SPIEZ, SWITZERLAND- The permanent closure of Russian nuclear reactors built specifically to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons was the topic of a two-day conference that just wrapped up in Switzerland. The conference brought together representatives from 11 countries and two international organizations to address the challenge of shutting down the last three remaining plutonium production reactors in the Russian Federation, launching a process for international participation in funding the effort.
The reactors also provide necessary heat and electricity to two "closed cities" in Siberia. In order to meet these energy requirements, the United States will provide support to the Russian Federation to significantly refurbish a replacement fossil energy plant at Seversk and construct a replacement fossil energy plant at Zheleznogorsk. The Russian government has agreed to permanently shut down the reactors once the replacement facilities are operational.
The National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) Elimination of Weapons Grade Plutonium Production (EWGPP) Program is taking the lead in this important nonproliferation effort of the Bush administration. The EWGPP Program works to halt the production of new weapons-grade plutonium in Russia.
The goal of the conference was to solicit international funding for projects outside of the existing U.S.-Russia construction agreement. The Russian Federation proposed projects to the assembled countries that require international funding and participation. The proposed projects will help to protect and remediate environment around the reactor sites, and create new business enterprises and jobs for the workforce of highly skilled scientists and technicians that will be displaced when the reactors shut down.
"This conference is an historic call to action for the international community to support our collective global nonproliferation objectives. The EWGPP Program continues to work hard with its Russian counterparts to reduce the amount of nuclear materials available to terrorists. Continued funding and support will be critical to our joint efforts to shut down these deteriorating reactors and provide replacement facilities for the two closed cities and their inhabitants," said NNSA Principal Deputy Administrator Jerry Paul, who represented NNSA at the meeting.
Switzerland hosted the event at the Spiez Laboratory, an official Swiss institution dealing with nuclear, biological, and chemical defense matters. The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affair's Centre for International Security Policy was the primary sponsor of the event, which was attended by 11 countries, the European Commission (EC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Bryan Wilkes (202) 586-7371