U.S., Russia Enchance Nuclear Security Cooperation during Washington Talks

By Medeiros, Evan S. | Arms Control Today, February 1996 | Go to article overview

U.S., Russia Enchance Nuclear Security Cooperation during Washington Talks


Medeiros, Evan S., Arms Control Today


DURING THE sixth meeting of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary and Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Viktor Mikhailov, co-chairs of the commission's Energy Policy Committee, signed two joint statements on nuclear security, and made progress on other key issues including the shutdown of Russia's plutonium-producing reactors.

MPC&A Improved

During their January 29-30 meetings in Washington, O'Leary and Mikhailov signed a joint statement expanding cooperation on a project intended to improve nuclear material protection, control and accounting (MPC&A) at Russian facilities where weapons-usable nuclear material is stored.

The new agreement extends MPC&A controls to the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant, the Beloyarsk Sverdlovsk Branch of Scientific Research and Design Institute of Power Technology, the Khlopin Radium Institute, Beloyarsk NPP, the Krasnoyarsk-26 plutonium reprocessing facility and the Sverdlovsk-44 highly enriched uranium (HEU) production plant. The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM) are developing a detailed action plan for cooperation at these six facilities.

In addition, O'Leary and Mikhailov issued a joint statement on "Guiding Principles of Cooperation" on MPC&A. The statement articulated both a broad rationale for the program and the differing institutional requirements and mechanisms needed for its effective implementation. According to a U.S. government official, the broad mandate outlined in the "principles" statement will improve cooperation and speed implementation of current MPC&A efforts.

The MPC&A program began in early 1995 as part of DOE's lab-to-lab program for cooperation between U.S. and Russian research facilities. In June 1995, DOE began cooperating with five Russian facilities. The program is part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program funded under the so-called Nunn-Lugar security assistance legislation.

Reactor Shutdown Agreement

O'Leary and Mikhailov also agreed to proceed with the second phase of an engineering feasibility study on how to convert the reactor cores of three plutoniumproducing nuclear reactors at Tomsk-7 and Krasnoyarsk-26. In June 1994, Russia agreed to shut down the reactors by 2000, but Moscow refuses to let the 1994 agreement enter into force until replacement sources of thermal and electric power generation are found.

Phase 1 of the study concluded that conversion is "technically feasible," that it would reduce spent fuel volume and that it could be achieved in two years' time at a cost of $80 million. Several U.S. nuclear experts see core conversion as the most likely solution for modifying the three reactors.

According to one DOE official, the original shutdown agreement will have to be changed if the core-conversion route is chosen, because this option would not require that the reactors to be shut down but rather modified to run on high- or low-enriched uranium (LEU). The 2000 shutdown date is unlikely to be met, the official said.

Moscow and Washington also agreed to continue assessing possible energy replacement sources using fossil fuel and other types of nuclear reactors. …

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U.S., Russia Enchance Nuclear Security Cooperation during Washington Talks
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