September 20th, 2006 15:12 EST
U.S. and Russia Sign Liability Protocol
WASHINGTON, DC — Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman praised today's signing of a liability agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation that clears a legal hurdle for an important nonproliferation program administered by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
Under Secretary of State Robert Joseph and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak signed the agreement in Washington, on behalf of their two governments. The United States and Russia successfully completed negotiations of the protocol in 2005, and the Russian government recently completed its formal process approving it for signature.
"This agreement demonstrates that both countries continue to be committed to this important nonproliferation program, which will dispose of enough weapons-grade plutonium for more than 16,000 nuclear weapons," Secretary Bodman said. "It's an important part of the Bush administration's effort to keep nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists."
The plutonium disposition program aims to eliminate a total of 68 metric tons (about 150,000 pounds) of surplus weapon-grade plutonium in the United States and in Russia, and stems from a 2000 nonproliferation agreement between the two countries. Both countries will dispose of their plutonium by converting it to mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for use in nuclear reactors. Once the MOX fuel is irradiated, the plutonium has been converted into a form that cannot be used for nuclear weapons.
"Signing this protocol with our Russian partners formally resolves the issue of what liability framework would apply for cooperation between the two countries to eliminate this dangerous material from Russian and U.S. stocks," said NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks. "We continue to work with the Russian Federation on the next steps in implementing the plutonium disposition agreement."
NNSA is nearing completion of site preparation activities for construction of a Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina. The agency is awaiting completion of the appropriations act for fiscal year 2007 before proceeding with construction.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad. Visit www.nnsa.doe.gov for more information
Bryan Wilkes, (202) 586-7371
Craig Stevens, (202) 586-4940