Russia shuts second plutonium-producing reactor at Seversk

06 June 2008

Russia announced that it had shut down the second of its three plutonium-producing reactors as part of a nuclear non-proliferation programme with the USA.

The Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) shut down the second plutonium-producing reactor (ADE-5) at Seversk in the Tomsk region on 5 June ahead of schedule.

The shutdown of the reactor was made possible by a joint programme between the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Rosatom. NNSA's Elimination of Weapons Grade Plutonium Production programme is working with Rosatom on the closure work and provides fossil-fuel heat and electricity to replace Russia's remaining plutonium production reactors.

William Tobey, deputy administrator for defence nuclear non-proliferation at the NNSA, said: "Today's shutdown of the second reactor at Seversk brings us another step closer to eliminating the production of nuclear weapons-grade plutonium in Russia." He added, "NNSA's commitment and investment in this effort will help prevent the proliferation threat of weapons of mass destruction by bringing to an end the production of this dangerous nuclear material."

On 20 April, the ADE-4 plutonium-production reactor at Seversk was shut down after a fossil-fuelled boiler was installed to replace the heat production of the unit, around January this year. The reactor is currently being defuelled, prior to being decommissioned.

NNSA earlier claimed the eventual closure of the two reactors would eliminate the production of 800 kg of weapons-grade plutonium per year.

The reactors were originally operated to produce weapons-grade plutonium with heat and electricity as a by-product from the early 1960s until 1993. Since 1993, the reactors have operated to provide heat and electricity for Seversk and nearby areas, producing plutonium as a by-product. Under the 1997 Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement between the USA and Russia, this plutonium will not be used for weapons.

In a statement, the NNSA said, "Today's milestone ends 43 years of weapons-grade plutonium in Seversk."

Vladimir Korotkevich, director general of SCC, said that the company had "stopped producing weapons-grade materials and has fully met its obligations to ensure global nuclear parity. From now on the company will carry out exclusively peaceful activities."

In March 2003, Russia and the USA agreed to shut down Russia's three remaining plutonium-producing reactors.

One other reactor taking a similar plutonium and heat production role remains at Zhelenogorsk. NNSA and Rosatom are currently working to provide this replacement heat and electricity capacity so that the Zheleznogorsk ADE-2 reactor can be shut down on schedule, no later than 2010, permanently ending Russian weapons-grade plutonium production.

Seversk is home to several nuclear reactors and chemical plants for uranium separation, enrichment, and reprocessing. Following a ceremony to mark the shut down of the ADE-5 reactor, a rally of staff and residents of Seversk was held to support the development of nuclear generation in the region.