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    What is Russia-US Agreement on Plutonium Management, Disposition?

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    On Monday, September 3, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to halt a bilateral Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) with the United States citing Washington's hostile actions and inability to fulfill US commitments to dispose of surplus weapons-grade plutonium.

    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.

    The agreement’s most important provisions include the irreversibility of converting disposition plutonium into forms not suitable for manufacturing nuclear weapons; parallelism and parity of Russian and US programs to dispose of disposition plutonium. Either party was to have disposed of at least 34 metric tons of weapon-grade plutonium and converted it into fuel for light-water nuclear reactors (isotopic ratio of plutonium 240 to plutonium 239 not less than 0.1); the possibility of disposing of additional amounts of plutonium that can be removed from nuclear weapons programs in the future; transparency for the international community guaranteed by mutual monitoring and inspection activities with regard to disposition plutonium, spent fuel and the appropriate production units. Moreover, there were plans to launch consultations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the purpose of signing an agreement to allow the Agency to oversee the Agreement’s implementation; guarantees to provide Russia with uninterrupted technical and financial assistance at all stages of implementing the Russian plutonium disposal program.

    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.

    Under the Protocol, the partners were to have launched their respective programs for disposing of disposition plutonium not later than 2018. The BN-800 reactor was to have been commissioned in 2013-2014.

    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.

    Related:

    Pyongyang Has 88 Pounds of Weapons-Grade Plutonium - Seoul
    North Korea Resumes Work on Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production – Reports
    Kremlin Concerned Over N Korean Reported Resumption of Plutonium Production
    US-Russia Plutonium Disposal Talks Expected 'At Some Point'
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    plutonium, US-Russia Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), Vladimir Putin, United States, Russia
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