Nuclear Nonproliferation:

Limited Progress in Improving Nuclear Material Security in Russia and the Newly Independent States

RCED/NSIAD-00-82: Published: Mar 6, 2000. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 2000.

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James E. Wells, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) Material Protection, Control, and Accounting program, which is designed to improve nuclear material security in Russian facilities, focusing on the: (1) number of buildings that have received nuclear material security systems and the amount of nuclear material that is protected under the systems; and (2) program's costs to date, including a breakdown of program expenditures, the amount of program funds that did not go directly to program activities but have been paid in Russian taxes, and the estimated cost to complete the program.

GAO noted that: (1) DOE has identified 332 buildings that require nuclear security systems in Russia and the other newly independent states; (2) as of February 2000, DOE had completed the installation of security systems in 113 buildings that mostly contain small quantities of weapons-usable nuclear material; (3) about 50 metric tons of nuclear material are stored in buildings with installed security systems; (4) DOE is installing systems at an additional 72 buildings; (5) this work is scheduled for completion in 2006 and will increase the total amount of nuclear material in buildings with security systems to 400 metric tons; (6) however, DOE has not started work on the remaining 147 buildings and has also suspended work on buildings at a number of sites; (7) most of the buildings where DOE has not started or has suspended work are in Russia's nuclear weapons complex, and Russia has limited DOE's access to these buildings because of security concerns; (8) DOE is negotiating with Russia to gain better access to its nuclear weapons complex; (9) from fiscal year (FY) 1993 through 1999, DOE received $590.7 million in appropriations and spent $481.2 million to improve the security of nuclear material in Russia and the newly independent states; (10) DOE carried over about $86 million in unspent funds into FY 2000 and reprogrammed $23.8 million to other programs; (11) according to DOE officials, the inability to spend funds in a timely manner is due, in part, to the inherent difficulties associated with doing work in Russia, such as building access limitations, that delay the completion of projects; (12) DOE does not know how much of the program funds provided to the sites has been paid in Russian taxes because the Russian tax authorities do not directly tax the program; (13) instead, they tax the Russian sites and sites' subcontractors who receive the program funds; (14) in 1999, Russia passed a new tax law that, according to DOE, should relieve the program from paying taxes; and (15) DOE has not estimated how much funding it needs to complete the program given the increase in the number of buildings that require security improvements and new initiatives that have increased the scope of the program.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE took action to implement the recommendation by issuing a cost estimate and time frame for competing the program however, GAO is still waiting for the official response to its recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should develop, and update annually, a cost estimate and a timeframe for the completion of all elements of the Material Protection, Control, and Accounting program. The estimate should include the cost for improving security at all buildings identified as requiring improved nuclear security systems, for efforts to consolidate weapons-usable nuclear material into fewer sites and buildings and to convert it into material that cannot be used for weapons, and for providing assistance to operate and maintain the improved nuclear security systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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