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Nuclear Last updated: April, 2015

Russia became the world's second nuclear weapon state after it tested its first device at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, on 29 August 1949.

Today it is one of five recognized nuclear weapon states under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a status which it inherited as the legal successor of the Soviet Union. The Cold War arms race also resulted in the Soviet Union accumulating a vast arsenal of strategic and non-strategic (also known as "tactical") nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Table for Russia

· Russia's Land, Air and Naval
Nuclear Deterrent Capabilities

Moscow has been a strong supporter of nuclear nonproliferation treaties and regimes, and bilateral arms control treaties and initiatives with the United States have helped reduce the Russian arsenal substantially from its Soviet-era peak of about 40,000 warheads to approximately 4,300 according to a March 2013 estimate. [1] Under the terms of the New START agreement, signed in April 2010, Moscow is required to cut its strategic nuclear arsenal to 1,550 operational warheads and 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers by February 2018. [2]

In addition to its nuclear weapons capabilities, Russia possesses an extensive civilian nuclear power infrastructure, including 33 operating nuclear power reactors located at 10 nuclear power stations, and a vast network of fuel cycle facilities. [3] The Russian government plans to expand civilian nuclear energy over the coming decades through the construction of new reactors.

Strategic Nuclear Weapons Capabilities

According to the most recent New START data exchange (1 March 2015), Russia deploys 1,582 strategic warheads on 515 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers. [4] The actual number of deployed Russian warheads is likely higher since the treaty counts one strategic bomber as one operationally deployed warhead even though, for example, the Tu095 MS16 bomber can carry up to sixteen weapons. [5] One open-source estimate from January 2015 put the actual number of operational Russian warheads at 1,900. [6]

Land-based

As of January 2015, Russia deploys approximately 305 ICBMs of five variants, which collectively could field 1166 warheads. [7] A number of Soviet-era ICBMs, such as the R-36M2 (NATO designation: SS-18), UR-100NUTTH (SS-19), and the Topol (SS-25), are gradually being phased out, with plans to complete the process by 2022. [8] Replacements systems include the Topol-M (SS-27 Mod. 1) and RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod. 2), both of which come in silo-based and road-mobile variants. Deployment of the Topol-M was completed in 2012, with deployment of the silo-based version beginning in 1997 and in 2006 for the road-mobile version. [9] Unlike the Topol-M, which carries only one warhead, the RS-24 Yars is equipped with multiple independently-targeted reentry vehicles (MIRV). Deployment of the RS-24 Yars began in 2010. [10]

Sea-based

Russia's sea-based deterrent has traditionally played a more marginal role in Russian strategic planning than its strategic rocket forces. As of January 2015, Moscow's active strategic ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) force consists of two Project 667BDR Kalmar (NATO designation: Delta III) submarines based with the Pacific Fleet in Rybachiy, five Project 667BDRM Delfin (Delta IV) submarines based with the Northern Fleet in at Yagelnaya Bay, and one new Project 995 Borey-class submarines based with the Northern Fleet. [11]

The Delta III submarines are each equipped with sixteen RSM-50 Stingray (SS-N-18) SLBMs, which carry three warheads. [12] Entering into service from 1976-1982, these submarines are being withdrawn from active deployment. [13] The Delta IV-class currently forms the backbone of Russia's naval deterrent. Each Delta IV submarine is equipped with sixteen RSM-54 Sineva (SS-N-23) SLBMs, which carry up to four warheads each. [14] The new Borey-class SSBNs will house sixteen RSM-56 Bulava (SS-N-32) SLBMs, which can carry six warheads each. Although three Borey-class vessels have entered service, only the lead ship, the Yuri Dolgorukiy, had received its full complement of SLBMs as of January 2015. [15] In addition, Russia built has several Typhoon-class SSBNs based with the Northern Fleet at Litsa Guba. While none of the Typhoon-class vessels are operational, one is being used as a testing platform for the new Bulava missile. [16]

Air-based

Russia fields two heavy bombers as part of the air-based leg of its strategic nuclear triad, the Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95MS (Bear H), which comes in two variants the MS6 (Bear H6) and MS16 (Bear H16). [17] Since Russia no longer officially declares the number of bombers captured under arms control agreements, uncertainty exists regarding their operational status. One open-source estimate from March 2014 put the figure at 72 strategic bombers, including 13 Tu-160 Blackjacks, 29 Tu-95 MS6s, and 30 Tu-95 MS16s. [18] A more recent estimate from January 2015 placed the figure at 66 bombers, including 55 Tu-95s and 11 Tu-160s. [19]

Delivery vehicles carried by these aircraft include the Kh-55 Kent (AS-15) air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), AS-16 Kickback (Kh-15) short-range attack missiles, and a large but unknown number of nuclear gravity bombs. [20] The Tu-160 can carry 12 Kh-55 ALCMs or AS-16 missiles, and the Tu-96 MS6 and Tu-95 MS16 can carry 6 and 16 Kh-55s, respectively. [21]

Non-strategic Nuclear Weapons Capabilities

Russia also possesses a large number of non-strategic or tactical nuclear weapons that most analysts believe are assigned to air, naval, and ground-based air-defense and ABM forces. [22] Russia has never disclosed the number and types of weapons in its non-strategic nuclear stockpile. The 1991-1992 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNI) led to substantial reductions in U.S. and Russian deployments of non-strategic nuclear weapons, but did not require Washington or Moscow to exchange information about their respective holdings or include a mechanism to verify implementation. The PNIs only indicated the share of warheads each side pledged to eliminate, and follow-up statements issued by the Russian government regarding implementation have referenced reductions only in percentage terms rather than aggregate numbers of weapons dismantled or removed from deployment. [23]

During the Cold War, tactical nuclear weapons were deployed in almost every Soviet republic. [24] At the time of the PNIs were initiated, Russia was estimated to have between 15,000 and 21,700 non-strategic nuclear warheads. [25] At the 2004 NPT Preparatory Committee meeting, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov announced Russia had "practically completed" its non-strategic nuclear weapons initiatives "except for eliminating the Army's nuclear weapons," which was delayed, in part, due to funding shortages. [26] Following statements from U.S. officials expressing concern that Russia had not fully implemented the PNIs, a Russian official declared in October 2004 that Moscow was not bound by the initiatives since they represented a "goodwill" gesture, rather than a treaty. [27]

Given the lack of transparency surrounding Russia's non-strategic stockpile, estimates of exact numbers vary. One open-source estimate from March 2014 placed the number of warheads assigned to non-strategic delivery systems at 2,000―with approximately 730 AS-4 air-to-surface missiles and bombs assigned to tactical air forces; 700 warheads assigned to tactical naval forces for delivery via cruise missiles, anti-submarine weapons, anti-air missiles, torpedoes, and depth bombs; 430 warheads for air-, ballistic missile, and coastal defense forces; and 170 warheads assigned to ground-launched, short-range ballistic missiles. [28] Experts believe Russian non-strategic warheads are not mated to delivery systems, but kept in "about a dozen central storage facilities." [29] An additional 2,000 non-strategic warheads are believed to be retired or awaiting dismantlement. [30]

Nuclear Force Modernization

Russia is currently in the process of modernizing and recapitalizing its entire arsenal of strategic nuclear weapons and delivery systems. In February 2011, Vladimir Popovkin, Russia's First Deputy Minister of Defense, announced that Moscow would spend about $70 billion on Russia's strategic nuclear forces between 2011 and 2020. [31] Due to the recent downturn in Russia's economy, however, some analysts expect its modernization plan to face shortfalls in funding. [32]

For the Strategic Rocket Forces, Russian enterprises are working on three new ICBMs, all of which are designed to counter the deployment of a U.S./NATO missile defense architecture in Europe. In addition to the ongoing production and deployment of the RS-24 Yars, Russia is developing a similar road-mobile but lighter weight and shorter range missile called the RS-26 Rubezh, colloquially referred to as the "missile defense killer." [33] The missile was tested to intercontinental range in 2012 and to intermediate ranges in 2012 and 2013. [34] After a successful flight test on 18 March 2015, Russian media reported the missile is expected to begin deployment in 2016. [35] Russia is also developing a liquid-fueled, silo-based heavy ICBM known as the Sarmat to replace ageing R-36M2 (SS-18). Initial testing is planned for 2015 followed by flight testing in 2017 and eventually deployment in 2020. [36] Finally, the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology (MITT) is working on a train-mobile ICBM, reportedly named the Barguzin. [37] According to some analysts, it remains unclear whether this missile will be based on an entirely new design or use existing systems. [38] Development reportedly began in 2013 with plans to make it available for deployment by 2018. [39]

With respect to the strategic naval fleet, Russia plans to build five additional Borey-class SSBNs, which will join the three that are already in service. Three Borey-class submarines are reportedly under construction―the Knyaz Vladimir, the Alexander Suvorov, and the Svyatitel Nikolai―which, along with the two remaining vessels, will apparently be based on an improved design called the Borey-II or Project 995A. [40] Russia hopes to field a total of eight Project 995 and Project 995A submarines by the early 2020s. [41] All Borey-class SSBNs are expected to carry the Bulava SLBM. Development of the Bulava has been riddled with delays and test failures. During the first five years of testing from 2004 to 2009, at least eight out of fourteen tests resulted in a failure. [42] Following several modifications, Russia conducted a string of six successful tests from 2010 to 2011; however, after a failed test in September 2013, additional tests were ordered. [43] Russia successfully test-fired the Bulava on three occasions in 2014 and plans to conduct additional tests in 2015. [44]

In addition to ongoing upgrades to Tu-160 Blackjacks, Russia is developing a new long-range bomber, known as the PAK-DA, to replace the Tu-95MS, Tu-160, and Tu-22 non-strategic bomber. [45] The PAK-DA will reportedly be subsonic but possess stealth capabilities. [46] Russian authorities awarded the contract for the new bomber to the Tupolev Design Bureau in February 2014, with aims to begin flight testing in 2019 and deployment in 2023. [47]

Evolution of Russian Nuclear Doctrine

The role of nuclear weapons in Russian national security policy has fluctuated since the end of the Cold War following several iterations of its post-Soviet military doctrine. Russia's reliance on nuclear weapons was low throughout the early 1990s, but subsequently increased in the early 2000s amidst concerns about its conventional inferiority vis-à-vis NATO, before declining slightly in its latest iteration from 2010, which brings Russian nuclear doctrine more in line with the policies of other nuclear weapon states.

Russia issued its first military doctrine in 1993. Although it formally dropped the Soviet Union's no-first-use policy, the document "did not assign any specific missions to nuclear weapons and did not define any threats to which nuclear weapons were supposed to respond." [48] In effect, Russia only envisioned use of nuclear weapons in a large-scale global conflict, the likelihood of which was believed to be "negligible" at the time. [49]

For the remainder of the 1990s, Russia debated the role and structure of its nuclear forces, mostly behind closed doors. Some scholars argue the profile of nuclear weapons increased during this period, largely in response to NATO enlargement. [50] From the Russian perspective, the increased prospect of a limited conventional war, for which Russian conventional forces were ill-prepared, necessitated an expansion of the nuclear mission from that of "core deterrence" against an existential threat to include deterrence against a large-scale conventional attack. [51] While according to one expert, "the Russian government never formalized these new missions," the debate "helped propel nuclear weapons into the center of attention, if only for a limited time, and created a perception that they could address specific security concerns, i.e., their role could go beyond existential deterrence." [52]

Russian concerns about its conventional inferiority vis-à-vis NATO were reignited in 1999 following NATO intervention in the war in Kosovo. Less than a year later Moscow issued a new National Security Concept in January 2000 followed shortly thereafter by a new Military Doctrine in April. [53] After several adjustments over the next few years, Russian nuclear doctrine stabilized in the form of a "White Paper" issued in 2003, which provides considerably more detail on the missions assigned to Russian strategic forces. [54] The most significant difference between the 2000 doctrine and the one from 1993 was its formal expansion of the nuclear mission from deterrence against not only a nuclear attack, but also against a large-scale conventional attack. [55] In addition, it envisioned the use of nuclear weapons to "de-escalate" a limited, regional conflict in the event deterrence failed. [56] In other words, Russia might conduct a targeted nuclear strike to convince an adversary that further aggression is not worthwhile. Despite an expansion of the nuclear mission, official documents suggest that reliance on nuclear weapons was seen as a temporary "fix" until Russia sufficiently modernized and strengthened its conventional forces. [57]

In February 2010, Moscow adopted a new document titled Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation for the Time Period through the Year 2020, which replaced its previous iteration from 2000. [58] Like the previous version, the 2010 doctrine envisions the use of nuclear weapons to retaliate against a nuclear attack, an attack involving other WMD, and in response to a large-scale conventional attack. [59] With respect to the latter, however, the 2010 document places tighter restrictions on the circumstances in which Russia would employ nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict, stating that they would be used in situations when "the very existence of the state is under threat," walking back language from 2000 which envisioned use "in situations critical to the national security of the Russian Federation." [60] In addition, the 2010 document made no reference to the concept of "de-escalation" introduced in 2000. [61] In December 2014, President Vladimir Putin approved a new military doctrine; however, it made no changes to the role of nuclear weapons in Russia's national security strategy. [62]

History of the Nuclear Weapons Program

Flirting with the Atom

Although the Soviet Union carried out some initial research on nuclear fission in the 1930s, the country's nuclear weapons program began as a wartime intelligence operation that gathered information on atomic activities in the United States and Nazi Germany. [63] This was coupled with a modest research effort in small-scale Soviet laboratories from 1943 onwards. Research carried out prior to World War II, by individuals such as Iuliy Khariton and Iakov Zeldovich, made little impact outside the Soviet Union, and did not enjoy significant government backing. [64] Only in July 1940 did Soviet scientists alert the government to the possible military applications of nuclear fission. [65]

Soviet nuclear research continued in the early 1940s, but with less urgency than in the West. [66] In 1941 and 1942, scientists researched isotopic separation, focusing on the gaseous diffusion and centrifuge methods. [67] However, following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Soviet scientists shifted their focus to conventional military applications. [68] The urgency with which they pursued these military applications resulted in an almost complete suspension of the Soviet Union's nuclear research. It was intelligence relating to the Maud Report in the United Kingdom, and concerns that Nazi Germany had an atomic project, that eventually led to the reestablishment of Soviet nuclear research in early 1943. [69]

Igor Kurchatov was appointed scientific director of the atomic project in March 1943, but at this stage the program remained a hedge against future uncertainties, with the government skeptical that a bomb could be developed quickly enough to affect the outcome of the war. [70] The State Defense Committee issued an instruction to establish a new laboratory known as Laboratory No. 2, which was run by Kurchatov. [71] Laboratory No. 2 grew slowly, and was originally housed in the Seismological Institute on Pyzhevskii Lane in Moscow, but later moved to a site at the All Union Institute of Experimental Medicine, located outside of the city. [72] Kurchatov began to assemble a team, led by Khariton, which worked on bomb design. [73]

The beginnings of the Soviet nuclear weapons program were heavily influenced by espionage. Some scientists working on the Manhattan Project, such as Klaus Fuchs, provided a steady stream of information to the Soviets that included a blueprint for the Fat Man implosion device dropped on Nagasaki. Fuchs was working on the team at Los Alamos that calculated implosion, an area vital for the success of the Soviet effort. [74] This information later enabled Soviet scientists to "skip labor-intensive phases in the solution of problems." [75] To protect the identity of spies such as Fuchs, only four individuals within the Soviet leadership were privy to this information: Josef Stalin, Lavrentiy Beria, Igor Kurchatov and one other unknown individual. [76] Although Kurchatov was given access to intelligence reports from abroad, his colleagues did not have this information. [77]

After Hiroshima: The Crash Program

After the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945, Stalin became convinced of the atomic bomb's strategic importance and ordered a crash development program. [78] As a result, the Soviet nuclear weapons effort switched gears, and on 20 August 1945 the State Defense Committee (Gosudarstvenny Komitet Oborony, GKO) established a Special Committee (Spetskom) to direct the nuclear effort. Beria chaired the Spetskom, providing prison labor for construction of the nuclear complex, while Kurchatov remained Scientific Director of the program. [79] During this period, Kurchatov used the U.S. Fat Man design to verify the results of independent work carried out by Soviet scientists at Arzamas-16 (where the first Soviet device was built). In 1945, Kurchatov also began designing the first industrial-scale reactor, located in the Urals close to the town of Chelyabinsk. Construction of the site began in early 1946, and was completed by the end of 1947; it became known as Chelyabinsk-40, and would also be the site of the Soviet Union's first plutonium separation plant. [80]

After August 1945, the Soviet Union pursued three methods of isotopic separation: electromagnetic separation; thermal diffusion; and gaseous diffusion. [81] Ultimately, the country constructed a gaseous diffusion plant at Sverdlovsk-44, close to the town of Neviansk in the Urals, along with an electromagnetic combine at Sverdlovsk-45, near Severnaya Tura. [82] In order to ensure the accuracy of the implosion information provided by Fuchs, Kurchatov decided to create a design laboratory in Sarov, approximately 400 km east of Moscow, which became known as Arzamas-16. [83]

To ensure the success of the first Soviet nuclear test, codenamed "First Lightning," the Soviet Union copied the U.S. Fat Man design supplied by Fuchs. The first device, named RDS-1 (which never entered service), was detonated on 29 August 1949 at the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan, and was meant to convey a political message that the Soviet Union had arrived on the atomic scene. A second test took place two years later, on 24 September 1951, which was based on a Soviet design and produced a yield of 40 kilotons, twice that of Fat Man. [84] Given the emphasis that was placed on the U.S. design for the first Soviet test, and the Soviets' use of their own designs thereafter, there is a significant debate over the role of espionage, versus Soviet science, in the development of the country's atomic bomb. [85] It is clear that both espionage and the progress of Soviet scientists played roles in the program, illustrated by Lavrenty Beria's leadership of both operations.

From Fission to Fusion: Thermonuclear Weapons

While work was underway on the Soviet Union's first atomic weapon, a group of scientists including Andrei Sakharov, Yakov Zeldovich, and Khariton were already conducting work on an early thermonuclear device. [86] In consultation with Igor Tamm, a theoretical physicist at FIAN (Physical Institute of the Academy of Sciences) in Moscow, a design was conceived that used alternative layers of thermonuclear fuel and became known as the "layer cake" ("sloika" in Russian). [87] Another Soviet scientist, Vitaly Ginzburg, also contributed to the design by offering modifications, such as adding lithium-6. [88] The device was named RDS-6s (or Joe-4), and was tested at Semipalatinsk in August 1953. However, there is some debate over whether this particular device can be called a true hydrogen bomb or simply a highly boosted fission device. [89] Russia began work on a staging device soon after—called the "Third Idea"—that was designed primarily by Sakharov. The first test of the RDS-37, as it was called, took place on 22 November 1955 at Semipalatinsk and produced an undisputed thermonuclear detonation. [90]

Arms Control and Disarmament

After Stalin's death in 1953 and Beria's subsequent arrest and execution, the military assumed responsibility for the Soviet weapons program. [91] In the mid-1950s, attention turned to possible battlefield uses of nuclear weapons, which followed the trajectory of NATO policy at that time. [92] Subsequent Soviet leaders would increasingly view military strategy and international relations through the prism of nuclear weapons, and although the USSR had not achieved nuclear parity by the time of Stalin's death, both the Soviet Union and the United States quickly realized that nuclear war was unacceptable.

Under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet nuclear weapons were increasingly used as a tool in pursuit of military and diplomatic objectives. For example, in 1956 Moscow issued veiled nuclear threats to France and the United Kingdom during the Suez Crisis, and a continuation of this strategy―coupled with a perception of U.S. weakness following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion―led to the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviet Union deployed medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba. The brinksmanship of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the tensions that existed during the 1960s, led to a period of détente during the 1970s, with both sides trying to control the escalating arms race and improve predictability.

The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), concluded in 1972, led to two treaties dealing with both offensive and defensive arms: the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and the Interim Agreement on Certain Measures with Respect to the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. [93] The latter agreement froze the number of strategic ballistic missile launchers at existing levels, while the ABM Treaty placed limits on national missile defense systems. [94] SALT I was followed by SALT II talks from 1977 to 1979, which resulted in an agreement reducing both sides to 2,250 strategic delivery vehicles. [95] The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 meant that President Jimmy Carter withdrew SALT II from U.S. Senate consideration, but both sides continued to honor the treaty until 1986, when President Ronald Reagan withdrew the United States from SALT II after asserting that the Soviet Union had violated its political commitment to the treaty. [96]

However, 1986 was also the year of the Reykjavik summit, when President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev came close to an agreement on abolishing all offensive nuclear weapons within a decade, a deal that eventually stumbled on the issue of U.S. missile defense development. [97] But the summit did pave the way for arms control treaties in the following years, including the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated an entire category of weapons on both sides (all nuclear and conventional ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,000 km). [98] The end of the Cold War also created an opportunity for further reductions in strategic arms, including the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) in 1991, which limited both the United States and the Soviet Union to 1,600 deployed delivery vehicles that could carry no more than 6,000 "accountable" warheads. [99] START I was followed by START II, a treaty that was signed in 1993 but never entered into force. START II contained a limit of 3,000 to 3,500 nuclear warheads each. [100] Although the Russian Duma ratified the treaty in 2000, START II never entered into force, largely because of concerns about the United States' 2002 withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. [101]

The George W. Bush Administration concluded an agreement that relied on START I for its detailed verification provisions. The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), also known as the Moscow Treaty, was a nuclear disarmament treaty between the U.S. and Russia that was signed by Presidents Bush and Vladimir Putin on 24 May 2002. According to SORT, each party would reduce the number of its deployed strategic nuclear weapons arsenal to a quantity between 1,700 and 2,200 by the end of 2012. [102] Following the expiration of START I on 5 December 2009, Russia and the United States began negotiations on a follow-on treaty that was signed in April 2010. The agreement, named the "New START Treaty," limits each side to 1,550 warheads, and 800 deployed and non-deployed strategic nuclear delivery vehicles (of which a maximum of 700 can be deployed). [103] After heated debate, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty on 22 December 2010, with the Russian Duma following suit on 25 January 2011. [104]

Cooperative Threat Reduction and the Soviet Nuclear Legacy

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia faced the enormous task of controlling, accounting for, and securing the Soviet nuclear legacy. Moscow's commitments to START I required it to destroy several strategic delivery vehicles, and to store or dismantle the resulting surplus nuclear warheads. Furthermore, substantial numbers of nuclear weapons and delivery systems located in Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan had to be secured and transported to Russian facilities for dismantlement. Russia also faced the challenge of ensuring the safety and security of weapons and weapons-related materials located at dozens of sites throughout the country. In the tumultuous political and financial climate of the 1990s, the government had difficulty paying salaries at its nuclear facilities, and also could not fund security upgrades, scrapping of nuclear delivery systems, or undertaking new accounting measures.

As a result, foreign assistance was essential for Russia to meet its foreign and domestic commitments. The most prominent program was the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR), established by the United States in 1992. Nunn-Lugar included U.S. Department of Defense-led efforts to secure nuclear storage facilities and nuclear weapons in transit, as well as to dismantle and destroy nuclear warheads, ICBMs and their launchers, air-launched missiles and bombers, nuclear submarines, and SLBMs. Efforts led by other U.S. government agencies focused on the engagement of Russian scientists through projects such as materials protection, control, and accounting (MPC&A), and provided financial incentives to reduce fissile material stocks through programs such as Megatons to Megawatts, an initiative that purchased HEU from Russian weapons and downgraded its enrichment to LEU for U.S. nuclear power reactor fuel. Since 2002, the threat reduction agenda has also had a multilateral dimension through the G8 Global Partnership, an effort aimed at reducing the threat WMD terrorism. [105] Gradually, threat reduction efforts have expanded both outside of the former Soviet states and into other policy areas, such as biosecurity.

In October 2012, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Moscow would not renew the framework for implementing Nunn-Lugar efforts on its territory once the current umbrella agreement expires in June 2013. The MFA statement cited Russia's increasing financial contributions to the dismantlement of nuclear and chemical weapons in accordance with its international obligations, and noted a disagreement with "American partners" on "the form and the basis for further cooperation," including the need to develop "other, more modern legal frameworks." [106] Just prior to its expiration in June 2013, Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin agreed to replace the umbrella agreement with a protocol to the 2003 Framework Agreement on a Multilateral Nuclear Environmental program in the Russian Federation (MNEPR), which enabled joint programs on nuclear security to continue but effectively ended U.S. assistance to help dismantle Russian missiles, bombers, and chemical weapons. [107]

In December 2014, following an increase in diplomatic hostilities between Russia and the United States over the situation in Ukraine, Moscow announced that it would no longer accept Washington's assistance to secure stockpiles of nuclear material on Russian territory. [108] Nevertheless, this decision has not entirely ended threat reduction cooperation between the two countries. Both will reportedly continue efforts to secure industrial radioactive sources that could potentially be used to make a radiological dispersal device (RDD) as well as joint work in other countries that utilize Russian-origin HEU. [109]

Civilian Nuclear Energy Program

Russia has ten nuclear power stations with 34 operational reactors. The State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) is responsible for all of the country's nuclear assets, including civil, military, research and development, and the nuclear icebreaker fleet. The entirety of Russia's civilian nuclear program is managed by Atomenergoprom, a holding company of Rosatom. Atomenergoprom's subsidiary company Rosenergoatom manages Russia's nuclear power complex. [110] Today, Russia has 11 RBMK-1000 reactors, 11 VVER-1000 reactors, six VVER-440 reactors, four EGP-6 reactors, and one BN-600 fast-breeder reactor. Additionally, 9 more reactors are under construction at six different power stations. [111]

From 1992 to 1995 the percentage of Russian energy generated by nuclear power plants averaged 11.8 percent. [112] Nuclear power plants were producing 15.2 percent of generation by the summer of 2000. [113] In 2000, Minatom (now Rosatom) announced plans to increase production to 30 percent by 2005 and 40 percent by 2010. [114] However, these targets were not met, and nuclear power currently accounts for 18.57 percent of Russian electricity production. [115] At present, Rosatom intends to increase this share to 25 percent by 2025. As part of this plan, Rosenergoatom is currently overseeing the construction of new power units at six separate locations: Rostov - 2; Kaliningrad - 2; Beloyarsk - 1 (a fast neutron reactor); Akademik Lomonosov (a floating power plant) - 2; Units 1 and 2 of Novovoronezh NPP-2; and Units 1 and 2 of Leningrad NPP-2. [116] Demand for nuclear energy continues to increase, largely as a result of Russia's economic growth and Gazprom's desire to export a greater proportion of its natural gas. [117]

Rosatom's federal target program (FTP) from 2007 to 2010 included an undertaking from Rosatom to oversee the construction of 26 nuclear power units by 2020. This would be achieved by commissioning two 1200 MWe plants per year from 2011 to 2016, followed by three per year until 2020. However, expansion plans were scaled back in 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis and reduced electricity demand expectations. The planned construction of ten units was deferred until the economy recovered and the demand for energy returned. A revised FTP for the period 2010 to 2015 was approved and signed by President Medvedev in 2010, with Rosatom intending to commission three reactors per year starting in 2016. Although the units will be based on VVER technology until at least 2030, Russia intends to move to fast neutron reactors thereafter. [118]

Nuclear Safety

The Russian nuclear industry is regulated by the Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervisory Service (Rostekhnadzor), which was established in 2004 and reports directly to the Russian President. Rostekhnadzor, formerly known as Gosatomnadzor, is responsible for licensing, regulation, implementing safe operating procedures, ensuring the safe transportation of nuclear material, and material accountancy. [119] Nuclear safety appears to have improved in recent years, as no incidents higher than Level 0 (the lowest according to the INES scale), have been reported since 2004. [120]

However, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRSS) mission, who conducted a peer review of the country's regulatory system, found in November 2009 that while Rostekhnadzor has "particular strengths," such as an "extensive use of IAEA safety standards in Russian Federation legislation, regulations and guides, proactive international cooperation, and a systematic approach to assess the competence of staff operating nuclear installations," it may need improvement in several areas. In particular, "nuclear safety related legislation should be further enhanced for all nuclear activities, including radioactive waste management, the regulatory system's independence to decide on its inspection activities should be increased, better coordination should be sought among the different State organizations regulating nuclear and radiation safety, and more resources are needed for nuclear and radiation safety regulation, including competent staff." [121]

The Rosatom Situation and Crisis Center is the main information and control system to prevent and respond to emergency situations at NPPs. Put into service in 2000, the Center's personnel are specialists from scientific institutions and NPPs who have received several years of training. The opening of the Crisis Center was originally promoted by the IAEA and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). In addition, Automated Radiation Monitoring Systems (ARMSs) are installed at 23 Rosatom facilities and their surrounding areas and integrated into an industry-wide ASKRO network that comprises 294 monitoring stations. [123] Measurements from about 200 stations at 18 different facilities are available to the public through the website "Radiation Environment at Rosatom Enterprises," which is maintained by the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for the Safe Development of Nuclear Energy. [124]

Fast Neutron Reactors and Floating Reactors-The Future?

Rosatom's long-term strategy is to utilize fast neutron reactors and mixed-oxide fuel to close the fuel cycle. In order to achieve this, Rosatom intends to adopt a multi-track approach that will allocate funds to three types of Generation IV reactors: BREST (lead-cooled); SVBR (lead-bismuth-cooled); and sodium-cooled (on which continued R&D will be conducted). Russia also intends to build a commercial complex to fabricate mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel and to test closed fuel cycle technologies. An additional long-term aim is to embark on research and development into the controlled application of thermonuclear fusion for energy production. The BN-800 Beloyarsk-4 fast sodium-cooled reactor, designed by OKBM Afrikantov, will initially work in parallel with the BN-600 unit 3 at Beloyarsk, and may eventually replace it. The project has been hampered by a lack of funds since construction began in 2006, and the reactor is now scheduled to begin operations in 2015. [125] In order to maintain its multi-track approach to the development of fast-neutron reactors, Rosatom has planned an SVBR lead-bismuth-cooled reactor for Obninsk, and a BREST lead-cooled reactor for Beloyarsk (Beloyarsk-5). [126]

Rosatom is also planning to construct seven or eight floating nuclear power plants by 2015.[127] The completion of the first, named the Academik Lomonosov and under construction since April 2007, has been delayed by financial challenges and legal proceedings between Rosenergoatom and the vessel's construction facility, Baltiiskiy zavod. [128] Upon completion, the reactor will provide power to Vilyuchinsk, Kamchatka and the naval base that is located there. Rosatom director General Sergey Kirienko said that the Academician Lomonosov could start operating in Chukotka as early as in 2017. [129]

U.S.-Russian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation

The long-awaited U.S.-Russia Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (also known as the 123 Agreement), entered into force in January 2011. In May 2010, President Barack Obama resubmitted the agreement to Congress after it had been shelved by President George W. Bush following Russia's 2008 war with Georgia. The agreement opens the door to bilateral nuclear trade, including technology, nuclear materials, and equipment transfers, and cooperative research and development initiatives. [130] The agreement will also enable Russia to cooperate with the United States in developing innovative fast-reactor technologies and conducting research into controlled thermonuclear fusion―something that is central to Moscow's long-term nuclear energy strategy. [131]

The Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Security Working Group (NENSWG), a project under the aegis of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, has been engaged in developing avenues for mutual cooperation. As a 2012 Report stated, "[t]he two sides continue a discussion of scientific-technical cooperation and interaction in the area of innovative technologies, including the Multi-Purpose Fast Research Reactor, modeling and simulation, safeguards by design, new structural and clad materials development, and Global Civil Nuclear Energy Framework development. In order to accelerate this work, the two countries are negotiating an intergovernmental R&D Agreement on cooperation in the area of scientific research and design, which should also include interaction in innovative technologies." [132] On 16 September 2013, Russia and the US government signed the Agreement on Cooperation In Nuclear- and Energy-Related Scientific Research and Development, further elaborating the cooperation in peaceful use of energy. [133]

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[2] Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, "New START Fact Sheet," U.S. State Department, October 22, 2013, www.state.gov.
[3] "Nuclear Power in Russia," World Nuclear Association, updated March 2015, www.world-nuclear.org; "Производство электроэнергии [Electricity production]," Rosatom, accessed 29 March 2012, www.Rosatom.ru.
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[40] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Russian nuclear forces, 2014," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 70, No. 2 (March 2014), p. 79; "Россия начнет строить новые АПЛ «Борей» в 2012 году [Russia to begin construction of new Borey-class nuclear submarines in 2012]," RIA Novosti, 2 December 2011, www.ria.ru; "Alexander Nevsky submarine to join Russian Navy on Nov 15," 6 July 2013, voiceofrussia.com; "Russia's Third Borey Class Sub Blessed for Sea Trials," RIA Novosti, 10 June 2013, en.rian.ru.
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[64] Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), p. 501; and David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 51.
[65] This is the date highlighted by David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 62. However, Richard Rhodes suggests that Igor Kurchatov may have alerted his government to the possible military significance of nuclear fission in 1939 (Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), p. 501).
[66] David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 68.
[67] David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 68.
[68] Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), p. 501; and David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 75.
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[70] Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), p. 502; and David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 89.
[71] David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 96.
[72] David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 99.
[73] Michael I. Schwartz "The Russian-A(merican) Bomb: The Role of Espionage in the Soviet Atomic Bomb Project," Journal of Undergraduate Sciences, Volume 3, (Summer 1996), p. 104; and David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 105.
[74] David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 107; and Michael I. Schwartz "The Russian-A(merican) Bomb: The Role of Espionage in the Soviet Atomic Bomb Project," Journal of Undergraduate Sciences, Volume 3, (Summer 1996), p. 106.
[75] Thomas B. Cochran, Robert S. Norris and Oleg A. Bukharin, Making the Russian Bomb from Stalin to Yeltsin, Natural Resources Defense Council, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), p.21.
[76] Stephen M. Younger, The Bomb: A New History, (New York: Harper Collins, 2009), p.33.
[77] Michael I. Schwartz "The Russian-A(merican) Bomb: The Role of Espionage in the Soviet Atomic Bomb Project," Journal of Undergraduate Sciences, Volume 3, (Summer 1996), p. 106; and David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 97.
[78] David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 116.
[79] Thomas B. Cochran, Robert S. Norris and Oleg A. Bukharin, Making the Russian Bomb from Stalin to Yeltsin, Natural Resources Defense Council, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), p.24.
[80] David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 185.
[81] David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 189.
[82] Michael I. Schwartz "The Russian-A(merican) Bomb: The Role of Espionage in the Soviet Atomic Bomb Project," Journal of Undergraduate Sciences, Volume 3, (Summer 1996), p. 106; and David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 190.
[83] David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 196.
[84] Stephen M. Younger, The Bomb: A New History, (New York: Harper Collins, 2009), p.36.
[85] Michael I. Schwartz highlights the vital role that espionage played in "The Russian-A(merican) Bomb: The Role of Espionage in the Soviet Atomic Bomb Project," Journal of Undergraduate Sciences, Volume 3, (Summer 1996); and David Holloway in Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), states that the Soviet scientists did not have access to intelligence passed by Klaus Fuchs to the Soviet government.
[86] Thomas B. Cochran, Robert S. Norris and Oleg A. Bukharin, Making the Russian Bomb from Stalin to Yeltsin, Natural Resources Defense Council, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), p.31.
[87] "Russia's Nuclear History," PBS News Hour, www.pbs.org.; and Thomas B. Cochran, Robert S. Norris and Oleg A. Bukharin, Making the Russian Bomb from Stalin to Yeltsin, Natural Resources Defense Council, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), p.32.
[88] Thomas B. Cochran, Robert S. Norris and Oleg A. Bukharin, Making the Russian Bomb from Stalin to Yeltsin, Natural Resources Defense Council, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), p.33.
[89] Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), p. 778.
[90] David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 303.
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[92] David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb, (Yale: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 325.
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[112] "Data Feature: 1995 World Nuclear Electricity Production," Nukem Market Report, Septermber 1996, p.18.
[113] "Data Feature: 1996/97 World Nuclear Electricity Generating Capacity," Nukem Market Report, November 1997, p.36; "Obzor otrasli Elektroenergetika," AK&M Information Agency, 10 January 2000; in Integrum Techno, www.integrum.ru.; "Obzor otrasli Elektroenergetika," AK&M Information Agency, 11 September 2000; in Integrum Techno.
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[121] International Atomic Energy Agency, "International Nuclear Safety Experts Conclude IAEA Peer Review of the Regulatory System of the Russian Federation," 27 November 2009, www.iaea.org.
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[126] A.I. Filin, "Current Status and Plans for Development of NPP with Brest Reactors," www.iaea.org.
[127] "Ещё четыре плавучих АЭС [Another four floating NPPs]," Barents Observer, 2 March 2009, www.barentsobserver.com; "Rosatom to help develop Yakutia region," World Nuclear News, 25 February 2009, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
[128] "Plavuchaya AYeS arestovana v svyazi s bankrotsvom," Barents Observer, 16 August 2011, www.barentsobserver.com.
[129] "Floating plant to be delivered in 2016," World Nuclear News, October 23, 2014, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
[130] Department of State, "The Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation," 12 January 2011, www.state.gov; "US-Russia 123 Agreement Activated," Nuclear Engineering International, 17 January 2011, www.neimagazine.com.
[131] Cole Harvey and Richard Sabatini, "Russia's Lukewarm Support for International Sanctions Against Iran: History and Motivations," Issue Brief for the Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org, 15 April 2010.
[132] "U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission: Spring 2012 Joint Report," U.S. State Department, 26 March 2012, available at www.state.gov.
[133] "U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission: 2013 Joint Annual Report," U.S. State Department, www.state.gov.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

Get the Facts on Russia

  • 8,500 to 10,000 nuclear warheads, including approximately 3,000 awaiting dismantlement
  • Pursued a covert biological weapons program during the Soviet era while a state party to the BTWC
  • Scheduled to complete destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile by December 2015