For U.S. and Russia, Isolation Can Lead to Nuclear Catastrophe NYT, NOVEMBER 15, 2014, Siegfried S. Hecker is a research professor and senior fellow in the department of management science and engineering at Stanford University. He was director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1986 to 1997, and is completing a book with Russian colleagues on U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation.
Moscow’s announcement that no new joint Russian – U.S. projects to secure nuclear materials in Russia are “envisioned” in 2015 came as no surprise. Over the past 10 years the Russian government has systematically terminated most cooperative threat reduction projects initiated after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nuclear cooperation was born of necessity because the political chaos and economic hardship endangered Soviet nuclear assets, those in Russia and other former Soviet states……..
Cooperative threat reduction was highly successful. Nothing really terrible happened in the Russian nuclear complex since the Soviet collapse. Threat reduction was not only cooperative, but it was highly collaborative. Hundreds of Russian and American nuclear weapons scientists and engineers worked hand in hand in each other’s facilities to vastly improve Russian practices and technologies to help them better secure and safeguard their enormous stocks of weapons-grade nuclear materials. They collaborated on how to ensure the safety and security of nuclear weapons in transport, storage and disassembly. They collaborated on how to strengthen nonproliferation and export control regimes and to prevent nuclear terrorism………
Moscow is willing to collaborate in science and nuclear energy technologies, but is terminating bilateral security cooperation. Washington wants to continue the latter, but in response to the Ukraine crisis, is isolating Russia from broader scientific and nuclear energy cooperation. The combined actions will diminish safety and security, as well as threaten nuclear cooperation in other key areas of common interest, such as countering nuclear terrorism and preventing nuclear proliferation.
My Russian colleagues and I believe that in nuclear matters, collaboration is essential, whereas isolation can lead to catastrophes. It is important for both Moscow and Washington to heed this message.http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/11/14/standing-up-to-aggression-or-ensuring-nuclear-security/for-us-and-russia-isolation-can-lead-to-nuclear-catastrophe
Sunken Soviet Submarines Threaten Nuclear Catastrophe in Russia’s Arctic, Moscow Times. by Matthew Bodner Nov. 13 2014 While Russia’s nuclear bombers have recently set the West abuzz by probing NATO’s air defenses, a far more certain danger currently lurks beneath the frigid Arctic waters off Russia’s northern coast — a toxic boneyard for Soviet nuclear ships and reactors whose containment systems are gradually wearing out.
Left to decay at the bottom of the ocean, the world is facing a worst case scenario described as “an Arctic underwater Chernobyl, played out in slow motion,” according to Thomas Nilsen, an editor at the Barents Observer newspaper and a member of a Norwegian watchdog group that monitors the situation.
According to a joint Russian-Norwegian report issued in 2012, there are 17,000 containers of nuclear waste, 19 rusting Soviet nuclear ships and 14 nuclear reactors cut out of atomic vessels at the bottom of the Kara Sea.
For extra historical details see: Soviet Nuclear Submarine Wrecks at Bottom of Arctic Ocean (Video) Continue reading
After Two Decades Of Cooperation, Russia May Pull The Plug On Nuclear Security Contracts With The US, Business Insider 15 Nov 14 PIERRE BIENAIMÉ In the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s former American rival has spent billions helping Moscow secure a sprawling network of nuclear infrastructure, in the interest of lowering the odds that weaponised uranium might fall in the hands of extremists or rogue states.
Now Russia may be planning to wind down those joint efforts, the New York Times reported. Sergey V. Kirienko, the head of Russia’s state nuclear company, told US Energy Secretary that no new contracts aimed at nuclear security for 2015 were envisioned “under current circumstances” — a concise reference to the ratcheting tensions between Russia and the West since its annexation of Crimea in March………http://www.businessinsider.com.au/russia-may-stop-cooperating-with-the-us-2014-11/
Russia steps up nuclear plans in Iran as talks near deadline By Josh Levs, November 11, 2014 (CNN) — Russia has announced plans to build new nuclear reactors in Iran — a move with international repercussions as a deadline looms.
The country will construct up to eight new reactors for the “peaceful use of atomic energy” in Iran, Russian state news agency Ria-Novosti reported Tuesday.
The announcement came less than two weeks before Iran’s negotiations with Western powers over its nuclear activities are set to expire……..http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/11/world/meast/iran-russia-nuclear/
Russia told U.S. it will not attend 2016 nuclear security summit WASHINGTON/MOSCOW Wed Nov 5, 2014 (Reuters) – Russia has told the United States that it will not attend a 2016 nuclear security summit, the State Department said on Wednesday, in the latest sign of frosty ties between Washington and Moscow.
Explaining why it would stay away, Moscow said it doubted the value of the summit, which is to be held in Chicago in 2016, and believed the views of states which disagreed with the event’s organizers would be ignored.
The bi-annual summit aims to improve nuclear security around the world and, in the past, has involved more than 50 countries including China, France, Germany and Britain……….http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/05/us-nuclear-security-usa-russia-idUSKBN0IP24K20141105
Russia successfully test-fired an intercontinental missile from a submerged Northern Fleet nuclear submarine on Wednesday, the country’s defense ministry announced in a statement.
The submerged vessel fired the missile from the Barents Sea to the Kura Range on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the country’s far east. The Sineva, which has a range of about 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles), was deployed in 2007 as part of the country’s efforts to maintain its nuclear power status,according to Reuters. This is the second such test of a missile by Russia in a week after it had successfully test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile on Oct. 29…….
Last week, the Russian navy’s Yuri Dolgoruky nuclear submarine test-fired a Bulava missile from an underwater position in the Barents Sea. The missile successfully reached the selected targets at a testing range in the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Associated Press reported. According to media reports, the Bulava missiles can hit targets as far as 5,000 miles away and can cause a blast 100 times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. http://www.ibtimes.com/russia-test-fires-intercontinental-missile-nuclear-submarine-1719169
Russia boycotts nuclear meeting By GEORGE JAHN and DEB RIECHMANN 3 Nov 14
VIENNA (AP) — Russia has failed to show up at meeting planning the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, U.S and European officials said Monday, in a potentially serious blow to efforts by President Barack Obama to cement his legacy as leaving the world safer from nuclear terrorism than when he took office.
The officials said it was not immediately clear whether Russia’s absence meant that Moscow meant to boycott the summit itself or if it was a temporary show of displeasure over Washington’s harsh condemnation of Moscow’s role in Ukraine unrest and its lead in orchestrating Western sanctions and other punitive measures in response.
But even if short-term,, Russia’s no-show is significant. Only three or four planning meetings are scheduled before the spring of 2016, when the summit is tentatively set to open. With Russia a key global player — and one of the world’s five formally recognized nuclear powers — its input is crucial to setting an agenda.
The U.S. president initiated a string of summits in 2010 aimed at preventing terrorists from getting their hands on weapons-grade nuclear material. Since then, the number of countries that have enough material to build a nuclear weapon has fallen from 39 to 25. http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/apnewsbreak-russia-boycotts-nuclear-meeting-26666344
U.S. Said to Join Russia in Blocking Nuclear Safety Moves, Bloomberg By Jonathan Tirone Oct 23, 2014 The U.S. and Russia are joining forces to block a European plan to raise the protection of nuclear reactors against natural disasters after the meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant, diplomats say.
Envoys from both countries are trying to derail a Swiss-led initiative that would force nuclear operators to invest more on safety, undermining attempts to harmonize global safety regulation, according to eight European and U.S. diplomats who attended meetings in Vienna last week. All asked not to be named in line with rules kept by the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the legal body overseeing the talks……….
The U.S.-Russia collaboration reflects a nuclear-safety convention whose secrecy is laid bare in documents obtained by Bloomberg News under a Freedom of Information Act request.
It also underscores the high stakes for an industry trying to bounce back after the Fukushima accident. European attempts to impose higher safety standards would make nuclear power more costly just as plant operators come under price pressure from cheaper natural gas………
U.S. regulators aren’t requiring the same stringent modifications, according to Edwin Lyman of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group. European utilities pay as much as five times more to fit out plants to withstand earthquakes and floods as a result, he said………..
While nuclear meltdowns are considered cross-border incidents because of the radioactive fallout that can result, no international authority exists to compel countries to adopt safety standards. Instead, regulators from around the world routinely review each other’s practices to figure out which works best. Laggards face peer criticism that can make them look bad in forums like the convention.
At the convention’s 2008 meeting — the last before Fukushima — Japan was criticized by peers for being slow to overhaul a reporting system that had been caught using “falsified inspection data,” the documents show. Participants also urged Japan, then the world’s third-largest nuclear-power generator, to review how safe its reactors were against earthquakes……..http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-23/u-s-said-to-join-russia-in-blocking-nuclear-safety-moves.html
South Africa’s Treasury advised against getting Russian nuclear reactors, but Putin is pushing for the sale
Vladimir Putin’s quest for a nuclear monopoly, Mail & Guardian, South Acfrica 17 OCT 2014 00:00 QAANITAH HUNTER Somehow Russia has persuaded President Jacob Zuma into agreeing to a deal for a nuclear fleet that the treasury opposed. The Russians are coming. The nuclear deal with Russia is to dominate the agenda when the South Africa-Russia joint intergovernmental committee on trade and economic co-operation meets next month.
Even though the South African government insists it has not entered into the procurement phase for the nuclear fleet, it has become clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin managed to sway President Jacob Zuma and Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson into giving Russia the entirety of the deal.
Zuma and his most trusted Cabinet ministers went against the strict advice of the national treasury and his senior advisers when a nuclear energy “agreement” was signed with Russia last month.
Two sources who also advised against it revealed this week to the Mail & Guardian that an initial bid made by Russian nuclear company Rosatom last year was rejected by the treasury and a number of Zuma’s advisers. A third credible source who was close to the negotiations confirmed their version of events.
The treasury this week did not deny advising against the initial Russian proposal.
“Nuclear would be a substantial financial commitment and government can only make that kind of commitment after careful and thorough-going modelling and an affordability assessment,” said spokesperson Jabulani Sikhakhane.
He said they had yet to discuss how the treasury would pay for nuclear energy.
It has emerged that the Russians wanted exclusive rights to South Africa’s nuclear industry. This was substantiated by a statement made by Putin in March last year, following his visit to South Africa, saying his country did not want to merely build the nuclear plants but would bid to run the entire nuclear industry here.
South Africa plans to enhance its energy mix by creating 9.6 gigawatts of nuclear energy by 2030.
The M&G spoke to three highly placed sources – all of them indicated that:
- The initial Russian proposal was not affordable and the treasury rejected it;
- The technology proposed was sub standard and dangerous;
- It would exclude and be damaging to local industries; and
- Even public servants who seemed loyal to Zuma had concerns about it.
One source close to the nuclear talks said the signing of the agreement was a result of about two years of courting by the Russians……….http://mg.co.za/article/2014-10-16-vladimir-putins-quest-for-a-nuclear-monopoly
Cyber security units to protect Russia’s nuclear weapons stockpiles RT.com October 17, 2014 The IT systems of all Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles will be protected by a new team of anti-hackers, the Defense Ministry said after a year-long “hunting season” for programmers.
Special units of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (SMF), responsible for the country’s nuclear weapons, will reduce the vulnerability, should it be found, in their brand-new information systems, according to the Defense Ministry’s spokesman……..http://rt.com/news/196720-russia-missile-forces-cybersecurity/
Russia sends third expedition to Kuril Islands to monitor radiation levels October 7, 2014 Gleb Fedorov, RBTH Radiation from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant does not threaten Russian territory. However, the consequences of the 2011 accident will be felt for decades to come. RBTH spoke to the scientists involved with the third expedition to be sent to the Kuril Islands in the Russian Far East in order to monitor the radiation.
The scientific expedition vessel Professor Khlyustin, carrying Russian scientists, experts and military personnel, left the port of Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East on September 25 and headed east toward the Kuril Islands of Urup and Simushir, where they were due to take samples of soil, freshwater and silt.
……..In the space of a month, the expedition plans on crossing the Sea of Japan and sailing along the eastern shores of the Kuril Islands, a narrow chain of isles stretching 800 miles from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula to the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The scientists’ principal aim is to monitor radiation levels in the area affected by the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant on March 11, 2011. This is the third expedition since the disaster. The first one took place right after the catastrophe, the second – a year later. The new expedition is being carried out under the aegis of the Russian Geographical Society and has been organized by the State Oceanographic Institute. Aboard the vessel are collaborators from state nuclear corporation Rosatom, the Ministry of Defense, the Russian Hydro-Meteorological Institute, the Rospotrebnadzor Monitoring Agency and the Nevelsky Naval University. Results from past expeditions showed that pollution was almost zero and the biggest threat to Russia was the accumulation of radiation in fish.
………The only thing threatening Russia after Fukushima, according to Panchenko, is the accumulation of radiation in various types of commercial fish: “Fukushima’s radioactive discharges polluted the sand in the shallows where we find the little sand eels. Sand eels are caught by fishermen and are eaten by bigger commercial fish, which thus accumulate radiation.”
Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines – http://rbth.com/science_and_tech/2014/10/07/russia_sends_third_expedition_to_kuril_islands_to_monitor_ra_40417.html)
Analysis: Why we won’t be getting any nuclear power plants from Russia anytime soon, Daily Maverick, DIRK DE VOS SOUTH AFRICA 25 SEP 2014 …….who is this Rosatom, then, and what is their track record? Full details of Rosatom are hard to find, but the organisation is tracked by a Norwegian-based NGO, the Bellona Foundation, which has a significant presence in Russia. It was cobbled together from the husk of the Soviet era nuclear programme, incorporating more than 250 enterprises and scientific institutions, including all civil nuclear companies of Russia and nuclear weapons complex’s facilities. It covers everything from exploring, mining and enriching uranium, constructing and operating nuclear power plants, nuclear plant decommissioning and managing and storing spent nuclear fuel. It emerged from Russia’s energy 2003 strategy of 2003, which prioritised reducing reliance on natural gas-based power supplies which could be more profitably exported.
Rosatom is part of a central concept in Russia’s President Putin’s economic policy of having national champions or vertically integrated companies in strategic sectors that are expected to become self-sustaining, but also to advance the interests of Russia. Rosatom is the result of Putin’s efforts at restoring its nuclear energy industry, subsidised up to 2015 by $42.7 billion from the federal budget to nuclear power and industry development before 2015. Quite quickly, Rosatom has become a major player in the global nuclear sector. Rosatom owns the world’s 2nd largest uranium reserves, is the 5thlargest uranium miner, is the 4th largest in electricity generation, provides 40% of the world uranium enrichment services and 17% of the world nuclear fuel market.
…..the corporate and governance structure of Rosatom is unusual. It is governed by its own legislation, enacted in 2007, roughly translated as “On the State Atomic Corporation Rosatom“. The Corporation is not a part of the government apparatus and does not report to government either. It has been headed by Sergey Kirienko from the outset, who, in terms of the specially adopted legislation, is appointed by the Russian president and can also be dismissed by him. The president retains wide-ranging powers. For example, by decree various enterprises and organisations can be placed under the auspices of Rosatom and become a property investment of the Russian Federation. While it is separate from the state, its funding is closely tied to the state budget.
More unusually, especially in the context of nuclear energy, its powers cover important aspect of the licensing and control over the activities of entities engaged in development, preparation, experimentation, transport, storage, liquidation and dismantlement of nuclear weapons and military nuclear energy installations. Rosatom also has the responsibility for assuring government control for the safety of nuclear materials transport, for radiological installations, and also for taking measures to warn of nuclear and radiological disasters. It therefore exercises significant oversight functions over its own activities and this function is not monitored by the Russian state either. Instead it operates under its Director General, appointed at the discretion of the Russian president.
This is not an insignificant point: When there is no history of independent nuclear regulators standing at arm’s length to the state, the processes and detailed assessments required to guarantee safety of any future facilities in the country were they are to be built are not necessarily top priority. Nuclear firms from western countries can point to a tradition of independent regulation. Safety is not just about reactor design; the Rosatom reactors 1200 MWe VVER (AES-2006) appear up to standard. Safety in nuclear is about relentless quality control, which is harder when there is no regulatory background, or when there are questionable records on quality control and corruption……
Rosatom’s success in building its book is widely ascribed to the financing terms it is able to offer. This is described in detail in different postings in a fascinating blog run by Aaron Stein who runs the nonproliferation programme at the Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies in Istanbul, where he works on security and proliferation issues in the Middle East. In one posting, he gives a fascinating and detailed history of the efforts to build a (desperately needed) nuclear power plant at a site known as Akkuyu. The history goes back to the 1980s, when Turkey’s government developed a build-operate-transfer (BOT) financing model for nuclear procurement. This would see the supplying company pay 100 percent of the construction cost, operate the reactor for a specified period of time, and then transfer the operation and ownership to a local firm. The foreign nuclear firm would recoup its expenses through guaranteed electricity sales at a fixed cost.
Eventually in 1996, Stein describes how Turkey tried to open a bidding process, but after intense lobbying by nuclear firms and several missed deadlines, this mismanaged tender process was cancelled in 2001, only to be revived in 2008. Because Turkey insisted on its BOT financing model and the tight construction deadlines imposed, only a Russian-led consortium submitted a bid. The BOT financing model was one of the major reasons for this lack of interest. The problem for Turkey was the price of electricity to be generated from the facility. Eventually, this tender was also cancelled. Rather than pursue a new nuclear tender, Turkey and Russia opted to negotiate bilaterally and came to an agreement for four reactor units at a total cost of $20 billion. …..http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2014-09-25-analysis-why-we-wont-be-getting-any-nuclear-power-plants-from-russia-anytime-soon/#.VCXSO2ddUnl
Several countries along the European Union’s eastern flank have nuclear projects in the works that are intended to help meet the bloc’s climate-policy goals. Funding, however, has become harder to obtain since Germany turned against nuclear power in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.
Russia has been seeking to fill the gap in recent months, but is facing more resistance in some places as the EU tightens its economic sanctions on Moscow.
Finland’s government last week came near to breaking up after a conditional permit was granted to a Russian-backed consortium to build a new plant in the country’s northwest that could cost up to €6 billion ($7.7 billion)…….http://online.wsj.com/articles/europe-wrestles-with-russian-nuclear-diplomacy-1411385720
US says cooperates with Russia in removing Polish high-enriched uranium, Thomson Reuters Foundation Source: Reuters – By Fredrik Dahl VIENNA, Sept 22 (Reuters) - The United States said on Monday it had worked with Russia to help remove 50 kg of highly-enriched uranium from Poland as part of a global campaign to reduce the use of nuclear fuel that could also serve as material for bombs.
Washington and Moscow continue to cooperate on a case-by-case basis in areas of mutual nuclear security concern despite a current “substantial strain” in their relations, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said………
The U.S.-based Arms Control Association, a research and advocacy group, last year said that HEU spent fuel from converted research reactors in Poland would be returned to Russia by the end of 2016.
In mid-2013, the United States and Russia used another IAEA meeting in Vienna to announce that they had helped ship out nearly 16 kg of HEU from Vietnam.
There are about 1,440 tonnes of HEU and 500 tonnes of plutonium stockpiled and in nuclear arms globally, the Nuclear Security Governance Experts Group (NSGEG), which lobbies for action to ensure that such material does not fall into the wrong hands, said last year.
Most of these stockpiles are under military guard but some for civilian uses is less stringently secured.
Analysts say that radical groups could theoretically build a crude but deadly nuclear weapon if they had the money, technical knowledge and materials needed but that merely obtaining sufficient material for an attack poses a formidable challenge.
A fairly simple-to-design bomb would require about 50-60 kg of HEU, the NSGEG said. More sophisticated devices would requires less material.
A message from U.S. President Barack Obama read by Moniz to the IAEA meeting in Vienna said the United States continued to work successfully with Russia to implement the new START treaty, “decreasing our deployed strategic warheads to the lowest levels in nearly 60 years”.
The pact that was agreed in 2010 caps deployed strategic nuclear warheads, those meant to travel long including intercontinental distances, in Russia and the United States at 1,550 each by 2018, down from the previous ceiling of 2,200. http://www.trust.org/item/20140922165343-gvnzt
Russia successfully tests nuclear missile, more planned: navy chief MOSCOW Wed Sep 10, 2014 (Reuters) - Russia carried out a successful test of its new Bulava intercontinental nuclear missile on Wednesday and will perform two more test launches in October and November, the head of its naval forces said.
The armed forces have boosted their military training and test drills since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which Russia considers in its traditional sphere of influence…….http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/10/us-russia-nuclear-idUSKBN0H519C20140910
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