G8 nations should spend more to dismantle Russia's nuclear arsenals, experts say

Rich donor nations should offer more financial aid for Russia to dismantle its Soviet-era nuclear and chemical weapons stockpiles and help other countries keep nuclear material from terrorists, experts said at an international weapons conference Tuesday.

Weapons specialists from governments and think-tanks around the world assessed progress in eliminating weapons of mass destruction and protecting stored nuclear waste since 2002, when the Group of Eight wealthiest nations promised at least US$20 billion over 10 years for the effort.

But former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn said the pledges so far of US$17 billion fall short of that goal - and stressed that only a fraction of that amount had actually been spent. He urged delegates to consider the risks of inaction.

"Today ... it is possible that a small group of terrorists could acquire nuclear weapons in one nation, launch a nuclear attack in another nation and stagger the security and the economy of every nation," said Nunn, co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a charity that co-sponsored the conference.

He singled out Japan as one of the stingiest donors, pledging only US$200 million compared to Washington's US$10 billion contribution.

Much of the discussions focused on Russia's weapons stockpiles.

Moscow had amassed a Cold War-era fleet of 250 nuclear-powered submarines. But since the 1980s, nearly 200 of them have been removed from active duty, and Moscow has promised to dismantle its aging fleet at ports in its Northwest and Far East - and safely dispose of their nuclear reactors - by 2010, officials said.

That could cost US$4 billion (Ђ3.26 billion) while reducing Russian biological and chemical weapons could cost another US$8 billion (Ђ6.52 billion), they said.

Sergey Antipov, deputy director of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, said Moscow couldn't afford that on its own.

"Over the next 10 to 12 years, we can't achieve our goals without international help," said Antipov.

Russia isn't the only concern. Research facilities in more than 40 nations possess enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb, Nunn said.

Enriched uranium can be used in a reactor to generate electricity, but it can also be used to produce warheads. Much of the world's enriched uranium stores aren't protected from the possibility of theft, he added.

G8 members are the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

KENJI HALL, Associated Press Writer

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