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Nuclear Safety Cooperation

Nuclear Material Archive containing nonconventional literature information

TACIS Region
Benefitting Zone
Eastern Europe and Central Asia
€ 13,599.53
EU Contribution
Contracted in 2003
Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States




Contracting authority

European Commission

Method of Procurement

Direct Agreement & AV DA


01/11/2002 - 01/11/2003



Project / Budget year

WW9920 Tacis 1999 Nuclear Safety / 1999


Special nuclear materials subject to strict accounting and physical protection were in the past exclusively handled by dedicated scientific laboratories and fuel cycle facilities. During the last years, however, the more frequent cases of illicit trafficking of such materials got more into the focus of public attention in the CIS. On the territory of the European Union (EU) vagabonding nuclear material has been seized in a number of cases each of which requires a prompt and efficient expert evaluation.

In the countries of the Eastern Europe and CIS, illicit trafficking of nuclear material gave rise to cases where the sample contained big amounts of additives or the material was a mixture of a number of components described by different morphology and chemical composition. A potential diversion source is represented by stored scrap. Residues left over R&D of material properties fall in the same category. Such materials might be stored in a wide range of nuclear laboratories and research institutes where it had been manufactured, handled and studied.

The primary scientific potential for prompt evaluation is available at the All-Russian Research Institute for Inorganic Materials (VNIINM) Moscow.

For identification of the materials’ origin a characteristic database as well as a related query system are necessary.


In order to link the results of investigation for such wide class of materials with definite fuel cycle facility, research institute or nuclear reactor, the appropriate technological and analytical parameters should be known. Although they can to a certain extent be retrieved in the open literature, for parameters concerning the microstructure of a material or impurity content inserted in at a particular stage of material fabrication, practically nothing has been published. Therefore a literature archive database has to be established related to properties of nuclear materials which are e.g.

  • Produced for non-conventional nuclear reactors.
  • Not used for serial production.
  • Not produced at present anymore.

The proposed literature archive will contain:

  • Published data on nuclear materials used in research or in the nuclear industry
  • So far unpublished or commercially sensitive data on properties of research nuclear materials used in the nuclear industry or studied on the territory of the former USSR, in particular in VNIINM.

In addition to the characteristic parameters of such materials it is mandatory to archive the related information on production and use, both as location and time.

This archive system, in advanced electronic format, will allow to extend the identification of the origin of unknown nuclear material located either in Europe or in the countries of the former Soviet Union beyond fuel used in commercial or typical research reactors including residues left over R&D of material properties.


In 2001/2002 the basis for such an electronic archive had been created through a direct contract between the European Institute for Transuranium Elements (ITU) Karlsruhe and the All-Russia Research Institute for Inorganic Materials (VNIINM) Moscow (No. 643/07625329/30114). It covered:

  1. a list of literature sources converted into electronic format and placed in the common sector of the archive of nuclear materials.
  2. electronic storage media (CD) containing:
    • a table corresponding to the list described under 1, with English keywords and hyperlinks.
    • full texts of the selected documents in Russian, all searchable for Russian words or phrases, either in .pdf or .doc format.

As logical continuation of the already completed work, three main tasks had to be performed in the present TACIS-Bistro project:

  1. to complement the existing set of relevant documents
  2. to select appropriate equipment and software for installation at VNIINM
  3. to develop an information retrieval system

For funding the work of the local experts in Russia, explicit study contracts between ITU Karlsruhe and 10 Russian experts (from VNIINM, VNIIA, and AtomInform) were set up.

A comprehensive description of the work performed at VNIINM and of the deliverables transferred to ITU Karlsruhe was given in an explanatory note. The note contains a full list of the complementary documents, a list of English keywords, and a description of the information retrieval system.
At ITU Karlsruhe the latest version of the common sector electronic literature archive was installed, covering:

  • all documents and abstracts compiled in the course of the direct contract No. 643/07625329/30114 (435 abstracts, 343 full-text documents).
  • all documents and abstracts compiled in the course of the TACIS-Bistro contract BIS/00/009/005-N (97 abstracts, 137 full-text documents).
  • the information retrieval system developed at VNIINM.

The installation was made at a separate computer cluster, without physical connection to the institute's network.

The electronic archive had first been developed and installed at existing lower-grade computer equipment. After acceptance of the hardware and software upgrades, the electronic archive was transferred to the new installation.

This approach differed from the initial planning. The initial purchase of the equipment and software was considerably delayed because of:

  • the initial condition to use EURO as only currency for payment.
  • the non-availability of a large company for submitting an appropriate offer.

Because the currency requirement virtually excluded small suppliers, it was decided to ask for an exception option, allowing a payment from the European Commission in Russian Roubles.
Because of limited validity, new offers of three potential suppliers had to be requested, the offer of the company "Electron Services" was selected as the most appropriate one. Two cross-confirmations were necessary to assure the complete financial transfer to the final bank destination of the supplier and the delivery of the equipment to VNIINM Moscow as final recipient.

The outcome of the project was successful. The work was appropriately combined with preceding activities in the field of nuclear forensics, both at VNIINM Moscow and ITU Karlsruhe. The activities were also embedded in a long term planning of the co-operation between both institutions. The work was an immediate continuation of the direct contract between VNIINM Moscow and ITU Karlsruhe, and was also co-ordinated with the TACIS three-laboratory project (R5.02/96 and R5.01/97). The project strongly profited from the good long-term working relations between the involved staff of both institutions.

In a number of points, unexpected formalities had to be tackled and additional experience had first to be acquired, e.g.:

  • the preparation of study contracts
  • procurement of purchase orders
  • transfer and confirmation of finances (both for study contracts and equipment delivery)

Especially during the long procedure of ordering, paying and delivering the equipment, apparent incompatibilities in the formal requirements of Russia on one side and of the EU on the other side caused unexpected delays. In the many non-standard situations the support of the administrative staff in both institutions was mandatory and is gratefully acknowledged.