US – Russia nuclear disposal advancing

Publish date: May 21, 2003

The United States has made substantial progress on a long-delayed project to dispose of 68 tonnes of Russian and U.S. weapons-grade nuclear fuel and expects to conclude a multinational accord with $1 billion in financing by year's end, a senior official said.

“I believe we could, by the end of 2003, achieve donations of over one billion dollars or more,” U.S. fissile material negotiator Michael Guhin told reporters after a presentation at the American Enterprise Institute. Although the Bush administration has promoted the project as an effective way to rid the world of a dangerous Cold War legacy, critics say the approach will increase the risks of nuclear theft by terrorist groups or rogue states. The plan is to have the United States and Russia each take 34 tonnes of separated plutonium that could be easily used as fuel for nuclear weapons and turn it into mixed oxide fuel (MOX) for use in commercial nuclear power plants. It was arranged by then-President Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin in September 2000 as a means of dealing with the residue of thousands of nuclear weapons set for dismantlement after the fall of communism.