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28 May 2003

Last Russian Weapons-Grade Plutonium Reactors to Shut Down

(Abraham calls move "significant step" in nonproliferation) (1330)

The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded contracts to two U.S. firms
to begin shutting down the last three weapons-grade plutonium
production reactors in the Russian Federation.

The contracts, worth a total of $466 million, will go to Washington
Group International for work on two reactors in Seversk and Raytheon
Technical Services for work on one reactor in Zheleznogorsk, DOE said.

The reactors provide heat and electricity to surrounding communities
in Siberia but also make enough plutonium to produce approximately one
nuclear weapon every day and a half, according to a DOE press release.
The facilities will be replaced or refurbished with coal-fired heat
and electricity producing equipment.

At a press conference with Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov May 27 in
Washington, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham called the awarding of
the contracts "another significant step in our countries' cooperative
work on a critical nuclear nonproliferation program."

He also announced that Ambassador Ushakov would visit DOE's Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory in California in early June.

Following are a DOE press release and Abraham's prepared remarks at
the press conference:

(begin text)

Department of Energy
Washington, D.C.
www.energy.gov

Press Release
May 27, 2003

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY SELECTS WASHINGTON GROUP, INTERNATIONAL &
RAYTHEON TECHNICAL SERVICES TO BEGIN WORK ON SHUTDOWN OF RUSSIAN
PLUTONIUM PRODUCTION REACTORS

-- Important Step In Bush Administration Nuclear Nonproliferation
Program with Russia; Program Will Eliminate the Production of Enough
Plutonium To Make One Bomb Every Day and A Half

WASHINGTON, D.C. - At a press conference with Russian Ambassador to
the United States Yuri Ushakov, U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer
Abraham announced today that the Department of Energy's National
Nuclear Security Administration has awarded Washington Group
International and Raytheon Technical Services a total of $466 million
to begin work to shutdown the last three remaining weapons-grade
plutonium production reactors in Russia. The Department will work to
replace those reactors with coal-fired heat and electricity plants.

Shutting down the three reactors, two located at Seversk and one at
Zheleznogorsk, will end the production of enough weapons-grade
plutonium to produce approximately one nuclear weapon every day and a
half.

"The selection of the contractors is another significant step in
advancing the Bush Administration's nonproliferation programs,"
Secretary Abraham said.

"Replacing these reactors with fossil fuel energy is critical to
eliminate the production of weapons-grade plutonium in Russian and
closing these facilities. Russia and the United States have enjoyed a
good relationship on this program and we look forward to continued
progress."

The awarding of the work orders is the next major step in fulfilling
commitments agreed to by the U.S. and Russian governments in Vienna,
Austria, implementing the Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium
Production Program (EWGPP).

At a ceremony in Vienna in March 2003, Secretary Abraham and Russian
Minister of Atomic Energy Alexander Rumyantsev signed an agreement
that would reduce the threat from weapons of mass destruction by
stopping plutonium production at the last three Russian plutonium
reactors. As part of the agreement, the Department of Energy, working
with its partners in Russia, will provide replacement fossil-fuel
facilities to produce replacement energy for heat and electricity
currently produced by the reactors and serving two cities in Russia.

Working with counterparts at the Russian contracting firm
Rosatomstroi, both Washington Group International and Raytheon
Technical Services will implement the shutdown programs for both
sites.

Washington Group International will oversee work at the Seversk site.
There, the U.S. will provide assistance in refurbishing an existing
fossil fuel plan to produce electricity lost from the shutdown of the
reactors. The refurbishment work, once contracts are signed with
Rosatomstroi, is estimated to take five years, at that time the
reactors will close.

Major work at the Seversk site will include refurbishing or replacing
existing coal-fired boilers, providing one new high pressure
coal-fired boiler, replacing turbine generators, completing
construction of the fuel supply system, refurbishing the industrial
heating unit and ancillary systems.

Raytheon Technical Services will oversee work at the Zheleznogorsk
site. There, the U.S. will provide assistance in building a new fossil
fuel plant. Once contracts are signed with Rosatomstroi, estimated
time of completion for the project is eight years and the reactor will
shutdown.

Major work at the Zheleznogorsk site will include providing a
co-generation boiler, an extraction/condensing steam turbine, heating
only boilers, a fuel handling system, an ash removal system,
environmental controls, and a hot water pipeline to connect the new
plant with the district heating system.

Abraham said in a letter to Minister Rumyantsev that he expects the
Department's National Nuclear Security Administration to have final
contracts in place with Washington Group International and Raytheon
Technical Services by June 30, 2003.

The reactors, although originally designed to produce weapons-grade
plutonium, also provide heat and electricity required by the
surrounding communities in Siberia. The EWGPP program is providing
fossil-fueled energy plants to supply such heat and electricity to the
surrounding communities, facilitating the shut down of the reactors.

The three plutonium production reactors will continue to operate until
the fossil-replacement plants are completed. These reactors have
deficiencies in the areas of design, equipment, and materials, and are
considered to be among the highest risk reactors in the world. To
ensure reactor safety, high priority safety upgrades are being
expeditiously pursued. The Department's Pacific Northwest National Lab
will be responsible for necessary nuclear safety upgrades at both
sites. These upgrades will not extend the life of the reactor
facilities.

Media Contact:
Joe Davis or Jeanne Lopatto, 202-586-4940 (DOE)
Bryan Wilkes, 202-586-7371 (NNSA)

Release No. PR-03-113
Release Date: May 27, 2003

(end text of press release)

(begin Abraham text)

U.S. Department of Energy
Washington, D.C.
www.energy.gov

Remarks prepared for U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham

Press availability with Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov

Forrestal Building
Washington, DC
May 27, 2003 

Good Morning. Thank you all for being here. I'd particularly like to
welcome Yuri Ushakov, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the
United States. I am pleased Ambassador Ushakov could be with me this
morning to announce another significant step in our countries'
cooperative work on a critical nuclear nonproliferation program.

In March, Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Alexander Rumyantsev and I
signed an agreement in Vienna that would close the last three Russian
nuclear reactors capable of producing weapons grade plutonium, and
replace them with fossil fuel energy plants.

Today, the United States is awarding $466 million in contracts to two
U.S. firms to begin the process of contracting with counterparts in
Russia to proceed with this important program.

The firms are Washington Group International and Raytheon Technical
Services. In cooperation with Rosatomstroi, a Russian contractor,
Washington Group will begin implementing the program to close two
reactors at Seversk, and, Raytheon will begin implementing the program
to close the one reactor at Zheleznogorsk.

Contracts will be signed for work at both sites with Rosatomstroi
after access arrangements are finalized. These Russian reactors have
approximately 15 years of remaining lifetime, and as a group could
generate an additional 25 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium. Both
the Russian Federation and the United States desire to replace these
units with fossil energy facilities, and today we begin that effort
together.

Mr. Ambassador, I am pleased to present you with a letter for my
counterpart, Minister Rumyantsev, notifying him of this important step
in implementing our agreement.

While we work on this program, other steps on nuclear nonproliferation
cooperation continue. I'm pleased to announce that Ambassador Ushakov
will visit the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory in early June to learn more about our activities at that
facility.

And recently our Ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, visited one
of the
Russian closed cities.

[Now I'd like to invite Ambassador Ushakov to say a few words before
we take questions.]

(end Abraham text)

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)