Jeffrey LewisSafety and Security of Russian Nuclear Facilities

An example of enhanced perimeter security
and entry control fencing provided to Russia
under the Nunn-Lugar program.

The National Intelligence Council has issued an updated (November 2004) Annual Report to Congress on the Safety and Security of Russian Nuclear Facilities and Military Forces. (The 2002 edition is on the CIA website. [Update: The 2004 edition is now available on the NIC website.])

The 2004 edition repeats the judgment made in 2002 “undetected smuggling [weapons-grade and weapons-usable nuclear materials] has occurred, although we do not know the extent or magnitude of such thefts” and again expressed concern about the total amount of material that could have been diverted.

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) asked DCI Porter Goss about that passage in recent Congressional testimony, leading Goss to defer to closed session:

Senator, the way I would prefer to answer that question is there is sufficient material unaccounted for so that it would be possible for those with know-how to construct a nuclear weapon. I hope that’s sufficiently clear in open session.

Asked if he could “assure the American people that the material missing from Russian nuclear sites has not found its way into terrorist hands,” Goss responded:

No, I can’t make that assurance. I can’t account for some of the material, so I can’t make the assurance about its whereabouts.

AFP reports that it obtained a copy of the unclassifed version of the 2004 report.

Ken Luongo and Bill Hoehn have an article in the Bulletin arguing that the CTR program, which helps keep Russian weapons grade material out of terrorist hands, is facing a crisis when the umbrella agreement expires in June 2006—because the Bush Administration is insisting on an unreasonably generous liability waiver for U.S. contractors carrying out work in Russia.

The Nelson Report, on the other hand, has been making positive noises about a possible resolution of the liability issue, which would rescue a few moribound cooperative programs and avert a CTR crisis.

We shall see.