Russia to amend plutonium agreement

7 March 2003

Prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed an order for the two reactors in Seversk near Tomsk, ADE-4 and ADE-5, to cease weapons-grade plutonium production by 31 December 2005. The Seversk complex was known as Tomsk-7 during Soviet times. ADE-2 (previously known as Krasnoyarsk-26), at Zheleznogorsk in the Krasnoyarsk region, will cease production by 31 December 2006.

Implementation of the 1997 agreement has been delayed because of differences over promised US financial assistance. The military reactors also provide electricity and heat for their cities, and the USA has promised to share the costs of building replacement fossil-fuelled power facilities. Alternatively, the agreement allows for the reactors to be modified to use different fuel, including uranium extracted from dismantled weapons.

The Russian government order represents the first real progress towards closing the reactors since 2000, when US Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) officials handed the project over to the US Department of Energy (DoE) after Pentagon-funded plans for core conversion of the reactors fell through. The order paves the way for agreements between the Russian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Atomic Energy and Washington on financial assistance from the DoE for refurbishment of fossil-fuelled plants near Seversk and Zheleznogorsk. However, meeting the 2005/2006 deadlines, may prove difficult. Senior DoE officials said the reactors could remain online for up to eight more years while fossil-fuelled plants are constructed or refurbished, as the current levels of funding requested by the Bush administration from US Congress for DoE non-proliferation projects in Russia is not adequate.

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