WASHINGTON # The United States is concerned about the growing influence of security services in Russia, which has complicated cooperative programs designed to keep nuclear materials from extremists, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
Linton Brooks, undersecretary of energy for national security, said legal liability issues over possible accidents have also interfered with U.S. programs to secure and eliminate Russia’s vast store of Cold War nuclear materials.
But at a briefing for reporters, Brooks, who also heads the National Nuclear Security Administration, said his agency was working around the roadblocks with Russia as it accelerated post-Sept. 11, 2001, efforts there and elsewhere to guard against nuclear “terrorism.”
The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration was created three years ago to reduce threats to U.S. national security by closing or redesigning foreign plants making nuclear bomb fuel and improving security at decrepit and porous nuclear facilities, among other steps.
Much of the nonproliferation work involves Russia, which along with the United States is the major source of the fissile material that is the fuel for nuclear bombs.
While Washington has worked with Moscow on the nuclear issue since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s, Brooks said access to Russian sites remains a problem.
“There is no secret that many of us in the United States are worried by what we see is the growing influence of security services in the Russian Federation,” he said.
Conservative by nature, these services create “pressures … to give greater emphasis to denying access in the name of security than to facilitating access in the name of cooperation,” he said.
While this is a “real problem … we are finding creative ways to meet Russian concerns,” he said.
Brooks also said the United States wants to bring highly enriched uranium to Russia for safekeeping and convert reactors to low-enriched uranium that is unusable in weapons but this hinges on negotiations with other countries and a Russian environmental review.