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U.S. and Russia Sign Plan for Russian Plutonium Disposition

November 19, 2007 - 4:31pm

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Will Eliminate Enough Russian Plutonium for Thousands of Nuclear Weapons

WASHINGTON, DC -U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman and Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director Sergey Kiriyenko have signed a joint statement outlining a plan to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium from Russia's weapons program.

Under the new plan, the United States will cooperate with Russia to convert Russian weapon-grade plutonium into mixed oxide fuel (MOX) and irradiate the MOX fuel in the BN-600 fast reactor, currently operating at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant, and in the BN-800 fast reactor, currently under construction at the same site.  The United States and Russia also intend to continue cooperation on the development of an advanced gas-cooled, high-temperature reactor, which may create additional possibilities for disposition of Russia's plutonium.

"This joint statement between the United States and Russia reflects measurable progress towards disposing of a significant amount of weapon-grade plutonium in Russia," Secretary Bodman said.  "Along with the U.S. program to dispose of plutonium as mixed oxide fuel in light water reactors, the Russian program will ensure that enough plutonium for thousands of weapons is converted into a form which cannot be used to construct a weapon and will instead be used to provide fuel to produce clean electricity."

The United States and Russia agreed that the BN-600 and BN-800 fast reactors will dispose of Russia's surplus weapons plutonium without creating new stocks of separated weapon-grade plutonium.   Under the new plan, Russia would begin disposition in the BN-600 reactor in the 2012 timeframe.  Disposition in the BN-800 would follow soon thereafter.  Once disposition begins, the two reactors could dispose of approximately 1.5 metric tons of Russian weapons plutonium per year.

Russia intends to implement this program, with the U.S. contributing $400 million, as previously pledged for cooperation under the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement and subject to appropriations by the U.S. Congress.  The agreement commits the United States and Russia to dispose each of 34 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium.

"This joint statement is part of a comprehensive and cooperative approach to countering nuclear proliferation around the world.  A balanced, effective nonproliferation program should provide for the disposal of dangerous materials along with securing and detecting them," said William Tobey, NNSA's Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.  "Through this program, the United States and Russia will dispose of at least 68 metric tons of surplus weapons plutonium."

U.S. and Russian officials will meet in the coming months to amend the existing plutonium disposition agreement between the United States and Russia to reflect today's joint statement as well as related technical discussions and other modifications necessary for cooperation to proceed.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a separately organized agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science.  NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad.  Visit the NNSA homepage for more information.

The following is the text of the Joint Statement:

Joint Statement on Mutual Understanding Concerning Cooperation on the Program for the Disposition of Excess Weapon-Grade Plutonium

U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director Sergey Kiriyenko -- emphasizing the commitment of Rosatom and the U.S. Department of Energy, as Executive Agents under the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), to effective and transparent disposition by each side of 34 metric tons of weapon-grade plutonium designated as no longer required for defense purposes, and taking into account the work of experts carried out pursuant to their Joint Statement of July 2006 on  plutonium disposition and also the technical consultations on the possibility of involving the BN-600 and BN-800 fast-neutron reactors in Russia's program -- have arrived at the following mutual understanding concerning U.S.-Russian cooperation in this area.

Rosatom plans to implement the Russian program for plutonium disposition within the framework of the strategy for developing Russian nuclear energy, based on irradiating weapon-grade plutonium in the form of MOX fuel: (a) in the BN-600 reactor at Beloyarsk NPP; and (b) in the BN-800 reactor which will be built at the same site.

Rosatom and the U.S. Department of Energy intend to continue cooperation on an equal basis and at funding levels agreed to by them, in order to support research and development of the advanced gas-cooled high-temperature reactor (the Gas-Turbine Modular Helium Reactor, or GT-MHR), the successful development of which may create additional possibilities for speeding up plutonium disposition in the PMDA context in the time frame of 2015-2020.

Rosatom plans to begin implementation of the Russian program for disposition of excess weapon-grade plutonium in the BN-600 reactor once the necessary modifications have been made to the PMDA, and in the BN-800 reactor once the necessary modifications have been made to the PMDA and the construction both of the reactor and of the associated facilities has been completed, including construction of the MOX fuel production facility. The U.S. Department of Energy will endeavor to support Rosatom's efforts to establish MOX fuel production for the BN-800 reactor.

The U.S. Department of Energy intends to contribute $400 million, in accordance with agreed milestones and schedules, within the framework of cooperation in the area of Russian plutonium disposition.

The U.S. Department of Energy and Rosatom intend to undertake joint efforts to seek other donor funding, which would be used to reduce Russian outlays for, and facilitate timely implementation of, disposition in the BN-800.

Based on this Joint Statement and on the report on technical consultations, as well as on other undertakings for U.S.-Russian cooperation to proceed, the necessary modifications to amend and update the PMDA will be prepared.  These modifications will be submitted for approval by the U.S. and Russian Governments.

Sergey Kiriyenko Samuel W. Bodman
Director Secretary of Energy
Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) United States of America

Media contact(s):

Megan Barnett, DOE (202) 586-4940
Bryan Wilkes, NNSA (202) 586-7371

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