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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 18, September 1997

Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission

Ninth meeting of the US-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technical Cooperation, the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission (GCC), Moscow, 21-23 September 1997

Plutonium Production Reactor Pact: US Statement & US Fact Sheet US Statement

'US-Russian Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement Is Signed,' Statement by the White House Office of the Vice President, 23 September

Full text

"Vice President Al Gore announces that he and Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Viktor Chernomyrdin have signed on this date the US-Russian Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement. The agreement enters into force immediately.

This ground-breaking accord represents an additional, significant step away from the nuclear legacy of the Cold War by placing a cap on US and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapon-grade plutonium. It also prohibits Russian use in nuclear weapons of recently produced plutonium. It marks the first time that the US and Russia have placed limits on the materials for nuclear warheads themselves rather than on their delivery vehicles such as missiles and bombers, as in the START and INF treaties.

Under the agreement, Russia's three plutonium-producing reactors that are in active use must be converted by 2000 so that they no longer produce weapon-grade plutonium. The US will provide assistance for this conversion. Other such reactors that Russia is not currently using must remain permanently closed down. Similarly, US plutonium-producing reactors, all of which have been closed down since 1989, must remain closed.

Further, Russia commits not to use in nuclear weapons any of the weapon-grade plutonium it produces in the three operating reactors between now and the time of their conversion. To ensure compliance with this commitment, the US will monitor such plutonium produced by Russia since the beginning of 1995.

The agreement's extensive monitoring regime provides US and Russian monitors unprecedented access to each other's nuclear warhead production facilities and their associated materials. US monitors will be able to ensure that closed facilities remain closed, that operating facilities use fuel and production schedules suitable only for non-weapon-grade material, and that recently produced plutonium remains out of warhead production.

This agreement marks a new stage of US-Russian cooperation to regulate and safeguard nuclear materials, to limit their use in weapons, and to build mutual confidence through increased transparency. It is an important step forward on the path leading to eventual negotiation of limits on warheads themselves."

US Fact Sheet

'Fact Sheet on US-Russian Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement,' White House Office of the Vice President, 23 September

Full text

"Vice President Al Gore notes the signature of the US-Russian Plutonium Production Reactor agreement. The major provisions of this ground-breaking accord are described below. Major Provisions

  • Russia and the US will not restart any of their Plutonium production reactors that have already been shut down. (In the US, all 14 such reactors were shut down by 1989; in Russia, 10 of 13 have been shut down.)
  • Russia will convert by the year 2000, with US assistance, its three operating reactors so that they cease all production of weapon-grade Plutonium. Reactor modifications will also reduce the residual quantity of non-weapon-grade Plutonium each reactor produces to a tiny fraction of the amount of Plutonium previously produced.
  • The converted reactors will be shut down at the end of their normal lifetimes, consistent with prudent safety considerations.
  • Plutonium produced henceforth until reactor conversion, and any uranium recovered from the spent fuel of the converted reactors, will not be used in nuclear weapons.
  • Fresh fuel for the converted reactors will incorporate uranium derived from dismantled nuclear weapons, helping to reduce that stockpile as well.
  • A Joint Implementation and Compliance Commission will oversee implementation of the agreement's provisions, resolve any issues that may arise, and consider additional measures to promote the objectives of the agreement.

Monitoring Regime

  • For shutdown reactors, US and Russian monitors will install and periodically check seals or other monitoring equipment to provide assurance that the reactors could not be restarted without detection.
  • For converted reactors, US monitors will measure random samples of fresh fuel to determine that the fuel is the intended type, and they will install monitoring devices in the fuel discharge areas to ensure that fuel is discharged only when scheduled. By ensuring that the agreed fuel type and discharge schedule are used, they can ensure that the converted reactors are no longer producing weapon-grade Plutonium.
  • Russia will also declare annually the total mass of high-enriched uranium derived from dismantled nuclear weapons that was used to make fresh fuel for the converted reactors, and the ultimate destination and intended use of any uranium they may recover from the spent fuel.
  • For Plutonium produced prior to reactor conversion, i.e., weapon-grade Plutonium, US monitors will periodically check tags and seals on containers in storage and measure randomly selected containers to ensure that the material inside is indeed weapon-grade and newly produced. The Plutonium subject to such monitoring will include all such material that is reprocessed in 1997 or thereafter (which will include Plutonium produced since the beginning of 1995). The agreement specifies that the total amount of such Plutonium is estimated to be between 4.5 and 9 metric tons."

Core Conversion Project: US Fact Sheet & Joint Statement

US Fact Sheet

'Fact Sheet on Core Conversion,' White House Office of the Vice President, 23 September

Full text

"Vice President Al Gore notes the signature of a Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Implementing Agreement, which is the vehicle for providing funds for the Core Conversion Project, on 23 September, 1997. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $150 million, divided between the US and the Russian Federation. The US is authorized to spend up to $10 million in FY97 and, based on the meeting of appropriate project milestones and future congressional authorization, intends to provide up to an additional $70 million on this project. Once the Implementing Agreement is signed, contracts will be executed between US and Russian contractors, through US national laboratories and their Russian counterparts, to finish the design of the core conversion project. Actual conversion is expected to begin in 2000.


In June 1994, the US and the Russian Federation signed an agreement to shut down Russia's three remaining weapons-grade plutonium (WGPu) producing reactors. However, the Russians never allowed the agreement to enter into force because there was no alternative energy plan for the regions in Siberia for which these three reactors provide heat and electricity. A joint US-Russian team conducted an alternative energy feasibility study in 1995 and determined that the conversion of the cores of the three readers (core conversion) was the most fiscally viable and timely alternative for providing alternative energy to the cities of Seversk and Zheleznogorsk while stopping the production of WGPu.

According to US estimates, together these three reactors are capable of producing one and a half metric tons of WGPu each year. The conversion of the cores of these reactors will halt the production of WGPu - a significant nonproliferation goal. Additionally, the converted cores will be significantly safer than the original cores, which will benefit the Russian and the world community.

In January 1996, agreement was reached to proceed with the design and engineering phase of the core conversion project. Since that decision, key US and Russian representatives have been meeting to develop milestones and discuss project funding.

The Departments of Defense and Energy are working cooperatively on this project. DoD will provide the financing and project management for the effort and DoE, with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, will provide the technical expertise."

Joint Statement

'Joint statement concerning enhancement of regulatory oversight of core conversion activities,' 23 September

Full text

"The Chairman of the US-Nuclear Regulatory Commission [Shirley Ann Jackson] and the Chairman of the Federal Nuclear and Radiation Safety Authority of Russia [Yuriy G. Vishnevsky] are utilizing the occasion of the ninth Session of the US-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation held in Moscow September 21-23, 1997, to confirm their intent to ensure that appropriate emphasis is placed on nuclear safety issues associated with conversion of the reactor cores of Russia's Plutonium production readers to a design that does not produce weapons-grade plutonium. They therefore express their mutual intent to support the US-Russian Federation core conversion project: the umbrella Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement signed by the Vice President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Russia, the core conversion Implementing Agreement signed between the Department of Defense and MinAtom, and the Memorandum of Understanding on Liability signed between the Department of Energy and MinAtom, and that safety issues relating to these activities be properly evaluated and addressed. In this light, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Nuclear and Radiation Safety Authority of Russia affirm that they will consult closely on regulatory approaches, including licensing requirements for the purpose of minimizing the risk associated with the reactors' operation. The two regulatory bodies will enter into implementing agreements as appropriate to accomplish these objectives.

The Chairmen of the regulatory bodies also reaffirmed the mutually beneficial and constructive relationship that has been established and maintained between their two agencies over the past several years."

Defense Conversion Committee: US Statement

'Defense Conversion Committee,' White House Office of the Vice President, 23 September

Full text

"Vice President Al Gore is pleased with the Defense Conversion Committee (DCC)'s continuing progress in the conversion of Russian excess defense industry to commercial endeavors. The DCC has encouraged private US investment in Russian defense conversion and the involvement of regional leaders in the restructuring of defense-dependent economies. The Vice President commends the DCC-sponsored economic development initiative in the town of Reutov, citing it as an excellent model for other community-based economic development projects in Russia. He stresses the continuing importance of defense conversion project finance, insurance, and project feasibility study support from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the US Trade and Development Agency, calling the involvement of these US agencies critical to the long term success of our conversion efforts in Russia. Finally, he congratulates the Defense Enterprise Fund on its excellent conversion investment performance in Russia to date and encourages the Fund to move ahead energetically with the creation of a new, private fund which will also support conversion and high technology ventures in Russia.

Vice President Gore strongly urges the US and Russian sides of the DCC to demonstrate progress on the conclusion of a cooperative agreement on military-technical and dual-use technologies. He charges the committee to have an agreement in this promising new area in place by the tenth meeting of the GCC.

Vice President Gore welcomes the signature by Deputy Secretary of Defense Hamre and Minister of Atomic Energy Mikhailov of the Core Conversion Implementing Agreement. This agreement supports the nonproliferation goals of both nations expressed in the Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement, and represents one of the Vice President's highest priorities. US-Russian collaboration to convert the reactor cores means that Russia will join the US in no longer producing weapons-grade plutonium. The US Defense Department has committed up to $10 million for this new Cooperative Threat Reduction project, and will provide additional funding as it is appropriated by the Congress.

A comprehensive and encouraging report on the DoD's Cooperative Threat Reduction Program has been submitted to the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation and the Vice President. That program continues to advance our mutual security goals including: accelerated and safe reduction of nuclear materials, chemical and nuclear weapons; and the safety and security of remaining nuclear weapons and materials."

Future Work: Joint Statement

'Joint Statement by the United States of America and the Russian Federation on the Future Work of the US-Russian Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation,' Statement released by the White House Office of the Vice President, 23 September


"Both sides are...resolved to cooperate closely to create a regulatory basis for trade in dual-use goods and technologies and thereby to expand the possibilities for trade in these high-technology products. ...

In relation to nuclear energy, materials, and technologies, the Vice President and the Chairman of the Government agreed on the need to expand collaboration in areas such as nuclear safety and nuclear material security, including the creation of a system of materials control, physical protection and accounting, first and foremost for materials released as a result of the dismantlement of nuclear weapons.

The sides also intend to pursue vigorously other areas of mutual interest, including disposition and management of excess weapons-usable materials, promoting the conversion of the Russian nuclear complex, and fulfilling the nuclear security commitments made by our Presidents at their meeting in Helsinki this year.

The two sides agreed to work together to resolve outstanding issues and achieve full US-Russian cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy, and implementation of the intergovernmental agreement on the uses of highly enriched uranium from nuclear weapons.

The United States and Russia consider it important to promote nuclear energy safety through their bilateral cooperation, support the process of converting military nuclear technologies, and remove obstacles to cooperation in high technologies and manufacturing based on them.

The sides note the importance of further developing intergovernmental cooperation, alongside laboratory-to-laboratory cooperation, to improve efficiency in utilizing the potential of the US National Laboratories and the Russian Federal Nuclear Centers, and they note the importance of supporting the most promising development projects of US and Russian specialists in atomic energy.

The sides note the need for a multifaceted approach in examining the issue of US-Russian nuclear collaboration and the need to establish transparency arrangements for the Mayak storage facility. They also note the need to consider seriously joint technical and organizational measures to ensure irreversibility in the process of nuclear weapons reduction and the need to find and embrace mutually agreed solutions to commercial and investment issues. The two sides agreed to consider creating a Nuclear Energy Committee under the Commission as an objective and appropriate reflection of the present status and future prospects of US-Russian cooperation. ...

Given the continuing need for Russia to convert its excess defense industry to civilian production, and considering the commercial potential which may be identified in scientific and high technology sectors that previously supported the Russian defense industry establishment, facilitating private investment by the US and Russia in defense conversion projects remains a high priority for the work of the Commission.

The sides agree that increased cooperation in the area of defense, dual-use, and other technologies is of great importance and have reaffirmed their intent to conclude in the nearest future an agreement that will govern the conduct of this expanded technological cooperation. The sides recognize that such an agreement is necessary to provide for more effective cooperation in the defense and dual-use technology arena.

The Defense Conversion Committee will continue to focus upon initiatives that foster community-based economic restructuring in Russian cities that were former centers of defense production. In particular, efforts to foster growth in the number of small-to-medium size businesses in these regions should be afforded special emphasis.

The Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs of military cooperation will be continued, including those connected with the safe dismantling and destruction of nuclear weapons, and the elimination of decommissioned Russian nuclear submarines. CTR programs will also focus on reducing the quantity, and ensuring proper protection and storage, of nuclear materials.

The sides recognize the importance of joint cooperation under a program to promote the destruction of Russian chemical weapons. The United States will seek appropriation of necessary funds to build a facility for the destruction of chemical weapons in Russia as previously agreed. Efforts to convert and demilitarize former chemical weapons production facilities in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention signed in 1993 will be closely connected to specific commercial projects at these facilities. ..."

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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