Russia Announces Suspension of U.S.-Russian Plutonium Agreement

Statement by Edwin Lyman, Senior Scientist

Published Oct 3, 2016

WASHINGTON (October 3, 2016)—Russia announced today that it is suspending the U.S.-Russian Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), which requires each nation to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium from its dismantled nuclear weapons and military stockpiles. In total, this material is enough for thousands of nuclear weapons. Russia’ announcement includes a statement that it will not use its 34 metric tons of plutonium for nuclear weapons or other military purposes. 

The 2010 amended PMDA stipulates that the United States will dispose of its plutonium by converting it into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel and burning it in power reactors. Accordingly, the United States is building a MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. 

Below is a statement by Ed Lyman, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. 

“Russia’s announcement today that it is suspending the U.S.-Russian plutonium disposition agreement removes the last rationale for support of the U.S. MOX program as a means to dispose of excess U.S. plutonium.    

“UCS has long opposed the MOX project because it will make it easier for terrorists to access weapons-usable plutonium. There are cheaper, quicker and safer alternatives that would dilute the plutonium and directly dispose of it in an underground geologic repository. 

“The MOX project has experienced massive delays and cost overruns, and the Department of Energy now wants to cancel the project and pursue direct plutonium disposal.   

“Unfortunately, led by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Congress is blocking the administration's plan and forcing construction of the MOX plant to continue. Graham has cited the US-Russian agreement as the reason for his continued support of the MOX program. Now there is no excuse to continue building the plant. 

“The U.S should immediately suspend construction of the MOX plant. Not another taxpayer dollar should be wasted on this project. The U.S. should instead dispose of its excess plutonium stockpile by diluting it and then directly disposing of it in a geologic repository.” 

For further information about this issue, see this recent UCS blog post.