Russian Plutonium-Producing Reactors Closed

By Bunnell, Stephen | Arms Control Today, July/August 2008 | Go to article overview

Russian Plutonium-Producing Reactors Closed


Bunnell, Stephen, Arms Control Today


On June 5, Rosatom closed the sole remaining reactor at the Siberian Chemical Combine, located in Seversk, ending the city's 43 years of weapons-grade plutonium production and bringing Russia one step closer to ending production of weapons-grade plutonium.

Production at the reactor, known as ADE-S, was terminated under a joint program between the National Nuclear security Administration (NNSA) and Rosatom, the Russian state-owned nuclear agency. The program was initiated to shutter the three remaining Russian plutonium-producing reactors and replace them with non-nuclear fuel sources. The first of these reactors, ADE-4, also located in Seversk, was closed under the same program in April. ( see ACT, May 2008.)

The joint program that facilitated these closures, known as Elimination of Weapons Grade Plutonium Production (EWGPP), aims to halt Russian production of plutonium, which can be used to construct a nuclear weapon, in order to prevent it from being stolen and sold on the black market. In a press release, William Tobey, NNSA deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation, hailed the closure of ADE-5 as "another step closer to eliminating the production of nuclear weapons-grade plutonium in Russia." Together, the three reactors were able to produce more than one metric ton of plutonium annually, enough to make 250 nuclear weapons, according to Department of Energy estimates.

Besides proliferation concerns, the reactors also caused worries about safety. All three of them are of the RBMK type, a light-water-cooled, graphite-moderated model that gained infamy through the Chernobyl accident in 1986. …

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