Russia has shut down its last reactor that produces weapons-grade plutonium. The ADE-2 reactor had been producing weapons-grade plutonium for nearly 52 years in Zheleznogorsk, the former secret Siberian city.

Russian President Medvedev announced the imminent shutdown of the reactor at President Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on 14 April. The announcement marked the culmination of cooperative efforts by the National Nuclear Security Administration and its Russian counterpart to permanently cease Russian weapons-grade plutonium production.

“The shutdown of the Zheleznogorsk reactor is a major milestone in efforts to close the book on one of the darkest legacies of the Cold War,” said NNSA administrator Thomas P. D’Agostino.

Russian reactors were originally operated to produce weapons-grade plutonium for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons programme from the early 1960s until 1993. At the same time, the reactor also provided heat and electricity to Zheleznogorsk and nearby areas. Since 1993, the reactor has only been operated to provide heat and electricity to the community but continued to produce weapons-grade plutonium as a by-product.

Under the terms of the 1997 Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation, the plutonium produced could not be used for weapons purposes but continued to add to the inventory of accumulated weapons-grade material.

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