Click for next page ( 112


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 111
Intermediate Storage Following dismantlement, described in the previous chapter, a substantial period of intermediate storage of the fissile materials will be required, as none of the plausible options for long-term disposition can significantly reduce the stock of excess plutonium for more than a decade. What happens during that period is therefore of critical importance. As a central part of managing this intermediate storage, the United States and Russia should rapidly make formal commitments that: 1. specific, agreed amounts of fissile materials from dismantled weapons will never again be used for weapons; and 2. verification of non-weapons use or disposal will be established in both coun- tries through a combination of bilateral and international safeguards over the storage sites for these materials. Such steps to subtract fissile materials from the stock available for weap- ons, with monitoring, would be fundamental parts of the regime outlined in the last chapter, serving the same objectives of reducing the risks of theft and of breakout, and of strengthening arms reduction and nonproliferation. At the same time, it is not just these excess materials that pose dangers. Urgent steps are needed to improve accounting and security for all fissile ma- terials in the former Soviet Union, and for the United States and other countries to provide assistance in that regard. Stringent safeguards and physical security for fissile materials from dismantled weapons in the United States and Russia can set a standard for a regime for improved management of such materials in civilian use throughout the world. 111

OCR for page 111
112 INTERMEDIATE STORAGE PRESENT ARRANGEMENTS AND PLANS FOR PLUTONIUM STORAGE Currently, in both the United States and Russia, as weapons are dismantled the resulting fissile materials are stored in existing facilities, some at the dis- mantlement site and some elsewhere, in the form of intact weapons compo- nents. Neither country has yet determined how much of these fissile materials will be kept as reserves and how much declared "excess" to military needs-a critical policy decision.) No monitoring or transparency measures relating to storage or use of these fissile materials are yet in place. In an important initia- tive on September 27, 1993, however, the United States announced that it would voluntarily place materials it determined to be excess under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Russia has expressed willingness to do the same, but no negotiations on this subject are yet under way.2 No deci- sions have yet been made concerning what specific materials would be covered by such an arrangement; at what facilities they would be located; or how plu- tonium in pit form could be placed under safeguards, without compromising sensitive nuclear weapons information. Discussions of more limited transpar- ency measures associated with both the highly enriched uranium (HEW) deal and the planned U.S. assistance in construction of a fissile material storage site in Russia are continuing. The United States Pits at Pantex The U.S. nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility, the Pantex plant near Amarillo, Texas, has recently been pressed into service for "interim" storage of plutonium. Until 1989, when the plutonium processing facility at Rocky Flats, Colorado, was shut down because of safety and environmental problems, the plutonium pits from nuclear weapons were sent from Pantex to Rocky Flats to be processed into new pits for new weapons. Since Rocky Flats' closure, these shipments have been cut off, and pits from dismantled weapons have been stored in growing numbers in preexisting bunkers (called "igloos" at the Pantex facility. The HEU components of dismantled weapons continue to be shipped from Pantex to the Y-12 plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where they were produced, ~ The U.S. Department of Energy has recently declassified the guarded statement that "up to" 50 tons of plutonium "will (or may)" become excess. No similar announcement has been made concerning HEU since some of the HEU from dismantled weapons will be used to fuel naval and research reactors. See Louis R. Willett, Deputy Director, Office of Weapons and Materials Planning, Defense Programs, U.S. Department of Energy, "Excess Fissile Materials," presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Power Conference, Chicago, Illinois, April 13-15, 1993. 2 Russian delegation statement to the United Nations Conference on Disarmament, August 17, 1993.

OCR for page 111
INTERMEDIATE STORAGE 1 13 and where they can be stored or processed and fabricated into reactor fuel. While the majority of the HEU stored in the weapons complex is located at Y-12, HEU is present at several other sites as well. As dismantlement continues, pit storage at Pantex will soon reach its lim- its, unless storage arrangements are modified.3 The Department of Energy (DOE) and the contractor operating Pantex have developed a plan to increase pit storage capacity at the site to 20,000, by using some additional igloos not previously used for pit storage, and by modifying the stacking arrangements within the igloos to increase the number of pits stored in each one. This plan, if approved, would provide adequate interim storage space for all of the pluto- nium from weapons that the United States currently plans to dismantle. DOE's Environmental Assessment of this plan has drawn some criticism from the state government and the public in the area surrounding the plant, but it appears likely that the plan or a variant of it will ultimately be approved. It appears that storage of additional pits at Pantex will pose few risks beyond those of the existing pit storage operation lower risks than would be posed by continued storage of weapons without disassembly. Neither the pits nor the concrete ig- loos at Pantex are likely to deteriorate significantly over the next few decades. In a technical sense, therefore, storage in the material's present form at the current site could be continued for that period without undue risk, provided that an adequate program to monitor the pits' status and respond to any problems . . was maintainer . State and local governments and the local populace, however, were assured by DOE in the early 1990s that interim storage in the existing Pantex facilities would last for only 6-10 years. No decision has yet been made on a site for longer-term storage (see below); Pantex is one of several candidates still under consideration. DOE has recently taken a number of initiatives to expand public participation in decisions regarding operations at the Pantex site. The commit- tee believes that such steps toward providing genuine public participation will be essential in securing public acceptance for whatever storage approach is ultimately chosen. Plutonium in Other Forms Many tons of military plutonium not incorporated in weapons are stored at sites elsewhere in the U.S. weapons complex, including Rocky Flats, Hanford, Los Alamos, and Savannah River. This plutonium ranges from material that could be rapidly incorporated into weapons, such as relatively pure metal and oxides, to material that would be rather difficult to recover, such as plutonium in liquid residues from processing operations or discarded equipment and 3 U.S. Department of Energy, Albuquerque Operations, Amarillo Area Office, Environmental Assessment for Interim Storage of Plutonium Components at Pantex, DOE/EA0812, Predecisional, December 1992.

OCR for page 111
114 INTERMEDIATE STORAGE clothing contaminated with plutonium. For some of these materials, planned cleanup efforts include recovery of plutonium in relatively pure form, whereas others will be discarded as waste. Given the substantial surplus of pure weapons plutonium, the recovery of plutonium from these materials is justified only if it is judged to provide a net benefit for security against theft or for environment, safety, and health (ES&H) worth the cost of recovery. Future Plans DOE is developing concepts for a new plutonium storage facility, which would replace storage at Pantex and at all of the other sites where military plu- tonium is currently stored. This facility, as currently conceived, would be ca- pable of holding plutonium in any solid form. It would have a modular design, allowing expansion to hold as much plutonium as ultimately required, at a capital cost estimated at $1 billion or more. In DOE's concept, the nuclear weapons complex's plutonium processing, fabrication, and R&D activities would be located at the same site. DOE is con- sidering the possibility of storing all HEU there as well. Five sites are under consideration: Pantex, the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL), Savannah River, Y-12, and the Nevada Test Site. DOE hopes to make a "record of decision" on this facility in late 1994, as part of its Programmatic Environ- mental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the reconfiguration of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex known as "Complex-21"-and to open the first module in 2001.4 DOE advocates of a new storage facility believe that consolidation of plu- tonium at this central facility is needed to meet modern standards of ES&H protection at an acceptable cost. Despite the substantial capital cost, they argue that building such a facility would in fact save money in the long run. Both excess material and material that remains in reserve for military purposes would be stored at the same site, although the United States does not intend to place reserve materials under international safeguards. In principle, reserve materials could be stored in a separate module or storage area subject to differ ent transparency arrangements. The principal alternative to building such a consolidated storage facility is to upgrade existing plutonium storage facilities. Upgrades designed for least- cost solutions to specific ES&H problems might offer a cheaper alternative to the facility envisioned by DOE. DOE's formal environmental assessment of these alternatives, which will include estimates of cost and effectiveness, is not complete, and this committee could not undertake such an assessment. The committee therefore offers no judgment on the merit of these options, although 4 See Federal Register, July 23, 1993, pp. 39528-39535. The Complex-21 effort is a broad DOE plan to reconfigure the U.S. nuclear weapons complex to mitigate the environmental damage of the Cold War period and adjust to new, post-Cold War missions and requirements.

OCR for page 111
INTERMEDIATE STORAGE 115 there are potential advantages in having all U.S. military fissile materials located at a single site for the kind of safeguards regime described below.5 Even if a way could be found to carry out disposition of the excess plutonium in pits at Pantex quickly, it would not necessarily obviate the need for such new facilities or upgrades, given the large amount of plutonium stored elsewhere in many forms. Russia Storage of Weapons Components AS mentioned in Chapter 4, Russia is believed to be dismantling nuclear weapons at four sites. As in the United States, plutonium and LIEU in weapons components resulting from this dismantlement activity are believed to be stored both at the dismantlement facilities and at sites where the fissile materials were produced. Little is known about the safeguards and security applied to these fissile materials, or to other fissile materials in the Russian nuclear weapons complex or in civilian use (see Chapter 2 for a more extensive discussion). Similarly, little is known about Russian standards and practices for ES&M. The Russian government has asserted that lack of adequate storage space is a major bottleneck in its dismantlement plans, and that if dismantlements con- tinue as planned and no additional space is provided, it will run out of storage space by 1997.6 If, however, Russia used both storage facilities controlled by the Ministry of Defense and those controlled by the Ministry of Atomic Energy (perhaps with some modifications), more than adequate storage space would be available. A parallel situation exists in the United States, where the Department of Defense controls facilities that might be suitable, with some modifications, for storing DOE-con~olled fissile matenals. Obstacles to the provision of ade- quate storage in Russia may therefore be more bureaucratic than physical. Nevertheless, the United States has agreed to provide assistance in design- ing and equipping a large fissile material storage facility in Russia. $90 million in Nunn-Lugar assistance funding has been allocated for this purpose to date. The committee supports construction of a facility designed to consolidate all these excess weapons materials, with U.S. participation, since this would facili- tate security and international monitoring. Negotiations concerning this facility are still in flux, however, and recent developments may call some of the goals 5 In principle, concentrating all U.S. fissile materials at a single site might raise concerns about the site's vulnerability to attack. But in the United States, such sites are likely to be extremely well protected against plausible conventional attacks, and in the event of nuclear attack, having several sites would offer little reduction in overall vulnerability of the stock. Thus, this concern should not be a major factor in decisions concerning storage of the nation's stocks of fissile materials. 6 See Joseph E. Kelley, U.S. General Accounting Office, Soviet Nuclear Weapons: U.S. Efforts to Help Former Soviet Republics Secure and Destroy Weapons, statement before Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, March 9, 1993, GAO/T-NSL\D-93-5.

OCR for page 111
116 INTERMEDIATE STORAGE of this assistance into question.7 Russian officials had hoped to break ground on the facility in the first half of 1994 and to have it operational just at the time they project existing space will run out in 1997.8 If a new site has to be chosen, the U.S. government should urge the Russian government to select one of the major Russian weapons dismantlement facilities, to minimize the transporta- tion of fissile materials and the associated security risks. Under current plans, the material in this facility will be stored primarily as weapons components. Russia has assured the United States that the material to be stored in this facility will never again be used in weapons. Discussions of transparency arrangements to verify this commitment are continuing. Neither a permanent U.S. inspection presence nor IAEA safeguards are currently planned, however. Nor is there yet any agreed arrangement for safeguards on the material after it is withdrawn from the facility for civilian use or disposal. In addition, standards and procedures for security for the site are not yet agreed and may be handled unilaterally by Russia. Plutonium in Other Forms Russia also has tens of tons of plutonium not incorporated in weapons stored in venous forms at several sites in its weapons complex. Little is known about the quantity, condition, or security of this material. In addition, Russia has roughly 25 tons of civilian separated plutonium stored at the Mayak reproc- essing complex. In early 1991, a Soviet interagency report concluded that at this site, "the current method of storing plutonium does not correspond to world practice and presents security concerns."9 Russia also has plutonium and HEU at a number of civilian sites for research purposes. Urgent steps should be talcen to improve security and accounting of fissile materials at all of these sites (see below). 7 While the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy has suggested locating the facility at Tomsk-the site of several aging plutonium production reactors and a major plutonium reprocessing facility local and regional authorities have objected. Opposition grew after the explosion of a nuclear waste tank there in early 1993. There are now reports that the Tomsk authorities will allow only a storage site for the materials already stored there, so that the facility would provide no additional space for materials from weapons now being dismantled, and the objective of consolidating all excess plutonium and HEU at a single site would be compromised. Further developments could change this outcome. It would be difficult to justify spending $90 million of the available Nunn-Lugar funds if the facility were to serve only as a replacement for existing storage capacity at a single site. ~ See Kelley, op. cit.; and U.S. Department of Defense, Quarterly Report on Program Activities to Facilitate Weapons Destruction and Nonproliferation in the Former Soviet Union (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, September 29, 1993). 9Report by the Commission for the Investigation of the Environmental Situation in the Chelyabinsk Region, January 1991, cited in Oleg Bukharin, The Threat of Nuclear Terrorism and the Physical Security of Nuclear Installations and Materials in the Former Soviet Union (Monterey, Calif.: Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Occasional Paper No. 2, August 1992), p. 7.

OCR for page 111
INTERMEDIATE STORAGE 117 TECHNICAL ISSUES In general, plutonium stores are large, highly secure vaults (or a series of smaller vaults, as in the case of the Pantex igloos), protected by various physi- cal security technologies (barriers and the like) and substantial guard forces. Within the vault, plutonium is generally stored in sealed canisters. These canis- ters reduce radiation exposure from the plutonium; reduce the plutonium's exposure to the environment; ease the task of accounting for the material, allowing monitors to simply count the canisters and check their seals (an approach known as "item accountancy"; and are usually designed to keep the pits or other units of plutonium far enough apart to prevent any accidental nuclear chain reaction ("criticality"), regardless of the number or configuration of the canisters. Criteria for Plutonium Storage What criteria should govern the design and operations of such sites? First, there must be assurance of adequate protection for the environment, and for the health and safety of both workers and the surrounding community a matter of increasing political attention in both Russia and the United States. Storage facilities must be designed to provide reasonable assurance that there will be no significant releases of plutonium into the environment, not only under normal operating conditions, but in the case of plausible attacks or accidents (for example, earthquakes, fires, floods, and plane crashes). Similarly, workers' exposures to hazardous radiation within the facility must be minimized. Pluto- nium in storage must be arranged so that it can never be in a critical configura- tion. There must be adequate dissipation of the decay heat given off by the ma- terial. Any changes in the stored plutonium that might require further processing, or any deterioration of the containers or storage conditions, should be detectable. (Periodic, rather than continuous, checks for this latter purpose are adequate.) Second, sites must be secure against theft or diversion, by "insiders" or "outsiders." They should therefore have effective material control and account- ing systems for all stored materials in whatever form, as well as appropriate physical security. The form in which the plutonium is stored (pits, metal ingots, and oxides are among the main possibilities) has a substantial effect on the details of the design of the facility. Some additional criteria are necessary to judge the opti- mum form of plutonium for storage. Criteria for this purpose include ES&H issues; proliferation risks; breakout risks; effects on arms control and nonpro- liferation; the risk of compromise of classified information; the forms needed for planned long-term disposition; and the costs, timing, and availability of facilities.

OCR for page 111
1 18 INTERMEDIATE STORAGE Classes of Plutonium Storage Facilities The criteria for safe and secure storage of plutonium can be met to varying degrees by facilities of several levels of sophistication. The facilities at Pantex represent the simplest end of the spectrum: they are simple above-ground igloos, with no electricity, only natural cooling, and no built-in measures for material control. This very simplicity has advantages, as there is little that can go wrong. Security, for example, is based not only on the presence of guards and response forces, but on the fact that the forklift required to lift the igloos' 40-ton doors could not pass unnoticed across the open desert. On the other hand, this simplicity also means that there are few provisions for mitigating the consequences of potential accidents, such as plutonium contamination within the igloo. Workers' exposures to radiation in the process of operations inside the igloos (such as taking inventory) are not insignificant and would increase under the plan to store additional plutonium pits there. Automation and robot- ics are being pursued to reduce these hazards. As currently planned, the storage facility to be built in Russia would be considerably more complex. In designs that were current as of late 1993, the entire storage area would be underground; there would be complex electronic systems to support physical security and material control and accounting; and there would be a powered cooling system to remove the heat generated by tons of plutonium. Other advanced features are planned as well. if The storage facility envisioned by DOE for the United States would incor- porate the features of the Russian facility, and would also have an extensive on- site analysis and processing capability, making it still more advanced and expensive. Forms of Plutonium for Storage Each of the criteria for forms of plutonium just mentioned are considered below in turn: ES&M, Costs, Schedules, and Facility Availability Storage as pits is the quickest, lowest-cost means to achieve safe and envi- ronmentally benign storage of plutonium from dismantled weapons. Leaving the pits in their current form during intermediate storage would postpone what- ever costs, hazards, and wastes would be incurred in changing them to other forms. Although plutonium metal is usually prone to oxidation, in a pit the plu ~ The United States has suggested to the Russian government that if adequate storage is a major bottleneck to dismantlement, quickly building simple storage such as that at Pantex might be a better approach than building a sophisticated facility that cannot be opened until 1997. Russian representatives, however, have strongly favored the more complex facility, saying that the simpler facilities would have to be replaced later by more advanced ones in any case.

OCR for page 111
INTERMEDIATE STORAGE 119 tonium is sealed within a cladding of another metal such as steel. While pluto- nium is known to change over time, pits have proved remarkably stable over the several decades of experience with them in the United States, and one can have substantial confidence that with few exceptions they will remain stable for decades to come. In rare instances, however, problems may develop, such as air leaking into the pits so that the plutonium inside oxidizes. Periodic monitoring is thus essential. No facility with the capability to change pits to other forms on the required scale is currently operating in the United States, although existing facilities at Rocky Flats, Los Alamos, Savannah River, and Hanford might be used if modified or reopened. Promising new procedures for conversion of pits to other forms, while minimizing waste and worker exposure to radiation, are under development at the national laboratories, and this work should continue. Pits might be mechanically deformed (squashed) to lower the risk that they would be reassembled into weapons. Deformation of pits might compromise the pit cladding, increasing the risk of oxidation or other instabilities in the mate- rial. If deformation was considered desirable, the pit might be enclosed in a sealed envelope of a ductile material, such as aluminum, before deformation took place, to isolate it from the environment. (Such an envelope might also be useful in handling pits damaged as a result of normal operations.) Conceptu- ally, deformation operations using such envelopes appear relatively simple, and it would seem possible to carry them out even at locations such as Pantex that lack a genuine plutonium handling capability. A complete safety analysis would be required to assess this judgment, however. Proliferation Risk Plutonium in any relatively pure form poses similar proliferation risks (except, of course, in the form of an assembled nuclear weapon, in which case the risks are substantially greater. Weapons can be made from the material without the need for chemical processing, whether it is in pits, metal ingots, alloys, or oxides. Building an explosive from oxide would require more mate- rial and would be somewhat more complicated; a sophisticated proliferator might choose to process the oxides into metal before use. A proliferator who managed to acquire plutonium stored in pit form could use it to fabricate a weapon that would generate a nuclear yield, even if the proliferator's explosive design were not well matched to that originally designed for the particular pit. Mechanically deforming the pits might not be effective in reducing this risk (although it would have some impact on the rearmament risk, described below). Having a pit available (rather than, for example, a metal ingot of plutonium) ~ It is assumed here that all forms of plutonium would be stored in large, sealed canisters, so that differences in the potential for diversion of small quantities of material over time are not significant.

OCR for page 111
120 INTERMEDIATE STORAGE would simplify weapons manufacture somewhat, but the most difficult steps in producing a weapon would remain. Some Russian and U.S. officials have proposed blending excess weapons- grade plutonium with separated reactor-grade plutonium to create a material of intermediate grade for storage. As described in Chapter 1, however, although the increased neutron background, heat, and radioactivity from reactor-grade plutonium would complicate the job of making nuclear explosives from such a material, the reduction in proliferation risk would be small. Moreover, there are no significant stocks of separated civilian plutonium available for this purpose in the United States, and in either the United States or Russia, substantial proc- essing would be required. Therefore this is not a promising approach to reduc- ing the security risks posed by storage of weapons-grade plutonium. In short, all forms of separated plutonium are hazardous, and proliferation risk alone cannot be used to discriminate easily among them. Breakout Risk The rearmament risk is greatest for storage of unmodified pits; all of the other forms pose roughly the same risks. With pits and HEU components still available, weapons could be reassembled relatively rapidly if other components were available or could be produced quickly. The delay imposed on a possible rearmament program by having to refabricate pits, however, would probably be measured only in months, and might not be a limiting factor when compared to the other tasks involved in a large-scale rearmament program-provided that facilities for pit fabrication were available. Moreover, an argument can be made that a nation contemplating a major breakout from existing treaties would want to build new weapons using new pits, specially designed to gain some military advantage; in that case the availability of the old pits would be irrelevant. Mechanical deformation would address the greater rearmament risk posed by storage of pits. To be reincorporated in modern weapons, the deformed pits would then have to be refabricated, making the crushed pit similar in rearma- ment risk to other storage forms. The ES&H issues raised by deformation have been described above. Currently, the U.S. facility for pit fabrication at Rocky Flats is closed, and other available capacity is limited. Russia does not appear to face similar limi- tations. Thus, if pits were deformed or converted to other forms for storage, Russia might be able to rebuild its weapons more rapidly than the United States.~3 }2 It is technically possible, however, to build new-design weapons around old-design pits, perhaps with some compromise in capabilities of the new weapons. is It should be remembered, however, that a political environment in which a large-scale illegal rearmament program might be seriously contemplated by either side would be quite different from today's environment, probably more comparable to the darkest days of the Cold War. In such an

OCR for page 111
INTERMEDIATE STORAGE 121 Arms Reduction and Nonproliferation Regimes Keeping fissile materials in the form of weapons components may be per- ceived politically as keeping open an option for quick rearmament, whether or not that is actually the case. This could potentially compromise U.S. credibility in the context of ongoing arms reductions, of extending and strengthening the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and of bringing other nuclear-weapon states into the reduction regime. Such perceptions provide another reason to consider measures such as deformation of pits. Putting the stored material under safe- guards should also mitigate this problem significantly. Compromise of Classified Information Fissile materials in the form of weapons components contain classified weapons design information. Currently, a wide variety of information concern- ing weapons components is classified, although as noted in Chapter 4, a sub- stantial amount of this information could be declassified without compromising U.S. security. Combining foreign inspection with the need to protect classified information is simplified by the fact that pits are stored in opaque canisters. Techniques for accurately measuring the amount of plutonium from outside the canister are available. Whatever choice of storage form is made for the future, much of the plu- tonium from dismantled weapons will remain in pit form for years to come, simply because of the sheer scale of the task of converting tens of thousands of pits to other forms. It is therefore critical that any arrangement for safeguarded storage be at least capable of handling plutonium in pit form. Otherwise, a large fraction of the excess plutonium would remain outside the monitoring regime for a considerable period (see recommendations below). Forms for Long-Term Disposition Ultimately, for most long-term disposition options, the plutonium would have to be processed from pits to other forms. Thus, storage as pits would only postpone the ES&H issues and costs of processing. If the plutonium is to be used as an oxide fuel in reactors, for example, it must ultimately be converted to oxide, and near-term conversion to oxide form might be desirable. But that requires a definite decision on disposition options: if the material had been converted to oxide and later a decision was made to use it in metal form as fuel for fast reactors, for example, an expensive reconversion would be necessary.~4 emergency, in response to a major Russian buildup, it should probably be assumed that a way would be found to open or modify U.S. facilities. |4 If a definite decision was made to produce a particular type of fuel from the plutonium, there would be some advantages in fabricating the fuel sooner rather than later because highly radioactive americium-241 builds up in the material over time through the decay of plutonium-241 (Pu-241), increasing the difficulty of handling the material. In weapons-grade material, however, the percentage of

OCR for page 111
130 INTERMEDIATE STORAGE

OCR for page 111
INTERMEDIATE STORAGE 131

OCR for page 111
132 INTERMEDIATE STORAGE Alternatives to Outright Purchase Outright purchase is not the only means to provide incentives or shift man- agement. The essence of a purchase can be divided into three separate issues: incentives (financial or otherwise); transfer of ownership, control, or manage- ment; and transfer of location. Financial Incentives. The United States is already providing some finan- cial incentive for secure storage of Russian fissile materials by helping to fi- nance a new fissile material storage site. Additional financial incentives might be based on payment of specified sums for placement of specified quantities of plutonium into safeguarded storage. Provided that they not become open-ended commitments, the committee believes such incentives would be desirable and should continue to be explored. Transferring Ownership or Control. Rather than being solely owned and controlled by the nation from whose weapons it came, the storage site for excess plutonium, and the plutonium within it, might be owned, controlled, or managed by another group, either a new international consortium or an exist- ing international organization such as the IAEA. A wide range of possibilities exists, from shifting only a few limited management and accounting responsi- bilities to the international group, to complete transfer of ownership, along with decision-making authority over the ultimate disposition of the plutonium. Some of the points along this spectrum have been examined in IAEA discussions of "international plutonium storage," or of an "international management regime" for fissile materials.~9 Like purchase agreements, schemes for transferring con- trol over plutonium might encounter opposition in Russia from those who con- tinue to see plutonium as a national patrimony. Such concerns might be reduced if U.S. plutonium were treated in a parallel way. Transferring Location. In most cases, a transfer of location would also imply a transfer of ownership, as in the purchase concepts outlined above. One could also imagine, however, that Russian plutonium might be shipped else- where for storage, while remaining under Russian ownership, with Russia being able to request its transfer back at a later time. Given the many political teas an example of how these factors might be divided, one group of American experts has suggested forming an international consortium that would provide financial incentives (amounting to some $20,000 per kilogram) to Russia and the United States for placing plutonium into secure, safeguarded storage sites, which would be managed and guarded by the consortium but located in Russia and the United States. (The U.S. financial contribution to the consortium might just balance the payments the United States would receive, so that the cost of funding the Russian store would largely be borne by Europe and Japan.) See Allison et al., op. cit., pp. 125-128. ~9 See van Doren, op. cit. In discussions in the late 1970s and early 1980s, basic issues of sovereignty over the material in the international plutonium storage arrangement-particularly whether the state that deposited the plutonium could withdraw it at will for peaceful purposes, or whether the storage organization would have authority to approve or disapprove withdrawals were among the principal stumbling blocks to agreement.

OCR for page 111
INTERMEDIATE STORAGE 133 complications and the security issues of two-way transport, this approach does not appear promising. REDUCING THE RISK OF NUCLEAR THEFT IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION As described in Chapter 2, the risks of theft of fissile materials-or even assembled weapons in the former Soviet Union are serious. Action to improve security and accounting is urgent, as many of the Russian officials responsible have acknowledged. Every day that goes by poses additional risks that fissile materials may be stolen and wind up in the hands of potential proliferators. Both the HEU deal and the planned construction of a fissile material stor- age site in Russia address this issue in part, but both deal only with fissile materials from weapons dismantlement that Russia considers excess. Yet in addition to these quantities there are substantial stocks of fissile materials not incorporated in weapons throughout the Russian nuclear weapons complex; substantial stocks of civilian separated plutonium at the Mayak reprocessing plant; and a wide variety of military and civilian research facilities with more than enough fissile materials for a bomb. Nuclear materials in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and other former Soviet states must also be adequately secured and accounted for. The United States is working with several of the states of the former Soviet Union to provide assistance in improving security and accounting for these nu- clear materials, but only very limited steps have been taken so far, and the scale of the effort is small by comparison to the scale of the problem. As part of the Nunn-Lugar Safety, Security, and Dismantlement (SSD) effort, the United States is planning to provide Russia $10 million for these purposes (in addition to the planned assistance for the secure storage facility), along with $7.5 mil- lion for Ukraine, and $5 million for Kazakhstan. In Russia, the effort will include assistance in improving Russia's "state system" of material accounting and control, training courses similar to those regularly provided to international groups at the U.S. national laboratories, and the construction of "model" safe- guards and security systems at two civilian sites both of which process only non-weapons-usable LEU-over a period of roughly two years. As of the fall of 1993, none of these funds had been expended, as the relevant implementing agreement had just been signed.20 The IAEA and other countries also plan to provide limited assistance in material control and accounting, but none on a scale comparable even to the U.S. effort. These efforts have been considerably hampered by the ongoing turmoil in the former Soviet Union, disputes among agencies there, the continuing legacy of secrecy and mistrust, lack of priority and political impetus, and limited 20 See U.S. Department of Defense, op. cit. The implementing agreement for material control and accounting was signed on September 2, 1993.

OCR for page 111
134 INTERMEDIATE STORAGE funds. Although an initial agreement on accounting assistance was drawn up in the spring of 1993, for example, it took nearly half a year of review by Russia before it was finally signed in September 1993. Through late 1993, Russian officials had refused outside assistance that would involve foreign intrusion at military sites, and the United States had not pressed the point at a high level or offered comparable access to U.S. sites. As a result, direct U.S. assistance in accounting and security will cover only the two model civilian sites. Neither the major military sites, where the bulk of the fissile materials are stored, nor the many civilian sites with weapons-usable materials would be directly affected. The United States hopes that Russia will apply the lessons learned from joint work on the model sites to improve procedures elsewhere. The committee recommends a more urgent and comprehensive approach at a significantly higher level of funding, with an emphasis on cooperation in ad- dressing the most immediate risks. Western countries, including the United States, should press Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union to take a number of steps urgently within weeks or months, rather than years- and they should be willing to provide necessary equipment and funds for these purposes. In particular, Western countries should press for and offer assistance for the following: . . Immediateinstallation of appropriate portal-monitoring systems to detect any theft of fissile materials, as well as adequate armed guard forces, at all sites where enough weapons-usable fissile material to make a nuclear weapon is stored. An urgent program of security and accounting inspections and improve- ments at all of these sites. As recently as the mid-1980s, the United States undertook such a crash program at its own nuclear weapons complex, and made critical improvements, such as the installation of portal monitors, within days of the initial inspection in some cases.2i Improved economic conditions for personnel responsible for accounting and security for weapons and fissile materials, to reduce incentives for corruption and insider theft. Improved national oversight of security and safeguards, with a strengthened basis in law. In Russia, this would involve strengthening the role of GOSATOMNADZOR, while in other former Soviet states it would involve strengthening or creating comparable organizations. Consolidation of fissile material storage and handling where possible. Conversion of research reactors to run on low-enriched uranium fuels, reduc- ing the number of sites where weapons-grade fissile materials are used. Inadequacy of Safeguards and Security at the Department of Energy Nuclear Weapons Production Facilities, hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, March 6, 1986.

OCR for page 111
INTERMEDIATE STORAGE 135 Greater Western participation and cooperation in safeguards and security, ideally at all fissile material sites, but at all civilian sites at a minimum. This might begin with exchanges of information concerning security proce- dures at each of the sites where significant quantities of fissile materials are stored and handled, ideally supplemented by visits to each of these sites, to provide the basis for more educated offers of assistance in making improve- ments. These initial exchanges should be followed by establishing in-depth working-level cooperation on means to improve security and safeguards. Regularized, as well as emergency, working-level cooperation in monitoring reports of alleged diversions. Currently, consultations on such reports are generally carried out at a high and rather formal level, with much helpful de- tail omitted. The states of the former Soviet Union are likely to have the best information on thieves and dealers within their borders, whereas outside states may have better information on the network of buyers. Working to- gether would help the relevant intelligence agencies respond to these myriad reports. To help overcome current Russian resistance to Western participation in improving safeguards and security at military sites, the United States should be quite open about the problems it has uncovered in the past in its own weapons complex, and should be prepared to offer information about and access to U.S. sites. Such an offer might be desirable even if it were not required for political reciprocity, in order to demonstrate the security procedures used in the U.S. system. Joint U.S.-Russian development of improved technologies for accounting and security for nuclear materials would also be valuable, providing practical tools to reduce serious risks, while at the same time making productive use of the talents of former weapons scientists and engineers on both sides. Ultimately, it would be desirable if the high standard for security and ma- terial accounting that should be set for the planned jointly built storage facility were applied to all fissile materials in Russia. One means to achieve this would be for Russia to follow the same approach that DOE plans for the United States, consolidating all of its stored plutonium and HEU at a single site. As at the U.S. site, IAEA safeguards such as those advocated in this chapter might be applied at that storage site, possibly with the portion of the material still re- served for weapons use held in a separate area not subject to inspection, or subject to less intrusive measures. Such a dual approach would require signifi- cantly expanding the size of the storage facility currently planned or making explicit provision for possible subsequent construction of additional modules. The advantages of such an approach are sufficiently compelling that the com- mittee believes the United States should begin to discuss it with Russia. It should be remembered, however, that even after such consolidation, a number of facilities would remain at which working stocks of fissile materials would have to be accounted for and secured.

OCR for page 111
136 INTERMEDIATE STORAGE Alternatively, if the material cannot be brought to the storage facility, some of the cooperative approaches to be developed for the storage facility might be brought to the material. It might be desirable, for example, to have joint pe- rimeter monitoring at existing fissile material sites to guard against theft.22 This would complement the perimeter monitoring that each side already has in place (or should be urged to put in place) at its own sites. For example, a small cadre of individuals from the United States could take up residence at each of the major Russian sites, taking part in portal inspections to ensure that fissile material was not being removed without authorization. This would go a long way toward resolving doubts and uncertainties concerning the myriad reports of diversion now appearing, since any effort to bribe or overwhelm the portal guards would then have to include foreign personnel at the site as well. Although the main problem in this area, at present, is likely to be in Russia, such a program would certainly require offering comparable access to U.S. sites. Since perimeter-monitoring systems under each side's own control already exist, such joint cooperation might be set up quickly once a decision was made, with a minimum of added intrusion on activities at the sites. In par- ticular, the perimeter monitors would not necessarily need to be informed about any of the activities going on within the site; they would only oversee the guards who check materials that leave the facility. The committee believes that measures such as these could potentially provide large security benefits for modest costs and should be addressed immediately. OTHER PLUTONIUM AND HEU WORLDWIDE A number of countries are pursuing nuclear fuel cycles that involve the use, processing, and transport of separated plutonium. In addition, HEU is widely used in research reactors. These materials are usable for nuclear weap- ons, and therefore their use requires careful attention to safeguards and security to mitigate the proliferation risks. As noted in Chapter 2, standards of safe- guards and security for these materials vary widely and are less stringent than those applied to similar materials in military use. This situation needs to be changed. To mitigate these proliferation risks and manage the politics surrounding the use of these materials, some have advocated a regime internationalizing the storage (and possibly use) of these materials, in a concept the IAEA is now calling an "international management regime." Safeguarded storage for excess fissile materials from dismantled weapons in the United States and Russia can and should be seen as a first step toward building such a broader regime. Negotiations should be pursued to: 22 For a similar proposal, see Jonathan Dean, "Safeguarding Nuclear Warheads and Fissile Materials in Ukraine and Russia," Union of Concerned Scientists, September 22, 1993.

OCR for page 111
INTERMEDIATE STORAGE 137 1. create a global cutoff of all unsafeguarded production of fissile materials; 2. use the U.S.-Russian safeguarded storage regime recommended above as a base for a broad international storage and management regime for fissile ma- terials, including registration and safeguards for all civilian separated plu tonium and HEU; 3. extend the U.S.-Russian declaratory regime mentioned above to a global regime of public declarations of stocks of fissile materials; 4. agree on higher standards of physical security for these materials, with an international organization given authority to inspect sites to monitor whether the standards are met; and 5. agree on cooperative international approaches to manage the reprocessing and use of plutonium to avoid building up excess stocks. The proliferation risks from civilian plutonium and HEU programs justify greater efforts and expenses to mitigate them than are applied today. In particu- lar, safeguards and security for civilian separated plutonium and HEU should be increased to a level comparable to those applied to plutonium in military stocks. States using nuclear power should also reexamine the adequacy of their measures to ensure against diversion of spent fuel. Spent fuel that is decades old is of greater concern than fresh spent fuel, and should meet special stan- dards; ultimately, very old spent fuel will have to be subject to security comparable to that used for unirradiated plutonium-bearing materials. Appli- cable international standards on these points should be revised to reflect these perspectives. RECOMMENDATIONS The United States and Russia should place plutonium excess to military needs in safeguarded storage as soon as practical. Stored excess fissile materials committed to non-weapons use or disposal by the United States and Russia should be placed under international safe- guards (possibly combined with bilateral monitoring). In the interest of speed, monitoring of storage could initially be a bilateral U.S.-Russian effort, but the IAEA should be brought into the process rapidly. The United States should continue providing assistance for a Russian fissile material storage facility, which should be designed to consolidate all excess weapons materials at a single site, to facilitate security and international monitoring. Plutonium from dismantled weapons should continue to be stored as intact pits for now. Deformation of these pits and perhaps other steps to reduce the rearmament risk should be given serious consideration, and should be undertaken if they can be accomplished at relatively low cost and ES&H risk.

OCR for page 111
1 3 8 INTERMEDIA TE STORA GE Pits should be stored in sealed containers, with monitors permitted to assay the containers externally without observing the pits' dimensions, to pro- vide adequate safeguards without compromising sensitive weapons design information. Once definite disposition options have been chosen, the plutonium should be converted expeditiously to whatever form is required as part of the disposi- tion process. Financial or other incentives might be provided to encourage Russia to place the maximum amount of material into monitored storage. With the con- dition that these not be an open-ended commitment or provide any incentive for continued production of separated plutonium, such incentives would be desir- able and should continue to be explored. The safeguards budget of the IAEA should be substantially increased, and other steps should be taken to strengthen that organization's ability to carry out its critical responsibilities. One promising approach would be the creation of a voluntary fund, to which nations interested in improved safeguards would make contributions above and beyond their fixed allocations. Appropriate arrangements for intermediate storage are to a large extent decoupled from long-term disposition decisions and should be considered more urgent. Urgent steps are needed to improve safeguards and security for all fissile materials in the former Soviet Union, including materials beyond those consid- ered excess. The committee recommends a comprehensive approach at a sig- nificantly higher level of funding, with an emphasis on cooperation in address- ing the most immediate risks. Western countries, including the United States, should press Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union to take a number of steps urgently, and should be willing to provide necessary equipment and funds for these purposes. In particular, Western countries should press for and offer assistance for: L. immediate installation of appropriate portal-monitoring systems to detect any theft of fissile materials, as well as adequate armed guard forces, at all sites where enough weapons-usable fissile material to make a nuclear weapon is stored; 2. an urgent program of security and accounting inspections and improvements at all of these sites; 3. improved economic conditions for personnel responsible for accounting and security for weapons and fissile materials, to reduce incentives for corruption and insider theft; 4. improved national oversight of security and safeguards, with a strengthened basis in law. In Russia, this would involve strengthening the role of

OCR for page 111
INTERMEDIATE STORAGE 139 GOSATOMNADZOR, while in other former Soviet states it would involve strengthening or creating comparable organizations; 5. consolidation of fissile material storage and handling where possible; 6. conversion of research reactors to run on low-enriched uranium fuels, reduc- ing the number of sites where weapons-grade fissile materials are used; 7. greater Western participation and cooperation in safeguards and security, ideally at all fissile material sites, but at all civilian sites at a minimum; and 8. regularized, as well as emergency, working-level cooperation in monitoring reports of alleged diversions. The steps outlined by the committee to improve safeguards and physical security for fissile materials in the United States and Russia should set a standard for a regime for improved management of such materials in civilian use throughout the world. Negotiations should be pursued to: 1. create a global cutoff of all unsafeguarded production of fissile materials; 2. use the U.S.-Russian safeguarded storage regime recommended above as a base for a broad international storage and management regime for fissile materials, including registration and safeguards for all civilian separated plutonium and HEU; 3. extend the U.S.-Russian declaratory regime mentioned above to a global regime of public declarations of stocks of fissile materials; 4. agree on higher standards of physical security for these materials, with an international organization given authority to inspect sites to monitor whether the standards are met; and 5. agree on cooperative international approaches to manage reprocessing and use of plutonium to avoid building up excess stocks.

OCR for page 111