During the recently-completed U.S.-Russian summit in Moscow, the two countries announced a formal agreement on disposal of excess nuclear weapons-grade plutonium. The agreement was announced in a joint statement on June 4.
Under the agreement, the U.S. and Russia will each dispose of 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium, over a time period of approximately 20 years. This amount is enough for thousands of nuclear weapons. It represents a significant portion of the U.S. plutonium stockpile, and what is thought to be a large part of the Russian stockpile as well. The agreement specifies plans, schedules and methods for making the plutonium inaccessible for use in nuclear weapons.
Russia will convert its plutonium to reactor fuel and burn it in nuclear power plants. The U.S. has a dual-track strategy for disposal: some of the plutonium will be burned as fuel for nuclear power reactors; the rest will be encapsulated with highly radioactive waste and buried.
The program is expected to cost approximately $4 billion in the U.S. and $1.75 billion in Russia. Through the support of Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), $200 million has already been appropriated for this activity in the U.S. But more funds will be needed, and the U.S. also intends to contribute $200 million to the Russian effort. The countries plan to seek additional assistance from other G-8 nations to help the Russians implement their part of the agreement.
The June 4 U.S.-Russian "Joint Statement Concerning Management and Disposition of Weapon-Grade Plutonium Designated as No Longer Required for Defense Purposes and Related Cooperation" is quoted below:
"The Presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation announced today completion of the bilateral Agreement for the management and disposition of weapon-grade plutonium withdrawn from their respective nuclear weapon programs and declared excess to defense purposes. This Agreement will ensure that this plutonium will be changed into forms unusable for nuclear weapons by consumption as fuel in nuclear reactors or by immobilization rendering it suitable for geologic disposal.
"Based on the 1998 Summit Joint Statement of Principles for Management and Disposition of Plutonium, this Agreement charts the course and sets the conditions for such activities. It reconfirms our determination to take steps necessary to ensure that it is never again used for nuclear weapons or any other military purpose and is managed and disposed in a way that is safe, secure, ecologically sound, transparent and irreversible. It reaffirms our commitment to nuclear disarmament.
"This Agreement will ensure that the management and disposition activities are monitored and, thus, transparent for the international community. It provides for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verification once appropriate agreements with the IAEA are concluded.
"This Agreement builds on the approaches to such plutonium management and disposition agreed at the 1996 G-8 Moscow Nuclear Safety and Security Summit. We reaffirm our intentions to continue to work closely with other countries, in particular other G-8 leaders, who have provided strong support over the past years for initiation and implementation of these programs. In this regard, we hope that significant progress will be made as well at the G-8 Summit this July in Okinawa.
"This Agreement will enable new cooperation to go forward between the United States and the Russian Federation. We note that the United States Congress has appropriated 200 million USD for this cooperation and the U.S. Administration intends to seek additional appropriations.
"This Agreement will soon be signed by Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Kasyanov."