The G8 Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction

Publish date: October 4, 2002

Written by: Zackary Moss

The G8 "Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction [WMD]" issued by the world's eight leading industrial nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russia Federation, the UK and the US–at the G8 Summit on 27 June 2002, is an initiative aimed at accounting, securing and clearing up Russia's nuclear legacy.


Bellona Position Paper



The G8 leaders have agreed to raise $20bn over ten years towards a range of measures for non-proliferation, disarmament, counter-terrorism and nuclear safety projects. This would be achieved by dismantling Russia’s WMD (chemical, biological and nuclear); decommissioning nuclear submarines; the disposition of fissile materials and spent nuclear fuel; and the employment of former weapons scientists.1

The initiative was discussed when US President Bush met Germany’s Chancellor Schröder in May 2002; indeed, Bush referred to the "ten-plus-ten-over-ten" programme aimed at non-proliferation and clean-up, principally in Russia: $1bn per year from the US, plus $1bn from the rest of the original G7 nations per year, over 10 years.2 In June 2002, the G8 leaders also drew up a set of guidelines that will apply with immediate effect, which they said aim to ensure that effective and efficient project development, co-ordination and implementation take place. To achieve this, the G8 leaders aim to develop a range of financing options, including the option of bilateral debt for programme exchanges.

US funded non-proliferation in Russia: the ‘Nunn-Lugar’ programme
Since 1992, the US has spent $7bn on non-proliferation programmes in Russia through the bipartisan ‘Nunn-Lugar’ programme, roughly $900m-$1bn per year. At first glance the US-sponsored non-proliferation results seem impressive. The ‘Nunn-Lugar’ programme has helped to downsize Russia’s nuclear weapons complex; deactivate and eliminate WMD; and secure, protect, blend down and vitrify stocks of weapons-usable fissile material.3 According to the US government’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency, as of 31 December 2002 CTR had deactivated 6,032 nuclear warheads and put beyond use various nuclear-capable delivery systems.4

Security of nuclear weapons in transit to storage facilities has been improved. When completed, the Mayak Fissile Material Storage Facility will house fissile material from 12,500 dismantled nuclear warheads and store 50 metric tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium.5 The Material Protection, Control, and Accounting programme transferred to the US Department of Energy has provided for the continued installation of security, control, and accounting equipment to help safeguard weapons-usable fissile material stockpiled in the former Soviet Union, facilitated the re-location of it from the Newly Independent States to Russia and the US, and has consolidated it into fewer sites.

Funding to dismantle nuclear-powered submarines
As for nuclear-powered submarines, the CTR programme only deals with the decommissioning of strategic missile submarines (SSBNs) deemed a threat to the US and taken out of service in compliance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)-I. The September 1990 START-I memorandum of understanding listed 62 SSBNs. Between 1992 and 1997 five submarines in the Russian Navy were dismantled using CTR equipment. Starting in 2001, six SSBNs were scheduled for elimination from the Northern and Pacific fleets under CTR, including one Typhoon; three Delta-IIIs; and two Delta-Is. In addition, two more SSBNs are on contract, including one Delta-I and two Delta-IIIs.

The CTR’s baseline goal is to dismantle a total of 48 SSBNs, with Russia supposed to pay for six of these. As of December 2002, 25 strategic submarines had been dismantled. Only 15 SSNBs were considered operational by the end of 2001: six Delta-IIIs, six Delta-IVs, and three Typhoons. All Yankee, Delta-I and Delta-II vessels have been withdrawn from operational service. Out of the original six Typhoons, one is being scrapped at Severodvinsk, two more will be scrapped in the future, and three will remain in service. Spent nuclear fuel (SNF) from 15 dismantled SSBNs has been shipped to the Mayak reprocessing plant for reprocessing and storage, which was facilitated by US officials granting a waiver on the non-reprocessing policy.

The CTR programme does not cover nuclear powered non-strategic submarines: attack submarines (SSNs) and cruise missile submarines (SSGNs). A total of 157 non-strategic submarines were built for the Northern and Pacific fleets. 85 are laid-up with SNF onboard, of which 45 are in north-west Russia. An additional 27 vessels from the Northern Fleet have been de-fueled and some even dismantled. The slow rate of progress in decommissioning these vessels is attributable to the lack of both the funding and the proper infrastructure to carry out the defuelling process.

Spent nuclear fuel from naval vessels
Out of the 191 laid-up nuclear-powered submarines, 115 are located at Northern Fleet bases. As documented in Bellona Report Vol. 3, 2001, 71 of these are laid-up with fuel onboard, 10 are laid-up without fuel, and 32 have been dismantled. By the end of 2001, SNF from 118 reactor cores was in storage at onshore bases and nuclear service ships belonging to the Northern Fleet, with a further 130 reactor cores still onboard the retired submarines. A total of 248 reactor cores are stored at Northern Fleet bases, equivalent to 99 tonnes of SNF.6

Previously, SNF from naval vessels was stored at pond-type storage facilities for 5-10 years before being shipped by train to Mayak. The Northern Fleet used to have two pond storage facilities for SNF: Andreeva Bay on the north-west side of the Kola Peninsula, and Gremikha on the east side of the Kola Peninsula. After these facilities were taken out of service, SNF was dry-stored at both bases, as well as onboard nuclear support ships and in the reactors of retired submarines. Presently, the largest storage for SNF from nuclear-powered vessels in north-west Russia is located in Andreeva Bay. According to Minatom’s head design establishment responsible for SNF management, this site has 21,640 SNF assemblies containing 35 tonnes of fuel material. Assuming that each reactor core contains 233 nuclear fuel assemblies, this is equivalent to 93 reactor cores.

Bellona recommends that the laid-up non-strategic submarines be de-fuelled and decommissioned as soon as possible, especially as their condition presents an environmental hazard to the Kola Peninsula and the Barents Sea, as well as the Norwegian Sea and the region’s fishing stocks.

The threat of a radiological dispersal device
In addition to the threat that laid-up vessels with SNF onboard could sink at their piers with the environmental consequences that would bring, there is also a security threat if the SNF were stolen and diverted to build a crude radiological dispersal device, or RDD. Securing SNF from naval vessels laid-up in Andreeva Bay is therefore a primary concern: this is because SNF and other radiological material could be used by terrorists to manufacture a RDD such as a "dirty bomb".

While a RDD could be made with low-grade waste from nuclear power plants and small devices containing radioactive materials – including americium, cobalt-60 and strontium-90 – high level radioactive waste such as caesium-137 would spread pollution over a wider area and have a greater impact. As a result, the build-up of SNF in Northern Russia is not only a potential hazard to the surrounding area, it presents a security threat to countries further a field. If a terrorist group were to get their hands on SNF or other radiological material they may be able to develop a radiological device that could be detonated in a heavily populated city.

While there is no danger of a nuclear-yield explosion if a RDD were exploded, depending on the material used it could disperse radioactive contamination over a wide area. The contaminated area may become uninhabitable, with grave consequences for the environment, the economy and future generations. The Economist reported in June 2002 that although a radiological weapon had never been used, they are suitable for terrorists because of their ability to inflict psychological impact, rather than kill.7

Accordingly, it would be fair to describe a RDD is a "weapon of mass dislocation" rather than a WMD. This is because the device’s threat comes not from the initial bomb blast but from the after affects relating to public health.

While CTR funds SNF disposition from eliminated SSBNs, Bellona recommends that the SNF from multi-purpose submarines be secured and disposed of as soon as possible, because if diverted it presents a security threat not only to Russia but to Europe and beyond.

Translating words into action: resolving issues and allocating money
Given the threats outlined above and especially in light of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, Bellona recommends that the G8 $20bn pledge be realised as soon as possible, although some problems must first be resolved. The most serious of these is the tax exemption and liability agreement concerning the Multilateral Nuclear Environment Programme in the Russian Federation, or MNEPR, an international initiative aimed at clearing up SNF and radioactive waste in north-west Russia, particularly from nuclear reactors. Although a draft exists, it has not yet been signed and the delay in signing MNEPR is a major impediment to the implementation of the planned work. Currently, each country involved with Russia has a bilateral and, in some cases a trilateral, agreement.

In the past, equipment sent to Russia was subjected to a 20% value added tax, although to a certain degree this has been solved and a procedure is in place that allows the import of equipment tax free. Considering that the donor countries are funding and carrying out the work, contractors from donor countries should not have to pay tax in Russia. Third party liability remains a bone of contention between Russia and the donor countries.

Other problems in dealing with nuclear clean-up and security in Russia include cost overruns, Russian bureaucracy, as well as institutional rivalry between Russian ministries eager to get their share of the funds. Unfortunately, very little has happened since the G8 Summit in June, which even prompted Lugar to comment on 5 September that there would have to be "some kind of organisation".8 And despite the successes of US-sponsored non-proliferation programmes in Russia, they have managed to provide security safeguards for only 40% of Russia’s nuclear facilities, and the figure is lower for biological and chemical sites. Lugar also commented that at the current rate of progress, it will take another 27 years before some Russian facilities are secure.9

The Center for Non-proliferation Studies has suggested that the $10bn pledge by the US is largely comprised of funds needed to carry out exciting "Nunn-Lugar" programmes. The US has spent $7bn since 1992, whereas the other G7 countries have spent approximately $500m through various bilateral projects with the same aim.10 Currently, the G8 pledge actually means that no new money has been allocated, and even if money is allocated it will only match that sum previously spent by the US. Moreover, the initiative allows countries to count money slated but not yet allocated, and even has a provision for contributions from non-G8 countries should Japan and European contributors fail to raise their $10bn pledge. In fact, the amounts committed vary between countries and neither France nor Italy has publicly announced any figures.

The G8 pledge would prove very useful for expanding non-proliferation assistance to Russia. In the meantime, however, the G8 countries could use bilateral agreements to speed up nuclear clean up in Russia. Instead of waiting for legislation to be passed for the allocation of new money, donor countries could write off debt if Russia did more itself.

Bellona therefore recommends that appropriate action be taken to sign MNEPR, which will provide the much need impetus to resolve the tax and liability agreement. Once the G8 release the pledged money, this will help to translate the G8 initiative into concrete action.

1. See the G8 Leaders’ statement, G8 Summit
2. The Economist, ‘Anti-proliferation wrangles: cleaning up’, Print Edition, 30 May 2002.
3. Zackary Moss, The Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies Newsbrief, ‘US- Russian Nuclear Non-proliferation Post-11 September’, March 2002, Vol.22, No.3.
4. Defence Threat Reduction Agency, DTRA
5. DTRA, Ibid.
6. All information on SNF is from the Report for Cabinet Meeting. Minatom: ‘Nuclear and Radiation Safety of Russian’, Moscow, pp.22-23, 28, 58-59, in Bellona Report Vol.3 – 2001.
7. The Economist, ‘Radiological devices: weapons of mass dislocation’, 15-21 June 2002.
8. Bryan Bender, ‘G8 Pledge Needs Organization, Lugar Says’, Global Security Newswire, 6/9/2002.
9. CNS, 17 June 2002, ‘The 10 plus 10 over ten Initiative: A Promising Start, But Little Substance So Far’, CNS