Dirty Bomb – Ukraine hid enriched uranium until 2012; 160 kg of material could make ten nuclear weapons

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India, portal publishing news and current affairs. He holds an M.B.A in International Business from the Maharishi University of Management, Iowa, USA. Twitter: @chackojoseph *views are Personal.

Amid U.S. admission of Ukraine hosting its biological weapons laboratory, the director of Energoatom, Petr Kotin, made a stunning revelation on March 9 that his country illegally stored highly enriched uranium until 2012. 

He acknowledged that highly enriched uranium was stored on Ukrainian territory for several years after signing the Budapest Memorandum, based on which Ukraine recognized its non-nuclear status. 

This memorandum was signed in 1994, and enriched uranium was stored until 2012. The storage sites for highly enriched uranium were the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology with its experimental nuclear reactor and the Institute for Nuclear Research of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences.

“All nuclear material, highly enriched uranium, which was once located at the sites of scientific institutions of the KIPT (Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology. – Ed.) and the Institute for Nuclear Research of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, was transferred by Ukraine to Russia in March 2012 under the control of the IAEA,” he said in a video published on the company’s Telegram channel.

At the nuclear security summit in the spring of 2010 in Washington, the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych undertook to transfer all highly enriched uranium to the Russian side by 2012.

The director of Energoatom said, in 2012, highly enriched uranium was transferred to Russia under the control of the IAEA. Ukraine hid the presence of highly enriched uranium in the country. He argued that everything was transferred “a long time ago”.

Petr Kotin argued that Ukraine could not make nuclear weapons, as it had no reserves of highly enriched nuclear fuel that could be used to create nuclear weapons. Petr made the comments against the backdrop of Zelensky’s recent statements in Munich that “the Budapest Memorandum on Ukraine’s nuclear status needs to be revised.” 

The U.S. allegedly transferred plutonium to Ukraine

On March 6, Russian media said there is reason to believe that plutonium could have been transferred to Ukraine by the American side. National Scientific Center “Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology” (NSC KIPT) was assigned the task of creating a nuclear explosive device. The media also suggested that Kyiv was working on the modernization and creation of new missile weapons that could be used as a means of delivering nuclear weapons.

“In order to accelerate this R&D (research and development work), plutonium of the required quality was obtained from abroad at the initial stage. According to available information, the United States has already transferred this material to its partners. There is reason to believe that in the ‘Ukrainian case’ it was not without the participation of Washington,” said a source from one of the competent departments of the Russian Federation.

As per the source, the “nuclear Ukraine” project could become a reality in the very near future, active work has been carried out since 2014.

Political dimension

Russian President Vladimir Putin, on March 5th, said that Russia cannot ignore the intentions of a neighbouring country to obtain a nuclear status. 

The former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Mykola Azarov, said if required, Ukraine could become a nuclear power in 2-3 years.

“Kyiv has its own small nuclear reactor, designed for research work. Finally, there are nuclear blocks in Ukraine. There are uranium deposits in Ukraine <…> this task is not relevant for Ukraine, it is not vital. Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe now. But there is such a technical possibility – such a task is technically solvable,” Azarov said.

On March 3, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Kyiv’s dangerous games with its plans to acquire nuclear weapons are cause for serious concern. This needs to be blocked, she noted.

Russia also doubts that US statements about the lack of discussions with Ukraine on the deployment of nuclear weapons on its territory can be trusted, she said.

Ukraine’s dirty bomb and the delivery methods

As per the Russian source quoted above, Kyiv started developing nuclear weapons technologies in 1994. On the tacit order of Petro Poroshenko, the then President, in 2014 the project took a ‘practical character’. The developments were carried out in several major scientific centres in Ukraine. Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology was the centre of nuclear bomb related material development and the rocket technology tests were carried out at the Ukrainian training ground “Alibey”.

In December 2013, Ukraine signed an agreement with Turkey for missile related development. Ukrainian rocket and space enterprises Yuzhmash played a key role. The company also developed the Grom-2 mobile ground-based missile system at the expense of Saudi Arabia.

On February 24, the Russian Airborne Forces took full control of the territory in the area of ​​the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. As per the source, the zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was used for the manufacture of the so-called dirty bomb and the separation of plutonium.

He also said the clashes with Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups (DRGs) in the administrative premises of the Zaporizhzhya NPP may be related precisely to the documentation on the nuclear program of Ukraine stored at the station.

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