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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Russia

Liability Concerns Jeopardize Renewal of Nonproliferation Programs

Christine Kucia

Two U.S.-Russian nuclear security programs administered by the Department of Energy (DOE) could be terminated because U.S. officials refuse to continue them under existing liability agreements that are deemed inadequate.

DOE officials insist that the liability language in the charter of the Plutonium Disposition Scientific and Technical Cooperation and the Nuclear Cities Initiative agreements—both set to be renewed this year—must “include liability provisions meeting U.S. standards,” according to a July 22 DOE press release. The same statement cited Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham: “We hope that the Russian Federation will accept our broad proposal on liability in time to allow for the extension of the Nuclear Cities Initiative Agreement,” which is set to expire September 22. The plutonium cooperation agreement lapsed July 24.

Washington insists on negotiating comprehensive liability provisions for foreign projects carried out in Russia to prevent the U.S. government and its representatives from being sued for accidents or problems that arise during the facilities’ building or operation. DOE operates an extensive array of U.S.-Russian nonproliferation programs under a variety of liability agreements. The plutonium and Nuclear Cities agreements, originally inked in 1998, contain fewer liability protections than language offered in other programs.

Bryan Wilkes, spokesman for DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, said August 20, “We’re confident the dispute is going to be resolved because the programs are important to both countries. In the short term, this [dispute] will have no effect. But in the long term, if it goes unresolved, it will have a negative impact on the programs.” Wilkes added that, until the liability matter is settled, DOE will not start any new projects in either program.

The Nuclear Cities Initiative provides U.S. assistance to Russia to shut down former weapons production sites that comprised the core of Russia’s nuclear weapons infrastructure during the Cold War and to channel the talents of former nuclear weapons scientists and engineers into non-nuclear or civilian projects. The plutonium initiative enables U.S. and Russian scientific collaboration to help Russia dispose of excess plutonium, and the program is a key component of current efforts to establish mixed-oxide fuel facilities in both countries to begin disposing of 34 metric tons of plutonium under a September 2000 agreement. (See ACT, March 2002.)

Administration officials have sent mixed signals about each program’s future. According to the July 22 DOE statement, Abraham told Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev that, despite the legal dispute, the United States intends to continue the Nuclear Cities Initiative under a provision that would allow the existing projects to continue.

Yet, State Department spokeswoman Tara Rigler told Global Security Newswire July 29 that projects under the now-expired plutonium agreement have been put on hold pending the negotiation of the liability agreement. Wilkes, however, noted August 20 that some plutonium disposition projects might continue under the auspices of the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition agreement. “Things are still moving forward,” Wilkes said.

In a July 22 letter to President George W. Bush, Representatives Chet Edwards (D-TX), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Ike Skelton (D-MO), John Spratt Jr. (D-SC), and Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) called for extending the nuclear security programs while continuing negotiations on liability language. They said that allowing the agreements to lapse or expire would not only jeopardize nonproliferation work in Russia but related plutonium disposition efforts in the United States as well. “The current situation raises doubts about the administration’s commitment to rapidly and effectively addressing the well-known nuclear security and proliferation concerns with Russia,” the members added.

Meanwhile, even the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition agreement faces questions about liability protections. Russia and the United States initially deferred liability discussions related to construction work on a facility in Russia that will process excess plutonium into mixed-oxide fuel for use in nuclear power plants—helping Russia fulfill its commitment to dispose of excess weapons-grade plutonium. A government source familiar with the issue warned that the present struggle over adequate liability provisions is the precursor to liability negotiations for building these facilities. Talks will intensify this fall because construction must begin in 2004 in order to meet the agreement’s timeline of beginning plutonium disposition in 2007. According to the source, “Russia needs to take the political decision to run its own facilities without a loophole to sue the U.S. for building the facilities.”

Administration officials point to liability provisions contained in the 1992 Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) umbrella agreement with Russia as the appropriate template for all nuclear nonproliferation programs. The Russian Duma, however, has not agreed to the liability requirements outlined by the United States, which would govern a large portion of U.S. threat reduction activities in Russia, so the umbrella agreement is considered provisional by the governments. Other nonproliferation program agreements negotiated after the CTR umbrella agreement did not contain the same strong liability provisions outlined in the CTR program.

Despite the dispute, other U.S.-Russian threat reduction programs operated by the Energy Department are moving forward. The United States and Russia negotiated access arrangements for a U.S. project to help shut down the last three of Russia’s plutonium-producing reactors in the closed nuclear cities of Seversk and Zheleznogorsk, the Energy Department announced July 17. Under the program, fossil fuel facilities will be constructed to replace the reactors, which still provide electricity to Russian residents and businesses in the region. After the fossil fuel plants are brought online beginning in 2008, the two countries will shut down the plutonium reactors. (See ACT, April 2003.)


 

Two U.S.-Russian nuclear security programs administered by the Department of Energy (DOE) could be terminated because U.S. officials refuse to continue them under existing...

Russia Finishes Destroying Tanks

 

Fulfilling a commitment made a dozen years ago, Russia announced June 7 that it had completed the destruction of thousands of tanks moved east of the Ural Mountains in 1989 and 1990. The United States and its NATO allies confirmed and welcomed the Russian announcement.

In June 1991, Moscow pledged to destroy or convert to civilian equipment 6,000 tanks, 1,500 armored combat vehicles (ACVs), and 7,000 heavy artillery pieces to ease Western criticism over its repositioning of some 57,000 of these weapons east of the Urals. If Moscow had not moved the weapons, it would have had to destroy most of them under the terms of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty then being negotiated with NATO. Although Russia’s relocation of the weapons did not violate any of its international commitments, NATO saw it as contrary to the spirit of the CFE talks.

The CFE Treaty aimed to balance the conventional armed forces of NATO and those of the Soviet Union and its allies in Europe. The treaty’s weapons limits applied only to arms in Europe, which was defined as ending at the Urals. Any weapons east of the Urals would not have been counted against the Soviet Union’s limits.

Originally, the Kremlin was supposed to finish its reduction activities before the end of 1995, but it failed to do so. Russia then agreed in 1996 to complete the task by 2000.

Yet, NATO and Russia recognized that completing the tank obligation by the 2000 deadline might not be possible. As a stopgap measure, the two sides agreed that Russia could temporarily meet its reduction goals by substituting up to 2,300 ACVs in lieu of tanks. This agreement, however, did not obviate Russia’s original requirement to make militarily unusable 6,000 total tanks but simply gave Moscow more time to do it—a task it finally accomplished this month.

 

Reform and Expansion of Cooperative Threat Reduction

Kenneth N. Luongo and William E. Hoehn III

While America’s attention has been riveted on Iraq and the war on terrorism, the Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction agenda has, with little fanfare, protected the nation against major nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons threats. Nunn-Lugar and related programs have been a critical defense against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by reducing many of the dangers posed by the old Soviet Union’s massive Cold War arsenals.

During its 12-year span, threat reduction has posted some remarkable achievements. (See box.) These concrete accomplishments are all the more significant because they have been achieved under often difficult circumstances through cooperation with Russian ministries and institutes that for more than 40 years were America’s enemy.

Beyond the measurable rewards, these cooperative programs also have created equally important but less tangible benefits, including an improved Russian appreciation of nonproliferation; heightened levels of trust between U.S. and Russian officials, military officers, and scientists; and new political linkages and relationships not thought possible during the Cold War. These intangible benefits are hard to quantify in official reports, but they are a unique result of this work.

Last year’s Group of Eight (G-8) pledge to provide up to $20 billion over the next decade under the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction has provided an opportunity to further catalyze and accelerate progress on this nonproliferation agenda and to bring in new allies to share the threat reduction burden.

Threat Reduction Accomplishments

Despite facing some major obstacles, threat reduction programs have had significant successes that enhance the security of the United States and the world. Some of the program’s results in the former Soviet states include:

  • Removal of roughly 7,000 nuclear warheads from deployment
  • Destruction of more than 400 missile silos
  • Elimination of more than 1,400 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, submarines, and strategic bombers
  • Enhancement of storage and transportation of nuclear material and weapons
  • Elimination of 150 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium
  • Elimination of a major biological weapons production plant
  • Support of approximately 50,000 chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile scientists in peaceful research work

With construction of the first wing of the Mayak Fissile Material Storage Facility, the nuclear components from more than 12,500 dismantled nuclear weapons will be safely stored in coming years.

Remaining Challenges

Although these are impressive results, much of this agenda remains to be completed. Roughly two-thirds of Russia’s weapons-grade material remains inadequately secure, the destruction of chemical weapons is just starting, and much remains unknown about the size and scope of Russia’s biological weapons activities.

These difficulties are exacerbated by many implementation problems that have developed during the past decade. For the most part, however, these problems are political, not technical, and they can be resolved if there is the demonstrated political will to do so in Russia, the United States, and the other G-8 countries.

Political Attention

Because of its sensitive nature and the need for cooperation by all parties, the threat reduction agenda requires sustained political attention and the expenditure of political capital. Truly robust political support for threat reduction, however, is very rarely demonstrated and often is more rhetorical than real.
For example, the Russian government has rarely spearheaded efforts to eliminate the internal security and bureaucratic problems that plague implementation in Russia. In the United States, insufficient political support and attention has resulted in funding limitations and restrictions, bureaucratic battles, and delayed program implementation.

The G-8 Global Partnership initiative is just a year old, and progress is being made in shaping its contributions and actions. But a number of issues affecting U.S.-Russian threat reduction cooperation might also bog down the G-8 process. Insufficient facility access, difficulties in negotiating agreements, and the lack of requisite legal protections such as exempting assistance from taxes and addressing liability matters are all problems that the Global Partnership is facing. In addition, so far, these problems are not being addressed consistently at high political levels in any of the G-8 countries.

It is largely up to the Russian government to resolve the major impediments, but increased and high-level political intervention could eliminate a number of these problems.

Access and Transparency

Perhaps the most pervasive impediment to progress is the lack of access to Russian facilities and the lack of transparency of information. Major parts of the Russian national security bureaucracy are still wary of the West and its interest in Russia’s defense materials and facilities. Requests for access and transparency create suspicion on the Russian side, and the rejection of these requests fuels resentment and hard-line attitudes on the U.S. side.

In a recent study, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) confirmed the seriousness of the issue, noting that the lack of access provided by Russia to some of its nuclear warhead, fissile material, and biological pathogen facilities has resulted in slow progress for several threat reduction efforts.1

The disputes over access are frustrating, and ultimately changes in Russian law might be necessary for the matter to be completely solved. These problems, however, could be better managed with a regular and focused dialogue between high-level political leaders in both countries. Such a process does not now exist. As a result, the review and coordination of bilateral and multilateral threat reduction programs remains inadequate, and overall direction and prioritization are lacking.

Strategy and Coordination

One way to focus attention and create an integrated and comprehensive strategy for the panoply of threat reduction programs would be to install a threat reduction coordinator. But insistent, bipartisan calls for a dedicated threat reduction coordinator in the White House have been rejected by Democratic and Republican administrations. Creation of a coordinator position and the development of an integrated strategy could substantially improve threat reduction’s effectiveness and more quickly reduce proliferation risks. Without improvement in management and oversight, threat reduction activities will remain vulnerable to attack as delays continue to grow.

The need for strong coordination will become more essential in the future as threat reduction’s results become less tangible. To date the most popular activities have centered on highly observable developments, such as elimination of missiles, bombers, and submarines. Activity in these high-profile areas will continue, but other issues, such as weapon-scientist redirection and weapon-complex infrastructure downsizing, must become more prominent in the coming decade if the roots of the proliferation danger are to be addressed. These issues, however, have an uneven track record of political support and require longer timelines for implementation and achievement of their goals.

Excess WMD Scientists

A fundamental source of instability within the former Soviet WMD complexes is economic in nature. Therefore, addressing the economic dimensions of threat reduction is essential. The downsizing of WMD production plants and related infrastructure will continue to displace thousands of scientists and workers skilled in the details of weapon design, manufacture, and maintenance.

However, the re-employment programs currently in place for weapon scientists, while essential, are not providing many career-changing opportunities in any of the WMD complexes in the former Soviet Union. The two main strategies for the redirection of the scientists that have been pursued by governments—research-contracting and technology-driven commercialization and business development—are inadequate. New approaches and new attitudes are required to meet this challenge.

The science-contracting approach remains an essential lifeline for many weapons scientists, but the duration of most projects does not exceed three years, and many of these scientists still maintain their weapons-related employment during that time. Indeed, a recent analysis by the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC), which provides former Soviet weapons scientists with opportunities to redirect their talents to peaceful activities, has shown that many of the scientists working on its projects are not being converted completely from weapons work but are mostly being detoured temporarily.2

At the other end of the re-employment spectrum, government investments in commercialization have had some successes but yielded few real results, often because the projects have not adequately conformed to market needs. Creating successful commercial enterprises is difficult enough in Russia due to the systemic barriers to business creation. When the additional impediments posed by the Russian weapons complex are added, it becomes a daunting challenge.

Western governments must be willing to accept these realities and lower their expectations that commercialization in the WMD complexes will completely solve the problem of excess scientists. Russia must also curtail its unrealistic economic expectations and recognize that systemic problems in that country impede commercial progress.

A more comprehensive, integrated, and effective strategy for addressing the re-employment of scientists across the WMD spectrum needs to be developed and implemented. A positive first step would be harnessing the experience and knowledge of the excess weapons scientists to solve real world problems in the areas of environmental remediation, energy technology development, life sciences, and nonproliferation. Such an approach would provide global benefits as well as a path to sustainable, peaceful career change for these scientists.

Governments must also begin to distinguish between the redirection needs of the scientists and engineers in these complexes and the need to identify suitable nonweapons work for the production workers displaced by the complex downsizing process. A recent analysis has estimated that excess fissile material and nuclear weapons production workers account for roughly 20,000 to 25,000 of the total 35,000 projected excess employees in the Russian nuclear complex.3 These workers have knowledge of the physical, chemical, and metallurgical properties of the various weapons materials and components, and that makes them a proliferation risk. Re-employment strategies must be developed to make use of their unique skills.

Funding

Funding for threat reduction has been considered the litmus test of support; indeed, robust funding for this agenda is necessary. Some key programs, however, are now experiencing funding backlogs because implementation difficulties are holding back progress. Implementation problems, in turn, are festering because of the lack of political attention to solving them. Funding could be spent rapidly, however, and the goals of threat reduction achieved earlier if these political problems were solved.

Although more than $1 billion per year is being made available for international threat reduction programs by the United States and other countries, there are a number of lower-profile threat reduction efforts within this total that are overshadowed by larger activities and which could be accelerated if additional funding was made available. These include programs for redirecting weapons scientists; eliminating additional quantities of highly enriched uranium (HEU); implementing plutonium disposition; ending the production of weapons-grade plutonium; expanding the scope of the program designed to convert research reactors that use HEU; and improving border, export, and customs control.

Threat Reduction Expansion

Threat reduction is facing some very difficult challenges, but its unquestioned successes have made it a candidate for expansion. (See Sidebar.) During the past two years, there has been more attention focused on multilateralizing the threat reduction effort, expanding its scope beyond the former Soviet Union, and assessing its applicability to new arms control and security agreements.

A Short History of Threat Reduction

The U.S. Congress, in bipartisan action in 1991, laid the foundation for the cooperative threat reduction agenda by enacting what became known as the Nunn-Lugar program, named for its primary co-sponsors, Senators Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN). This initiative has since developed into a broad set of programs that involve a number of U.S. agencies, primarily the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State. The government now provides these programs with approximately $900 million to $1 billion per year. In the past 10 years, roughly $7 billion in total has been spent on cooperative activities to secure and eliminate WMD and related materials, expertise, and technologies at their source in Russia, in other former Soviet Republics, and in other locations around the world.

During this time, this cooperation has yielded indisputable results that have made a real, tangible difference in global security. Among the highlights:

The first success came in 1992, when Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan agreed to return to Russia the nuclear weapons they had inherited from the Soviet breakup and to accede to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as non-nuclear-weapon states. The same year, the United States helped establish two science centers designed to provide alternative employment for scientists and technicians who had lost their jobs and, in some cases, had become economically desperate because weapons work in the former Soviet Union was significantly reduced.

In 1993 the United States and Russia signed the Highly Enriched Uranium Purchase agreement, under which the United States would buy 500 metric tons of weapons-grade HEU that would be “blended down,” or mixed with natural uranium to eliminate its weapon usability, and be used as commercial reactor fuel. To date, 175 metric tons of Russian HEU, or the equivalent of approximately 7,000 nuclear warheads, have been eliminated under this program. The two countries also established the Material Protection, Control, and Accounting program, a major effort to improve the security of Russia’s fissile material, and they signed an accord to build a secure Russian storage facility for fissile materials.

In 1994, U.S. and Russian laboratories began working directly with each other to improve the security of weapons-grade nuclear materials, and the two countries reached an agreement to help Russia halt weapons-grade plutonium production. Assistance to the Russian scientific community also expanded, with weapons scientists and technicians being invited to participate in the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program, which is focused on the commercialization of non-weapons technology projects.

In 1995 the first shipments of blended-down Russian HEU began arriving in the United States. The United States and Russia also began to implement a new program to convert the cores of Soviet-designed research reactors so that they no longer use weapons-grade uranium.

In 1996 the last nuclear warheads from the former Soviet republics were returned to Russia. In the United States, Congress passed the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici legislation, which expanded the original cooperative initiative and sought to improve the U.S. domestic response to threats posed by weapons of mass destruction that could be used on American soil.

In 1997 the United States and Russia agreed to revise their original plutonium production reactor agreement to facilitate the end of plutonium production. In March 2003, the United States and Russia signed the implementing agreements, under which the United States will finance the modernization and construction of replacement fossil fuel plants in exchange for a Russian commitment to shut down and decommission the three remaining reactors.

In 1998 the two countries created the Nuclear Cities Initiative, a program aimed at helping Russia shrink its massively oversized nuclear weapons complex and create alternative employment for unneeded weapons scientists and technicians.

In 1999 the Clinton administration unveiled the Expanded Threat Reduction Initiative, which requested increased funding and extension of the life spans of many of the existing cooperative security programs. The United States and Russia joined to extend the CTR agreement, which covers the operation of such Department of Defense activities as strategic arms elimination and warhead security.

In 2000 the United States and Russia signed a plutonium disposition agreement providing for the elimination of 34 tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium by each country.

In 2001, Congress increased the funds for critical threat reduction activities substantially above the requested amounts, including in the post-September 11 supplemental appropriations act.

In 2002 the G-8 agreed to expand the scope, funding, and timeline for WMD threat reduction activities in Russia, and Congress again provided supplemental funding for key efforts.

The G-8 Global Partnership

Threat reduction has always been more than just a U.S.-Russian effort, and many other countries have contributed to various objectives, such as chemical-weapon destruction and scientist redirection. The creation of the G-8 Global Partnership, however, was a major step forward in the multilateralization of WMD threat reduction efforts. Under this initiative, the G-8 countries committed to provide up to $20 billion to support cooperative nonproliferation projects, initially in Russia.

The assumption is that the United States would bear the cost of about half the $20 billion because it is currently spending about $1 billion per year on threat reduction activities in the former Soviet Union. Another roughly $8.5 billion has been publicly pledged by the other G-8 states, the European Union, and a few non-G-8 countries to date. About 8 percent of this $8.5 billion amount has been committed to specific projects. This constitutes a major funding increase from the non-U.S. G-8 countries.

The major interests of the other G-8 states are in chemical weapons destruction, submarine dismantlement, plutonium disposition, and re-employment of weapons scientists. Additional areas of work will include Soviet-designed nuclear reactor safety projects and environmental remediation efforts.

The substantial increase in funding and commitment to threat reduction from countries other than the United States has provided a framework for thinking concretely about the future and expansion of this agenda.

Regional Expansion

Attention in the policy community recently has turned to whether and how threat reduction assistance can be extended to other countries outside of Russia and the other former Soviet republics that possess weapons of mass destruction and/or potentially vulnerable material stockpiles and weapons expertise.
A variety of ideas have been put forward as to how the United States could engage countries such as China, India, Iraq, Pakistan, and possibly even Iran and North Korea in threat reduction-type activities.
Some useful forms of nonproliferation cooperation with other countries that could be explored more intensively include:

  • Rapid response to WMD emergency circumstances.
  • Undertaking a program to develop alternative employment opportunities for scientists and workers previously engaged in Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs, in addition to accounting for and securing weapons of mass destruction and any related materials in post-war Iraq.
  • Providing export control development and nuclear materials protection, control, and accounting (MPC&A) assistance to India and Pakistan.
  • Resuming a dialogue on MPC&A cooperation with China and expanding cooperative U.S.-Sino WMD interdiction and anti-smuggling efforts.
  • Assisting India in its commitment to eliminate its chemical weapons arsenal.
  • Extending personnel reliability systems to Pakistan and India to effectively screen guard forces with access to warheads and sensitive materials.
  • Contingency planning to assist dismantlement of North Korean nuclear weapons and disposal of related materials, should a dramatic breakthrough in the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula occur.

However, a number of complications and barriers exist that could prevent effective U.S.-led activities in these countries. These include the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which limits cooperation between nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon states; U.S. laws and export controls; suspicions in the host country about possible assistance motives and intentions; and domestic policy attitudes that oppose any foreign assistance that is perceived as contributing to operational readiness or offensive capabilities of foreign military forces. Clearly, substantial political will must be summoned to establish meaningful threat reduction cooperation with other countries of concern.

Moreover, congressional opposition has, to date, prevailed over most proposals to extend threat reduction to other corners of the world, at least when it comes to utilizing the resources of the Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program.

Twice in the past year, proposals by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and President George W. Bush to allow use of unobligated CTR program funds for nonproliferation activities outside of the former Soviet Union have been defeated in Congress. At present, CTR is limited under existing law to cooperation with states of the former Soviet Union.

The 2003 Iraq war supplemental appropriations bill, however, provided funds to the Department of Energy’s nonproliferation programs expressly for threat reduction assistance to countries beyond the former Soviet Union. In addition, Congress’ fiscal year 2004 defense authorization act may provide authority and funding for expansion of threat reduction to non-former Soviet Union states.

Applicability to New Arms Control Agreements

Threat reduction might also have a role to play in facilitating current and future arms control agreements. The implementation of the START I treaty has provided an essential rationale for a major portion of threat reduction activities. On the other hand, concerns about Russia’s fulfillment of obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention have had the opposite effect, resulting in the suspension of threat reduction in Russia for much of 2002.

Other agreements, such as the Treaty of Moscow, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and regional nuclear weapons-free zones, currently have little or no relation to threat reduction, but threat reduction could be instrumental in facilitating the implementation of and strengthening support for these treaties. These linkages should be explored, as threat reduction cooperation between the United States and Russia moves through its second decade.

A Threat Reduction Reform Agenda

Many of threat reduction’s enduring problems can be solved if decisive steps are taken in the near term to reform some key programs, create new ones, and make determined efforts to solve major obstacles. This will require focused attention and effort from the United States, Russia, and the other G-8 partners.
In the United States, there is a reform role for both the administration and Congress. A congressional threat reduction reform agenda, however, should not focus on additional expenditure restrictions and more onerous reporting requirements as a means of assuring accountability. Fiscal prudence is necessary, but these methods have produced limited results to date, and reliance upon them places risk aversion over threat elimination.

Steps that Congress can take include:

  • Supporting the amendment of current law to give permanent authority to the president to waive the annual certifications required for CTR programs and Freedom Support Act nonproliferation programs. The president requested this action in the fiscal year 2004 budget request to Congress.
  • Expanding and refocusing efforts designed to employ excess weapons scientists and specialists peacefully and eliminate WMD complex infrastructure irreversibly. Excess weapons scientists and workers are a major root cause of the proliferation threat given their expertise and access to weapons and materials. These efforts need more funding, greater flexibility, and new strategies in order to provide the career-changing opportunities that can further reduce, if not eliminate, the threat these scientists and their facilities pose.
  • Supporting robust funding for key programs. The Baker-Cutler task force report, A Report Card on the Department of Energy’s Nonproliferation Programs with Russia, recommended that $30 billion be spent on nuclear security alone in Russia and other former Soviet states. To date, the United States has spent a total of about $7 billion on all nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons threat reduction activities. Critical threat reduction programs were cut in the fiscal year 2002 budget submission. Without congressional action, those cuts would not have been reversed, and additional funding to accelerate the security of WMD materials in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks would not have been provided. The fiscal year 2004 budget request again cuts some essential nuclear material security programs, although they are designed to pay for new and important initiatives.
  • Although some of the programs targeted for reduction have funding backlogs, if implementation problems are resolved, those backlogged funds could be spent rapidly.
  • Creating a new global initiative that would eliminate weapons-grade uranium from vulnerable facilities worldwide (similar to projects conducted in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Serbia). The authority to undertake this effort needs to be clarified and the funding for it provided.

The Bush administration also should make changes in the way it approaches threat reduction by:

  • Integrating cooperative threat reduction activities into the concept of homeland defense and the war on terrorism. These programs are a first line of defense against WMD threats to the United States and its allies, and they should be considered a high national security priority, not foreign aid. This could also provide a basis for the expansion of threat reduction beyond Russia and other former Soviet states.
  • Creating a senior U.S. coordinator or focused coordination team that can prioritize, oversee, and expedite threat reduction activities. Currently the multiple threat reduction programs are run without a well-developed or coordinated strategy. This person or group must be more powerful than current interagency working groups and must have unfettered access to the president and his senior advisors.
  • Proposing the creation of bi-annual, performance-focused meetings between high-level U.S. and Russian political officials to evaluate threat reduction progress comprehensively, receive reports from program managers on advances and impediments in each program, and negotiate solutions to implementation obstacles. There is no substitute for having both sides in the same room reporting to senior political officials on programmatic progress and problems.

In addition to the steps taken by the United States, it is vital for Russia to improve the environment for threat reduction activities by accounting for past WMD program activities, providing access to facilities where security improvements are required, offering financial transparency, and approving the legal protections that are needed to move this agenda forward. Resolving these problems would benefit from a much more intense political dialogue between the White House and the Kremlin than currently exists. If Russia is to be an equal partner in this process, however, it must be primarily responsible for addressing these key issues.

It is also important for the other G-8 countries to meet their financial obligations under the Global Partnership initiative and to focus their funding on priority proliferation issues. Intensified efforts also should be made to encourage the further involvement of non-G-8 states and to increase the total funding commitment to higher than $20 billion.

Conclusion

Cooperative threat reduction is a vital effort that is essential to reducing 21st century WMD threats. It needs to be updated, reformed, and expanded. Congress and the administration need to work together along with Russia and our other G-8 partners to make this reform a reality.
The dangers are acute. As President Bush has stated,

The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination. The United States will not allow these efforts to succeed.…We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best.…History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action. 4

If terrorists or hostile regimes should gain access to the world’s largest exposed WMD stockpiles because of inertia, distraction, or risk aversion on the part of our leaders, our security will suffer despite other victories in the war on terrorism, and the judgment of history may indeed be harsh.


NOTES

1. U.S. General Accounting Office, “Weapons of Mass Destruction: Additional Russian Cooperation Needed to Facilitate U.S. Efforts to Improve Security at Russian Sites,” March 2003, GAO-03-482.

2. International Science and Technology Center 2001 Annual Report, p. 7.

3. Bukharin, Oleg. “Workforce of Primary Production Units at Nuclear Facilities in Closed Cities.” Princeton University, March 25, 2003 (presentation at RANSAC meeting).

4. George W. Bush, The National Security Strategy of the United States, September 17, 2002.


Kenneth N. Luongo and William E. Hoehn III are Executive Director and Washington Office Director, respectively, of the Russian-American Nuclear Security Advisory Council (RANSAC), a private nonpartisan research organization.

 

Bush, Putin Mending Ties, Sign SORT

Wade Boese

En route to a June 1-3 Group of Eight summit in Evian, France, President George W. Bush traveled to St. Petersburg to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting marked the first encounter between the two leaders since they split over how to disarm Iraq, chilling the warming relationship both had strived to forge.

Bush and Putin were expected to exchange views on Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and the war on terrorism. The UN Security Council’s May 22 vote to lift sanctions on Iraq diminished one potentially nettlesome issue.

Bush’s visit was to be crowned with an exchange of instruments of ratification for the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which the Russian Duma approved May 14, during a preparatory visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell. The Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament, passed the treaty May 28, clearing the way for the presidents to bring the treaty into force. The U.S. Senate unanimously endorsed the ratification of the agreement March 6. (See ACT, April 2003.)

Missile defense has also emerged as a possible topic at the meeting. Over the past several months, Russian officials and press reports have indicated that Moscow would like some type of political agreement or joint declaration on missile defense, and Russia said several months ago that it had sent a draft text to Washington. In a May 14 interview, a State Department official said that Moscow appears to want an umbrella agreement to permit U.S. and Russian companies to work together on missile defense projects.

Russia’s interest in missile defense cooperation remains largely confined to defenses against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. Moscow continues to express concern about the U.S. plan to build a multilayered defense against long-range ballistic missiles and strongly opposes the possibility of U.S. space-based defenses.

The United States has publicly disclosed plans to put three to five armed satellites in space by as early as 2008 to test whether such a defense is feasible. Russia has joined China in pressing for a treaty to be negotiated at the UN Conference on Disarmament barring any type of weapon from being placed in space.

 

 

En route to a June 1-3 Group of Eight summit in Evian, France, President George W. Bush traveled to St. Petersburg to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin...

The Post-Hussein Era: America, Russia,

Representatives Curt Weldon and Chet Edwards

The nations of the world are moving warily into the post-Saddam Hussein era. Bruised feelings, suspicions, and strained relations among old and new friends and allies abound. France, Germany, and Russia, which once saw little of common interest, now nurse a common grudge against what they see as America’s willingness to ignore their counsel. Healing all of these wounds will be important for America’s national interest, but none is more significant than restoring our increasingly close strategic relationship with Russia, for Russia is the only country that can make or break our war on terrorism.

Of paramount importance to the lives and safety of the American people are the massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons and materials and the expertise for building them that Russia and the other independent states inherited from the Soviet Union. The size of those inventories and that pool of scientific know-how, along with their dangerous vulnerability to theft or diversion, continue to pose dangers of immense proportions, dangers that we have not done enough to address.

A recent Department of Energy estimate put the amount of Russian weapons-usable nuclear materials at more than 1,500 tons.1 That is enough for more than 100,000 nuclear weapons.2 Just one weapon with an explosive power of 10 kilotons, somewhat smaller than the Hiroshima bomb, detonated at Grand Central Station in New York could kill about a half-million people and inflict about a trillion dollars of direct economic damage. The U.S. government considers that a real possibility; in October 2001, it was concerned that al Qaeda might have smuggled a 10-kiloton warhead into lower Manhattan. The fact that a Russian nuclear commander had recently reported that he could not account for a warhead that size ostensibly under his control was part of the reason for the concern.3

If a terrorist group setting off such a weapon were to claim the ability to detonate one or more additional bombs, the effect on the American people, our government, and our economy would be too horrific to assess.

It has been 12 years since Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and then-Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) alerted the nation to this kind of danger and successfully proposed bold, forward-looking legislation establishing threat-reduction programs in the states of the former Soviet Union. They saw the danger to the United States, and to the whole world, of the Soviet-era nuclear legacy that had fallen to Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union.

The Need for More Threat Reduction

The Nunn-Lugar and related nonproliferation programs are beginning to account for and secure the nuclear stockpiles of the former Soviet Union while developing sustainable commercial employment for the tens of thousands of scientists and technicians who used to work in the development and production of weapons of mass destruction. The programs are aimed at exactly the right targets. As Nunn recently observed, “It becomes obvious from analyzing the terrorist path to a nuclear attack that the most effective, least expensive way to prevent nuclear terrorism is to secure nuclear weapons and materials at the source. Acquiring weapons and materials is the hardest step for the terrorists to take, and the easiest for us to stop.”4

What is distressing to note, looking back over the past decade, is that we have not moved with greater speed and determination to protect American lives from this great danger. These programs, despite being effective, are too small and have been operating at a pace that does not match the size and urgency of the problem. To cite just one example, working with Russia, we certainly by now should have completed “comprehensive upgrades” at all vulnerable nuclear sites in that country. These upgrades involving sophisticated security systems are along the lines of what we use here in the United States to protect our own stocks of weapons-grade materials. According to the Department of Energy’s fiscal year 2004 budget documents, even by October 2004, comprehensive upgrades will not have been completed at facilities containing enough material for more than 22,000 nuclear weapons. This is far too risky given that a recent CIA report faulted the security of Russian nuclear arsenal facilities, noting that “undetected smuggling has occurred.”5

There is little to be gained from pointing fingers. Neither the Clinton administration, the Bush administration, nor the Congress, under either Democratic or Republican leadership, has given these programs the priority they deserve.

It strains credulity that we are apparently comfortable with leaving such large quantities of bomb material so lightly protected, or essentially unprotected, in sites in the former Soviet Union for years and years while we keep our own under heavily guarded, highly sophisticated, electronically based security. There is no doubt that terrorists not only want nuclear weapons but that they are actively attempting to acquire them. A Harvard study commissioned by the Nuclear Threat Initiative recently reported that “[i]n October 2001, the commander of the force that guards Russia’s nuclear weapons reported that during that year, terrorist groups had twice carried out reconnaissance at Russian nuclear warhead storage sites—whose very locations are a state secret.”6 This report was confirmed by the official Russian government newspaper.7 In addition, there have been numerous other reports in the Russian press of terrorists reconnoitering nuclear warhead transport trains.8 Also, it has been reported that the 40 armed Chechens who seized hundreds of hostages at a Moscow theater in October 2002 had considered seizing a nuclear reactor with hundreds of kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU)—enough to build several nuclear weapons.9

As the readers of this publication are well aware, the bipartisan task force headed by former Senate Republican Leader Howard Baker and former Clinton administration White House counsel Lloyd Cutler concluded in January 2001 that an effort in the magnitude of $30 billion over eight to 10 years was necessary in order to deal with nuclear threat reduction and nonproliferation problems in Russia.10 We have not yet even approached that level and are currently devoting only about $1 billion a year to this problem.

Last year at the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Kananaskis, Canada, the participants established a Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and promised to “raise up to $20 billion” for the initiative over the next 10 years. That is still $10 billion shy of the Baker-Cutler recommendation and is spread over a much broader range of problems than preventing the proliferation of Russia’s nuclear weapons, materials, and know-how. It will address the spread of weapons of mass destruction on a global basis and include matters relating to nonproliferation, disarmament, counterterrorism, and nuclear safety and environmental issues. Thus, whether or how much the G-8 initiative will actually increase threat-reduction and nonproliferation efforts in Russia cannot be discerned at this point.

For example, the U.S. pledge of $10 billion essentially assumes a straight-lining of the U.S. programs at 6 percent less than the fiscal year 2002 level 11 and would be even less in real dollars after adjusting for inflation.

Another factor requiring increased U.S.-Russia nonproliferation efforts over the coming years is the fate of the thousands of Russian strategic warheads that will be removed from deployment under the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). The already beleaguered Russian system of accounting, securing, and destroying nuclear weapons and materials will be further stressed by the downloading of these warheads. Ensuring that these warheads do not proliferate should be a key U.S. objective in the years to come.

Clearly, we in Congress need to be doing more to enhance and accelerate these programs. A leading observer has noted the unsatisfactory pace of the U.S. programs this way: “Continuing on the current course…could leave key objectives unmet at the end of this decade.”12 That plainly is unacceptable.

But resources are not the only problem. The United States and Russia still have not ironed out the problems of working together efficiently, including problems of access to sensitive sites in Russia where security upgrades are necessary and of the need for the United States to be assured that work that has been paid for has been completed. Other problems include the fact that there are dozens of U.S. programs operated by three cabinet departments and other agencies. Thus, problems in the coordination or synchronization of the programs continue to arise.13

The challenges are as urgent as they are clear, and they require two immediate responses. First is ensuring that U.S.-Russian relations are on a plane where these nuclear nonproliferation programs can move ahead more aggressively and the difficulties in carrying them out can be resolved. This clearly is an issue requiring the attention of Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin in their June 1 summit in St. Petersburg and in any subsequent talks between the leaders. Americans and Russians alike need the protection that these programs can provide, and they need that protection now. Many have recommended that these two leaders each designate a top-level official reporting directly to their respective president to lead and coordinate these programs.14 We agree. In both countries, these officials should each be charged with developing an integrated plan for their government’s part in these efforts, meeting with their counterpart, offering advice on the budgetary requirements for carrying out these plans, and alerting their president when problems requiring his intervention arise.

Urgent Next Steps

A strong congressional effort to take the Nunn-Lugar-type programs to a new level is necessary and is beginning to take shape. On April 10, we, together with a bipartisan group of 22 other members of Congress, introduced the Nuclear Security Initiative Act of 2003 to do just that.15 Many of these provisions have been included in the House version of the fiscal year 2004 defense authorization bill. (See ACT, June.) The Senate and the White House would be wise to endorse them as Congress hashes out the final House-Senate compromises on the defense bill.

Important next steps for Congress to address include: Enhance Security Upgrades and Expand Them to Research Reactors

We should accelerate the Department of Energy’s International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation (MPC&A) program in order to quickly improve basic security measures at all nuclear weapons and materials storage facilities in the former Soviet Union. According to the Department of Energy’s own fiscal year 2004 budget documents, by October 2004, enough nuclear material to build 16,000 bombs will still be in Russian facilities lacking the most basic security protection, such as fences, strengthened doors and locks, and bricked-up or barred windows. These are the protections—the kind you would expect to find at a warehouse for storing home appliances in the United States—that can prevent ordinary burglars from breaking into buildings containing the makings of enormous tragedies in U.S. cities.

In addition, hundreds of facilities around the world, many of them too poor to provide basic security, have various quantities of plutonium or HEU.16 This situation poses a grave and immediate threat to our security, and we need a new approach to deal with it.

The recent success in Vinca, Yugoslavia, is illustrative. A research reactor facility there that had received HEU from the Soviet Union cooperated with an international team that returned the material to a secure site in Russia, where it was reduced to non-weapons-usable, low-enriched uranium (LEU). The United States provided $2 million to $3 million for this project, and making up for a gap in the U.S. government’s authority, a private nonprofit group, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, donated $5 million.17 But we cannot afford the several months of interagency negotiations and the enlistment of private help that are currently needed to cobble together each of the dozens of Vinca-like projects that need to be undertaken as quickly as possible around the world.

Our legislation provided for such an expedited effort by permitting expansion of the MPC&A program authority to countries outside the former Soviet Union. It also would allow the administration to offer incentives to convince managers to part with fissile material that they see as critical to a research reactor’s reason for existing. Thus, our broader program would include the authority to purchase vulnerable HEU and plutonium and transport it to the United States or elsewhere for secure storage or neutralization and the authority to offer targeted financial and other incentives to encourage facilities to release the material. Incentives might include assistance with managing nuclear waste, funding to convert a reactor to the use of LEU, and decommissioning reactors and related facilities. Where it might be practical for a country to retain the fissile material, our expanded MPC&A program could assist with security upgrades that are considered adequate and sustainable.

Acceleration of HEU Blend-Down Program

Under a 1993 U.S.-Russian HEU Purchase Agreement, the U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC), a corporation serving as the U.S. executive agent under the agreement, each year buys about 30 tons of Russian HEU that has been removed from dismantled nuclear weapons and blended down to LEU, which is not weapons usable. USEC then sells the LEU on the U.S. market to nuclear power companies. The amount of HEU blended down annually is geared not to U.S. or Russian security demands but to what the U.S. market will bear without causing prices to drop too far or pushing American producers out of business. The agreement covers 500 tons of HEU and will run through 2013.
There are at least another 600 tons of HEU in Russia, however, that must be dealt with. Thus, section 3157 of the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 authorized a new program for blending down additional quantities of HEU in Russia that are not covered by the 1993 agreement. Our bill provides funds for expediting the expanded program of blending down HEU that is critically important to our security.

Fighting the Smuggling of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Related Materials

Another provision of the bill addresses the need to back up our efforts to secure nuclear weapons and materials with measures to combat smuggling of the weapons, materials, and technologies. Although terrorist organizations lack the capacity at this time to attack the United States with a ballistic missile, it is quite likely that a terrorist organization that gained control of a nuclear weapon or the material to build one could smuggle it into the United States across our northern or southern border or by boat. Only about four kilograms of plutonium or 20 kilograms of HEU is needed for a bomb.18

Several states of the former Soviet Union with stockpiles of nuclear materials, however, lack the legal and institutional frameworks to monitor and control exports effectively, as well as the infrastructure and personnel necessary to implement such controls. In many cases, these countries have borders that are thousands of miles long and national governments that often do not have the ability to monitor, patrol, or secure them. According to the latest estimate, only 45 percent of Russia’s customs checkpoints have operable radiation detectors and monitors.19 Some borders in the former Soviet Union are considered particularly sensitive, including points of entry into Iran on the Caspian Sea.

The same provision also recognizes the great challenge we face in monitoring the more than 20,000 shipping containers that enter the United States each day. New technology could help us determine if any vessel in a port contains nuclear material. If we placed such equipment in ports overseas, we could determine whether a vessel is free of nuclear materials before it departs for the United States rather than after it has entered a U.S. port.

Our legislation authorizes aid to the former Soviet states to improve their border controls, to track and intercept illicit transfers of weapons of mass destruction and the materials and technologies for building them, and to work with other countries to install in their ports devices to detect nuclear or radiological weapons or materials.

“Silk Road” Initiative

In addition to work in Russia to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction, more work needs to be done in the countries on Russia’s periphery to ensure that materials and weapons that terrorists might attempt to smuggle out of Russia are interdicted and to ensure that people with weapons of mass destruction expertise in states of the former Soviet Union other than Russia find gainful, peaceful employment. To this end, we want to establish a “Silk Road” Initiative (SRI). The SRI would provide assistance to develop sustainable employment opportunities for scientists, engineers, and technicians formerly employed in the production of weapons of mass destruction in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. These countries—new and struggling democracies that have been very helpful to the United States in the war against terrorism—would benefit considerably from this assistance, and U.S. national security would be enhanced.

Under the leadership of the secretary of energy, the SRI would incorporate the best practices under current and former Department of Energy “brain drain” programs with Russia and facilitate commercial partnerships between private entities in the United States and scientists, engineers, and technicians in the Silk Road countries. Our bill requires that, before fully implementing this new program, the secretary of energy carry out a pilot program with respect to one Silk Road state, preferably Georgia.

Chemical, Biological Weapons Plan

In addition to addressing the threat posed by nuclear weapons, the United States needs to improve its efforts to reduce the threat posed by biological and chemical weapons. Our legislation would address two of the most important steps that could be taken on this front: the creation of a comprehensive plan for biological and chemical weapons nonproliferation programs in the states of the former Soviet Union and the designation of a senior official to coordinate those programs. For too long, these programs have operated without a strategic vision and strong leadership. The principal objectives of this proposal are to focus the very top levels of government on the issue; to fill the need for one high-level official to take responsibility for overseeing and coordinating these programs; and to establish priorities, identify gaps and overlaps, and take advantage of synergies.

Inventory Nuclear Weapons

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union produced more than a thousand metric tons of weapons-grade nuclear material, enough to build approximately 175,000 nuclear warheads.20 In 1986, at the height of the U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons buildup, the two countries possessed almost 64,000 nuclear warheads.21 Today, the United States and Russia possess more than 95 percent of the world’s assembled nuclear weapons and weapons-grade material.

Unfortunately, the Russian nuclear establishment is unable to account fully for its inventory of weapons-grade material and nuclear weapons. With its closed society, complete with closed and isolated nuclear cities, closed borders, and an intrusive KGB, the Soviet Union never saw the need for the extensive record keeping and physical security measures the United States adopted for nuclear installations during and since the Cold War. This appears to have been especially true for weapons-grade nuclear material and maybe even for portable “tactical” nuclear warheads.22 Now that we are partners with a newly democratic Russia, we need to do all we can to correct that situation in order to help us work together to secure weapons and materials.

For these reasons, the United States must establish a comprehensive inventory of U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads and materials, accompanied by exchanges of the inventory information. Our legislation requires that particular attention be paid to tactical warheads and warheads that are no longer operationally deployed. Such inventories and exchanges, which would be the first steps in a long process, would accelerate the process of establishing fissile material and warhead inventories in which both sides have confidence. Additional steps would include ongoing declarations, inspections to check the accuracy and completeness of the declarations, and measures to verify the dismantling or safe storage of warheads and the elimination of warhead components.

Other provisions included in our proposal further strengthen programs to provide former weapons of mass destruction scientists and engineers with sustainable commercial employment, accelerate programs for closing nuclear weapons production facilities in Russia, enhance the program for improving security at facilities in Russia containing “dirty bomb” radiological materials, and establish a formal Duma-Congress nuclear threat reduction working group.

Preventing terrorists and hostile states from acquiring nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction is the central requirement of the U.S. national security agenda. As President Bush has stated, “The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination. The United States will not allow these efforts to succeed…. We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best…. History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act.”23 By taking the steps outlined above, the leadership of the United States will be acting to fulfill its primary duty—protecting the security of the American people.


NOTES

1. March 6, 2003, letter from the Associate Administrator for Management and Administration of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy, reprinted in the General Accounting Office report, “Weapons of Mass Destruction: Additional Russian Cooperation Needed to Facilitate U.S. Efforts to Improve Security at Russian Sites,” GAO-03-482 (March 2003), p. 80 (hereinafter GAO report).

2. This figure is based on the conservative assumption that all of this material is highly enriched uranium, requiring about 20 kilograms (44 pounds) for a nuclear weapon, although it contains much plutonium, of which only about 4 kilograms (about 9 pounds) is needed. See Matthew Bunn, Anthony Wier, and John P. Holdren, “Controlling Nuclear Warheads and Materials: A Report Card and Action Plan,” (Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University 2003), p. 13, n. 9 and accompanying text, available at http://www.nti.org/e_research/cnwm/index.asp (hereinafter NTI study).

3. Massimo Calabresi and Romesh Ratnesar, “Can We Stop the Next Attack?” Time, March 3, 2002.
4. Sam Nunn, “Keynote Address,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 2002 Non-Proliferation Conference, November 14, 2002, available at http://www.nti.org/c_press/speech_samnunn_1114.pdf.

5. Central Intelligence Agency, “Annual Report to Congress on the Safety and Security of Russian Nuclear Facilities and Military Forces,” (February 2002), available at http://www.cia.gov/nic/pubs/other_products/icarussiansecurity.htm.

6. NTI study, p. 14.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. “A Report Card on the Department of Energy’s Nonproliferation Programs with Russia,” Task Force of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (January 2001).

11. The fiscal year 2002 level totaled $1.065 billion. William Hoehn, “Observations on the President’s Fiscal Year 2004 Budget Request for Nonproliferation Programs and the Former Soviet Union,” (Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, February 11, 2003), available at http://www.ransac.org/new-web-site/index.html.

12. Text of April 24, 2003, letter from the Russian-American Nuclear Security Advisory Council to the U.S. Congress on the future of weapons of mass destruction threat reduction, available at http://www.ransac.org/new-web-site/index.html.

13. NTI study; GAO report, p. 43, (concluding that the Departments of Defense and Energy need “an integrated plan” for their related programs for helping secure Russia’s nuclear warheads).

14. NTI study, pp. 122-24.

15. In addition, another two cosponsors subsequently signed on.

16. NTI study, p. 142.

17. Department of State, Fact Sheet, August 23, 2002.

18. NTI study.

19. U.S.-Russian Legislative Working Group on Nonproliferation, “Statement on the Need to Expand Nonproliferation Export Control Assistance to Russia,” adopted January 28, 2003.

20. Harold Feiveson and Steve Fetter, “Verifying Deep Reductions in Nuclear Forces,” in Harold Feiveson, ed., The Nuclear Turning Point: A Blueprint for Deep Cuts and De-alerting of Nuclear Weapons (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1999), p. 221.

21. Natural Resources Defense Council Nuclear Notebook, “Global Nuclear Stockpiles, 1945–2002,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 58, no. 6, (Nov./Dec. 2002), pp. 103–104.

22. John D. Steinbruner, Principles of Global Security (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2000), pp. 73-80.

23. The White House, “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” September 2002.

 


Curt Weldon (R-PA) is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. Chet Edwards (D-TX) is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

 

 

  

Russia Destroys 1 Percent of CW Stockpile

Russia finished destroying 1 percent of its most dangerous chemical weapons April 26, according to Russia’s foreign ministry and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The event marked the first milestone of the country’s commitment under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to destroy its stockpile. Russia, however, reached the road mark three years after its original deadline.

Under the 1997 treaty, Russia committed to destroy 1 percent of its Category 1—the most dangerous—chemical weapons within three years of the agreement’s entry into force. In October 2002, CWC member states granted Russia an extension on this deadline, as well as on its 20 percent destruction deadline. Destruction of all Russian chemical weapons was slated initially for 2007, but Moscow has requested that the CWC push back the final deadline to 2012. (See ACT, November 2002.)

Russia reached the 1 percent mark by destroying 400 tonnes of mustard gas at the Gorny facility in southern Russia. Sergei Kiriyenko, chairman of Russia’s Chemical Disarmament Commission, noted in remarks commemorating the event that the mustard gas destruction line would be temporarily shut down for maintenance, Interfax reported April 26. The line has now been halted, but mustard gas disposal will restart later this year.

Meanwhile, Russia is preparing to destroy lewisite, another blister agent stored at Gorny. According to a May 12 ITAR-TASS article, testing on the lewisite line commenced in mid-May with small amounts of the chemical in preparation for full-scale destruction, set to begin in June.

Russia plans to build two other facilities to help destroy Russia’s complete chemical weapons holdings, estimated at about 40,000 tonnes—the world’s largest stockpile.

 

NATO-Russia TMD Cooperation In New Phase

The 19-member NATO alliance and Russia will begin trading technical information on their various systems to counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles to see if the defenses could possibly work together or operate side by side in battle. NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson announced the new cooperation at a May 13 meeting in Moscow.

This new “interoperability” study is expected to take months, not years, and will cost approximately one to two million dollars, according to a NATO spokesperson. The objective is not for NATO and Russia to build a joint system, but to assess how their separate systems might function together.

A NATO-Russia Council ad hoc working group on theater missile defenses (TMD) will conduct the study. TMD systems do not include defenses against long-range ballistic missiles. Created in June 2002, the group recently completed a compendium of approximately 250 common terms for air and missile defenses in English, French, and Russian.

Lord Robertson expressed optimism about the new study, predicting that it would be “enormously productive in the future.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin first proposed the creation of a European TMD system in mid-2000. Russia later presented a vague proposal on the subject to NATO in February 2001. Some commentators interpreted Moscow’s efforts as an attempt to undercut the U.S. push to win acceptance of its strategic missile defense plans.

CTBTO Head Visits Russian Nuclear Test Site

Christine Kucia

In a recent trip to a Russian nuclear test site, the head of the organization tasked with implementing a nuclear test ban treaty praised Russia for its transparency and cooperation. U.S. intelligence analysts have expressed concern Russia might be conducting prohibited tests at the site.

Ambassador Wolfgang Hoffmann, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Preparatory Commission, visited the Russian nuclear weapons test site at Novaya Zemlya March 28-29 at the invitation of the Russian government. Novaya Zemlya, a large island located to the north of mainland Russia, was the site of 130 Soviet nuclear test explosions, conducted from 1955 to 1990.

During an April 8 interview with Arms Control Today, Hoffmann praised the Russian government’s effort “to show transparency, to show goodwill” by allowing the tour of the test site. He explained, “For me, [the trip’s purpose] was simple—I wanted to see what was going on. And this was exactly what the Russians wanted to show: that they had nothing going on in breach of the treaty.”

In September 1996, Russia signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits all forms of nuclear explosions, and ratified the pact in April 2000. Treaty signatories and ratifiers are bound by a common understanding under international law not to conduct nuclear test explosions, even before the agreement enters into force. Despite Russia’s participation in the treaty, some U.S. intelligence analysts have expressed concern about ongoing sub-critical nuclear testing activities at the site. (See ACT, June 2002.) Russia, however, has proposed “additional verification measures for nuclear test ranges going far beyond the treaty provisions” following the treaty’s entry into force, which might help allay concerns about noncompliance.

Hoffmann asserted that, through the monitoring system established by the CTBTO, “we can verify by our technical means what is happening or what is not happening at these test sites, so these visits are more a measure of transparency, but not really a verification measure.” Russia already has treaty-mandated monitoring devices installed on its territory to determine if it has conducted a proscribed test.

The CTBTO oversees the establishment and operation of a global system of seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, and radionuclide monitoring stations, as well as data compilation and analysis to ascertain whether incidents are nuclear tests, natural seismological occurrences, or other man-made disturbances, such as mining explosions. Currently, data from operational monitoring stations is being collected by the CTBTO in Vienna.

Hoffmann and Russian officials flew to the site March 28 and the next day conducted a helicopter overflight of the underground area where Russia carried out underground nuclear tests between 1964 and 1990. Russia continues to conduct at the site subcritical nuclear tests, which do not produce a nuclear explosion and thus do not violate its CTBT commitment. Russian officials showed Hoffmann gamma measurements taken during the overflight that confirmed lower gamma dose rates than those found in some large cities. Hoffmann noted that “they were very open in showing and discussing what they are doing at the test site and in what way they are conducting tests.”

Hoffmann’s visit to Russia included three days of meetings with officials from the Russian Ministries of Atomic Energy, Defense, and Foreign Affairs. At the beginning of the visit, Hoffmann met with Russian technical experts about on-site inspection activities for this year and building up the monitoring station network in Russia, which has the second-largest number of seismic monitoring stations in the CTBTO monitoring system. The March meeting laid the groundwork for further discussions about the monitoring station network, which were held April 9-11 in Vienna.

This trip was the CTBTO’s first visit to the site in Russia. Hoffmann has also visited the Nevada Test Site in the United States—where the United Kingdom and the United States conduct subcritical tests—and the former French test site at Mururoa. Russia’s ambassador in Washington toured the Nevada site in July 2001, but the United States has not received a similar offer to visit Novaya Zemlya.

The visit by Hoffmann occurred amid speculation about his possible departure from the organization. A February 21 Global Security Newswire article reported that a U.S. official brought up the subject of Hoffmann’s departure in an interview, citing labor standards that govern the tenure of other CTBTO employees. Hoffmann, exempt from the seven-year tenure rule, is appointed annually. He said that he has no plans to step down at the end of his current contract in March 2004.

 

 

 

CTBTO Head Visits Russian Nuclear Test Site

More Security Needed at Russian Nuke Facilities

Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev called for more money to beef up security at Russia’s nuclear facilities during a Duma meeting March 5, requesting increased funding to safeguard installations, monitor radioactive materials, and hire more guards.

Rumyantsev requested 6.5 billion rubles (about $207 million) to upgrade safety and security conditions at nuclear and chemical facilities, according to a March 5 Interfax report. “Everything boils down to money,” Rumyantsev told the lawmakers. He said, however, that nuclear safety in Russia is currently “satisfactory.”

A memorandum to the Duma from the Russian federal nuclear and radiation supervisory commission presented a more urgent appeal for funding. Citing 100 abandoned radioactive sources, such as major medical facilities, over the past year in Russia, the report documented “serious flaws” in security around nuclear installations, according to Interfax. The memorandum described accounting, control, and protection of missile materials as incomplete and noted that, in the absence of paid security personnel from the Russian interior ministry, the facilities are “guarded by non-departmental security personnel, in essence—unarmed pensioners or women.” At the Duma hearing, commission head Yuri Vishnevsky stressed, “There can be no more delays.”

Governments worldwide have expressed concern about the vulnerability of Russia’s nuclear installations, noting that terrorists could use gaps in security at the facilities to steal material. The United States and Russia established the Cooperative Threat Reduction program in 1991 to secure and destroy Russia’s weapons of mass destruction and related materials, and an initiative launched in June 2002 by the Group of Eight aims to help Russia secure more of its fissile material and facilities over the next decade. (See ACT, July/August 2002.)

U.S., Russia Agree to Plutonium Reactor Shutdown

Christine Kucia

After years of delays and stalled plans, Russia and the United States signed an agreement March 12 to shut down the last three Russian reactors dedicated to the production of weapons-grade plutonium.

The reactors, which each day can generate enough plutonium for the equivalent of approximately one nuclear weapon, also provide heat and electricity for the Siberian “nuclear cities” of Seversk and Zheleznogorsk. Under the agreement, the United States will pay to refurbish one fossil-fuel facility and construct one new fossil-fuel plant for the Siberian cities served by the reactors.

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham called the accord, which was signed in Vienna on the sidelines of a radiological material security conference, “an important step in advancing our nonproliferation programs.” Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev agreed that stopping the plutonium production shows that “Russia and the U.S. are close partners in the strengthening of peace and in the war on terrorism.”

The refurbishment of an existing fossil-fuel plant at Seversk will allow the shutdown of two of the reactors by 2008, while construction of a new fossil-fuel facility in Zheleznogorsk will require that reactor to operate until 2011, when the new facility will come online. U.S. Department of Energy fiscal year 2004 draft budget documents state that, although the United States will finance the construction of the replacement power facilities, Russia will shut down the reactors.

The two countries first agreed in 1994 to cease permanently all plutonium production for nuclear weapons in both countries. The United States has not produced weapons-grade plutonium for its arsenal since 1988. The two countries have attempted to find alternative energy sources to replace Russia’s last three plutonium production reactors since signing the 1994 accord. Russia and the United States agreed in 1997 to a “core conversion” of the reactors, which was the less costly option, to be completed no later than 2000. (See ACT, September 1997.) Under that plan, the designs of the cores in the reactors would have been converted to minimize weapons-grade plutonium production and instead use uranium to fuel the reactors, providing electricity and heat for the cities.

However, cost overruns, financial troubles in Russia, and bureaucratic delays on both sides impeded the project. (See ACT, March 2000.) The countries reassessed the project and determined that core conversion would likely make the reactors less safe and potentially a greater proliferation threat, because they would use highly enriched uranium. Instead, the countries agreed in 2001 to shut down the reactors after replacing them with alternative power sources.

The reactors’ shutdown could displace up to 9,500 workers, according to a March 12 ITAR-Tass report. Many of the employees at the plutonium plants will be employed at the new fossil-fuel facilities, while some might be absorbed into the U.S.-sponsored Russian Transitions Initiative program, which helps former Russian nuclear weapons complex scientists and technicians use their expertise in civilian work sectors.

After years of delays and stalled plans, Russia and the United States signed an agreement March 12 to shut down the last three Russian reactors dedicated to the production of weapons-grade plutonium.

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