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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-
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.