Russia – yes to uranium, no to plutonium

9 November 2016

Despite the deterioration in US-Russian relations and the effective ending of nuclear co-operation on many levels, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom said it was not contemplating any measures restricting uranium products deliveries to the American market. Commercial cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy is based on long-term contracts subject to strict implementation, Rostom said. It was responding US media reports that Russia was planning to stop uranium products deliveries to the US utilities in retaliation for US sanction on Russia. “Rosatom’s company JSC Techsnabexport (Tenex), the leading exporter of uranium products, has been operating for more than 40 years on the global market, and has been impeccably fulfilling its obligations even throughout uneasy periods in Russia-US relations, said Rosatom’s First Deputy General Director for Development and International Business, Kyrill Komarov. “Today there is no reasons to doubt the reliability of Russian deliveries,” he emphasized.

However, Russia has frozen its plutonium disposition agreement with the US. President Vladimir Putin on 1 November signed a law suspending the agreement after both houses of the Russian parliament had approved the law. The suspended agreement had provided for the beginning of work on the translation of weapons-grade plutonium into a form unsuitable for the creation of nuclear weapons, in preparation for its use as reactor fuel. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the suspension of the contract may be indefinite unless the US reconsiders its position.

The ministry noted that the agreement may be reactivated if anti-Russian sanctions were cancel or if decisions to strengthen the presence of the US military contingents in the European Union were reversed. Russia had earlier accused the US of violating an agreement on plutonium because it had changed the method of disposal from downblending for use as fuel to storage. The new legislation relates to the US-Russia Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) signed in 2000 as well as two protocols to it, signed in 2006 and 2010.

A 5 October Foreign Ministry statement on Russia's decision to terminate the 2010 "implementing agreement" between Rosatom and the DOE, said suspension by the USA of nuclear cooperation with Russia in 2014 and "other hostile steps and statements", mean that Russia "can no longer trust Washington in a sphere as sensitive as the modernisation and safety of Russian nuclear power plants". It added: "If Russia makes the decision to convert particular research reactors to low-enriched nuclear fuel, we will conduct this work independently."



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