Dresden 2000 – wissenschaftliches Programm

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SYPU: Plutonium - und was nun?

SYPU 1: Plutonium - und was nun?

SYPU 1.1: Hauptvortrag

Donnerstag, 23. März 2000, 10:15–11:00, H 04

The Options for and Status of Surplus Military Plutonium Disposition in the US and Russia — •Allison Macfarlane — Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA

When the Berlin Wall came down ten years ago, with it came expectations of nuclear warhead reductions in the US and Russia and as a corollary, the disposal of large amounts of the fissile materials that powered the weapons. Although the US and Russia have each agreed to dispose of 50 metric tons of weapons plutonium, to date neither country has dispositioned one gram of the material. Currently, Russia has an economic shortfall that prevents it from making progress, whereas the US is inching towards finalizing its disposition plans on paper. Neither country will begin a disposition program without the other.

The main candidates for plutonium disposition pathways in the US are burning plutonium as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in domestic, civilian nuclear reactors and immobilizing it in a solid form. The immobilizing waste form, currently projected to be a ceramic material, will be surrounded by a radiation barrier to guard against theft and easy reuse, so it will be like the MOX spent fuel. Russia plans simply to burn all its plutonium as MOX fuel. The final choices for the method of plutonium disposition are important in that they set standards for the global civilian nuclear complex that has amassed a large amount of separated plutonium, much of which will not see the inside of a nuclear reactor. The US and Russia are working together to make progress on plutonium disposition, but more rapid action is needed to begin the process of elimination of this distressing legacy of the cold war.

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