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PROSPECTS FOR RUSSIA-U.S. COOPERATION IN THE AREA OF NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION IN THE CONTEXT OF PROBLEMS ARISING FROM A NUCLEAR POWER RENAISSANCE

Evgeny N. Avrorin,

All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Technical Physics


Recent years have demonstrated global changes in attitudes toward nuclear power. Russia and the United States put forward important initiatives concerning global nuclear power development (International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles, Generation IV International Forum [GIF], Global Nuclear Energy Partnership) and started the deployment of their national programs.186 The south-east Asian nations (first of all, China and India) declared ambitious plans concerning their construction of nuclear power plants. Latin American countries also show reviving interest in nuclear power.

In addition to quantitative changes, we expect almost all nuclear power technologies to be fundamentally revised. An extremely important step here is lifting the ban on the use of the closed nuclear fuel cycle in the United States, which will open possibilities for shifting to fast neutron reactors with full utilization of uranium resources in the future.187 Under consideration are reactors of different types (for example, six types of reactors are proposed for consideration in the GIF) as well as advanced spent nuclear fuel technologies. Effective technologies for radioactive waste immobilization and disposal will also be needed.

Great changes have also occurred in the international situation, specifically in relation to nuclear power and non-proliferation. We have de facto horizontal proliferation and have to reckon with not only the possibility of proliferation on the national level, but also the peril of a terrorist group acquiring or developing nuclear weapons.

At the same time we see tendencies for a weakening of international law: the U.S. withdrawal from the ballistic missile defense treaty, U.S. policy to deny new verification agreements, North Korea’s withdrawal from the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear

186

For further information regarding International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO), see http://www.iaea.org/OurWork/ST/NE/NENP/NPTDS/Projects/INPRO/index.html; accessed May 1, 2008. For further information regarding Generation IV International Forum (GIF), see http://gif.inel.gov/; accessed May 1, 2008. For further information regarding the U.S. Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, see http://nuclear.inl.gov/gnep/index.shtml; accessed April 6, 2008.

187

The Russian Corporation TVEL notes that “(t)he closed nuclear cycle envisages transportation of irradiated fuel assemblies to radiochemical plants to extract unburned uranium rather than transportation to disposal site. Recoverable uranium could amount up to 95 percent of initial uranium mass. Then, this material is subject to same processing stages as the one mined.” Presently the majority of countries use an open fuel cycle. For more information, see http://www.tvel.ru/en/nuclear_power/nuclear_fuel_cycle/; accessed April 6, 2008.



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PROSPECTS FOR RUSSIA-U.S. COOPERATION IN THE AREA OF NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION IN THE CONTEXT OF PROBLEMS ARISING FROM A NUCLEAR POWER RENAISSANCE Evgeny N. Avrorin, All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Technical Physics Recent years have demonstrated global changes in attitudes toward nuclear power. Russia and the United States put forward important initiatives concerning global nuclear power development (International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles, Generation IV International Forum [GIF], Global Nuclear Energy Partnership) and started the deployment of their national programs.186 The south-east Asian nations (first of all, China and India) declared ambitious plans concerning their construction of nuclear power plants. Latin American countries also show reviving interest in nuclear power. In addition to quantitative changes, we expect almost all nuclear power technologies to be fundamentally revised. An extremely important step here is lifting the ban on the use of the closed nuclear fuel cycle in the United States, which will open possibilities for shifting to fast neutron reactors with full utilization of uranium resources in the future.187 Under consideration are reactors of different types (for example, six types of reactors are proposed for consideration in the GIF) as well as advanced spent nuclear fuel technologies. Effective technologies for radioactive waste immobilization and disposal will also be needed. Great changes have also occurred in the international situation, specifically in relation to nuclear power and non-proliferation. We have de facto horizontal proliferation and have to reckon with not only the possibility of proliferation on the national level, but also the peril of a terrorist group acquiring or developing nuclear weapons. At the same time we see tendencies for a weakening of international law: the U.S. withdrawal from the ballistic missile defense treaty, U.S. policy to deny new verification agreements, North Korea’s withdrawal from the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear 186 For further information regarding International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO), see http://www.iaea.org/OurWork/ST/NE/NENP/NPTDS/Projects/INPRO/index.html; accessed May 1, 2008. For further information regarding Generation IV International Forum (GIF), see http://gif.inel.gov/; accessed May 1, 2008. For further information regarding the U.S. Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, see http://nuclear.inl.gov/gnep/index.shtml; accessed April 6, 2008. 187 The Russian Corporation TVEL notes that “(t)he closed nuclear cycle envisages transportation of irradiated fuel assemblies to radiochemical plants to extract unburned uranium rather than transportation to disposal site. Recoverable uranium could amount up to 95 percent of initial uranium mass. Then, this material is subject to same processing stages as the one mined.” Presently the majority of countries use an open fuel cycle. For more information, see http://www.tvel.ru/en/nuclear_power/nuclear_fuel_cycle/; accessed April 6, 2008. 145

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Weapons (NPT), Russia’s threat to withdraw from the Treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, and an application of sanctions (including military) outside of the United Nations Security Council.188 Double standard policies are practiced more and more widely: the development of nuclear weapons by Pakistan and India and reasonable suspicion that Israel was developing nuclear weapons did not cause any serious sanctions compared with those applied to Iraq or those which may be applied to North Korea or Iran. Some countries develop nuclear technologies including uranium enrichment without hindrance, while other countries are refused these technologies. Nuclear weapons may be attractive for many countries as a guarantee of their national security and higher status. Not even an absolutely reliable (or fully successful) test of nuclear weapons revived negotiations with North Korea. Nuclear weapons development by a country may turn it into a rogue state, causing international condemnation and sanctions, including military (Iraq, Iran, North Korea), but the authority and status of that country enhance once it has acquired nuclear weapons. The nuclear-haves maintain their nuclear stockpiles as a safeguard of their security and sovereignty, but they deny other countries the right of this safeguard. A mechanism of compensation to the countries that refuse nuclear weapons is still to be devised. The nuclear “haves” did not pay considerable attention to protecting information on scientific principles and basic technologies required for nuclear weapons development. Many irresponsible publications made this information public. The unconstrained freedom of speech and freedom of information in this area degenerates into danger to all humanity. Also the illegal market of nuclear material and technology constitutes a real danger. In some cases commercial and political interests interpreted unilaterally have facilitated proliferation. In this regard the attempt to punish the buyer (Iran) rather than the seller (Pakistan) for illegal export of the enrichment technology seems very odd. In the realm of non-proliferation, as perhaps in no other realm, myths proliferate. Nuclear power is often thought to be a key (and even unique) source of proliferation. But we forget that the first atomic bombs were built on either side of the ocean long before nuclear power came into being. Nuclear power seems to be the most expensive and irrational way to nuclear weapons. Suffice it to say that in order to manufacture a nuclear charge similar to that used in the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, one would need about 2-3 percent of the initial raw material natural uranium, and about 3-4 percent of the enrichment work required for the start of a nuclear power plant of the Buesher type. Under the veil of non-proliferation it is required that accumulated plutonium (especially weapons useable Pu) should be disposed of as soon as possible. But already in the next decades plutonium will be needed to start fast neutron reactors. To burn (and burn ineffectively) plutonium as MOX-fuel in thermal reactors means to rob our future generations. The general path of nuclear power development is to change over to fast neutron reactors with the closed fuel cycle and breeding, but some nuclear countries (first and foremost, the United States) propose that countries not develop nuclear power in this way, a way that could increase nuclear fuel resources hundreds of times. 188 To read the text of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, see http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/Others/infcirc140.pdf; accessed April 6, 2008. To read the text of the INF Treaty, see http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/treaties/inf2.html; accessed April 6, 2008. To read the text of the Treaty on the Conventional Forces in Europe, see http://www.state.gov/t/ac/trt/4781.htm; accessed April 6, 2008. 146

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The maintenance of the non-proliferation regime is hampered by objective or artificial contradictions. The non-proliferation regime includes different aspects: • political (treaties, agreements, sanctions) • economic (fuel price, verification and security costs) • technological (proliferation resistance) • control (verification and inspection) None of these aspects alone can ensure non-proliferation. It would be naïve to believe that, for example, some technology can guarantee non-proliferation and rule out the threat of nuclear terrorism.189 However the successive phase-out of the most hazardous technologies would certainly facilitate non-proliferation. Uranium enrichment to weapons grade is the most hazardous technology. Most of the separation work is spent on the enrichment of natural uranium to the power reactor grade. Further enrichment to the weapons grade does not require modifications in technology or equipment and does not radically increase the costs. The cost of source uranium is small compared to the total cost of weapons development and it is therefore possible to use uranium from low-grade or alternative (even seawater) deposits. The complex needed to obtain weapons- grade uranium for a limited number of nuclear devices does not require enormous construction and can be arranged secretly. Weapons-grade plutonium can be obtained by replacing a number of standard fuel assemblies in a power reactor, by assemblies with natural or depleted uranium, or by extracting plutonium from fuel with the limited exposure period. It would seem wise to give more care to the proposals that could help rule out or at least strongly restrict the use of uranium enrichment and back-end technologies in the future (BREST type reactors, molten-salt reactors). Unfortunately the bounds between military and civil technologies are seen to be only quantitative, not qualitative. They can easily be overstepped if verification measures are disabled. For terrorist groups interested in nuclear weapons, the transportation of the fresh and spent nuclear fuel of power reactors may become the most attractive stage of the nuclear fuel cycle. It is comparatively easy to finish the former and to extract plutonium from the latter. Transportation is much more difficult to secure than stationary objects. Recently the feasibility of using medium- and low-power reactors to supply small countries or hard-to-reach regions with energy has been widely discussed. Such stations may be very attractive to nuclear terrorists. Radioactivity which would accumulate with time due to operation would protect these stations against intrusion and theft, but during the start-up period this barrier would be absent. Why do countries developing nuclear power aim to have a complete nuclear fuel cycle? There are both political and economic reasons. What attracts them is the independence of nuclear fuel supplies and the possibility to fabricate fuel at a price that would be lower than that in the highly-monopolized world market. A complete domestic cycle is estimated to become economic from a total nuclear power of 20 gigawatts, and changes in the cost of natural uranium and fuel cycle improvements may reduce this threshold. Some countries are certainly interested 189 The threat from low-enriched uranium (LEU) or spent nuclear fuel (SNF) usage can not be eliminated by simple organizational means. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) control is not an absolute barrier although it hinders illegal LEU and SNF usage. Significant efforts by countries with nuclear power industries as well as those of the world community are required to eliminate these threats. 147

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in retaining the possibility of using nuclear fuel technology for nuclear weapons development, if necessary. WHAT MEASURES CAN BE APPLIED TO REDUCE THE RISK OF PROLIFERATION? If we speak about proliferation at the level of states, it is first necessary to eliminate or, at least, weaken incentives to have nuclear weapons. It is necessary to enhance international respect for the sovereignty of any state regardless of its government. Diligent work to reduce threats to all threshold countries and to develop international safeguards against any aggression may eventually eliminate interest in nuclear weapons. What may greatly help strengthen the non-proliferation regime is progress in nuclear disarmament (as provided by the NPT). It is necessary to develop a nuclear power plant (NPP) and nuclear fuel market that would be open to all countries without political discrimination. The improvement of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards must produce a generally recognized, all-embracing list of verification and protection measures required for nuclear power development. The costs of these measures must not be a liability of countries developing nuclear power. These non-proliferation measures must be taken either by the international community (for example, through the IAEA), or by nuclear powers most interested in non-proliferation. Encouraging countries to refuse proliferation hazardous technologies requires the development of a system of material considerations. The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and, in a less explicit form, the international nuclear fuel cycle, proposes that countries be categorized into two groups. 1) Exporting countries are those with all nuclear technologies, including those which are a proliferation danger. These countries are to guarantee a free market of NPP equipment and nuclear fuel. It would seem that these countries must undertake obligations to guarantee the sovereignty and security of all countries and to defray the cost of non-proliferation measures. These countries should also build fast neutron reactors to transmute long-lived isotopes and to produce fuel for thermal reactors as resources of cheap uranium are exhausted. 2) Importing countries are those which voluntarily refuse hazardous technologies, but have free access to purchase or lease NPP equipment and nuclear fuel. By way of compensation for their refusal of hazardous technologies, they must be given international guarantees of sovereignty and security, as well as internationally assured supplies of nuclear fuel (a free market in fuel, IAEA reserve, etc.). Fuel could possibly be supplied at preferential prices. However, it may be considered sufficient compensation if exporting countries take obligations to receive and recycle spent nuclear fuel and take waste for long-term storage (possibly after transmutation), and require no payment for verification and protection measures. Pluses and minuses of categorizing countries into two groups include: 148

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• (+) a reduced risk of hazardous technology proliferation • (+) a path toward civilized NPP and nuclear fuel markets • (-) enhanced discrimination between countries • (-) the need for effective verification and protection measures • (-) increased nuclear material transportation (vulnerable to terrorists) • (-) such a division will only be effective for a limited time because traditional thermal-neutron NPPs are to be replaced by fast-neutron ones as technology improves and resources of cheap uranium are exhausted So these proposals cannot radically resolve the problem of proliferation. It would seem that the risk of proliferation can be eliminated only if the international mentality gradually changed. The policy of using a ‘stick,’ such as suspicions, threats, and, sanctions must be ruled out of international practice. Instead we must turn to the policy of using ‘carrots,’ such as assistance in the development of nuclear power, the establishment of and payment for verification measures, and material considerations for refusal of hazardous technologies. Placing hope on such an improvement of the international climate would possibly seem too optimistic, but this is apparently the only way to bring the non-proliferation dead-lock to an end. In this way it would be possible to start departing from national nuclear power systems to a completely international one (such as Dwight Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace Concept). Most of the non-proliferation measures proposed require concerted (or, still better, joint) actions by nuclear powers, the first by the United States and Russia. These actions need to be implemented at different levels including: • intergovernmental • lab-to-lab • bilateral expert groups • scientific exchanges • International Science and Technology Center projects • joint participation in IAEA inspections and other verification measures Competition in the market for nuclear technology and equipment must proceed within the framework of unified non-proliferation standards, including criteria to identify hazardous technologies, requirements for exported reactors, an all-embracing list of verification and protection measures for importing countries, nuclear fuel supply conditions, the status of international enrichment and recycle centers, and the status of a nuclear fuel reserve. The United States and Russia could initiate the development of such standards. Joint scientific and technological developments could be of great help for the development of advanced nuclear power technologies. These include: • innovative, higher proliferation resistant reactor projects • innovative nuclear fuel cycle technologies (especially for international nuclear fuel cycle centers) • developments and improvements in methods for mathematical modeling of nuclear reactors and the nuclear fuel cycle 149

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• methods to quantitatively assess proliferation risks for various nuclear power options • improvement of technical means for nuclear materials protection, control, and accounting • long-lived product transmutation methods • radioactive waste immobilization and disposal methods One of the most important tasks in the cooperation is skill formation, including joint development of programs to train nuclear power specialists, development of training aids, and the exchange of students and postgraduates. 150