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PART II : Nuclear Security

jeudi 10 avril 2003


PART I : Safety of Civil Nuclear Installations
The G-7 Summit on Nuclear Safety and Security : A Summit Primer

Table des matières E. Illicit Trafficking F. Nuclear Material Control And Accountancy (MC&A) G. Conversion of Weapons Materials Expected Results ----- - {{ E. Illicit Trafficking }} The final communique of the Summit will bear witness to the resolve of Russia and the G-7 to continue cooperation to stem the flow of nuclear contraband from FSU inventories to the West. Under the USSR, the smuggling of nuclear goods was unheard of. Since 1990, however, over a thousand cases of stolen items have been reported by Western governments, primarily in Europe. Most of the cases are frauds, and all but a handful involve low-grade uranium (natural uranium in the form of "yellowcake" [U3O8]; low enriched uranium (up to about 3.5% U-235) in the form of uranium oxide [UO2]; ion sources such as cesium-137, strontium-90, or cobalt-60; standard samples of nuclear materials and rare earth elements (usually in milligram quantities); lightly radioactive scrap metals; and worthless ore samples and compound "cocktails." In 1993, however, three cases involving sub-significant quantities of plutonium oxide and uranium oxide were revealed. These led to a German initiative to involve the IAEA in examining the finds of nuclear material smuggling. That initiative was paralleled by a European Union (EU) initiative to boost the profile of its Euratom nuclear agency in the combating of nuclear smuggling. Also during 1993, German intelligence, supported by the office of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, tried to change German constitutional law to allow German spies to "sting" sample quantities of nuclear materials on the territory of the FSU. This initiative was boosted during the early days after a small quantity of plutonium oxide was seized in Munich Airport. At the time, the German government claimed it had scored a smashing success against a "nuclear mafia" in Russia. As a more critical appraisal of the Munich case has prevailed, however, in the wake of a German parliamentary investigation of the role of German agencies and their operators in the affair - cooler heads have prevailed and German intelligence has not been given greater freedom of action in Russia. Perhaps ironically, the post-Munich German initiative to involve international organizations, including the G-7, in tracking of FSU-related nuclear smuggling is essentially limited by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Under the NPT, the nuclear weapons states - U.S., France, Britain, and China, as well as Russia - are not required to provide the IAEA or any other international organization any information about their nuclear materials production or inventories. This means that Russia, which the German government in 1993 accused of not being in control of its stockpiles, has been able to cite the NPT in refusing to provide the IAEA or any Western state detailed information necessary for G-7 members to solve the riddle of where smuggled nuclear materials found in Europe are being diverted from. Russian resistance during the preparation of the Moscow summit to discussion of its military nuclear activities is simply a corollary of its firm position that the NPT requires no further disclosure by Russia in this area. Russia's position will continue to weaken any G-7 attempt to coordinate a multilateral approach to controlling smuggling in the future, since the gravest threat is seen as the future diversion of weapons stockpiles (well over 100 metric tons (MT) of plutonium and about 1,200 MT of weapons-grade uranium). It must be noted, however, despite alarmist non-official accounts to the contrary, that no evidence has yet been brought to light that any of these materials have been stolen and diverted to "rogue" states or parties outside the FSU. - {{ F. Nuclear Material Control And Accountancy (MC&A }} In the meantime, G-7 countries, dominated by the U.S., have been spending money to improve nuclear materials security in the FSU. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its affiliated laboratories have programs in place targeting key installations with large amounts of weapons-grade uranium (HEU) and plutonium in Kazakhstan and Russia. A short list of Russian facilities - about a dozen locations, including a laboratory located in Obninsk, a city south of Moscow from which Russian intelligence has asserted the Munich plutonium was diverted - is now subject to cooperation agreements between Minatom and DOE. Other countries have provided less assistance in this area. Improvements in MC&A in the FSU are essential to reduce the threat of future nuclear diversions of the huge Soviet inventory. According to officials at the Russian regulatory agency Gosatomnadzor (GAN), fissile materials are stockpiled on about 900 sites in the FSU. Russia passed a nuclear law in 1995 cementing GAN's primary role as the safeguards and control agency for nuclear materials. However, a decree by eltsin, passed on behalf of Minatom head Viktor Mikhailov, excluded GAN from any authority in the surveillance of defense-related materials - by far the most acute potential diversion threat. And GAN has no resources to seriously undertake an inventory of even civil nuclear materials, including a stockpile of about 30 MT of separated reactor plutonium at Chelyabinsk-65 (Ozersk). Thus far, GAN has been able to examine only bookkeeping records of Soviet and post-Soviet nuclear materials production and processing. It has not taken any physical inventory at any plutonium or uranium processing plant to determine for itself how much fissile material is on hand. G-7 governments, led by the U.S., have pledged some assistance to GAN and laboratory facilities, such as the Kurchatov Energy Institute, to improve MC&A and nuclear safeguards. Under a Congressional project set up in 1992, the so-called Nunn-Lugar program, the U.S. has budgeted over $1-billion for MC&A-related assistance in the FSU. This future direction of Nunn-Lugar will be subject to bilateral side meetings at the summit, but will not be on the official G-7 agenda. Likewise, assistance from the European Union, its nuclear agency Euratom, and bilateral aid, will not be on the agenda of the meeting. In advance of the summit, G-7 preparatory documents indicate, there will be no additional financial commitments made by the G-7 side to stem the flow of nuclear materials trickling into the West from Russia, in tune with the general declaratory nature of the expected final communique. - {{ G. Conversion of Weapons Materials }} With G-7 summit leader France and Russia in the foreground, the final communique will sanctify the use of plutonium fuels, in the form of mixed oxide (MOX), uranium/plutonium fuel, in civilian reactors to reduce the world's inventories of weapons plutonium. The resolution will spell a defeat for environmentalist critics who argue that, instead, weapon plutonium should be vitrified and buried in the form of high-level waste (HLW). At present, there are several proposals now being studied for the transformation of weapons plutonium into MOX and its burning in reactors. In particular, a French proposal calls for providing MOX fabrication technology to Russia, then allowing Russia to make the fuel and both use it in its own VVER-design power reactors and also sell the material on the global market. A Canadian-U.S. initiative, now under study by DOE and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), calls for a joint effort to process U.S. weapons plutonium into MOX for burning in Canadian power reactors, while simultaneously converting Russian weapon plutonium into to MOX in Russia, with Canadian assistance (and probably with U.S. aid) and burning in reactors in Russia and/or in Canada. A German proposal, to transfer Russian weapon plutonium to Germany for processing in a German MOX plant, followed by burning the MOX in German and other reactors, was abandoned after it got no support from Kohl in late 1995, and encountered opposition by Mikhailov - who incidentally signaled that Minatom would not provide its weapon plutonium free of charge (as had been advanced by the Germans). The history of the German gambit illuminated clearly that Russia has two goals in agreeing to international programs to convert its plutonium inventory: 1) to obtain MOX technology from G-7 states, and 2) to earn hard currency by sales of fabricated MOX to G-7 and other advanced nuclear countries. The same goes for Russian sales of weapon-grade uranium. Four years ago, the U.S. and Russia agreed to a deal whereby Minatom would sell 500 MT HEU to the U.S. in exchange for cash. The deal has gone forward, but very slowly. While originally promoted in the U.S. as an arms control initiative - meant to soak up Russia's immense excess weapons uranium inventory - the DOE-Minatom deal is now mired in problems of a commercial nature. The U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC), a DOE enterprise which faces privatization, is resisting import into the U.S. uranium fuel market of Russian uranium blended down and converted from its defense stockpile. On the margin of the summit, there may be discussion of a related issue: ongoing negotiations between Russia and EU parties for supply of weapon-grade uranium from Russia to European research reactors for fuel. This transaction is opposed by the U.S., under a policy of opposing all commerce in weapons-grade uranium fuel - the U.S. has refused to supply its own weapon-grade uranium to the EU. Washington believes a pending Russian-EU deal to sell weapons uranium for fuel would negate the U.S. deal with Russia to convert 500 MT of weapons material to low-enriched (not weapons-usable) fuel for power reactors. The American logic is that while Russia agreed to an arms control deal to water down about half their weapons grade uranium stock, a deal with the EU for weapons-grade research reactor fuel would signal that there was an inventory of about 700 MT which Russia is willing to sell into the open market as weapons-grade material. - {{ H. Expected Results }} To most G-7 officials interviewed by Nucleonics Week, the results of the Moscow summit have been heavily discounted in advance. Preparation has taken place in an atmosphere of reservation and realism - compared to the heady results of the Munich summit in 1993, when some G-7 states lobbied to pledge billions of dollars to make Russia safe for nuclear power. The 1993 effort quickly became unfocused, in large measure because individual G-7 members did not agree on the priority of the issues. Germany and France - partly with an eye on potential business contracts to keep "national champion" nuclear vendor companies at full employment - pushed for a great G-7 financial commitment. Other countries, such as the U.S., but later also Japan (now the world's most dedicated nuclear power state) backed off. Nuclear safety assistance was "kicked upstairs" to the G-24. A steady but modest stream of assistance has flowed, hindered by the absence of liability infrastructure and still-looming questions in the West about Russian transparency on safety issues. A fundamental problem remains: the G-7 want Russia to make a much stronger commitment to international rules of behavior in nuclear materials control and safety, while still recognizing that key Western states depart from international liability regimes and, for the nuclear weapons states, are also unwilling to assure transparency about all their own nuclear activities. Finally, the G-7 organizers made clear to Yeltsin before the meeting that the Moscow summit is a one-off event. There are no advance commitments by the G-7 to a follow-up conference. The G-7 will also make no additional financial commitments (a major departure from Munich) in the areas of nuclear safety or MC&A.

 


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