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Last Updated: Monday, 7 February, 2005, 11:26 GMT
Soviet bomb-makers retrain in UK
Soviet SS21 missile carrier
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Nuclear weapons scientists from the former Soviet Union are re-training for "more peaceful" work in the UK.

Experts who once built bombs aimed at the capitalist West are learning about business and cultural awareness at De Montfort University, Leicester.

The dismantling of the USSR in the 1990s left up to 30,000 nuclear weapons engineers and scientists unemployed.

The course is part of an international effort to prevent a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.


Prompted by fears that the untapped expertise could fall into the wrong hands, the G8 group of the world's wealthiest nations set up a "global partnership" in 2002 to stop the spread of WMD.

The UK government has set aside 4m a year for a joint venture with Russia.

The collapse of the communist Soviet state in 1991 left independent republics ill-prepared to compete in international markets.

Senior figures from Russia's 10 "closed nuclear cities", plus nuclear institutions in the republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, are taking part in the Business English and Contract Negotiations course.

The closed cities were created from the late 1940s onwards to develop the Soviet nuclear weapons programme.

Until the end of the 1980s, residents enjoyed standards of living significantly above that of the general population.

But, since the early 1990s, economic and social conditions have deteriorated, with further job losses planned.

The De Montfort scheme's aim is "to create commercially based, self-sustaining, non-weapons related employment".

During the four-week course, scientists will learn how to write commercial correspondence and use the internet for business.

They will also be taught about "cross-cultural awareness", language for international negotiations, devising market strategies and information analysis.

Kairat Kadyrzhanov, director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kazakhstan, said: "We live in new times with a new direction for our country to a market economy.

"More and more of my job is committed not to science and physics but to new products that are interesting for our population."

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