Third quarter of 2000
minister clears up some outstanding confusions
Threatens collapse of agreement
if Western funding is not forthcoming
WISE-Paris, 21 September 2000
By David Lowry
B. Ivanov, Russia's first deputy minister for atomic energy told the
Uranium Institute annual meeting on 31 August 2000 that the reason the
Russians had refused to include immobilization in the final bilateral
agreement on US-Russia Plutonium dispostion - signed by Russian Prime
Minister Kasyanov in August and US Vice President Gore on 1st September
- was a fundamental disgreement between theAmerican & Russian negotiators
over the quantities of military grade plutonium that exist in theRussian
stockpile. The sticking point is over the status of 'dirty' plutonium
scrap at military nuclear processing plants, especially Krasnoyarsk
-26 (Zhelengorsk) in central Siberia.
repeated the MINATOM position that immobilization is only a "protection"
policy, not one that eliminates plutonium. Meantime, Norman Fletcher,
Project Manager for Russian Nuclear Power Technologies at the US Department
of Energy's Office of Fissile Materials Disposition in the National
Nuclear Security Administration, told the 7th annual International Nuclear
Materials Policy Forum held in Washinngton DC on 5-8 September 2000
that technology development for glass and ceramic disposal forms is
underway at "several Russian institutes",and that "engineering feasibility
studies " are being conducted at two industrial sites.
Ivanov said in London that 25 t of the 34 t plutinium committed by Russia
under the bilateral accord would be "clean metal", and the remaining
9 t in oxide form. He said the military plutonium would be blended with
plutonium of civil origin, and no reprocessing of MOX fuel made under
the deal would be allowed to be reprocessed.
MOX fuel would be irradiated to a burnup level of "no less than 20,000 MWd/t".
steps in the agreement, especially costs, remain to be sorted out in
detail, but at present he said the plan was to re-tool the Scientific
Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (RIAR) at Dimitrovgrad to enable
the fabrication of 'vibrocompacted' plutonium fuel for the BN-600 fast
reactor by January 2002.
minister made clear that the agreement stipulates that "The Russian
Federation may suspend implementation of the Agreement if sources of
funds are not defined to clarify problems for further status of the
delegates to the Uranium Institute conference declared this was effectively
a "Blackmail Clause."
proposed solution to the funding difficulties set out by Minister Ivanov
was the sale of Russian fabricated MOX back to western nuclear utilities,
via the auspices of a specially created international leasing company.
He told questioners in press briefing that such a company would be attractive
to governments because it would save taxpayers money for Finance ministries.
He said military-origin plutonium would only ever be exported from Russia
in the form of MOX fuel assemblies. Russia would offer as part of such
a deal to take back the irradiated MOX for "indefinite storage".
response to a question as to why the Tomsk-7 military plutonium production
reactors at Seversk continued to create more military plutonium despite
the existing surplus, he told Plutonium Investigation that the difficulty
was that the scientific research cities of Tomsk and also Zhelengorsk
needed heat and power, and the military production reactors were their
only way to do this. He added that the Russian fuel manufacturing program
for existing nuclear plants needed the reprocessed uranium (REPU) from
the fuel irradiated in Tomsk-7 and Krasnoyarsk, but conceded this was
a logically inconsistent situation
liability difficulties, he confirmed the position revealed in July by
Plutonium Investigation, after a meeting with US chief plutonium disposition
negotiator, Dr Michael Guhin, that the unresolved issue would still
"take some time" to sort out.
criticised the German government for delaying support for the export
of the MOX fabrication technology at the redundant Siemens MOX plant
at Hanau, although he admitted that MINATOM itself had initially hesitated
over the proposal to import the German technology. And he said MINATOM
believed that the Canadian Government was "moving too slowly" in resolving
public protest at plans to import test plutonim fuel pins made in Russia,
for experimental irradiation in CANDU reactors.
- US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and French CEA chairman Colombani
signed a new nuclear R&D agreement during the IAEA's 44th annual
conference in Vienna, 18 September 2000. It will cover the sharing
of Research facilities and 'accelerator transmutation of waste.'
ATW includes so-called pyroprocessing, being developed by the Argonne
National Research Laboratory, Illinois, and at RIIA in Dimitrovgrad.