Hey, Bush: Here’s a real threat of weapons of mass destruction!

September 23, 2006 | By | Reply More

According to the website of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991 “left the Russian Federation with the bulk of the massive Soviet weapons of mass destruction complex.”

The U.S. is about to start consciously disregarding this immense threat, however.  The  September 15, 2006 edition of Science reveals that the U.S. is about to pull out of the Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI), an 8-year old program to provide civilian work for those Russian scientists who had previously worked to develop and produce nuclear weapons (the article is available only to subscribers).  The NCI is an

8-year-old effort to help steer Russian nuclear weapons scientists into civilian work. The NCI has been on life support for 3 years. It’s likely to die next week, NCI proponents say–undercutting efforts to help Russia shrink its massive nuclear complex and bottle up its expertise.

According to Matthew Bunn, a nonproliferation expert at Harvard, other U.S.-funded programs employing Russian weapons scientists will continue, but they “are grossly insufficient” to help Russia contain dangerous technology. According to the article, Russia has 2000 to 3000 scientists with nuclear bomb-making skills. 15,000 more who could aid a hostile weapons program.

Russia’s design labs and factories for fabricating nuclear fuel and warheads are dispersed in 10 closed cities that employ some 75,000 people on weapons-related work (see map). After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, several U.S. agencies began assisting Russia with money for specific projects, including safeguarding uranium and plutonium stockpiles from nuclear traffickers and providing grants to reduce the temptation for scientists to work in countries such as Iran or North Korea. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) augmented these efforts with NCI after the ruble’s collapse in 1998, when scientists were in dire straits. It was the first U.S. program specifically aimed at helping Russia downsize its nuclear complex.

NCI has cost the U.S. about $110 M over 8 years, creating 1600 civilian jobs for unemployed nuclear scientists. To put this amount in perspective, the U.S. is currently spending more than twice that amount every day to occupy Iraq.

According to “Securing the Bomb” (a report published by the Nuclear Threat Initiative), a starving operator of a nuclear power unit is more dangerous than any other type of terrorist. 

The U.S. withdrawal from the NCI is further evidence that the announced priorities of President Bush fail to correspond with his actual intentions.  Bush obsesses over the miniscule WMD threat in Iraq while ignoring the inevitable flood of dangerous technology from thousands of unemployed Russian scientists.

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Category: Iraq, Politics, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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