Terrorists may get nuclear 'free agents'

Sept. 20, 2006 at 5:34 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Destitute Russian nuclear specialists could easily be hired by terrorist groups now that a U.S.-Russian partnership is set to expire, a watchdog group says.

The 1998 Nuclear Cities Initiative, which offers opportunities to impoverished specialists living in remote former-Soviet "science cities," is set to expire Friday.

"If we eliminate this program we will be losing a major nonproliferation agreement," says Kenneth Luongo, executive director of the Russian-American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, a nuclear nonproliferation group in Washington.

The United States and Russia are not planning to maintain the program, even with the threat of nuclear terrorism looming large, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

A stronger Russian economy and growing wariness of U.S. access to sensitive nuclear programs has dampened Moscow's enthusiasm, as has a three-year wrangle with Washington over legal liability issues, the newspaper says.

The program creates jobs in closed cities by converting existing nuclear complexes into other businesses, such as computer centers.

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