NBC Weapons: July 22, 2002

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The 19 July issue of the British newspaper The Guardian reported that US nuclear officials claimed that Chechen rebels have stolen radioactive metals from a Russian nuclear power station in the southern region of Rostov. The theft took place within the last 12 months at the new Volgodonskaya nuclear power station near the city of Rostov-on-Don, but other details in the report are vague at best.

The precise details of the security breach were described as "unclear", with one US official saying that there was the "possibility that a significant amount of plutonium was removed", as well as caesium, strontium and low-enriched uranium. The last items could pose a threat to human health if detonated with conventional explosives to create a "dirty bomb". The US source claimed that Chechen rebels were believed to be responsible for the theft, which has heightened US fears that weapons-grade plutonium may have fallen into the hands of terrorists or countries such as Iraq or Libya. 

Federal Security Service (FSB, Rostov region department) public affairs officer Aleksander Turinsky told the press that the Rostov security agencies had taken heed of the report, since the report is too serious to be disregarded. However, he pointed to facts cited in the article that question the reliability of the assertions. The fact that a British newspaper was provided with this information by US officials also annoyed the Russians, proving in their minds that the US is still pursuing a policy of double standards towards the Chechen rebels (which the Kremlin firmly labels 'terrorists'). Adam Geibel

 


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