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Background CISAC's initial study of "Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium" was the result of a 1992 request from General Brent Scowcroft, then the National Security Advisor to President Bush. The study was carried out under DOE sponsorship between late 1992 and mid 1995, following confirmation by the Clinton Administration of the man- date for this effort. The CISAC findings, which were presented in reports issued in January 1994 and July 19954, included the following: Besides the dangers well known to be associated with arsenals of nuclear weapons, the existence of surplus separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEW) not embodied in nuclear weapons poses "a clear and present danger to national and inter- national security." · This danger consists of three elements the risk that this material could be reincorporated into the nuclear arsenals of the states origi- nally possessing it, the risk that it could be stolen for use in nuclear weapons constructed by other states or subnational groups, and the risk of impairment of nuclear-arms-control prospects by per- ceptions that the major weapons powers are retaining the material in directly weapons-usable form in order to keep open the option of reversing their post-Cold-War arms reductions.5 4CISAC, 1994 and CISAC, 1995. 5The third risk is of course related to the first one, but it is distinct in that harm arises in the form of reactions in other countries to the mere possibility of reincorporation of the
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SPENT-FUEL STANDARD FOR DISPOSITION OF EXCESS WEAPON PLUTONIUM · It is more straightforward, in principle, to reduce the risks from highly enriched uranium than to reduce those from separated plutonium, because (a) HEU can be "blended down" isotonically fusing abundant uranium-238) to an enrichment level unusable for weapons, but no such isotopic denaturing is practical for pluto- nium, and (b) the blended down HEU can be used as fuel for commercial nuclear reactors at a profit, while use of plutonium as reactor fuel under current conditions can only be done at an eco- nomic loss.6 · Politics and perceptions operate to link the fate of surplus nuclear materials In Russia with that of surplus nuclear materials in the United States. Reduction of Russian stocks of nuclear materials and improved transparency and protection for those that remain will only be agreed if the United States takes comparable steps. The needed comprehensive approach to this challenge would include: (1) a reciprocal regime of verified declarations and moni- tored reductions of U.S. and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapons and nuclear-weapon materials; (2) secure and internationally safe- guarded interim storage of the materials, allowing withdrawals only for non-weapon purposes; (3) development of satisfactory options for the long-term disposition of excess weapons pluto- nium in ways that make its re-use for weapons unlikely; and (4) pursuit of new international arrangements to improve security and accounting for all forms of plutonium and HEU, civilian as well as military, worldwide. Two key criteria for judging the adequacy of the approaches taken for the management and disposition of excess weapons plutonium are (a) that separated plutonium prior to final disposition be sub- ject to the same high standards of security and accounting as are applied to intact nuclear weapons ("the stored nuclear-weapon standard") and (b) that the plutonium after disposition not be sig- nificantly easier to recover and use in nuclear weapons than is the plutonium In spent fuel from commercial power reactors ("the spent-fuel standards. . surplus weapons materials into the arsenals of its original possessors, even if the reincorporation does not occur. 6The difficulties encountered in implementing the "HEU deal", under which 500 metric tons of Russian HEU is to be blended down and sold to the United States over a period of 20 years for resale in the world nuclear-fuel market, shows that what is easier in principle may still not be easy enough in practice. See, e.g., Matthew Bunn, The Next Wave: Urgently Needed New Steps to Control Warheads and Fissile Material, A Joint Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Harvard University, Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2000 and references therein. 6
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BACKGROUND 9 · The two disposition methods most likely to be able to meet the spent-fuel standard on a time scale reasonably commensurate with the urgency of the task are (a) embodying the plutonium in mixed- oxide (MOX) fuel and using this once through (without subse- quent reprocessing) in civilian reactors of currently operating types, yielding a plutonium-bearing spent fuel destined ultimately for geologic disposal ("the MOX option") and (b) immobilizing the plutonium together with large quantities of fission products in a glass and/or ceramic matrix encased in steel with mass, bulk, radiation field, and resistance to extraction of the contained pluto- nium comparable to the corresponding properties of spent-fuel bundles, and likewise destined ultimately for disposal in a geo- . logic repository ("the immobilization option"). Because both of these options face a combination of technical and institutional barriers that translate into uncertainties about Me pace at which they could be implemented, the best chances for having at least one deployable option at an early date In both the United States and Russia would result from pursuing both options in parallel ("the dual-track approach") in both countries- including direct cooperation between the two countries on both options to maximize progress. These CISAC findings had a substantial influence on subsequent debate and analysis on nuclear-materials policy inside and outside governments. Indeed, they are reflected to a considerable degree In the series of policy decisions on plutonium management taken by the U.S. and Russian gov- ernments since 1996,7 up to and including the U.S.-Russian agreement on plutonium disposition concluded the June 2000 Summit between Presi- dents Clinton and Puhn.8 7See, e.g., Department of Energy, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Assessment of Weapons- Usable Fissile Material Storage and Excess Plutonium Disposition Alternatives, Washington, DC: Department of Energy, DOE-NN-007, January 1997, pp. 37-39; U.S.-Russian Independent Scientific Commission on Plutonium Disposition, Final Report, Washington, DC: Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President of the United States, Sep- tember 1997 (available at http://ksgnotesl.harvard.edu/BCSIA/Library.nsf/atom); Depart- ment of Energy, Record of Decision for the Surplus Plutonium Disposition Final Environmental Impact Statement, Washington, DC: Department of Energy, 4 January 2000; and Department of Energy, Surplus Plutonium Disposition Final Environmental Impact Statement (3 vols. and summary), DOE/EIS-0283, Washington DC: Department of Energy, Office of Fissile Materials Disposition, November 1999. 8Executive Office of the President of the United States (Washington DC) and Office of the Press Secretary (Moscow), Joint Statement Concerning Management and Disposition of Weapons- grade Plutonium Designated as No Longer Required for Defense Purposes and Related Cooperation, 4 June 2000.
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10 SPENT-FUEL STANDARD FOR DISPOSITION OF EXCESS WEAPON PLUTONIUM The largest controversies arising from the CISAC findings have been about the "dual track" recommendation (with some factions, in each coun- try, favoring one or the other approach to the exclusion of the alternative) and about the appropriateness and interpretation of the "spent-fuel stan- dard" (including whether particular variants of the MOX and immobili- zation options meet it). The first issue has been settled, at least for the time being, by the recent U.S.-Russian Bilateral Plutonium Disposition Agreement, which specifies that each country will disposition 34 metric tons of excess military plutonium as follows: the United States will dispo- sition 25.5 metric tons via the MOX route and 8.5 metric tons by immobi- lization, and Russia will disposition all 34 tons via the MOX route. It is the second set of questions those connected with clarification and application of the spent-fuel standard—which constitutes the focus of this new CISAC report.
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