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
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.