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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Center Opens to Retrain Nuke Experts

MTU.S. Congressman Curt Weldon, left, and Kurchatov Institute president Yevgeny Velikhov working on a computer at the center.
A new training center that will teach software programming to former Soviet nuclear weapons researchers opened Saturday at Moscow's Kurchatov Institute.

Experts from local software giant Luxoft have been using Kurchatov -- the largest facility for nuclear research in the country -- to retrain former Soviet weapons scientists and engineers since November 2001 under the U.S. Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program.

IPP was set up by the U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration to enhance U.S. security by preparing weapons experts in the former Soviet Union for peacetime employment.

Participants in the Kurchatov project expect to eventually train 500 scientists and engineers to work in the global information technology industry.

"What we are looking for is transition from exporting brains to exporting products and services," Yevgeny Velikhov, president of the Kurchatov Institute, said at the center's opening ceremony in the institute's reconstructed building No. 76.

Scientists have been leaving the former Soviet Union in large numbers to find better-paying work in the West, often called the "brain drain."

Curt Weldon, a U.S. congressman and longtime backer of IPP, said at the opening ceremony that "the project is something that I have been watching with enthusiasm for a long time."

He said Friday at a ceremony honoring the 100th birthday of Igor Kurchatov -- the late scientist regarded as the father of the Soviet nuclear weapons program -- that the researchers will play a major role in the IT sector's development.

"I am particularly interested in how you, the scientists and engineers of Russia, can transform your nation through the commercialization of Russian science, often in cooperation with U.S. companies," he said. "I see such commercialization as a key to future Russian prosperity."

So far, 47 scientists and engineers have graduated from the Kurchatov program and found employment at various Russian IT companies, among them Luxoft. Some 10 Luxoft employees now teach in the Kurchatov program.

"The two things that we wanted to stress in our training program were the ability to work in project teams and the stages of the programming process," said Alexander Bushmelev, a Luxoft employee and head of training in the Kurchatov program.

Optima Program -- a company recently founded by Kurchatov Institute, Kurchatovsky Tekhnopark, the Optima systems integrator and U.S.-based CTG Software Inc. -- will provide employment for graduates of the program.

Optima Program is to become an offshore software provider for Western companies. CTG will promote Optima Program abroad.

Some $22.6 million in U.S. funding in 2003 is to go toward IPP, which includes 176 projects under way at 57 institutes in Russia, 14 projects in Kazakhstan and 13 projects in Ukraine..