From Non-governmental Organizations Opposing Plutonium Fuel
May 30, 2003
Dear Prime Minister or President:
On behalf of the people of all nations who want a future free of nuclear dangers, we urge you to prevent the funding of nuclear programs which use plutonium for reactor fuel. At the 2003 meeting of the Group of Eight (G-8) nations in Evian, France, you have an opportunity to prohibit financial support for this dangerous plan. We understand that the current G-8 meeting agenda includes a discussion of funding for the Russian plutonium disposition program.
As you know, three years ago the United States and the Russian Federation approved an agreement for the disposition of 68 metric tons of surplus military plutonium. The disposition of weapons-grade plutonium in light water reactors is promoted by the United States while Russia favors the use of plutonium in breeder reactors. However, neither US nor Russian light water reactors were designed to use plutonium fuel, also called MOX or mixed oxide fuel. Last year leaders of the Group of Eight nations agreed to spend up to $20 billion over the next 10 years to assist nations to dismantle their stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. While we support the larger goal of putting plutonium into a form which is not usable for weapons, we believe that the method which both countries have agreed upon to achieve it is wrong. It is wrong for environmental, economic, non-proliferation, political, and safety reasons.
In Russia the use of plutonium raises numerous safety concerns which will be heightened by the lack of effective regulation. Russian light water reactors, called VVER-1000, have experienced many safety problems which have not been acknowledged or analyzed publicly by Minatom. Further, the Russian BN-600 breeder reactor, which would also be used in the program, has also experienced safety problems. By subsidizing a plutonium fuel infrastructure in Russia, you would be encouraging Minatoms plans to build more nuclear reactors, including breeder reactors which are not the most economic way to generate electricity. And G-8 funding the Russian plan will provide impetus for the United States to proceed because the two nations programs are linked.
In the United States the Department of Energy has selected four nuclear reactors which have only half the strength of other types of pressurized water reactor (PWR) containment structures. These commercial power plants, operated by Duke Power (U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Facility Operating License Nos. NPF-35, NPF-52, NPF-9, and NPF-17 ), are among the few reactors worldwide which use the ice condenser system baskets of ice to reduce heat and pressure in the event of an accident inside the containment building. According to the NRC, Ice condenser plants are at least two orders of magnitude more vulnerable to early containment failure than other types of PWRs. (NUREG/CR-6427, April 2000) Experts estimate that a severe accident at a plutonium mixed oxide fueled reactor would result in 25% more cancer deaths.
We are not convinced by statements that the facilities which will participate in this program serve only disarmament and non-proliferation goals. In fact, some of the facilities can also be used for military purposes. For example, chemical processing facilities outlined in the agreement can also be used to make new plutonium pits for new nuclear weapons. The circulation of plutonium fuel in the commercial sector would increase the risk of diversion. Encouraging a plutonium economy in Russia and the United States undermines non-proliferation.
The action you take will have profound impacts on the environment, on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and on energy policy for many decades. Before making a decision, we request that you conduct a thorough investigation into the entire matter. As this decision will have far-reaching effects on the nations of the world, this investigation should include public hearings and other types of public input.
Thank you for your attention to our request. We look forward to your response.
Martin Forwood and Janine
Alexandra Koroleva, director
for Baltic Resource and Information Service
Alisa Nikulina, coordinator for
Socio-Ecological Union Int'l
Alexey Yablokov, PresidentCenter for
Russian Environmental Policy
United States of America
Sara Barczak, Safe Energy Director
Kay Drey 515 West Point Ave.
Constance Kolpitkee-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amanda Martin, Director
Mary Olson, Director Southeast Office
E.M.T. O'Nan, Director
Lewis E. Patrie, M.D., M.P.H.
Kalynda Tilges, Executive Director
Janet Marsh Zeller, Executive Director