the radioactive waste be given priority. A special committee of members equally representing the Russian government, the State Duma, and the Federation Council will make a decision on importing any spent fuel of foreign origin, and such decision is to be approved by the President of the Russian Federation. Academician Nikolay P. Laverov is currently chairing the committee.

  1. The law on dedicated environmental foundations requires that in cases where spent fuel of any origin is imported to Russia, part of the proceeds from such activities be mandatorily redirected to finance specific projects developed for improving the environment in the regions where such activities occur.

The provisions of the laws listed above are currently applied to the import into Russia of spent fuel from the research reactors that were built in eastern European countries (under the Soviet Union) or the Commonwealth of Independent States and then loaded with Russian nuclear fuel. Since 2001, no spent fuel not of Russian origin has been imported.

There are many laws and regulations that would need to be revised to reduce barriers to proliferation threat reduction. One important constraint in U.S. law and policy relates to management of spent fuel that has U.S. obligations attached to it under the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954, as amended and revised. This includes fuel that was mined, enriched, or fabricated in the United States, or irradiated in a reactor with major components based on U.S. technology. Under the AEA, countries with such fuel may not transfer it to other countries without U.S. permission, and the United States cannot legally give its permission unless it has a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement (known as a 123 agreement, referring to the relevant section of the AEA), with the country where the fuel is to be shipped. Hence, international centers for spent fuel management would not be able to handle U.S.-obligated fuel—representing a substantial portion of the world’s stock of spent fuel—unless the United States had a 123 agreement in place with the country where the center was located, and a policy of approving the transfers. The United States and Russia have recently negotiated such an agreement (see Appendix D), but as of 2008 it had not entered into force, and some members of U.S. Congress were arguing for delaying or blocking its implementation. Such an agreement would be necessary for a future international center for spent fuel management to be able to operate effectively in Russia. Politically the United States is unlikely to be able to take back spent fuel itself for many years to come. Under U.S. law, such take-backs would require congressional approval, though they are not prohibited in principle. Such approval is unlikely to be forthcoming, except in special cases such as the ongoing return of irradiated research reactor fuel, which is part of a program to reduce proliferation risks by eliminating HEU from as many research reactors as possible. See Section B6 and Finding 12 for more on this topic.

Finding 7

Safeguard arrangements, fuel transfer processes, and return of spent fuel provisions are only a few of the complex legal issues that must be resolved if fuel assurance, fuel take-back, and multinational or international fuel center programs are to be effective.

Recommendation 7

The IAEA should lead an international effort to identify these legal questions and options to be considered. The IAEA should also convene countries to reach agreement on preferred solutions.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement