Fact Sheet

Latvia Overview

Latvia Overview

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Forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940, Latvia regained its independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Riga has since joined NATO and the European Union, and is a member of relevant nonproliferation organizations and regimes. Latvia does not possess or produce nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

Nuclear

Latvia is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and a party to both the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Riga also has an Additional Protocol in force with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

One of the first research reactors in the USSR, the Salaspils 5MW research reactor was constructed in 1959 at the Latvian Institute of Nuclear Physics, 20 miles from Riga, and went critical in 1961. [1] It was permanently shut down in July 1998 due to a lack of government funding and safety concerns. [2] All fresh and spent fuel was removed from the reactor site. [3] The University of Latvia maintained the reactor site, but in February 2015 withdrew from the project due to financial constraints. [4] In August 2006, the Latvian government approved a decision to build a National Multipurpose Cyclotron Center on the Salaspils site to produce radioisotopes for applied medical science as well as research. [5] This decision was subsequently cancelled in August 2015. [6] In June 2016 the Center of Nuclear Medicine opened a separate cyclotron complex unrelated to the canceled Salaspils project. [7]

The United States and other members of the international community have long been involved in working to improve the security of materials stored at Salaspils. In the 1990s, the IAEA and a number of countries, including Finland, Sweden, and the United States, provided technical assistance and funding to Latvia to improve material control and accounting regulations and physical protection systems at Salaspils. [8] With the May 2005 transfer of 2.5kg of fresh highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel and the 2008 transfer of 14.4kg of spent HEU fuel from Salaspils to Russia, all highly enriched uranium has been removed from Latvia. [9] Russia, the United States, and the IAEA assisted Latvia with the secure transfer of the HEU.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the US Department of Energy (DOE) has also assisted Latvia in improving the state's export control system, including by organizing training courses for Latvian customs officials. [10] Latvia made significant improvements to its export control system in order to meet European Union (EU) standards before becoming a member in May 2004, introducing a catch-all clause to its list of dual-use technologies subject to controls, and creating a database that contains information on licenses, import certificates, end-use certificates, and companies involved in transfers of strategic goods. [11]

The utilities of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania released a joint feasibility study in October 2006 calling for the construction of at least one new nuclear reactor of between 800 and 1,600 MW in Lithuania to replace Ignalina-2, which closed in December 2009. [12] However, the project stalled due to concerns about costs and the level of participation by the various stakeholders, including the Latvian government, which stated that it will only participate if the plant is proven to be economically viable. [13] The project was cancelled in early 2017, when the Lithuanian Prime Minister stated in an interview that the Visaginas project "is no longer on our agenda." [14]

Latvia did not participated in the TPNW negotiations and has not adhered to the Treaty. [15]

Biological

Latvia acceded to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in February 1997 and joined the Australia Group in June 2004. There is no evidence that Riga possesses or seeks to develop biological weapons.

Chemical

There is no evidence to suggest that Riga possesses or seeks to develop chemical weapons. Latvia is a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and a member of the Australia Group. Latvia first developed an export control system in 1995, following the guidelines of the Australia Group with regard to CW-relevant technologies, and further revised these regulations upon accession to the CWC in 1997 and in subsequent years. [16]

Missile

Latvian facilities that once supplied the former Soviet Union with commodities controlled by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), such as thermal protection materials for space craft, electronics, radar, and sensors for missiles, no longer produce or export such items. [17] Latvia has a List of Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, and controls the export of other domestically-produced components that could be used to build aircraft or missiles. [18] Although not a member of the MTCR, Latvia abides by the guidelines of the regime. [19]

Sources:
[1] International Atomic Energy Agency, Nuclear Research Reactors in the World, December 1992, p. 43.
[2] Diena, March 10, 1994, p. 4, in "Future For Salaspils Nuclear Reactor Viewed," FBIS Document SOV-94-201; Radio Riga Network; in Latvian; "Government Shuts Down Nuclear Research Reactor," FBIS Document SOV-98-170, 19 June 1998.
[3] A. Abramenkovs, "The Role of Stakeholders in the Decommissioning of Salaspils Research Reactor — 9109," WM2009 Waste Management for the Nuclear Renaissance, 1-5 March 2009, Waste Management Symposia website, www.wmsym.org.
[4] “Саласпилсский реактор больше не находится в ведении ЛУ,” [Salispils reactor is no longer under the supervision of the University of Latvia] Public Broadcasting of Latvia, 3 February 2015, www.lsm.lv.
[5] "Latvia to Produce Radiopharmaceuticals," Emerging Markets Online, 11 August 2006, Date Accessed: 2013/02/15, www.lexisnexis.com.
[6] Nikolai Kabanov, “National Cyclotron Cancelled,” (in Russian) Vesti.lv, 31 August 2015, www.vesti.lv; “Oficiāli atsakās no ieceres Salaspils kodolreaktorā izveidot daudzfunkcionālu ciklotronu centru,” [Official renouncement of the concept of a multifunctional cyclotron center at Salispils research reactor] Laikraksts Dienas Bizness, 1 September 2015, www.db.lv.
[7] “Лечение и диагностика онкологических заболеваний в Латвии: что имеем?” [The treatment and diagnosis of Cancer in Latvia: the current state of affairs] PRESS.LV, 17 June 2016, www.press.lv; “Operational launch of cyclotron complex provides the Baltic region with new possibilities for oncological disease diagnostics, research and treatment,” RNMC: Nukleārās Medicīnas Centrs, 15 June 2016, www.rnmc.lv/en/.
[8] Sandia National Laboratories, "Protection and Surveillance of Nuclear Materials in the Former Soviet Union," Testimony before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, 29 March 1996; Government Accountability Office, Nuclear Nonproliferation: Progress Made in Improving Security at Russian Nuclear Sites, but the Long-term Sustainability of U.S.-Funded Security Upgrades Is Uncertain, 28 February 2007.
[9] "Nuclear Weapons Grade Material Removed from Latvia," International Atomic Energy Agency, 26 May 2005, www.iaea.org; "All Highly Enriched Uranium Removed from Latvia," NNSA press release, 16 May 2008, www.energy.gov.
[10] "United States Organizes Training Courses in Latvia and Azerbaijan," NIS Export Control Observer, March 2005, CNS, www.nonproliferation.org.
[11] Victor Zaborsky, "The Baltic States Improve Their Export Control Systems to Join the EU," NIS Export Control Observer, October 2003, CNS, www.nonproliferation.org.
[12] "Baltic utilities say new nuclear is best new capacity choice," Nucleonics Week, 26 October 2006.
[13] "Estonia, Latvia will join Visaginas NPP project only if it will be economically viable – Lithuania's PM," LETA (Latvia National News Agency), 3 June 2013.
[14] Georgi Gotev, “Lithuanian PM: Belarus nuclear plant is a threat to our country,” Euractiv, 15 February 2017, www.euractiv.com.
[15] Latvia, Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, November 2020, www.banmonitor.org.
[16] Girts Krumins, "Latvia," Worldwide Guide to Export Controls, 1997/1998 ed., Update No.2 (London: Export Control Publications, February 1998), pp. 1-4.
[17] Victor Zaborsky, "The Baltic States Improve Their Export Control Systems to Join the EU," NIS Export Control Observer, October 2003, CNS, www.nonproliferation.org.
[18] "Export Control of Strategically Significant Goods," Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, www.mfa.gov.lv/en.
[19] "Export Control of Strategically Significant Goods," Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, www.mfa.gov.lv.

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Glossary

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance that was formed in 1949 to help deter the Soviet Union from attacking Europe. The Alliance is based on the North Atlantic Treaty, which was signed in Washington on 4 April 1949. The treaty originally created an alliance of 10 European and two North American independent states, but today NATO has 28 members who have committed to maintaining and developing their defense capabilities, to consulting on issues of mutual security concern, and to the principle of collective self-defense. NATO is also engaged in out-of-area security operations, most notably in Afghanistan, where Alliance forces operate alongside other non-NATO countries as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). For additional information, see NATO.
Nonproliferation
Nonproliferation: Measures to prevent the spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. See entry for Proliferation.
Nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon: A device that releases nuclear energy in an explosive manner as the result of nuclear chain reactions involving fission, or fission and fusion, of atomic nuclei. Such weapons are also sometimes referred to as atomic bombs (a fission-based weapon); or boosted fission weapons (a fission-based weapon deriving a slightly higher yield from a small fusion reaction); or hydrogen bombs/thermonuclear weapons (a weapon deriving a significant portion of its energy from fusion reactions).
Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.
Biological weapon (BW)
Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.  Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
The NSG was established in 1975, and its members commit themselves to exporting sensitive nuclear technologies only to countries that adhere to strict non-proliferation standards. For additional information, see the NSG.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
Additional Protocol
The Additional Protocol is a legal document granting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) complementary inspection authority to that provided in underlying safeguards agreements. The principal aim is to enable the IAEA inspectorate to provide assurance about both declared and possible undeclared activities. Under the Protocol, the IAEA is granted expanded rights of access to information and sites, as well as additional authority to use the most advanced technologies during the verification process. See entry for Information Circular 540.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Research reactor
Research reactor: Small fission reactors designed to produce neutrons for a variety of purposes, including scientific research, training, and medical isotope production. Unlike commercial power reactors, they are not designed to generate power.
Critical
Critical: A state where the number of neutrons in each period of time, or generation, remains constant. When a nuclear reactor is “steady-state,” or operating at normal power levels for extended periods of time, it is in this state.
Spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel: Irradiated nuclear fuel. Once irradiated, nuclear fuel is highly radioactive and extremely physically hot, necessitating special remote handling. Fuel is considered “self protecting” if it is sufficiently radioactive that those who might seek to divert it would not be able to handle it directly without suffering acute radiation exposure.
Radioisotope
Radioisotope: An unstable isotope of an element that decays or disintegrates spontaneously, emitting energy (radiation). Approximately 5,000 natural and artificial radioisotopes have been identified. Some radioisotopes, such as Molybdenum-99, are used for medical applications, such as diagnostics. These isotopes are created by the irradiation of targets in research reactors.
Material protection, control, and accountability (MPC&A)
MPC&A: An integrated system of physical protection, material accounting, and material control measures designed to deter, prevent, detect, and respond to unauthorized possession, use, or sabotage of nuclear materials. The U.S. Department of Energy's MPC&A program was implemented in cooperation with the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry and other agencies to install and upgrade physical protection systems at the nuclear energy and weapons production facilities in the successor states of the former Soviet Union. See entry for Cooperative Threat Reduction.
Highly enriched uranium (HEU)
Highly enriched uranium (HEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of more than 20% of the isotope U-235. Achieved via the process of enrichment. See entry for enriched uranium.
Export control
National laws or international arrangements established to restrict the sale of certain goods to certain countries, or to ensure that safeguards or end-use guarantees are applied to the export and sale of sensitive and dual-use technologies and materials. See entry for Dual-use
Dual-use item
An item that has both civilian and military applications. For example, many of the precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of chemical weapons have legitimate civilian industrial uses, such as the production of pesticides or ink for ballpoint pens.
Nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor: A vessel in which nuclear fission may be sustained and controlled in a chain nuclear reaction. The varieties are many, but all incorporate certain features, including: fissionable or fissile fuel; a moderating material (unless the reactor is operated on fast neutrons); a reflector to conserve escaping neutrons; provisions of removal of heat; measuring and controlling instruments; and protective devices.
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
The BTWC: The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC) prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons. Countries must destroy or divert to peaceful purposes all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery within nine months after the entry into force of the convention. The BTWC was opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. In 1994, the BTWC member states created the Ad Hoc Group to negotiate a legally binding BTWC Protocol that would help deter violations of the BTWC. The draft protocol outlines a monitoring regime that would require declarations of dual-use activities and facilities, routine visits to declared facilities, and short-notice challenge investigations. For additional information, see the BTWC.
Australia Group (AG)
Australia Group (AG): Established in 1985 to limit the spread of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) through export controls on chemical precursors, equipment, agents, and organisms. For additional information, see the Australia Group.
Biological weapon (BW)
Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.  Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires each state party to declare and destroy all the chemical weapons (CW) and CW production facilities it possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well as any CW it abandoned on the territory of another state. The CWC was opened for signature on 13 January 1993, and entered into force on 29 April 1997. For additional information, see the CWC.
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
The MTCR: An informal arrangement established in April 1987 by an association of supplier states concerned about the proliferation of missile equipment and technology relevant to missiles that are capable of carrying a payload over 500 kilograms over a 300-kilometer range. Though originally intended to restrict the proliferation of nuclear-capable missiles, the regime has been expanded to restrict the spread of unmanned aerial vehicles. For additional information, see the MTCR.
Dual-use item
An item that has both civilian and military applications. For example, many of the precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of chemical weapons have legitimate civilian industrial uses, such as the production of pesticides or ink for ballpoint pens.

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