The USA plans to either burn its plutonium in power reactors as MOX fuel (25.5t) or dispose of it by mixing it with high-level waste before vitrification for storage (8.5t). Russia plans to convert all its plutonium into fuel.

Both countries need to build new industrial-scale facilities for conversion of the plutonium and its fabrication into MOX by 2007. Russia had been planning to do this for over a decade. However, both countries have experienced delays in implementing their MOX programmes and now a reported change of policy in Moscow may add further obstacles to these plans.

Further complications have arisen because the US State Department signed an agreement to use Russia’s BN-600 fast neutron reactor and retrofitted VVER-1000s to burn MOX fuel but with no timetable, in effect compromising the fast track start date for the plutonium disposition programme. The agreement has angered Department of Energy officials who believe it may have postponed the beginning of the disposition project indefinitely.

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