13. U.S. Agency Seeks to Export Weapons-Grade Plutonium to Russian Organization Lied to Organized Crime

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Sources: IN THESE TIMES, Oct. 17, 1999 Title: “Hot Property Cold Cash: The Plan to Turn Russia into the World’s Nuclear Waste Dump” Author: Jeffrey St. Clair; COUNTERPUNCH, Vol. 6, No. 16, September 16-30, 1999, Title: “The MinAtom Conspiracy” Authors: Jeffrey St. Clair & Alexander Cockburn

Faculty Evaluator: Wingham Liddell, Ph.D.
Student Researchers: Rebecca Aust & Lisa Desmond

The Washington-based Non-Proliferation Trust (NPT) proposes that the U.S. sell nuclear waste to Russia. NPT’s plan would make Russia the world’s dumping ground for nuclear waste, including weapons-grade plutonium. NPT’s partner in this endeavor is MinAtom, Russia’s ministry of atomic energy.

NPT is headed up by Daniel Murphy (former deputy director of the CIA), Bruce Demars (former head of the Navy’s nuclear program), and William Webster (former director of the CIA and FBI). Although NPT is set up as a non-profit organization, its principals stand to make huge profits off consulting and subcontracting. On the list of potential sub-contractors is Halter Marine in Gulfport, Mississippi, a company to which U.S. Senator Trent Lott has close links. Halter Marine would be in line to build the huge container ships needed to transport the waste to Russia.

Yevgeny Adamov, the head of MinAtom, estimates that the operation could produce $150 billion in revenue, making it the most lucrative operation in Russia. MinAtom is alleged to have links to corrupt government officials and the Russian Mob.

The NPT/MinAtom proposal, which is to last 40 years, would set dangerous precedents by opening up an inter-national market in radioactive waste and by placing nuclear bomb-making materials into the hands of private groups with little or no government oversight. The radioactive waste would be shipped to Russia from Europe and Asia on large ships mounted with an arsenal of weapons designed to ward off nuclear pirates. According to the NPT, the fuel would be either stored in casks or buried in deep geological formations on Russian soil.

Vladimir Silvyak, organizer with the Social Ecological Union, the largest environmental group in Russia states, “if this goes through, the deal will make MinAtom, an agency that is already barely answerable to the government, the most powerful entity in Russia. Certainly MinAtom will be one of the few agencies with any money and they sure won’t spend it on social programs.”

The biggest initial hurdle for the NPT are Russian environmental statutes that outlaw the import of spent fuel for storage in Russia. MinAtom has been attempting to overturn these laws for the past few years, but the NPT proposal will make lobbying a lot easier. The trust has pledged to spend at least $3.5 billion on the pet projects of key leaders of the Duma-including $1.8 billion for an underground cave repository for spent fuel, and $2 billion to “safeguard” weapons-grade plutonium. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be promised for environmental and charitable causes, such as Russian orphans and pensions and salaries for Russian nuclear and defense workers.

So far the U.S. government has rebuffed MinAtom’s offer, but a recent federal court ruling favoring the nuclear power industry is changing the situation. The ruling, made earlier this year, states that the U.S. government is obligated to make good a contractual agreement with the nuclear utilities to assume all liabilities and most of the costs for the disposal of the nation’s commercial nuclear waste. This may make the U.S. government more anxious to dispose of waste overseas. The NPT plan is also supported by top officials in the Clinton Administration and this connection indicates how tightly wired the group is to the Washington establishment.