WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Leandra Bernstein — A change in the US approach to disposing weapons grade plutonium threatens US credibility in nonproliferation agreements with Russia, former US Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson told Sputnik on Tuesday.
The United States and Russia agreed to dispose of 68 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium, enough to build 17,000 nuclear weapons in 2000, under the US-Russia Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement.
US officials are currently considering replacing the plutonium reprocessing facility, the Mixed Oxide (MOX) project, in a move that Richardson says would "violate" the US-Russia plutonium agreement.
"I hear reports that because of the cost, the MOX facility will be shut down, and I am warning the public that it would jeopardize the US plutonium agreement with Russia," Richardson stated.
In recent months, nuclear experts have sent appeals to the White House and US lawmakers encouraging them to change the MOX mission. They experts proposed down-blending the plutonium and permanently storing the waste in sites in the southwest United States, instead of using the nearly-completed MOX reprocessing facility.
Under the agreement, the United States and Russia committed to dispose of a significant amount of their surplus weapons grade plutonium by irradiating it as mixed oxide, and converting it to spent fuel that could no longer be used for nuclear weapons.