Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 51

A report issued yesterday by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) painted an alarming picture of lax security at nuclear sites throughout the former Soviet Union and concluded that governments there cannot fully account for weapons-grade uranium and plutonium stockpiled on their territories. Investigators concluded that weak security measures have already contributed to at least seven thefts of small amounts of weapons-grade fuel and could lead ultimately to creation of a nuclear black market in such materials. The report said that the Soviet Union had some 1,200 tons of high enriched uranium and 200 tons of plutonium at the time of its dissolution in 1991. Although some was built into warheads, much was held at storage sites in containers small enough to be transported by one or two people. This easy transportability, in combination with the economic tensions faced by those working in nuclear facilities, has reportedly created an ideal climate for nuclear thieves and terrorists. (4)

In late February, U.S. Energy Department officials reported that the Clinton administration would significantly increase aid allocations to some seventy nuclear facilities in Belarus, Latvia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan in an effort to improve security. In travels throughout the former Soviet Union, Energy Department officials also found what they described as antiquated and inadequate security measures. (See Monitor, March 1)

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