Friday, April 03, 2009

Obama/Medvedev To Transform Swords Into Plowshares?

Nuclear warheads can be converted and used as fuel in nuclear power plants. This could hold the key to the G-20 announcement by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that they want to reduce each nation's long-range nuclear arsenals. The two presidents have started negotiations on a new strategic arms-control treaty that would cut each nation's long-range nuclear arsenal further than previous agreements. In a separate joint statement, the two leaders pledged to begin working immediately on an agreement to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which will expire at the end of this year. They committed to reducing their nuclear arsenals to levels lower than those mandated by the Moscow Treaty of 2002, which calls for both nations to have no more than 1,700 to 2,200 warheads by Dec. 31, 2012.

The statement also called for "international negotiations for a verifiable treaty to end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons," a step that has never been taken before. Obama also pledged to work for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which the Senate rejected in 1999. The arms-reduction talks are designed to produce a treaty that contains stringent measures to verify warhead and missile levels.

The Megatons to Megawatts Program is a unique, commercially financed government-industry partnership in which bomb-grade uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear warheads is being recycled into low enriched uranium (LEU) used to produce fuel for American nuclear power plants. USEC, as executive agent for the U.S. government, and Techsnabexport (TENEX), acting for the Russian government, implement this 20-year, $8 billion program at no cost to taxpayers. The U.S. is also building a facility in South Carolina that will convert plutonium into a fuel that can be used in commercial nuclear power plants. This mixed oxide (MOX) fuel is currently used in American plants and in other countries. (WashPost, 4/3/09)

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