U.S., Russia Celebrate the Closing of Russia’s Last Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production Reactor

Press Release
Apr 14, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today lauded the imminent shutdown of the last weapons-grade plutonium production reactor still operating in Russia.

The ADE-2 reactor has been producing weapons-grade plutonium for nearly 52 years in Zheleznogorsk, the former secret Siberian city. Russian President Medvedev announced the imminent shutdown at President Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. The announcement marks the culmination of cooperative efforts by the NNSA and its Russian counterpart to permanently cease Russian weapons-grade plutonium production.

“The shutdown of the Zheleznogorsk reactor is a major milestone in efforts to close the book on one of the darkest legacies of the Cold War,” said NNSA Administrator Thomas P. D'Agostino. “President Obama and President Medvedev have set our two nations on a course to curb global nuclear dangers by reducing the use of weapons-grade nuclear materials and securing vulnerable material around the world. Our partnership in shutting down the Zheleznogorsk reactor is a tangible demonstration of our shared commitment to preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and keeping dangerous nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists.”

The Russian reactors were originally operated to produce weapons-grade plutonium for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons program from the early 1960s until 1993. At the same time, the reactor also provided heat and electricity to Zheleznogorsk and nearby areas. Since 1993, the reactor has only been operated to provide heat and electricity to the community but continued to produce weapons-grade plutonium as a byproduct.

Under the terms of the 1997 Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation, the plutonium produced could not be used for weapons purposes but continued to add to the inventory of accumulated weapons-grade material. NNSA and Russia’s Ministry of Atomic Energy agreed to work together to close Russia’s last three plutonium producing reactors and provide replacement heat and electricity.

NNSA’s Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production program previously worked together with Rosatom to shut down and close two other reactors at Seversk. The closure of the Zheleznogorsk reactor brings a final and permanent end to all weapons-grade plutonium production in Russia.

 

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad.

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