Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Февраль 2003 г.
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2003 г.
Российская наука и мир
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)

январь февраль март апрель май июнь июль август сентябрь октябрь ноябрь декабрь

    The Augusta Chronicle / 21.02.2003 18:30:04
    Keeping the cities' secrets
    • by Jonathan Ernst , Staff Writer
Amid the failed fairy tale of Russia's nuclear facilities, the U.S. is working to ensure the security of sensitive data
    В некогда сказочных российских городках - ядерных объектах - специалисты из США работают над обеспечением безопасности секретной информации

Imagine that all the people who work at Savannah River Site, along with their families, schoolteachers and shopkeepers, lived in an opulent, top-secret city known only by a ZIP code -" South Carolina 29808." Imagine that no one was allowed in; that those inside were hardly allowed out; and that even the people in Jackson and Barnwell had no clue who lived inside the fence or what they did.
This was life in Russia's 10 secret nuclear cities. Fifteen years ago, people who lived near the secret city of Zheleznogorsk had no idea what was manufactured in the factories under the low mountains across the river. They knew only of a secret land of luxury where the people were rich enough to eat chocolate whenever they wanted.
"They live in a beautiful city - like something out of a fairy tale," said Galina Belovina, a school principal in nearby Atamanova who visited there once. "There's so much to say. Everything is convenient. There are three-story houses, wide streets, many different shops and stadiums."
Today, the fairy tale has faded.
Since the end of the Cold War, outsiders have learned that Zheleznogorsk is an underground nuclear-weapons operation with a failing economy and all the social ills that go with it. "The streets are still wide and clean, but the new problems are drug addiction, unemployment and budget shortfalls," said Russian journalist Alexander Kolotov, who covers life in the closed city.
Zheleznogorsk is one of the poorest districts in the Ministry of Atomic Energy, says a retired scientist who still lives there.
"The poverty is undermining security because the workers are so poorly paid," Anatoli Mamayev said.
Experts say such poverty holds dangers for the rest of the world. The worst-case scenario is that a disaffected worker would sell his nuclear know-how to Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.
The problem has spurred SRS' David Zigelman and others in the U.S. Department of Energy to create jobs for some of the Russians who work in the closed cities, in hope of giving them a good reason not to sell their nuclear talents.
"We all knew who our enemies were," said Mr. Zigelman, who had spent his early career working against the Russian threat as a civilian attached to the U.S. military. "So that first time I went to Russia, and I late one night stood in Red Square looking up at the Kremlin, I said, 'What the heck am I doing here?' "What you quickly find is people are not enemies. Governments are enemies."
Through DOE's Nuclear Cities Initiative, he leads Russian specialists through the process of creating civilian business plans, the best of which the U.S. government will finance. It can take months, sometimes years, and it is not always an easy sell.
"I've heard things like, 'This economic conversion thing is too difficult - can we go back to the good old days?"' he said. "Well, there's no choice."
Too perfect
Natalia Manzurova's parents were some of the first scientist-settlers at Ozersk, a closed city in the south Urals. "My mother and father came to the city in 1948, when they were both 20," Ms. Manzurova said.
Six months after filling out a questionnaire, officials gave them three hours to pack their things and took them to a resort near the site of the Mayak plutonium plant. Later, they would be settled in the closed city.
"When the specialists were needed, they were taken from the resort to the production site. They never knew where they were going," she said.
Secrets abounded in the closed cities, and so did wealth. Nadja Kutepova, who grew up in Ozersk believing that her father worked in a candy-wrapper factory, not a bomb plant, remembers rare trips outside the fences.
"When I left for Yekaterinburg to visit my grandmother, I was usually carrying lots of things - even milk - because there was none in Yekaterinburg," she said. "When I was a small child, Ozersk was a very nice place. We had good production, good shops." Nikolai Gidenko was one of the young construction soldiers who went to Ozersk in the 1950s to build dams along the Techa River for the nuclear operations. "We were young! We never worried, we were busy in the evenings buying vodka and finding girls," he said. The 68-year-old recalled that he and his comrades were given special coupons to buy such luxuries as sour cream, butter and chocolate.
"We would spend it all on chocolate. We thought the special meals were to keep us strong for the hard work," he said.
Long before Soviet secrecy crumbled in the late 1980s, however, Mr. Gidenko knew something was wrong. Every Thursday, a car came to their work site with a device that looked like an electric oven.
"We took off our uniforms and boots and put them in the device," he said. "They would call out some numbers and maybe keep the clothes, but we were never told why."
"It was just pure luck that I stayed healthy," Mr. Gidenko said.
Ms. Manzurova said her 74-year-old father is still proud of the days he worked with atomic icons such as Igor Kurchatov and Lavrenty Beria, fathers of the Soviet nuclear program. "Radiation safety was bad, but he jokes about how many times there were accidents, and that to visit his friends he has to go to the cemetery," she says. Ms. Kutepova, the little girl who grew up in Ozersk carrying packages of goodies to her grandmother on the outside, is now a graduate student in sociology and studies the people in the closed cities.
She tells of alcoholism and despair. She says the people of Ozersk still live in fear of the iron fist of the state and some still remember stints in Stalin's concentration camps. "For so many years they have developed the opinion that Mayak is a monster," Ms. Kutepova said. "It is not useful fighting it. It is such a monstrous organization that if you start asking for your rights, you are afraid to lose your job."
Although she says 99 percent of the older generation is still very patriotic and believes in what it was doing, she was surprised to find in a recent survey that 63 percent of the people in Ozersk were against the import of spent nuclear fuel to the site - even though the project would mean essential jobs.
She has worked to create social programs, including sex education, prenatal care and ecological awareness. She wants to tackle unemployment in Ozersk and is interested in the Nuclear Cities work such as SRS' Mr. Zigelman is doing. But she's skeptical.
"We have many questions about the program," Ms. Kutepova said. "If the Americans want scientists to change their profession, then people should move from these places - because the place accounts for the mentality."
Saving the world
Hovering over an operation from a stepladder at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, Dr. Alexander Kozyrin leans in to admire his American colleague's economical use of silk in his closing stitches.
"You suture like a Russian," Dr. Kozyrin tells Dr. Tom Gadacz, the director of surgery at MCG, through an interpreter. Dr. Gadacz and the others get a chuckle out of the sideways compliment. It's part of the giddiness that comes along with doing their bit to save the world.
That is how Dr. Gadacz and his colleagues look at the work they have done through the Nuclear Cities Initiative programs at SRS. Ever since Dr. Gadacz and the Americans helped install a laparoscopy unit - a much less invasive type of surgery - in the closed city of Sarov in 2001, the Russians have performed more than 500 operations with it. The Nuclear Cities Initiative is one of several U.S. programs designed to stop the spread of lethal nuclear materials and knowledge out of the former Soviet Union. Mr. Zigelman says he has "hit a home run" by reaching out to MCG for medical expertise, in addition to the work of business professors at the University of South Carolina Aiken who have helped build training programs in Sarov.
"In the end, the NCI program is to help shut down the nuclear facilities and make sure the scientists and engineers don't go elsewhere," Mr. Zigelman said. "Well, if you can improve the infrastructure and medical programs, you've provided another argument for the brains to stay at home."
Mr. Zigelman and DOE are helping shut down the Avangard nuclear weapons facility in Sarov and have created jobs for some of the displaced specialists.
Projects funded by Nuclear Cities in Sarov include one that is selling titanium parts for prostheses to a company in California - some of which are sold in the Augusta area under brand names such as Ohio Willow Wood and FlexFoot. Another is doing high-tech work to remove harmful chemicals from the Russian electrical transmission system.
There are a few rules, including one of Mr. Zigelman's personal guidelines that requires the ideas come from the Russians, not from him.
"Otherwise, they have no ownership of it," he said. The program, begun in 1998, has had an uphill battle for funds and political support. Now, as it nears the end of its first operating agreement, it has been criticized by Russian and American experts, including the U.S. General Accounting Office, for creating jobs too slowly or expensively or concentrating on the wrong kinds of enterprises.
"I think that the program got off on the wrong foot by saying we were going to create all these jobs in the first year, because the problem is very hard," said Kenneth Luongo, of the Russian-American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, whose 1997 report helped create the program. "It is very hard to create jobs in Russia when you're not behind a triple-security fence, and it's even more difficult to do it behind a triple-security fence." Mr. Luongo said the program should apply Russian expertise to problems such as nuclear security or environmental cleanup.
"Someone ought to be paying these guys to think creatively about how to deal with these questions, as opposed to trying to build a kidney dialysis plant in a place where you used to manufacture nuclear weapons," he said. As for the expense, Mr. Zigelman said, the overall cost is small compared with the full scope of nonproliferation programs.
"They say it may be cheaper if you took the money and just gave it to the scientists and the engineers there," he said. "But what happens when you stop sending the checks?"
Mr. Zigelman said the Nuclear Cities Initiative is getting better at cutting costs and creating more jobs. He also says that the program, charged with employing people with deadly nuclear knowledge, has a value that may be hard to quantify.
"By creating a job, have we given the guy back some self-esteem to where he'll never go work for the other country? I hope so," Mr. Zigelman said. "What's that worth?"
747,800: Combined population of the 10 closed nuclear cities in 1998
126,800: Number of nuclear complex workers in the 10 cities
4.3 percent: Unemployment in the nuclear cities in 1998, compared with 3 percent for the rest of Russia
MORE THAN 62: Percentage of employees who earn less than $50 per month
58: Percentage of experts who are forced to take second jobs to earn money
14: Percentage of experts who would like to work outside of Russia
6: Percentage who express interest in moving "any place at all"
Sources: Valentin Tikhonov, Russia's Nuclear and Missile Complex: The Human Factor in Proliferation, 2001, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Anatoli Diakov, Russia's closed Nuclear Cities: Social and Economic Conditions, 2000, Princeton University's Research Program on Nuclear Policy Alternatives.
Standing Guard
U.S. gives aid to Russia to help prevent theft of nuclear materials
США представляет помощь России, чтобы предотвратить разворовывание ядерных материалов
Web posted Monday, February 17, 2003

  • by Jonathan Ernst , Staff Writer

As Allen Blancett walked through the subzero cold of a Moscow night, he wasn't sure what to expect.
Standing in front of a rundown apartment building, he was uneasy. He had arranged an evening with a Russian family, but the entrance wasn't inviting. Soon, however, he was set at ease. "Inside their apartment, it's a new place," he said. "Warm and friendly and just real pleasant." That night, Mr. Blancett and his hosts shared a fine Russian meal. The children put on an impromptu piano recital. In the middle of the caviar and the vodka toasts, he could feel decades of icy enmity thawing.
Throughout 20 years at Savannah River Site, he knew what the Soviet threat was: a vast nuclear arsenal atop missiles that could cross continents to deliver death to his doorstep.
Today, the threat is different - not the Cold War's mutually assured destruction, but the horror of random terrorism.
Mr. Blancett, a retired engineer who made a career at SRS producing plutonium for the arms race with the Soviets, is part of a new American presence in Russian nuclear affairs. Working with the Center for International Trade and Security, a University of Georgia institute concerned with the security of Russia's nuclear stockpile, he has made two trips behind old enemy lines in the past year.
His mission on that frosty night in December was to get to know the Russians a little better. The goal was no longer producing plutonium, but understanding the hearts and minds of those who guard it.
It takes only a pocketful of the deadly metal - and someone unscrupulous enough to steal it - to make all the difference to world peace.
"There are bad guys out there who know where this stuff is," he said. Mr. Blancett's mission in Moscow was to help stop them." For those who have studied the Russian nuclear threat, the consequences are very real." "It was horrifying, actually. It made my hair stand on end," said investigative journalist Andrew Cockburn. He came of age in an England gripped by the terrorist campaigns of the Northern Irish and knew to be wary of unattended packages in the subway. Stories he uncovered researching the Russian nuclear threat after the fall of the Soviet Union, however, gave him goose flesh. During their research in the mid-1990s, Mr. Cockburn and his wife, Leslie, found the security at Russian nuclear installations so lax that someone could almost walk onto one, take what he wanted and vanish. The constant vigilance needed to keep terrorists at bay wasn't there. "I did think at that time, it's only a matter of time before someone takes a whack at us. We have to be lucky all of the time. They only have to be lucky once - that's what's scary," Mr. Cockburn said from his home in Washington.
The Cockburn stories were collected in the nonfiction book One Point Safe,. The book became the basis for the fictionalized 1997 Hollywood nuclear-terror thriller The Peacemaker, in which Nicole Kidman and George Clooney saved the world.
There's a big difference, Mr. Cockburn said, between nuclear materials in the hands of Pakistan, North Korea or Iraq and that possessed by terrorists.
"What's lying around in Russia is more frightening because that can find its way into nonstate hands and the horrifying possibility of a nuclear Mohammed Atta," he said, referring to the al-Qaida leader allegedly behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
Analyst Matthew Bunn, a high-level nuclear security expert in the Clinton White House, appears briefly in the Cockburns' accounts and sounds a similar alarm.
"The thing that scares me the most is al-Qaida getting ahold of highly enriched uranium, making a nuclear bomb and setting it off in a U.S. city," Mr. Bunn said. "That would mean hundreds of thousands of people dead and the obliteration of a major U.S. city. That's just unacceptable, and we need to be moving as fast as we possibly can to reduce that probability."
U.S. offers aid
During the past decade, the United States has rushed to meet the challenge of loose Russian nuclear material with Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, usually called Nunn-Lugar programs after Sens. Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, who were among the first in the U.S. government to see the serious nature of the post-Soviet nuclear threat.
Since 1992, the U.S. government has spent more than $2 billion in the former Soviet Union dismantling warheads, building better security at nuclear facilities, securing nuclear transport railcars and even purchasing Russian nuclear material outright to secure it in the United States.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, much of the focus on terrorist attacks has turned toward defending the United States within its borders. Mr. Nunn said the nation needs to keep looking at the source.
"Homeland security for America doesn't begin in America. It begins wherever there are dangerous nuclear materials (that) could be accessed by terrorist groups," Mr. Nunn said in a recent interview. "And that's where we've got to concentrate. And I think that realization is slow coming, but we're certainly more aware than we were as a nation before Sept. 11." Some experts say the Nunn-Lugar programs have been very successful, represent money well spent, and are an initial step in a long journey.
"A farsighted politician should understand that after building the checkpoint, he should really invest in the training of the guards," said Igor Khripunov, the associate director of the University of Georgia institute that recruited Mr. Blancett to visit Russia. "As of now, we should go beyond building checkpoints and fences. ... We should deal with human souls." Mr. Khripunov uses the example of Chechen terrorists who recently drove their trucks, loaded with explosives, through three checkpoints on a mission that leveled a government building in the breakaway republic. He says the guards were either being lazy or were bought off. Those could be guards at a nuclear facility, he says. "It's the human factor - it's motivation," he said.
Mr. Khripunov says one problem is outdated thinking. Those in charge of nuclear security are still focused on the Cold War threat of a spy, an outsider, coming into a facility to steal technology.
"Now the situation is very different, and the Russian nuclear managers still do not recognize a threat from inside," he said. "They believe the people they work with are trustworthy, that they can rely on them. But at least a handful of (theft) cases were made public, and the people involved were mostly insiders."
Breaking barriers
As a young man in Oklahoma, Mr. Blancett could stand on his front porch and watch the bombers make their training flights during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He would spend most of his working life on the front lines of the Cold War at SRS. "Before I got into the nuclear business, I knew of Russia though U.S. propaganda and political stuff, and I saw them as a country that was not trustable. They were warmongers. There was (Soviet Premier Nikita) Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table at the U.N. saying, 'We will bury you.' "And yet, you had to admit that they really could make weapons. I mean, they made big, big, monster weapons." He began to lose some of that grudging respect after he joined SRS in 1981. "I learned more and realized how they had sacrificed their economy and they had essentially destroyed parts of their environment when they dumped their waste into the lakes and stuff like that," Mr. Blancett said. "I guess I didn't really ever hate them. It was mostly just revulsion of what they did." But in December in Moscow, Mr. Blancett looked over a room of the Russian managers, some of whom surprised him by looking as American as he. They looked back at him and saw something they didn't expect - the American was very open, friendly, intelligent and professional.
When Americans started pushing the Russians toward better nuclear security, UGA's Mr. Khripunov said, there was suspicion that the United States was trying to make Russia's nuclear program less competitive.
Mr. Blancett is there to assure them that's not the case. He told them about the political climate in the United States, where people inside and outside the nuclear industry, greens and hawks alike, have come to an understanding that creates a more secure culture. "That delivers a message that if Russia wants to become part of the civilized Western world, this is really part of the bargain - they should really safeguard fissile material," Mr. Khripunov said.
Mr. Blancett sold the message further by letting the managers get to know the person behind the professional. "Allen started by talking about his family," one of his students said later. "Russians would just start talking business."
Mr. Blancett, Mr. Khripunov and others like them hope that someday, when the young managers are higher up in the Ministry of Atomic Energy, they still will have Mr. Blancett's values in their hearts and minds. That's hard to put on a ledger sheet for a donor, though. Funding such programs is always a problem.
"One of the reasons why it is difficult to fund it is because you cannot quantify the results," Mr. Khripunov said.
After 18 months of consideration, Mr. Nunn's Nuclear Threat Initiative denied Mr. Khripunov's request for $1.2 million over three years - or less than half of Mr. Clooney's reported $3 million salary for The Peacemaker - to continue the program.
Mr. Nunn praised the program's good work but cited his group's financial hardships.
"We are back to ground zero," Mr. Khripunov said, adding that they are looking for other funding sources. A lot can happen at ground zero, though. It can happen in a nondescript Russian atomic energy institute on the north side of Moscow with worn wooden floors and a little old woman guarding the front desk.
Here, the future leaders of Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy - Minatom - are looking up at Mr. Blancett from their rows of spartan, Soviet-era desks for a little career development - and a chance to understand the American way a little better.
"I really think this is one way I could have an impact on world peace, and that's awesome," Mr. Blancett said.
It's something that people close to him have heard him say more than once, often with a catch in his throat and tears in his eyes.
"If I can persuade future leaders to go in the right direction," he said, "I will have accomplished a whole lot."

© All contents 1996 - 2003 The Augusta Chronicle. All rights reserved

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    World Bank Group / February 6, 2003
    Hi-Tech Booms in Russia
    Бум высоких технологий в России

    IFC is helping to bring foreign direct investment to Russia’s IT sector

February 6, 2003, - IT companies in Russia have seen rapid growth and expansion over the last year or so, while the tech sector in the United States and Europe has been languishing. The International Finance Corporation, the private sector investment arm of the World Bank Group, is widely recognized as the leading investor in information technology in Russia today. Over the last year, IFC has made a number of investments in the Russian IT market, including a US$12 million investment in "Information Business Systems," Russia’s largest IT company, and a $1.5 million investment in "Egar Technology," an early-stage financial services software company. IFC recently received approval for a $6 million investment in "Ru-Net Holdings," a leading Russian IT services company, and the IFC IT team is planning to make further investments over the next 12 months. "There are a number of reasons why IFC is investing in the Russian IT sector," said Adam Portnoy, a senior IFC investment officer. "Russia has an enormous amount of scientific talent inherited from the Soviet Union; and there is a lack of capital available for Russian companies in this sector. With the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia inherited nearly all of the Soviet Union’s scientific resources. Because the Soviet Union was focused on advancing the country’s space and military-industrial sectors, the scientific establishment was one of the largest in the world, with one-third more scientists than in the United States. Since the Russian education system continues to be heavily weighted toward math and science, Russian scientists are often considered the best in the world. Consequently, Russian IT companies present an attractive investment opportunity because these businesses can draw upon Russia’s large "intellectual resource" of world-class scientists and engineers. Over the last 12 years, Russian spending on scientific research and development has diminished from more than 2 percent of GDP in 1991 to less than one-third of one percent of GDP today. Today there are only about 426,000 scientists practicing in Russia, compared to over 800,000 12 years ago. Scientists’ salaries currently rank 10th out of the 11 employment categories in Russia, ranking above only those working in arts and culture. In real terms, scientific professors often earn less than $100 a month. IFC is stepping into the breach in the aftermath of the collapse of the ‘Internet bubble’ in 2001 (e.g. Sun Capital, Orion Capital, NetBridge, LV Finance and Sputnik Funds). There are only two small funds operating in Russia that are focused on making investments in IT companies-Mint Capital, which has a $21 million fund operating in Moscow and The Russian Technology Fund, which has a $5 million fund operating in St. Petersburg. Apart from providing capital to an industry that is currently not receiving much financing, IFC’s investments also serve as a catalyst for further investment by the private sector in Russian tech companies. For example, both Intel Capital and Draper Fisher Jurvetson (large Silicon Valley based technology venture capital groups) have recently expressed interest in investing in Russian IT companies. IFC has started to introduce these groups to the Russian hi-tech market through co-investment opportunities. "IFC believes that Russian IT companies will benefit from the continued growth of the Russian economy, resulting in profits for investors," said Portnoy. Since the Russian economic crisis of 1998, the Russian economy has grown at a healthy rate with GDP growth last year of 5 percent and an expected GDP growth of 4 percent in 2002. This economic growth has been supported by the relative political stability of President Vladimir Putin’s administration. In addition, Russia has been somewhat insulated from the global economic slowdown because its oil exports have generated strong revenues. As the economy continues to grow, the market for IT products and services increases as public and private enterprises begin looking for ways to increase efficiencies in order to better compete in the global marketplace.

© Copyright 2002 The World Bank Group, All Rights Reserved

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