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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

31 March 2005

U.S., Canada Cooperate to End Russian Nuclear Proliferation Risk

Will replace one of last three reactors producing weapons-grade plutonium

A cooperative agreement to permanently shut down one of Russia’s last remaining reactors that produce weapons-grade plutonium was signed by Canada and the United States March 30, according to a Department of Energy press release.

The nuclear plant, which provides heat and electricity to communities in Siberia, currently poses a proliferation risk by generating a significant amount of plutonium that can be used to make nuclear weapons.  The Russian government agreed in 2003 to allow it, and two remaining reactors, to be shut down when replaced by alternative energy systems.  At one time, 14 of these reactors were in operation in Russia.

The Canadians will contribute $7 million to this initiative as part of its $1-billion pledge to the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Material of Mass Destruction.  The project will be managed by the Energy Department’s program to eliminate production of weapons-grade plutonium.

The Group of Eight (G8) nations include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia.

Following is the announcement:

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U.S. Department of Energy
Press Release
March 30, 2005

Washington, D.C. --Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew and United States Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman today announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to assist with the permanent closure of one of the final operating weapons-grade plutonium production reactors in Russia.

Under the MOU, Canada will contribute $9 million Canadian (U.S. $7 million) to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production (EWGPP) program.  The Canadian contribution to this initiative is part of its $1-billion pledge under the G8-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.

The goal of the EWGPP program is to permanently shut down three Russian nuclear reactors and replace them with fossil energy plants.  These reactors, which provide necessary heat and electricity to two regions in Siberia, also generate a significant amount of plutonium that could be used to make nuclear weapons.  The Russian government has agreed to permanently shut down the reactors once replacement energy is provided.

“This agreement is key to halting the production of nuclear weapons materials, said Minister Pettigrew.  “We are pleased to be able to cooperate with our U.S. partners on this important security initiative.

“Ending the production of weapons-grade plutonium is a nonproliferation priority for the United States and the international community, said Secretary Bodman.  “The signing of this MOU with our Canadian partners is another key step toward meeting this priority.

The Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction is a critical initiative for preventing terrorism relating to weapons of mass destruction.  Canada is currently contributing to projects in all four of its priority areas: dismantlement of nuclear submarines; destruction of chemical weapons; re-employment of former weapons scientists; and disposition of fissile materials.

The United States pledges approximately U.S. $1 billion annually for activities under the Global Partnership.

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(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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