The Crisis in Russia's Nuclear Cities
The Russian nuclear complex is the largest in the world, encompassing ten dedicated "closed" cities and dozens of other facilities and employing hundreds of thousands of employees across the Russian Federation. Formerly dedicated to the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium and of nuclear weapons, these cities now face serious economic and social problems brought on by the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet system, and the reduced demand for nuclear weapon-related activities in Russia. The Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy has, after several years, finally acknowledged that the size of the nuclear complex must be reduced to reflect current economic and security requirements. The United States and Russia have launched the Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI) to facilitate commercial development in these closed cities, thereby providing alternative, peaceful employment for scientists and technicians that might otherwise be forced to sell their nuclear-related skills to the highest bidder. The nuclear cities' current situation and Russian and U.S. efforts to address those situations are discussed below.