Monthly Archives: July 2015

Marshallese fear impact of radioactive waste

Radio New Zealand International | 28 July 2015

There are concerns that residential areas of Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands have been washed over with radioactive waste, after the island was hit by Typhoon Nangka earlier this month.

The atoll is home to the Runit concrete dome, constructed in 1979 to temporarily store radioactive waste produced from nuclear testing by the United States military during the Cold War.

The typhoon caused significant damage to homes and infrastructure on the atoll when it hit on July the 5th.

Residents have expressed concerns about cracks which are slowly developing in the dome’s concrete surface.

Our correspondent Giff Johnson says the storm would have churned up lagoon sediment which is laced with radioactive waste.

“Did this stir up a lot of the plutonium and radioactive waste that’s in the sediment, because actually what is more radioactive than what’s in the dome is what’s in the lagoon sediment.”

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Photo: supplied

Post deal, can Rouhani deliver on promises of reform?

Al Monitor | Alireza Nader | July 24, 2015

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani leaves after delivering a speech at plenary session during the Asian African Conference in Jakarta April 22, 2015. The 60th Asian-African Conference is held in Jakarta and Bandung from April 19 to 24, 2015. REUTERS/Beawiharta - RTX19RI1

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani leaves after delivering a speech at the plenary session of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, April 22, 2015.  (photo by REUTERS/Beawiharta)

The next few months will see President Hassan Rouhani enjoy a peak in popularity. The nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany) boosts Rouhani among the public and even the political elite. The mild-mannered president will have much more political capital in his hand. But what will he spend it on? The economy will no doubt be a big focus. Rouhani’s government has already indicated a desire to liberalize and privatize Iran’s moribund economy and possibly loosen the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) chokehold on business. But Rouhani has been relatively reticent on political and social reforms, both of which matter a great deal to Iranians; after all, what is economic prosperity if there is no accompanying personal freedom?

Rouhani was elected president because he offered hope; he claimed that the nuclear agreement would be the “key” to unlock or solve Iran’s problems. But it will take more than a nuclear agreement to make Iran a better place to live. Can Rouhani achieve his people’s dreams? Is he even willing?

Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement will be met with significant sanctions relief that may take some time to impact Iran’s economy. If successful, sanctions relief could greatly boost Rouhani’s popularity. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Iran is able to sell oil at pre-sanctions levels and increase trade with the world rather quickly. The economic benefits of sanctions relief may trickle down to the average person. Inflation may decline, the Iranian currency may gain value and the employment rate may also improve. But the Iranian population will still face a major obstacle: Much of Iran’s economy is in the hands of an unelected and unaccountable state. As president, Rouhani is accountable to the voters, but the unelected political establishment — the supreme leader, the IRGC, the clergy — is an entirely different matter.

They have supported the nuclear agreement (there is a lot of money at stake), but they do not hold elected office and don’t need to answer directly to anyone. Moreover, the unelected establishment tends to look upon Iran’s mostly secular and pro-Western middle class (Rouhani’s base) with disdain. Iran’s men of power (and they’re always men) are likely to take much of Iran’s wealth for themselves. However, Rouhani will have to distribute the wealth between major power centers like the Revolutionary Guard in addition to his own supporters. This is not to deny that Rouhani’s supporters won’t see some benefit from sanctions relief, but it is unlikely they will receive the most benefit.

Will Rouhani take on the conservatives and the IRGC? He is no doubt a member of the elite and he is not anti-establishment by any stretch of the imagination. However, Rouhani has indicated that he believes Iran can be powerful at home and abroad if it changes directions. The nuclear agreement is the most obvious demonstration of this approach. But in order to change Iran’s economy, Rouhani has to contend with the IRGC, which controls a large portion of the Iranian economy. The IRGC is somewhat diminished after reaching the peak of its power under the disastrous presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but it is by no means sidelined. The IRGC waited in the wings as Rouhani negotiated the nuclear agreement, but is likely to block Rouhani’s reform efforts.

Rouhani has given carefully worded public speeches in which he praised the IRGC while pushing back against its economic muscle. He has suggested that the IRGC should continue to participate in big national projects like building roads and dams, but should allow Iran’s elected government to create a strong private business sector. It is unlikely that the IRGC will cede its economic position to Rouhani and his technocratic-minded supporters.

Rouhani has been most careful on the issue of political reform. The shadow of the 2009 Green Movement uprising still hangs over the country; recent nuclear celebrations included chants demanding freedom for Green leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Rouhani has maintained some distance from the reform movement, but he also campaigned successfully for president by implicitly presenting himself as a bridge between the Reformists and the establishment (most Reformists are forbidden from running for office).

The nuclear agreement may provide momentum for Rouhani to forge ahead, and the upcoming 2016 parliamentary elections could be an early measure of this. But all political candidates have to be vetted by the conservative Guardian Council, an institution severely allergic to even a whiff of reform. The Guardian Council also vets candidates for the upcoming Assembly of Experts elections. The Assembly of Experts elects and ostensibly “supervises” the supreme leader. Although Rouhani would be more likely to win the parliamentary elections, the supreme leader and the Guardian Council will not cede the Assembly of Experts to him, as they fear centrist and reformist forces shaping the succession to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Even if Rouhani wins control of parliament, reform is hardly guaranteed. Iran’s reformist paragon, former President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), had a friendly parliament to work with during most of his tenure, yet the Guardian Council vetoed reformist bills time and time again. A Rouhani-aligned parliament may provide an avenue for some economic reforms, but it is unlikely to serve as a mechanism for needed political and social changes. The Expediency Council, headed by Rouhani’s patron Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, has the power and authority to mediate between the Majles and the Guardian Council. However, this body has lost much of its clout and influence in the last decade.

And social change may be the crux of the matter. Iran’s aging ayatollahs fear nothing more than social change. Individual freedom, voters’ rights, women’s liberation and tolerance for minorities are an anathema to their rigid worldview. For them, female attendance at sporting events is a top national security threat. Rouhani wants a freer society and has spoken against the government’s control of morality. The supreme leader has sharply disagreed.

Rouhani has to prioritize his objectives. A push for economic and socio-political reforms will likely result in failure. And he faces major challenges even within the economic realm. For now, Rouhani will remain popular. He has found a key to the nuclear door. But one open door will likely lead to many other locked ones. Iranians, having waited patiently for a nuclear agreement and the sanctions relief it will bring, will undoubtedly need other keys.

A More ‘Flexible’ US Approach to North Korea?

The Diplomat | Ankit Panda | July 28, 2015

The United States may be willing to negotiate with North Korea with fewer preconditions.

We’ve long heard murmurings of a return to negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear programChina has suggested returning to talks unconditionally, whereas top U.S. officials have repeatedly emphasized that no negotiations can take place without North Korea making a bona fide gesture that suggests that it will entertain the prospect of giving up parts of its nuclear weapons program. The most clear statement of what the United States was looking for included, as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Russel noted last year, an acceptance of the 2005 Six-Party Talks joint statement.

On Monday, reports emerged citing comments by Sydney Seiler, the U.S. special envoy for the Six-Party Talks (which have been on hold since they disintegrated in 2009), noting that the United States may be open to approaching the North Korean regime with fewer preconditions. Specifically, Seiler told reporters in South Korea that the recent nuclear deal with Iran demonstrates that “value and possibilities that negotiation bring.” Noting the possibility of the Iran deal serving as a model for North Korea, Seiler continued: ”[The Iran deal] demonstrates again our willingness, when we have a willing counterpart, and it demonstrates our flexibility when the DPRK makes a decision that it wants to take a different path,” he added.

Seiler’s remarks don’t suggest a change in U.S. policy—indeed, they are too ambiguous to conclude that “a different path” may be for North Korea—but they certainly don’t reflect the strict conditionality top U.S. diplomats have mentioned in the past. The ambassador’s remarks also seem to suggest that negotiations are possible even while North Korea continues to call itself a nuclear weapon state (the United States has long seen any official bilateral negotiation with North Korea as an implicit acceptance of this status). I don’t seriously expect any sort of U.S.-North Korea rapprochement over the latter’s nuclear program anytime soon—not least because of the political capital the Obama administration has already spent on the Iran deal, but also because Kim Jong-un simply shows no signs of reversing course on the country’s fast-advancing nuclear program.

As an aside, comparisons between the United States’ experience negotiating with North Korea and Iran are regularly brought up by commentators, but unfortunately, the differences between these two cases considerably outweigh any superficial similarities (the Carnegie Endowment on International Peace’s George Perkovich has, perhaps, the most thorough analysis of this issue). Indeed, the conditions that lead to the collapse of the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea are largely inapplicable in the context of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran.

For what it’s worth, North Korea rejected any prospect of doing an Iran-style deal with the United States. In a statement carried by the reclusive state’s official news agency, an unidentified foreign ministry spokesman noted that the country’s nuclear weapon program was ”not a plaything to be put on the negotiating table.” As far as Kim Jong-un’s regime is concerned, nuclear diplomacy is simply not in the cards for the moment.

Burns: implementation key to Iran nuclear deal

Al Monitor | Laura Rozen | July 27, 2015

Former US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who led the secret US diplomacy with Iran, told Al-Monitor that implementing the Iran nuclear deal the first year will be critical to ensuring its durability.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns (2nd L) talks with Vice Foreign Minister of South Korea Kim Kyou-hyun during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul January 21, 2014.   REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX17N92

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns (2nd L) talks with Vice Foreign Minister of South Korea Kim Kyou-hyun during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, Jan. 21, 2014.  (photo by REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

The parties “have got to establish a solid track record of implementation,” said Burns in an interview with Al-Monitor July 24.

If over that year there is solid execution of the accord and swift action to reverse any breaches or tests of ambiguities, that will help build confidence and insulate the deal from any attempts by would-be spoilers to derail it, and deepen stakeholders’ investment in the deal, including by the new US administration that comes into office in 2017.

“The Iranians will inevitably test the provisions of the deal, and that’s why a rigorous commitment to execution is so important for the US and our partners right from the start,” said Burns, now president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“I keep coming back to implementation,” Burns said. “There is no substitute. Unless that is going OK,” it will reduce the space to potentially talk with the Iranians on other issues.

Regarding possible follow-up talks with Iran on regional issues, such as Syria and countering the Islamic State (IS), the United States will need to push back on Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region — such as arms exports to Hezbollah — while simultaneously showing openness for constructive talks, former US officials said. This model of pressure plus constructive engagement was used both on the Iran nuclear issue and in pushing back on Soviet aggression while simultaneously negotiating with it on arms control.

Some European allies have expressed interest in seeing if they could build on the momentum of the Iran nuclear deal and employ the P5+1 (the permanent five UN Security Council members plus Germany) Iran model, possibly adding Saudi Arabia or other regional players, to tackle regional crises. But it may be premature to move on to that yet, European officials said.

“The Iran deal could really be a ‘format’ for other crises, but it’s too early to imagine a concrete initiative,” a spokeswoman for European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini told Al-Monitor by email July 27. “For sure, the [High Representative Mogherini] is a strong advocate of multilateralism and of the need to involve all the main actors of the region to try to find a solution for Syria and for fighting [IS].”

Mogherini traveled to Saudi Arabia July 27 and held meetings with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir to discuss the Iran nuclear deal, Syria, IS and other matters. She travels to Iran July 28, where she is expected to hold a joint press conference with Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Zarif also traveled to Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq over the weekend, stressing on his tour Iran’s desire to improve regional relations.

“Iran stands behind the people in the region to fight against the threat of extremism, terrorism and sectarianism,” Zarif said at a news conference in Kuwait July 26. “Our message to the regional countries is that we should fight together against this shared challenge.”

But Jubeir, speaking at a news conference with Mogherini July 27, rebuffed Iran’s offer to seek improved regional ties and accused Tehran of threatening its ally Bahrain.

“We reject their comments and reject the hostility they show toward the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the countries of the region,” Jubeir said July 27.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to discuss the Iran deal as well as prospects for revived Syria talks when he meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Gulf Cooperation Council states in Doha, Qatar Aug. 3. On July 27, Kerry announced the appointment of Michael Ratney as the new US special envoy for Syria. An Arabic-speaking foreign service officer, Ratney previously served as US consul general in Jerusalem, as well as in Qatar and Iraq.

“We remain committed to reaching a negotiated political transition away from [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad, working to counter the shared threat of terrorism, supporting the moderate opposition, and addressing the humanitarian disaster and its impact on Syria’s neighbors,” Kerry said in a statement July 27 announcing Ratney’s appointment.

Breaking down the risk of nuclear deterrence failure

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | Seth Baum | July 27, 2015

In the international debate over nuclear disarmament, one long-running bone of contention is the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence—that is, using the threat of nuclear retaliation to prevent another state from going to war. Nuclear-armed states claim that maintaining (or only gradually reducing) the large arsenals required for deterrence is the safer path. Many non-nuclear states claim that nuclear deterrents make the world less safe, and that therefore rapid disarmament is required.

Nuclear arsenals do clearly have some deterrent effect, but how do we know whether disarmament or nuclear deterrence will make the world safer? It’s difficult to precisely calculate the risk of any kind of war, under any circumstances. In fact, though, it is possible to apply a rough risk analysis to the question without knowing exact probabilities or potential severity. And doing so strongly suggests that disarmament is far preferable to continued nuclear deterrence as a means of protecting humanity.

On the surface, the disagreement between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states may look intractable. People even speak of a crisis in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, with its “grand bargain” unraveling due to different views on disarmament. The non-nuclear weapon states have held up their end of the bargain by not building atomic weapons. But many believe that the nuclear weapon states have not done their part, which is to shrink their nuclear arsenals. Frustration about the glacial pace of disarmament has fueled the rise of the humanitarian initiative in recent years, a coalition of non-nuclear-weapon states (such as Austria) and civil society groups (such as ICAN) that are pushing for arms reduction by drawing attention to nuclear weapons’ potential humanitarian impact. The initiative offers a counter-narrative to nuclear weapon states’ claims that the weapons play a positive role as deterrents.

Upon closer inspection, though, the international divide might not be so large after all—or at least it shouldn’t be when the whole story about deterrence failure is taken into account. The competing claims differ mainly in emphasis. There seems to be basic agreement on which principles to use in evaluating the possibility of deterrence failure, and on what the evidence says. By taking a closer look at both the principles and the evidence, a consensus on nuclear deterrence and disarmament may be within reach.

Evaluating the possibility of deterrence failure should be based on the same principles always called for when making decisions under risky conditions. Everyone agrees that the risk of nuclear war is bad; if all else were equal, we would rather not have this risk. But all else is not equal.

The crucial step is to clarify what decision is being faced. In this case, we are not deciding between the risk of nuclear deterrence failure and no risk at all. If that were the case, it would be clear that there should be no nuclear weapons. But the actual decision we’re facing is whether to rapidly disarm. Complete and permanent nuclear disarmament would end the possibility of nuclear war, but not the possibility of war. Thus, the key comparison should be between the risk of deterrence failure—and therefore war—with nuclear weapons and the risk of deterrence failure without them.

Which risk is larger? This is where the empirical details come in. Risk can be quantified as the probability of some harm times the severity of that harm if it were to occur. That means we are comparing four quantities: the probability of war with nuclear weapons, the probability without them, the severity of war with them, and the severity without them.

The probability of any war is a very difficult number to pin down. The causes of war are complex and contingent on many case-specific factors, and the historical record is murky and limited. But at least one thing is clear: The probability of nuclear war is not zero. Nuclear deterrence can fail. It is a fallacy to presume that just because no nuclear war has occurred since the post-World War II advent of nuclear deterrence, therefore it will never happen. The historical record contains several near-misses in which nuclear war was narrowly avoided due in no small part to luck. When these points are raised in disarmament debates, there is no significant international divide. When pushed, everyone seems to agree that nuclear deterrence can fail.

Like nuclear weapons, conventional weapons can also act as deterrents, discouraging states from going to war by presenting a counter-threat. So how does the probability of deterrence failure with nuclear weapons compare to the probability without them? This is a much harder question, and not one commonly considered in the debates. Several studies have attempted to answer it by looking at data on the history of war between states that do and do not have nuclear weapons. A 2009 study by Robert Rauchhaus found a lower probability of war between states that both have nuclear weapons but a higher probability when only one has them. However, a 2015 study by Mark Bell and Nicholas L. Miller finds no significant difference in the relative probabilities. These studies are helpful but inconclusive. Such an important policy decision should ideally rest on more robust research. (I would welcome any reader comments on these two studies or suggestions for additional ones.)

The relative severity of nuclear and non-nuclear war is also complex and uncertain, but easier to compare. In principle, either war could result in few or many deaths depending on how it proceeded. In practice, there is reason to believe that nuclear war would be vastly more severe. Non-nuclear war could result in many millions of deaths, as in the two World Wars, but the unparalleled explosive force of nuclear weapons makes great harm much easier to cause and therefore more probable.

By far the biggest difference between nuclear and non-nuclear war would be that the former would likely result in nuclear winter. Nuclear explosions send smoke up past the clouds, into the stratosphere, which causes global environmental problems for years. Crop failures could ensue in every country, no matter where the war occurred. The survival of human civilization could be at stake. Nuclear winter could astronomically dwarf the potential harm of a non-nuclear war, unless the latter involved some other weapon of global destruction, such as contagious biological weapons. (Those are already banned by treaty and not in active deployment).

The relative severity of nuclear and non-nuclear war is likewise not a point of international disagreement. While awareness of nuclear winter remains low, all sides concur that the impacts of the former would be catastrophic, and the impacts of the latter not as bad. Taking nuclear winter into account, the ambiguity about the probabilities of whether war will occur becomes less important. That is, even if nuclear weapons significantly improve deterrence, nuclear disarmament still reduces the risk of war. Thus, while it is understandable that nuclear-armed states would want to avoid disarmament in order to avoid war, the world will ultimately be safer without nuclear weapons. In other words, nuclear disarmament should proceed rapidly.

Of course, this still leaves the practical challenge of achieving rapid disarmament. It will require progress in several fronts, especially with respect to Russia, which has made repeated nuclear threats since the onset of the Ukraine crisis. But when all the risks are considered, the argument that nuclear deterrence makes the world a safer place is not persuasive. It should not be used to resist rapid disarmament.

The views presented here are the author’s alone, and not those of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute.

Seth Baum is executive director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, a nonprofit think tank that Baum co-founded in 2011. Baum’s research focuses on risk, ethics, and policy questions about major threats to human civilization, including nuclear war, global warming, and emerging technologies.

“Spanish site suitable for waste store”

WNN | 28 July 2015

Spain’s nuclear regulator has concluded that Villar de Cañas is a suitable site for a national high-level waste storage facility. However, it has requested additional technical studies and reports.

Villar de Canas
How the Villar de Cañas facility could look (Image: Enresa)

In a meeting yesterday, the Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN) agreed – with four votes in favour and one against – in approving a report which says that the small town of Villar de Cañas in central Cuenca province is a suitable site for the facility.

The CSN’s report concludes that the site “is justified and needs are adequately covered” as stipulated under the Sixth General Radioactive Waste Plan, approved in June 2006. That plan sets the national policy and strategy for the management of radioactive waste and used fuel and says that the construction of a temporary storage facility for intermediate- and high-level waste, as well as used fuel, is a priority.

From the point of view of safety, the CSN said, the suitability of the Villar de Cañas site “refers to the set of terrain features and design engineering barriers common in the nuclear world, where safety is guaranteed’. It added, ‘The technical evaluation noted that the proposed site has no exclusive phenomena.”

The CSN said that, pursuant to regulations on nuclear and radioactive facilities, “prior authorization or official recognition that a chosen site is considered suitable” allows the licensee – in this case Spanish decommissioning firm Enresa – to begin preliminary works while the regulatory approval process continues. This includes building external infrastructure such as access to roads to the site.

The CSN will now submit its report to the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, which has the final say on whether a licence for the facility can be issued. However, the regulator has requested that more technical studies and analyses are conducted before making its final decision.

Villar de Cañas was officially selected as the location of the storage facility in December 2011. Thirteen other localities had also declared individual interest at the end of 2009 in hosting the facility.

The facility will accept transport casks of used nuclear fuel assemblies or vitrified wastes that are currently stored at each of Spain’s nuclear power plants. These items will be removed and placed in smaller containers for placement in a dry store cooled by the passive circulation of air. The facility will provide storage for some 12,816 cubic metres of waste for 60 years, by which time a repository for permanent disposal should be available.

In January, Tecnatom and Gas Natural Fenosa won a €3.1 million ($3.6 million) contract from Enresa to provide engineering design support for the facility.

Antonio Cornadó, president of the Spanish nuclear industry forum Foronuclear, said: “The centralization of the temporary management of used fuel from Spanish nuclear power plants is an important step for the Spanish nuclear program, and is in line with the strategies that have been internationally adopted. He added, “Its construction and launch is an opportunity for the Spanish industry, which has the technological capacity to completely carry out this project.”

The Spanish facility is modelled on the successful HABOG plant that fulfils the same role in the Netherlands.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Russia to re-start launches of ‘Satan’ ICBM

July 30, 2015, Pavel Luzin, specially for RIR

Russia plans to re-start trial launches of the RS-20 Voyevoda Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, after converting the Dnepr missile, also known by NATO as “Satan.” Russia now possesses 60 such missiles which, over the next five years, will be withdrawn from service. The plan is to use the Voyevoda missiles for civilian purposes, for commercial launches, to avoid having to destroy the expensive missiles.


The Dnepr is the converted R-36M (in various modifications) Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). It is being offered on the market for rocket launches by the Kosmotras company, founded in Moscow, on the basis of an agreement between the Russian and Ukrainian governments. The R-36M was has been withdrawn from service since the beginning of the 1990s and has been transferred to Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine) for conversion to launch satellites, with direct Ukrainian involvement. The military and political crisis, however, has brought confusion to Ukraine’s international space cooperation with Russia. This ambiguity has also affected the Dnepr rocket delivery programme.

Missile for civilian purposes

Earlier, in winter 2014, Russian officials said they were reviewing Russia’s participation in this programme. However, on July 23, the Russian Defence Ministry said Dnepr rocket launches would continue, and conversion of the missiles would be undertaken by the government’s Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau at Miass, in the Urals. Kosmotras has, since spring, been denying that there are any problems surrounding the Dnepr. The company will also assist the launch of two communication satellites for the American company Iridium Communications Inc. in autumn 2015, and in 2016-2017. It is set for another five launches.

Russia has around 60 R-36 ICBMs, which are due to be withdrawn completely from service in the 2020s if their service life isn’t extended. Between 1999 and 2015, 22 launches were made (21 successful) using the Dnepr. Competition in the rocket design industry is growing both globally and within Russia, but the demand for placing satellites in orbit is also growing.

The Dnepr occupies an important niche here: with its assistance in 2003-2012, 22 % of all micro-satellites (10-100 kg) and 18 % of all nano-satellites (1 to 10 kg) have been launched. These are, so far, the best indicators within this particular segment, and the rocket itself is extremely reliable. The technology for such devices is being developed by dozens of universities and companies around the globe, enabling one to expect stable growth in their number over the next few years.

The approximate cost of a single Dnepr launch ranges between US$24 and US$30 million. If, over the next few years, the cost of delivering satellites into orbit does not markedly decrease, then these rockets have a good chance of being used through to the 2030s, as satellite delivery is an alternative use for the missiles.

Temporary replacement for the Angara

However, the withdrawal of Ukraine from the project, and the transfer of the R-36M conversion to the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau will require company resources and will be accompanied by risks, since it will be necessary to resolve two interrelated problems: conversion of an unfamiliar rocket, and avoiding a rushed job.

Redesign work is necessary for both the R-36M’s control system (carried out by Kharkiv company Khartron), and for the upcoming launch of Iridium this autumn. The company has completed its part of the work. In Russia there are at least four companies working on the onboard electronics of the space engineering systems (including the Leninets Central Scientific Production Company, Pilugin Scientific Production Center of Automatics and Instrument Making among others). However, should their Ukrainian partners completely refuse to cooperate, this will cause a problem for them, which no one previously predicted and was not avoided in their manufacturing plans.

In any case, the six launches which have been announced for 2015–2017 must take place regardless of approaching complications, since Russia’s reputation as a provider of aero-space services is on the line. In the long term, however, Russia will be involved in perfecting and minimizing costs of the Angara launch vehicle, which could fill the Dnepr’s niche.