US-Russia Nuclear Security Cooperation:
Safety and security of nuclear weapons and material

The bulk of US-Russia nuclear security cooperation focuses on enhancing physical protection and security of Russian nuclear weapons and nuclear material. Early efforts focused on providing equipment, such as cranes, trucks and cutting tools for dismantling and destruction of surplus stockpiles. With the maturing of the programs, a multitude of services have been provided by the US, such as assistance with dismantling nuclear submarines, enhancing security systems at nuclear weapons storage sites and help with consolidating and accounting for nuclear materials in central locations.


Cooperative Threat Reduction Programs (CTR)
administered through the US Department of Defense

A. Background

Cooperative Threat Reduction is the umbrella name for the FSU nonproliferation programs administered by the US department of Defense. The CTR program was formally initiated in the US with the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991. It become known as the 'Nunn-Lugar' Act after the two senators who sponsored the bill, Sam Nunn (Democrat) and Richard Lugar (Republican). The bill was an amendment to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty Implementation Act and came about after a request from the then Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev for help in dismantling Soviet nuclear weapons. The US reasoned it was in its national interest to seek the prevention of weapons proliferation in the territory of the former Soviet Union. The main aim of the initiative was to provide financial and technical assistance to Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine for ensuring custodial safety, dismantling and destruction of Soviet nuclear weapons.

US nonproliferation efforts with Russia received increased attention during the Clinton Administration and in 1993 the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act was renamed to the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act and expanded the objectives to cover:

  1. Assistance in transferal of nuclear warheads from the Soviet successor states to Russia
  2. Assistance with the destruction and dismantlement of nuclear weapons systems
  3. Assistance with increasing security, control, accounting and centralization of nuclear weapons and materials.
  4. Assistance with chemical weapons destruction
  5. Encouragement of demilitarization of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan

By 1999, the CTR program had evolved to include a wide range of nonproliferation and demilitarization projects and the US government had by this time obligated $1.7 billion to CTR with Russia. In January 1999, the Clinton administration unveiled its Expanded Threat Reduction Initiative proposing increased funding and extended lifetime for many US-Russia nonproliferation programs. As a result, the US and Russia signed a protocol in June 1999 extending the CTR agreement with another 7 years until 2006.

B. Description of current CTR programs related to safety and security of nuclear weapons and material

  • The strategic offensive arms elimination (SOAE)
    Projects within the SOAE program aim to help Russia meet strategic arms reduction goals by providing equipment and services to eliminate strategic nuclear delivery systems including heavy bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). SOAE projects also support transport, storage and disposition of rocket fuel. According to the Nuclear Status Report 2001 (joint publication by CEIP and CNS), SOAE efforts have to date eliminated 258 ICBMs, 42 heavy bombers, 50 ICBM silos, 17 nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines.
  • "Chain of Custody" Projects
    These projects aim to prevent the proliferation of nuclear materials, increase the security of nuclear warheads while in transit or in storage, and ensure that fissile materials from dismantled warheads are safely stored in centralized locations.

    • Nuclear Weapons Protection Control & Accounting (WPC&A)
      Projects within the WPC&A program aim to help Russia to automate and make more effective its outdated system of tracking its nuclear arsenal. This includes supplying personal computers, conducting training and updating communication equipment. The program also aims to upgrade security at some 123 nuclear weapon storage sites and increase protection of weapons during transport. For instance, the US is since 1995 providing the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM) with containers for the transport and storage of fissile materials from dismantled weapons.WPC&A projects include:
      • Nuclear Weapons Storage Security
      • Nuclear Weapons Transportation Security
      • Preparing Dismantled Warheads for Storage

    • Mayak Fissile Material Storage Facility (Mayak FMSF)
      This project was started in 1992 and aims at building a large-scale facility to store plutonium and highly enriched uranium from dismantled warheads. DOD is providing design assistance, construction support and equipment, and facility equipment. To date, more than $400 million has been allocated for this delay-plagued project, which has undergone several plan changes. The DOE is overseeing the transparency provisions attached to the implementation of the Mayak FMSF project.

C. Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission Documents

In 1993, the US and Russia established the Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation (also known as the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission) with the mandate to support cooperation on space- and energy related issues. The first sub-committee formed was the Energy Policy Committee with emphasis on encouraging cooperation on nuclear energy production issues. An additional goal of the Energy Policy Committee was to reduce the 'Risks of Nuclear Power' and of 'Dismantlement of Nuclear Weapons', which gave impetus to, inter alia, the following documents:

D. US government reports

CIA's National Intelligence Council's Annual Report to Congress on the Safety and Security of Russian Nuclear Facilities and Military Forces, 22 February 2002.

E. Other resources


Material Protection Control & Accounting (MPC&A)
administered through the US Department of Energy

A. Background

The Material Protection Control and Accounting (MPC&A) program was launched in 1993 as a Government-to-Government initiative within the Department of Defense's CTR framework. Although funded by the DOD, it was to be implemented by the DOE with the goal of assisting states of the former Soviet Union to prevent theft and diversion of the more than 650 tons of weapons-usable material at nuclear research institutes and production facilities. In 1994, the DOE initiated its own 'Laboratory-to-Laboratory Program', in parallel to the DOD funded project, which increasingly met with hurdles particularly regarding the issue of secrecy in the weapons complex. Russia was also objecting to the "buy American" clause in the CTR Act (see: Funding).

In 1996, DOE took over full funding responsibility for MPC&A efforts. As US-Russia nuclear security cooperation evolved, MPC&A efforts received higher priority and in October 1999 the two countries signed the MPC&A Cooperation Agreement (Annex), which extended MPC&A cooperation and established a Joint Coordination Committee. According to a 2001 GAO report, the MPC&A program had identified 252 buildings at 40 sites in Russia that require upgrades and had finished installing security systems in 81 buildings and thus protecting 86 ton of fissile material, or about 14% of the around 600 ton identified as being at risk of theft or diversion from Russia. According to original time schedules, the MPC&A projects were to be completed by 2002, but in 1998 DOE re-estimated completion time to 2020, at a cost of $2.2 billion. The MPC&A program was one of four nuclear security cooperation programs that the Bush Administration in December 2001 identified for expansion. In addition, DOE's Second Line of Defense program was merged with the MPC&A program.

B. Description of the MPC&A program at the Department of Energy

  • Material Protection Control and Accounting
    The MPC&A Program aims to enhance security of nuclear materials at various storage locations in the former Soviet Union, transferring material from insecure sites, and consolidating material at sites where adequate security systems are in place. Once a site is identified, MPC&A efforts might initially amount only to so-called ‘rapid upgrades,’ which aims to provide an immediate security fix, such as putting bricks in front of windows or installing portal monitors. Then, more comprehensive upgrades are implemented, such as building fences, installing central alarm systems and upgrading material measuring and accounting systems (for detailed information on status of MPC&A activities at specific sites, see Nuclear Status Report 2001: Ch 4). While - According to the 2001 Baker-Cutler Report, while security improvements have begun for approximately 80 percent of the current estimate of the Russian stockpile of nuclear weapons-usable material not contained in nuclear weapons, "comprehensive security upgrades have covered only a modest fraction of the weapons-usable material'.

C. Gore-Chernomydin Commission documents

D. US government reports

E. Other Resources