US-Russia Nuclear Security Cooperation:
Preventing 'brain drain'

The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the subsequent collapse of the Russian economic, political and social system raised concerns primarily in the US government and nonproliferation community regarding the future of many tens of thousands of Russian scientists working in the former Soviet Unions' research institutes and laboratories developing weapons of mass destruction. Many had lost their government-supported jobs or suffered deep pay cuts. US-Russia nuclear cooperation programs in this area aim prevent 'brain-drain' to third countries of scientists and technicians with expertise in developing and manufacturing nuclear weapons. The overarching objectives of two of the US-Russia nuclear cooperation programs are to find alternative jobs for laid-off nuclear weapons scientists and to reduce the huge nuclear weapons complex by closing down nuclear facilities and eliminate excess weapons production capacity.

Science Center Program
administered through the US Department of State

A. Background and description of program

The Science Center Program is a 1992 multilateral initiative mainly funded by the US, the EU and Japan, with the aim to provide former Soviet weapons scientists opportunities to work on peaceful civilian research activities. The program founded the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) in Moscow and a similar center in Ukraine in 1995, the Science and Technology Center of Ukraine (STCU). Interested scientists and institutes from NIS states can submit project proposals for approval by a governing board. The ISTC had through October 2001 funded some 1,434 projects valued at $388 million, providing grant payments to over 30 000 individuals. Among the centers' stated main focuses are environmental protection, energy production, and nuclear safety, and the leading recipients of grants are the Russian nuclear weapons laboratories. In the nuclear energy area research include projects related to plutonium reprocessing and plutonium breeding reactors.

Through March 2001, the US contributed $104.9 million to the ISTC. The US provides around 45% of the funding for the ISTC. While funding came initially through the Department of Defense's CTR program, the funding responsibility shifted to the Department of State under the FREEDOM Support Act in 1996. The Science Center Program was one of four nuclear security cooperation programs that the Bush Administration in December 2001 identified for expansion.

B. US government reports

C. Other Resources

Russian Transition Initiative (RTI)
administered through the US Department of Energy
A. Background and description of program
  • Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (formerly Industrial Partnering Program)
    The Initiatives for Proliferation Program (IIP) was established in 1994 under the name 'Industrial Partnering Program' with the same general objective as the State Department's Science Center Program, to engage former weapons scientists and engineers in the former Soviet Union in peaceful commercial activities. What sets the IIP program apart is that the projects funded through this program must also have potential commercial value since the long-term objective for IPP is to create lasting jobs for the scientists in the high-technology commercial marketplace. IPP projects have three stages (Thrust I-III). During Thrust I, which is fully funded by DOE, laboratory-to-laboratory contacts between US national laboratories and NIS institutes are meant to identify commercially feasible technologies to attract private investment. During Thrust II, a US industrial partner (e.g. United Technologies, DuPont, and American Home Products) agrees to share the cost of developing the technology. During Thrust III, the project is expected to become a self-sustaining business ventures.

    To date, the IPP has funded over 400 projects and engaged some 10 000 NIS scientists, engineers and technicians. Of the 400 projects 8 have been commercialized. Currently, 194 projects are underway at 88 institutes in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Around 70% of IPP projects have been in the nuclear sector. A 1999 GAO report criticized the IPP program for excessive spending in the US and not achieving its broader nonproliferation goal - creating long-term employment for former weapons scientists. Between 1994 and 1998, 51% of the budget ($63.5 million) went to US nuclear national laboratories, 12% to US industry, and the remaining 37% reached scientific institutes in the NIS.

  • Nuclear Cities Initiative
    In September 1998, the US and Russia signed the Agreement on the Nuclear Cities Initiative with the purpose of creating non-defense related jobs for some 30 000-50 000 former nuclear weapons scientists, technicians, engineers and support staff in Russia's 10 so-called "closed" nuclear cities. The plan is to change the economic base for the nuclear cities while downsizing the nuclear weapons complex. The US DOE is meant to work closely with other nuclear security cooperation programs and Russian partners, as well as private sector partners, to convert weapons facilities, develop commercial infrastructure and business partnerships, and enable self-sustaining non-weapons commercial enterprises. Activities are currently underway in three cities, Sarov, formerly Arzamas-16, Snezhinsk, formerly Chelyabinsk-70, and Zheleznogorsk, formerly Krasnoyarsk-26.

    The NCI was criticized by a 2001 GAO report for spending too much of the budget in the US as well as "lacking a plan for the future". According to the report, around 70% of the $15.9 million that DOE spent through December 2000 was spent at US national laboratories - primarily for such items as overhead, labor, equipment, and travel. The remaining 30 percent was spent for projects and activities in Russia.

B. US government reports

C. Other Resources