Date: April 17, 1997
Contacts: Ellen Bailey Pippenger, Media Relations Associate
Mark Parsons, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; Internet <>


Joint Non-Proliferation Programs With Former Soviet Union
Deserve Continued U.S. Support

WASHINGTON -- Cooperative programs between the United States and the former Soviet Union, created to improve the control of nuclear materials and militarily sensitive exports, are beginning to show results, but the United States needs to provide substantial continuing support if the programs are to further reduce proliferation risks, concludes a new report* from a committee of the National Research Council.

"The existing cooperative programs have built considerable momentum within Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakstan to improve systems for securing nuclear materials and for regulating export of a wide range of sensitive items," said committee chair Richard A. Meserve, a partner of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Covington and Burling. "However, these programs have only just begun, and the security systems in place remain very vulnerable. A small measure of cooperation now to improve these systems may reap enormous benefits later, and we should seize the opportunity."

Funding for cooperative programs to improve the security of plutonium and highly enriched uranium should continue at least at the annual level of $100 million for several more years and should be increased if important new opportunities arise, the committee said. In addition, support for U.S. programs to help Russia and other former Soviet republics to control exports of militarily sensitive items should be maintained at least at $10 million annually. Sensitive items include nuclear reactor equipment, propulsion systems, and advanced electronics. The U.S. Department of State's budget to support these interagency efforts, recently cut to $5 million a year, should be restored to the $10 million level, the committee said.

Security of Nuclear Material

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, concern has grown over the potential dangers posed by its large stocks of nuclear materials. The cooperative programs were initiated in the wake of reported attempts to divert nuclear materials from Russian facilities. Plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the building blocks of nuclear weapons, are located in many types of facilities and institutions in Russia and several other states of the former Soviet Union. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that tons of the material are contained in internationally acceptable security systems and that tens of tons are in partially acceptable systems; but adequate systems for hundreds of tons still must be installed. A suitcase full of plutonium or highly enriched uranium taken from one of these poorly protected sites could provide a terrorist group or rogue nation with enough material to make a nuclear bomb.

Supporting the overall thrust to make this material more secure, the report recommends that:

> the U.S. effort be sustained until counterpart institutions in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakstan are capable of upgrading and maintaining appropriate systems for securing nuclear materials;

> the activities be "indigenized" as quickly as possible through greater reliance on local expertise, equipment, and funding;

> the former Soviet Union consolidate nuclear material at fewer sites and fewer locations within sites;

> the possible routes to bypassing installed security systems be minimized by ensuring that the systems are comprehensive and through promoting of a "culture" of integrity among specialists that does not tolerate shortcuts or exceptions to procedures; and

> greater emphasis be placed on security of material during transport within and between facilities, on involvement of local security agencies in planning physical security upgrades, and on interim approaches that do not necessarily rely on high technology.

Export Control Systems

While improved security at nuclear facilities provides the first line of defense against nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands, the second is provided by customs inspections and other measures to control a wide range of militarily sensitive exports. The United States is working cooperatively with Russia, Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus to improve systems for regulating the cross-border sale or transport of a wide range of commodities and technologies that can be used in nuclear, chemical, biological, and advanced weapons. However, the tough economic climate and the intense pressures to generate revenue faced by organizations in former Soviet republics complicate these efforts. Control of exports also is made more difficult by the fact that many technologies in the aerospace, nuclear, chemical, and biological fields can be used for both civilian and military purposes.

In assessing current cooperative programs in export control, the report concludes that after initial delays, efforts by the United States in this area are very important. Although the budgets have been small, these efforts have been particularly effective in developing the legal bases for export controls, in training cadres of specialists, and in supporting the installation of systems for more efficient processing and validation of export licensing requests.

U.S. agencies should now build on their initial program efforts by encouraging the governments of the former Soviet Union to take several additional steps in export control, the committee said. These steps include:

> completing the legal, organizational, and manpower base for regulating exports of critical items;

> strengthening enforcement capabilities;

> focusing additional efforts on urgent problems by controlling the most sensitive items first, promoting internal compliance among enterprises that possess such items, and encouraging neighboring states to control shipments that pass through their borders to a third country;

> controlling sensitive technical information; and

> giving adequate weight to proliferation concerns when making decisions on whether to export sensitive items from the former Soviet Union.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, non-profit institution that provides independent advice on science and technology issues under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.

*Copies of Proliferation Concerns: Assessing U.S. Efforts to Help Contain Nuclear and Other Dangerous Materials and Technologies in the Former Soviet Union are available from the National Academy Press at the mailing address in the letterhead; tel. (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. The cost of the report is $36.00 (prepaid) plus shipping charges of $4.00 for the first copy and $.50 for each additional copy. Reporters may obtain copies from the Office of News and Public Information at the letterhead address (contacts listed above).

Office of International Affairs

Committee on Dual-Use Technologies, Export Control, and Materials
Protection, Control, and Accountability