Russian and American presidents agree on plutonium disposal

Publish date: June 5, 2000

The United States and Russia signed an agreement to secure 68 tons of plutonium. Environmental groups are against the proposed ways to approach the goal.

On June 4, Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, and Bill Clinton, the President of the United States, signed the agreement on weapon-grade plutonium disposition, its reprocessing, and future co-operation in this area resulted from earlier negotiations in Moscow. It was also declared that superfluous plutonium had no longer defence significance.

The statement released by the two presidents says the following regarding the accord:

“This Agreement will ensure that the management and disposition activities are monitored and, thus, transparent for the international community. It provides for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verification once appropriate agreements with the IAEA are concluded.

This Agreement builds on the approaches to such plutonium management and disposition agreed at the 1996 G-8 Moscow Nuclear Safety and Security Summit. We reaffirm our intentions to continue to work closely with other countries, in particular other G-8 leaders, who have provided strong support over past years for initiation and implementation of these programs. In this regard, we hope that significant progress will be made as well at the G-8 Summit this July in Okinawa.

This Agreement will enable new co-operation to go forward between the United States and the Russian Federation. We note that the United States Congress has appropriated 200 million USD for this co-operation and the U.S. Administration intends to seek additional appropriations.”

In consent with the agreement, each country has to dispose of 34 tons of weapon-grade plutonium irreversibly, so that it can never again be used for nuclear weapons production. The United States plan to convert 25.5 tons to mixed uranium-plutonium fuel (MOX) and to immobilise the rest of 8.5 tons. Russia will use all 34 tones as fuel only.

The deal requires the two countries to construct industrial-scale facilities to convert the plutonium into MOX fuel by 2007. Afterwards, at least two tons are to be reprocessed each coming year. The agreement details rights and obligations of the sides for monitoring the agreement to ensure the plutonium can never again be used for nuclear weapons or any other military purposes.

Russian programme estimated to cost over $1.7 billion and take 20 years to implement. The U.S. programme is projected to cost $4 billion. Both sides will work together to develop an international financing plan for the Russian programme.

The accord also stipulates that none of the plutonium containing fuel produced can leave Russia without the prior written consent of the United States.

The latter item in the agreement would not seem to bother Yevgeny Adamov, Russian Nuclear Minister. Right after the accord was signed we went out saying that his agency is fit to start MOX fuel shipments to Japan.

Around 150 NGOs from all over the world condemned the prospects of using plutonium as fuel. The groups believe that MOX technology has not yet been tested properly and pose a danger to the environment.

According to the available data, USSR/Russia has accumulated 140±25 tons of weapon-grade plutonium. The United States have 98±8 tons of plutonium in stock.