Understanding the Role of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy

August 17, 2008

The Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom) plays a pivotal role in the negotiation and implementation of US-Russian agreements for nonproliferation, arms control, and cooperative threat reduction. Yet the ministry’s continued promotion of nuclear exports to potential proliferators had led many experts to question whether Minatom is a friend or foe of nonproliferation.

Until recently, Minatom had remained an enigmatic “black box.” No definitive, open source case study had been written analyzing its internal organization, bureaucratic culture, decision-making processes, mode of facility oversight in its areas of responsibility, or interactions with other government agencies.

For these reasons, in 1999 NISNP initiated an organizational study of Minatom, aimed at explaining how Minatom functions as an institution, identifying the key players, and outlining the “rules of the game” in decision-making, oversight, and interagency coordination within Russia’s nuclear industry. Senior Research Associates Dr. Fred Wehling, Dr. Sonia Ben Ouagrham, and Ms. Cristina Chuen contributed to this project along with Dr. Igor Khripunov of the Center for International Trade and Security of the University of Georgia. In September 2000, NISNP began compiling a final written report of this project, including an annotated organizational chart of Minatom and an assessment of the statutory mechanisms and mode of oversight and control exercised by Minatom over key nuclear facilities. Plans for dissemination of the results of this project through a public seminar in Washington, DC, and a publication are being developed.

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