Russia to Stop Fueling U.S. Nuclear Power with Uranium from its Disarmed Nuclear Warheads

Friday, October 11, 2013

It was one of the most successful, if little known, swords-into-plowshares programs devised following the end of the Cold War: Russian warheads once pointed at the United States were broken down and sold as fuel to run American nuclear power plants. But the “megatons-to-megawatts” program is coming to an end, now that the Russian government has decided it can get a better deal for its uranium.

 

Over the past 20 years, radioactive fuel from 20,000 disarmed Russian warheads was sold to the U.S. for about $8 billion. The U.S. government then turned around and provided it to commercial nuclear power plants to run their reactors and power electricity to millions of homes and businesses. During these two decades, 500 metric tons of Russian weapons-grade uranium has generated half of all nuclear power and, during the past 15 years, about 10% of all electricity produced in the U.S.

 

Arms control experts hailed the 1993 program, formally known as the Highly Enriched Uranium Purchase Accord, and Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, called it a “significant non-proliferation accomplishment.”

 

But the deal is expiring, and despite Washington’s wish to renew it, Moscow decided the U.S. was getting the uranium at too low a price.

 

A new, smaller agreement was signed that will provide the U.S. with about half of the uranium it was getting. But now the United States will have to pay “market” prices, and the fuel will come from Russian commercial reactors, not decommissioned missiles.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

Federal Official: Half of U.S. Nuclear Power Comes from Disarmed Russian Warheads (Agence France-Presse)

Russia Completes Megatons to Megawatts Work (World Nuclear News)

U.S. Electricity Fueled by Recycled Soviet Bombs (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

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