NBC Weapons: January 27, 2002


While the Bush Administration had wanted to cut back the $800 million the US spends each year helping Russia dismantle old nuclear and chemical weapons, a new study by the Administration has concluded that the programs must continue and in some cases should be increased. There are serious challenges, the largest being how to dispose of 34 tons of plutonium. The basic plan is to convert it into Mixed Oxide reactor fuel, but that would take decades to use up. Another plan is to vitrify the plutonium into a glass-like substance and bury it, but nobody wants it buried in their back yard (and the US is nervous about burying it in Russia). Another plan would be to build an entire new generation of gas-cooled reactors that could burn the plutonium, but that would take years. The US has restored funding to the Russian plant being built to destroy chemical weapons. The US had cut off funding when the Russians didn't pay their promised part of the cost, but new financial commitments by Moscow have convinced the US to resume funding.--Stephen V Cole


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