CNS Researcher Speaks on Nuclear Terrorism at Russian Duma

Cristina Chuen
October 4, 2007

Nuclear Terrorism at Russian Duma, Duma Deputy General Anatoly Kulikov, former Congressman Curt Weldon, NISNP Director Cristina Chuen, and Kulikov's Legislative Assistant (former CNS visiting fellow) Vladimir Goltsov, Russian State Duma, September 27, 2007

Duma Deputy General Kulikov, former Congressman Weldon, CNS Expert Chuen, and Kulikov’s Legislative Assistant (former CNS fellow) Goltsov, Source:

View the Slide Presentation:
Russia’s Role in Countering  Nuclear Terrorism | Russian

View Presentation Remarks | Russian

On September 27, 2007, Cristina Chuen discussed Russia’s role in combating nuclear terrorism in an international seminar on Countering Nuclear and Radiological Terrorism, hosted by the Russian State Duma Security Committee, World Anticriminal and Antiterrorist Forum (WAAF), and Russia’s National Anticriminal and Antiterrorist Forum (NAAF). This report provides an overview of the seminar, hosted at the State Duma, which included presentations by Russian State Duma Deputies, representatives of relevant ministries and agencies within the Russian government, as well as Russian scientific experts. Several of the Russian presentations contained new ideas about ways to improve security at Russian nuclear sites. Of particular note was a presentation by Dr. Vyacheslav Struyev, Head of the Naval Reactor, Nuclear, Radiation, and Environmental Safety Division of the Krylov Shipbuilding Research Institute, who argued for the reduction of the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in the civilian sphere, a position yet to be espoused formally by Russian nuclear officials. In addition to the Russian addresses, the seminar included presentations by Carnegie Moscow Center director Rose Gottemoeller, former Congressman Curt Weldon, and several members of the US Armed Forces. A summary of seminar discussions will be reported to the State Duma Security Committee.

The seminar was chaired by Deputy Chairman of the Duma Security Committee Anatoly Kulikov, who noted in his opening remarks that although many international agreements dealing with nuclear terrorism have been concluded over the past few years, not enough has been done to implement these agreements and establish the concrete measures necessary effectively to combat the threat of terrorist use of nuclear and radiological materials, ranging from attacks on a nuclear site to the use of an improvised nuclear device. Citing a recent statement by Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Nikolay Patrushev, Kulikov stated that there is evidence that terrorists are now seeking nuclear materials. He also noted the imperfections in the national system of physical protection, emphasizing that the weakest link in the system was the human factor, and pointed to a particular vulnerability in the Russian context: the knowledge base of individuals from the North Caucasus who had previously worked at nuclear sites, belonging to the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD), and knew all of their procedures.

He went on to discuss Russia’s overly complex bureaucratic system of oversight in the area of combating nuclear terrorism, which involves over two dozen agencies and committees, calling for consolidation of oversight responsibility to a single entity. The need to overhaul Russia’s bureaucracy in this area was echoed by several other speakers in their presentations at the forum. Particular attention was given to the status of Russia’s nuclear regulatory agency, the Federal Service for Environmental, Technological, and Nuclear Oversight (Rostekhnadzor): the service was demoted during the 2004 Russian governmental reforms. Duma Deputy Viktor Opekunov noted that it was not international practice for such regulators not to be independent of the bodies they regulate.

In addition to discussion of administrative reforms, several seminar participants examined current threats, physical protection needs, as well as the issue of information security (and the difficulty of providing policymakers with the information necessary for decision making and foreign colleagues the information they need for further cooperation, without divulging secrets that could aid would-be terrorists). This latter argument was espoused, for example, by Russian Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) Deputy Department Head Vadim Prostakov, a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Working Group on Combating Nuclear Terrorism. Prostakov’s presentation focused on Rosatom’s efforts to improve physical protection, including the modernization of equipment and improvement of guard forces. He averred that while exchanging experiences with other countries was important, protecting sensitive information was critical to maintaining tight security.

Although Prostakov maintained that nuclear materials in Russia are sufficiently secure today (unlike radiological materials), not all forum participants viewed current security as adequate. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Safonov said that while it is probably impossible to prevent all terrorist attacks, governments must at the least be able to tell their publics that they can prevent nuclear terrorist attacks—and to do so must prevent access to WMD components. He called the fight against nuclear terrorism “the greatest international undertaking of the day” and stated that taking the extreme position that nuclear terrorism is inevitable is unacceptable, and instead, everything must be done to prevent such an occurrence. One of Safonov’s suggestions for combating nuclear terrorism was to engage big business in security cooperation, since international companies are also affected by this scourge. However, the necessary legislative basis for government-business cooperation in this area would be required.

Other presenters had a variety of concrete suggestions for improving physical security of Russian facilities and nuclear materials. Of particular interest were presentations from the Russian Defense Ministry’s 12th Center Scientific Research Institute and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Head of the 12th Central Scientific Research Institute Sergey Pertsev reviewed physical protection improvements at MOD sites (and of nuclear materials in transport), saying upgrades would be completed in the next few years. He noted that new Russian legislation would enter into force in 2010, including voluntary certification of individual facilities’ ability to with stand a terrorist attack (“antiterroristicheskaya ustoychivost”). Pertsev also stated that legislation should be changed to make certification a requirement, not simply voluntary. He also listed several other laws he deemed inadequate, noting in particular that Russia has rules on physical protection, but not against a terrorism threat, that there are not enough laws and regulations against other types of WMD threats (such as biological weapons), that there needs to be better understanding of what level of risk is the emphasis (such as risks to people, to animals, or to the environment), and that there needs to be a priority-setting mechanism (to determine which facilities are most important in a counter-terrorism context). Further, he said that there was a lack of clarity as to what the Russian term “bezopasnost” (sometimes translated as safety, other times as security) means in Russia’s various laws (he said that in the law on technical regulation the term really means industrial safety). He concluded with several recommendations, noting generally that current legislation should be harmonized with agency regulations and that counterterrorism requirements should be set down in law, that information related to transportation should be better controlled, that there should be regular inspections of vulnerability levels/physical protection at facilities, and that particular levels of certification should be required for technical equipment, in addition to noting that the human factor should be taken into account when setting requirements for reliability of implementation and noting the desirability of having a clear government authority take responsibility for implementation.

Vyacheslav Bolakhnin, Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) Directorate for the Protection of Critical State Sites and Special Transport and Deputy Chairman of the MVD, discussed the needs of the MVD for more equipment, including metal and other types of detectors and means to enter aquifers near nuclear facilities in order properly to guard facilities. He also called for laws to protect against the use of UAVs. More generally, he stated that funding for physical protection was insufficient, only meeting 15 percent of needs in 2007 (he gave the total needs as 10 billion rubles). Further, Bolakhnin said that next year, when for the first time 90 percent of the guards in the MVD will be hired on a contract basis, funding problems will increase. He also noted a lack of sufficient housing – 1,916 apartments are currently needed near Rosatom facilities, though 110 apartments were provided in 2007 near NPPs.

Two additional Russian presentations worthy of particular note were by Georgiy Skripka, deputy director of the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF) in Sarov, and Vyacheslav Struyev, Deputy Director of the Krylov Central Scientific Research Institute. Skripka’s presentation focused on the improvements that could still be made in physical protection systems, both in terms of equipment and organization, pointing in particular to a lack of coordination between site and local and regional authorities, both in the legal or practical sense.

The presentation by Krylov Deputy Director Struyev examined the physical protection of nuclear facilities and ways to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism. He reviewed the relevant legislation, including the recent Russian Government Decree No. 456 of July 19, 2007, on the Approval of Rules for Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, Nuclear Installations, and Sites for the Storage of Nuclear Materials, and provided his analysis of the main areas where the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism can be reduced in Russia today.

In this regard, he highlighted the advisability of:

  • The elimination of stocks of highly enriched nuclear materials
  • The elimination of nuclear research installations that use highly enriched fuel
  • The minimization of the number of nuclear and radiological facilities
  • The concentration of physical protection at the minimal number of necessary nuclear and radiological facilities
  • Supporting a high level of professionalism among physical security personnel
  • Maintaining effective protection of information on nuclear activities
  • Reducing the time nuclear materials are stored at industrial enterprises
  • Using radioactive materials in the lowest possible concentrations
  • Decreasing the use of radioactive sources in sensor equipment, and replacing them with sensors of other types
  • Ensuring a flexible response to changing foreign and domestic threats

It should be noted that several of these propositions have not been expressed in an official Russian context. Rosatom has yet to embrace the minimization of the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in the civilian sector at home, although it cooperates with the US Department of Energy in removing HEU from other countries. (For more information, please see the “Past and Current Civilian HEU Reduction Efforts” page in the Civilian HEU Reduction and Elimination database, maintained for the Nuclear Threat Initiative by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.) The Krylov Central Scientific Research Institute, however, is not subordinate to Rosatom. Its main focus is the development of reactors for naval propulsion, both for civilian purposes (icebreakers) and the military (submarines). Struyev noted in addition to calling for shutting down obsolete facilities, his institute had actually shut down three of its four nuclear installations, returning the nuclear fuel to Rosatom.

In addition to consolidating HEU, in order to minimize the number of facilities that need guarding, Struyev also briefly discussed security issues. He noted that Russia’s lack of clear requirements for physical protection remained a problem, and also said that funding for security measures was inadequate: federal financing is insufficient, while enterprises have in many cases failed to establish the reserve funds required under Government Decree No. 576, issued in September 2005.

Cristina Chuen’s presentation echoed many of the themes presented by the Russian speakers, and provided additional detail on the threats posed by nuclear terrorism, including a discussion of the feasibility of using HEU from civilian facilities to create the uranium metal needed for a nuclear explosive device. The emphasis on the protection of HEU, and the particular need to secure this material was well-received, with Pertsev agreeing with the assessment that a gun-type nuclear device (that used HEU) would be easier for a group of non-state actors to construct than a implosion device (that requires the use of plutonium).

Several other US presentations were also well received, including a talk by Carnegie Moscow Center Director Rose Gottemoeller that emphasized that it is now a critical time to transform US-Russian nonproliferation cooperation and move beyond an assistance relationship. While the two nations have 15 years of fruitful cooperation behind them, she noted that without an equal partnership where both parties are involved in setting priorities, managing projects, and funding cooperation, it would be difficult to build on past experience in order to solve nonproliferation and terrorism challenges as they emerge. In a review of past cooperation, Gottemoeller noted that the two countries had managed to cooperate on nonproliferation even when their relationship was at its worst. Today, as we face many similar problems, it is important to find ways to move joint cooperation forward to help tackle them. Former Congressman Curt Weldon’s speech also pointed to fruitful past cooperation, despite a variety of difficulties (some on the US side, such as the failure of US representatives to attend some scheduled meetings with their Russian counterparts). Further, Weldon spoke about the important role of legislators in moving national policy forward. His recommendations to the forum included the need for increased intelligence cooperation, bilateral dialogue between the Russian Duma and US Congress, the encouragement of regional anti-terrorism efforts, the sharing of technology to deal with terrorism protection, and continued joint research in a variety of areas. He also drew attention to the danger of the use of an electromagnetic pulse, and to the prospects for use of thorium in the nuclear fuel cycle. Finally, Weldon noted that a similar seminar would be useful in Washington, DC, to help educate US policymakers on issues related to nuclear terrorism.

The September 27 seminar followed three previous meetings on terrorism issues organized by the Duma Security Committee, WAAF and NAAF over the past several years, but was the first to focus on nuclear terrorism. The meeting, which was quite well attended by a broad spectrum of relevant actors, indicated that there are a variety of individuals in Russia that take the threat of nuclear terrorism seriously. However, some speakers indicated that they believed the chance of a terrorist incident involving a nuclear device is small, and more emphasis should be on protecting radiological sources, which have been given less attention than nuclear materials in the past. Thus, the seminar was an interesting exchange of opinions, and provided the Duma Security Committee with a variety of recommendations to consider.

Comments Are Closed