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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Ministry for Atomic Energy (Minatom)

On 09 March 2004 Russian President Vladimir Putin broke up the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry and assigned its activites to other ministries. Under the new structure, civilian nuclear activities were handled by the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, under the newly created Industry and Energy Ministry. Former Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev headed the new, lower-level agency.

In the Soviet Union nuclear armament development, production, testing and delivery to the armed forces were organized and coordinated by the First Main Directorate at the Council of People's Commissars (later the Council of Ministers) of the USSR (1945-1953) and the Ministry of Medium Machine-Building (1953-1986). Subsequently these responsibilities were assigned to the Ministry of Atomic Power and Industry (MAPI), also known as the Nuclear Energy Industry Ministry (1986-1992).

In January 1992, the Russian Federation created the Russian Federation Ministry of Atomic Energy--Minatom--which absorbed all MAPI functions, staff and assets located in Russia. Since 1992, these tasks were under the responsibility of the Nuclear Energy Ministry of the Russian Federation. The Ministry's Nuclear Munitions Development and Testing Department was directly responsible for R&D. Minatom oversaw nuclear safety, research and design, the modernization of the industry, and the conversion of military facilities to civilian purposes.

  • The MINATOM defense complex contained large amounts of nuclear material removed from dismantled nuclear weapons and stockpiles of HEU and plutonium produced for the nuclear weapons program.
  • The MINATOM civilian sector included a number of reactor development institutes such as the Institute of Physics and Power Engineering at Obninsk, as well as organizations, such as the Elektrostal Machine Building Factory, that produce nuclear fuels and materials for civilian applications. Some of these institutes and enterprises did both civilian and defense work. Rosenergoatom, a part of Minatom, was responsible for operating all of Russia's nuclear power plants, except the Leningrad (Sosnovyy Bor) plant which has the status of a separate operating utility.) These responsibilities included plant maintenance and repair, technical support, operations planning, and emergency planning.
  • Civilian research institutes outside of MINATOM included the Kurchatov Institute and facilities run by the Academy of Sciences, the Ministry of Science, and the Commission on Defense Industry.
  • The naval propulsion sector included the Navy and the Ministry of Shipbuilding. Responsibility for decomissioned nuclear-powered submarines was transferred from the Defence Ministry to the Ministry of the Atomic Energy in late 1998 under Government Resolution No.518. Consequently, all the operations for the dismantling of nuclear-powered submarines and ships was transferred totally to the industrial sector -- the defence enterprises Zvezdochka and Nerpa located in the North, and Zvezda in the Far East -- the three Russian enterprises that scrap old submarines.

The R&D segment of Russia's nuclear armament complex comprised two Federal Nuclear Centers: the Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFYaTs-VNIIEF) located in Sarov, Nizhni Novgorod Region, and the Research Institute of Technical Physics (RFYaTs-VNIITF) located in Snezhinsk, Chelyabinsk Region. It also comprised three research institutes and one design bureau: the Research Institutes of Automation (VNIIA) in Moscow, the Research Institute of Measurement Systems (NIIIS) in Nizhni Novgorod, the Research Institute of Pulse Technology (NIIIT) in Moscow; and the Design Bureau of Automotive Transport Equipment (KB ATO) in Mytischy, Moscow Region.

Gosatomnadzor (GAN) [the State Committee for Nuclear and Radiation Safety] was responsible for regulatory oversight of Russia's civilian nuclear power plants. The Ministry of Defense was responsible for all military nuclear facilities. GAN licensed all civilian facilities that use radioactive materials, develops rules and standards governing the safe use of these materials, and inspected all facilities that use these materials, including nuclear power plants.

The Soviet Union located its nuclear weapons complex in closed secret cities. The cities were separated from other urban areas, self-contained, and protected by fences and guard forces. Personnel working in the Soviet nuclear complex were under heavy surveillance by the KGB. Personnel went through an intensive screening process, and their activities were closely monitored.

Some Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM) officials asserted in the mid-1990s that a shortage of storage for nuclear materials from dismantled weapons will eventually impede their dismantlement efforts and are sought assistance in constructing a new storage facility. Although US agencies were initially unable to confirm that a shortage existed, some agencies believed that Russia had adequate storage space. These agencies believed that sufficient space could be available at Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) nuclear storage facilities. In the past, however, MINATOM argued against the use of MOD facilities. Other Russian statements suggested that warhead dismantlement could proceed without the new facility.



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