from the Pacific Fleet by 2010 under a joint project with Japan, a Japanese deputy foreign minister said Tuesday.
The Victor class vessels will be dismantled under the Star of Hope program for the dismantlement of decommissioned nuclear submarines in Russia's Far East, which was adopted in 2003 during a visit of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Russia.
Deputy Foreign Minister Shintaro Ito told a news conference in Vladivostok, where the headquarters of the Russian Pacific Fleet are located, that Japan had allocated 20 billion yen (about $171 mln) for the project.
The diplomat, who will be in Russia until Friday, said the dismantling of the first decommissioned Victor I nuclear submarine under the project would start in the near future at the Zvezda Shipyard, in a suburb of Vladivostok, and would take about 10 months.
During the dismantlement process spent nuclear fuel is removed from the submarine's reactors and sent to storage, the hull is cut into three sections, and the bow and stern sections are removed and destroyed. The reactor section is sealed and transferred to storage.
There are about 30 decommissioned nuclear submarines moored at various ports in the Russian Far East.
2. Lavrov: Reports about Russian staff's evacuation from Bushehr a provocation
(for personal use only)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has described reports on alleged preparations for Russian personnel's evacuation from Bushehr as a provocation.
"Whoever circulates these reports, it's a provocation. They are absolutely untrue. They are not even based on any indirect information. Distortions and outright lies are two things. In this particular case the motive and the conclusion are not based on any facts. Therefore, this provocation is harmful and dangerous, and is playing into the hands of those who want to frustrate all chances of starting talks with Iran. It's an attempt to trick the public into thinking that Iran would oust International Atomic Energy Agency experts sooner or later, while Russia would have to close down the nuclear power plant in Bushehr," Lavrov said in an interview with the newspaper Vremya Novostei, posted on the newspaper's website.
Regarding Iran's nuclear dossier, Lavrov described as "rather tough" the United States' UN Ambassador John Bolton's statement pressing for more robust measures against Iran. "Such statements add even more irrationality to the situation, already irrational," he said.
Asked how Russian diplomacy could influence the Lebanese movement Hezbollah and the Palestinian movement Hamas into releasing the Israeli hostages, Lavrov said, "The issue of hostages and captives is extremely delicate, and I wouldn't like to go into detail. But efforts are being made and, hopefully, will be effective. Not only Russia, but also the United Nations and many other countries, including Western, do not rank Hamas and Hezbollah among terror organizations. We hope that Hamas will transform into a political force that will work to unite the Palestinians and make further advancement towards peace. We did not limit ourselves to inviting Hamas leaders to Moscow last spring and we continue working with them. Giving up the principles and making U-turns is an uneasy issue for any organization. But, without being too specific, I can say that results will be attained," said Lavrov.
The Russian foreign minister also said that Russia does not plan thus far to invite Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah to Moscow. "We maintain contacts with Hezbollah, and the level and place of these contacts are defined depending on the situation," he said.
Lavrov also spoke about the idea of establishing a tribunal for investigating political murders in Lebanon. "Concerning the tribunal, especially proposals to expand its mandate and authorize it to investigate other political murders in Lebanon - not only the murder of Rafik Hariri - I wouldn't be in too much hurry. One must first hear a report from international commission chairman Serge Bremmertz and see what it is about. Of course, political murders are absolutely unacceptable," said Lavrov.
Russia's political set-up is such that once or twice a year the people get to hear the president's thoughts regarding pressing foreign and domestic policy problems. One such occasion, this year's meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, produced something like a sensation, as Putin hinted that Russia did not need its status as a nuclear superpower.
If Putin was understood correctly, then this is a serious change of political direction. Until recently, his speeches made it obvious that maintaining nuclear parity with the United States was a crucial part of Russian policy.
The change, of course, obviously caught off guard members of the military-industrial commission at a meeting last week, in the wake of the unsuccessful test of a Bulava sea missile. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's words seemed to contain a hidden threat: "At the meeting I held this summer ... I expressed concern about the way work is going. The Bulava tests held yesterday showed that we have to take measures in a number of areas to guarantee that these submarines are built on time." Nobody with any Soviet background needed to be told what the euphemism "take measures" meant -- in the best-case scenario, they would lose their jobs.
Ivanov was also seething because the unsuccessful fifth test of the rocket put top officials in a quandary. Both he and Putin have repeatedly made mention of the Bulava missile, which they say should guarantee continued nuclear parity with the United States -- and therefore superpower status -- when it comes into service.
The Kremlin sees maintaining parity and the ability to inflict unacceptable losses on the United States at the top of its agenda in security and foreign policy. Not because Moscow sees a serious possibility of war with the United States, still less of nuclear war. The leadership is just certain that a nuclear potential comparable to the United States' will secure the country its proper place in the international arena.
But the problem is that Russia's nuclear weapons are rapidly aging. Even today, its heavy rockets with nuclear warheads have already been in service for twice as long as originally intended. Replacing these old rockets is too expensive. The armed forces can purchase at most six or seven new Topol-M missiles per year. This means that every year one new missile regiment can come into service, while a whole division has to be dissolved. It is also noteworthy that the missiles being decommissioned can carry 10 or 12 warheads, while the Topol-M can only carry three. Thus, by the end of 2011, Russia will be unable to maintain the 1,700 to 2,000 warheads allowed under the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions, the same number as the United States will also have at that point.
Therefore, as usual, the leaders have believed anyone who promised a miracle. After three consecutive unsuccessful tests of the Bark sea-based missile, the director of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, Yury Solomonov, took on the hurried creation of a unified sea- and land-based missile on the Topol-M platform. To reduce the missile's development time, they decided to skip on-land testing and go straight to launches from submarines. Initially, the risk looked justified, as the first four of a planned series of 10 tests were successful. Solomonov told journalists that Russia would have a strategic potential of 2,000 nuclear weapons in 2011. The unsuccessful Bulava test changed this. Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Moskovsky said in June that the fifth test would "take place under difficult conditions." As it turned out, the conditions were too difficult for the Bulava. There was no miracle and the test delays will cause even greater problems.
The Bulava has already missed Ivanov's deadline. The construction of the nuclear submarine Yury Dolgoruky has been under way in Severodvinsk for 10 years. It was originally designed to carry Bark missiles, which were roughly three times the size of the Bulava. The submarine was altered for the Bulava before the missile was even available. Since the submarine is to enter service in 2007, it and two other submarines in the same class will be left without weapons. Billions of dollars -- half of which were spent on missiles -- have gone down the drain.
It is possible that Putin's statements were the result of the unsuccessful Bulava test. However, the day after his meeting with the Western experts, Ivanov told the president about a successful rocket launch from under the ice in the Arctic Circle by the submarine Yekaterinbug. The message: The country's nuclear missile force is still strong.
1. Director General Briefs IAEA Board on Iran Nuclear Safeguards
(for personal use only)
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei today briefed the IAEA Board of Governors on the Agencyï¿½s implementation of nuclear safeguards in Iran, among other issues. The Board is meeting this week at IAEA headquarters in Vienna.
His statement to the Board on Iran safeguards follows:
"Regarding the implementation of safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran: on 31 July 2006, the Security Council adopted resolution 1696, in which it called upon Iran to take the steps required by the Board in its resolution of 4 February 2006. These steps included the necessity of the Agency continuing its work to clarify all outstanding issues relating to Iranï¿½s nuclear programme, and the re-establishment by Iran of full and sustained suspension of all its enrichment related and repossessing activities. As requested by resolution 1696, you have before you the report that I submitted to the Board and in parallel to the Security Council, on 31 August, regarding Iranï¿½s fulfillment of the requirements of that resolution.
As you can see from the report, Iran had not suspended its enrichment related activities. I should note that - although the inspectorsï¿½ findings indicated that there had been little qualitative or quantitative buildup of Iranï¿½s enrichment capacity at Natanz - due to the absence of the implementation of the additional protocol, the Agency is not able to assess fully Iranï¿½s enrichment related research and development activities, including the possible production of centrifuges and related equipment.
As I have indicated in the past, all the nuclear material declared by Iran to the Agency has been accounted for - and, apart from the small quantities previously reported to the Board, there have been no further findings of undeclared nuclear material in Iran.
But as I have also stated before, gaps remain in the Agencyï¿½s knowledge with respect to the scope and nature of Iranï¿½s current and past centrifuge enrichment programme. Because of this, and the lack of readiness of Iran to resolve these issues, the Agency is unable to make further progress in its efforts to provide assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran. This continues to be a matter of serious concern.
I should also reiterate that it is counterproductive for Iran to link its cooperation with the Agency to its ongoing dialogue with its European and other partners. Increased cooperation and transparency are indispensable to resolve these gaps in knowledge regarding Iranï¿½s past nuclear programme, and would assist greatly in overcoming concerns regarding Iranï¿½s nuclear programme."
Before the Board meeting opened, the Director General briefed the international press corps. See Story Resources for a transcript and video of the press briefing, as well as the full text of Dr. ElBaradeiï¿½s statement to the Board.
2. Hopes rise for EU-Iran accord in nuclear dispute
(for personal use only)
European and Iranian negotiators yesterday concluded their most positive meeting for more than a year, raising the possibility of a deal on Tehran's nuclear programme.
Both Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, and Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear security official, said the talks in Vienna were "constructive", and agreed to meet again later this week - probably on Wednesday or Thursday.
"We have made progress and want to continue in that line," said Mr Solana after seven hours of talks yesterday and on Saturday. "We could clarify some of the misunderstandings that existed before."
"The events of today show that both sides are trying to create the conditions for the real negotiations to start," said a European diplomat. "Clearly the tone has been much more positive than in previous meetings."
While Iran insists its programme is purely peaceful, the US and EU fear that it is moving closer to nuclear weapons capacity.
This year Tehran resumed uranium enrichment, a process that can generate both weapons-grade material and nuclear fuel. It subsequently refused to halt the process, despite a United Nations resolution ordering it to do so by August 31.
Under a formula agreed with the US, Russia and China, the EU insists that Iran suspend enrichment before any formal negotiations begin.
One diplomat quoted by the Associated Press last night said Mr Larijani floated the idea of a "voluntary" suspension of enrichment for up to two months. Russia and China are sceptical about the alternative, US-backed course of imposing UN sanctions on Iran.
Mr Solana spoke to both Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, and Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, at the weekend.
Iran is asking the EU for details on whether it would receive substantial security guarantees as part of a final deal.
Tehran also wants assurances of western help in building light water nuclear reactors if it struck a deal. Iran would also promise not to leave the nuclear non-proliferation agreement and probably permit UN inspectors to carry out spot-checks on its nuclear facilities.
European diplomats had been angered by what they saw as Mr Larijani's unconstructive stance at his previous meeting with Mr Solana, in July. But some now say he was constrained because Iran's leadership had not yet come to an agreement on its position.
3. Iran to enrich uranium in spite of possible sanctions
(for personal use only)
Tehran's refusal to stop all uranium-enrichment operations by August 31, as demanded by Resolution 1696 of the UN Security Council, is hardly surprising. Moreover, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said August 30 that European countries should not impose sanctions against his country because such measures would not dissuade the people of Iran from struggling for the inspirational goal of national pride, namely, the mastering of all the required nuclear technologies.
It appears that U.S., Russian, British, French, Chinese and German deputy foreign ministers will meet early next week to draft a UN Security Council resolution and to decide on a subsequent strategy for dealing with Tehran.
They will have to decide whether that resolution should provide for sanctions or whether it should once again call on Tehran to heed IAEA recommendations.
It may seem paradoxical, but Security Council members remain divided on the Iranian nuclear program. Russia and China oppose any sanctions, whereas the United States will not allow Iran to implement its nuclear program.
Moscow and Beijing still prefer a wait-and-see approach. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaosing said the Iranian nuclear problem should be solved through diplomatic efforts. Beijing, which insists that Iran stop its nuclear projects, nonetheless opposes any tough sanctions in the event of Tehran's refusal.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that "it would be at least premature and inappropriate" to discuss sanctions against Iran today. "Anyway, we will continue to advocate a political and diplomatic settlement, as well as complete and lasting compliance with the non-proliferation regime," Ivanov said.
The United States promises to establish an anti-Iranian coalition if Russia and China oppose a Security Council resolution stipulating sanctions against Tehran.
There are more questions than answers in this situation. It is unclear how one can simultaneously advocate a "political and diplomatic solution" and ensure "lasting compliance" with the non-proliferation regime. And what if it turns out that Iran aims to develop nuclear weapons?
Moreover, what countries will join the U.S.-backed anti-Iranian coalition, which may declare bilateral sanctions against the country? Europe mostly keeps silent, making soothing statements to the Iranian side instead.
What ultimate goal does the United States have in insisting on immediate sanctions against Iran?
U.S. Congressman Pete Hoekstra (Republican), head of the House Intelligence Committee, said Russia and China do not plan to call Iran to account and will prevent the United States from imposing economic sanctions against Tehran. Hoekstra complained that President George W. Bush would find it hard to authorize a military strike against Iran if the sanctions fail.
Hoekstra is obviously right in saying that economic sanctions would not work if they turn out to be a sieve with large holes in it through which Russia, China and probably some U.S. allies would provide economic assistance to Iran.
On the other hand, these sanctions seem unlikely as long as Washington considers them to be a first step towards passing a subsequent Security Council resolution that would call for "action by air, sea or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security" in line with Article 42 of the UN Charter. However, Russia and China, as well as some U.S. allies would oppose such sanctions.
Iran, which obviously profits from the Big Six's failure to agree on possible sanctions, continues to drive a wedge between its members. It is no coincidence that Iranian delegations linked with the national nuclear program visited Moscow, Beijing and Tokyo in late August. Moreover, Tehran has just announced a tender for the construction of two nuclear power units and invited Western companies to bid. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani and other Iranian officials have now toned down their rhetoric.
Tehran apparently understands that "the members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council" in accordance with Article 25 of the UN Charter. The Russian Foreign Ministry, for one, has told Tehran about the need to do this.
The Big Six must therefore reach a consensus and decide whether they should punish Iran or leave it alone.
1. N. Korean leader 'determined' to test nuclear weapons: report
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is determined to conduct an underground test of his country's nuclear weapons and has made his intention clear to Russian and Chinese diplomats in Pyongyang, a British newspaper reported Sunday in a dispatch from the North Korean capital.
"Russian diplomats believe it is now highly probable that North Korea will officially join the nuclear club by carrying out its first underground test of an atomic device," the Telegraph reported in its Web site.
The report also said the reclusive leader has reportedly "made clear his intention" during a recent meeting with diplomats from Russia and China, North Korea's closest allies.
The report comes amid concerns that the communist state may be preparing an underground test at a suspected testing site on its east coast.
Earlier reports said a U.S. intelligence agency has spotted suspicious vehicle movements near the suspected underground testing site, suggesting an imminent nuclear test.
Pyongyang declared its possession of nuclear arms early last year, but has yet to conduct any known tests. The head of South Korea's National Intelligence Service, Kim Seung-kyu, said late last month that his agency believes the communist state is capable of testing a nuclear weapon "at any time" as its testing facilities are always on standby.
The U.S. State Department warned last week that a North Korean nuclear test would be "deeply provocative" and that such an act "would only add to and deepen their isolation."
"North Korea needs to listen to the world and what the world is telling it," Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the State Department, told a daily press briefing in Washington Saturday.
Both the United States and South Korea have been trying to persuade North Korea to abandon its atomic ambitions in multilateral negotiations also attended by China, Japan and Russia since the nuclear dispute erupted in late 2002. But the communist state has been refusing to attend the talks since November, citing what it claims to be a hostile U.S. policy toward it.
Quoting an unidentified Russian diplomat, the Telegraph report said the North Korean leader is "irritated" by U.S. sanctions imposed on a Macau bank late last year for allegedly helping the North launder counterfeit U.S. dollars.
"We would encourage the North Korean regime to act in a constructive, responsible manner, set a date to come back to the six-party talks," McCormack said Saturday.
North Korea stoked regional tension in early July by test-firing seven ballistic missiles in what it claimed to be regular military drills.
A US think tank has disputed official claims that what President George Bush calls the "world's most dangerous nuclear trading cartel" run by the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb has been dismantled.
"Working with Great Britain and Pakistan and other nations, the United States shut down the world's most dangerous nuclear trading cartel, the AQ Khan network," Bush said in a speech in the run up to the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
"US officials claim the Khan network has been dismantled and the Pakistani government says the case is closed, but according to testimony before the House Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Non-proliferation, that is not the case," the Council on Foreign Relations noted in a newsletter.
Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) President David Albright testified that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials have not yet been able to question Khan directly and "key questions remain unanswered", Eben Kaplan said in the newsletter published on Thursday.
Leonard Weiss, an independent non-proliferation expert, told Congress: "At least some parts of the network are definitely still functioning."
Meanwhile, Pakistan has been accused of interfering with investigators' inquiries. As journalist Steve Coll says in a Q&A on the New Yorker's website , "It's presumed that one reason is that Khan knows quite a lot about how Pakistani generals and other leaders have endorsed or profited from his global trade."
The story of AQ Khan underscores the importance of non-proliferation efforts in an era when technology and expanding trade increasingly favour smugglers. Such a challenge requires a creative solution, Kaplan said.
Aside from Iraq, the other two "axis of evil" nations, Iran and North Korea, have been on the minds of US policymakers of late.
But aside from giving US officials fits, Iran and North Korea have another thing in common, they both have had extensive dealings with AQ Khan.
The "Father of the Islamic Bomb," Khan is seen as a national hero in Pakistan for providing his country with a nuclear deterrent against its archrival India.
He is also one of the world's most notorious criminals, the former head of a network that distributed nuclear technology on the black market to Iran and North Korea as well as Libya.
The network inspired nightmares for non-proliferation and security officials, and former CIA Director George Tenet even described Khan as "at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden".
By 2003, Western intelligence officials were onto Khan, and that October they managed to intercept a shipment of centrifuge parts destined for Libya. The seizure marked the beginning of the end for the Khan network.
The following year, Khan was forced to make a televised confession, after which he received a presidential pardon and was confined to house arrest in his multi-million dollar villa, Kaplan said.
Leaders from five Central Asia States ï¿½ Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan ï¿½ met this month to sign a treaty creating a nuclear-weapon-free-zone (NWFZ) in the region. The treaty was signed 8 September in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan ï¿½ one of the former Soviet nuclear-weapon test sites that was closed in 1996. Mr. Yuri Sokolov, IAEA Deputy Director General, represented the IAEA as an observer at the signing ceremony.
The treaty signing concludes nearly ten years of talks that began in 1997 when the five presidents of the Central Asian States endorsed the Almaty Declaration on the creation of a Central Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ).
"By signing the document, the countries undertake commitments to ban production, purchasing and deployment of nuclear weapons, their components and other nuclear explosive devices," Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashikbayev said in briefing the press about the signing ceremony.
The treaty, the first of its kind comprising newly independent States of the Former Soviet Union, forbids the development, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition or possession of any nuclear explosive device within the zone. Peaceful uses of nuclear energy are permitted if placed under enhanced IAEA safeguards.
While the CANWFZ is the first nuclear-weapon-free zone located entirely in the northern hemisphere, it is the worldï¿½s fifth such NWFZ that foresees IAEA verification ï¿½ falling in line behind those in Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Africa* (*not yet in force).
"The development of nuclear-weapon-free zones, over the past four decades, is a testament to what nations can do, region by region, to achieve common security objectives," IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei has said.
The CANWFZ is the first such treaty to explicitly oblige Central Asian countries to accept enhanced IAEA safeguards (which includes a comprehensive safeguards agreement and the additional protocol to that agreement) on their nuclear material and activities. The treaty also requires Parties to meet international standards regarding security of nuclear facilities ï¿½ a move that could reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism or nuclear weapons smuggling in the region.
The treaty also encompasses an environmental component which addresses concerns unique to the region. Each of the five States hosted former Soviet nuclear infrastructure and now confront common problems of environmental damage resulting from the production and testing of Soviet nuclear weapons. To this end, all treaty Signatories must comply fully with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
In the months leading up to September 11, 2001, there were 20 cases of illicit trafficking in radioactive materials in Germany, Romania, South Africa and Mexico.
In July of that year, French police arrested 31-year-old Serge Salfati carrying five grams of enriched uranium in Paris.
In 2003, a Russian businessman was offering $US750,000 for stolen weapons-grade plutonium for sale to a foreign client, and he managed to make contact with residents of the closed city of Sarov, home of one of Russia's premier nuclear weapons research and development centres.
How worried should we be about the black market for nuclear materials and the possibility of al-Qa'ida operatives detonating a nuclear bomb in a Western city? Very.
A clandestine trade in nuclear materials and secrets has been going on for years. In 1994, a year in which al-Qa'ida attempted to secure weapons-grade material, 2.7kg of highly enriched uranium obtained from nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union were found in the Czech Republic.
Osama bin Laden famously said it was a "religious duty" to develop an "Islamic bomb". Those threats were once greeted with some disdain, but then there was 9/11.
"The gravest danger our nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology," George W.Bush said in 2002. "Our enemies have openly declared they are seeking weapons of mass destruction. History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act."
And nothing has changed in the interim. The threat is still there.
The risk that al-Qa'ida will succeed in its quest to obtain fissile material comes down not only to freelancing nuclear mercenaries such as Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, who developed the Muslim world's first nuclear bomb and later confessed to selling the technology to Iran and North Korea.
It could be simply a matter of a daring raid to steal fissile material. At more than 130 nuclear research facilities in about 40 countries, it is usually only a night watchman and a chain-link fence that separates determined terrorists from highly enriched uranium.
And at huge nuclear processing factories in Russia - where across 50 sites there is enough fissile material to make about 80,000 nuclear bombs - guards have been know to patrol without ammunition in their guns.
There's also a fear that in Pakistan some members of the armed forces might covertly give a weapon to terrorists. Or what if President Pervez Musharraf were overthrown? An Islamic fundamentalist government or a state of chaos in Pakistan might enable terrorists to obtain a weapon.
And then of course there is Iran, developing nuclear power that many in the West believe is a cover to build nuclear weapons.
Rogue state North Korea is already there, thought to have as many as half a dozen nuclear weapons. A leading researcher on nuclear terrorism at Harvard University, Matthew Bunn, says most terrorist groups have no interest in threatening or committing large-scale nuclear destruction because they are more focused on local issues and are seeking to overthrow the government in their own area - an effort that would be undermined by the horror and destruction resulting from a nuclear attack.
"There are, however, a few dangerous exceptions who do seek to cause mass destruction, and who might be able to put together the capability to do so," he says. "Al-Qa'ida and the global jihadist network it has spawned are at the top of this list.
"They are focused not on a local battle for which the immense power of nuclear weapons might be seen as unnecessary, but on a global struggle in which nuclear weapons might well be seen as essential instruments."
At its crudest, with enriched uranium in their possession, terrorists could assemble a "nuclear gun".
"A gun-assembly weapon need not be particularly large," says Jonathon Medalia, a specialist in national defence, in a definitive report to the US Congress on the threat of nuclear terrorism.
For instance, the report says, the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, stripped of its external aerodynamic casing, was akin to a barrel measuring just 180cm long by about by 15cm. It weighed about half a tonne.
"Simple improvements might shrink size and weight," says Medalia. "A terrorist-made implosion weapon or a weapon stolen from a nation's arsenal could be smaller.
"In short, a weapon could fit in a car, boat, or small airplane, and wouldoccupy a small corner of a shipping container."
Medalia and other experts in the field agree it would be difficult for terrorists to pull off the plot in a Western city, "but such an attack is plausible and would have catastrophic consequences", he says.
A May 2004 report by Harvard University's Project on Managing the Atom said such an attack "would be among the most difficult types of attacks for terrorists to accomplish", but that with the necessary fissile materials, "a capable and well-organised terrorist group plausibly could make, deliver and detonate at least a crude nuclear bomb capable of incinerating the heart of any major city in the world".
In one scenario modelled by the Harvard group, a nuclear weapon about two-thirds the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, if detonated at Grand Central Station in Manhattan, New York, would kill more than half a million people. Hundreds of thousands would be injured, and the direct costs would total more than $US1 trillion ($1.3 trillion).
But, in fact, the costs would be incalculable in such an event, given the state of panic that would ensue around the world.
Never underestimate the potential for erratic policy when economic and political interests collide, even when the policy involves preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
This happened last month when, in rapid succession, Argentina, Australia and South Africa joined a growing list of countries interested in enriching uranium for commercial purposes.
That is the same activity that Iran claims as its inalienable right, and that the United States, the European Union, Russia and China insist must be halted in the interest of nonproliferation.
Is it fair or feasible to allow some countries to enrich uranium while attempting to prevent others from doing it?
The answer is not simple. It turns on a number of technical, economic and political considerations.
The technical dimension is most straightforward. It pertains to the dual purpose of uranium enrichment: to produce fuel for civilian reactors and explosive material for nuclear weapons.
It is not surprising, therefore, that most of the countries that have an active or latent uranium-enrichment industry also possess, once made, or tried to acquire nuclear weapons.
Today, most of the arguments in support of new enrichment capacity are couched in economic terms, generally linked to the buzz about major global expansion in nuclear energy.
Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Africa, for example, portray their renewed interest in terms of projected domestic consumption and new export opportunities.
In fact, current global enrichment capacity exceeds demand. The projected boom in nuclear-energy development in most countries has yet to be matched by major new orders, and the ability of newcomers to supplant the entrenched suppliers is problematic.
Moreover, the financial costs of reviving antiquated and previously uneconomical enrichment facilities in Argentina and South Africa are likely to be enormous.
So other factors are at play. Almost all the new and prospective entrants in the enrichment business appear anxious to establish their credentials as having existing technology in place.
Driving this process, in part, is the perception that all countries will soon be divided into uranium enrichment "haves" (suppliers) and "have-nots" (customers) under various proposals to establish multinational nuclear fuel centers and fuel-supply arrangements.
These proposals include President George W. Bush's call two years ago for the Nuclear Suppliers Group to refuse to sell enrichment technology to any state that did not already possess a full-scale, functioning enrichment plant, and the idea promoted about the same time by the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, for a five-year moratorium on new enrichment plants in order to buy time for developing more equitable means to ensure fuel supplies while stemming proliferation.
More recently, the United States and Russia have proposed that a small set of countries would serve as enrichment providers while all others would forego such technology.
But the basis for becoming an approved enricher remains unclear. While the United States opposes allowing Iran to enrich uranium, Dennis Spurgeon, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, recently said that "special rules" apply to Australia and Canada because they "have the majority of economically recoverable uranium resources."
These rules appears founded more on political grounds that distinguish between allies and adversaries. Such a policy of exceptionalism is at odds with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It is also a recipe for failure, as the history of U.S.-Iranian nuclear cooperation in the 1970s should make clear, since today's friend could become tomorrow's foe.
There is no foolproof means of promoting peaceful nuclear energy while preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. Perhaps the best way of resolving the conundrum is to provide inducements to all states that voluntarily forsake uranium enrichment.
These inducements should include guaranteed access to nuclear fuel for all states in good standing with the nonproliferation treaty - an approach that will be explored this month at a special IAEA conference in Vienna on "Assurances of Fuel Supply and Nonproliferation."
To be effective, these assurances will have to be nondiscriminatory and consistent with the nonproliferation treaty. Such an approach will not guarantee an end to abuse of sensitive nuclear technology, but it should reduce the number of states joining the uranium enrichment queue.
2. Russia Calls IAEAï¿½s Reserves of Low-Enriched Uranium ï¿½Interesting but Dangerousï¿½
(for personal use only)
The head of Russiaï¿½s Federal Nuclear Power Agency Rosatom Sergei Kiriyenko said on Tuesday, Sept. 12, that a proposal made by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to create guaranteed reserves of low-enriched uranium was interesting but dangerous.
The IAEA, the UNï¿½s nuclear watchdog, recently proposed a voluntary mechanism based on the Concept for a Multilateral Mechanism for Reliable Access to Nuclear Fuel. The Concept was submitted to it on June 12 by the six nations that now provide the bulk of enriched uranium: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
But Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Rosatom, gave the initiative a cautious welcome. ï¿½This mechanism is interesting, but dangerous, because it could destroy the economic functioning of the global market,ï¿½ he said, quoted by RIA Novosti.
Under the proposal, reserves of enriched uranium, held nationally or by the IAEA, will serve as a ï¿½last resortï¿½ fuel reserve. The agency would determine eligibility based on a countryï¿½s compliance with IAEA safeguards, and acceptance of nuclear safety standards, as well as its renunciation of uranium enrichment or spent-fuel reprocessing.
Russia currently produces around 6 percent of the worldï¿½s uranium, but plans a dramatic increase in spending on surveying and production over the next two years. Kiriyenko said it was unclear what rules would be applied to allow the use of this reserve and for what price it could be sold. ï¿½It is important to maintain stability on the global uranium market,ï¿½ he said.
The agency head said a Russian proposal to create a joint uranium enrichment venture under the aegis of the IAEA was a suitable alternative to the reserve proposal. President Vladimir Putin put forward the initiative for an international center on Russian soil at the height of the Iranian nuclear crisis at the start of the year.
Delegations from 140 countries will meet at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna on September 19-20 in an attempt to encourage countries to forgo uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, two critical technologies that could lead to the production nuclear weapons, while ensuring that they receive civilian nuclear fuel.
India now stands the best chance of going through with the deal for civilian nuclear co-operation with the United States as no other President is likely to show the same degree of enthusiasm towards India as George Bush, according to Stephen Cohen, senior fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Division, Brookings Institute.
Though perceptions differed on both sides on the deal, the Indo-US relations will not be destroyed if it fails, Mr. Cohen, an internationally recognised expert on defence and strategic issues, said at a round table on `Politics of the Nuclear Deal and US-India Relations' organised by the Centre for Security Analysis on Saturday.
While India's critics in the U.S. "projected the past on to the future" and argued that India would be an unreliable partner, the view on the other side was that the country "would be pushed around by the U.S." Also, the perception that India had not only kept out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but also thrashed it had aroused American anger.
President Bush was decidedly pro-India, though there was still a long way to go for the deal to become a reality. It stood a 60:40 chance of getting through the Senate. If it succeeded, it would shape India's nuclear policy towards the U.S. "If the deal does not go through, it will be an opportunity lost for India," Mr. Cohen said.
One aspect that had to be factored in, as far as American perception of India's role in the deal was concerned, was that India's new found confidence was being interpreted as a degree of aggressiveness, especially as one of the characteristics of the Indian strategic elite had hitherto been a "tremendous lack of self-confidence."
Nuclear weapons would alter the rules of the game among major powers. While the Bush administration was obsessed with China before 9/11, the focus had shifted to countering terrorism since then, Mr. Cohen said in response to a question whether India and US getting together on the deal would contain China's `expansionist' tendencies. It was important for the U.S., India, Japan and Vietnam to have a working relationship.
China was "suspicious but curious" about the deal, but was more concerned about American interference in Taiwan. Also, though it was not a strategic problem, there was a competition between the U.S., China, India, Japan and Europe in achieving energy security. The U.S. was showing no interest in signing a similar nuclear deal with Pakistan.
"Just by getting into a position of attempting to acquire the technology for civil nuclear co-operation from the U.S., India has already notched up a victory. If the deal falls through, there will be no big repercussions on India. There is also no great rush in the U.S. to help Pakistan with its nuclear programme, especially at a time when the latter is entering into a period of great political uncertainty," Mr. Cohen said.
2. Report: India disproves capping of its nuclear fissile material production
(for personal use only)
India will not accept any U.S. move to cap its production of enriched uranium and plutonium, the country's top nuclear scientist said in an interview published Friday.
"We will accept only a multilaterally negotiated nondiscriminatory and universally verifiable treaty (on fissile material production), negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament," The Hindu newspaper quoted Anil Kakodkar, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, as saying.
India considers reprocessing of uranium and plutonium an extremely important part of full civil nuclear cooperation with the United States, Kakodkar said.
U. S. President George Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed an agreement in July 2005 for the civilian use of nuclear technology
It would allow U.S. agencies and companies to sell India nuclear fuel and technology.
In return, New Delhi would have to strengthen nuclear safeguards to prevent export of nuclear weapons technology, allow international inspections of its civilian facilities and separate its civilian and military nuclear programs.
Kakodkar reiterated India's commitment to the Indo-U.S. agreement and said things could move forward on the basis of understanding reached between the two sides.
India's Hindu nationalist opposition and leftist allies say the government is succumbing to U.S. pressure allegedly aim at capping the country's independent nuclear program.
They have been seeking assurances from the government that India's nuclear program would not be curbed by what they describe as the shifting goal posts of American legislators.
The United States imposed nuclear and economic sanctions on India after it carried out nuclear tests in 1998, but gradually lifted them and has now agreed to cooperate in the civilian use of nuclear energy.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved the July 2005 agreement signed by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Singh but added stringent new clauses, including requiring annual certification on the use of the technology and fuel for peaceful purposes.
The U.S. senate is expected to vote later this month on the agreement. The vote will be followed by several other legislative and diplomatic steps before the treaty can be enforced.
September 8 is going to be a big day at Maradykovsky in the Kirov Region: the third chemical weapons destruction facility in Russia is to go on stream there.
The first two, as those watching the process of demolishing the oldest weapon of mass destruction know, were built at Gorny (Saratov Region) and Kambarka in Udmurtia. Gorny has already disposed of 1,143.2 metric tons of yperite, lewisite and their mixes. The other site, in Kambarka, where destruction capacities are seven times greater than at Gorny, and which recently stored 6,380 tons of lewisite, had eliminated almost ten per cent of its stocks by September 1.
Lastly, we are seeing a new facility entering the process, with the second largest inventory of chemical weapons nearby - more than 6,900 tons (or 6,980 tons to be more precise) of particularly dangerous organophosphorus war gases - sarin, soman and VX-gases - as well as yperite and lewisite mixes, or 17.4% of the 40,000 tons of gas Russia accumulated in the Cold War years. They make the stuffing for more than 40,000 aviation bombs and warheads of short- and shorter-range missiles here.
News agencies have reported that the state commission has cleared the first stage of the facility for operation. The acceptance protocol, signed after 21 days of the commission's work, notes that all the buildings, structures, technological lines and engineering communications inspected in the industrial and sanitary protection zones meet the requirements for technological and environmental safety.
"Members of the commission who signed the protocol pointed out that the most important part of the job had been done, and all omissions noted by the commission were rectified on time," Mikhail Manin, head of the conventional problems department of the regional administration, told journalists. "There are no counter-indications to launching the facility." The local executive's words are confirmed by the fact that inspectors from the International Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and specialists from the countries that had signed the convention started monitoring the process. They are housed in specially built cottages and like their Russian colleagues come to their offices every day to see how carefully and thoroughly Russia is fulfilling its chemical disarmament pledges.
A unique two-stage technology devised by Russian scientists is used to demolish chemicals inside aviation bombs and missile warheads at Maradykovsky. First, the ammunitions are holed, then a special detoxifying solution is pumped inside. After that the mixture is subjected to further treatment, with the resultant safe product stored until a decision is taken on its further utilization: whether to be buried at a special site or used in the chemical industry to extract costly and necessary ingredients for present-day highly technological production.
The Maradykovsky facility, whose design capacity is 2,000 tons a year, is scheduled to be finally completed in two years' time. Viktor Kholstov, one of the top executives of the Federal Industrial Agency responsible for war gas demolition, told RIA Novosti that by April 29, 2007, the second stage of Russia's undertaking under the convention, it will have destroyed about 4,300 tons of the gases. All stocks of toxic agents stored in the Kirov Region will be disposed of by 2012. By that time, Russia is to report the fulfillment of all its obligations to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
In order to solve such a technologically and financially complex problem Russia must build four more destruction facilities, which require at least 161 billion rubles, or $6 billion to complete. Three of them will be located in Kizner (Udmurtia), with 5,680 tons of stored nerve gases; in Leonidovka (Penza Region), with 6,880 tons of sarin, soman and VX-gases; and in Pochep (Bryansk Region) with 7,560 tons of nerve gases. There is also Shchuchye (Kurgan Region), storing nerve gases - sarin, soman and VX-gases - in the warheads of short- and shorter-range missiles and artillery ammunition. Its stocks amount to 5,440 tons. The faculty at Shchuchye was to have made a substantial contribution to Russia's fulfillment of obligations to the international community. It was planned to have gone into operation in 2005 and to have played a significant role in the second stage of abolishing Russia's chemical weapons - 8,000 tons by April 29, 2007. But Washington promised and failed to provide the $880 million needed for the construction of basic equipment. First it demanded that the Russian government allowed it to test the nerve gas detoxification technology. Then it began insisting on priority construction of housing and social amenities at Shchuchye, for which - by consent and common logic - Moscow was to answer. And when this condition was fulfilled, American congressmen requested that Russia disclose its stocks of binary weapons, and let U.S. controllers into biological research centers not connected with chemical weapons or their destruction ... In short, there were always some snags cropping up preventing the fulfillment of its obligations.
Yet not all countries act as "insidiously" as the U.S. Germany has allocated a large sum for the construction of facilities at Gorny and Kambarka. The United Kingdom and Canada are liberal contributors to the construction of the facility at Shchuchye. Help comes from Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, the European Union, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Poland and Switzerland. There are good prospects with Sweden, Finland, France and Ireland, Kholstov said. At the same time, he said, foreign assistance goes towards the construction of only three of the seven facilities. Most of the cooperation with foreign partners in chemical disarmament is in the areas of equipment supplies, elements of industrial and engineering infrastructure, assembly and start-up work, and specialist training.
Other countries are reluctant to finance capital outlays in the construction itself, but these expenses make up 40% of all combined project costs. They also refuse to finance social infrastructure, built in the interest of regions and running destruction facilities. These expenses make up 10% of the aggregate cost of the facilities concerned.
But all this is now of secondary importance, said the deputy head of the Federal Industrial Agency. By commissioning one more facility at Maradykovsky Russia has demonstrated that even with small-scale foreign aid it is in a position to carry out its international obligations for the destruction of toxic agents stocks.
1. Russia losing interest in Bulgaria nuclear project
(for personal use only)
Bulgaria is increasingly interested in the Russian project on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belene. Russia, on the other hand, is interested in it less and less.
One gets the impression that the heads of the project have become sick and tired of waiting for Sofia's decision. AtomStroyExport, which submitted its project for tender last January, was trying to win the Bulgarian contract. With this aim in mind (and to demonstrate its capabilities to Europe), it presented state-of-the-art technologies in nuclear power plant designing, building, and operating in April this year.
Bulgaria was supposed to give its answer in May. But we are already in September. The world is changing rapidly, and the autumn calculations may show that a possible victory in the tender will not be so tempting for Russia's nuclear power industry. Russian analysts and experts are coming to this conclusion.
This is the background of the question. When the Bulgarian cabinet of ministers made a decision to resume the construction of the Belene power plant, seven options were considered. Three international consortiums expressed interest in the project. The first of these consists of the Czech machine-building company Skoda, the Italian bank Unicredito, and the Czech bank Komercni Banka. The second one includes the Russian AtomStroyExport, and the French Framatome ANP. The Canadian Atomik Energy Canada, Ltd., the Italian Ansaldo Nuclear, the American Bechtel, and the Japanese Hitachi represent the third consortium.
A technical analysis makes it clear that two options surpass the rest: either the construction of two new WWER-1000 power plants (of the V-466 type), or the building of one new reactor, and modernization of the existing V-320 model, which was brought to the Belene site way back in the 1980s. The reactor section of the first unit was already completed, 40% of the turbine island was finished, and the site prepared for the second unit. But in the early 1990s, the project was mothballed.
The cost of both design options, which Russia could do, will be 2.68 and 2.63 billion Euros, respectively, whereas any other completion variant will bring the costs to 3.5 billion Euros. It would seem that the advantages offered by Russia are obvious. Parsons Europe Ltd., a consultant of Bulgarian government on design and supervision of the Belene project, has also described the Russian version as the most expedient. It provides for the building of two WWER-1000 units, which are considered to be the best in the world both in terms of operation and security.
But the Bulgarian side is still delaying its decision on the tender, and making additional requirements on improving the project and reducing its cost. Saying that they would like to have the best for the Belene plant, the Bulgarians are tempting French companies. But the Europeans, for whom this is business, are not prepared to build two units for the Bulgarian price.
The contractors have hired 227 specialists, including 104 foreign consultants, to study the project's 300,000 pages with the Russian proposals - calculations, drawings, and designs. During the analysis, Russian experts have already answered more than a thousand questions. But the decision has still not been made.
Strictly speaking, this project involves the completion of construction, which may give rise to the same problems that Russian experts encountered when finishing the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. As a result, the profit from the latter project is almost zero. But it was started in the difficult times of the Soviet Union's disintegration, when Russian nuclear experts were ready to go for any proposal in order to survive and preserve the technological potential. Today, when the Russian economy is clearly on the upsurge, and the nuclear industry is making a comeback, Russia can decide for itself what foreign projects are the best for it.
Today, Russia has very good prospects in the Chinese and Indian markets - at least four new power units at the existing sites in Tianvan and Kudalkulam. There are other opportunities as well. Several days ago, Russia signed an agreement on a joint venture with Kazakhstan (low-capacity WBER-300) without any tender. The first nuclear unit in China will be commissioned in a month, and the second one is nearly ready. Foreign experts rate the Tianvan nuclear power plant as the world's safest. In other words, Russia can build competitive power units, and charge for them less than the West. The Chinese and Indian contracts are much more profitable than the Bulgarian one. Why should Russia try to win the tender for the completion of the Belene NPP at all?
1. Fact Sheet: NNSA Working to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism
(for personal use only)
The following is a fact sheet from the National Nuclear Security Administration:
"The greatest threat before humanity today is the possibility of a secret and sudden attack with chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons." -ï¿½ President George W. Bush, February 11, 2004
The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which has unique expertise in nuclear weapons and nuclear material, plays a key role in the U.S. government's comprehensive effort to combat terrorism. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NNSA has doubled spending on nuclear nonproliferation programs. In its fight against nuclear terrorism, NNSA has successfully completed the following:
Secured Nuclear Material and Warheads
-- Returned 228 kilograms (over 500 lbs) of Soviet-origin nuclear material from vulnerable sites around the world.
-- Returned 3,300 kilograms (7,260 lbs) of U.S.-origin nuclear material.
-- Converted 43 research reactors worldwide from operating on highly enriched uranium to run on low enriched uranium.
-- Trained over 500 foreign officials every year since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on how to physically protect nuclear material and facilities.
-- Monitored the conversion of 11,038 nuclear weapons worth of Russian highly enriched uranium.
-- Disposed of approximately 90 metric tons (almost 200,000 lbs) of surplus U.S. highly enriched uranium.
-- Secured over 80 percent of the Russian nuclear weapons material storage sites of concern, including over 170 buildings.
-- Improved security at all 39 Russian Navy and 14 Russian Strategic Rocket Forces sites containing hundreds of warheads.
Secured "Dirty Bomb" Material
-- Recovered over 13,000 radioactive sources in the United States.
-- Recovered about three million curies worth of radiological sources from 112 sites in Russia.
-- Upgraded the physical security at 486 facilities around the world that contained vulnerable, high-risk radioactive material, and currently upgrading an additional 209 locations in 38 countries.
Prevented Nuclear Smuggling and Transfer of Nuclear Expertise
-- Refocused long-term research efforts to develop improved technologies to detect weapons of mass destruction and proliferation around the world.
-- Trained over 4,500 U.S. customs and border officials and held over 180 workshops for foreign customs and border officials on weapons of mass destruction commodity recognition and nonproliferation principles since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
-- Installed radiation detection equipment at international seaports in six countries with an additional 14 countries at various stages of implementation.
-- Equipped a total of 88 sites with radiation detection equipment at Russian borders, airports and ports.
-- Created nearly 4,400 jobs and engaged at least 12,000 former weapons of mass destruction scientists and engineers at 180 institutes across the former Soviet Union.
-- NNSA has robust emergency capabilities with some of the world's top professional scientists, engineers, pilots, medical personnel, technicians and other leading nuclear experts.
-- Using extremely sophisticated laboratories and equipment, NNSA's response personnel are ready to respond to and resolve nuclear and radiological terrorist incidents, including supporting other government agencies, and deploying search, analysis and medical teams.
-- In order to maintain its elite response standards, NNSA participated in approximately 45 emergency planning operations in 2005.
-- NNSA supported local law enforcement by mobilizing resources for approximately 40 high profile special events around the country in 2005.
DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of RANSAC. RANSAC takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.