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U.S. Russia Move Toward Closing Plutonium Reactors

U.S. Russia Take "Major Step" Toward Closing Plutonium Reactors

U.S.-Russia complete negotiations for preliminary power plant designs

The United States and Russia have taken a "major step" towards closing three Russian weapons-grade plutonium production reactors in Seversk and Zheleznogorsk with the signing of two contracts to build replacement fossil-fuel power plants in Siberia, according to a September 29 Department of Energy press release.

Two U.S. firms, Washington Group International and Raytheon Technical Services, have completed negotiations with Rosatomstroi, a Russian investment and construction company, for preliminary designs of projects to refurbish and construct the fossil-fuel power plants. Once these plants are completed, the plutonium reactors can be shut down.

Following is a DOE press release:

(begin text)

U.S. Department of Energy
Washington, D.C.
September 29, 2003


Contracts Signed for Fossil-Fuel Plants

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The United States and Russia have taken another major step toward closing down the last three remaining Russian reactors producing weapons-grade plutonium with the signing of two contracts for fossil-fuel power plants to be built and refurbished in Siberia.

The two U.S. companies under contract, Washington Group International and Raytheon Technical Services, will carry out this work at the two sites, which will begin in Fiscal Year 2004. The companies have completed negotiations with Rosatomstroi, a Russian investment and construction company, for preliminary designs of projects to refurbish and construct fossil-fuel power plants in Seversk and Zheleznogorsk. When the refurbishment and construction have been completed, operation of the plants will permit the shut down of the plutonium production reactors.

This agreement represents another major step in the U.S.-Russia Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production Program (EWGPP) initiated by U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Alexandr Rumyantsev.

"The administration places a high priority on successful nonproliferation programs, and elimination of weapons-grade plutonium production in Russia is an important step in our joint nonproliferation program," Secretary Abraham said. "Our two countries have made good progress towards nonproliferation goals, and we look forward to continuing our good work and progress through successful ventures like this."

The three Russian reactors not only produce significant amounts of weapons-grade plutonium daily, they also provide heat and electricity to several hundred thousand Russians in the traditionally closed cities of Seversk and Zheleznogorsk. These reactors have deficiencies in the areas of design, equipment, and materials, and are considered to be among the highest risk reactors in the world. To ensure reactor safety, high priority safety upgrades are being expeditiously pursued with the help of the Department of Energy (DOE).

At a ceremony in Vienna in March 2003, Secretary Abraham and Minister Rumyantsev signed the agreement that would reduce the threat from weapons of mass destruction by stopping plutonium production at the last three Russian plutonium production reactors. In May 2003, Abraham and the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Yuri Ushakov, announced that $466 million was awarded to two U.S. companies to begin the shutdown work.

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