Washington, March 13 (RFE/RL) - The U.S. Government's
General Accounting Office says nuclear materials in the former Soviet
Union are "highly attractive to theft" because of incomplete
inventory records and antiquated safeguards.
The report was prepared for the U.S. Congress and released on
"Much of this material is outside of nuclear weapons, is highly
attractive to theft, and the newly independent states may not have
accurate and complete inventories of the material they inherited,"
the report said.
The agency said there are about 1,400 metric tons of plutonium
and highly enriched uranium in the former Soviet Union. It said the
stores are increasing as missiles are dismantled in Belarus,
Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine.
The report said the former Soviet nuclear facilities "rely on
antiquated accounting systems that cannot quickly detect" the loss of
nuclear materials and lack modern equipment to safeguard them.
The accounting office said the seizure of nuclear materials in
Russia and Europe has increased concerns about theft, but it also
said there is no evidence of a black market for weapons-grade nuclear
The U.S. has set aside funds to help the four countries that
inherited Soviet nuclear weapons dismantle them. The U.S. is also
providing aid to improve security around nuclear storage sites in the
former Soviet Union to guard against theft.
Under one program, the U.S. agencies helped install a new fence,
sensors, video surveillance, a metal detector, an alarm and a
computerized accounting system at Moscow's Kurchatov Institute, the
The U.S. Defense Department obligated 59 million dollars and
spent about 4 million dollars between 1991 and 1995 to improve
security at the sites. The U.S. Energy Department spent 14 million
between 1994 and 1995.
President Bill Clinton has asked the U.S. Congress for 400
million dollars for seven years to continue funding the security
However, the accounting office report said the inability to
determine exactly how many sites are involved and the lack of
accurate records made it difficult to determine the true cost of the