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– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
Russia Endorses Plutonium Disposition Pact
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Daniel Horner

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed into law three key documents on U.S.-Russian plutonium disposition, including a protocol that was one of the high-profile results of last year’s nuclear security summit in Washington.

Medvedev’s endorsement, announced June 7, followed action by the two chambers of Russia’s parliament in May, Russian media reported.

The original accord, which was signed in 2000, commits each side to the disposition of at least 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium taken from its defense program. The protocol allows Russia to use fast-neutron reactors for that effort. (See ACT, May 2010.) Medvedev’s June action covered those two documents and a 2006 protocol containing legal liability provisions for U.S.-Russian cooperation on the disposition program.

Since the signing of the protocol at the April 2010 summit, the two sides have been negotiating a document setting out milestones for progress in the Russian work that U.S. funds would support. (See ACT, March 2011.)

In a June 22 interview, a U.S. official said the question is how to “energize” those talks and that the formal Russian approvals might help do that.

He said there had been “good progress” on negotiating the agreement’s verification measures, which are to be carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In a letter to the agency last August, the two governments said they wanted to finish that work by the end of 2011.