BREAKTHROUGH DOE/LIVERMORE PROJECT BRINGS MEDICAL WORK TO FORMER RUSSIAN WEAPONS MANUFACTURERS
MOSCOW - The Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore NationalLaboratory (LLNL) signed a contract Wednesday with the AvangardFoundation to support the manufacture of kidney dialysis equipment atthe closed city of Sarov. This is the first time a Department ofEnergy laboratory has signed a contract with a former Russian nuclearweapons manufacturer; this follows last week's signing of two othercontracts between LLNL and a Russian weapons design institute.
Western researchers have never before been allowed to visit thehighly secure Avangard facility, let alone arranging civilianmanufacturing projects there.
"Russians who used to make weapons of mass destruction are nowgoing to apply their scientific knowledge to designing life-savingequipment," said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. "Suchprofitable, commercial industries must be introduced to Russia'sclosed cities so these scientists don't defect to rogue nationswilling to offer generous salaries in return for nuclearexpertise."
"Until now this facility has refused to allow any Westernersinside. Now they are permitting us to make structural changes to thefacility and negotiate with private businesses to work inside thisfactory that has been used to manufacture nuclear weapons components.This is a major breakthrough for the Nuclear Cities Initiative,"added Rose Gottemoeller, Acting Deputy Administrator for DefenseNuclear Nonproliferation.
The dialysis contract was developed under the Nuclear CitiesInitiative (NCI), a Department of Energy effort to help the RussianGovernment provide civilian employment opportunities to weaponsscientists in closed Russian nuclear cities. The goal of the NCI isto make it possible for the Russian scientists to remain in theirhomeland and work on sustainable civilian and commercial projects asfacilities in Russia's weapons complex are downsized or closed.
In the first phase of the contract with Avangard, the fencessurrounding current weapons buildings will be moved, effectivelyplacing these facilities in the open part of the city. Thesebuildings, previously the site of nuclear weapons manufacture, willbe modified for the installation of production lines for dialysiscomponents.
The goal of the Avangard contract is to eventually employ severalhundred former weapons builders in the daily production of parts fordialysis machines and ultimately the fabrication of complete dialysissystems. The Avangard Electromechanical Plant is seekinginternational manufacturing certification and hopes to become a majorplayer in the manufacture of medical instrumentation. As apreliminary arrangement, three Avangard-manufactured dialysiscomponents will be purchased by a western company and installed inmachines distributed world-wide.
The Avangard plant was the first Russian facility to manufacturenuclear weapons on an industrial scale. The Avangard Foundation hasbeen established as an independent business entity that can contractwith western customers. The Foundation will be open for scrutiny toensure that funds are used for the purpose intended, consistent withU.S. Government policy.
At Livermore, the Nuclear Cities Initiative effort resides withinthe Proliferation Prevention and Control Program, headed by BillDunlop of the Laboratory's Nonproliferation, Arms Control andInternational Security directorate. Ann Heywood heads the Russianmedical activities program, and Jim Trebes is principal investigatorfor the Avangard effort.
Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is anational security laboratory, with a mission to ensure nationalsecurity and apply science and technology to the important issues ofour time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by theUniversity of California for the U.S. Department of Energy.