HALTING RUSSIAN MILITARY PLUTONIUM PRODUCTION
Three Russian military nuclear reactors, located at Seversk ( formerly Tomsk) and Zheleznogorsk (formerly Krasnoyarsk), continue to produce 1.5 tons of weapons-grade plutonium annually---enough for hundreds of nuclear bombs. Because these reactors are also the primary source of heat and electricity for these Siberian cities, they cannot be shut down immediately without provision of a replacement energy source.
Since 1997, spurred on by the Nuclear Control Institute (NCI) and other public-interest groups, the United States and Russian governments have engaged in a joint initiative to convert the cores of these reactors to uranium fuel that would minimize the production of weapons-grade plutonium in these reactors.
In 1998, Russia proposed, and the United States agreed to, the use of bomb-grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel in these reactors. NCI and other public-interest groups strongly objected on non-proliferation grounds, urging the use of low-enriched uranium fuel that would minimize plutonium production and avoid commerce in bomb-grade nuclear fuel (see correspondence below).
In February 2000, the Russian government announced that it wanted to abandon entirely the core-conversion program (see Washington Post story below). NCI supports termination of this program, and will now support U.S. funding of non-nuclear, alternative sources of power to expedite shutdown of Russia's plutonium-production reactors.
Michael Dobbs, "Russian Reactor Project Troubled," Washington Post, February 13, 2000
December 17, 1999 Letter from NCI to Vice President Al Gore
November 19, 1998 Letter from NCI and Seven other Public-Interest Groups to Vice President Al Gore
November 3, 1998 Letter from NCI to Vice President Al Gore
April 19, 1999 Vice President Gore's Reply to NCI
Core Conversion of Russian Production Reactors: A Major Threat to the International
Alan Kuperman and Paul Leventhal, Presented at the 21st Annual International Meeting on Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR), Sao Paulo, Brazil, October 19, 1998
June 25, 1998 Letter from NCI and Natural Resources Defense Council to Laura Holgate, Department of Defense
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