Copyright 2001 British Broadcasting Corporation

BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union - Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring

November 13, 2001, Tuesday

Russian official refuses to rule out chance that nuclear materials were stolen

SOURCE: TV6, Moscow, in Russian 1600 gmt 13 Nov 01

Text of report by Russian TV6 on 13 November

Presenter Marianna Maksimovskaya Usamah Bin-Ladin has once again been saying that he is quite capable of using nuclear weapons. There are fresh claims that Russian scientists may be involved in trading nuclear materials. A senior official from Gosatomnadzor State Nuclear and Radiation Safety Inspectorate spoke to one of our correspondents today about whether thefts from Russian nuclear installations were possible. With more on this, Viktor Detlyakovich.

Correspondent Usamah Bin-Ladin is sure that, if he so wished, he could buy Russian nuclear weapons as soon as tomorrow. He said this to the journalist, Hamid Mir editor of Ausaf, a Pakistani daily . The editor of one of Pakistan's newspapers met Bin-Ladin very recently, in a mountainous area of Afghanistan.

Journalist Bin-Ladin told me that, in actual fact, if you have 10m or 20m dollars, it's not difficult to buy a atomic bomb. You can buy it in Asia, or in Russia. I don't know if you know, but over the last few years 17 atomic bombs have been illegally transported out of Russia.

Correspondent This statement from the Pakistani journalist concurred with an article in The Washington Post. Journalists claim that a serious attempt to steal nuclear materials took place recently in Russia. The newspaper quoted a senior official at Gosatomnadzor, Yuriy Volodin.

In Russia, there are almost 70 nuclear installations where nuclear materials are stored and used. Gosatomnadzor is confident that stealing them isn't so easy.

But in an interview with us, Yuriy Volodin, who was quoted by the US newspaper, confirmed that there was a recent case where a nuclear installation took delivery of a consignment of fuel which was smaller than stated in the accompanying documents.

Volodin, captioned as head of the security directorate at Gosatomnadzor There is a dispatcher, and there is a recipient. If the dispatcher receives as heard one amount, and the recipient receives less or more than that, then we

PAGE 2 BBC Worldwide Monitoring, November 13, 2001, Tuesday

call that a discrepancy. And so there must be a reason somewhere. In theory it is possible that a theft did take place.

Correspondent The investigation into this case is yet to be completed. But Gosatomnadzor says that it has a lot of reservations about the way in which nuclear installations are guarded.

Volodin I wouldn't so much emphasize the storage of nuclear materials as their transportation. There are certain requirements in this area as well, in terms of their physical protection. But it is transportation, I would say, which is the most vulnerable area, as far as theft is concerned.

Correspondent And yet, according to experts, there are few fewer attempts to steal nuclear materials now than at the start of the 1990s. At that time, employees of the enterprises were stealing them, keen to take advantage of the high prices. For example, one kilogram of uranium costs 1,000 dollars on the world markets. The criminals were taking the nuclear materials out of the enterprises, but had no idea of whom to sell them to, and so ended up in prison. Now this practically never happens, because everyone has realized that you can't make a bomb out of uranium alone.

Volodin Even if Bin-Ladin was able to buy large quantities of nuclear materials, that doesn't mean that he would be able to make some sort of explosive device out of them. You see, after all, a nuclear explosive device has a pretty complicated design. So, if we were talking about having rapid access to a nuclear explosive device, we would need to talk about stealing specific parts, and not nuclear materials.

Correspondent Strictly speaking, Usamah Bin-Ladin said in his interview that he was prepared to buy a ready-made bomb, but representatives from the Russian Defence Ministry and the Russian Foreign Ministry today said that Russian nuclear weapons are under reliable guard, and cannot find their way into the hands of international terrorists.

To prove his own words, all Bin-Ladin has to do is buy just one of the 17 Russian atomic bombs, which according to him, have been transported out of Russia and are being offered for sale.

LOAD-DATE: November 13, 2001