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NucNews: 1/12/99 - Lure of Bomb; US Subs; KC Nuc Sensor; Nuc Waste - US, Russia

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  • Peace Through Reason
    1. Lure of a bomb: Simple design, destructive force http://www.phillynews.com/inquirer/99/Jan/10/national/BOMB10.htm 2. Size of U.S. submarine force questioned
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 12, 1999
      1. Lure of a bomb: Simple design, destructive force

      2. Size of U.S. submarine force questioned

      3. AlliedSignal boosts business at KC plant (for nuclear materials sensor)

      4. INEEL watchdogs hope to get funds Settlement with DOE provides for
      monitoring of N-waste cleanups

      5. Wheels turn slowly on nuclear waste issue

      6. Old Military Bases Converted Away US

      7. Ex-Soviet Nuclear Base Home to Drug Addicts


      1. Lure of a bomb: Simple design, destructive force


      By Steve Goldstein


      Building a nuclear weapon is not easy -- nor as difficult as you might hope.

      Although technical details of building nuclear weapons are classified, basic
      information on designing a simple fission weapon has been available for many
      years in open literature.

      Uranium 235 and plutonium 239 are the most efficient materials for making a
      nuclear bomb. Sophisticated nuclear weapons use material enriched to 90 percent
      U-235 -- a level considered weapons-grade.

      Plutonium, which does not occur naturally, must be produced in a reactor.

      "The existence of simple designs for nuclear weapons is what puts nuclear
      weapons within the reach of terrorist organizations that are able to obtain
      fissile material," four nuclear scientists wrote in Avoiding Nuclear Anarchy.

      Bomb expert Robert F. Mozley, a retired Stanford University particle physicist,
      said that "even a weapon that is poorly constructed or is made of a large
      amount of lower-grade uranium could be a very messy and inefficient but
      incredibly destructive bomb."

      A kiloton (equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT) nuclear-weapon detonation above
      ground would create massive destruction:

      At a distance of 600 feet from ground zero, winds would blow at 675 m.p.h. and
      all life would perish almost immediately.

      One-quarter mile, or 1,320 feet, from the center, winds would blow at 220
      m.p.h., all brick buildings two stories or higher would be destroyed, and
      reinforced concrete buildings would be heavily damaged.

      Half the people exposed to radiation 900 to 1,300 feet from the explosion would
      die within 60 days, even with medical treatment. The remainder would suffer
      various degrees of radiation sickness or long-term health consequences.

      To build a crude nuclear bomb would require at least one person with knowledge
      of physics and several with welding and other toolmaking skills. A simple HEU
      device could be constructed by a half-dozen people, said physicist Stephen
      Fetter of the University of Maryland. Because plutonium is more radioactive and
      has more barriers to easy construction, as many as 10 people may be needed,
      Fetter said.

      A beginner with limited scientific knowledge would need as little as 3
      kilograms of plutonium for a kiloton yield, or 6 kilograms for a 20-kiloton
      bomb. Eight kilograms of HEU would be needed for a 1-kiloton bomb, or 16
      kilograms of HEU for a 20-kiloton weapon.

      Someone who is technically proficient would need less material -- as little as
      3 kilograms of plutonium or 5 kilograms of HEU to produce a 20-kiloton yield,
      according to the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington.


      2. Size of U.S. submarine force questioned


      Analysts, including military experts, wonder whether the United States needs so
      many Tridents.

      By Walter Pincus, WASHINGTON POST; Philadelphia Inquirer, January 10, 1999

      WASHINGTON -- On any given day, at least five Trident strategic ballistic
      missile submarines, each nearly the length of two football fields, are
      submerged on patrol in the Pacific or Atlantic.

      Each submarine is capable of firing 24 intercontinental ballistic missiles,
      each of which has up to eight warheads with many times the explosive power of
      the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Backing up these submarines are 13
      more Tridents, four or five of them at sea at any give time.

      Although the 18-sub Trident force never has drawn the kind of public criticism
      that the more visible land-based MX and Peacekeeper missiles did, that quiet
      acceptance of ballistic-missile submarines may soon end.

      Questions -- even within the military -- have been raised about why the United
      States needs to maintain such a massive nuclear deterrent when the world's
      other major nuclear power, Russia, has trouble keeping just one or two of its
      strategic nuclear submarines operational.

      "Who are we preparing to assault or retaliate against at this level of
      destructive power?" asked retired Adm. Eugene J. Carroll Jr., deputy director
      of the Center for Defense Information, a think tank that favors reducing arms.

      Noting that the five boats on permanent patrol could "eradicate the world,"
      Carroll criticized as "totally irrational" a congressional amendment that has
      prohibited cutting the Trident force until Russia ratifies the START II

      Earlier this decade, the Navy acknowledged that it no longer needed 18
      Tridents, and prepared to reduce the number to 10 at the end of the Bush
      administration. The Clinton administration's strategic nuclear review raised
      the number to 14.

      Then Congress put into law a ban on any reductions below the START I level of
      18 submarines until the Russian parliament ratified START II, the 1993 treaty
      that would lower allowable strategic nuclear warheads on land- and sea-based
      missiles to 3,500. Last month, after Moscow protested the U.S. bombing of Iraq,
      the Russians again delayed ratification of START II, at least until spring.

      As a result, at least $500 million in additional funding is likely to be needed
      in the Pentagon's fiscal 2000 budget to keep the Trident force at START I
      levels. If Moscow's failure to ratify goes beyond next year, the Navy's added
      costs could grow to $1 billion more a year to keep 18 Tridents operational.

      According to a 1997 Congressional Budget Office study, at START I levels "the
      Navy would probably need funding for additional . . . missiles, modifications
      to four submarines . . . and overhauls, including refueling the nuclear cores,"
      of the four oldest Tridents that otherwise would have been decommissioned.

      Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a Pentagon official during the Reagan administration and
      now director of the Center for Security Policy, defended maintaining the
      Trident force.

      Gaffney, whose organization favors a firmer military posture, called the
      submarines "the last vestige of a robust nuclear deterrent posture. . . . The
      last thing I would cut is these boats that represent a credible, survivable
      force against people who may not be deterred."

      Before the end of the Cold War in 1991, the United States had 34
      ballistic-missile submarines in operation, carrying about 5,400 warheads, or 45
      percent of America's strategic nuclear warheads. Today, the 18 Trident
      submarines carry almost 3,400 strategic warheads, or almost half the strategic
      warheads in operation.

      Ten Tridents are based at Kings Bay, Ga., and roam primarily in the Atlantic.
      The remaining eight are based at Bangor, Wash., and patrol the Pacific.


      3. AlliedSignal boosts business at KC plant (for nuclear materials sensor)


      AlliedSignal Inc., in danger of losing its contract to run the Department of
      Energy's Kansas City plant, is aggressively seeking new business for the
      50-year-old center, including a program to prevent dictators such as Saddam
      Hussein from building nuclear weapons.

      Among other things, the plant is developing a sensor to detect stored nuclear
      materials, which could help keep a closer eye on nations suspected of trying to
      amass nuclear arsenals.

      "It's in the whole area of non-proliferation -- what can be done to prevent the
      spread of nuclear weapons around the world," said Dale Clements, vice president
      of AlliedSignal Federal Manufacturing & Technologies.

      The changing focus contrasts sharply with the plant's mission of providing
      non-nuclear parts for the United States' arsenal. The new marketing effort
      recognizes a diminished potential for war between superpowers but it assumes
      continued threats of small-scale nuclear conflicts.

      AlliedSignal officials hope the new focus will persuade the Department of
      Energy to keep the plant under the company's control after June 2001, when
      AlliedSignal's contract runs out. To support that goal, officials are touting
      other new projects:

      Helping to dismantle nuclear weapons bases such as the recently-closed
      Savannah River site in Aiken, S.C.

      Operating a $4.3 million supercomputer the Department of Energy installed in
      November that Allied Signal hopes will generate commercial consulting work.

      Shrinking the plant by nearly a million square feet to reduce overhead and
      make room for a five-year, $250 million Navy contract to build missile parts.

      Karen Clegg, president of AlliedSignal FMT said, "We want this (DOE) contract.
      We will compete for this contract if we have to."

      Management threat

      Department of Energy officials are considering contracting with a sole
      proprietor to oversee nuclear parts operations at plants in Kansas City;
      Amarillo, Texas; and Oak Ridge, Tenn. That means the Kansas City plant could
      operate under a different company after 2001, said Victor Reis, the
      Department's assistant secretary for defense programs. Lockheed-Martin Corp.
      currently runs the Tennessee plant, and Mason & Hanger-Silas Mason Co. runs the
      Texas plant.

      Reis said consolidation would save money, streamline authority and improve
      cooperation. "It's a little awkward when the plants are under different
      companies," he said. No work force reduction is expected at the the Kansas City
      plant. Instead, Reis said the consolidation would create "a more long-term,
      stable situation in Kansas City."

      Change is nothing new for the Kansas City plant.

      Its weapons contract has shrunk each year since the end of the Cold War -- from
      more than $400 million in the late 1980s to $260 million for fiscal 1999. Its
      work force has declined from 8,000 employees in the mid-1980s to 2,930 today,
      with the last major layoff in 1997.

      "It does make people nervous," said Leo Berroteran, president of Local Lodge
      990 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. "But
      it's getting to be such a way of life now that people just say, `Let's wait and
      see what the next fiscal year brings us.'"

      Since the mid-1990s, AlliedSignal has used the plant's vast resources -- more
      than 500 engineers and 22 patent-holders -- to generate business with other
      government agencies and private firms. The work, like a recent project using
      telemeter devices to help apple-growers eliminate bruised fruit, helped the
      plant realize a net profit of $19 million -- from performance-based government
      credits -- in fiscal 1998.

      Boosting business

      This year the Kansas City plant will make about $80 million in reimbursements
      by sharing technology and engineers with National Laboratories in California
      and New Mexico. Plant executives expect to make $7 million consulting with
      small and medium-sized manufacturing firms. Plant engineers helped Easy Set
      Fishhook Co. of Springfield, Mo., devise an environmentally efficient way to
      paint its fishhooks with a powdered coating.

      Executives hope to boost business with the DOE's purchase in November of the
      Heartland Supercomputer, which can test weapons -- and other products --
      without requiring a composite model.

      Even so, the plant is limited by federal law in competing for work against
      private firms. "We're just an enabler, that's all we are," said Mark Pressly of
      the plant's Office of Industrial Partnerships

      When Lawrence Bossidy took over as president of AlliedSignal's national empire
      in 1991, he demanded that the company's government operations display the same
      competitive bent as its private operations. Since then, the local plant has
      received ISO 9001 certification, cross-trained its employees and introduced
      worker teams to the production floor.

      Its operations were impressive enough in 1994 to persuade the DOE to
      consolidate the operations of three other nuclear components plants at the
      Kansas City plant. The DOE's Reis credited AlliedSignal with making the local
      plant more efficient and diversifying its revenue base.

      "We try to do that across the board, and I must say that's something that
      AlliedSignal does well," he said.

      Safety and firing mechanisms for nuclear weapons remain the focus of the Kansas
      City plant's business. Its singular efficiencies would make it hard to replace,
      Clegg said.

      "If there is no stockpile or if the stockpile is very small, then you don't
      need this plant," she said. "But until then, you need this plant because no
      other plant does what we do."


      4. INEEL watchdogs hope to get funds Settlement with DOE provides for
      monitoring of N-waste cleanups


      Associated Press - Spokane Net, January 5, 1999

      IDAHO FALLS -- The Snake River Alliance hopes to use federal money to hire
      outside experts to monitor cleanup efforts at the Idaho National Engineering
      and Environmental Laboratory.

      After a 10-year legal fight with 38 similar watchdog groups nationwide, the
      U.S. Department of Energy agreed Dec. 14 to create an Internet Web site of its
      efforts to clean up radioactive and hazardous waste at the nation's Cold
      War-era nuclear weapons plants and labs, including the Idaho National
      Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.

      The settlement also requires the agency to set up a $6.25 million fund that
      tribes, community groups and watchdog groups can apply for. The money pays for
      independent monitoring of how the Department of Energy handles its waste

      That includes paying for activists' hiring of outside experts to monitor the
      nuclear waste cleanup work.

      Snake River Alliance director Pam Allister said the group's leaders hope the
      fund will help them keep better tabs on the lab's waste cleanup, storage and
      disposal tasks.

      Alliance leaders say there is a need to hire independent scientists or
      technicians to help the group analyze the Idaho National Engineering and
      Environmental Laboratory's unresolved buried waste problems.

      ``Our greatest interest is going to be directed to those places at INEEL where
      waste is moving toward the aquifer,'' she said.

      <367>Memo: Allister said much of the stored waste at the Idaho National
      Engineering and Environmental Laboratory's former Chem Plant is not yet
      addressed in cleanup plans.


      5. Wheels turn slowly on nuclear waste issue



      OAK HARBOR - Although the nation's eyes are focused on President Clinton's
      impeachment trial, a couple of other developments in Washington could affect
      the future of America's nuclear industry, including Akron-based FirstEnergy
      Corp.'s Davis-Besse plant in Ottawa County:

      Wednesday night, U.S. Reps. Fred Upton (R., Mich.) and Edolphus Towns (D.,
      N.Y.) reintroduced legislation calling for the government to start taking spent
      nuclear fuel and move faster on developing a repository at the Nevada Test
      Site, where nuclear weapons were once tested.

      In late December, the U.S. Department of Energy released its long-awaited
      viability assessment of the Yucca Mountain project, concluding there are ``no
      show stoppers.'' Yet it acknowledged a hefty price tag: Another $18.7 billion
      to build the repository there, plus $36.6 billion to maintain it for at least
      100 years. The repository would not open until at least 2010.

      The developments are two pieces of a larger puzzle involving some of the most
      dangerous waste on Earth. Spent nuclear fuel comes from the core of nuclear
      power plant reactors and is the only civilian material classified by the
      government as high-level radioactive waste.

      None of the utilities, including FirstEnergy, wants to get stuck with the
      waste. Anti-nuclear activists don't want it stored locally, either, but they
      have myriad concerns about shipping it across the country.

      Routes won't be determined for years, but more than a quarter of the nation's
      waste is in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the Northeast. Odds are some of it will be
      moved through northwest Ohio via rail or truck during a 30 to 50-year period,
      officials have said.

      Todd Schneider, FirstEnergy spokesman, said the utility supports the proposed
      legislation and will try to recover costs it has incurred as a result of the
      government's failure to pick up the waste on time.

      The utility estimates those costs to be $8 million to $10 million at
      Davis-Besse, and $10 million at its Beaver Valley nuclear plant units near
      Shippingport, Pa.

      Other utilities also will be trying to recover costs.

      ``We hope something gets done,'' Mr. Schneider said.

      The bill, which has 47 co-sponsors, is similar to one that passed in the last
      Congress by a 65-34 vote in the Senate and a 307-120 vote in the House. It died
      on the Senate floor, after coming out of conference committee.

      The proposed legislation calls for the government to start taking spent fuel by
      June 30, 2003. That would be 5 1/2 years later than the deadline of Jan. 31,
      1998, established by the federal Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

      ``We feel good about its prospects,'' said Steve Kerekes, spokesman for the
      Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's Washington-based lobbying group.

      Located 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Yucca Mountain is the site that
      Congress decided in 1987 to have the government focus on as the front-runner.

      The government has spent almost $6 billion over 30 years in its search for a
      place to bury the waste, including more than $2.2 billion on scientific tests
      and other work at Yucca Mountain over the last 15 years.

      Additional studies are to be done through 2001, when the Energy Department is
      to make a formal recommendation on the project to the White House.

      Mr. Kerekes called the viability assessment an ``important milestone,'' because
      it offers an endorsement while stopping just short of giving the project a
      green light. The government study may instill more confidence in the project
      and help lobbyists as they try to give the bill its final push on Capitol Hill,
      he said.

      ``It certainly should give impetus to the legislative efforts on the hill,'' he

      Carolyn Miller, a Toledo anti-nuclear activist, said she wouldn't be surprised
      if the debate lingers in Congress for years.

      ``It's kind of like a hot potato nobody wants,'' she said.

      Ms. Miller, spokesman for a group called Don't Waste Ohio, acknowledged that
      the government was supposed to start taking waste in 1998. But she said it may
      have to stay put for the time being, given the transportation issues.

      ``The bottom line is there is no solution for this stuff. Why should we keep
      making more of it, when we don't even know what to do with what we have?'' she


      6. Old Military Bases Converted Away US


      By The Associated Press, January 12, 1999

      AYER, Mass. (AP) -- Hundreds of identical ranch houses, lined up like soldiers
      at attention, stand eerily vacant along a road at Fort Devens where tanks and
      transport trucks once rolled with troops.

      It's a reminder of the past, when the Cold War fueled enormous defense spending
      and vast military bases sprawled across the country like this one 35 miles
      outside Boston.

      There is a hint of the future just down the road: Trendy sport utility vehicles
      ferry businessmen to jobs at a software firm housed in the old base's
      intelligence headquarters.

      Now simply named Devens, the former U.S. Army facility -- like others closed
      nationwide since 1988 -- is under civilian ownership. The transition was
      painful at times, but things are looking up.

      The old army fort, which once employed 7,000 people, boasts 39 businesses and
      1,300 private-sector jobs.

      ``Things were real bad for a year,'' said Corey Austin, who works at the Exxon
      service station in nearby Ayer. ``Now, they've taken up the entire work

      According to a Defense Department Web site, 20 of the 97 bases slated for
      closure across the country have successfully been converted to civilian use.
      The government estimated last April that some 45,000 new jobs have been created
      in the abandoned hulks.

      What used to be Fort Benjamin Harrison in Lawrence, Ind., is now a state park.
      Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Mo., has produced 1,000 new jobs and is
      planning to create a retirement and vacation community.

      Less than two years after it closed, Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento,
      Calif., became a civilian airport and the region's air cargo hub. And Packard
      Bell NEC moved into the former Sacramento Army Depot, where 5,000 people now
      manufacture computers.

      ``Success has been good, except the redevelopment process has usually taken
      longer than anticipated,'' said James Noone, partner in the Washington-based
      Karalekas & Noone, a law firm specializing in communities trying to redevelop

      While a number of former bases have become civilian airports, others found
      creative ways to use space.

      In 1996, up to 120,000 rock fans pitched multicolored tents on the runway at
      the former Plattsburg Air Force Base in New York to watch the band Phish.

      Over the last two years, huge Phish concerts at the former Loring Air Force
      Base in Limestone, Maine, have pumped millions of dollars into the local

      Converting old bases is often slowed by the expensive and frustrating process
      of cleaning up after the military -- which leaves behind unexploded shells,
      asbestos and plain old trash.

      In fact, cleanup and other transition costs ate up much of the savings
      originally made from the several rounds of base closures since the 1980s. The
      Defense Department now estimates closures saved $3.7 billion in fiscal 1999 and
      will save $14 billion through 2001.

      ``One of the challenges of the older facilities is that the redevelopment costs
      are huge,'' said Michael Hogan, head of MassDevelopment, the agency
      redeveloping Devens.

      Fearing economic devastation, base communities strongly opposed plans to begin
      downsizing in 1988, when the first closures were announced. Congress has balked
      at ordering more bases shut down.

      Pease Air Force Base on New Hampshire's seacoast was one of the first bases to
      close its gates, during a deep regional recession in the early 1990s. It has
      since been transformed as a thriving industrial park where Pan Am recently took
      up residence, joining 80 other businesses and a wildlife refuge.

      Tom Morgan, town planner in nearby Newington, attributes the old base's success
      to a strong local economy. ``The rising tide makes all the boats float,'' he
      said. ``Even Pease floated.''

      A rising tide in Denver also lifted the fortunes of both the rich and the poor
      at Lowry Air Force Base. There, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless now
      operates 170 housing units on the old base, right next to $400,000 houses being

      Rather than creating an economic blight, the shutdown of Lowry may have
      actually turned out to have been a boon to Denver, giving the city more room to
      expand with roads, schools and senior housing.

      ``It's actually pretty amazing, the amount of activity,'' said John Parvensky,
      the coalition's director.


      7. Ex-Soviet Nuclear Base Home to Drug Addicts


      Jan. 11, 1999 Russia Today (Special Section: CIS )

      KHMELNITSKY, Ukraine, Jan. 11, 1999 -- (Reuters) Drug addicts tending pigs and
      chickens at a top secret Soviet nuclear missile base -- the very idea would
      have had Cold War generals packing their bags for Siberia.

      Yet that pastoral scene has become a reality at the former base of the Red
      Army's Fifth Strategic Missile Regiment, hidden away among the hills and barren
      fields of western Ukraine.

      Soviet troops pulled out from Khmelnitsky after the Union collapsed in 1991.
      Now only a crumbling concrete obelisk screaming "Glory to the Soviet Strategic
      Missile Forces!" stands as a reminder that here nuclear apocalypse was once
      just the touch of a button away.

      A nearby silo housing one of 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles originally
      stationed in Ukraine was blown up early last year in line with the U.S.-Soviet
      START arms reduction treaty. Ukraine has handed over all its rockets to Russia.

      But despite the Soviet military retreat, well-worn khaki uniforms are still
      much in evidence at Khmelnitsky. They are regulation issue for the 15 or so
      hardened drug addicts undergoing a rehabilitation course at the base.

      And like the soldiers who once paced their lives to the shrill sirens of
      nuclear alerts, they perform their daily chores at a rhythm set by a gong
      hammered by the three men in charge, the "masters," who are themselves reformed

      Discipline Seen as Way to New Life

      "Our method is a combination of work therapy and psychological correction,"
      said Anatoly Fedoruk, 35, one of the masters who spent 18 years of his "former"
      life on drugs.

      He believes that the rigorous order established on the former base and daily
      labor can heal the addicts.

      "The effect of labor is such that a person changes and starts thinking in a new
      way," he said. "Our patients just have no time to think about narcotics."

      In line with a program designed by the Khmelnitsky regional authorities in
      January last year in an attempt to save the lives of at least some of the
      thousands of locally registered drug addicts, a group of enthusiasts was
      allowed to open the rehabilitation center. They called it "Viktoria."

      Strict discipline reigns. All patients must sign a pledge to abstain from
      drugs, alcohol and sex, to be honest and not to leave the territory of the

      As in the army, orders are orders, insubordination is never discussed and the
      lonely base, 20 km (12 miles) from the nearest village, seems an ideal location
      for the camp.

      Every morning, each patient is given work orders for the day. Daily chores
      range from tending pigs and chickens at a former military storehouse to
      repairing barracks left in a mess after the last Soviet soldiers retreated a
      few years ago.

      Despite hard work, tough discipline and sordid living conditions, the inmates
      seem satisfied with their life.

      "Only by going through a center like this can you become human again," said
      30-year-old Natasha, who once ran a bookshop. Viktoria is her third attempt at
      quitting drugs.

      "We are taught everything here. This is the place to get rid of our

      More Rehabilitation Centers Planned

      Larisa Vysotska, director of the center, said around 1,500 drug addicts are
      officially registered in the Khmelnitsky region, while the number of those not
      reflected in official statistics may be 10 times higher.

      There are no official statistics for Ukraine as a whole, where the 50 million
      population includes a growing army of desperate young people seeking refuge
      from hardship in drugs.

      Vysotska said centers similar to Viktoria would be opened in several other
      western regions, as well as in the capital Kiev, in Odessa on the Black Sea and
      in Donetsk region in the east.

      But she said the planned new centers were unlikely to be able to cope with the
      growing ranks of drug addicts.

      "We understand we cannot help everyone. But if we only save a few lives, our
      efforts won't be wasted," she said.

      Vysotska said she had managed to save her own son, who used to take drugs,
      through a similar center in neighboring Poland.

      Fedoruk said that turning former addicts into educators was a key to success.

      "A lot of people think a junkie can't quit. But we prove here that this is
      possible, that drug addicts can be the same as every other human being," he

      Natasha, who also carries the HIV virus which leads to AIDS as a result of
      sharing an infected needle, has been at the center for 10 months and her term
      will be end in two.

      She would like to help the others to escape addiction when her own treatment is

      "Drug addiction is a horrible disease, incurable for many, but I want to help
      people to break free of that nightmare," she said. "I would like to become an
      educator, a master. I was given help, and now I would like to help the others."

      Russia Today looks back at 1998 -- all the year's top stories, plus a year in
      the life of Vladimir Zhirinovsky.


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