Chapter 4:

Recommendations for German Participation

4.1. MATERIALS PROTECTION, CONTROL, AND ACCOUNTING

It is important that U.S.-German cooperation include steps to improve materials protection, control, and accounting (MPC&A) in Russia. To be effective, improvement projects must take the Russian perspective into account. Non-technical difficulties must also be expected, such as complicated bureaucracies that make transfers of technical equipment and funds time-consuming and difficult. Already ongoing U.S. and other Western efforts should not be duplicated; efforts must be coordinated and mutually enhancing.

Experience in the U.S. lab-to-lab program with Russia has been favorable. Here scientists are directly interacting with little intermediate centralization and bureaucracy. In past U.S. experience, a centralized approach has been less efficient and much slower. The United States has considerable experience in this area, and its laboratories carry out R&D to continually improve MPC&A technologies. 1

This experience is only partially applicable to future German activities. In Germany, MPC&A has been practiced for decades, and little further R&D is taking place. The only R&D capacities on MPC&A on German soil are at the Institute for Transuranium Elements in Karlsruhe, which is run by the Joint Research Center of the European Commission. This institute is already involved with EU assistance activities, and additional German activities should be coordinated with them.

Although little further research is going on, the substantial practical experience that exists at the relevant enterprises in fuel fabrication and reactor operations should be used. In addition, German funding could enable Russian firms to manufacture physical protection equipment, expediting the implementation of Russia’s physical protection program. In the past, U.S. funding from the Department of Defense could only be used to purchase American-made equipment, which caused considerable delay in some programs and resentment by the Russians. The Konsortium Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit (GRS) already has many contacts with the Russians on MPC&A.

The Steering Committee therefore recommends that the GRS be tasked to develop individual projects for collaboration with Russian labs. First, it should contact the U.S. lab-to-lab program to identify the most pressing deficiencies that are not already being adequately addressed by the United States. Then the GRS should subcontract with the appropriate experts from industry and other appropriate institutions; specific funding to the institutions and people in Germany and Russia doing the work would be required. Senior U.S. and Russian officials responsible for the lab-to-lab activities, and a European coordinator, should be asked to cooperate with the GRS in the efforts.

1  

As an example, the workshop was told that the annual U.S. MPC&A budget is nearly $1 billion.



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U.S.-GERMAN COOPERATION IN THE ELIMINATION OF EXCESS WEAPONS PLUTONIUM Chapter 4: Recommendations for German Participation 4.1. MATERIALS PROTECTION, CONTROL, AND ACCOUNTING It is important that U.S.-German cooperation include steps to improve materials protection, control, and accounting (MPC&A) in Russia. To be effective, improvement projects must take the Russian perspective into account. Non-technical difficulties must also be expected, such as complicated bureaucracies that make transfers of technical equipment and funds time-consuming and difficult. Already ongoing U.S. and other Western efforts should not be duplicated; efforts must be coordinated and mutually enhancing. Experience in the U.S. lab-to-lab program with Russia has been favorable. Here scientists are directly interacting with little intermediate centralization and bureaucracy. In past U.S. experience, a centralized approach has been less efficient and much slower. The United States has considerable experience in this area, and its laboratories carry out R&D to continually improve MPC&A technologies. 1 This experience is only partially applicable to future German activities. In Germany, MPC&A has been practiced for decades, and little further R&D is taking place. The only R&D capacities on MPC&A on German soil are at the Institute for Transuranium Elements in Karlsruhe, which is run by the Joint Research Center of the European Commission. This institute is already involved with EU assistance activities, and additional German activities should be coordinated with them. Although little further research is going on, the substantial practical experience that exists at the relevant enterprises in fuel fabrication and reactor operations should be used. In addition, German funding could enable Russian firms to manufacture physical protection equipment, expediting the implementation of Russia’s physical protection program. In the past, U.S. funding from the Department of Defense could only be used to purchase American-made equipment, which caused considerable delay in some programs and resentment by the Russians. The Konsortium Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit (GRS) already has many contacts with the Russians on MPC&A. The Steering Committee therefore recommends that the GRS be tasked to develop individual projects for collaboration with Russian labs. First, it should contact the U.S. lab-to-lab program to identify the most pressing deficiencies that are not already being adequately addressed by the United States. Then the GRS should subcontract with the appropriate experts from industry and other appropriate institutions; specific funding to the institutions and people in Germany and Russia doing the work would be required. Senior U.S. and Russian officials responsible for the lab-to-lab activities, and a European coordinator, should be asked to cooperate with the GRS in the efforts. 1   As an example, the workshop was told that the annual U.S. MPC&A budget is nearly $1 billion.

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U.S.-GERMAN COOPERATION IN THE ELIMINATION OF EXCESS WEAPONS PLUTONIUM 4.2. INTERMEDIATE STORAGE Until disposition has been completed, secure storage is essential. The U.S. Defense Department and MINATOM are committed to a collaborative project to build a secure storage facility for excess Russian WPu. The facility was to be built with U.S. assistance on the condition that the fissile material would not be reused for new warheads and that the United States would be allowed to monitor the storage facility. The United States and Russia have found it difficult to come to common terms, however. In addition to other points of difference, DOD has been unwilling to pay for Russian labor because of its interpretation of the restrictions in the Nunn-Lugar legislation. The United States has allocated a total of $90 million for design and equipment, but more effort is required before further progress can be made. Since the secure intermediate storage is of pivotal importance, the Steering Committee recommends German support. Germany could contribute funding and technology to the U.S.-Russian cooperative program. Examples for technologies that could be contributed are specialized construction equipment, metal and radiation portal detectors, access control and personnel identification technology, video cameras, and motion-detection alarms. As with MPC&A, German financial assistance that enabled the Russians to manufacture and use their own equipment would be an important contribution. Given the sensitivity of this project, any effort would have to be carefully coordinated with the United States. As long as the components are in a form that could reveal classified information on warhead design, there must be no German contact with storage of warhead components. For the time being, this is likely at the planned storage facility since it probably will store intact pits as recommended by the NAS study. Although Germany has an independent interest in international safeguards, for an interim period it could rely here on U.S. assurances that it was satisfied with Russian progress on dismantlement. 4.3. RECOMMENDATIONS ON DISPOSITION OPTIONS 4.3.1. The “Hanau Option” From a strictly technical point of view, the fastest solution to the disposition problem would be the fabrication of MOX from Russian WPu in the almost-completed Siemens plant at Hanau. The plant could be available in about two years since the technology and all necessary licenses for RPu are available, although two of them are still pending in court. Additional licenses would be necessary for WPu, a process that could cut considerably into the technical time-advantage of this option. With a capacity of 5 tons WPu per year, the process of MOX fabrication would take 20 years for 100 tons of WPu, which could include both or either Russian and U.S. WPu. The MOX could be consumed in German and perhaps additional European LWRs. Burning the MOX in 10 German PWRs at 1/3 core loading would take roughly 34 years.2 As a result, the 2   Another possibility, which has not been discussed in detail by the Steering Committee but is being seriously considered within the U.S. government, is burning the fuel in CANDU reactors in Canada. The CANDU reactors would not need technical alterations in order to handle full MOX cores. The United States regards the absence of reprocessing technology and experience in Canada as a specific nonproliferation advantage.

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U.S.-GERMAN COOPERATION IN THE ELIMINATION OF EXCESS WEAPONS PLUTONIUM Hanau solution is the only one which permits initiation of a disposition campaign within less than ten years, provided all legal and political issues could be resolved promptly. In addition to the fast time scale, another advantage of the Hanau option would be its proliferation resistance, since material accounting standards, the intrusiveness of international safeguards, and physical protection in Germany and Europe meet the highest standards in the world. This solution would be a demonstration of German commitment to nonproliferation objectives. Since the factory can be abandoned after completing the burning of excess WPu, interactions with civilian plans can be avoided. The political framework to carry out the option should be international collaboration, with participation of at least the United States, Russia, and Euratom. Such an arrangement would comply with the provisions of the NPT. Fabrication services could be purchased from the present owner or an international consortium could buy the plant. In addition to the costs of completing and operating the facility, funding would have to be found to compensate the Russians and to finance the additional costs for the utilities, who have experience with MOX fuel but who are not willing to carry any additional costs beyond those inherent in LEU operation. The most severe obstacle to realizing this highly advantageous option is the domestic resistance that has so far succeeded in preventing the facility from opening. The support of the parties in the Bundestag, the Hessian Landtag, and the Hessian government is essential. It should be noted that in 1992 the Hesse Parliament passed, unanimously, a resolution categorically opposing the use of the Hanau plant for fabricating WPu into MOX fuel. Opponents could be expected to argue that the disarmament application is simply a trick to save the facility for later commercial plutonium use. It seems certain that for this solution to be acceptable, it has to be agreed that the plant must be used exclusively to process the Russian WPu. On the positive side, as a result of the recent cases of nuclear smuggling, the public is very sensitive to the problem of Russian nuclear disarmament. The Russians may of course prefer to process the material in their own country. Persuading them to accept the Hanau option must be expected to be rather costly. Transportation of WPu from Russia to Germany is required for this option, and this is a disadvantage. To minimize the proliferation risks in transport, the master mix of 35-percent plutonium nitrate and 65-percent uranyl nitrate could be fabricated in Russia. Transporting the master mix by ship across the Baltic Sea would avoid crossing many neighboring countries. Existing international standards for the security of fissile material transport would have to be applied. Another obstacle might arise because the owner of the Hanau plant is not willing to accept additional costs to keep the facility open for a longer time. Financing is only assured until the middle of 1995. Therefore the time pressure for the multitude of decisions required to make the Hanau option a real one is severe. The Steering Committee recommends pursuing this option only if it becomes clear that the various obstacles to its success stand a reasonable chance of being overcome. To assess the viability of this option, it recommends sounding out the Russian government, the German federal government, the Hesse government, and the German political parties about whether a broad consensus on the principle of the Hanau option could be shaped. If consensus does not seem possible, the idea must be abandoned. If, however, the preliminary answers appear positive, the op-

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U.S.-GERMAN COOPERATION IN THE ELIMINATION OF EXCESS WEAPONS PLUTONIUM tion should be explored. Decisions to make an effort to maintain the option should then be made in a very short time. 4.3.2. A Large MOX Fabrication Plant in Russia An industrial-scale MOX facility in Russia is probably the option preferred by MINATOM because it could also support a large civilian closed fuel cycle industry. One option, which is under negotiation by the Siemens corporation, is the construction of a copy of the Hanau plant in Russia. Different technical parameters of the fuel assemblies would have to be met if the fuel would be destined for Russian VVERs, but this can be solved. The prerequisite of satisfying both countries’ licensing requirements, which differ considerably, needs further study. This option would have the advantage of minimizing, or even eliminating, the international transport of Russian plutonium. Transport of plutonium within Russia, however, also constitutes a significant risk under current circumstances. The existing LWR capacity in Russia for fuel consumption is small —corresponding to less than 2 tons of plutonium per year at 1/3 MOX core loading. This implies that other VVER-1000s outside Russia, e.g. in Ukraine, must also be involved to shorten the time scale sufficiently to make the option attractive. Still, this possibility could be further investigated along with the prospects of building additional reactors in Russia or other former Soviet states. Finding a workable financing concept is another difficulty, although some cost reduction could be expected by using equipment from the Hanau plant, if that were dismantled. Another obstacle is generated by the uncertainties such a project will face in Russia. Local opposition is very likely, resulting in unpredictable delays. More problems could be caused by MINATOM’s aversion to external control during each step of construction and operation. German export control requirements must be met even for the pilot study, since the reformed German export control legislation in 1991 considers consultancy as technology transfer covered by the law. The law also requires IAEA safeguards. Competing jurisdictions between MINATOM and GOSATOMNADZOR are likely to cause other delays. Bureaucratic procedures and uncertainties of logistics are additional obstacles. As long as it is publicly funded, German cooperation must be built on the assumption that all activities serve nuclear disarmament and are not a clandestine promotion of either German or Russian nuclear industry. But MINATOM’s clear interest is in setting up a civilian plutonium industry and in selling fuel abroad. This may conflict with the requirement that priority be given for the disposition of WPu in any cooperative effort. A Hanau-size plant would be fully loaded for 20 years with the task of MOX fabrication from 100 tons of excess Russian weapons plutonium if used exclusively for that purpose, however. Cooperation that encouraged the Russian civilian nuclear industry would engender German domestic opposition and would run counter to current U.S. policy. U.S. support or financial participation in this option would be unlikely. Under the prevailing circumstances in Russia, many problems would have to be solved before this option could be seriously pursued. If they could be resolved, however, this option could also be accomplished on a relatively rapid time scale. The Steering Committee recommends pursuing this option only if it became clear that the various obstacles to its success stand a reasonable chance of being overcome.

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U.S.-GERMAN COOPERATION IN THE ELIMINATION OF EXCESS WEAPONS PLUTONIUM 4.3.3. A Small MOX Fabrication Facility Given the uncertainties of building a large MOX facility in Russia, the Russian-German feasibility study recommended German assistance to build a small pilot plant in Russia, in order to demonstrate the application of the technology in the Russian environment.3 The main goal of this effort would be to gain practical experience and to have a feasibility study with experiments under safeguards. The project would give the Russians experience with international safeguards, test the suitability of the VVER-1000s, and to explore the transport problems. This should be done in parallel to other activities. The timetable for planning, building and operating a small and eventually a large MOX facility is so long that substantial time would elapse before the Russian plutonium could be in a safer condition. For this reason, safe and secure interim storage is of primary importance. The Steering Committee supports the Russian-German feasibility study ’s recommendation, with the provision that this should be complemented by the fabrication of some MOX samples (by European or Russian fuel fabrication facilities) to be burned in a VVER-1000 in order to accelerate decisions on MOX use in the Russian reactors. This option also should include collaborative work between appropriate German and Russian institutes and industries to analyze the VVER-1000s to determine what modifications would be necessary to use potential full MOX cores, as the Russian-German study also recommended. The latter activities must be linked with appropriate safeguards. 4.3.4. A Small Pilot Vitrification Facility The Russians are almost certain to reject vitrification for the disposition of weapons plutonium, since they are determined not to “throw away ” the energy value of the plutonium. The Steering Committee therefore does not recommend efforts to establish a major vitrification facility for WPu in Russia or in Europe at this time. But since this is one of the two principal disposition options under consideration in the United States, the Committee believes the option should be left open. In addition to the plutonium that will be withdrawn from warheads, there is also a substantial amount of residual WPu (e.g., non-metal scrap and waste plutonium) in Russia that is not readily suitable for conversion to MOX but nevertheless constitutes a proliferation risk. The Steering Committee therefore recommends the development and construction of a small vitrification facility in Russia that could be used for these residues as a pilot project. A facility with a capacity of approximately 40 kg of glass per day, which would be equivalent to a daily throughput of 0.4 kg of plutonium, would be an appropriate size. This project would be a supplement to any “big solution.” The Russians will need to develop vitrification or similar technology in any case for disposal of their civilian HLW. An advantage of this idea is that it would offer the Russians experience with the non-Russian vitrification technology and its associated safeguards, and might reduce Russian opposition to vitrification. The level of acceptance in the German and U.S. public should be high. 3   See Section 1.2.3.