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Grigory Pasko: Russia’s Atomic Monster

picture1115.jpgThe atomic monster and its resurrection By Grigory Pasko, journalist On 13 November, the State Duma considered in the third, and final, reading a draft law on the creation of the state corporation «Rosatom». It is to this organization that the shares in OAO «Atomic energy industry complex» («Atomenergoprom») and the property of federal state unitary enterprises (FGUP) found on the balance sheet of the agency will be transferred. In such a manner, the new structure will combine under one roof all the enterprises of the atomic energy industry and nuclear weapons complexes of Russia. In February of this year, Vladimir Putin signed a document with a rather long-winded name – “On the peculiarities of the management and disposition of the property and shares of organizations implementing activity in the realm of the use of atomic energy and on the introduction of amendments into individual legislative acts of the Russian Federation”. Earlier, this document had successfully – and, most important, rapidly – passed through all the parliamentary steps. The main content of the document was the division of the Russian nuclear complex into two independent directions – military and civilian.

Here it should be noted that in the autumn of the year 2006, a delegation from «Techsnabexport» had been in Australia and convinced itself of the possibility of deliveries of Australian uranium to Russia. The only obstacle on the way to this deal was the fact that Russia did not have a separation of the nuclear complex into peaceful and military.Already in February it was decided that the military component would remain untouched (who would ever dare touch the “sacred cow” of the Russian military economy?). At that same time, on the basis of the assets of the enterprises of civilian designation, the creation of a state monopoly holding company under the name of «Atomenergoprom» (or – «Atomprom») was planned.In the words of the head of the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy (Rosatom), Sergey Kiriyenko, “the holding company must consolidate all the components of the process of the production of atomic energy – uranium mining, enrichment of the ore, fabrication, generation, atomic machine-building, science, engineering, machine-building, construction”.Earlier Sergey Kiriyenko had already advanced a plan for the construction in the country of 40 [atomic] power units during the course of the next 25 years. This, in the opinion of Kiriyenko, must raise the proportion of atomic energy in the Federal power grid to 25% (currently – 16%). Analysts immediately noted that connected with the creation of «Atomprom» is the beginning of a campaign to win new positions for “atomic electricity” in Russia’s power generation field.I will add: not only Russia’s. Among the main goals of the holding company is successful rivalry with world companies. Today 90% of the profit in the energoatomic sphere of Russia is provided for at the expense of deliveries abroad. So «Atomprom» has all the possibilities to make some decent money indeed from the construction of atomic power stations abroad, as well as from the reprocessing and storage of nuclear wastes and the enrichment of uranium.ChronologyIn April Vladimir Putin instructed the government of the RF by 1 July 2007 to implement measures with respect to the founding of OAO «Atomic Energy Industry Complex».In July the Russian state holding company «Atomenergoprom» was ounded. The Chairman of the government, Mikhail Fradkov, confirmed the Charter of the company, as well as a Board of Directors of 5 people under the chairmanship of the head of the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy, Sergey Kiriyenko. Appointed as director of the new structure was 47-year-old nuclear physicist Vladimir Travin, having earlier been deputy head and advisor to the head of Rosatom.In October Sergey Kiriyenko declared: “We’re not leaving anywhere from any external market, but, on the contrary, we will vigorously expand our presence on it, moreover in all directions of activity”.In the words of the head of Rosatom, these directions are construction of atomic power stations, provision of nuclear-fuel-cycle services, and shipment of nuclear fuel.“Today we… are building seven power units abroad. Two have already been completed – in China. At the same time we are actively conducting negotiations with new countries, which intend to build atomic power stations on their territory. We consider that the volume of power units that we can build abroad in the next 20-30 years approaches that quantity which we will build in Russia,” said Kiriyenko, noting that construction abroad is advantageous for Russia, inasmuch as there’s a different price for electric power there.kirik1115.jpgSergey Kiriyenko, current head of Russia’s nuclear industryOn 13 November the State Duma considered in the third, and final, reading a draft law on the creation of the state company «Rosatom», which must provide for unity of management in the sphere of the use of atomic energy and the stable functioning of the organizations of the atomic power industry and nuclear weapons complexes.According to the document, the corporation, created on the base of the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy (Rosatom), will have transferred to it shares in OAO «Atomic Energy Industry Complex» («Atomenergoprom») and the property of federal state unitary enterprises (FGUP) found on the balance sheet of the agency. In such a manner, the new structure will combine under one roof the enterprises of the atomic energy industry and nuclear weapons complexes, institutes of fundamental science, organizations working in the sphere of nuclear and radiation safety.Why the monster was resurrectedThe nucular sector arose in the epoch of the “cold war” and its establishment took place under the slogan of the creation of a “nuclear shield for Russia”. The structure at first was top secret. This secrecy was compensated by special rations and other benefits to all those who worked in atomic industry. Starting with the year 1944, the “atomic project” of the Soviet Union was headed, as is known, by people’s commissar of the NKVD Lavrenti Beria. In many ways, such a situation is inherent to Atomprom now as well. Only the slogan is different: we will return the conditions of Sredmash. That is, what is intended is a return of the sector to that level of provision and privilege (and secrecy, naturally) that existed in the time when Atomprom was called Minsredmash – the Ministry of Medium Machine-Building.[Translator’s note: In the Soviet days, all the military-oriented sectors of the national economy (and that was pretty much all its sectors) were hidden away in vaguely named ministries. The nuclear sector (military and civilian), as well as optics and much other high tech, was all under the innocuous-sounding Ministry of Medium Machine-Building. Rockets (everything from space exploration to cruise missiles) were under the equally innocent-seeming Ministry of General Machine-Building (thus, in the event of a nuclear war, a Soviet general machine would be used to deliver a medium machine to the United States…). The Ministry of Medium Machine-Building was a mighty state-within-a-state, with a massive budget and Beria’s carte blanche in terms of how to use it. Many of the “secret cities” (now known as ZATOs) created at that time, like Arzamas-16 or Chelyabinsk-40, were self-contained metropolises behind barbed wire created by the ministry. Even though they were far from Moscow, the standard of living in them was as good as in the capital, there were no shortages of food or toilet paper, and the Ministry even arranged for visits by leading Soviet performing artists to provide for the cultural needs of the residents. In return, everybody living in such a city – from nuclear physicists to librarians to street sweepers – had to leave their old lives behind. They were unable to tell relatives where they were living, their mail (addressed to a post office box) was scrutinized by censors, they needed special permission to take rare trips outside the fence, and they didn’t even have long distance telephone access until very recently. For summer holidays, they were taken to a fenced-in Minsredmash sanatorium on the Black Sea. One of the most vivid examples of the awesome might of Minsredmash can be seen in the large Russian city of Novosibirsk. The central part is very dingy and gray and run-down. The northern part – once the fiefdom of Minsredmash, and still home to many high-tech factories and institutes established in its glory days – is a model of Stalin-era urban design. It is palpably cleaner and wealthier-looking, the buildings are statelier (or more pompous, if you don’t like Stalinist architecture), the broad streets are lined with shady trees, and there are noticeably more cultural amenities such as parks and “houses of culture”. It feels like an entirely different city. This is what the article refers to by a return to the conditions of Sredmash, the level of provision [of goods and services], the privilege.]It is known that 1 mln. persons worked in the sector, 150 enterprises were built, along with several underground factories, huge secret cities; moreover, more than a dozen of these received the status, unseen anywhere else in the world, of closed territorial-administrative formations (ZATOs). Enterprises of Sredmash could be found in all the Soviet Republics. There were captured German physicists working in Sukhumi [the capital of Abkhazia, today nominally a part of Georgia, although occupied by Russia], for example. Some of them even became Heroes of Socialist Labor!

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Lavrenti Beria, first head of Russia’s nuclear industry

There have been some who have hastened to call the birth of Atomprom “the burial of Sredmash”. I think it’s more likely the opposite: the erstwhile monster that was Sredmash is being reborn in the form of Atomprom.They say that Kriyenko proposed naming the concern Atomprom by analogy with Gazprom. And there truly are analogies. Thus, Rosatom, into the composition of which will enter Atomprom, already possesses its own private security force, the Center for accident-and-rescue underwater-technical works «EPRON», the investment-and-construction concern «Rosatomstroy», an administration of automotive transport, a food-services combine, a health center, the «Baikal» hotel, and various other – as it is customary to call them – “non-profile assets”. (True, I have not yet heard anything about Rosatom having its own football team, but I just don’t see that being a deal-breaker).It is completely understandable that strongly impeding the ability of the sector to come out onto world markets in modern-day conditions was precisely the fact that Atomprom facilities were classified as secret. This was associated with the military component of the sector. Now they have denied kinship with this component in words and in edicts, having created the appearance of separateness between the military and civilian directions. In actuality, of course, all the directions of the sector are in the hands of the state and under the control of the state. Still back in 2003, the government had declared about plans for the development of atomic power as “a factor in stabilization and in boosting immunity from forecast energy crises”. The factor of the influence of a nuclear power, possessing and developing nuclear weapons, on foreign policy was, in so doing, naturally, passed over in silence.In the opinion of analysis, with the creation of Atomprom Russia will not simply consolidate state assets in the leading sectors of industry, but will also concentrate raw-material resources: gas, oil, and atomic energy. This will allow Russia not only to stabilize its position as the chief and irreplaceable supplier of energy to the European Union, but will also strengthen its positions on the international arena. It will be difficult to stand up to such a monster.What «Atomprom» consists ofOur informationIn accordance with an Edict of the President of the RF, «Atomenergoprom» has had transferred to it shares in OAO «TVEL» (100%) and OAO «Techsnabexport» (100%), OAO «Atomredmetzoloto» (100%); OAO «Alianstransatom» (100%); OAO «Center of informational and exhibitional activity of the atomic sector» (100%); OAO «Administration of capital construction» (100%); OAO «Center of rest and sport «OLenKur» (100%); OAO «Moscow plant of polymetals» (100%); OAO «EFKON» (100%); OAO «Obespechenie RFYaTs-VNIIEF» (100%); OAO «Sevatomenergoremont» (100%); OAO «Instrument plant «Signal» (30%); OAO «Mospromtechmontage» (49%); OAO «Protva Experimental plant «Progress» (49%); OAO «Isotope» (Khabarovsk) (100%); OAO «Kaluga turbine plant» (25.1%); OAO «Siberian design-and-prospecting institute «Orgstroyproyekt» (100%); OAO «Spetzmontagemechanizatsiya» (49%); OAO «Mosspetzatomenergomontage» (25.5%); OAO «Sverdlovsk scientific-research institute of chemical machine-building» (49%); OAO «Firm «Centroenergomontage» (25.5%); OAO «Energospetzmontage» (53.8%); OAO «Scientific-research and design-and-technological institute of means of control of electronic apparatuses and articles of electronic technics» (25.5%); OAO «Sevkavenergomontage» (25.5%); OAO «Nizhnyaya Tura machine building plant «VENTA» (74.8%); OAO «Isotope» (Ekaterinburg) (100%); OAO «Experimental plant «Atomspetzkonstruktsiya» (25.5%); OAO «Scientific-production amalgamation «Central scientific-research institute of the technology of machine-building » (50% + 1 share); OAO «Perlovka plant of power-generation equipment» (25.5%); OAO «Chepetsk mechanical plant» (2.77%); OAO «Sosnovy Bor design-and-prospecting institute «VNIIPIET» (100%).The next stage in the formation of OAO «Atomenergoprom», which will be completed at the beginning of 2008, will become the transfer of 100% of 55 OAOs, which will be organized out of 55 FGUPs, subject to corporatization.