Nuclear Legacy Problems in the Former Soviet Union Countries

«Legacy Issues after the Collapse of the Soviet Union»

In July 1991, after the end of the Cold War, the United States (US) and the Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty I (START I). The Soviet Union, however, collapsed in December 1991 and the promised reduction in strategic nuclear arms was not implemented; the nuclear stockpile remained in the four former Soviet Union (FSU) countries, namely Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus.The weapon disposal stalled due to the unstable political situations in the FSU countries.

The management and protection of nuclear materials and radioactive waste in these newly independent countries did not fulfill the international standard, which became a serious concern to the international community in terms of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

«Establishment of Bilateral Committees»

Under these circumstances, at the Munich Summit in 1992, the Group of Seven (G7), including Japan, decided to assist with the safe disposal and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons deployed in the FSU and solving of environmental problems. From 1993 through 1994, Japan concluded bilateral agreements and established intergovernmental committees with Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus to implement cooperation in this field (see here).

In April 1993, at the G7 (Group of seven industrial countries) Joint Ministerial Meeting on assistance to Russia held prior to the Tokyo Summit, Prime Minister Miyazawa announced Japan’s commitment to provide US$100 million for denuclearization in the former Soviet countries. Then, at the Cologne Summit in June 1999, Prime Minister Obuchi pledged funds amounting to US$200 million, which included the remaining funds of the 1993 commitment, to further promote the cooperation.

 «Japan’s Cooperation in the 1990s»

On its initial cooperation project for Russia, Japan provided “Suzuran”, a floating facility to process low-level radioactive liquid waste, to prevent sea dumping of liquid radioactive waste derived from dismantling nuclear submarines in the Russian Far East.

After transferring remaining nuclear arsenals in their territory to Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus acceded to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and accepted the IAEA Safeguards*1. For these three countries, Japan, in collaboration with the IAEA and other donors, provided assistance in establishing the state’s system of accounting for and control*2 and physical protection system*3 of nuclear material as well as in supplying medical equipment for military personnel engaged in eliminating nuclear weapons.

*1 A set of activities, including inspections, by which the IAEA verifies all nuclear materials and facilities for peaceful purposes are not diverted to military use.
*2 Activities carried out to establish the quantities of nuclear material present within the facility and the changes in those quantities over a certain period. Japan provided material accounting software and non-destructive measuring devices.
*3 Protection of nuclear material and facilities against theft and sabotage. Japan installed facility fences, surveillance cameras, intrusion sensors, and access control gates.