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Just 3 weeks ago, I had the unprecedented opportunity to visit Chelyabinsk-70--one of the premier nuclear weapons laboratories of the former Soviet Union. It is a place where some of the finest minds of an entire generation devoted their creative energies to designing the weapons that gave the Cold War its most terrifying dimension.
There I found that the upheaval that had profoundly transformed the former Soviet society outside the heavily secured gates of this closed and isolated Urals mountain community was also turning upside down the lives of the specialists within. I met with a group of senior staff and scientists and listened to what the end of the Cold War--and the resulting sharp decline in demand for their old talents--meant to them.
What I heard was deep uncertainty on the part of the scientists about what the future held in store and anxiety about the impact the anticipated hardships might have on their families. I saw discouragement on their faces about what top-notch scientists may fear most--the absence of intellectually challenging work. And I heard concern that economic and professional conditions could deteriorate to the point where even highly patriotic and responsible specialists might be tempted to market their skills to unscrupulous regimes.
But I also heard some very encouraging things from the scientists of Chelyabinsk. I heard their readiness--indeed, their eagerness--to adapt their old skills in weapons development to non-military purposes. I heard their strong desire after decades of physical and intellectual isolation to enter the mainstream of international scientific life and to …