CIA 484: DECL:25-1(a)
ORE 12-10244CX
WTP 12-10097CX
9 January 2012


Intelligence Report
Office of Russian and Eurasian Analysis
Office of Weapons, Technology and Proliferation

Classified By: Analyst Gary Siete for reason 1.0 (a)


This report was prepared by Michael Tranh, Office of Russian and Eurasian Analysis, and Julie Fineman, Office of Weapons, Technology and Proliferation. The draft was reviewed by analysts in OTFI, and by analysts in DIA and DOE, who had somewhat different views. (See Appendix 1 and 2.) Comments and queries are welcome and may be directed to the Chief, Security Issues Division, ORE, on (703) 482-5552 or secure (93) 52625.


The Photographs
The attached suite of photographs (PL-70030) depicts ongoing construction in the town of Ozersk (Ozyorsk), Russia, known until 1994 as Chelyabinsk-65, and from its founding in 1945 to 1960 as Chelyabinsk-40. Ozersk is approximately 80 kilometers northwest of the city of Chelyabinsk, on the eastern slopes of the Ural Mountains.

The photographs were taken by source SNOWDROP over the period of 12-16 November 2011. Following their delivery to CO/CIA and preliminary analysis, DNI initiated a series of FLASHBULB reconnaissance overflights with sensor package THETA. (Imagery directly from those overflights is only available to officers with THETA clearance, filing a Form A223 request with a direct NRO report at DCI. No CANNIBAL assets were in place.) Further intelligence gathering by OTFI confirmed other aspects of this analysis.

The Equipment
As seen in the photographs, the construction equipment is almost exclusively European and Japanese, not Russian. This indicates a builder with extensive financial resources, although the recent construction downturn in Europe means that more such equipment is idle. The builder quite likely desired anonymity from provincial or Federal Russian authorities: Russian (and other locally available) heavy construction equipment remains very closely monitored by regional and Federal Russian economic planning and co-ordination boards. Furthermore, Interior Ministry regulations require the whereabouts and (in theory) maintenance records of all such equipment to be listed on civil defense inventories. Disappearance or redirection of a substantial stock of heavy construction equipment would draw notice, not only from those boards but from competing oligarchs and (inevitably) their confederates in the Russian security services.

Cross-checking construction orders placed in 3Q2009-1Q2011 with OTFI records of SWIFT transactions indicate that this equipment was likely sourced from a joint Italian-Swiss-Austrian tunnel construction project completed in September 2010. The financial records of the construction company Irgenia, to the extent that they can be trusted, indicate a major liquid investment in 2010 consistent with Russian organized crime group (ROCG) methods and resources. The relevant equipment has at least two contradictory sets of export and transit documentation on file in Bergamo and Bregenz. The Italian documentation indicates that the equipment was sold in Austria; the Austrian documentation indicates that the equipment was sold in Italy. All such documentation is in order; all necessary taxes and excise fees have been paid. Neither OTFI nor DNI have alerted Austrian, Italian, or Swiss authorities to this discrepancy.

The Bregenz purchasers of record are a financial group based in Monaco. The Bergamo purchasers of record are a shell company with Liechtenstein registry, owned by a Moldova holding company. Two signatory officers of those three corporations are on bank boards associated with the Burya group in Moscow; OTFI is currently tracing financial transfers and other connections between the three official lease-holders. A Burya security director has an ROCG jacket with the German BND; this is a common feature of Russian financial or industrial firms.

The Irgenia equipment (based on the Swiss Transport Ministry inventory of that equipment on file in Constance) is especially suitable for pouring, building, shoring up, and digging out subterranean chambers, foundations, and tunnels.

The Location
Ozersk was founded in 1945 as a closed “scientific city” to support the Mayak Production Association, a plutonium production plant built between 1945 and 1948. The Mayak plant’s original mission was to produce, refine, and machine weapons-grade plutonium. The Mayak facility includes five nuclear reactors for power and plutonium generation. Since 1970, the Mayak plant has specialized in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from nuclear submarine and icebreaker reactors and plutonium from decommissioned weapons. Today the plant officially produces tritium, Cobalt-60, Iridium-192, and Carbon-14, but no plutonium. It employs 15,000 workers, and covers 90 square kilometers. Mayak receives funding from USACE for nuclear weapons disassembly activities. USACE records do not indicate redirection of plutonium or decommissioned weapons from Mayak at this time. (DOE confidence is much higher than OWTP on this issue. See Appendix 1. However, both analytical teams agree that the Ozersk facility would be ideally situated for such redirection.)

The Ozersk facility in the photographs is 8 kilometers west of the official Mayak plant. Part of it is located on the shore of Irtyash Lake; part is located underneath existing housing and a train station in Ozersk. It covers property officially evacuated after the 29 September 1957 accidental release of 110 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste from the Mayak plant. The failure of the cooling system for a tank storing dissolved nuclear waste resulted in a chemical (non-nuclear) explosion of dry nitrate and acetate salts having a force estimated at about 75 tons of TNT (310 gigajoules). This released 740 PBq (20 MCi) of fission products, of which 74 PBq (2 MCi) drifted off the Mayak site. Cerium-144 and Zirconium-95 (both relatively short lived isotopes with a half life of 285 and 64 days respectively) made up 91% of the release. There was 1 PBq of Strontium-90 (Sr-90), and 13 TBq of Cesium-137. The accident (rated INES 7 by DOE) created a contaminated region of 15,000 square kilometers centered in the northern Chelyabinsk oblast.

This region, the East Urals Radioactive Trace (EURT) was contaminated by more than 4 kBq/m² of Sr-90. A more localized area, including the town of Ozersk, was contaminated by about 100 MBq Sr-90/m². There have been at least six other nuclear accidents at the Mayak plant, which increase the random radiation counts all over the Ozersk area. Over the course of its operations, since 1950 the Mayak plant has deliberately vented or dumped radioactive material equivalent to 2-3 Chernobyls. Heavy rainfall in Irtyash Lake, Lake Karachay, or the Techa River valley can redirect pooled contaminants; the area’s high degree of lead particulate pollution can mask other radiation signatures. In short, orbitally or remotely detecting small amounts of additional or anomalous radiation — such as that released by clandestine nuclear weapons assembly — in the Ozersk area is impossible. This has been confirmed by FLASHBULB overflights. (DIA dissents from this analysis. See Appendix 2.)

The town of Ozersk was partially evacuated following the disaster, but like 85% of the EURT, it was reopened (for Soviet nuclear personnel and their families — it remained a closed town for Westerners and other Soviet citizens alike) shortly thereafter. Its 2010 population was estimated as 82,000. In addition to the Mayak plant, it houses three key enterprises: the Southern-Urals Construction Department (SUCD), Wiring Products Plant Number Two (WPP2), and the Ozersk Engineering College.

The SUCD specializes in construction for atomic industry needs, production of concrete constructions and construction materials. Workers at the SUCD have endured lengthy periods of unemployment and semi-employment following the collapse of the Russian economy in 1991-1993; they likely provide the core work force for the construction project in the SNOWDROP photographs. Note the heavy concrete retaining walls and pipe arrangements in many of those photographs: this work is consistent with SUCD activity at nuclear weapons facilities in the Chelyabinsk region. WPP2 produces low-voltage military and industrial control devices: precisely the capabilities necessary to re-assemble a theoretically decommissioned nuclear device, or to mount it in a delivery system obtained through other contacts. The largest concrete chambers in the Ozersk facility could accommodate a SLBM or any cruise missile with relative ease. The Ozersk Engineering College, meanwhile, provides a steady stream of technically trained supervisory and design personnel: not suited for independent weapons development, perhaps, but more than capable of working with pre-existing nuclear weapons assembly technology.

The Facility
Detection of clandestine nuclear activity in the Ozersk area is so difficult as to be essentially impossible. (See Appendix 2.) However, THETA sensors have determined the broad outlines of the facility, from which OWTP analysis (backed by DOE and DIA teams) projects the following.

The SNOWDROP photographs depict a large-scale construction project (covering a zone approximately 8 kilometers square) incorporating several distinct facilities linked by foot and vehicle tunnels, circulation systems, sewerage, and power generation and transmission systems. Three full-sized apartment tower blocks appear to be part of the plan. Much of this construction involves tunneling beneath existing housing stock, which will likely be incorporated into the final complex. If so, this complex will have a much larger underground “footprint” than any surface construction might indicate. Given this assumption, this complex, when complete, will be able to house at least 900 full-time personnel on site, and provide work space for at least 1,800 more. Tomography indicates that the primary underground facility in this complex communicates with previous underground facilities excavated in the Ozersk area during the past 60 years. If so, this construction could be the center of a major industrial plant.

The layout of the complex indicates three major purposes: weapons assembly and disassembly, weapons storage, and weapons production coordination. The presence of the Level 5 air filters and recirculation equipment noticeable in one photograph indicate that the facility is intended to support and enable work with extremely hazardous material, such as radioactives or bioweapons. The amount of metal and concrete pipe visible in the photographs and on FLASHBULB imagery indicates an intention to create entirely secure air and heating systems, and to link those systems to the Mayak facility.

At least one tunnel in this complex extends underneath the Ozersk-Mayak railhead. If the secure military rail line into Mayak is repurposed or otherwise compromised, the Ozersk complex could also receive and transship nuclear weapons. It could then receive decommissioned nuclear warheads, restore them to full operability, and export them to anywhere in rail contact with Chelyabinsk while reporting the warhead “officially” destroyed.

Using the Ozersk facility for nuclear weapons production would require repurposing of at least one Mayak reactor, and likely a large portion of the Mayak facility itself. This would require co-operation or co-optation of Russian Defense Ministry officials.

Assuming continuous construction and resources dedicated to producing one completely secure bay, the Ozersk facility will be 30% functional on 15 May 2012, capable of recommissioning one to five nuclear warheads. (Estimate based on potential water flow through the site establishing cooling maximum. DOE estimate differs. See Appendix 2.) Complete functionality could be achieved by 30 August 2012.


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