Russia and the US have agreed to put 34t each of surplus military plutonium into forms that cannot be used in nuclear weapons. The plutonium will be used as fuel or vitrified over the next 20 years.
The agreement, signed by presidents Bill Clinton and Vladimir Putin in Moscow, followed a joint statement of principles by Clinton and former Russian president Boris Yeltsin for the staged removal of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. It will run parallel to the ‘swords to ploughshares’ agreement on using blended-down military-origin Russian uranium for use in Western power reactors.
Russia and the US will each dispose of 34t of weapons-grade plutonium from military programmes. The US will either burn its plutonium as MOX or dispose of it by mixing it with high-level radwaste before vitrification. The aim is to use 25.5t as fuel and to immobilise 8.5t. Russia will convert all its plutonium into fuel under “very strict monitoring and verification”. No converted plutonium will be allowed to leave Russia without the prior written consent of the US.
The 1998 Clinton-Yeltsin pact had intended a staged withdrawal of an estimated 50t of plutonium from weapons programmes, but officials said this figure had been revised to 34t following a review of the amount of US-held material.
Russia and the US will accelerate work toward construction of new industrial-scale facilities for MOX fuel fabrication. The agreement requires them to begin operation such facilities by 2007, to achieve a disposition rate of at least 2t of weapons-grade plutonium per year and, working with other countries, to identify additional capacities at least to double that disposition rate.
The Russian programme is estimated to cost over $1.7 billion over 20 years.The US programme will cost $4 billion.