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Interactions Between Sandia and the Former Soviet Union

Fact Sheet

Scientists and engineers at Sandia National Laboratories are working with researchers in the former Soviet Union (FSU) on a number of weapons- and non-weapons related projects. The purpose of the interactions is to acquire technical information and data that will complement or enhance U.S. technology and to assist the FSU states in converting their defense-oriented industries to civilian, market-oriented businesses.

The non-weapons related work falls into a number of research areas including pulsed power, electronics, environmental remediation and waste management, materials, and computational physics. Sandia is also engaged in activities that directly support the FSU's nuclear weapon dismantlement. These efforts are focused on five projects: storage and transportation containers for fissile material, safety and security modifications to Russian weapons transport rail cars, armor blankets to protect weapons from small-arms fire, design assistance for a fissile material storage facility, and equipment for use in accident responses.

Sandia researchers in cooperation with the U.S. Specialty Metals Processing Consortium Inc. (SMPC) are investigating a group of porous, lightweight metals relatively unknown in this country but with great potential as high-strength, high-performance materials. Ukrainian researchers have created the high-strength materials from a wide variety of metals and have learned how to control pore size, orientation, and shape by manipulating pressures and cooling processes. Working with the Dnepropetrovsk Metallurgical Institute in the Ukraine, Sandia will fabricate and test the properties of the metals to better understand them. The project will lead to construction of a furnace at Sandia's Albuquerque facilities for producing the porous metals in the United States.

Protective containers for nuclear materials
The FSU has identified highly secure shipping containers as one of the key elements in support of its weapon dismantlement activities. Starting from a Russian design, Sandia engineers have designed and built 10 stainless steel containers for the safe transport and storage of dismantled nuclear weapons, drawing on their experience with similar designs for U.S. transportation containers. The prototypes were shipped to Moscow last year and evaluated by Russian scientists and engineers. The effort culminated in the awarding of a $40 million contract to a New Mexico company to build 10,000 of the containers. Sandia provided technical assistance by evaluating proposals and will provide manufacturing oversight to ensure that safety and quality requirements are met. The containers protect against the release of radioactivity in the event of an accident during transport or long-term storage.

Soft armor blankets
Sandia developed a Kevlar blanket to protect nuclear weapons during transport against small arms and shrapnel threats. About 2,500 blankets have been provided to the Russians. Sandia has more than 10 years of experience working with protective blankets for weapons.

Accident response
The Defense Nuclear Agency, working through the Department of Energy's Albuquerque Operations Office, has the responsibility of providing emergency response equipment to the former Soviet Union. To support this objective, Sandia has provided the Russians with equipment that was originally designed and developed for the DOE's Accident Response Group. The ARG, which includes Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, would respond in the event of a weapon accident. The Portable Integrated Video System (PIVS) serves as a communications link between an accident site and command post. Instantaneous, two-way video and audio information and computer data is transmitted via a fiberoptic cable from the accident site to observers located in a safe zone up to several kilometers away. Sandia developed an operator's manual and a training manual for the Russians, a team of which visited Sandia in the summer of 1993 for training.

Safety and security of Russian nuclear weapons
A key element of U.S. nonproliferation policy is to work with Russia to ensure the safety and security of the dismantlement of its nuclear warheads and effective control over nuclear weapon materials. In collaboration with Russian experts, Sandia is providing technology and expertise to upgrade the safety and security of Russian transportation and storage facilities for the nuclear weapons that are being removed from their stockpile in accordance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Russian railcars
A Russian railcar was outfitted with special safety and security features at Sandia and shipped back to Russia last year. Using the prototype, the Russians intend to modify 115 railcars for safeguarding nuclear weapons while they are transported to facilities to be dismantled. Sandia personnel have traveled to Russia to assist their counterparts.

Environmental assistance
Sandia researchers have installed computer hardware and software at Chelyabinsk-70, a Russian nuclear weapons lab, to aid in hazardous waste cleanup and to obtain valuable environmental and health effects data from the site. The software, called EnviroTRADE (Environmental Technologies for Remedial Actions Data Exchange), was developed at Sandia to assist in the cleanup of DOE sites. However, the first installation of equipment took place in Russia and the project holds promise as an international electronic information clearinghouse for environmental information.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy.
Media Contact
Chris Miller

Last modified: August 6, 1997

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