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Ministry for Atomic Energy (Minatom)

In the Soviet Union nuclear armament development, production, testing and delivery to the armed forces were organized and coordinated by the First Main Directorate at the Council of People’s Commissars (later the Council of Ministers) of the USSR (1945-1953) and the Ministry of Medium Machine-Building (1953-1986). Subsequently these responsibilities were assigned to the Ministry of Atomic Power and Industry (MAPI), also known as the Nuclear Energy Industry Ministry (1986-1992).

In January 1992, the Russian Federation created the Russian Federation Ministry of Atomic Energy--Minatom--which absorbed all MAPI functions, staff and assets located in Russia. Since 1992, these tasks have been under the responsibility of the Nuclear Energy Ministry of the Russian Federation. The Ministry’s Nuclear Munitions Development and Testing Department is directly responsible for R&D. Minatom oversees nuclear safety, research and design, the modernization of the industry, and the conversion of military facilities to civilian purposes.

The R&D segment of Russia’s nuclear armament complex comprises two Federal Nuclear Centers: the Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFYaTs-VNIIEF) located in Sarov, Nizhni Novgorod Region, and the Research Institute of Technical Physics (RFYaTs-VNIITF) located in Snezhinsk, Chelyabinsk Region. It also comprises three research institutes and one design bureau: the Research Institutes of Automation (VNIIA) in Moscow, the Research Institute of Measurement Systems (NIIIS) in Nizhni Novgorod, the Research Institute of Pulse Technology (NIIIT) in Moscow; and the Design Bureau of Automotive Transport Equipment (KB ATO) in Mytischy, Moscow Region.

Gosatomnadzor (GAN) [the State Committee for Nuclear and Radiation Safety] is responsible for regulatory oversight of Russia's civilian nuclear power plants. The Ministry of Defense is responsible for all military nuclear facilities. GAN licenses all civilian facilities that use radioactive materials, develops rules and standards governing the safe use of these materials, and inspects all facilities that use these materials, including nuclear power plants. The Soviet Union located its nuclear weapons complex in closed secret cities. The cities were separated from other urban areas, self-contained, and protected by fences and guard forces. Personnel working in the Soviet nuclear complex were under heavy surveillance by the KGB. Personnel went through an intensive screening process, and their activities were closely monitored.

Some Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM) officials have asserted that a shortage of storage for nuclear materials from dismantled weapons will eventually impede their dismantlement efforts and are seeking assistance in constructing a new storage facility.\8 Although US agencies have been unable to confirm that a shortage exists, some agencies believe that Russia has adequate storage space. These agencies believe that sufficient space could be available at Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) nuclear storage facilities. In the past, however, MINATOM has argued against the use of MOD facilities. Other Russian statements suggest that warhead dismantlement could proceed without the new facility.

Nuclear Facilities

Sources and Resources

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