Russian: Funds Needed for Nuke Security
MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia’s atomic energy minister said Wednesday that more funding is needed to for security around the country’s nuclear installations, which critics say are lightly guarded and vulnerable to terrorist attacks or thefts of radioactive material.
Alexander Rumyantsev, in a speech to lawmakers in Russia’s lower house of parliament, said the Interior Ministry has cut back on personnel guarding nuclear facilities, the Interfax news agency reported.
He said his ministry needs $203 million to improve physical protection of nuclear plants, including electronic monitors. More money also is needed to continue decommissioning Russian nuclear submarines, Rumyantsev said.
He said spent nuclear fuel would be unloaded from 11 submarines this year, down from 14 the year before. U.S. funding for the project is drying up now that many of the submarines that targeted the United States have been destroyed, he told lawmakers.
Since 1998, more than 100 submarines have been decommissioned, but there are many more awaiting dismantlement, he said.
At the same time, Rumyantsev said the United States has pledged to fund the closure of three nuclear reactors in Russia that produce weapons-grade plutonium, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
Rumyantsev said he and U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham would sign the deal next week, the report said.
On Wednesday, a report by a Russian supervisory board said inspections last year revealed ``serious flaws in the physical protection of risky nuclear facilities,″ the ITAR-Tass news agency said.
``The system of accounting, control, storage and transportation of radioactive materials is not yet fully operational,″ said the memorandum circulated to lawmakers.
``As a result, the unauthorized use of radioactive materials and their theft cannot be ruled out,″ it said.
However, the supervisory authority’s chief, Yuri Vishnevsky, said that there were only minor thefts of nuclear materials last year and asserted that all the cases were prosecuted.
Vishnevsky said nuclear facilities are better protected than chemical facilities, ITAR-Tass reported.
The security of Russia’s nuclear facilities, including power plants and waste storage depots, has come under closer scrutiny since the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States. Environmental groups also have criticized Russia for accepting nuclear waste from other countries for storage and reprocessing _ as permitted under a 2001 law.