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Nuclear Strongholds in Peril

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Science  08 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5399, pp. 158-164
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5399.158

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SAROV AND SNEZHINSK, RUSSIA-- As Russia's economy deteriorates, the danger grows that the country's once-privileged "nuclear cities" will hemorrhage the talent and materials that rogue nations crave for making nuclear bombs. Reassuringly, nuclear physicists appear to be resisting overtures from countries such as India, Pakistan, and Iran, according to several dozen scientists and government officials interviewed by Science during a recent visit behind the barbed wire fences that still surround Russia's 10 nuclear cities. But lucrative job offers from abroad could become more and more tempting: Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy now says that as many as 50,000 of the 130,000 weapons specialists in its nuclear cities may have to find new work in the next several years, a figure which some say could be an underestimate.