Contact with USA 'difficult'

2 July 2001

"Everything has stopped and all attempts to set up a meeting with the Department of Energy have been rebuffed," he said. However, Russia has already begun to dispose of its stockpiles of military plutonium in accordance with its agreement with the USA.

A pilot plant at the Institute of Atomic Reactors in Dimitrovgrad has started to convert plutonium and uranium metal to dioxide which is then converted to granules by pyrolysis and vibropacked into new fuel assemblies for use in the BN-600 fast reactor at Beloyarsk. Three assemblies have been delivered so far. Russia plans to produce a hybrid core for the BN-600 (partly using regenerated military plutonium), which it could have within two years.

But the USA so far refuses to recognise the method because of a lack of transparency for the plutonium (it needs to be traced from production through to spent fuel). Russia would like to start work immediately to find a solution to this and a formula for checking transparency, but at present communications with the USA appear to be blocked, Ivanov told NEI. If contacts with DoE are restarted it will be a priority.

So far Russia has eliminated 50kg of military plutonium in this way. This will progress to 100kg and then to 300kg a year. However, Russia needs acknowledgement for this from the USA. Under the US-Russia plutonium agreement, elimination is supposed to start in 2008, but Russia is ready to start now, Ivanov said.

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