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More Security Needed at Russian Nuke Facilities
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Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev called for more money to beef up security at Russia’s nuclear facilities during a Duma meeting March 5, requesting increased funding to safeguard installations, monitor radioactive materials, and hire more guards.

Rumyantsev requested 6.5 billion rubles (about $207 million) to upgrade safety and security conditions at nuclear and chemical facilities, according to a March 5 Interfax report. “Everything boils down to money,” Rumyantsev told the lawmakers. He said, however, that nuclear safety in Russia is currently “satisfactory.”

A memorandum to the Duma from the Russian federal nuclear and radiation supervisory commission presented a more urgent appeal for funding. Citing 100 abandoned radioactive sources, such as major medical facilities, over the past year in Russia, the report documented “serious flaws” in security around nuclear installations, according to Interfax. The memorandum described accounting, control, and protection of missile materials as incomplete and noted that, in the absence of paid security personnel from the Russian interior ministry, the facilities are “guarded by non-departmental security personnel, in essence—unarmed pensioners or women.” At the Duma hearing, commission head Yuri Vishnevsky stressed, “There can be no more delays.”

Governments worldwide have expressed concern about the vulnerability of Russia’s nuclear installations, noting that terrorists could use gaps in security at the facilities to steal material. The United States and Russia established the Cooperative Threat Reduction program in 1991 to secure and destroy Russia’s weapons of mass destruction and related materials, and an initiative launched in June 2002 by the Group of Eight aims to help Russia secure more of its fissile material and facilities over the next decade. (See ACT, July/August 2002.)