MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russia signed the Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation Concerning the Management and Disposition of Plutonium Designated as no Longer Required for Defense Purposes and Related Cooperation on August 29, 2000. The US side signed the document on September 1, 2000.
Under the document, the parties pledged to exert every effort to complete the required industrial facilities and to commission them by December 30, 2007, given nominal disposal rates of no less than two metric tons annually. At the same time, Russia was not supposed to launch this construction project prior to the conclusion of a multilateral agreement on international assistance to the Russian program.
While signing the agreement and holding subsequent talks with foreign donors, the Russian side continued to maintain that the national program to dispose of disposition weapon-grade plutonium would be financed from external sources.
Russian plutonium disposal costs were estimated at not less than $3.5 billion. However, the total declared donation was only about $850 million, with the US contributing $400 million. Other G8 countries provided about $450 million.
Considering the fact that a refusal to honor the 2000 Agreement could complicate Russian-US relations and negatively affect international efforts to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime, the Russian side initiated the elaboration of a mutually acceptable scenario for implementing national plutonium disposal programs that would meet Russia’s nuclear power industry development plans. After intensive Russian-US consultations, the United States agreed with a proposal to use the BN-800 breeder reactor for disposing of disposition plutonium in Russia, instead of the VVER-1000 light-water reactors and the BN-600 reactor with a “hybrid” core.
The contracting parties drafted a Protocol to amend the 2000 Agreement in line with new realities and signed it on April 13, 2010.
The document also modified monitoring and inspection procedures being stipulated by the intergovernmental agreement.
At the same time, the Protocol contained provisions allowing the Russian side to suspend, modify or terminate activities with regard to the disposal program under the intergovernmental agreement if the US Government decided not to launch technical assistance or to terminate it.
The Russian-US Agreement, modified under the agreed-upon Protocol, entered into force on July 11, 2011.
In April 2016, the Russian President said the United States did not honor the terms of the plutonium agreement. He said an agreement had been reached on destroying the material by industrial methods, and that it was necessary to build special enterprises for this purpose. Unlike its US partners, Russia fulfilled its obligations.
On October 3, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order on suspending the Russian-US agreement concerning the management and disposition of plutonium. This decision was motivated by a threat to strategic stability as a result of unfriendly US actions with regard to the Russian Federation and also by the inability of the United States to honor its obligations to dispose of disposition weapon-grade plutonium.
Earlier, US media reported that the White House plans to terminate the US program to manufacture mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for “incinerating” weapon-grade plutonium because of alleged technological problems and the project’s exorbitant costs. Instead, the United States plans to mix weapon-grade plutonium with other, non-radioactive, materials and to store the mixture inside special facilities. Experts stress that this option makes it possible to remove the mixture and to obtain plutonium from it using relatively simple methods. The plutonium thus obtained would be enough to make several thousand nuclear warheads.