Monthly Archives: May 2014

Russia reports its 2012 civilian plutonium stock

IPFM Blog | Pavel Podvig | May 25, 2014

Russia submitted its annual declaration that contains data on its holdings of civilian plutonium – INFCIRC/549/Add.9/15. According to the declaration, as of the end of 2012 Russia had 50.7 tonnes of unirradiated separated plutonium, 1.2 tonnes more than was declared in 2011.

Of this amount, 49,200 kg is stored at the reprocessing plant, an increase of 1,100 kg over the 2011 amount. Other reported amounts of separated plutonium are: 300 kg is in unirradiated MOX fuel held at reactor sites and elsewhere, and 1,200 kg is “held elsewhere” (an increase over 1,100 kg in 2011). Of the total amount of 50.7 tonnes, 0.3 kg of plutonium belongs to “foreign bodies”. Also, Russia owns 0.6 kg of plutonium that is “held in locations in other countries”. This amount is not included in the total.

In addition, Russia has 77,500 kg of plutonium in spent fuel that is stored at reactor sites, 4,500 kg – in spent fuel that is awaiting reprocessing at the reprocessing plant, and 53,500 kg – in spent fuel “held elsewhere”. As of end of 2011, these numbers were 75,500 kg, 4,000 kg, and 51,500 kg respectively. Overall, Russia had 135.5 tonnes of plutonium still in spent fuel as of December 31, 2012, up 4.5 tonnes from December 2011.

 

‘Now, we have a democratically elected totalitarian government’ — Arundhati Roy

Dawn | Tahir Mehdi | May 23, 2014

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In Pakistan, apprehensions are rife about Narendra Modi’s flamboyant success. But fervent Modi supporters in the Indian middle classes prefer to place him in the economic governance arena. Dawn recently talked to renowned Indian writer, Arundhati Roy, in Delhi to explore what Modi’s rise means for India.

“The massive, steeply climbing GDP of India dropped rather suddenly and millions of middle-class people sitting in the aircraft, waiting for it to take off, suddenly found it freezing in mid-air,” says Ms Roy. “Their exhilaration turned to panic and then into anger. Modi and his party have mopped up this anger.”

India was known for its quasi-socialist economy before it unfettered its private sector in 1991. India soon became global capital’s favourite hangout, sending its economy on a high. The neo-liberal roller coaster ride, however, hit snags. The Indian economy, after touching a peak of over 10pc growth in 2010, tapered down to below 5pc in the last three years. The Indian corporate class blames this lapse solely on the ruling Congress party’s ‘policy paralysis’. Its ‘meek’ prime minister, Manmohan Singh, was now identified as a hurdle. The aggressive Modi thus provided the ultimate contrast.

“What he [Modi] will be called upon to do is not to attack Muslims, it will be to sort out what is going on in the forests, to sweep out the resistance and hand over land to the mining and infrastructure corporations,” explains Ms Roy. “The contracts are all signed and the companies have been waiting for years. He has been chosen as the man who does not blink in the face of bloodshed, not just Muslim bloodshed but any bloodshed.” India’s largest mining and energy projects are in areas that are inhabited by its poorest tribal population who are resisting the forcible takeover of their livelihood resources. Maoist militants champion the cause of these adivasis and have established virtual rule in many pockets.

“Bloodshed is inherent to this model of development. There are already thousands of people in jails,” she says. “But that is not enough any longer. The resistance has to be crushed and eradicated. Big money now needs the man who can walk the last mile. That is why big industry poured millions into Modi’s election campaign.”

Ms Roy believes that India’s chosen development model has a genocidal core to it. “How have the other ‘developed’ countries progressed? Through wars and by colonising and usurping the resources of other countries and societies,” she says. “India has no option but to colonise itself.”

India’s demographic dynamics are such that even mundane projects, such as constructing a road, displace thousands of people, never mind large dams and massive mining projects. The country has a thriving civil society, labour unions and polity that channel this resistance. The resistance frustrates corporate ambitions. “They now want to militarise it and quell it through military means,” she says. Ms Roy thinks that the quelling “does not necessarily mean one has to massacre people, it can also be achieved by putting them under siege, starving them out, killing and putting those who are seen to be ‘leaders’ or’ ‘instigators’ into prison.” Also, the hyper Hindu-nationalist discourse which has been given popular affirmation will allow those resisting ‘development’ to be called anti-nationals. She narrates the example of destitute small farmers who had to abandon their old ways of subsistence and plug in to the market economy.

In 2012 alone, around 14,000 hapless farmers committed suicide in India. “These villages are completely resourceless, barren and dry as dust. The people are mostly Dalits. There is no politics there. They are pushed into the polling booths by power brokers who have promised their overlords some votes,” she adds, citing her recent visit to villages in Maharashtra that has the highest rate of farmer suicides in India.

So is there no democracy in India then? “It would be too sweeping to say that,” she retorts. “There is some amount of democracy. But you also can’t deny that India has the largest population of the poor in the world. Then, there hasn’t been a single day since independence when the state has not deployed the armed forces to quash insurgencies within its boundaries. The number of people who had been killed and tortured is incredible. It is a state that is continuously at war with its people. If you look at what is happening in places like Chhattisgarh or Odisha, it will be an insult to call it a democracy.”

Ms Roy believes that elections have become a massive corporate project and the media is owned and operated by the same corporations too. She opines that “some amount of democracy” in India is reserved for its middle classes alone and through that they are co-opted by the state and become loyal consumers of the state narrative of people’s resistances.

“The 2014 elections have thrown up some strange conundrums,” she muses. “For eg, the BSP, Mayawati’s party, which got the third largest vote share in the country, has won no seats. The mathematics of elections are such that even if every Dalit in India voted for her, she could have still not won a single seat.”

“Now, we have a democratically elected totalitarian government,” she continues. “Technically and legally, there is no party with enough seats to constitute an opposition. But many of us have maintained for several years that there never was a real opposition. The two main parties agreed on most policies, and each had the skeleton of a mass pogrom against a minority community in its cupboard. So now, it’s all out in the open. The system lies exposed.”

India’s voters have given their verdict. But the blunt question that Ms Roy raises remains unanswered: where will India’s poor go?

The recent accident in Koodankulam: tip of the iceberg?

Dianuke | Nityanand Jayaraman | May 22, 2014

The accident last week, involving six scalded workmen, cannot be dismissed as a minor incident. Can an establishment and medical infrastructure incapable of handling six burn injuries be reasonably expected to handle a full-scale radiological disaster?

For the operators of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP) and India’s secretive nucleocracy, the accident couldn’t have come at a better time. On 14 May, 2014, six workers were injured under still unclear circumstances and had to be hospitalized. Thankfully for Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), the media’s preoccupation with the national elections took the spotlight off the accident and its ramifications after a day’s superficial coverage.

When I first got word of the accident, it was 1:50pm on Wednesday, 14 May. I received a terse text message on my cellphone: “Accident at the Koodankulam nuclear power plant 1. Six workers injured. Admitted to hospital.” I set about trying to confirm this news. Confirmation eventually came, but what I learnt and how I learnt it left me in little doubt that the KKNPP setup was not prepared to handle a disaster, and that its communications strategy is itself a disaster. Also, coming as it did less than a week after the Supreme Court declared that it was satisfied with KKNPP’s safety and emergency response, the incident raises doubts not only about the plant’s safety and its operator’s ability to handle emergencies, but also about the Supreme Court’s own appreciation of the hazards and how they play out.

Koodankulam-reactors

The first information about the accident did not come from NPCIL. All I had was an unconfirmed report. At that time, even the almighty Google News’ search engine could offer no confirmation. NPCIL’s website was silent on the incident. At the time of writing, NPCIL’s website still has no mention of the accident or the fate of the six injured workers. NPCIL staff at Koodankulam remain as cagey today as they were immediately after the incident.

So I called up friends who were part of the ongoing agitation against this plant. They too had heard the news. But official statements from KKNPP’s operator – the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) – were conflicting, they said.

I spoke to V. Pushparayan, a senior activist from the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) and AAP Lok Sabha candidate from Tamil Nadu’s southern coastal district of Thoothukudi. “First, they said six people were injured and needed only first aid. Then they said they are being treated at the township hospital and that they actually were able to walk by themselves,” Pushparayan said. “I don’t think they are telling the whole truth. People from Koottapully who have shops in Anjugramam called up to say they saw six ambulances rushing by in the general direction of Nagercoil [a town more than 30 km by bad roads from the plant]. That was about 45 minutes ago. And just about 15 minutes back, Mildred called to say she saw three ambulances at Myladi speeding towards Nagercoil. We don’t know what happened to the other three vehicles.” Anjugramam and Myladi are small towns that lie on the Koodankulam-Nagercoil road.

Another friend called by 2.30 pm to say that the injured six had been admitted to a Kumar Hospital. S.P. Udayakumar, another PMANE leader, a Nagercoil native and AAP candidate from that town, was in Chennai when I called him. He was unaware of any Kumar Hospital in Nagercoil. A quick internet search revealed a Krishna Kumar Orthopedic Hospital in Nagercoil. The telephone numbers on the website did not work. I did not want to disturb the KKNPP station director as he was likely to be busy handling the situation. But soon I was left with no choice. NPCIL’s website, then and at the time of writing this, had no news about the incident. Neither was there any point person at KKNPP who could be called in the event of such emergencies.

It was now well past 3 p.m. By this time, rumors were flying thick and fast. I hesitantly called R.S. Sundar, KKNPP’s site director. Sundar wasted a good five minutes of his valuable time explaining why he would neither confirm nor deny my question on whether an incident happened, and whether the injured were at Krishna Kumar Hospital. He finally palmed me off to a landline phone number. He could have done that at the outset if that is indeed the established protocol. Or was there even a protocol, I wondered.

Thankfully, the landline number, which was answered by a person who identified himself as “PA to Director,” yielded more information. “This is only a preliminary report,” he cautioned me. “Today, three department personnel and three contract workers sustained injuries in Unit 1, Turbine building due to spillage of hot water while working on the HP [High Pressure] heater inlet. That is the technical term – HP heater inlet. The injured persons were [treated] at the First Aid Centre and then taken to our hospital at Anu Vijay Township. From there, they have been referred to a specialty Hospital at Nagercoil. All injured persons are in conscious condition.”

Deny. Downplay. Delude

“Hot water spillage”? “Conscious condition”? What meaning do these phrases convey, and to what end? Describing the ejection of a jet of hot water or a burst of steam from a high-pressure heater inlet in a nuclear plant as a “spillage” is an understatement. And telling reporters that the injured workers are in “conscious condition” reveals nothing about the seriousness of their injuries and leaves the public no better informed about the prognosis for the injured personnel.

Globally, the nuclear industry has a curious choice of words and a penchant to euphemize. That is why an atom bomb is called a ‘nuclear device’, an explosion a ‘detonation’, and the Fukushima disaster a ‘Level 7 nuclear event’. The case at hand is no exception.

Wednesday’s accident did not involve radiation. Burns and broken bones are common workplace injuries. It is precisely the commonplace nature of this incident and how it was handled that expose how the Koodankulam setup has all the ingredients required to bungle the handling of major emergencies. These ingredients are: poor, non-transparent and dishonest communications; lack of emergency response infrastructure; non-compliance with operating procedures; and lack of quality assurance of equipment and personnel.

It is now more than 24 hours at the time of writing since the incident happened. I spoke to the PA to the Station Director again. “Any updates since yesterday on the incident or the status of the workers?” I asked. There was none. “Whatever we forwarded to you yesterday, that is all the information we have. There is no further update,” he said politely.

The cloak-and-dagger treatment of a common workplace hazard hints at a pathology; disclosure and transparency are viewed as a problem. Most of the incidents, even serious ones involving radiation exposure, within Indian nuclear establishments go unreported – some forever, some for months or years. On January 21, 2003, six workers at Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant, 70 km from Chennai, were exposed to heavy doses of radiation exceeding annual permissible limits. The incident did not come to light until June 2003, more than six months later when trade unions upset about lax safety conditions and the management’s lackadaisical attitude struck work. Strangely, the nuclear establishment is such that even trade unions wait six months to make public such issues of common concern.

A Minor Incident?

In the current instance, KKNPP management has admitted that the burnt workers are undergoing treatment in a specialty hospital in Nagercoil. This is a town about 30 km as the crow flies, and nearly 40 km if you were to take the pot-holed road from Koodankulam – at least an hour away even for a speeding ambulance.

The specialty hospital at Nagercoil specializes in orthopedic surgery and trauma care. The injured workers are reportedly suffering from burns. Indeed, it was brought to the Supreme Court’s notice that nowhere in the three districts contiguous to Koodankulam is there a facility to treat burns or radiation injury. “The National Disaster Management Authority’s guidelines for nuclear establishments mandate the availability of adequate medical treatment facilities in the vicinity of the plants and hospitals capable of handling radiation injuries just outside the 16 km zone,” says G. Sundar Rajan, the petitioner in all cases challenging the Koodankulam plant in the Supreme Court.

KKNPP’s director clarified to the media that construction of a super-specialty hospital close to the plant has been completed, but it is not yet functional because equipment is still being procured. When questioned, local people say that the hospital building is nowhere close to ready for occupation.

The current instance, involving six scalded workmen, cannot be dismissed as a minor incident. Can an establishment and a medical infrastructure that is incapable of handling six burn injuries be reasonably expected to handle a full-scale radiological disaster?

Curiously, the Supreme Court, with its faith that nothing bad will happen until everything is eventually in place, declared that it is satisfied that there has been no laxity by the nuclear establishment in implementing its various directives to ensure safe operation and timely and appropriate response to emergencies.

Must be the Workers’ Fault

The “hot water” accident could have happened due to worker error, substandard equipment or both. In the absence of any information from the authorities, some cautious speculation on the generalities may not hurt.

I spoke to Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Board, for clarification. “I suppose you realize that this is not a radiation incident,” he remarked. “But that said, the profile of the workers who were injured is curious – three department personnel and three contract workers.” Contract workers are unskilled or semi-skilled workers who are not necessarily trained for the jobs that they are asked to do. “They are usually brought in to lift this or turn that. This is not peculiar to Koodankulam. I have seen it in many other places. They do it to save money by not employing staff,” he explained.

The relationship between the use of cheaper, though inadequately trained, contract workers and increased workplace hazards and compromised worker safety is well established. Although the current incident occurred in a non-radiation area, it is not inconceivable that in complex systems like nuclear power plants, radiological emergencies can be triggered and/or damage exacerbated by human error – often by inadequately trained or untrained humans – working in non-radiation areas.

The deployment of casual labor in hazardous and high-radiation areas is an attractive option also because contract workers are a nomadic lot. The outcome of workplace exposure among these nuclear “gypsies” need not, cannot, be monitored. The absence of evidence is therefore used to suggest the absence of a problem.

In post-disaster Fukushima, numerous reports surfaced about the deployment of untrained daily wage labor picked up from labor lines in Tokyo and elsewhere for hazardous clean-up work, often involving dangerous levels of exposure. This, it turns out, is nothing new. A 1999 report in Los Angeles Times following the Tokaimura nuclear accident in Japan cites data from Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission which revealed that 89 percent of Japanese people employed in the nuclear industry work for subcontractors. “It is these employees who receive more than 90% of all radiation exposure,” according to the Los Angeles Times article.

Interestingly, just about a year ago, I was interviewing Mani, a 20-something fisherman from Panaiyur Chinnakuppam – a village about 20 km from the Kalpakkam nuclear plant – about what he thought about the coal-fired power plant coming up in Cheyyur near his village. I asked him what he thought about the promoters’ claim that the plant would be safe. He laughed away the question. “I used to work in Kalpakkam [nuclear complex] doing odd jobs. My mother kept nagging me to quit the job,” he recalled. “One day, a few of us were asked to do some work at a site. We were working there dressed in the clothes we wore from home. I got scared when I saw the supervisors who were giving us instructions wearing protective clothing. I never went back after that day.”

The contractualization of labor inside nuclear plants should be, but is not, a matter of concern. Safety depends not only on the integrity of machines but also the skill of mechanics. This is a consideration that has slipped the attention of all those who have given Koodankulam a clean chit.

Shoddy Equipment and Corrupt Deals

In January 2013, RK Sinha, chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission, clarified the reasons why KKNPP Unit 1 had failed a pre-commissioning performance test the previous month. Rumors were already doing the rounds by then in Idinthakarai and among anti-nuclear activists that there was something wrong with certain heavy-duty valves in the plant. Sinha’s statement offered some glimpses of the truth: “Essentially there are some system parameters like flow, pressure, temperature that need to be maintained within particular values.”

Taken together with other statements that appeared in the media, the following picture emerges. During the first hydro test conducted last December, certain valves did not behave the way the manufacturer claimed they would. These valves were opened up, repaired, and some “minor” components replaced.

An ongoing investigation into corruption in the Russian nuclear establishment gives a new twist to the tale. In February 2012, the KGB’s successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested Sergei Shutov, the procurement director of Rosatom subsidiary ZiO-Podolsk, on charges of corruption and fraud. ZiO-Podolsk, a machine works company, is the sole supplier of steam generators and certain other key components for Russian nuclear reactors worldwide. The FSB has charged Shutov with sourcing sub-standard steel blanks. According to the Russian media agency Rosbalt, equipment manufactured with cheap Ukrainian steel was used in nuclear reactors built by the Russians in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India.

It is now an admitted fact that ZiO-Podolsk supplied equipment such as steam generator, cation and anion filters, mechanical filters, moisture separators and re-heaters, among other equipment, to KKNPP’s Unit 1.

While the nuclear establishment in China, Bulgaria and Iran have ordered investigations and summoned the Russians to clarify, the Indian nuclear establishment has done nothing more than conduct an enquiry of itself by itself. KKNPP has never adequately defended allegations about the substandard quality of equipment, including crucial valves and re-heaters, supplied to the plant by ZiO-Podolsk.

The Supreme Court, it appears, has issued its orders solely on faith – faith in the ability of the authorities; faith that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board will find in itself the power to be an independent regulator; faith in the technology that has reportedly been deployed.

At the end of the day, though, a lot can go wrong – negligence, human error and corruption can defeat the best defenses technology has to offer and conspire to concoct disaster even from “small incidents.”

Nityanand Jayaraman is a writer and volunteer with Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle.

Ongoing Impact of Wastewater from Fukushima Nuclear Power Station

Hydro International | 08/05/2014

Three years on from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 11 March 2011, air contamination is decreasing and is now concentrated in a limited area. Land contamination has also decreased through decontamination processes. However, despite all the efforts by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government, water contamination in surface and ground water is getting worse, simply because there are no effective countermeasures.

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By Shunji Murai Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo, Japan
The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 11 March 2011 measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale caused the meltdown and melt through of three reactors at Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Station (NPS). This resulted in a hydrogen gas explosion followed by the serious contamination of air, land and water over a 100-kilometre radius of NPS, including the Tokyo area.

Even though the wastewater issue is taken seriously by Japanese people as well as people worldwide, the real status of the effect of the contamination is still unknown because neutral third-party organisations have no access to within a 20km radius of Fukushima NPS. The author has tried to make clear what the status of the wastewater issue is by using various sources including a Fishermen Union’s report, which appears to be more reliable than the government report or the report by TEPCO.

 

Permanent Geologic Disposal of Radioactive Waste

Evaluation of Options for Permanent Geologic Disposal of Spent NuclearFuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste

Energy.gov | Office of Nuclear Energy, May 2014

This study provides a technical basis for informing policy decisions regarding strategies for the management and permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level radioactive waste (HLW) in the United States requiring geologic isolation.  The study evaluates potential impacts of waste forms on the feasibility and performance of representative generic concepts for geologic disposal.  Participants in the study include representatives from the DOE, the U.S. Navy, several national laboratories, universities and private sector firms with expertise in a broad range of fields, including nuclear engineering, earth sciences, materials science, chemical engineering, and materials safeguards and security, and regulatory considerations.  The inventory of HLW and SNF is intended to include all existing materials in the U.S. requiring deep geologic isolation, based on the best available information.   Four representative disposal concepts are addressed: mined repositories in three geologic media—salt, clay/shale rocks, and crystalline (e.g., granitic) rocks—and deep borehole disposal in crystalline rocks.  Waste groups are evaluated against six primary criteria for potential disposal in each of the four disposal concepts.

Selected study conclusions include: 1) deep borehole disposal option is a good option for small waste forms and provides flexibility for disposal; 2) disposal options that utilize multiple repositories are technically viable; 3) all waste forms could be accommodated in multiple disposal concepts, although with varying degrees of confidence; 4) some disposal concepts may require segregating some waste forms from each other within a single repository; 5) salt allows for more flexibility in managing high-heat waste; 6) direct disposal of commercial SNF in existing dual-purpose canisters is  potentially feasible; and 7) implementation and demonstration of robust performance may be simpler for some disposal concepts than for others. All of the disposal concepts evaluated in this study have the potential to provide robust long-term isolation for specific wastes; some options may provide greater flexibility or fewer challenges than others. Additional generic and site-specific R&D is needed before any disposal options can be implemented.

 

Gaps Remain in U.N. WMD Resolution

Inter Press Service | Thalif Deen | May 7, 2014

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While the resolution adds to the global WMD non-proliferation regime, there are concerns among several states about the instrumental use of the Security Council to bypass duly constituted multilateral negotiating forums. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

UNITED NATIONS, May 7 2014 (IPS) – The United Nations claims that a key Security Council resolution adopted unanimously back in 2004 has been instrumental in keeping weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) from the hands of terrorists and insurgent groups worldwide.

At a meeting Wednesday to mark its 10th anniversary, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said resolution 1540 has helped make important inroads against the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons over the last decade.

The five major nuclear powers have consistently asserted they don’t want WMDs to fall into the “wrong hands” – a code phrase for terrorists and insurgent groups.

But that only tells part of the story, he said, expressing regrets over “the setbacks and disappointments”, including the recent use of chemical weapons in Syria.

“However, through multilateral agreement, over 90 percent of Syria’s chemical weapons have been removed from the country even as the conflict has intensified,” Eliasson added.

A U.N. team investigating the use of these deadly weapons in Syria last year found “clear and convincing evidence” of Sarin gas attacks against civilians, including children.

But the team was not mandated either by the General Assembly or the Security Council to probe whether the weapons were used by government military forces or armed insurgents – leaving the question of accountability wide open.

The mandate was only to determine whether chemical weapons had been used, not by whom.

Tariq Rauf, director Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told IPS the resolution was adopted a decade ago to close the gaps in the domestic legislation of member states.

The primary aim was to prevent the spread or access to WMD materials and technologies to non-state actors such as terrorist groups or criminals through the implementation of legislation providing for effective controls and criminal penalties.

He said the resolution does not duplicate nor impinge upon existing multilateral non-proliferation treaties and organisations, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Eliasson told Wednesday’s meeting it is critical for every country to implement the resolution.

“Terrorists and traffickers tend to target countries whose customs, borders, imports, exports, ports and airports are less well monitored or controlled,” he said.

One promising trend, he pointed out, is the preparation of voluntary national implementation action plans.

At the recent Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, 32 countries released a joint statement reaffirming a commitment to submit such action plans to the ’1540 Committee’ coordinating the implementation of the resolution.

The Western powers have expressed concern that terrorist groups, specifically Al-Qaeda, may be attempting to acquire WMDs.

Still over the last 10 years following the adoption of the resolution, North Korea has gone nuclear while Iran is accused of trying to develop nuclear weapons (which it vehemently denies).

And Saudi Arabia has threatened to go nuclear if Iran joins the group of nine nuclear weapons states: including the five permanent members (P5) of the Security Council, namely, the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, along with India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

The five major nuclear powers have consistently asserted they don’t want WMDs to fall into the “wrong hands” – a code word for terrorists and insurgent groups.

But Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says “there are no right hands for wrong weapons.”

The anti-nuclear activists, who call for a total elimination of WMDs, say there are “no right hands or wrong hands” for nuclear weapons which should be removed from everyone’s hands.

Rauf told IPS the resolution adopted under chapter VII of the U.N. Charter is mandatory for all U.N. member states. It complements but does not replace nor is it a substitute for multilaterally negotiated arms control treaties.

A Security Council committee to promote implementation of 1540 has been set up to assist states in their implementation of the resolution. However, he said not all member states are reporting to the committee as the reporting format is considered quite complex and taxes the capacity of many states.

While the resolution adds to the global WMD non-proliferation regime, there are concerns among several states about the instrumental use of the Security Council to bypass duly constituted multilateral negotiating forums such as the Conference on Disarmament, and the U.N. General Assembly, where more or all states are represented.

He said the Security Council is not considered a globally democratic body as it has permanent members with a veto and a very small number of other states elected for two year terms.

In sum, the resolution is a useful instrument but it cannot be compared in importance or legitimacy to global WMD treaties since such treaties have been duly negotiated in open multilateral forums where member states have a say and thus have greater legitimacy and authority, he declared.

Russian ICBM Force Modernization: Arms Control Please!

FAS Strategic Security Blog | Hans M. Kristensen | May 7, 2014

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Click image for larger version.

In our Nuclear Notebook on Russian nuclear forces from March this year, Robert S. Norris and I described the significant upgrade that’s underway in Russia’s force of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Over the next decade, all Soviet-era ICBMs will be retired and replaced with a smaller force consisting of mainly five variants of one missile: the SS-27.

After more than a decade-and-a-half of introduction, the number of SS-27s now makes up a third of the ICBM force. By 2016, SS-27s will make up more than half of the force, and by 2024 all the Soviet-era ICBMs will be gone.

The new force will be smaller and carry fewer nuclear warheads than the old, but a greater portion of the remaining warheads will be on missiles carried on mobile launchers.

The big unknowns are just how many SS-27s Russia plans to produce and deploy, and how many new (RS-26 and Sarmat “heavy”) ICBMs will be introduced. Without the new systems or increased production of the old, Russia’s ICBM force would probably level out just below 250 missiles by 2024. In comparison, the U.S. Air Force plans to retain 400 ICBMs.

This disparity and the existence of a large U.S. reserve of extra warheads that can be “uploaded” onto deployed missiles to increase the arsenal if necessary drive top-heavy ICBM planning in the Russian military which seeks to maximize the number of warheads on each missile to compensate for the disparity and keep some degree of overall parity with the United States.

This dilemma suggests the importance of reaching a new agreement to reduce the number deployed strategic warheads and missiles. A reduction of “up to one-third” of the current force, as recently endorsed by the new U.S. nuclear employment strategy, would be a win for both Russia and the United States. It would allow both countries to trim excess nuclear capacity and save billions of dollars in the process. 

Phased Deployment

Introduction of the SS-27 has come in two phases. The first phase, which last from 1997 to 2013, involved deployed the single-warhead type (SS-27 Mod 1; Topol-M) in silos and on road-mobile launchers. The silo-based version was deployed first, replacing SS-19s in the 60th Missile Division at the Tatishchevo missile field outside Saratov. The deployment was completed in 2013 (see picture below) after 60 SS-27 Mod 1 missiles had been lowered into former SS-19 silos at a slow pace of less than 4 missile in average per year.

tatishchevoSS27

An SS-27 Mod 1 (Topol-M) is lowered into a former SS-19 silo at the Tatishchevo missile field outside Saratov.

In 2006, deployment of the first road-mobile SS-27 Mod 1 began with the 54th Guards Missile Division at Teykovo northeast of Moscow. The deployment was completed in 2010 with 18 missiles in two regiments.

With completion of the SS-27 Mod 1 deployment of 78 missiles, efforts have since shifted to deployment of a MIRVed version of the SS-27, known as SS-27 Mod 2, or RS-24 Yars in Russia. It is essentially the same missile as the Mod 1 version except the payload “bus” has been modified to carry multiple independently targetable warheads (MIRV). Each missile is thought to be able to carry up to 4 warheads, although there is uncertainty about what the maximum capacity is (but it is not 10 warheads, as often claimed in Russian news media).

The first road-mobile SS-27 Mod 2s were deployed at Teykovo in 2010, alongside the SS-27 Mod 1s already deployed there. For the foreseeable future, all new Russian ICBM deployments will be of MIRVed versions of the SS-27, although a “new ICBM” and a “heavy ICBM” are also being developed.

In 2012, preparations began for introduction of SS-27 Mod 2 at three additional missile divisions. At the 28th Missile Guards Division at Kozelsk southwest of Moscow, conversion of former SS-19 silos (see picture below) to carry the SS-27 Mod 2 is underway with deployed of the first regiment (10 missiles) scheduled this year. How many missiles will be deployed at Kozelsk is unclear. The missile field originally included 60 SS-19 silos but half have been demolished so perhaps the plan is for three regiments with 30 SS-27 Mod 2 missiles. After silo-based RS-24s are installed at Kozelsk, deployment will follow at the 13th Missile Division at Dombarovsky, replacing the SS-18s currently deployed there.

rs24kozelsk

A former SS-19 ICBM silo at Kozelsk is being upgraded to receive the SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24 Yars) ICBM. Deployment begins this year.

In addition to Kozelsk, preparations are also underway to upgrade three road-mobile SS-25 garrisons to the SS-27 Mod 2. At this point, this includes the 51st Missile Guards Division at Irkutsk, the 39th Guards Missile Division at Novosibirsk, and the 42nd Missile Division at Nizhniy Tagil.

Preparation started at Novosibirsk in 2012, where two of four garrisons are under conversion. One of these (Novosibirsk 4; see further description below) is nearly complete. Conversion started at Irkutsk in 2012 with dismantling of SS-25 garages at one of the three remaining garrisons. At Tagil, SS-27 Mod 2 introduction is underway at two of three remaining SS-25 garrisons. In December 2013, the first SS-27 Mod 2 regiment at Novosibirsk (9 launchers) and one partially equipped (6 launchers) regiment at Tagil were put on “experimental combat duty.”

The remaining SS-25 divisions – the 7th Guards Missile Division at Vypolsovo, the 14th Missile Division at Yoshkar-Ola, and the 35th Missile Division at Barnaul – have not been mentioned for SS-27 Mod 2 upgrade and seem destined for retirement. One of the three garrisons at Yoshkar-Ola has been inactivated.

Below follows a more detailed description of the upgrade to SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24) underway at Novosibirsk.

SS-27 Upgrade at Novosibirsk

As mentioned above, the 39th Guards Missile Division at Novosibirsk is being upgraded from the solid-fuel road-mobile single-warhead SS-25 ICBM to the solid-fuel road-mobile MIRVed SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24). A series of unique satellite images provided by Digital Globe to Google Earth show the upgrade of one of four garrisons (Novosibirsk 4) between 2008 and 2013.

The first image from May 2008 (see below) shows the garrison with all nine garages for SS-25 road-mobile launchers (TELs) clearly visible inside the multi-layered fence perimeter. Several TELs and support vehicles are parked outside one of three service buildings.

novosibirsk4-2008

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The second image from June 2012 (see below) shows that all nine TEL garages have been dismantled and the roof is missing on the three service vehicle buildings. Two new service buildings are under construction just outside the fence perimeter and several buildings have been demolished in preparation for new administrative and technical buildings.

novosibirsk4-2012

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The third image, taken in February 2013, shows the fence perimeter at the southwest corner of the garrison has been extended westward to include the new service buildings. This extension is similar to the change that was made at Teykovo when two garrisons were equipped with the SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24). The image indicates that support vehicle garages inside the fence perimeter are almost done, and that administrative and technical buildings outside the perimeter have been added.

novosibirsk4-2013

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The fourth image (see below), from September 2013, shows installation of new TEL garages for the SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24) launchers well underway, with seven of eventually nine garages visible. The green roofs of the four large service vehicle garages are clearly visible, as are the new administrative and technical building outside the fence perimeter.

novosibirsk4-2013-2

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The Future ICBM Force

Predicting the size and composition of the Russian ICBM force structure into the future comes with a fair amount of uncertainty because Russia doesn’t release official data on its nuclear forces, because U.S. intelligence agencies no longer publish detailed information on Russian nuclear forces, and because Russian aggregate data under the New START treaty is not made public (unlike during the previous START treaty). Nonetheless, based on previous history, scattered officials statements, and news media reports, it is possible to make a rough projection of how the Russian ICBM might evolve over the next decade (see graph below).

rusicbm

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This shows that the size of the Russian ICBM force dropped below the size of the U.S. ICBM force in 2007 mainly due to the rapid reduction of the SS-25 ICBM. By the early 2020s, according to recent announcements by Russian military officials, all SS-18, SS-19, and SS-25 ICBMs will be gone. Development of a new ICBM – apparently yet another version of the SS-27 – known in Russia as the RS-26 is underway for possible introduction in 2015. And a new liquid-fuel “heavy” ICBM known in Russia as the Sarmat, and nicknamed “Son of Satan” because it apparently is intended as a replacement for the SS-18 (which was code-named Satan by the United States and NATO) is said to be scheduled for introduction around 2020.

This development would leave a Russian ICBM force structure based on five modifications of the solid-fuel SS-27 (silo- and mobile-based SS-27 Mod 1; silo- and mobile-based SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24); and the RS-26) and the liquid-fuel Sarmat with a large payload – either MIRV or some advanced payload to evade missile defense systems. Although the future force will be smaller, a greater portion of it will be MIRVed – up from approximately 36 percent today to roughly 70 percent by 2024. This increasingly top-heavy ICBM force is bad for U.S-Russian strategic stability.

I hope I’m mistaken about the possible increase in the Russian ICBM force after 2020. In fact, it seems more likely that the Russian economy will not be able to support the production and deployment of “over 400 modern land and sea-based inter-continental ballistic missiles” that President Putin promised in 2012. But if I’m not mistaken, then it would be an immensely important development. Not that I think it would matter that much militarily in the foreseeable future or necessarily signal a new arms race. But it would be a significant break with the trend we have seen in Russian nuclear forces since the end of the Cold War, and it would create serious problems for the stability of the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. It is important that the Russian government provides more transparency about its nuclear force structure plans and demonstrate that it is not planning to increase its ICBM force shortly after the New START treaty expires in 2018.

Regardless, there is an increasing need for Russia and the United States to make more progress on nuclear arms control. Notwithstanding its important verification regime, the New START treaty was too modest to impress anyone (it has no real effect on Russian nuclear forces and it is so modest that the United States plans to keep emptied ICBM silos instead of destroying them). A good start would be a new arms control agreement with “up to one-third” fewer deployed strategic warheads and launchers than permitted by the New START Treaty, as recently endorsed by the U.S. Nuclear Employment Strategy. Such an agreement would force Russia to reduce the warhead loading on its ICBMs and force the United States to reduce its large ICBM force.

It is also important that the United States and Russia revisit the MIRV-ban. The START II treaty, which was signed but not ratified and later abandoned by Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush in 2002, included a ban on MIRVed ICBMs. Apart from reducing the warheads the two nuclear superpowers would be able to launch agains each other, a MIRV ban would also serve the vital role of discouraging other nuclear-armed states from deploying multiple warheads on their ballistic missiles in the future, which could otherwise significantly increase their nuclear arsenals and result in regional arms races.

Trying to pursue new reductions in excessive and expensive nuclear forces and avoid counterproductive modernization programs is perhaps even more important now given the souring relations caused by the crisis in Ukraine. Don’t forget: even at the height of the Cold War it was possible – in fact essential – to reach nuclear arms control agreements.

Additional background: Russian Nuclear Forces, 2014 | Russian SSBN Fleet

This publication was made possible by a grant from the Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.