Summary

THREAT OF A NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE

The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, and subsequent bombings in Moscow, Madrid, Istanbul, Bali, London, and elsewhere have vividly demonstrated the determination of terrorist groups to cause large numbers of civilian casualties and massive damage, even if their acts involve suicide missions. Should terrorists acquire the capability to detonate a nuclear device in a major urban area, recent events clearly suggest that they would attempt to do just that. Such an attack could kill or maim hundreds of thousands of city residents and spread radioactive fallout for hundreds of miles.

Thus far, the acquisition of such a capability by terrorist groups has been constrained primarily by the difficulty these groups face in obtaining sufficient quantities of highly enriched uranium (HEU) or plutonium that could be fashioned into crude nuclear weapons.1 The protection, control, and accounting of these materials—and particularly control over the significant quantities that exist in Russia—are imperative to mitigating the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Protection of HEU is the most immediate concern because there are larger quantities of it in Russia than plutonium, it is more widely dispersed geographically, and it is more easily incorporated into a nuclear device. Plutonium is also a potential target for terrorists. Therefore, both materials must be stringently controlled.

1  

For the purposes of this report, HEU consisting of 20 percent or more of uranium-235 or separated plutonium is referred to as weapon-usable material.



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Strengthening Long-Term Nuclear Security: Protecting Weapon-Usable Material in Russia Summary THREAT OF A NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, and subsequent bombings in Moscow, Madrid, Istanbul, Bali, London, and elsewhere have vividly demonstrated the determination of terrorist groups to cause large numbers of civilian casualties and massive damage, even if their acts involve suicide missions. Should terrorists acquire the capability to detonate a nuclear device in a major urban area, recent events clearly suggest that they would attempt to do just that. Such an attack could kill or maim hundreds of thousands of city residents and spread radioactive fallout for hundreds of miles. Thus far, the acquisition of such a capability by terrorist groups has been constrained primarily by the difficulty these groups face in obtaining sufficient quantities of highly enriched uranium (HEU) or plutonium that could be fashioned into crude nuclear weapons.1 The protection, control, and accounting of these materials—and particularly control over the significant quantities that exist in Russia—are imperative to mitigating the threat of nuclear terrorism. Protection of HEU is the most immediate concern because there are larger quantities of it in Russia than plutonium, it is more widely dispersed geographically, and it is more easily incorporated into a nuclear device. Plutonium is also a potential target for terrorists. Therefore, both materials must be stringently controlled. 1   For the purposes of this report, HEU consisting of 20 percent or more of uranium-235 or separated plutonium is referred to as weapon-usable material.

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Strengthening Long-Term Nuclear Security: Protecting Weapon-Usable Material in Russia Materials protection, control, and accounting (MPC&A) systems are designed to prevent unauthorized removal of weapon-usable material from safekeeping. This report addresses how future funds provided by the United States and other international partners can be used most effectively in completing the task of upgrading MPC&A systems in Russia and in encouraging Russian organizations to develop and implement their own programs and procedures for indefinitely maintaining adequate security of weapon-usable material. Russia has a very large percentage of the world’s accumulation of weapon-usable material. Global security is thus dependent on effective MPC&A systems there. Russia also has a self interest in these upgrades because of the danger that sub-national groups operating in Russia might turn to nuclear weapons. During the past several years, the number of reported thefts and attempted thefts of weapon-usable material from Russian facilities has declined, although there is no basis for judging the number of unreported attempts or the number of undiscovered successful thefts.2 Security enhancements installed through the U.S.-Russian cooperative program to protect weapon-usable material may have played a role in limiting the number of incidents. The Russian government is clearly concerned about the security of nuclear facilities, as evidenced by the prompt dispatch of additional security personnel to these facilities following the destruction of two Russian airliners by suicide bombers and the seizure by terrorists of 1,200 hostages at a Russian school in Beslan, near Chechnya, in mid-2004. At the same time, this general concern among Russian experts about terrorist attacks on nuclear facilities seems to focus on the prevention of sabotage and on the importance of guards and perimeter defenses. It does not reflect adequate priority for using modern methods to assist in preventing the theft of material. Building on the growing concern about terrorist acts on Russian soil, Russia should intensify its efforts to secure its weapon-usable material both in the short term and the long term. The safety of the world is directly linked to the security of nuclear material in Russia and indeed in all countries. Despite twelve years of U.S.-Russian cooperative programs, weapon-usable material in Russia is still not as well controlled as it should be, especially in light of increasingly aggressive terrorist activities in the country. If protection of this material is not urgently upgraded, worst-case scenarios of catastrophic terrorism could become a reality. There are an estimated 600 tons of weapon-usable material in Russia that are not in weapons. During the past decade, the U.S. Congress has appropriated more than $1.5 billion for U.S.-Russian efforts to upgrade MPC&A systems that pro- 2   In a 1999 interview published in Izvestiia, V. B. Ivanov, then Deputy Minister of Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation, stated that during the Soviet period there were two cases of attempted illegal access to nuclear materials; between 1992 and 1995, 28 cases were reported; and after 1995, three or four cases were reported.

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Strengthening Long-Term Nuclear Security: Protecting Weapon-Usable Material in Russia tect this material, but the job is still not finished. The amount of additional funding from abroad that will be required to upgrade protection of all stocks of weapon-usable material depends on the ability of Russia to assume full responsibility for protecting its own material. This report assumes that there will be significant shortfalls in Russian contributions in the near term. As a result, the U.S. effort in Russia must continue. The National Research Council committee has defined indigenization as the process of making the transition from the U.S.-Russian cooperative program financed largely by the Department of Energy (DOE) to an MPC&A program managed, maintained, and financed by Russia that ensures the security of weapon-usable material at a level that is necessitated by the threat of international terrorism and is consistent with internationally acceptable practices. Indigenization is the focus of this report. DIVERGING PRIORITIES Both the U.S. and Russian governments are vitally concerned about the increasing threats of terrorists obtaining weapons of mass destruction. Both countries have made strong commitments at the United Nations and at G-8 summit meetings to help prevent such a development. The U.S. government places high priority on preventing terrorist groups from acquiring weapon-usable material in Russia that could lead to nuclear detonations anywhere in the world. On the other hand, the Russian government is primarily concerned with: (1) preventing sabotage of its facilities that house dangerous materials; (2) ensuring the safety and security of its stockpiles of chemical weapons; (3) dismantling its nuclear submarines; and (4) preventing the theft of its radioactive material for use in dirty bombs—measures that could prevent near-term catastrophes in Russia. As a result, Russia’s actions to meet its own national security priorities are not fully aligned with U.S. priorities. In 1996, the Russian government enacted the Law on Funding Sites and Facilities of the Highest Radiological and Nuclear Hazard, which should have provided a strong basis for cooperation. However, the Russian government has not moved as quickly as the U.S. government would like in implementing MPC&A upgrades, nor has it taken adequate steps to provide financial support for MPC&A activities. Based on numerous discussions in Russia, we conclude that Russian officials and specialists simply do not share the high level of concern regarding the vulnerability of material to theft from their facilities as is held by U.S. experts. Meanwhile, the technical, regulatory, and economic considerations surrounding the cooperative MPC&A program have changed significantly during the past decade. For example, twelve years of cooperation have fostered a considerable degree of mutual respect and understanding among officials and specialists from the two countries while enabling Russian experts to become acquainted with

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Strengthening Long-Term Nuclear Security: Protecting Weapon-Usable Material in Russia Western approaches to MPC&A. The Russian government has imposed new regulatory requirements on activities at nuclear facilities, including those associated with the protection of weapon-usable materials. All the while, the Russian economy has been slowly recovering, and the World Bank predicts continued growth. Salary levels at nuclear facilities have gradually improved. But at many facilities, they remain low, even by Russian standards. The cooperative MPC&A program has been slow to adjust to this new environment. For example, despite the significant increase in Russian technical capabilities, DOE continues to dominate the selection of MPC&A upgrade priorities and approaches. Indeed a contract administration culture has emerged in DOE that too often regards Russian counterparts as contractors whose role is to comply with U.S.-determined checklists. Also, new Russian regulations reflect approaches not always consistent with DOE approaches. For example, Russian regulations often require the protection of entire facilities with comprehensive perimeters. In contrast, DOE has frequently given low priority to the Russian requirement for stringent protection of facility perimeters. Finally, despite the improved economic situation, the Russian government has shown few signs of increasing its financial contributions to improving MPC&A systems. Development of a U.S.-Russian partnership based on shared priorities and common approaches is a critical step toward MPC&A indigenization. Unless Russian officials and managers fully embrace the importance of upgraded systems, such as those that are installed through the cooperative program, they will have little incentive to maintain adequate MPC&A systems once they themselves must pay for their maintenance and expansion. Clearly, unless Russian regulatory requirements codify the approaches that are adopted, the likelihood of effective indigenization is low. In an era of terrorism, each side should show greater flexibility both in sharing the financial burden, and in developing common and mutually acceptable approaches toward adequate protection of weapon-usable material. PREPARING FOR INDIGENIZATION There have been many notable successes in the cooperative program. Overall, material security at many facilities has greatly improved. For example, the projects to enhance security of fresh nuclear fuel in the possession of the Russian Navy have been very well implemented. Substantial modifications to improve MPC&A systems at the nuclear weapons centers in Snezhinsk and Sarov have been reported. The programs at Luch and at the Research Institute for Nuclear Reactors in Dimitrovgrad to blend down HEU from several other facilities have provided income streams for enhancing MPC&A while reducing the quantity of HEU in Russia. The MPC&A training program at the Institute of Physics and Power Engineering in Obninsk now relies almost entirely on Russian instructors, even though the training is still subsidized by DOE. At least one Russian facility,

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Strengthening Long-Term Nuclear Security: Protecting Weapon-Usable Material in Russia however, is prepared to pay the total costs for training its personnel at Obninsk. Upgraded MPC&A systems at several storage facilities are operated by Russian personnel, and in some cases Russian management has assumed responsibility for the costs associated with maintaining them. The security of material in transit has also been significantly improved through upgrading the security characteristics of rail cars and trucks. Further, the Russian government and private sector have developed new capabilities to provide equipment and services in support of MPC&A activity, although more needs to be done in this area. The Russian Academy of Sciences has begun committing its own funds to improving MPC&A at its single reactor site and intends to upgrade all security aspects with or without international assistance. Significantly, DOE prepared its first sustainability guidelines.3 In addition, the Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Energy (Rosatom) and DOE agreed during the 2004 meeting of the Joint Coordinating Committee to establish a working group to develop a joint sustainability strategy. Even taking into account such progress, the cooperative program has moved very slowly in bringing hundreds of tons of weapon-usable material under an acceptable level of security. Rapid progress is essential in confronting the terrorist threat. It is also important in setting the standard for indigenization. Unless the completion of security upgrades is made a priority by both sides, there will be little priority placed on indigenization. According to DOE, security upgrades have been applied to about 50 percent of the approximately 600 tons of weapon-usable material in Russia;4 this is in part due to the fact that not all significant Russian facilities participate in the DOE program. This is far short of the goal of 100 percent, even after a decade of concerted effort. The former Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, committed to achieving the 100 percent goal by 2008, two years ahead of an earlier schedule. But without a comparable Russian commitment, this goal will not be achieved. The reasons for lack of faster progress are numerous. They include Russian confidence in the adequacy of existing systems, at least for the time being, and complications over U.S. access to some sensitive facilities. The changing DOE program management over the past decade has also impeded progress. Likewise the administrative reform of the Russian government in 2004 hindered progress for a period of time. In addition, there is continuing concern within DOE and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as to appropriate use of contract funds in Russia. This has led to a practice of issuing small contracts that consume as much time and energy on both sides as large contracts that cover a greater number of activities. Concern about criticism from the GAO has made DOE cautious indeed. 3   See Appendix E for an excerpt of these guidelines. 4   These figures were provided to the committee by DOE in January 2005.

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Strengthening Long-Term Nuclear Security: Protecting Weapon-Usable Material in Russia An important area that deserves much greater attention by DOE and Rosatom is accounting for material. At some facilities, measured physical inventories have yet to be completed, and databases are incomplete. Although each Russian facility is required by regulation to conduct an annual accounting of material, often the records and reports lack many significant details. While progress is being made in developing a national accounting network, this effort is many years behind the schedules set in the 1990s. Prompt adjustments in the program to respond to the foregoing concerns are very important as the threat that terrorist groups might attempt to penetrate existing security structures increases. This report sets forth a number of recommendations regarding improvements in the existing and future cooperative program. Most of the suggestions not only address near-term concerns but also, if implemented, would facilitate the transfer of responsibility for maintaining adequate MPC&A systems to the Russian government and to managers of Russian facilities. THREE PILLARS OF INDIGENIZATION An indigenized Russian MPC&A program that meets levels of international acceptability over the long term must rest on three pillars: (1) a strong and unwavering political commitment by the Russian government to maintaining a high level of proven security measures protecting weapon-usable material; (2) adequate resources at the facility level to fulfill such a commitment; and (3) approaches to installing MPC&A systems that are not only technically sound but also fully embraced by Russian managers and specialists. The following steps could help establish these pillars. Political Commitment Few Russian officials deny the importance of MPC&A systems. But many are not convinced that Russia must modernize or even replace the traditional Soviet security systems for protecting nuclear material. These systems relied in large measure on gates, guards, and guns, together with primitive accounting systems—methods that were effective within the closed Soviet society. It is essential to develop strong Russian champions for MPC&A improvements. At the highest levels, the Russian president, the prime minister, and leading members of the Duma should be informed at international meetings of Western views of the vulnerabilities of Russian facilities and should be encouraged to articulate the importance of modern MPC&A systems wherever weapon-usable material is located. At the implementing level, Rosatom, the Federal Service for Environmental, Technological, and Nuclear Oversight (Rostekhnadzor), the security services, and other responsible bodies should consider MPC&A systems of high priority and should reflect this priority in their policy and budgetary deci-

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Strengthening Long-Term Nuclear Security: Protecting Weapon-Usable Material in Russia sions. Also, using interagency and other channels, the Russian Security Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should continue to emphasize the international significance of greater Russian attentiveness to enhanced MPC&A systems. Likewise, committed leaders within the U.S. government have many channels of interaction with Russian counterparts, which they should utilize to convey the imperative of effective MPC&A systems. The President and his advisors should repeatedly stress the importance of protecting weapon-usable material in their meetings with Russian counterparts. DOE and other departments need to reinforce this importance at the next level of interactions and urge their Russian counterparts to share vulnerability assessments with senior officials in a manner consistent with Russian laws on information security. Of special importance is the role of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as an advocate of modern MPC&A systems. The NRC is restricted in the use of its own funds for international activities. Therefore, the overall program would benefit significantly if DOE provided increased financial support for NRC to work closely with Rostekhnadzor in promoting increased security over weapon-usable material. DOE should also support efforts of nongovernmental organizations in both countries to continually raise the importance of MPC&A issues. Resources An international MPC&A Indigenization Fund should be established within the framework of the G-8 global partnership to provide financial support for MPC&A improvement projects proposed by Russian facilities that have demonstrated their commitments to robust MPC&A systems. While the size and details of the Fund must be based on careful analyses of technical and financial needs and then on negotiations among all concerned parties, the following characteristics may serve as a basis for discussion: The Fund would have an initial investment of $500 million to dispense to Russian institutes and other facilities over a period of ten years. The annual outlay would average $50 million. The interest earned on the initial investment would be used to cover the overhead costs of operating the Fund. The contributions to the Fund would include the following: $200 million from the United States, $100 million from Russia (in cash, not in kind), and $200 million from other G-8 partners. The Russian contribution would support particularly sensitive projects, and the monitoring and auditing of these projects would be carried out by Russian specialists using the guidelines of the Fund. The Fund would be managed by a new intergovernmental entity taking into account the experiences of the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow and other intergovernmental mechanisms that have been effectively used to provide international funds to Russian nuclear facilities.

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Strengthening Long-Term Nuclear Security: Protecting Weapon-Usable Material in Russia The Fund would provide financial support on a competitive basis in response to Russian proposals for MPC&A improvement projects, perhaps up to $1 million or more for each multiyear project involving construction activities. Smaller levels of funding would support training, replacement parts, and accounting software for example. Specialists from laboratories of DOE, Russia, and the other G-8 partners would assist in reviewing the soundness of the proposals and in monitoring implementation of approved projects. The Fund would embody three approaches that are essential aspects of indigenization: (1) Russian facilities would propose projects that respond to their priorities in complying with Russian regulations; (2) an intergovernmental governing board would approve projects and ensure that they are consistent with international practice; and (3) the Russian government, as an investor in the Fund, would play a more active role in promoting the importance of modern MPC&A systems within Russia and internationally. In short, the Fund would enable Russian facilities that are proceeding effectively toward indigenization to obtain funding allowing the completion of the indigenization process and the maintenance of technical capabilities over the long term. As a first step, international experts, including Russian specialists, should prepare a detailed analysis of the technical and budgetary requirements of an effective MPC&A system, thereby providing the foundation for international negotiations. In addition to this new initiative, Congressionally-appropriated funds should continue to support current DOE efforts. However, there should be some modifications to the program, as suggested below. As all weapon-usable material at specific facilities comes under an acceptable level of security and as the facilities move along realistic and timely paths toward full indigenization, they would become eligible to apply for support from the Fund. As a result, the size of the DOE program would decline accordingly. Those facilities with security shortfalls that could not be corrected with Russian resources or resources of the Fund would continue to cooperate directly with DOE until the deficiencies had been resolved. Encouraging Russian Buy-in of Technical Approaches DOE has patterned its technical approaches in Russia after those long used in the United States and other Western countries. This is appropriate as long as there is flexibility to accommodate special needs and capabilities in Russia. Within this framework, there are several steps that can be taken to accelerate the process of upgrading security and to facilitate indigenization. Specifically, DOE should Encourage Russian institutions to give higher priority to improving their own accounting systems. As noted above, upgrades of accounting systems have

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Strengthening Long-Term Nuclear Security: Protecting Weapon-Usable Material in Russia lagged far behind improvements of physical protection. Nuclear materials accounting systems should be designed and built in Russia to the extent possible. If possible, they can be based on imported, global tools and database software adapted to Russian needs. Encourage Russian counterparts to give greater attention to accelerating the development of a modern regulatory framework by establishing their own priorities among the many dozens of proposed new laws, decrees, and regulations that are being developed jointly in the area of materials protection, control, and accounting. Regulatory enforcement should also be strengthened. Continue to strengthen the capabilities of both the public and private sectors in Russia to produce and service MPC&A equipment. In this regard, emphasis should be given to sturdy equipment that is relatively inexpensive to operate and maintain. CROSSCUTTING PRINCIPLES FOR MPC&A COOPERATION Adherence to the following principles is essential if the cooperative MPC&A program is to achieve its full potential and lead to indigenization. They underlie the findings and recommendations of the committee. Russia should be treated as an equal partner, not as a recipient of foreign aid. Russian specialists should lead the design of MPC&A systems installed at Russian facilities, the selection of equipment for these systems, and the testing and validation of the effectiveness of these systems. Russian and U.S. experts should therefore be encouraged to see one another as partners in the process, with complementary skills and expertise. Consolidating weapon-usable material would significantly reduce the amount of material at risk and should reduce security costs. All governments supporting MPC&A activities in Russia, and the Russian government itself, need to give greater priority to: (1) consolidating weapon-usable material at fewer facilities; (2) consolidating material at fewer locations within facilities that retain material; and (3) reducing the amount of material stored at Russian facilities by converting HEU to less dangerous material. Also, DOE should give special attention to assisting Rosatom and other organizations in removing fuel from obsolete research reactors that required weapon-usable material, converting operating reactors that use HEU to reactors dependent on low enriched uranium (LEU), and shipping excess HEU to appropriate storage sites.

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Strengthening Long-Term Nuclear Security: Protecting Weapon-Usable Material in Russia Continued attention to the development of a nuclear security culture is essential to the indigenization of MPC&A programs. DOE has made a good start in creating greater awareness among Russian officials and specialists of the importance of protecting nuclear material through education, training exercises, exchange of information and best practices, and incentive programs. DOE should continue to give these programs special attention. In sum, Russia and the United States have unique nuclear experience and they have an obligation to use that experience to prevent a nuclear catastrophe from occuring anywhere in the world. The first priority for each country therefore, is to ensure that weapon-usable material in its own possession is under adequate security. The cooperative MPC&A program provides an important mechanism for enhancing the security of material throughout the Russian nuclear complex. But such cooperation will be limited in its effect unless Russia continues to maintain adequate security systems in the decades ahead. If they fail, the result could be a nuclear disaster. The job initiated through the cooperative program must be finished correctly, rapidly, and in a manner that facilitates the transition of full responsibility to the Russian Federation. Fortunately, since this study was initiated in 2003, the DOE management team has devoted increased attention and resources to issues of indigenization, a positive trend that should be continued and expanded.