The issue of nuclear safety has been a hot topic in the second half of 2018. It has just been discussed in detail at the 62nd International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference in Geneva, which was held Sept. 17-21. The international conference on “The Security of Radioactive Material: The Way Forward for Prevention and Detection,” which is scheduled for Vienna, Dec. 3-7, is going to be a landmark international event that will be a focus for the media spotlight.
It is true that poor storage conditions and low nuclear-safety standards threaten the environment and increase the possibility of nuclear materials getting into the wrong hands.
Russia can be proud of its achievements in this area. The days of the 1990s when it needed outside help to tackle this problem are long gone. In 2013, Moscow ended the joint Russian-US Cooperative Threat Reduction program (the Nunn-Lugar program) because it is now able to manage these issues on its own. The cooperation over the secure storage of weapons-grade materials was suspended in 2014. The IAEA reports that today Russia boasts high nuclear-safety standards. Sophisticated protection equipment has been installed and all nuclear sites are jointly safeguarded by the military, ROSATOM’s security agency, and on-site security teams. The materials are properly safeguarded during transportation. A special program to upgrade the transportation infrastructure has been in place since 2010.
The report “The Use of Highly Enriched Uranium as Fuel in Russia,” issued by the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), a group based at Princeton University, admits that the country has made great progress to ensure the safety of uranium stockpiles and transportation. It also includes criticism, the absence of which would be odd in any report prepared by a US think tank. It states that “highly enriched uranium (HEU) poses special concerns, as it can be used relatively easily in simple nuclear explosive devices by states with limited nuclear weapon expertise or even by non-state actors … [Russia] has not made highly enriched uranium minimization a priority.” The paper concludes that it is essential to secure Russia’s commitment to the development of a comprehensive,