U.S. and Russia Sign Plutonium Production Reactor Pact
(The following statement was released September 23, 1997 by the White House Office of the Vice President following the ninth meeting of the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technical Cooperation, also known as the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission)
Vice President Al Gore announces that he and Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Viktor Chernomyrdin have signed on this date the U.S.-Russian Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement. The agreement enters into force immediately.
This ground-breaking accord represents an additional, significant step away from the nuclear legacy of the Cold War by placing a cap on U.S. and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapon-grade plutonium. It also prohibits Russian use in nuclear weapons of recently produced plutonium. It marks the first time that the U.S. and Russia have placed limits on the materials for nuclear warheads themselves rather than on their delivery vehicles such as missiles and bombers, as in the START and INF treaties.
Under the agreement, Russia's three plutonium-producing reactors that are in active use must be converted by 2000 so that they no longer produce weapon-grade plutonium. The U.S. will provide assistance for this conversion. Other such reactors that Russia is not currently using must remain permanently closed down. Similarly, U.S. plutonium-producing reactors, all of which have been closed down since1989, must remain closed.
Further, Russia commits not to use in nuclear weapons any of the weapon-grade plutonium it produces in the three operating reactors between now and the time of their conversion. To ensure compliance with this commitment, the U.S. will monitor such plutonium produced by Russia since the beginning of 1995.
The agreement's extensive monitoring regime provides U.S. and Russian monitors unprecedented access to each other's nuclear warhead production facilities and their associated materials. U.S. monitors will be able to ensure that closed facilities remain closed, that operating facilities use fuel and production schedules suitable only for non-weapon-grade material, and that recently produced plutonium remains out of warhead production.
This agreement marks a new stage of U.S.-Russian cooperation to regulate and safeguard nuclear materials, to limit their use in weapons, and to build mutual confidence through increased transparency. It is an important step forward on the path leading to eventual negotiation of limits on warheads themselves.