Improving Nuclear Materials Security In the Former Soviet Union: Next Steps for the MPC: A Program

March 1998

By James E. Doyle

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, experts asserted that political and economic instability in the region could drastically weaken the security of hundreds of tons of plutonium (Pu) and highly enriched uranium (HEU) suitable for building nuclear bombs. While precise amounts have not been confirmed, the Soviet Union is believed to have produced 1,200 to 1,300 metric tons of HEU (enriched to a level of 20 percent or greater of the isotope uranium-235) and 150 to 200 metric tons of Pu; roughly half of the material is in non-weapon forms.

These materials are used or stored at several dozen military and civilian sites across Russia, and at civilian sites in five of the newly independent states (NIS) and in the Baltics. Responding to these warnings in 1992, the United States proposed to several of these states the creation of joint programs for improving the effectiveness of nuclear material protection, control and accounting (MPC&A).

After initial delays, U.S.-supported MPC&A improvements were begun in several countries in 1994. Since then, a rapidly expanding program of cooperation has been successfully addressing one of the gravestthreats to international security in the post-Cold War era: the possibility that proliferant states or terrorists could acquire weapons-usable nuclear materials. Efforts to strengthen and expand the MPC&A program have been spurred by thefts of such material during the period 1992-1995, and by terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Tokyo subway and the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.(1) These attacks, severe as they were, did not involve nuclear explosives. However, they focused public attention on the potential for nuclear terrorism and the continuing need for improved nuclear material security.

Originally funded by Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) initiatives, the so-called Nunn-Lugar program, the MPC&A effort has been directed since September 1995 by the Department of Energy (DOE) Russia-NIS Nuclear Materials Security Task Force. DOE relies on technical experts from the U.S. national laboratories, who work directly with their counterparts in Russia and the NIS, to design and install improved MPC&A systems. In 1995, DOE estimated that rapid improvements to MPC&A systems for all weapons-usable nuclear material in Russia and the NIS could be completed by the end of 2002, at a total cost of approximately $800 million.(2)

Since 1994, tremendous progress has been made toward this objective. Strong working relationships have been established among scientists, nuclear facility operators, managers and key government officials in the countries involved. DOE officials have signed agreements for MPC&A cooperation with more than 50 nuclear sites in Russia and the NIS, and by early 1998 joint work was underway at all of these sites. (See pp. 14-16.) This encompasses nearly all sites believed to contain weapons-usable nuclear material in the former Soviet Union. Only a small number of additional sites are expected to emerge as cooperation continues. New site-wide MPC&A systems have been installed at 17 of these sites, and over 1,000 Russian and NIS personnel have received U.S.-supported MPC&A training.

Despite these accomplishments, large quantities of weapons-usable nuclear materials in Russia and the NIS remain inadequately secured.(3) Moreover, the problem of sustaining the effectiveness of newly installed MPC&A systems presents a difficult long-term challenge. Now that the approximate mid-point of the planned timeline for the program has been reached, there is a need to review the lessons learned from past years, update program priorities, and adjust plans according to new conditions and requirements. It is also clear that in order to ensure the long-term viability of MPC&A efforts, particularly the development of indigenous capabilities and a responsible nuclear safeguards culture, the United States must commit itself to adequately supporting these programs beyond their current timelines and to further strengthening its shared security interests with Russia and the NIS.


Lessons Learned


Scope of the Problem

MPC&A experts now realize that the scope of the nuclear materials security problem within the former Soviet nuclear complex is much larger than was estimated when the original plans were formulated in 1994 and 1995. At that time, the U.S. government estimated that approximately 80-100 facilities at several dozen sites in Russia and other former Soviet republics contained weapons-usable nuclear materials. However, by early 1998, DOE had identified over 150 facilities at 53 sites containing such materials or related to their security. Joint MPC&A upgrades ae complete or underway at more than 100 of these facilities and planning has begun for work at those remaining. Moreover, it is expected that some additional facilities at these sites and in Russia's naval nuclear fuels sector and nuclear weapons complex will be identified for future cooperative efforts.

One reason for the original underestimation was the lack of detailed knowledge regarding the network of nuclear installations in Russia's military sector. There are 10 closed or formerly closed so-called "nuclear cities" in this sector that perform functions related to Russia's nuclear arsenal. These sites are large, geographically remote and contain large quantities of weapons-usable nuclear materials in multiple facilities. Because of the sensitive nature of the work they perform, the sites have proceeded cautiously with MPC&A cooperation. However, as joint efforts have progressed, these sites have identified a number of new facilities for MPC&A upgrades. As a result, it is taking longer than expected to complete upgrades at these sites. A similar pattern is occurring with Russia's large civilian nuclear fuel fabrication plants.


Domestic Obstacles

During the past four years, U.S. personnel have learned a great deal about societal and organizational factors that continue to hinder the development of effective MPC&A systems. The region's persistent economic crisis presents one of the greatest obstacles to progress. Nuclear facilities receive only fractions of their requested budgets from government ministries, which in turn get only part of their planned budget from the federal government. The former director of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM), Viktor Mikhailov, claimed his ministry received only 48 percent of its budget in 1997. Many nuclear workers are still not receiving wages for long periods of time, and the quality of available food, housing and medical care remains poor. These conditions increase the chance that "insider" personnel could be tempted to divert nuclear material for financial gain.

The lack of financial resources prevents nuclear facilities from investing in MPC&A improvements. In fact, budget shortfalls have forced many facilities to cut spending for nuclear material security systems in order to retain key scientific staff. Original DOE plans projected that Russia and the NIS would be able to devote an increasing share of resources to sustaining and expanding MPC&A improvements during the second half of the "rapid upgrade" phase (roughly 1999-2002). Clearly, the region's economic recovery is taking longer than expected and it is unlikely that the financial situation of most sites requiring MPC&A upgrades will improve significantly before the end of 2002.

Other economic factors that have hampered the MPC&A program are foreign taxes and duties on U.S. assistance. Although government-to-government agreements have been signed with the participating states that exempt U.S. assistance from taxes and duties, the MPC&A program still faces tax law uncertainties, debates over deferment versus exemption and inconsistent enforcement, resulting in delays and increased costs on this supposedly tax-free program. The effort needed to actually receive tax exemption in many cases is so great that it is less costly just to pay the taxes, drawing off program resources that could be spent on MPC&A upgrades.

Another major societal or cultural problem is the need to change entrenched Soviet-era attitudes and approaches to nuclear materials security that are poorly adapted to current conditions. While progress has been made at the level of national leadership and at the few sites that have been cooperating with the MPC&A program since 1994, the majority of managers and workers are still unfamiliar with modern, technology-based MPC&A systems.(4) The transition from a system based on guards, secrecy, rigid controls on personnel and production target-based rather than actual materials-based accounting procedures for nuclear material inventories will continue well beyond the end of 2002.


More Work To Be Done

DOE's "MPC&A Program Strategic Plan," released in January 1998, projects that 27 sites out of 53 total will have received upgraded MPC&A systems by the end of 1998. However, nearly all of these 27 sites are small nuclear research or reactor complexes that contain few separate facilities and low quantities of weapons-usable nuclear materials. Moreover, most of these sites perform only civilian nuclear activities. Because these activities are less sensitive, MPC&A cooperation typically progresses more rapidly at these sites than at the closed, military-related sites. By the end of 1998, the installation of new MPC&A systems at the largest sites—those with the greatest quantities of nuclear materials and the most restrictions on cooperation—will still be a very long way from completion. In addition, at many of the 27 sites that will have new MPC&A systems in place, cooperative work will have to continue well past 1998 in order to complete training and to support the early phases of system operation. Thus, the accomplishment of original program goals will likely require continued increases in the level of effort for the MPC&A program during the period 1999-2002.


Long-Term Commitment Needed

Fostering and shaping the transition in Russia and the NIS to sustainable, internationally accepted techniques for MPC&A will take many years. These MPC&A systems should be appropriate for the new conditions these states face and compare favorably in terms of effectiveness with U.S. and international standards for nuclear materials security. It is clear that a second phase of the MPC&A program is needed, moving beyond the mandate of the "rapid upgrade" phase that is currently scheduled for completion by the end of 2002. The key objective of the second phase is to convince the countries receiving MPC&A assistance to take ownership of the newly installed systems and procedures and to help them develop the capability to maintain these systems over time.

If Russian and NIS officials are soon faced with the prospect of sharply reduced U.S. funding for the MPC&A program, they may decide that modern systems are unaffordable and attempt to rely on outmoded safeguards approaches. Making sure that an indigenous foundation for modern MPC&A systems is established is crucial to sustaining the effectiveness of the systems that have been jointly installed during the past four years. While it is inevitable that the U.S. financial commitment to this program will eventually decrease, it certainly is not in the U.S. interest to cut back until the national security threat posed by loose nuclear materials has been sufficiently addressed.


The Role of U.S. Personnel

The MPC&A program places great demands on DOE and national laboratory personnel. Program implementation requires stressful travel schedules, long stays in remote and economically depressed areas, significant health and safety risks, and coping with language and cultural barriers. Communications are difficult, and transportation, emergency response and health care systems are poor compared to the West. Crime, poor law enforcement and hazards at nuclear facilities present additional risks. Despite the demanding nature of the work, successful implementation of the MPC&A program increasingly depends on the retention of skilled personnel with the greatest experience in Russia and the NIS. Individuals who have developed strong personal and professional relationships with their counterparts in Russia and the NIS are key assets to the MPC&A program. Without them cooperation cannot flourish, and their loss results in delays and increased costs. Unfortunately, DOE and the national laboratories do not have as much experience as other government agencies or organizations in supporting personnel overseas. Despite aspects of the program that balance the hardships, such as an opportunity to contribute to a vital national security objective and to work directly with similarly motivated foreign colleagues, the MPC&A program is already having difficulty attracting and retaining the most qualified nuclear security experts.

The Need for Outside Assistance

Many of the deficiencies in nuclear materials security in Russia and the NIS stem from economic difficultes at nuclear sites. Therefore, initiatives outside of the MPC&A program that provide resources for these sites and are consistent with overall U.S. non-proliferation objectives can have a positive effect. Projects supported by the International Science and Technology Centers in Moscow and Kyiv, and by DOE's Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (IPP) that employ staff at impoverished nuclear sites can play such a role. Other cooperative projects, such as the U.S.-Russian HEU Purchase Agreement and laboratory-to-laboratory initiatives for basic science, nuclear materials disposition and nuclear weapons reductions also provide U.S. and international funds to Russian and NIS nuclear sites. These additional income streams may reduce the economic motivations of nuclear site personnel to steal or divert nuclear materials and allow site managers to devote a greater portion of operating budgets to improving MPC&A systems.(5)

Other activities that increase pressure for MPC&A improvements are those that intensify public awareness in Russia and the NIS on the need for adequate nuclear materials security. The protection of nuclear materials is a public safety issue as well as a national security issue. As knowledge of this problem grows among public interest groups and elected officials, the government authorities accountable for nuclear activities will take notice. This increases official incentives for nuclear regulatory enforcement and could lead to larger budgets for MPC&A improvements.


Next Steps


Extend Program Planning and Budget

The MPC&A program received $137 million for fiscal year (FY) 1998. The highest annual funding level is expected in 1999, followed by a sharp reduction in funds for the years 2000-2002. This budget profile, however, is not consistent with the scope of the remaining nuclear material security problem. Assuming that the FY 1999 budget is approximately $160 million, appropriations for the next three years should decrease by no more than $20 million annually. Given our current understanding of the nuclear materials security problem in Russia and the NIS, planning should begin for a second phase of the MPC&A program (from 2003 to 2007) funded at a level of approximately $50 million per year. While this would result in a total program cost of approximately $1.2 billion (over 15 years), it is a small price to pay given the potential consequences of further proliferation or nuclear terrorism.

This program extension would allow rapid expansion and acceleration of two key MPC&A sectors in Russia: naval fuels and the nuclear weapons complex. It would also improve the chances that rapid upgrades in Russia's large fuel facilities and "nuclear cities" can be completed during the next three to five years. Finally, such an extension would allow for the operational evaluation of newly installed MPC&A systems and the establishment of an indigenous infrastructure that can sustain the effectiveness of these systems over the long term, including a further consolidation in the number of sites and facilities containing weapons-usable nuclear materials. This second phase should, of course, not be open-ended. The two related factors that should determine the level and duration of this phase are an assessment of the threat of nuclear leakage in the region and the ability of the cooperating states to take full responsibility for maintaining effective MPC&A systems. If the threat decreases and the Russian and NIS systems improve dramatically, then the level of assistance can be scaled back.


Devise a Detailed Phase II Strategy

A follow-on strategy should be designed to ensure the long-term sustainability of improved MPC&A systems and should contain the following components:

Reaffirm the MPC&A Partnership. The United States must reassure Russia and the NIS that improving MPC&A systems is in our mutual interest, and that the U.S. government is committed to continuing this partnership until adquate systems are in place and can be indigenously maintained. At some point this will require the United States to acknowledge that support for MPC&A cooperation, especially with Russia, where the vast majority of weapons-usable nuclear material resides, will extend beyond 2002. A positive step in this direction was taken in March 1998, when DOE and MINATOM agreed to develop a single Joint Action Plan for coordinating MPC&A cooperation. A formal DOE-MINATOM agreement for MPC&A cooperation is also needed to replace the existing Department of Defense-MINATOM agreement that expires in September 1998.

As MPC&A cooperation matures and new systems become operational, the role played by the United States should transition from one of systems design and installation to one in which advice and recommendations are offered regarding system operation, enhancement and integration. This would be similar to the types of nuclear security cooperation that the United States maintains with countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Japan and others. In addition, there will be opportunities for the United States and its MPC&A partners to cooperate on the further refinement of nuclear safeguards systems, possibly leading to the identification of systems that could be exported to developing states.

Expand Training Programs. The training of national personnel in the concepts and operations of modern MPC&A systems is essential to the long-term improvement of nuclear materials security in Russia and the NIS. This has been recognized from the beginning of MPC&A efforts and training programs are an integral part of the U.S.-supported upgrades at each site. Dedicated training centers, such as the Russian Methodological and Training Center (RMTC) at Obninsk have also been established. These programs can be expanded by broadening the curriculum to include a greater range of safeguards techniques and by the development of mobile training teams and distance-learning capabilities. Dedicated safeguards training centers should be temporarily established in most of the NIS and at least one additional center should be opened in Russia east of the Ural Mountains to provide easier access for nuclear sites in Siberia. Such a center is under consideration for Tomsk Polytechnical University.

The final objective of the training effort, however, should be a complete transition from U.S. instructors and U.S.-developed training materials to local instructors and locally produced course materials. All nuclear sites should have self-sustaining MPC&A training programs. Operational training and retraining at each site should be emphasized in order to develop a cadre of experts who are responsible for MPC&A systems. As these personnel become more skilled with modern safeguards systems they will be more likely to adopt them permanently and refine these systems according to their particular needs.

Complete Regulatory Structure Development Plans. The United States has several initiatives under way to assist Russia in developing a national nuclear regulatory structure, an essential step to the development of consistent and effective MPC&A practices. These efforts include drafting of MPC&A regulations and guidance at the national and facility level, designing a federal nuclear material control and accounting (MC&A) information system, providing nuclear measurement equipment to inspectors from Russia's nuclear regulatory authority, Gosatomnadzor (GAN), and GAN inspector training. The majority of MPC&A regulations could be adopted in 1999, providing guidance for system design, certification and evaluation. Demonstrations of inspection equipment provided to GAN have already taken place. While some progress is being made, Russia's nuclear regulators remain weak and underfunded, regulations in key areas have not yet been issued, and progress in establishing a national information system has been slow. U.S. technical personnel should advise their Russian counterparts regarding the difficulties that have been experienced with the U.S. national MC&A system with an aim to avoiding similar problems.

The United States should continue to support the strengthening of GAN in hopes that t can become a strong, independent, nuclear regulatory agency with responsibility for inspections, licensing and license reviews at all nuclear sites in Russia that are not devoted to nuclear weapons operations. The establishment of such an agency increases the chances that over time, nuclear facilities that fail to develop and maintain effective MPC&A systems will not be permitted to continue operating. Consistent with this objective, the United States should consider supporting the permanent assignment of a GAN MPC&A inspector at all large nuclear sites. However, given continuing debate over GAN's authority in the Russian nuclear complex, the United States might also consider encouraging MINATOM to strengthen its internal capabilities for the inspection and evaluation of its nuclear sites.

Foster the Development of Indigenous Capabilities. The manufacture of modern MPC&A technologies is slowly growing in Russia and the NIS. For example, several institutes and companies have begun manufacturing portal monitors based on Western technology that can detect the presence of nuclear materials. There have also been several spin-off companies that have engaged in the production and installation of physical protection equipment. In addition, the joint development of pilot MPC&A systems, using mostly indigenous equipment, was one of the early thrusts of the MPC&A program.

The United States should increase its support for these activities in the second phase of the MPC&A program. Joint design, testing and certification of indigenously produced MPC&A equipment should be continued, and legal arrangements should be made that encourage the commercialization of these technologies. This will increase the local availability of effective MPC&A equipment, maintenance services and skilled personnel, while reducing costs.

Strengthen the Nuclear Safeguards Culture. Another challenge to sustaining effective MPC&A systems in Russia and the NIS is to help develop a pervasive, shared belief among political leaders, senior managers and all nuclear site personnel that effective MPC&A is vitally important. They must demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice other important goals when necessary (such as meeting production schedules) to ensure MPC&A is effective. This is a key component of phase two of the MPC&A program and requires a long-term effort.

The roots of a safeguards culture are twofold. First, all personnel have to understand and agree with the need for effective MPC&A. Second, they must know and consistently follow the rules and procedures that, along with the equipment, constitute an MPC&A system. Supporting MPC&A and non-proliferation training is the primary means by which the United States can help strengthen such attitudes. Developing a strong regulatory agency with enforcement powers and the authority to shut down faulty operations will also create incentives that promote a safeguards culture.

The second phase of MPC&A should focus on improving organizational aspects of a safeguards culture, including support for developing an integrated hierarchy of MPC&A plans and procedures at the national and site levels. These procedures should cover a spectrum ranging from the smallest level of MPC&A equipment calibration and repair to the drafting and approval of plans that describe the movement of nuclear material throughout a site or facility. To facilitate such efforts, the United States should encourage the designation of a management official at every nuclear site (as has already been done at Chelyabinsk-70 and the Institute for Physics and Power Engineering) who will be responsible for MPC&A and is independent from other activities. Another joint activity that should be pursued is to explore the development of common approaches to evaluating the overall progress of the MPC&A program and the effectiveness of MPC&A upgrades.

Implement Strategies for Materials Consolidation

One of the strongest recommendations of a 1997 National Research Council review of the MPC&A program in Russia and the NIS was to reduce the scope of the problem by encouraging the consolidation of weapons-usable nuclear materials at a smaller numberof buildings, facilities and sites.(6) This process has begun and should be continued within Russia's large fuel facilities as well as in its naval nuclear fuels sector, where some shipyards and storage sites may contain weapons-usable nuclear materials that are no longer needed for fleet operations. Consolidation and downsizing are also possible in Russia's nuclear weapons complex. MINATOM recently announced the planned closure of three sites, including two in its network of closed cities. U.S. and Russian officials need to know what impact these plans will have on MPC&A requirements at these sites.

Finally, there are dozens of research reactors in Russia and the NIS that use weapons usable HEU fuel. DOE's current program to develop low enriched uranium (LEU) fuels for these reactors—the Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR)—should be accelerated so that HEU fuels can be removed from these sites, reducing the required level of MPC&A. Because the conversion to LEU fuel can be costly and might not allow some types of experiments, economic and regulatory actions need to be taken that overcome these disincentives and encourage these sites to use LEU fuels. Moreover, a significant number of these reactors should be shut down instead of converted and their fuel moved to locations with effective MPC&A systems.


Continue Cooperation With Guard Forces

At many nuclear sites, the armed guard forces that respond to alarms and unauthorized attempts to enter are organizationally distinct from other site personnel. For example, many Russian sites are guarded by Interior Ministry (MVD) troops, which currently operate some MPC&A equipment at these sites. Therefore, certain types of MPC&A training and equipment for these troops would greatly improve overall nuclear materials security. At MINATOM-controlled sites in Russia, U.S. cooperation with independent guard forces should proceed only with MINATOM approval. Appropriate cooperation with guard forces could include central alarm station upgrades, defensive tactics, procedures for materials transportation and vulnerability assessment training.


Improve Support for U.S. Personnel

In order to attract and retain the most qualified MPC&A specialists, DOE must improve program support both stateside and in the field. Reducing the frequency of trips to Russia and the NIS could reduce the stress on personnel, while the use of Western-operated services for traveler orientation, transportation, communications and emergency medical care—despite the extra costs—could reduce some of the risks faced by field personnel and provide critical assistance in the case of a serious emergency. DOE could also open several regional offices close to the largest nuclear sites that could coordinate some of these services and serve as command centers when problems arise.

To do the extra management and coordination tasks necessary to support technical personnel abroad and to keep pace with the expanding level of activity, the MPC&A Task Force needs more staff. Less than two dozen full-time federal and contractor employees are currently assigned to this program, which now exceeds $100 million annually. DOE needs to provide this team with greater resources.


Support Related Activities

In addition to the direct efforts of the MPC&A program, other DOE programs and activities performed by other government agencies or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can have an indirect but positive influence on nuclear materials security in Russia and the NIS. These activities can include educating foreign decision-makers on the need for effective MPC&A systems in order to prevent nuclear terrorism and proliferation, maintain public safety and protect the environment. They can also generate income streams at nuclear sites that reduce the chances that workers will be tempted to steal nuclear material or sell sensitive information and allow site managers to increase their contribution to improving MPC&A procedures and equipment. Finally, the actions of these other groups can encourage government officials, lawmakers and the public in Russia and the NIS to call for increased budgets for nclear materials security.

In addition to DOE initiatives, there is a broad range of scientific and technical cooperation between the U.S. national laboratories and their counterparts in Russia and the NIS that is funded by various U.S. government agencies. Together with the MPC&A program, these activities have provided approximately $500 million to Russia and the NIS.(7) These government efforts should be continued and can be supplemented by non-governmental activities that share the objective of improving nuclear materials security. Financial support for non-governmental activities would expand the network of contacts between various constituencies in the academic, commercial, technical and public policy communities that are committed to reducing the risks of proliferation. NGOs can organize events that attract a broad spectrum of foreign experts such as symposia, conferences and educational programs related to nuclear safeguards and non-proliferation. NGOs are also sources of independent ideas for advancing a common nuclear security agenda. Many of these organizations already have solid relationships with senior officials in Russia and the NIS and have completed detailed proposals for joint work.


Prepare a Second Line of Defense

Despite the great progress that has been made in improving nuclear materials security in Russia and the NIS, the risk that nuclear materials could be stolen or diverted remains significant. Upgraded MPC&A systems will not be installed at all sites for several more years and there is no way to know how much material may already be outside of these sites and under the control of individuals or groups that will attempt to smuggle it across national borders.

Although DOE and other U.S. government agencies have programs under way to deal with nuclear smuggling (funded separately from the MPC&A program), it would be prudent for the United States to help create a stronger second line of defense to prevent the unauthorized removal of nuclear material from Russia and the NIS. Following a layered-defense concept with the first line being effective MPC&A systems at the sites authorized to contain nuclear materials, the second line of defense should be placed along the national borders of Russia and the NIS. DOE plans to work with the national laboratories to provide Russian and NIS customs officials and border guards significantly improved capabilities for deterring, detecting and interdicting the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction at ports and border crossings. Because of the length of these borders and the fact that large quantities of goods move across at uncontrolled points, a second line of defense program can only be expected to make incremental improvements to overall nuclear materials security. Nevertheless, because of the potentially dire consequences of nuclear smuggling, and because border controls will improve over time, it is clearly in the U.S. interest to seek the additional, limited protection. An additional $5 million to $10 million per year should be added to the MPC&A budget for this effort.


Challenges Remain

The unprecedented joint efforts by the United States and its Russian-NIS partners to improve nuclear materials security, initiated during the Bush administration, have developed rapidly over the past four years and become one of greatest successes of the Clinton administration's national security policy. The strategies for cooperation and the mechanisms for jointly installing improved MPC&A systems have been proven effective. The MPC&A program thus demonstrates that innovative approaches can be found to reduce the key threats of the next 50 years of the nuclear age. These are the threats posed by continued nuclear proliferation and the need to safely dismantle and dispose of the vast Cold War surplus of nuclear weapons, materials and infrastructure. Therefore, the value of the cooperative working relationships that have been developed by MPC&A participants cannot be overestimatd.

These relationships aid the former Cold War rivals in expanding their partnership for nuclear materials security. They will contribute to progress in other areas such as the safe and secure storage of dismantled nuclear weapons, the removal of nuclear materials from weapons applications, the conversion of weapons-usable nuclear materials to non-weapons-usable forms and the placement of excess weapons-usable nuclear materials under international safeguards. The success of the MPC&A program also facilitates efforts to achieve another round of U.S-Russian nuclear arms reductions (START III). MPC&A cooperation is vital to all these efforts because without effective controls over the resulting materials, the dismantlement of nuclear weapons could actually increase rather than decrease proliferation threats. The MPC&A program also provides a model for cooperation that may be replicated in the future with other nations that have inadequate nuclear material controls.

The Department of Energy has put in place a very effective organizational structure for addressing the nuclear materials security problem. The Russia-NIS Nuclear Materials Security Task Force has initiated or is planning most of the next steps recommended above, including enhanced training, indigenous infrastructure development and regulatory structure projects. Other key elements of the program that are already receiving attention are materials consolidation, guard force training, improving support for personnel working abroad and creating a second line of defense. The challenge in the coming years is to successfully integrate these efforts to ensure the long-term sustainability of improved MPC&A systems. Another challenge for DOE is to develop mechanisms that coordinate the efforts of other states, other U.S. government agencies and NGOs with its own MPC&A efforts in order to optimize the contribution that these other activities can make to nuclear materials security in Russia and the NIS.

Meeting these challenges are goals for the next phase of the MPC&A program and will require many years of sustained effort. Carefully planning this next phase of MPC&A cooperation will bring closer the ultimate objective of effective, comprehensive and indigenously sustained MPC&A systems throughout Russia and the NIS. Only the achievement of this objective will adequately resolve the threat of loose nuclear materials in the region. In the original publication in Arms Control Today, March 1998, this article was accompanied by the following sidebars not available online at this time:

  • Chelyabinsk-70: After the Cold War
  • MPC&A: Military, Civilian and NIS & Baltic Sites


1. For a review of the known nuclear smuggling cases, see William C. Potter, "Before the Deluge? Assessing the Threat of Nuclear Leakage From the Post-Soviet States," Arms Control Today, October 1995, pp. 9-16.

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2. General Accounting Office (GAO), "Nuclear Nonproliferation: Status of U.S. Efforts to Improve Nuclear Material Controls in the Newly Independent States," GAO/NSIAD/RCED-96-89, March 1996.

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3. Prepared testimony of Rose E. Gottemoeller, director of the Office of Nonproliferation and National Security, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, March 3, 1998, p. 3.

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4. James E. Doyle and Stephen V. Mladineo, "Assessing the Development of a Modern Safeguards Culture in the NIS," The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 5, No. 2, (Winter 1998), pp. 91-100.

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5. "Proliferation Concerns: Assessing U.S. Efforts to Help Contain Nuclear and Other Dangerous Materials and Technologies in the Former Soviet Union" National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council (NAS/NRC), April 1997, p. 76.

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6.Ibid., NAS/NRC, p. 12.

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7. Statement by Robert Bell, special assistant to the president for national security at the National Security Council, "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer," March 19, 1998.

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James E. Doyle, a senior analyst at Science Applications International Corporation, is currently a postdoctoral research associate at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The views expressed are the author's own.