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7 March, 2006 - 09:36 By News Desk

OU plays role in fight against nuclear proliferation

An international governmental alliance established to combat the proliferation of nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union, has sought expertise from the Open University to retrain workers who are highly skilled in the design, manufacture and maintenance of nuclear weapons.The OU Business School and its Russian partner organisation are helping develop the workplace skills of residents from closed Nuclear Cities in the former republic as part of the UK and Russian Closed Nuclear Cities Partnership (CNCP), which aims to limit the spread of nuclear weapons by building a viable alternative economy.

More than 20 people in Zheleznogorsk, one of the Russian-based closed cities, have studied with the International Institute of Management LINK on programmes developed and awarded by the OU Business School with a view to switching careers in the face of a declining nuclear weapons industry.

In addition, a further 44 employees of nuclear research institutes in Kharkov, Ukraine, in Almaty and Kurchatov, Kazakhstan, and in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, are studying for the Professional Certificate in Management, supported by the LINK centres in Kharkov and Almaty.

The DTI-funded CNCP is managed on behalf of by international consultancy company HTSPE. Chris Bailey, HTSPE’s human resources strategist, said: “The LINK courses have proved particularly valuable in introducing modern business concepts to highly qualified technical specialists who would otherwise be unable to obtain good quality business qualifications.”

The 10 Closed Nuclear Cities in the Russian Federation were created from the late 1940s to develop the Russian nuclear weapons programme. Together, the 10 towns are home to a total of 770,000 inhabitants, of whom some 130,000 are employed in nuclear weapons related activities.

Many of these are highly skilled scientists and technicians whose expertise could be extremely useful to states seeking to acquire the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction. In addition, these people are responsible for managing the production, storage and disposal of a massive inventory of sensitive nuclear materials, which could pose a worldwide threat if they fell into the wrong hands.

• Staff from the OU’s Energy and Environment Research Unit (EERU) are advising the Bulgarian authorities on the development of its renewable energy resources as they prepare to join the EU.

Their work forms part of the research unit’s New Europe, New Energy project, which is supported by the DTI’s Renewable Energy Trade Promotion Service. One of the conditions of joining the EU is that the new member states adopt targets for renewable energy in line with the rest of the EU.

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