Abstracts and Available Papers Presented at the
1998 International RERTR Meeting
HEU CORE CONVERSION OF RUSSIAN PRODUCTION
A MAJOR THREAT TO THE INTERNATIONAL RERTR REGIME
by Alan J. Kuperman and Paul L. Leventhal
Nuclear Control Institute, USA
It is important not to lose sight of the ultimate objective of the RERTR program to reduce and eventually eliminate international civilian commerce in nuclear weapons-usable, highly enriched uranium (HEU), and thereby significantly lower risks of this material being stolen or diverted by terrorists or states to make nuclear weapons. The good news is that despite a few bumps in the road a few years ago, the RERTR program is now back on track to phasing out remaining commerce in HEU for research reactors. The bad news is that a new threat to the RERTR regime has arisen from outside the research-reactor community. The United States and Russia are contemplating conversion of the cores of Russia's three remaining military plutonium-production reactors to HEU fuel -- exactly opposite to what the RERTR program has sought to achieve -- in order to halt the reactors production of weapons-grade plutonium. While we embrace the objective of halting production of weapons-grade plutonium, the HEU conversion plan would reverse two-decades of progress by the RERTR program and increase civilian HEU commerce by five times, to levels unprecedented in history. Fortunately, an alternative LEU core conversion option is available for the Russian reactors, which could halt weapons-grade plutonium production without inadvertently increasing commerce in weapons-grade uranium. The research-reactor community has moral standing to demand that U.S. and Russian leaders reject the HEU core conversion option in favor of the LEU option.
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