Make games not nukes: DTI outsources to Russia

The DTI is hoping to keep Russian nuclear scientists from spreading weapons secrets by employing them as software engineers

The UK government is hoping an ambitious scheme to outsource UK software development to former Russian nuclear scientists will encourage the weapons experts to remain in-situ rather than seek work with foreign governments or terrorist networks.

As part of the scheme, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has flown over six of the former scientists to meet with UK game industry representatives at the European Games Network show in London's Docklands.

It is hoped the scientists' background in physics and advanced maths will attract UK companies after the cutting-edge programming skills required for many of today's advanced games.

"Games software designers today are looking for increasingly sophisticated programmers with backgrounds in physics and advanced maths. These are exactly the kind of skills these former nuclear weapons scientists have who need to find ways to use their skills in peaceful pursuits," said trade and industry minister Nigel Griffith.

Mark Allington, business manager for AEA technology, the company charged by the DTI to mediate between the scientists and the UK companies, claims the Russian's software expertise is a direct result of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which forbade any nuclear testing -- forcing the governments to rely on software simulations.

"Coming from Russia, these guys have been used to using quite low-spec kit so are very adept at creating super-efficient code with lots of clever short-cuts," said Allington.

Flying over the six scientists is part of the DTI's £6m UK-Russia Closed Nuclear Cities Partnership (CNCP) programme which forms part of larger $20bn initiative by G8 countries to counter proliferation of nuclear material.

According to the DTI, changes in Russian defence policy is expected to lead to around 15,000 job losses in 10 of the country's so-called closed nuclear cities over the next five years, with more likely to go in the next decade.

The cities - Seversk, Sarov, Zheleznogorsk, Zelenogorsk, Zarechny, Novouralsk, Lesnoy, Ozersk, Snezhinsk and Trekhgorny - once home to some of the finest mathematicians and physicists in the country, have faced severe unemployment problems following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990.

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