Russia - Plutonium Investigation n°12/13

Nuclear Superpower's Inheritage

Russia's plutonium legacy - whether seen as an asset as the nuclear industry and many in Government still see it, or as a very expensive and dangerous liability, as critics characterise it - exists as a direct result of some bold but risky decisions by the former Soviet high command to match the United States in nuclear weaponry in the 1940s. All that has happened since in plutonium developments in the former Soviet Union, and now the Russian Federation (RF), may be traced to the atomic arms race, and super power military and economic competition. It is no coincidence that Russia has an entire government department - Minatom - the Ministry of Atomic Energy, dedicated to exploitation of nuclear energy.

In light of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent since the late 1940s on the construction of plants to manufacture and store plutonium, and fabricate it into warheads, which matches the expenditure on health and social welfare in the Soviet Union/RF, it is ironic that the RF is now increasingly dependent on its former military enemy, the U.S., to find the funding for expertise and technology to deal with plutonium today.

It is possible to say that in a very real way plutonium has penetrated the soul of Russia, so persistent is this nuclear explosive material in the environment, in people's bodily tissues, in the government's - if not necessarily the nation's - energy plans and in the fabric of Russia's developing commercial and security relations with western countries. It is separating out these inter-linked plutonium puzzles that this issue of Plutonium Investigation tries to achieve.

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