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Russian Weapons-Grade Plutonium Reactor Shut Down Ahead of Schedule

Only Two Russian Plutonium Production Reactors Remaining

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The first shutdown of a weapons-grade plutonium production reactor in over 15 years has occurred in Seversk, Russia.  Under a cooperative program with the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Rosatom successfully completed the shutdown to help eliminate weapons-grade plutonium production in Russia.  It is the first U.S.-aided shutdown of a plutonium production reactor in the former Soviet Union, and has happened eight months ahead of schedule.
"Elimination of the production of nuclear weapons-grade plutonium at the Seversk site is a historic nonproliferation milestone.  We have been working with our Russian partners for years on this important step in eliminating a production source for plutonium," said Deputy Administrator William Tobey, who oversees NNSA's nuclear nonproliferation work.  "We remain focused on shutting down the second reactor in June, thus eliminating weapons-grade plutonium production at two of the three remaining production reactors in Russia."

The reactor shutdowns are made possible by a joint program between NNSA and the Rosatom.  NNSA's Elimination of Weapons Grade Plutonium Production program is working with Rosatom on the closure work, and provides fossil-fuel heat and electricity to replace Russia's remaining plutonium production reactors.   NNSA and Rosatom are currently working to provide this replacement capacity so that the final reactor operating in Zheleznogorsk can be shut down no later than 2010, which will permanently cease Russian weapons-grade plutonium production.

The Russian reactors were originally operated to produce weapons-grade plutonium, with heat and electricity as by-product from the early 1960s until 1993.  Since 1993, the reactors have operated to provide heat and electricity for Seversk, and now produce weapons-grade plutonium as a by-product.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a separately organized 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.

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371