April 1, 2023


Українська світова інформаційна мережа | Ukrainian Worldwide Information Network

Nuclear weapons, which the Kremlin constantly reminds of the possibility of their use, continue to be a factor holding back full-fledged military support for Ukraine from the European Union and the United States.

Of course, the West understands that nuclear blackmail can turn out to be a bluff, especially after the Armed Forces slowed down and then stopped the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine even before European and American countries began to provide Ukraine with more and more military equipment. weapons and ammunition. The myth of the second most powerful army in the world has been dispelled.

As you know, the nuclear arsenal of Russia statistically exceeds the nuclear arsenal of the United States, and the weapons of other nuclear countries are also statistically incomparable to the Russian nuclear potential. We repeat for the third time: statistically.

The problem is that the best intelligence of the countries of the world (American, British, Israeli, etc.) does not seem to have information about the true state of Russia’s nuclear weapons, although the real nuclear threat from Russia can be assessed with the help of Google, which will give quite a completely open information

It is understandable: what is worst visible is what lies on the surface, literally in front of the nose, and this is the case when nuclear weapons experts cannot see the forest for the trees.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has already shown how Moscow uses missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons, firing cannons at sparrows, and how often these missiles turn back or fail to take off at all.

Yuri Shvets, a former KGB intelligence officer and now an analyst and blogger who lives and works in the US, recently drew attention to some factors that cast doubt on Russia’s nuclear power.

In particular, he draws attention to the fact that nuclear weapons require systematic and systematic care, periodic updating and improvement. Experts see that all this in Russia is completely neglected.

Yu. Shvets, for example, says that plutonium, which is the most important component of nuclear weapons, should be replaced with a new one at least every decade. According to Shvets’ observations, after the collapse of the USSR, replacement of old plutonium with fresh plutonium was never done in Russia.

So, the plutonium in nuclear charges is three or four times outdated, and this fact gives the analyst reason to assume that Russia’s nuclear weapons may turn out to be dummies, which, in other words, suggests that Russia has long been out of nuclear weapons as such.

This does not mean that Putin can’t just drop a so-called “dirty bomb” on Ukraine, i.e. a radioactively contaminated aerial bomb, rocket charge or artillery projectile.

Returning to the topic raised by Y. Shvets, let us recall that the nuclear power industry of the USSR was designed and developed as a component of the country’s military nuclear complex. Reactors of nuclear power plants, the fuel for which is enriched uranium, while producing cheap electricity, simultaneously produced a very expensive and important element for nuclear weapons – plutonium.

As early as 1995, the Russian newspaper Kommersant wrote the following about plutonium:

“Today, according to the Center for Environmental Policy of Russia, (they are contained in the collection “Plutonium in Russia. Ecology, Economy, Politics”), the world reserves of weapons-grade plutonium amount to almost 300 tons. The world — mainly thanks to the efforts of the USA and Russia — has accumulated more than 30,000 active nuclear warheads, which in total contain more than 1,000 tons of highly enriched uranium and 100 tons of weapons-grade plutonium. And by the year 2000, according to expert estimates, civilian reactors are capable of producing plutonium in an amount sufficient to create about 40,000 warheads. Of the 300 tons mentioned above, about half belongs to Russia. Another 650 tons of plutonium is contained in spent fuel at the nuclear power plant (the degree of its enrichment is somewhat lower than that of weapons-grade fuel, but this does not make it safer)”

For almost thirty years, most of Russia’s plutonium reserves have become obsolete. Updating and replenishing them, if they have not been engaged in this for tens of years, is obviously not an easy task, and even very difficult.

The nuclear power plants of Russia are 11 nuclear power plants with 37 units. Back in 2009, the Russian mass media reported that the production of plutonium-239, which is used in nuclear weapons, had been completely stopped in Russia.

Thus, in order to update nuclear weapons and prepare for their use, Russia would have to resume plutonium production in sufficient quantities. Obviously, Russian nuclear power plants are not powerful enough to resume and expand plutonium production

If Russian nuclear power plants are not able to effectively ensure this process, one can assume why, at the beginning of the large-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russians showed a special interest in the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which was the most powerful producer of plutonium in the USSR, and shortly after that they seized the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe and technologically one of the most advanced nuclear power plants in the post-Soviet space.

The plutonium component does not seem to have worried the government of Ukraine, the expert community, the mass media, or the general public. Even the IAEA ignored this factor.

And in vain. Experts will tell us how long it takes to produce enough plutonium for a nuclear charge. Preventing Russia from resuming plutonium production is probably easier and safer than stopping a nuclear-charged missile at launch. Isn’t that right?

…Many, many years ago, the Ukrainian nuclear physicist Ivan Dzyub (not to be confused with the philologist Ivan Dzyuba) told me about plutonium: a ball of plutonium with a diameter of several centimeters weighs a dozen and a half kilograms and is so hot when you hold it in your hands. It’s scary, even when you imagine what kind of damage plutonium can do.

* * *

In his address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation on February 21, Vladimir Putin announced Russia’s withdrawal from the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Weapons (SOW), which caused concern among Western partners under this treaty. Joe Biden said that Putin made a big mistake. As you know, the Treaty on Nuclear Weapons provides for inspection of the state of nuclear weapons. The very possibility of an inspection irritated Putin. Given the above, Putin may be aware that he has nothing to show the inspectors, and that is why he decided to withdraw from the agreement.

Russian journalist Yulia Latynina tweets:

“Do you know why Putin is withdrawing from the nuclear agreement? Because it involves the inspection of mines. If the USA conducts an inspection of Russian mines (Putin does not allow it), they will understand that nothing flies there.”

So what? It is quite possible…

Volodymyr Ivanenko

In the photo: A ring of pure electrorefined weapon plutonium (99.996%).

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