RUSSIA Russia and the US have signed an intergovernmental agreement on the “nuclear towns” initiative. According to Russian Nuclear Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov, the agreement provides for US participation in the conversion of defence plants located in Russia’s 10 nuclear towns where the problem is particularly acute. It includes $30 million in US funding in 1999 to bring jobs and businesses to the cities’ 600 000 inhabitants.

The first nuclear cities programme contracts were signed in 1994 with $35 million in funding and projects worked out under existing laboratory-to-laboratory agreements. According to the US Department of Energy, more than 3000 weapons scientists, engineers and technicians have been involved in 375 projects funded by the programme. US officials are confident the project will succeed and expect Russian and western corporate investors to treble the amount of funding available. Some 22 pilot projects, including the development of a linear electronic accelerator for food sterilisation and techniques for dismantling and decontaminating mothballed nuclear reactors, are already under way.