Russia suspends plutonium disposition agreement with US

Russia has suspended an agreement with the US on the disposal of plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons and military stockpiles, amid souring ties between the countries.

Under the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) signed in April 2010, both countries agreed to dispose of 34t of weapon-grade plutonium each.

Russia President Vladimir Putin issued a decree suspending the PMDA and accused the US of creating 'an emerging threat to strategic stability that resulted from unfriendly actions of the US toward the Russian Federation'.

"UCS has long opposed the MOX project because it will make it easier for terrorists to access weapons-usable plutonium."

The decree reaffirms that the plutonium eliminated under PMDA cannot be used in the production of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or 'for research, development, design, or tests that are related to such devices, or for any other military purposes.'

The US intends to dispose of plutonium by converting it into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel and burning it in power reactors.

The company is currently building a MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) senior scientist Ed Lyman said: “Russia’s announcement today that it is suspending the US-Russian plutonium disposition agreement removes the last rationale for support of the US MOX programme as a means to dispose of excess US 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.”

Though the US Department of Energy is opposing the construction of a MOX plant in South Carolina, Congress is forcing construction of the MOX plant to continue.

UCS said that the US administration must immediately suspend construction of the MOX plant and dispose the excess plutonium stockpile by diluting it and then directly disposing of it in a geologic repository.