USA gives Russia’s nuclear towns $60 million

29 April 1999

The US will appropriate nearly $60 million before 2000 for business projects in Russia’s closed “nuclear” towns and for improving nuclear non-proliferation controls in Russia, Rose Gottemoeller, director of the nuclear nonproliferation division in the US Department of Energy, told Interfax. A total of $30 million will be appropriated for these purposes in 1999, half for nuclear towns and the other half for tightening controls, she said. Congress will be asked to allocate similar amounts in 2000.

The money will be used in 1999 in three towns, Arzamas-16 (Sarov) in the Nizhny Nov-gorod region, Chelyabinsk-70 (Snezhinsk) in the Urals and Krasnoyarsk-26 in Siberia. A computing centre will be set up in Arzamas-16 and a pharmaceutical centre in Chelyabinsk-70, Gottemoeller said.

The agreement has caused disquiet in some quarters. Oleg Lurye, correspondent of Russian weekly Sovershenno Sekretno is concerned about the conditions attached.

“The condition is to have US personnel permanently stationed at the 10 atomic military strategic closed cities. Moreover, the Ministry of Atomic Energy is to pay them wages. So, they allot money and then they collect it; moreover, they gain control over Russia’s atomic industry,” he points out.

Despite pressure from various quarters, Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov believes Russia should keep both of its federal nuclear centres – Arzamas-16 and Chelyabinsk-70 (Snezhinsk) – which are facing attacks by some opponents who insist that one should be closed. He told a press conference in Snezhinsk that “there is normal competition and mutual control, which is good for the business.” And he acknowledged that it is not possible “at this time of general disarmament to make direct use of many unimplemented nuclear projects. This is why we must do what we can to translate these ideas into reality in conversion programmes.” Russia is also funding some conversion projects in the nuclear towns. MINATOM has begun production of monocrystalline silicon for the electronics industry in Russia and Belarus, the ministry said. Silicon Company, a joint stock company set up by the state owned Chemical Mining Complex (Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk territory) has already launched one production unit and will finish work on another monocrystalline silicon production unit in the near future. The project is part of a $250 million Minatom programme to set up a complete monocrystalline silicon production cycle in Russia.

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